Forging – Chapter 13

They had picked up Arthur a few minutes ago from the neighbors’ house and we’re now en route to the K-Chain, a fast food restaurant near the huge shopping mall a few minutes away from the house. The young boy was very excited at the prospect of eating a double cheese burger, he indeed had quite the appetite for his age, and getting one of the robot dinosaur toy that was offered with it. Night had fallen and only the tall lamp-posts on the sides of the road were now lighting the city. Maximilian looked out his window at the stars, still thinking about his visit of the house, he had barely left it but he already wanted to go back. There was so much to see and to discover about his parents there, but he knew he had to wait, at least the following week-end, to be able to go back. He had sent a message to Simon to tell him about what he had found there and what had happened but his friend still hadn’t answered. The engine stopped as Jeff parked the car in the parking lot of the restaurant, effectively shaking the teenager out of his daydreaming. They all got out of the car, Doris having to run after Arthur, who immediately jumped towards the K-Chain as he got out of the car. Jeff chuckled at the sight as he locked the doors and followed his son inside.

After having eaten his burger in a flash and not even opened his toy, Arthur was allowed to go play in the kids’ area, where he almost immediately joined a bunch of other children who were playing tag. Maximilian took his time eating his food, savoring the huge amount of sauce and chicken he had in his hamburger and the double fries ration he had asked. The teenager wouldn’t describe himself as a big eater usually, but whenever he had the possibility to eat food in a fast food type of restaurant he always enjoyed eating a lot more. When he had also finished he joined Arthur in the kids’ playground and played some video games that were available with him and the others, only stopping when Jeff came to get them after almost forty minutes of playing, telling them it was time to go. Arthur protested a bit, saying he wanted to stay more but finally agreed to go when Jeff reminded him he still had his dinosaur to open. As they climbed in the car to go home Maximilian finally received an answer from Simon. ‘Hey, just got your message! Well, that seemed to be an afternoon quite rich in discoveries! The house really sounds wicked, you’ll have to show me some pictures! I can’t call you right now ’cause I’m busy but if you’re free tomorrow we need to discuss that, I should be online on the chat in the afternoon so be sure to manage to be there, I don’t want to have to wait ’till Monday! Anyways, I really hope you’re finding what you’re searching for, see ya pal!’. Maximilian smiled and tucked his phone away after replying a short ‘I’ll be there, have a nice evening.’ and focused on the sky again. He was a lot more melancholic than usual but, strangely, he sometimes enjoyed being in that state, looking at everything with a more emotional eye than usual. The stars and the huge openness atop of the world seemed to invite him. He had no idea how long it had been when he was pulled out of his reverie by the car stopping in front of the house. Arthur who had stopped playing with his dinosaur a few minutes ago as he felt too tired jumped back to life, opening the door and running towards the house at full speed. This time Doris didn’t jump after him, knowing he wasn’t in danger and took her time to get out.

“Wake up sleepy head, we’re home!” Exclaimed Jeff with a smile as he passed by the teenager’s door. Maximilian locked up to the elder man and stuck out his tongue.

“I wasn’t sleeping, I was thinking!”

“Yeah, well please continue your brooding in the house so that I can lock the car and go in!” Replied Jeff with an unbvelieving scoff as he pointed towards the front door.

“Coming, coming…” Replied Maximilian, falsely exasperated. He picked up the cardboard box he had taken from his parent’s house and walked along the small path leading to the house, followed soon after by Jeff. He took off his shoes and walked up to his room after having wished a good night to the couple and his younger brother. As soon as he walked in his room he put the box beside his bed and sat on it, completely exhausted, without even checking his computer. The teenager took the picture he had brought back from his parent’s house and once more stared at it, almost hoping it would animate and his parents would smile to him. He then placed it on his nightstand and changed into his pajamas and lied down on his bed. He stayed there, his hands crossed behind his head and his eyes fixed on the ceiling. Thoughts of his parents, of how he imagined them living in the house, flowed in his mind. He wanted so much to have been able to see them, to talk to them, to know more about them. If only they were still here… He thought with a slight pang. Without even realizing it sleep took over and he fell into a deep slumber.

He woke up with a start, still thinking he was falling, before blinking as the sun rays were hitting him directly in the face. The teenager groaned and put his hand between the window and his face, it took him a few seconds to adjust his eyes to the bright light and then he looked at the alarm clock on the night stand beside his bed. It displayed 11:25. Maximilian blinked once before sitting up straight in flash.

“Oh shit!” He swore before getting up and starting to get dressed, mentally slapping himself for oversleeping like that, he apparently hadn’t heard his alarm ring. Not that he had anything planned that day but he liked to get up before 9 o’clock if possible to have the morning to himself. He walked down without even checking his computer to grab a quick bite so as not to be too hungry for lunch. The house seemed empty as he walked in the kitchen, there were no sounds other than the TV which had been left on, surely by Arthur as he always forgot to turn it off. He found a note on the kitchen table.

Good morning my dear sloth! Arthur and I went to do some shopping and depending on the time you chose to wake up, dad should be either in the garden or gone running. If you need anything, I presume you are old enough to manage alone but you know where we are if ever something happens. Kisses, mom.

Maximilian scoffed lightly as he read the note and looked outside the large windows of the living room, the garden was empty so that meant Jeff had gone for a run. Nice, I have the house to myself for a bit! He thought with a smile as he poured cereals and milk in his bowl. He put the milk back int he fridge and the cereals that had been left on the table in their respective cupboards. He then sat on the couch in the living room and ate while looking outside, half listening to the TV. A bird was searching for seeds on the grass, pecking the grass now and then, then it suddenly flew off. The teenager thought about what he had decided to do that day, he had to continue working on his programme a little, call Simon and try to test his power again. As he though about it, something which he hadn’t thought about until now dawned unto him. How was he able to do it? How could he possibly have made that coin move the other day? How in all the laws of physics that he had learned about at school was something like this possible? Okay, two magnets can produce this effect, that much he knew, but how could he do it with his body? Suddenly he panicked. Had he dreamt all of it? Had it really happened? He ran upstairs and grabbed one of the coins he had used and went back to sit in the sofa before closing his eyes and focusing on the small circle of metal. To his relief the strange feeling he always had kicked in almost immediately as his ability allowed him to ‘see’ the coin with his eyes closed.

He felt his heart beat slow down a bit and then focused on the coin, mentally ordering it to move. After what seemed like an eternity he opened his eyes and saw the small piece of coppery metal hover slowly over his hand. He sighed and let his mental grip on it go, it fell back into the palm of his hand, the usual feeling of exhaustion settling in, even though it was a bit diminished this time. Okay, so I really can make it move. He thought. But that doesn’t explain how. He thought about all those comics he had read when he was younger, with all those super heroes and their super powers, did he really have something like that? He looked at the coin again and a small smile crept on his lips. If he really had an ability like that he would have to see up to what point it could go, were coins all that he could move? He was about to try on his spoon when he heard the sound of a key being turned in the front door. He put the coin in his pocket and took his bowl back in his hands and started eating the rest of his cereals again. No one could know about it, if comics had ever taught anything to him it was that he had to be extremely careful with this. The door opened and Jeff walked it, huffing loudly and drying his sweat with a towel. He noticed Maximilian on the couch and smiled.

“Well, finally up I see!” He exclaimed.

“Yup. I woke up a few minutes ago. I wanted to get up at 9 but I guess I overslept…” Replied the teenager, a small ashamed smile.

“Bah, it’s not that serious, you can oversleep as much as you want as long as it’s during the week ends.” Remarked Jeff as he took off his shoes and walked towards the bathroom. “Well, I hope you slept well at least. Anyways, I’m sweaty and exhausted so I’m off to take a nice hot shower. Enjoy your breakfast!” He added as he walked off with a little wave towards Maximilian.

“Thanks!” Shouted the teenager to his adoptive father as he had already shut the door behind him. He ate another spoon full of cereals and once more looked outside the window as he decided to try to use his power again later that day. I’ll have to work on the code and call Simon before that though, or I won’t notice the time pass. He thought. The familiar buzz of the TV then changed slightly, distracting him as he looked at it.

“Yes Karen, as you explained earlier the situation here is quite tense, the troops from the Balkans are not retreating under the pressure that the east Asians are creating. Since the assassination of two Russian residents in the small village of Teskaya near the border the Russian authorities  are asking for explanations, which the Asians are not willing to give them, stating that the terrorists, who have yet to be apprehended, have not crossed the border on their side and are therefore not their problem. The global council was supposed to meet today to discuss the possible solutions and to try to put an end to the escalation of violence but it has been called off a few hours ago due to a bomb threat. It has been rescheduled sometime during the next three days at a more secure location while this threat is being investigated. For the moment the shocked citizens of Teskaya are hoping for a quick resolution of the problem but some of them are ready to leave in the next few days if it is needed. The next hours will therefore be decisive and we can only hope for a positive response from the eastern governments this time.”

“Thank you Michael for this update on the situation over there. Tomorrow, the vice president will be here to answer our questions on the matter and to discuss the eventual solutions and the immediate ways of action to help. Next tonight is the surprising story of the eighty year woman who almost…” Jeff walked in the room as the journalist was changing subject.

“Talking about the conflict in Eurasia again?” He asked while putting on a white shirt.

“Yeah, it seems like things are getting more tensed by the hour.” Said Maximilian. The older man sighed as he walked towards his office.

“Well, I just hope it doesn’t degenerate for them…” The newscaster was making a quick recap of the day’s news as Maximilian finished his bowl and got up to put it back in the kitchen. He placed it in the sink and walked towards the sofa once again, taking the remote to turn the TV off.

“…and for the second time in two weeks, the mysterious stranger clad in a red hood made an apparition…” He turned it off as the images of a young woman crying in relief could be seen on-screen and climbed back up to his room. As he entered he looked at his phone, no message and no calls. Okay, at least I haven’t missed anything. He thought as he sat down at his desk. He was about to turn on his computer when he noticed it was still on and remembered he had left it to run the test on his programme. As Maximilian turned on the screen he noticed that the search for anomalies was finished. There was no sign of suspicious activities coming from the outside, so at least he could be reassured on that side, but the graphic results of the search showed strange activity spikes. Two time, once during the previous evening and once during the night the computer had apparently worked at full power for a few seconds. How come? He thought as he clicked to obtain more details. A long list of processes appeared and as he looked for the one that had caused the spikes, the name “Age of Castles” came up. How? Was the first thought that popped into his mind. He hadn’t been working on the game at that time and it should not have been active, so how was it possible that it found itself on that list and what’s more, to be the reason for abnormal reactions? The teenager had no idea but he would investigate and find out how it was possible and why. He opened the directory where he stored the files of the game and picked up his phone, still trying to figure out the mystery. He dialed Simon’s number. It was half past twelve already but he knew that his friend would not be eating at that time, usually he and his family ate late in the afternoon, so he waited patiently as the phone rang out. Finally, after a few long seconds, the redhead decided to pick up the phone.

“Yep! Simon here.” Simon greeted him.

“Hey Simon! How is it going?”

“Fine, fine! I was playing a bit of piano just now, I feel inspired today! And you Max, slept well?”

“Yeah, too well I guess, I woke up an hour ago…” Replied the dark-haired teen with a chuckle.

“Wow!” Exclaimed Simon. “That’s rare! You must’ve been either really tired or momentarily deaf to not hear your alarm ring…” Laughed the redhead.

“I don’t know, I guess I must’ve been tired from yesterday…” Said Maximilian.

“So, tell me, how did it go then?”

“Well…” Started the dark-haired teenager. “It went quite well, though I have to admit it was really strange. We arrived early so we had some time to go around the house before the notary got there. It’s really huge, it’s an old house with a large garden that my parents were apparently renovating. There was a swing in the backyard and a huge tree, it was really cool. The house itself is a bit old but it feels comfortable and I could easily imagine my parents living there, it only has two floors but the surface is huge. And it’s quite close to the school so I’ll be able to take you there sometime if you want.”

“Oh cool! Yeah I’d like that!” Exclaimed Simon, Maximilian could sense he had large smile on his face. He continued describing the house to his ever curious friend, the garden and the neighborhood, the strange atmosphere he had felt in the house and the impressive number of rooms that he yet had to go through.

“The lawyer said that it would officially be mine when I turned eighteen, it’s already the case but since I’m not an adult yet it’s Doris and Jeff who are responsible of it. I took back some things that belonged to my parents, mostly letter and pictures, but it’s nice to have something to help me know them better.”

“I can imagine. And so, did you find out what that key opened?”

“Oh, yeah, no. I didn’t. Jeff thought it could be the key to the house, and it’s true that it’s very similar, I looked at the one the notary used, but it’s not, I tried. I still don’t know what it opens but I’m sure that if I search a bit I’l find the answer.”

“Okay.” Replied Simon. “Well I can’t wait to go there, to see what it looks like. If you’re okay with it of course!” He added quickly.

“Yeah, no problem, I’ll ask Jeff if I can get a double of the key to go there, I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”

“Nice!” Exclaimed the redhead once more before becoming silent for a few seconds. “So, what are you gonna do today?” He then asked.

“Well I don’t really know, I’m going to work on my programme I think. You know, Age of Castles.”

“Oh yeah! So is it coming well?”

“Well I’ve made some progress but it’s still not close to be finished.”

“Okay. And, by the way, did you find out what the problem was with your computer the other day?” Simon asked.

“No, I didn’t. I’m looking at a possibility, it might be coming from the game itself, but I can’t be sure until I check everything. I was actually doing that before I called.”

“Well I hope it isn’t anything important, it’d be really bad luck if you had to restart everything from scratch…”

“Ah come on Simon, don’t say that!” Chuckled Maximilian. “It should be fine, all I hope is that it didn’t mess with anything important on the computer. And you, what are have you planned?”

“Well, I decided to play some music until lunch, my parents went to the mall and they still aren’t back so I guess I’ll have to survive a while longer.” He let out a small laugh. “But after that I think I’m going to go and skate a little, I need to get out of the house, I feel restless.”

“Strangely, I have no problem believing you.” Commented the dark-haired teen with irony.

“Hey shut up!” Replied the redhead.

“Hey! Are you talkin’ to me? Hmm? You talkin’ to me?” Exclaimed Maximilian with a large smile.

“Huh?” Replied Simon, not immediately comprehending the quote, before laughing loudly. “Aw, come on man! Don’t make references to films I have seen so long ago!”

“Hey, it’s classic, I can’t do anything for you if you don’t know your classic movies…” Replied Maximilian in a falsely accusative tone.

“Meh…” Responded Simon with a pout. “Oh! By the way, have you heard about that guy on the news? You know, the one in red that beat up thugs to help a young woman this week.” Maximilian remembered the crying woman on the new earlier in the morning, he had already seen the interview the day before.

“Yeah, I heard. They say he dresses in a red hoodie and attacks people who commit crimes. Did he do anything new?”

“Yah, him. Nah, not that I know of at least, but isn’t he cool? He’s like a super hero, defending others for the sake of justice.”

“Yeah, makes me think of marvel characters. But it’s dangerous, he may get in trouble soon…”

“Aw come on Max! Don’t ruin my fantasies!” Complained Simon.

“Hey, someone gotta keep you in the right tracks you know!”

“Yeah, right, don’t tell me. That person is you? The guy who wanted to become a super cop until not so long ago and who tried to beat up a group of bullies who were picking on the girls in high school? Hmm?”

“Never mind, as long as you don’t go out batmaning during the night, I have no reason to play the overprotective mother.” Replied Maximilian with a smile.

“Don’t worry, I’m not doing anything of the sort… yet!” Maximilian could feel the smirk on his friend’s face on the other side of the phone, he shook his head.

“Yeah, well Mr Wayne, it’s not that I don’t respect what you dream to do but I have work to do so, I’m going to let you think about beating up bad guys and I’m going to go back to work on more important stuff, if you don’t mind that is… Well even if ou mind, I don’t care.”

“Tch, no respect for your elders, Bell! I’ll have to report that to your parents!” Replied Simon. “Anyways, I too have things to do so I’ll wish you a nice day, see you in school Monday then!”

“Argh, don’t talk about that! I curse you and your family for generations for having uttered that damned word!” Exclaimed Maximilian as he started to laugh.

“Uh, what ev’s, see ya!” Answered Simon whom, Maximilian could tell, had difficulty not laughing along.

“Yeah, see you later!” Said Maximilian as he hung the phone, still laughing lightly. He put down his cellphone on his desk and focused on his computer again. The directory he had clicked on earlier was open and he could see the sub-directories that composed the game. He was about to click on the main one when something attracted his attention. He looked closer to be sure his eyes were not deceiving him, but they weren’t and what he saw caught him completely off guard. He opened the properties of the directory to be sure but it had not been an error, the numbers were correct.

“How is that possible…?” He murmured as he looked at them again. The newly opened window that displayed the size of the whole game, taking into account all the directories, the sub-directories and the files, was telling him the game had a size of fifteen gigabytes. The last time he had checked, the whole project did not amount for more than one gigabyte, and that was including all the saves and the backups, which he had cleared or placed in another directory a few days ago. How could it have grown so much in so little time? And what had he done to make it so big? But as he asked himself these questions he could not find a valid answer. He had not advanced so much that it took that much space and he hadn’t played so much that the accumulated data would be that humongous. Something is wrong, he thought as he checked each sub-directory one by one. He quickly noticed that it was the ‘saves’ one that had grown out of proportions, it now amounted to a bit more than fourteen gigabytes on it’s own. Yep, definitely wrong. He opened it to discover more than a thousand files, full of code and each around four megabytes in size.

“What the…?” He was about to ask as he couldn’t remember creating any of them nor doing anything that might have made it happen. Could it be a bug? Was there really an intrusion in his data like he had thought int he beginning? Maximilian was trying to figure that out by checking the creation dates of the oldest files and by starting a virus check on his computer to verify that it didn’t contain anything resembling a Trojan horse, when a window popped open. The main menu of Age of Castles appeared before his eyes with a message he had never seen on the bottom. ‘Welcome MaxO.’, it said. The teenager closed the window, uncertain of what was going on but starting to worry, but it opened again. He closed it and once more it opened. What is going on?! He thought about clicking closing it a third time but he had a feeling it would open once more so he simply put it in the background and opened a webpage. But the game came back in front of the webpage. Maximilian groaned in frustration. What was happening? He decided to start the game to see what would happen and as soon as it started a new text box appeared.

‘Welcome back Max0, it’s been a long time! Are you ready for adventure?’

He vaguely remembered adding this to the code but he hadn’t implemented it to the new version of the game yet, so how had it ended there? He had no idea, but this was definitely strange. He typed in ‘yes’.

‘Good, let’s go then!’ responded the text box before starting the game.


  <— Previous chapterForgingNext Chapter —>

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Forging – Chapter 12

“Max?” The teenager was still deep in thoughts when Doris called him, he looked up and noticed she was standing at the other end of the garden, near the corner of the house. “Mr. Jones is here, are you coming?” He stood up and put the key back in his pocket before nodding and walking towards her.

“Yep! Coming!” He exclaimed as he approached the spot where she was. Doris turned around with a smile and walked back to the front of the house. As he arrived Maximilian noticed Jeff talking to a tall and muscular man in a suit, he had short dark hair and wore a pair of thin glasses which almost immediately made Maximilian think of Clark Kent. He smiled at his own thought and proceeded to walk up to his parents and the lawyer who greeted him with a smile and a tight handshake.

“Ah yes, Mr. Desrhodes I presume? It’s a pleasure to meet you.” The man said as Jeff introduced him. “As Jeff just said, my name is Ichabod Jones, I am, or was, your father’s notary. We’ve had the pleasure to meet once before but I don’t think that you remember, you were so young.” Maximilian smile in return before answering.

“No, I do not remember indeed, but it is a pleasure to meet you too Mr. Jones. Again.” He added with a friendly smirk which made the tall lawyer chuckle.

“You’ve grown into a fine young man Maximilian, may I call you that?” He quickly asked and smiled again as Maximilian nodded. “You may call me Ichabod or Mr. Jones, as you prefer. I knew your parents quite well, they were great people and I’m sure they would be proud of what you have become today… Now, if all of you are ready, let’s start!” He exclaimed after a small pause as he clapped in his hands and walked towards the door, taking a key out of the attaché case he was carrying and inserted it in the front door’s lock. He turned the key and opened the door, stepping aside and motioning for the couple and the teenager to walk in first.

“We have quite a lot to discuss after all, and I presume you would like to take some time to look around.” He said as he closed the door behind them and stepped through the lobby into a large room with a sofa and two armchairs around a small table that Maximilian recognized as the living room. The hallway leading to the living room also led to three other doors, two of them were closed and Maximilian guessed one was the toilet and the other a closet, the last one on the right opened on what seemed to be a kitchen and was situated just in front of the living room. In the middle of the corridor stood a small table on which were placed a few photos of his parents and near the table was an old and wooden coat rack, finally at the end of the corridor one could see a staircase leading upstairs. Maximilian took a closer look as he walked by the pictures, there was one of his parents when they seemed to still be in college, on with a younger version of Jeff and Doris and a photo of a young child with a small dog, which he recognized as him after a moment. Then he followed the couple and the notary in the living room, Jones motioned them to sit on the couch in front of the coffee table as he himself sat on one of the armchairs, Maximilian went and sat on the other one at the opposite side of the table. The lawyer put his attaché case on the table and opened it, taking out some papers and putting them on the table, before clearing his throat and starting to explain why he had asked them to meet him here.

During that time Maximilian looked around him, taking all the details of the living room he could, the large chimney on his right side, the paintings on each wall, the strange and slightly rusty metal lamp on one corner. He also noticed the large windows offering a view on the metal gates in front of the house and the quiet street behind them and on the side of the garden. Finally he looked at the large wooden shelves disposed all around the room on which were photo albums, books, CDs and many different objects such as miniature statues, carvings, knives and musical instruments. As he was hesitating whether or not to stand up to go see them from up close he was interrupted by the tall man in the suit clearing his throat.

“Ahem, so, as I was saying earlier , I was and still am Alexander Desrhodes and Sophia Desrhodes’s notary. A few days ago I received a call from you, Jeff, and you asked me about this house. Your parent’s house.” Added Ichabod Jones turning towards Maximilian, then he focused his attention back on all of them. “Now,” He cleared his throat again. “the reason why I asked you to come and meet me here today is partly because of that call, but not only. In his will, Alexandre left a few conditions that I was to fulfill if ever he were to disappear. Unfortunately, that happened much sooner than he had expected, than we all expected. If I asked you to come here it’s because of a few of these demands he has made.” He paused a second and took a paper out of the pile he had put down on the table and gave it to Jeff and Doris.

“This is a printout of the title-deed that he made when he acquired this house, it says that you, Maximilian, are to receive full ownership once you reach your majority. There are a few conditions of course, which we will talk about in a moment, but this is the main reason of our presence here today.” As he concluded Jeff looked up from the paper he had quickly read and looked at the teenager who was himself looking at the notary with a surprised look.

“Your parents really loved this house and it doesn’t surprise me that your father would want you to have it.” Said Jeff as Maximilian was still looking as surprised. The teenager turned towards his foster-father before scoffing lightly with a small surprised smile.

“Yeah, I had thought about this but I never really believed he would bequeath it to me…” He said, his voice low.

“Well it is written here black on white.” Said the tall notary as he pointed to the paper Maximilian had been holding in his hand before taking a small stack of other papers from the pile he had put down on the table. “Now, as I said earlier, the reason I asked you to meet me here today is partly because of the bequeathing of this house, but not only. In his will your father gave me a few instructions pertaining to how and when you should be told the truth about your mother and him and about the details of your acquisition of his belongings, titles and other properties. I do not say I entirely agreed with the way he saw things, and that is why I asked Jeff and Doris for council a few years back, but it is Alexandre’s last will and it should be respected.” Maximilian simply nodded and noticed Jeff and Doris doing the same as Ichabod Jones mentioned their names, the tall man continued. “First of all, your father wanted you learn the truth on our sixteenth birthday, which I assume was the case. He also wanted you to receive a box. Has it been given to you?”

“Yes, Jeff gave it to me last weekend.” Nodded Maximilian.

“Very good.” Smiled the notary. “Whatever it may contain is entirely yours. Your father also said that you would inherit this house, as you now know, and all of its belongings. He wanted to make it your property even thought he knew you would not be the legitimate owner until your majority. This house has belonged to you since the day he has disappeared, but until your eighteenth birthday, Jeff and Doris are the owners de facto as your legal guardians. Of course, any decision that would affect it is to be made under your counsel.” The tall man the handed the teenager a paper that he had taken from the small pile laying on the table. “This paper is to officialize the transfer of the ownership from your parents to you, there are a few conditions that I would like you to look at before you sign it though, just to make sure. You can take it home and return it to me by mail or when you come by to the agency.” He added with a look at Doris and Jeff who had come closer to Maximilian to read the contract. Maximilian nodded as he started reading it. It said what the notary had already mentioned, he would inherit the property and everything linked to it on his eighteenth birthday, until then Jeff and Doris would be the ones in charge of it. The teenager put the sheet of paper back on the table but closer to him and looked back at notary. Ichabod took a few other papers that he then handed to Maximilian.

“Your mother hadn’t prepared a will of her own before she disappeared, but all of her belongings are now yours just as your father’s. They also had some savings at the bank, these, minus the notary fee, will be accessible to you as soon as these papers are signed. Now, last but not least” He added as he pointed a the last paper of the small pile. “this last document that you are now holding is the property title of a safe at a private security agency that you parents bought and were I presume they stored some of their belongings. As this is a private safe we do not have any access to its content and therefore I cannot tell you what you might find in there. Your father designated you as the next rightful owner if ever something would be to happen to them and it can only be opened on your demand.” As he explained the details of the paper signing, and that Maximilian would have time to study the terms and conditions, the teenager’s thoughts drifted to the key he had found in the box. The idea that it might be used to open the safe became clear, it explained why his father had asked that Jeff kept it all this time. That thought  only piqued the dark-haired young man’s interest. What could be in that safe? Why give the key to Jeff and Doris for safe keeping instead of to the notary? He didn’t find an answer to his questions however as he noticed the three adults looking at him expectantly. Damn it! He cursed inwardly. Haven’t been paying attention!

“Were you listening?” Asked Jeff, his brows furrowed.

“No, sorry, you lost me right there…” He apologized, scratching his head a bit ashamed.

“Don’t worry about it.” Smiled the tall man. “I was just saying that I would leave you as much time as you need to decide how you want to proceed from now on, I’ve bought a copy of all the documents I thought you might have wanted to consult but if you need anything else don’t hesitate to ask. Everything is in here.” He said as he patted a portfolio he had taken out of his suitcase a moment before. “Also, if you want to take a look around the house do not hesitate, it’s not technically yours yet but no one will mind. Now, I have another appointment in an hour so I will not be able to stay but Jeff and Doris have the keys so feel free to stay as long as you want.” He then stood up, quickly followed by the couple and Maximilian, and shook his hand and Jeff’s before saluting Doris and biding them a good afternoon. The teenager watched him slowly walk to the door while talking to Jeff, who was a good fifteen centimeters smaller than the notary, as he tried to take in all that had happened.

He was in his parent’s house. Alexandre and Sophia Desrhodes’s house. And soon it would be his. He still had trouble believing it, only a week ago he was learning about their existence and now he found himself standing in the place they had lived in. He looked around the room again and slowly walked over to the book shelves, reading the titles that were exposed on them. He heard Doris’s footsteps coming near him.

“So, want to take a look around?” She smiled as he turned around to nod. They both walked out of the living room and towards the staircase.

“I never got the chance to see what they had done with this house before they disappeared you know…” Started the blonde woman. “They invited us over when they bought the house of course, and when they had already gone through half the work, but they disappeared before they could have a chance to invite us here again.” She looked at a painting of a lake surrounded by tall mountains on the wall as they arrived on the second floor.  “I know it may not be easy for you Max, it sure isn’t for me, all this is happening so fast… But we understand.” She turned towards the teenager with a smile, Maximilian could see tears pearling in the woman’s eyes, he smiled too and, to her apparent surprise, hugged her.

“I know mom. It’s not that easy for me either, but It’s something I want to do, and I know you and dad are there for me.” The blonde woman hugged him back as her smile broadened, and as they both pulled back she turned towards the corridor.

“I’ll let you take a look around, I’ll be downstairs with Jeff if you need anything. We’re going to look around the papers you have to sign.”

“Okay, thanks mom.” Replied Maximilian as Doris disappeared in the staircase. He then looked around. The corridor was quite large, it gave way to five closed doors and an opened one. The teenager walked towards the opened door from where dampened light filtered. He walked in and found himself in what must have been his parent’s bedroom. There was a large king sized bed in the middle of the room, in front of a large wardrobe, it was covered in a thin layer of dust but the fact that there wasn’t more all over the place surprised him. Now that he thought about it the house was in surprisingly good shape for the time that had passed since his parents had disappeared. There were shelves filled with books and pictures all around the room and a TV was fixed on the wall directly in front of the bed. Maximilian also noticed two night stands on either sides of the bed and a desk on the opposite wall to the door, near the large window from which the few rays of light came in. Two large cardinal red curtains covered the window and gave to the room a light red color. The teenager pulled them open a little to let the light pour in and opened the window to let fresh air in, as he did he heard the notary’s car drive off. He then walked towards the shelf nearest to the desk and looked at its content, reading the book covers and looking at the pictures, as he did a specific one in a red frame caught his attention. It was a picture of his mother, when she was still pregnant, she was sitting on a large boulder facing the ocean and she was smiling sweetly at the camera. The teenager guessed his father must have been the one taking the picture.

He was about to take the picture right next to the one in his hand, on which both his parents could be seen dancing on the beach in front of the setting sun, when he noticed something else on the desk under the shelf. Several small piles of mail were lying on the old wooden surface, almost all still in their opened envelopes. He put the picture back on the shelf before slowly picking the closest stack of letters and sitting down on the chair in front of the desk. What had caught his attention was the name of his mother on the front side of the white letter. The date said it was sent in 2019. As he read it, Maximilian realized he had no idea how old his parents were when they disappeared, he had never thought about asking that to either Jeff or Doris. He flipped the envelope over to take a look at the sender and to his surprise it was the name of his father that was written in the sender area. After staring at it for a few seconds he flipped it around again and took out the letter with extreme precautions, as if it was made of glass. He had no idea why he did that but the fact that he was in his real parent’s house, holding a letter from his father to his mother, seemed so surreal to him that he had the impression that if he let it go or dropped it, it would disappear into thin air. As the teenager opened the letter his hands trembled slightly, the paper unfolded easily and neatly written words in dark blue ink appeared.

Dear Sophia, my one true love,

Oh, sun of my life, star of my heart, my head is filled with thoughts of you. You are an angel amongst humans, fallen from the skies, and I promise to love you for ever, and evermore.

The teenager chuckled as he read the first paragraph, it sounded like it was written by a love struck teenager. But if, as he thought, his parents were around the same age as Jeff and Doris, they must have been in their early twenties at the time it was written. Was his father teenage romantic at heart? He thought with a mocking smile as he continued reading.

It has been such a long time since we have seen each other, already a two weeks. I miss you, a lot. I know it won’t be long ’til I come back from this exchange trip but I just can’t wait! I know we are already regularly texting and calling but I thought that a letter, a bit of the old school ways, would please you. I know I’m having fun writing this, it’s agreeable to have something else than a screen under the fingers sometimes.

Up until now we’ve been visiting the old monuments of  the city and bathing in the cultural side of Japan -which is awesome! You should really have come!- but from what Jeff heard we’re going to have a field trip to the beach tomorrow so we’re quite excited! I’ve learned that I’m not a big fan of sushi but I quite enjoy sake. (Don’t worry, I’m not drinking too much, you should see the size of their cups!) We’ve also been to a traditional play in an old temple and it was really something, I’ll show it to you when I get back, you have to see this!

It went on like this, Alexandre was describing everything he had seen and done in the land of the rising sun, all the while repeating that he missed Sophia and that he regretted that she hadn’t come with them. He also talked about how Jeff spent his time snogging his girlfriend, which to Maximilian’s surprise wasn’t Doris, but another girl named Rebecca, this made him smile again and he thought to himself that he would have to ask his foster-father about it. As he was finishing the letter the last line caught his attention.

Tell your mother I said hello and wish her a happy birthday, I’ll see you soon Mylady Weiss.

Love, Alexandre.

Your mother. The words echoed in the mind of the teenager before he realized what he had read. Of course! Why hadn’t he thought about that earlier! His grandparents. It had no yet occurred to him that his parents not being his parents, his grandparents were probably not his real grandparents either. Dimwit! He scolded himself with a tap on the head. That was something else he would have to ask about to Jeff and Doris. He set his eyes on the letter one last time, admiring the quality of the handwriting of his father, before slowly putting it back in its envelope and onto the pile he had chosen. He then took the second letter and, following the same process, started reading it. It was another letter from his father to his mother, written about a week after the first one, on the 18th of august 2019, while he was still in Japan, and it was accompanied by a photo of a large curved wooden arch, standing as a pathway into the city. Once he finished reading it he put it back and took the rest of the pile before moving onto the bed to be more comfortable. Maximilian sat cross-legged in the middle, putting the stack of letters in front of him. He read the next one, which was a letter from Sophia to a friend apparently, a woman named Jessie, where she told her about her life since college and offered her to meet on a Thursday evening to chat. The next one was probably the oldest in the stack, it went back to 2006, and was a letter written to Santa where his mother asked for a pony, a set of Barbie dolls and a diary to write about her life. Finally, as he started opened the seventh letter he came across the answer from his mother to the first letter.

Dear Alexandre,

What a gentleman you are! I am at a loss of words before your gallantry and I dare say I would swoon in your arms if ever you were to say those words in front of me. Continue like this and you might even convince my mother that you are good enough for me…

I too, the “sun of your days”, miss you. I truly believe I would have enjoyed this trip with you but as you know I have to be here to work, I promised my dear mother that I would do this for her, so I can’t come back on my word. I can’t wait for you to come back! Nothing exciting has happened here since you came back. As you know mom isn’t going to well since last week but I think that it’s because she’s overworking herself and not because she’s been around sick people in the bus. She hasn’t stopped these last weeks with the association and her job. A bit of rest should be the best for her and I have finally convinced her to do just that, hurray! Oh, and I passed your message to her, and you know what? She nodded and uttered a “well that’s nice of him”. Do you imagine that? She’s thanking you!

She also spoke about the neighbors who were as loud and obnoxious as ever, going as far as to organize a three-day rave party in their backyard, about the long days she had to spend typing reports and transcribing audio files into full articles. A few bad words about her bosses who wouldn’t even let her attend the general meetings and then she changed the subject, talking about what she thought they could do together when he came back and asking how Doris was doing. Maximilian was almost at the end of the letter when a knock on the door surprised him. He quickly turned around and saw Jeff’s smile.

“Geez dad you startled me! I didn’t even hear you coming. You wanted something?” Asked the teenager.

“Well, it’s getting quite late and Doris and I were thinking of going home for today.”

“Oh…” Replied the dark-haired teen as he looked at the window. Indeed, he hadn’t noticed since he was so enthralled in the letters, but the sun was already setting in the sky and the light had dimmed a little. ” he shot a look at the letters, thinking quickly, before looking at his foster-father.

“Okay, I hadn’t realized it was this late. I’ll be right down then!” He replied.

“Okay, take your time, we’re not in a hurry.”  Added the man in his forties before turning around towards the staircase.

“Umh dad?” Interrupted the teenager before he could step away.

“Yes Max?”

“Can I take these with me? I’d like to read them?” He asked, pointing at the letters in front of him. Jeff stayed silent for a second before replying with another smile.

“Well this isn’t yours yet as you haven’t signed the papers, but I don’t think it will harm anybody if you take them with you.” He answered.

“Thanks!” Replied Maximilian with a smile, to which Jeff nodded silently before walking towards the staircase. The teenager put the letter back in its envelope before getting up. He walked over to the desk and looked around. Finally he spotted a cardboard box on one of the shelves, it was full of medals and pins. He hesitated for a second but finally decided himself to empty its content on the desk, promising himself to put it back the next time he would come, before putting the stack of letters in it, arranging them neatly so as not to shuffle them. He also took the picture he had been looking at earlier, of his parents dancing on the beach, and two old and worn out books that had caught his attention earlier. A Short but Detailed History of Dragons and Riders Around the Ages, which looked like its cover was about to come off, and The Entity, which looked in a bit better shape but had notes covering most of its pages. he had no idea why he was taking them with him, but as he left the room it seemed to be the right thing to do, he wanted to know more about his parents and maybe reading what they had read would help. Plus they were the most worn out books that he had seen so it was a safe bet that they were the ones his parents had read the most, that or they had bought them in secondhand markets. He slowly exited the room, taking it in one last time before closing the door and walking down the stairs. Jeff and Doris were waiting for him in the living room, they stood up as he entered.

“Ready to go?” Asked Doris as the teenager put down the box to take his coat.

“Yup!”

“What are you taking home?” She added as he picked it back up.

“Some letters that I found upstairs, a picture of them and a two books that seem interesting.” He replied as they walked towards the door.

“Okay.” She said with a smile as they walked outside. “Jeff and I looked at the papers that Mr. Jones left you and everything seems to be in order, we would like to have a talk with you before you sign them though. But for let’s let it go for tonight! We were thinking about going for a burger after picking Arthur up, what do you think?” She added. Maximilian pretended to think about it, putting up a reluctant face, before answering.

“Well, I don’t know… Okay, I guess, but it depends if Arthur wants to go or not…” He replied, trying to stay as serious as possible. Jeff, who was closing the front door behind them, turned around quickly and lifted his arms in an attempt to look angry.

“Young man, are you mad?! Refusing such a generous offer! It does not happen often…” he roared indignantly before bursting out in laughter, to which Doris smiled.

“I guess it’s a yes then…” She said before climbing in the car and sitting in the front passenger’s seat while Jeff sat in the driver’s. Maximilian sat in the rear seat and looked at the large house that started growing smaller behind them as they drove. He still had a hard time believing he had been in his parent’s house. It all seemed like a dream, a good one but a dream nonetheless. He looked at the box that was lying besides him and took the picture once more, admiring the dancing shadows of his parents, illuminated by the setting sun in the background. They both seemed to be laughing and to be so happy. How could such tragedy have befallen such people like that? The world is really unfair sometimes, thought Maximilian.

 


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Forging – Chapter 11

Maximilian woke up a few seconds after the bus had stopped. Sleeping in a moving transport was easy for him, it always made him sleepy, but whenever the engine stopped it woke him up almost immediately. He yawned and got off the bus. The sun was up and shining but the air was still fresh as he walked along the sidewalk leading from his bus stop to the school. He had his headphones on and listened to some pop music as his steps led him almost automatically to Hawkland’s,  he let his thoughts drift to what he had done earlier. He still couldn’t believe it. What if it was all a dream? He suddenly thought, panicking a little. It had felt so real, it couldn’t be a dream… But now that the doubt had taken hold of his mind he couldn’t let it go

He checked his pocket and sighed in relief as he took out the coin, at least there was indeed a coin in there. He stopped a leaned on the wall next to him and focused on the coin. This time it took him only a minute to push back everything else than the coin. He focused on the coin floating in his hand and nothing else (which required some quite the effort from his part with all the parasite noise around him) and after a few long seconds he felt the familiar tingle in his right arm and opened his eyes. The coin was floating half a centimeter over his palm, moving slightly with the flow of the air around. He smiled and let out another sigh of relief as he let his concentration break and put the coin that had fallen in his palm back in his pocket.

He felt a little dizzy as he did so but not as tired as earlier in the bus, though he took a small pause and stayed against the wall for a few seconds before starting to walk again. This feels like running or lifting something really heavy, I might need some practice before I can move it as I want to… He thought with a smile. He didn’t understand at all how or why he could do those things but right now he didn’t care, all he wanted was to see how far he could go with his power. As the teenager approached the high school he saw his friend waiting for him near the main gates and walked to him with a smile.

*

“So” Said Simon as they walked along the corridor to their next class. “Are you going tomorrow ?”

“Huh ? Oh yeah. Dad, well Jeff, called my father’s lawyer and apparently he did say in his will that the house would be mine if ever something happened to him.” Answered Maximilian with a smile. “So we’ll be going there tomorrow to see it and the lawyer will meet us there because there is some paperwork to be taken care of. Apparently the house shouldn’t be very far from here, I’ll see that tomorrow.”

“Man, that’s so cool, inheriting a house at sixteen…” Simon said thoughtfully.

“Yeah, but the condition is to lose your parents at a young age…” Replied the teenager.

“Oh! Yeah… sorry…” Apologized Simon, looking a bit ashamed of himself for having said that.

“Nah, don’t worry Simon, it’s okay, I know you didn’t mean ill. I didn’t even know them.”

“Yeah, well it wasn’t appropriate anyway.” He apologized again as they walked past the science and chemistry labs.

“I have no idea what I’ll find out there but I really want to go, they lived there, both of them. It’s so weird, it’s feels a bit like visiting a grave. I have absolutely no idea what I’ll do with a house right now…” Maximilian was looking at the blue sky through the large windows as he said that.

“I don’t know what you’ll find either Max, but I’m sure the answers will come. And seriously, you could live in that house man, all on your own ! Imagine that !” Said Simon, trying cheer his friend up a bit.

“Yeah, I hope so…” Maximilian agreed with a smile though he was still thoughtful. He really wanted to see that house but it also scared him quite a bit. What if he didn’t like what he would fin ? Or worse what if he found nothing ? He was about to ask his friend what he would do if he inherited a house like that when they walked around a corner and he bumped into someone. He barely had time to register what had happened when he found himself faced with dark blue eyes as he caught hold of the person who had run into him. Maya ?! He thought as he recognised the face he had not forgotten after all this time. They locked eyes and for a few seconds Maximilian was too captivated by the blue depth of her eyes and the sweet scent of her perfume to do anything else than stare. He swore he could hear the sound of the waves and the cries of seagulls. Only when he saw movement at the corner of his eye did he break eye contact. As Simon was standing back up and helping another girl up he noticed that he held the tanned young woman in a tight embrace. His cheeks were taking a pink shade as he locked eyes with her again and he let her go as quickly as he could without falling again.

“Umh…” He cleared his throat. “Are- are you okay ?” The young woman looked around her before nodding.

“Yeah… yeah, I think I’m fine…Thanks. I think…” She added with a little smile.

“Ouch ! That hurts !” Said Simon as he rubbed his back. The redhead had fallen straight back when he had collided with the second girl. “Are you okay ?” He asked the blonde who was also trying to get back up.

“Yeah, but no thanks to you ! You should be more careful…” She started but she didn’t have time to finish her sentence.

“Oh stop it Rebecca !” Exclaimed the brunette. “They didn’t see us coming and neither did we, no one is to blame !” The blonde girl called Rebecca looked at her friend and then at the two boys before sighing.

“Alright Maya, I’ll stop… I’m sorry guys…”

“Yeah, no problem, sorry too. But we really didn’t see you coming…” Replied Simon with a bright smile. Maximilian could have sworn he had seen the blonde blush a little. He looked at Maya again as she was straightening her dress and replacing her bag on her shoulders.

“I’m sorry” She started. “but we have to go, physics don’t wait. Come on Beckie!” She said as she hurried past the boys, encouraging her blonde friend to do the same. As they were already twenty meters away Simon decided to ask what class they were in.

“Group C!” Shouted back the blonde with a wink, and with that she ran after her friend.

“Did she just wink at me?” He asked with a broad smile.

“Yep, I think so.” Answered the dark-haired teenager as he started walking again in the opposite direction of the girls.

“Well that must be your lucky day mate !” Exclaimed Simon, his smile transforming into a mischievous grin.

“Oh I see where you are going with that, but you can talk Dom Juan!”  He retorted.

“So, did the ‘staring in each other’s eyes’ part go well?”

“Oh shut up !” Exclaimed Maximilian as he playfully tried to shove his friend backwards. But the redhead managed to evade his friend and ran off laughing madly, scaring some of the other students they passed. Tch, idiot… Thought the teenager as he watched his friend enjoying his moment of insanity. But did she recognize me though ? He had known as soon as he had set eyes on her but did she remember him ? It had been only a few weeks… If she did remember the young man had seen no sign of it. He on the other hand could still feel the heat radiating from his cheeks. Idiot ! he thought to himself. Maybe I’ll go talk to her later… The young man was busy thinking about what had just happened and didn’t notice the young brunette looking back at him across the corridor, neither did he notice her dismissing the curious look her friend gave her.

*

“We should be there soon, I think it was somewhere around here.” Said Jeff as he turned left in the quiet street of a residential area. The couple had left Arthur in the care of a neighbor before they had left with Maximilian to go to his parent’s house, they didn’t want the young boy to know what was going on just yet. It was something they wanted to explain to him when he was a little older and more capable to understand these sorts of things. They had been driving for almost and hour when they had reached the quiet street, it was bordered by tall trees and large ground floored houses. A few children were playing on the front yard of one of the house and stopped momentarily to look at the car before resuming their activities. They drove through two blocks before arriving in front of a large metal gate surrounded by an old-looking stone wall and high hedges.

“Yes, here we are!” The light-haired man finally announced as he parked the car near the gate. “Wow, it sure has changed since the time we came here last, hasn’t it?” He added towards his wife as they both got out of the car.

“Mmm hmm, it did change. I don’t remember the hedge being so high nor the neighborhood being so lively. It’s surprising but not a bad change.” She nodded with a smile before turning towards the young man who had just stepped out of the car. “This is where Alexander and Sophia lived, it was also where you lived before they disappeared… Welcome home!” She added after a short pause. Maximilian looked at the imposing gates and at the house that could be seen behind them, it was big and seemed more like a manor than a house. What surprised him, either than the scale, was the state in which it was. If one had looked at the house without knowing that no one had lived in it for years now the fact that it was in such a good state would have certainly made an impression. The dark and light gray stones that composed the wall were completely devoid of moss, the dark blue paint on the door seemed as new as when it had been applied and only the permanently shut windows’ shutters indicated that it was not inhabited. The garden might need a bit of work though… Thought the teenager as he peered through the gate and saw the tall grass that covered the garden, though even as tall as it had grown it still seemed tidy, as if it simply grew in a man-made way.

“It’s big.” He finally said as he turned back towards Jeff and Doris. “I expected something… I don’t know, smaller?” Jeff chuckled at that remarked.

“It’s actually more a manor that a house, you’ll see when we get inside, but your parents really liked that type of house. They bought it for almost nothing, which was almost all that they had at the time, and renovated it to what it has become. I thought it would be in a worse shape than that though…” The middle-aged man replied with a smile as he too peered through the gate.

“When were we supposed to meet Mr. Jones again?” Asked Doris as she took out a small bottle of water out of her handbag to drink a sip.

“Um, half past three I think.” Replied Jeff as he took a look at his watch. “We still have about half an hour, why not go take a look around the garden while we wait?” He asked before trying to open the metal gate, he found they were locked with a simple dead bolt on the other side and unlocked it before opening the gate without difficulty.

“Are you sure we can?” Asked Doris, unsure if she should follow her husband inside or not.

“Yeah, it’s okay, we’re just looking around, we’re not here to rob the place!” He laughed slightly before stepping inside the property, soon followed by his wife and the teenager. As they walked around the garden and arrived behind the house Maximilian saw a rusted swing near an old shed on the other hand of the garden. It was protected from the sun by a tall tree which cast its shadow over it.

“Oh look at that!” Suddenly exclaimed Jeff turning towards Doris as he pointed at the metallic structure. “The old swing is still here! I remember your father loved to sit on it for hours with you on his knees.” He added as they walked towards it. Doris nodded before speaking.

“Yes, he spent the whole evening on it once because you wouldn’t stop crying if he tried to get up.” She said with a small smile. Maximilian walked over to it and sat on one of the two swings, Jeff sat next to him while Doris went to look at the small wood cabin on their right.

“I don’t remember any of this. This house seems amazing.” The teenager admitted after a moment of silence where they both swung their legs lightly while looking at the sky. He was fascinated by the wooden columns sculpted with animals that framed the large windows and the back door leading to the backyard. What also surprised Maximilian was the size of his parent’s house. While Jeff and Doris’s house wasn’t small, this one had about half more ground surface and it went up three floors. It was surrounded on all sides by tall hedges, which he thought would at least need a ladder to cut, and a few tall trees were growing here and there, covering a bit more than a third of the garden in an agreeable shade.

“That it is…” Smiled the light-haired man. “I wish you could’ve seen it while your parents were still here, it’s huge but they had the nick to make it so lively. I think you’ll be able to take a complete tour later so you’ll be able to see from up close just how impressive it is from the inside. You know, when they bought this house, I told Alex that they were crazy but he would hear none of it. He insisted that he knew what he was doing, and fortunately for them, your parents did know what they were doing. It was almost a ruin but they managed to make it what it is now in less than four months. They worked their asses off of course and we didn’t see them for half a year at that time. But it was worth it and they proved it to us when they invited us to officially inaugurate it, since then I truly believe your parents could achieve anything they wanted!” Maximilian smiled as Jeff spoke, the way he bragged about knowing the people who had brought him to this world made him happy. His parents were really awesome, all four of them!

“I can’t wait to go and check it out then!” He exclaimed with a large smile.

“Well, in about fifteen minutes you’ll be able to do just that kiddo.” Replied Jeff with a huff as he put a hand on his son’s shoulder before getting up and walking towards Doris who was calling him. The teenager looked at him as he approached his wife who was standing near the shed and trying to peer through a dirty window, then he locked his eyes on the manor-like house in front of him once more. He threw his legs with a bit more force in front of him and the swing swept into motion as it swayed forwards then backwards. Somehow he was going to have the luck to take a look inside the house that his parent’s had left behind after disappearing, a mix of feelings overwhelmed him. He felt excited to be able to step where his parents had stepped years before but he also felt anxious at the idea of finally having the answers to many of his questions at the tip of his fingers. Finally Maximilian felt sad not to be able to share this experience with his real parents. The smiling image of Sophia and Alexander Desrhodes came back to his mind from the picture Jeff had given him, they seemed so happy at the time. Why had fate chosen to put an end to this happiness? He thought with a bittersweet taste in his mouth.

Maximilian was still unconsciously swinging his legs but his eyes had drifted towards the blue sky when Doris called to him. The teenager looked around for a moment and noticed the couple at the other end of the garden, both looking at him as if waiting.

“I said, are you coming?” Asked the woman as he gave them a puzzled look. “We’re going back to the front to wait for Mr. Jones.”

“Nah, I want to stay here a bit more. I’ll join you later!” Replied the teenager with a small smile before resuming his swinging as Doris nodded and followed Jeff to the other side of the garden with a simple ‘Okay’. When they disappeared behind the corner he put his hands in his pockets and felt something under his right hand. As he pulled it out he noticed it was the key he had found in the box that his father had left him. As he turned the small object in the palm of his hand, Maximilian couldn’t help but wonder what it was supposed to open. It seemed to be made to open a door or a lock but something told him it wouldn’t be a simple lock, it held a meaning I still couldn’t quite grasp and I knew it would remain secret until I had found what exactly it was made to unlock.

 


 

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Forging – Chapter 13.5 – The Private Collection

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May 14th 2039

“I am Rupert Deloy from the fifth brigade, this way inspector.”

The policeman led the inspector along a large empty corridor, only a few plastic plants gave a little bit of life to the white walls. Only a few plants gave a bit of life to the long white corridor. The two men walked through four heavy dark wooden doors before getting to the end of it.

“This is where the mask was resting before it was stolen.”

The room in which they just entered was lit by three large windows, one on each of its side and one directly in front of the main door, they offered an incredible view of the city. In the center of the large rectangle room were placed three pedestals made out of white marble, all of them encased in thick glass cages. Two of these cages were intact but the one on the right had been completely blown up. Some glass shards were still standing on the pedestal but most of it was spilled on the floor and it seemed desperately empty without the Aztec silver mask that used to lie on the fine red square of cloth on top of the pedestal.

“Each pedestal should be with an Aztec funeral mask, the golden one and the copper one are still here but the silver one has disappeared.”

“When was this noticed ?” The policeman stepped aside to let Inspector Volgard get a closer look of the desperately empty pedestal before he answered.

“It was reported at seven thirty three this morning by the owner, three minutes after his arrival. From what the security system can tell us the theft should have taken place between four or five this morning.”

“The security system ? Don’t we have an exact time ?” Asked the inspector.

“No, no exact time. Nor any footage be it image or sound. Everything has been disabled at four am precisely and reactivated at five twenty-one. The technical staff is still trying to understand how he did it and to salvage any data they can but there is little hope.”

Volgard nodded and sighed without answering. He started to look around and observed every entry with extreme meticulousness, but curiously he could not find any sign of an eventual break in.

“Were there any signs of a break in ?”

“No, there are no visible traces either on the doors or the windows inspector. The one who did this managed to go around the firewall, deactivate the whole security system and to walk past the three night guards on the lower floors without getting noticed.” Answered the policeman.

“Hmm, interesting…”

Thomas Volgard had said that more to himself than for the policeman that had welcomed him on the crime scene. He had indeed had to deal with the same modus operandi a few weeks back when a very rare and precious celtic stela had disappeared from the archeology museum to the south of the megalopolis.

“Did you notice anything when you got here ? Was there anything that seemed out of place ?”

“I couldn’t say sir, you should ask the owner of the place to do an inventory of the room to have a reliable answer.” Apoligized the young officer of police.

“And where might the owner be ?” Asked Volgard.

“Mr. Stanley is in his office on the other end of the floor, I’ll go and fetch him so that he can check if everything is in order sir.” Volgard nodded in approval and as officer Deloy walked away to fetch Edward Stanley, the owner of the whole building, he started looking around again. He had already heard about the man, apparently he had a keen interest in myths and legends but had never had the occasion to meet him. Edward Stanley had managed in the early twenties and against all odds to get the real estate branch of his company back on its feet when it was on the verge of bankruptcy. He had accomplished what many call a miracle by renting his buildings to rich investors and to companies in need of well situated premises. That had allowed him to get back on the market and some time later to crush all his competitors with he help of his newly acquired investors and clients. Now officially retired and almost at the age of seventy he had withdrawn in one of his private buildings with his wife and his collection of rare artefacts to make the most of it in peace. The total value of his collection was invaluable but it had made his fame in the archeological sphere. He sometimes rented some of the pieces of his collection when the cause was of some relevance to him but never lightly as he was in love with it.

One can easily understand how the theft of one of his most prized artefact could have been a trauma to him. He was sitting on his chair looking straight forward with unfocused eyes and a dull expression when the young policeman came into the room requesting his presence at the crime scene.

“Mr. Stanley ?”

The old man didn’t react immediately. It took him several seconds to come back to his senses and get back his bearings.

“Ah yes ! The police.  Yes indeed… What is it young man  ?”

“Mr. Stanley, Inspector Volgard had arrived and he asks for your presence at the crime scene to make sure nothing else than the mask is missing or out-of-place.”

“Oh… Yes, of course, I’m coming !”

The septuagenarian slowly got up from his chair, showing evident signs of discomfort at the idea of standing up. The officer made him walk in front and they moved towards the big exposition room at the other end of the corridor. The old man shivered as he came in the room where only two of his cherished masks remained but he didn’t stop and went directly to the inspector.

“Inspector Volgard I presume ?”

“Yes indeed sir, Thomas Volgard. You must be Edward Stanley. I apologize to have made you come back here, I know you must be quite preoccupied with all this. ” The old man nodded. “But I need your help here. I have to find out if anything else than the silver mask has been stolen or if anything seems out of the ordinary.”

“Of course inspector. Anything to help you find whoever did this.”

Edward Stanley straightened  and took a deep breath to give himself a semblance of courage and confidence.

“Tell me what I can do for you.”

“Well, I need to you to look around carefully tell me if you see anything else than the mask that could be missing or that seems out-of-place. Something that seems different from the last time you came here, any little detail is important !”

Volgard had already had to face people who had trouble controlling their emotions, that were extremely nervous or that were completely lost after similar happenings. Therefore he knew that involving the victim in the investigation sometimes helped finding clues but most of all it gave them the feeling of being useful and reassured them. This helped them overcome the bad things that had happened to them more easily. Asking the old man to help with the investigation was partly to help him get his mind off of the loss of his mask and allowed the inspector to check if the gut feeling he had been right.

After having gone around the room three full times the old man came back towards inspector Volgard with a step that seemed more sure and upbeat.

“Inspector, I think I found something.”

He brought him to the south corner of the room, the one facing the central window on th left of the door. Stanley pointed at a design of the wallpaper striped of crimson and gold, a thin drawing of a fleur de lys in gold painting.

“Do you see this fleur de lys ? Well if you look closer you can see it is a bit different from the others, its petals are a bit more arched than those of the other flowers. I know because I made all the arrangements for this room myself. And then there is this…”

The old man passed his hand on the flower he had designated and let his fingers run around the edges and trace a rectangle surrounding the flower on the wallpaper.

“If you feel the wallpaper with your finger you will notice there is a slight difference in thickness between this place and the rest of the paper.”

The owner stepped aside, letting Volgard feel the square for himself. Noticing nothing strange except the design o the flower in the beginning he started to feel the difference after a few seconds. The anomaly in the wallpaper surrounded the flower in a perfect rectangle. He got closer to the flower and as he looked he noticed that a square had been pasted on the real wallpaper, a square of the exact same color, almost unnoticeable to the human eye. The inspector then tried to peel it off, he took out his swiss knife and used the thinnest blade to do it after he got the agreement of the owner who now seemed a lot more interested in his discovery than in the loss of his mask. After a few minutes of meticulous work he managed to take off one of the top corners enough to be able to pull on it. He slowly ripped of the fake wallpaper, under it one could see the real wallpaper and another fleur de lys in the exact same shape as all the others that the culprit had attempted to copy. He turned the thin layer of paper around and after half a second a knowing and somewhat bitter smile appeared on his face. Edward Stanley looked over his shoulder, trying to see what was on the other side of the paper.

“What is it inspector ? Is it a clue ? What’s that on the other side ?”

The young policeman had also gotten closer, unable to resist his curiosity. Volgard turned the little square of paper over and showed it to the two other men. On the other side one could see a small symbol : a dark green triqueta drawn on the white background.


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Forging – Chapter 10.5 – The Museum

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February 21st 2039

It was nearly nine o’clock when the alarm had rung. Something had activated the security system of the natural history museum in the city-center. Inspector Thomas Volgard was on his way to the police headquarters to deposit his official car when he received the call, he was the nearest police officer to the museum. The inspector was therefore required to go and inspect the building, secure it if necessary until the arrival of the museum’s director and the police force, only act if necessary. He parked in front of the main entry and its great marble columns, he hastily climbed the stairs to the screen doors and immediately noticed something strange. They were closed and locked without any damage visible. Volgard rapidly circled the antique looking building and checked the only two emergency exits without any success, both were closed and locked, no sign of forced entry. Strange, what could have triggered the alarm if nothing came from the outside ? He heard an engine noise coming from the front and rapidly came back to his vehicle. A man was coming out of a grey BMW, he looked extremely stressed and walked towards the inspector with amazing speed.

“Are you the police ?” He asked with a high-pitched voice, revealing his stress and uneasiness.

“Yes, I’m inspector Volgard.” Answered the policeman while showing his badge. “Could you open the main doors so that I can go and take a look inside ?”

The man seemed to hesitate, then mumbling a weak “Oh of course !” He walked towards the doors and after fumbling nervously through his pockets he finally took out the keys and unlocked them. he let the detective enter before him. Volgard then turned around.

“Stay here” He said. “I’m going in alone.”

“What ? But- I- Well… My god ! How-”

“No, you are staying here until the other policemen arrive, I cannot worry about your security while I’m checking inside. When my colleagues arrive tell them everything you know and that I’m already inside. Understood ?” Said the inspector while looking the director directly in the eyes.

This little speech always proved useful with stressed victims, it convinced them to stay out of the crime scene, reassured them and made them feel like they had a role to play, that they were in control. And the fact that the police was relying on them calmed them down so that they obeyed without asking useless questions. Inspector Volgard did that often to avoid having them right behind when he needed to act fast.

Thomas Volgard went in the large building. It was dark inside, the only sources of light were the small emergency exit signs. He turned on the flashlight he had taken in his car earlier and pointed it in front of him. No sound came to him, everything was silent apart from the low rumble of the ventilation system. He passed by the main desk and decided to find the switches for the lights to light up the room. But as he prepared to jump over the counter a faint sound from the first floor caught his attention. The police officer decided to climb up the stairs immediately to see what had caused this noise and that the lights would have to wait. He quickly walked to the first floor, climbing the big wooden stairs two by two and arrived in a large corridor. The inspector walked slowly along the dark passage, not tripping only thanks to his torch. No other sound came to his ears as he did so but a faint light came from under one of the doors on his right. He approached it as soundlessly as possible, taking his time to be sure not to make any noise, and put his hand on the handle, ready to open when ready. With his right hand he took out his weapon in case he would need it, it was always better to be careful.

He pressed the handle and slowly opened the door. His eyes adjusted with difficulty to the strange intensity of the light in the room. Volgard didn’t notice instantly where the green light illuminating the room was coming from. After a few seconds he noticed a beam of emerald light coming from one of the displays. He also heard the sound of the sirens coming his way. Ah, they’re almost here. But he decided not to wait for backup to check on the light and continued to walk towards it.

The display had a piece of glass in the shape of a circle missing in its center. The sheet of glass that had been cut was lying against the front of the display. A pro’s work. The officer noticed that the ray of light was coming from a miniature pyramid.Looks like the Luxor. He thought with a chuckle. It was placed on the top of the glass display, towards the ceiling. Volgard remembered seeing objects like this on a trip to Las Vegas a few years back. The light suddenly turned on, lighting the room and blinding the inspector for a few seconds. He heard loud steps in the stairs and sighed. If anyone was still here before that they had surely escaped by now. He wouldn’t catch anyone by surprise now… He decided to call his colleagues to make his presence known.

“Up here guys !”

He looked at the display from up close, looking at the cut glass and then at its contents, trying to check if anything was actually taken. It didn’t look like it, all the pedestals had a rock, a piece of pottery or metal lying on them. Two policemen in uniform came in, followed by the director of the museum.

“I don’t understand, what could interest thieves here ? We have some rare rock indeed but they aren’t worth much…”

One of the policeman nodded while the other walked to the inspector. He took out his badge to prove his identity.

“Inspector Volgard I presume ?” Asked the closer of the two officers.

“Yes, that’s me. I came by as soon as I got the order. Good to have you guys around, it was a bit dark here…”

The first policeman flinched slightly at this remark, he apparently ha realized his mistake a bit too late.

“So, did you see anybody then ?” He asked, trying to hide his uneasiness and not sounding hopeful at all.

“No, everything was locked down. The director opened the main doors on my request. When I came in I heard a noise coming from this floor but when I came up here to check only this room was lit. I entered to check and found out this little device.” He pointed at the black pyramid. “This sort of lamp was lighting the room when I came in. And the glass here was cut open as if someone had tried to steal something. But nothing seems to have been taken, though the director should confirm this himself. I saw no one entering nor exiting the building. Not a soul inside.”

“Mmmh mmmh” Nodded the policeman. “The director told us that the alarm had been activated at about eight fifty-seven. It was deactivated less than a minute later. No other security system was triggered so he found it strange that one would suddenly activate and then deactivate on its own. He called the police and then came here.

The inspector turned towards the director.

“The alarm was turned off ? From the inside ?”

“Yes, it stopped ringing after a minute and only someone inside with  an access to the main control panel, wich is inside my office, could have turned it off.”

“That is strange.” The inspector started scratching his chin, seemingly deep in thoughts at this revelation. The curator seemed very eager to check his precious collection of objects so he motioned towards him to do so. The man had greying hair and was not very tall, he seemed puny and very fragile. He sweated a lot and his hands shook as he walked towards the display. Th inspector decided to reassure him before he fainted or had a cardiac arrest.

“Don’t worry, I have a feeling that nothing has been stolen. I simply want your confirmation.”

The man appeared to regain some self-control and came up close to the glass cover, lowering his eyes to look at its content. After only a few seconds of intense observation he sighed in relief. Such a straightforward reaction that it made Volgard and the policemen smile slightly. Then the man looked up again.

“Nothing was stolen, thank god !” He exclaimed. “But…” He trailed off.

“But what ?” Asked the policeman before Thomas Volgard could react.

“But it seems that this small card wasn’t there before.”

He was pointing towards a white cardboard card that was lying against one of the stones. One could discerns a small G written in a decorative hand in black ink. The inspector took out some gloves from his pocket and reached for the card once he had them on so as not to arase any eventual print. He looked at the G for a few moments, trying to understand what it meant then turned it around to see if anything was written on the other side. Two words were written in the same writing style and he read them out loud.

“My apologies.”

Someone had come here with the intention of stealing something but they either hadn’t had the time or hadn’t found what they wanted. But why go to this extent to be unnoticed and leave all this behind ? Leaving a message like that could only mean one thing to Volgard : whoever did that was taunting the police. And the police didn’t tolerate that. He gave the card to the second policeman who put it in a plastic bag for safekeeping. He then let the other police officer do their job and search for evidence and gave them his number if they needed his testimony for the investigation. When he walked out of the museum it was almost half past nine. He started the engine and drove of to the police headquarters to take his personal car before driving home. All along the way Thomas Volgard was thoughtful. Who could have done that ? Someone with excellent electronic and thieving skills he presumed. Either the culprit was very dumb for leaving all this evidence behind or he was really confident. That was something Volgard was determined to discover.

As the inspector was hoping in his car he didn’t notice the dark silhouette watching him from the top of the museum, hidden in darkness. The stranger was wearing a mask and a dark body suit to be undiscernible from the shadows. He watched as the car was disappearing in night and jumped, landing without a sound on the street before walking away. Another failure, he thought. He still hadn’t found what he was looking for and it was starting to unnerve him. At leat the night hadn’t been without a reward, an interesting man this Volgard. Very interesting indeed. The future seemed to be much more interesting suddenly…

 


 

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Forging – Chapter 10

“A key ?” Asked Jeff looking a bit surprised.

“Yes, that’s what was in the box.” Replied Maximilian as he looked at the two adults. “I have no idea why he would leave me a key… What does it even open?” He asked more to himself than to his foster parents, but as he said that Jeff looked at Doris and a silent conversation seemed to occur between them. Doris nodded and Jeff turned back to the teenager who looked more than curious. He cleared his throat.
“I- We might have an idea of what it opens. Thought it’s not absolutely sure, I don’t see anything else that would explain it.”

“So…” Asked Maximilian as Jeff didn’t go on with his explanation. “What do you think it opens then?” Jeff looked at him for a moment before answering.

“Their house… I think it’s the key to you parent’s house.”

“What? What do you mean their house?”

“Well Alexandre and Sophia lived a bit more to the north of New York than we are. They had a little old manor that they had bought and were thinking of renovating before, well before they disappeared.” Replied Doris. “That is the only explanation I see. Why give you a key without the object it opens? Maybe because it’s too big to be given like that…”

“I think so too.” Nodded Jeff. “Of course it coud be the key to something else but I place my bet on the house. I think he would’ve wanted you to have a place to call home in case, you know, something happened to him too. That sounds just like your father. And, if you are curious about why he wanted to give it to you on your sixteenth birthday or why he ravelled  it in so much secret, I can only answer you that it’s very much like him. He always an odd way of thinking… Brilliant if you ask me, but out of the box.” Added Jeff with a light chuckle, cutting his son’s upcoming question off. “You could never know what to expect with him.”

“Their house… My parents’ house…” Whispered the teenager as he studied the key more intently. It was quite large and heavy, like one of those old keys for gigantic doors, but the pattern of its blade was extremely sophisticated. It seemed like it had been designed to look an old key but to open a very secure, and probably unique, lock. Maximilian didn’t understand what his father had meant to do by leaving him that key and apparently neither did Doris and Jeff, but it must have been for a reason. And he wanted to know. “You said it was somewhere to the north of New York ?” He asked looking back up at the two adults.

“Yeah, a bit up north from here if I remember correctly, about an hour and a half drive i think” Jeff looked at Doris who nodded to confirm. “We only got to go there once when Sophia and Alexandre invited for dinner just after they bought the house.”

“Mom!” Called Arthur from upstairs.

“Yes Arty?” Answered Doris as she walked out of the kitchen to the stairs.

“Mr. Cat and me are hungry! Is dinner ready yet?” Maximilian heard Arthur say. He didn’t hear Doris’s reply though as Jeff walked to his side and gave him back the key.

“I really have no idea what your father meant by giving you this, he has always been a man of many mysteries. But if you want to know more about this we could go see the house this week-end if you want. It might not be that but we can always try. Would you like to do that?” Asked the light-haired man with a smile.

“Yeah. I’d like that.”

“Okay, I’ll talk to Doris about it then, and I’ll try to call your father’s notary too. He should be able to tell us more about that.”

“Thanks dad!” Replied Maximilian with a smile.

“No need Max, I know it must mean a lot to you to know who were your parents. And I too want to know what this key opens, I’ve always been curious about your father’s mysteries, that’s what brought us together in the first place you know.”

“Oh really? How did you two meet?”

“Yeah really. We met at the role play club at the university. Yeah I know, I know, we were nerds at the time! Anyways, your father wanted to create a treasure hunt that would go on through the whole year and that would oppose each department on the campus. he had such great ideas! But he lacked in motivation and people to help him. So he came to me and sort of enrolled me in this project. We worked really hard and had so much fun creating the riddles and planning the clues. We became friends pretty quickly thanks to that, but unfortunately his project of a treasure hunt was not accepted by the headmaster and we weren’t allowed to achieve it that year. That didn’t discourage us though and we continued working on it and finally finished it during the summer. The day our second school year started we went to see the headmaster and we convinced him to let us do it. We didn’t think it would be very popular around all the students but we were surprised to see that almost everyone wanted to give it a try. We had to organize everything, it was so much work but we managed in the end. With some help of course…” Jeff explained, with a strange smile as he finished.

“Man, that must have been so cool! Did anyone manage to solve it?” As the teenager asked that Jeff’s smile grew.

“Yes, actually it was the Red house who managed to solve it. You see we were divided in five houses. Each one having a colour. Your father and I were in the Blue House, the loyal. But there were also te Red house, for the passionate, the Green house for the cold-headed, the Yellow house for the imaginative and the Purple House for the resourceful. We weren’t really sorted out like this but each house had a motto and a colour symbol to ‘keep the competitive spirit’ active. Anyways, your father and I couldn’t participate in the game so our house was at a disadvantage” Jeff chuckled. “but I must say that the Red house won only because they had luck. The first person to solve all the riddles was a young woman, she came up to your father and told him they were too easy to solve, and amazingly that rendered him speechless. Unless it was her good looks? I don’t really remember. Anyways her name was Sophie. That’s the first time your father met your mother too.”

“My mother was the one who solved all my father’s riddles?” Asked Max, completely taken aback.

“Yes, she was as much a riddle lover as your father and that is why I think they ended up together. Though it wasn’t obvious that they would at the beginning, they almost despised each other you know…” Added the man as he laughed. Maximilian laughed too, strangely it didn’t surprise him that his parents hadn’t like each other at first sight, it strangely almost relieved him. “I still have trouble believing that she could’ve shut him up that day. She was so confident it threw him off-balance every time.”

“And how did you meet Doris then?” The teenager could swear he had seen the adult blush as he asked that question but it was so quick he couldn’t be sure.

“Well… that is a long story…” Started Jeff. Maximilian was ready to press him on when Jelly ran into the kitchen and jumped in his knees. “Oh! Looks like we are ready to eat!” Said Jeff, apparently relieved to not have to tell the story of his meeting with his wife. “We’d better go and set the table.” The man in his forties added as he left the room with the plates.

Maximilian stood up and took put the key back in his pocket. He had spent a week trying to open that box and to guess what could be in it, hoping that it would give him some answers. But after finally succeeding tonight he had been a bit disappointed. The teenager sighed as he took out the rest of the dishes and walked to the living room. Guess I’ll have to wait until the week-end to have my answers… He placed the forks and knives on the table with one hand, having to carry Mr. Cat with the other. He was about to sit when Arthur and Doris came in the room.

“Here you are Jelly!” Exclaimed Arthur. The cat jumped of Maximilian as soon as he heard the young boy and ran off past him to play.

“Well you seem to be growing on him Arthur!” Said Doris with a smile.

“Yes, he loves to play with me! Don’t you mister Cat?!” Agreed the young boy, taunting the kitten with a small piece of rubber. Jeff who had returned to the kitchen to get the food came back and started to serve everyone.

“Dinner is ready!” He exclaimed. “Everybody sit down and eat now” Arthur pouted but gave his rubber to the small cat and came to sit between his parents. “Tonight we’re eating fried rice!” Added Jeff.

“Yay! I love fried rice!” exclaimed Arthur as he dug into his newly served plate.

After working about two hours on his program Maximilian decided he had done enough. His progress was constant but much too slow in his opinion, he had managed to make the ‘save’ and ‘load’ functions work almost correctly. There were still some bugs but he had decided to correct them later on. He had also been looking for the reason why it had behaved strangely the previous days but nothing indicated that anything was wrong with his code. That evening it hadn’t shown any weird reaction but he was sure it would occur again so the teenager decided to program small searching bot that would detect any strange activity on the computer. He wanted to know what was going on. He turned off the screen but let the computer run, since it continued in a semi-standby mode (an old function that had long been replaced by the cold core but that Maximilian was fond off) it was silent so it didn’t bother him during the night, and he went to lie on his bed.

The teenager lay there a long time before finally getting to sleep. he thought about his parents,about the key and the house his father had allegedly left him. He thought about his mother, how young and happy she had seemed on that picture. His father felt more distant, but maybe that was because he hadn’t remembered him from his dreams. An who was that red-haired woman? He wondered. I’ll have to ask Jeff about that, he didn’t tell me who she was when he showed me the photograph… Maximilian thought about his program and the weird reactions it had shown. Not asking his username and remembering it before he had added the save function, but maybe he had added it for the username. And the part of the scenario he didn’t remember adding, he had almost finished the function but could swear he hadn’t implemented the function yet. Maybe someone was playing with him… Anyways he would see that as time passed. He also thought about his ability and of new ways he could train it. What would he be able to do if he decided to train seriously? Since he had started to use it more frequently the week before he had seen improvements each day. Each day he could sense more things and from farther away. For the first time he wondered how far he could push himself. A mad thought ran through his head at that moment. What if… What if this evening in the bus hadn’t been a fluke? If he did train his power, could he be able to make objects move simply by thinking about it? No it couldn’t be… But as the night dragged him deeper into sleep the teenager couldn’t let go of that possibility, of course it was impossible that he could ever do that. But yet, what if?

*

September 11th 2038

The alarm went off at 7 o’clock and the young man immediately turned it off, groaning loudly. He took a few minutes to fully wake up and then stood up and walked out of his room towards the bathroom to relieve his strained bladder. Then, before going downstairs, he came back to his room and took a quick look at his computer. The search program still displayed no result. Maximilian groaned again, it had been two days already since he had launched the small bot and, since then, nothing interesting had happened which was starting to get on the teenager’s nerves. Of course, when I look nothing happens… He turned his screen back off before walking down the stairs, almost falling over the small kitten who had come to him to get his daily cat petting.

“Careful there Jelly, you’ll get hurt if you surprise me like that!” Said Maximilian with a smile as he took the little kitten in his arms and gently scratched his back. Jelly was purring softly as he arrived in the kitchen and sat down at the table. He tried to put the animal on the floor but apparently that didn’t please Mr. Cat as he frantically clawed his way back to his lap. Maximilian smiled and spent his whole breakfast eating and petting the small kitten. It then took a few minutes to convince it to let him go take a shower and prepare himself for school but the teenager managed to be ready to go by half past seven and after a quick hug to his Doris who had just woken up he hurried out of the house to the bus stop which was around the block. That day he only started at 9 o’clock so he had been able to wake up an hour later than usual but he was still tired. Maximilian managed to hop on the bus just in time, he went to sit down in the middle on the right side and put his bag on the seat next to him. He checked his jacket pocket to see if the coin was still there as he wanted to test his power. He put it on the palm of his hand and focused on it, letting his mind expand over the bus, he tried to cast out any other objects he could sense but it wasn’t as easy in a moving bus as in his room. It took him a good minute of effort before finally managing to only focus on the coin in his hand. Let’s try some things then! He thought.

The young man first tried to imagine the coin moving on its own, thinking about it gliding on his palm but it didn’t move from the center of his hand. He tried to imagine it floating, spinning and even jumping out but even the slightest shake didn’t occur. He then imagined his mind being an invisible arm that would grab the coin and make it levitate but as soon as he tried to picture his power with a physical form he lost the focus he had on the coin and reverted back to extending it to the whole bus. Damn it! I can’t concentrate! He thought. It took him a another few minutes to focus back only on the coin, though less than before it, and once he managed it he tried once more to visualize an arm. But the coin still refused to budge. Move! Come on! Maximilian was frustrated, he felt like he had built his hopes up too much over something that wasn’t possible in the end… He almost put the coin back in his pocket but instead took a deep breath and sighed deeply. maybe he was much too stressed about this, his power always had been instinctive to him bt maybe this time he had to work hard to get some result… He decided to keep trying, he couldn’t give up so soon after trying.

Maximilian changed his strategy of approach a bit and imagined the coin moving, at the same time he focused on one word : move. He repeated it over and over in his head like a mantra, each time trying to put his will and his energy in the word. He went on like this for so long that he started to lose track of time, focusing entirely on the small metal circle. But despite the time that passed and the concentration he was putting into it the coin still refused to budge. He was starting to feel tired of all this useless effort when he opened his eyes and let go of his power. As soon as he did he saw fall down and felt it bump lightly into the palm of his hand. Wha-? Had he seen well? Had the coin really been floating over his hand? His heart skipped a beat and he felt light-headed. Did it really work? He had to check it. He closed his eyes again and concentrated on the coin once more, and strangely found it a lot easier than the first time. He calmed himself and concentrated on the coin and what he wanted it to do : move.  After a few minutes of concentration he felt a strange tingling sensation in his left arm, as if he had slept over it for a long time. He slowly opened his eyes, careful not to break his focus, and saw the small coin hovering a few centimeters over his hand. Maximilian stared at it in awe for a few seconds, unable to do anything else. He then let his focus slip away and the coin fell down in his hand. Wow… It worked,  I wasn’t crazy… He thought as he put back the coin in his pocket. The teenager looked around him, suddenly wondering if anyone had seen him. But the bus was almost empty and no one was looking at him with and astonished face so he calmed down and sat back comfortably on his seat. This is amazing… But man I’m tired… He only had time to think before falling asleep with a tired but contempt smile on his face.

 


 

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Forging – Chapter 9

“Max ! Max ! Look at what I found !” Screamed Arthur as soon as the teenager had shut the front door behind him. The young boy came running towards his brother with a small black and white kitten in his hands. “He’s so cute ! I named him Jelly, but you can call him Mr. Cat too !”

“Well hello there Mr. Cat !” Said Maximilian with a smile as he put down his schoolbag. “Where did you find him ?” He added as he scratched the kitten on the head. It was purring happily at the attention if was given.

“I found him on the road from school near the bus stop. It looked so scared and cold so I took it with me and put it in my coat to warm it up. But mom and dad say we can’t keep it…” Added the young boy with a pout.

“They said that, huh ?” Asked Maximilian as he saw Jeff and Doris listening silently to their conversation from the other end of the corridor, both smiling.

“Yeah… But I like him ! I want to keep Mr. Cat !” Sighed Arthur.

“Well, maybe if you prove to mom and dad that you are ready to take care of Mr. Cat they might say yes and let you keep it.” The teenager saw the disapproving look on Doris’s face as he said that but he put on a smug smile and shrugged to Jeff’s greatest pleasure. The man in his forties laughed silently at his wife’s frowning, knowing very well she could not refuse to Arthur to keep the cat after what had been said. He walked up to his youngest son and put a friendly hand on his shoulder.

“Of course we’ll keep it Arthur !” He said, watching his son’s face light up with delight. “But you have to promise to mom that you will take good care of, Jelly is it ? Otherwise she won’t be okay with it.”

“I promise !” Shouted the young boy as he ran to his mother to give her a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you so much mom ! Now, come Jelly, I’m going to show you your new house !” He added before running off upstairs to his room.

Doris gave a murderous look to her husband and her adoptive son and left the corridor without a word. Father and son looked at each, Jeff was still laughing silently at his wife’s reaction.

“Don’t ever tell her I said that” He started in a whisper, having some difficulty at staying serious long enough to align two words. “but she actually  wanted to keep it all along. She just thought  she had to say no because Arthur is too young. But if he doesn’t have a pet now, when will he ?” He winked excessively at Maximilian.

“So, how was your day at school ?”

“Fine” Answered the teenager. “I showed the box to Simon and we researched a bit, we might have found the answer, I’m going to try it as soon as I can.”

“Oh really ? And so, what does he say about it ?”

“He says it must open with a magnetic lock, you have to touch it with a magnet where the lock is and it will open.”

“Interesting…” Answered Jeff thoughtfully.

“Oh and we’ve also already been notified of the first dates of exams too, though it’s not that important…”

“Tch, you’ll see what non-important things will happen to you if you don’t work on them seriously son !”

“Oh, so I’m your son now ? When it arranges you… Don’t you find that a bit too easy ?” Exclaimed Maximilian, acting overly outraged.

“Go on like that young man, just go on like that…” Said Jeff putting his arm up, threatening to smack his son on the head.

“I surrender, I surrender ! Doby is a good boy !” Shouted Maximilian as he ran upstairs before the light-brown haired man could smack him on the skull.

“That’s right boy, you should fear me !” Answered Jeff with a light chuckle before walking towards the kitchen to help his wife prepare dinner.

As soon as he came into his room Maximilian put his backpack on the side of his desk, turned on his computer and placed the small box on his desk after taking it out of his bag. He let the software boot up and started rummaging through the drawers of his desk and then, apparently not finding what he was looking for, started to go through the old stuff he had stored in plastic boxes at the foot of his bed. After a few seconds he found what he was looking for : a yellow plastic bag with a zipper. He remembered when his aunt, well Doris’s sister, had offered it to him, he had played hours trying to catch all the small metal beads with the magic gloves. Of course now only the gloves and a few of the beads remained, he had lost the rest over time. But what interested him were the magnets in the glove that prevented the player to catch the beads if they were not agile enough. He carefully opened one of the small piece of cloth and took out the metallic cylinder that was placed in it, once he had done that he put back the glove in the bag and placed the bag on the side. As the computer finished loading and his session opened Maximilian put the magnet beside the wooden box and started to carefully study it. This time it didn’t take him long to find what he was looking for, he knew there had to be some kind of mark that indicated the position of the lock.

And indeed he found a small rose was engraved in a circle on each face of the box but the one on the top and the one on the front face were a little bit bigger than the others and the teenager immediately knew it had to be one of the two.  He put back the box on the table, took the magnet and slowly placed it on the front rose. As he did he heard a faint click and his heart leapt with excitement. Finally ! he thought, I’m going to see what’s in there ! As he put the magnet down he heard the same faint click. The young man reached to open the box but when he tried to separate the top part from the bottom one nothing moved, neither did any part of the box for that matter of fact. It didn’t budge and didn’t seem to be openable from any side. Maximilian sighed and took the magnet again, putting it back against the rose on the front. The faint click sound resounded again but once more nothing moved. He repeated the process a few times each time hearing a click when he pressed the magnet on the box and another one when he took it away. His frustration was starting to grow but he decided keep trying and after five minutes of unfruitful tries the top rose. This time again he heard a faint click coming from the inside of the box but still no apparent change. He sighed and put down the magnet on his desk, sat back straight on his chair and sighed in disappointment. Why didn’t it open ? Was it a bad joke from his father ? Or even from Jeff ? No, he couldn’t believe it. Still, he didn’t understand what he was doing wrong. It clicked each time he put the magnet on a rose but nothing moved… During the next fifteen minutes he tried every rose shape on the box, tried both sides of the magnet, tried them again in any order combination order he could think of and even tried by following the rhythm of famous songs but to no avail. The box did not budge. Why ? How did the box open ? He didn’t yet have the answers to these questions and it made him very frustrated.

Deciding he couldn’t let the matter drop ike that he tried the magnet on every other face of the box, even the bottom one, but only the top and front ones reacted when he pressed the magnet against them. Why did they react without opening the box ? And why only those two ? As he asked himself those questions an idea came to him. He looked at the box again, then at the magnet. He was almost thinking about calling Simon to tell him what had happened, or in this case not happened, when a bright smile spread on his face.

“Of course !” he exclaimed. “Why didn’t I notice that earlier ?! It’s so obvious !” Again the teenager rummaged in the yellow plastic bag, took out the second glove and retrieved the other magnet. He took one in each hand and lifted them up to eye level, studying them as if they were precious gems. “Of course !” He repeated, almost amazed at his idiocy. He then prayed to any superior being that might be out there to let what he was about to try be the solution or he would never have the same confidence in his intellect as he did right now. Slowly he lowered the two metal disks, placed one on the top of the box and took a deep breath before placing the second magnet on the rose pattern on the front face. As he did he heard two faint clicks coming from inside the box. Yes, two locks, I knew it ! I simply had to place one on each rose, so simple… As he waited, almost drowning in anticipation, he forgot to breath. The teenager closed his eyes and focused on the two magnets. He knew full well this was not the most brilliant idea he had ever had since there were magnets near him and whats more he was in direct contact with them. But he couldn’t resist the temptation of using his ability to try once more and get a look at the mechanism that was supposed to be hidden inside. As he did he felt the familiar despite disagreeable feeling of the small magnetic fields of the magnets. If he tried to concentrate too long he knew he would have a hell of a headache after that. So he focused his full attention of the places where the top rose was and pressed on as he felt the strange barrier that prevented him to “see” the mechanism. Either it had weakened or he had become stronger for after a few seconds of intense efforts and concentration he managed to pierce through the energy (or whatever it was made of) wall and immediately a picture of the lock and the gears appeared in his mind. He could clearly see them and how they were supposed to work to opened the top part of the box.

Immediately after he had managed this feat he felt his attention dragged to a single point in space. What happened next is very hard to describe. It’s like his whole consciousness was sucked up by a miniature dark hole, he couldn’t do anything to resist. Everything went suddenly dark. Then images, sounds and feelings started flowing in his head at high-speed, to fast for him to have time to make each of them out. He heard water splashing, birds chirping, laughs. With these sounds came the smell of burnt wood, the electric taste of iron and immense pain in his chest. His vision jumped from stars to atoms, from light to darkness and from focused on every detail to absolutely blurry. All this happened at the same time and so fast it was hard to tell how long it had lasted. After that came a single image, he saw a man with a sad smile and heard a voice. “Follow the path… and you will succeed…”. Maximilian hadn’t seen the man’s lips moving but he had known it was he who had talked. Lastly he found himself in his room again but this time he was floating over his body, he was there at his desk, waiting for the box to open itself. And when after a few seconds nothing had still happened he felt himself letting out a big sigh and groaning in frustration, he reached for the box but as he was about to retrieve the magnets he heard a third click, deeper and stronger than the other two.  He lowered his head and put his ear against the wooden surface of the box to listen. As he did, Maximilian heard a fourth click and then a fifth one. Then a whole mechanism seemed to jump to life in the box, gears were slowly turning, levers were moving and the wood was shaking lightly. Another series of light clicks followed by a stronger one and then it stopped. As the last clicking sound reverberated in the room a quick “psh” emanated from the box because of the pressurized air coming out. The top part had separated itself from the bottom one and was now rising as the box slowly opened. Maximilian pushed the magnets aside a finally was able to take a look at its content.

“Ugh…” Groaned Maximilian as he opened his eyes. He tried to get up but his head was spinning too much and it hurt like hell. “What the-…”

He thought at first that he had hit his head on the floor where he was lying but it didn’t throb like when he bumped it on something, the pain seemed to come from the inside. He slowly sat and as his eyes focused he started to remember what he had been doing before that. He stood up with some difficulty and placed back his fallen chair in front of his desk and let himself fall back on it. The teenager massaged his head, trying to make the pain fade away but it was no use.

“Damn, I knew I shouldn’t have done it so close to magnets…” He muttered.

“Max ?” He heard Jeff calling from the bottom floor. “Is everything okay ?”

“Yeah !” He shouted back. “I’m fine, just tripped on my chair and fell down. Don’t worry, I’m still in one piece !”

“Good, be careful then ! It made quite the noise you know !”

“Okay, I will, promise !” He answered

He heard Jeff walk away and continue to massage his temples. Damn headache ! He thought. When he managed to open his eyes without the world buzzing around him and feeling as they were trying to jump out of his skull he looked down at his desk. One of the magnet had fallen on the ground and the other had been pushed back against the wall on the far end of the desk. How that had happened he didn’t know but he didn’t know what had happened after all so that was no big deal. He checked the time and saw that he had been out for only a minute. But it felt so much longer than that. He had heard that the mind when sleeping or in a trance state could process information much faster than when awake because the brain had access to its unconscious part. That it was for this reason that dreams sometimes seemed to last hours when you only had slept a few minutes. But what he had just experienced was something else. He had felt that strange energy wall when he had tried to pry into the mechanism of the box. What it was and why it happened he had absolutely no idea but he knew it was something that was designed to prevent him from ‘seeing’ through. The teenager also tried to remember the images and the sounds he had experienced but each time he was on the verge of remembering it slipped away from his reach. Even the face he had seen was slipping away, thought he was sure it was familiar to him, only the voice and it message remained clear as day. What did it say again ? ‘Follow the path and you will prevail’ ?” But that made no sense to him. “What path ? What was he supposed to prevail in ? Were these words even destined to him ?

At that time I couldn’t be sure of anything, all those things I had seen, everything that I had felt seemed so strange and yet I had a feeling they somehow made sense. But what mattered most to me then was that the box was open and I could finally take a look at what it contained, what I had been mulling over for the past two weeks…

 


 

 <— Previous chapterForgingNext Chapter —>

Forging – Chapter 8

“So, you’re telling me either someone is accessing your computer without permission or it’s acting on its own? Come on man, you’re getting paranoid! I bet it’s because you don’t pay enough attention when you leave your room…”

“No, I’m telling you, I turned the game and the screen off before leaving…” Assured Maximilian.

“Well I say it’s you who is not careful enough… And you should check your firewall to see if anyone could have pirated your computer.” Retorted Simon with a mocking smile.

“Yeah, I’ll do that. But it’s really weird.”

“Anyways, you said you wanted to show me the box your father gave you.”

“Oh yeah, wait a minute!”

The teenager quickly got up and walked to his locker, he opened it and took out the wooden small wooden box before closing it again. The classes had ended half an hour ago and since it was only half past three the two boys had decided to stay in school and spend their time in the library. Maximilian had promised to show to Simon the present from his deceased father and the library allowed them to do some research on it if needed without leaving the school. He put it down on the dark wooden table and sat back on his chair opposite to his friend. Simon picked up the box and studied it carefully for a few minutes, turning it over and over again in every direction.

“Wow” He said after putting it back down in the table. “It really doesn’t have any lock. I can’t even see how it opens or if it can be opened, it’s a masterpiece of design!”

“Since when are you interested in things like this?” Laughed Maximilian.

“Oh shut up ! It’s not just a simple box I tell you, it’s some kind of puzzle. And I swear I saw something similar somewhere, but I can’t remember where…”

“Well that’s convenient !” Said Maximilian, mocking his friend again.

“Hey! Stop making fun of me, orphan boy!” Simon had said that with and exaggerated wicked smile. “Or I’ll punch you!”

“Yeah, like I’d let you!” Scoffed the dark-haired teen. “Maybe we’d find something in here, it’s a goldmine of information.”

“Maybe.” Agreed a thoughtful Simon.  “I’ll go check on the internet!” He added before getting up quickly and almost running to one of the free computers in the corner of the room.

“Tch, then I’ll look at the books… If ever you’re interested in knowing…” Muttered Maximilian with a sigh and a faint smile. He stood up and started looking for the puzzle books section. The teenager knew that it was somewhere near because the previous year he had found a book on simple magic tricks that he had borrowed for a few days. He stopped in front of a shelf with old-looking books of the fantasy genre. He read some of the titles to see if he knew any of them. Lord of the rings, Eragon, Narnia, The Magician’s Son, Moonland. He had read a few of those, they were “old but gold” as would say Patrick the librarian, a forty years old bookworm who Maximilian had befriended since last year as he was one of the students who came the most often. Finally after passing through two other shelves full with rows of books he stopped in front of a smaller section of the library where it said “Puzzles and brain teasers”. Yep, it’s still here, he thought.

He took a few books, those who seemed the most interesting, and walked back to the table where he had left his bag and the box. The teenager took a look at his watch. Quarter to four, huh. We’ve got plenty of time, he thought as he sat back and opened the first book of the pile. Looking through the pages all he found were detailed articles about popular mysteries, it proposed different theories about Stonehenge, explained how the pyramids of Giza were built and showing pictures of crop circles and strange shapes engraved on the ground.

“Nope, that’s not it !” As he was reading Maximilian had taken the bad habit of rocking his chair back and forth and when he moved to put the book back on the table he almost slipped and fell. He only managed to balance himself thanks to Patrick who was walking by with a chariot full of books.

“Careful there, young man !” Said the blond man, having a hard time staying serious.

“Oh ! Sorry Patrick ! I didn’t see you coming. And thanks, I almost slipped there…”

“Yeah, that’s a bad habit you got there, especially with those chairs.” Nodded librarian. “Hey, what are you looking at here ? Puzzle books?”

“Oh yeah. I have this box here you see.” The young man pointed at the wooden box on the table. “And I can’t manage to find how to open it so Simon and me are doing some research here.”

“I see. Well I can’t say I’ve ever been good with puzzles and I sure have never seen that kind of box anywhere so I can’t help you there!” Said Patrick, sincerely apologizing for not being of any assistance. That made the teenager smile. Patrick Smith was a kind man to the core, he loved to help students in their researches and to be able to get them the book reference they would need to find what they wanted. Every student in need of help could come to him at any time and he would gladly take on his own time to help him. “But I think you got what you need there !” Added the blond with a smile.

“I hope so!” Replied the dark-haired young man. “So, how are you today? Feeling good?” Also asked Maximilian.

“That I am, I feel especially happy today and strangely the most rested I’ve been since a long time, my back hurts a lots less since I go see that doctor you know. Plus Hellen and I are going out tonight !” He said enthusiastically.

“Oh nice!” Exclaimed the teenager with a smile. “You’re going to the movies?”

“Yep! I don’t know what we’re going to see yet though.” The man finished placing a few books on the shelves behind Maximilian. “Anyways, I got work to do and not just a little. I’ve got all those books to put back to their place so I’ll wish you a good day and take my leave.” He added slowly pushing his cart full of books away.

“Okay, I’ll see you later Patrick!” Answered Maximilian before going back to his books.

The teenager went thought the two other books he had taken but with no more luck than for the first one. The closest thing he found to the box was a magic box with a secret compartment to hide a small object when you moved it in a certain way. He also read about how to look like a real Esper and tried to solve some of the more complex riddles in the book with a reserved success. As he was almost at the end of the third book he heard Simon call him from the computer he was using. Some outraged students hushed him, muttering that it was “a library dammit, not a circus” but the red-head played no attention to them and even called his friend a second time just to bother them. Maximilian put his bag on his shoulder and took the box with him as he went to put the books back in place. He then proceeded to join his friend before the computer.

“You found something?” He asked as he approached.

“I think so Max!” Answered Simon. His friend knew he must have found something good from the way he couldn’t stand in place, he literally danced on his chair. “You should take a look at this.” He added as his friend sat beside him.

“I knew I had heard about something like this somewhere ! I just couldn’t remember where exactly but after browsing the web a little I found this.” As the redhead explained this to Maximilian he showed him a small wooden cubic box. “This box is called a Puzzle Box. It’ was quite simple to find actually. It’s a type of puzzle where you have to find how to open the box by finding the secret key. It can be a hidden lock, a small place to press or two sides to press at once in different directions to activate the lock.” Maximilian nodded.

“Okay. But that doesn’t really help since you saw yourself mine doesn’t have any way to open it. And you know, I’m not dumb, I had already researched it a bit and I already found out about the Puzzle Boxes, I tried the combinations they propose but it didn’t help. Mine is different.”

“Yes, that’s what I think too.” Agreed the redhead. “Though I didn’t have much time to test it I think that your box opens in a different way. I was sure I had already seen that type of puzzle somewhere so I kept searching and finally I stumbled upon this page.” On the screen one could now see a website for electronic locks. “At first I thought it might have been an electronic lock, you know like fingerprint or something like that. But it was too farfetched, it would have cost a lot to add a fingerprint recognition system to a small box like this, an it would be kind of pointless. But it gave me another idea.” Simon was now smiling broadly.

“Let me guess, you remembered what it was, didn’t you?” Guessed Maximilian with a mocking smile.

“Exactly. The lock has to be a simple enough system it would fit in the box but complicated enough to be secure. A magnet. That’s what I remembered.”

“A magnet?” Repeated thoughtfully the dark-haired teen. “That reminds me of something…”

“Yeah, I’m not surprised. You remember that show a few years back, with the magician apprentices ? Where they had to learn ll those tricks, show them to a jury and come up with new ones ? Well there was an episode about the secrets of  magicians’ magic boxes and they showed a box like that. It wasn’t exactly the same, this one was handmade I think, but still I’d bet anything it will open with a magnet !”

“Yeah, I think I recall them talking about something like that on the show. Though I’d never have remembered that on my own…”

“So, what do we say to our great friend, huh ?” Asked Simon with a mischievous grin. Maximilian hit him with a slight punch on the shoulder.

“Yeah but no, I’ll thank you only once I really manage to open it, which I can’t do right now since I don’t have any magnet with me.”

“Aw come on! I’m sure I’m right! Wanna bet?” Maximilian looked at his friend for a few seconds before answering, carefully considering the proposition as he knew his friend always liked to have fun stakes when he made bets.

“Okay, I’ll bite. What do you want to bet then ?” As soon as he said that he regretted it. Simon’s grin widened, if that was possible, and he sat back straight.

“Well… let’s say that if you lose… you’ll owe me a dare !”

“Alright.” Agreed Maximilian after a few seconds. “But I you’re not right you will owe me one !”

“Done !” Exclaimed the redhead as he extended his hand. Maximilian returned his friend’s devious smile as he shook it and sat down on a chair nearby. He took the box and studied it once more, trying to find out what it could contain. What will I find in there ? What could be important enough for my father to hide it like that ? Those questions had already crossed his mind during the las few days, he had wondered over and over what was inside the little wooden chest. But to his great frustration, neither his power nor the fact that he had thought about almost all the hypotheses had helped him find out what was inside. “Do you have any idea what’s in there?” Asked Simon as if he was reading his friend’s mind. “‘Cause now that I think of it I didn’t even ask you…”

“No, I don’t have any idea of what could be in there. Jeff didn’t know what my father could have put in there and neither did Doris. The only clue that I have is that it can’t be something big or too heavy, but else than that I have absolutely no idea…” Answered Maximilian as he looked back up to his friend.

“Maybe it’s like a small hard disk or something or a pair of glasses!”

“Yeah, maybe. It could also be a letter or something like tat, but then why hide it in a box ?” The teenager sighed. “I don’t know and it unnerves me! It’s the only link with my parents and I can’t open that damn box…”

“Relax Max, no pun intended, you’ll find out soon enough, when you get your hands on a magnet!” The redhead then winked at his friend and stood up. “Now that this is out-of-the-way what do you say we get out of this place and go eat a bite ? We still have…” He took out his phone to look at the time. “About an hour and a half before I have to be home.”

“Yeah, why not.” Maximilian picked up his bag and put the wooden box in it before following Simon who had already proceeded to shut down the computer and to walk halfway towards the exit. “And please don’t wait for me…” He added.

“Hmm? Did you say something?” Asked Simon who was now at the door, waiting for his friend.

“I’m coming!” Exclaimed Maximilian as he walked towards him. Damn, what is he, Superman? He thought.

“Well hurry up then! We don’t have all day!”

*

As he was sitting in the bus, Maximilian looked through the window at the landscape rolling before his eyes while he listened to music. He often liked to read during the bus ride but that evening, as the sun was starting to slowly set in the sky, he couldn’t take his mind off of the small wooden box. What was he going to find in it? What could his father have left him that he needed to hide it in a locked box?

The teenager let himself drift in his thoughts, thinking about how life would be different if they had still been here. Imagining what his father and his mother would look like now and what they would say if they ever saw him. He drifted to his stranger power. Would they have known what it was ? What exactly explained what he could do ? He had done some research on phenomenons of the same type. Some people were said to be ESPs, which meant having extrasensorial powers, and were supposed to be able to move things with their minds or read other people’s thoughts. But all he had found were fake videos and very unreliable testimonies. The only believable one he had watched was one of a woman who had made a toothpick move by concentrating on it enough, but nothing in direct link with the likes of what he could do. As he was thinking about this he half-consciously took a coin in his pocket and started to play heads or tails with it. He threw it in the air at a regular rhythm and tried to guess on which side it would fall with his ability from the speed and the height to which it moved.

For reasons unknown to him, the teenager’s thoughts then went towards a young girl with brown hair and tanned skin. She was smiling running on the golden sand of the beach as the sun was barely coming up. That was a good summer, he thoughtHe still remembered what they had talked about that morning on the beach. They had compared the extent of their knowledge on stars, they had complained about how their parents could be annoying some times and talked about school and how they wanted the holidays to never end. He also remembered how his parents had scolded him for leaving the hotel at an hour like that without any notice. This thought made him smile, he was sure to still have the marks of the spanking Jeff had given him that day.

As he concentrated fully again on the coin that was moving up and down before his eyes he focused on its rhythm, he let himself expand his mind and materialize it in his head. Heads. Tails. Tails. Heads. Heads. As he looked at his hand  to see the result he noticed he could predict the outcome exactly every time now. I guess I’ve been making progress, huh? He thought. As he flipped the coin and predicted the next result he thought about taking advantage of that skill to get back at his redheaded friend for the bet as he was almost sure Simon would be right. The teenager smiled as he imagined a dozen of ways he could avenge himself if his dare was something he didn’t like. As he was thinking about that he barely noticed the coin back into his hand at a much slower speed than it should have, as if it was a floating feather. What just happened? He thought. Did I imagine that? He threw it once more in the air but it climbed and fell back down at the speed it was supposed to climb up and fall back down. Strange, he thought again. But he decided to let it drop, accepting the fact that he hadn’t seen well, and focused his mind on the box again, all the while flipping the coin and predicting the results.

 


 

 <— Previous chapterForgingNext Chapter —>

Forging – Chapter 7

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.

 


 

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Forging – Chapter 6

“Well, at least we know she is as strict as ever…”

Maximilian couldn’t stop laughing, trying to keep his voice as silent as possible, as his friend purposely (and discreetly) made an outraged face at the teacher’s comment. The year had barely begun and his friend was already very noticed. Of course he wasn’t so innocent himself but it pleased him not to have been caught, and so he laughed at his friend’s reaction with even more pleasure. As he did he tried to explain to his friend the gravity of the act that he had committed, and that to Ms. Blois it seemed like as outrageous as a terrorist attack. But it proved to be difficult for him as he couldn’t stop laughing. As his friend explained to him how he was supposed to be as stealthy as a ninja he tried to stop the hiccups that followed his silent giggle outburst and to calm himself, which proved very difficult with Simon Veyras besides you. He listened to the list of names that the English teacher recited, hoping to hear if ever he was called. When the brunette arrived to Chatterton, Marina he knew she had passed all the B’s and he wouldn’t be called ou yet. The redhead was now talking about the books that had inspired the Saw series as the teacher continued with the C’s.

“Christenssen, David…” A blond teenager got up near Maximilian. “Ciennda, Maya…” The dark-haired turned around to look at the next person who would stand up. As he did so he had a very strange feeling, like something was not right, as if what was going to happen couldn’t be true. Impossible. Thought the teenager. It couldn’t be. She can’t be… His brain was trying to calculate the probability of this kind of event, the possibility that their paths would cross once more. A one in a million chance, or maybe even less… It was not possible… His mind was viewing this as impossible but his instincts were telling him that anything was possible and that it was happening. After all, didn’t he himself have an impossible ability? All his doubts were washed away as he spotted the young woman who was walking down the gray stairs towards the teacher. Her short brown hair, her lightly tanned skin and her dark blue eyes were unmistakable. Maximilian blinked a few times, trying to ascertain the reality of what his eyes were sending to his brain. But it was true and as he opened them after the third time he knew. Of course she was taller and her face was one of a teenage girl now, even her hair had grown a bit, but it was her, there was no mistake.

Maya Ciennda was there, only a few meters away from him. All the sounds around him had drowned in a low and continuous buzz, all his attention was centered on the slender silhouette. As he watched her moving towards the center of the amphitheater questions buzzed in Maximilian’s head. How ? Why ? Since when had she been there ? Had she noticed him ? What was the minute probability for them to meet again already ? She who he had thought never to see again after that summer in the second year of secondary school. How could she be here ? It had been so long since then. How long ? Almost five years… Did she still remember him ? As he tried to answer all these questions he didn’t notice his friend mocking him to get his attention. Only when he heard the word “shrimp” did he snap out of his daydreaming. He noticed the amused look that Simon was giving him and immediately knew that he had seen him looking at that girl, the large smile plastered on his face was unambiguous. Damn, he’s going to bug me to the end of days with that !

He quickly thought of an excuse he could give his red-haired friend to escape the military questioning he was in for. But all that came to him was to tell that he thought he had recognized her. Maximilian saw that his friend didn’t really believe him but he let te subject drop for the time being, which wasn’t really reassuring. The fact that they were called not so long after that relieved him as it prevented Simon to ask too many questions and him to answer tricky questions. He knew his friend found that strange that he would look at a girl so intently, but he said nothing. As they were climbing the stairs to their classroom his mind was still focused on the tanned girl. Maya Ciennda was here, at his school. Who could have thought this would ever happen ? They had met for so little time and had never contacted each other since. Not that I could have, Maximilian sighed. He still couldn’t believe it.

—————–

“Really, it’s cool to finally be in the same class as you again !”

Classes had ended a few minutes ago and the two teenagers took advantage of the lunch break to fill their growling stomachs at the cafeteria. They were sitting at one end of one of the huge wooden tables that furnished the huge room. Many students now started to fill the empty chairs, talking and eating at the same time to not miss a single second of their free time.

“Yeah, last year wasn’t really what I would call a great year…”

“Meh, we were together two years straight at the end of secondary you know, we can’t always have it as we wish.” Said the redhead. “But they must have finally understood what an efficient team we make !” He added with a smug smile. The two of them scoffed at that comment, remembering all the pranks they had pulled back when they were in the same class.

“Well I hope all our classes will be like this morning because Physics with Mr. Brevski is definitely something !”

“Very true, I hadn’t found science this interesting since our arrival here. But unfortunately it’s not the only class we have, and this afternoon we apparently have English lessons and Math. That’s gonna be great…” Retorted Simon, trying to sound as depressed as possible.

“So, what have you done during your holidays ? Else than watching movies and going to parties ?” Asked Maximilian. “No trips this time ? I thought you said you were going to Canada this year.”

“Oh yeah ! Well I read some books. Yeah I did !” Exclaimed Simon facing Maximilian’s shocked face. “Yes, me, reading books, you heard me perfectly well ! Okay, they were not huge ones, I read mostly short stories. But I read never the less !”

“Wow ! You never cease to amaze me Mr. Veyras !”

“Anyways ! Yeah, we went to Canada with my parents for two weeks mid August, it was really cool. It’s great even without snow ! We visited Ontario and the coast around the Hudson Bay, it was really amazing !”

“I bet, I’ve never been up there but as soon as I can I will !”

“Oh you should !” Agreed the redhead. “And you, anything special this summer ?”

“Well, I’ve been working on this game software I talked to you about.” Simon nodded as Thrista said that. They had talked about his project of creating a video game for the school project for the final year. Simon had told him he was crazy to start so early but the brown-haired young man had simply laughed it off and said he wanted it to be perfect. “It’s coming nicely for the moment, I’ve had a complicated bug popping up recently but it seems I managed to fix it.” He added with a smile. Then his face became serious again as he remembered the other big news of the holidays he had yet to tell his friend about. “Oh yeah, there’s also something I want to talk to you about…”

“What is it ?” Asked Simon, sensing his friend was being serious now.

“Well… How to put this simply…” Maximilian hesitated for a second. “I… I’ve had a talk with my parents and, well, they’re not my parents…” The redhead stayed silent a few seconds, trying to figure out if his friend was pulling a prank on him. But he couldn’t sense any signs that the dark-haired teenager was joking.

“Wait, you’re serious ? What do you mean by not your parents ?”

“Well I learned I was adopted, Jeff and Doris are sort of my foster parents…” Answered Maximilian.

“And… when did they tell you that ?”

“Last week, on my birthday. Apparently my parents disappeared when I was a young boy. Jeff and Doris were good friends with them and decided to adopt me. They explained to me that my father had asked them to do it and to tell me about my real mother and him on my sixteenth birthday” As he said that he took out his phone and showed the picture of his parents that Jeff had given him a few days earlier. “Though I don’t know why he wanted me to know now.” He added before showing to his friend which couple were his parents.

“Wow, you really look like them ! I’ve never noticed it before but it’s true you have almost nothing from Jeff and Doris, but here… it’s so obvious…”

“Yeah.” Nodded the teenager. “I remember wondering about that a while back but it didn’t really strike me like an evidence either… Their name, my name, is Desrhodes. My father was Alexandre and my mother Sophia.”

The first bell rang, indicating the end of the first sitting. Most of the students had already vacated their seats but the two teenagers hadn’t noticed the time pass. They stood up and walked towards the exit of the big room, piling their trays on top of the used pile. As they did they continued talking, Maximilian described how he had reacted at first when he learned that he was adopted and Simon told him he would’ve freaked out if he had been in the same situation. Then the dark-haired then told his friend about the strange gift his father had left him.

“Yeah, a wooden box.” He said. “I don’t know why and I don’t know what’s inside it since I can’t open it. It seems to be locked but there is no keyhole nor any lock. I think it might be some sort of riddle, Jeff told me my father loved riddles and puzzles. I studied it for hours but I haven’t got a single result…”

“A wooden box that doesn’t have a visible lock, you say ? Hmmm, interesting.” Said Simon thoughtful.

Maximilian knew his friend was a big fan of riddles since his youngest age. When he was younger he had compiled every riddle he had ever heard of in a binder that he sometimes brought to school to impress and entertain his friends. The young man didn’t know if he still was as passionate as before or if he was even interested in this brain teaser but if anyone could help him open the box it was Simon.

“I can show it to you if you want, I have a picture here too.” Said Maximilian, full of hope.

“Yeah, I’d like to see that !” The redhead seemed really excited as they walked in the corridor leading to the staircase. Maximilian smiled. So he is still as passionate as ever, he thought with a smile. He handed the other teenager his phone with the picture on it and waited for him to study it. After a minute of observation Simon looked back up and handed his phone back.

“Yep, it’s a riddle, I’m sure of it. Though how to open it, that I don’t know. There are many boxes like that, it rings a bell but I can’t quite put my finger on it… I’d have to see the real thing to know for sure.”

“Well I can bring it here tomorrow if you want or you can come home tonight if you’d like.” Offered the teenager.

“Nah, tomorrow is good.” Replied Simon. “I have an appointment at the doctor this evening so I can’t.”

“Oh, okay. As you wish my friend !” Smiled Maximilian.

They walked up to the last floor where their Math class was set to take place and entered a packed corridor. Some greeted the two boys as they walked through as they knew each others from the previous year but most were first years and stayed amongst each other. As Maximilian and Simon walked up to the room where their class would take place in a few minutes the dark-haired teenager looked through the window at the schoolyard bellow. He watched the students flowing in and out of the buildings and as he did so he caught a glimpse of a familiar brown-haired girl going inside the building on the right. I’ll have to go talk to her later on, he thought with a smile. I wonder if she’ll even recognize me. They stopped in front of the closed-door number B-3 and waited patiently for the teacher to arrive.

“That must be really weird for you. You know, to be told by your parents they are not actually your parents…”

“Yeah…” Maximilian let out a light sigh. “But you know, I still love them, they ARE my parents after all. They raised me and they taught me everything I know. So, even if I they are not my biological parents they will always be my family.” Simon smiled.

“True that my friend, very true…”

After that we just sat in silence, waiting patiently for the class to begin, occasionally making faces at each other. I knew that this year was going to be a good one. With Maya around it was going to be interesting, very interesting. What I didn’t know, though, was that interesting it would be, even more than that, it would defy any expectation I could have of an extraordinary year. All the pieces were being set at their place and the game would soon begin…

 


 

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