Con ‘felt’ Emir smile as he crossed the threshold of the doorway, and the automatic doors slid open; suddenly the freshness of citrus filled air was striking. It was very, very faint, and there was a more prevalent scent of a kind of acidity; grapes. That made sense, in Con’s mind. Napa Valley. Sure. Wine. What have you. Whatever. But the area certainly was no ‘whatever’. It was absolutely…glorious. And probably the most beautiful thing Con had ever witnessed.
The group of Smiths filed out into the darkness of evening, and stopped en masse as Emir came to a halt. The area was stone and marble, elevated. It was a balcony that was grand, yet modest to some extent; the sky was a splay of stars, and dusk. That much, Con couldn’t discern, but he could feel it, from the tone of night. The humidity, or lack thereof. The height of the balcony was wonderful; there were two adjacent staircases at either side, and Con felt the ridges of pillars from below them. The pillars were broken and scattered about, like ruins, but somehow, they felt absolutely perfect for the place.
It never matters how broken something is; the appropriate location is the thing. There was, however, this metal statue ; body metal, wings…stone. It was mounted upon one of the pillars farther out, and ‘mounted’ was an appropriate term; it was a pegasus. It looked poised to take flight, and joyous. Con decided he would investigate it in full later. But, for now, it only spoke of hopeful things. Amazing things.
There were also plants…potted ones about the actual balcony, vines extending down from the rail. Fresh earth was all around them. Coyote patted Con on the back, in good humor, and Con observed him flashing a mild grin at him; Coyote had probably noticed his expression; it had to have been a look of awe upon his face.
Harman’s house had been amazing; but this was awe inspiring; the mere scale of this place. It was obvious immediately that it was a glorious combination of college, government building, museum…hospital and…the best hotel ever manufactured. That made sense, of course. If the most superior form of comfort could be afforded, and even…funded…then why not? The whys were soon to be accounted for; the negative whys were funded.
“This place is simply called the Garden,” Emir said. “It’s a private area for all of you…and for myself. I’ve used it often in my stay here, which has been for about ten years, now.” Emir clasped his hands behind his back in what was probably his first casual action of the day. Dan took it upon himself to stride over to the ornate, Grecian looking balcony…and glance over it. He just shook his head, after. Shook it in what was as close to wonder as Dan could get, Con guessed.
“I felt this would be an appropriate place to address our first issues,” Emir finished.
“That was a good assumption on your part,” Mask offered, clasping a hand to a wrist, folding his arms in front of him easily. Ric was never a violent man; in fact, he was quite the opposite. However, he was a warrior when needed, and a zealot when it came to honor. Fits of honor, in grand display, were his forte, even. But for now, Ric just stood by, zeal upon his sleeve; a weapon in plain view. Emir nodded to him, in acceptance of his approval.
“I don’t wish to overwhelm any of you. There is time to avoid such. I realize some of you have had a great deal of your lives inflicted upon you as a matter of obligation, and servitude.”
Dan rolled his eyes, and smiled, looking towards Emir for a second. Kaede bristled a bit, glancing in his direction; then Dan was again staring out upon the dimming earth, a huge expanse of lush gardens, paths, and fields. Emir continued.
“But there must still be a beginning to the explanation. Well over forty years ago – in fact, about sixty years prior to now – there was an organization formed. They sought to bring herald to and preserve parties they thought would be vital, even dire to society, technology…and the continuation of the human race, in essence. This organization was named Ouroboros. It has multitudes of benefactors who are among the social and over-power human persuasion. Are all of you informed of the ‘over-power’ term?”
There was a silence. Then, Con folded his arms. He probably knew. But he could at least guess from tone alone that there was a relative connotation.
“Do you mean…people like Harman?,” he asked cocking his head in reflex. He felt Emir smile again.
“That’s right. The term applies to a person with any form of paradoxical, beneficial ability. Much like…your sonic qualities.”
Con furrowed his brow. And ‘looked’ toward Coyote; Coyote nodded his head, telling him it was alright.
“I’m not like Harman, Emir,” Con said simply. “I don’t know how I would fall into the same category, even…apart, you know…from us being Smiths.”
“Con, you’re more like him than you know. I can’t wait to introduce to you the realms you ply with ease where others cannot tread. ‘Ability’ has no bearing whatsoever upon strength and healing capabilities. In fact…healing is the rarest of gifts among the ‘over-powers’. It’s not inconceivable on the black market to pay vast amounts for the acquisition of such an asset, either. That, in fact is one of the main derivatives of The Fields as a whole. We have an extensive internet team that works exclusively against the black market legions.”
Con was nodding; he didn’t remember the initiation of the nod. But speaking was irrefutable.
“Um…the internet – where I come from – was utter shit and dial up hell. So,” Con then grinned. “Where are we now, great leader?”
Coyote squeezed his neck in a pinch that actually hurt, and Con shot him a ‘trust me’ smile.
“Imagine the concept of ‘dial-up’,” Emir responded. Then Kevin raised a hand.
“Imagine the concept of ‘no web prowess’,” he said quietly. Dan rubbed his eyes, signaling at least a partial agreement.
“If you use the term ‘web’, Kev,” Kaede said calmly, Dan looking abruptly in her direction, as if surprised at her voice. “Then you have at least some concept,” she finished. Kev lowered his new, sleek glasses at her.
“Thank you darlin’, but I just hang with the kid too much t’be ignorant of terms.”
“’Imagine the concept’,” he repeated. “Go on.”
“Then blink your eyes,” Emir said. “That’s how much faster it is, now.”
Con did blink; it was in disbelief.
“Yeah, sure,” Con railed. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said. Dan chuckled under his breath.
“You’ll ‘see’ it,” Emir said, in response. Then Con stiffened.
“That’s not funny, fucker,” he said without hesitation.
“It wasn’t meant, in jest,” Emir returned before Coyote had a chance to respond in kind. “I mean that you’ll see it as you can. The advances in technology, especially in your regard, are vast. You will be so benefited, Con. All of you will.”
“Do you mean benefited as a ‘blind American’ or just…benefited?,” Con said, meaning every syllable, yet without any degree of anger or resentment. His father had pried all of that out of him.
“Con,” Emir responded so earnestly, Con knew he was telling the truth. “I mean all of you.”
Con nodded. Then uncrossed his arms.
“All apologies. Alright. Just checking.”
Emir nodded. Then, he continued.
“Some over-powers are simply…a mere fraction of a bit better. The public have no idea. No true idea. This isn’t the Olympics of the paranormal. However…it is the true anomaly of genetic benefit that flags the true over-power. The ability…to have a wall fall on you, crush you…and not only survive, but get up and brush yourself off.”
“Yeah,” Dan volunteered. “Tell Cain I say ‘hi’”.
“And that I don’t,’ Con added, then softened a bit. Coyote smirked, in his own right.
“Actually,” Emir said, stopping all three in their tracks. “He sends his best, and hopes to participate in one of our teaching workshops soon.”
The silence continued. But…
“Well,” Con laughed. “Then I’m teaching a course on ‘trajectory sense’ and all those other cool things I can do. Cain should look me up when he gets here. He should bring Abel, cause…I actually miss him.”
“Both are interested in such workshops, Con. And, before you remember your judgment of Cain, you should know…he was one of those who brought justice to your vindicators. And sought to do so willfully.”
The group stood silent once more. And Con nodded.
“It’s one of those things, you know?,” he said. “I never really…hated Cain. I just…have a certain grudge about being stabbed.” Kevin scowled, softened, scowled again. “They did a lot for us, we did a lot for them. Period. But…really? They’re-? They’re both still-?”
“They are, Con. And Abel was delighted. The two of them work for one of our affiliate organizations, White City, in Chicago.”
“And,” Emir went on. “As soon as you feel comfortable here…all of you are welcome to attend and teach our Facility workshops.”
“No way,” Con smiled. Mask broke his composure finally.
“I am eager to see the advancements and to aid in the wrestling community here, Emir,” he said.
“I look forward to all of you bringing your gifts to our pupils here. It will be amazing to behold, and also…well received. Our knife experts have been petitioning from the ‘go’ point, as of late.”
“’Petitioning’?,” Kevin asked, surprised. “What d’you mean?”
“I mean,” Emir responded. “This affair is not a secret among our collegiate attendees, or our staff members. You are all rather famous in our culture…and…there are people clamoring for your feedback. Your tudilege. Especially your knife-play, Kevin. Your skill is legend.”
At this, Kevin flushed. He looked down, and then back to Emir.
“I hope to have a week or two to manage before taking on any other student that isn’t Con. The lad is the best pupil there is…you can’t expect me to simply…adapt t’others.”
Con beamed at Kevin. And Coyote responded, in turn, squeezing his shoulder. Kevin went on.
“From the get…I knew I’d be teaching a worthy sort. I don’t wish to pass on my lineage in a curriculum. I hope you understand that.”
“Of course,” Emir responded. ‘But that’s why the workshops are choice-oriented. If you agree with the concept of having a wealth of students you could teach, as Aramis did, then you will be free to do so, in that event.”
At this, Kevin relented.
“Seeing things that way, I thank you for the effort, and…of course, you would know of Aramis, but…,” Kevin exhaled in fatigue. “He is ancient, if not passed by now, and I find it hard to believe there are followers still, in this region who-“
“Kevin, Professor Aramis Cate is among the Ouroborai,” Emir smiled. “…And is one of our most heralded instuctors.”
Kevin stopped, shocked, and Con felt his heart jack in his chest. Then, the spring of joy, peace, was there.
“Oh, no…,” Kevin lit up. “Truly? He-? And-?”
“And so many others, Kevin. We will speak of these things, I promise you.”
Kevin nodded, overwhelmed.
“I shan’t teach a class better than his, I give you my dire word, Emir,” he said.
“That isn’t the case according to your mentor, Kevin,” Emir responded.
Kevin had no words to respond, at this, and did not respond. He merely nodded acceptance at Emir’s words.
“The Ouroborai…or people in the Ouroboros program are those infused with scientific methods of prolonged life. And, in fact, the word ‘prolonged’ is trite. It allows for the extension of life as we know it. In essence, it makes that life what would be termed indefinite. Or…infinite. There have been no gauges in the last sixty years. In fact, since 1976, upon its first true inductees apart from true blooded over-powers who naturally age in varied to non-existent manners, aging hasn’t been an issue any longer. It’s a miracle of regeneration processes. A Pulitzer times infinity, but well hidden to keep sanity in the world. Not everyone should live forever. It would be the only capital offense left, if all were immortal. Therefore-,” Emir paused.
“It’s a club for the status quo,” Dan said angrily, though with a quiet thrum to his tone. Emir knew why he was bitter in this instance. Knew he would have been well justified…but for-
“It’s a club,” Emir retorted. “For those worthy.”
Con felt the blood in Dan’s hands drain away, into his arms, as Dan squeezed the stone railing hard with direct anger.
“There are worthy people who aren’t here, asshole. Right? Huh? Right?”
Con ‘looked’ down, at more marble and cement blended. He knew who Dan was talking about. When you get to the great ‘Aftermath’, then you expect to see…everyone you loved. Everyone…you missed in life. This was the ‘after’ without the complete reward. And Dan was referring to Harry. If anyone deserved to be an ‘Ouroborai’ or whatever…it was Harry. God damn…it was Harry. But…Harry wasn’t here. And he’d died so long ago…saving-
“Dan,” Emir said. Dan quieted immediately. Stiffening. Flicking away imaginary cigarettes in his mind. “Please. Not all answers will come quickly. I need you to understand my limitations, in that regard.”
Silence. Con ‘watched’ Dan control his emotion – his anger; he so hated, despite all of their head butting and bickering, to ‘see’ Dan weakened. Dan should never be weakened; it wasn’t for him, had never been for him. The ‘image’ of him lamenting for Harry would never be freed from Con’s mind; the sound of Dan’s voice that night would never quell. All else was semantic. And chamber music, or elevator music for the masses. None of this mattered if Dan wasn’t…Dan. But he suddenly regained himself; Dan nodded, and folded his arms upon the balcony railing…the ‘Garden’ railing.
“Allow me to continue our tour, and tell you more about what all of you have to do with the phenomenon that has recently sent the entire bastion of people within our walls into an eagerness that only promises greatness.”
“Eagerness grants decay,” Dan said without thought, and without any degree of pessimism.
“Decay grants growth,” Kevin chimed in suddenly, and Dan raised his eyebrows at the Brit, suddenly. Then, he flashed a dull, ‘oh, really,’ smile at him. Kevin eyed Dan with concern, but remained silent.
“We will address all of these things,” Emir responded. Dan nodded, looking out at the huge, beautiful expanse of the Garden.
Then, part one of the tour was ended.