Ryo-wo and Mikron O’Jeneus watched the two opponents, Mitch Shelley and Arsenal, leave the advanced training room together acting more like comrades than strangers. Ryo-wo smiled at how well his plans were working out as he turned to Mik. “Our Mr. Shelley is rapidly becoming the equal of his old self. I expect you to make sure that his memories do not return.”
“Yo and I have been testing him, trying to see if he remembers anything, and so far his personal memories are as blank as white paper,” Mik answered Ryo-wo confidently.
“If Dr. Oka heard you call her ‘Yo,’ I think your chances of living another day would be slim,” Ryo-wo said with amusement.
“I got to be me, boss. Besides, Yo likes me a lot, even if she might get a little bit peeved at being called Yo.” Mik grinned at his boss.
“I would have a hard time replacing you if your assessment of Dr. Oka’s reaction is wrong, Mr. O’Jeneus,” Ryo-wo said as he deactivated the monitors. The two men walked out of the room, talking quietly before separating. Mik returned to his lab, while Ryo-wo left the secret base to take up his other identity.
Elsewhere, in the Stellar Studios headquarters of Infinity Inc., the winged wonder known as Northwind tossed and turned in his sleep. He was lost in another nightmare of darkness covering the Earth. The bodies of his comrades and his mentors lay broken and twisted in the horrible wasteland. A mocking laughter chased him through the black skies as he wept. Whispers from some evil surrounded him. “Your compassion makes you weak. Give in to your hate to defeat me. That is the only way to win.”
Norda Cantrell’s screams awakened him from his nightmare. After climbing from his bed to gaze reflectively at his exotic plants, Norda started talking to himself. “I can no longer consider these just bad dreams, since this is the second week that it has occurred.”
He pulled on a specially made robe before placing a well-worn mat onto the floor. He recited a chant invoking spirits of light to protect his soul as he slipped into a deep trance that closely resembled death as his heartbeat and breathing slowed.
His mystic trance sought out the source of his dreams. A figure of what seemed to be a man came into focus. As Norda’s spirit neared the man, he could sense waves of pure evil emanating from the human frame. The man opened his eyes, and Norda could feel his spirit being pulled into the maelstrom of evil. Norda invoked a dangerous spell to summon aid, and three indistinct figures appeared to yank him from the maelstrom.
“Little bird, you have flown too close to the abyss this time,” one of the figures spoke in a deep and rumbling, inhuman voice.
“Yes. That evil you chose to confront is too strong for one of your limited mage training,” the second figure said in a cultured British accent.
“Right. He was bad enough before the Anti-Monitor chose to imbue him with energy as a fail-safe method,” the third figure spoke in a California accent.
Norda finally found his voice. “I want to thank you for coming to my rescue.”
The figures swirled into focus as they streaked into what seemed to be a great hallway. Each took a seat on what appeared to be a great chair before gesturing to a comfortable-looking chair in the center of the room. Norda carefully sat down in the chair and looked respectfully around the room. Symbols appeared in front of each of the figures. The first figure shifted into a large, wise-looking white dragon, and his symbol was a dragon. The second figure shifted into a man with a black beard, wearing an intricate robe similar to the one that Norda wore. The symbol for the man with the black beard was a sword. The third figure shifted into focus as an attractive woman with wings, and her symbol was a mask.
The woman spoke to Norda with a compassionate tone. “You have many questions, but we can only answer in a limited way. In fact, we probably shouldn’t have saved you, but we chose to ignore one of our rules this once.”
Norda looked with awe at the woman who resembled him. “Who are you all?”
The man looked amused at Norda. “It’s a secret that we are forbidden to tell you.”
The dragon absently played with a large jewel before eating it. “We saved you for our own reasons, little bird. One of them was to annoy that creature of entropy. Another was because we wish you to be on the lookout for our gifts that are coming to your world. There are three gifts of great power heading to your world that come from us.”
Norda’s trained mage senses told him that these figures were very powerful and were speaking the truth. “How can I know what these gifts are?”
The man looked at the others before answering. “Each of the gifts is marked with one of our symbols. The sword, the mask, and the dragon will tell you that these gifts are from us. If the gifts fall into the wrong hands, your world will suffer greatly.”
“What about the man of darkness? How can I stop him?” Norda asked the figures.
“The man of darkness is sleeping, but his evil is so great that it can reach out and affect those sensitive to the natural world. Your recent elevation to mage has made you especially vulnerable to these nightmares. No one else is aware of this destructive force as of yet except for us, and we are forbidden to interfere,” the man told Norda as he gazed deep into the young Feitheran’s eyes.
“Why can you not stop this destructive force?” Norda turned away from the gaze of the man to look at the woman.
“Another secret that we are bound to keep from you, Norda. The man of darkness will not wake for many years, so you will have time to prepare. However, this must remain a secret for you and us to know alone. The slumber of the man of darkness will be broken if too many people become aware of his existence. But your time in this place grows short.”
The woman gestured for Norda to come close. She leaned down and bussed his lips with great passion. A shock of pure electricity surged through Norda’s heart at the touch of the woman’s lips before he started tumbling downward. He fell back into his body and came out of his trance, his lips still tingling from the kiss.
Norda rose to his feet, uncertain if what he had just experienced was real or not when a peculiar ring tumbled to the floor. He leaned down to stare with a sort of bizarre wonder at the ring inscribed with the symbols of a dragon, a sword, and a mask. It had written on it Silence is Golden at first, but that sentence slowly faded away. The ring slipped easily on Norda’s hand before disappearing from sight. The words out of sight, out of mind flickered in the air before vanishing just like the ring.
He smiled as a wave of unexpected happiness filled his soul. His fears, doubts, and uncertainties from the past several weeks faded away as the image of the mysterious winged woman danced in his mind. He carefully removed his robe and replaced it to its proper place before returning to his bed. The sands of the Sandman swiftly lulled him into slumber, where he danced in the sky and stars with the mysterious winged woman.
Elsewhere, Hector Hall wrestled with his conscience as he reached for the telephone to call his former fiancée. The phone rang, and an answering machine picked up. Hector struggled with the apology before hanging up the phone like so many times before. His love for the blond Lyta Trevor struggled against his feelings of betrayal, and once again the two canceled each other out.
He looked at the small stack of unsent letters on the nightstand before pulling out the well-worn letter in his jacket. His eyes scanned the content of the letter, and his mind added the voice of the person who sent it.
Dear Mr. Hall,
I have recently come across your unpublished theories on solar energy and have found them quite fascinating, indeed. When I tried to find you to discuss a great opportunity, your instructors told me of your career as a member of the group Infinity Inc.
Even though I am certain that the life of a costumed adventurer is far more exciting than that of a dedicated scientist, I still wish to offer you a position as partner in my current venture. How much more good can you do as a person who helps in the creation of a stable energy source based on the power of our sun?
This letter contains all the information necessary to contact me.
Hector Hall folded the letter back up and replaced it in his jacket pocket. He packed up his belongings and grabbed the unsent letters on the nightstand. After looking around at the empty room for a moment, the young man walked out the door, locking it behind him. He quickly wrote a note to his uncle, Speed Saunders, who had allowed him to stay there at his lake house for so long, and put it on his door.
A few moments later he was riding down the highway on a nondescript motorcycle. He made a quick stop by the local post office to drop the letters in the outgoing box before returning to the road. He was relieved to have made a decision about what to do, even if his family, friends, and lover might not have understood it. The miles passed by swiftly as the former hero reached his goal. He pulled his motorcycle into one of the small parking places before getting off to look at the nondescript building. He shrugged his shoulders before stepping up to the door and pressing the buzzer.
An older gentleman with blond hair opened the door to smile politely at the man standing at his door. “You must be Hector Hall. I have long looked forward to meeting you, young man.”
Hector nodded back. “If the offer is still open, Professor Gordon, I would like to take it.”
“Call me Bruce, and come in, Hector.” Bruce Gordon opened the door, gesturing for the young man to enter. Hector entered the building to begin his new life without wondering what the future would bring. Professor Gordon patted the young man on the shoulder as he began to discuss his plans for a solar battery. Hector was drawn into the discussion and guiltily put his thoughts of Lyta and their unborn child in the back of his mind once again.
The spiritual sanctuary from which the spirit of Northwind had just departed was dimly lit as the figures talked amongst themselves. Zaragren, the white gold dragon, shrunk down, transforming into a human figure to make his colleagues feel more at ease. His voice still contained the inhuman resonance of his dragon form. “An interesting fellow, that little bird is. I just wish that we could give him some training, as it were. Think of what he could do if he was taught by the Dragon Council.”
The robed, black-bearded man gave Zaragren a stern stare. “We all agreed to stay well away from this Earth’s development, Zan. After all, we did make certain that our alternate worlds were transported as far away from each other and this version of Earth. Even the creation of the barriers was designed to prevent contact, and now you want to start directly interfering.”
The winged woman clicked her tongue disapprovingly. “Merlin, you hate getting involved, anyway. Zan is just expressing his opinion of what he wants to do, and I, for one, agree with the sentiment.”
Merlin turned his stern stare onto the winged woman and raised an eyebrow. “Nika Du Lak, I think your thinking is clouded by hormones. I saw the way you kissed that young mage.”
Nika Du Lak gave Merlin a saucy smile. “I do find him very attractive, but that’s no reason to insinuate that my thoughts are overwhelmed by lust. He is going to have to be the one who fights the man of darkness, after all, not us.”
Zaragren started gesturing at the walls, causing them to fade away. “We are not certain if that’s even true yet, little birdette. That was just the most possible future at the time of the casting. Merlin is just worried about his young former protégé, since we are not certain if he is alive or dead, so excuse his words.”
Merlin raised a hand, and silver energy trails shot from his fingertips, dissolving the chairs and floor. “I do wish you would stop apologizing for me, Zaragren, since I do so find it quite annoying.”
Nora Du Lak pulled a small device from her belt and activated it, causing the rest of the building to vanish. “Zan is teasing you, shifter of shapes. He knows that, deep down, you really want to help the people of the Earth despite your seeming indifference.”
Merlin frowned at the two. “Hmphhh. I refuse to admit to anything. We can meet again here in another month to see what is developing. I am going back to the Realm to see what kind of trouble is going on there. I suggest you refrain from interfering, Nika Du Lak.” Merlin absently gestured and then vanished.
Nika Du Lak waved at the vanishing Merlin before turning to Zaragren. “I hate it when he does that.”
Zaragren gave Nika a wide smile. “He knows you quite well, young birdette. I, too, wish to travel to this universe’s Earth to marvel at the many differences and similarities to your two worlds, but non-interference is the wisest course to pursue. I know your reasons are different, though. I could sense the soul bonding that was trying to take place between you and the little bird. It is hard to deny the urge to give up the solitary flight when you find the person who completes you.”
Nika Du Lak gave the dragon her best innocent smile. “I just thought he was attractive, is all. No reason to plan a big wedding, since our destinies seem to be completely different. He has his world to protect, and I have mine.”
Zaragren patted the young woman on her shoulder with compassion. “I will see you in a month’s time, young birdette. Just remember that us dragons believe that you can make your own destiny if the fire in your heart is bright enough.” Zaragren then disappeared.
Nika Du Lak sighed loudly as she looked at the bright celestial pattern surrounding her before touching her belt and disappearing as well.