Chapter 7:

Book 1, Ch. 7: Aleph-Naught & the Secret Society

ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~ [Beta version]


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*******Bookmark here

BOOK 1, CHAPTER 7: ALEPH-NAUGHT & THE SECRET SOCIETYBookmark here

“Chris! Yo, Chris! Snap out of it!”Bookmark here

As Robbie shook Chris and spoke directly to his face, the human boy inside him gradually reentered his mind. The glowing aura around his body disappeared. His legs felt heavy and pained.Bookmark here

He blinked, looking at Robbie. His breath stuttered as he tried to speak.Bookmark here

“What … w-was that?” Chris asked morbidly, staring at his hand … the hand that had called forth such devastating destruction with a simple motion. “What d-did I do?”Bookmark here

“That’s what we wanna know!” Al said, glancing around at the aftermath. “How’d you do that?”Bookmark here

Chris tightened his fists, feeling his phone still in his other hand.Bookmark here

“How the hell should I know?” he replied, not sure if he was angry or scared. “It was like … I could see the molecules moving. B-but not with my eyes! And then I just kinda blacked out, I think … I don’t know, it wasn’t like anything else ….” He trailed off.Bookmark here

Robbie glanced at Al, who shook his head.Bookmark here

“I can’t say I get what you’re saying,” Al said.Bookmark here

Looking at the carved earth and damaged buildings made Chris’s mouth dry. “There’s no way I knew this would happen! I didn’t want it to!”Bookmark here

“Well, ya did it anyway.” Al shrugged and let out a sigh. “Look on the bright side. The enemy is done for. You beat it and we won.”Bookmark here

“Don’t act like you’re on our side all of sudden,” Robbie told Al with a scowl. “You tried killing us!”Bookmark here

“No, I didn’t try killing you,” Al said while waving his hands defensively. “It was a test,” he looked at the wreckage one more time, “and you passed.”Bookmark here

When Robbie looked displeased, Chris spoke up.Bookmark here

“We need to get out of here,” he said. He pocketed his phone, his hands shaky, and turned to the young boy. “I’m Chris. What’s your name?”Bookmark here

“Call me Al.”Bookmark here

“Robbie.”Bookmark here

Chris held his head. The dizziness still hadn’t fully subsided.Bookmark here

“Now that we know each other, let’s find somewhere to talk it over,” Chris told them.Bookmark here

“Sure,” Al replied with a grin. “That would be smart, ‘cuz we might get caught sticking around here.”Bookmark here

“Welles Park ain’t very far from here,” Robbie said. “I go there sometimes to use their fitness center. The park itself is still open for a few more hours.”Bookmark here

Chris nodded.Bookmark here

“Okay, let’s go.”Bookmark here

Chris and Robbie grabbed their belongings and school supplies, which had been left to the side and luckily unharmed in the scuffle. The three of them hurried out of Revere Park, going east on Irving Park Road and then north on Western Avenue. All the while, Chris’s head buzzed with a tempest of thoughts, and his legs felt loose and disjointed.Bookmark here

How would he get away with what he had just done? He wasn’t sure if there were any surveillance cameras at Revere Park, but surely somebody would learn of the conflicts that had taken place there. Not allowing himself to fall into a pit of doubt and despair was one of Chris’s strengths, but the predicament couldn’t be taken lightly.Bookmark here

In Welles Park, they stopped next to a wrought-iron, green gazebo featuring a distinct European-style design. A few people were around, but a secretive conversation was still possible. When Chris was sure there wasn’t anyone within earshot, he turned to Al.Bookmark here

“Al, was it?”Bookmark here

“That’s right.”Bookmark here

“I need you to tell me what your story is,” Chris said firmly.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I’ll explain,” Al replied, “but not my whole story. That’ll take too long.”Bookmark here

“Just fill us in on what we should know.”Bookmark here

“No problem.” Al pulled at his hoodie. “First, I gotta take this sweatshirt off. It’s muggy out here.”Bookmark here

Al removed the gray hoodie to reveal blonde hair cut just above the shoulders while looking refreshed by the feeling of cool air on the skin. However, Chris and Robbie stared, noticing the unexpected curves and shape of Al’s body under the white tank top. It took them only a few seconds to reach a conclusion.Bookmark here

“Wait a minute!” Robbie gasped. “Y-you’re a girl?”Bookmark here

With a blank look, Al replied, “Yeah. I never said I wasn’t a girl.”Bookmark here

“Uh …,” Chris scratched his head, “you said your name was Al, though.”Bookmark here

“That’s right,” Al said. “It’s short for Aleph-Naught.”Bookmark here

“That still doesn’t imply an obvious gender,” Robbie said.Bookmark here

“I’m named after a mathematical term.” She held up the plastic pendant of her cheap necklace. “That’s what this symbol represents.” When Chris and Robbie continued to gawk, Al sighed. “Look, do you want me to explain my situation, or what?”Bookmark here

“Please, go ahead,” Chris said, bringing himself back on track.Bookmark here

“Basically, I’m part of a secret organization,” Al explained. “I can’t reveal too much, but we’re a very old organization that has been keeping tabs on a well-guarded secret for a long time.”Bookmark here

“Oh, so you’re with the illuminati,” Robbie said, feeling suspicious.Bookmark here

“No, dammit!” Al rolled her eyes. “We’re not the illuminati! Why does everyone think that?”Bookmark here

“That introduction you just gave might have something to do with it,” Chris said flatly.Bookmark here

“Whatever.” Al tucked her hoodie under her arm, the twenty-four karat gold aglets dangling freely. “My superiors sent me to investigate an incident that happened early this morning. A precious artifact was stolen from its appointed guardians, and I’m here to gather info because I’m a scout.”Bookmark here

“You mentioned earlier about not being alone,” Chris said. “Is someone else here with you?”Bookmark here

“I teamed up with one of the guardians of the artifact,” Al explained. “She was with me, but now I don’t know where the hell she went.”Bookmark here

“What’s this have to do with us?” Robbie asked.Bookmark here

“Well, my orders were to come to this city and meet with the guardians of the artifact and assist them,” Al explained. “They asked me to locate mortals of significance. That was when I teamed up with my temporary partner, because she has an ability, some kind of clairvoyance.” Al thought about when she witnessed Sister Farrah’s incredible talents. “She’s quite remarkable, really. I was impressed.”Bookmark here

“I don’t follow,” Chris said. “This other person found us for you? It was all because your bosses told you to?”Bookmark here

“Yep,” Al said. “The phrase ‘mortals of significance’ is vague. There are tons of significant people in the world, and that’s if you don’t include animals into the mortal category. Whatever criteria my partner used to seek you out were up to her, but she was right on the money. It led me straight to you, Chris. Not only that, but there were two of you right in the same spot. That made it the obvious best choice.”Bookmark here

“So,” Robbie said slowly, “does that mean there are other people around here … who can do what we can?”Bookmark here

Al shrugged.Bookmark here

“No clue,” she said. “It’s not impossible, but people with so-called ‘powers’ are very rare. There’s an old saying that they’re drawn to one another, almost like destiny.”Bookmark here

“Destiny?” Chris muttered. “Don’t give me that.”Bookmark here

“What?” Al asked. “You don’t believe in destiny?”Bookmark here

Chris didn’t reply. Of course he believed it. He also accepted it. He just didn’t understand why it was suddenly so difficult to face the fact that destiny probably pulled more strings than he had anticipated.Bookmark here

“Well, you found us, Al” Robbie said impatiently, “and we passed your dumb test. What do we do next?”Bookmark here

Al looked at the large, green, iron gazebo. A refreshing breeze passed by them, being borderline cold after working up a sweat.Bookmark here

“I’ll have to wait for more instructions,” Al said. “You two probably have something to do with the investigation of the artifact.”Bookmark here

“How?” Chris asked with narrowed eyes.Bookmark here

“I don’t know,” Al said hastily. “It’s obvious you two have some kind of abilities. Maybe you’ll help locate the artifact. We might have to take you two into custody.”Bookmark here

Robbie tossed his head back and groaned at the sky.Bookmark here

“Are you for real? I got school and basketball. I got a life! I can’t be doing crazy stuff like this.”Bookmark here

“No complaining,” Al told him, her hand on her hip. “It’s not my fault. Chances are this was already determined. This is the hand you were dealt, Robin.”Bookmark here

“It’s Robbie.”Bookmark here

“Whatever.”Bookmark here

A small rustling sound caught their attention, and a large rat scurried over from the bushes, making Chris and Robbie jump. There was a piece of paper in its mouth. When it approached Al, she reacted casually.Bookmark here

“Oh, I got ratmail.” She knelt down and took the letter from the rat, which scurried away. Chris and Robbie watched as Al looked over the letter, her expression growing more sullen as her eyes moved down the page. When she finished reading, she crumpled her forehead more than she crumpled the paper in her hands. “Are you kidding me?” she howled.Bookmark here

Robbie didn’t care to ask, as he really didn’t want to know.Bookmark here

“What’s wrong?” Chris looked around, making sure nobody was paying attention.Bookmark here

“I don’t believe them!” Al was swift to arm her ruby red yo-yo, which she used to strike the letter and burn it without a trace. “What do they mean to ‘stand by until further notice’? How far is this notice? This is bullshit!” She huffed and puffed for a moment before collecting herself. When she was cooled down, she looked at the boys with a pitiful smile. “Hey … can I ask you two a favor?”Bookmark here

Robbie still didn’t care to ask, as he still really didn’t want to know. However, Chris’s innate goodness couldn’t leave the situation alone.Bookmark here

“What would that be?”Bookmark here

With an enormous smile, Al asked, “Can I crash at one of your places for a tiny bit? Just until my superiors give me … further notice ….”Bookmark here

The boys looked at each other. Robbie shook his head rigorously. Staring at the ground, Chris heaved a sigh.Bookmark here

“You don’t have anywhere else to stay?” he asked Al.Bookmark here

“Er, well ….” Al got on her knees. “Please! I don’t wanna stay at Saint Baptiste Monastery by myself with those people! They weird me out!”Bookmark here

“So, you do have somewhere to stay?” Chris replied dully.Bookmark here

“N-not an option! As long as I stay in the city … (where is this again? Portland?) … then it won’t be against my orders.” The girl walked on her knees up to Chris. “Please, have a heart!”Bookmark here

Chris looked back at Robbie, who was still shaking his head and probably hadn’t stopped shaking his head since he started. Bookmark here

“What were you doing at Saint Baptiste Monastery?” Chris asked curiously. “Is that where those artifact guardians are?”Bookmark here

Al suddenly stiffened up. She jumped back to her feet with a smug grin.Bookmark here

“I’m not entitled to tell you,” she sneered.Bookmark here

“Then that’s a yes,” Chris muttered.Bookmark here

Pouting, Al turned her back to Chris.Bookmark here

“Okay,” she said, “but don’t go crying if another evil creature shows up and starts screwing things up. You’ll have to deal with it by yourself, since I won’t be there.” She looked back at Chris with a serious face. “There’s a possibility that ‘they’ are on to you after that noisy, disruptive, highly obvious thing you did earlier.”Bookmark here

There was no denying how unsettled Chris was by that notion. Robbie inhaled loudly before exhaling even louder.Bookmark here

“More of those things are out there?” Robbie murmured quietly. His voice was weighted with both acceptance and worry.Bookmark here

Looking back at the boys, Al nodded.Bookmark here

“There are,” she said empathetically. “Not to sound mean, but you two seem like total rookies to this. Since you both were able to see that last shadowy being with your rookie abilities, it means that was a very weak adversary. Most are stronger than it.”Bookmark here

Chris could almost feel Gunnhildr waiting at his beck and call as his index finger brushed the air, imitating pulling a trigger. Even so, the holy handgun had failed to perform as expected, meaning Chris honestly didn’t know what to expect anymore.Bookmark here

“Okay,” he said confidently, “only because there’s so much I just don’t understand, I’ll let you stay with me for a while.”Bookmark here

Al’s face lit up as Robbie fought the urge to shake his head.Bookmark here

“Really?” Al was clearly overjoyed, her eyes practically sparkling. “You mean it?”Bookmark here

“Of course,” Chris told her. “You need a place to stay, and I need, uh, you to … protect me.” He was a little embarrassed to admit he wanted the protection of a young girl. “This will be a mutual benefit.”Bookmark here

“Woohoo!”Bookmark here

Robbie saw a good opportunity to seize an exit.Bookmark here

“Well, this has been a hell of a day,” he said with a little added drama in his tone, “so I must reeeaaally be going now.”Bookmark here

“You’re going home?” Chris asked. He could tell Robbie was highly distressed, and Chris understood why he was feeling insecure.Bookmark here

“Y-yeah,” Robbie replied with an anxious grin. The gym bag hanging from his shoulder felt ten times heavier than usual. “To put it straight, I need to rest. And think.”Bookmark here

Giving Robbie a pat on the shoulder, Chris smiled a warm, genuine smile.Bookmark here

“Thanks a lot, Robbie,” he said.Bookmark here

“Thanks for what?”Bookmark here

“For your help today.”Bookmark here

“I didn’t really do much,” Robbie said with a shrug, “except help you beat up the shrimp.”Bookmark here

“I heard that,” Al warned.Bookmark here

“Just rest up,” Chris told Robbie. “We’ll have plenty of time to talk about this later.”Bookmark here

Robbie chuckled and said, “Yeah, yeah. I’m sure we will. Ohhhh, I’m suuuure we will, Chris.”Bookmark here

As Chris watched Robbie walk off, he instinctively realized they would be great allies. However, Chris also realized they would be facing a terrifying, dangerous situation.Bookmark here

“Are you ready to go?” Al asked Chris impatiently. “I’m hungry and wanna take a shower.”Bookmark here

Thirdly, Chris realized he was about to take a girl home with him for the first time ever. A truly terrifying, dangerous situation.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

Al sat on Chris’s bed and twirled her necklace, making large circles in the air with the cheap plastic aleph-naught pendant. Having lived as part of a secret organization with roots dating back to antiquity, she was largely unfamiliar with modern life and its cultures and technology, although she was exposed to them frequently.Bookmark here

Scanning Chris’s bedroom, she marveled at the odd objects, doodads, decorations, and knickknacks that all converged into a mishmash of visual overload. However, the scent of clean linens and body spray was nice. An American teenage boy’s room was indeed a den of wonder.Bookmark here

When Chris walked into the room carrying a plate of food, Al was examining the posters on the walls. Chris had just eaten dinner with his parents, although his stomach still felt odd from the events at Revere Park.Bookmark here

“Your residence is quite unique,” Al commented. “It’s not the first time I’ve been in a place like this, but each home is different.”Bookmark here

“It’s home, though,” Chris replied, handing Al the dinner plate.Bookmark here

“What’s with the cartoon pictures?” she asked, pointing at the posters of the Bleach anime and Rick and Morty show. “Are you really a high schooler?”Bookmark here

Chris chuckled.Bookmark here

“Those shows aren’t really for kids,” he said.Bookmark here

Al looked at the steak on her plate. The tantalizing smell of the black pepper and seasonings paired delectably with the steamed vegetables lightly dusted with oregano and thyme with an olive oil sheen.Bookmark here

“Is this beef?” She examined the food up close.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Chris told her. “Porterhouse steak. You know, my parents are suspicious that I brought an extra steak to my room, and with vegetables.”Bookmark here

Not answering right away, Al directed her eyes up at Chris.Bookmark here

“The last country I was stationed in was India,” she said. “Cows are considered sacred by the Hindus there.” An awkward silence followed because Chris didn’t know how to respond to that. Al grabbed the fork and knife, a mischievous grin spreading on her face. She started prodding the well-seasoned porterhouse steak with the utensils, snickering as she did so. “It’s been so long … since I’ve eaten steak.”Bookmark here

“Just don’t be loud,” Chris said, feeling slightly uncomfortable at that point. “It’d be bad if my parents found out I snuck a girl in here, especially since you’re a kid.”Bookmark here

Al was savoring a mouthful of steak which she quickly swallowed when hearing Chris’s comment.Bookmark here

“I’m not a kid,” she told him shortly. “I’m thirteen, so that actually makes me a teenager like you.”Bookmark here

“Eh, that’s still a bit of an age gap between us.”Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it.” Al cut into the steak again, noisily sliding the serrated blade across the plate as she did so, giving Chris goosebumps. “I’ve participated in numerous covert operations. Your parents will never know of my existence.”Bookmark here

“Chris?”Bookmark here

The voice of Chris’s mother came from outside his bedroom door merely seconds before she opened it. Chris’s heart flopped in panic. However, Al was nowhere to be found.Bookmark here

Chris’s mother saw the desperate look on her son’s face as he stood in the middle of his bedroom with a partially-eaten steak dinner resting on his bed.Bookmark here

“What are you doing?” she asked.Bookmark here

“Uh, just considering the mysteries of the human condition.” Chris laughed nervously, thinking about his abrupt answer.Bookmark here

“Oh. I made a mixed berry cheesecake and wanted to let you know it’s ready.”Bookmark here

“Okay, I’ll get some if I feel like it.”Bookmark here

As soon as Chris’s mother closed the door, Al appeared next to Chris, startling him.Bookmark here

“That was a weird answer,” she said snidely. “Do you hide all your secrets behind the mysteries of the human condition?”Bookmark here

Chris looked at his bedroom door.Bookmark here

“Maybe I do, but never realized it.”Bookmark here

Al took that as a cue to finish eating the steak quickly approaching room temperature.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

The sun was on the verge of setting, but the cloud cover hastened the onset of darkness over Chicago. Bret Taurus, the Hispanic delinquent from Lyonbole, ducked into an old alleyway, having made it all the way to Englewood. While hidden in a smelly nook, he pondered the insidious circumstances he had just narrowly escaped from, as well as take the time to plan his next move.Bookmark here

However, his reason for travelling all the way to the southwest side was because he had been informed of a deal. This deal, as Bret had been told, was supposed to be far better than the petty drug deals and thievery he was tired of doing. This deal was supposed to bring him the very things he always wanted, even if those desires were subconscious in the bottom of his heart.Bookmark here

Desperate for change and not knowing where else to turn, he had jumped at the chance.
Squatting on the ground behind a dumpster, Bret pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head. The deal had been something he could not bring himself to agree on. That person … that thing he had met … was not to be bargained with. Promises of inhuman powers and other such talk was nothing Bret wanted to involve himself with, no matter what ends it could attain.Bookmark here

Yet, in that alleyway while staring at the dirty ground, he couldn’t help but feel like that thing had taken a piece of him as a nonrefundable down payment for their meeting. Even though Bret had flatly refused to go through with the deal, he had an immense feeling that something had been stolen away.Bookmark here

Making his way slowly into the street, he looked around and realized he recognized the area. An old contact used to live nearby, and being strapped for cash, Bret decided to stop by and see if he could make a safer, more dependable drug deal to get money into his wallet. The cocaine in his pocket was meant to be a celebratory offering if the “deal of a lifetime” had gone through, but now it was nothing more than potential cash in a world of sin.Bookmark here

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