Chapter 7:

Chapter 7: Invasion


Michael for one, was terrified. He now realized why no one stood up against Altheggan and these games. The power of his presence left Michael feeling weak and shaken to his core. “Praise be the the holy name of Altheggan!” the vessel screamed out. The crown had started cheering Altheggan’s name again. Whether out of fear or reverence, Michael did not know. Contorting itself back into what looked like a human stance, it stood up again. The vessel finally started to gaze towards the competitors. Its eyes, emotionless and cool as a blizzard, scanned over all of them. Michael wondered why until suddenly he was the one staring into the eyes of the vessel. Suddenly, it was as if time had stopped. The vessel, emanating a gold light from inside the box, stared deeply into Michael and he couldn’t help but stare back. It was like being entranced.

As the vessel starred at Michael, Michael felt as if at first, the vessel was merely staring through him. That was until Michael felt a cold and sinister vibe coming from its gaze. He then gasped as he realized that the vessel was not staring though him, but into him. Feeling wave after wave of chills down his spine, he could feel another presence forcing itself into his mid. His mind quickly became cloudy and his sense of reality had become distorted. He realize that while he had maintained eye contact with the vessel, he had fallen to his knees within the cube. The air was beginning to choke him. Michael began to gasp for air. Vessel or not, this individual was terrifying. The gaze from the vessel grew even deeper and Michael felt almost as if it was calling to him. “Come… Come…Bring yourself to me Michael,” he heard echoing through his mind. He felt drawn in. He again, felt the heavy presence of the vessel in his mind again, this time darker and more sinister. He fell to his knees.

Within a moment, he wasn’t sure if it was him or the vessel, but the contact was lost along with the gaze. Doubling over, he tucked his head down and started to breathe heavily. He felt as if he had lost a part of himself while his mind was being invaded. High vessel of Altheggan or not, the contact with the vessel did not feel like anything good. It felt like touching pure evil. Still in the same position in the cube, he decided to attempt to stand up. Still breathing heavily, he managed to lean against the side of the cube and fight back the beginnings of a nervous breakdown. “What the hell is going on? What was that and why was it so awful?”

Still breathing heavily, he stood up all the way and decided that he needed to stretch to make it appear that he was okay. He was sure that the camera had picked things up, but the crowd wasn’t responding to anything. Instead, they were still making the gesture of reverence towards the vessel and the stage. “How long had that lasted?” he thought. It had felt as if he had been staring into the vessel for more than a few minutes, but in reality, it was as if it had only lasted a few seconds? He was incredibly confused and even openly commented, “How great is the power of the vessel that it can distort time?” Then, as a bigger shock to himself, Michael looked across and saw that Jodoc and Iovita both seemed to be just fine. “Was I the only one??”

Suddenly, all of the cameras flew away from the cubes themselves and headed towards the stage. The ceremony was proceeding as planned it seemed. He took another deep breath and brought himself to face the crowd. “Now that the vessel has spoken to all the competitors individually, let us give thanks to both Altheggan and the high vessel itself! All hail the high vessel who spreads the word of the great and mighty Altheggan! All hail Altheggan!” he said raising his arms. “All hail Altheggan! All hail Altheggan! All hail Altheggan!” the crowd chanted. They then followed this with the gesture of reverence. Michael figured now was the best time, and while gesturing to his teammates, the all did the gesture of reverence together. This caught the eye of one of the floating cameras which zoomed in to see more. Noticing this, Michael held the bow low for a litter longer than usual hoping that his teammates did as well. He knew he had done the right thing when the priest called out, “How wonderful it is to see the devout giving their due respect to Altheggan and his holy vessel!” The crowd roared again with delight.

As the cameras zoomed in further, the priest called out raising a hand, “Everyone please turn your eyes to a screen. This is the year that we have a rare set of twins competing. Please take a look at them for this is sure to be one exciting team of competitors!” The cameras then swarmed around Jodoc and Iovita as the crowd went wild. Twins were rare in this kind of a race. There had not been a pair to compete for at least the past 50 or so competitions. Jodoc stuck a pose with a flash of his smile while Iovita blew a kiss to the camera followed by a wink. “Ah yes, their names are Jodoc and Iovita and they come from the planet, Endymion. Be sure to keep an eye on this team. Altheggan favors those who are devout!” the priest droned on. Giving Selena and Luna a look, Selena looked a little less nonchalant than usual, and Luna flashed a smile with an over exaggerated wave. “I still don’t get all the black. It’s such a stark contrast from her personality,” Michael mused to himself yet again.

“Now everyone, please turn your eyes to the name board as we are ready to begin the first round of the sphere selection process!” the priest bellowed into the microphone. Gazing back at the name selection board again, Michael saw all of the names listed. He found his name along with all of his teammate’s names again and now waited. There was nothing else left to do. A peal of thunder cracked in the sky and clouds formed overhead. With a few more cracks of thunder firing off in succession, a bolt of lightning struck the board. Selena’s name, unexpectedly, lit up with a small spark forming under her name. Sparks began forming under the names of the other competitors for this round. Slightly crestfallen that he was not chosen for this round, Michael watched as the giant sheet that was covering the board fell to the ground. The six names of the people who had sparks under their names, also had lines coming down from underneath their names. “What does that mean?” Michael questioned, but he barely had time to ask himself that when the sparks began racing down the board following the lines. However, oddly the lines were all crisscrossed with each other horizontally. Now it registered with Michael why the board had been covered: It would have been too easy to know who would have went first.

The sparks began racing faster and faster down the board as they reached halfway. Crisscrossing at every intersection, they all were taking different paths. Michael had long lost what spark belonged to Selena and instead was just enjoying the light show. A spark arrived at the bottom, then another, and then another. Before he knew it, all of the sparks had arrived at the bottom of the board and they were combining while burning a letter into the board. The sparks fizzed out and there was a giant “T” burned now into the wood. “T? What does a T stand for? Trouble? Time? Trap?” Michael was a flurry with questions. The priest was more than happy to bellow into the microphone and explain what it meant. “A battle! We have a fight as a qualifier for the first round of the sphere selection process!” “I am confident that ‘T’ does not signify a battle, but alright,” Michael mentally complained. However, the crowd’s response seemed to be quite pleasant as they cheered vigorously. Michael shot a glace over towards Selena. Making eye contact, he raised his eyebrows as if asking, “are you okay with going first?” Selena nodded, but Michael could see something that was not confidence or anger clouding her eyes. She took a deep breath and straightened her hair. She looked out and painted a big smile on her face. That was the least of her worries though.