ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~
***THANKS FOR READING!***
Does reading the same thank you note get boring?
BOOK 2, CHAPTER 10: CONSPIRACY THEORIES FOR HOMEWORK
Muggy and dreary conditions were the backdrop of Friday morning. The tail-end of the previous night’s thunderstorm was hesitant to pass, as the forecast called for scattered storms and spotty rain, and the sun was showing no sign of making an appearance as Chris walked to school.
Am I making the right choice? He pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head when a few raindrops fell to his hair. Going to school will make me avoid standing out, and education is important, but…there are other things I should be doing.
Chris met Drake near the main entrance of the high school, and they bumped fists.
“Hey, buddy,” Chris greeted.
They walked past the school statue of Frederick Randolph Lyons and toward the quadruple-door entrance. Drake looked tired as he yawned, although Chris couldn’t tell if the weather caused such an illusion.
“I brought something,” Chris said, reaching into his book bag. “The next volume of ‘Teenagers with Superpowers is a Genre.’”
“Right on!” Drake eagerly took the book and put it in his bag. “Thanks, man. I’ll read it tonight after doing homework.”
Chris looked at his friend.
“You look tired,” he said.
“You look tired, too.”
“I do?” Chris could feel the heaviness under his eyes. Fighting malevolent entities was draining, it turned out. “Yeah, I kinda had a long day yesterday.”
“What’d you do?” Drake asked curiously.
Chris needed to answer carefully.
“Just hung out with some people.”
“Like who?” Drake pressed. “Did you hang out with Robbie?”
“Uh, Robbie and…a couple others.”
Drake gave Chris a short glance.
“Making new friends because I’m too busy?” he asked, sounding upset.
“Um…is that a bad thing?”
They entered the school building and pulled down their hoods, which were approaching saturation with rain.
“Man, I don’t know,” Drake said, irritated. “Probably not, but I feel left out. I just have too much to do outside of school.”
Chris was curious. “Like what? I don’t think we have that much homework.”
Drake didn’t look at Chris.
“I don’t wanna talk about it,” he replied. “Things are making it difficult for me, but I’ll get over it.”
“Oh.” Chris paused. “I can relate.”
To Chris’ surprise, Drake laughed.
“Listen to us,” he said, “we sound like adults, or something.”
“Do we?” Chris thought about it.
Do adults always complain about being busy? I really don’t hear Mom and Dad complain much. Maybe I haven’t paid attention.
“You know how I said we should catch a baseball game sometime?” Drake said while they were walking down the hall, the squeaks of hundreds of wet shoes surrounding them, including their own. “I…don’t know if I’ll have time.”
“Oh, okay. It’s all good.”
“But Mary invited me to a concert with you guys, and I want to go.”
“You’d better go!” Marilyn popped out of nowhere, making Drake jump as she confronted him with shining eyes. “It’ll be really fun, don’t you think?”
Drake yelped in surprise.
“Where’d you come from, Mary?”
The determination on Marilyn’s face made Chris chuckle, and he decided to chip in to the cheery girl’s attitude.
“I’ll buy our tickets today,” Chris said. Nudging Drake’s arm, he added, “Don’t worry about yours, I’ll have you covered. I was gonna buy some baseball tickets for us, but this’ll do.”
“Uh, all right.” Drake didn’t know what to say, so he just smiled. “Thanks, buddy.”
Marilyn squealed with excitement.
“Yeah! It’s settled.”
“Really last-minute, though,” Drake said.
“It’s okay,” Chris said with a shrug. He recalled a past conversation with Lavi. “Somebody recently told me it’s best to just go with your gut. Ya know, live for the moment. Follow your heart.”
Marilyn stared at Chris.
“You think so?” she asked somewhat flatly.
“Yeah.” Chris nodded. “Mr. Kampton said that.”
Follow your heart. Marilyn remembered what Ophelia had said the day before. She remembered the text message she had sent to Katie. The decadent flavor of the maimed apple pie à la mode (a serving worth more than forty-two dollars) still seemed to linger on her lips.
After this rush of memories, Marilyn replied quietly, “I…don’t think he’s right…”
“Hmm?” Chris was confused by Marilyn’s oddly sullen response. “Why not?”
Hesitant, Marilyn said, “The heart can be deceiving.”
What does she mean? Chris wondered.
Everything Chris had been doing in regards to his apparent duty as “mankind’s savior” was centered on trusting himself and listening to the answers within his soul.
What should I say to her? I seem to sense a truth behind her resolve, but it could just be my imagination. I mean…I trust Lavi, though. Man, it’s so hard to tell the difference between my imagination and my ‘sixth sense,’ or whatever it actually is…
Marilyn looked around at the nearby students walking with them, and perked up when she saw her friend Zee Ivanov.
“Zee!” she called, waving. “We got some more people coming with us to Leap Into Traffic!”
The Russian girl crossed through the crowd of sleepy students and approached Marilyn, Chris, and Drake.
“Nice, now it’s a group,” she said.
“What’s this about a concert?” Garret butt in, poking his pudgy, blond head between Chris and Drake.
“Garret, you should come,” Marilyn answered.
“Leap Into Traffic at the Aragon Ballroom?” Garret nodded. “I’m already going. I can’t turn down a Canadian band. I’ll be there, so we can meet up. But I’m really going for Choking on Gum. They’re one of my favorites. My friend wanted to come, but he can’t now. He lost his job and has no money. They fired him! He got caught hiding in the walk-in cooler, drinking strawberry milk out of the ramekins.”
Katie and Zee looked at Garret curiously.
“I had no idea you could get milk from a strawberry,” Katie said, utterly fascinated.
“What the crap is a ‘ramekin’?” Zee asked flatly.
“You should get Mont Blanc to come, Garret,” Marilyn said.
“He is. Although I’ll have to hide him in a backpack.”
Marilyn laughed. “I was joking about Mont Blanc, but I’m happy he’ll be there!”
Katie seemingly materialized next to Drake, making him jump again.
“Mont Blanc is going?” she asked excitedly. “Aw, this is gonna be great!”
“We have ourselves a convoy, over!” Marilyn announced. “I love doing things in crowds, don’t you all think?”
Drake didn’t know how to answer. Seeing Marilyn so happy quickly chased his gloominess away. Her attitude echoed around her, undeniably alluring and uplifting.
His eyes met hers, and she responded with a big smile. The alleviation was so sudden and dramatic, it was impossible for Drake not to smile back.
Chris, who noticed, also smiled. It seemed his friends were going to be okay.
“Just a friendly reminder,” Mr. Norris said to his history class, “Monday is the test. I’ll hand out your study guides, so make good use of your weekend.”
Chris was hardly listening to the teacher. He looked across the room at Bret, who was sleeping upright in his seat. In fact, Chris thought a nice mid-class nap sounded good.
Mr. Norris was a tad more scruffy than usual while he stood in front of his class, his hair slightly wiry and scruffy beard appearing thicker. The lack of a functioning coffee pot on school grounds was the culprit, and as he poured the remainder of his zero-calorie energy drink into his mug of 5-Hour Energy shots, he regretted not purchasing a cup of burnt gas station coffee on his way to work that morning.
“The struggle is real,” he muttered to himself as he brought the mug to his lips. Taking a crude sip, he gulped down his nausea before resuming the lesson. “So, this test will cover the history of Chicago leading up to the Illiniwek Juncture. Starting next week on Tuesday, we’ll cover the Illiniwek Juncture in more detail.”
A girl sitting at the front of the class raised her hand; she always had questions regarding the notorious Chicago event.
“Will we talk about the conspiracy theories about the Illiniwek Juncture, too?”
The teacher knew the question was coming, and he smiled when his prediction came true.
“I knew you’d ask,” he said with a chuckle. “Yes, we will cover some of the popular conspiracy theories.”
Without warning, the classroom door flew open and Mr. Kampton strode into the room with gusto.
“Conspiracy theories!” he declared excitedly.
Bret snapped awake from the clatter, looking at the vice principal with contempt.
“Oh, hi. What’re you doing here?” Mr. Norris asked Mr. Kampton, unfazed by the grand appearance. He was used to the behavior.
“I brought you a present.” Mr. Kampton handed the teacher a paper cup with a plastic lid. “It’s from a local joint just up the street.”
Mr. Norris gasped as he took the cup.
Not a second was wasted before Mr. Norris pulled the plastic lid off and took a swig of freshly brewed light roast coffee, splashing his barren insides with caffeinated splendor. In mere moments, the entire class watched their teacher’s rebirth. It was a touching scene.
“Ah, that’s good.” Mr. Norris promptly banished his energy drink mix into the trash, mug and all.
“Not to eavesdrop,” Mr. Kampton said, “but I overheard something about Illiniwek Juncture conspiracy theories, no?”
“Yes, that’s right.” Mr. Norris placed his rebirth-inducing coffee on his desk. “That’ll be one of the subjects next week.”
With a nod, Mr. Kampton faced the class.
“It was a highly significant event,” the vice principal explained to the students, “and much of Chicago is said to be the way it is today because of it.”
Most of the class was somewhat uninterested. However, when Mr. Kampton clearly made direct eye contact with Chris and Bret, it was certain that at least two students were giving their full attention.
He continued, “I suggest you do your research on the Illiniwek Juncture. It will be of absolute value.”
Chris stared at the vice principal. Even as Mr. Kampton turned away to speak with Mr. Norris, Chris watched, feeling heavy. He looked at Bret, who wore a serious expression with his arms crossed before looking back at Chris.
They had just been given an important homework assignment. More so, the real test would soon follow, and its grading scale likely involved citywide devastation as failure.
When class was dismissed, Bret stopped Chris in the hall and took him aside.
“Just what do ya think Lavi meant in there?” the disheveled boy asked, keeping his voice low.
“I can only guess,” Chris replied, looking over his shoulder, “but I think he’s saying the Illiniwek Juncture is somehow related.”
Bret frazzled his hair with a moan.
“Man, that’s crazy,” he said. “What exactly was the Illiniwek Juncture, anyway?”
Chris shrugged. “We haven’t covered it yet, but it had something to do with political corruption because of a secretive disaster, but the details of that disaster are, like, hard to prove, or something like that.”
“Ha! Sounds like everyday government stuff to me. Who knows what they tried covering up? Can’t trust ‘em.”
After thinking about it, Chris said, “Wouldn’t that mean…we need to look into the conspiracy theories?”
“Man, I don’t know. I hate homework and research and stuff. But there’s one thing I’m sure about: there are a lotta conspiracy theories about the Illiniwek Juncture, and lotsa them go against each other. That means it’ll be hard to see which ones are and aren’t right.”
Thinking more, Chris finally said, “I know.”
Bret rolled his eyes.
“I’m gonna smack that angel upside his holy head. Make him spill the beans.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Bret.”
“You got a better idea?”
Bret laughed insultingly.
“Yeah, didn’t think so. If anything comes up, better hope it’s before school lets out. I’m actually plannin’ to stick around for a full day…maybe. And after that, good luck finding me. My phone’s dead. Something chewed through my phone charger wire the other day.”
“I can find you with Excalibur’s detection.”
As Bret walked off, Chris sighed and headed to his next class.
“It’s the age of smartphones, and I feel like I’m the only person who has one, and one that works.”
“I consider myself to be revolutionary in the field of cellular phone and handheld computer technology,” Excalibur stated.
The bleak Friday morning light was a rude guest, unforgiving as it entered through the translucent window blinds of Sandra’s hotel room. Sandra gradually gained consciousness, slowly and languidly, as she was stretched haphazardly across the bed. Her first sight was of the rude morning light, which she greeted with a tired, puffy face of revulsion.
Rolling over in a lazy effort to reach the edge of the bed, she saw how the pillow, blanket, and sheets were in disarray, as if she had tossed and turned restlessly all night. When she hung her legs over the side and sat up, she definitely felt as if she had been tossing and turning for…how long was it?
She checked her phone. It was almost 10:00 AM. She had no memory of what time she had gone to sleep, but it’d been late.
Furthermore, she had a missed call and a voice message. They were from Lakedra Lewis at The Stadium of Rad-Tastic Literature.
A missed call? she thought. I have the ringtone on. I slept through it…I must’ve been really tired.
Her mouth was dry and tasted disgusting. Upon standing up, she felt her ankles, knees, and back resist the action. She didn’t have a headache, but the fringes of a hangover were looking her in the face. She blinked her crusty eyes; the morning light was an unruly pest.
With her phone’s speaker on, she listened to the voicemail:
“Hi, Sandra, this is Lakedra from yesterday’s interview. I’ve reviewed the list of interviewees, and I’d like to have you back for a follow-up session today. I’m looking at 11:00 this morning. Please let me know if you’re available. Thank you, bye-bye.”
Sandra stiffened up. The message was left two hours ago. She had an hour to make it to the appointment.
She quickly called Lakedra back. During the conversation, Sandra’s brain was still foggy from just waking up, and the high-energy talking so soon made her a little dizzy.
“I can make it,” she said. “Shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Great!” Lakedra replied. “I’ll see you then.”
Sandra hung up, looked around the room, scrambled to make sure she had her essentials, chugged a glass of water, brushed her teeth, hopped in the shower, washed off the insanity from last night, slipped into another business casual outfit, tidied her hair, grabbed her Neapolitan-colored briefcase purse, then hurried out the door.
The overcast morning light was more forgiving as she headed to her car.
Inside the book stadium, a nice-sized crowd was already gathering, which Sandra saw as a good sign. She walked up to the receptionist, explained her appointment, and entered behind the reception desk to wait for Lakedra.
Within less than a minute, Lakedra showed up, energetic as usual, and introduced Sandra to a man who appeared to be in his late twenties.
“This is Tom,” Lakedra told Sandra. “He’s been in charge of our social media accounts and an important guy in our marketing efforts.”
Tom had an average build and a regular face, brown hair, and brown eyes…not exactly manly looking, but Sandra thought he was rather cute.
“Hi.” Sandra shook Tom’s hand, which was actually softer and daintier than she had anticipated, yet his grip was firm enough. “I’m Sandra.” Her cheeks were still a little heavy and stiff from sleep.
“Tom. Nice meeting you.”
“I’d like to have you spend some time with him today,” Lakedra told Sandra. “Seeing as you’ve applied for a marketing position, this should give you both an opportunity to discuss, well, marketing.” She laughed. “Makes sense, don’t ya think?”
Sandra smiled. “Sounds legitimate.”
Her stomach suddenly felt like it began to sink.
Ooh buddy, Sandra thought solemnly. This is gonna be a hell of a task. Why did I get so hammered last night? And… she flexed her fingers, temporarily spacing out …after all that happened…
“So,” Tom said, snapping Sandra out of her daze, “if you follow me, we can start.”
Tom’s friendliness made it easier for Sandra, but she still carried a hefty load of sleepiness and anxiety from the previous night’s happenings. She was led on a tour through a cluster of rooms used for office space and storage. They discussed the book stadium’s past marketing ventures, and the familiar topic was something she could grasp in her current state.
“We have a wide spread as far as marketing efforts,” Tom explained, indicating to a lone desk with a desktop PC and some folders, “but we also think our efforts are stretched a little too thin due to lack of personnel and not having many solid plans or structure.”
“I get it.” Sandra reached into her briefcase purse and removed a notepad for taking notes. “Um…I’m missing my pen. Heh, did I forget it? Maybe it fell out…”
“You can use mine.” Tom removed a pen from his shirt pocket. “I have plenty, so hold onto it.”
“Oh! Thank you.” Sandra felt embarrassed as she reached for Tom’s pen.
Suddenly, a sensation grew in her chest. It leapt outward, filling her body with a warmth that prompted goosebumps and slight perspiration. It shot through her arm and hit her fingers as she was about to take hold of the pen in Tom’s hand.
The pen tumbled from Tom’s grasp. It fell to the floor.
They both stared for a second, dumbfounded. Then Tom laughed.
“Ha! It’d help if I actually handed you the pen,” he said humorously.
Sandra laughed too. Yes, it was funny. Funny, not strange.
After some market-speak and banter about cooking competition shows and popular food-angled anime, Sandra was shown the main floor’s bar. The back area looked clean, and although she had scant knowledge of food service operations, it seemed much simpler than she had thought.
“Food is getting expensive around this region,” Tom told Sandra in the dry storage room. He patted a sack of all-purpose flour. “Even the common and cheap stuff is getting ridiculously pricey.”
“That’s what I hear.” Sandra nodded and took a moment to herself. “I wonder if it’s because of the economy, or anything like that. That’s what it sounds like.”
“I hear it might be the big corporations behind our agriculture,” Tom said. “If that’s true, because it makes sense, then the underdogs will get their chance to step up.”
“What do you mean?”
“The small-time guys will probably take over,” Tom explained. “Start-ups like food delivery, community gardening—like that—will be better options for people if they can’t afford grocery stores and restaurants.”
The tour continued with Sandra following and listening to Tom while she took notes. Before long, they were back behind the reception area near the entrance.
“Okay, that about wraps things up,” Tom said.
“All right,” Sandra said, finishing her notes. “This was interesting! I think I have an understanding of what you do and what you want to do.”
A brown-haired girl who appeared to be around Sandra’s age entered the back of the reception area.
“Tom,” she called, “your sister is here. She wants to talk to you.”
“Uh, tell her I’m busy,” Tom replied, “and I’ll be there in a minute.”
“She says it’s urgent,” the office worker girl said, “something about kitty litter everywhere…”
Sighing, Tom said, “Fine.” He turned to Sandra. “Sorry, I’ll be just a minute if you excuse me.”
“That’s okay,” Sandra said, smiling.
She watched Tom leave, keeping her eyes on him as he disappeared out the door. Now alone, Sandra took a look around, feeling foolish for something she couldn’t quite put words to.
A faint buzzing sound caught her attention, and she flinched as a fly zipped past her face. She watched it circle around the room before it came right at her.
Lifting her right hand in preparation, she swatted at the fly as it approached. Although she missed, the bug was knocked aside, tumbling to the ground where it remained. Even more surprising, a nearby filing cabinet rattled and rocked, as if something had smacked it.
Sandra was startled, dropping her notepad and pen on the floor. After watching the filing cabinet stop rocking, she held her breath.
“What j-just h-happened?” she whispered to herself, feeling unnerved.
Trying to gather her bearings, she quickly knelt to pick up her belongings, but the notepad and pen juddered away from her as she extended her hand toward them.
“Sorry about that.” Tom returned to find Sandra looking distraught, kneeling, and with her belongings on the floor some distance away from her. He came to an abrupt halt. “Oh, are you all right?”
“Um, y-yeah!” Sandra snatched up her items (thrilled that they didn’t scoot away from her this time) and quickly stood up. “Just, uh, dropped my things.”
Tom chuckled. “You looked kind of scared, so I thought something was up.”
“So, I think today went well,” Tom said.
“You seem to be a great fit for what we’re looking for, and I’ll tell Lakedra that.”
The young woman fidgeted with her pen in one hand as her other hand’s sweat wrinkled the pages of her notepad. She nodded rigorously.
“Expect a call from us on Monday or Tuesday,” Tom continued, opening a drawer in the filing cabinet that had stopped rocking, and he inserted a few papers. “We’ll have our final decision by then.”
“Sounds great!” Sandra sounded enthusiastic, but she was trying not to have a heart attack from the strange activity happening—things moving away from her.
“Great.” Tom was pleased. “We’ll talk to you then.”
She hurried out of the building as fast as she could without appearing to hurry.
Soon after Chris walked into his house, he met his father, a man who had the same serial killer face as Chris, but hardened with facial hair and a more defined body structure. He was wearing a nice collared shirt and tying his brown oxford shoes; an indicator that he was going out with the wife.
“Hey there, son. How was school?”
“Good,” Chris answered dismissively, removing his sneakers.
“Your mom and I are going out for an early dinner. Want to come with? We’re going to Squawkin’s Roadhouse, the new place with the weird newspaper hats the employees wear.”
“Oh yeah, I heard of that place,” Chris said. The restaurant’s TV commercials were goofy with an annoyingly catchy jingle that sounded like a rejected Talking Heads B-side single.
“I want to try their seafood entrée,” Chris’ mom said as she walked over, wearing a satin blouse with lace sleeves. “Their ground rib meat burger looks good, too, but I think it’ll be too much for me to eat.”
Chris was interested, but he had important business to look into. The Illiniwek Juncture had been weighing on his mind since history class.
“I have a lot of homework to do, actually,” he told his parents. “There’s a history test on Monday that I really want to study for.”
“Smart choice,” his dad said, patting him on the shoulder. “That’s responsible.”
“Okay, Chris.” His mom gave him a hug after slipping on her white high heels. “We’ll see you later. Want us to bring you something back? We can get something to go.”
“Yeah, that sounds good, Mom. I’ll take that rib meat burger.”
Now home alone, Chris headed upstairs to his room, slid his book bag off his shoulder, took a seat at his small desk, and removed his history text book.
He flipped past the material on the upcoming test and straight to the following section to be covered in class next week, then began reading the introduction to the many conspiracy theories regarding the infamous event.
To Chris’ disdain, he found the conspiracy information for the Illiniwek Juncture was very brief, mostly summarized, and generally disregarded. Scanning the next several pages, he saw there wasn’t any more coverage of the event.
There isn’t much here, he thought, closing the textbook and placing it back in his book bag. That’s fine, I’ll just try the internet.
A noise alerted Chris of something behind him, and he whirled around in his chair to see what he had heard. Unexpectedly, Aleph-Naught disengaged her invisibility magic and was standing in Chris’ bedroom.
“Hi there!” she said with a toothy grin, making a peace sign with her hand. “Miss me?”
“Al!” Chris stood up, surprised to see the blonde girl in the baggy, gray hoodie. “You’re okay!”
“Of course I’m okay,” Al replied confidently, standing akimbo with her hands on her hips. “Who do you think I am?”
“We thought something bad happened to you,” Chris said. “I’m glad you’re…uh, alive.”
“Well,” Al said with a scrunched face, “something bad did happen to me. But I’m all good, and I’ve been here about an hour. I knew you were at school, so I waited. Getting in the house was easy. Your parents don’t lock the door when they’re home, so all I had to do was sneak in through the front and stay hidden.”
“But how long were you in my room?”
“I just came in here,” she replied. “What, you thought I was just watching you all this time?”
“Well, you’re a scout, as you say,” Chris said flatly. “Still, it’s good you came when someone was home, or you’d trip the alarm.”
“I know. First world people always gotta load their houses with enough expensive stuff to lock the place down with alarms. Makes it hard for me to do my job.”
Chris opened his desk drawer and gathered Al’s recovered weapons. Her eyes lit up when she saw them.
“I have everything you lost or gave me,” Chris told her, “except for one of those white healing crystals, but we had to give it to Robbie.”
“Aw,” Al groaned, “you used my last Panacea Crystal. It’s all right, but they’re hard to procure.”
Chris handed the mound of yo-yos to Al, and she hastily placed them on Chris’ desk, sorted them out, and examined them—ruby red, emerald green, and sunny yellow bodies, with the long string coiled next to them. Within several seconds, Chris could make out the seriousness of Al’s expression.
“Is everything okay?” Chris asked.
With a deep breath, Al replied, “Well, it doesn’t look good.” She turned her head to look at Chris. “They aren’t responsive. I think they’re drained or something similar.”
Chris approached his desk to get a better look.
“That means you can’t use them?”
“Right.” After rolling her eyes in grievance, Al shot an accusing glare at Chris. “What’d you do to them?”
“I didn’t do anything,” Chris told her firmly. “I got them back after Erik stole them from you.”
Al tilted her head while furrowing her brow. She was now attentive to what Chris had to say.
“Who…is Erik?” She spoke slowly and in a deep voice.
Surprised about Al’s sudden stern mannerisms, the teenage boy needed a moment before answering, and realized he had a lot of important explaining to do.
“Erik Hawthorne is my classmate at Lyonbole. I got into a fight with him, and Robbie and Bret were on my side.”
“One question.” Al held up her hand to halt Chris’ explanation. “Did this person possess non-magical abilities?”
Chris nodded. “He did. Bret did too, he’s another classmate.”
“Heh!” Al sneered. “Don’t tell me, but I might know Erik.”
“He said he encountered somebody, and it had to be you. It makes a lot of sense.”
Al was lost for words. She glanced around the bedroom ordained like a typical American teen’s den, clustered with oddities and expensive electronics. An explicit scent of musk, body spray, and deodorant infiltrated her nasal passages.
She sighed. “The negative energy must have tainted or purged the bandalore parts of their magic. I’ve never seen that much corruption from a single source…your classmate, that is. And especially not from a human, who aren’t supposed to be sources of that kind of energy.”
Her dormant accessories on the desk reminded her of the animal carcasses she’d sometimes come across during her livestock duties; once filled with vitality, and now cold and somber.
“It was unfortunate,” Chris murmured. He remembered the misshapen dice that led him to the yo-yo parts, and he removed them from his desk drawer. “I take it that these won’t work anymore?” He handed the dice back to Al.
“No.” She dropped them on the carpet, observing how they landed dully. After calculating the direction of their sum, she shook her head. “They don’t, but I’m not surprised.” She scooped them off the floor and put them in her hoodie pocket. “They’re supposed to point to the string, not the bodies, but the magical energy is gone. The string and the dice are made from the same material.”
“What material?” Chris asked curiously.
“A patented invention by my organization. Well, legally they aren’t patented, but my superiors believe the secret is safe.” Al proceeded to stash the three yo-yo bodies, string, and dice into her hidden hoodie pockets; Chris noticed how her hoodie didn’t seem to bulge with so much in tow, possibly due to its bagginess. “This is a first for me, but it’s possible the excessive negative energy really wiped out the magic.”
“You never told me who your organization is or what they do.” Chris was upfront.
“Yeah, of course not. It’s supposed to be a secret. If it wasn’t for, uh, whatever it is your powers are, then you never would’ve known about us.”
Chris was quiet for a moment.
“Why is it a secret?” he asked after a bit.
Unsure how to answer, Al told him, “I don’t know, but just think about it. Wouldn’t it cause an uproar if everyone found out what we’re doing? And not just the people you know, or the people in his city, but everyone in the world.”
“I can see how it would, but…would that really be a bad thing?”
Without replying, Al shrugged.
Chris pressed. “Is it worth hiding from the world?”
“Geez! Stop with the questions. I’m not the one to ask. I don’t make the rules, and I’ve already told you more than I might be allowed to tell.” She cleared her throat before changing the subject. “Now, there’s a reason why I came back here.”
“Do you need my help with something?”
“Yes,” Al said. “Remember me talking about Saint Baptiste Monastery? I’m currently aiding them, and they’ve given me a place to stay…although I prefer staying here…hint, hint.”
“It’s that huge, fenced-in place,” Chris said. “I know where that is. It looks like a castle.”
“The priest wants to meet you, Father Buck Dood. Sister Farrah Elaina lives there, too.”
The names weren’t familiar to Chris, and he hesitated.
“Okay,” he said. “This is sudden, though.”
“But the sooner you meet, the better. C’mon, let’s go now.”
“Wait, did this priest ask about meeting anyone else?” Chris asked.
“No.” Al shook her head. “Just you.”
“What’d he want to meet me for?”
Al crossed her arms with a small smile. “Come with me and see.”
Chris looked at the small visible corner of his purple history textbook inside his book bag.“I was gonna do some homework,” he said slowly, “but I think that can wait.” He looked at Al with a confident grin. “Okay, let’s go!”