Black Halo: the Witch and the Guardian PREVIEW Part 3

REVISED version of

Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian

is coming out on 12/9/2015!

Preview Event:

PART 1 (Prologue, Chapter 1)

PART 2 (Interlude 1)


 

Blurb:

With the Light, came Magic, and the Witch. As mysterious as she was fearsome, and as powerful as she was merciless, the Witch almost succeeded in ending the world until she was vanquished by a hero and his comrades.

This is the legend of the Witch and the Guardian.

Centuries after the nigh calamity, this legend is as much as almost anyone knows of what truly happened back then and as much of an explanation anyone has of what ended an era in human civilization.

Though the people may never learn the whole story, you as the reader will follow the days that led up to how a young girl named Lily became immortalized as the Witch though her name, dreams and life became forgotten.


 

Chapter 2
THE REDHEAD

A quaint little coffee shop.

It was one of many a person could find in the city. Small enough to still seem snug with its single early-bird customer, the cafe decorated from top to bottom with ‘personality’ to save itself from becoming what they considered to be lifeless coffee shop chains. There were pictures of past visitors, vinyl hanging like paintings—some of which even the young customer recognized—and a bulletin board for the local bands to advertise their garage shows. Instead of the usual easy listening jazz, this little shop decided a little grunge was better fitting with the morning caffeine.

The lone customer waited for his order as he listened to the cafe’s unique choice of music. The flashy intro of the news program on the TV caught his attention. His head snugly tucked into the hood of his leather jacket, he turned his attention from the music to the television on the wall.

“Make no mistake,” A plump man, aged and molded by a long career of being dissatisfied and irate, spoke with authority and confidence. “We are at war. It’s a war not with our people but with this sudden but very drastic change. With change, we have to adapt. That is the law of nature—adapt to survive. The people have the right to be protected and to feel safe in their homes in this great nation of ours. We aren’t talking about imprisoning men and women out of prejudice. We are talking about simply containing these men and women—who, mind you, possess a catastrophic potential to harm us—in the name of security of our nation. Joining our discussion today is the host of a popular news commentary show, The Independent Voice, Erol Acar.”

The image on the screen split in two. One side of screen still showed the original man with his ginger comb over, and the other side showed a new, tan skinned man who was younger in comparison with a square jaw and a comparably fuller set of black hair.

“Thanks for joining us on The Point, Mr. Acar. It’s a pleasure,” said the host.

“Thanks for having me, Mr. O’Connor,” Mr. Acar answered politely.

“Please, call me Brian. So the topic today: is what we are doing with those wizards and the witches—the Gifted—morally wrong?”

“Uh… well, Brian, first of all, I have to say, I think you’re losing touch with humanity.” The host’s eyebrows slightly furrowed at Mr. Acar’s remark. “At war, Brian? We are at war? You say it’s against “change,” but those “changes” are people! Our own people! The Gifted are our citizens! Not to mention most of the Gifted we discovered so far are mostly children and teens!”

“Children who can blow up buildings, Erol! Children who can and have killed people.”

“Not all “gifts” have been inherently hostile! Like that boy a year or so ago who simply… disappeared… teleported away from his bullies! And even if a child or a person had a dangerous “gift” it doesn’t mean they’ll use it to harm others! You and the government are asking people to preemptively judge a person guilty and dangerous before they did anything wrong!”

“Sure, but we don’t let children carry guns…”

“Guns aren’t part of their being! You’re teaching the people to be scared and to fear these people who need our help and understanding!”

“Because the cost of simply waiting and letting something happen is too traumatic, Erol!” Mr. O’Connor slammed his desk in outburst. “It’s not a preemptive strike at the Gifted. It’s simply a precautionary measure. I’m not asking these Gifted to be publicly executed like in some of those other countries. I—we—are simply asking for some sort of containment! And do I need to remind…”

“There are new studies being done that acquiring ‘gift’ may not necessarily be a predisposed condition,” Mr. Acar, heated by the conversation, didn’t let the host finish. “But that anyone can acquire these abilities. Some even suggest that you can learn these abilities on your own. Should all of us then be taken in as a precautionary measure by those private military companies?”

“Alright, we’re getting a bit off the topic here, but you know what? I’m going to address this. Those private military companies work for the government and for us—the people—Erol! For you, for me, and for our friends and families! We can’t expect our military to step in on this matter! They have their own jobs and duties to fulfill. And we certainly can’t expect our police officers to be able handle potentially walking, living, breathing weapons of mass destruction! We’ve already seen the results of that. We need specialists and those with matching fire power. And YES! Anyone who decides to become part of those Gifted should be dealt with the same way!”

“That’s just ridiculous, you’re allowing…”

“We didn’t start the war, Erol! They did! Do I have to remind you what happened?” The host pointed his finger in emphasis to each of his statement, and now it lingered in the air as he waited for his guest to answer so that he may pounce again.

“No. You don’t have to do that. As I was saying…” Mr. Acar fought to finish his point.

“No, I am going to remind you. Two years ago… almost three years now, that Light appeared out of nowhere. We don’t know what it is, where it’s from, and why it’s here. Just look out your window and it’s there like an eyesore. On the day that thing appeared, so did the Gifted. The first one to introduce us to the rest of them was the Witch! The Witch everyone’s looking for one who’s now even considered an international terrorist by many governments. What did she do? Erol? What did she do that day?” Mr. O’Connor waited for Mr. Acar to answer with a smug smirk.

“Brian, let me finish what I was trying…”

“She MURDERED a well-respected doctor in his home. That’s the first act done by the Gifted in this world and a very fitting act to let us know what was to come. She’s now popping up all over the world terrorizing it with her red-haired lemming…”

“Terrorizing? Really? Name one thing that could be considered a terrorist act. I can name a few where you can say ‘reckless’ and ‘questionable’ but ‘terrorizing’?” This time Mr. Acar interrupted.

“She attacked our own military!”

“Sources from people who were actually there reported…”

“And who knows what she’s doing in those other countries. Is she a spy? Is she a gun for hire? Is she a walking bomb trained by our enemies? Ignorantly meddling in foreign affairs has a tremendous impact around the world. It’s simply irresponsible and dangerous!”

“…a few rotten apples shouldn’t…”

“Hey, your orders are ready,” the part-timer at the coffee shop tried to get the attention of her lone customer.

“A few rotten apples?” Mr. O’Connor interrupted yet again. “These few rotten apples are popping up everywhere now. They’re even organizing. They have demonstrated that they are a tremendous threat to us regular people. These so-called few rotten apples went off in schools, offices, courts, and even out in the middle of the street in downtown. And people died, Erol. They didn’t even have a chance. We already even have a suspected Gifted serial killer they call… what do they call him… ‘The Invisible Man’? And like I said before—there are even groups of them now. Banding together to do god knows what. There are rumors about these bands that are evolving even from just being gangs to selling their ‘gifts’ for use to the highest bidder. That rumored group called the Wolves or something like that is one of those. It’s birth of a living, breathing black market for new types of weapons that the world has never seen before. Except this time, the weapons themselves get paid. Who knows what they’ll do next! Who can protect us from them? You, Mr. Acar?”

“Can I talk now?”

“Go ahead,” Mr. O’Connor smugly gave permission.

“I recognize there are few of the Gifted out there, like the Witch, who should be brought to justice. And they are, without a doubt, making the world a harder place for the other Gifted and us. But we have to remember, no matter what, that the Gifted are still people like you and me. In fact, if the new studies prove to be correct, any of us can be the Gifted. The Gifted may not even be that Gifted. What you are arguing for is to allow our government to unofficially establish a police state through the private military, and to treat people like criminals regardless of whether or not they’ve committed a crime. We can’t let fear rule us like they want us to. It is during the times of greatest fear that we must remember to be brave enough to do the right thing.”

“Yes, yes. Very touchy, Mr. Acar. We’ll be back with the sentimental Mr. Acar after these commercials.” The host looked at the camera and smiled. An outro melody begins to play as the camera zoomed out.

“World’s gone mad,” A girl’s voice said, bringing the lone customer back to the real world.

Startled, he quickly turned away from the TV to the register, and found the brunette waitress resting her chin on the palm of her hand. She was looking straight at him with a grin and sparkling eyes. She blinked in quick succession as a response when the customer finally recognizing her existence. In front of her were two paper cups fixed with lids and fitted in a drink carrier to accompany a small box.

“I’ve never actually seen any Gifted yet myself. At least, not with my own eyes.” She lifted her chin off of her hand while maintaining eye contact. “I tried to get your attention before, but you seemed really into it so I thought I’d just let you be.” She had a wide, amused smile on her face. “That’ll be 8.75,” she said, reaching out with an open palm to the customer revealing her heavily tattooed arm. She watched as the boy searched his pockets for his wallet. Even though she, herself, was only a sophomore working through college, he seemed even younger than her. Probably just a high school student or maybe he was a freshman in college. He was about as tall, maybe slightly taller, than average for a guy around his age. His hood scrunched his long, obviously dyed red hair that hid most of his facial features, but she thought his revealed milky skin harmonized well with his hair like strawberries and cream. She figured he was probably another fan of the local music scene or perhaps one of many who wanted to stand out against the norms of the society.

“Here’s a ten.” The customer dropped a couple of bills onto her hand. “Keep the change.” He gave a small smile to return hers, and packed the box carefully into his backpack. Once the package was secured, he grabbed his hot drinks and headed for the door.

“Come back soon!” she shouted after the customer as the bell over the door jingled with his departure.

Although it was still only the eve of winter, even the gentlest of winds were frigid and piercing. The skies were gray and without mercy from the sun. People passed through the busy street huddled into their winter coats and paced briskly to their destinations. The cups weren’t marked. The redhead sniffed at the drinks to find the one that didn’t have the sweet oozing scent of chocolate; if he found the one with the dry but rich and nutty aroma of freshly brewed black coffee, then he would have found his beverage. He was lucky. The first cup passed his sniff test, though it smelled a little burnt.

He took a moment to let the warm drink heat him up. A small award for the long journey he had made. It’s was a long walk to the city and it wouldn’t be any shorter going back. The winter season easily excavated memories buried deep beneath as if the soil never hardened. Maybe the memories just weren’t buried deep enough.

It’d been almost two years since he went off on his journey. Two years since his new life began, and his old life started to fade away. As time passed, the distance between the two moments of his lives grew further and further apart. The old times seemed more imagined now than a one he lived through. Only the artifacts of past memories reminded him that they were all very real.

A police car.

The sirens and lights of the law enforcement drove away the nostalgia and brought the boy back to the present. How ironic that something so key to his old life now snapped him back to reality. It reminded him that his old life was over, and he was in the present. He turned away as much as he could from the flashing vehicle. Once the car turned a corner, the redhead put his coffee back into its holder and hastily went on his way. It didn’t feel right that he enjoyed the drink by himself as someone was waiting for him. Kalin felt a slight guilt brewing inside.

 

 

Chapter 3
SERENDIPITY

Landris stared blankly out the window. It’d been a long time since he had been downtown full of people. A while since he sat in a restaurant about to eat a mediocre breakfast that’d taste surprisingly as bad in any of its sister restaurants across the country. The theme of the chain was ‘retro,’ and its idea of ‘retro’ was a jukebox, neon lights, and checkered floors. He looked at his two companions who had been giddy since their plane ride. They chatted about doing things they probably knew they didn’t have time to do on this trip, and of the things they missed that they would long for again when the trip ended. He didn’t feel as excited as these two. Frankly, he was bored. When was the highlight of this trip going to happen?

“So what will it be guys?”

He ignored the middle-aged waitress who he guessed probably had had too much fun in high school and now couldn’t afford to do better than work in a second-rate chain restaurant. Her dark brown hair that was obsessively curled and her bright red lipstick made her look like she was either dressed to the restaurants theme, or she woke up that morning and decided that she’d dress like a relic.

“I’ll have the pancakes with scrambled eggs and hash browns!” The female companion cheerfully answered. Landris always thought Sarah was too much of a looker to be hanging around with her friend Julian. She had brunette hair curled in lusciously soft waves, an egg-shaped face, and a smile that’d even turn drunkards to gentlemen. Julian, on the other hand, was scrawny with dirty blond hair, and no signs of a single muscle in his body. To make matters worse, he followed her around like a puppy and like so, he was probably going to order—

“I’ll have the same please,” said Julian with a smile.

Yep. Just as he had guessed.

Sarah, Julian’s ‘best friend’, was a sweetheart. She was hot, if Landris may be frank, and she probably could have gone through her entire life with just her looks. To her credit, she managed to also develop a personality and respectable intelligence. Meanwhile, Julian was just that kid always in the background who was too timid for his own good. They claimed they were childhood friends, and Landris figured Julian probably knew he was lucky to even have that. Julian got plenty of attention from other boys and men when he walked around with his brunette princess. Though, Landris also figured Julian will probably never have the guts to actually spark something between them.

“Can’t decide on your own food, Julian?” Landris asked with a smirk.  It was a need for Landris to push Julian around. He wanted to get the toxin of weakness out of Julian.

“Don’t be a jerk, Landris. Julian can order whatever he wants!” The princess came to rescue her wimpy prince. Her voice was stern, but never had a hint of venom—always like a mother scolding a child.

Landris simply smiled in response to Sarah and glanced at Julian drowning in its implications. Sarah was a nice girl, no complaints there; she was both a pleasure to be with and to look at. She just needed better taste in men. Whether he seemed interested or not, Sarah also seemingly went out of her way to include him in various activities. Small things like that both Landris and Julian noticed.

“Oh, and where’s the older gentleman who came with you guys?” the waitress asked, seeing that the only trace left of the man was a bag beside Landris.

“He’s in the restroom. What did Mr. Jung want again?” Sarah looked to Julian and Landris for answers.

“Breakfast,” Landris replied.

Ignoring the smart-ass, Sarah furtively placed the tip of her ring and pinky finger on Julian’s hand.

“Right,” Sarah recalled. “He’ll have the steak omelet with hash browns on the side please. He also said he’d like to get his coffee topped off”—The waitress jotted down the order on her notepad with a pen—“…and an orange juice for the table please,” Sarah finished her order.

“Hun? How about you?” the waitress asked Landris with a friendly smile. She caught herself staring at the boy. Ash blond hair with emerald green eyes. His body permeated athleticism even beneath the layers of cloth, and his face had sharp and chiseled facial features as if the boy was a movie star of the golden age. These qualities of Landris were one of the few reasons why he was favored to be the poster boy for Director Jones’ new project. The only detractions were his mouth and attitude that went against his Prince Charming looks.

“I’m good,” Landris answered curtly. “I’m probably better off not eating here anyways.”

“Landris…” Sarah paused for a moment before deciding it wasn’t worth pursuing the rudeness of the latter part of Landris’s statement. “You have to eat something. You haven’t eaten anything since we left.” The mother Sarah scolded and gave Landris exactly what he wanted from her. Right on cue, Julian flashed him a look filled with jealousy. It didn’t go missed by Landris.

“Well,” Landris began, leaning closer towards Sarah. “What would you suggest then?”

“Well,” Sarah replied, leaning closer towards Landris. “I suggest breakfast.”

Landris and Sarah exchanged sarcastic smiles.

“I’ll have whatever they’re having,” Landris told the waitress. The waitress scribbled down the last order and told the group it’d be fifteen to twenty minutes before going about her way. As she walked towards the kitchen to submit the order, she passed by the older gentleman that came with the group. He was a bulky middle-aged man whose prominent cheekbones made him seem younger than he probably was. Short hair combed with enough gel to shine, thick eyebrows that were always furrowed, and he walked with the pride of a soldier’s march.

“Did you guys order me the omelet?” The man asked as he sat beside Landris and rejoined the group.

“Yes, sir!” Sarah cheerfully answered. Mr. Jung appreciated Sarah over the other two kids he had to babysit just for her brightness. The waitress returned with a glass pitcher full of OJ and poured four glasses for each person in the party.

“Can I see it again?” Landris reached out his hand to Mr. Jung as he sipped on his juice.

“How about a ‘please’?” Mr. Jung suggested. The two stared at each other for a short while, both refusing to stand down.

“Please,” Landris gave in. It was Mr. Jung’s tablet after all. Mr. Jung dug into his bag and handed the boy what he wanted. Without showing much gratitude, Landris turned on the device and found the image right away.

It was a rare image, albeit a very blurry one, of the Witch and her red-headed friend. They were spotted in the war-torn desert country seemingly helping a few civilians from certain death. The picture showed a group of men, women, and children facing a ragtag group of gunmen masked with clothes and scarves with the barrels of their weapons aimed at the people. Standing between them was the Witch and her crimson-haired friend. The quality of the image was blurry at best, but it was the image that became the controversial evidence for those who advocated the falsehood of the Witch’s notoriety and advanced the movement to stop scrutinizing those who are “Gifted’. Meanwhile, it also became one of many evidence against the Witch for her apparent lawlessness and disregard for sovereignty. There were rumors that all of the gunmen were killed.

Unsurprisingly, the image of a dainty girl standing up to men armed with some of man’s most trusted lethal weapons added fuel to the fire for those who already feared the incalculable potential of the Gifted.

“Is it true that she stopped a tank before, Mr. Jung?” Julian asked as he organized the sugar packets at the end of their table by their colors.

“The official word from the military and the intelligence agencies are, ‘no comment.’” Mr. Jung peeked over at his tablet Landris was holding. “…but our inside sources say—yes, a few of them apparently.”

“I don’t get it. What’s her ‘gift’?” Julian looked at Sarah who simply shook her head and then turned to Landris. “I don’t think even you could stop a tank, Landris.” His words went completely ignored by Landris who was still glued to the tablet.

“Let me see that again too, Landris.” Sarah reached out for the tablet, and Landris handed it over to her without a fuss.

“She looks even younger than us. How can a tiny girl like that be so frightening?” Sarah marveled as she zoomed in on the blurry picture in a futile attempt to get a closer look at the Witch’s facial features. She dragged around the zoomed picture until she stumbled onto the Witch’s right hand that was raised straight from her chest. A solid black band dangled from the Witch’s wrist that seemed like a common and cheap accessory anyone could find at department stores. Sarah owned a pink one herself. The insignificant item made the Witch seem even more like a regular girl to Sarah.

“Well…” Landris cringed as Julian took on his ‘professor’ tone that he unknowingly adapted whenever he shared his vast knowledge. “There are a lot of countries out there that still use child soldiers, and children are so malleable that they sometimes make even better killers than adults do. They can do things adults wouldn’t and couldn’t imagine, doing them without giving it a single thought. So, seeing that, it’s all possible that the Witch could be a terrorist.”

“I guess,” said Sarah as she now zoomed in on the witch’s friend. “Her redheaded friend looks more like our age. He looks cute. Wonder why he follows her around so much.” Sarah smiled and gave a playful look to Julian. “Do you think they’re a couple?”

“Maybe they’re related?” Julian offered his own theory while suddenly feeling a bit sheepish at Sarah’s smile.

“Maybe he’s just stupid or nuts,” Landris answered. “How can you tell if he’s ‘cute’ anyways from that picture?”

Sarah shrugged.

“You have weird taste in men, Sarah,” Julian joined in.

As the kids chattered, Mr. Jung thought over how he ended up here with these kids. To him, all this was still just madness—the Witch, these kids, and Nancy Jones with her programs. How could these kids and others like them hold the world hostage to their whim.

 

“So, basically… you want me to babysit.” He recalled his meeting from day before.

Mr. Jung had a slight accent whenever he spoke, but it was so minute that only the most petty would point it out. A middle-aged man, his body had seen better years. The only things remaining of his bravado days in the military were his poor excuse for a civilian haircut that was always gelled to a shine and combed to make it seem even shorter, and the trainings ingrained in his mind and body that even showed with how he walked.

He sat across from the mahogany desk of the director, Nancy Jones. Her desk, with a cup of fresh tea on it like any other time he saw Director Jones in her office, was placed in front of a wide panel window that oversaw this entire facility of the Silver Aegis Private Security Firm. The grand office room was elegantly decorated and furnished from top to bottom with exuding tastefulness. Mr. Jung never was very artistic, but even he felt a bit of awe for the extravagance of the room—it was rich yet lacked overtness, and all while still being grand.

“Ma’am?” Mr. Jung tried to get Nancy’s attention away from her tablet and focused back on him.

“You were former special forces in your country with high commendations,” Nancy recited off of her tablet. It was exactly what Mr. Jung wrote in his application to the company. “That’s quite impressive. Not to mention you also spent a little time as an intelligence agent after your military career.” This time, Nancy didn’t recite from her tablet. She looked right at Mr. Jung and studied him. Unlike before, the details of his time in the intelligence community weren’t reported in his application. To be precise, no one should know. Mr. Jung kept his poker face.

“Father of two children with a son of age fifteen and a daughter of age twelve. Tough time for parents, I imagine. Going through the trouble of moving to a new country for this job, I’m assuming was for their benefit?” said Nancy with a gentle smile.

“Yes, but what does any of this have to do with anything?” He and his family had been researched. It wasn’t the cleanest feeling in the world, but she was his boss and his meal ticket. Before the timing was too late, he added, “Ma’am?”

“I’d guess you are a better father than a patriot,” Nancy continued. “…the money and the opportunities here were too good to shy away from. But there are some blanks here that I’m curious about.

 

Caving in to his hunger, Landris walked to the front counter of the restaurant where he saw they had a basket of complimentary hard candies for their customers. He popped one into his mouth and pocketed another for dessert.

 

Mr. Jung maintained his deadpan expression as he listened to the director. On the surface, Director Jones was a woman that he’d wish his daughter to be like when she grew up. Nancy took the time to present herself properly. She was dressed well in clothing that was obviously luxurious but subtle with opulence much like her furniture, and she carried herself even better than she was dressed. Her golden hair was always perfectly kempt and glowed with radiance, her clothing were always perfectly washed, ironed, and fitted, and she walked in confident strides with perfect posture. Neither newly rich nor petulantly rich, she was groomed into her class and naturally exuded her status. Young and powerful, and as elegant as she was intelligent, Nancy’s presence demanded respect. For the lesser few, simply being around her made them feel inadequate and uncomfortable.

“What did you do initially before you came here? There’s a couple of years here you had off after you quit the intelligence work.”

“Money wasn’t good in the government job. I wanted a better life for my two kids, so I took on a business opportunity my friend offered. It failed. So, I came here. Are we going somewhere with this?” The usual calm manner of speech by Mr. Jung was slightly littered with snappiness. Nancy left the tablet on her desk and walked towards the giant panel window that made her office into a watchtower. The sun was shining down on Facility Zero, a small part of the Silver Aegis that also happened to be one of its most important division. From her watchtower, she oversaw the training courses, the armory filled with vehicles and weapons, the rows of trucks bringing in new supplies, and the school and dormitories that were the very purpose of the entire facility. Even as they spoke, there were students being groomed by the Silver Aegis to become leaders of the coming new age. She responded to Mr. Jung as she observed her empire ticking like gears in a clock.

Nancy spoke gently, “When my father started this company, it was just him and a few friends he met from the service. He knew that the world would always need guns, and guns free from a leash would be more beneficial and appreciated in this world than the ones that were simply used as the government’s exclamation mark,” Nancy spoke with her eyes on her father’s legacy. “His work, Silver Aegis, is now the world leader in private security and became one of the most profitable businesses in the world. We have more than twenty facilities placed around the world equipped with gear and technology that can match the military and even some that the military is too cheap to use for their own personnel. On our best days we are the only ones able to provide protection to those the military can’t seem to find the motivation to help.”

Mr. Jung raised an eyebrow.

“We have more than a hundred thousand successful operations and currently employed in twenty-four different nations for fifty-three different operations. A few of those operations technically don’t exist. Right here, Facility Zero, is one such place. Do you have any idea how much it costs to keep an operation of this size off the record?” Nancy seemed proud and amused as her eyes smoldered with ambition.

Ms. Jones finally turned away from the windows and made eye contact with Mr. Jung. The light shining from the windows outlined her body with light. If one didn’t know better, some might say she seemed angelic.

 

Landris sat back down in the booth. He handed a candy to each person, and all but Mr. Jung who was deep in thought thanked him. Julian and Sarah continued their conversation as Landris looked out the window.

 

But the costs are worth it because all else that we have doesn’t compare to what we have here—the students in that academy. Those kids in there will not only be the world’s future, but our future. The Gifted marks the end of an old era and the beginning of a new one. The world will never be the same.”

Mr. Jung knew about the vague purposes of the facility. Other than the top people and instructors, most of the staff rarely got to see the kids studying, training and exercising their ‘gifts.’ Even so close, the Gifted were a bit of tall tale.

“So yes, it’s a babysitting job. But you’re babysitting the company’s most valuable assets; especially, the boy who will be the company’s face for our new project. If things work out, we will also be getting our hands on the world’s most notorious Gifted.”

“The Witch.” Mr. Jung crossed his arms. It was his way of relaxing a little. “How credible is the info that she’ll be in that city on that day?”

“Certain enough to dispatch the students with a chaperone. Though sadly even with such a tip, going myself is a risk we cannot take yet.”

“Is the ‘face of the project’ you’re speaking about that delinquent, Landris?”

Nancy was well aware of Mr. Jung’s distaste for Landris.

“He has rough edges but he’s been making progress. Landris is still a teen and still has much to grow. But he has more than proven himself with his capabilities and his abilities are the type to draw admiration from people. His stubbornness combined with his ambitions will get him to places. He will do what other will not—he’ll be a leader.”

“He’s a delinquent. A punk. There are also pretty troubling rumors of his past.” Jung expected a response from Nancy with that last statement, but his boss remained collected—always wearing a mask with a gentle smile. “I think you see too much in him and I can’t say I understand why.”

“Think of him what you will, Mr. Jung. But there are many other agencies and governments looking to acquire these Gifted children, and your job is to watch over three that we have.”

“Why not just send some of us out instead of using the Gifted?”

“If she were any other Gifted, yes, we’d handle it between us. However, this is the Witch we are dealing with…”

“…and you don’t really think we can handle her,” Mr. Jung finished Nancy’s sentence for her. He figured she probably wasn’t wrong.

“In so many words, yes.” Nancy took a sip of her tea. “Besides, I think it’d be great for the students to get some experience outside the facility, and they’ll help even out the odds. I’m also going on a hunch that she’ll be more cooperative with other Gifted than with just us.”

“If you say so, ma’am. Alright, so what can these kids do exactly?”

“The exact details are confidential for now. But the students we’ve selected to accompany Landris are the ones we thought would be the perfect complement to him and to this assignment. They know their roles, your job is to simply make sure they stay out of trouble and have supervision.”

“When are we leaving?” Mr. Jung asked. He decided not to press further for an answer.

“Tonight. The students are already getting packed and expecting you.”

 

“Here’s your order!”

The smell of eggs and buttermilk pancakes stole Mr. Jung from his flashback. He saw Sarah and Julian’s eyes glimmered with glee when the plates landed in front of them. Curiously, Landris eyes were glued to the window.

“Landris? Your food is here,” Sarah said with matching excitement in her eyes as Julian.

“Look,” Landris said, pointing out the window. “The redhead.”

Landris’s words drew everyone around the table to look out the window at the city street. Across the street on the sidewalk was a young man carrying a bag and a drink carrier with what seemed to be two coffees. His long crimson hair peeked out from the black hood of his leather jacket.

Landris leapt out from his seat before Mr. Jung could give any instructions. Guided only by his gut feelings, Landris rushed out the door to chase after the red-haired boy.


Revised Edition of Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian will be released on 12/9/2015!

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