4. Black Smoke – 1

Micah watched as Dr. Briton injected Raven. His gaze immediately went to the monitors reflecting her vital signs. Body temperature, normal. Pulse rate, a little fast, but within range. Blood pressure, normal. Micah’s attention returned back to Raven. Dr. Briton was checking her respiration rate and keying in information. The information reflected back on the monitor the nurse was keeping tabs on.

Everything looked normal, but Micah knew things could change quickly during an Awakening. Micah took in the faces of two other doctors. They were talking among each other while giving furtive glances towards his dad. One of them noticed Micah looking at them and muttered something to their colleague. They both turned their attention back to observing Raven.

Micah sighed. He understood why the doctors were acting like a bunch of gossips. His dad had demanded to observe Raven’s Awakening. On top of that, his dad insisted that Dr. Briton oversee it. Dr. Briton was used to his dad’s antics and often ignored them. But when his dad was truly set on something Dr. Briton tended to indulge his friend. Sometimes, Micah though Dr. Briton indulged him too much. When Micah pointed this out to him once, Dr. Briton just laughed.

“Your father is brilliant, unbalanced, but brilliant. Sometimes you have to indulge that type of genius. It’s how great things happen.” 

Micah pointed out that Dr. Briton was also a genius, but the man only smiled. To this day, Micah couldn’t understand how the two men were friends. He would have tied it to them being work partners, but they had been friends back in their University days.

“What was Tyrese thinking?” his father asked, thoughtfully.

Micah looked up at his father, confused. “What do you mean?”

His father glanced at him and then back at Dr. Briton who was strapping Raven down. “He hesitated before giving her the injection.”

“It was probably because of her earlier electrocution. Maybe he’s worried the stress will be too much,” Micah said with an edge to his voice.

His dad laughed and pointedly didn’t look at him. “Perhaps.”

Micah still had the urge to punch his dad, well more than usual. He loved his dad, but it didn’t change that sometimes he acted like a child with too much power. Sometimes he forgot that people weren’t toys he could play with. In a way, Micah found it lucky that he ended up Awakening as a healer, though he wasn’t exactly thrilled about cleaning up his father’s mistakes.

He glanced back at Raven. It bothered him that his dad had a special interest in her. As much as he cared for his dad, he didn’t trust him around her. Whenever his dad’s attention was on Raven there was a strange light in his eyes, like he had come across a new favorite toy.

Micah cringed at the thought. He was being too harsh, but something inside him wanted to protect Raven. He knew he could be a bit overprotective of people in general, but with Raven it was different. Micah felt heat rise up his neck unbidden. Okay, maybe he had a bit of a crush on her. She was beautiful, but more than that, there was this special something that made him want to get to know her.

“I remember that expression. It’s the same expression I had when I met your mother,” his dad said, patting his shoulder.

Micah felt his cheeks burn and he folded his arms. “I don’t know what you mean.”

His dad chuckled. “Sometimes I forget you’re only fifteen, but moments like this remind me.”

Micah frowned and tried not to roll his eyes and give his dad even more reason to treat him like a child. From beside him, there was the sound of a sharp beep. Micah turned and saw that the monitors showed a spike in Raven’s heart rate.

His dad squeezed Micah’s shoulder. “It’s started.”

Micah turned back to the window where he could see Raven’s body twitching. As she began to spasm, the Access Facility employee moved to Dr. Briton’s side. “Protective Shielding activating.”

A prism bubble molded around Dr. Briton and the Access Facility woman. The protective covering helped to neutralize the effect of wayward magic and protect them from debris. It gave them a first line of defense while not hindering Dr. Briton’s movements to help Raven if needed. The woman next to Dr. Briton was also trained in using her Core magic as a protective measure. An Access Facility staff with defense magic was always with the doctor administering the Awakening serum in case a student Awakened in one of the higher Embud levels.

It was very rare for Micah to see an Awakening in action. Usually, Micah’s work with the Access Facility was only for high-end cases or people who had undue stress on their bodies. Otherwise, he spent his time in recovery, unless the MDE had him at the office or on the rare fieldwork case. Otherwise, due to his age, they liked to keep him where he would be at less risk.

Micah watched the proceedings with interest. He and the others in the observation room didn’t have to worry. The walls and window were reinforced with defensive magic. They were specially made to withstand high magical force up to a level red. Anything stronger than red would trigger the neutralization cores. The cores activated if the magic in the Awakening area hit above purple level, forcing the person down to a lower magical output. It was a last resort. Trying to neutralize a person’s magic during an Awakening could stunt their growth, and even cause physical and mental damage.

Micah usually would have been excited to be able to be involved in an Awakening, but he found himself twitching every time Raven’s body jerked. His gaze darted to her vitals, which were steadily going up. He tensed. He wished he could help her, but he knew it was part of the process.

As soon as he thought that, Raven’s vitals spiked and an alarm went off. Micah’s eyes widened and his attention went to Raven. She was shaking, her face stretched in agony. Micah’s attention returned to the two doctors in charge, but they shook their heads, their attention never leaving the screen. Their call must have been accurate because soon, Raven’s vitals began to stabilize.

“Don’t worry,” his dad said beside him. “Those type of spikes are normal.”

Micah nodded. He knew that. He had read about this but seeing it was different. Raven’s body stopped spasming, but her face was still twisted in distress. He sighed.

The sound of someone entering the observation room grabbed Micah’s attention.

“Ah, there you are,” his dad said, waving the person over.

Micah tugged his gaze away from Raven to see Syrion make his way over. Micah straightened in surprise. Why was Syrion there? He glanced at his father then back at Syrion. Syrion shrugged.

“Back up,” his dad said.

“What?” Micah asked even more confused.

“I don’t get it either,” Syrion said with a half smile. He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Her Core Embud is still gray.”

Micah and Syrion both looked at Micah’s dad.

Dr. Kesson smiled. “Let’s just say it’s a feeling. Indulge me.”

Syrion nodded.

Micah knew the boy didn’t have much of a choice. Dr. Kesson was the highest ranking MDE staff here. An order was an order.

“Besides, I’m kinda interested,” Syrion said, his attention drifting to Raven.

Micah frowned and any kinship he felt towards Syrion immediately disappeared. “Keep it professional.”

Syrion tilted his head, amusement flitting in his eyes. “What else would it be?”

Micah flushed and looked back to Raven. Behind him, Syrion sniggered.

Another spasm shook Raven, keeping Micah’s attention on her. Her vitals spiked again, but this time the doctors in charge grew worried. The spike continued going up and was lasting longer than before. Dr. Briton hurried and grabbed a syringe filled with a silvery liquid that seemed to glow. He looked to the observation window, waiting for approval. The doctors started to speak, but his dad cut them off.

“Not yet,” he said, his voice firm.

The doctors looked at each other but deferred to his father.

Micah glared at his dad. “What are you doing? Her vitals are at a dangerous level.”

His father’s eyes gleamed. “Not yet,” his father repeated.

Micah’s fist balled up at his side. He stared hard at the window. Raven was shaking and twisting in the chair. Her face contorted in intense pain. Micah’s nails dug into his palm as he watched her. He glanced at the doctors who were looking worried and then back at Dr. Briton who was inching closer. Silently, he begged for Dr. Briton to give Raven the injection, but the doctor hesitated.

Then, like the last time, the spasms stopped. Dr. Briton lowered the syringe. He stepped forward, putting it back on the tray as he checked over Raven’s vital. “She’s stabilized.”

Micah’s dad smiled, pleased with himself. Micah wondered if it had been a mistake to come and watch Raven’s Awakening. He felt tensed and sick to his stomach. If it was going to be observing Raven seize up over and over, he wasn’t sure how much of that he could watch.

He looked at her and his vision flickered. Suddenly, all around him, he saw ley lines of energy. He rubbed at his eyes and the vision vanished. It wasn’t the first time this had happened to him. It was probably triggered by stress. The flickering was tied to his Illusion ability. It allowed him to sometimes see the makeup of a body. It helped improve his healing ability, but ever since he hit red level in Core the flickering had started. Since his Core and Illusion ability seemed to be intricately tied together, he figured it had to do with an imbalance between the two. It was something he would eventually need to manage.

He looked back at Raven. She seemed calm. He started to glance over to the monitor to see her vitals when the flicker happened again. Micah frowned. The flickering vision was more persistent than usual. Around him, he could see the lines of light surging through people’s bodies. The light coursed through everyone, brighter in certain parts of the body than others. Right in the center, under the ribs, was a ball of light that thrummed, fueling the rest of the body’s system. The light varied in color based on a person’s Embud, but Micah knew instinctively this was their Core magic.

Micah frowned. The vision lasted longer than the other times. He turned back to Raven and his eyes widened. Right in the center, was a large ball, larger than any he had ever seen. But instead of pulsing with an Embud light, it was deep and black, swirling faster and faster. Looking at it made a feeling of dread stir in Micah’s stomach. Unlike how the magic surged through the body, the black Core pulsed and pushed like it was trying to seep out of her. Primal fear rushed through him. Something in his mind was telling him they needed to stop, hurry and stop, but he was frozen.

“Something’s wrong,” Micah struggled out. His vision flickered and in an instant chaos erupted.

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