For what felt like weeks, or even months, Javelin searched through the sterile corridors of the supposed research center, looking for unlocked doors. Most of the doors he tried were dead ends, but perhaps a third of them gave way as he pushed down their handles.
There was no structure to what memory he would find inside; it could be anything from Eric stuck at a school bench for hours on end, to more exciting things related to Raven and their time at the arctic research station. Naturally, Javelin preferred it when he found memories of Raven but, at the same time, he had to admit that the things he learned from the other ones were truly mind-boggling.
He had never viewed the world like Eric did. For Eric, everything was connected by strict rules of logic; there was no such thing as an inexplicable event – except perhaps when it came to people’s behavior.
When Javelin relived the school bench memories, he could almost feel his own mind expanding, his understanding of the world growing. He even felt like he was starting to understand something truly profound about spiritualists and spirit essence, but it kept eluding him like a slippery eel. . . .
It really bugged him that he couldn’t figure it out, almost like an itch you can’t scratch, but he could feel his concentration waning and it had been quite hard to take in the memories from the last couple of rooms. Javelin, however, ignored this and kept going, hungry for more.
He found yet another unlocked door and pushed it open. As soon as he saw the world inside, Javelin drew an involuntary breath, shocked by what he saw. The endless snow and ice had been replaced by tall spires of black glass and lights. These spires all looked a bit different, and were of different heights, but they filled Javelin’s entire field of view, relentlessly stretching towards the dark night sky.
Without even noticing it, Javelin had walked forward, stopping in front of the huge window that separated him from the alien world outside. Only now did Javelin realize how high up he was. Looking down, all he could see was a sea of lights; some moving, others stationary.
All of it was like a sea of tiny flames, covering the ground and stretching to the sky.
“It’s a metropolis!” Javelin gasped with wondrous excitement. Eric had been raised in a smaller town, and while his higher education had indeed taken place in a larger city, Javelin had never seen anything but the inside of a lecture hall in those memories.
Javelin was so completely mesmerized by the view from the window that he hadn’t even noticed the figure appearing next to him. “Are you sure you don’t want to come and look?” she said and the familiar voice caused Javelin to instinctively glance to his side. Only, once his eyes found their target, they couldn’t leave.
Standing next to him was Raven the bodyguard, but, contrary her normally practical approach to clothes and appearance, the Raven by his side was entirely different. Raven wore a blood-red lace dress that was elegantly decorated by small glistening crystals. Apart from the spreading fabric below her knees, the dress fit her like a second skin – which might not have been too far from the truth, considering how little the lace actually hid.
Taking in all of her, Javelin was spell-bound by her wild beauty that made Raven feel like a living flame; compelling to watch, but get too close and you will get burned.
“I’m fine, thank you.” Eric’s curt voice broke Javelin’s trance, pulling his attention further into the room. Only now did he realize the room in question was actually more of a grand hall and they were far from alone in it; well over a thousand people were milling about, cocktail drinks in hand.
Just like Raven, every woman present had donned some sort of ball gown – although not coming even close to her splendor – while the men wore penguin-reminiscent suits that were actually quite elegant. Eric was no exception. He stood a few meters from Raven, seemingly torn between looking at her and not avoiding the view behind her.
“For a genius scientist, you have an oddly irrational fear of heights,” Raven said, smiling alluringly as she walked away from the window to join Eric’s side. She gracefully hooked her hand around his elbow, leaning in a bit.
“T-there is nothing irrational about being . . . apprehensive around heights!” Eric stammered, his free hand reaching for his neck. “This floor is nearly 400 meters above the ground! You do realize that, depending on the winds, one is likely to hit the ground at 193 km/h!”
“A quick drop and a sudden stop. . . .” Raven shrugged. “Doesn’t sound too bad, in my opinion. Besides, look at this view,” she smiled and gestured towards the window, “clearly, it’s the scenic route down.”
Eric visibly shuddered, his skin gaining a greenish tone. Raven laughed merrily at the sight and the melodious noise caused quite a few people – mostly men – to turn their heads her way. Javelin glared angrily at the starers, wanting to scare them off, but what difference could he make when he wasn’t really there?
Still stared at, Raven and Eric walked around in the grand hall together. It was clear that quite a few people wanted to approach the pair, but few worked up the courage.
“My sincerest congratulations, Professor Solar,” a fat man almost yelled as he walked up to them, beaming. “Your work on heavy-atom cold fusion is truly worth its weight in gold.”
He winked at Raven, as if to make sure she didn’t miss the joke, but, oddly enough, she missed it altogether. Her gaze had drifted away from Eric and the man, looking at something Eric – and therefore Javelin – couldn’t see.
“Miss Night?” Eric asked, straining his neck to see what she was looking at. However, he only glimpsed a dark figure before Raven stepped forward, blocking his view entirely.
“My apologies, gentlemen,” she said, somehow managing to squint one of her eyes and still look graceful. “I fear my contact has slipped. . . .” Raven curtsied. “If you would excuse me, I will return shortly.”
“Naturally,” the fat man replied warmly. “I was hoping to steal away your man for a while, anyway.”
Before Eric had the chance to give his opinion, Raven had already left. Javelin watched Eric’s futile attempts at following her, but the fat man had put his arm around the former’s thin shoulders, pinning him in place – a rather comical sight, actually.
“Now, tell me, Professor Solar, what made you think of using heavier atoms?”
The conversation quickly turned theoretical, and while Javelin had learned quite a lot about Eric’s research since he entered this memory bank, he still had a hard time following what was being discussed. Bored, Javelin started observing the other people in the grand hall. There were so many of them, and the fact that Eric remembered them all was impressive.
‘This eidetic memory thing of his is really useful,’ Javelin mused as he looked around the hall. Naturally there were some hazy areas – Eric did after all not have eyes in his neck – but the amount of detail was truly shocking.
Suddenly the dark figure from before caught Javelin’s attention. To be fair, the man was dressed like every other male in the room, so it wasn’t so much his appearance that put him aside as dark, but rather it was the air he gave off. He was staring intently at Eric and the fat man, a cold hunger in his eyes. Eric must have noticed the stare, because his gaze suddenly focused in on the man.
The pair’s eyes met and Javelin could have sworn that sparks flew between the two of them right off the bat. They hadn’t even talked to each other but, surprisingly enough, it already seemed as though they would be rivals for life.
For a moment Javelin thought that Eric might actually confront the man right away, but just as Eric had made up his mind to walk over, the lights dimmed and a bright spotlight highlighted an over-decorated stage. An equally over-decorated woman escorted an elderly man out onto the stage. The man was placed in front of a microphone and then he started speaking, seemingly unaware of how to stop.
From what Javelin could gather – more from Eric’s memories though than the actual speech – a grand prize was about to be awarded to someone who had done humanity a great favor through their research. That someone happened to be Professor Eric Solar – the youngest awardee yet.
Eventually, the speech came to an end and thunderous applause rang out through the grand hall. The spotlight shifted out into the audience, landing on Eric, who was then shoved towards the stage by congratulatory hands. Along the way, Eric looked around the room – clearly searching for Raven – but to no avail.
It wasn’t until he was on stage and halfway through his own speech that Eric finally caught sight of Raven, merrily laughing away with the dark and mysterious man! Eric almost choked. Javelin too saw Raven and her newfound companion, but while he didn’t like what he saw, the reason wasn’t the same as Eric’s. Javelin knew that smile of Raven’s well; she might look like she was having a good time, but in truth she was pissed.
Whoever that man was, Raven knew him and did not like that he was here.
On stage, Eric did his best to finish his speech despite the distraction, and it was with a relieved sigh that he finally raised his glass, toasting to progress and science. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the world around Javelin seemed to slow down until it almost stood still.
He looked around at the nearly frozen people in the grand hall, and at first he couldn’t find what was wrong. Then Javelin noticed that the face of the previously very friendly fat man had scrunched up into a cold grimace. The person in question shouted madly as he pulled something small and metallic from within his tail coat. From the shape of it, Javelin realized that he was holding a remote control, and from within the now slightly open shirt, he could also see that it wasn’t only lard that hung around the man’s waist.
“It’s a bomb!” Eric’s instinctive thought reached Javelin milliseconds later, but the former didn’t have the time to yell out loud before two whining whistles flew through the air. Even in slow motion, Javelin almost missed the millimeter thick silver needles that bee-lined for the apparently-not-so-fat man’s neck and hand, respectively. The needles pierced deeply into the man and instantly he froze in place like a statue, his thumb locked in an open position.
The following scenes went by in a blur. The grand hall disappeared into darkness, and the next time Javelin could see anything, Eric and Raven were seated in the back of a driver-less car, speeding down a motorway at speeds far above regulation.
“Wh-what was that!?” Eric managed to press out, finally snapping out of his shock.
“I know that!” retorted Eric, sounding both frustrated and angry, “but why? And you – who was that man you were talking to!?”
Both Raven and Javelin looked over at the borderline hysterical professor, raising their eyebrows slightly. Raven quickly looked away again, but Javelin couldn’t help but wonder how obsessed Eric had to be with Raven for him to jump from the terrorist bomb to her half-hearted flirting in such a short span. Not that Javelin was that much better off. . . .
“As you know, your inventions and research have drawn a lot of attention; a bomb or two threatening to kill you is nothing new. Do not worry; I am good at my job, professor Solar. As for the man you were referring to, that was a personal matter and it is something I would rather not talk about at work.”
“Professor? At work?” Eric looked as if someone had emptied out a cold bucket of water over his head. “I thought . . .”
“Professor Solar!” Raven interrupted, not looking at the man. “I am hired as your bodyguard, nothing more.”
At once, silence filled the car and Javelin couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Eric, for his past self. There were still a lot of memories that he was missing, but what he had seen so far had started to blur the line between him and Eric. It was a rather weird feeling. Kind of as though there was a thick fog that was spreading out from Eric’s memories, making everything seem a bit hazier.
What was clear, was that at this point in Eric’s life, he had gained some really serious feelings for Raven. Why wouldn’t he? She was sharp-minded, beautiful in a not-so-obvious way, surprisingly easy to be around, and she kept saving his life over and over again.
Javelin could also tell that Raven had been warming up to Eric as well. He wasn’t sure if he could call it love or anything like that, but Javelin had seen her relax quite a few of those facades she always seemed to protect herself with. If nothing else, she at least cared for the guy.
Yet now, Raven was giving Eric the cold shoulder. What had changed?
As Javelin was contemplating this, his gaze slid over Raven’s red dress, only to notice a long tear, reaching all the way from the hem of the skirt to her hips. The dress no longer did anything at all to cover her pearly legs; and what legs they were! Even riddled with scars, Raven’s well-trimmed muscle tone perfectly accentuated the cheetah-like power within.
Javelin could feel his body heating up. He swallowed hard and tried to look away, but he really didn’t want to. . . . Suddenly, like bursting a bubble, the world around him popped and disappeared. First Javelin thought he had been pulled out of just the memory, but the warm and very real sensation that enveloped every inch of his skin told him otherwise.
Surprised, Javelin opened his eyes, only to find that he was submerged entirely in water!