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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Chapter 3- The Lost Relics

The adventure continues in chapter 3! Enjoy.

Chapter 3

The Ponderi
Blake stood at the top of the hill, unraveling a spool of thin wire. Thrusting a three pronged hook deep into the ground, he heaved the wire over the side of the hill, making sure it landed just above Killian's head. Killian eyed the thin piece of metal that was connected to the wire, it formed a makeshift seat that he wagered he would be asked to sit on
 Killian turned around his body trembling. “That’s Blake,” he said more to himself than Mercedes. “He has a crossbow. Why does he have a cross bow?” Shaking the questions from his he acted. Killian urged Mercedes to position herself on the metal seat through panicked protests.
"No, no you have to stay with me, I can't go up that hill—what if they are up there!" Mercedes ranted hysterically, grappling for Killian's hand. He sensed her body was going into a state of shock.
"Mercedes, I'm going to be right behind you okay! I promise. You have to hang on tight with your good arm, I know that guy up there, trust him," he tried to softly reassure her. Her emerald eyes glistened with tears, but she nodded her head. She clamored onto the thin metal rod attached to the wire, never breaking eye contact with him. The rope began to ascend slow and, oddly smooth up the ravine, carrying Mercedes to the top where Killian saw Blake help her over the ledge.
"Blake! There's no way you can lift me out. My leg is torn up, I can't use it to help climb up! You have to go and get help!" Killian shouted up the side of the ravine as the rope came back down to him. Blake was not a large guy, he knew there was no way he could get him to the top alone.
"Don't worry about it Killian! Now get on as best you can and hang on tight!" Blake shouted back to him. Hesitating for a moment, Killian finally maneuvered himself onto the uncomfortable rod. He clutched the wire rope with all his strength, while his leg throbbed as it hung lifeless beneath him. He clenched his eyes shut anticipating the moment when Blake could no longer hold onto him and he plummeted back down the ravine.
Killian was surprised at how quickly he found himself at the top of the ravine after a jerky ride from the wire rope. Blake was bending over the edge of the ravine holding his hand out. Grasping it tight, Blake pulled Killian safely onto the forest floor. The remaining creatures that had pursued them lay bleeding from their bald heads, dead.
Killian's mouth hung open in disbelief as he glanced down at the wire rope. Blake had not pulled it at all, a soft motor hummed as it reeled in the remaining wire. The motor was so small, buried within the three-pronged hook, Killian would hardly know it was there had it not been for the noise. Killian turned to look at Blake, opening his mouth to inquire about the situation, but Blake put a hand up to silence him.
"There isn't any time to explain," he said. "I need you to trust me Killian. You need to come with me now. These animals attacked for a reason and there could be more coming." Glancing over at Mercedes, Blake went on, "she needs to come to—the shock of the attack will be too much for her. We can get her into the clinic to help her process all this."
"Clinic? What is happening..." His voice drifted away. Blake had already moved toward a large tree growing near the steep cliff. Opening a small device, he pressed a button; the device emitted small barbs similar to the fence that had maimed Mercedes. Amazingly the device unfolded into a small square with a translucent screen. As Blake secured the barbs into the trunk of the tree, a number pad powered up on the screen—almost as if the tree was its energy source.
As Blake typed in a numerical code, Killian made his way over to Mercedes, who was sitting on a jagged rock holding her arm. He wrapped an arm around her. She instantly hid her face against his chest and let out the emotion she kept bottled inside her.
"It's okay...hey look—" Killian started, but was interrupted by Blake calling to them.
"Get ready Killian, get the girl...tell her to get it together... this will only stay open for ten seconds!" As he finished shouting at them the core of the tree began to glow a brilliant red, a slight windy force emanated from the ruby-colored trunk. The color slowly changed to a fiery orange, with an ever increasing force pulling them toward the tree as the power magnified. Suddenly the trunk of the tree burst open in furious power, knocking Killian and Mercedes from the jagged boulder. Killian felt the pull of the powerful force tugging him toward the trunk of the tree.
 The tree pulsed in an electrifying white color. They both looked up from the ground, dumbfounded, at the gaping opening in the center of the tree. The tree itself seemed untouched. It didn't sway, the leaves didn't even rustle from the powerful wind that came from its core. It seemed as if only the three of them were in on the secret of the unknown portal that lit up their small area of the forest.
"COME ON! WE HAVE ONE SHOT! WE HAVE TO GO NOW!" Blake shouted back to them against the noise of the windy portal. Killian reacted, wrapping his arm around Mercedes' shoulder once again, the two of them limped and staggered as quickly as they could, taking the leap of faith into the mysterious hole that challenged any law of physics he had ever understood.
Instantly, as they passed through the opening, the air around them felt thick and humid. Killian could feel Mercedes' body move closer into his as the matter around them seemed to threaten their air supply.  The unpleasant feeling was coming to a point that was hard to bear. Coming from behind them they heard the powerful force of the portal suctioning them back toward the opening.
Suddenly the world around them fell silent. The powerful suction ceased and calm surrounded them. Killian and Mercedes seemed to stay airborne for a small moment before falling; their feet crunching onto a steel walkway. Killian groaned as his leg seared in pain. Mercedes cried out when the shining steel splattered with her blood from landing on her injured arm. The fall was only two feet at most, but Killian had been sure he was plummeting to his death. Releasing the breath he had held in the entire time through the portal, he looked around, trying to take in their surroundings.
The sky was different. It was full of brilliant blues, dazzling reds, and radiant greens. All the colors swirled together against a back drop of an ebony universe littered with stars. In the center of the magnificent sky was a glowing orb. It shone brightly and warmed their faces. The same hues of the sky swirled in beautiful patterns in the large, gaseous sun emitting a soft lavender hue. All around them were plants and bright foliage. The flowers that stood out amongst the green plants were tall and brilliant with rainbow patterns along their petals. The plants didn't seem to fit any botanical design he had ever imagined; they seemed to be a cross between tropical and woodland shrubs.
The colorful sky reflected off an enormous building directly in front of them. Killian marveled at the unbelievable structure towering in the center of the magnificent garden. It was one of the strangest buildings he had ever seen, made of glass and beautiful, smooth steel. Huge beams jutted out at unique angles with enormous glass windows randomly scattered between the steel. The building reminded Killian of a block game he had played as a child with the objective to leave the tower standing as long as possible while removing blocks and re-stacking them on top. The large windows created translucent openings between the steel beams causing some concern inside whether the building would topple as the blocks had.  
Blake had landed softly behind them, a content smile painted on his face. "You guys okay? It's pretty intense the first time through." Blake smiled, ignoring the contemptuous glares from the other two. "Come on inside. You both should get to the clinic. I'll make sure you get there. We can take care of those nasty cuts for you." He stated the words simply.  
"We...who is we, Blake?" asked Killian fiercely, as he pushed himself off the ground with difficulty.
Stopping, Blake slowly turned and looked Killian in the eye. "Killian, I know you have no idea what is happening right now, but I really need you to trust me. Everything is going to be explained to you." He smiled and punched his arm like he used to do. "Have I ever given you cause to mistrust me?"
 Killian just stared back at him. “What about your grandparents, do they know about any of this?”
 Blake gave him a sympathetic look. “Kill, I’ll tell you about them later, I promise.” He then turned around. He opened a numbered key pad that was next to a set of giant wooden doors with steel bars covering them. After the code had been entered the huge steel hinges groaned as the doors swung open letting them enter.
"There better be some explaining," Mercedes' shaky voice broke with frustrated emotion, "you expect us just to follow you when we...we just...jumped through a tree!" Killian glanced over at her, the pitch of her voice increased as well as the color of her cheeks.
Blake turned around again, a flash of annoyance was present in his eyes. "I promise, before you know it you'll be home and comfortable; this will all be a bad memory." He turned briskly, leading them into the odd building, silencing further protests.
The room inside the door resembled a typical office entryway, with potted plants and a desk in the center of the room.  A woman sat behind the desk. Killian stared at her; she was not the typical secretary he was used to seeing. Her hair was fire red, with the tips burning in bright orange. Her hair hung over her shoulders, blending in with the brilliant orange and fitted blue dress that revealed much of her legs. Her tan skin was covered in intricate, orange tattoos of fire. Both eyebrows had piercings that were connected by a gold chain, the glass charm from the chain dangled so it set in the center of her forehead. Her red lips curled into a big smile when she saw Blake make his way in.
"Blake! Oh my, I wondered when I would ever see you again," She said in an airy voice and a slight hint of an accent Killian couldn't place. The woman placed a gentle kiss on Blake's sweat covered forehead. The sweet sign of affection was strange to see between Blake, who typically viewed women as a prize.
"Fia! My love! It has been so long since I've seen your beautiful face," Blake teased, stroking a strand of her bright hair. Killian almost smiled, that was the Blake he knew. Even in this strange place Blake still was a relentless flirt. The woman slapped him playfully, releasing all the sweet, soft affection she'd given earlier. "Fia, these friends of mine need to be taken to the clinic, would you mind calling Connor or Shannon to come and get them." He said pointing at Killian and Mercedes before bending in and nibbling her ear.
Giving a squeal of delight, Fia pushed Blake back away from her. Turning her attention to Killian, her eyes widened. Killian couldn't help but stare into them. Her brown eyes were beautiful yes, but he could have sworn that he saw a faint flicker of flames moving behind her pupils.
"Blake...oh my I can't believe he's here." Her eyes looked worried as she kept staring at Killian, speaking as if he wasn't there, "times can't be good if he has come home." Blake shook his head when her gaze shifted back to him. She picked up a phone on the desk, typing in an extension, she asked for someone named Shannon. Killian raised his eyebrows. Home? What was this woman talking about?
"Shannon—file two, eight, zero, eight.  Yes...yes Shannon he's here. He was brought in with a young woman. They will both need some medical attention." That was all she said before she hung up the phone. Killian felt overwhelmed, this strange, eccentric woman seemed to know him. Killian was unnerved that she implied she knew something dangerous was happening that involved him, something he didn't know.
Fia walked toward Killian, staring at him with her glowing fire eyes; the flames grew brighter as she stared deep into his blue eyes. Biting her lip, she took his free hand, that wasn't around Mercedes' shoulders, and clasped it in her ring covered fingers, holding it close against her chest. Killian could hear Mercedes clear her throat loudly from the side of him. Fia ignored her, squeezing his hand tighter against her tan skin.
"You are what we have been waiting for. We're so thankful you've come to help us with the search." She leaned in and kissed his cheek with the same softness she'd bestowed to Blake.  Holding his face between her hands, she looked like she was about to kiss his lips when Blake interrupted.
"Okay Fia, take it easy. Killian's been through a rough day.  Why don't we let him unwind a bit?" Blake winked at Killian, as he grabbed Fia's hand and played with her hair again. Losing the intensity she had had moments before, she began teasing and flirting with Blake.
Taking a deep breath, Killian glanced at Mercedes, whose eyes looked directly into his. She was looking at him with suspicious eyes. "What is this?" she whispered sounding flustered.  
"Mercedes, I have no idea. I promise." He shrugged and whispered back, exasperated. He wasn't sure if she was upset for being drug into a new world, or that Fia had kissed him.
"Well, they seem to know you pretty well." She nodded toward Fia, obviously she didn't believe him.
"Mercedes, I promise I don’t know what is going on. You act like I've been here before—I haven't.” He stated firmly. The hurt from Laura crept into his heart. How long would the pain and anger at her betrayal stay? How often would it rear its ugly head whenever he opened his heart up to someone else?
Mercedes bit her bottom lip as her face softened. Her eyes scanned the blood stained shirt wrapped around her injured arm; she seemed to accept the answer and actually believe him. Silently she moved closer to his body, squeezing his hand that she held around her shoulders. The familiar twist in his stomach came as he squeezed her fingers tight and gave her a small smile.
 A woman with strawberry blonde hair arrived shortly after, wearing large outdated glasses. She stepped out of an elevator they hadn't noticed had been there. The doors closed and the wall looked the same as it had before. The woman's hair bobbed up and down as she walked briskly toward them pushing a sleek silver wheelchair. The lab coat she wore was billowing behind her; it was much too big for her small frame.
"Hello, I'm Shannon. I'm going to take you to the clinic downstairs and make sure you both are cleared medically." She said, shaking both of their hands. "Please, Killian you really shouldn’t be walking on that leg,” she said gesturing to the chair. Killian glanced back and forth between Mercedes and Shannon, his leg was throbbing with each breath now that adrenaline was fleeing his body. Reluctantly he listened to her and plopped down into the surprisingly comfortable chair. “Right, now young lady if you would follow me." Shannon began to wheel Killian toward the empty wall.
“Wait,” Mercedes’ voice trembled. “I…I don’t feel good going…anywhere away… from him.” She pointed at Blake, who couldn’t help but smile boldly. Mercedes’ anxiety fed into Killian, like everything she felt he experienced in sync with her.
Blake stepped toward her and placed his hand on the small of her back, gently urging her forward. “Shannon is going to help you. You can trust her, but you need her to check you out okay.” Mercedes’ emerald eyes glazed with fresh tears but she nodded feebly before joining Shannon and Killian by the wall. Killian didn’t want to admit it, but he needed Mercedes to stay by him. She was helping calm his nerves, and feeling much like an invalid he needed her to help him just as much as she needed support.
Fia ran ahead of them and stepped between them and the steel wall. He couldn't see what she did, but moments later the elevator doors dinged open once again.
 They witnessed the entry of the building fade as the doors closed on them. Shannon typed a six-digit number onto a translucent numbered touch screen. The interior of the elevator was not like typical elevators, the list of floor numbers was absent on the wall and the walls and floor were completely made of glass. After she had typed in the number the elevator lurched and sped downward, much faster than a normal elevator. Killian's stomach rose into his throat as the car plummeted downward. Shannon stood still, obviously she had made the trip several times before and was quite accustomed to the sensation.
“Just for your information so you can move freely around, since we have no staircases, to summon the elevator you simply put your hand on the wall. The elevators run on a neuro-sensor system. A keypad should open up shortly after your touch. Each area has its own six digit number; we will provide a list for you soon so you can use the elevator at will, but even if you forget the floor number the car usually understands where you want to go.” The woman said without a hint of jest in her tone. Killian stared at her incredulously. She spoke about the elevator car like it was a living thing.
"What is this place?” Mercedes asked quietly to Shannon.
"This is the Praetorium." She said, assuming they should just know what that meant. Mercedes looked at Killian, her face scrunched in confusion. Catching the exchange out of the corner of her eye, Shannon turned her face toward them.
"This is our headquarters," she said.
"Whose headquarters? Who are you people?" Mercedes asked louder than before. The pitch in her voice gave way to the anxiety she was feeling. Killian felt his pulse pound in his neck as his pressure rose as the small car plummeted downward, seeming to increase speed each moment they were trapped inside.
"We are all members of the Ponderi." Seeing that this cleared nothing up for the two younger people, Shannon sighed and continued, "Look, I'm not the one who should or can explain it all to you. I'm in charge of making sure you are fine physically and mentally. Someone will answer your questions after we're done, I promise." She said facing the doors again as the elevator dinged to a stop.
Killian and Mercedes both seemed to accept this vague, partial answer. Killian calmed his breathing from the impending panic attack and reached out bravely to give Mercedes' hand a reassuring squeeze.  
Shannon wheeled Killian out of the elevator when the car suddenly stopped. Mercedes hobbled behind them as they found themselves in a room with glass walls and steel floors. There were hospital beds that lined three separate treatment rooms. It was a typical clinic. In the corner, typing on a computer, a man with thinning brown hair stood up. He wore similar glasses like Shannon, although his were significantly thicker.
"This is Connor, my colleague," Shannon said.
"Colleague? Pfft...Try amazing, attractive husband!" Connor teased, giving Shannon a friendly swat on her behind. She glared at him, but the sparkle in her eye gave her true feelings away.
"Excuse me, meet Connor, my husband and very unprofessional colleague." He nodded toward her, accepting her new introduction of him. "Killian, Connor will be checking you, we need to do a full physical so I assumed this young lady might feel more comfortable with a woman." Mercedes' eyes opened wide as Shannon wheeled Killian toward Connor, then led her to a separate room and pulled the curtain over the glass wall.
“Wait can’t I stay with him?” he heard Mercedes frantically ask. Shannon closed the glass door to their room before he could make out her mumbled assurances.
Connor turned toward Killian.  Smiling he slapped some rubber exam gloves on his hand.
"Well... let's begin." Connor helped Killian up to a paper lined exam table and proceeded to poke and prod his body. He checked joints and bones, looking for possible fractures from the fall. Connor cleaned and disinfected the gashes in Killian's leg and stuffed a small piece of gauze inside his bottom lip. The gashes on his leg were enormous gaping wounds that made Killian's stomach queasy, the smell of necrotic tissue didn't help. Connor opened up an aluminum tube and applied a white sticky salve across his entire lower leg. The salve soothed the aching and throbbing he had felt earlier.
After a moment his skin was numb where the white paste was, then Connor laid across each open wound a thin strip of bristled, scratchy material. He held a long fluorescent bulb. Grabbing onto a metal end of the bulb, Connor brought the light toward Killian's leg. The bulb radiated uncomfortable heat, almost steaming as it inched closer to his skin. Killian quickly jerked it away.
"What are you doing?" he shouted.
"Hold still, trust me it doesn't hurt. It looks strange, but I promise these will be the quickest set of sutures you've ever gotten!" Connor smiled and pulled Killian's leg toward him again.
Sweeping the hot light just above the ugly material, the uncomfortable heat ceased and a warm sensation flowed up and down his leg. He watched as Connor moved the light back and forth along the material until it shriveled and sputtered against the heat. As the material crackled, Killian could feel his skin tugging and pulling together. Connor lifted the light away from his leg after a moment or two; tiny charred pieces of material were left that quickly fell to the ground. The long, ugly gashes were now long thin lines of shiny skin; they were the only indication there had even been a gaping, bleeding cut.
Once he had impressively closed the gashes in his leg, Connor proceeded to apply a small piece of the scratchy, burlap type material to his lower lip. Connor's face looked disgusted as he inspected the gash his teeth had cut. Within a minute, the heated light had sutured the cut in his lip. He then checked Killian's blood pressure explaining that the type of stress he had just been under could cause his body to go into a period of shock. Killian scoffed. "I think I'm coming out of the shock period, my mind is clearing up a bit." Connor took his glasses off and rubbed his nose where they had rested.
"Well, now I just want to ask you a few questions, then I'll send you up to Miller and Nathaniel."
"I'm not answering any questions until I get some answers first!" Killian blurted out. "I'm not going to be sent to two different people after we're done, have them examine me in some way, avoid all my questions, and send me to someone else promising I'll get answers very soon." He finished sarcastically. Connor curled his lip up into a half smile while he grabbed a thin, translucent tablet and laid it on his lap.
"Those two will be the ones to answer your questions." Killian closed his mouth, feeling a little sheepish for getting so short with Connor. "But I would be happy to try and answer any question you have first."
Killian pondered for a moment. His mind was swimming with questions, but he blurted out the first thing that came to the forefront, “What kind of doctor are you exactly? Medical or a mental kind of doctor? How is it that I've never seen any of this equipment before? "
Connor chuckled. “Okay, I'll answer more than one. The answer to your first question, I am neither actually. I'm a Bioengineer to be exact, but Shannon is an M.D. with a secondary degree in Psychology. She taught me a thing or two," Connor answered simply. Killian was sure he was joking, but he didn't smile. "And the reason you haven't seen these things in other doctor's offices is because I invented them. Anything I have invented I have given to the Ponderi for the use of helping its members. So do you have any other questions?"
"Yes. I have tons of questions, but I'm pretty sure you're not the guy who's going to answer them right?" Connor nodded his head, giving Killian a sympathetic smile that he was getting quite tired of.
"Okay, are you ready to get started?" Killian just shrugged. Connor opened a screen on his device and quickly scanned through an open file.
"So, Killian Thomas, Blake has entered his report from earlier today. I'm aware you don't understand what has happened to you or your young lady friend," Connor smiled kindly, "I want to explain what the creatures are that you, unfortunately, met this afternoon."
Killian leaned forward in his chair anxious to hear what Connor had to say. He knew the creatures were not of his world.
"They are called Malumian Wolves.  They roam independently throughout the four realms. They are very vicious and attack in an almost obsessive manner until they get their assigned prey." Connor's eyebrows furrowed. "The strange thing about your attack though is...well Malumian Wolves don't just attack by themselves. It's almost like they are animal versions of assassins. Do you know what I mean?" Killian stared back at him with his mouth slightly open. How could he possibly know what he had meant? His blood pressure pulsed again. He fought against the frustration that came so easily since he'd been sent to prison.
Connor seemed to grasp the ridiculousness of his question and waving his hand to erase his last statement he continued. "No, of course you wouldn't. The wolves...they have to be sent by someone. Someone programs the creatures to kill another and they do it with no reward it's just their nature. The wolves are placed onto another's scent and they won't stop until they are found, almost robotic. That's the problem we have, you see. We have no idea who would have sought out the wolves and sent them after you. You haven't been in the Praetorium since you were five-years-old." Connor sat back in his chair, tapping a pencil against his knee.
"What? I have never been here before. I was in the foster system since I was five. You are wrong. I have no idea where I am." He shifted nervously in the chair. "The only people I know are Blake, the work crew, and some CPS workers. Not counting my foster families."
“Killian, what do you remember about your life as a young child? Where were you before you went to your first family, before the Petersons, it was the Tubbs' right?" Killian nodded, confused how Connor would know that, and quickly answered.
"Well..." He began, trying to think back before the plump Tubbs family, "I guess I was with another family, or a home, or something. I was so little it's hard to remember. Why? What does that have to do with anything?"
"I think you'd be interested to know that there is more to your very young years than you may have thought." Connor glanced back down to his glowing screen and scanned the document in front of him again. “You have a greater connection to the Praetorium than you know.  In fact, you were born here.”
“What? How…how do you know that?”
“Killian Thomas…the Thomas family is the founder of the Ponderi, but as I said you will hear more—”
“Upstairs,” Killian interrupted, “I know, that’s what everyone keeps telling me.”
“I know it’s frustrating for you, but it’s true.” Connor smiled sympathetically. “I will tell you this attack from the wolves has me worried Killian. We have to get to the bottom of it, and we must assume you were attacked because of your connection to the Ponderi. Can you think of anyone that may wish you dead, or has connections to this place?”
His blue eyes widened as he looked back at Connor, registering what he'd suggested. "You think someone really wants me dead?” Connor shrugged. “I never knew this place existed so how would I know if anyone had a connection here?”
“It’s worth asking,” Connor said, a light tinge of frustration in his voice.
Killian thought for a moment. “The only person I know who hates me that much is Richard...and Laura it would seem," he said bitterly, "but the person who has any connection to this place is Blake. You aren't suggesting Blake could be a part of this are you? Because he saved us."
"No Blake was assigned to you by Nathaniel and Miller. He has been checked and rechecked for his loyalty and commitment to the Ponderi. Richard and Laura are out of the picture, they have no connection to anything.  We checked," he eyed Killian warily, deciphering how he would handle the information. "We'll have to check on others throughout your history," Connor said quickly. Killian nodded.
"You said something about the wolves roaming the realms. What do you mean, like outer space or something?"
"No. There are three main realms in our Celestial Hemisphere. I'm sure Nathaniel and Miller will explain it more. Ignisia, you met Fia, that's where she is from, Glaciem and Cimmerian. Earth is a half realm, we call it Terrene. It’s a half realm since it never fully joined into our Hemisphere. Each realm has a specific atmosphere and climate and each has their own specific duties to help keep our Hemisphere in balance."
Killian couldn't wrap his head around what was happening.  His jaw clenched. He rubbed a hand over his face, scraping along prickly whiskers of his unshaved chin. He glanced down at the shiny, thin scars on his leg, the only evidence that disgusting creatures had attacked him! Standing up from the chair he was sitting on, and surprised by the lack of pain in his leg, he began to pace back and forth.
“Killian, I know this is so much to process, but I really need to ask you a few more questions, okay.”
“How do I know that I can trust you?” Killian shouted. “What does any of this have to DO WITH ME?”
Connor stood up next to a pacing Killian. He put both hands on his arms, trying to stop him from moving.
“Killian, please sit down,” he said softly. “I am going to try and help you understand. I promise after I get some answers I will take you to Nathaniel and Miller myself, where you can ask all the questions you want. I know since...your incident—"
"You mean since the only mother I knew sent me to can say it," he retorted.
Connor nodded nervously. "I comprehend it must be difficult to trust people. I can't imagine how unbelievable this is to you, but may we continue?” Reluctantly Killian obliged and plopped down into the steel chair. His heart was pounding. He believed there was more that Connor knew, and he wanted to see the report Blake had written. His patience was wearing thin with the secrecy and lack of explanation he had received since arriving at this strange place.
"Whew...okay, that got a little intense didn't it?" Connor smiled trying to lighten the mood. Killian gave him a quick smirk as he sat again in his chair."Killian, I think you are medically fine. How are you feeling otherwise, I mean emotionally?"
"I don't know how to answer that. How would you feel if you had all this laid on you?" Killian bit; he took a deep breath trying to bury the frustration inside.
Connor's smile faded. He nodded, then stood and placed his tablet on the desk next to his chair.
"Well, I think considering the circumstances, I can say you're ready to move on. I'll take you up and I promise I won't pester you with silly questions." Killian stood as Connor pushed his chair back under his desk. They headed out into the cold hallway outside the clinic doors.
“I think maybe I should wait for Mercedes,” he told Connor looking back into the clinic hoping to catch a glimpse of her.
“She’s going to be just fine. It’s not just my biased because Shannon is my wife; she really is the most brilliant physician I’ve ever seen. Please, Miller and Nathaniel are very anxious to meet you.”
Killian had a weight in the pit of his stomach, but he couldn’t muster the energy go argue though he wanted to. Connor placed a hand quickly on the wall, then just stood, staring at the empty steel. Suddenly Killian saw a small screen appear on the wall. The screen showed a series of numbers which Connor quickly typed in the six-digit number to open the doors. Connor stepped inside the doors.  Killian slowly followed staring at the elevator car in bewilderment.
  Inside the glass box, Connor typed in the tenth floor code and the doors closed. They rode the fast moving elevator in silence.
The elevator accelerated upward. Killian could feel them traveling up to a high floor when suddenly the doors dinged open. Connor stepped out of the elevator with him. The hallway they entered was exquisite, with marble floors and pillars lining the hall. Killian saw flecks of gold leaf shimmering in the marble. It was so masterfully polished that he could see his reflection almost perfectly in the shining floor. Hanging on the walls there were huge portraits that had different landscapes framed in what appeared to be solid gold.
"The office is down the hall, second door on your left. They'll be waiting for you." Connor gave Killian a big smile and held out his hand. "I hope you get the answers you’re searching for." He stepped back into the open elevator after a brief handshake and typed in his floor number. Killian nodded, then suddenly turned around back toward Connor.
"Wait! Where is Mercedes?"
"Don't worry, Shannon will take good care of her. She'll make sure she gets home safely," was all Connor had time to say before the elevator closed, completely disappearing behind the wall. The only hint that it was even behind the wall was the whoosh behind the painting that had split in half when the doors opened.
Alone, Killian began to make his way down the majestic hallway, feeling a little unnerved by the silence. He found it strange that the enormous building was filled with the constant eerie quiet. For a building so large, there certainly weren't a lot of people in the hallways.
 He examined the paintings as he walked. One painting showed a beautiful land full of snow covered mountains that lined a great green lake. Another looked like a desert, a very lovely desert. It had large flowering cacti, and beautiful red-rock mountains, with rolling sand hills along the base of the rocks. The last painting that rested next to the second door on the left was a painting of a scene at night. Killian could see shadows of a forest and rolling hills. It could have been a painting of anywhere had it not been for the two moons painted in the sky, which guaranteed it was an exotic unearthly location. 

Turning away from the impressive paintings he knocked rapidly on the door, wringing his hands as he nervously waited to meet the mysterious men. After several moments, the brilliant gold knob creaked as someone turned it from the inside. As the door swung open, Killian was met by a man with a thick ashen mustache and twinkling gray eyes.

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