Chapter 1: Part 1
The city of Kalendelor was active during Winter, very literally in spite of the snow. It was a metropolis of orange brick and white foundation: accented by silver metal support pieces around most buildings. Now that November had come, the frost fell, but not freely. In the dense prospect district, plexiglass roofing opened and closed automatically to protect the public from natural downpour. The snow lined the creases. It was like a curtain of light, dust particles, and ice.
Sipha Nowergeen was among this hustle and bustle. He was pale as day with white receding hair. He jogged quite enthusiastically for a man in his late forties: holding tight to his tote bag strap as his brown coat trailed him. He had ended his university course early. He had to. He couldn’t wait any longer.
The old professor turned a corner past a local park. He had to scale a community fence to reach the sanitary sewer pipes. The fresh mud and wild flora stained his pants but he paid it no mind on his way down the man-sized tube.
As though he had infinite stamina, Sipha kept running until he felt a familiar sensation. He didn’t pant as he slowed. He practically stopped dead, closed his eyes, and breathed out a short but shaky relief. The man was tall enough that he had to kneel down. He didn’t need much external light. He just felt along the concrete until something erupted.
It was a circular, rippling, anomaly of blinding white. It grew to a flat radius of two feet. The energy constructing it was so intense that it concealed whatever was on the other side, like a one-way mirror. And Sipha was on the blind side… but he had an inkling of how to fix that.
The old man held his hand up, slowly tightened a fist, and concentrated. His palm sizzled as a faint smoke trailed up the creases in his fingers. Then, came, fire.
The edges of the anomaly bloomed to a bright deep crimson as the flame hovered over the man’s knuckles. It was causing him pain, so much so that he gritted his teeth. But this was too important. He could see the frame expanding. Him using this element he now possessed was somehow feeding this… this gateway.
And then the professor’s recklessness caught up with him.
“Professor Nowergeen?” a robotic voice echoed through the tunnel: shuddering the old man back to reality. He lost concentration and the flame vanished.
Now hurrying to hide his dried skin in his sleeve, Sipha was met by one of his students. She was a twig of a thing and not exactly in the flattering sense. Her gray fur-collared jacket and brown pants only emphasized her stick of a figure. However, it was the mask people noticed most. It was this quartz-like helmet. The back end allows her brown hair to flow out but the front concealed everything. The mask was round and pale, with large bird-like lenses covering the eyes. The left side was damaged with cracks down the lenses and to the mouth.
The young adult tapped away at her touch-screen phone for a moment. It spoke on her behalf. “This does not look like a drug meet.”
It only took Sipha a moment to conclude that the circular anomaly meant he couldn’t lie his way out of this. But there were other solutions. He straightened up and cleared his throat. “Miss… Ariel?” The girl started typing as the professor continued. “Do you believe in Multive–”
“... Yarieal. Sorry. Do you believe in Multiverse Theory?”
The man waited patiently for the college student to type her answer. The way her head tilted toward the conspicuous light made him hopeful that she understood something. He was rewarded as she answered, “This is a portal? This is dangerous.”
Sipha wove his hand dismissively. “Everything is dangerous. If something threatening comes out, we can close the portal. I think I know how. If it gets too big, just… splash some of the…” Sipha glanced down and saw that the water had iced over back at the entrance. He decided to skip to asking, “Are you going to call the police?”
The college student’s posture sent guilt down the professor’s spine. She was clearly not comfortable with this but she motioned toward the glowing frame as if saying, “Get on with it.” So, Sipha reignited his fist and the frame began expanding again.
Miss Yarieal jumped a little at the flaming fist but did not interrupt. She watched Sipha strain to keep the frame expanding. The more it expanded, the harder it was to keep it doing so. It was only three feet wide now and neither looked comfortable with the idea of diving through on a whim. Then, the professor combusted.
Sipha had strained himself too much and his magical fire was now spreading across his arm: burning him severely as it went. He cried out and fell to one knee but he was determined to see the frame open fully. That was where his student drew the line.
Instead of grabbing the man’s arm, Miss Yarieal went for the frame. With a wave of her white, powdery gloves, she dissolved the energy in half and it dissolved. Immediately, the intensity of Sipha’s fire dwindled and the student quickly went about patting him down. While his arm was quite singed, it was the strain of maintaining the energy which caused the most harm.
The old man collapsed into the natural waste of the cement tube. He was sweating something terrible now and Miss Yarieal was already calling for an ambulance. Before the old man passed out, his good hand grabbed the student by the arm.
“Don’t, tell, anyone. Please.”
The masked college student watched her professor being loaded into the square vehicle some fifteen minutes later: alert lights flashing and siren wailing on its way down the road. She stood in the cold, in front of the fence… and glanced back down to the long man-sized pipe.
She told them he had been smoking and his arm dipped into some flammable waste.