Ch. 7.1 – Alex

“A cloud?” Alex asked, looking down. Max rolled his eyes.

It certainly looked as though they were on one. In every direction, a plain of clouds stretched out to the horizon. Pre-dawn glow suffused the blue sky. Alice laughed and hugged Akira’s arm. “Oh, I owe you one for this,” she said.

Akira shook his head. “It was necessary. Two Primes, and you, at risk of captivity or worse.” The clouds retreated towards them, and the horizon itself grew diffuse, towers of gold and silver reflecting sunlight as they appeared. The Anshin turned to Alex. “The cloud cover icon provides a psychological and metaphysical buffer.”

“Buffer for what?” Max asked, folding his arms.

The clouds vanished beneath them, leaving the six in a circular room with clear walls. They were clearly in a tower of some kind, one high above a rolling green landscape dotted by golden fields and divided by bright blue rivers. All around and below them were translucent beings ranging from silvery humanoids to winged balls of lightning to sinuous Chinese dragons. Molly gasped. “Where…” she asked. They all looked overwhelmed, except for Alice. Even she looks amazed, Alex thought, feeling stunned himself.

“The Magnarium,” Akira explained, waving his hand over the mirrored floor. Six cushioned chairs emerged from it, as if surfacing through quicksilver. “We remain above your world, though not entirely part of it.”

“Heaven?” Alex whispered. It certainly looks the part. There were still clouds floating around them, silver in the golden sunlight, though only faintly reflective.

Akira smiled gently and gestured towards the chairs. Alex fell into the one nearest him. “I would not call it that, exactly,” the Anshin replied, “though the Magnarium is one of the more harmonious layers of the Vision Realms – the ‘spirit’ world, you might call it.”

“It feels – solid,” Molly half-objected, pressing her foot against the floor before sitting.

“The Magnarium does not conform to normal Vision reality,” Akira said, waiting until the others were seated to join them. “It has a rare weight for a higher Vision Realm, which has advantages and drawbacks.” He gestured, and silvery plates appeared next to each of the five humans. “For example, your biology continues to function normally, meaning you must eat. Here, in contrast to more ephemeral realities, you gain strength from your food, rather than simple pleasure.”

Alice ran her fingers along the edge of her plate. “These will…make food? Summon it?” she asked.

“Something of both,” Akira said. “The Magnarium is many things. Abundance is one of them.”

“Conceptual reality,” Alex said quietly. Then he shook his head. “Okay, this is great, but you didn’t bring us into the Angelic Host for tea and cookies.”

“The Magnarium,” Sara mused. “Isn’t this where the Anshin retreated after the war?” Akira nodded, smile vanishing.

“Hey,” Max cut in, his hand frozen over a pizza slice floating above his plate, “even the Daimani-powered Reanimated thinks ‘retreated’ is a little unfair. Maybe they could get some more skin in the game, but the Anshin aren’t cowering up here.”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Sara shot back.

“Alex is right,” Akira said, holding up his hands. Max and Sara looked away, Max grabbing his pizza and digging in. “You are here so I can explain to you, in peace, what you are as Primes, and what you might mean for the future.”

Alex looked at Sara, who shrugged. “As far as I know,” she said, “Primes are Majestics with a mostly unique gift with one Element. There are usually a handful of each, but unless something’s changed I’m the only Weaver Prime.”

“You are not, miss,” Akira replied gently, “but you are the most gifted Weaver in the world, a Prime among Primes.” Sara gulped.

“So who’s the other Prime in our merry band?” Alex asked quickly. “Molly, for Anima? Oh – Alice, with Vision, right?”

Alice chuckled. Molly shook her head. The Anshin’s kindly smile returned. “You,” Akira said, “are a Blaze Prime, with the power to resist even the Skeptic. Wonder Rose and Ms. Dunn have won their talents through intelligence, training and willpower.” Alex’s jaw dropped for a moment. Oh boy. He closed his mouth, considered responding, then gave it up as a bad idea and gestured for Akira to continue.

“Though the Anshin and Daimani ended the Vortex War with a truce, there were still, to put it delicately, differences on how to guide humanity.” Akira reached out, and a cup of tea formed in his hand. He sipped it silently and continued. “One of the compromises was to create the Prime Blessings. Primes are champions of the Majestic Arts, their existence ensuring that some knowledge of majestas will survive any catastrophe.”

“You also make pretty good superheroes,” Alice quipped, raising a glass of cola.

Sara laughed. “Speak for yourself,” she retorted. “I don’t wear spandex in public.”

It’s a trap, Alex thought, shaking his head, but smiling. “What was the Vortex War?” he asked. “I have a hard time imagining a truce with those…what?” Alex looked around. The smiles had vanished.

“You know how you picked up the term ‘Broken’ from my mind?” Alice leaned forward, folding her hands.

“Yeah. You said you hated the term,” Alex replied gently.

Akira looked out, through the translucent walls, and gazed at paradise. “That is our fault,” he whispered. “Anshin and Daimani squabbled over humanity like bitter divorcees, and humanity paid the price.”

Alex rifled through the knowledge Alice had provided him through their connection. “You mentioned this to Alice, but I don’t see how that happened. The Vortex Lords attacked, right?”

“They saw an opportunity,” Akira explained, “and took it. We were already…squabbling, with the Daimani.”

“Come on, Alex, let it go,” Max added quietly.

Alex glanced at Max as politely as he could. “You’re kidding me. The most fundamental turning point in humanity’s history, and you want me to drop it?”

Max grimaced, but Akira raised a hand, and the Reanimate subsided. “He is right,” the Anshin admitted. “Here, of all places, the truth must be paramount, or heaven is hypocrisy.” He took a deep breath.

“Once upon a time…”

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Written by Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan was born in the Bronx, New York, giving him the right to root for the Yankees while making less than six figures. After a long, largely pleasant interregnum in suburban Connecticut, he moved to the Inland Empire, California to be with his wonderful wife and muse, a stepson, and a crazed feline. An occasionally too-avid player of and writer for tabletop roleplaying games, his other passion is metaphysics, which informs most of his fiction.

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