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La Ville de Lumiere (The Acolytes pt. 3)

by Smilykid


La Ville de Lumière

The shards of glass fell to the tiled floor in slow motion. Niklas had trouble breathing for a sickening moment, for the air around them felt viscous and thick. He was vaguely aware of Dillan and Michael yelling some incomprehensible words, before the world snapped back to reality. Niklas heaved a massive breath and saw the two Higher collapsed on their knees, hands groping at their temples.

“Quickly,” Michael growled. “I've put 'em out of commission for now, but they'll be on their feet before you know it.”

Dillan gripped Niklas' arm and quickly guided him to the back of the shop where the owner was crouching behind the display window. The small man looked up fearfully into their eyes, shaking beneath his white apron.

“I will call the police," he said as he fumbled underneath the counter for a telephone.

“Great,” Michael scoffed as he opened the back door to the bakery. “Police. Exactly what we need.”

They stepped into a grey back alley stained with the hue of soot. The sky above them rumbled like a slumbering beast as the two men led Niklas onto the street.

“What do they want with us?” Niklas asked as they jogged down the cobbled side walk.

“Probably you,” Dillan said with honesty.

“Me? W–what would they want with me?”

“What any Higher organization would want,” said Michael cryptically. “Your mind.”

“I just can't believe they sent Shockers,” muttered Dillan.

“Yeah,” Michael agreed. “Malachi is pulling out all the stops.”

Niklas was so confused at all this, he didn't even know what to ask. They rounded a tight corner and came to a long downward sloping street speckled with dark spots as the clouds began to rain.

Michael stepped forward and cried out as he ran into something. The rain droplets seemed to coalesce and form a solid wall of water in front of them.

“No,” Michael lamented. He turned and saw the two Higher standing at the corner. “They're stronger than I thought.”

The five stood for a sickening moment, the rain pattering around them as every mind calculated a scenario.

“Malachi has need of all new Higher,” one of the coated men said in a dazed drawl.

“He will not be stopped,” the other said.

Their voice gave Niklas the impression of hypnosis. There was something strange about the way they stared at him: glassy eyes unmoving, the blood-red swastikas stained a deeper hue by the rain.

“Maybe not,” said Dillan, “but he can be slowed.”

Dillan closed his eyes momentarily and the raindrops around the two men coagulated into a thick gel. It grew around them as more rain fell, pulling them to the ground. The two men cried out, but their voices were muffled by the clear gel.

"Run, while we have the chance!" yelled Michael.

They sprinted down the block, passing several decrepit-looking shops along the way. The street opened onto a large intersection where gallons of rainwater poured into the dirty gutters. The rain began to thunder around them harder and the strange scent of charcoal floated in the air.

"Do you smell that?" Dillan asked in trepidation.

"Sure do,"Michael said. His voice was barely above a whisper.

"What's going on here?" Niklas asked desperately.

"Not now, kid," he said fearfully. "Right now, we need to get the hell out of here."

Michael rubbed two fingers against his right temple and took a deep breath. He began muttering inaudible streams of conversations as he moved his fingers in a circular motion.

"Michael, hurry!" Dillan said, looking back at the two men struggling to free themselves.

Michael reached into his coat pocket and retrieved his pipe. By this point, Niklas was beginning to seriously doubt the man's sanity.

"You can't light a pipe in the rain!"

"I know that, you nitwit!" He looked around frantically and gestured to the other side of the intersection. "This way!"

They ran across the wet pavement, coat-tails soaked from kicked-up rainwater. Michael stopped before a large puddle and placed his pipe carefully in the water. It floated on its side for a moment or two, then the lip jolted and pointed straight down a street to their right.

"There," Michael pointed, picking up his pipe. "Munich Central Station is due north of here."

As they ran, and Niklas made sure not to look back, he inquired of Dillan.

"What did he do back there?"

"There's a metal ring on the end of his pipe. The Earth's magnetic field always ensures that it's pulled north."

"So . . . He used his pipe as a compass."

"Exactly. Michael is particularly crafty when it comes to things like that."

"Let's just hope he's good at escaping from two genius Nazis," Niklas muttered under his breath.

The three of them ran for what seemed like hours to Niklas. They passed few people on the streets, as they were mostly barren. The denizens of Munich were not accustomed to sudden bouts of intense rain like the one they were sprinting through now.

Niklas' thoughts were drawn yet again to the strange scent of burning charcoal in the air.

"Michael . . . " Dillan said carefully.

"I know. I know," he snapped. "I smell it."

"He's close," said Dillan as he looked around frantically.

"Who? Who's close?"

"Malachi," they said in unison.

A bolt of lightning flashed in the sky, rending the air with light and the scent of ozone. Thunder cracked a moment later, rattling Niklas' jaw and vibrating in his chest.

"Heh," Michael chuckled. "He always did like theatrics."

The street suddenly opened onto a large courtyard where several people could be seen hiding from the rain on the inside of the station.

"The conductor says the next train leaves at 11:45!" Michael yelled over the torrent.

The three pounded through the glass doors, soaking the floors and gaining several dirty glances from waiting passengers. The opening hallway was long and tiled black and white. They passed a large overhanging clock that read 11:43 on their way to the first terminal.

There was a muffled boom on the outside of the building as a great gust of wind pummeled the walls. Niklas heard Michael curse under his breath and the doors swung open with the wind. The two Nazi Higher were standing in the doorway, dripping wet with livid expressions on their faces.

"The Master is here!" they bellowed together.

"Dillan . . . " Michael said in warning.

"I'm on it."

Suddenly, there was a massive creaking and the whole ceiling shuddered. The clock behind them swung like a pendulum as its metal restraints groaned and screamed from the pressure.

"A little faster!" Michael yelled.

"Almost!" Dillan reassured.

There was a final high-pitched squeal and the clock came hurtling down. Thousands of pounds of metal and glass came crashing into the brittle floor below. Niklas was too busy running to look back, but he felt the gargantuan gust of air and saw the shards of glass and metal shrapnel fly outward.

"That oughta buy us some time," Michael said in melodrama.

The ticket-man was distracted by the crash and failed to see them hurtle over the railing. A loud whistle sounded through the station as the 11:45 steam engine began to depart. They bursted through another set of doors and onto the platform where the train had already begun to move away.

"Almost there!" said Michael through strained breath.

He was able to grasp the hand-bar and pull Niklas aboard. Dillan followed a moment later, wheezing from their long run.

Just before the train pulled out of the station Niklas caught a glimpse of a tall man garbed in a black trench coat. He stood with an air of dominance, like the train station was there to be around him rather than the other way around. The rain seemed to ignore him and simply cascade off his shoulders. However, before he was really sure of what he saw, the train had pulled out.

"That was too close," Michael sighed as they took a seat in an empty booth.

He was panting as he pulled out his stored pipe and lit the tobacco. Michael took a long draft of smoke, closed his eyes, and exhaled slowly as the nicotine calmed his buzzing nerves.

"How do you smoke after running a mile?" Dillan asked as he brought out his wooden sculpture and knife.

"Shut up, kid. I'm too old for this."

They all sat for a moment, taking in the strangeness of silence while Niklas watched the two smoke and carve. How were they so calm and collected after everything that just happened? Niklas couldn't stand it any longer.

"What's the matter with you two?"

They both looked at him strangely.

"What do you mean?" Dillan asked as he chipped off another strip of wood.

Niklas gave them a gaudy expression. "We just ran from two men who apparently want me, then you," he pointed at Dillan, "turned the rain into gel, not to mention the clock back there." He stopped to take a breath. "And who's Malachi?"

The two seemed not at all worried at what he said, Dillan merely sighed softly and turned to face Niklas.

"Okay. Let's start with me first. I told you back at the bakery that I could change and alter objects. Well, that's all that was. I know rain pretty well, so all I had to do was change its structure. Now, the clock was a little more work, but really quite the same concept. I just sped up the molecules in its hinges, in other words, increased the heat; and it came tumbling down." He went back to carving his horse.

"Well, what about you?" he said, indicating Michael who had lied down while puffing smoke up into the air.

"Me? I'm the one who read that shopkeeper's mind and found out where the Station was. Not to mention, getting the departure time from the conductor's mind. That wasn't too easy."

"Wait. You read minds?" Niklas gaped.

"Well, not really. I actually siphon thoughts. I can only search a person's mind for whatever information I need at that time. And even that only works with weak-minded people. I doubt I'd be able to read anything from Dillan's mind, for instance, because he's been trained to defend against that sort of thing." He paused to inhale a wisp of smoke. "Not that there's much to read anyway," Michael finished with a sly grin.

Dillan sighed. "Simple joke from a simple man."

Niklas took a moment to think about what they had said. Dillan could change the look and make-up of almost anything while Michael could basically read minds. He suddenly felt less secure sitting next to the two men.

"And what about Malachi?"

They both shifted uncomfortably. "You'll hear more about him at the Collective. All you need to know is that he's the leader of an opposing Higher organization," Michael muttered. "And he's bad news."

The booth was quiet for a time after that. Michael and Dillan remained distracted by their hobbies while Niklas faded in and out of sleep. He remembered waking up several times and looking at the blurred German countryside out of the window. He awoke around 2 or so when a heavyset woman entered the room with a tray of food. She looked worriedly when they said they didn't have a ticket, but confusion crossed her face a moment later and Niklas was suspicious that it had something to do with Michael. Needless to say, they ate a meal of various sausages and rolls with a sweet ale to accompany it. Niklas fell asleep yet again with a full stomach and woke up hours later when the train jolted as it stopped in a station.

"Up and at 'em," Michael said with a yawn.

The station was obviously at the border of France and Germany as there were signs in both languages. It must've been late at night because everyone was speaking in hushed voices. Niklas could feel a visceral change in the atmosphere here, being so close to France. He picked up French words like "La guerre" meaning "the war". WWII was weighing heavily on everyone's hearts and minds, and few moreso than the French.

"Alright," Michael said as he stowed away his pipe. "I'm picking up something from a cab driver outside the station. He has a car parked, but he's not in it. If we hurry, we can get to it before he does."

There was a cool breeze that greeted them outside the station which carried the scent of iron and coal from the trains. Niklas caught a glimpse of the cab driver standing by a lamp post, holding up a sign for someone named "Heureux". He felt a pang of guilt, but remembering the two Higher back in Munich and the tall man at the station quickened his pace.

They reached a rusted blue car soon after, which Dillan placed his hand on causing three doors to swing open. Dillan drove them from the station with as little attention leaving as they had coming in.

The Eiffel Tower stood like a regal monarch in the City of Light, gleaming with a soft luminescence as Dillan stopped the car. They had driven for several hours, finally stopping just outside the French capital.

"Now," Michael said, turning around in his seat to face Niklas. "Remember that this city is under German occupation. You might not have that much trouble with the military here, but I'm an American–born and proud–and Dillan here's a Brit. Our countries don't exactly see eye-to-eye with yours right now. So, we're gonna have to do a little espionage to get into the Collective." He lit his pipe dramatically. "Tell me, you ever been to the Pont des Arts?"

Niklas shook his head.

"Well then," he grinned with smoke in his mouth. "You're in for one hell-of-a show."


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Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:40 pm
StellaThomas wrote a review...



Hey there! Stella again, back for more! Just couldn't get enough ;)

Do you know what's bugging me is the fact that we only just found out their nationalities? I think that should be mentioned earlier. I mean two men from Allied countries in Germany? Wouldn't Niklas be interested?

Other than that, I liked it. I did as soon as they said "opposing Higher organisation" think "So how would Niklas know which was good and which was evil?" They never say. He may as well be a football player trying to decide whether to play for Arsenal or Chelsea. But Niklas himself is still bugging me. Last chapter I put it down to his grieving. But now I'm just afraid that he doesn't seem to have any personality at all. Don't get me wrong- the other two are fabulous! But Niklas...

The first thing I think you need to do is let us into his head more, let us see his thoughts. Like when he lies down to go to sleep, perfect opportunity! Even just things like- how does he feel about the events of the day? It was a pretty insane day. Is he just cool with that? I wouldn't be. It doesn't have to be clichéed pinch-me-I'm-dreaming stuff. But here's the deal: Niklas is seeing this world for the first time. So are we. If there's anyone we are going to relate to, it's going to be him. But there needs to be something for us to latch onto. And something to root for. Otherwise why would we even bother reading his story? Think about things like when he discovers they're British and American- the Allies just killed his family. They destroyed his home- and now these two have arrived all happy-clappy and "You have magical powers, aren't you glad we didn't kill you?!" Michael is proud to be an American- he's proud to belong to the country that have just massacred all the mothers and children and grandparents of Niklas' home town?

And that's just one example of one small thing that really should have stirred some reaction from the boy.

I like this story, I really do. I'm interested in it. But I'm not invested in it. If a bomb struck them and Niklas died, I wouldn't care at all. I'd just go on reading about the Adventures of Michael and Dillan. Because right now that's the heart of your story. And the heart of your story probably should lie in the young hero, not the comedy duo (though they are great).

Hope I helped, drop me a note if you need anything!

-Stella x




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Sun Jul 28, 2013 6:08 pm
manisha wrote a review...



Hi there!
Happy Review Day to you!

Firstly, I haven't read the previous chapters so whatever I try to review will be based on this chapter only. Actually I'm going to make a point of reading the other chapters because I really liked this part.
So I understood that Niklas is new to Michael and Dillan(I'm guessing, of course!) and someone wants him. Probably some of the Nazis who seem to have some kind of super natural powers and they work for some notorious guy called Malachi. For some strange reason I like that name!

" Michael stepped forward and cried out as he ran into something. The rain droplets seemed to coalesce and form a solid wall of water in front of them.

“No,” Michael lamented. He turned and saw the two Higher standing at the corner. “They're stronger than I thought.”

I'm assuming Niklas isn't used to seeing men do unbelievable things on daily basis so when he sees this unexplainable phenomenon(the solid water wall) it would be good to hear some reaction on Niklas's part. Shock, confusion, something of that sort.

Otherwise, your description and narration is amazing!
I'm going to follow this.

-manisha





Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
— Mark Twain