Mage Initiate (Magical Lifeform #1) - D. R. Rosier
The squeak of the cleaning cart’s wheel echoed down the dark corridor. The sun had set long ago, and I gritted my teeth at the soreness in my leg as I stopped at the next door. What was left of the leg, anyway. It’d been almost six months since the IED took one leg off at the knee and shredded the other one enough that I’d only regained about sixty percent mobility.
I wasn’t sure which one hurt more six hours into my shift at the government lab. The leg in the prosthesis, or the other one. That was my life now, and I gritted my teeth and prepared to move on.
Let me introduce myself. Staff Sergeant William Iverson. Special forces in the army, retired, and twenty-four years old. It’d been close to the end of my second tour when my life had changed forever. After an honorable discharge for medical, I’d managed to get a night security position at a government laboratory doing weapons and other research courtesy of my top-secret clearance and an introduction from my old C.O.
Night security wasn’t much of a job, but it paid well and at least I didn’t have to worry about another bomb, enemy sniper, or suicide bomber. Or so I’d thought at the time.
I’d just started to continue my rounds when I heard a scream, quickly followed by the building starting to shake. That made me flashback for a moment, but the shaking continued and got worse and I had to brace my hand against the wall to prevent myself from being dumped on my ass. It sure as hell wasn’t a bomb, or the vibrations would’ve long faded by now.
My heartbeat drummed faster as I moved in the direction of the scream, from where I’d heard the cleaning cart squeaks just a minute ago. Carlton worked nights too, as the janitor, and we’d shared a few tales of our time in the service over the last six months. I was pretty sure it was his scream that I’d heard. I shuffled down the hallway as quickly as possible, while more than a little frustrated that I couldn’t move faster. The cart was in front of one of the labs with the door open, and a wispy white glow emanated from the room and bathed the corridor in eerie light.
I’ll admit, my first thought was what the fuck was that, followed by the desire to run as the shaking increased, but the memory of his scream drove me forward. I had no idea what it could be. I’d never heard of a weapon that could shake the earth shake for so long and that gave off an eerie light. It was like the silvery light of the moon at night, but even brighter.
I squinted my eyes and lifted my hands as I reached the door, and I looked inside. I recognized the lab. The door to that lab usually had one of those do not enter signs on it, but it didn’t that night. I could only assume Carlton went in to clean it up. The problem was I didn’t see Carlton, or anyone at all. And what I could see didn’t make sense. It looked like a bright sphere of contained energy about two meters in diameter, like something off a science fiction television show using CGI, but it also looked a bit wild, swirly and chaotic, like it wasn’t quite contained.
A blast of what looked like a lightning flash escaped the spherical bubble and hit one of the consoles, which immediately exploded into pieces, but I’d swear a good part of it simply disappeared. At the same time, the building shook even harder for a moment before returning to the previous shaking vibrations. My heart was racing like a gazelle at that point, and I wanted to run as my throat closed up.
Fuck that. I had a job to do.
It was like screaming into a hurricane, I could hardly hear my own voice. I strained to listen for evidence of where he was, while I did my best to scan the room with my eyes. But I couldn’t see the man, and an image of what happened to the console flashed through my mind, except my mind put Carlton there instead of the console. Was Carlton gone? I’d heard more than one death scream in my career, and Carlton’s scream hadn’t sounded like that. More shocked surprise and fear than anything else.
I finally scanned up and had my answer, as