Infinity II: Control - Part Five
Flicker looked up in surprise at yet another stranger that knew him. This time, however, he was completely certain that he didn't remember the blue Buzz at all. If she was indeed someone from his past, then he must not have known her well enough to retain even the foggiest memories of her.
Flicker tried to wiggle free from his binds, to no avail. The blue Buzz continued to restrain him, all while she asked him again, "Are you Flicker?!"
"Yeah..." Flicker grunted, starting to grow tired from all the struggling.
The blue Buzz was at a complete loss of words. It was as if she just couldn't believe what she was just told, even if Flicker was staring her right in the eyes. Yet –at the same time- something told Flicker that she was glad at his presence.
Flicker couldn't figure out why that would be at first, considering that she had yet to release him. But he quickly got his answer once she questioned, "Does your father know that you're here?!"
That was the second person Flicker met that day that claimed to know Lumin. But for once, his sense of curiosity was overpowered by his desire to get free from those chains. "Yeah! Let me go!" Flicker shouted exasperatedly.
Finally, the blue Buzz took her foot off of Flicker's chest and stood him up. She took her chains off of him, allowing Flicker to move freely again. But he didn't make any sudden or quick actions, instead rubbing the areas on his arms where the chains were.
Flicker could tell by the look on the blue Buzz's face that she had many questions for him. But Flicker –still feeling bitter about what happened earlier- had some as well. "What was that for?! Who are you supposed to be, anyways?!"
He wasn't the only one that had questions. Just then, Flicker heard the door to Dimitri's bedroom fly open. Dimitri had a frazzled demeanor at that moment, as was expected from someone that had just been startled awake by a fight right outside his bedroom. He soon calmed down, but gave a raised eyebrow once he saw the displaced furniture and the cracks in the wall with Lampyri and Flicker in the center of it all. Dimitri shook his head and looked like was about to walk back into his room as he muttered, "Somehow, this doesn't surprise me."
But Lumin -who had just walked in and saw the mess in the living room- was not as dismissive about it. He was followed by Wingen, who backed up a little as he sensed the irritation building up in Lumin. "What... What happened in here?!" Lumin asked with wavering restraint in his voice, as if his patience had already been tried too many times that day.
Flicker flinched a little at the look he was receiving from Lumin. He could feel the anger coming from Lumin, even though he tried to hide it. It had been so long since Flicker had last been scolded by his father that he had almost forgotten what it was like.
The blue Buzz then stepped in, confessing to Lumin, "I'm sorry, this is my fault."
Lumin sighed, holding his head in his hand, understanding what the situation was now. The anger faded from his face, although he still looked less than happy. "Overzealous as usual..." he mumbled.
While the blue Buzz listened to what Lumin had to say over her actions, it appeared that she didn't let it worry her much. She turned to Flicker, finally ready to answer his questions. "First of all, my apologies for what happened earlier. When I heard the noise earlier and an unfamiliar voice, I thought that someone was breaking in. Secondly, my name is Lampyri. I live here and I'm a friend of your father."
The name didn't ring any bells to Flicker. But once Lampyri mentioned that she lived in the apartment and that she and Lumin were friends, he suddenly remembered what his father said about her the day before. "Oh! You're the one that used to work for Papa when he was still a king, right?"
It seemed odd to Flicker at first that everyone was so quiet all of a sudden. Lampyri gave a smile after Flicker spoke, but it looked rather bizarre. When the smile was accompanied by a short, disapproving laugh, it didn't strike Flicker as happy at all. Considering that Lampyri's eyes were giving Flicker a very unimpressed look, the smile looked noticeably out of place.
Even though Lumin was normally the type to show restraint, this time he made his feelings more clear than Lampyri. He tightly closed his eyes and cringed at what Flicker just said. And yet Flicker still didn't understand why he was getting such reactions.
Until Dimitri said flatly, "What."
Suddenly, Flicker began to think that it was quite possible that Lumin never told Dimitri who exactly he was.
Dimitri stared at Lumin, partially dumbfounded and partially skeptical. Lumin, knowing that it was pointless trying to hide it any further, said, "Oh dear. There's... There's a lot that I need to explain to you, isn't there, Dimitri?"
Giving a deep breath, Lumin walked to the couch and sat down. His small glare to Flicker made it clear to the glowing Buzz that he wasn't pleased with Flicker inadvertently revealing the secret, but dropped the subject from that point on. Instead, he told Dimitri the same story that Flicker heard the day before.
* * *
Flicker usually didn't question the stories that were told to him. There wasn't much that was weirder than his own life, after all.
Dimitri –on the other hand- wasn't as easily convinced.
"So... You're a king," Dimitri said, pointing to Lumin. He then pointed to both Flicker and Lampyri. "He's a prince and she's a Royal Guard."
"Correct," Lumin replied.
"And five years ago, some nutcase took over your kingdom by using some weird powers to transform everyone. This nutcase can teleport all over the place and is an enormous pain to get rid of, which is why you're here trying to figure out a way to stop her," Dimitri summed up what was told to him. It wasn't the complete story, as Lumin omitted the part about The Engineer cursing Flicker. But the story was detailed enough so that Dimitri was caught up on most of the details.
"That's not exactly how I worded it, but yes."
"Uh-huh." Dimitri grew quiet, trying to take it all in. Once he did, he leaned back in his seat and asked the Buzzes in the room, "Are you guys feeling alright?"
Lampyri snorted and looked away, about ready to leave the room. Lumin didn't react as strongly, instead saying, "If you choose not to believe me, then that's your decision. Honestly, that would probably be for the better. The reason I kept this from you for so long was because I didn't think that it would be fair to force you to get involved with the affairs of my city."
"It sounds awfully unbelievable. Look, I'm not too familiar with magic, but I'm fairly certain that there's no such power that can change someone's body to that extent permanently," Dimitri stated, crossing his arms. He glanced at Wingen. "You're a magician, aren't you? That is right, isn't it?"
Wingen, who had chosen to put distance between himself and the scene unfolding before him, quietly nodded and answered, "That's what I've always been told..." Flicker knew for a fact that Wingen believed Lumin's tale to be the truth, but in Wingen's eyes, the less he got involved in an argument, the better.
"Then The Engineer is the first one to discover it," Lampyri added in a stark tone of voice.
"I'll believe it when I see it," Dimitri responded equally bluntly, unfazed by Lampyri's comment.
Lampyri, however, was quickly growing irritated with Dimitri shrugging The Engineer off as myth. She set her sights on Dimitri again, this time scowling. "You better hope that you don't," Lampyri retorted, her voice gradually becoming more abrasive towards Dimitri.
Once Lumin saw the tension between them, he was eager to break it up. "Both of you, please!" He addressed Lampyri, "Not everyone is going to believe the story so easily. I know it's frustrating, but please have patience." Then he said to Dimitri, "Even if you don't believe me, don't speak of it so lightly. Many Fireflies become quite offended when they hear someone saying things like that."
Both Dimitri and Lampyri calmed down and seemed to come to a truce, albeit a rather uneasy one. Flicker caught the two of them sneaking a glare at each other every now and then. He was starting to get the feeling that this was not the first instance of discord between the two.
"Anyways, there is something else I need to discuss," Lumin said seriously. "Flicker, what was the name of the Neopet that you and Wingen used to work for?"
Flicker gave a nervous twitch. He should have known that Lumin would eventually start asking more about his past. "Granite."
Lumin grimaced, as if the name was familiar. He then told Flicker, "He came by the Firefly district looking for you."
Flicker's heart sank a little. Granite was looking for him? What did he want? Did he mean to take him back to Obsidian Quarry? Flicker was so certain that part of his life was behind him. But now that Granite was in Central Cavern, Flicker already had the foreboding feeling that his past was going to be far more aggressive in sticking with him than he previously thought.
Flicker held his apprehension inside of him, but Wingen was thrown into a panic. "Granite's here?! In Central Cavern?! Right now?!" Wingen yelled. He was tugging so hard at the rim of his hat at that point that it was almost covering his entire face. "I knew it! I knew this was all too good to be true!"
"Why would Granite come all this way just to find you guys? Were you really that important to his business?" Dimitri asked.
"Nah. He made me mad so I threw him into the door," Flicker answered with a laugh. The prospect of Granite being in the city didn't comfort Flicker, but he still didn't regret running away from him.
"It's not funny, Flicker..." Wingen whimpered. "Granite's probably really angry at us right now! We're in a lot of trouble!"
"It's no big deal. I'll just throw him again if I see him," Flicker replied nonchalantly.
"Yeesh, you sure have a way with dealing with these sort of things..." Dimitri commented, wide-eyed and starting to lean away from Flicker a little.
"Confronting Granite directly... would not be wise, Flicker," Lumin stated with deep breath. "The reason he's looking for you is because he wants to deliver you to The Engineer."
Neither Flicker nor Wingen were prepared to hear that. And neither of them knew what to think about it.
Lampyri became short of breath once she heard Lumin say The Engineer's name, even if just briefly. Hearing it connected to Granite prompted her to ask, "Sire... Is this Granite..."
Lumin knew exactly what Lampyri was asking before she even completed her sentence. "Yes. A Set."
"'Set?'" Flicker repeated, confused. "A set of what?"
Lampyri shook her head and explained, "The Engineer has the ability to give ordinary Neopets powers similar to her own. They can only transform others a limited amount of times, unlike The Engineer, who can use her powers infinitely. On their left hand is a symbol: two brackets containing a number of dots equal to how many uses they have left."
"Sort of like a mathematical set," Dimitri added, quickly recognizing the meaning of the title.
"Right. Sets are subservient to The Engineer. She usually gives them their abilities because she wants them to fulfill some task that she can't or doesn't want to do herself. One such Set showed up in the City of Lights a while back. He was looking for The Engineer, interested in working for more uses. He didn't do anything to us, but more than likely someone else in Moltara was harmed by him," Lampyri continued with a bitter tone in her voice. She then asked Lumin, "Did you see how many uses Granite had left?"
"Four," Lumin answered. "The Engineer typically gives five uses at a time. This suggests that Granite had already used his powers once. Flicker, Wingen, what was he the last time you saw him?"
"H-He was a brown Meerca," Wingen sniffed, trying to pull himself together.
"So he used his abilities on himself. He's a relic Meerca now. He threatened the Fireflies that he'll destroy their homes if Flicker is not delivered to him tomorrow. With his new form, he could very well carry out that threat," Lumin said grimly.
"I won't let him!" Flicker exclaimed, standing up. "If he wants to fight, then I'll take him on!"
Lumin shook his head. "Flicker, I have absolutely no intention of giving in to his demands. But while I understand that you want to handle this yourself, I can't let you face him. I'm not going to expose you to whatever Granite has in store nor the possibility of The Engineer getting her hands on you. For the time being, I want you and Wingen to lay low and not get involved."
Flicker clenched his teeth impatiently. "I've dealt with him before! And I'll do it again until he leaves everybody alone! I'm not scared of him, or The Engineer, or anybody! I'm not gonna hide!"
Flicker hoped that his declaration would sway Lumin, but it didn't. "Flicker, I'm sorry. This is a battle that you need to stay away from."
"If you're worried about the other Fireflies, don't be. I'll deal with Granite and anyone that he brings with him," Lampyri stated confidently. There was a hint of eagerness for battle in her voice that told Flicker that she at least understood his opinion over the matter. But she still sided with Lumin nonetheless. "Just stay hidden and let us handle it."
Flicker looked at Wingen and Dimitri, hoping he could find some support from them. But Wingen was the last person itching for a fight with Granite, as he still shuddered over the subject of him. Dimitri –even though he didn't entirely believe what Lumin and Lampyri were saying about The Engineer and Sets- also felt that Flicker getting involved wasn't a good idea, as was made clear once he said to Lumin, "Do you want me to ask Professor Frazer if they can stay in Town Hall? I know of plenty of places there that Granite would never be able to find."
"Yes, that would probably be the best place for them to stay. I know the Professor will do everything he can to keep them safe," Lumin agreed.
With that, Dimitri got up and began to walk to the door. He nodded his head to the side, trying to get Flicker to follow. Flicker took a deep breath. As much as he didn't want to, Flicker was starting to feel like hiding away was his only option. Bitterly and reluctantly, Flicker followed Dimitri and Wingen, his head down and his eyesight on the floor.
"Flicker..." Lumin said softly, causing Flicker to stop briefly. "I just don't want you to get hurt. I don't want to lose you again."
When Flicker turned around, he took a good look at Lumin's face. He didn't think he had ever seen somebody look at him with that much worry in their eyes.
* * *
Flicker and Wingen were led into the lowest section of Town Hall. It was a room dug into the ground, accessible by only a narrow tunnel whose entrance was impossible to find if one didn't know exactly what they were looking for. While the room was nowhere near as claustrophobic or dimly-lit as Flicker and Wingen's room back in Obsidian Quarry, Flicker found the detachment from the rest of the world very familiar.
Professor Frazer understood the situation once Dimitri explained it to him. He said that Flicker and Wingen had nothing to fear while in his custody and made sure that Town Hall was ready to be defended if Granite got suspicious about the building.
Flicker sat on one of the two beds that were brought down. There were obviously no windows to look out of, so he was stuck staring at the wall. He still didn't feel comfortable about the situation. He knew why he was told that he needed to hide, but it just didn't feel right.
Wingen was at a nearby table, occupying himself by renewing his stock of magic gems. They weren't actual gems, but candy that gave him various abilities when eaten. Flicker glanced at the table and found several molds filled with potion liquid that was sitting out to solidify.
Wingen turned his head and met Flicker's glance. He didn't look like he had been able to relax at all. "Can't sleep either, huh?" They had both been awake for several more hours than they usually were in a day, but neither of them felt like going to bed at that moment.
When Flicker said no, Wingen got up and sat next to him. "I'm really scared," Wingen admitted. "I was so happy that we got away from Granite, but now I'm afraid that it was all for nothing. That in the end, it just made things even worse..."
Flicker had his own worries, but unlike Wingen, he wasn't so willing to voice them. Lampyri told him that she'd take care of Granite, and Flicker didn't doubt her. Especially considering that she said that shortly after she threw him around the living room. But even so, Flicker began to wonder what would happen if she did fail and Granite took his anger out on the other Fireflies. Innocent people would get hurt and lose their homes. All because Granite was trying to get at Flicker. As that thought started to eat Flicker's conscience up and fill him with guilt, he questioned, "Would it be better for everyone if I just gave myself up?"
Wingen swiftly turned to face Flicker directly and exclaimed, "What?! Why would you say that?!"
Flicker started to think about all the things that Granite said to him over the years. "I mean... I'm not good for anything, aren't I? I don't know what else I can do..."
Wingen gave his reply almost instantly. Flicker suddenly felt the Wocky's arms wrap around him.
"Don't say things like that, Flicker. You're worth a lot more than you think you are," Wingen said. Flicker heard Wingen whimper a little, prompting the Buzz to put his own arm around him. "Remember when I saved up 40,000 Neopoints so I could buy your freedom from Granite? That's a lot of Neopoints, but I always thought that it wasn't enough. Because to me, you're worth so much that I can't even put a number on it. I... I don't know what I'd do without you, Flicker..."
Wingen didn't see it, but his last sentence caused Flicker to bite his lip and look away.
But Wingen still made Flicker rethink his position. Granite always used to tell him that he was worth less than dirt. Deep inside, past all his doubts and misgivings, Flicker knew that wasn't true.
Big Brother's right. I'm worth more than what Granite says I am.
Flicker looked at the door leading to the tunnel. He took a deep breath.
But I need to prove it.
* * *
Granite tapped his foot impatiently. He thought he had made himself perfectly clear. If he didn't have Flicker in twenty-four hours, he would personally force the Fireflies to relocate once again. Yet there was no glowing Buzz in sight.
All of the Fireflies watched him anxiously from a distance, ready flee if the time limit ran out. But all of a sudden, the Fireflies took their attention off of Granite and onto someone else approaching him. It was the white Buzz again. He brought someone with him, but it wasn't Flicker. A blue Buzz, clad in bronze armor, followed the white Buzz. When the white Buzz stopped, the blue Buzz took it upon herself to stand in between him and Granite.
Granite was unthreatened and scoffed, "Are you really that much of a spineless coward that you need to get this lady to fight your battles for you?"
The white Buzz said nothing. Instead, it was the blue Buzz that spoke up. "This is the only time I'll say this: Either leave the city right now, or I'll escort you out myself," she warned Granite.
Granite felt like laughing. He didn't know what the blue Buzz planned to do. She was one Firefly, barely bigger than the scrawny white Buzz. Not only did Granite's rock form have a significant advantage, but he brought all of his foremen in case anyone was stupid enough to defy him.
But before he had the chance to mock the Buzzes, Gabbro got Granite's attention. "Boss." Gabbro then tilted his head towards the other side of the chasm.
Flicker and Wingen were standing there.
Up until that point, the white Buzz had managed to stay composed. But once Flicker came into view, he was completely mortified. "Flicker!"
Granite gave a smirk. Perhaps he wouldn't need to go through the trouble of tearing down every building to get at Flicker after all. He took a few steps forward; not enough to prompt Flicker to react, but enough so the Buzz could hear him. The relic Meerca held his arms out, gesturing to his new form. "You see this, Flicker?! You're not going to be able to just toss me around anymore!"
Flicker stood still. Granite continued, "I'm willing to forgive that, though. All you need to do is come on over here and give yourself up. None of these Fireflies want to have to carry the burden of dealing with you. You'll just cause them trouble in the long run." Granite then raised his voice even louder. "It's hopeless! You're a simple, stupid brute that can't do anything other than what I command! There's no way you can win against me!"
Wingen –who was shaking so hard that even Granite could see it from a distance- looked up at Flicker. He appeared fearful and worried about what Flicker's answer was going to be.
Granite could tell why Wingen felt that way once he saw how Flicker's expression changed as Granite yelled at him. He thought that what he said had sunk in, like Flicker believed it. Flicker then lifted up his foot, beginning to walk to Granite...
...Only to stomp the ground as he clenched his teeth and fists, shooting Granite a defiant glare.
"BRING IT ON!"
Flicker's challenge echoed in the cave, bringing silence and awe to those that heard it. Everyone saw him as someone defending his independence. Granite saw him as a glutton for punishment. "Wrong answer."
To be continued...