The group didn’t go too far to get physical. The room was right around the corner, a couple doors down from the cafeteria. Other people were lined up, waiting for their turn. Everyone was unusually excited to get themselves checked. Then, following behind the stream of other men, they got ourselves lined up as well.
Alexus noticed behind the long line that every one of them had some kind of barcode on the back of their neck with a designated number written in black. His hand raised unconsciously to the back, running his fingers down, hoping that he wouldn’t have it on as well. Of course, the chances were high that Alexus would have something similar, but it still bothered him immensely. He assumed the people who kidnapped him tagged him when he was unconscious.
When Alexus gazed behind Marcus’ head, he saw the same barcode with 11. Timothy pushed back his hair by rubbing his hand across the back, and the number 44 was bluntly shown in black. He couldn’t tell what the number was on Jones. It was well hidden behind his thick hair.
“You’re going to like the girls here,” said Marcus, “Definitely some of the hottest around.”
“He’s not joking, and there’s not just one to choose from,” Timothy smirked alongside Marcus. His hand was over his head, enjoying their conversation.
Alexus wasn’t paying much attention to their conversation; his thought ran through his mind with the barcode. He asked. “The numbers on your neck. You stated that it was the order of admittance, correct?”
Marcus stopped grinning. His shoulders tensed while he turned towards Alexus.“Why?”
Alexus got the feeling that he didn’t want to talk much about the numbers, but he needed answers.“Just wondering if there is any special meaning behind the numbers or it’s just to tag everyone?”
“Well…” Marcus’ hand glided over his bald head. He shifted from one leg to another, looking a bit unsure if he should say anything.
“Cueball here doesn’t want to say it, but I’ll say it for him.” Timothy pointed towards Marcus. “First off, our numbers tell you our admittance entrance. Marcus is number 11, one of the oldest ones to be brought here. I’m number 44, while Jones is 22. With that being said, every double-digit number with the same number usually has a special meaning, making them unique.”
“Can you explain a bit more?” Alexus was curious about what these experiences could be about.
“Numbers 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, and 99, all have some similarities. Marcus, number 11, was the first person who fought against two different types of demons and survived. Jones, number 22, over there was the first person to meet a child demon, number 33 was the first instance where a female Ouroboros succeeded. The majority of them were males until she came along. Then followed by me, number 44, I escaped just by a hair from a demon, but that wasn’t the special thing that happened. We found out that there was special advancement to all Ouroboros like some kind of hive mind.”
“Unique powers or specialties.”
That got Alexus thinking for a minute. Does everyone have a unique ability? If so, what was his?
Timothy spoke. “Number 55 had a run-in with a first female demon, and let me tell you, they fight dirtier than any male demons you will ever come across. Simon, number 66, escaped with his life against an Archdemon, number 77 is the first child of Ouroboros, and number 88 fought against the second known ancient type of demons that you don’t see very often a Chinese type.
Then we have you, number 99, the first case of a successful kill in the oldest known demon that has been either killed or thwarted. Every time the numbers keep increasing, it has been known that something special will happen. Again, though, the problem lies in survivability, decreasing our chance as a whole to grow.”
“Just like he said,” Marcus intervened, “two out of three Ouroboros that awaken get killed. The last surviving one either doesn’t make it here in time or dies. Information is key when surviving out there in the real world. Right now, we are all temporarily safe from the demons.”
“Exactly, temporarily,” Jones repeated Marcus’ words like a parrot. “That temporarily could end any minute now. That’s exactly why we should leave.”
“No, what Marcus said about staying here is the better idea. This place has been a sanctuary for Ouroboros for five years and will continue to be one for us. The moment we leave this building, we will be picked off one by one by demons. Right now, we don’t have anything to fight against them. It’s considered suicide if we walk out there with nothing in hand.”
“Still, we have a fighting chance.” Jones didn’t sound too sure of himself. His voice was becoming quieter by the second. “We’re all sitting here like lame ducks ready to be picked off if an invasion occurs.”
The thought of demons sneaking their way in here seems likely, but at the same time, it didn’t seem quite possible with a large number of Ouroboros living in this building. Alexus wouldn’t be surprised if they spotted them entering the premises. The chance of that happening in an Ouroboros-infested building was high.
“Statistically speaking, the number of enchantments placed around the building is ridiculous. A demon waltzing in here is like announcing to every Ouroboros that they are here, knocking at our front doorsteps.”
“Enchantments?” Alexus couldn’t help but wonder what kind of enchantments there were out there.
“Yep, the best of the kind. We got magic from Taoist, Christian, Muslim, Pagans, Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, Native American, and the list just goes on and on.” Timothy waved his hand in front of him, accentuating his words. “If one doesn’t work, just try them all.”
“Um…I’m not sure that would be a good idea,” Alexus replied. Mixing different religions and cultures sounded like a lousy concoction of a test that blew up their face if it wasn’t handled correctly. Plus, to hear that such things work makes him wonder what other things were out there that he didn’t know about.
“You’ll be surprised what works and what doesn’t. There are quite a bit universal enchantments, rituals, and even spells passed on from one culture to the next, all of them tweaked somehow. The people who run the show behind the Ouroborus abduction have quite a bit of money, power, and sponsors for them to house each of us without going bankrupt.”
“How?” Alexus couldn’t help but ask. Getting such information meant that it wasn’t easy unless it was given, which was highly unlikely.
Timothy leaned over winked. A mischievous smile broke out on his face. “That is my trade secret.”
Jones snorted. “He hacked the computer, that’s what.”
Timothy’s eyes turned into slits; not liking how easily Jones spilled his information, he clicked his tongue and folded his arm in front of him. “Do you have to spoil everything?”
“What does it matter if he knows it or not? Eventually, he will learn the information from someone. Plus, every time you cause trouble, I get the blunt end of your mischiefs. Rather we make a definite line here and now, so no other trouble comes stabbing me in the back.”
Timothy clicked his tongue again and looked away as if he was caught. Alexus didn’t notice what Timothy was trying to pull, but the looks of it, Jones sniffed it out before it even happened.
“Timothy is our techy here.” Marcus slapped him on the back. Timothy lurched forward and glared at Marcus for the sudden, painful slap. He rolled his shoulders, placed his hands into his pocket, and turned not interested in the conversation anymore. “The best out of all the Ouroboros here in the facility. You can’t find anyone like him out in the world, especially because that is his special power.”
“Not just hacking, he’s like our whiz master in technological advancement. The one who creates, restructures, and even fortifies the enchantments placed around the building.”
“Wait, that was him?!” Alexus’ voice went up an octave in awe. “I thought you said he hacked into the computer to get that information.”
“He did,” Marcus leaned over, brought up his hand, and whispered behind his hand close to Alexus’ face. “He also went around secretly. Added his signature touch to those enchantments to give it the oomph it needs to not break down and have demons swarming in on us.”
Alexus whistled that in itself was a whole set of different achievements. “So, what are your powers?”
“I would say mine is strength-based,” said Marcus, “Physical enhancements are quite a norm in an Ouroboros. All of us have some form of physical enhancements, but there is only a handful of us who can raise body strength and speed at will.”
“Can you explain a bit more?” Alexus wanted to know more about Ouroboros’s type of abilities, especially at the thought of some form of magic that he never knew existed until now. The idea of even possibly using and having his own set of skills that he didn’t know about excited him. Seeing demons was one of them; having self-enhancement on a small scale might be the second, but other than that, he wasn’t sure what else there was.
“Well, Ouroborus is split into three classes: Self-enhancements, Contractors, and Spellcasters. Three-fourths of the groups of Ouroborus are self-enhancement types, while a good handful is spellcasters. Only a rare few are contractors.”
“Something like summoners of spirits is the best way to describe them.” Marcus rubbed his hand, trying to explain it as simply as possible. Alexus could tell that he wasn’t the best at explaining things, but he was doing a fabulous job of it for someone like him who needed information.
“Spirits?” Alexus asked. He should’ve known that they weren’t just demons. Such thoughts should’ve been thrown out the window, but instead, he was foolish enough to think demons were the only thing he should worry about.
“There’s not only demons in this world. Contractors make a deal with the natural spirits. They usually passed away from animal spirits. So far, there haven’t been any fantastical ones yet, though I wouldn’t be surprised if one does come up.”
“Then what about spell casters?”
“They usually fall under the unusual case of people who can use their energies like magic. We got Timothy and Jones here who would fall under that category. Jones can manipulate fire to a certain degree.”
Fire? That was pretty impressive; seeing some form of magic wasn’t expected in this world, so it was something that Alexus would love to see Jones do. This wasn’t just magic tricks, but genuine magic.
“Jones here can only light up a small flame the size of a lighter. So there’s no point in trying to make him do anything grand. You’ll be disappointed if you were expecting anything.” Timothy squashed Alexus’ hope in seconds. His fantastical thought of him doing some kind of wide-scale magic was what grew up in his mind, maybe even going so far as doing fireworks that have never been seen before, but it seems that wasn’t the case.
“Hey, I can do more than light a flame.” Jones snorted. “I can now light two flames with both my hands at the same time.” He accentuated his word, holding up two fingers in front of him. Even his chest was puffed up, making it seem like it was some kind of outstanding achievement.
“Prove it,” Timothy replied, not believing a single word.
“Fine,” Jones spoke with great vigor. “Move back, or you’re going to get burnt.”
Alexus took a couple steps back; the others did the same. Then, with anticipation, he watched as Jones seemed to bend forward, slouching his shoulders. His shoulders tensed, sweat started to break out on his brown skin, and his eyes narrowed, focused on the task at hand.
A minute passed by, then another, so far nothing happened, making Alexus start to get bored at waiting in the silence.
“Hurry up, blackie. I don’t get all day,” said Timothy. He was shifting back and forth on his legs.
“Don’t call me that.” Jones hissed.
“Yes!” barked Jones. “It makes me lose focus, and I feel like you’re giving me a pet name!”
“Then you have some serious practice to do, especially if you can’t turn on one flame,” scoffed Timothy. “I, on the other hand, can do what I can with just a snap of a finger.” So he snapped his finger and blew at it as if smoke were coming out.
Alexus felt a sudden influx of energy around Jones. The best way he could describe it was the swirls of red energy danced around the tip of his fingers. They sparkled and moved, rubbing against each other, causing an electric spark. Finally, the spark caught on fire, and a small flame erupted out at the tip of his finger.
“I did it!” Jones happily cried out, showing off his power in front of them. The small flames danced around at the tip of his finger without going out. Energies continually swirl around, feeding the fire in a steady beat.
Alexus was highly impressed to see the flames even magically appearing without any other fuel source, except the swirl of energy that kept it alive. Was it possible that he could do something like that one day? If so, what could he do that would equate to elemental control like Jones? The thought of maybe being able to use electricity to zap people or have some kind of ice power to freeze the ground sounded exhilarating.
“You only brought up one. Where’s the other?”
“Hold your damn horses, I’m working on it,” Jones grumbled under his breath, saying a couple of words in a foreign language that sounded close to Jamaican. He glared at Timothy for rushing him.
“Work faster; the line is moving.” Timothy took a couple steps forward, advancing the line closer.
They eventually made their way towards the door frame.
Jones, once again, brought his finger up to chest level. He then focused intently on his second finger next to the first. The flames that he lit started to waver and dim. Alexus could tell that the magical energy flow was shifting towards his second finger. It was a slight shift, not strong enough to make the flames cut down in size; the energy started to spin and wave. Electricity sparked outwards until finally, the second flame burst on.
“See!” Jones spoke with a smirk on his face. “I told you I can do it.”
“So? What purpose does it serve? Light a cigarette? I believe Simon would need a hand on that. He does smoke.”
“My god. Do you not know when to shut up?” Jones was getting irritated at Timothy’s jabs. The flames on his fingers increased in magical energy, turning brighter by the second. Even sparks of small white electricity started to crackle, giving it a whole different feel itself, almost intimidating making Alexus and the others worried.
Alexus stepped a few steps back, not wanting to be caught up in his raging emotions. The swirls of energy around his fingers were intensifying by the second. Even the power around Timothy was rising. His was a straight dark blue, and the energy hovered around his head like a halo.
“You guys,” Alexus called out, hoping to catch their attention.
“I swear, you always have to run your stupid mouth, pissing me off every second. If you’re not careful, I’ll burn it off if I have to.”
“Are you threatening me?” Timothy spoke. He took a few steps closer, their noses almost touching each other. None of them backed down and instead seemed to be at a standstill. Jones’ whole hand caught on fire, even to the point where his clothes were starting to burn.
Any more of their fluctuating emotions, Jones will catch on fire completely and possibly become a burning corpse if he doesn’t know how to control his emotions. Marcus didn’t seem to want to step in. Instead, he watched their catfight with interest.
“Guys!” Alexus shouted; taking the initiative, he pushed his way in-between the two. “Calm down; this is not the place to start a fight. Especially you, Jones, your whole hand and clothes are caught on fire.”
Jones pulled back in alarm. He started to wildly flail around, trying to douse the flames in panic. But instead, the fire became bigger, the energy swirling around his hand intensified, making it twice as hard for it to go out.
“Damn it, Jones, get that under control before you burn the whole building down,” snapped Timothy. He lurched backward, trying not to get caught up in flames. Sweat started to form on his face and body, his lips becoming a thin line.
“You’re not helping!” Jones snarled. He patted his hand with his other.
“Someone, get a fire extinguisher or a fire blanket!” Marcus shouted, directing others. The people who were watching scrambled around, trying to find either one.
The magic around Jones’ hand became chaotic, fueling his flames. It became a tangled mess, swirling and knotting together to the point where a tight circle formed and grew more prominent by the second. Alexus could tell that the influx of energy was becoming very dangerous, and the flames weren’t helping it either.
Something in Alexus pushed him forward. His hand came up towards the congested energy around Jones’ hand, flowing outwards towards him. The heat hit him in waves, his eyes partially closed, his arm in front of him. He saw a slight glow different from the other swirl of energy in the knot. It was a golden color that seemed to radiate with power. Without thinking, he reached over and pulled the string of energy. The swirl shivered and smoothly started to calm down.
The flames on Jones’ hand eventually became a flicker. Alexus could snuff out the fire without a fire blanket with his other hand. Jones let out a sigh of relief when the flames finally disappeared.
“Did you do that?” Jones gazed up at Alexus with awe. “What did you do to stop my flames? I felt your energy from you when you did whatever you did.”
The other two curiously searched Alexus with their gaze, wondering what he had done as well.
“Didn’t you guys see it?” Alexus waved his hands towards the swarm of energy that appeared a moment ago.
“See what?” Marcus asked. Not sure what Alexus was talking about.
“Yea, the influx of energy around the flames that Jones summoned, and even how Timothy had a swirl of dark blue energy around his head.”
“I didn’t see anything.” Marcus turned towards the others. “You guys?”
“No.” Timothy shook his head side-to-side.
“I was too busy keeping my flames under control,” said Jones.
Marcus even asked around the others, but they all answered no. Eventually, he came back towards Alexus. A smile broke out on his face. “This could be your special ability.”
“My what? Special ability.” Alexus didn’t think much that this gift to see energy was even considered a unique ability. Also, pulling the energy with his fingers was a whole new thing in itself. Gazing at his hands, he thought over what he did but couldn’t figure out how he did it exactly.
“You’re the first one out of 99 of us that can see energy.” Marcus clasped Alexus on his shoulder. But, unfortunately, he still gave him his usual painful clasp on his back that he didn’t quite like.
“No one else can see it?” Alexus rubbed his hand on his shoulder and rolled it a couple of times to get rid of stinging pain.
“Well, everyone has some form of sensing ability; that is how we can see demons, though seeing energy is a whole nother scale in itself.” Marcus was chuckling to himself, excited over something that Alexus didn’t know. “I’m liking our little group more and more now. Anyways, we should get going. It seems our pretty ladies are waiting for us.” He pointed towards the door, where there was no one else but them blocking the way.
Alexus’ thoughts swirled in his head, and he took the step ahead before he heard a calm, sweet voice call out his name.