The Syndicate by Alanna J. Rubin

For Unknown –

He opened his eyes slowly, the sting from the fall still throbbing at the back of his head. “Hurry,” he thought. “I have to recall the incident.” The portal started closing.

Aaron watched as the edges of the portal drew together toward its center, leaving no trace of its existence, taking with it the last flicker of memory of where he was and why he was here. He found himself hoping that whatever it was would come back to him. In the meantime, Aaron was surrounded by nothing but dirty gray concrete walls.

Damn, he thought to himself. Aaron sluggishly got to his feet and dusted off his black pants trying, without much success, to ignore the pain in his head while looking for a way out. He wandered the maze like halls, which all looked the same. The only sources of light were cast from dim yellow bulbs evenly spaced every few feet along the ceiling.

After what seemed like hours of aimless walking, he was starting to wonder if he’d ever make it out, so he was both elated and on high alert when he heard voices up ahead. He crept along slowly and hid himself behind a pillar just outside the entrance to a room where he saw an exceptionally beautiful woman with long red hair wearing some sort of leather armor. Whoever she was talking to was out of view and they appeared to be arguing. However, their hushed tones made it impossible to make out what they were saying. That became the least of his concerns when he heard the hammer of a gun being pulled back and the weight of its barrel pressed against the back of his head.

“Get up…slowly,” the menacing masculine voice demanded. Aaron didn’t have any viable options, so he complied. As he stood up and attempted to turn around, his captor ensured that he remained facing forward and forcibly marched him into the small room. At least that’s what it was a moment ago, but Aaron now found himself standing in the middle of an opulent throne room and seated upon the silver throne was a familiar looking woman with short dark hair and eyes the color of the sea during a storm. She looked at him slack mouthed and rose to her feet. She was slender, but wore the same kind of leather armor as her associate.

“Aaron,” she breathed. “Is it really you?”

“Yes,” he responded. “It’s good to see you, Miri.” He could not help the wide smile that broke out across his face.

“Brother,” she exclaimed, running over and embracing him as if they were children again. She pulled far enough back to look him in the eyes, the spitting image of her own. “But how? I thought you were dead.” Her look of confusion was understandable. Aaron also thought he should be dead, but fate had other plans. “That’s a story for another time.”

“Then why are you here?” she asked.

“That’s a good question. I can’t remember and I didn’t even know where I was until I saw you,” Aaron replied.

Miri looked at him quizzically then asked, “Do you trust me?”

“Unconditionally.”

Miri gently pulled Aaron’s head down so that their foreheads made contact. “Open your mind to me,” she commanded and Aaron obeyed. It was a strange sensation as Miri’s consciousness surfed his memories. She saw his capture in the hallway, his wandering the maze like halls, his fall from the portal and…Miri let go with a gasp and Aaron’s eyes went wide as his memories came flooding back.

“What?!” she asked.

“You’ve been framed for the chancellor’s murder,” Aaron said worriedly.

“I saw that myself, but why?”

“Callum,” the weight of the name hung in the air. “He still considers you a threat to his power. He wants you out of the way, so…”

Miri interrupted to finish Aaron’s sentence for him, “So he can become the next chancellor, unchallenged.”

“That’s the short of it, but I came here to get you out,” Aaron said with desperation. “The Syndicate is on its way along with Callum. He tried to wipe my memory before I could warn you and he almost succeeded too, if I hadn’t made my way through the portal. I knew you’d be able to pull my memories back, just like mother could. You’re so like her. She’d be proud to see the leader you’ve become.” Aaron squeezed Miri’s shoulder in pride and to share a moment of grief for their departed mother. He then moved to the center of the room and let his eyes focus on everything and yet nothing at the same time. His fingers created elaborate signs in a repeated order in an effort to call a portal into existence.

The ceiling shook as the Syndicate’s ships landed and the footsteps of the troops beat down in eerie uniformity. Miri looked up in worry, then over to her brother who seemed to be in a world unto himself. A wind formed in the room, whipping in circles around them as if they were in the center of a tornado, but the energy was sucked into the heart of the portal as it erupted into the room out of nowhere. Miri looked at Aaron in awe, “I’ve learned a thing or two since the last time we were together,” he said with a smirk.

“Clearly,” she replied impressed. “Erissa,” she called over to the red-headed woman. “Yuri,” to the man still holding the gun that was pointed to Aaron’s head earlier, “go,” she ordered. They both looked at Miri, then ran through.

Aaron, walked back over to Miri and took her hand, “This isn’t how I imagined our reunion,” he said.

“Well, you always did have a flare for the dramatic,” she replied light heartedly. They both ran into the portal just as the Syndicate came crashing in and it vanished before Callum, wearing his white captain’s uniform adorned with the silver emblem of the Syndicate, could follow. He clenched his fists in anger. This was far from over.

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