~ & ~
Quickened footsteps pattered across marble floors which resembled a lifeless ocean. The floor was a deep somber shade of grey with cracks of dark navy blue and specks of brown and emerald. The colors had been purposefully selected so their darkened tone wouldn't conflict with the rest of the room's bright collection of colors and sights. A woman came to a stop and glanced around the large circular theater. This had been her home for the past twenty-five years. It knew secrets and it knew lies, and for that Gardenia was thankful that buildings were unable to gain sentience and talk about their inhabitants. The pink haired woman turned around in a full circle, her light colored eyes unable to locate the person she was fervently searching for. "Father?" She called out. Even though she was twenty-five and by all accounts capable of living on her own, she felt it impossible to lave the lavish place she called home.
Gardenia and her father lived on the outskirts of the large city and they lived without relying much on the technology around them. Simplicity was an art they continued to practice while the rest of the world coveted convenience. While other families clung to their devices and drones and robot servants, Gardenia and her father enjoyed cooking for themselves and cleaning up their own messes. Gardenia found it relaxing and her father claimed that doing honest hard labor enabled his own inventions to prosper. His inventions were in the opposing direction of today's society. He worked hard to bring back the magic of old, magic that gave nature life. All trees and insects were synthetic, only harnessing artificial life. It was soulless despite being considered revolutionary and splendid.
The place she called home was a rather fantastic stone castle
, situated near several speedy highways. While cars now able to go and on off the ground at will, the highways by their home weren't often frequented. And even if folks did stumble upon her safe haven, they would see nothing but a collection of unimpressive piles of metal and iron. Her father, a true visionary had been able to bend both space and time to allow for those who were unable to use old world magic, to only see piles of materials. Gardenia almost pitied those blinded by science, those would count not see the magic that was really in front of them. Scientists had long ago given up interest in botany and zoology. Animals and plants were now created in a lab, able to function by wireless power and cues. And yet at home, Gardenia could freely interact with animals and tend to plants that were natural, full of actual life and potential.
The circular theater's long floor to ceiling windows were framed by bright red drapes. There were many suspended ribbons and bars all meant for people to play with and yet Gardenia had been left to entertain herself many nights while her father toiled away in his laboratory beneath the castle's ground level. Gardenia had been waiting for friends, those who could relate to her desire to see old magic make a true comeback. Her father had gone out to retrieve those three souls she longed to meet. As a teenager she would go down to her father's lab and beg him to let her look at their files. Her father had selected kids after his own test on Gardenia had gone well without any hiccups. Gardenia fawned over the files and fantasized about her future friends and what sort of dazzling spectacles they could create to win the world over.
But now she had to wait for her father to arrive. The Visionary had kidnapped three children when he had been able to spot them out and about without supervision. He had been able to detect and disable the nearby cameras so he could get the child alone and insert a colored shared into their forehead. The shard would act as a rod to absorb all of the child's magical power and channel it into an element that had become lost in time. The children were only gone for under twenty minutes and for the most part barely remembered it had even happened. If parents did take their magically stunted child into a doctor, the shard would be undetectable and go unnoticed by current medical sciences. Gardenia's own two shards were now active and a light black glint, as well as brown one, could be seen in her own forehead as she dashed back between the rows of plush red velvet seats and went back into the rest of the house.
Back in the sprawling bustling city, Hale Westlake had just exited a woman's penthouse, having just finished a consultation on a new headpiece. He had talked her into some pastel colors which were different from the muted whites, greys, blacks and browns that most people wore. To people fashion was superfluous and lacked any sort of personal taste. Hale loved looking at old books and videos that showcased how people once dressed, how clothes were one a personal statement as opposed to a means of dull conformity. Hale rounded a corner and felt an arm grab around from behind. Another arm came around and injected him with a needle filled with a murky substance. Before he could recognize the danger he was in, the blond twenty-two year old went limp and was soon carried off to a large white van where four other unconscious bodies were stashed.
The Visionary, a man in a black tuxedo sporting a white lab coat and tall top hat, got into the driver's side of the van and hurried back down to his humble abode. Gardenia stood in front of the stone castle as an unmarked white van began to appear in the distance, rumbling closer to the mythical structure. She greeted her father with a customary curtsy and helped carry the people inside. The three people were taken back into the heart of the castle, the large theater. They were settled into the front row of center stage seats while Gardenia went to go get changed. Her father made his way back out to the foyer of the home which served as a lobby of sorts for his private venue which he intended to show off during his first broadcast. But for now, introductions and of course training, were in order.
Gardenia reappeared in a black and aqua pinstripe blazer and black top hat. She had on black pants and had on bright golden heels. As the five guests began to stir a lively tune
filled the large room, its walls etched in gold carvings. Raising her arm, her black shard sparkled as she was lifted up in the air by a stone pillar. The pillar then detached itself from the glossy marble floor, which remained untouched and pristine, and levitated the pink haired woman in the air. "Welcome everyone to the first show of many to be held." She spoke clearly, though there were butterflies in her stomach. She only had her father as a faithful spectator until now. Sure, she preformed in coffee houses for a laugh but never had she shown off her rock powers to anyone before and she was eager to make sure to make a solid impression. As far as her beastly powers were concerned, she wanted to wait before showing that off.
Blinking, Hale looked around him and saw he was no longer on the street but instead someplace much more...lavish. He looked up and saw a large dome shape as opposed to a typical shade of grey. All homes were plain and basic, never keen to show of individuality but as he felt himself gathering his wits, he heard a loud voice call out to him. Hale suddenly noted that he was with a few other people as well. He felt his legs far too heavy to lift him out of his seat so he sat and turned his attention to the woman in front of him who raised a black baton made of rocks. "Wh-where are we?" He asked, trying to find his voice. He coughed slightly, his throat feeling rather dry and in need of some sort of refreshment.
Gardenia waved her wand of sorts and five chunks of rock broke off from the rock carrying her around the stage. These three rocks were directed above the heads of the audience and flew back into the depths of the castle. They soon flew back and hovered in front of the three guests, each rock balancing a golden goblet of ice cold water. "Where are my manners? It's an honor to meet all of you after so long. They say patience is it's own reward but if you ask me, magic is a reward time has simply turned it back on!" She declared. Hale looked at the rock. He had never seen a real one before. All the rocks he had seen were just for show, usually hollow. Buildings were made of metal and iron and other sturdy elements, nothing natural. It was odd but also intriguing. He waved his hand under the rock and took the offered drink with the other.
"I'm sorry," He paused to drink. "Have we met before?" He asked her. "Who are you? Where are we exactly and how are you doing this?!"
Gardenia jumped off the levitating rock, doing a flip in the air before landing safely. She peered down at the three souls. "My name is Gardenia and my father and I have been eager to meet and train you for almost ten years, give or take depending on who you are." She didn't want to get into silly details though. "You're all at our estate, my father a true visionary, has selected each of you and bestowed upon you a magic. This magic is a privilege to have and it is with that, that we will reawaken this slumbering world of robots who have forgotten to live with purpose, with flair!" She raised her hands above her head and then dropped them, clenching her hands together. "You all may have fretted about not not fitting in like your peers but we assure you, you are very special and very talented."
"Woah woah woah. Slow down there um-"
"Yeah. Right." Hale sighed. "Can you slow down?" He asked her.
The woman pressed her lips together, not happy about how things were going so far. She glanced off as the music faded away. So far she didn't think she was making a great first impression. "Sure, Hale." She tried to collect herself before she rewound slightly. "My father gave you all shards, like mine." She pointed to her black one which glittered when light hit it. "These give you magical powers that haven't existed for thousands of years. His hard work paid off and it is with your help that we show the world what magic can do. That magic doesn't need to have a purpose in order to create something." She said. "You have all endured much shame and sadness and isolation but that struggle is about to pay off. We are part of a new era. You Hale, you can make water. Real water! It's not clouded by other chemicals, it's pure water!"
She then turned to the others, "Luca, you have a fluid magic found in air, you can do so much with it. You can create winds or float, gravity no longer restrains you. And you can also bring life to real plants and flowers and vines. It's a truly beautiful spectacle. And you, Katya have the gift of fire, a temperamental skill but one that is why humans are still here on Earth." There was an immeasurable sparkle in her grey eyes as she spoke. She hopped off the marble stage and onto the matching marble floor, now closer to them. "As you can see, I rule over rock, a very formidable talent. I also control animals, beasts but that is for another time." She smiled to them. "If you decide to stay and train with us and be in our show, you are free to live here and we'll take care of you and everything else. We're a family. We're connected." She looked to them nervously.
Hale cleared his throat, it was a lot to take in.
"So...how do we use these powers?"
"We just have to unlock your shards and begin training." She replied, grateful he was being more receptive. "The day is nearly done, we can start after dinner if you'd like." She looked to everyone, eyeing their faces trying to gauge their reactions. "If you do wish to leave, you walk away from a life of wonder and acceptance. The world is cruel and it has forgotten what made it so warm and compassionate..." She said quietly. "Our world covets those who conform and ridicules those who show a sign of individuality. My father and I wish to show the world that magic can be different, that magic is something that can unite and entertain us, not simply be a means to an end like building a house." Gardenia concluded. "If you need more time to think about it or ask questions, dinner should be done, I can show you all to the dining room." She offered.
The blond in the glasses looked to the others before he gave Gardenia a smirk, "I had enough time growing up to decide what I want. I'm tired of being misunderstand and mocked. You can count me in for whatever crazy show you have in mind. I'm pretty interested to see what I can do. Maybe I can even design some costumes." To learn he wasn't born without a talent, to learn he had potential and didn't deserve mockery, meant the world to him. Hale wanted to see if he could move beyond what society dictated. And since paying rent was becoming difficult to cover, as he suspected his landlord was hiking up his rent because he didn't have any magical skill. Hale thought a change in venue and now even a change in career, might be what destiny was actually had in mind for him.