That morning, Jason pondered the plan that Lewis had laid out. The classes at the facility were divided into three, history, practical, and contextual studies, all of which would prepare them for the day when they would be let out into the world. They were led by a series of humourless men and women who dealt with any stepping out of line with extreme harshness.
Fortunately, the man in charge of Jason’s group was the exception to the rule. Dr. Alan Mutor was the Deputy Leader of the Facility. He answered only to the mysterious Director, who they had never encountered, save for a few brief, chilling messages over the tannoy. Mutor tried to avoid unnecessary disciplinary actions, and would probably cease them altogether, if not for the presence of one student who seemed determined to make everyone’s life a misery.
‘Pushing it for time aren’t you Fortuno?’
‘Do you want people to hate you Spencer, or are you just naturally like this?’
Spencer went to respond, but another student appeared behind Fortuno, causing him to pale slightly and hurry into the classroom.
Milly Chapman was a tall, thin pretty girl whose dark bob cut hair made her look like a relic of the nineteen-twenties. She was in a different class to Jason and his companions, but that did not stop her from being close friends, particularly as she seemed to be the only student that could silence Paul Spencer simply by being there.
‘Try not to have too much fun today.’
Ever since he could remember, Jason had been a student at the Facility, where they learnt about sorcery, and how to perform it. He had known no other life, but had become restless; he wanted to explore the world they learnt about as a person, not as a soldier.
Dr. Mutor finished the calling out of the register and walked to the front of the room.
‘I hope all of you have finished your assignment.’ The students murmured in response. ‘Well, let’s see shall we? Can someone tell me the connection between sorcery and mortality?’
‘Yes sir. A sorcerer has a natural lifespan until they perform their first act of sorcery, wherein it is greatly extended. The aging process halts here, a fact that sometimes affects the personality of the individual affected, but it is possible to create the illusion of aging.’
‘Correct Mr. Spencer. A very handy trick for avoiding suspicion.’ Mutor paused for a moment before posing another question. ‘Who is the oldest living sorcerer in the world?’ A hand shot up. ‘Mr. Spencer again.’
‘Correct… as far as we know. Right, a tricky one now… how do you kill a sorcerer?’ He sighed. ‘Someone besides Mr. Spencer perhaps? Yes, Miss Fulham.’
‘Very difficult sir, but generally anything that destroys the brain or disintegrates the body completely. Sorcerers cannot be defeated by inflicting physical injuries, although they do cause pain and they still have to heal over time like a mortal’s injuries.’ Patricia answered, shooting a smirk at the sullen Spencer.
‘Good. Well, today, we’re going to be using the information you found to put together a study. After all, the very point of studying the past is to help us make wiser decisions in the future.’
Jason tended to keep his head down in class, answering only what was necessary. Fortunately, Dr. Mutor asked him very little, although he always commended Jason’s hard work in assignments.
‘You all now know about the earlier days of sorcery and necromancy, although we may never know what exactly caused people to develop these talents. The study shall be your own work, I want you all to pick a figure from history who you admire, for whatever reasons, and use this hour’s lesson to prepare a five minute presentation on them for tomorrow. No judgement will be made on the figure you select; marks will only be awarded with regards to the quality of your presentation.’
Jason already knew who the popular choice would be. Topics in the Facility were treated with a curious type of bias, while they showed both sides of the argument in regards to the divide between sorcerers and necromancers; they presented the sorcerers side half-heartedly, so people would not choose them out of disinterest rather than dislike. So no doubt there would be dozens of reports on William Griffon and Evanna Rosemunde with only maybe one or two on Vladimir Serapus or Bernard King. After not a great deal of deliberation, Jason elected to do his presentation on the sorcerer Vincenzo Contadini, just to be different.
‘Use whatever resources you require, but be back here in forty-five minutes to tell me how you’re each getting on. And remember, cite your sources, or I shan’t be marking you. That goes for you too Miss Fulham.’
‘Yes sir.’ came the sullen reply.
‘Right, go forth and be educated.’
The class was summarily dismissed, and the majority of the students made their way to the archives to prepare their presentation. No one registered Paul Spencer being plucked out of the ranks by a guard and marched down the corridor. He was led in Nurse Ellis’ office and sat down, for once a little unsure of himself.
‘You wanted to see me Nurse?’
‘Yes. Mr Spencer.’ She scanned his file with great interest, before slamming it down on the desk. ‘A remarkable student.’
The Nurse frowned.
‘That was a statement, not a compliment. Though, despite your successes, you appear to be somewhat unpopular with your fellow students.’
‘My studies are all that count. Friends are an expense that I can’t afford.’
‘Good boy.’ She stared at him for some time, before smiling a cold, cruel smile.
‘The Director needs someone of your calibre for a special task. Will you accept?’
Jason arrived at the archives and sat next to Lewis. Unlike the rest of the Facility, the library did not have that clinical feel to it; it was filled with row upon row of dusty tomes on the nature of sorcery and necromancy, as well as more modern files in plastic wallets that lay in untidy stacks on the desks.
‘So, who did you decide to do your project on?’
‘Vincenzo Contadini. Councillor, Italian sorcerer, hero of the Grecian campaign. You?’
‘The Marquis, Benedict le Fleur. Defeated Shadow Conclave member Claude Rothbart in the later years of the war in Belarus. His cousin apparently. And look…’ Lewis showed Jason a portrait of his subject, a handsome, yet haughty looking nobleman with red hair.
‘Don’t you think he looks a bit like Bianca?’
‘The resemblance is uncanny.’ Jason replied drily. Then, checking that no staff members were around, he whispered to him:
‘So are we actually going to do it?’
‘Do you really think it will work?’
‘Absolutely one hun…ninety n…six percent positive.’ Lewis replied.
‘You really do instil confidence in others Lewis.’ Jason smirked. ‘Half past eight.’
They could not have known that every word they said was being listened to with great interest.