Jason had never felt so afraid. He had never met the Director, or even seen him; his entire perception of the man was based on shadowy rumours. In fact, he wasn’t sure if any student in the Facility really had met the man. Some suggested he was just a figure created to keep the Facility running. At that moment, Jason certainly hoped so.
He was frogmarched through new, unfamiliar corridors to a large red door. The door was pushed inwards into a well-furnished, yet poorly lit office. The guards thrust him in, and shut the door behind, leaving the room completely dark.
‘So you are Jason are you not?’
The voice drifted from out of the darkness, seeming to come from all around the room. It made the hairs on the back of Jason’s neck stand on edge, and any impudent retorts died in his mouth.
Jason felt compelled to answer this voice, which sounded both sinister and pleasant at the same time.
‘Jason…Fortuno.’ The Director’s voice grew cold with malice. ‘I have never encountered you before. According to my records, there is no Jason Fortuno in this Facility; he died some years ago in infancy. Yet you performed a very admirable escape attempt for someone who does not exist… please, take a seat.’
Jason felt behind him for a chair, and sat down, taking in his surroundings and scanning the room for a way out.
‘You are aware of course that escape is impossible.’
‘I almost escaped today…’
The Director snorted with derision.
‘Almost. But you failed… Do you not think others have tried to escape the same way as you? He smiled now, as though pleased by Jason’s progress. ‘Did it not seem too easy? The guards, the location of the exit?’ He chuckled.
‘Still, you needn’t worry about that now. It took some nerve to make such a move, and it is only those who have the bravery and cunning to get so far who become my elites. Just like you, Jason. You have spirit beyond that of your companions. And courage… courage to confess to such a deed. I am surprised Dr. Mutor didn’t bring you to my attention before.’
‘Perhaps you should be talking to him then…’ Jason began, desperate to escape the chilling atmosphere of the office.
‘Oh, I’m not blaming you, I was merely commenting. Besides, I know the good Doctor has a lot on his mind.’ The coldness returned to his voice and he leant forward, giving Jason a brief glimpse of the light reflecting off his black glasses before he retreated back into the darkness.
‘Who are you really…and why have you brought me here?’ Jason asked, trying to show bravery despite the fact that he was shaking all over.
The Director sighed.
‘Why? Because, Jason, you show promise. Had I learned of your existence years ago, then I could have provided you with more comfortable accommodation.’
‘Why me? Why not Paul Spencer, he’s always eager to suck up to someone.’
‘Because you are special, Jason. I thought I’d lost you a long time ago, but yet, here you are, right under my very nose. And today, you displayed great courage and strength… just like your father.’
‘I worked with your father before you were born; we were both part of the same business.’
‘Where is he… is he still alive?’
Jason’s face, which for a brief moment had lit up, darkened.
‘We were very alike, he and I. He didn’t share some of my beliefs about sorcery, which is a shame, but I think you might. I want you to be my right arm, the youthful voice of the sorcerous world, ready to adapt to the changing face of the twentieth century.’
‘He was not a necromancer then?’
‘He performed some necromancy in his day. I had the greatest respect for him, and it’s that respect that makes me offer you this choice.’
Jason regarded the man suspiciously. He seemed agreeable enough, yet Jason was somehow concerned by the Director’s manner. This man had kept thirty children under his control, away from their true parents. Was this the kind of man he wanted to call friend?
‘Now… you are aware from your classes that the ultimate purpose of this facility is to train gifted students as sorcerers. But are you aware of why?’
‘Erm… to help you conquer the planet?’ he replied, in a tone suggesting something between sarcasm and sincerity.
The Director paused for a moment, deadly serious, before throwing his head back and laughing enormously.
‘No… no of course not. I fear you have been reading too many books. We are going to teach them, not to fight them. Humanity’s greatest flaw is its ignorance, and we are going to heal that flaw. You, I, and every last student in that facility.’
‘But you keep these students here against their will. Shouldn’t it be their choice whether to embark on this mission or not, however righteous it may be?’
The Director smiled.
‘Your compassion is admirable Jason. Unfortunately, bringing these young people here was the only way to protect them from humanity… they are beginning to learn that we are not just figures from myth. And the sorcerous authorities, obstructive bureaucrats that they are, would not have let me put this plan into practice had I taken a more… shall we say, polite way of recruiting agents.’
Jason hesitated. His father had refused this man’s offer, but for all he knew, his father had been an unreasonable man. And if he stood at the Director’s side, he might be able to curb any more radical tendencies the man might have.
‘If I agree to join you…if… will you promise to give the students their freedom?’
‘Once we can ascertain that they are no longer threatened by humanity, then of course. They will be allowed to live their lives as they choose.’ The Director stood up.
‘So, do we have an accord?’
He went to shake hands with Jason, but the youth flinched and recoiled.
‘Mr. Fortuno, we are cementing a partnership that will lead to a better future. Show a little courtesy.’
The Director stepped forwards and Jason saw him fully for the first time. He was tall, in the middle age of his life, a few tiny wisps of blonde hair lost amongst the vast amount of grey on his head. He was wearing a simple black sweater despite the heat, and his eyes were unreadable, shielded by a pair of octagonal black tinted glasses.
‘Do we have a deal?’
The two joined hands and there was suddenly a massive explosion of white light.
‘No…not him…anyone but him…’