Loud, distracting music blared from hidden speakers inside the black room. Carefully placed mood lights on the floor lit the black walls and reflected off of a limpid pool that made patterns of light undulate off the ceiling. A twenty year old man, dressed in white robes with gold runes stitched into the edges of the sleeves, sat on the ground with closed eyes and his palms faced upwards. His long, black hair fell over his shoulders and over a pulled-back hood with its own gold runes. He was meditating, or at least attempting it. An android stood five meters away from the man. It was originally designed for combat, as its grey and red armored body and skull like head alluded to, but had since become a valued training device for the pupils at this branch of the Sephir Magick Academy.
“It’s too bad burning this room to the ground is against the rules,” the student said.
“The master gave clear instructions. You are to prepare this week for the invocation ritual. It will be your first time to enter the Ether without the aid of the master. Your instincts and focus need to be sharp. Do you not recgognize the necessity of this practice?” replied Atok.
“Of course, I recognize it. I can deal with any environment Master Sagan wants to annoy me with. But, honestly, did you have to choose this music? Ancient choir music is fucking awful. Why do you and Sagan hate me so much?! Just slit my throat and be done with it!” joked Theran from under closed eyes and a calm but false exterior.
“This music was chosen for precisely its annoying qualities.” The android paused for a moment to let the music play undisturbed by conversation. “In one minute, your exercise will start. I suggest you concentrate on remembering the correct somatics and phrases. Your magick needs to be perfect. If you make a mistake, it will cost you...a limb perhaps.”
“I thought this was the exercise. Listening to this dreck is difficult enough already,” Theran continued to joke. No laughter came from Atok. “Fine. I’m ready, but can you shut this noise off first?”
“No. You have 45 seconds,” replied the android.
Theran calmed his mind. He inhaled deeply. The music faded into nothingness. Instead, his training in martial arts, weapons, as well as magical spells and rituals that had been passed down from Sephir to Sephir for millenia came to the forefront. Theran knew the android would attack, whether with a beam, a flechette, a projectile or a hand-held weapon, he had no way of knowing. Nor did he know from which direction. He knew as soon as the exercise started, the lights would be cut and he would have to fight in total darkness. Casting an illumination-spell would take care of the darkness, but it would cost time. Time enough to be disembowelled by the robot. So, a shield spell would cover all contingencies. It would even partially light up the room. The required arm movements, hand gestures, finger placements and the words inundated his pre-frontal cortex just in time to hear the countdown finish.
“3...2...1.” The lights went off. Total blackness filled the room.
Immediately, a blade made out of nano-particles materialized in Atok’s synthetic hand. He leapt the distance from the place where he was standing to Theran’s seated position. His intention was to hack off Theran’s arm, so that spells would be difficult if not impossible for the sorceror in training. His blade came down with enough force to slice through an armored tank.
“Kemeris Malkhut” The incantation was spoken while Theran’s arms moved in a complex and circular motion blindingly fast. He had begun the spell just before the countdown ended.
A loud CRACK! blasted through the halls of the dojo, making waves in the reflection pool as Atok’s nano-sword struck Theran’s protection shield. Lines and sigils glowed around Theran in iridescent patterns. The spot where the blade hit glowed brightly. Meanwhile, Atok’s blade atomized as the android still held onto the handle. Atok stepped forward while materializing an auto-flechette rifle. Flechette needles poured out of the gun hitting the same place his blade struck earlier, now pulsating rapidly.
Theran stood up slowly, confident in the strength of his shield spell. He put his right hand up, outstretched with the palm facing the robot and uttered his next spell.
“Naberius.” It was barely louder than a whisper, yet Atok flew backwards, flechette rounds puncturing the wall and ceiling. Theran stepped out from the protection spell, and jumped to the prone form the robot, partially lit by the protection spell. “Andras” yelled Theran. Fire enveloped his fist, which he brought down in an attack designed to punch a hole through the chest of the robot. Atok was too fast. He spun to the side, hitting Theran in the ribs with his steel fist as Theran put a hole through the steel reinforced ceramic floor, melting metal with numinous fire. Theran winced in pain from the blow. Atok attempted to grab the flechette gun, but Theran kicked it aside. “Andras!” yelled Theran a second time. The fire intensified as he brought his fist around in a haymaker punch at Atok’s face on the ground. The android dodged to the side again while silmutaneously executing a perfect kippup. As Theran brought his fist around to make another strike at Atok, the android made several quick jabs into Theran’s ribcage. The supernatural fire on Theran’s fist went out as if it had been covered in a blanket. Theran, yelling in pain and anger, struck again at the robot, now standing, with his elbow. Atok’s metallic head barely moved, but Theran cried out in pain as bone hit metal. Theran, realized he couldn’t beat the robot unaided by magic, leapt towards the nearby wall, then used his legs to springboard several meters away from the robot. Atok, meanwhile grabbed the flechette rifle on the ground. Theran’s success or failure in this fight would be determined now. He needed to disable the robot soon, or he would simply run out of stamina.
Flechette rounds, long needle like projectiles sprayed out the rifle. Theran dodged to the left, but was still hit in his right cheek and ear lobe. He blocked out the pain mentally by thinking about the next spell. It took less than second, merely the time it took for the dendrites in his brain to relay the information across the synapses. His vision was so clear, so full of intent and focus, that for the first time, he didn’t need to audibly say the verbal component of his spell. He only needed to think and act it out. His arms stretched in front of him as if he were pushing a door open. Atok was lifted from the floor and thrown from his position as if he were a toy being flung by a child. Theran put his fists together and then pulled them apart in a ripping motion. The android’s chest burst open in a sudden explosion of mechanical bits and fluid. The blue lights in its eyes faded and then cut out all together. Theran, exhausted, knelt to the ground in a lump of tiredness. “How was that Atok?! You shot me twice, you bastard!” Theran yelled to no one. The annoying music, with its loud whiney noises, kept playing.
“And if you had not gotten the shield spell up in time, I would have cut off your arm, Student Theran.” The voice of Atok bellowed through the same speakers as the choir music.
“That’s alright, the regeneration chamber would have grown me a new one.”
“Oh, would it?” said a deep voice from a doorway that had come into being.
“Perhaps, I would let you stay one-armed for a while, to teach you some humility,” said Sagan. His tall form was silhouetted from the light behind. He stepped into the room. Before he finished his second step, the lights turned on. He wore clothes of breezy, fibrous material: black pants, grey button-down shirt under a deep, brown, thigh-length leather jacket. His long, blond mane and dark beard did not obfuscate the seriousness of his face. Theran knew that something was wrong.