I found myself in a high school gymnasium. The basketball hoops were cranked up to the ceiling with crêpe paper chains connecting them. LED Christmas lights were twined around the chains, windows and doors. The bleachers were secreted away behind recessed sliding doors of their own. Blue and gold carpet covered the hardwood floor. I guessed they were the school colors. At the far end of the gym, a stage had been erected with instruments at attention, waiting for the band. Tables, with white coverings and lit by Chinese lanterns which floated in mid-air, were scattered around a wide open levitating section of floor I assumed was for dancing. The lanterns and Christmas lights provided the only illumination, and yet were all that was needed.
I felt myself drawn to this large guy who reminded me of Angriz. He was taller than me, broader shouldered and narrower at the hip. He had dark gray eyes, cinnamon colored hair in a pony-tail and a Van Dyke beard. He wore a black three-piece suit with a lavender shirt. He was talking with a much shorter woman. The top of her head came up to the bottom of his ribcage. Her hair was a dark golden brown, her eyes the color of a Hershey’s Kiss. Her skin was a light tan. The young woman’s lips were a moist looking bright pink. She had high cheekbones and a heart-shaped face. A lilac blouse, black jeans and black sneakers trimmed in white made up her outfit. In her left ear was the black and yellow emblem of Batman. In her right ear was the red and yellow “S” shield of Superman.
She smiled up at him as he bent to kiss her. Just by that, I somehow knew they were in love. I also somehow knew that they were not destined to be together. She moved away from him and he went over to the stage where some folks had begun playing music. The large man climbed up on the stage, which had risen into the air, and passed the man on the keyboard a note. As he hopped back down and approached me, I heard the opening notes of Breaking Benjamin’s “I Will Not Bow” begin. Breaking Benjamin is one of my favorite bands.
“Hello, Carter,” he said to me.
“How do you know my name?” I asked with puzzlement.
He smiled. “Follow me.”
“Where?” I said, the hair on my neck stiff as steel wool.
“Why should I trust you?
“Carter, don’t you realize when you’re dreaming?”
He led me passed the stage and over to the steel double doors I remembered from my time in public schools. He pushed the bar that opened the door to the right and stepped through. I followed him, wanting to know how he seemed to know me. I strode through the door and, rather than a school hallway, or a parking lot (which I would have expected), I found myself walking along an asphalt road that wound through a mountain, or else we were underground. Either way, the tunnel was huge.
It looked like it would run for miles before we came to a destination, yet after five steps, we were before this titanic door. Victory Keep could go through it with feet to spare. It swung open in silence and the big guy sauntered through. Again, I followed him.
I was amazed by the sights. The ten meter screens with their images from various spy satellites. The ten techs sitting in front of their control panels typing. Sixteen operators chatted into their headpieces with various operatives around the world, and the many assistants scurrying about the place. I was in some sort of control room. I watched as the huge guy crossed the mirror polished granite floor to the middle of the room where a much smaller man stood studying reports and on occasion looking up at the central screen. He pointed at the screen the other guy was looking at.
It showed the cold, dark reaches of space. There flew a huge, dense mass of rock. It was potato shaped, cratered from meteor impacts and was the size of the state of Texas. It was flying right at the camera. Before I shouted a warning, the big guy spoke to me.
“If you have my back, I’ll have yours. That’s how I work.”
Then alarms whooped, and Klaxons screamed of danger. A loud-speaker shouted:
“Warning! Warning! Impact from heavenly body imminent! Warning! Warning!”
There was a huge shaking of the ground beneath my feet and…