Flame, also called Michael James Takes the Blame for Everything That Has Happened, is the nineteenth volume of Attack on To'kustar. It is the third volume of Attack on Teviv, the fifth chapter of the series.
[The camera shows the city of Teviv at night. The sky is mostly covered in clouds, though the moon can be seen above. Other than that, all of the light comes from the lit torches that line the streets of the city. The central market is shown; people walk around, going about their routine evening activities despite the explosion that occurred at the tavern the previous day. The camera cuts to outside the police station, and then to inside. Many of the high-ranking military officers sit a large table. Seated at the table are Parran Revirik, Tobias Clay, Richard Turner, Penny Blair, Connor Yan, Kathryn Wesley, Krista Renth, Wynne Holst, and John Ziegler.]
[Richard]: I take it all the children have gone to sleep?
[Connor]: I made sure Lawrence and Ryan are standing guard, making sure that none of them leave their rooms. The others have all gone home for the night.
[Kathryn]: I don't like this secrecy. There's no reason for anyone to be excluded from this meeting.
[Penny]: That's how the High Council operates. You're lucky you're even present.
[Kathryn]: Don't remind me, I would know.
[Penny]: Says the girl who's sister left her to die.
[Kathryn]: Says the girl who always rushes to conclusions and tries to boss everyone else around.
[Richard, authoritatively]: Alright ladies, that's enough.
[Tobias]: And what about Nathan? I take it he won't be coming.
[Penny, quickly]: Correct.
[Kathryn looks at Connor, confused at to what Tobias is talking about.]
[Kathryn]: What happened to Nathan?
[Connor]: Well for starters he's an--
[Parran, interrupting]: Well if everyone's here, then why don't we begin?
[He turns to Connor and smiles, not wanting him to waste their time talking about Nathan and Espers.]
[Parran]: So how are we looking in terms of route? Is everything planned out?
[Tobias]: We've planned out our path to the opening in Wall Via but other than that, we don't have information about the area outside the walls. We plan to head due south, where information suggests there is a large body of water. The source is unverified though; it comes from someone who left the walls illegally, as do all of the sources we have.
[Richard]: So the map we have is entirely conjecture?
[Tobias]: Unfortunately so.
[John]: We do have reason to believe that this body of water does indeed exist, though we're not sure if it's an ocean or just a very large lake.
[Richard]: What makes you say that?
[Tobias]: Weather data for South Via accumulated by the Science Corps is consistent with the existence of a large body of water lying within about 100 miles of the wall. That would explain the heavy snow that falls in the region every winter.
[John]: As it's spring right now, however, we don't believe the whether will be an issue, which is why we plan on heading to the body now.
[Tobias]: If possible, in the future, we plan on sending a smaller regiment out during the winter.
[Parran]: Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. What about time frame? How long until you leave, and how long until you come back.
[Tobias]: We could leave now, but we want to give ourselves about two weeks to make final preparations. As for our return, it depends. If things go poorly, we could be back in as few as two weeks, but we're bringing enough supplies to be gone for as long as eight weeks.
[John]: 10 weeks from now puts us right near the beginning of summer when it will start to get really humid, especially in the south regions.
[Connor, impatient]: If you don't mind, I have a question. Who exactly isn't going on this expedition? Who's going to be hear to deal with the Knights, basically?
[Parran]: I was just going to get to that actually. I think your squad will stay; in fact, all members of the Regional Squad Corps will stay. The only ones who will be going are members of the Explorer Division.
[Connor]: I had something else in mind actually.
[Parran]: Go on.
[Connor]: As Richard, Krista, and Wynne can testify to, the Forever Knights are growing in both number and ability. They were able to infiltrate the Explorer Division to sabotage today's mission, and if they can do that, they can infiltrate the regiment that leaves the walls, too.
[Tobias]: Are you suggesting that our ranks are compromised?
[Connor]: I'm suggesting we take an unconventional approach to this one.
[Richard]: You don't mean?
[Connor]: The children.
[Richard]: Absolutely not.
[Parran]: Not your call, Richard. As I would've said earlier, had Lieutenant Blair not interrupted me, is that the main reason none of the children are here is because their existence as a team is unauthorized. None of them are 17 years old, which means none of them can legally undergo military training.
[Parran]: I'll let them continue if they stay in Teviv, but word of your little team does not leave this city.
[Parran]: No exceptions.
[He stands up from his seat at the table.]
[Parran]: That's an order.
[He clears his throat.]
[Parran]: Council dismissed.
[He walks out of the room, clearly angry at Connor for his authorized actions in forming the team. Tobias nods to John, who then gets up to continue talking to Parran. Krista, Wynne, and Kathryn leave together, leaving only Connor, Richard, Tobias, and Penny at the table. The Knight of Percival starts to leave the table as well, but Tobias grabs her wrist.]
[Penny, annoyed]: What is it?
[Tobias]: The four of us need to talk about Nathan.
[Penny]: I'm looking for him, okay?
[Tobias]: This isn't about where he is, it's about why he's not here.
[Penny stares angrily in Tobias' eyes as the camera cuts to the upstairs of the station. Ryan Thames sits on a chair against the wall at the end of a hallway. Lawrence Carter stands near the top of the staircase, overhearing the meeting on the main floor ending. Lawrence turns away from the staircase and walks towards Ryan.]
[Lawrence]: They're done. We can go now.
[Ryan]: It's ridiculous. Why should we--
[Lawrence]: I know, but...
[Ryan, confused]: What?
[Ryan]: They're taking secrecy to an extreme.
[Lawrence]: I know; I wish we could do something about it, but it's probably useless. They have all the authority and the capabilities; we just have to follow their orders.
[Ryan]: Yeah, yeah...
[He stands up from his chair, walks past Lawrence, and heads down the stairs.]
[Ryan]: I'm heading home.
[Lawrence walks to the end of the hallway, opens a door, and then heads into the room to go to bed for the night himself. The camera cuts into another one of the rooms. There are two beds in the room; Teru Hikami sleeps in the bed closer to the door; the other one is not currently occupied. Michael James stands near it, however, facing an open window. He is unable to sleep. He turns to Teru, but doesn't speak. He then walks over to the door to the room and listens in the hallway.]
[Michael, softly]: Finally empty...
[He slowly opens the door and peeks into the hallway to make sure it is empty, which it is. He sneaks out into the dark hallway and closes the door behind him. He closes it quietly for the most part, but the door makes a quiet bang when it closes completely. Inside a room across the hallway, Hadria Carter and Lily Scott lie in separate beds. Hadria is closer to the window, and sound asleep, but Lily is awake, and she was disturbed by the sound of Michael's door closing. She slowly gets out of her bed and opens her door, looking into the hallway, but it is empty; Michael is nowhere to be found.]
[The camera cuts to the bottom of the stairs. Michael slowly walks down the stairs and then quickly moves around the corner to hide from anyone who might walk by. He heads down a hallway to an open area, but then stops right before walking into the open. He stays still, realizing that a group of people are talking. That group is the remnants of the council meeting. The camera cuts to show Connor, Richard, and Tobias sitting at the table; Penny is standing, with Tobias holding onto her wrist to make sure she doesn't leave.]
[Penny]: I'm not going to talk.
[Tobias]: My eyes did not deceive me. I know what I saw, and it wasn't natural.
[Penny]: I'm still not going to talk.
[Richard]: I'll see that you're suspended.
[Penny]: I'm not afraid of you.
[Connor]: If you're not going to talk, then I will.
[There is silence, and everyone, including Penny, waits for Connor to speak.]
[Connor]: So Nathan's an Esper, right? What exactly does that mean?
[Tobias]: Espers? I feel like I've heard that before.
[Richard]: I certainly haven't.
[Penny, accepting]: It's complicated.
[Richard]: Well then I'd highly recommend you start explaining.
[Penny]: I don't have time to explain everything right now.
[Richard]: But can you confirm Nathan is an Ember.
[Penny]: It's Esper, Nathan is an Esper.
[Richard]: How do you know.
[Penny]: If he survived being stabbed, then he's an Esper. No doubt about it.
[Tobias]: So they can heal injuries?
[Penny]: Like I said, it's complicated. I'm not the best one to explain it. You're better off asking an Esper.
[Richard]: And how exactly do you know so much about Espers?
[Penny]: I met an Esper once... other than Nathan, I mean. A few Espers, actually, now if you don't mind, I'd like to get some sleep.
[The camera shows Michael slowly backing away from the open area. He rushes around the corner just as Penny leaves. Tobias follows her, but she draws a sword and points it at him.]
[Penny]: I'm not answering anything else.
[Tobias]: Now you're just being irrational. Why can't you tell us anything?
[Penny]: Because I'm--
[She stops to look behind Tobias. Right before she spots Michael, he disappears behind another corner. She relaxes her sword and looks more carefully.]
[Tobias]: Is something the matter?
[Penny]: I could've sworn I saw... No, just a figment of my imagination.
[Tobias]: So you were saying.
[Penny]: No, I changed my mind
[She puts the sword away.]
[Penny]: Actually, you see...
[She takes a deep breath.]
[Penny]: I'm an Esper, too.
[She stands across from Tobias, disappointed about her need to reveal her identity. The camera cuts to Michael. He is now running through another open area in the station, making sure he is nowhere near any of the adults. He turns another corner and slows down to catch his breath after running from Penny. He then speeds up again, and slows down as he gets to a back corner of the station. He turns his head to his left as he walks forward; suddenly, Lily runs into him from the right, knocking both of them over. Michael lands on his front, on Lily lands partially on top of him, also on her front. She quickly moves to the side, but stays on her knees and Michael gets on his knees and faces her.]
[Michael, quietly]: What are you doing here?
[Lily]: I could ask the same about you! I heard a door open and checked outside, but I didn't see anyone, so I came down here.
[Michael]: I couldn't sleep, so I just decided to walk around.
[Lily]: I couldn't sleep either.
[They look at each other directly, and briefly blush before looking away.]
[Michael]: There's adults around here, so we should probably head outside if we don't want to get caught.
[He stands up, as does Lily. He walks towards a back exit to the station, and after a few moments, Lily follows him. The camera cuts to a large open field near the police station, but not directly visible from it. The field is where all of the supplies for the Explorer Division Regiment are being kept, including carriages and other supplies. The soldiers are not present; they are being quartered in the city's empty houses, which due to the Aterians who fled their own city and them, are dwindling in number. The horses are being kept with the soldiers, meaning that no one is standing guard over the carriages. The camera shows Max Wagner standing in front of all the carriages. He smiles and then takes out a match and lights it. He tosses it at one of the carriages in front of him, and then watches manically as the entire regiment's equipment starts to burn up in flames.]
[The camera shows right outside the back of the police station. Michael walks away from the station as Lily exits the station. She closes the door behind her and then stands still, watching Michael walk away. The air is cold, so she folds her arms across her chest and starts to walk. She continues to watch Michael as she walks. She continues to walk as she turns her head to the sky. It is dark; clouds still cover the sky, and they are now blocking the moon. Most of the nightly activity in the town has died out, and the torch lights have mostly been put out. Suddenly, she bumps into Michael, who for some reason has stopped walking.]
[Michael]: Are you cold?
[Lily, confused]: Yeah?
[Michael]: And you miss Ateria?
[Lily, still confused]: I do.
[Michael]: So do I.
[Lily, sad]: We can't go back there.
[Michael]: Not now, but one day, we'll return.
[He looks up at the sky, his back turned to Lily; it is so dark now that the clouds can barely be seen. Lily stands behind him, looking at him.]
[Michael]: Have you seen your family since you left? They did make it here, right?
[Lily]: Lawrence told me my parents are safe, but I haven't actually seen them, no. What about you?
[Michael, troubled]: No, I definitely haven't seen my family.
[Lily, worried]: Oh I'm so sorry, did something--
[Michael]: It's not the To'kustars.
[He turns around.]
[Michael]: When I was two, my dad killed my mother. He could've killed me, too, but for some reason he didn't. He was convicted and sentenced to life. He was deemed to dangerous for a simple Aterian cell and shipped away to a maximum security facility near the capital. I don't even know if he's still alive, and frankly I don't care. I've lived the last 13 years with the Hikamis, but now... my family's gotten a lot bigger.
[He tries to crack a smile. Lily blushes but then stops as a flash of lightning can be seen in the sky; it is normal lightning, indicating a coming storm, not the red lightning that means a To'kustar is approaching. After a few moments, it starts to rain.]
[Lily]: We should go back.
[Michael]: Yeah, I don't really want to catch a cold.
[Neither of them move; they just stare at each other for a few moments. Lily starts to turn around to walk back, but Michael turns around in the other direction.]
[Lily]: Is something wrong?
[Michael, concerned]: Do you smell that? Smells kind of like...
[He looks up and sees a large column of smoke rising into the sky. He starts running through the wet streets to check out the source of the smoke. Lily runs to follow him. The camera cuts to him running and then sliding on the wet road, a short distance head. He turns and sees the flames burning up the Explorer Division regiment's equipment, though he is unsure of what exactly it is.]
[Michael]: Do you know what this is?
[Lily]: It looks like carriages, like the one we rode in on the way here.
[Michael]: Then this is the Explorer Division's equipment.
[Lily]: And that means this is no random fire.
[Max, voice]: Wow, take a look at that excellent detective work.
[Lily and Michael turn around to see Max approaching them.]
[Max]: I wasn't expecting it to rain tonight, nor was I expecting two of you to show up, but oh well. Don't worry, you're unarmed, so I won't kill you.
[Michael, to Lily]: Run!
[Lily]: To the base?
[Michael, shouting]: YES, JUST RUN!
[She backs away, turns around, and then runs, being careful not to slip on the wet ground. Michael watches her for a moment, then turns to Max as the rain starts to pour down even harder.]
[Max]: Don't make me change my mind about killing you.
[Michael]: I'm not afraid of you.
[Max]: Are you now?
[He holds his cybernetic left hand and his side. A few electric shocks disperse from the hand, followed by a few more, creating a regular pattern of charges. Michael notices the cybernetic hand, and puts his own hands up to defend himself as the camera cuts to Lily running back towards the police station. She arrives at the back, but knowing it will be locked, runs around to the front of the station. She turns the corner to head for the entrance, but then slips on the ground and slides right in front of Penny, who had just exited the station. The Knight of Percival looks down at the girl, and quickly recognizes her as one of the trainees.]
[Penny]: What are you doing out here, uh...
[Lily, standing up, and short of breath]: Lily... Explorer Division equipment... on fire... Forever Knights... Michael... in trouble.
[Without speaking a word, Penny rushes to inside the station to alert the others of the fire. Lily waits outside, and moments later, Penny emerges from the building with Tobias, Connor, and Richard. They are all quickly putting on Skywings to prepare for a potential fight with the Knights.]
[Penny]: Why don't you stay inside? You could catch a cold out here in the rain.
[Lily]: No, I want to help.
[Tobias]: Yes, absolutely. You can help.
[Tobias]: We don't have time to argue.
[He turns around and sees the smoke rising into the air.]
[Tobias]: Right now there's more at stake.
[He starts to walk away and then jumps up and bursts forward on his Skywings. Connor and Penny follow him, and after a few moments, so does Richard. Lily starts to run after the soldiers, but she is much slower on foot than they are on their Skywings. The camera cuts ahead to Tobias flying towards the burning equipment. He lands and sees the equipment going up in flames, but no one is around. Connor, Penny, and Richard land behind him, as the four silently watch the flames rise, unsure of what to do.]
[Richard, urgently]: We have to do something.
[Tobias]: Maybe the fans from our Skywings? We might be able to smother the flames.
[Richard, laughing]: You know, that's crazy enough to actually work.
[He and Connor jump forward to fly in between the flames, trying to put out the fire. Penny and Tobias stand back, and moments later Lily runs by them, straight for the burning equipment.]
[Tobias, shouting]: Careful!
[He takes a couple steps forward, and then he and Penny start to run after Lily. She runs right through the burning equipment, turning left and right, trying to find what happened to Michael. She runs past a collapsing carriage and turns the corner to see Michael lying face down on the ground. Penny and Tobias arrive behind her; they look around and see Max standing behind Michael, just outside the fire. Lily kneels down near Michael to try to wake him up. He slowly starts to wake up as Lily turns to Penny and Tobias. Before she says anything, her eyes widen at the sight of Vance Grace rushing towards Penny and Tobias from behind.]
[Lily]: Behind you!
[Tobias quickly turns around but gets hit in the back by Vance. He draws a sword to defend himself, and as he and Vance hold their swords at odds, he turns and sees Max slowly starting to back away.]
[Tobias]: Penny, go after the other one.
[She turns and sees Max starting to run away on foot. She bursts on her Skywings through the flames to chase down Max. He runs quickly, knowing that she can easily catch up to him. He turns the corner and then runs down a back alley. He hops over an abandoned, non-military carriage that was left in the street. Moments later, Penny jumps over it with a boost from her Skywings. She lands and then spins around to find where to go next. After a few moments, she looks up left and sees Max running on top of a long building containing many shops. She jumps up and runs after him. He makes it to the end of the building and then jumps across the street and lands cleanly on the next building. Penny jumps after him, but after a few moments, he jumps down onto the street to the left of the building. He turns left at the next intersection, so Penny goes down to the ground level. Max turns to the right again, so Penny rounds the corner as well. Before she can react, she smacks into a wall of non-military carriages that Max presumably jumped over. She slides across the street and then slowly gets up.]
[Penny, jokingly]: He'll regret that...
[She boosts forward to continue chasing after him as the camera cuts back to the burning equipment. Richard and Connor continue to fly around, though by now they have put out most of the fire. In the middle of the field, Tobias and Vance fight, slashing their swords back and forth. Near them, Lily helps wake up Michael, who is still on the ground, but he is now conscious and sitting up.]
[Michael, short of breath]: That man... His hand was... mechanical. He shocked me; it hurt so much.
[He balls his hands into a fist.]
[Michael]: If I had just stayed at the station, none of this—It's all my fault.
[Lily]: No, it's because of you that we found out about the fire, and we were able to do something about it.
[Michael]: I let him get away. It's all my fault.
[Lily, softly]: No, it's not. We'll figure out who did this and--
[Michael, angry]: Lily, you don't understand. My whole life, without true family, I've never had a sense of responsibility, but now I have family, I have responsibilities, and I failed. I don't deserve--
[Lily, shouting]: Snap out of it, Michael. We need you; we don't have time for you to worry about the past, you just need to move on.
[He widens his eyes and stares at her, as does she. She stands up and then reaches out her hand and helps him stand up as well. In front of them, Tobias kicks Vance to the ground. The Forever Knight slowly stands up and starts to back away, but Richard and Connor land behind him, having finished put out the fire. Vance spins around in a circle and sees that the flames have been completely extinguished.]
[Vance]: Another time then.
[He drops a small pellet out of his hand and then flies up on a pair of Skywings hidden underneath a cloak. As he jumps up, Tobias tries to stop him, but the pellet explodes in a burst of stream covering a large distance. The cloud of steam expands to contain all of the soldiers present, as well as Michael and Lily, all within less than a second. As Vance flies up, he looks down as the steam cloud quickly dissipates. As it clears, the five who were standing on the ground are all know on the ground, unconscious due to whatever was released from the pellet. Vance simply flies off as the rain continues to pour down onto the unconscious soldiers and trainees.]
[The camera cuts to Penny continuing to chase Max. She turns a corner again and sees Max in front of her; he is running directly for the wall that surrounds the city, and he is much closer than she is. As she continues to fly forwards, he reaches the wall and heads inside of it.]
[Penny, confused]: He's heading for the top?
[She starts to gain altitude to fly directly to the top of the wall. She lands on top of it and then walks to the far edge of the wall to look beyond the city. Far out in the distance, a large horde of Forever Knights soldiers rides towards the city, only visible because of the torches that some of the Knights are carrying. The camera shows the horde up close; it is being led by Troy Dieter, but Aaron Cross and Lauren Haber are riding near him as well; they are obviously too far away for Penny to be able to make out specific faces, however. The camera shows Penny staring at the horde, a shocked look developing on her face. Max then emerges from the hatch leading to inside the wall.]
[Max]: Marvelous, isn't it?
[She doesn't react. He walks towards her, and then reaches out his cybernetic hand, places it on her right shoulder, and delivers a strong electrical shock to her, not strong enough to kill her, but strong enough to knock her unconscious. He stops the shock, but his hand remains on her shoulder.]
[Max]: Too bad you won't be able to witness the destruction they will bring.
[He pushes Penny off the wall, sending her unconscious body into a free fall. He watches her fall; eventually, she smacks into the ground, a blow that would kill a normal human. Assuming she is dead, Max turns his attention to the horde, and watches it ride towards the city.]
[Max]: Soon the city will be ours.
[To Be Continued]
|Attack on To'kustar|
|Hadria Carter • Lawrence Carter • Teru Hikami • Arik Iverson • Michael James • Sven Schmidt • Lars Schmidt • Lily Scott • Tuesday Smith • Noelle Williams • Samuel Wright|
|Sophia Faraday • Logan Fitzpatrick • Pryor Hade • Prescott Martin • Susan Quell • Rachel Stone • Ryan Thames • Nico Valencia|
|Penny Blair • Tobias Clay • David Crawford • Jack Eastview • Denzel Gregory • Wynne Holst • Douglas Kay • Ray Kirihara • Nathan Loretta • Lucas Miller • Krista Renth • Parran Revirik • Emma Saunders • Richard Turner • Felix Upton • Kathryn Wesley • Maya Wesley • Connor Yan • Ricky Zhang • John Ziegler|
|Aaron Cross • Pietro Czeswin • Vladimir Czeswin • Troy Dieter • Jasper Donovan • Vance Grace • Webster Grace • Lauren Haber • Andrew Knowles • Maxwell Wagner|
|Mikhail Einstein • Olivia Faraday • Trevor Faraday • Daniel Fermi • Eric Sullivan|
|Green To'kustar • Talking To'kustar|
|Government, Royalty, and Nobility|
|Darren Mathis • Hector Reiford|
|Arbrook • Ateria • Hennington • Plutonon • Sprinet • Teviv|
|Battle of Teviv|