While the females got up and carried their blankets back inside, the males surrounded Razor and walked him toward a barn that was at the far end of the drive he’d arrived on.
Razor didn’t feel like talking, and the others seemed to understand and stayed silent on the walk. What disturbed the cinnamon tom most, next to having his brain tampered with, was not being able to tell his closest friend what he was about to do. It didn’t feel right!
“I don’t like keeping secrets from my partner,” he said, speaking his concern aloud.
Byron turned his head. His eyes, when they stared into Razor’s, were warm with understanding. “I know. You two are very close and rely on each other for your very survival. And, I’m very sorry you are being required to go against your personal beliefs, but this is non-negotiable and you cannot refuse. However, you can tell him you have received magical training and are fully capable of using it, however, how you attained it is a secret known only to the magical community. Knowing your partner also has a strong moral code, he will not question you even though he will be eaten up with curiosity just as any Kat is.”
That brought an involuntary smile to Razor’s lips. “Yes, I can safely say he would be.” Then he sighed. “Still, it feels just so wrong.”
Byron only nodded.
Razor knew the sect’s leader was right that T-Bone wouldn’t pry but still … lying to a friend? … He just hoped he wouldn’t have to do it again. Just this one secret was one too many as far as he was concerned. Secrets were capable of breaking up even the closest of friendships. But, he would have no choice, so he let it go despite the icky feeling it left inside him.
He noticed they’d reached the barn and, when they stepped into the cool, shadowed space, he saw it was full of various machines, not all farm equipment. Near the far wall were parked two autos. One was an older model green Cherokee jeep, and the second was a multi-passenger van painted a pale beige. Nothing fancy about either vehicle.
Byron and his companions headed for the van. Female voices growing closer told Razor that some of the she-kats were coming along on this trip as well.
Juno walked in with a younger female beside her. Clarissa was a rather unusual female, being the only one with the technical know how to repair the enclave’s few modern electronic equipment they allowed themselves and having an uncanny way with any kind of mechanical whatsis around the farm.
An odd occupation for a member of a magical group, but Razor guessed they knew they had to keep pace with the society they lived in close proximity to or else their society’s way of life could be threatened by the city trying to absorb them.
Razor liked Clarissa very much as their minds thought along the same lines. Many times on his visits to the farm the two of them would talk ‘shop’. He thought it odd and rather sad that she was stuck out here where her talents weren’t needed much. He often wondered if she got bored at times but never had the nerve to ask her.
His wandering thoughts were dragged back to the present by everyone heading for the van and beginning to step aboard. Razor hurriedly joined them so he could sit beside Clarissa and was pleased to find she had saved the seat beside her for him. He offered her a shy smile and sat down, drawing the seatbelt over his lap and clicking it.
Minutes later, Jacob, another younger member who usually did the driving when they traveled outside their enclave, drove the van out of the barn and down the unpaved driveway.
“How far is this place we’re going?” he asked her.
Smiling, she said, “Some miles on the far side of the city. Of course, we won’t be driving the whole way. In just about a half hour, we’ll reach a small airfield and get aboard a small bi-plane for the rest of the way.”
Razor blinked in surprise. “That would take us into the northern mountains. Good thing Dark Kat is in jail since that’s his usual hideout.”
“Oh, we’re not going into that area,” Clarissa said mysteriously.
“I take it I’m not supposed to know exactly where we’re going, eh?”
She dimpled at him but said nothing.
Razor rolled his eyes. “You do know I’ve flown over every part of our country, right?”
“So, that mean’s I’ll know where we’re going easily.”
“Not this time you won’t,” she murmured, turning her head to look at the passing scenery. Letting Razor know she wouldn’t discuss this any further.
He sat there nonplussed. What the heck did that mean? Then a nasty thought struck him. Oh no, she couldn’t mean a magical portal? Crud, I hate that.
Turning back to him, Clarissa said, “How about we discuss some of the thorny problems you’re encountering back in the lab, hmm?”
“Sure, why not. At least it will keep my mind off less pleasant things.” She gave him an understanding smile and waited. Thinking a moment, Razor picked one of the more recent problems and launched into a discussion about it.
Her honest interest and helpful input did pass the time, though, he wasn’t so involved in the conversation he didn’t notice where they were going. They’d hit the highway but were heading in the opposite direction from Megakat City limits, going north, like he thought.
Frowning, he stared at the passing fields of grain waving in the sunlight, other farms, and some areas of forest. They did pass Black Sands Lake, so named due to the black mica that colored the sands around the lake’s edge. It was a beautiful place and a favorite with fishers, having an abundant supply of edible fish within it, as well as being a bird sanctuary. Jacob soon turned off onto the highway that lead to Megakat City. However, when they reached the bridge that would take them over the bay, Jacob turned away onto the Megakat Bay Road that ran all the way around. Many people of the upper class lived along this road, and he could easily see their mansions set back inside the forest that took up a significant area in the shadow of the mountain range.
Confused, Razor knew of no airfield out this way. Clarissa chattered on about the beauty of bay at this time of day, and he was forced to return his attention to her. It was a beautiful drive, which was why the wealthy lived out here. Professor Hackle had his home to the south of where they were going, so he was very familiar with this highway.
Suddenly, to his surprise, Jacob touched the brakes then turned onto a little used road that wound its way through the trees until they came to a field behind the forest wall. It was a sheltered valley surrounded by the mountains on one side and the forest on the other. Nestled in the shadow of the mountain range was a line of small hangars.
Well, how about that? I had no idea there was a private airfield out here, Razor mused.
The van left the road and bumped along the field to the hangar closest to them. Apparently, no one thought to pave the area, and he realized the planes also had to take off on this uneven surface. Really no frills here.
Very quickly, Jacob drove right up to and inside the hangar, parking the van behind the smart looking Cessna 208 Caravan, a not so little heavy duty carrier plane that could hold up to nine to fourteen passengers or all cargo if desired. A sweet ride. Perhaps the pilot would allow him to ride shotgun?
Everyone began off loading and heading for the plane. Razor split off from Clarissa for a moment to help the pilot do a pre-flight walk around. It turned out the fellow was perhaps a decade older than Razor and didn’t mind having another experienced pilot along. He gave Razor a warm smile, and they talked aircrafts as they did their chore.
“May I be allowed to ride shotgun with you?” Razor asked as the two of them climbed aboard.
Davon, as the pilot was called, smiled and shook his head in regret. “Not yet, Razor, I’m sorry. However, you’ll most likely be doing this run later. Please take your seat in back.”
Razor sighed, only a little annoyed and unsettled to be made to fly like a passenger. It just didn’t sit well with him, but he understood secrecy must be kept, so, with good grace, he nodded and again sat next to Clarissa who patted his arm in sympathy. It was obvious she knew he had wanted to be in the cockpit.
He gave her a weak smile then turned his attention to what little he could see out the very tiny side window. The pilot started the engines, and Razor was please to hear them purr … a well taken care of engine … he approved. In very little time, the Cessna was rolling out of its hangar and out onto the bumpy field. This he didn’t like very much as he had to clench his teeth together so as to not bite his tongue from all the hard bouncing they did as they headed to somewhere in the center of the grassy field. The plane turned to the north then began to race across the grass until it finally rose majestically into the air.
Razor sighed in relief to be off the ground. He oriented himself to true north and could tell they were indeed heading toward the volcanoes that crowned most of the peaks in the area. The flight was fairly uneventful for some thirty minutes then, as they approached a line of peaks Razor was very familiar with, suddenly the air seemed to seethe.
He frowned and squinted hard. Though he had excellent eyesight, he couldn’t seem to focus in on what he was seeing. It seemed as if the very air was boiling and moving though, when he quickly looked elsewhere, the sky was blue and still all except for this small area.
Holding his breath, he could tell Davon was heading straight for this disturbance. Unconsciously, Razor gripped his seat to keep from lunging out of it. Five long minutes later, they were flying through the strange air, and, instantly, he felt as if all the air had been sucked from his lungs. His eyes widened in panic, but, before he could suffocate, they were free of the strange area and in free air once more. He gasped and panted.
“Just breathe normally, Razor. It will be alright now. The passage is a bit unpleasant, but fortunately very short,” Clarissa murmured, eyeing him carefully.
He stared at her in consternation and a little anger. “You could have warned me, you know.”
She shook her head. “No. We’ve learned by experience that trying to explain the passage’s effects didn’t help, so we don’t try. All adjust rather quickly just as you did.”
Still frowning, Razor looked out the window. He blinked in surprise. The sky here was cloudy and rainy. Where the heck were they? Megakat City had no forecast of rain for weeks, so they were no longer in his city’s airspace. So, how far away were they? So many questions, but he knew no one was going to give him an answer until after his initiation.
He went cold inside. “We nearly there, aren’t we?”
Clarissa leaned over him to look outside then pulled back. “Yes, very nearly. Should be about another thirty minutes or so.” She frowned when the plane yawed then dropped. “Oh my, a bit turbulent today. I never liked flying in bad weather. Oh …” she gulped when the plane lunged upward then down again.
“My apologizes. I had hoped this storm would have moved off. I will try to get higher to get past this; hang on,” came Davon’s voice from a speaker over their heads.
The plane’s nose rose upward, and it struggled upward against a pretty mean headwind. Razor could feel the engines struggle just a little, but there were no hiccups so he tried to relax as best he could. Davon was a good pilot, and very soon he had them in clearer air and the flight smoothed out, much to everyone’s relief.
“My, I’ve never endured a storm like this before,” Clarissa said, her tone worried.
Razor eyed her curiously. “If we’re in the mountains, this is normal weather. Why are you so worried?”
She sighed. “Just a feeling that something momentous is about to happen,” she said with a small, weak smile.
“Humph … I hope that doesn’t mean I’m in for a rather difficult initiation …”
“Oh no. You should have no problems. This …” she waved at the sky about them, “… is more likely due to the threat we’re preparing to fight, and Aristal could be waking …” she shrugged. “Hopefully not, as we should handle this ourselves.” Clarissa shook her head and went silent, apparently disturbed enough to want to do some thinking.
Her nervousness didn’t inspire Razor with confidence, especially when she mentioned the planet might be wakening. Shaking his head, he wanted this flight to end soon. His destiny waited, and the sooner he got there the better. The suspense was killing him.
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