Feurix

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The short...
Michelle is an enigmatic and elusive indie author. Emerging from her author cave to gather resources...coffee and dark chocolate. Over decades she has mastered the coveted skill of Bodacious Awesomeness. Her books bear testament to this rare feat.

...and the long of it.
Michelle Emberstar Meraki (1367 L.H.) was the most skilled path creator to new worlds in all Jérin. Her many research expeditions contributed valuable information to the academic societies of Argara. She explored many realms with her inventions and each quest was successful; until she forged the mirror-ring. The mirror-ring was Michelle’s grandest invention; it opened a portal to a planet in a distant galaxy. Overcome with wanderlust Michelle ventured through the portal but in her eagerness, she forgot to secure her way back home. Her nemesis, Xelara Nephane, snuck into Michelle’s workshop, overpowered her beloved, Balthazar, and destroyed the star shards that stabilised the portal. Michelle realised her error too late and found herself stranded on the foreign planet called Earth. Yet fortune favoured her and kind, loving people took her in. They cared for her as their own and Michelle became part of their family. Since people thought her insane for telling her stories Michelle’s family encouraged her to write them in books. Some might call Michelle’s books fantasy novels but writing is the only way she kindles hope to return to her beloved Balthazar and Jérin.

For more information or to subscribe to Michelle's Fantasy Rebels Mailing List visit: www.michellemeraki.com


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One mysterious rendezvous, a ring, and a yew tree later Alph is running for his life…

Alph is just your regular paranoid genius doing classified research, but one odd Tuesday he receives a mysterious envelope that changes everything.

Following the enclosed instructions, he unravels the mystery of his parents’ disappearance, receives a secret inheritance, and learns that a shadow organisation has spied on him his entire life…

Why him? What’s so special about a paranoid bio-engineer? Or does he have something they want?

Feurix is an Urban Fantasy with a Supernatural Mystery and Suspense twist. If you enjoy uncovering secrets, solving mysteries, and the rush of intriguing plots you’ll love this introduction to Meraki’s Mirror-Ring Chronicles.

 Buy Feurix today to discover why Alph is on the run!

 

 


PROLOGUE

Lightning lit up the forest and thunder drowned out the sound of the rain pattering down on the black SUV. His fingers drummed on the steering wheel impatiently; she was taking too long. To his relief the backdoor opened and a drenched, delicate woman slipped into the back seat. He turned to look at her, “And?”

“Balthazar has been captured. With him out of the way they will gain more ground, more power,” she stared out the window fighting back the tears that brimmed her eyes. “We must secure Feurix as soon as possible or all will be lost.”

“We have everything set up…” he trailed off distracted by something he saw in the rear-view mirror. Flashes of light beams streaked the forest behind them; torches. “Get down, we’ve got company.” The engine roared and the SUV leapt forward as a shower of bullets rained down on the car.


CHAPTER 1

DR ALPHONSO ORTIZ

 

“FIVE-HUNDRED PEOPLE WERE RESCUED from an unstable building earlier today, by a miraculous new technology from EnviroTech. The company’s spokesperson informed the public in a recent interview that EnviroTech was pleased that their technology could serve the community of Lagos and shared that it was the first of many projects they are working on to aid communities. Although the specific details of the technology are proprietary and thus confidential the footage of the event speaks volumes,” the polished news anchor reported. The image on the television flashed to pre-recorded footage of the crumbling building being held together by enormous trees that rapidly wove their branches together to form a supportive web. Rescue personnel rushed in and out of the building helping the injured and shocked inhabitants of the Ikoyi Towers.

Bob Harrison pushed the mute button on the remote before tossing it aside on the coffee table in his office. “I’m telling you the kid’s a genius. Let’s get him on the Numen project. Send him to Doctor Whitelaw for evaluation.” He ended the call and turned back to the monitor displaying a live feed of the company shares. His mobile rang and a quick glance at the caller I.D. sent a chill down his spine. “Yes sir,” he answered then listened attentively. “I have seen the shares, sir. My people are on it,” Bob assured the caller before the end-call-tone hummed in his ear.

***

He stared at the familiar room. His favourite part was the Asian bleeding-heart that hung in front of the west-facing window, and how the afternoon sunlight made the leaves gleam. It stirred up some undefined memories he couldn’t grab hold of but he knew it was of happier times.

“Alph,” Lilith tried to get his attention for the umpteenth time. He flashed her a disarming smile.

“I’m sorry Lil,” he glanced down at his hands resting in his lap.

“What’s up with you today? You’re not focusing at all. Have you been sleeping well?” she asked concerned. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat when she mentioned sleep.

“Look, Lil, I’ve had to stay up late for work a lot lately. But the project is done so I’ll take the meds again.” Alph glanced up at her through the side-swept fringe that hung over his eyes.

“Don’t make me worry about you, Alph. You know how important sleep is for someone with your condition.” He nodded obediently trying to prevent Lilith from rattling off the same speech he had to endure every time he so much as yawned in their sessions. “So how are things at work?” she changed the topic to his great relief.

“A bit stressful, as always, but today I finally saw the results of my hard work.” He smiled at the thought. Images of people being evacuated from a crumbling building in Nigeria still fresh in his mind.

“I know you can’t talk about the project, but how does the results make you feel?” Lilith waited for his reply. Alph searched for the right words.

“Lil, I felt like I was finally worth it…” he trailed off staring at the bleeding-heart again. We had one in the kitchen, he recalled. “It made me hope that they would see it and somehow know it was me. That they would come back for me…” he whispered his voice shaking. “It’s silly, I know. They are gone and never coming back, I know that.” Lilith nodded sympathetically.

“Are you celebrating your success?” she asked. Alph shook his head. “Well, I highly recommend that you go out tonight and have a good time. Celebrate your life, Alph, you can’t hold on to the past and expect to have a life in the present.” Her voice had taken on the familiar stern, yet endearing motherly tone. He flashed her another smile his eyes hiding behind the fringe.

She’s crazy, there’s no way I’m going to a crowded, noisy place willingly, he thought. “Are you saying this as my therapist or my friend?”

“Both. It will be good for you.” The timer buzzed signalling the end of their session. They both got to their feet. Lilith walked him to the door of her consultation room. “I mean it Alph, go have fun!” He greeted her one last time before disappearing out the door. He retrieved his mobile from his pocket and switched it on. One missed call and one voice message. He played the message.

“Doctor Alphonso Ortiz, Gretchen Wills speaking. I’m calling on behalf of Mister Harrison and the entire EnviroTech team to congratulate you on today’s success. Important documents have been sent to your office. Do give me a call once you receive them. Have a good day.”

Alph took a deep breath before stepping out onto the bustling street and hailed a cab, eager to reach the tranquillity of his office.

***

As much as he loved his sessions with Lilith he loathed the commute through the city to her office. He was thankful that his standing appointment was not during peak traffic hours, he didn’t think he would survive that. The cab finally pulled up outside the EnviroTech research centre. Alph scanned the sidewalk carefully before paying the cabbie. He leapt onto the sidewalk exchanging the stale taco odour of the taxi for fresh air. A small forest surrounded the EnviroTech building and a pond ran along the south side of the building. Alph was grateful for working in such a still setting. The thought of an office job in the city terrified him and he took deep breaths of the fresh air, trying to calm himself after the cab ride. He scanned the sidewalk once more before briskly making his way to his office.

Something is different, he thought upon unlocking his office door. At once an envelope on his desk caught his attention and he quickly set his sundries in their usual places before closing the door. Alph scanned his office wondering how the envelope got on his desk when he had locked his office. He gingerly made his way to his desk, his heart raced and he did what he could to calm himself. “It is just a letter. I am calm. I am getting better,” he muttered under his breath trying Lilith’s affirmation advice. He had no reason to believe it would work but perhaps this time it would. His heartbeat slowed and he paid attention to his breathing. Determined to regain a measure of control over himself and by extension his life, he grabbed the envelope from his table. It had no postmark or return address; only ALPH in clear block letters. Handwritten. Still exuberant from his victory over his paranoia, Alph opened the envelope. A firm card slipped out as he tilted the envelope.

16h30

42nd & 6th

It’s about your mother.

Alph scanned his office again, anxiety clawing at his throat as he tried to breathe. He sat down, his heart racing, closing his eyes he tried to regain control. Alph reread the card. There was nothing he wanted more than to know what had happened to his parents. A quick glance at his watch steered his mind towards a decision. He had fifty minutes to get to the address. Well, if Lil thinks I have made enough progress to go out and celebrate, I’m sure I can go meet a complete stranger at some random place, he motivated himself but chuckled nervously at the thought. Alph tucked the envelope and card into his bag, grabbed his coat, and called a taxi as he locked the door behind him.

***

The smell of coffee and pastries wafted out of the small café on the corner of 42nd and 6th, competing for the bustling crowd’s attention. Alph placed some distance between himself and the corner café, walking up the stone steps into the park. Traffic hummed, horns blared, pedestrians chattered, the barista hammered out used coffee grounds whilst torturing more beans through the high-speed grinder, and screaming at the top of his voice, “Order up!” With each step, the din lessened, absorbed by the trees in the park. The little-noticed bird song and the barking of dogs on the other side of the park replaced the commotion of the city. Alph found a bench and sat down, still scanning every person who came close. He glanced at his watch, hoping that his efforts were not in vain; he was a few minutes early. Silently he cursed the speeding cab driver. Alph ran his fingers through his hair, sweeping his fringe to one side. Scanning the path and the corner café one more time. He rubbed his neck and focused on his breathing. I am safe, I am calm, I am getting better. He recalled Lilith’s affirmations.

“I’m glad you came,” a smooth voice drew his attention and he eyed the man that sat down next to him.

“Who are you?” Alph tried to maintain his composure.

“A good question, but not the one you should be asking. Who you are is a much better one, and it will get you more meaningful answers.” The man glanced away, scanning the park. Alph studied him, but most of the man’s features were hidden beneath a slate grey fedora. The upturned collar of his navy coat further complicated matters. The stranger reached into his inner coat pocket and retrieved another envelope. “Your mother wanted you to have this, she said I should keep it till you turn twenty-one. Happy birthday, Alph,” he said handing Alph the envelope.

“You knew my mother?”

“Have you not been listening? Everything I’ve told you up to this point would strongly suggest that I knew her. What good are all your PhD’s if you can’t even listen and make deductions?” The man shook his head, never once making eye contact with Alph.

“Fine, how do you know her?” Alph asked eyeing the envelope doubtfully but taking it, anyway.

“Much better. We worked together,” the man replied. He faced Alph, “no one can know we’ve met. You can’t tell anyone about this envelope or where it leads. Not even Lilith. With your promotion, you will move closer to the truth but you will also be in more danger than you’ve ever been. We will still be watching from the shadows, but you are on their radar now Alph. You best be careful.” The man got to his feet to leave.

“Wait, please. What do you mean my promotion? What danger? And who is watching me? How long have you been watching me?”

“Alph, calm yourself. All you need to know is that you are not paranoid, you do not suffer from hypervigilance or any other psychological disorders they might want to medicate you for. Don’t take the meds, you will see for yourself.” With those words, the man walked off disappearing into the crowd of pedestrians.

Alph tucked the sealed envelope into his pocket, got up and walked through the park to 40th Street. He was intentionally taking his time, not rushing as he normally did. How did the stranger know so much about him? He thought clearly about everything the man had said. His belief that he was being watched was what got him sent to Lilith for help in the first place. All the subsequent conditions she identified were based on the premise that he imagined it all; that he suffered some delusion of persecution leading to hypervigilance and mild OCD. If the stranger was telling the truth and not just playing sick mind games with him, it seemed that his paranoia was substantiated. If Lilith’s premise is false, then her conclusions must be false too, that’s simple logic. He hailed a cab and once the car weaved through the traffic, he retrieved the envelope. Alph eyed the driver from behind his fringe. The man was in rapt conversation on his mobile speaking with a strong Indian accent. Alph risked it and opened the envelope. Inside was a key that looked like it would fit a locker or something similar; a golden disc with a red chrysanthemum emblem on it and a card reading:

77 N 6th Street

Alph returned the envelope and its contents to his pocket and stared out the window of the cab as it swerved through traffic and sped down streets. He considered the implications if he was indeed not paranoid. Could he trust the word of a secretive stranger? The man openly admitted to watching him. He mentioned a promotion. If I get promoted, I will consider the rest of what he said, but I can’t throw away my progress based on the word of a stranger. I should take the meds tonight; I don’t want to cause any concern for Lil. He nodded his approval of his decision. Finally, the cab halted. He settled the fare and got out, briefly scanning the surrounds before hurrying inside.

“Doctor Ortiz, a courier left this parcel for you,” Rebecca said as he entered the foyer.

“Thanks, Rebecca, do I need to sign for it?”

“No, it’s all taken care of.” She smiled as he took the parcel. Alph double checked his office door, it was definitely locked. He unlocked it, placed his bag and coat on the chair next to the door and kicked it shut behind him. Eager to see what Gretchen Wills had sent he broke the seal on the parcel.

Regarding the promotion of Dr A. Ortiz PhD, to lead a research unit in Project: Confidential–Pending higher clearance level

“This is not possible,” he muttered under his breath as he took a seat and read through the document. He reached the final page and reached for his phone to return Miss Wills’s call.

“Doctor, how good to hear from you, I trust you received the parcel?”

“Miss Wills, I did. You said in your message I should call you when I did,” he replied.

“Yes, Mister Harrison wanted to confirm a meeting with you but wanted you to gain clearance first. If you have time today, you can go see Doctor Whitelaw.”

“Would the Doctor still be available? I could go by tomorrow morning.”

“The thing is Mister Harrison was hoping to see you tomorrow morning before he flies out to Barcelona for a conference. He will be away for two weeks, and he is eager to have you start on the new project as soon as possible. I have called the Doctor and they are expecting you to come by today.”

“Very well then Miss Wills, I’ll be there before seven.”

“Excellent, I will let Doctor Whitelaw know.”

Alph stared at the phone, not sure he appreciated how everything was arranged for him. He never liked the idea of answering to anybody and the thought that he was being controlled started gnawing at his mind. “It is just a security clearance screening. They aren’t upending your life.” He consoled himself before calling a taxi to collect him.

***

“Doctor Whitelaw is expecting you,” the receptionist greeted as Alph walked through the glass doors of the EnviroTech Human Resources office. She led him down a passage opened the door to one of the many rooms and peeped in, “Doctor Ortiz is here,” she announced then disappeared down the corridor. Alph entered the room, cautiously scanning every corner before closing the door behind him.

“Doctor Ortiz,” the blonde woman greeted.

“Doctor Whitelaw,” he replied with a curt nod as he took the seat she offered.

“Mister Harrison is keen to have you work on another project, but we need to clear you before he can brief you in full. It’s just company protocol,” she explained. “We need to conduct a polygraph test and since you have already done a psychological evaluation, I will only ask you a few short questions on that. Please sign here to consent to the polygraph test.” She handed him the consent form. He read it carefully, it seemed in order, then signed. “I am aware of your hypervigilance and that will be taken into account during the polygraph. Let’s get started.”

After an hour of answering all her questions, Alph was finally free to go. “I will inform Mister Harrison of your results. Have a good evening Doctor Ortiz,” she greeted as she let him out of the office, locking the door behind him.

Alph strolled out of the empty building and onto the street. Within moments a cab pulled up to the kerb and he got in, “Seventy-seven north sixth street.”

***

The entire ground floor of the building was boarded up and nearly looked abandoned if not for the faint yellow fairy lights that dangled from the upper edge of the wooden boards. Alph scanned the street and made his way to a section of the wood board where the white numerals ‘77’ were mounted. Cautiously he knocked on the wood. A click sound came from the wood and then a door appeared. “Do you have a reservation?”

Alph looked awkwardly at the man in the opening thinking, Too many to count. The thought tugged at the corner of his mouth, but he refrained from smiling. He showed the man the gold and red token.

“Mister Ortiz, please come in. We have your table ready for you.” The man closed the door behind Alph and led him to the furthest booth in the discreet restaurant. Alph scanned the restaurant as he followed. Dark wood panels and bamboo separated the tables providing the patrons with near private spaces to enjoy their meal. Alph sat down at a mahogany table, the booth lit by a lantern creating a relaxed yet tasteful ambience. The man who showed him to his table disappeared through a door to what seemed to be the office of the restaurant owner. Tranquil music muted the conversations of the other diners. Alph listened intently, the soothing notes of a flute were interrupted by pleasant trills from a stringed instrument. He sighed, the tension of his less than ordinary Tuesday gradually left his body.

“Alphonso Ortiz, or shall I call you Alph?” An elderly Japanese lady addressed him.

“Alph will be fine, ma’am.” He replied a little surprised. She smiled as she sat down across from him. She passed him his token.

“You must keep this, it will help you a great deal. My name is Kameyo.”

“Pleased to meet you,” he said. She smiled and squeezed his hand.

“This was left for you,” she said placing a lockbox on the table. “Have you ordered anything?” Alph shook his head. “I will bring the chef’s speciality. You are safe here,” she added as an afterthought before leaving him alone in the booth with the box.

Alph retrieved the key from his pocket, scanning the booth’s concealed entry to ensure no one could see him. In a flash he slipped the key into the hole, a perfect fit. He turned it with ease and lifted the black metal lid. He held his breath for a moment as he studied the content. A photograph of him and his parents when he was no older than five on a beach somewhere near mountains. He could see the peaks in the background behind the trees with a white and red church spire sticking out above the tree line. His focus shifted to the other objects. A leather-bound journal and a ring box. Alph slipped the journal into his bag, placed the photo in his wallet and opened the ring box. Inside a gold signet ring gleamed and set in the ring a clear stone glimmered. Alph tried it on his index finger then placed the ring box in his bag. He closed the lock box and sat staring at the ring on his finger. The stone grew more luminous the longer he studied it.

“You have her eyes,” Kameyo announced her return. She set the tray she was carrying down on the table as she sat down across from Alph. He smiled at her remark.

“So, you knew my mother too?” Kameyo nodded.

“We met when she visited Japan. A beautiful woman, so kind.”

“When did she leave this box with you?” Alph asked.

“A week before they disappeared,” Kameyo answered.

“Did she say anything?”

“She seemed tense, perhaps frightened. She didn’t say much only that you would come for it when the time was right.”

“Why did you say this token would help me? What does it mean?” Alph wondered revealing the gold and red token. Rolling it between his fingers as he studied the elderly woman. Kameyo glanced down, shifting in her seat, then peered around the wooden partitioning to ensure they would not be overheard.

“This is the token of the Legion of Light. I can’t tell you more about it without placing you in danger. Alph, you must be careful to who you show this token. The Legion is resourceful and powerful, but they have many enemies.”

“How did the gentleman at the door know what this meant?” he wondered.

“I told him it’s a VIP token I give to my personal guests, and I suspected you would come by soon.”

“Clever, but why did you think I would be the next one to present a token?”

“Let’s just say we have a mutual, fedora wearing, acquaintance.” Kameyo smiled slyly. Alph nodded his understanding recalling his earlier rendezvous in the park. “Enjoy your food before it get’s cold. You are always welcome here Alph, just show the token at the door. Happy birthday.” She took the empty tray and left him alone in the booth. Alph enjoyed the chef’s speciality, especially the black sesame ice-cream with HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALPH! written in red syrup on the plate. He couldn’t believe he had forgotten his own birthday. The project had been taking up a lot of my time, he thought in his defence. He couldn’t remember the last time he slept. Still, he shook his head at himself and his strange circumstances. At the very least a clandestine organisation remembered his birthday. That should make me feel extra special. Alph called a waiter for the bill just to find it already paid. He requested to speak to Kameyo, but she was no longer in the restaurant, so he decided it was time to head home bidding the friendly staff good night. Once he stepped outside a silver sedan was waiting for him. The driver opened the door for him.

“Madame Kameyo insisted,” he said as Alph hesitated, scanning the street. “Please Mister Ortiz,” he implored once more. Alph got in uncertainly. Once the door shut behind him he noticed a symbol like the one on his token dangling from the rear-view mirror.

The trip home was uneventful, the car more comfortable than the usual cabs he took–it smelt much better–and the driver never spoke another word until he bid Alph good night. Glad to be home Alph briefly scanned the quiet cul-de-sac then darted up the path through trees to his front door. The security light responded to his movement and lit up the yard. Alph slipped into his house, locked the door behind him then moved quickly to disarm the alarm system. He swiftly armed the exterior alarms only. With a sigh, he turned to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of mango juice. He sat on the kitchen counter as he sipped the juice; reflecting on the day’s events. He sat the glass down with a yawn finding his way up the stairs to his bedroom. Alph wandered into the bathroom reaching for the pillbox on the glass shelf but hesitated. He recalled the stranger’s words. Don’t take the meds, he said. With your promotion, you will move closer to the truth but you will also be in more danger than you’ve ever been.

“Well, I am being promoted. So perhaps he was onto something. Either way, one night won’t make a difference.” Alph deliberated aloud. Neglecting to take the pills he went to bed for much-deserved rest.


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Michelle Meraki

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