The Merlin Project
Grace Bedrosian stood on the deck of the ship named the Time Watch, which was named in honour of the devices her ancestors had once used to focus their minds so they could travel through time as easily as walking from one room to another.
The sister ship of the Time Watch was the Timewalker, which was what her people had always been called.
Now though, humanity had moved past the time of merely recording and manipulating the events of history on Earth.
Humanity was now moving out into the stars and it was why she had been called the Star Child in the ancient prophesy.
A sigh escaped Grace as she stood looking out the wall of windows at the inky black expanse of space and she appeared so much older and graver than her twenty years should have laid on her beautiful brow.
In an attempt to hide her youth she’d taken to wearing her black travelling cloak with the hood up all the time, covering her long, dark auburn hair and shadowing her vibrant, almost glowing green eyes. But it really was no good because everyone on the two ships already knew how young she was.
After spending hours staring out at the seeming emptiness of space, with only the stars to act as beacons to guide them, Grace turned her eyes back to the deck where she stood.
To her it seemed so stark and cold with coils and python thick cables running here and there like the huge snakes they resembled, but with no heads or tails.
The smell of it reminded her of her great-grandfather’s garage, a sort of sickly sweetness of chemicals, with a greasy, oily feel to all the surfaces. The slick, foul feeling of everything she touched was so strong on her skin that it left a sour, rancid taste in her mouth.
Even the floor under her feet felt wrong, as if it was coated in something sticky, making it feel as if she’d have trouble lifting her feet. But all it really did was trip people up by catching at the souls of their boots if they didn’t pick their feet up properly.
She was told by the crew, though, that it was just the surface of the complex composite structure that incorporated an aggregate carbon fibre compound.
The only colour besides the oily grey of all the component surfaces was a fat, vertical tube that ran from the ceiling to the floor and looked to be filled with some kind of thick, glutenous liquid. It reminded her a little of the lava lamp that her mother had given her when she was a child. The liquid moved and swirled, and bubbles rose and sank, and changed colours from green to blue to purple to pink and on through the whole spectrum of the colour wheel before beginning again.
The seven casket-like capsules that stood on the deck like sentinels lined the wall of windows. And to Grace they looked like clear, empty caskets waiting for the bodies to fill them, making them complete. But it wouldn’t be dead bodies that filled those clear coffins, and the seven that were within Grace’s line of sight were only the first wave that would be peppered throughout this galaxy.
This was only the beginning of the Merlin Project.
The first few lines of the Prophesy taken from the Book of Forever ran through Grace’s mind then.
As many as the stars in the night sky they once were; Wizards and the Walkers of the Web;
Time was like to sand on the beach to them as they walked through it, seeing it, but never abusing it, they were the Guardians.
And that was what the Omega Children would be again; Wizards, Web-Walkers, and Guardians of not only history but the future of humanity.
These Gifted few were meant to follow humanity out into the universe, to guide their actions and give counsel to their leaders, just as Merlin once had with Arthur.
At the sound of someone quietly clearing their throat behind her, Grace turned to see her aunt, Abrielle Kerbesi.
They’d once been bitter rivals but now the two girls, born only a month apart, were good friends, each of them knowing, for the most part, their place in the grand scheme of things.
Abrielle was one of the Omega Children, born to be one of those Wizards and one of the Guardians.
Grace threw her hood back when she saw her aunt and embraced her even though the other girl left her hood where it was, covering her deep chestnut brown hair and shadowing her face.
Abrielle smiled but pulled away quickly, afraid that someone would see her and think less of her for showing unnecessary emotions.
It always made Grace feel a little sad when Abbie showed her fear of what other people thought of her and wondered, not for the first time, if she was right for the task ahead.
Grace asked, “Are you sure you’re ready for this? The seven of you will be all alone there for quite some time; the only fully Gifted people on the planet. You won’t be able to jump home if things get too hard.”
Abrielle bristled at the comment and with asperity in her voice, she said, “No niece, only you can do that.”
Grace sighed, why could Abbie never focus on the things that she could do instead of the things others could do.
Then, looking contrite, Abrielle said, “I’m sorry. I know you weren’t being condescending. I guess we’re both just products of our father’s attitudes. You know my father has never forgiven his son for having a child that was … more Gifted … than his, but if truth be told I was the only one that suffered for it.”
This time Grace closed her eyes as she sighed.
“How many times do I have to tell you that I’m not more Gifted than you. We are just different. And this attitude is something I could just strangle Athlai for doing to you.”
Now Abrielle smiled.
“You know, he hates it that you don’t call him grandfather and insist on calling him by his given name. He says that you could at least call him the same thing everyone else calls him.”
Grace crumpled up her pretty face in distaste then and said, “Professor?”
She chuckled without humour.
“I refuse to call that man ‘Professor’. He has never taught me anything except how not to act. And as for ‘grandfather’, my grandfather died when I was barely old enough to know who he was. Malachi was the only grandfather I will ever recognise.”
Abrielle said, “Yes, but Malachi was your great-grandfather.”
Grace’s face grew dark then and said, “Enough, there are far more important things for us to discuss than our family tree. It’s time to gather the others for your last briefing before going down to the planet in the morning.”
Again Abrielle bristled. It was very hard for her to take ‘orders’ from someone that she’d been taught by her father should have been her … her what? Her inferior? Her subordinate? But she said nothing.
The sound of other people coming into the room then made both girls turn. They saw the other six people that would be making the first trip.
First there was Pepper Fox, who looked to be in her mid-thirties, though no one was really quite sure. She had long, raven black hair and her eyes were a vibrate yellow-green which was slightly different than any of the others. Then there was Dayn Sullivan, who was only eighteen and a tiny little thing that had short blonde hair with the telltale bright green eyes that all the Omega’s but Pepper had. Next came her own niece, Seren Eleri-Bedrosian, the daughter of her older brother Ben, who was himself an Omega. She was the only redhead in the group and the youngest at only seventeen. Then came Logan Sharpe, who was twenty-five and had short brown hair but whose boyish features made him look much younger. The sixth member of the team was Ryuu Maki, who was only nineteen years old, and who’s mother was the only one of Athlai’s chosen first-wave to have a mixed-race background. He was Chinese, Japanese, and Cherokee Indian and had shoulder length straight black hair that made his green eyes really stand out. And lastly there was Bodhi Campbell, who was the oldest of the group at forty-three and had shaggy sun-bleached brown hair, and looked more like he belonged on a beach somewhere than out in space.
Looking at the others Abrielle wondered if Bodhi was going to try to take charge while they were still on the ship, the way he usually did, or if he’d wait until they were on the planet to start pushing his weight around.
She shook her head and took her place in line next to Pepper, who took her hand and gave it a little squeeze.
In mind-speak that only Abrielle could hear, she said, It’s alright, love, everything will work out as it should, you’ll see. Bodhi is going to the northern continent and we’re going to the south.
Abrielle gave Pepper’s hand a little squeeze in return then let her hand fall away. Even though she knew that no one on board cared about the relationship between the two women she was still trying to overcome the Victorian attitudes of her Sempiternal Society upbringing and training.
That was the problem with a gild that, by its very name, was eternal. Attitudes had a tendency to change very, very slowly.
With a silent harrumph Abrielle reply, That might be so but I’m not looking forward to his voice prattling on and on in my head, always trying to tell us what to do.
Grace cleared her throat to get everyone’s attention and when everyone was looking at her she said, “As you all know, you are the vanguard of the Merlin Project. You are all in a position at the forefront of the new developments and ideas on this planet. Everyone that presently lives below is, to our knowledge, Giftless. They, for the most part, live in pre-technological communities and that was the way they wanted it. It was what they chose when they were brought here. However, the Sempiternal Society has received a message asking for help, not only from this planet but from several others that have been settled over the last 100 years. We’ve come as quickly as we could but we have little idea of what actually awaits you below.
"You all have as many Gifts as you’ve been born with or have been able to learn to this point in your lives. But do not think that just because these Gifts are all that you have now, that they are all you will ever have. As my father has always said, ‘If you can understand it, you can do it.’ So be aware, do your meditation …”
Ryuu groaned but said nothing.
Grace smirked and said, “Yes, yes, Ryuu, we all know how much you love to meditate but it really is important. If you come across a need in your community, a real, tangible need, that none of your already considerable Gifts can help you with, meditate. See if you can’t find a way to do what needs to be done by …”
Dayn giggled and said, “By magic?
Grace tilted her head to one side then to the other and said, “Well, you know how much our elders dislike that word, but yes, if no other word will do, then by magic.
“You are all the ‘Merlins’ of these communities, the wizards that will … guide their leaders but not become their leaders.
“I hope you can all live with that. If not, you better speak up now because those kinds of shenanigans will not be tolerated and you really don’t want my father to come back here to deal with you.”
They all knew the stories about Indigo Bedrosian, the boy assassin, and the things he was willing and quite capable of doing when necessary.
Even Bodhi shivered at the mention of the man’s name and Grace smiled to herself at the sight.
Then, as much as she hated doing it, she scanned the others’ thoughts. She had to know how each of them was feeling, what each of them was thinking because if any of them had thoughts of conquest or of actually manipulating the leaders with mind control, she would, even at this late date, pull them from the line-up and put in one of the alternates.
She started at the head of the line with the beautiful and enigmatic Pepper Fox who’s cloak was a deep violet purple, but Grace had no worry about how well she would cope.
She’d known Pepper her whole life and knew her as well as anyone but there was a sphinx-like quality to the woman and she had a smile like the Mona Lisa that made her unfathomable to anyone that met her.
The fact that she and Abrielle were a couple had always intrigued Grace because the woman that no one ever really knew; the woman that seemed to have no past, was absolutely devoted to her aunt.
So when she slipped into Pepper’s mind and found a blank wall with just a picture of Abrielle stuck to it Grace was really not surprised and slid back out without pushing.
The next in line was Abrielle, who’s cloak was dark indigo blue and who was usually a bundle of nerves wondering what others were thinking about her.
So Grace was surprised when she slipped into her aunt’s mind and found nothing there but quiet confidence, not only in herself but also in the group as a whole. She was pleased at having been chosen for the initial trial and excited at the prospect of finally being able to put her considerable Gifts to good use.
Her father may have been a bit of a bastard elitist but her mother, Emily, was a thoroughly good person that had instilled a deep sense of duty in her only child.
Then there was little Dayn, who’s cloak was true blue, like the girl, and who was only slightly taller than a child at 152cm or not quite five feet tall.
She’d always reminded Grace of a pixie from one of the storybooks she’d had as a little girl. In fact, she’d always thought that Dayn looked exactly like what Grace pictured Peter Pan’s Tinker Belle to look like. And when Grace slid into her mind there was such a feeling of child-like excitement about the girl’s thoughts that she’d not have been surprised to see the girl jumping up and down and clapping her hands.
Dayn was the communicator of the group and could explain even the most confusing concepts so that anyone could understand them, which reminded Grace of her older brother, Ben.
Without hesitation, Grace then slid into the mind of her niece, Seren, who was dressed all in deep forest green, including her cloak. She thought this very appropriate for a girl that had been born and raised in the forest covered hill country of mid Wales at the beginning of the age of the Omegas. She was the only shape-shifter in the group, her primary animals being the red-tail hawk, like her mother and the golden tiger, like her father. And even though she had the same green eyes that all Omegas had, hers made her look very elf-like because they were slightly larger and more upward angled than normal. But though she appeared elf-like she was tall at nearly six feet. She also had the family trait of red hair, long and flowing with an odd striped effect almost like the stripes of her tiger form.
Her mind had a wildness to it but it was also structured. It was like looking at the Laws of Nature, brutal at times but also beautiful and loving at others.
Seren was quite looking forward to the challenge and the adventure of being in the first group of Merlins. She was looking forward to learning about how the cultures had changed and developed to live on the new planet.
Then Grace came to Logan Sharpe, who’s cloak was a deep golden yellow, and the moment she slid silently into his mind she smiled and wished, not for the first time, that he was not going in the first wave.
A feeling of warmth and soothing calm enveloped her as she slid in and to her surprise she was sure that he knew she was there.
Of all the Omega Children, Logan was the gentlest, most sweet-natured of the lot. He was going to make a genuinely great mentor for the leaders of his community.
After a moment, in the private part of her mind, she heard, Hello, my darling Grace. You are always so worried about how the others are coping, but it is you that I worry about.
Grace’s inner smile widened. This was why she loved Logan, but it was also why everyone loved Logan. He always spoke to people as if they were the most important person in the world and as strange as it seemed he was the only person, aside from her father, Indigo, that Bodhi Campbell was truly afraid of.
With her inner smile dampened as much as she could manage Grace thought, I’m very fine, my Logan, and it isn’t me that you should be concerned with at this moment, it is yourself and the others that you will be going planet-side with in a few hours. They will all be needing you soon enough, even Bodhi.
A silent chuckle sounded in her mind and she heard, Aye, aye, Captain, your wish is my command.
Shaking her head, Grace then moved up the line and slid as quietly as she could into Ryuu Maki’s mind, which was as different from Logan’s as a mind could get.
Ryuu, who’s cloak was orange, had a mind that was always in total chaos. She could have run an old-fashioned semi truck through his head and he wouldn’t have heard it.
He was a brilliant young scientist but it always astonished Grace that he ever accomplished anything because his mind seemed like such a random mass of information. It was no wonder the boy hated to meditate because he’d never found a way to quiet his thoughts long enough to reach any kind of inner peace.
She quietly scanned the bits and pieces of his mind that seemed to have anything to do with the Project and found nothing to worry about so left it at that. She just wasn’t sure what kind of mentor or counsellor he was going to be. His method’s were as chaotic as his thoughts but he always seemed to get people to a calm and rational decision where before there was nothing but strife.
Finally, she came to Bodhi, who’s cloak was a deep true red, and he did indeed worry Grace.
He was far more confrontational than she would have liked and no matter what anyone said he could find some way to tell them they were wrong, even if he was only restating what the person had just said in a different way.
The thing was, Bodhi could be quite a caring person, compassionate person too, and he was loyal to a fault.
His biggest problem was that he thought he was always right and only ever ‘took over’ because he honestly believed that his way was better and that his taking over was in everyone’s best interest. This made him impossible to reason with.
So when Grace slid silently into his mind she was surprised to find a lightening bolt of fear run through her and she realised that Bodhi was terrified.
Then she remembered that he had two intense phobias, claustrophobia and basiphobia: the fear of enclosed spaces and the fear of falling. So for Bodhi to climb into one of the coffin-like capsules and be jettisoned off the ship to fall to the planet below had to be the most terrifying prospect imaginable for him.
She thought about offering to translocate him down to the planet but knew what his answer would be. He’d rather die than admit to the whole ship that he was scared and to have to have Grace jump him to the surface was a disgrace he’d never be able to endure, even if the disgrace was only in his own eyes.
And if it wasn’t for the fact that she knew that each of the volunteers would be tranquilised as they were placed into the capsules she would have disqualified him.
Then she slipped out of his mind as quietly and as unnoticed as she’d gone in so that he could maintain his sense of privacy.
As she stood looking at each of the people that would soon be beginning an adventure that had taken nearly a century to implement, she was, all in all, pleased at what she was seeing. She was looking forward to revisiting this planet in a few years to see how they were all faring. It was going to be a difficult wait, though, because each of these people were her friends.
Trying to stifle a sigh, Grace said, “Alright, my darlings, it’s time for you to try to get a few hours sleep. You have a very long day ahead of you tomorrow. And if you can’t sleep at least check to make sure that you have all your personal effects ready to go and that they are all stowed safely in your capsules. Your departure time is 06:30.”
Then, without a word, Ryuu shot from the room as if he’d been scalded.
Bodhi was the next to go, shaking his head and mumbling, “That boy should never have been chosen. I’ll have to keep a close eye on him.”
When he was gone Pepper rolled her eyes and said, “Don’t worry Grace, I won’t let Bodhi get too big for his boots. He seems to think that because he has a spiritual name that it’s his god-given right to put everyone else in their place. And I know he says Ryuu shouldn’t have been chosen but …”
Abrielle chimed in to finish her sentence. “… but he really is very good at what he does.”
Pepper smiled at Abrielle as if she was an indulgent parent and said, “We’ll keep an eye on them both.”
Then she took Abrielle’s hand and the two women left, chatting quietly between them.
Dayn and Seren both stepped up to Grace then and almost together said, “Do we have to wait? Can’t we go now?”
Then Dayn giggled and clapped her hands together in imitation of praying and said, “Pleeease.”
Seren chuckled and said, “Yeah, what she said. We wanna get started as soon as possible.”
Grace groaned and shook her head. “No, you can’t. All the capsules have go at once.” And with a disapproving raised eyebrow she added, “And I think you know that. I think you can both wait a few more hours. Learning some patience wouldn’t hurt either one of you.”
Seren got a chagrined look on her face and with that whiny teenage drawl she said, “Ok, ok, jeez, we only asked.”
Then she got a winning smile on her face and the two girl’s actually skipped out of the compartment holding hands.
Grace shook her head, wondering how on earth they were ever going to mentor anyone when they were both still children.
Then, from the shadows of the bulkhead, Logan chuckled and said, “Are you absolutely sure this lot are the best Omegas for the first trial of this experiment?”
Grace sagged a little and said, “This isn’t an experiment, Logan. And I wasn’t the one responsible for choosing ‘this lot’ as you call them. Vraini was the driving force behind who was chosen and she’s the one that’s … supposed to know these things. So don’t blame me if this all turns out badly.”
Logan then moved up close to Grace, put a hand on her arm and gently said, “Ok, this defeatist attitude isn’t like you so just cut it out right now.”
Then, as he drew her into an embrace, he whispered, “I hope I don’t have to wait years to see you again, Grace. I don’t think I could stand it.”
A shiver ran up Grace’s spine and she replied, “No, you won’t. You know you won’t. So give me a kiss and be off with you. I still have a lot to do tonight.”
Logan leaned in and kissed Grace ever so lightly on the lips, then silently disappeared.
Another shiver ran up Grace’s spine as she opened her eyes and in a whisper she said, “Why on the Goddess’ green earth did I ever let myself fall in love with Logan Sharpe? I must have been mad.”
Then she sighed and went to each of the casket-like capsules and inspected them.
When she reached Seren’s capsule a horrible feeling of dread came over her and she felt a frightening presence, a presence of mal-intent. In fact, it was the presence of a man she thought had been dead since she was a baby.
To her great horror, Grace looked underneath the capsule and found a devise that the Sempiternal Society called a Ghost-Mode devise.
She thought they’d all been destroyed, along with the plans for making any more.
Grace knew that if she hadn’t found it that when Seren was jettisoned off the ship for her long fall to the planet below her capsule would have disappeared. And the reason for the devise’s name would have become very clear, very quickly because the Ghost-Mode devise would have made the capsule impossible to find, impossible to track.
Seren would have just been … gone, never to be seen again.