A soft whisper of voices agreed with him.
“Come. Sit down.” He motioned her to a chair on the same side of the desk as his own. “I need to brief you on the assignment.”
“Assignment? But…” Colli ran her fingers through her silver-white hair, pulling it out of her eyes. Maybe that would help her see what she had missed before.
“Uh huh. You jumped right into it, without knowing,” Sung moved his hands over the flat surface before them. At first it took on a clear sheen, then it clouded.
Colli started to stand, when trees formed around a high fence. “That’s out by McAllister,” she gasped.
Sung patted the back of his hand on the center of the picture. Something clanked. Colli hadn’t noticed the ring on the third finger before. A white porcelain setting with strange azure markings drew her attention. As she stared at it, the blue symbols glowed. They started to spin, round and round. The strange angular image at the center of the setting grew darker and more pronounced.
“What? Is? Going? On?” Colli forced words out with puffs of breath. The ring seemed to pull power from her. “Commander?’ She tried to stand, but her legs would not hold her upright.
“Steady.” Sung placed the hand without the ring on her shoulder, and pushed her back down in the chair.
“I wanted to share the focal center of my strength with you.” He held up his right hand. “I want it to identify you.” Again the ring overwhelmed her.
“I don’t understand.” Then as it had gone, energy coursed back through her with vigor.
“It will not solve all our problems.” Sung grinned. “But it will serve us and strengthen the powers we’ve gained from The Discipline. Someday I’ll share it with you.” He lowered his hand. “For now there’s someone I want you to meet.” He moved from behind the desk, and motioned for her to accompany him. “Mary, you stay here. We won’t be long.” He didn’t wait for a reaction. Instead he moved toward the stairs. Halfway up he stopped and turned back to her.
She staggered, trying not to bump into him. “What’s the matter?” she asked.
“Nothing.” For a moment Sung stared into her eyes. He reached into the pocket of his long black jacket. “I just thought you might like to have this.” He pulled out the coin Colli had given him. “Keep it to remind yourself of what you almost gave up.” With a flick of his thumb he sent it sailing through the air. Dim lighting sparkled from it.
It bounced off the wall with a clang, and landed in Colli’s open hand. “Thanks.” She didn’t know what else to say. Despite the warmth of the voices, she still had doubts about this choice she’d made. The coin only served to accentuate that.
“Come on.” Was all he said before he turned back to the doorway. He pushed his way through. A warm moist breeze filled with the smell of wet dirt carried through the air.
Streaks of sunlight glanced all around as she too moved out into the bright afternoon. Here thick trees grew, adding a canopy of protection from the growing heat. Variegated green foliage combined with heavy brown tree trunks, to encircle the area behind the dilapidated convenience store.
Before Colli’s eyes had a chance to adjust to the dazzling light, she felt a hand grab her arm.
“Careful, you don’t want to break a leg, do you?” A deep rich laugh stopped her forward momentum. Then the hand guided her to the left, into the shade of a bright pink flowering bush. “That’s better. Maybe you should sit down.”
Colli looked up into the most amazing black eyes she’d ever seen. Encased in a face with sharp chiseled bones, it was the eyes that kept her attention.
“Does everyone around here laugh all the time?” she said, trying to hide the quivering of her body. She pulled away from the grip on her arm.