Mayor Trenton’s manse in Sunset Square was, in essence, a very fancy fortress.
It didn’t seem so from the outside, appearing to all observers to be a gorgeous, high-class mansion for the most important man in town. But Mayor Trenton knew he had enemies, and he feared the human “menace,” and, most importantly, he needed to watch over one of the most secure prisons in the entire universe. So he turned his home into a fortress, with only two entrances and exits, the most expensive and sturdy materials, the highest level of magical and technological security available in the Dominion, and a force of the very best bodyguards in the Dominion.
Mayor Trenton had, miraculously, survived the war against the Radiance. He’d fled his burning, crumbling manse, left the corpses of his wife and son and thirty bodyguards behind. He had, miraculously, kept the people’s favor as he led the charge to build the new Sunset Square.
He’d learned from tragedy, from defeat, from destruction. He would never again be destroyed, never again hold his loved ones in his arms as they breathed their last.
Hence the fortress.
The Brig had been designed and built with the manse in mind. Mayor Trenton’s emotions – whether they were paranoia, or rage, or cynicism, or a mixture of them all – had instilled in him a desire to develop a prison that could house all his enemies. The Brig was designed to be the most impenetrable, most inescapable prison in all the universe. When it was completed, Mayor Trenton had made the bid he’d planned all along: he went to the Crystal King and asked him to turn over the Radiance to him.
The Crystal King had refused.
Even though the Brig had been designed with the Radiance in mind, those villains had already been locked up in the Fault Line Dungeon. And, at least in the Crystal King’s eyes, the Dungeon was far more worthy a holding cell for the King and his agents than the Brig.
Some would argue that the Crystal King had been wrong – that, had the Radiant King and his agents been transferred to the Brig, they never would have escaped, and the Crystal King would still be sitting comfortably on his throne. The Brig’s status as “second-most secure” prison in all the Dominion was a contentious one for many, and the citizens of Sunset Square absolutely believed the Brig was the very best there was.
Whichever prison was more secure than the other, the truth remained that the Brig was nearly impenetrable. Built in tandem with the Mayor’s manse, the two structures intertwined with each other – in many ways, Mayor Trenton’s manse and the Brig were one in the same. But the Brig extended further underground than the manse’s basements. City planning accounted for this, and no sewer lines or maintenance tunnels ran within a square mile of the Brig’s underground areas.
At least, that was how it was supposed to be.
It had taken Caleb, Midnight, and Alexandra quite a long time to cook up a plan to infiltrate it and escape with Mineria. What aided them was the fact that Alexandra had planned ahead. Why she knew of a tunnel that ran directly underneath the Brig’s bottom level, she wouldn’t say, and perhaps she couldn’t even remember. From the way she described it, it sounded as if she’d personally asked for it to be built, though its function couldn’t possibly aid her – the tunnel wasn’t in any way connected to her mansion, so she would never be able to make use of it. Midnight thought it might be that Alexandra had already experienced a future where an attempt to rescue Mineria had failed, so she’d had the tunnel constructed in order to prevent that from happening. No matter the reason, it existed, and it would be their very best chance to infiltrate the Brig.
Naturally, Alexandra couldn’t go with them. But she’d given them one very helpful ally: one of her own handmaidens, Adelaida.
“I still don’t know why you’re wearing a dress,” Midnight said.
The trio were traversing the rough, dark tunnel very slowly, counting their steps as they went. Their entrance into the Brig wasn’t obviously marked, so they had to be careful they ended up in the right spot. Though Caleb and Midnight had clothes they could easily move in, Adelaida was still in her black dress.
“It’s the most comfortable clothing I have,” Adelaida said. She pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose, eyeing Midnight with a distasteful glare. “Don’t mind me, Lancelot. I did not come expecting a picnic.”
“Well you could’ve fooled me,” Midnight said. “What can you even do, anyway? Alexandra wouldn’t say anything.”
“You will see my skills in action if they are so required,” Adelaida said. “I am not supposed to show off, or brag. It’s very unladylike, and My Lady wouldn’t stand for it if I were to sully her name with such brazen acts of selfishness and arrogance.”
“She’s got you wrapped around her finger,” Midnight said, rolling his eyes.
“You would do well to not speak so harshly of My Lady,” Adelaida said, her eyes steely, never leaving Midnight. “She is your sister, and she leads a life of far more class than you seem capable of.”
“Yeah, well –” Midnight started.
“This is totally unnecessary,” Caleb said, stepping between the pair, smiling at them as he held out his hands. “Right? We don’t need to be so hostile. All three of us are here for the same goal. Let’s act like it, okay?”
Midnight stared at Caleb. “Your glasses look funny.”
Caleb sighed, adjusting his large-framed glasses. “Don’t bring me into the arguing,” he said. “Plus, I can see better with these than my old ones. Come on. We have a mission, let’s stick to it. And while we’re at it, let’s be grateful for the assistance your sister provided.”
Midnight frowned, turning away and continuing onward without a word.
“Insufferable fool,” Adelaida whispered under her breath.
“I heard that,” Midnight said.
“How many steps so far?” Caleb asked.
“Two thousand and forty-three,” Midnight said, his footsteps and voice echoing in the stone passage.
Caleb smiled. “Not much farther, then.”
Somehow, Midnight and Adelaida stopped bickering for the rest of the walk, until they reached two thousand, three hundred and fifty steps – their destination.
“Caleb, you any good at working with stone?” Midnight asked.
Caleb shook his head. “My Manipulation Magic is complete garbage,” he said. “I studied it for an entire semester and couldn’t even bend a piece of paper. I’ll leave this part to you.”
Midnight smirked. “Fair enough.” He pressed his palms against the low ceiling. They pulsed once, with black light, and the stone began to part in four directions, creating a square opening. Despite solid stone shifting in different directions, the movements were nearly silent – a very faint grinding noise could be heard, if Caleb concentrated, but it was surprisingly quiet.
That was a good thing. Sound could give them away far too easily, and they’d barely even started.
Just like Alexandra had instructed, the square opening revealed a metal ladder leading up a cylindrical passage, stopping at a metal trapdoor about thirty feet up.
“I’ll go first,” Midnight said, but Adelaida stepped past him, leaping up to the ladder and beginning to climb. He growled under his breath, glaring after her, but she never offered a single word as she led the way.
“Come on, let’s go,” Caleb said, offering a reassuring smile. “I’ll go last.”
“Remember,” Midnight said, as he started climbing, “no Time Magic. And if you can help it, no fighting at all. If a fight does break out, what do you do?”
“Keep my distance and chain people up,” Caleb said. He hopped up after Midnight, climbing the cool metal rungs.
Midnight nodded. “You got it.”
“I thought we were trying to be quiet,” Adelaida said.
“You –” Midnight started.
“She has a point,” Caleb whispered. Midnight glared at him, but kept his mouth shut.
At the top, Adelaida opened the trapdoor. After a brief survey of the area, she climbed up and out and motioned for Midnight and Caleb to follow.
They were inside the Brig.
Well, we started out great. Let’s hope it stays this way.
Looking around, Caleb found they were in some sort of storage closet. Three walls had built-in shelves covered in cleaning supplies, while the fourth held a door. It was dark – a single lamp overhead was unlit, but somehow they were able to see enough to navigate the small space. When Caleb closed the trapdoor behind them, it merged seamlessly with the floor, until he couldn’t even tell it was there anymore.
“One moment,” Adelaida said, holding up one hand to the others to wait, while she pressed her other hand against the door from the closet. The hand against the door pulsed twice with golden light, and Adelaida nodded. “Let’s go.”
They exited into a hall that was surprisingly bright for a prison. The floor was tiled marble, and the walls and ceiling were white with golden tracery. The hall curved both left and right, and there were no other visible doors beyond where the hall curved out of sight. Light, bright and clean, filled the air with no discernible source.
The Brig was a massive cylinder, with nine floors, each floor with a perimeter hallway – a “ring” – with all cells contained within the perimeter, toward the center.
There were no branching paths, no corners, no hidden alcoves.
Nowhere to hide.
“There’s a patrol,” Adelaida said. “Four guards in two pairs, traveling around the ring in opposite directions. Both are coming towards us.”
“If they see us for even a second, alarms will fill the place,” Midnight said. “And same goes for if we fight them. You have any moves for us?”
Adelaida nodded. “Of course I do.” She adjusted her glasses which pulsed with a silver light. “Stay close to me.” When Caleb and Midnight each took only one small step towards her, she grabbed each of them by the arm and pulled them almost into an embrace. “Don’t move.”
“You didn’t say we had to be uncomfortably close,” Midnight said.
“Don’t talk, either,” Adelaida said coolly.
The air around the trio shimmered with the same silver light that had surrounded Adelaida’s glasses. After that light faded, Caleb realized that the space before them looked strange, like there was a rounded panel of warped, inconsistent glass between them and the rest of the hallway.
“Not a single movement,” Adelaida said softly. “Not until I say so.”
Caleb tried not to hold his breath, knowing that could be worse, especially with the shape his lungs were in – for all he knew, trying to hold his breath would break him even more.
It’s really annoying not knowing exactly how fragile I am. I’m going to have to rediscover my limits – but this is not the time or the place for that. I just need to stay calm for now.
Footsteps sounded from both sides of the hall, and that sound was as warped as the air in front of Caleb, sounding like it came through a waterfall – gurgling and echoing in a rather unsettling fashion. Then the pairs of guards appeared – one coming from the left, the other from the right.
The Brig’s guards looked rather imposing. Even through the warped glassy air, Caleb could get a pretty good look at them. They were broad-shouldered and tall, and looked almost like identical quadruplets. They were dressed head-to-toe in white: suit, tie, pants, shoes, even gloves. Their hair and eyes were also completely white. That fact became tremendously unsettling when the pair from the right passed the hidden trio. One of the guards looked straight at Caleb, and those white, empty eyes sent a shock down Caleb’s spine that nearly made his knees buckle. The gaze lasted only a second, but it was enough to make several things very clear to Caleb.
These guards could not be bought. They could not be coerced.
And they absolutely could not be fought.
Even at Caleb’s best, even with Time Magic available to him, he was certain he would have stood no chance against even one of these men in white. Those eyes seemed empty at first glance, but as soon as Caleb saw them up close, he realized they were full of power.
The Brig was perfectly guarded. Their only chance at success in this mission lay in not being detected at all.
The first patrol passed without seeing the trio, and then the second pair came past. Again, the guard closest to their group turned his head and, for a brief second, seemed to stare right at Caleb. But then he looked away, and the pair kept walking.
Once both patrols had vanished around the ring hallway, Adelaida lowered the strange, glassy shield. “Let’s move,” she said.
“What are those men?” Caleb asked in a whisper. “Their eyes… and everything else about them…”
“I’ll explain later,” Midnight said, his voice soft and, for a brief moment, trembling. “If you’re lucky, this is the only place you’ll ever see them. Just know that the impression you got of them is exactly correct.” He paused for a moment, his eyes flickering with indiscernible emotion. “They’re more dangerous than you can imagine.”
The trio headed left, towards Mineria’s cell. She was confined on the bottom floor – the most secure floor, or so it would be if there wasn’t a secret tunnel underneath it – which was normally reserved only for the most dangerous, violent criminals.
It had, in fact, long been reserved for the Radiant King.
Why Mineria had been kept here was beyond Caleb. Midnight had suggested perhaps Mayor Trenton was succumbing to some sort of madness. The reason didn’t matter. What mattered was they, luckily, had their own convenient secret passage. Having seen the men in white, Caleb heavily doubted they would have stood any chance of making it down all nine floors, had they been forced to start from the top.
They passed three white metal doors, and then stopped at the fourth. Alexandra had explained before that individual cells were never guarded. There was a strong confidence in the Brig’s security and locking mechanisms, for one. And the design of the corridors meant that no one trying to break in could effectively hide, and a patrol would be along before they ever had a chance to break into a cell – if they even could.
Alexandra placed one hand against the door, while holding her glasses with the other. Her hand pulsed gold, and her glasses pulsed silver. And then Adelaida’s face changed to an expression of puzzlement. For several moments she didn’t say anything. Then she closed her eyes. Her glasses glowed with silver light, and her hand with gold, for several seconds, before the lights faded.
“Mineria’s been moved,” Adelaida said. “This cell is empty.”
“Where did they take her?” Caleb asked.
Adelaida looked up at the ceiling. “The very center.”
“So they…” Midnight started, shaking his head. “They must have known we were coming. I thought they didn’t know about the passage from below.”
“If they did, why isn’t this floor more heavily guarded?” Caleb asked.
“To lull us into a false sense of security,” Midnight said, gritting his teeth and glaring at the door to the empty cell.
“There’s more,” Adelaida said. “I recognize their presence, as they all feel alike, even if I can’t discern who the individuals are. But there are four of the Radiant King’s agents above us. They’re still in the Mayor’s manse, but they were clearly approaching the entrance to the Brig.”
“Four?” Midnight asked, his face flashing with anger. “You’ve got to be kidding. There’s no way we can fight them, not here.”
“And not as we are,” Adelaida said, nodding to Caleb.
“Wait, how are they even in the manse?” Caleb asked. “They’re human, right? That’s why I couldn’t enter.”
“Patrols,” Adelaida said, pushing herself and the other two against the wall, pulling Midnight and Caleb up against her on either side as she brought up her warped shield again. Long, tense seconds ticked by, and Caleb kept his eyes on the floor.
Or at least, he meant to. But when the first patrol passed, something stirred inside him. It felt… wrong. Like something was creeping at his spine, pulling at his soul, forcing him to do things he didn’t want to.
Unbidden, Caleb looked up – straight into the white eyes of a passing guard.
Once again, the gaze only lasted a second. Once again, the guard looked away and passed by without doing anything else.
But Caleb nearly lost his nerve. What was that sensation? Why was he unable to look away?
What were these men, and why did they keep looking at him and no one else?
The second patrol passed, with the same results. One guard – only one, as before – looked Caleb straight in the eyes, and then looked away. Caleb’s legs felt weak, his spine ached, and a cold sweat broke out across his skin.
The guards were gone, and Adelaida lowered the shield.
“Who knows why humans are roaming free in the manse,” Midnight said. “Maybe Trenton’s joined them. Maybe they found something we couldn’t. Let’s just keep going.”
“Why do the guards keep looking at me?” Caleb asked, his voice a hoarse whisper. His mouth had gone dry.
“What are you talking about?” Midnight asked. Adelaida also gave Caleb a puzzled expression.
What… is going on here?
“So we have to go up,” Midnight said. “The stairs are the worst parts of this blasted prison.”
“Those and the cells themselves,” Adelaida said.
“We don’t have a choice, though,” Midnight said. “They’re not much farther, right?”
Adelaida nodded, leading the way further along the corridor. Caleb hesitated before his first step, wondering if his legs would give out beneath him, but he managed, and each new step was easier.
But a seed of unease had been planted deep within him.
“How do we get past the traps?” Midnight asked. He shot a glance Adelaida’s way. “I’m assuming you have some way of detecting them?”
Adelaida adjusted her glasses. “That’s why My Lady sent me with you,” she said. “But bypassing them is the difficult part.”
“They activate on contact, right?” Midnight asked. He looked back at Caleb. “You can use those discs of yours as platforms for us. We won’t ever have to touch the stairs.”
Caleb stared at Midnight, for several minutes unable to find his voice. He nodded. “Right. I can do that.”
Keep it together, Caleb. Your team needs you. Don’t worry about the guards. So what if they look at you? They haven’t done anything about it. The others haven’t noticed it. It’s probably your imagination. Just calm yourself. Don’t let the others down.
They reached the stairs – a slightly curving ascent, wide and ominous. From the bottom, the trio could see the top, and there were no visible signs of traps.
“It almost looks inviting,” Midnight said. “If it didn’t have this sense of dread surrounding it.”
Adelaida adjust her glasses, and they pulsed with silver light. “Caleb, are you ready?” she asked. “The patrols will be back soon. We should be quick.”
Caleb nodded, clutching his pocket watch and focusing on the stairs. Adelaida called out the presence of traps – they were like landmines, hidden beneath the surface, and activated on contact. They made sure to completely avoid the most dangerous and most sensitive, in case just being close could set them off, and found the safest path up to the top. Caleb put his mobility discs in place: fifteen shining white discs in all, most of them close enough to simply step from one to the other, with the largest gap being just a short jump.
“Ladies first,” Midnight said, gesturing to Adelaida.
“Let’s hurry,” Adelaida said, not deigning to look at Midnight. She went first up the shining path, with Caleb following after her, and Midnight taking up the rear. At the top, Adelaida hurried Caleb to the side wall, and as soon as Midnight was up, Caleb dismissed the discs and Adelaida raised her shield.
They barely made it. Two patrols – pairs, just like the floor below – came by on this floor. Caleb steeled himself, not looking away, not altering his breathing, doing his best to stay calm.
As soon as the first guard passing looked at him, though, Caleb nearly fainted. The intensity of the gaze was like a physical force, shattering his will and attempting to force Caleb to his knees. A slight movement from Adelaida – she grabbed Caleb, supporting him by the arm – and the guard’s gaze lingered just a fraction longer than previous stares had.
But he and his partner passed. The second patrol passed as well, and it took all of Caleb’s will not to lean on Adelaida more.
And then the hall was clear. Adelaida lowered her shield.
“What the heck’s going on with you, kid?” Midnight asked, taking Caleb by the arm as they started around the left side of the corridor.
“They look at me,” Caleb said, catching his breath. He raised a hand to wipe sweat from his forehead. “It’s… I don’t… I don’t think I can stand it.”
“Then don’t look at them,” Midnight said.
“I’ve tried,” Caleb replied. “They… it’s like something forces me to look at them. I can’t avoid it. I don’t know… I don’t know why it affects me so much.”
“And I haven’t even seen them turn their heads,” Midnight said, eyes narrowing in thought.
“Neither have I,” Adelaida said. “But we cannot linger. We need to keep going. Caleb, at the next patrol, face the wall. Lancelot and I will hold you up. See if that helps you.”
Caleb felt embarrassed for being so weak. But what else could he do?
He had to remind himself that he wasn’t in this alone. He didn’t have to rely on his own strength.
And thank goodness for that. I’m a wreck.
They were halfway to the stairs before the next patrol came by. Caleb was forced against the wall by his companions as Adelaida raised her shield. Both Midnight and Adelaida had their hands on him, supporting him – and pushing him against the wall – by his back and arms. Caleb started to close his eyes, but instead kept them open. The last time he’d tried resisting, it had been worse than meeting their gaze head-on.
The footsteps came closer. Caleb breathed steadily, found it calming to stare at the white and gold surface of the wall.
The steps came the closest, and Caleb suddenly felt a shock run down his entire being. It lanced through him, from his head, down his spine, through his legs, and from his feet to the floor. Caleb’s nerves threatened to shut down, and his vision blurred, blackened, and he fought for consciousness. Though he didn’t physically feel himself grow limp, he felt the hands on him push the slightest bit harder.
He managed. Both patrols passed, and Caleb stayed upright. But when Adelaida lowered her shield and started to lead forward, Caleb found it was much harder to make his feet work.
“Come on, Caleb,” Midnight said.
“I…” Caleb started, then shook his head. “I don’t know if I can. Maybe you should just –”
“You fool,” Midnight said, scoffing. He strode over to Caleb, turned his back to him, then knelt down for a moment. Suddenly, Caleb was hauled up, until he was sitting piggyback-style on Midnight’s back.
“You…” Caleb started.
“We need you,” Midnight said, “in case you hadn’t noticed. And I’m not finished with you. Don’t you dare give up.”
Adelaida led on while Midnight followed, carrying Caleb on his back. Caleb found himself smiling, fighting against laughter.
I haven’t done this since I was in middle school. The last time I was involved in piggyback rides, I was giving them to Delilah.
Thanks, Mister Midnight. I won’t give up.
My legs might. But when that happens, I’m glad you can carry me.
They reached the stairs, and once again Adelaida called out trap locations, and Caleb made a path for them. Midnight even carried Caleb up the Mobility discs, and Caleb bounced along on his back, fighting even more not to laugh.
He’d always been dreadfully ticklish. And in his current weakened state, he’d grown a bit loopy. But laughter would have to wait. It would be far too dangerous to laugh here.
Here on the seventh floor, they had more time before the first patrol arrived. This time, Midnight leaned back against the wall, effectively pinning Caleb in place. Even if Caleb’s whole body went limp, he wouldn’t be able to fall.
But Caleb wasn’t about to give up. He fixed his gaze forward, ready and waiting for the guards to pass by. Here, the guards were moving at such a pace and pattern that they would pass the hidden trio at the exact same time.
Would it be worse? Would it happen at all?
And most of all – why was it happening at all? Why did no one else see it?
Focus on being curious. That’s the best way to ignore your fears.
Four men in white passed the shield. Just as they came by the trio, two of the four guards suddenly looked straight at Caleb.
What is this feeling?
Caleb’s entire body flooded with pressure, with a heavy sense of… Caleb couldn’t place it. But he felt weak, and crushed, not from an outside force, but something within. Something was infecting him, seeping into him, threatening to tear him apart from the inside.
But it wasn’t pain.
It was something deeper, more psychological than physical.
Is that it? Is this all in my head?
The guards passed, until they were out of sight and Adelaida lowered her shield. Caleb collapsed against Midnight, gasping for breath.
“Caleb,” Midnight said calmly, kneeling down and dropping Caleb against the wall. He stood up and looked down at him. “What’s going on?”
“I don’t…” Caleb started, shaking his head. “I don’t know. I don’t understand it. Why do they keep looking at me? And why… why does it fill me with such… such pressure? Such… dread?”
Midnight knelt down, his hair shading his white eyes. The tiny black points in the center of each eye stared at Caleb, and Caleb stared back at them. “You’re afraid,” Midnight said softly.
Caleb nodded, looking away. “I know,” he said. “I know, but I…”
“You know what it feels like,” Midnight said. “You’ve had them look at you every single time. You’ve experienced it. So you know what to expect. You know it’s strange, and you know that we don’t know what’s going on, and can’t even see what you see.” He stood. “So stand up.”
Caleb stared up at Midnight. “What?”
“You know what to expect,” Midnight said. “So stand up. Face it. Don’t be afraid.”
“Don’t be afraid?” Caleb asked. “What… I can’t help that.”
“Fear is a choice,” Midnight said. “Danger, pain, the unknown, all of that is real and unavoidable. But fear is you. Fight it. Reject it. Cast it off. Take the pain and the pressure and whatever else is happening to you, but don’t fear it.”
“I can’t –”
“You can, or I’ll leave you behind!” Midnight’s rebuke was harsh, though he kept his voice low so as not to alert the guards. “Stop being afraid of this, Caleb, or I’ll personally deliver you to the guards you’re so afraid of. I promise you that.”
Caleb and Midnight stared at each other for a very long time in silence. It couldn’t have been as long as it felt – the patrols hadn’t returned – but Caleb struggled internally with Midnight’s words.
How do I not –
Caleb stopped that train of thought. When they’d first seen the men in white, when Midnight had spoken of them, Caleb had seen it in his teacher’s eyes.
Mister Midnight had been afraid of these men, too.
But he stood tall, while Caleb crumpled to the ground uselessly.
I don’t know how. How does he do it? How does he stand tall?
Midnight held out a hand. “I’ll help you up once,” he said softly. “If you fall again because of fear, I’m leaving you behind. Make your choice.”
Caleb let out a long, slow breath. He reached out his hand, and let Midnight pull him to his feet.
“Patrol’s coming soon,” Adelaida said. “We can get a bit farther if we hurry.”
Midnight kept staring at Caleb, waiting for his decision.
Caleb nodded. “Let’s go.”
They made it about ten more paces before they were forced to hide behind Adelaida’s shield. Caleb stood between Adelaida and Midnight, unsupported. When the guards came around – this time the patrols didn’t perfectly intersect, so the pair from the left came first – Caleb watched them the entire way. He kept his eyes on their warped, white forms, and forced himself to stand tall, to breathe normally, to keep his eyes open.
The guard closest to him stared at him, his pure white eyes meeting Caleb’s. Intensity, pressure, feelings that Caleb couldn’t describe, that ran deep and strange and wrong, flooded him.
But he didn’t collapse. His knees threatened to buckle, his spine ached, his head pounded.
But he didn’t fall.
The same went for the next pair, and when Adelaida lowered her shield, Caleb walked with his partners solidly, eyes forward and focused.
They reached the stairs, and Adelaida puzzled over them for a moment. She cast a shield, just in time as the patrols from the sixth floor, up above them, passed the stairs.
At this distance, the closest guard of each pair still turned and looked at Caleb for one long, lingering second.
The pressure came. The unknown, The shock. Something burrowed at his soul.
But Caleb stood tall. He took the sensations, and with every fiber in his being he struck back against the fear that threatened to overtake him.
The look from the guards was real – he was certain now that he wasn’t imagining it. The deep, intense, unknown feelings within his body were also completely real.
But fear – fear was up to him.
Had he been alone, he wouldn’t have been able to bear it. Had he not had Midnight with him to tell him the truth, he wouldn’t have been able to bear it. Had he not been faced with the importance of their mission, the fact that if he failed, his team would fail, and Mineria would fall into enemy hands, while Caleb and the others would fall into the hands of the men in white, he wouldn’t have been able to bear it.
But circumstances were his ally. His teammates were his strength.
And Caleb learned a powerful truth: fear was difficult to overcome. It seemed like a response, a reflex, something completely beyond one’s control.
But it wasn’t.
Fear was a choice. He knew he’d never be able to always, every time, choose not to be afraid. He recognized his own weakness.
But here, in this moment, when it counted more than ever…
He could be brave.