We Can See in the Dark… Can You?

Jason took the train home to Roland's apartment and admitted himself with his key. It was now two hours before dawn. He had plenty of time.

He walked into Roland's bedroom, turned on the light, and felt around behind a cabinet. When he withdrew his hand, it was clutching a five-foot aluminum staff. This was the only one of Roland's magical tools that Jason had chosen to leave behind, for although it was the most powerful of the three, its size made it rather unwieldy.

The staff had three uses. Firstly, if the correct end was pointed at a foe, a film of black slime would magically form over the target's eyes, blinding them. Secondly, if the other end was pointed at some type of magical energy, the spell would be canceled, though this power used up more of the staff's finite store of energy than the first did. Finally, if push came to shove, the staff could be used to inflict blunt trauma upon the nearest convenient part of an opponent's body.

Next, Jason got a baseball cap and some duct tape. With that and his flashlight, he constructed a crude sort of headlamp. The brim of the cap sank a bit from the weight of the flashlight, but at least it left his hands free for the staff.

Jason then took the opportunity to nap for an hour. Or at least, he tried to. After a few minutes, he realized his efforts were in vain—he was much too excited, apprehensive, and nervous. He paced around anxiously, twirling the staff, as his thoughts twirled in his mind. Soon, it was an hour before dawn. Jason put the staff in a cardboard box to make it slightly less conspicuous, and set off for Ampersand.

Once quite arrived, Jason disposed of the box and resumed his hiding-place in the bushes. Hiding was an especially good idea now, when the early birds were heading off for work. He waited and listened. Just as the sun began to peek over the horizon of its planar bed, he heard something. He turned on the necklace.

"'Bout time." said Jake. "So, why don't you explain yourself, sir?"

"Oh my." said Roland.

Jason didn't tarry to listen more. Roland was awake; now was the time to strike. He deactivated the Hearing Charm and scaled up the tree. The lab he'd been in before was empty; the lights were still off; the window was still closed. Very carefully, Jason reached through the hole and pulled the window up from the inside—just a little; it was hard to get much leverage—then stuck his fingers into the narrow gap he'd made and pulled the window all the way up. He leapt lightly in, closed it behind him, and hid behind a bench. He listened with the necklace and heard nothing but the men talking in the room where Roland was. So far, he'd avoided detection. He focused on the conversation:

"…said I'd go with him."

It was Roland, sounding very meek. That couldn't be a good sign. With any luck, Jason could give him a chance to escape. Still hiding, Jason tapped his staff on the wall a few times, loudly. No response. He tapped again.

"What's that sound?" said Tom.

"Go find out." said Jake.

There was the sound of footsteps as Tom walked through the hall. Jason began to get goose-bumps. He turned off the necklace, so he could hear any unexpected sounds. Once Tom walked inside and was as far into the room as he was going to get, Jason sprang into action. He snapped his headlamp on, jumped up, and pointed his staff at the guard. Tom was instantly blinded; he shouted something, dropped his gun and clawed at his eyes. Jason dashed through the door and slammed it shut behind him.

Now that the door blocked the early-morning light that leaked in through the lab's window, it was pitch-black in the hallway but for Jason's flashlight. It was also far from quiet. Roused by the ruckus, a chorus of shoes slapped against the floor, coming from both ends of the hallway.

Jason used the necklace to home in on the men's' speech once again, not to hear what they were saying but to determine their location. They were in a room a couple of doors to his right. Jason rushed in that direction, waving the blinding end of his staff at the men in the darkness beyond the flashlight-beam. He could hear cries and thuds as they crashed into one another. He reached the door he wanted without ever seeing any of them or being shot at, though he could hear the blinded men regrouping, and the men on his left continued to advance. He swung the door open and ran inside.

This room was the twin of the one he'd entered from the window: a dark, dusty lab. It had two occupants. One man, assumedly Jake, was in the center of the room. He was middle-aged, and he wore the green goggles Jason had seen on the guards, along with an expression of complete and utter disbelief. He was holding a large crystalline sphere that glowed faintly with a ghostly blue light. The room was windowless, so the sphere was the only source of illumination save Jason's flashlight. No, wait—the other man was standing against the wall. He was bound to it by loops of yellow light that encircled his wrists and ankles—magical shackles, Jason supposed. It was Roland. He looked even more surprised than Jake.

Jason took all this in in a second. Quickly, he blinded the man and pointed the dispelling end of the staff at one of Roland's handcuffs. It disappeared. Then, the staff suddenly glowed blue. Jason dropped it in surprise, and saw a line of energy connecting it to Jake's crystal ball. The glowing stopped; a moment later, the sphere flashed. Jason was blinded. He hands flew to his eyes, and there, indeed, was some kind of goo. He screamed and ran to one side of the room, trying to get away from Jake. He crashed into a bench, just catching himself from falling.

Roland shouted. Something exploded, and some guards cried out. Jason had the presence of mind to use his necklace to focus on Jake. Footsteps! The man was blind, too, but he was coming after Jason. Fortunately, the Hearing Charm gave Jason a good idea of his position. Jason ran around Jake and felt on the shelves; he found an empty beaker and tossed it at his foe. A crash rang out. The man swore and exclaimed "A Healing Charm!" At once, the necklace stopped working, and Jake spoke the command word for it! Sobbing, Jason ran again, though now, the man knew where he was. Jason crashed into something; he fell to the floor; Jake was getting closer every second.

At that moment, Jason had a stroke of inspiration. He took a deep breath and shrieked as loud as he possibly could. The man shouted; there was the sound of glass smashing, followed by an explosion. Jason was knocked aside by the force of the blast; he rolled across the floor and hit a wall. He heard Roland let off a flurry of spells. After a pause, someone gripped his hand, and Roland cast another spell. All of the sounds around him suddenly changed. Roland released his grip and cast another spell, and Jason could see again!

He was lying on the floor of a hospital waiting room. Roland knelt beside him. It would be an understatement of epic proportions to say that everyone else in the room was surprised.