The Wizard and the Torch

by Flaulus

Chapter 14

Malcolm woke up first, laying thoughtfully waiting for Gene to wake up. There was no doubt Gene was getting used to owning slaves, and his handling of Baydon had made a deep impression on the others. Baydon was struggling to survive, barely having enough to eat. Word was spreading about Gene's ideas and as soldiers returned, many were impressed at how few had died. Scars on captured slaves showed injuries which should have killed them, but they were fit and well and would fetch good prices. Their futures were something of a lottery, some would go to the mines and while it may seem odd, lucky ones would be bought by poorer households. They were lucky because they would be treated like members of the family and live with them while slaves owned by higher status households would be more remote and treated more like property. Gene's slaves loved his relaxed attitudes and Baydon's treatment was a warning not to take advantage of his kindness.

Malcolm was also thinking about his own future. And it was far less secure than he would have liked. He was learning to run a house so if he was sold, he was bound to be used as a house or body slave. However, being owned by Gene made him an unknown quantity, especially since their relationship was widely known. How much of his behaviour was due to a wizard's spell? Was he as good without the wizard's magic to help him? How would he settle down after being in such a favoured position? He also had to admit he loved Gene in ways a slave should never love his master and was treated too much like an equal.

Of course, if Gene stayed there was no problem, but Gene still missed his old life and was planning visits. He was talking about bringing other wizards, boys his age and as wise he was. Why would he stay interested in Malcolm, who would seem more like an ignorant peasant?

There was a bond between Craig and Gene which made Malcolm's position less secure, but Malcolm smiled to himself. While Baydon had been cursed by getting exactly what he wanted, Malcolm was cursed by being higher status than most of the high and mighty who made up the City Father's court so if he fell, many would not be satisfied until he was drowning in the mud. He was worried about what powers the wizard soldiers had. Gene called them: police, but the name did not matter; the trouble they could cause did. Malcolm relaxed, forgetting his doubts as Gene stirred, pulling them closer. Whatever the future held, he was safe with the boy he loved.

Tom was adapting to a strange life where he might spend weeks in his own time yet only a few hours or even minutes passed for Gene.

"I'm not doing a seven-day week any more." Tom said on one occasion, "It's more like twenty-one days and do you know what? My office figures have improved. I'm so used to giving orders here and having them obeyed, it's carried over to work. There's something else, I have to spend time getting orientated after each visit here, so I'm checking work more carefully. I'm leaving for home tonight, and I'll set up that meeting with Sergeant Willis. I think he'll be disappointed, he's not going to find a murder, or a kidnapping, but once his report is filed, the police will lose interest. I think they're expecting to visit a squat full of drug supplies so this place is going to be something of a shock."

Sergeant Willis had three cases going nowhere, but he was under pressure from his superiors. The chief suspect in all three cases was Craig's father involving burglaries of wealthy citizens, who all knew the Chief Constable through their golf club. Craig's father was not bright enough to disable alarm systems so there was some mystery who his accomplice was. The burglaries were linked to Craig's father, because he ran a small garden business, and the victims were his clients. Other burglaries fitted the pattern, but the victims had less influence. Craig was considered bright enough to be the electronics expert but at his age, was probably too inexperienced. However, it made Craig a person of interest and needed to be interviewed. Finding Craig, and checking his whereabouts did not warrant a formal interview at the station, providing his alibi could be verified. An invitation to visit a suspect's accommodation was unusual but gave the sergeant a chance to look around.

Sergeant Willis followed Tom's car as it turned into a narrow country lane, he turned to his colleague.

"I've never been out here, but I thought it was just woodland. Keep your eyes peeled."

At first, they thought it was smoke, but it lacked the acrid smell, so it could have been fog. As it cleared, so they drove out of the wood and onto a road except it was a scene from some sand-and-sandals movie. Theirs were the only motorised vehicles, others were horse-drawn while a few could have been pulled by slaves. No-one seemed to wear much more than a simple tunic while most were naked, including the children who crowded around Tom's car forcing it to stop. Tom handed out sweets until he could move slowly on while the two policemen watched, baffled.

"What do you make of it, Jeff?" Sergeant Willis asked?

His colleague shrugged. "No idea. It's a hippy commune but why hasn't anyone seen it before."

"Commune?" Sergeant Harry Willis exclaimed, "Since when did communes have city walls and guards on the gate? Is that an escort party?"

He was looking at four soldiers, wearing just loincloths, swords with bows and arrows, taking position either side of but a little ahead of the cars.

"It's everyone being naked I don't understand unless it's a film set for the biggest porn movie ever made." Constable Jeff Darby exclaimed, "Have you noticed the collars?"

"I'm more worried about the swords. Call for backup."

"The radio's dead, and the phone's got no signal. We're in one hell of a dead spot if nothing works. What do we do?"

"I don't think we've got any choice." Sergeant Willis replied, "Mr. Sullivan doesn't seem worried so let's play along and not antagonise anyone."

They pulled up outside an imposing villa, watching as three boys, naked and definitely underage stood ready to open the doors for them.

"We're getting the red carpet treatment in your honour." Tom chuckled, "You've probably noticed, we're not in Kansas any more."

Harry smiled, nodding in agreement while Jeff did not understand the remark, but listened as Tom added, "We're not in Oz either, but you're about to meet the local wizards."

As they passed through the entrance hall into a side room, Gene hurried over to greet them.

"This is my son, Gene and the local wizard. You probably recognise him, and the other two from the pictures they put online."

Sergeant Willis and Gene shook hands.

"Make yourself comfortable." Gene said, "We haven't invented decent furniture yet but the cushions are comfortable enough."

"Thank you." Sergeant Willis said as they settled, "Two things are bothering me. Two boys are involved in a knife fight and then disappear before we can fully investigate. They appear on social media and seem to be in a just-legal, romantic relationship. I mean you're only just turned sixteen. The other thing is, Craig Felton's fingerprints were found on a bag left in a house which had been burgled."

"Did the burglary happen after the knife fight?" Gene asked and Sergeant Willis nodded.

"He's been with me since then. For a time he was leading a black-ops raid into pirate territory and for the rest of the time, he was obeying my orders, trying to introduce reading and writing, as well as acting as my father's slave."

Sergeant Willis blinked as he took in Craig's alibi. "Fine, but he needs to speak for himself."

"No! He is my slave, so I'm responsible." Gene said, "Look! You must see you're hopelessly outside your jurisdiction. The only reason you're here is because if we do have to go home for any reason, we don't want to be arrested, and I don't want Dad arrested as an accomplice."

"OK! But how the hell can I make a report about this?"

"I'm coming to that. You understand there's been no crime back home."

Sergeant Willis nodded.

"OK! The lane on your side of the jump has a couple of picnic tables further down. We sat at one of them, and we explained how we've been camping with friends. Dad keeps an eye on us but apart from that we're in the woods as much as possible. We can't explain the bag except Craig was annoyed because he had lost his. I had to lend him a spare."

"I'd still expect Craig to come into the station and make a statement."

"He'd refuse because he's scared of his dad finding him."

"I'm open to suggestions, Jeff." Harry said.

"It's a bit Star Trekish, but we've been transported to another world. It's Earth-like, but it's like nowhere I can think of. I'm sure I saw sycamores as we left the woods, and the sun's about right for summer back home though it's a little cool. If we have been beamed, maybe we should ask when."

"Oh God. We've got too many science geeks on the force nowadays." Sergeant Harris groaned, "Go on."

"We need to talk to Felton and take a good look around, but we've got no authority here. How about recording interviews on our phones? If Felton's old man is as nasty as everyone says he is, I wonder how often Craig broke a bone falling down the stairs. You know, assaults reported as accidents. If we get hospital reports and interview friends and classmates, indirectly we could verify he hasn't been seen and directly let it slip he's in witness protection."

"You may have your directlys and indirectlys back to front, but it's a plan."

Gene nodded, "We've been talking about bringing Craig's cousin here. I've only ever heard him called, Peanuts, but would it help or hinder you?"

"I've never heard of him which means he doesn't get into serious trouble." Sergeant Willis said, "That family wouldn't come to us if they were being murdered one by one so officially, I doubt if we'd find out."

He paused, thinking. "I still think I'm asleep and this is some weird dream, but I can make something of Craig being scared. I'd still like to speak to Craig alone. I need a couple of names who can confirm Craig's alibi, and I'd like Jeff to be shown around the town."

It was only when they drove out of the lane onto a tarmac road that Sergeant Willis breathed a sigh of relief.

"We're in civvies so stop at the first pub." Harry said, "I need time to think this through."

Once settled in the furthest table in the pub garden and Harry was on his second whisky, he said, "We know the Felton boy is safe, and he doesn't know much about the family business. He's got witnesses to confirm he lost his bag before we found it, and we've got witnesses to confirm his whereabouts. We should get formal statements but Craig might be more likely to let something slip if he stays relaxed and talkative."

Jeff nodded, "The city's called Droyskova. I'll try googling it but I doubt I'll find anything. Both Felton and Sullivan are heroes for destroying the pirates and saving the city. As I was their friend, I was offered drink, food, boys and girls and I wouldn't have to pay for anything. I was thinking vice when I asked about a boy, but it was like discussing a restaurant. There wasn't any sort of put down on the kids that offered."

"Did you have fun?" Harry asked.

"I'm happily married." Jeff growled, "Luckily you turned up before I had to choose. How are we going to report it all."

"Exactly as young Gene suggested it. We met up, established Felton had an alibi with multiple witnesses, and spoke to a witness confirming he had already lost the bag before the break-in. It's unlikely a formal interview will turn anything up and Felton is well. Play it all down and don't discuss it. That way, if we do need to follow up, we might be able to talk to them again."

If the two policemen were trying to figure out what to do, Malcolm was relieved. Both Craig and Gene seemed happy with their meetings and there was no question of them leaving. It had been unlikely but now it was decided. It only left him two fears.

Bringing the policemen to the city was the latest adaption of constantly evolving plans and another of Malcolm's fears were about to be dealt with. Gene needed to say goodbye to his mother. He also felt he should be seen by his old friends to dispel any rumours concerning his disappearance. It would not help Tom's travelling if he was at the centre of malicious gossip. This time, they stuck to their original plan and held it at the waterfall. Tom hired a mini-bus for the boys while his wife used her car though she modified the plan and arrived early.

"Remember not to kneel or bow, Malcolm." Gene whispered as she arrived.

"I do not kneel for women." Malcolm retorted, "It's bad enough I'm wearing clothes."

"I'm not sure I should be wearing my sarong." Craig said but frowned, "Yes, I should, it's who I am now."

Gene was nervous, not knowing what to expect, but his mother had dressed for the beach. Fashionable, modest enough for her to walk from the house to the car, the three boys could appreciate she was still a beautiful woman. As Gene tried to give her a dutiful kiss on the cheek, she hugged him.

"I know everything's changed." she said, "I need to spend my time fighting this cancer, and I don't know how long I'll be able to look after you or your father. I miss you, and you should still be thinking about university and a good job, but it's good to know someone is looking after you. Will you be able to go back to school?"

"I'm not going back, Mum. This is Malcolm, my boyfriend. You met Craig at that school meeting."

Both boys shook her hand then stood waiting, Malcolm pleased he had managed the alien custom and with a woman.

"I need to speak to you alone, Gene." Stephanie, his mother said, and as they walked off, said, "I know I've gone too far. Instead of giving you a chance to choose your life, I've become the stereotype, middle-class, suburban housewife. I can see how happy you are with your boyfriend, and I understand you won't choose me over him. I'll try to change and accept him if you come back; at least for as long as I can. I almost wish I could join you here, but cancer is a horrible disease, so I'm going to fight it and collecting herbs in the forest isn't going to cut it. I don't know how to say this nicely, but looking after you or your father isn't going to help me either. Neither do I want anyone hovering around my bed, looking miserable but telling me it's going to be all right, and I know your father. He'll see it as his duty to look the most miserable while trying his hardest to convince me I'll get better."

Gene grinned, so Stephanie continued, "Here's the thing. I don't think I am going to get through it. It's something in the doctor's eyes, and it's something inside me, so it's your father you need to think about. Look after him, please."

Gene nodded so Stephanie concluded, "I'm not an emotional sort, and I've probably been a cold, distant mother, but I do love you. Your dad's far more loving, and he'll need someone after me. Help him find her."

Gene was close to tears but as he tried to hug his mother, she pushed him away.

"I told you. I don't want this touchy-feely stuff, and your friends are watching. Just remember me, that's all I ask for me. That's it. I'm leaving now, so you can have your gay orgy without your mother glowering at you all. How do I get to the road?"

It was typical of his mother. Brusque, businesslike, deciding what was needed and expecting everyone to follow her logic. Gene could not imagine her in anything less than a well-ordered house with everything in its place, and if she stayed with them, she and Malcolm would come to blows as they clashed trying to organise his life.

Malcolm watched her leave with Gene waving goodbye, and breathed a sigh of relief, at another threat had being removed, unaware it had never been a problem.

Determined not to be put off by his mother's attitude, Gene yelled, "Come on! Let's have a swim before the others get here."

The torch may lack a sense of humour, but most observers could see the humour when the mini-bus arrived, discharging school friends while Gene and the other were skinny-dipping with their clothes well away from the water's edge. Malcolm was least concerned, but waited for Gene's lead.

Gene was used to being naked, but it was a step back to his old world as he swam to the bank and climbed out to a startled silence.

"Hi Guys." he called out, "OK, you've caught us with our pants down, but who cares."

A couple of the arrivals looked around, searching for some sign of authority. A couple of others were ready to peel off their shirts, but did not want to be the first. They also watched Tom gauging his reaction.

"The rules are different here." Tom said, "There're cans of beer in the lake, but if you want one, you've got to get it."

As he spoke, Gene dived back into the water, resurfacing with a can in his hand. Malcolm and Craig also dived to fetch their own cans before clambering onto the bank. As Tom and Gene had hoped when planning their ice-breaker, the combination of a warm summer day, permission to drink beer, and a novel situation worked. One boy, had guessed a Hawaiian themed party might involve swimming, stripped down to a pair of speedos and jumped in. A couple of others contented themselves with shorts. Others still stood, waiting nervously.

"Is it all right if we skinny-dip as well?" One asked Tom, "I haven't brought swim shorts."

"It would help if you did." Tom replied, "Those three might start to feel uncomfortable if they're the only ones undressed."

The boy grinned, blushed, pulled his clothes off as quickly as he could and ran for the water, not relaxing until he was waist deep.

I hope no-one notices how weak the beer is. Tom thought, It could have been sold in prohibition America.

He need not have worried. As the visitors realised they did not have to be on their best behaviour, so they relaxed and swimming became more attractive. Tom prepared the food though Malcolm decided it was his job to help. A couple of others joined him.

"So what's with all the cuffs and rings?" A visitor asked.

"I'm Master Gene's slave." Malcolm replied, "Master asked me to take them off today, but I refused. I'm proud of being his slave."

"That's kinky. What sort of stuff do you do?"

"Think cos-play." Tom said, "Otherwise you'll get told about their palace and how Malcolm runs it while Gene is the kingdom's wizard."

The boy grinned, "I get it, but shouldn't you have names to match? You know, Gene should be Tamarand the Great or something. I'm Jimmy. Is it really OK for us to stay naked?"

"Whatever makes you comfortable. Just relax."

"I wish Dad would say that. I'm a disappointment because I'm not team captain, and I'm not top of the class. I just can't please him."

"Yeah! I've seen him at matches. Doesn't he ever let up?" His friend asked.

Jimmy's head drooped as he shook his head.

"I bet he's uses the tracker and turns up. I'd better go and wait for him. Where's the gate. How come I can't see it or the hedge?"

"Do you remember the mist as we turned into the field?" Tom asked and Jimmy nodded.

"Your dad will trace your phone's signal to the field, but that's all he'll see. You see those trees beyond the bus. Go and take a look at the view."

Puzzled, both boys walked off. They returned, baffled, scared even.

"Where are we? How did we get here? How come we drove to the coast and no-one noticed?" Jimmy asked.

"Gene, Craig and myself have to cope with Gene's magic in our own ways." Tom said, "If you want to go back, I'll take you. If you want to stay, your Dad can spend the afternoon figuring out why the tracker isn't working. It is working, but it's telling him you're in the middle of an empty field. If he rings, his phone will say your phone is ringing and all you have to do is tell the truth. You were asked to leave it in the bus."

"He's going to be so mad." Jimmy exclaimed, grinning, "Can I stay, please? Er, could I take some pictures. Me and a few others in front of the waterfall, to show him."

The swimmers were getting hungry and drifting over to the table chatting. Someone found Craig's sarong and weapons, but Jimmy mentioned cos-play and Craig added, "We can't swim after we've eaten, so we'll try some target practice.

Jimmy and a few others preferred to explore the hill behind the waterfall, but Jimmy soon returned.

"How did we get on an island?" He asked, "Did you drug us? I want to go home."

"OK!" Gene said, "We did not drug you, and Jimmy, your dad's in the field so do you want to go there or your bedroom?"

Jimmy just stared, "I can go if I want to?"

"I think it's time for some explanation." Tom said, "You've seen Gene and Malcolm, they can't keep their hands off each other. You may have also noticed Malcolm tak ing orders from Gene. Thank you all for leaving your phones in the bus, but if any of you want to check, you'll find they work in there but not out here."

A couple of boys hurried to check their phones but came back without them, nodding.

"I've made even stranger journeys than this so don't worry. You'll be home on time, but you can spend as long as you like here, and I realise I'm just making it more confusing. Gene discovered something. I'm not going to say what, but it makes so much possible, and if you don't believe me, think about how Gene and Craig have become friends."

Tom paused for the chuckles then continued, "There're a lot of sci-fi names, transporters, portals and jumps, but Gene can make them happen. You'll go home, tell your parents about the party and carry on. You're helping Gene with a project, and whatever you see, say or do stays on this island. You could try telling someone but w ho's going to believe you? If you stay, just have fun."

"How about it, Jimmy? Why don't you stay a while? How about a break from your old man." Gene asked.

Jimmy nodded cautiously, still uncertain but finding Gene reassuring. Two boys decided they wanted to return and Tom headed for the bus, but one hesitated.

"You mean it. We can go when we like. I'll stay a bit longer. Sorry but it's all a bit weird."

"We all feel like it at first." Tom replied, "Gene and Craig are generals in an army which is why they had to learn how to shoot bows and arrows and handle a sword. They're called wizards because when they fight a battle, no-one seems to get killed. Ask them about it all."

The boy nodded thoughtfully as he wandered off.

"I wish I could stay." The other one said, "I have to go soon."

"I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."

"Benny Galbraith.

"Ah! You're into drugs. Is that why you need to go?"

"How do you know?"

"Look around. Let's stick with magic for the moment, but there's more than just transport."

Benny nodded then burst into tears.

"Come on, let's go for a walk." Tom said.

Later, Tom sought out Gene.

"Enjoying yourself?" He asked and Gene nodded.

"Is it called closure?" Gene asked, "I said goodbye to Mum as best I could. It's OK, and I knew not to expect much. Now my mates see I'm not going back because Malcolm and I are a couple. I don't know. I don't feel as if I've just run away any more."

"It sounds like closure to me. How about, you're walking away and not running?"

Gene nodded again, "I saw you talking to Benny."

"He's fifteen, and his stepdad says he can clear off when he's sixteen. He's drifted into a gang, and he can't get out now, so he's being drawn deeper in. He's worried about staying today because he's supposed to be making a delivery. If he just disappears, the gang will go after his family, and he's got a sister and two step-brothers."

"Wow! What's he going to do?"

"The torch only works for you, but it must have overheard the conversation, and the one I had with Sergeant Willis. If you agree, we'll rescue him."

Gene listened and spoke to the torch.

"Apparently the plan is approved. You're keeping our secrets, and I'm saving someone on my home world which is good for me. Go ahead."

Benny found himself back in his bedroom. He shook his head, trying not to think he had been dreaming, but it did not matter. His orders were to report to the gang, so he got his bike and cycled off.

There was a boy, nineteen years old and studious who rented a lock-up garage. He had instructions to stay out of trouble and never go near it. In return, the boy had protection and could safely walk home from the library late at night, and the garage remained off everyone's radar.

Benny and two or three other boys stood nervously waiting while older gang members stood in small groups. They were doing nothing wrong, but they were intimidating, discouraging anyone from getting too close. Just as Benny took his package, police cars and vans roared into the cul-de-sac where the garage was. Benny looked up, just able to see the drone, as he was pulled off his bike and handcuffed.

It was difficult keeping such a number of prisoners separated, so the gang boss got glimpses of Benny and the other boys, but got no clue who had grassed. Back at the station, Sergeant Willis interviewed Benny.

"Well done, Benny." The Sergeant said, "Are you ready for witness protection?"

"My real dad was an engineer, and I learnt about electric motors and generators. I'm going to build a hydro-electric power grid. I know, it sounds daft, but I can get their wizards started."

"Good luck, then." Sergeant Willis said as he stepped outside and dismissed the constable standing there. He stood on guard for a time, before opening the door to the now empty room and walking away.

There was one sequel for Sergeant Willis. He was visited by a Chief Superintendent Lockerbey.

"That was an impressive raid. How did you organise it so quickly?"

"I already knew where and had an idea of when. Inspector Davis authorised it but it was a bit of a long shot, so he left it to me. The drone was on loan, and it's top secret, but I was able to observe a considerable area without resources. Once my informant left home, I knew it was on."

"I see. Your witness has disappeared."

"Yes sir. He's in a witness protection scheme."

"I need to speak to him. I'm looking further up the chain, and he may have useful information."

"With respect, sir. It might be unofficial, but it is witness protection." Sergeant Willis picked up a file offering it to the Chief Superintendent, "Like I said, I cooperated with field trials of some new and highly secret equipment. I did collect more intel, but it's beyond my pay grade. Until you read it, I'm the only one who knows what's in this file, and it involves a senior officer. We could go through channels, but would they be secure enough?"

Chief Superintendent Lockerbey nodded, "And if I don't disclose my source, I get all the credit. You've passed your inspector's exams, haven't you? How would you like to join my team together with the promotion?"

Benny's stepfather was happy for him to disappear, his mother was relieved he was safe, the records showed he was an informant, and with the sergeant gone, no-one was interested, content to congratulate themselves on a successful raid.

Benny had spent a confusing few days being shown around, being prepared for the raid only to find himself back at the party as if nothing had happened, and with Tom waiting for him.

"Welcome to the world of wizards." Tom chuckled, "Are you ready for it?"

Benny grinned, fingering his collar, "It's all a bit weird, "I fetched some bits and pieces and demonstrated electric light. Did I get it right, I'm a wizard, but my power will fade, but I can teach others the basics?"

Tom nodded.

"But I'm a slave. It means Gene owns me, so no-one can hijack me into digging fields."

Tom simply nodded again, not wanting to disturb Benny's train of thought as Benny continued, "It's more like the army. Gene is commander, so I have to do as he says but when it comes electricity, I'll be in charge."

"That's about it. It's not too late to change your mind."

"No. Look at Craig over there giving archery lessons, and he's a real slave isn't he? Do I have to be become gay?"

"I don't think Gene will give me grandchildren, but he's the exception here. Most people will have children, but a good few won't be shy about preferring your company to relax. It's not a good answer, but it's the best I can do."

"That's OK! I'm going for a swim."

When he took a break from teaching archery, Craig found Tom.

"Peanuts is asking if he can crash at my place. What do I tell him?"

"What's his skill? Benny's is electrical engineering."

"I dunno. Does he need one?"

"I'm wondering."

"It could be plumbing. He's got an uncle on his mother's side who's got a small business, and it's legit, but I don't think modern plumbing would be very helpful."

"You'll have to ask Gene. It's him and the torch that'll decide."

"OK, but I won't bother him for a bit. He and Malcolm are trying to get some alone time." Craig chuckled.

"Sounding like his mother, he should be looking after his guests."

"Malcolm's a little overwhelmed by it all. He's surrounded by strangers, and it's our world's attitudes, so he can't even settle back to being a slave."

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead