The Ackscha Project

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Chapter 2

Offer of a Lifetime

Figure 2.a.1 - Terms and conditions document of the Ackscha Project.

With the help of his phone’s GPS, Glade managed his way home from the now slightly-charred Bakersfield Park within a dozen or so minutes. He passed by some local shops and restaurants, a few already unlit for the night. It was hard to tell whether the unlit stores were from early hours or further bankruptcies. By next month, the position of lights in the town may change again as more businesses come and go.

He arrived at the front door of his home, and braced himself for the conversation from his father. Disappointments and berating would surely lie ahead.

Entering through the doorway, all he saw was his kitchen and living room, featuring a TV tuned into some semi-successful game show. Glade took the opportunity to go straight for the bathroom and make himself presentable.

His face in the mirror mostly showed a slightly reddish mark from the first slap. Not aesthetically pleasing, but easy to recover from. The more concerning issue was the hole in his t-shirt, and the singe marks around it. The shirt featured a simple design, the words “FISHER HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 10010” in bold text, unfortunately on a white background. The burn from the electric bolt made the affected sleeve look like a burnt marshmallow.

Accepting his shirt’s ruinous fate, Glade stepped out of the bathroom and nearly ran directly into his father.

Triggering a whole backstep from Glade and an “ope” from his father, they both took a second to readjust and look at each other. Glade stealthily crossed his arms in such a way that the sleeve-singing was barely visible.

His father gazed curiously at him.

“Hey, how’d it go with Adam?”, he inquired.


Glade used the vocal filler to buy enough time for an easy lie to form.

“It was fine. We just played frisbee golf,” Glade replied, mumbling through a few words.

“Oh, that’s nice.”

Glade nodded, and they both stood there for a couple more seconds. Neither of them wanting to speak more, his father then moved to the living room and Glade went upstairs to his bedroom.

Whether his father had seen the red mark on his face or not, as long as he didn’t comment on it, it wasn’t a problem. That was the unspoken policy that they had formed over the years.

As soon as he sat down on his bed, Glade could no longer escape the tiredness that had built up for half an hour now. He couldn’t even muster up an appetite for dinner, nor think in depth about the events of the evening, and so he instead resigned himself to a nap for an unknown amount of time.


The knocks on the door came in a rhythmic pattern. Glade opened the door anxiously, revealing Wynd in a black leather jacket and blue jeans.

“Yoo,” he greeted immaturely.

“Uh, hi,” Glade cautiously replied.

Glade’s father got up from the couch to face the figure at his door frame. He walked over to greet Wynd as well.

Wynd noticed the older man. “Hey…”


Glade’s attention was caught by the title. While his father was in the military, he was dismissed after the Great War, a long while ago.

“Sergeant Auster?”. Glade’s father eyed him with an intent gaze, genuinely interested.

Wynd was distracted by the encounter, and for a moment seemed uncomfortable at hearing either the title or his last name. He quickly recomposed himself.

“Aha, yes, uh, sir!”, he said casually.

“No need for formalities. You weren’t even a part of my battalion.”

Glade eyed the two in between their exchanges, desperately trying to follow.

“Oh, sure, uh-”

“Just Rainier works. Good to see you.”

“Oh, the same for me, si- Rainier. I remember talking about you with my squad, hah,” Wynd replied, somewhat nervously again.

Glade’s father, Rainier, was now the one who seemed a bit discomforted.

“Oh, well, you were a big conversation-piece, too, you know. But uh…”

The two men stood there across the door frame, both feeling a bit awkward. Wynd interjected to move on to his goal.

“Well! I actually gotta talk to your son, if you don’t mind!”

Rainier looked at Wynd with a bit of surprise.

“Oh, really? What about?”

“Oh, just some offer that our university is running. Won’t take too long, if you don’t mind.”

Rainier gave a very slight smile.

“Sure. Actually,” he hesitated for a moment, “I need to get some groceries anyways.”

That was probably true, but it felt a bit too convenient of an excuse to Glade.

Rainier shuffled past Wynd out the door, both of them exchanging farewells. The door closed on his way out, leaving Wynd and Glade alone again.

“Well,” Glade continued, changing his tone to be a bit more professional, “let’s go over business.” He took a seat by the small wooden dining table next to the kitchen, clearing off some of the dust to make room for some papers.

Glade grabbed a chair and sat next to him, eyeing all of the various documents and advertisements now on the table. Wynd adjusted himself to look more friendly.

“I guess I should introduce myself for real - I’m Wynd, you already know that - I’m a professor in Thaumaturgy at Central Mulbora Academy. You know what that is?”

Central Mulbora Academy was a well known institution, positioned at the capital of Multerrs. It was commonly lauded as a very prestigious place for education and research. It’d be hard to live in the country without hearing of some innovative research being done in CMA. The other key term, though…


“Yeah. It’s a little obscure.”

Glade thought to himself for a moment.

“Like, natural magic? Magic in nature?”, he guessed, unsure. He had only gleaned the basics of magical studies in basic high school classes.

“Close enough, yep. I’m a magician by trade and practice, as you saw last night. And there’s a program that our university is offering for high potential magicians - ‘The Ackscha Project’.”

Glade’s attention was piqued. He had not and was not planning on applying to any academies, which would automatically put him out of the running for any educational scholarships or offers.

Wynd continued. “Basically, it’s an archaeological expedition and a road trip combined in one. A group of students, like you, are led by a couple of professors, like me, around the country to visit some ancient archaeological sites relating to the history of magic.”

He retrieved a plastic brochure to give to Glade, detailing more info.

“We’ll be teaching the history of magic as well as how to practice it on your own, basically giving you the same knowledge and skill you would get from good college classes,” he paused, “which also means there’ll be a final project at the end of the trip that you’ll have to complete. Pretty sure it won’t be bad, though.”

Wynd continued, reading off his own infographic.

“We’ll also have free visitations at several top academies along the way. You’ll be able to attend guest lectures and go to some cool events,” he paused afterwards, trying to skip over technical details that Glade was skimming through.

“Okay, the best part. As a reward for participating, you’ll be offered a full ride tuition at one of the universities we visited, or another university of your choice, as well as a possible additional scholarship for your own studies of up to $50,000. The final project determines the scholarship prize, by the way.”

Glade, fully processing the information given to him, was astounded. However, he also gained a hint of suspicion.

“How much is it to join the program?”

Wynd grinned, as if he was anticipating the question.

“About a couple thousand dollars as a deposit. All of the travel expenses are taken care of for you.”

If he lied, he would be easily disproved by the terms of the documents right in front of him. Glade was surprised, but mostly confused.

“Why me?”

Wynd was taken aback by the question. “Huh?”

“I’m not a university student, and I’ve never shown any interest in any university. I’ve never gone to any kind of open tour or visit or anything like that.”

Wynd’s smile faded as he tried to address the query. He pulled out a paper from underneath another document, cross-referencing some info.

“Well, our program is specifically geared towards young adults that show a very high potential in magical knowledge and practice. While, yes, you haven’t shown any interest per se,” he gave himself a second to look at Glade’s personal info that he had on the paper.

“You have an abnormally high CMCE, right?”

Glade looked genuinely baffled. The term sounded a bit familiar, but it did not register any thoughts in his mind. Wynd jumped in to fill in the blanks.

“Your ‘chemical-magical conversion efficiency’, aka how well you produce magic.”

Glade thought to himself a bit harder, and felt like he could remember a high school physical measuring something like that.

“And you’re also an omni. Decent control of more than one element.”

Glade tried to hide his ignorance, as he also lacked any knowledge of that new term.

Wynd, a little exasperated, got to his point. “Basically, you’ve got a very high biological potential for magic. Like, your body seems to be unnaturally good at it. That’s why we thought you would have a lot of potential.”

Deeper in thoughts, Glade could now recall the statistic that he received from the doctor, and some similar words of praise.

“Well, that’s the pitch. We’re currently looking to fill some final spots, so if you accept, you’ll most likely be accepted right away.”

While the deal was very generous in its rewards, and the expedition may be an opportunity to have a productive time, Glade thought, it just didn’t feel right.

“But uh…I’m not-”

“Interested in university?” Wynd finished. “Sure, that’s fine, but if you take this offer, you’ll be able to really find out if there’s anything that interests you. And if nothing else, you can make some money for yourself at the end, with the scholarship money.”

Glade was caught off guard by the reasoning. He could not think of a good reason to decline, but he still felt anxious.

Wynd was satisfied with his speech, and got up from his chair. He left an infographic and a large document of terms and conditions on the table for Glade to keep, as well as a business card with contact info.

“If you want to accept, just call me, and we’ll get you registered. However, the program starts in only a week, so you’ll need to decide by three days from now.”

The sudden deadline flustered Glade even more.

“Why so soon?”

“Being honest, well…” he hesitated, as if he was going off script, “you weren’t a top choice, since you didn’t show any interest in higher education. But we made our way down a list and eventually still needed to fill a spot when we got to you.”

So Glade was one of the last. He was a bit disappointed, but also relieved to know that he didn’t attract that much attention. The deadline was still a bit nerve-racking, though.

Wynd gathered the rest of his documents and headed towards the door.

“If you absolutely know you don’t want to, then call me anyways, so that we can reserve the spot for someone else.”


He opened the door, gave his farewells, and shut the door behind him.


“...So you don’t want to?”, Glade’s father asked.

“I don’t know, it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just,” Glade tried to explain. It was difficult to convey his emotions in a way that would be entirely truthful without making himself feel vulnerable.

The offer was objectively good. He had re-read the terms over and over again to find any semblance of a catch or loophole, but there was nothing to be found. The program was primarily funded by Prince Ferenc, who was commonly praised as a genuine advocate for future generations and improving their conditions. Everything seemed ethical and well-intentioned.

But Glade had some deeper feelings that he could not avoid. He did not want to go on a long road trip, surrounded by strangers and exploring strange sites, constantly out of his element. The comfort of his home was what he wanted, even if it never brought anything exciting. At least it was stable and safe.

His father spoke up in a serious, matter of fact, tone.

“You’ll need to find something to do, eventually. This is a good opportunity. I’m fine paying a couple thousand dollars.”

Glade’s mind was unable to find a counterargument.

“You can learn a lot and meet a lot of people. Why not just try it?” he said in a lecturing manner, with a detectable hint of disappointment.

All of the reasoning and excuses that Glade had come up with were broken by those statements. Not necessarily because of the logic, but because of the small, but significant emotional charge in his father’s voice. The feeling of being seen as a disappointment, being judged for his lack of ambition or drive, was wholly unbearable. To Glade, everything his father had said was true, and to even have gone against his opinions in the first place was a mistake.

“Okay, I’ll sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow morning,” Glade responded, pretending as if he had not already made up his mind.

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