Kaiser's X Blessing - Book 1 - 02 - Intro I

Intro (Part I)

– I –

(Caelum)

Class 1-D at Sanderson High School for Regulars.

Pharos Colony. Island Two. Habitat One.

Semester One – School Week Twenty.

Friday morning Homeroom Period.

Today was the big day – the final day of the school semester.

The mid-year break would start tomorrow, Saturday.

Needless to say my classmates and I were all looking forward to our measly five week break before starting Semester Two.

But today was also the day our compatibility results were electronically mailed to us.

Today I would find out once again how dismally suited I was as a host to the eight strains of the Symbiote, and like the six other occasions in the past when the results had come in, it was a day I hardly cared for.

The school’s students had been tested en masse at the beginning of the week, right after final semester exams had ended. Since then the data was collated, analyzed, and the results reported back to us and to our parents. Thus, the Regular students at the school I attended would learn if they made the cut or they didn’t.

That is, they would learn if they would stay Regular or join the Aventis.

I really wasn’t interested in being compatible with the Symbiote.

I had no love for the Prides, and I had no love for the Aventis.

I hated them, though my hatred has waxed and waned over the years, despite the most recent tragedy in my life.

Even so, perhaps hate is too strong a word.

Contempt was more fitting. A very cold and severe contempt.

I had contempt for the privileged Aventis that were fortunate enough to become hosts for the Symbiote and rake in the benefits of harboring the thread-like organism in their bodies.

Fifteen minutes before the end of homeroom, the teacher finally gave my classmates and I permission to open up our results. Our esteemed Regular teacher dutifully informed us that our parents and guardians had been informed of our results, but right now it was our turn to find out whether or not we joined the privileged echelons of our society.

Not caring, I accessed my results through the Smart-Desk’s mail application.

I read it, and then closed the file.

I wasn’t surprised to see a whopping zero mark on the compatibility scale across all the Symbiote strains.

I looked around my classroom, smiling deceptively at my classroom friends, all the while wondering if anyone else had scored as poorly as I did.

Many of my classmates were sharing their results with others.

It was a mixed bag of expressions all around.

I saw a few smiles on the faces of the boys, and some of the girls were forming clusters as they revealed their successes to each other.

However, the vast majority sat in disappointment and glared in envy at their more fortunate counterparts that numbered little more than two handfuls. But if you considered a handful of lucky students in each class, spread across a number of school years, the total would amount to a sizeable catch for the Aventis. Taking into account all nineteen schools for Regulars within Pharos – the preposterously large asteroid colony floating a handful of light-years within the Hurakan Nebula – then those numbers were clearly more than just a drop in the ocean, and from what I’d read in the news reports, every year an average of two thousand teenage students living in Pharos joined the ruling Aventis class.

I turned in my chair and peeked over my shoulder at a spot in the room that held special meaning to me.

I noticed a cluster of girls had congregated around one table in particular.

Sitting at that table was a girl of slender, yet generous endowment, especially for someone of her age. She had long, auburn hair that fell in lustrous waves down her shoulders and back. True to her nature, she wore a polite, cheerful smile as she looked up at the female classmates congratulating her.

In that moment…my world sank.

I knew that I would no longer share in failure with the one most precious to me.

A heartbeat later and her eyes met mine.

For a heartbeat her smile wavered, and I saw regret flash across her face, before she turned away and resumed smiling happily up at her friends.

I turned back to my desk, and waited for the homeroom bell to sound.

We were then expected to attend the closing assembly to mark the end of the school’s semester.

It was a struggle to hold myself back from punching a hole in the middle of the Smart-Desk’s tactile responsive screen.

It was a struggle not to throw the whole desk out the window.

– II –
(Caprice)

Island Three. Habitat One.

Galatea Academy.

Class 1A.

Minutes before homeroom, my palm-slate vibrated and rang.

I was sitting at my Smart-Desk at the back of the classroom.

It was where Familiars like I were normally segregated to.

That is to say, by keeping me at the back, I was out of sight – thereby more like to be out of mind – of my Aventis classmates who preferred not knowing that I was sharing the classroom with them.

I’d like to say that I was inured to such treatment, but I wasn’t.

But my skin had grown thicker over the past twenty weeks since I came to attend high school at the prestigious academy.

As I was saying, I was sitting by my lonesome at the back of the classroom, waiting for homeroom to start, reading on my palm-slate a black-and-white comic – yes, a manga – about an average high school girl who attracts the attention of the coolest guy in her year. These kinds of stories were a dime a dozen, but I enjoyed all of them.

Abruptly, my palm-slate vibrated and rang softly.

The caller-ID said it was Arisa, my Guardian appointed to me by the Primogen of the Lanfear Pride that I was affiliated with.

I wondered why she was calling so early in the morning.

“Hello?” I asked without inflection.

Ah, you answered your phone.”

“Why wouldn’t I answer my phone?”

You could have been indisposed.

I sighed. “What do you want?”

Is that any way to talk to your Guardian?

“What do you want, Lady Arisa?” I asked in monotone.

Somehow that doesn’t sound respectful at all. Well, never mind. Caprice, listen carefully. I’m in a bit of a bind.

“A bind?”

Yes. I need your help.

“My help? With what?”

You know that boy I was telling you about? That one with the promising results.

My heart skipped a beat as I remembered the file Arisa had shown me on a rather good looking, high school boy. The recent colony wide tests conducted on students had revealed he possessed a compatibility with the Lanfear Symbiote that went through the roof. “Yes, I remember.”

I need you to pay him a visit.

My heart skipped another beat. “Me…? Why…?”

Because I’m in a bind and I can’t get to see him until later today.

Feeling my heart thump in my chest, I asked, “Why do I have to see him? Isn’t there anyone else you can send?”

“Nope. You’re the best choice. For now, that is.”

“Why is that?”

Because you’re a pretty girl. And he has a weakness for pretty girls.

I realized she was making me blush but there was nothing I could do to stop it. Involuntary response, and all that jazz.

Oh, but make sure you were a padded bra.

“Huh?”

And mature underwear.

I shot to my feet, making my chair clatter. “What?”

My outcry attracted reproachful looks from my Aventis classmates. However, I ignored them.

“Why do I have to do that?”

“First impressions, Caprice. First impressions. It’s important that you gain his attention and keep it. You need to make a good impression as a representative of the Lanfear Pride.”

I lowered my voice. “By wearing mature underwear?”

Actually, I meant sexy underwear.

I started to grind my teeth. “I’m not doing it.”

Name your price.

“Geh!” I wanted to toss the palm-slate away, then reconsidered. “I’ll do it on one condition.”

What would that be?

“I get to use your Black Card for a one day shopping spree.”

That Black Card was a special card with a bottomless limit credit limit.

It was a privilege of the filthy rich, and Arisa Imreh Lanfear was indeed filthy rich – at least her family was.

There was noticeable moment of silence on the line. “Very well. A one day shopping spree.

I smiled to myself. “Fine. When do I have to see him?”

Can you duck out a little early? You’ll need to head to Island Two, Habitat One. Try to catch him as he’s leaving the school after closing ceremonies.”

I winced inwardly.

Galatea Academy too had closing ceremonies for the semester.

I would have to skip the assembly. But even if I did so, I couldn’t leave out through the school gates as I’d be stopped by the security bots.

I sat back down and further lowered my voice. “Arisa, I’ll have to use Brynhildr to get me over the school wall. Do I have your permission to use her?”

Very well. Try not to be seen. Oh, and one more thing.

“What…?”

Do you still have that vial of my blood I gave you?

“I do. I tossed it into Brynhildr’s Sarcophagus.”

Good. Good.

I frowned to myself, wondering why she’d asked.

Well then. Best of luck. Keep me informed. Let me know how it all goes. Give me a call if you need to. And make sure you get to him before he leaves the school grounds.

My frown deepened, but I nodded faintly though it was unnecessary. “Okay.”

Then I’m off. Classes to attend. Overdue assignments to submit. University life is such a bitch. Talk to you later.

Arisa ended the call.

My palm-slate notified me of a message received.

I opened it and discovered it was the boy’s dossier that had been redacted in many places.

After reading the address for the school he attended, I used an online app to plot the best route for me to follow. It included which mag-lev line I should catch, as well as the time I should board the train, and gave me an estimated time of arrival at Sanderson High School.

If the app was to be believed, I would need to escape Galatea Academy before the school assembly started.

My Aventis classmates made it a habit to ignore me.

I hoped that would play in my favor when I slipped out of school.

– III –
(Caelum)

I walked to the school assembly on autopiloted, and afterwards returned to my class’s homeroom pretty much the same way.

My interaction with my classmates was more or less the same, and I felt like I was responding to them while wearing a mask over my true emotions. But I also felt that everything I did was an autonomous response to exterior input, without real conscious thought.

In other words, I’d allowed the instinctive reactionary part of my brain to take over.

I drifted through the homeroom period, and afterwards – once our teacher had dismissed us with the usual warning to be on our best behavior – I grabbed my belongings and wandered out of the classroom in search of a place of solitude.

That place was the rooftop courtyard where students normally ate their lunches.

Surprisingly, the door to the courtyard was unlocked.

Stepping onto the courtyard, I’d half expected to find students there, but instead saw that it was deserted.

With my carry-bag on my shoulder, I walked across the open ground and approached the fencing running along the northern side of the courtyard.

I dropped my bag to the ground beside my feet, and looked out at the sprawling habitat stretched before me, and was once again I was reminded that I was living inside a rock.

It was one rock out of five rocks, with the largest one surrounded by its four smaller kin, and together they were Pharos Colony – a rock oasis within the edge of an immense cloud of dust and debris, the Hurakan Nebula, itself a testament to the wholesale destruction committed by the trans-space shockwave that heralded the Cataclysm.

Standing behind the mesh fencing, I could see the school, the habitat, and its buildings stretch out for two kilometers into the distance. The rock ceiling overhead was hidden behind an optical field that mimicked a partly sunny day. There was even a breeze blowing strongly, courtesy of the habitat’s life support systems.

The nine-foot tall wire fencing that surrounded the building’s rooftop was the only thing preventing me from taking a dive into the school’s central courtyard below.

I stared at the scene before me, then closed my eyes for a long moment, until I heard the door of the rooftop hut that provided access to the courtyard open up and a girl’s voice called out to me.

“Caelum?”

I kept my eye closed, and bowed my head forward, resting my forehead on the fencing.

Haruka’s voice reached out to me.

“Caelum, what are you doing up here?”

With moving the rest of my body, I turned my head and faced her, though it was awkward.

The rest of my body continued to lean forward, and I raised my arms to brace myself against the fence.

“Why are you here, Haruka?” I answered her question with a question.

She walked across the courtyard, stepping past benches and tables, and stopped about a dozen feet away from me.

“I thought you might want to talk.”

I frowned at her. “To talk? About what?”

Haruka swallowed quietly. “To talk about the results.”

“What do you want me to say?” I wiped away the frown from my face, and quickly gave her a cheery smile. “Oh, sorry. I should say congratulations shouldn’t I?”

She gave me a trouble look.

Actually, she’d been looking troubled ever since she arrived at the rooftop.

If she was going to act this way around me, I would have preferred she hadn’t followed me up here.

Haruka Amiella started to glance every which way but in the direction I was standing.

I was starting to grow annoyed with her behavior, which was quite different from the way she’d behaved in front of her congratulatory classmates.

No, I was already annoyed which was making it hard for me to keep up the act of an understanding childhood friend.

Yet somehow I forced a bit more cheer into my smile, as I turned my body and leaned my back against the fence. “I bet your folks were happy to have their only daughter join a Pride.”

“Caelum…please…don’t be this way.”

“Huh?”

“Tell me the truth. We’ve been friends for so long—”

“I am telling you the truth. I’m happy for you. You finally get your wish. You’ll be joining an Aventis Pride. Isn’t that what you always wanted?”

“I wanted both of us to be chosen—”

“Well, it didn’t turn out that way.” I shrugged. “Who knows, maybe things will change in the future. I still have three years before I’m crossed off their list.”

True. Though it was rare for anyone beyond the age of nineteen to be accepted into a Pride, it did happen. However, if the Symbiote didn’t find you worthy afterwards, chances were it never would.

A sudden thought crossed my mind with a possibility I’d not considered though I must have been aware of it.

I gave the thought a voice, keeping my tone blithe, but somewhere deep within I felt a trickle of unease, as though I feared I was jinxing myself for even mentioning it.

“Well, even if I’m not chosen as an Aventis, I might end up being one of the other kind.”

Haruka’s eyes narrowed a fraction. “You don’t mean—”

I laughed and nodded. “Yeah, one of those Familiars.” I held down a shiver. “Wouldn’t that be a laugh? The Symbiote does seem to hate me, and my score is always zero. It’d be real funny if I turned out to be one of those.”

Familiars were anomalies. They existed everywhere, and Pharos was no exception.

Everyone knew about them.

The Aventis regarded them with disdain and contempt, though I suspected Familiars frightened them as well.

Regulars considered them aberrations that couldn’t decide whether they were Regular or Aventis.

I’d seen them around, and while I’d never settled on how I truly felt about them, thinking of them brought back painful memories. That was because Familiars were present at the dock when my parents died. They were there guarding the Aventis waiting for the damned freighter to dock. And they were there protecting the Aventis conducting the investigation after the freighter exploded.

They kept the Aventis alive, shielding them with their Artifacts.

Yet for all their power, they couldn’t protect my parents.

It was Familiars that escorted Celica and I to the dock so that we could see the devastation for ourselves.

And it was Familiars that stood guard while the representatives of the Avenir Pride expressed their condolences to my sister and I.

I still remembered the way they looked, the way they were dressed in tight form fitting coats over black on black skinsuits.

Austere, menacing, even a little dangerous.

Neither Aventis nor Regular.

Something caught in between the two extremes.

I swallowed hard, and glanced away.

I didn’t want to remember that day, or any of the days that followed.

I drowned the memory deep into the recesses of my mind, like I did time and again whenever it resurfaced.

Then I gave my true feelings the chance to be heard. “I’d rather I was never chosen. I’d rather stay Regular for the rest of my life. It’s the only way I won’t have anything to do with their kind.”

Haruka sounded relieved. “Now you’re finally being honest.”

I wasn’t going to be baited. “We’re not here to talk about me. We’re here to talk about you. Isn’t that why you called me up here?”

Haruka released a heavy sigh.

She seemed disappointed in my response, so I pressed on.

“I am happy for you, Haruka. I really am. You’ve got a bright future ahead of you now. So many doors are going to open for you. The Pride will push you to get the best out of you, but I’m sure you’ll be up to the task. You’ll make a great Aventis, and you’ll make the Avenir Pride proud.”

She gave me a pained look this time. “You make it sound like I’m going off to magic school or something—like we’ll never talk to each other again.”

“There’s a gap between Aventis and Regulars. You know this. You haven’t been living a sheltered life.”

“I don’t plan to change who I am just because of the Symbiote.”

“Sorry. But everyone knows that in this corner of the galaxy where the Aventis rule, if you’re a member of a Pride you get preferential treatment. That puts you one rung above the Regulars.”

“I had nothing to do with that.”

“I’m not saying you did. It’s just the way things work since the Aventis won, and Regulars like us lost—sorry, I meant Regulars like me. You’re not going to be Regular for very long.”

She seemed at odds with what to say.

I struggled to keep the cheer in my voice and on my face. “What’s with the troubled look? Why do you look like you’re the one with the most to lose? After all, you’re going to be leaving me behind.”

There, I’d finally said it.

Haruka blanched, and she started to wring her hands.

Seeing her like this, something snapped inside me.

My heart felt like it was being crushed and my hearing was drowning in the sound of blood rushing past my ears.

Yet through it all I heard a voice, shouting at me through the din of rushing blood, urging me to finally voice what I’d held back for years now.

It was now or never, and time to tell her the truth. There were no second chances.

“Haruka, I think it’s time we said goodbye.”

If she was pale before, she turned white in a heartbeat.

“Wh—what?”

I swallowed, and realized what I’d just said.

My subconscious had made the choice for me.

It was either the biggest mistake of my life, or the most selfless decision I’d ever undertaken.

I realized what it was I wanted the most.

No, it wasn’t what I wanted but what I’d decided was the best choice to make.

I needed to set her free.

I swallowed down past the growing lump in my throat.

“I said it’s time we said goodbye.”

A sob escaped her lips.

I watched the first tears well up in her eyes then slide down her cheeks.

She swallowed and asked, “Why?”

“You know the answer to that.”

“No, I don’t. I have absolutely no idea!”

“You’re going to be an Aventis, a member of one of the eight Prides.”

“So?”

I sighed. “Aventis and Regulars like me don’t mix.”

“That isn’t true.”

“Sorry, but it is the truth.”

I watched her tears continue to trickle. I felt like my innards were being burned. But there’s no avoiding the truth. It bites like Hell and worse when it comes between you and someone you really care about.

Damn it. I had to get this over with before I lost it.

“Haruka, you and I were never that close, so it’s not like we’re breaking up. We’re just…saying goodbye to an old friendship.”

“How can you say it like that? How can you sound so freakishly reasonable? Do you know how much this is tearing me up inside?”

“You’ll get over it. You’ll attend one of the five academies in Pharos for the Aventis, and you’ll make new friends—Aventis friends—and you’ll find someone ‘special’ over there. Pretty soon, you’ll be right as rain again. You’ll forget all about me and start anew.”

“Are you doing this to make me hate you? To make it easier for me to leave? And why do we even have to do this?”

“I’m doing this for me.”

“What?”

I smiled at her, and this time I meant it. “Haruka, you know how much I hate the Prides.”

She pressed her mouth into a thin bloodless line.

I added for good measure, “If I say goodbye now, before you become an Aventis, it’ll be easier for me. I won’t hate you as much.”

I meant that too.

Once the Haruka before me became one of them, I wouldn’t see her as Haruka anymore.

I pushed away from the fence and swung my arms, working the stiffness out of my shoulders.

“So, Haruka. This is goodbye. I’ll miss you, but I’ll get over you.”

I bowed to her formally.

“Thank you…for taking care of me all these years.”

When I straightened I saw some color had returned to her face, but she looked ashen. She swallowed a number of times, before wiping away her tears with the back of a hand.

Then she laughed bitterly. “I see. You were always like this. Always choosing to bear everything even if it made you the villain. I really was right about you. Since there’s no easy way for this to happen, you chose to make yourself the bastard of the play.”

“No. I just want to forget about you as soon as possible.”

Now she looked distraught.

I smiled nonchalantly, shoved my hands into my school trouser pockets, then felt my palm-slate in one of them. An idea came to mind so I pulled out the palm-slate. Calling up the screen that listed my contacts, I held it up for her to see. I made sure the voice command recognition was turned on.

“Contact listing, Haruka Amiella…delete.”

“Confirm delete,” my palm-slate requested.

“Confirmed.”

I heard a chime and knew the deed was done.

Her horrified look deepened before her expression turned hard and cold over the span of many seconds. Then she took out her palm-slate and held it up for me to see.

“Contact listing, Caelum Desanto…delete.”

“Confirm delete,” her palm-slate requested.

“Co…con…conf….”

Her hand trembled so much the screen was leaving afterimages in my eyes.

I raised an eyebrow at her. “Go on. You can do it.”

“Shut up!” she screamed. “Just shut the Hell up!

She gripped the palm-slate in both hands but her fingers shook badly and wouldn’t go near the screen.

“Haruka, you’re making this much harder than it has to be.”

“Go to Hell! I hate you!”

She turned and ran away, squeezing through the gap between rooftop structures that made this the secluded spot it was.

I stared at the empty space she left behind.

“That’s my girl. You never disappoint. So easy to manipulate.”

I looked down at my palm-slate.

“I wonder if I should delete all those photos and videos of us together?”

I was busy mulling that for a while when I noticed the palm-slate’s screen was wet. I wiped it dry but more drops landed on it.

“Huh?”

I looked up at the habitat’s sky. Still partly sunny. No sign of rain. Hell, it never rains inside a habitat.

Then I noticed it was hard to see. My vision was blurred.

I wiped at my eyes and my fingers came away wet.

I studied them for a while.

“Well I’ll be. I guess I haven’t forgotten how to cry.” I laughed softly. “You hear that Celica, I guess I couldn’t keep my promise to you after all.”

A simple promise.

To cry for our parents, to cry for family, and no one else.

Well, I had no one else to cry over now.

Yet I was crying over Haruka.

I shuffled over to the fence. The wet clouds in my eyes were making it hard to see the school buildings ahead of me, and the habitat skyline beyond it.

I shoved the palm-slate into my pocket before I could accidentally drop it.

I didn’t bother wiping my face.

Big boys don’t cry, Celica used to say.

Bloody smart thing to say to a ten year old about to turn eleven who’d just lost his parents.

“Gods damn it…I miss you…Celica.”

I bowed my head and squeezed my eyes shut.

“Why…why did it have to be her? Why Haruka? Why Haruka?”

Why the Hell was she chosen? Why was her body compatible with the Symbiote? Why did the Prides take everything and everyone that was dear to me?

I hated them.

I blamed them for my parents’ deaths.

I blamed them for my sister’s death.

Why did we Regulars have to be so subservient to them?

Why did we have to sacrifice so much and yet they didn’t?

My fingers bent the wire fencing into an unrecognizable tangle.

I held onto it, and hung against it for a long time. Even after the school bell sounded signaling the end to the lunch break, I still clung to the fence and refused to move.

I had no intention of walking back to class.

I would accept the detention this would garner me, but I wasn’t in any state to sit through afternoon lessons.

Around me, the school grounds quickly grew quiet as students ambled, shuffled, or straggled out onto the surrounding sidewalks.

Beyond the grounds, I could hear the sounds of the habitat city.

I squeezed my fingers around the fencing loops, and clenched my teeth for a long, painful moment.

“Damn it…what the Hell have I done…?”


Posting a few segments at a time. Part II of the Intro will be next. If you want more, let me know. If you hate, let me know.

Best wishes to you all.



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
105 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 4790 words long.