"Hey, look! It's a shooting star!" Three figures stood silhouetted against a dark sky. A young boy and his parents stood at the top of a hill, looking at the stars. The father pointed out the bright stream of light darting across the sky.
"You know, if you make a wish on the star, it'll come true." The boy's mother said with a smile.
The boy's face lit up, and he screwed his eyes shut in concentration. Just as the light faded from the sky, he opened his eyes and looked around, excited. After a few seconds, his face fell, and his father laughed.
"The wish doesn't come right away, silly. You have to wait."
"How long?" The boy asked, disappointed. His mother shrugged.
"When the star hits the earth, your wish will be granted." She told him.
"But how long will that take?" The boy persisted.
"No one knows. It's different for every star." His father replied. "Now lets get you home; it's almost your bedtime."
"Awwwww!" The boy complained, slouching and stomping back to the car while his parents laughed.
Far up in the sky and a few hours earlier
"Oh no!" I cried, burying my hands in my hair. "Where is it?" I frantically tossed my dorm apart, throwing clothes and books into the air. A yawn sounded through the room.
"Nissa? What's wrong?"
"Fayette, I can't find it!" I cried, still searching. Fayette, my dorm mate, winced as a book came crashing into her wings.
"Nissa, calm down!" She cried. "What can't you find?"
"My dust! Raedella will kill me if I have to borrow some, and I'm almost late!" I pulled nervously on my skirt. "It's my first run, and I'm already messing up." I groaned. "What am I going to do?" Fayette sighed with a smile and flitted over to me.
"Nissa. Calm down and think. You were worried you'd lose it, so you gave your dust to me for safekeeping. I put it in your dresser." Fayette stepped over to my dresser, half submerged in clothing, opened a drawer and removed my vial of dust. I sunk to the floor, wings quivering with relief.
"Thank Oberon. What would I do without you, Fayette?" I sighed gratefully and flashed a smile. She grinned and tossed her dark hair.
"You'd be fine. And you won't mess this up." She said comfortingly.
"Easy for you to say. You're Chosen. You know what your Talent is. Meanwhile, I'm 16 and still nothing!" I threw my hands up and pouted for a moment.
Fayette stole a moment to glance happily at the mark branded to her wrist. It was the symbol of the Night Faeries, a pale crescent moon against a black backdrop. I glanced down at my own bare wrist forlornly. I picked up a book and, looking at the cover, mentally recited the passage within I'd memorized.
A Talent is an Aspect of Faerie life that is heightened in some way. Every Faerie gains a Talent, usually around age thirteen. There are nearly countless Talents, but can be categorized into more general groupings for organization. Once a Talent surfaces, the Faerie is given a week to prepare before being presented to the Factions of Work. The Faerie displays and explains their Talent, and the Faction leaders have a chance to stake their claim. If one claim is staked, the Faerie must accept or choose from the Tier 7 Factions. If multiple claims are staked, the Faerie has the chance to either choose, or petition the Overseer to choose for them. If no claims are staked, the Faerie must choose among the Tier 7 Factions. If a Faerie reaches fifteen with no Talent, the Overseer chooses a Faction for the Faerie to study under and work with until a Talent surfaces and the Faerie is presented.
Suddenly, the book was snatched out of my hands. "Hey!" I cried indignantly.
"Stop moping over that stupid book. You know Rhoslyn was 18 before her Talent showed up. And what did she do? Create this whole department!" Fayette said with her hands on her hips.
"Rhoslyn lived thousands of years ago. It was common back then for Talents to show up later in life." I shot back.
"Oh come on, that's an excuse and you know it. Everyone knows Talents that are delayed are stronger. Now come on. You don't want to be late for your first star run." Fayette teased. I jumped up.
"Gah! I've got to get going! Raedella is going to skin me!" I zipped out of the room, calling behind me "Thanks, Faye!" and heard a faint "Good luck!" trail after me as I raced to the command station.
Clutching my dust tightly, preoccupied with worries, I didn't see the body coming towards me until it was too late. I flew straight into the rail-thin figure and fell flat on my butt. "Raedella! I'm so sorry!" I gasped, internally groaning. Great. She already hates me, and now I've knocked her over. And I have to spend the next 8 hours with her? I'm doomed.
The older Faerie glared down her long nose at me. "Late, are we, Nissa? And attacking a superior. Tsk tsk. I'll have to report that."
"But I didn't--" I sputtered out.
"AH, ah, ah. What was that? Talking back as well? Oh dear. It looks like you're going to be on Patrol for a long time indeed." I looked at her, distraught, with my mouth hanging open. "Follow me." She said. By the time we reached the command room, I was seething.
Fayette? You there? I sent a transmission to her, hoping she'd be in range.
Nissa? What's wrong? I caught her anxious response as I felt her mind connect.
Just Raedella. I bumped into her, and she said she's going to report it as attacking a superior! Not to mention she's also going to write me up for tardiness and talking back. I sent grumpily.
Oh no! Nissa, that sucks. And knowing her, she's put you on Patrol, hasn't she?
The hag. I had to stifle a laugh at the hostility of the transmission. Everyone in our dorm hated Raedella, but no one more than Fayette and I.
You can say that again. Anyways, I gotta go. The briefing is about to start. But I probably won't get to see you before Patrol starts, so Comm me if anything interesting happens? I'll check it when Patrol ends.
You got it, bestie. See ya later. I felt Fayette leave and I tuned back into the world around me. My timing was perfect; Rosin walked in just as the transmission ended. My wings sagged a bit in relief; Rosin was the sharpest Faerie on the satellite; if anyone was able to tell I'd been transmitting, it was him.
Rosin was also the only male Faerie I'd had contact with since I'd gotten to Satellite 193, and i felt myself shifting uncomfortably under his gaze. I found myself wondering, as I always did, why there weren't more male Faeries on our base.
"Alright everyone. I'll make this quick, since the fleet is leaving soon." Rosin began, before his gaze caught on me. "Oh? We have a rookie today? What's your name?" He asked kindly.
"N-Nissa." I stuttered, surprised at the attention. "Hello Nissa. What's your Talent?" I felt my cheeks grow hot as Raedella smirked behind me.
"I...I don't have one sir. The Overseer sent me here a year ago." I said without looking up.
"That's odd." Rosin said. I glanced at him to see a frown on his face. "The Overseer doesn't usually send unChosen to the Star Bases." My ears flamed at the name. I hated the word. UnChosen. It sounded as though it was personally mocking me.
"Well, no matter. Today is a completely routine run; you should do fine." I jolted back to attention as Rosin turned away and continued."We have a fleet of stars leaving soon. As per usual, everyone grab a star and wait for the signal. Nissa, who's your instructor?"
"Raedella, sir." I answered, more prepared this time for the unexpected address.He frowned again.
"Nissa, I'm sorry about this, but I need Raedella at the front tonight. We're short on experienced fliers tonight, and her Talent is Reflexes. It's too unpredictable up there for a rookie, so you'll be riding with my student, instead." I felt an immense relief at not having to be stuck with Raedella for 8 hours.
"You have nothing to fear," Rosin continued "He's flown solo before, and he should be able to take care of anything that happens." I smiled in response.
"Now, back to the briefing. Like I said, we don't have too many experienced fliers tonight, so I'm going to need some of you to step up. This isn't a meteor shower or anything, so it should be calm. Landing site is at 52˚ north and 9˚ west, in the old country. Pilots, you know what to do. Dusters, as always, it's your job to spot the wishers, so keep your eyes peeled. Alright; everyone find your star."
Everyone went different directions, and I stood there, unsure. Rosin walked up to me. "Come with me, Nissa. I'll show you to your star. My student should already be there." I followed Rosin to the star hanger, and looked up in awe.
Though I'd been here before, it had never been just before a launch. There was activity everywhere, and the stars were bucking. Half creature, half machine, I knew it was a hard job to control them, and was once again grateful I'd been allowed to study dusting instead.
Rosin led me to a star that was laying calmly, a boy stroking its back. He looked up and my heart skipped a beat. It was true that I'd been isolated from boys for over a year, but I knew that wasn't the only reason he took my breath away. He was gorgeous.
His face morphed to confusion. "Rosin? What's this?" He asked.
"Tayne, this is Nissa. She's a rookie, but I need her instructor at the front, so she'll be riding with you tonight." Rosin walked away as Tayne gave me a skeptical look.
"What's your Talent?" Tayne asked me. My face flamed again and I looked down."You don't mean you're unChosen?" He asked in disbelief. I glared up at him.
"So what? It's not that bad, you know!" I snapped. He laughed.
"How old are you?" He asked, almost condescendingly.
"16. It's not like it matters. It just means my Talent will be stronger when it shows up." I found myself parroting Fayette's words, the ones I hadn't believed.Tayne burst out laughing again.
"Sure. Whatever helps you sleep at night." He clearly had no respect for me, and that made me angry. It didn't matter how attractive this boy was; he was a jerk. It might've been better to go with Raedella. I thought. It was going to be a long 8 hours.