A small frail student lay on top of the
bed with three pillows at her back which she uses to sit upright. Around her
are four other students that all share a grim expression in their face. A large
window on the bedridden student’s right side fills the room with moonlight,
contrasting the warm orange glow of the room’s artificial lighting. Hector
notices that Angelus is sitting on the window sill behind two of the grimly
looking students. Angelus signals Hector to enter the room by motioning with
two fingers. Hector quietly shifts himself around the corner of the doorway and
shuffles silently into the room while keeping his attention toward the ground
in front of him, only slightly looking up when he hears movement from the four
boys and a soft voice from the bedridden student.
“Oh, it’s you Hector,” the bedridden student whispers. Hector can barely hear her voice over the other boys’ movement. Hector’s attention turns to the largest boy among the four grim students. The large boy grabs Hector’s collar and pulls him upward. Hector can feel his sleeveless shirt starting to rip at the seams, but he dare not say anything to the boy’s reddened face.
“I’m—I’m sorry Étaín, but can someone explain what’s going on here?” Hector manages to blurt out in a forced voice.
“What happened? What happened? Étaín was captured! Her Personal Internal Communicator was stolen...” The large man turns away and he holds back a regurgitation. He quickly recovers and turns his attention back at Hector when he continues speaking, “They even stole her Personal External Communicator.”
“She seems fine to me... Except for her clearly being in a weakened state.”
The large boy angrily screams toward the ceiling, “Argh!” He clenches his right fist and tightens his grip on Hector’s collar. Everyone in the room clearly hears the shirt rip at its seams. The angered boy motions to punch Hector squarely in the face but holds back the punch to lightly tap Hector’s left cheek which makes him scream out once more but at the top of his lungs. The hallway outside the room fills with the boy’s angered screams, and the occupants in the other rooms feel—for that short moment—the terror and the sadness of Étaín’s predicament.
Angelus clears his throat and begins to speak. “Young man. Please release your fellow schoolmate. I’m sure he is unaware of the implications of Étaín’s robbery for her future. After all, neither did you and your friends.”
The large angry boy recalls his right fist, and relaxes his clenched left hand. Hector immediately steps back away from the angry boy to inspect his garb for a brief moment before he addresses Angelus’ statement. “So what are they implications Angelus? What’s going to happen to Étaín?” At this point, he turns to Étaín and notices her blank expression. Then he realizes just how monotonous her voice was when she greeted his presence.
“What are you thinking Hector? Tell me your thoughts just now. It seems you may have caught on to the issue at hand.
“Étaín, you wouldn’t have won against me or Wei if you joined our race the other day, “ Hector says, his attention is fully focused on the bedridden girl’s facial expression.
“You’re right,” Étaín replies with a whisper.
One of the other boys turns away from Étaín.
“Étaín... you slowed me down the day before. When we met Angelus for the first time. I would have found Angelus faster without you.”
The large boy growls and lunges at Hector with a punch to the face. Hector turns slightly to the side, mimicking Angelus’ move from when he first met the man the day before.
“Hmm,” Angelus murmurs as he observes Hector’s movement while stroking his bare chin.
“Hector! I’m going to beat you senseless. I’m going to repeatedly punch your face in until you’re blind. I’m—”
“—Stop! Do you want behavioral correction? Why are you at the Academy?”
The large boy pauses for an instant before he lunges once more, and Hector in turn dodges with Angelus’ side step once more.
“You’re at the Academy for Étaín I suppose? Consider her lack of an answer. You’re picking a fight with the wrong person. You’re anger should be toward those that did this to her.”
The large boy almost grows impatient with Hector but he begins to breath heavily.
“Look, Étaín is probably cringing on the inside. You think she wants you acting this way on her behalf? You’re dead wrong if you think she does. I have only known her for a couple of days, but she’ll knock some sense into you if she saw your behavior right now.”
The other three boys start nodding in response to Hector’s statements and the large angry boy begins to steady his breathing.
“Impressive Hector,” Angelus comments.
“Thanks I learned that move from you,” Hector replies.
“I was referring to your social prowess of talking your large adversary down,” Angelus returns with a grin.
“Hrmm. I thought the dodging was more impressive,” Hector mutters.
“You’ve almost understood why your adversary is so hostile when you poke and prod at Étaín. But you still don’t fully grasp at the true nature of the future she will have.”
“Are you going to continue with your irrelevant statements? Or are you going to tell me what all the fuss is about?”
Angelus grins, “Heh,” he let’s out a small breath. “Alright. Étaín is going to die.”
“What!? Why!?” Hector gapes.
“Because she lost her Personal Internal Communicator.”
“But can’t she just get a new one?”
“No Hector, she can’t. Those chips were embedded at birth. They help humans learn extraordinarily fast. Since the brain has been accustomed to living with the chip since Étaín was born, her brain can’t function normally anymore—it can’t function higher order processes. The Étaín you see before you is but a shell of her former self.”
“—Hey! You’re telling me that if the chip gets destroyed while it’s still inside me, then I would end up like Étaín?”
“Anyone that had these chips installed from birth would most likely end up like this, yes. I would assume that would apply to you and the rest of your schoolmates.”
“How do you know this?”
“Because my boss was one of the first subjects to undergo this operation—that is, he was the genie pig who got a chip implanted in his brain at birth. It was a success, but he ended up leaving the Academy around the same age as you. That’s when I met him here in Pater. Ever since then he’s been a Captain in the FCTC. Anyway, his entire graduating class were test subjects and those that had their Personal Internal Communicators removed or damaged for one reason or another, had the same symptoms as Étaín here. He never saw any of them again, so you can imagine what will happen to our once enthusiastic friend here.”
“Bastardo! You bastardo! Why on Terra have you waited this long to tell me? We were downstairs and you were showing off your suit, take great your sweet time. You even had the time to connect to the Konsohkius Plane!”
“If I recall correctly, you were the one taking your sweet time getting here. I seem to remember motioning you to come into this room like this,” Angelus repeats the gesture with two fingers, “While I sat here on the window sill.”
Hector stares furiously at the calm man sitting cross legged on the window sill. “Is there any way we can save her? Can she stay here with you? She can become a Free Citizen—”
“—No, she can’t. The FCTC is at a crucial stage in the fight against the Lord of Pater. The top brass would not risk having the HIPER retrieve her after the Survival Camp is over. No... When the Survival Camp is over, I will personally bring her to the lift if you and these boys here refuse to take her.”
“Can you at least get your boss to come talk to her?”
“Hmm... That may be possible. Hold on.” Angelus sits back against the moonlit window and closes his eyes. His eyes under its lids begin to move rapidly in random movements. He connects to the Konsohkius Plane—he opens his eyes and the room looks almost exactly the same except the bed is neatly kept the chairs and other furniture in the room is neatly organized on a side wall, and there are no adolescents in the room. He blinks once, and he feels as if he is moving across space—the same feeling he has when he soars through the air using his new amorphous suit. He reopens his eyes to see a door labeled, ‘Capt. Steadfast’ in bold black letters printed on a metal plaque. He knocks on the door, and a luminescent man, lacking any reproductive organs, appears at his side.
“Captain Steadfast is currently offline. Would you like to send a message to his Personal External Communicator?” The glowing man says with a hint of artificiality in his voice.
“Can he come to my current real world location to provide counsel to a girl who’s lost her PIC?”
“The message will be relayed Angelus the Swift. Is that all for now?”
Angelus sighs, “Yes.”
“If you need any other assistance please knock on the door once more.”
“Okay,” Angelus says as he closes his eyes.
When Angelus reopens his eyes, he sees a frail girl and five boys standing by. The boy with the long black hair is at her bedside, telling her sweet nothings. The boy knows her fate is sealed and this fuels an anger in his heart that he does not yet know is growing.
“Hector, I’m awaiting confirmation from my boss. I’ll know as soon as my PEC receives his message. In the meantime, will you accompany me to the barracks? The cadets are having sparring matches, and I’d like for you to join them. Your agility would prove a challenge for those brown nosing wimps. Or you if you’d prefer, you can stay here. Although I think you’d have a fight on your hands in either case, the big guy doesn’t look too happy with your being so close with Étaín.”
Hector glances over, to the large student, and the boy’s face is as red as a tomato. Hector gets up and tells the boy, “I’m sorry this happened. If I could have done something to help her, I would have.” Content with himself, Hector leaves with Angelus, as the large boy takes Hector’s spot at Étaín’s bedside.