Chapter 1: Halley
“We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
Earth has waited 75 years before the succor came.
It was in the form of a comet. The one which they call the brightest with a tail so long it looked like Heaven’s Sword raging into battle.
My father named me after that elliptical comet since I was born with it passing through the skies of Argos. The Halley’s Comet. They say it’s one of the short period comets that are clearly visible to the naked eye from Earth, and thus the only naked eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime.
The Zenith anticipates the comet’s return for it is believed that when it passes, it brings with it the gifts of the celestial entities; therefore anyone who is born on the day of the solar eclipse and when the Halley’s Comet is in the sky they become gifted with abilities after they exit the womb.
These are the monsters Earth is waiting for. These are the winning broods that will stop the apocalypse.
They call us Addonexus. We are their experiments. They believe that we contain substance that is infused within our blood that strengthens and accelerates our stigmas making us stronger than normal people. We look just like anyone else, apart from our eyes that reflect the colors of what Earth once was but more vibrant with the crystalline mirage light. We are also capable of accessing pure energy which allows us to control the elements if we master them, most especially the elements of light and shadow.
We are the Children of the Comet. We are the prodigies of the state. We are considered valuable by the government. We are the champions of the after earth. And we are the leviathan of the aliens. But no one had taught us what’s beyond those hollowed walls they call Barriers. They say the walls are high up and strong to protect us from them.
They. Them. The aliens.
But the walls are not bound to hold on forever. The Zenith had to transition their capacity to withstand sudden attacks. And every fifteen years, the walls had to be amended. We call this time the Dark Hour. It is when we defend our world from what’s outside.
And so, every 15 years, to protect our home, a simulation is conducted by the Argo’s defense forces, instituted by the Republic itself. It is officially known as the Krypteia Program or much commonly known as The Purge. It is by tradition involving Addonexus to mandatorily participate in the Program for the better good of our world. It is a part of the Argon Code to protect the state. Addonexus shall be reaped out of their Sectors to take responsibility on the Dark Hour.
Now I find myself standing in line with the others of my kind. Rows of different ranks, weight, and sizes but with the same role to play. My head still buzzes from the contingency of a headache. I distract myself by fiddling my toe at the edge of my father’s balisong’s handle pressed in my boot. It feels like only yesterday I was at home eating ham and egg sandwiches with my dad. And then the GIs came and filched me away from my house and into a waiting amphibian. And now after being hit by a rifle’s butt to the face, I woke up with a sore head and blurring eyes.
As I adjusted my vision, it cleared right in front of a plain metal wall. Then virtual numbers and letters started to appear on the upper right corner; probably to measure the height of the wall and to extract information about its components. I blinked hard as if to shove the numbers and letters out of my sight. But they remained intact in my vision. When I looked around the hallway, I noticed all sorts of virtual numbers and letters—they are to either sustain ranking or give information. I turned to my companions and I noticed the numbers and letters glowing on top of their heads—the boy beside me is
REPUBLIC OF ARGOS- SECTOR 4
TOTAL SCORE: 0
I don’t know if I should be fascinated by the fact that some boffin had cracked open my head and placed a chip in it to manipulate me or I should be insulted by the fact that I was being owned and guarded. But furthermore, I preferred to keep the bothering thoughts to myself before some simulation shut me off. If they do have control over my head now, then probably my thoughts would preferably echo into their system. My heart thrummed inside my chest and it started to make some alarming signals in my veins. The Program is for the good of the people. I should be pleased to be part of the system. But every nerve in my body screams infidelities at me.
“Officer on deck!” A soldier yells. “Atten-hut!”
If not for the steel looking colonel heading our way, I might have been shot in the head for my ceaseless thoughts bickering. Simultaneously, we saluted the colonel. It was a shock for me eventually that I was able to stand as firm as the others. It must be the chip or whatever else they have implanted in my body that made me so supple and military like. But nevertheless I was grateful that my body was not able to make some derange stuff to kick me out of the Program.
“At ease.” The colonel said as he stood at the front line. With his hands behind his back, he started walking in a straight line. His head remained stoic at the front, unturned. We all stood inert on our ground as he passed each of us. I noticed the numbers and letters on top of his head:
EAST COAST COLONEL 2
REPUBLIC OF ARGOS- SECTOR 1
TOTAL SCORE: 765,432
“The Dark Hour is imminent. Once again, the Union has asked for your protection.” As he moved closer to me, I felt my knees balked. “The question is: are you all capable of saving the world?” he stopped in front of me. I was tempted to look up and straight into his pejorative eyes. But I was too afraid to show my own derision. Just then, when he left I noticed the numbers on my virtual vision changed.
REPUBLIC OF ARGOS- SECTOR 5
TOTAL SCORE: -1
My thoughts gathered like acid rain, putrefying my scalp in my head. The Union is grading us according to our performance and behavior. Follow the rules and you’re one notch up. Deride the system and you’re out of the Program. My heart hammered inside my chest as I let go of the tension and breath that was choking me in. The red -1 had shot a painful knife inside my gut. Whatever they have implanted in us, it was controlling us. Every emotion comes with the action we make, every score decides our standing, and every move decides our fate.
Before the colonel’s eyes had left my dwindling figure, his scornful look promised me of self-loath. While my mind wanted to get drowned in tears, my body remained stiff as possible. An olive skinned woman with a dark pixie cut hair came and stood beside him. Her eyes reminded me of cats’ eyes in the shadows. Her two-star epaulets had reputed her as next in line with the colonel. The virtual letters and numbers atop her head had allowed me to figure out who she is.
EAST COAST GI COMMANDING OFFICER 3
REPUBLIC OF ARGOS- SECTOR 2
TOTAL SCORE: 576,092
“Good evening, soldiers.” He said; a prim smile daubed his blunt face. “Tonight we welcome you all at Battle Camp. Here to accompany me is Major Ross. She will be heading this military program this year and she will be the over all in charge of your trainings until the Dark Hour is conducted. I will be keeping an eye on your performances during your trainings and I will be the one to give you your cumulative scores and place you accordingly to your respective ranks.”
He started pacing in front of us. His eyes glowed as they passed each of our faces. And then I caught Major Ross’ attention. For a moment, I thought she would look at me the same way her commander did. But her eyes came fleeting without a blink to the next soldier. Probably, my size had served its purpose well.
“We stand here together because of one purpose. Protect the Earth.” The colonel said. “School is over. From now on you will train for the Republic as soldiers. You will all guarantee us your hours in training. We are set to battle, soldiers. This is no game of pinball. This is a battle between worlds. If we let our Gates down, then we’ll be opening our doors to death. We cannot let that happen. We cannot do this alone. So together we take a stand. Together we make a move. And together we purge!”
He looked at each of us, urging us to follow his lead. “So I ask you now, are you willing to purge for your world?”
“Sir, yes, sir.” We all answered in unison.
“Good. Training will start at 0700. Failure to comply the fixed time will be punished accordingly. Remember: Purged or be purged. Understood?”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
“That’s all for tonight.” He said as he turned on his heel and round about.
“Rack time.” Major Ross yelled.
She stopped at the end of the line, placed her hands behind her back, and stood straight with her head held high. “I have assigned each of you to your respective rooms. These are just temporary rooms. Tomorrow, if you pass your first test, you’ll get to bunk with your Army.”
An Army. The sound of it filled my system with excitement. All these trainings, all these erudition, all these time—I’ve been preparing myself for this. I need to get myself into one. I need to be in an army.
“Follow the designated room that will appear on your display. That’ll be all for now. Dismiss.”
As if on cue, a number appeared on the upper left side of my vision.
8. It said. The motors in my head started to engage in some kind of a map implanted inside of my brain and it incepted me directly to my room.
I stopped in front of the metal wall where my virtual room number started to blink in green. A line had split the wall into half and it slid open to reveal a contemporary room. A girl with long dark hair tied in a high ponytail stood in waiting at the front door. Her right arm bent in a 45-degree angle on her waist while the other leaned on the door frame.
“Are you sure you’re not underage, girl?”
I blinked at her twice as I tried to register the room behind her. From the corner of my eye, I could see that the girl wasn’t alone.
“I can’t believe they bunked me with a mute.” She sneered down at me.
I pursed my lips. I felt my eyebrows creased. “I am Addonexus—a Child of the Comet just like you.” The girl flinched but I can see a lopsided smile forming on her girlish face. “Born on the 16th of August year 2286 if you want proof.”
“So it speaks.” She said as she turned to the person behind her, sitting in one of the bunks. “What do you think of her, Cal?”
The boy, with wavy brown hair looked up to meet my eyes before returning to his book. He just shrugged at her and ignored the rest of our conversation.
“I’m Phyllis.” The girl said as she outstretched her hand to me. I looked at her hand like it’s a flytrap. My dad had always reminded me of looking at the person’s eyes first before shaking his or her hand. Their eyes reveal their intentions first before their skin. I stared up at Phyllis’ eyes; they reflect the color just like mine. Comet-born. No doubt about it. But it’s the smile on her face that alarmed me the most. When I didn’t take her hand, she took mine and squeezed it like squeezing an orange. I looked at her data from my display and was even amazed at what I saw.
REPUBLIC OF ARGOS- SECTOR 3
TOTAL SCORE: 50
“Halley?” her eyebrows rose in amazement. I notice she had been looking at my data from her display. “Like the comet?”
I let go of her hand and I hid mine behind me. “Yes.”
“Cool.” She smiled crudely.
“How’d you get a score of 50 already?” I voiced out my own concern.
She smirked at me before leaning into my ear. “Good behavior.” She wrinkled her nose as she pulled herself away.
She looked up at my score and I felt cold dread run down my spine.
“I guess you need to work on yours.” She smiled again before turning to the boy on the bunk.
REPUBLIC OF ARGOS- SECTOR 5
TOTAL SCORE: 5
“That lazy cow over there is Callen.” She looked back at my data as if she’s reading some interesting stuffs about me. I suddenly felt naked inside the room. Naked of my privacy. “Don’t you know each other? You’re both from Sector 5.”
I narrowed my eyes at her. “No.” I can now see Callen looking back at me.
Phyllis shrugged, as if bored at me she went back to her bunk beside the window. I did the same. My bed, the only vacant one left was located near the door opposite to Callen’s. I noticed him looking at me.
“Can I help you?” I raised a skeptical eyebrow at him.
“What do you specialize in?” he asked me without blinking. I suppress the urge to flinch but I did anyway. My dad always tells me never to tell anyone of my specialization. It must be kept secret. He said it’s for my own good. It’s how I could keep myself safe.
“Specialize?” I returned his question to stall him while I think of a possible way to lie.
Callen nodded, his unruly dark curls bounced with his head as he does. He sat up, got off his bunk, and approached me. His weight made my bunk screak.
“Cal, we are all freaks that’s why we’re all thrown in here. Duh.” Phyllis remarked him snidely but Callen just ignored her.
As I looked back at Callen now, I noticed him regarding me with his eyes. They were cautious and at the same time skeptical. I felt drawn in his eyes like they leave snowflakes behind. I could feel the interest building in them, but they were not the kind of interest that involved a deep regard for me. His eyes only tell me what is already visible. A rival. An enemy.
“I’m a fair healer.” My calculative answer to him.
Callen cocks an imprudent eyebrow at me. But through the façade that he’s been using, I know that he is not a fool. I know exactly what I am capable of doing. I know exactly how far I can go. And Callen, he knows this too and he is using his skills against me. To know me.
The realization had put a smile on his face.
His trait had given me away, but that knowing smile on his face had also told me that we both share an understanding—for now. At least, he will not expose me of my real abilities since he didn’t quite see me that damaging. He then turned to Phyllis who’s settling down her bunk.
Phyllis grins at him. Callen returns the grin. He knows her specialty already but he wanted to expose her to me. Suddenly, Callen’s grin disappeared and his eyes turned slack and blank.
“Go back to your bed, Callen.” Phyllis said as her words oozed with calmness. I felt the strength of her powers and the intensity of her aura transcending through me.
Callen dreamily went back to his bed. The moment his knees bumped the edge of his bunk, he startles and he wakes up looking bewildered and furious at Phyllis.
Phyllis just performed one of the most restrained and forbidden skills in the Republic. It is a crime for us to use such skill against our own and yet it didn’t stop Phyllis to use it against Callen.
After that we didn’t utter a word towards each other until the lights came off.
In the darkness of the room, I lied in my bed, scared and agitated. Questions started to fill my head: should I fear the aliens that wait outside the Gates or should I fear the people I meet inside? Neither was pleasing to my mind. And neither of them was to help me get some sleep tonight.
I gripped hard on the handle of my father’s balisong as I hid it under my pillow.