Phantom Arms

Episode I - A New Wind

ONE

17.What was the cause of the great war that led to the current state of human society and technology today? A. Scarcity of Natural Rescources B. Mass Genocide C. Territorial Control D. All of the Above E. The Cause is unkown

Wow, that is probably the stupidest question I’ve ever seen on these tests… not to mention the easiest. Arius rolled his eyes before circling ‘E’. History had always been easy, but this year the teacher seemed to want to make the class especially so. There wasn’t really any way Arius could think of that anyone in his class wouldn’t know the answer to question 17… or any of 1 through 16 for that matter. Yet the class average would always come back at about 75%. Could his classmates really be that stupid?

18.To date, which form of government has stood the longest since the fall of the old civilization? A. Comunistic Dictatorship B. Capitalistic Dictatorship C. Comunistic Democracy D. Capitalistic Republic E. Capitalistic Oligarchy Another stupid one. For one, Arius never liked how they referred to the former civilization as the ‘old civilization’. But it was better than the alternative of calling them ‘the ancients’, which a lot of people did. The truth was they thrived less than a hundred years ago. Granted society had come to see a hundred years as a long time, but the truth was it wasn’t. Arius shook his head and forced his mind to stop wandering. The answer was ‘E’ again. Granted it was a mildly controlled economic state not really appropriate to call ‘capitalistic’, but it was designed off the same principals, so that’s what they schools always drilled in to the people’s heads, along with a non existent sense of freedom: nothing more than an illusion. The only freedom this government gave people was that they couldn’t figure out how to restrict.

“Professor Lindsay!” The principal’s voice could be hear from down the hallway before he even reached the door to the classroom. Arius, along with all the other students, glanced up from their examinations and watched the door burst open. “Professor Lindsay!” The principal, Mr. Terrance Rockwell, was in his early thirties and when he was appointed, there was much debate as to whether or not he was qualified… much of this came from his own mouth. He lacked confidence as a leader… Arius saw this as an extreme downfall and sure sign he was not ready to take the position. Professor Lindsay, however, was Arius’ History teacher, and quite a different story. She was older, and though she was small and rather quirky, she never hesitated to take charge of things when needed. “Yes Mr. Rockwell? What is it?” She asked without loosing her composure in the slightest. “Turn on channel five.” “We are in the middle of the examination Mr. Rockwell.” “Turn it on!” She rolled her eyes and shook her head slightly, then stood and slowly made her way across the room to turn on the television set, then she casually scrolled through the channels until she hit ‘five’. The words “BREAKING NEWS” were posted in capital letters across the screen, and with it in slightly smaller text the words “Longest recorded government falls to Democratic Crusades.” “Our capital fell?” Mrs. Lindsay was shocked, but the only indication was a slightly raised right eyebrow. “Yes, there was a surprise attack last night, and without leaders, our military has been rendered useless… What should I do?” She frowned, thought a moment, then shrugged, sighing again as she did so. “Release the students and gather faculty for an emergency meeting. Did you hear me students? If your parents are unable to pick you up go to the cafeteria and wait until they can. Do any of you have any questions?” There was a silence for a moment, then Arius raised his hand quietly and elegantly. “Yes Arius?” “Will ‘E’ still count for number eighteen?”


Meanwhile, Lady Mialaria Gelford heard a click on the line followed by a voice. “Hello, this is Melborne.” “Lord Melborne? Lady Mia Gelford speaking. What’s going on.” “Frankly, chaos. Since the fall of the capital, they’ve been holding court to decide which noble families should be stripped of their ranks and which should be executed. Obviously neither of our names are in the hat for either. That’s the benefit to keeping one’s face out of politics.” “But what of the ARMS hunters?” “Yes, well it seems that they won’t be shut down.” “Oh thank god.” “Not so fast… the official statement is that they won’t be kept up either.” “What do you mean?” “I mean to say that I can’t get these democratic bastards to give us any funding… and if we don’t find a way to make money, then we’re as good as shut down.” “Don’t they realize that it’s a government funded organization designed to protect the people?” “I suppose they think their military is enough for that… or they think you can find a way of making money while protecting the people. Hell if I know. Don’t shoot the messenger.” “Fine… well, thanks for trying anyway. Which families have been executed so far?” “The Devon family, and the Travian family. That’s the whole list so far. It isn’t looking good for the Westons though.” “Lobby as much as you can for the Westons without getting yourself in trouble. We could use their financial backing.” “Of course Lady Gelford. Anything else?” “No. Just keep me updated.” “Of course. Goodbye.” “Goodbye.”

TWO

“Aja.” No response. Cage watched from atop a nearby cliff as Aja made her way swiftly across the desert sands on what was left of her motorcycle. It was broken down and bellowing smoke behind it as it went. This was hardly visible though, since the sand cast in her wake was thicker. “Aja!” “What is it Cage?” “The wind.” “What about it?” “It’s ominous. I feel a storm approaching.” Aja sighed. “Great, just what I needed… to get rained on… do you see where the phantom went?” “I don’t see it, no. But I can feel the disturbance in the elements. It’s close to you. Be sure to be careful.” “Of course. Did you get a good look at it?” “No, but it resonates with the tones of fire and wind.” “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” In an instant, flames exploded around Aja. She screamed, but the sound was swallowed into the inferno that surrounded her. She felt the hot sensation of flame reaching towards her face, causing her to involuntarily pull away. This threw her balance, forcing her motorcycle to fall away into the sand. She winced as her face struck the dirt. “Aja! Look out! It’s right on top of you!” She yelled in to the mic in an attempt to say “No shit Cage!” but it was too muddled to make any sense. She rolled out of the cloud of sand, ignoring the pain she felt all over he skin. She blinked a couple times, trying to get the sand out of her eyes, buy to no avail. “Cage,” she paused a moment to spit out a mouth full of sand. “I can’t see.” “That’s fine. Just pull out your sword and start swinging. It’s right in front of you.” “What?” “Just do it!” She pulled out her blade from where it was sheathed at her side. It was a brilliant rapier with a jeweled hilt and long, slender blade. She lashed out wildly. “The key to fencing is footing Cage, if I can’t see it and my footing is lost in the sliding sands, how am I expected to hit it?” “You aren’t. You’re at the disadvantage. So just hold on, and keep swinging.” Cage reached down to his pocket and flicked the switch on his portable music library and it began to play. “The storm is almost here” Aja slashed wildly. The soft piano and strings began to hum melodically as Cage pulled a small, slender, metal baton from his pocket and pulled it to its full length, held it up, and began to conduct. Aja felt the wind push the hot flames reaching for her, keeping them just far enough away. The sand began to fall from her eyes, and her tears slowly began to clear her view. Rain began to fall, moving in quickly with the swing of Cage’s baton. He could feel the elements of the storm swirl around him, and he could feel them sway with the motion of his hand. Then… with the flick of his wrist! A spike of earth exploded upward, smashing into the flaming monster and beating it into the ground, throwing its head against the metal of the motorcycle. “I saw that Cage!” He reached down and flicked his music off. “That was my bike!” It was in pieces now, broken into five large segments, visible from where Cage stood, and many smaller ones. “Oops.” “That’s the second time this week Cage! I can’t keep replacing my bike! My parents are going to kill me!” “Sorry!” “I can’t believe you!” “Just seal the damn monster!” Aja rolled her eyes, then turned back. She could see it now. It was a phoenix, beaten to the ground and lying lifeless on the sand. Aja reached into her pocket and pulled out a card, the same size as a playing card. It had an ornate frame on one side, with an ancient design on the back… a sealing card. “You my friend… have been beate….” Suddenly it erupted into flame in a large explosive blast. Aja flew backwards, falling back into the sand again. “Holy shit!” Cage shrieked, “it’s back Aja!” “Owch… What?” “It’s back! It flew back up out of that explosion.” “Of course Cage, it’s a damn phoenix! It was reborn from its own ashes. We have to seal it while it’s still alive.” “Well, I could use some help with that!” Aja opened her eyes, forcing herself back to her feet, and as she did so she looked up. Cage was on the cliff, feebly attempting to dodge the vicious strikes from the bird. “Okay, okay, be there in a second.” She looked around quickly locating the fastest way up the cliff. If she went about twenty feet out of her way, there was a spot that looked sloped enough to run up if she could keep her momentum. “I can’t conduct my symphony, if you keep attacking me you damn bird!” Cage growled. It flapped its wings, showering him with burning sparks. He leaped back to dodge, but his heel struck a rock and in the next moment he was on his back, his baton clattering to the rock beside him. The fall paralyzed him momentarily, fortunately the creature’s next lash of its talons was off aim, raking the dirt beside him. “Cage! I’m coming!” Aja had snagged hold of a weed at the edge of the cliff’s wall and was pulling her way to the top when the bird caught sight of her again. It flapped its great wings and rose up into the air again, glaring at her. Cage saw its eyes move and took advantage of the opportunity. He rolled across the painfully rocky terrain, reaching out and grabbing Aja’s hand. She accepted it quickly and pulled, putting her full weight on his arm, which nearly ended up pulling them both of the ledge, but he grabbed a rock for leverage just in time. She rolled to her feet and readied her blade, meeting the phoenix’s glare. “You got it Aja?” “Sure do.” She declared, holding up the card as she pulled it back out of her pocket. “Good.” Cage sighed, breathing heavily. “I’ll just… stay here then.” He remained flat on his back in the dirt. “I’ll get the rest.” The phoenix let loose an ear piercing cry, the fell in a nose dive, breaking away just above the ground and charging Aja at full speed. Aja smiled, twisted her stance, and leaped from the hard stone ground, thrusting her blade downward so it held less than an inch above the ground. It was too late for the bird to change direction. It hit the blade’s edge at full speed. It split, transforming into what looked to be two balls of flame and crashing into the ground, each less than four feet from where Aja landed on her feet, skidding in the dirt for a moment until she came to rest at the side of the beast’s remnants. Imediately she turnned on the ball of her foot and held up the card. There was a blinding flash as the energy of flame was pulled from the two burning masses into the sealing card… into the empty frame. The bird’s slender neck reached out and its beak opened to let out one final cry before it was pulled into the ancient symbol. There was a moment of tension, then all was silent. Aja let out a sigh of relief, then inspected the card. It now read “Phoenix” in ornate letters at the bottom, and the frame was not filled with a beautiful drawing of the bird. Beneath it, on the right edge of the card, it had the letter ‘B’. ‘Wow, that was just a ‘B’ class?’ She thought to herself. “Hey, Aja… a little help up?” Cage flopped his arm on the ground, trying to raise it, but the pain in his back seemed to be too much for him to properly move any part of his body. She began to walk over to him, feeling the pain of her own wounds begin to throb all over her body. Cage rested his eyes a moment, and when he opened them, Aja was standing over him. She didn’t offer him a hand, merely looked at him unsympathetically a moment, then turned away. “You owe me a new bike.”


“Lord Gelford, one of the phantoms we had on our scope a moment ago just vanished.” Eamon Gelford turned his head to look at the screen a moment, then shrugged. “It was only a B class. Nothing to be terribly concerned about. I’m sure it will reappear once the satellite refreshes its signal. Besides, it’s not like it’s near a population.” “Y… yes my lord. I apologize for even bringing it up.” “Don’t worry about it.” The door across the way opened and a slender woman, average height, with long silver blonde hair stepped in. She cocked her head to the side, then smiled. “Yes! This would work splendidly.” There was an awkward silence for a moment, then Lord Gelford stepped forward. “What would work splendidly? And who are you? This is a restricted area Miss. I would recommend you leave immediately.” “Stand down Eamon.” Emerging from behind the first lady stepped Lady Gelford. “Mia… who is this?” “She is here to make us a proposition, Eamon.” The blonde woman immediately took off and began inspecting the room enthusiastically. “And that proposition is?” “You know of our current funding predicament?” “Of course, I have been informed.” “Let’s just say she is our solution. Valencia!” The blonde woman turned quickly and smiled. “Yes?” “Does this room suit your liking?” “Oh yes! This will make for an excellent base of operations!” “Very well, it’s yours.” Eamon couldn’t hide the look of shock on his face for a moment. He turned and looked at the girl a moment, then turned back to Mia. “May I please have an explaination?” “Sure. This is Valencia Mallory. She will be our new head of media operations.” “Media operations?” “That’s right dear…” Mialaria smiled. “We’re putting the Hunter’s organization on the air.” “We’re what?” “You heard me. We need to turn out a profit or be shut down… since shutting down isn’t an option, that means we need to find a way to make hunting phantoms profitable… and televising it is exactly what will make that happen.” “It was my idea!” Valencia chimed in. “If we make sealing phantoms into a competition, then have hunters race on the air to see who gets them first, we will have viewers like you can’t imagine!” She smiled and let out a squeal of excitement. “But… we’ll turn our respectable lifestyle into a laughing stock!” “Oh no, we’ll just have to make it a part of popular culture. Valencia!” “Yes mam!” “Make a commercial announcing a tournament. If we’re turning this into a race, we’ll need contestants. We’ll need to recruit new hunters.” “Oh! A performance tournament! That would be the best way for that! Plus it would drum up publicity! Come fight to determine if you’re worth of being the next Phantom hunter! So exciting!” “A tournament? Very well, a tournament it is. Get to work on it.” “Of course!” “Mia!” Eamon growled, cutting in. She smiled at him for a moment, glaring at the same time. “What Eamon, you don’t like the idea?” He gritted his teeth but said nothing. “Because you could always try and stop it, if you wanted…” Silence. “No? Well then sit down and do your job… and let her do hers. We have to keep up with the wave of the future, and if it’s money making we must do, then we’ll do it.” With that Mia turned to leave. “Wow, scareeey…” Valencia laughed.

THREE

“You two skipped classes! To hunt a phantom?” Mrs. Lindsay was livid. “Yes mam.” Aja and Cage said in unison. “What in heaven’s name possessed you to do that?” “Well, we found the sealing card at an antique shop and, well, when we saw the phantom on the radar we just…” “Did you have no idea how dangerous it was?” “We had a general idea…” “What if it had been an B class, or worse, and A or S! You’d have been killed!” “Actually, mam, it was a B class.” Aja cut in. “What? You two are lucky it let you run away!” “It didn’t mam.” “What?” “I sealed it.” Aja stood, the true image of a noble. There was no sense of apology in her voice. Only pride as she held up the card. “Wow!” Principal Rockwell exclaimed. Professor Lindsay quickly shot him a glare, to which he immediately responded. “Oh, I mean, hmmm….” “You two will be repremanded for this, make no mistake. But for now I must send you home. The school has been closed, so you have no classes to make up. Except, that is, for my history test… if I let you take it.” “Yes mam, thank you mam.” Cage said quickly, bowing his head. “Very well. Get home quickly. And never do something that foolish again.”
The phone’s ring was cut short as Lord Eamon Gelford picked up the reciever. “Yes?” “Gelford? It’s Rockwell… I have a couple students that may be of some interest to you.” “Huh, why would your high school students be of interest to me?” “Because they just skipped class to seal a level B phantom… the phoenix card, sir.” Silence. “Sir? “We’re holding a tournament. Make sure they show up.” Then Lord Gelford hung up.
Aja and Cage left the principles office smiling to themselves. “You know you’re too much of a brown nose! You don’t have to agree with everything Mrs. Lindsay says.” “Unlike you I actually care about my grades.” “I’m just saying missing one test isn’t going to kill you.” “Maybe not but you never know when it comes down to the wire at midterms.” “Yeah, yeah….” Aja laced her fingers together behind her head and sighed to herself happily, today had been a great day. She was one step closer to becoming a hunter and anything she did to piss off her parents was always worth it. Not only had she skipped school, her bike was destroyed, which she wasn’t really happy about but it was a means to and end anyway. Another thing to add to the list was her uniform, it was beyond repair. It was covered with dirt and blood, ripped, burned and all together a total mess. She glanced over at Cage who’s uniform wasn’t as worse for ware, but it was still needing help. “Hey sorry about your uniform, I didn’t mean for you to get so banged up.” She said frowning. “It’s okay, the pants and shirt sleeves were getting a little to short. It’s time for some new ones anyway. ” “You sure?” “Yup!” The two always avoided the subject of money, their families and pretty much anything else having to do with other than hunting. Hunting and school was their only real connection but it was enough for both of them. When they walked to the lockers to get their shoes they weren’t the only ones there. Two other students were collecting their things, both were in the Junior section . One a boy with headphones stuck to his ears, the other a girl undoubtedly swooning over the boy. Aja glared in their general direction and watched as the boy looked up to glare back at them. She looked away uninterested and collected her things before bidding Cage farewell. Aja went home to her very large and very empty house made entirely out of grey marble. Tossing her uniform in the garbage she went up to her room and sat down on her bed. Pulling out the phoenix card she smiled to herself and closed her eyes losing herself in a daydream. Today had truly been a great day.

“Ryuu, sweetie, take out the trash, will you?” Ryuu Nakano signed inwardly. I’m sorry mother, he thought, I figured you’d want me to be on time for school. I know how much you care about my scholastic career…Yeah, right. Unfortunatley for Ryuu, the last two words were said out loud. “Ryuu Eri, I’m disappointed in you.” Dammit…

Sparrow glanced anxiously from the clock to the door and back. It was a full ten minutes before Ryuu skidded into the classroom, headphones in his ears as always. “Mr. Nakano, I hope you don’t expect a recap of everything we’ve gone over today” Ms. Lyons chirped. Ryuu sat down next to Sparrow, pretending that he hadn’t heard. Sparrow rolled her eyes. “No of course you wouldn’t” Ms. Lyons muttered, shuffling toward the chalkboard. The loud speaker creaked to life. “ATTENTION STUDENTS: ALL CLASSES ARE SUSPENDED FOR THE REST OF THE DAY. GO HOME. IF YOUR PARENTS CAN’T TAKE YOU HOME IMMEDIATELY, GO TO THE CAFETERIA AND WAIT FOR THEM. THANK YOU.” “Sweet” Sparrow grinned at Ryuu. Ryuu huffed. “You mean I ran all the way here for nothing?!” Sparrow laughed heartily at her best friend. “Walk me home?” she nudged.

When Ryuu got home, he was surprised to find his father there. “Dad. Why aren’t you at work?” Jaq Nakano gave his eldest son a depressing glance. “Heathens…” he muttered. Huh??? Helynn Nakano entered from the laundry room. “What’s going on, mom?” Ryuu asked. “Nothing to worry about, sweetie” she assured him, her eyes wrinkling at the corners, the way they always did when she was lying. “It’s a government thing.” “Right…” Ryuu raised at eyebrow at her but didn’t feel like pressing the matter further. Instead he went upstairs to his bedroom. His cell phone, lying face up on his bed, was lit with a missed call. Sparrow. He dialed her number and waited.

“Ryuu, hey! Did you hear what happened?” “No. What happened?” “Our entire government has been thrown!” WHAT??!! “Well that explains dad’s mood…” “That’s it? That’s all you have to say?” “Yeah, pretty much…” “Oh, you are just plain rediculous.”

And with that, she hung up on him. Ryuu had to chuckle. He loved annoying Sparrow. “Ryuu Eri, please tell me you didn’t forget to feed the cat again…” “Coming, mom!” He let out another deep sigh and headed back downstairs.
In a dark room far underground, a phone rang. Ring. A figure stirred. Ring. Slowly it made its way among the shadows ‘cast by a multitude of computer screens. Ring. The figure moved quietly, silently, without making a noi- “Damn it! Where the hell is the light switch?! It’s hella creepy in here!” The figure quickly ran it’s hands along the wall, finding the switch and clicking it on. The room was bathed in light, revealing the room to be entirely…pink. Pink walls, pink computers, pink carpeting, and making it’s way angrily towards the phone, which seemed to be growing a thick coat of fuzzy pink fur, a figure in a pink dress with an enormous poofy skirt. “I’m coming!” On it’s way to the phone the figure past a mirror and did a double take. “Oh, wonderful!” Looking back through the mirror was a beautiful young girl with long black hair hanging in perfect curls and deep, dark amber yes. The girls face lit into a smile and she gave herself a quick wink before advancing on the phone. “Hello?” “Charlie! My sweet! How-” “This better be really good, Geezer, you just interrupted my ten hours of beauty sleep! My REM cycle has been completely disrupted, and I swear if I have bags under my eyes in the morning-” “My little honey-buns I’m not even thirty yet. How can you even think to call me a geezer?” “What do you want?” Charlie snapped. “I was just calling to check on your progress. There’s really no need to-” “It’s done.” “…Excuse me?” “I said it’s done. My research is complete and I’ve achieved my goal.” “…” “What?” “It really is a shame that your motivation is so twisted. You could do great things for humanity.” Charlie puffed out her cheeks. I will do great things for humanity! I’m making this world a much more beautiful place!” “As long as you haven’t done anything to my lab…” “…” “…Charlie?” “So what did you really call me about anyway?” Charlie quickly changed the subject. The voice on the other end sighed. “My research really isn’t going very well. If only-” “I told you, I refuse to become a stinking hunter. I could become seriously disfigured, and then what good would I be doing to the world?” “Yes, about that, I’ve gotten some interesting news. How’s that little website of yours going?” Charlie pouted. “Ok, I guess. I’m now ranked as one of the top ten internet idols, but only just barely. I’m, like, eighth. Can you believe it?!” “Yes, well, how would you like an opportunity to raise your popularity a bit?” Charlie narrowed her eyes. “Spit it out old man!” The voice on the other end giggled. “Well, I’ve just learned that hunting is being made into a television program. They’re holding a tournament to decide who the new hunters will be. You can find out more info on your own. That’s all! Goodbye Sweetie-kins!” There was a click on the other end, quickly followed by the dial tone. Charlie slowly set the receiver down and made her way over to the mirror. She studied herself, turning her head this way and that, twisting her body in order to get a look at herself from all angles. She finely settled, staring at herself straight on, face soft and innocent. Then her eyes narrowed and her mouth split into a wicked grin. “I have work to do.”

FOUR

Arius placed his key in the door knob, but before he could turn it, he heard a click and the door was pulled away from him. “Welcome home Lord Arius.” Flora bowed her head and knelt in a courtesy. “Thank you Flora.” “You’re home quite early my Lord. Did anything happen at school today?” “Have you been watching the news Flora?” “Yes my lord. It appears there has been quite a bit of political activity today.” “That’s right. In light of the events, the school deemed it a good move to let everyone out early.” “I see.”
Valencia Mallory frowned deeply, wrinkling her brow. “Oh come now, you can do better than that.” Lord Eamon Gelford shook his head. “If you don’t like it get someone else.” “But I can’t, you’re the organization’s top hunter. If anyone is going to start as the face the media goes for, it’s you. So all I need you to do is smile. Look happy. This is going to be the biggest revolution of television entertainment and you are our public figurehead.” “You obviously don’t understand. I don’t smile.” “Oh, fine. Go away.” He shook his head, then rose to his feet and walked away, muttering something to himself under his breath. “Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me. I just need something to film for a promotion of the tournament… on top of that… I still need more cameras and people to run them… This is going to be interesting. ”
“Hey! Brother!” “There you are! I was wondering where you’d gotten off to after school let out. But I guess you beat me home.” Cage smiled. Louis was Cage’s little brother, he was a bit shorter, which Cage often gave him trouble for, with hair that was more brown than blonde and more ‘fluffed’ rather than curled. “Well I got a head start, you skipped class after all, so you were busy being yelled at.” “Glad school got out?” “Not really. I was looking forward to shooting the library scene in the movie we’re working on with the film club… Now it looks I’ll have to shoot for rescheduling sometime during finals week, which will be a pain.” “Closing up the library for shooting during finals week? Yikes.” Louis’ eyes widened a moment, “Brother! You’re hurt!” Cage glanced down at his leg, noticing a cut in his uniform pants revealing a small wound with trace amounts of fresh blood. “You’re filthy too! If you don’t get that cleaned quickly it’ll get infected.” “I know, I know. Thanks, I didn’t even see it there.” “What happened?” “Um… nothing. I just fell.” “In the sand? What, like, five times?” “Don’t worry about it.” “You weren’t doing anything dangerous were you?” “Well, not really. Aja and I ditched class to go use that sealing card on a phantom that popped up on the news radar this morning. It was just a short ride outside of the school district so we figured we may as well.” “Wow, did it work?” “Yeah, actually. She’s got the card. I helped quite a bit, but she finished it off.” “Yeah? Did you have to use your magic any?” “A bit.” “How’s her bike?” “Shouldn’t we be getting inside?” “You broke it again, didn’t you?” “No! Of course not!... The phantom did.” “Oh brother. You know, we don’t have any money to help her out… just like we haven’t the past three times you’ve broken that poor girl’s top-of-the-line motorcycle. It’s a wonder you two are still friends.” “Can we drop it please?” “For now, I guess.” “What’s for dinner?” “Not sure. Haven’t thought of what to make. I figured I could pretty easily put something together using those potatoes we’ve had for a week or so. Maybe I could run out and grab some more cheap ingredients…” “Yeah. You want me to cook it up?” “No thank you. I’d rather eat something that won’t keep me out of school for the week.” “If it opens back up by then.”
“You mean we’re need to open back up tomorrow?” Principal Rockwell asked, astounded. “This is a big deal sir… with all due respect.” “If you miss any more days, Rockwell, you’ll have to start cutting in to the student’s summer vacation. And I’m sure they won’t appreciate that. While I understand your concern, it is important to educate the children, even when in the midst of this chaos… in fact I’d say especially in the midst of this chaos… yes, you can quote me on that one.” “Yes sir, I will. I guess I’ll be sure and make that report to the local television and radio stations.” “Good move Rockwell, make sure those kids know they need to be back in the morning. Go ahead and put that quote in the next student paper.” “Yes sir, I will.”
“Flora… I’ve been thinking.” “Yes my lord?” “Ever since my parents died, you’ve been trying to keep up with your studies on your own… that must be hard on you.” “You needn’t concern yourself with my difficulties my lord.” “Oh enough of that Flora. I will concern myself if I like. But I’ve been toying around with the idea of enrolling you in my classes at the school.” Flora’s eyes lit up in an instant. “Really my lord?” “You like the idea?” “Yes, yes, very much.” “Well, then as soon as school starts back up, you should come with. I will enroll you in the morning and we can be in classes again by late afternoon.” “Thank you Lord Arius.” She took his hand gently and kissed it, as a formal sign of gratitude, then left the room. “If you’ll excuse me please.” She dashed down the hallway and into her room. She went straight to her closet. “School… Public school!”

FIVE

The collapse of the government so far hadn’t all together changed day to day life. In fact for Aja and her classmates the steady drone of daily school life hadn’t changed at all. It had been two weeks since the announcement of the government’s fall flooded the airwaves and they were still right on track with the syllabus. Currently the entire student body was gathered in the auditorium waiting to hear the speeches from the top student of each class. It was a yearly event and mandatory for those with the highest GPA’s. The candidates seated on the right side of the podium this year were none other than Aja, herself, representing the Sophomore class and some giddy little girl with pigtails and freckles from the Freshmen. On the left side and from the Senior class was the same guy that had apparently been up here every year since he was a freshman. Also representing the Junior class Aja noticed the same guy with the headphones she had seen the day her and Cage captured the phoenix. His headphones were firmly in place and he was staring off in to oblivion. “Gees, you could at least pretend you’re paying attention.” Aja muttered to herself as Rockwell finish his introduction speech and motioned for the freshman girl to come to the podium. It was short and agonizingly sweet. “I’ll give you a year and you’ll have a different attitude…” Aja said smiling slyly to the little girl as she stared back wide eyed and stupid. Aja took her place at the podium and smiled her best million dollar smile.

“Good morning everyone! I’m Aja Hillisine and I represent the sophomore class as the student with the highest GPA and today to encourage you ALL…to do as little as possible so you don’t have to stand up here next year and give a stupid speech. Furthermore in light of the recent fall of our government I currently even question if this institution is necessary for our advancement in today’s society. And no I don’t care what you think of me or my opinions but since I’m forced to stand up here and give a statement it might as well be one I feel pertinent to the situation. Which I believe is the statement I mentioned beforehand. Thank you and have a nice day.”

You could have heard a pin drop as Aja left the podium but she didn’t care because she had made her point. Her point being “That if you give me a microphone it means your going to hear what I want to talk about.” Things didn’t go much better with the next speech either. The kid with the headphones walked to the podium and just stood there. He stood there for about thirty seconds before pulling a set of mini speakers from his pocket and plugged in his ipod. Suddenly the sound of what Aja guessed could be called music filled the auditorium. It lasted for two or three minutes before he unplugged his ipod and walked back to his seat. He at least got a few claps and cheers from the crowd for his performance, but he couldn’t hear them because he already had his headphones plugged back in.

“I can’t believe you two! Well maybe you Miss Hillisine, but you Mr. Nakano I’m shocked. ” Professor Lindsay fumed as a silent Rockwell twiddled his thumbs in the background. Aja really didn’t feel like explaining herself today and apparently neither did the Nakano kid.

“Well don’t you to have anything to say for yourselves!?” “Not really, and I don’t think he does either.” “You Miss Hillisine are incorrigible! You’ve already received one detention this month for skipping class and hunting that stupid phantom and now you’re pushing for two!” Aja shrugged and prepared herself for Professor Lindsay to throw the books at her, she was hoping for an expulsion. “Well then if that’s the way you feel, off to detention with you! Oh and Mr. Nakano you can not only thank Miss Hillisine but you can accompany her as well!”

Three hours into detention Aja looked over at the Nakano kid. She figured he’d be uberly pissed but he was staring off into space as usual, well minus the head phones that were on Mr. Conley’s, the detention monitors, desk.

“Don’t you two have some homework or something?” “Do I ever do my homework anywhere but in class?” “No, I guess not…What about you Mr. Nakano?” Silence. “Ok, I guess that’s a no too…well I’m going to get some coffee you two behave yourselves. ” “Don’t worry we’ll wait to have the orgy till you get back.” “That’s not only inappropriate but disgusting Miss Hillisine.” “You know you like it…” Aja muttered before putting her head down on the desk for a nap. It would be a hour or so before he got back.

It was pitch black outside when detention let out and no one but the janitor was around. With his headphones firmly back in place the Nakano kid grabbed his shoes and bag but before leaving he intentionally bumped into Aja hard enough to understand it’s meaning. He left with out saying a word as Aja glared after him. “Jerk it’s not my fault you pulled the stunt in the auditorium that got you called to the office!” She thought as she grabbed her bag and followed.

Aja thought about cutting him off as she passed him walking on the side walk. She was on her bike, but if she ran him over it would cause more problems. So she refrained herself, to leaving him in the dust behind her. Satisfied she made her way home.
Ryuu Nakano hadn’t planned to be a rebel that day. He had prepared a speech, just like he was supposed to, and had had every intention of giving it but his father’s words that morning just couldn’t be ignored. “It’s just not right, Helynn. I’ve poured my sweat and blood into this job for nineteen years and now what am I gonna do? What do I tell the kids? No, you know what Helynn? Life just isn’t worth doing the right thing for everyone else. I’ve spent too long thinking about what I can do to keep everyone happy and it’s gotten me nowhere. Well I’m done caring what other people want.” Ryuu knew he hadn’t been meant to hear any of his father’s words but he was immediately glad that he had. He crumpled up his speech and threw it in the corner. Well, dad, I’m done too.

When it came time to give his speech, he just played “Kicking and Screaming” over the speakers. Sparrow cheered the loudest when he was through but he noticed a rather pleased smile on the face of the sophomore girl who had delivered her stellar speech before his turn. A small smile crept onto his face at her amusement. Then the word “DETENTION” was flashed across his radar. Shit…

Inside detention, however, he realized that the next few hours would be spent with the sophomore girl. He took this time to reflect on her, since his headphones had been taken away. She was cute, but he figured he probably wasn’t her type.

On the way out, he bumped into her. Okay, so maybe it was a little third grade to hit a girl you liked, but Ryuu probably hadn’t really thought about girls SINCE the third grade so it really couldn’t be helped.

Outside she passed him on her bike. And he wasn’t sure, but he thought he saw her glance at him.

SIX

Maximilian was bored. Granted this was nothing new, he was virtually bored every day. Stuck in the monotonous schedule of school and with no friends to speak of, things generally got pretty old pretty quick. Max had thought that with the upset with the government something interesting might happen. However, school restarted, just the same as ever, and he returned to his monotonous routine. Now, it wasn’t that Max didn’t like people. He was just a bit awkward. He towered over other freshman at a staggering six foot two inches and kept his eyes hidden by a pair of thick-rimmed glasses and a head of messy black hair. The glasses must give him a menacing look, for people usually mistook his shyness for hostility. So, Max sat at his desk looking straight ahead, waiting for the teacher to arrive; the rest of the class giving him plenty of space. The homeroom teacher finally entered, the class quieting as the bell rang. “OK, class, today we have a new transfer student. She’s been home-schooled her whole life, so make sure you’re very nice and show her a proper welcome. She should be here shortly.” She turned and watched the door expectantly. Heads turned as everyone looked to the door, wanting to get a first look at the new student. There was a long pause. Someone coughed. Then someone giggled. There was a whispered, “Well where is she?” Then the door opened… And in walked an embarrassed looking secretary. There was a collective sigh of disappointment as the secretary made her way to the teacher and leaned up to whisper something into her ear. Max had already tuned out. He wasn’t really interested in another girl joining their class. The teacher nodded her head as the secretary finished and bustled out of the room. She turned to the class and said, “It seems there has been some kind of delay. We’ll start our lesson and give introductions once she arrives.” Max wondered what possible delay there could have been. The new student must be a noble. Most commoners lived fairly close to the school, as they didn’t have private transportation. Only the nobles drove in from their wide-spread estates. Max had to stop his musings as the teacher started talking so he could take notes. Class seemed to drag on longer than usual. The room was full with a kind of anxious irritation, as everyone was wondering when the new student would arrive. What would she be like? Why was she so late? It had almost reached lunch period when the door finally slammed open and in walked something straight out of a picture book. Behind his bangs and glasses, Max stared. She had long black hair that hung loose down her shoulders in perfect curls, and dark amber eyes that he swore tinkled as they swept over the class in a negligent glance. But it was what she was wearing that made his jaw fall slightly slack. Instead of the standard uniform, she had on a big, pink, poofy, pink, frilly, pink, lacy, and pink dress. Max wasn’t quite sure how she fit through the door. He swore the diameter of that skirt had to be much greater than the width of the door. The math teacher also seemed to be caught off guard. He had dropped his lecture notes and was looking at the girl in a mixture of confusion, and outrage. Finally he stammered out, “Wh-who are you?” Instead of answering him directly, she clasped her hands behind her back, turned to the class, and exclaimed, “I’m the new transfer student, Charlene Scorpius. You can call me Charlie. I don’t know much about public school,” she pouted, “but I hope we can all be friends! I want to get to know every single one of you!” And then she winked. Max’s lip curled in disgust, however, he could see a few girls and more than a few guys in the class blush and smile back tentatively. The teacher, and his face, remained frozen throughout this speech, but now a spell seemed to have broken and he advanced angrily on Charlie. “And where is your uniform?!” Charlie waved him off as she made her way to a desk. “That thing was hideous and cumbersome. You can hardly expect me to where that thing for one day, let alone every day.” Oh yeah, definitely a noble. Max scowled as she chose one the four empty desks around him, the one directly in front of him. He was quickly deciding he didn’t like this girl. The teacher looked outraged. “You can’t just-” he seemed to be struggling to find words to express himself. “Wh-why are so late!?” Having gotten such a blunt answer to his first question he seemed to be changing gears. However, Charlie remained unfazed. “She calmly tilted her head up to the teacher and, Max could swear she batted her eyelashes, said, “There absolutely no way I could wake up early enough to get to school when I was informed to. I figured there must have been a mistake. How could anyone maintain their health and beauty when they had to wake up at such ungodly hours.” The math teacher seemed to have finally found his bearing and squared up against this admittedly difficult opponent. “Now listen to me, little missy, we teach both nobles and commoners alike at this school, and nobody gets special treatment. You cannot just do as you please-” “I think you’ll find that my family just made a considerable donation to the school, so I can do as I please. It’s not like I came hear to learn. What could you possibly teach me?” The teacher was once again speechless. Luckily he was saved form having to respond to that as the lunch bell rang. There was bustle and confusion as the class got up to leave, and Max decide to put the whole incident from his mind as he made his way to the cafeteria.

Being feared my the majority of people had it’s advantages and disadvantages. Disadvantage: no one would sit at a table if he was there. Advantage: no one, not even teachers, stopped him from eating lunch on the roof. Max found it much less awkward than eating alone in a crowded cafeteria or classroom. So, lunch tray balanced on one hand, he made his way up the stairs to the roof, stepped through the door, and froze. There, facing away from him, was Charlie, hair and dress blowing in the breeze. Max could hardly believe his bad luck. The roof was his sanctuary, and now it had been invaded by pink. She had failed to notice him yet. Her head was down and she seemed to be fiddling with something on her wrist. Max was about to say something to her when suddenly her image flickered, and the words died on his lips. Now, standing in front of him, was not a girl in a frilly pink dress, but a boy in a skin-tight black jumpsuit. Max blushed. Oh boy. Then the door clicked behind him. Max barely registered movement before he felt a breeze rustle his hair and heard a heavy impact next to his head. H found himself staring into a very angry pair of amber eyes. Despite the circumstances, the first thing Max noticed was that the boy in the skin-tight suit was no pressed very close to him. His blush deepened. Ooooh, boy. Then he realized that the boy’s fingers were clawed, and while the claws on the left hand were pointed at his throat, the ones one the right were buried inches into the concrete wall of the roof entrance. Oh, shit. Then the boy, who Max now realized could only be Charlie, spoke; not in that annoyingly sweet voice he had used during class, but in a slightly deeply, much more menacing voice. “Tell anyone about this and I’ll kill you.” Max weakly nodded his head. That wouldn’t be a problem. No one ever spoke to Max. However, Charlie was not aware of this. His eyes narrowed. “As if I can actually trust you. I’ll have to keep my eye on you. Are you in any extra-curricular activities?” Max shook his head. “Good. Consider yourself the vice president of the Charlie Fan Club. Meet me after school right here.” And with that, Charlie completely lost his menacing air and gave Max a wink. “Be a gentleman and don’t make a lady wait.” Max’s eyebrows drew together in confusion before the image of the girl in the ridiculous dress flickered back into place. Oh, yeah. Lady. Wait… “See ya!” Max found himself alone and very confused as the door back inside closed. What the fuck had he gotten into? As he bent to gather up his dropped lunch, he was entirely ready to go straight home directly after school and just avoid Charlie for the rest of his life. Then he paused as he remembered that skin-tight suit… Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to see what Charlie was all about. Max al least knew one thing; his life didn’t look so boring any more.
Phro kicked up dust uncomfortably as she made her way to her new school. Her parents had picked an awful time to move. Not that Phro had minded, until she was told she had to go to school. Up until now, she had been working odd jobs for cash, but when the jobs were through, she got restless and the only entertainment was using her younger sisters as punching bags. She guessed her parents were hoping she would beat up kids at school instead. The minute she entered the entered the building, she met her nemesis. “You there!” called a voice. Phro turned to it and her mouth dropped in disgust. Standing before her, in a frilly dress, was an obnoxiously cute girl with long, curly black hair. The girl smiled at Phro’s reaction, probably mistaking the expression. The word “bitch” circulated through Phro’s mind uncontrollably. Luckily she managed to keep it off her lips as the girl approached. She tossed her curls, “Would you like to join the Charlie Fan Club?” “The what?” The girl leaned in, “My Fffffaaaaaaaannnnn cluuuuuu-buh.” she said, stretching out every possible sound and adding an extra syllable for the B, “We need members, and I was wondering if you would like to join.” “Why the hell would I do that?” The girl, Charlie apparently, frowned, “Why not? Look at me! Who wouldn’t want to be in my fan club?” Phro stared at her for a moment, trying to figure out if she was serious. Apparently she was. “I don’t.” She turned to walk away, but a hand grabbed her arm, “I don’t think you understand. I just invited you into my fan club. You should be honored.” Phro grabbed the girl’s wrist, “And yet, I’m not. So you’d better let me go before I mess up that pretty face of yours.” A boy stepped between the two, hesitantly pushing them apart, “Okay, okay. It’s not that big a deal. Right?” Phro analyzed the look he was giving Charlie. It was almost pleading, like he thought something terrible was coming, but not from Phro. She raised an eyebrow. So this was the bitch’s bitch. School was looking wonderful already. Charlie sighed, twirling around, “Whatever. Like we’d want her anyway fouling up my fan club anyway.” Phro stuck her tongue out as she walked away. Not the most mature move, but it was all she could think of other than decking her. She walked into her new classroom, her bad mood worsened. She was surrounded by ugly desert, ugly people, and- Beautiful boy! Phro froze in place, her mouth dropping open as her eyes zeroed in on the only beauty in the room. There he was, glowing like an angel, his icy blue staring off into space, ignoring the mundane world around him. Good thing, too, because Phro was definitely drooling. She snapped back into reality however when The Bitch bumped her shoulder as she passed. Phro wiped her mouth and moved to an empty seat, making sure the angel was in her line of sight. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

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