- Karena Cheung
Set nearly 500 years after the events of Perfectly Imperfect, Earth has fallen into chaos. Due to overpopulation, the government is rapidly relocating humans to different planets.
Krissa Cotryn wants to fix Jinny, a cyborg. She believes that her ancestor Corianne Cotryn killed Jinny, so she detests her. But when she finds out that the way to fix Jinny isn't anywhere close to home, can she pull some strings to get her where she wants to be? Can Jinny even be fixed?
All Claryn Tine wants is to keep her family safe. They aren’t even close to where Krissa’s family stands in wealth, so her only option is to help the government relocate humans. But on a planet of deception and war, can she make peace?
“How can I fix her?”
“You have to go back to the place where the blueprints were manufactured.”
“But wasn’t she manufactured by my family?”
“No. Your family used to be trillionaires, owning big companies such as Jorgi.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“They were charged with hiding technology that was beneficial to our world, replacing things like surgically added DNA chips and technology like perfect A.I. They were also able to temporarily reduce pollution in areas like factories. They were also accused of theft.”
“Krissa… they had technology that could monitor exoplanets. And they stole Jinny’s blueprints… from an exoplanet.”
Chapter 1: Claryn
The room was bright white.
“Hello, Miss Tine. Here’s your number. Please take a seat.”
I took a seat on one of the chairs.
“Please remain silent as we screen you,” The cool instructor voice asked again. The scanning rays flashed into motion. The number that the instructor had given me beeped once, flashing green. I closed my eyes as the scanning rays raised to scan my face.
“Thank you for coming, we will follow up with you in one to two hours.”
We started filing out the door, taking the AeroTube back. The cream walls surrounded the station, with darker walls stating which Tube would be faster and more expensive. The line was quite long for the cheaper group pods, so I went to the individual cells and sat down.
“Preparing for departure in 3… 2… 1…” The cell blasted into the sky, streaking it. The outside world was but a blur to me, and as I peeked out I could just catch a glimpse of colored trash getting suctioned to Venus. After all, it was burning anyway. There was a slight scent of gas and rubble.
A couple of seconds later, I was standing in front of my home. It was a small two-roomed apartment on one of the sublevels of the housing islands. The richest lived on the lowest levels, as it was the hardest to rob. The crime scale was very low, with the last attempted robbery being six years ago. The people nowadays didn’t care for stealing, instead claiming the free education that the government gave them. The jobs that the poor could get were things like ‘ERA assistant’, or ‘ExoExplorer’, which meant that they would get deported to another planet where the economy was more balanced. No one really robbed anymore. Each sub-level required a scan of the iris.
“You have arrived. Please scan your iris or your data chip for payment,” the bot requested. Swiping the data chip across the sensor, I walked out of the pod into the apartment.
It was a relatively small one, compared to even the cheaper apartments. The two rooms were occupied by my elder sister and parents, with my sister sleeping on an air mattress. The home was sparsely decorated, with only a small table.
“Claryn! Hi!” Christi, my sister, exclaimed. I waved at her, hoping to be able to walk past her.
“Claryn, if you’re thinking about avoiding me, think again. Firstly, I went to the Earth Relocation Agency, and I’ve been signed up to explore some moons orbiting a brown dwarf circling two stars. It’s supposed to take me around a week to get there, with HyperLight Speed and all. Don’t miss me too much!” She said while winking.
“Wait, you went to ERA? But I went there too…”
Christi’s jaw dropped, her face transforming in astonishment.
“You mean we both went to ERA in the hopes of supporting the other’s education?”
I nodded. She smiled. “I guess we’re more alike than we thought. Did your number tag flash green or red?”
“You mean that the tag flashes red too?”
Christi sighed. “Did you really not pay attention? Or were you one of the last to get there?”
“I was the last.”
Christi rolled her eyes. “When the tag flashes green, it means you are eligible to go to explore. They said that they would get back to you in an hour, right?”
“Well, I don’t know! I wasn’t there with you!”
“Just wait. My message is due in like, a minute. Shoo, go sit on the couch.”
I sat down and played games with the large flatscreen, going online and connecting the totem with my brain. Soon, I was transported to the game, it was kind of like a less dangerous version of Jumanji. I ran around in there, playing and collecting diamonds to buy myself some stuff. Then the DataChip beeped and I was automatically transported out of that world.
“About time you got out of that game. I wanted to play Murderer’s Song. I’ll tell you what I got later, the file is in my DataChip.”
I glanced at my DataChip, putting it into a device and opening my comms.
Congratulations, Miss Tine!
You have been specially selected to travel to a planet circling the Clover Star with a trip on the SkyWay that will take 1 week, to the first planet circling the star.
There have been suspicions that the system hosts intelligent life, so your communication and the way you present yourself is key.
You will be traveling with three other companions and another team, which is to explore Brine.
Your companions are:
Miss Krissa Cotryn
Mr. Eden Samuels
Mr. Regulus Wist
You will depart in a day’s time; please prepare for your trip.
Head of E.R.A
What on earth? I opened the comm several times, trying to figure out what Ms. Silver was on about. Was she real?
Recognizing some of the names on the sheet, I closed the comm when a notification caught my eye.
Krissa: Gurl, did u read the comm yet?
I grinned, remembering the time where we studied the past era of 2019. There had been many changes since then, with controversies on things like protests and slang. If humans had even considered getting together as one large nation then, we would have been eons of light-years past where we are now.
I quickly packed, skimming over minor details like clothes and toiletries. I gazed longingly at the golden box that I had inherited. It opened easily, with the interior made of mirrors.
I carefully placed it into my bag, closing the bag and curling up against the wall. Why wasn’t Christi back yet? The flatscreen blinks red once, then turned to a display on what Christi was playing. I watched curiously as she sweet-talked another player. Getting up, I grabbed a smaller device and started messaging Krissa absentmindedly.
“Claryn!” I dropped the device in shock as Christi came back, drenched in sweat and with virtual scars. But the thing that shocked me the most was what she had clutched in her hand. What was it?
Chapter 2: Krissa
“How DARE you,” My voice trembled as I pressed the knife to his throat.
“You’re going to do it? Do it qui-” I dug the blade deeper, hearing him groan in pain.
Suddenly I let go, leaving him lying on the floor.
“If you won’t admit to your crime, I suppose I’d better find proof myself,” I said as I sashayed out of the interrogation room in my black boot heels.
“Are you sure you can’t help me?” I asked sweetly. I was perched on the table, black heels hanging off.
“Miss Cotryn, you must be eligible,” the man at the desk said.
“Tell me why hasn’t a bot taken your place? They obey orders much better than you do,” I commented swiftly.
He gulped. Surely he knew about my family legacy of fame and power. There was an opportunity in itself!
“I’ll have you know that I am perfectly eligible. Do you think I am not?” I asked carelessly, gesturing to my body. He nodded frantically.
“Good. Then take me to Triss’s office. She’ll be glad to see me, let’s say we are… family friends.”
Sighing, he led me to the teleporter. “Fifth floor, room to the left, miss.”
I took it, beeping in the coordinates as the thing teletransported me to the room.
“Oh! Hello, Krissa.” Triss looked at me expectantly. “What would you like?”
“What do you know about a girl called Jinny?”
Triss paled, picking up a comm chip and putting it into a device.
“Cancel all my appointments and put my file room and office on lockdown. It’s urgent.”
I watched as the force shields popped up around the complex. She pulled the comm chip out of the device and started talking.
“You are a direct descendant of the creator and destructor of Jinny, but the blueprints were stolen from one of the planets orbiting the Clover Star. I would advise you to go to the scanning quickly, but it’s over so I’ll add you to the team, but Krissa, you owe me one.”
I nodded sharply. “Deal.”
She went on a device and made small changes as I sent a comm to Claryn.
Me: Gurl, did u read the comm yet?
Triss looked at me expectantly. “Anything more, Krissa?”
I shook my head and left.
A day had passed since the comm had been sent and I was ready. I sat at ERA’s official transportation department, waiting for the rest of the people and the craft to arrive. They filed in and we waited for the craft. My bag was safely lodged in between my legs, the silver zipper gleaming like some of the knives I had hidden in there.
The telltale sound of a craft landing made my ears pop as the signature blue light of a teletransporter shone through. We filed into the light one by one and was teletransported to a simple spacecraft. It had the classic sci-fi seats at the head of the craft, along with small pods similar to the Japanese capsule hotels. Basically small 8-foot long 6-foot wide 4-foot high pods stacked on top of each other. We strapped into the seats, placed our bags into the assigned pods and waited some more.
“Preparing for liftoff in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…” The familiar jolt of the craft, alongside the extreme blurring as we left Earth, sent whipping winds towards all of us. The craft leveled out and started traveling at what appeared to be a standstill but was actually faster than light.
The week flew by both literally and figuratively, with formalities and a bit of combat training. We weren’t the only ones on board, as the team traveling to Brine was there too, along with some traveling to explore the Denea system too.
“Krissa?” One night, I found myself sitting at the controls early. I’d been practicing my knife throwing at the large target wall, mostly hitting but still missing occasionally. I jerked my head up to look at the person the voice came from. It was masculine but sounded familiar.
My eyes were met with a guy who was definitely taller than me. I let my leg swing down the ledge I was sitting on and looked at him again.
He had brown hair with flecks of gold and warm brown eyes which reminded me of Claryn. She had natural dark skin but striking blue eyes and frizzy dark hair that she wore proudly.
“Hello?” His wave broke me out of my analysis. I sighed with feigned impatience. “Yes?”
“What are you doing up so late?” He asked.
“Why do you care?” I retorted, annoyed.
He sighed and left me alone as I wanted. I checked around for anyone who might have been up, then dialed Triss.
“Hello, you’ve dialed ERA. How may I help you?”
“This is Krissa Cotryn wishing to speak with Triss Silver.”
“Please wait a moment.”
I tapped my foot against the wall I was sitting on, waiting.
“We’re nearing the end of the trip on the craft, what do you advise me to do?”
“The blueprints prove that there is some intelligent life on the planet, so you have to appear friendly and trustworthy.”
“You’re telling me to become Claryn?”
I heard muffled chuckling on the other end, followed by a long pause.
Then I heard a click and the dial shut down.
I spun around, face-to-face with Eden.
“Aww, didn’t Mommy tell you it was rude to eavesdrop?”
He stared at me, unfazed and cold.
I sighed and brushed past him.
“I guess your mother didn’t teach you how to speak either.”
The next morning, we landed on the planet. I glared at Eden as he stared at me coldly. Claryn looked between us, confused and I remembered that she’d had a crush on him for over a year.
We walked around on the planet, finding that it was safe for us to breathe on the atmosphere. I felt footsteps trailing me as I walked around the familiar but ever so different landscape. The trees were like Wisteria in the way that they hung beautifully in draped layers, and the sky was not as blue. It was more a pale grey, and you could see a couple of stars in the daytime.
“Stop!” Behind us was a human that looked exactly like Eden, but with a stripe of white in his hair.
“Who are you?”
I raised my hands, showing that I had no weapon. The Eden lookalike pointed an unfamiliar weapon at me with what looked similar to a knife but had holograms and a rounded tip. The tip seemed detachable… and slightly damp.
“A stun gun?” Regulus guessed. I nodded slightly and he dropped his taser. The Eden lookalike glanced at the rest of us and they reluctantly dropped the weapons.
“Take her to Enalie.”
We were loaded onto pod-like crafts that were similar to the craft we’d come in. It flew quickly, probably at supersonic speeds, and landed at a metropolis surrounded with those beautiful wisteria trees and a beautiful mountain range. There were small blossoms falling from the trees, and I caught glimpses of insanely beautiful people with strange traits like odd streaks in their hair or violet eyes.
Landing in a beautiful room with glowing lights, a sleek white finish, and many, many crafts, the inhabitants of the planet led us up towards an elevator. It was still commonly used on Earth, with the exception of government based agencies like ERA using teletransporters.
We walked into a lush room with a beautiful landscape- it was a balcony, really, if you considered balconies the size of living rooms. The place was lined with beautiful lush greenery, except colorful greenery, and lavish couches and seating.
At the head of the room sat a beautiful throne, with crystalline gems lining the head and sides of it. The person seated on it had a crystalline headdress to match the throne, and she wore beautiful robes based on the wisteria that covered the planet. She had bronze skin and blonde hair which matched her amber eyes. Her foot was hanging over one of the armrests while her head was leaning against the other.
“Oh, what are those?”
She stood up, blonde locks flowing under the large headdress. As she walked towards us, her features morphed more and more humanlike as she walked closer and closer. Her nose became wider, her webbed ears shrank and became rounder, angular face morphing from a point to become more rounded. Her large, sharp eyes rounded and her angular body rounded, but also curved and slimmed. Her bronze skin turned pale and her hair turned dark. She looked like me- but her eye color hadn’t changed.
“What are you?” Eden said.
“Clearly, they’re a species of shape-shifters. Use your brain, knucklehead,” Regulus retorted. I smiled gratefully at him and he smiled back. Claryn looked in confusion between the two of us.
Enalie took a look at herself and paled at the features she had just mimicked.
“I know you,” she said before dragging me off into the castle.
Chapter 3: Claryn
“Where did you take her?” I asked calmly. On the inside, I was panicking. She was the leader of the shape-shifters, so who knew what she could do? Eden looked worried, and Regulus had a smirk on his face. Wasn’t he Krissa’s best friend? After me, of course, but they were close because of a strange arranged marriage or something. The rich people in the generation were obsessed with marrying people beneficial to their success. Luckily Krissa was able to inherit their business when she turned of age.
“Regulus! Aren’t you a bit worried?”
He turned towards me. “Don’t the shapeshifters seem to know everything? They have wisteria plants as well as a plant that signifies memory universally and don’t you think that Krissa could take the blond knife shifter?”
I nodded reluctantly. Regulus was right. Krissa could handle herself, right? Why else would she be picked to go on the team?
The shifter leader walked back in without Krissa.
“Apologies, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Enalie, President of the Fenac.”
“The shifters,” I heard Regulus mutter under his breath. “Where’s Krissa?”
“Exactly where she needs to be.” Regulus seemed to relax after he heard those words. But where would Krissa need to be? She’d never visited the wisteria-infused planet. And I would know, we’d been best friends since kindergarten. Eden seemed to tense more, and it was like he knew something. Krissa had to be keeping something from me. And I was determined to find out what.
Enalie had led us to an apartment in the complex, with two en suites. I sat on my bed waiting for Krissa. Where was she?
I heard the lock click open and Krissa barged into the room. Her hair was as glossy as usual, but her eyes a tinge of fear and regret.
“Where is Reg?” She asked in a monotone.
“...in there.” I pointed towards the opposite door to our room. She entered and took Regulus out of the room. I heard them talk in hushed voices outside in the hallway.
“What was that all about?” Eden walked up to me, leaning against the wall. He glared at Krissa menacingly as we watched the two converse behind glass closed doors.
“Why do you hate Krissa so much?” I asked suddenly, turning towards him.
“I just feel this eerie aura around her. Like she’s hiding something or doesn’t belong. And don’t you think the way she’s wrapped Regulus around her little finger is a bit sus?”
Any feelings I thought I felt for him escaped out the window. Krissa and Regulus were close for a number of reasons, and why was he feeling so suspicious because a girl and a guy were friends? Anyway, everyone was allowed to have secrets. Especially Krissa, with everything she’d endured hidden under a perfect shield.
Krissa walked back in with Regulus, both their faces with grave expressions. Regulus disappeared back into the guys’ room, Krissa into ours, and I followed her. I found her sat at the edge of her bed, staring at a shiny silver knife tightly clutched in her hand.
“What’s wrong? You told Reg so why not tell me?”
“Claryn, there are some things that you wouldn’t understand. Enalie told me to tell you that there’s a diplomatic meeting tomorrow, and we should dress nicely. She wants to discuss the colonization of the planet and Atheseis.”
Krissa had already passed out.
The hallways of the Fenac capitol looked all the same. There were paintings and occasional greenery climbing up the walls, with climbing flowers shaped perfectly lining each one. Oddly enough, the place also smelt of mint.
We’d all dressed up for this occasion, Regulus and Eden dressed in simple black suits and me and Krissa dressed fancily. I was dressed in a skin-toned tight dress to match my heels of the same shade. I also wore teardrop tourmaline earrings. Krissa was wearing a simple black dress with tulle hung at the waist along with a silver clover clasp, matching her opal clover earrings and choker. I couldn’t help but notice that Regulus and Krissa both had something sharp and accessible in their getup
The formal meeting room had an entrance of hanging leaves. They were pointy, but in curtains once touched they retreated.
“Ah, our visitors are here!” Enalie exclaimed. The Fenac idea of getting dressed up was similar to ours, except more colorful and natural. Some had wreaths of roses upon their heads to match the crimson shade of their dress, others as simple as a sprig of mint on the front pocket of the suit.
Enalie was wearing a provocative dress made of shiny material, slightly transparent. The opacity of the dress shifted as she moved, but her upper torso and hip-to-mid-thigh were covered in a more opaque version of the material.
“Why did you come here?” her voice was louder than expected, and she had a simple but lethal trap dangling above us. Eden panicked, Regulus holding him back as he lunged for the Fenac leader. Krissa responded, voice devoid of emotion.
“To colonize. We had no intention of harm.”
And I realized what this was; a lethal game of politics. Make one wrong move and you’d be dead. Eden’s fight had drained out of him once Regulus hissed something in his ear, and he stood straight- but his fists clenched.
“And what do you plan to do now knowing that we exist?”
“To compromise.” The two words escaped my mouth before I could hold them back, and Enalie turned to me with a surprised- but pleased- look on her face.
“What do you offer?”
“I ask what you offer. A compromise is when both parties agree on one idea that is beneficial to both. What do you suggest?”
Her eyes suddenly narrowed at Eden- but when had he moved to stand next to me? “Brentol.”
“He’s Eden, not…” My voice trailed off as Eden morphed into the Fenac who Enalie called Brentol, revealing the real Eden, stood next to Regulus.
“Ah, the Queen Ena.” His skin tones were different from Enalie and the rest of the Fenac that I knew, with it being cool tones. His eyes changed from a warm brown to a cold silver.
“Always the sharp tool in the box, right?” His hands were around a silver circlet, spinning it around his finger. Enalie’s eyes seemed to lock on what the shifter- Brentol- was toying with.
“Stop toying with the Empress' circlet!” she exploded.
“Only if you give me the Emperor’s,” he bargained. Her pointy fingers shook as she pointed at him. “Seize him!”
Her guards made for him, but he evaded them with small shifts in his structure. “Well, if you disagree with my bargain, I suppose that’s my cue to leave. Bye, sweetheart.” He disappeared into a craft.
The hall was silent as the guards looked at Enalie.
“Report to your stations,” Enalie ordered. “And learn to shift better.”
“We offer our alliance,” Eden announced. “If you agree to move to the other habitable planet when your war is over.”
I looked up from my book.
“I need to tell you.” That caught my attention. “What?”
“What Enalie told me. The night before.”
I turned to face her, closing my book.
“The war against the other planet is simple- it’s my fault, to put it simply.”
Krissa sighed and glanced at her watch. “This is gonna take a heck of a long time, so listen carefully.
The Fenac used to be peaceful, with classes and two planets to live on. The kids were trained for specific jobs at birth, with the most talented being shifters.
Both Enalie and Brentol were shifters, powerful ones at that, being able to morph different features of different people and merge them. Others, not as skilled with the art, could only shift into definite people.
As you’ve probably noticed, Eden- I guess Brentol- had a small mole, but it was abnormally dark. It stood out to Enalie because they trained together. She knew him. They were close.”
“Then why do they hate each other now?”
“Because of some blueprints.”
Krissa sent me a patronizing look and I shut up.
“My male ancestor, not exactly sure of the name, stole blueprints from the planet. The blueprints were engineered so that they’d be wiped once one prototype of the bot was made, and he did just that,”
“But that isn’t even the start of it. My family hid this technology from the government, and at the time they had DataChips on all the information of the person. It was a time of peril when only the DataChip kept you alive.”
“And my father hid the prototype bot in an orphanage. With her extraordinary mind, she got scholarships and endorsements. And she came across two girls that looked very much like me,”
“The daughters of your ancestor. Corianne and Clione,” I gasped. Krissa’s face was grim.
“Yes. And Corianne deactivated the prototype of the bot. The bot believed that she was human, and in some ways she was. Her physique, the way she acted, she was a cyborg at worst.
The worst part was that the bot- if you can even call her a bot- was basically a human with enhanced everything. The first generation of perfect,”
“And Corianne destroyed it,” I whispered alongside Krissa. “But what happened to the cyborg?”
“Her name is Jinny and I… can’t find her. But when I do, I want to mend her. Apologize for what happened. Fix the wrongs generations before me have caused. Because just like the people in 2019, they failed to see the bigger picture. Look thousands of years later to see the consequences of their actions,” Krissa murmured. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to talk to Reg.”
She left the room, leaving me to think about what she just said. But how did she know?
“Claryn?” Eden peeked in through the gap in the door. “Are Regulus and Krissa dating?”
“I just saw them hugging quite intimately down the hall.”
“They’re just friends as far as I know. Anyways why not leave them to it? I wouldn’t mind if they became a couple,” I reflected.
“Anyways, I heard there’s a tall balcony on the top of the metropolis. Enalie said that I could go there. She’s waiting, he called suggestively.
“What about Krissa and Reg?”
“Oh, they’ve talked it out. You’re the only one that hasn’t chatted with Enalie. I’ll take you there.”
We walked up towers of winding staircases until we reached the top- a strong mineral door that locked.
“Hello, Eden. You can leave now, Claryn’s with me,” Enalie said calmly. He bowed his head and left.
“Come sit, Clary,” Enalie commented. There was a carpet of moss laid on the pavement, with a basket of tasers and other unfamiliar weapons.
“Have you brought me here to kill me?”
“No, the opposite. Those weapons are here for your reassurance.”
I nodded once, sitting down on the carpet with Enalie.
“I agreed to your offer, you know,” she commented halfheartedly. “I want you to infiltrate Brentol’s stronghold. The girl- Krissa- and her companion Regulus have to stay with me for… reasons.”
“Jinny, right?” I commented bluntly. Enalie looked at me, a hint of shock in her golden eyes. “Yes.”
“What about Eden?”
“I thought you’d ask that. You see, your friend Eden is too familiar with Brentol, but he isn’t as useful to me as Regulus is. So he’ll be planning, with gadgets and a team,” she waved her hand animatedly as she described all this.
Turning away from me, Enalie picked a simple perfect flower in the fields.
“You know, you’re more trusting than the rest of your teammates. Krissa had a knife clenched in her hand at all times, Eden blatantly tried to shoot me with a bow and arrow. Regulus was the most sneaky, and he had me fooled. He tried to poison me, and I almost ate the apple.”
She turned back to me. “But I suppose that’s your quality, right? You can sense aura. Which is why I want you to infiltrate. You have the choice to see if Brentol is better, more trustworthy or has better intentions than I do. Then come back and tell me, and I will give the circlet to Brentol.”
“Oh, and Claryn?”
“Thank you for trusting me.”
Chapter 4: Krissa
“Thank you, Regulus. For trusting me.”
He nodded and left to meet whoever he was going to. I sat down on some moss chairs, thinking. Was it right to not trust Reg? I’d known him longer than I knew Claryn, but I’d never told them anything.
The box Regulus had given me was small. I opened it, spotting a note. ‘Krissa, before you listen to the chip please note that this might be fake. But I hope you know whose memories these are. Note; it’s someone if Jinny’s time.’
There was a small datachip in the box, tiny really, and an earpiece. I fitted it in and sat down on a random window seat thing, and listened.
“I know that no one will listen to this.” I jump, as the voice playing in my ear isn’t a teen voice, or even an adult voice, it’s the voice of a young child.
“Today father showed me this secret spy machine. He spied on this beautiful place with hanging trees that he called wisteria, and then he zoomed into this huge palace place.”
Young Corianne’s voice seeped through me as she told the tale of what was going on in her life. Her voice aged with each entry, and she named the year, month, date and hour of the entry.
“March 9, 2520.”
It was the day. The day that Corianne became a killer, the day that her corrupt upbringing would show it’s true colors.
“Today I read through father’s notebook. He has plotted. Many ones. He says that he tied Jinny with Clione and I, and he planned to take Clione to control Jinny. There’s only one way to stop this from happening; the control happens through the datachip. If you’ve listened this far, you know about the warming. The technology isn’t fully developed but I should be able to prevent it.
After all, when I remove Jinny’s datachip I’ll get detained. But that’s not right, father would just reboot her. So I have to extract my datachip. There would only be an hour’s time. I have a place I can hide Jinny and I’ll die with both chips destroyed. And Jinny- and the wisteria planet and the couple, Mirabel and Nicol, would be safe. The planet I’ve watched from a screen far away will be safe,” she finishes.
There is static, then a thin robotic voice.
“I am Jinny. The bot. This-” She coughs raspily- “Is the observation that Corianne told me to make. What happened to her beloved wisteria planet. There is a pair, similar to the pair she was so infatuated with. Enalie and Brentol. But I have a bad feeling about this. A dark one-” Her last words are cut off by static.
The chip clicks off and the earpiece beeps once. I pull it off and the light that signifies it’s on softens and is gone. And Regulus was right; if I didn’t have him, I’d be nowhere. If only I trusted him more.
“Krissa?” Eden huffed, panting. He had sweat dripping off his brow. “Do you know where Claryn’s gone?”
“No,” I said suspiciously. “Why?”
“She’s gone and I can’t find Enalie either,” He said worriedly. I furrowed my eyebrows. “Do you know where Reg is?”
Eden nodded. “He’s outside the metropolis, talking to some of the shifters. I-”
I darted off to find him, leaving Eden alone. He sighed and left too.
“Reg!” I exclaimed as I saw him sitting on a bench. “Where’s Enalie?”
“She said something about a spy and how it would be one of us. I know it’s not me or you because you would’ve told me. It could be Eden-”
“I just saw him. He’s looking for Claryn. Do you know where she would be needed to spy?”
“I don’t know much about the Fenac, but have you noticed that whenever Enalie shifts her eyes are always the same hue of gold?”
I shook my head impatiently. “Great, Reg, but why does this help?”
“Claryn has none of the defining characteristics of any Fenac living here. That means that she could easily pose as a Fenac who shifts to look like she does, and-”
“And Eden made the deal. That’s Claryn’s part of it.”
“Hey, Krissa, when you’re going to meet Regulus on a topic I informed you on, mind bringing me with you?” Eden popped up behind a tree.
Regulus’s head flashed over a hooded woman. She had dark hair, pale skin and looked like me, except she had golden eyes. Golden eyes?
“Grab her,” Regulus hissed to Eden. He nodded and began weaving his way around the crowd, lurching this way and ducking that. He got an arm around Enalie’s wrist, and she smiled. He dragged her to the 5th floor of the metropolis, with me and Reg trailing after, and finally, we stopped.
“Where is Claryn?” Eden growled. Enalie tilted her head. “Oh, curious, you only realized an hour ago. She’s been gone for four,” she smirked. Eden sighed and left in anger, punching a wall.
“Well?” Regulus looked at me expectantly.
“Who are Mirabel and Nichol?”
Enalie was taken aback for a moment. “Relatives,” she said cooly. “Why?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we should talk about something more recent. Tell me about Brentol,” I reply. Her eyes flash with a hint of melancholy but are quickly covered up with a casual flick of the hand.
“He’s the opposing leader of Atheseis. The other planet. When the blueprints were stolen no one really realized until we were around 16, almost 400 years after the thievery.”
“Oh, don’t lie, Enalie. If it makes you feel better, I can also promise to answer one question truthfully. Fair?”
She sighed. “I suppose I don’t have much choice. You’ll find out either way from Brentol or your friend- if you can even call him that- Regulus, so better I tell you than anything.
We were shifters. You’ve heard the term from Regulus,” she said at my impassive expression. “We were the best. But you know that, don’t you? Well, it was a ploy. You see, all rich or powerful people get matched with each other. They didn’t care that we were friends, that we were cousins, they didn’t care. So, of course, they would force a relationship.”
I nod. “But of course, the blueprints were found and we were pitched to opposite sides of the playing field. End of story.”
“But that’s not true, is it?” Regulus asked softly. Her eyes snapped to attention, and she gave a wry smile.
“Of course you would know.”
He smirked uncannily like me, pulling out a worn white notebook that I knew oh too well.
“You loved Brentol. You say you want the circlet, but that isn’t all you want.”
“It’s a bit like you and her, isn’t it?”
Regulus shook his head. “A bit, with the arranged relationship. But we’re just friends,”
She looked at him patronizingly. “Yes. Brentol and I were at a time, close. But now, as I said before, we’re fighting on opposite sides. And I want my side to come out on top.”
She sighed. “Now for my question. I have one for you.” She pointed at Regulus. I step back, watching carefully as she whispers the question into his ear. He nods yes.
“Come,” Enalie says as she spots a door opening in the craft entrance. “I can take you to Claryn.”
Chapter 5: Claryn
Atheseis was chilly. Very cold, and I stepped out of the craft onto the ground. It was different from the lush planet covered with wisteria and mint leaves, and it’s structured had black with gold accents to them, so different to the white with silver and bronze accents that the planet I came from had.
“Hello!” A small child with rounded features similar to mine chirped happily. The people on this planet were much friendlier than the other one. “Are you from Cottassmar?”
“The other planet. The one that my uncle keeps saying he needs to… end? Like the war?”
I nod, and she ran back to Brentol. Wait, Brentol? He grabbed my arm roughly, scratching a patch of skin.
“I know about you and Enalie,” I whispered teasingly. I was scared but kept my face impassive. He froze for a second, and I knew I’d hit a nerve. Lucky guess. I took the opportunity to run away, but I had no idea where to go and ran straight into some guards.
They brought me into a small inconspicuous townhouse, so different from Enalie’s love for flamboyant palaces where nearly everyone had a home.
The townhouse’s interior was mainly underground, and they led me to the uppermost level. Brentol sat down on a large puffy chair.
“I suppose that you’ve heard most of it from Enalie,” he says snarkily. I nodded although I really didn’t know.
He sighed. “Well, I shouldn’t tell you the sob story. But the thing is; the population decrease is really affecting Atheseis. And I personally don’t care anymore. I want this war to end, for my people, because if it doesn’t sooner or later the Fenac population will die.”
The war is ending. I could tell that Enalie wasn’t too happy to send so many soldiers out to fight, and the villages outside the metropolis were mostly empty. The metropolis was only a stronghold, with the underground rooms made to be used as a hospital and transportation stations.
And now Brentol. He wanted the best, and the side division had parts of the same family ripped apart from each other. The fenac were also peaceful creatures, preferring politics to warfare. I wasn’t sure what the soldiers did, but the Fenac enjoyed mind games and deception. Were there any casualties in this war?
“No.” Brentol looked at me strangely, considering his options.
“I know Enalie wants to end this war. And honestly, so do I. But Claryn, I want this war to end on my terms. Not hers,” he said. “Guards, seize her.”
They dragged me out of the door where Brentol was sitting. I didn’t thrash, scream or even move. Because if I wanted to escape. I had to conserve my strength.
The cell was flimsy and weak, with there being bars instead of solid glass walls. The other people looked at me enviously- of course. The shifters could easily change themselves into someone as skinny as a stick and then run.
The guards were back after a long time to give me food. This is my chance- but I don’t know the ins and outs of the place and could easily get lost. I need a map- or an ally.
The food was average at best, with small portions to keep us weaker. I ate it, grateful that I’d eaten before coming here. The next couple of moments were silent, and I thought. My mind drifted off to a singular memory, though, and I couldn’t seem to focus.
It’s late-night and I hear Eden sneak out on the ship. It’s dead silent and I keep listening. Didn’t Krissa sneak out? Why don’t they hear me? I’m literally right behind them- at least, my pod is.
“What blueprints?” Eden hisses. I listen intently to their footsteps, hearing the sound of Krissa’s hair flip.
“Aww, didn’t mommy tell you it was rude to eavesdrop?” Krissa mocks. It’s still silent, and I assume that Krissa is glaring again.
I hear footsteps and the sound of fabric rubbing against another, then Krissa’s voice.
“I guess your mother didn’t teach you how to speak either.”
She walks back into the pod area, still not noticing me as she knocks on the pod below.
The sound of a pod door opening, then rustling fabric. I press my ear onto the small amount of floor, hoping that the sound can carry through.
“For the last time, Krissa, yes. Don’t you-” Regulus’s voice lowers, and all I can hear is a low hum.
It’s probably time to go to sleep.
I wake up to a harsh tapping on my pod door. Rubbing my eyes, I press a button to open it.
“Claryn! Clary-” Eden’s still tapping on the door as it opens and accidentally taps my knee.
I giggle as I get down and shut the pod door, making as little noise as possible.
“Hey! Oi! Lady!” a sharp hiss cut me out from my flashback. His-her-their voice sounded familiar, like Enalie’s.
“Who are you?”
“A double agent. I can get you out of there.”
“How?” I asked challengingly. He flashed a grin and handed me a pendant. But it was Krissa’s- and that was enough.
“Brentol has a soft spot for my sister. I had a crack in my door. Hurry!” He bent the bars slightly, enough for me to slide out. We rushed past winding corridors. Unlike Enalie’s metropolis, though, there were markers to distinguish the walls and he led me to a clearing.
“It looks like… Enalie’s balcony.” I whispered as a small ship came into view. There was space for 5, with 2 seats and a back area. Enalie’s brother launched the ship and took off back- to Cottassmar.
“Enalie!” The siblings collided with each other as they hugged. I watched from the distance, looking down at my shoes. I leaned against the moss as they talked in hushed voices.
“Hey,” Eden sat down next to me. My cheeks heated up slightly as I turned to him, and his face cracked up into a grin.
“Enalie, no!” Krissa wailed. I’d never heard her wail before, and it was very high. Eden winced as Enalie and her brother walked back into the ship. Enalie turned to me sorrowfully.
“Krissa, you’ll be coming with me. Claryn… you’re gonna be in charge.”
Chapter 6: Krissa
The interior of Enalie’s brother’s ship was simple. The seats were plain black with gold and crimson highlights, and it was fast. So fast that it took only an hour to get to Atheseis.
The planet was cold and it’s stark contrast to the metropolis of Cottassmar struck me. It looked so… ordinary. There were small townhouses and apartment blocks. It reminded me so much of… Earth.
We landed in a townhouse. It was very basic, quite like the ones on Earth, and there were no windows. Who would be dumb enough to put no windows in a home?
As we got off, two Fenac led us off to a room. Claryn had described it, too, as a droll interrogation room that looked very much like a study.
“Enalie.” Brentol cocked his head arrogantly, feet on the table and sat at the office chair.
“Brentol. Still trying to impress me, like you always did.”
His face remained impassive, but a bit of embarrassment and resentment flashed in his eyes.
“And you still seem to wear your heart on your sleeve. Or-”
“Hey, if this meeting was just going to be a long-due lovers quarrel, you should have brought Eden and Claryn. But it’s not. So shut up and get peace talking.”
The two Fenac sighed.
“Your negotiation was to get the Emperor's circlet so you can win the population over. You wanted to show that you were capable of talking and convincing me, as the circlet could only be passed on by peace.”
Brentol nodded once.
“And your negotiation was to give you the Empress' circlet to prove that you were a strong leader, as the circlet is one that can only be given to one that is worthy.”
“Wait a second, how does this guarantee peace?”
Enalie sighed. Again.
‘Wait, little earthling. Everything will come into play.”
Then she turned to Brentol and slapped him.
“Why would you do that?” Regulus yelled at Enalie.
“Because I need to hold up my end of the bargain. For that to happen, we’ll be talking privately. Without you.”
“I know what privately means!”
We fell into silence and soon enough, Enalie was pulled out from the waiting room to talk to her lover. AGAIN.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“Eden’s back there, don’t worry, and Reg is there too.”
I looked at her skeptically.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
Just then, Enalie walked back in. Her face was grim with a raw fury.
“Why on Earth are you here?” she scowled.
Her face was angry with none of its usual composure, fists clenched and glaring.
“Now I have to choose. And I know that the people you came with won’t like it if I choose either one of you. But now, Brentol won’t have to choose a child,” she screamed.
“What are you talking about?”
Her eyes hardened. “I’m talking about the journey. You both will have to enter. It isn’t a fight to the death…”
“But?” I pressed.
“But it’s like it. A race. One of you will be going against the other. And whoever wins…” Her voice trailed off.
“They will win for the planet.”
Chapter 7: Claryn
“But it’s simple! The person that isn’t picked could just… lose intentionally! You know, go slowly!” I was brought up.
“You don’t understand, Claryn. If you don’t run, you fight. If you don’t run, you die,” she pressed. My face paled in understanding. There was no safety, no sponsors. Just me and her. And honestly? If I were a bet, I would bet on her.
I shivered as I imagined what the task-journey- would be.
“Where will it take place?”
I flinched at Krissa’s voice. It was the monotone, the boring, the one she used if she was scared.
She looked at Enalie weirdly. “Why the heck do you have deadly obstacle courses in your backyard?”
“Cottassmar is a… gifted planet. It enhances evolution, which is how our Fenac colony got the Shifting gene. It’s all evolution, Krissa. It’s enhanced. Why do you think I can do this?” she asked. A hexagonal pattern rippled over her skin before it morphed into the wall. It was like she was gone, almost.
“Anyway, the nature of the planet needs some energy to keep functioning. Basically, proof that it should keep investing its power, as a way to put it.”
“What if the species fail?”
Then the life funds will slowly die out. The species will die. You see, Cottassmar is all about evolution.”
She smiled wryly, sighing.
“All I can say is do your best. Don’t die, okay?’’
The letter had come in a sealed envelope. I had gotten a simple task, as they all wanted the war to be over. It was to mine. There was a continent in Cottassmar that had many rich minerals, hidden away by a large ice wall. I had to get a rare gem, depending on what it was. I had no idea what Krissa’s was.
I stood at the mine, looking at it from different angles. The journey had a male counterpart, and I was assigned Regulus. Of course, this wasn’t like the evolutionary tests where Cottassmar chose the pair. It was Enalie’s pick, with Brentol choosing the girl and Enalie choosing the boy.
I had to say, though, this was a bit offensive. Both me and Regulus were decked out in warming attire, shivering as we observed the mineral. It was solid and tough, but soft to the touch.
“So?” I asked Regulus. “Where do I start?”
His hands were in a frame-like shape, and he pointed to a spot on the far left of the rock. “Strike it there weakly. Just a soft kick will do,” he said. I did as he said, watching in shock as the rock molded to my form. He nodded once. “Keep doing that. We’ll be able to pass through the rock, and I’ll look for another weak spot.”
I nodded, tapping the rock until I’d passed its barrier. Regulus was waiting for me, sat looking at the next obstacle.
“It’s rock hard. I’m not sure-” He was cut off with a sharp tug of the rock, which made it disintegrate in my hands. I looked at it in shock.
“Oh,” Regulus said, surprised. “I suppose the rock needed yanking.”
The final thing before us was a simple vault. It was rusted and old, with a large lock in the center of it.
“Hairpin?” I pulled out one stuck in my hair and passed it to Regulus. He stuck his hand in the vault, trying to pick it. He seemed to flick his hand a lot, flesh rubbing roughly against the metal. Wincing, he pulled out his hand and rubbed his red wrist.
“I can’t pick the lock,” Regulus sighed. I sighed and looked at the lock. “Reg, could you move?”
I dug around the lock, feeling the switches that locked and unlocked the door. They were large, round switches, but they didn’t feel like they could move. I felt around more until my fingers brushed over an imperfection.
“Hey, Reg? Pick this lock.”
I pointed and directed Regulus’s hand to the tiny lock and watched as he started picking. Sure enough, the vault door swung open slowly to reveal a small stone, the size of a key on a keyboard. I grabbed onto it tightly, then turned to look at Regulus. He’d already started leaving and I ran to follow him, passing through the strange shifting rock easily. We escaped, helped up by Enalie and her brother.
“Oh, thank God! You’re done--” she smirked as we took a craft to the main metropolis. The ride was smooth, with beautiful glaciers and snowfall out the windows. We passed the ice wall, where the windows started to moisten because of the rapid temperature shift. The landscaping went from white to colorful, with lilac, pink and blue wisteria hanging from light brown twigs.
As we passed the wild continents to the inhabited one, the size difference seemed very apparent. The metropolis was tiny in comparison to the large saltwater sea surrounding the mine, and that was only a small amount of the larger sea of freshwater.
As the craft pulled in, the familiar scent of floral mint wafted towards my nose. We stepped out into the metropolis and Enalie rushed us to the balcony that seemed to be Enalie’s home. After all, that was the place we had been to half the time since we’d arrived.
The stone was sweaty in my palm as I dug my hand into it, its smooth square shape stuck firmly to my palm. We waited for what seemed like hours as I got used to the warmer, more refreshing air of most of the planet.
After what seemed like hours, Krissa and Eden returned. They both had alarming amounts of ash on their face as well as several packs strapped onto their limbs.
“Burns,” I heard Regulus hiss as we turned to look at them. Enalie was talking to a very angry Brentol, glowering as the two made their exchange.
The sound of a live broadcast camera clicked to life as Brentol and Enalie exchanged circlets, Enalie radiating gold and glowiness.
She placed the Circlet around her head, as sort of a crowning gesture. Brentol, still in an adult version of a hissy fit, had his own circlet twirling around his hand. He smirked wryly, watching the camera.
“We will be moving in two weeks to uphold our bargain with these…” Enalie’s voice trailed off as she gestured toward us.
“Humans,” I suggested as I leaned my head against Eden’s arm. We were friends, but my heart still warmed a little bit when I was around him.
Enalie nodded confidently. “Yes, humans. I hope you’re all ok with that…?
She questioned. The truth was, their ancestors were the only ones that had inhabited Cottassmar before moving to Atheseis, so the general public would have no issue. It was one of the random things Regulus had spouted as we were thinking about the rock.
Enalie continued doing her politics as me and Eden discussed the planet.
“Krissa was talking in the fire maze. I swear, that girl never shuts up,” he complained. I giggled, taking in the scene. The war was over.
The week before the Fenac left was a mess. We knew about the journey, about how the descendants would have to go through it. We were planning cities for each one of us; I had chosen to make a city in the sky, Regulus wanted an underwater city whose journey was through underground chasms, Claryn wanted the icy land hidden away by a large ice wall and Eden had chosen to preserve the lush landscaping and make a city on a continent close to the Metropolis where Enalie’s colony had lived.
It was the last day, where the first colonists moved into the other cities. Regulus had helped me with my sky city, which was the only one unfinished. He was there perfecting the technology.
“What will you do with the metropolis?” Enalie asked softly.
“It’s the end of the Journey. Where Jinny is. Regulus said that he would be able to hide here and the landscaping that’s under my city, or at least protect it from the rest.”
Enalie nodded, leading me to the garden balcony. She sighed. “You don’t suppose you could transport the garden, could ya? It would be nice…” Her voice trailed off. We’d hidden Jinny in a secure room, and it was time to leave so Regulus could place his science.
I beamed. “Enalie, it’s been a pleasure. Please do come to visit, and… voila!” I exclaimed as I showed the modifications that Regulus and Claryn had done. It was now transportable. Her eyes welled up in tears as the garden/craft/balcony left the abandoned metropolis for the last time. I sighed in content. The war was done, but what could happen in the next thousand years?