Don't fight for what you believe is right; stay spineless.
All Ravegeers are soft and pathetic.
Your parents must feel ashamed of who you’ve become.
My resentment’s like an unwanted guest. It visits regularly, unannounced, and lingers longer than appreciated. When normal people slip into a daydream, they usually envision happier things.
My mind’s plagued by the creative slights I hear daily.
People judge my choices regarding my future like they have the right. Little do they know, their ridicule only strengthens my resolve.
"... Physist Ivan Newman said that a scream can’t be heard in the vacuum of space. Do we know if that's true?" Mardicus, my physics professor, asks the class rhetorically, relieving me of my pensive thoughts. "The answer’s yes, since there's no medium in space, audio-frequency can't sustain. So it's an accurate statement."
Interesting final topic choice, I wryly think to myself, my fingers tapping away on my old MecBook, documenting his last lesson, even though it isn't necessary.
Unlike other professors, Mardicus' tests us on his lectures. Only a small percentage are from the text, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Tomorrow’s our final exam, and I absolutely cannot fail it.
I wouldn’t call myself a dreamer; my motives for wanting to pass these prerequisites are too violent for that. My hope is to become a combat aeronaut, a space soldier, and the career is only achievable through outstanding grades.
Well, technically, passing these requirements is the stepping stone to one other, relatively complicated problem… The only way to join the Metagalactic Aero Force is by graduating from the Lodestar Academy. It’s an exclusive school that trains individuals for the Interplanetary Military.
While there is a regular military, it's bound to our own atmosphere, and I’m not joining the forces just to stay local. Lodestar trains elite squadrons that respond to space and other planetary emergencies. It’s highly competitive and difficult to get into since they only look for applicants that rank highest in academics and aptitude evaluations- which happens to be my “weakness”, so I’ve needed to make up for it with high test scores.
"The reason being, noise is a combination of vibrations in the air that create what we know as sound waves," Professor Mardicus continues, and points with his laser at a hologram recording, demonstrating how sound works. "So because of the absence of air in space, sound cannot travel, even with our advanced technology.” The recording then proceeds to show noise canceling out from the lack of oxygen molecules, essentially making it nonexistent. “Unfortunately, this means sometimes communication gets lost in transmission, which is important to know if you're to become pilots one day..."
His voice grows fainter as my mind wanders, and a feeling of tension slowly builds up in my stomach. Not getting accepted to Lodestar Academy isn't an option. Retribution lives in my bloodstream. Killing those who wronged my kind is the reason I breathe.
It’s been twenty years since my planet, Haedmeir, was destroyed, and those of my kind who managed to escape came here to Cylia seeking refuge. As grateful as I am that the Orders affiliated with the Interplanetary Alliances came to our rescue, they weren’t successful in saving our planet. My parents were among the fortunate few who survived the attack and made a daring escape, with my mother carrying me in her womb.
Fury builds in the back of my throat with the recollection, like a volcano about to erupt, and I bite down hard to suppress it.
My Order’s known for being peaceful, so the old leaders never felt the need to organize a military, leaving us completely exposed to the attack. It infuriates me to think about how my people were slaughtered. They were innocent and good, undeserving of what befell them when they became the Tenathene's next target.
I don’t normally let myself drown in these dark thoughts. Anger can quickly become consuming if not regulated, so I have to be conscious of rationing how much I can indulge in since my kind doesn’t tolerate us feeling anything but serene. But my hate for the foul, demonic-like creatures is so visceral it squeezes my throat and boils my blood.
I’ve never seen one, though I’ve heard a lot about them— that they’re grayish in appearance, with nocturnal habits, and neon-orange eyes. They’re referred to as “World Annihilators” since there's no sense behind their quest for destruction, and there's no reasoning with them. The only way to stop them is by destroying them, which is exactly what I intend to do.
The war’s been ongoing for almost half a century now, and yet apparently the Interplanetary Military hasn’t made a single shred of progress. Eradicating them is impossible without knowing where their colony nests, so the Alliance’s primary aim for now is to slow them down. But because of the Tenathenes’ hive-like behavior and abundant numbers, it's been a challenging process, to say the least. So I’m more than eager to hop in on the action and help purge them from our galaxy.
It's not lost on me that my bloodlust contradicts my kind’s devotion to peace, but I can't help feeling like joining this fight is my calling. And not as a healer as most of my fellow Ravegeers are. There's a fire burning inside of me, one that demands justice, and the only way to temper those flames is by going to war.
"Nira, Why is the debacle of acoustics in empty space important for you to know?" Professor Mardicus asks, startling me and breaking me out of my momentary stupor.
Even though I hadn't exactly been paying attention, I'm an auditory dominant organism. Audible information gets downloaded whether I want it to or not.
I hold in the sigh that wants to escape as I give my answer. "Because aeronauts wouldn't be able to rely on sound to know where their enemies are located." Like me, which is why the question was directed my way. It's a disadvantage, or at least everyone seems to think so. Because of the stereotypes placed on my Order, I've worked on strengthening other skills that'd make me favorable as an aeronaut. Like my quit-wit, problem-solving skills, and fast reactions. Not to mention the many honors and extracurricular classes that equip me with additional resourcefulness. Things other Orders don't need to worry about.
"That's correct," he says, and changes the hologram.
"He's obviously picking on her because she shouldn't become an aeronaut." I hear a student in the back of the class whisper.
"I know. She should just stick to medicine or agriculture like the rest of her Order," someone responds. "She's taking the opportunity away from someone else."
"She won't get in. No Ravegeer ever has."
“That’s because they’re all cowards.”
The voices turn into snorts of laughter. I wish I could tune them out, but unfortunately, my pointy ears absorb every sound within a ten-yard range. My parents say it was a helpful adaptation on my home planet that kept us safe from predators. Ironic, since the Tenathenes eluded those advantages and wiped us to near extinction, anyway.
As for the disrespectful comments, they aren't new to me. No one thinks I deserve a place at Lodestar Academy. They consider that my ancestral beliefs and dependence on sound make me deficient. That I'd be useless in galactic battles because my aptitude's primarily aural.
Those with other, more practical aptitudes are always the first to be selected into Lodestar Academy, regardless of their grades. It's not unfair or biased; it's war. I get why they choose those who increase our winning chances. I'm not bitter about that part. I'm upset because my ambitions aren't taken seriously just because I'm a Ravegeer; like my Order esteems me to be less competent than the others.
I jolt in my seat at the sound of the bell, signaling the end of class, and the end of my day. Perfect timing, I think to myself.
Before I can even put my MecBook in my school bag, the students all jump up from their seats and hurriedly dash out of the classroom. I don't blame them for hurrying. Finals are tomorrow and no one wants to waste time.
I throw my book bag over my shoulder and head for the door when Professor Mardicus stops me. "Nira, can I speak with you for a moment?"
I pause, looking at him. "Uh, sure."
"I know you're eager to start your studying, so I'll be quick. I just wanted to talk about your ambitions to get into Lodestar Academy." He crosses his arms and leans on his desk. The action looks casual, but I get the impression he’s about to subtly interrogate me. "You're the first Ravegeer to ever aspire for such a dangerous future, so I can't help my curiosity as to what made you choose this path?"
Huh. Although his question isn’t new, I’m a little surprised he’s taken notice of my interests since he’s Wardor. Maybe his intrigue is driven by a scholarly disposition. I am considered an oddity, a rogue Ravegeer, as they like to call me. Yet people still think I’m soft like the rest of my Order. It's as if they can't make up their minds about me. I wish people would just stop deciding for me what I am and mind their damn business.
With an air of indifference, I shrug my shoulders, holding back the simmering resentment that's ready to overflow. "Because this is our fight, too." The usual excuse I give.
His knowing smile lights up his face, accentuating the gentle creases around his copper-colored eyes that hint at his middle-aged wisdom. "I want the real reason, Nira. I've had you in my class all semester and I was there for your aptitude evaluation. You demonstrate a lot of commitment and diligence for such a simple answer. Not to mention it goes against your Order's nature–" He stops himself when I raise a brow and he sighs. "Sorry. What I'm trying to say is, I can't help but feel like there's more than you're letting on. You can tell me."
Tension thickens the air around us as I stare at him. Trust isn't something that comes easily to me. In the past, when people learned my reason, they'd judge me with snide remarks or shame me. So I’ve long stopped giving people ammo to use against me. Besides, it’s not my job to humor their curiosity. I’m not an animal to be caged and studied.
Just as I'm about to give him another curt reply, a wave of serenity washes over me, making me reconsider sharing this part of me with him. Before I even realize it, my honest answer spills from my lips. "Because I'm angry. I'm angry at the Tenathenes for obliterating my planet and making my kind near extinct. I'm angry at my ancestors for believing concord was enough to protect us. I'm angry at my peers and educators for not taking my ambitions to be an aeronaut seriously. Instead, I’m called incompetent and a waste of resources. But mostly, I'm angry at myself every time I start believing them."
My hands begin shaking as the inferno blazing inside of me awakens, sensing a spike in adrenaline. This internal creature has been warring with me for years, taking shape more and more every time I feel enraged. And now that I've started this rampage, it doesn’t want me to stop.
"Ravegeers are supposed to be peaceful beings, yet I've never felt at peace. I might not have been alive when my planet got destroyed, but I live through the devastation caused by this war daily. My parents still cry over the loss of their families. Have they ever felt angry about it? No. It makes no sense to me how after everything we've been through, my Order still holds onto their old and failed customs. They call me a dissenter, but I don't care. I'm constantly burning with rage and the only cure is to be on the front line, inflicting my revenge."
A heavy breath heaves out of me, feeling winded from my rant. I then look at Professor Mardicus with wide eyes, shocked at myself for confessing and worried about how violent I must sound. I quickly extinguish the torch within me before it has a chance to cause anymore havoc.
He shows no reaction to my outburst, but his wise copper irises flicker with something akin to pride. "I'm sorry for upsetting you. And I feel your reasons are just. Thank you for sharing that with me. I know this path you're on must be difficult." He straightens from where he had been leaning against his desk and shoves his hands into his front pockets. "For giving me your honest answer, I’ll share a secret with you.”
At that, I perk up with interest.
“I’ve been promoted to be an Order's Official in the Interplanetary Alliance's Administrator Pannel and will have a say in the applicant selection at Lodestar Academy this year. Please remember the choices we make for those entering the Academy aren't easy for us when you see the results on Monday."
My heart shudders. He's on the Pannel? Why am I surprised? He's an Aeronaut Veteran with a high aptitude ranking from what I’ve heard. He graduated top of his class from the Lodestar Academy. The only reason he left the Metagalactic Military was to recover from a back injury he obtained two years ago while in service, and was prescribed remedial treatment here from the Ravegeers. He only became a professor because he felt restless and needed to do something, so they let him teach while he recovered.
I suppose his promotion makes sense since he’s an exceptional candidate, and from the looks of it, he appears to have made a full recovery thanks to my Order’s remarkable healing capabilities, which seems to be all anyone thinks we’re good for.
I sigh. There's no way he'd vouch for me. Especially not after my aggressive word vomit. So many other competent applicants are fighting for placement, people with advantageous aptitudes. It sucks to discover all my efforts have been in vain.
"Thanks for letting me know." I turn to leave his classroom.
"Although our decisions are primarily based on merit and aptitude, one's academic performance plays a huge role as well. So I'm expecting to see your exam scores reflect the hard work you've been pouring into your education," he quickly adds. "I’ve seen nothing but outstanding grades from you so far. I don't want you to feel discouraged because you feel no one takes your ambitions seriously and then end up disappointing yourself with poor results."
I nearly laugh. Disappoint myself? So many people have disappointed me in my life, he doesn't need to worry that I'd add myself to that list. "I plan to do my best," I say, and I mean it. I won't slack off just because I'm angry.
Spite would never let me.
I leave the room and enter the hallway, fishing my natter out of my pocket to check the time. Three notifications draw my eye, one from my mom, my fling, Martin, and my Astrology App telling me about my celestial forecasting.
I look at that one first.
Hello, constellation Conflagration signs.
Today, you'll experience a moment that leads you to self-doubt. But no worries, Conflagration star signs always find themselves. Just remember that spark that lit your flames, as it will always be your guiding light.
I glare at the screen. Yeah, that moment happened to be learning Professor Mardicus will be on the Board determining who gets to attend Lodestar Academy this fall.
Ugh. I need to stop thinking about it. Dwelling on something I can't control doesn't make the situation any better.
I close the app and open Martin’s text, already predicting his message.
Meet me in our usual place after class? ;)
My eyes roll as I read it.
He knows he has a strong shot at getting into Lodestar since his mom’s the Chief Director for the MIB; Metagalactic Investigations Bureau- a branch within the Metagalactic Military, so he’s not as concerned about studying as the rest of us are. But I already told him on several occasions that I wasn't going to put my precious study time aside just to fool around with him, so I ignore his text and open my mom's next.
MOM: Hi my starling. I hope you had a good day in school. Seriphina and I will both be working late at the hospital tonight, so it'll just be you and your dad for dinner. I think there are leftovers from last night's meal, but if not, then I'm sure you both can come up with something. Love you.
Honestly, with this nauseating anxiety gnawing at my intestines, I might pass on dinner tonight. I know it's not a good idea since I've been trying to put on weight so I can gain muscle for the Academy, but I just can't stomach the thought of food when I'm stressed.
I send my mom a quick text expressing my feelings that she and my cousin won't be home with a frown icon and slip outside the building. The moment I do, I pull my worn-out coat tightly against me, desperately trying to maintain some warmth as a gust of frigid air rushes into me.
Sonovabitch it’s cold! I'm not made for Cylia’s subzero climate!
With a scowl, I start my arduous trek towards the refugee camp that Cylians designated for Ravegeers. And by camp I mean the desolate icy land where our run-down "houses" are located, which are actually two-bedroom apartments with low-quality everything.
I don't understand why the government hasn't afforded us any upgrades. I know we aren't technically their citizens, but we don't have anywhere else to go.
... That's not exactly true. We could leave. Ravegeers just choose to stay because our little refugee camp's all that's left of us, and my people thrive better as one.
My train of thought lingers at that notion. Not me. I prefer my solitude. I’m constantly wondering why I'm so different from the other Ravegeers…
After a grueling hour-long journey through the snow, I finally make it to the camp, miraculously avoiding any frostbite or hypothermia. I’m rushing up the stairs to my apartment when my elderly neighbor, Leighly Nielton, nearly crashes into me in the hall.
Perfect. Just wonderful.
"Ms. Nielton," I grumble in greeting.
"Hello, Nira," she croaks. "How was school? I heard finals are tomorrow."
I nod wearily. "Yep. On my way to study now." I inch around her to make my hasty escape.
She frowns, bringing attention to the sagging wrinkles on her face. "You're not still trying to get into the Lodestar Academy for aeronautics, are you?"
Here we go. "I sure am."
She shakes her head in disappointment, as though my ambitions make me a failure or something. "Your poor parents. I wonder how they deal with you. Ravegeers aren't meant for violence or confrontation. We're peaceful beings who focus on healing or growing. You know- things that improve the world."
Almost every word she utters makes me grind my teeth so hard my jaw aches.
The repeated admonition of my Order telling me I should simply bow my head and let others handle our fate never ceases to irritate me.
And I’m sick of people dragging my parents into this.
Unable to control myself, I snap. "My parents and I have a great relationship, not that it’s any of your business. And some would say that fighting for the survival of others improves more than just the world, but the entire universe. Or are you okay with Tenathenes destroying more planets and taking more lives? Where exactly does that fit into your dovish point of view?"
She gapes in eye-popping astonishment, then her expression shifts into pity, looking at me like I’m a lost cause. “This is not our fight,” she says patronizingly, which only serves to aggravate me more. “Our guiding star would never approve of such violence. I cannot comprehend where you even got the desire to follow that path, given your model parents.”
I scoff with derision. It's my love for my family that sparked my thirst for vengeance in the first place. “This is as much our fight as anyone else's. And if Vesta disavows my choices, then she and all the other stars can go fuck themselves.”
Not staying to wait for her response, I storm the rest of the stairs as I fume. I bet she's standing there completely stupefied over my cursing our beloved Divinity. Ravegeer youth are expected to acquiesce to whatever our elders tell us since they're wise and experienced.
But what wise person has the ideology that fighting for others, or having individuality, are considered faults? I just can't adhere to those beliefs.
Once I reach my apartment, I open the door and cross the threshold, shouting, "Dad, I'm home," as I kick off my snow-covered boots and hang my coat on the coat rack.
"Hi honey, I'm in the kitchen."
I turn the corner to see my dad dressed in his finest secondhand suit, rummaging through the fridge. Seeing a male of his stature hunched over in our tiny kitchen would be comical if it wasn't so depressing.
My father's the elected Ambassador for the Ravegeers, responsible for speaking on our Order’s behalf and making decisions regarding our community. Technically, Ambassadors are supposed to stay in Embassies on Metasphere- the planet where the Interplanetary Alliance is located- but they made an exception for him since Ravegeers are newer members and low in numbers. I hardly think it's necessary anyway, as he doesn't do anything to improve our situation. He’s pliant, saying everyone’s just happy to have a planet to offer them sanctuary.
It bothers me so much that even though our conditions here are appalling, my Order still feels the need to repay the Cylians for their ‘hospitality’. Because all the Cylians really did was throw us into a deserted district and call it our 'home' while greedily exploiting our healing deftness. But of course, none of my people see it that way, or if they do, they’ll never admit it. That'd just be too rude.
I don't think my father even has plans for us in the future. What happens decades from now, when the Cylians decide we've overstayed our welcome? Or turn us into their most precious commodity and begin profiting off us? My Order’s avoidance of issues are things I can't help but assume are what led to our world's destruction.
With a resigned sigh, he straightens to his full height, and the look he gives me is pure exhaustion, making me wonder when he last got a good night's sleep. “How was school?” He asks as he leans against the counter.
I shrug and fix my bag strap on my shoulder as it begins slipping. “It was okay. Cold. You know, the usual.” We never go too deep into the topic of school. He’s just asking to be polite. My parents might be lax about my aspirations, but that doesn’t mean they support them, so I don’t rub it in by delving into the details of my education.
He nods, content with my response, and looks at the fridge again. "What're you hungry for?"
As I respond, his pointy ears give a subtle twitch under his long, copper hair. "Nothing, actually. I was just going to go to my room and study for tomorrow’s finals."
His lips press into a thin line, but he doesn't comment. He usually won't, keeping his opinions to himself. He's a very submissive man. It drives me insane. I wish he'd speak up for something. Anything.
My mom, on the other hand, is the polar opposite. She's incredibly outspoken, but not confrontationally. She simply uses witty wordplay to get her point across while being completely composed and unphased by any opposition. One thing I’ve always admired her for is, unlike other Ravegeers, she'll never cower when she's in a position to use her voice, no matter how big the situation or how powerful the person is. It's where I get my own outspoken attitude from, only I'm admittedly more prone to confrontational behavior.
"Okay, well, I'll be in my room. Let me know if you need help making something," I toss over my shoulder as I head to the back of our tiny apartment.
He grunts something unintelligible in reply, and I smile as I close the door to my room and spread my books across my bed.
As I plop down to get started, a muffled cry from the apartment next door breaks through the walls, followed by a soothing hushing.
I glance at the paper-thin barrier that divides my room with my neighbor’s new infant.
I was happy when Audrey and her mate, Zach, announced the addition of a new member to our Ravegeer clan. I still am, but I hadn’t anticipated that to mean my already lack of quiet would become less. Not just mine. These walls don’t offer any privacy, and we’re constantly getting an earful of what takes place in each other’s lives.
I had hoped to change that for us.
A seed of doubt begins to take root as I stare down at everything, making my stomach knot.
Come tomorrow, that's it. My chances of getting into the Academy are completely dependent on this outcome.
Unlike other students, I don't get to reapply next year if I'm not considered during this round. That's the deal I made with my parents. They agreed to let me be myself, without holding me to our Order's strict pacifist standards, for the two years I'm preparing for the Academy, only if I agreed that if I'm not accepted, I'd finally let go of these aspirations and embrace my “true nature”.
It seemed like a fair compromise at the time. Now, I'm wishing I included a second chance in there.
Swallowing around a lump in my throat, I pick up my Linear Algebra textbook. "Here goes nothing."
*** Hi everyone thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed my first chapter of the Lodestar Academy. This story was actually meant to be a submission for the Sci-fi Challenge last summer. I decided not to enter it because I wanted to improve a few things before displaying it to the world. Also, if it didn't win I didn't want to feel discouraged because I love it so much. My story is influenced by the book series Zodiac Academy by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti. Although Zodiac Academy is my inspiration, this is my original work. The book isn't completed yet, but I have about 30 chapters written and rough edited by myself. I'm hoping to one day turn this into a book series so any reviews and comments will be grately appreciated :). Thank you!***
About the Creator
I never believed the sky is the limit, therefore my passions are expansive. My interest in writing stemmed from poetry but my heart lead me to Sci-Fi Fantasy. Consequently, my stories are plot-driven with splashes of evocative elements.
You have potential. Keep practicing and don’t give up!
Original narrative & well developed characters