Monday, November 30, 2015

Chapter 7 - The Animebot



Lightship Chronicles
Book 1 : Sacred Warriors
copyright©2015 Florin Nicoara

The sound of the beat is deep, vibrating the night. Nayaa is leading an entourage as they come round dome rock. They head towards the club. It looks much busier than last time. Lots of lightships out front. The guys can't help but gawk at them. This time Nayaa too shows more interest. Dirin starts to show off his expertise explaining how the lightships work, with the best guesses he can concoct. Gono looks flustered but doesn't say much at all. Nayaa mostly admires and comments on the beautiful sharp lines, the clean shiny chrome and copper features, and the overall beauty of the ships. After taking in as much of the technological wonders as they can, Nayaa, with Gono and Dirin, take lead again as they head for the entrance. Following them are Dirin's friends, and a few more people from the outcrop.
"The line is this way." Dirin points and turns off.
"Do I look like the kind of girl that waits in lines?" She replies to Dirin with a cocky smirk. "Follow me." She waves at them with her left hand and heads through the crowd to the front entrance. As she clears the crowd at the velvet ropes, she sees who she was looking for. He is where she last saw him, sitting on his stool, on the right of the entrance. Two more door guys are standing on the other side. He looks up and notices her stepping over the velvet rope.
"Hey! It's Mist!" Domie  shouts happy to see Nayaa again.
"What did he call you?" Gono directly behind her asks surprised.
"Don't worry about it." She dismisses him. "He-eey! It's Domie-from-the-door." And she starts doing her little twisty-hip 'Domie from the door' dance.
"Ha-ha-ha Mist! You sure were right. You're the girl I want, but missed." Domie responds laughing, excitedly slapping his knees. 
"Awe, I missed you too..." ...and continues her booty dance. "Domie-from-the-door, Domie-from-the-door." The burly man starts clapping, laughing, and dancing on his seat with excitement.
"Come and sit here on my lap." He invites her with a big grin.
Nayaa pouts in a cute exaggerated way. "But I'm a good girl." And gives him big eyes flashing her lashes. Domie howls with laughter and slaps his knees. And than leans sideways and looks past her at her entourage. Dirin and Gono are right behind her.
"Where's your gandpapy?"
Nayaa reacts with a big smile and a giggle. "Ah, he's tucked away in bed. It's nappy time for him." Domie chuckles and slaps his palms.
"Is this your crew here?" Pointing at group behind her. She meekly agrees with a nod of her head. "You're in of course, and you can bring one of these dudes, but the rest have to pay."
"Ok." She agrees with a big smile. She looks over her shoulder at Gono, and then at Dirin next to him. Gono is holding his breath. He seems to want to say something, but doesn't. Nayaa points at Dirin. "Come on."
Gono's face drops like a stone. The disappointment and frustration is blatantly visible. Nayaa never notices as she casually walks in followed by Dirin. The rest are stalled behind. They have to pay but at least get to skip the line.
"How do you know that guy?" Dirin ask curious as they step into the colorfully lit glass octagon.
"We go way back."
"Really?"
"Nah, not really."
"Oh." He seems confused. Not sure if he should say anything else.
"Don't worry about it. Hey D, can you dance? Can you keep up with me?" And she takes off for the dance floor. Dirin rushes to follow.
They head through the much denser crowd, but the dance floor is less crowded. On the other hand, the steps up to the mezzanine are packed with people. At the top of the steps, more security, and a velvet rope holding the people from entering. It seems the mezzanine is VIP on this night, with several of the pilots arriving from the races as distinguished guests.
But Nayaa could care less. Her eye is on the dance floor. She jumps down, followed by a somewhat reluctant Dirin. She starts moving, casually at first, watching Dirin, assessing his skill. Confronted by Nayaa's strong personality he feels obligated to show off. He undulates his tall slim body like all the other dancers around him, but he can't relax his stiffness. His moves are choppy and awkward. He is clearly no dancer. Nayaa is moving smoothly with the grove, like riding a wave of sound, gentle and in step. She's not thinking about it. Her body just grooves, moved by the music itself. She watches Dirin push himself clearly trying to impress, yet completely out of step with the beat.
One of the 3D dancing anime steps up to Nayaa and starts mimicking her moves. The furry animal-like anthropomorphic hologram joins Nayaa and both start exaggerating their moves. Nayaa is now dancing with the 3D anime and elevates her movements far beyond anything Dirin can keep up with. He steps back while Nayaa takes over the dance floor. Like last time, the other dancers step away giving Nayaa and her 3D hologram-partner the floor, which they turn into an acrobatic stage. It doesn't take long until the entire club is focused on her and her alone. No one else in that club can dance the way she does, except it seems this hologram. It keeps up with Nayaa all the way through. It mostly mimics her, but after a while it begins anticipating her moves and complementing her action with its own. They can't physically interact, but Nayaa makes it look like she is dancing with a partner. She twirls, tumbles, and spins. Torques and contorts her body as if it was made from rubber. The dance goes on until she is glistening in sweat, and now the entire club is her audience. When she finally stops and takes a bow, everyone applauds. Gono rushes to her with an ice cold cup of berry-fizz.
"That was amazing. Here." Handing her the berry-fizz. "I got this for you."
Nayaa, a tad surprised by his accosting approach, looks at him funny for a moment but eagerly accepts the tasty cold drink.
"Thanks Gono. You're a good friend." Gono nods satisfied with himself. A loud smacking sound of forceful clapping makes Gono turn and Nayaa look past him. It's Dirin and he is exaggeratedly applauding as he approaches with broad wide sweeps of his arms.
"Absolutely stunning. I can't believe how much time I wasted trading jabs with Andee and never noticed what a stunning woman you are, until I saw you dance."
"I am a pretty good dancer, I have to admit." She winks at him confidently, smiles, and takes a sip from Gono's berry-fizz.
"Yes, and so beautiful. Your body is the envy of any woman, and those eye, those pretty green eyes, they are like jewels." Nayaa similes exaggeratedly with a hint of shyness.
"Why thank you sir. Aren't you in a complimentary mood."
"I can't help it. The more I get to know you, the more amazed I am by you."
"You know, I already knew these things about you." Gono intercedes with an aura of desperation. "I just, you know, I'm just not that up front that's why I didn't say anything."
At that moment one of the many club bouncers steps between Nayaa and her two competing suitors.
"Mist right?" Nayaa looks at him with a frown. "You're Mist, no?" The big bouncer, dressed in all black, is asking Nayaa.
"Ah-yes, that's me. Is Domie looking for me?"
"No, actually you have been invited up to the mezzanine, at the VIP party."
"Oh, really? Why?" Nayaa reacts extremely surprised.
"Maybe someone was impressed by your dance. Follow me." She turns to Gono and Dirin and shrugs her shoulders expressing both a sense of mystery and curiosity, and then follows the bouncer up the packed steps. On her way up the other club goers congratulate her on her dance skills.
"You're amazing. Wow, you're so hot. You're the best dancer ever." Random people compliment and praise her. Her curious expression changes into a big beaming smile, as she is let past the velvet rope onto the mezzanine. It's quieter and less crowded up here. Most of the people are sitting on the many lounges. The bouncer takes her to a circular lounge with only one gap for the entrance in the round sofa. The circular sofa surrounds a low glass table in the center filled with bottles, drinks, and snacks of all kinds. Sitting in a circle are seven people, all sharply dressed except one. He is wearing a black pilot's suit.
"Ah, there she is, the star of the show. Join us beautiful Mist." The late twenties man in the pilot suit eagerly invites her.
Nayaa stands steadfast and stares at them for a second. Then with a friendly smirk; "And who are you people?"
"Ha-ha. I like your style. Take no prisoner kind of girl. I'm Gavor, a famous lightship pilot."
"Ah, the Black Cross." She responds, her friendly smile turning into a serious hard look.
"Like I said. I'm famous." Gavor responds looking at his friends with a cocky smirk. "So you saw me win the race. I bet you were impressed."
"Oh, my bad. So you must be the pilot of the Red Menace?" Nayaa responds exaggerating her fake confusion with a clownish glare at the pilot.
Gavor gives her a hard contemptuous smirk. "Ha, I knew I liked you for a reason, but those scores mean nothing to me. I crossed the line first. I am the winner of the race."
"Those numbers mean everything to me. You see, I was rooting for the Ghost, but you killed him. At least he put you in third place, even from beyond the grave. And now the Ghost will haunt you forever." Nayaa counters with a strong intense glare. Gavor looks discombobulated. For a moment he doesn't seem to know how to respond. His friends too look shocked and appalled. They must have all expected her to fawn over this famous pilot.
"What do you want from me? Murderer." Nayaa asks with eyes that could cut through steel. Everyone in the booth is stunned silent. Gavor seems to struggle for a second with his words.
"Ah-forget what I said. Take no prisoners? No. You're nothing but a worthless Carpati scumbag. I can't believe I invited you up here. Get out of my face you worthless primitive subhuman."
Nayaa's eyes have turned into steel blades. She's cutting Gavor down with her sharp gaze with such intensity he is forced to look away. "I was having a good time. You just ruined my mood, but at least if I walk away I won't become a murderer too." And she snatches round, away from his booth, with a long leap and nearly bumps into a couple walking behind her. She forcefully stops in her tracks to prevent the impact.
"Sorry." She apologizes first and then looks up at the couple who did the same, stopped suddenly to prevent the collision. Nayaa's eyes turn round. Had she not stopped she would have bumped, nose to nose, into Silestra Orr, who is arm in arm with Ricio Bret.
"Great." Nayaa muses under her breath.
"Hey, you're her!" Silestra reacts surprised gently pointing at Nayaa.
"Her would be I. You got that right." Nayaa replies with a condescending and angry smirk.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude. I apologize. I'm just happy to see you."
"Ah-really?" Nayaa takes a small step back looking at Silestra completely discombobulated. "OK, well I'm sorry too then. It's just, this guy over here, this Gavor. He really pissed me off."
"Oh yes, he's no friend of mine." Ricio ads. "He's arrogant and a horrible human being."
Nayaa nods, and looks hard into his eyes. "Hey, you're Rico!"
"I am."
"She's Andee's friend. The girl I told you about." Silestra interjects. Ricio's eyes open up wide in surprise.
"No! You?" Ricio is suddenly giddy with excitement. "I'm about to hug you right now, watch out." And he steps up and grabs Nayaa in a big hug. She looks over his shoulder to Silestra, baffled and not hugging him back. Ricio lets her go. "I am so happy to meet you. Silestra told me about you, and your amazing dancing skills. I hope to see you perform tonight."
"Ah, yeah... well, ah-I just did, that's why I'm up here." Poor Nayaa looks more confused than ever.
"Oh, we just got here. We missed it. That's unfortunate." Ricio looks disappointed.
"Ah, don't worry. I'm crazy about dancing. I'll do it again."
"That's fantastic. I can't wait to see it."
"Ah-OK, sure no problem, but-ah... why are you guys so happy to see me? That's just weird. You don't even know me." Nayaa asks looking at both completely baffled. They smile and Ricio responds.
"Andee saved my life. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. And than Silestra told me about you and the amazing dancers that you both are, and the way Andee rescued me, I assume it's because of your dancing skills. So that means that you are like him, and I think that's amazing. I was hoping to meet you, and Andee again. Is he here?"
"Wow-OK, ah-no, he couldn't make it."
"Ah-man! Is there any way you could get him here? I never got a chance to thank him. I passed out on his back, and the next thing I knew I was in the hospital. You have to tell him. I have to meet him. I won't be happy until I do. I want to thank him in person, and I want to reward him somehow."
"Really?"
"Of course. I will never forget what he did for me. No one else could have saved me, and no one else was willing to try. But he did. I am so grateful for his help."
"Wow, well, you're different."
"I hope that's a good thing." Ricio responds with a big smile.
"Sorry. My mouth has a mind of its own. No, I just thought you pilots were like this one." Nodding her head towards Gavor. "But you're cool. I'm glad Andee saved you."
"Join us. We're going to our booth, and I'd love to talk to you. I want to know everything about you and Andee. I'm fascinated. I know we live in different worlds but I think we could be great friends. God, I wish he was here."
"OK, yeah, I guess I can join you."

Mykee is on the sofa-bench on the east wall of their living room fiddling with his panel. Andee approaches than sits at the table with a late night snack.
"What'ya watching?" He asks his little brother.
"Highlights of the race. That Gavor, he's a real good pilot. Too bad he killed the Ghost. He was a good pilot too."
Mykee looks up to Andee who's eating quietly.
"Are you still mad?"
"I'm not mad."
"Yeah you are. You're mad cuz of that girl, and because what happened to the Ghost."
"Whatever. Watch your highlights."
Mykee makes a disapproving face and then looks back at his display, but a second later he looks back up at Andee.
"You're being dumb. You loved the prave last time. I know you want to go. If I could, I would go. Just to see those lightships out front." Andee continues chewing on his food ignoring his brother. "Lets go." And Mykee jumps off the sofa.
"Go where?"
"I want to go to the prave. I want to see the lightships."
"They don't let kids in."
"I don't want to go in. I just want to see the ships outside. Lets go."
"Mykee, it's the middle of the night. We're not going anywhere. You'll see those ships soon. I never had a vidrom when I was your age. Be patient."
Mykee contorts his face frustrated. "Than how come you're not going? All your friends are there. Why do you want to stay here?"
"It's none of your business."
"You're dumb. You won't take me to see the ships, and you're not even going yourself, for some dumb reason. Because of some girl."
"If you're going to annoy me, then go to sleep."
"Fine. You're an idiot. I don't want to talk to you any more." And Mykee rushes into the right side bedroom. Andee stares at his plate, chewing the last of his food, in bitter disappointment.

Back at the prave Nayaa is once again tearing up the dance floor. She is surrounded by several 3D anime characters, all of whom seem to have learned many of Nayaa's moves and are dancing in her style. Everyone is watching, even Gavor, but it is Ricio and Silestra that have the front row view up on the mezzanine. Silestra is watching with a calm smile but Ricio is besides himself. He is laughing, cheering and shouting, clearly enjoying the spectacle.  Nayaa finally finishes her set and the bouncers clear a path for her up the stairs as they escort her into the VIP. The patrons cheer and applaud her on the way up. Nayaa is the star of the show, yet her face is meek and shy. She looks overwhelmed by all the attention.
Outside, Andee is walking past all the parked lightships in front of the prave. He can't help but stop to admire. There are a lot more ships than last time, and like before, they are smaller than the racers, but with large spacious bubbles. Most are also made of single units, with the light emitting from directly below, not from cylinders or other exterior engines attached by arms like with many of the racers. Each seems to be more elegant than the next. After spending a good half hour admiring the lightships, Andee skips the line and squeezes through the crowd to the entrance, and immediately makes eye contact with Domie sitting on his stool.
"Hey it's grandpapy!" Domie shouts joyfully. "I thought you were at home, tucked away in bed." Andee puts his palms together and leans the side of his face on them like a pillow, closes his eyes, and snores.
"I am." Then looks up at Domie with a smirk. "But I'm sleep walking. And I'm feeling the music move me." Domie slaps his knee and laughs.
"I saw you for a minute last time. For a grandpapy, you sure can dance. You're pretty lady, Mist, she's got you beat, but you can sure hold your own."
"I assume she's here."
"Yeah, and with some suspicious dudes. You let your lady hang with other dudes?"
"We're good friends."
"Your loss." Domie nods at Andee with a disappointed look. "That's unless you're not into the ladies." Domie continues raising one brow like a question mark. Andee instantly frowns.
"Why do people think that?" Andee responds flustered. Domie laughs and slaps his knee.
"I'm just tripping' on you. You going in?"
"Yeah, thanks man."
"You and Mist are always welcome." Humbly nodding his head, Andee steps past the bouncers.
"Oh hey?" Domie yells after him. Andee turns around. "They're waiting for you up in the VIP. Just tell the bouncers your name." Andee squints at him perplexed. Domie nods emphasizing that he's serious.
Andee is heading up the steps squeezing through the crowd. A couple of people recognize him, and cheer him, patting him on his back. He still looks uncomfortable with the attention, and he becomes even more uncomfortable when the bouncer opens up the velvet rope for him even before he can speak.
"Follow me, is all the bouncer says to him." Without a word, and looking more confused and uncomfortable by the minute, he follows the bouncer. They walk past Gavor's booth. All of his entourage notice Andee and stare at him hard. Gavor lifts his glass in the air, and gives him a 'salutation'. Andee can't even think of a reaction he is so discombobulated. They approach another round booth. The first person he notices, sitting facing him, is Nayaa. His head snaps back, shocked by the sight into an even deeper state of confusion. The bouncer stops and guides him into the circular sofa with a swing of his left arm like a butler. Andee first looks at a smiling Nayaa, who looks happy to see him, and then at the strangers sitting on her right. He then looks left and instantly makes eye contact with Ricio, and then next to him, with Silestra. Poor Andee looks completely dumbfounded, but he doesn't have time. Ricio leaps up to his feet in a burst of excitement.
"Ah-ha-ha! He is here! The man is here!" Ricio shouts and leaps past Silestra and accosts Andee grabbing him in a huge hug, somehow managing not to spill the drink in his hand. He lets go of Andee and steps back. "Holly crap man! Holly crap, you're here! I'm so excited."
Poor discombobulated Andee looks to Nayaa for a clue, but she just looks back at him with a big grin.
"Everyone. I want you all to meet the man of the hour, Andee! A true hero." Ricio turns to the table lifting his glass in the air. At the same time Silestra stands up and gives him a soft hug placing her left cheek against his. Poor Andee is still in shock. Nayaa's smile turns into an unfriendly pout, but only for a moment. She catches herself, and looks away forcing a grin of a smile.
"Man, you have no idea how happy I am to see you." Ricio shouts. Andee just nods. "Come on, come on, join us. We have so much to discuss. What's your drink? We've got everything here."
"Ah, water, I'm good with water."
"How about berry-fizz?"
"Sure." As he takes a seat right between Ricio and Silestra.
"You have no idea how excited I am. God it's great to finally meet you and talk to you face to face." Ricio, a bit tipsy with alcohol is exuberant. Andee looks to Nayaa, his only point of familiarity. He is in a scenario he's never been in before. At a table of Bitani, in a modern glass club, with food and drinks on the table unlike any he has ever seen before, and with people so exuberant to see him, that it is beyond his comprehension. He glances at Nayaa, but all she can do is offer him an equally perplexed shrug. They are both out of their element, and struggling to fit into this alien environment.
Their awkward mood is quickly pushed aside by conversation. Ricio's friends are focused on Andee, but still interested in Nayaa as well. It seems they were asking her all kinds of questions, and now those same questions are directed at Andee. They want to know how he did it. How he climbed those rocks with such elegance and ease? They are full of questions, about his ghimpour, dancing skills, and their Carpati life in general. The conversations continues on for a long time, and both Andee and Nayaa, now having each other, become more comfortable in this strange place.
"You are both absolutely amazing." Ricio lifts up another glass to toast them. "I feel honored to know you both." All raise their glasses, Andee and Nayaa with their berry-fizz, clink their glasses in a toast, and drink. Ricio then turns to Andee.
"You saved my life risking your own. I know you're good, but those rocks were steep, especially coming down from that outcrop. I can't even begin to think how I can repay you. I know things are complicated between our people, but I'm indebted to you. I want to do what I can for you. If there is anything that I can do just ask."
"I'm good man, you don't have to..." Andee responds humbly.
"Ah, yeah he does." Nayaa interjects with a coy smirk. Then lifts up her cup. "Berry-fizz for life."
"Done." Ricio responds confident without hesitation.
"Really? You could do that?" Nayaa looks at him shocked.
"I'll find a way." Nodding to Nayaa than turning back to Andee. "Tell me. Anything. What can I do for you?"
"Are you serious?" Andee counters still incredulous.
"Of course I'm serious! Are you kidding me? I'm as serious as death."
"I don't know."
"There's got to be something."
Andee looks down and thinks. "Well there is one thing, but..."
"What?" Everyone at the table is leaning forward, awaiting Andee's words with anticipation.
"I don't know. I don't think it's right. You wouldn't be allowed."
"Tell me, and I'll tell you what's allowed."
"I want to see the city." Everyone, even Nayaa, freeze up with shocked round eyes.
"Whoa, OK. Well that makes sense, actually." Ricio nods. "Done."
"What? Are you serious?" Andee almost jumps in his seat incredulous.
"I'm sorry, but I think he's had too much to drink." Silestra cuts in. The other Bitani at the table look at Ricio disapprovingly. "Ricio is a great guy, and he would do it, if he could, but it's not up to him."
"Nonsense. I'm Ricio Bret. My father is the bastard Brandberd Bret. If I say I'm going to bring my friend Andee to the city, who's going to stop me? My father. Punk him!"
"Honey, you're drunk. And you're making promises you can't keep." Ricio looks at her disapprovingly. He gets up, and grabs Andee by the shoulder.
"Come with me." And Rico pulls at Andee forcing him to get up. The two walk away from the booth to a more secluded corner.
"You really want to see the city?"
"It's been my dream since I was a kid."
"She is kind of right. Damn it! My father is such a punk. You know, he thinks you're dangerous."
"Why?"
"I don't know. He warned me to stay away from you?"
"Maybe it's because they got my name wrong."
"You're name?" Ricio stares at Andee perplexed.
"My name is Andee Star, not Starfighter." Andee explains to him the difference and the hated Starfighter troublemakers.
"I've never heard of any Starfighters." Ricio responds with a shake of his head.
"Really?" Andee responds surprised. "I heard they were troublemakers, and a big deal long ago."
"There was a purge about ten years ago and lots of troublemakers got banished, but none by the name Starfighter, that I know of."
"How about Star?"
"Nope. To be honest, I don't know any of the names. I know there was an accident, and some buildings in the city exploded, who knows." Ricio shrugs his shoulders. Andee is staring through him, focused, trying to read every clue in his words, but doesn't say anything himself. "But maybe you're right. Maybe that's what it is. It doesn't mater. That's just stupid. That's ancient. I'm going to show you the city."
"You're serious?"
"As serious as my accident. Tomorrow. Meet me here, by dome rock, just before noon. OK? Be here. And you know what. Say nothing to no one. I'll sneak you in. They can kiss my butt."
"I don't want to get you in trouble."
"Nah-nah-nah, no trouble for me. You just be here." At that moment an older man in a modern and somewhat futuristic suit walks up to Ricio.
"Sorry to interrupt. We need you at the signing table. We're about to begin."
"All-right. I'll be there." Rico responds to the man than looks back to Andee. "Got to go. Autograph time. So tomorrow, behind dome rock. At noon. Be there." Andee nods.

Andee and Nayaa are leaning on the mezzanine banister. The space around the stairs is getting ever more crowded. Everyone is waiting in line to get up and meet their favorite pilots and get their autographs. The dance floor is again half empty.
"Lets go dance." Nayaa nods to Andee eager to move again.
"You go ahead. I just want to watch the crowd for a while."
"Come on, I've been dancing by myself all night."
Andee gives her a long look. "I will, just give me some time to myself. It's been a crazy day."
"Fine." Nayaa a bit disappointed takes off, but rather than climb down the crowed steps she leaps over the banister, grabs onto the side rails of the stairs, then scampers down the outside of them. The crowd roars with cheers. Andee watches her with an amused smirk, and in the crowed notices Gono, Dirin, and their buddies waiting in the line. Andee heads for the bouncers controlling the velvet rope at the top of the steps.
"Is it OK if I bring my friends up here?"
The bouncer looks at him suspiciously for a moment.
"Sure that will be fine."
Like Nayaa, Andee leaps over the banister onto the side of the staircase, and climbs down on the outside of it. The crowd on the steps cheer directing all the attention to him. Gono sees him and waves catching Andee's eye. He stops, still above the crowd, and waves at Gono to come over. He does, with Dirin and his other two buddies behind him. After a struggle through the crowd on the steps, they get to the top and Andee gets them past security onto the mezzanine.
"Wow, I didn't know you were here." Gono looks at him surprised. "And VIP? How did you pull this off?"
"Hey, I'm famous. Did you forget?"
"Ha."
"You want to meet the pilots?"
"Are you kidding! Hell yeah."
"Which one?"
"All of them."
"They want you to pick one."
"Ok, I'm curious to see the pilot of the Red Menace. This was the first time I saw him, and he did good."
"Is Gavor here? I would love to get his autograph." Dirin jumps in.
"Of course you would."
"Whatever man. I promised Nayaa I'd respect you, but I don't have to be impressed by you." Dirin snarls at Andee.
"Please, don't be, but yeah he's here. I'll take you to him. By the way, he loves Nayaa. You can score some points if you tell him she's your friend."
"She is, and I will."
"Really? That dude's into Nayaa too? Man, I have no hope." Gono mumbles disgruntled. Andee nudges him, and shakes his head at Gono with a mischievous squint.
"What?"
"You'll see."

Rico and the other pilots are busy talking to their fans and signing photos of themselves, all of which have them standing in front of their ships, posing like champions. Nayaa is tearing up the dance floor once again. Andee is finally alone on the mezzanine watching the crowd-watching Nayaa dance. Very swiftly and silently, Silestra steps up next to him and leans on the banister. Andee is too lost in his gaze to notice her. 
"She is very impressive."
"Oh, hey." Andee reacts surprised finally noticing her.
"Hey yourself."
"Sorry."
"No need. You look bored. I know I'm bored. Why don't you come and keep me company since we've both been abandoned by our companions."
"I don't think Ricio would like that."
Silestra laughs. "Is jealousy normal among the Carpati?"
"I guess."
"We're Bitani. We don't get jealous. He's busy. He would prefer I talk to you than be alone."
"Ok, but I don't want to cause any problems."
"You saved his life. You don't cause problems. You solve them. And you made me happy by saving him. Your humility is a bit extreme don't you think?"
"Really? You think so?"
"Of course. When you do something great, humility is almost an insult. Own what you did, and be proud of it. Anything else that comes of it, you deserve. Don't reject it, take it." She responds with a smile. 
"I guess. I'm not used to that, or being that way."
"Well, maybe you should learn. You only live once in this world. If you want something, take it. Don't hesitate. Who's life are you living, yours or someone else?"
"Wow, you're quite the philosopher. You remind me of someone..." But Andee cuts himself off in mid sentence.
Silestra smiles. "I'm just a pragmatist. I know what I want, and I'm not afraid to take it."
"What do you want?"
"Come with me and I'll show you." Andee frowns. She smiles and steps away in her soft fairy-like floating style. This time she is wearing a tight body hugging white miniskirt dress. The long sleeves spiral with white and semitransparent material, as does the dress itself. The transparent material spirals from above the breasts, round back, than over the stomach and down one side giving a translucent glimpse of her glowing skin beneath. Mostly from her right shoulder, with a small attachment just behind her left, hangs a silky cape elegantly draping over her back. Her long legs are exposed from the upper thigh all the way down, and glistening. On her feet she has the typical, yet strange but glamorous high heeled shoes that most Bitani women wear. A type a shoe non existent among the Carpati with their dirt roads. After a couple of beautifully gliding steps she stops and turns to Andee with an inviting smile. Her face is radiant and strong, her beauty mesmerizing. Reluctant, Andee gives in and follows her. She walks towards Ricio's booth, and then right past it.
"Isn't this your booth?"
"Yes. But I want to show you something else." She responds with a bewitching smile. She grabs Andee's hand and takes him behind the autograph area to an isolated dark spot. She stops and turns to him. He looks at her confused.
"Like I said. I know what I want, and I'm not afraid to take it." She grabs Andee by his sleeveless shirt, and pulls him towards her, leans in and starts kissing him. He pulls away, she leans back in, and this time Andee goes for it. He wraps his arms around her and they kiss, and kiss, and kiss, for quite a long time.
"Andee? What are you doing back there? I've been looking for you everywhere. You need to join me..." But Nayaa's voice goes stunned silent when Andee turns revealing who is on the other side of him. Nayaa's mouth drops, and her breath locks into a knot in her throat the moment she realizes what was happening. Her eyes fall to the ground, sheepish and sad. She swallows a gulp of air, struggling to dislodge that knot, and snaps away. Andee pulls from Silestra and moves to rush after Nayaa, but Silestra grabs him.
"Hey, you said she's your friend right?" Andee stops, seems unsure. Silestra locks her confident eyes on his. "If you're in love with her, than go after her."
"She's my friend, and I love her like a sister, but I'm not in love with her."
"Good, than this should be no problem." She leans in to kiss him again. They kiss but Andee pulls away.
"Wait! This is wrong."
"So you are in love with her."
"No not me. You."
"Sorry." Looking at him askew and confused. "Me?"
"With Ricio. No? The love or your life?"
"Ahh, yes of course."
"This is wrong. He's your boyfriend. We shouldn't be doing this."
"You don't understand."
"Is he not your boyfriend?"
Indecisive. "Well yes..."
"...but?"
"It's complicated. We're kind of an arrangement. The Bitani society is... well, strange. I do like him, but... I'm not in love with him."
"You can't be in love with me either. So why mess things up with Ricio?"
"How do you know I'm not in love with you?"
"You don't know me."
"That's not a barrier to love."
"Of course it is."
"I know what I feel."
"Maybe you have a crush on that guy you saw rescue your boyfriend, but you don't know me. I think love is more complicated than a crush. Love takes time."
"Looks like you're the philosopher. See that's why I like you."
"But you didn't know that about me till just now."
"No, but I sense it in you."
"Sense what?"
"You're mystique. Ricio is a good guy. He's loyal. Honest. But there is not much more to him. He is his father's son, and that's what he'll always be. You..." And she stops and looks deeply into his eyes.
"Me what?"
"There's something about you. A mystery, inside of another mystery. You're exciting. I believe you'll do great things."
"So you are psychic too? Is this a Bitani thing, or just you?"
 She doesn't answer just leans in and kisses him again. Andee doesn't resist. They kiss passionately. She starts being more aggressive, pushing her body into his, rubbing her face, her cheek against his, nibbling at his lips. Andee gently pulls away, locks eyes with her then gently waves his head side to side. She turns her face into a cute flirty pout. Andee giggles with a smirk overwhelmed by his desire and her inviting appeal. Silestra tries to move in and kiss him again but he stops her with his words.
"You are also mystery. In fact you kind of scare me." Andee muses. She smiles and then growls at him like the sexiest and cutest beast you've ever seen. Andee laughs. "Yup, you definitely scare me."
"Me scary? Why?" She counters with a cute flirtatious pout of a smile as she steps closer to him.
"Maybe it's a Bitani thing, I don't know. You're the first Bitani girl I've ever met, but girls here don't behave like you. This is a little too much for me. I'm sorry. You are absolutely beautiful, but, I don't like this. You're with Ricio. You live up in the city. I'm not going to help you cheat on someone you promised your trust. And I can't be with you if we can't be equal. I would never ask you to come down here to be with me. This will never work, and a fling is just not worth it." Silestra's soft smiling beauty for the first time fades replaced by a hard incredulous face. She then forces a friendly smile.
"Wow. That's probably the most brutal, yet polite rejection I've ever had. Well actually, the only rejection I've ever had. Are you sure that's what you want?"
"If we can't truly be together, than this, no, I don't want this."
"Oh-kay. If that's how you want it." And without any further complication, she casually turns, and calmly walks away quickly vanishing into the darkness, while a second later Gono leaps up next to Andee.
"Dude are you crazy?" Andee looks at him without a word and walks away stepping out onto the mezzanine. Gono follows. "I heard everything man. You're insane. Not equal? Are you stupid? Dude! You'll never meet a girl like her ever again. Who cares about that pilot. Look at him, arrogant punk." Gono nods with his head to the top of the stairs where the pilots are lined up, facing away, signing their autographs for the crowd in front of them. "She doesn't want him, she wants you. Dude! I can't believe you just did that." Andee stops and stares at Gono.
"I did what I had to do."
"I think you made the biggest mistake of your life, but hey, it's your life. But don't expect me to support it. I never will. I'm sorry man, but... I'm hurt. I'm hurt for you. Because I think one day you'll realize what you did, and you'll hate me for not doing more to stop you."
"Then I promise, I won't hate you. You told me and I didn't listen. If I made a mistake, it's my mistake." Gono shakes his head in disbelief and walks off.
The mezzanine is now almost completely empty, except by the stairs where the pilots are signing autographs. Downstairs is still busy and the dance floor is full. Andee wonders around for a bit than leaps over the banister and climbs down. He starts searching the club. He looks everywhere. He fights the crowds as he navigates the entire place. Nothing. He looks up through the roofless club, through the animated sparkles, fairies, ribbons, and other light displays to the top of dome rock. Still nothing. He looks up to the glass floored mezzanine and sees Gono, alone, leaning on the banister watching the crowd below. Andee uses the sides of the steps to climb back up, and walks up next to Gono.
"Have you seen Nayaa?"
"No, have you seen Dirin?"
Andee shakes his head. "Man she's pissed at me."
"Nayaa? Why?"
"She doesn't like Silestra, and saw us kissing."
"Oh-wait... but you guys aren't dating."
"I know, but she... actually I don't know. She's just very protective."
"OK, I guess. Maybe they're both downstairs. I looked for Dirin everywhere but he's not up here."
"And I looked for her downstairs and she wasn't there."
"Well, there's hardly anyone here. She's either downstairs or outside. Lets go back down." Gono suggests and Andee nods in agreement. The crowd waiting for autographs is not as thick up the steps any more so both use them like civilized people. Just as they step down Dirin rushes up to them. He looks agitated.
"Dude why did you leave VIP?" Gono asks.
"I didn't! I got kicked out."
"What did you do?"
"Noting! It's those damned pilots. They're jerks." Gono frowns looking at Dirin with distrust. "I didn't do anything man."
"You must have done something."
"I was talking to Gavor, praising him. He loved it. Then I told him Nayaa was my girlfriend, and the dude tore up the picture he signed for me, and kicked me out. The bouncers sent me down here and wouldn't let me back up. He must've been jealous or something."
Gono turns to Andee with a frown. Andee shrugs his shoulders with a smirk. At same moment Nayaa steps up. She looks furious, and stares at Andee with cutting eyes. Just as Andee is about to speak, she grabs Dirin by the sides of his head, pulls him in, and starts kissing him. Andee and Gono stare jaw-dropped. Both are speechless. A moment later, Nayaa lets Dirin go, turns to Andee with an angry glare, and grabs Dirin's hand.
"Come on lets go. I'm leaving with you." And she takes off dragging Dirin behind her.
"Nayaa! What are you doing?" Andee shouts then chases after her, grabbing her by the shoulder. She snaps round to him.
"Go away."
"Come on don't be an idiot.  I turned her down. You were right. She's not good for me."
"Hey man. Mind your business. She wants me not you!" Dirin counters aggressively stepping between Andee and Nayaa, severing her hard eyes on Andee. Nayaa lets Dirin's hand go and takes off. Dirin rushes after her and puts his arm around her shoulders. They walk towards the exit together.
"Nayaa, don't be dumb! Don't do something stupid you'll regret!" Andee shouts after her, but she and Dirin disappear into the crowd. Andee turns to Gono flustered, but poor Gono looks devastated. His head is hanging low, eyes staring at the ground in front of his feet. He seems to have no energy to say or do anything.
"Come on. Lets get out of here. This night's been crazy."

It's about an hour before noon. Andee is climbing up the east side of dome rock. He finds a spot and takes a seat at the very top. He is sitting in a meditative style looking deep into the southern horizon. He looks to his left, at table mountain. Halfway up he can see the outline of the outcrop, but at the top is the giant blackstone wall. Behind it, the great mystery of his life. Grand Bitania. The city. The mysterious stronghold of the Bitani. The city just an arms reach above his own, but that he has never seen, and by birth destined to never set foot in. The one place he always dreamed of seeing, but realistically, most likely never would.
Andee studies the great blackstone wall. He can see the individual stones even from this distance. He realizes each must be gigantic. Some bigger than his house yet staked like bricks into a hundred meter high wall, at least. What a strange way to build a city he thinks to himself. He imagines it all to be built from the same blackstone. Homes, factories, and whatever other buildings the Bitani have, all built from blackstone, and all locked into darkness by that massive black wall. At least that's how he has always envisioned it. 'It must be ugly.' The thought flashes through his mind. He turns around and stares north, at the distant mountainous horizon. He looks at the Carpati Township up the north slope of table mountain. He thinks about the view. The setting giant sun. Last horizon and the beautifully purple twilight. In a way he feels lucky. It's one of his favorite things to do. To sit on the wall of their upper terrace, feet dangling over the lower, and simply stare at the view ahead. That beautiful view of the jagged and massive North Mountains, with Crest Peak directly ahead and across from his eyes.
Now he turns right to look at the wall of the city. They must have no view at all. They may have tech, but they are missing out on the beauty and majesty of that world, locked behind that giant wall. For the first time he suddenly feels fortunate. 'What if I'm free, and they're in a prison behind that giant blackstone wall?' The question reverberates in his mind.
Andee turns back southwest looking at the distant Salt Sea lying beyond the Crags. 'What a beautiful world this is.' The thought flashes through his mind. Maybe the city was a distraction. He can no longer imagine it being that great. How can it compare to the views of the Crags, and the North Mountains, and the sunset.
Sitting on top of dome rock Andee is lost in thought. He casually looks down to the north-west side of the dome where the club is. It's quiet. No more lightships. In fact no sign of life at all, not even the club. Andee does a double take, and leaps to his feet. At least the far edge of the club should be visible, but he can't see it. He gets closer for a better view. Everything is gone. The carved stone that is the driveway up to the entrance is there, but the club isn't. None of its structure is visible. He climbs down on the north-west side of dome rock where the club should be, but there is literally nothing there. He looks around and finds a little bit of trash, but that's it. Nothing more. Andee studies the place perplexed.
He spends the rest of his time walking around, like a detective looking for clues. It's clear that people were there. There are foot prints in the dust. Some indentations where the club was, as the cut into the rock for the back stage area of the club is obvious. It's not particularly shocking, but it is surprising. Andee can't help but feel impressed by the skill and efficiency of the Bitani. It can't be that easy to build a club, run it all night, and tear it down, all before daylight.
"So that's why I never saw it from the outcrop." He muses out loud. As he gets further lost in his thoughts, a sound snaps him back to reality. It startles him, but it's approaching so fast, and it rounds dome rock so quickly, Andee doesn't have time to think as he turns. He sees it out of the corner of his eye as it comes into view around the rock. It's a lightship, and it is speeding right at him. Not just any lightship, but the Silver Sickle itself. He knew who he was expecting, but he never expected--the thought never even crossed his mind--that he might show up in the elegant racer itself.
His body is frozen in shock, but his eyes are drinking in the object fast approaching. His view goes to the transparent bubble, which doesn't look transparent at all from up close. In fact, it is completely mirrored and shines with a silvery glare. The ship pulls up the stone drive way, and stops in front of Andee. He is dumbfounded stiff. The ship  rises up in the air slightly, and the bottom of the bubble opens by lowering like an upside-down clamshell, at the same time lowering the seat. Ricio is sitting there without a helmet. It takes him a moment to get out. Andee just stares mesmerized. Ricio leans down and comes out from under the ship with a smile. Poor Andee stares at him still overwhelmed.
"Well, what do you think?"
Andee's throat is petrified like the stone around him. Only his eyes react, aglow with wide excitement. He looks enamored with the sight. Rico laughs as he studies poor Andee.
"Come on, I'll show you the ship." Without a word Andee follows him. Ricio goes over the ship. Describes various features, the general shape, and it's classic design inspiration. Andee can do no more than nod his head. Eyes wider than they have ever been. His mouth open but in a happy grin. He stares enamored at the piece of tech art in front of him.
"You want to go for a ride?" Ricio asks with a satisfied smile.
"I-I don't even know... how... how can I respond. Yeah, but... I don't know what to say. I'm... just." Rico pats him on the back with a satisfied laugh.
"I felt the same way when I piloted my first racer. My dad owns quite a collection of personal lightships, most people in the city do. You saw a bunch out here last night. So I'm used to them, but these racers are a different breed. I was besides myself the first time I got to ride in one, so I can imagine how you feel. It's exciting. Very exciting."
"Are you sure? Is it OK?"
"You need to stop asking that. We'll make it ok."
"Wow." Andee still looks speechless and in a daze as the looks at every angle of the ship unable to focus on one spot. "Is there room for me?"
"It's a two seater." Ricio points to the obvious fact since there are two seats, side by side, lowered. Andee, so overwhelmed by it all, never noticed. "Back in the day the racers would have a pilot and a navigator. Now it's pilot only. This ship was built in classic style, so it has a navigator's seat as well. Come on, this is how we're going up to the city. But before we do that, do you want to see the course from inside the ship, at 700kph?" Ricio asks Andee with a satisfied grin. Andee snaps his eyes from the ship's features to Ricio, jaw-dropped and emotionally staggered, and remains frozen on the spot unable to answer. With a big smile Ricio grabs Andee's shoulder and messages it a bit in a friendly gesture.
"Listen man, there's no shame in being scared. And if you decide you don't want to see the city, I won't judge if you turn and run back home." There is a tinge of sarcasm in Ricio's voice. It snaps Andee out of his stupor.
"No way! I'm ready. I mean-I just-lets go! Wow! I mean wow!" And Andee shouts and starts jumping like a champion as if he's won the greatest race of them all. Ricio folds his arms and watches pleased. Andee has finally overcome his shock and awe, and is now exuberant with energy and joy. He jumps in the navigator's seat and Ricio shows him how the buckling and restraints work, locking him tight in the seat. Then Ricio jumps next to him and a minute later, the seats rise, the clam-shell closes, and the Silver Sickle shoots off in a cloud of dust like a speeding rocket.

Andee's face is almost split in two with a gigantic smile as his body is shoved into his seat from the acceleration. He is beaming with joy. His head bobs and rocks as the ship undulates over the uneven terrain at 600kph. Long hills feel like bumps at this speed. Andee's eyes are huge as he watches the world flash by faster than he could have ever imagined, then suddenly he is thrown forward as Ricio breaks, and then sideways, when Ricio turns hard to the left, and up the Long Mesa into the long vertical turn into the crags.
For the rest of the ride Andee is beyond giddy with joy. He is astounded by both the pilot and ship's agility through the maze like Crags. He is awestruck at the sight of flying over the waves and is transfixed by the 700kph speeds down the long straight.
The dunes and the low canyon are like a dream, and the east hills fascinate him to no end. Berryfruit trees are the tallest plants they have in the Township, but these fat baobab trees are out of this world. Massive. Some of them wider than Ricio's ship is long, and giant. At least ten times taller than the tallest berryfruit tree, but with very few branches and only up top, all radiating out forming a canopy like an umbrella.
On the way back towards the Bitani stands Ricio pulls the ship off the course and comes to a stop near a sheer stone wall at the southern base of Table Mountain.
"So what do you think?"
Andee can't crack his smile. In fact his face is so stuck in a beaming grin he can't even talk.
Ricio laughs. "I love it. I had the same look on my face on my first ride through the course. Are you ready for the city?"
Andee nods.
"There's only one thing. I can't show you how we get up there. I need you to put this helmet on. It'll block your view. I'm sorry man. It has to be this way." Andee takes a deep breath and nods in agreement.
"That's fine. I'm OK with that. This ride was amazing enough. I never thought I would experience this, so thank you."
"Is this enough? You want to forgo the city?" Ricio asks.
"I wasn't expecting this. I'm really thankful. In fact I didn't even consider how I would get up to the city, but, I'm sorry. I mean, you don't have to, but I really, really want to see it, even if it is just a small portion."
Ricio smiles. "OK, put that helmet on. This racer is illegal in the city proper, so we'll have to head straight for my garage. I'll show you my house. And then maybe I can show you the city."
"Yeah, that's great. It's more than I ever dreamed. So whatever you can do I'm grateful."
"Helmet on. Lets go."
Andee pulls down the helmet over his head. His whole world goes black. He then feels himself being pushed into the back of the seat. Then down into it, followed by some turns, left than right, and so on. Hardly two minutes go by and the ship comes to a stop. He can barely hear Ricio as he tells him to take off his helmet. He grabs his sides. Pangs of nerves whirl in his chest. His brain flashes with wild exotic phantasmagorical images of what he has in the past envisioned the city would look like. He's ready, but also overwhelmingly nervous. It's a moment he always dreamed off, but deep inside never believed would happen. He is almost afraid to pull up his helmet.
He pushes it up. Some light spills in from underneath. His seat is already lowered under the ship. The first thing he notices are the gleaming white floors. They luster in a white shine. Those floors are the cleanest thing he has ever seen. He lifts up the helmet completely. He looks at his surroundings from under the ship. He is in a large white room with mechanical parts all around. Some just strewed around here and there. In one sense it almost reminds him of Old Tom's shed. But this place is spotless. And the parts are gleaming like new steel and bronze. There is not a speck of rust or dust anywhere. He steps out from under the ship, and for a moment he chokes on his breath. He stares ahead dumbfounded, but then quickly looks back over his shoulder. The Silver Sickle is behind him. He just stepped out of it, but in front... there is another one. Another Silver Sickle! Andee stares at it discombobulated. He turns to Ricio, his eyes round with both shock and amazement. Ricio smiles.
"So what do you think of my garage?" Andee is speechless for a moment and struggles to point to the other ship.
"Is that real?"
With a satisfied laugh. "That's Silver3, and this..." pointing to the ship behind them, "...is Silver2. Unfortunately, I smashed up Silver1."
"What? You have three of them?" With a meek breaking voice.
"Had."
More shock. Andee is simply out of his element. He can't imagine owning one lightship, even a junker like ship15, yet here this guy has three. Or at least had three, but he still has two identical copies of the most beautiful and advanced ship he has ever seen. It's just too much.
"This is my garage. Where we work on the ships, where we get them race ready. My crew is off today. Everyone is off today in fact, except for my father, thank god. I can show you more of the garage and then we can go into the main house." Ricio waves his hand, gesturing for Andee to follow. He does, still discombobulated, his eyes flickering, looking around trying to absorb it all in.
The place is spotless. Walls perfectly smooth and straight. Corners sharp and in perfect lines. His whole life all he's ever seen is adobe structures. Nothing in an adobe building is straight. Everything is rounded and undulating even the floors. But this place... precision perfect, crisp, clean, and white. In the dusty Township everything is coated in orange dust, but this place is gleaming, shining mirror white. He's never seen anything like it.
Ricio gives him a quick tour, but it is as if he is speaking a different language. He is describing some of the parts, their function, and the function of some of the other rooms and devices in the main space, but none of it means a thing to Andee.
"Lets go into the house." Ricio nods with his head and Andee follows. The white wall in front of them opens up seamlessly. It looks like magic to Andee. They climb up the few steps and enter near the end of a white hallway. It's made of large rectangular white panels that look like giant glistening tiles. No decorations, just the clean rectangular glossy bricks that make up the left wall, floor, and ceiling. The other wall on the right is all glass and overlooks a small emerald green courtyard, filled with neatly trimmed plants Andee has never seen before. Everything is bright green, speckled with red, yellow, and purple flowers. Beyond the courtyard, far into the distance he can see the Crags, and beyond them the Great Salt Sea. The outcrop has a high vantage point, but the view from Ricio's house is twice as high. He can't help but stare for a while. Ricio stops next to him.
"I understand why you like watching the races from the outcrop. When I was younger I used to watch them from right here, from our back yard." Andee nods not knowing what to say. But then notices something.
"Hey, where's the wall?"
"What wall?" Ricio reacts perplexed.
"The huge blackstone wall surrounding the city?"
"Ah what? Oh-wait, yeah. That's right. From your view it looks like a wall. It's not a wall. It's the foundation to the city. I only looks that way from down below."
Rico opens the glass and steps out onto the green patio. Andee follows. They walk to the edge and it is only now that the waist high glass balustrade is visible. Andee leans past it and looks over the edge. Looking down, the wall is not quite vertical. It has a slight inner angle. Below it, the sheerer stone wall of table mountain protrudes out a bit, and then far below it, at the very bottom of the slope, is the complex with the Bitani stands. Even from so high up they are much larger than the Carpati stands. They straddle the start on both sides, and look modern and well kept, although the details are hard to see from so high.
Andee looks back at the edge of blackstone under his feet and shakes his head in disbelief. 'And this whole time, my entire life, I though this was a wall.' He hears his own thoughts, and even the tone of disappointment within them, of having had it all figured so wrong.
"Lets go back in." Rico nods at Andee pulling him out of his thoughts. With a deep breath Andee quietly follows. After they enter the white hall, Ricio takes him to the room at the other end. It's a large open space with massive glass walls overlooking more green spaces outside, but with a larger view to the Crags on one side, and the Great Salt Sea taking up most of the view.
"This is our living room, our kitchen is up there, and then we passed some of the bedrooms. There are a few more upstairs."
Ricio gives Andee time to take in the view. Everything is immaculate. The house is mostly white, and the furniture is either black, leather-brown, or white. There is a shiny blackstone fireplace with white sofas in front, and between them a glass table. On the table there is a glowing object that seems to be alive with a dancing blue light in the center.
The kitchen and dining area are a few steps higher on an upper platform. The kitchen has smooth modern white cabinets but nothing else. Maybe the sink and stove are hidden somehow, but he can't figure out how. The dining room table is a glass top on beautifully curved shiny copper legs. The chairs around it are black leather frames with brown leather mesh in the center, all wrapped on a copper skeleton.
He hears a strange sound. Ricio pulls a flat device, like a mini-vidrom, out of his pocket, taps it a few times, and then looks up at Andee.
"You mind waiting for me here? I've got to check on something."
Andee nods. Ricio takes off. Andee walks up the four steps onto the elevated dining area and kitchen. He walks to the glass wall beyond the table. Through it he can see other houses over and between the green shrubbery outside. They all vary in shape and color. Some are as angular as Ricio's, but a couple have rounded features. Almost half seem to be white, but many look to be made from stone of various colors, from Carpati orange to blackstone, and some even have wood exteriors. As he studies the corners and gables that are visible, he realizes that the homes are all very different, unlike the monotonous orange adobe houses of the Township.
He lifts up on his toes to see the rest of the city but nothing. No more can be seen. He's a bit disappointed, but then not really. This day is a day unlike any other. Not only did he get to see the Silver Sickle up close, he actually got to ride it, on the racing circuit, at full speed. Now he is in a Bitani house, up in the city, looking at the most amazing homes he has ever seen. Maybe it's better this way. Maybe any more would be too much.
He heads back down into the living room. It's full of strange objects. Strange colorful paintings on the walls made of large splashes of paint on white canvas. Then there are the strange sculptures, some that look like distorted people, and some that just look like nothing at all. His eye is pulled back to the center glass table. Too afraid to touch the perfectly white sofas, he squats between them to get a close look at the intriguing object in the center.
It's a strange little device, about the size of a table top clock. It's tall, transparent, and looks to be made of glass. It has four pillars out of witch soft filaments of blue and white light emanate and dance around as if it is a living breathing organism. In the middle, floating in the filaments of light, is a rhomboid crystal. A diamond of sorts, just floating there in the middle. Andee walks around the table studying the device. He can't conceive a purpose for it other than just another type of sculpture, but what an odd sculpture it is.
Ricio steps down into the living room surprising Andee who snaps back to his feet.
"You like that?"
"What is it?"
"It's my grandparents".
"Ah-what?" Andee frowns and looks up at Ricio as if he miss-heard.
"The diamond, in the center. It's my grandparents."
"Oh-ah... what do you mean your grandparents?"
"It's our Omega Obelisk." Andee just stares through Ricio completely at a loss. "It's like a memorial."
"Oh, a memorial. I've never seen anything like it. It's beautiful."
"It's more than that. It's a final resting place. In your culture you bury the dead. We turn ours into diamonds and keep them forever."
Andee looks away from the object and stares hard at Ricio.
"You don't know what I'm talking about do you?" Andee can't think of a response. He looks back at the Omega Obelisk and stares at its mesmerizing dancing light filaments. "You have never seen a diamond memorial before have you?"
"No I haven't. It's quite beautiful. It must be expensive."
"I don't think you understand. That diamond is not just a memorial. That diamond is in fact my grandparents".
Once again Andee just stares looking right through Ricio.
"Do you know what carbon is?"
"No."
"Carbon is an element, it's what we are all made from. When we die and are cremated the ash that is left behind is almost pure carbon. My grandparents loved each other to the day they died. So their ashes were mixed together and compressed into that diamond. So that diamond... is my grandparents. The atoms that made up my grandparents, are now in that diamond, together forever."
Andee turns his gaze from Ricio to the diamond floating in the sphere of light between the four small obelisks. He looks back at Ricio. Ricio nods his head emphasizing that he is serious. He can see Andee is having a hard time accepting the concept.
"You're saying that the diamond, is their physical bodies somehow... turned into... that crystal?"
"Exactly." Andee squints his eyes and turns his head askew glaring with suspicion. Ricio can't help but snicker a little.
"I'm not joking. When I look at that diamond, I know I'm looking at my grandparents. It is their omega, their final resting place for eternity. And it's right here in my house. They are always near me. Sometimes I even talk to them." Andee relaxes his gaze, takes a deep breath and looks back at the blue glowing object. He is no longer as amazed by it. In fact, it seems to be giving him the chills.
"Come on. I'll show you my room. My dad's coming home soon, so we don't have much time. I was going to take you out into the city, but it won't be possible today."
Andee nods. "It's ok. I think I've seen more than I can handle for one day."
"Really? Well, there is one more thing I want to show you. You think you can handle it?" Andee shrugs indecisively. "I think you'll like it. Come on." Ricio heads up the stairs. Andee follows and suddenly his face lights up.
"Hey Ricio, can I ask you something?"
"Sure."
"Do the Bitani have tech that can make a man invisible?"
"What? No."
"Are you sure?" Andee stops in the hall, and so does Ricio to respond. "But the Bitani can do so many things."
"We can cloak ships, but making a man invisible is different."
"Cloak? What's that?"
"It's possible to hide things by altering light, but it's complicated, and it's even more complicated if the object is moving. Plus there are other ways to detect them. We can check for magnetic fields, heat signatures, displacement, so many things. To create tech that can hide a human being would be near impossible, and a waste of time."
"Why?"
"Too many variables. We breathe oxygen, release carbon dioxide. Produce heat. Have a heart beat. All easily detectable. People don't stand still. You could simply just throw dust, or water on them, or better yet paint, and then they would not be invisible."
"I see. But it's possible?"
"I've never seen it. But it would be pretty useless."
"Ok. How about sacred warriors? Do you believe they're real?"
"Nah, I doubt it. They're just fairytales."
"But if they were real, could they become invisible?"
"They're not real, so nothing they can do is real. What's with these questions?"
"Just curious. There's so many things I don't know. And now seeing your ship, your house, I feel so primitive and stupid."
"Look man, I'm sorry. I have no idea why you guys are denied basic science. I grew up believing the Carpati just aren't smart enough. That's what I was told all my life. That Carpati simply don't have the mental ability to understand our world, and that's why we have to take care of you. That's why we have friendship centers where we give you free medical care. All your homes and factories are wired with electricity that we generate, to help you."
"I know and I appreciate that, but..."
"No you don't understand. I'm not telling you this because I expect you to be grateful. I'm telling you what I was told. If you think I know more than I'm telling you, it's not so."
"So you don't think we are dumb?"
"No, not at all, certainly not you. It's clear to me, had you had the education I got, with an understanding of science, you would not have these questions. I'm really sorry it's the way it is. If I could change things I would."
"Maybe one day you will."
"Yeah, I will, and you know what. Maybe this is the start, today." Andee looks at him askew again. Rico points to the door in front of which they are stopped. "This is my room. I've got something here that helped me a great deal and I think it could help you too. It will answer many of your questions."
Rico opens the door and steps in. Andee follows. Ricio's room is simply decorated, with posters of lightships, including Hektor's ship, and what look to be various DJ's that perform at the prave. For being a Bitani, and rich, his room is surprisingly unimpressive to Andee, considering the rest of the house.
"That." Rico points to a white orb, the size of a volleyball, on his desk. "I'm giving you that."
"What is, that?"
"Well, to be honest it's a toy, and would have been more useful to you when you were younger, but I think you will like it."
"You don't have to. It looks nice, but I don't know what I'd use it for."
"I have no idea what you'll use it for either, but I think you'll get a kick out of it. And it will answer a lot of your questions."
"What is it?"
"It's my animebot." Andee just stares. Doesn't really know how to react.
"Sorry, but I have no idea what that means."
Ricio smiles. "Let me show you." He turns to the ball and states three words that don't seem to fit together. "Lyka, off, present." And the ball floats off the desk and stops a meter and a half in front of them. Andee takes a gentle step back, slightly startled by the object's sudden move towards them. He looks to Ricio confused and suspicious. Ricio looks back at him with a smile. "Lyka, on." And immediately a light emanates out from the sphere quickly encapsulating it within a 3D free standing anime character. It's a pretty light-fairy that looks extremely realistic, but made of light, thus transparent. Only the center part of her chest is hazy enough to mask the white orb, but the rest of her is detailed in light delineating her form. Although transparent she looks very real and her movements are organic. She is tall, blond, and very pretty. From the back of her shoulders she has a set of double wings, like those of a dragonfly, hanging down like a stiff transparent cape behind her.
Andee's eyes are round with awe. "Wow this is cool. It's like the ones at the prave, but better." Andee leans in. The pretty light fairy turns to him and smiles, which causes Andee to freeze up. "Wow, she looks more solid than the light projections at the prave. Is she actually looking at me."
"Yeah of course. This is far more advanced than those light projections at the club. Lyka is fully interactive."
"Wow."
"I guess she looks impressive, but the truth is, she is really only a toy."
"A toy? Really? To you people this is a toy?"
"Don't take it the wrong way. It's yours now."
"I can't imagine what I would do with it."
"I realize you are a little old for a virtual friend, which is what this is. If you really hate it, then I'm sorry, I made a mistake."
"No-no-no, I'm just.. I'm just a little shocked. When I was a kid I played with sticks and stones, and chased baby ghimurs up the mountain. I can't even imagine how to play with this."
"It's a toy, but a very complex and useful toy. You can change the character. When I was a kid, it was a little boy, like me, but a Jasurai Warrior."
"Ah-what?"
"Oh, ah, some kind of ancient warrior. A sword fighter."
"But swords are illegal... but I guess no up here." Ricio shrugs timidly not knowing what to say.  "Sorry. I don't mean to make things weird. I'm just so confused."
"It's OK, you're right. The rules are different for you than they are for me."
"So you know how to fight with a sword?" Andee perks up to move the conversation forward.
"Yes I do, and I learned it from her when she was Lykon the Jasurai warrior."
"Oh-kay... but wait. How? How could this projection teach you?"
"Let me show you." Ricio turns to the animebot. "Lyka, can you grab me that vidrom off my desk?"
"Yeah." Lyka responds with a sweet smile, then walks naturally to the desk as if her feet are really touching the ground, and then with her transparent light-generated hand, picks up the very real and solid vidrom and brings it to Ricio, handing it to him with a smile."
"Wow, how did she do that?" Andee asks taking another gentle step back.
"Tractor beams."
"Dude, you're talking an alien language to me. Now you see why I'm so pissed off at your people. I'm stupid. I don't know anything because the Bitani won't let me."
Rico looks at him understandingly. "I'm sorry man. I honestly have no idea why we have this split between our people. I fight with my father over this all the time, well, since you rescued me. Before that I just accepted the status quo. I really believed that it was natural for us to be superior, because you were naturally inferior, but now I know it's not true."
"Is that why you want to give me this... thing."
"Maybe. All I know is that I owe you. I owe you my life, but I also owe you respect. I don't agree with what my people are doing. It's wrong. We don't need to force you to grow our food. We could easily grow it hydroponically, anywhere. I honestly don't understand what's going on."
"Wow, I didn't realize that you're, well... like me."
"Being kept in the dark about the truth?"
"Yup."
"I guess we share that in common. I know this thing is probably annoying you to some extend. An ugly reminder of what you don't know, but Lyka can also be a tutor. It's programmed with most information about how things work. Science, math, biology, physics, mechanics, electronics, all the things you need to know to understand our world. I'll give you this vidrom too. You need a vidrom to access its memory, upload new information, and change the characters and settings."
Ricio starts showing Andee how its done. He first scrolls to all the different characters Lyka can become. Ricio turns it into the boy warrior, the young Jasurai.
"This is Lykon. He was pretty much my best friend when I was a kid. He helped me with my school work, pushed me in athletics, and thought me to be a Jasurai, basically a sword fighter. But there are many options, in fact hundreds." Ricio then scrolls through many more characters, from cute animals, to gruesome monsters, even pretty girls.
"You can pick witch ever character you what it to be, but be careful, because the characters are programmed to behave according to what they are. So the monsters will try to scare you, the girls will flirt with you, the animals will play with you, the teachers will teach you, and so on. I personally liked having it as a single character, so most of the time it was Lykon, and then when I got older I changed him to Lyka."
"And it can pick up solid objects?"
"Yes, it can definitely pick up solid objects, but its tractor beams are not that strong. It has two, one for each hand, and it is about as strong as the average man, so it can't pick up really heavy objects, nor anything that's too far away."
"But could it hurt me?"
"Absolutely not. It can not harm you or anyone. It is not allowed to cause damage to anything. It has never broken anything in my house, and never once hurt me, even by accident. It's really well made. You don't have to worry about that."
"And you're just giving this to me."
"It's yours."
"I-I don't think I can take it. It's too much."
"But I want you to take it. It served me well, now it can help you."
"I don't know. It's hard for me to accept gifts like this."
"Learn to accept them. You earned it."
"But you grew up with it. Doesn't it feel like a friend. When I was twelve, and Toni our alcama died, I cried like a baby."
Ricio smiles. "He's not dead, he's with you. I'll see him again. Lykon was a good friend to me, now he can be a friend to you. Here, I'll program him to 'merge' with you. Over the next few weeks he will observe you, your likes dislikes, essentially learn who you are, and he'll become the type of character that you will get along with."
"It can do that?"
"Sure, here I'll show you how. That way you can choose, what it is, and how it responds to you."

End of Chapter 7                 next,               Chapter 8 : Art of Parza

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