Thursday, December 17, 2015

Chapter 8 : Art of Parza


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

There's hustle and bustle all-around. The small covered hand cart stalls are full of goods and trinkets, each with a sales man yelling and hawking their wares. Andee is navigating through hustle and bustle of the Triangle on his way to Old Tom's Junkyard. He is wearing his standard attire, but this time there's a large lump in the outer hood of his cape.
As he passes all the handcart stalls, and heads towards the far tip of the triangular plaza, he looks over to the shrine of the Brothers of Bitani. The instant he does, a couple of the bearded men in white robes recognize him. First they start shouting insults at him, then a few start throwing pebbles, cursing, and basically being belligerent and childish. Eventually, a few of the others intervene and stop them, pulling the aggressors back. Andee simply ignores the nonsense and makes a wide circle around the shrine.
Once in Old Tom's yard he pulls the lump out of his hood. It's the white orb Ricio gave him. He taps it and a small light flashes on its surface, then it turns into the beautiful light-fairy.
"Hey Andee. What's up?" She greets him with a friendly smile.
"Hey Lyka. How are you?" 
She stretches her arms up in the air. "Still sleepy. That was a good nap." She looks around. "Were are we?"
"Does it matter?"
"Nope." She responds with a broad smile and focuses on Andee.
"Follow me." Andee gestures at her and then opens the door and enters Old Tom's shed. He is at his usual spot at his worktable. Mykee is already there, on a lounge seat fiddling with is white panel. Old Tom is concentrating on his work, his back to the entrance, so speaks without looking.
"A little late aren't you Andee? The day is almost over."
"After the adventure I've had..."
"What is that?" Mykee shouts wide eyed as he looks up off his panel. "Oh my god! Is that a real light-fairy?" Poor Mykee stares at Lyka as if looking at a real life alien in the room.
"Yes I am." She responds with a bright smile. Old Tom breaks from his work and turns over his shoulder. He is wearing glasses, hanging low on his nose. He stares right over them and squints at Lyka. He gets up and takes a step forward.
"No way!" Mykee shouts and leaps to his feet. "Andee! For real? Fairies are supposed to be a myth!" Mykee is freaking out, while Old Tom approaches from further back looking through a hard squint over his low hanging glasses.
"Is that an animebot?" Old Tom finally speaks.
"Dam it! You know what it is. I was hopping to freak you both out."
"What? What's that? So it's not a real light-fairy?" Mykee looks from one to the other confused.
"Where did you get that?" Old Tom looks at Andee suspicious.
"From my Bitani friends."
"And you brought it in here?" Old Tom responds with disapproval clearly spelled on his face. Andee stares back at him for a moment. He seems to want to say something but can't. "Just keep it there for a moment, I need to check something." Old Tom turns back to his table, pulls out a drawer completely, reaches in as deep as he can and pulls out a small, smooth, and flat modern looking device. He starts tapping at it.
"What is that Tom?" Andee asks growing more suspicious by the second.
"Quiet! Wait until I'm finished." Tom snaps at him, but a few seconds later he places the object on the desk, and replaces the drawer without hiding the device.
"I thought I was going to freak you out but now I'm freaked out." Andee responds frowning at Old Tom looking quite shocked now.
"Can you please turn off your toy for a moment, and I'll tell you." Old Tom responds. Mystified, Andee does.
"Wow." Mike retorts when the fairy disappears and the white orb is all that's left floating in the air.
"Ok, what's going on?" Andee asks approaching Old Tom.
"That animebot can record everything, and send messages. So if we talk with it on, it can record everything we say and send it up to the Bitani. Now who gave you this?"
Andee looks a little frustrated and disappointed. "Ricio."
"Wow really?" Mykee shouts, his eyes locked on the floating orb.
"The pilot you rescued?" Old Tom retorts.
"Yes."
"When?"
"About an hour ago."
"That's what you had to do?" Mykee yells at him. "Why didn't you take me with you? Jerk!"
"Hey!" Old Tom snaps at Mykee. "What did I tell you about language?" Mykee just looks away frustrated.
"Ok, both of you!" Andee snaps this time. "Mykee, I'll show you this thing and explain everything to you later." Turning to Old Tom. "Tom! You don't know this guy. He is genuine. I saved his life, and he hates the fact that the Bitani keep secretes from us. That's why he gave me this. Inside of it there is knowledge about science, tech, and all kinds of things that can help us. I believe him." Andee finishes his statement aggressively staring down at Old Tom. The old man stares back at him defiant for a while.
"OK." But then Old Tom concedes more easily than expected. Andee frowns surprised, than asks him about the flat object.
"What was that thing... that you did?"
Old Tom picks up the small device. "This is a sensor. It tells me if there are recorders around and information being transferred."
"And it said that Lyka is recording us?"
"No, the opposite."
"So she's not recording us?"
"It wasn't, no."
"So why did you make me turn it off?"
"I just, I just don't feel safe any more. With the Bitani thinking you're a Starfighter, and you meeting up with that pilot. By the way, do you know who he is?"
"The Governor's son."
"You know? And that doesn't bother you?"
"OK, Tom look. I can't deny that this could all be some kind of weird trick to get information about me, but I don't believe it. He didn't even know who Starfighter is. But he showed me everything, his house, his garage. He even took me for a ride in the Silver Sickle through the entire course."
"What! Now way! No! Are you kidding me! You got to ride in Ship1?" Mykee yells, then as hard as he can kicks Andee in the shin.
"Ahwww!" Andee leaps away. "What the hell? What's wrong with you?"
"Punk you! Why do you get to ride in a light ship? You won't even allow me to see them, but you get to ride in one? And in ship1? Through the whole course! You're a jerk! I hate you!"
"Mykee!" Old Tom snaps and starts scolding Mykee. "I will not allow you in my shed, around my tech, and I'll take that white vidrom of yours back if you continue acting like this!"
"Why? Why can't I ride in a lightship?" But Mykee continues relentless and furious.
"Hey little brother come here?"
"Shut up! Get away from me!"
"Hey! I'll smack you across the head! Do you understand me? Don't be an arrogant little snot, and listen!" Andee verbally accosts his little brother.
"You..." Mykee tries to resist defiant but Andee cuts him off immediately.
"Quiet! Listen! You see this orb?" Pointing to the floating white sphere next to his shoulder. "This is the most advanced tech you've ever seen, and I brought it for you, you little snot! Do you want it? It has all the knowledge you need to build a lightship. Everything! Ricio gave it to me, but I brought it here, because I want to give it to you. But I guess I shouldn't. You don't deserve it." Mykee's arms are folded. He is staring at the ground on the verge of tears.
"Apologize to Old Tom. Apologize to me. Promise to never speak like that again, and this is yours. And you will get to ride in a lightship one day. One that you build, but not if you're going to act like this. Am I clear?" But Mykee doesn't budge.
"Lykon, on." Andee orders the orb and the boy Jasurai appears. Mykee can't help but look up from the ground.
"Lykon. Do you know how lightships work?"
"Yes, of course. They use photon regenerators to create an electromagnetic force loop that..."
"That's fine, that's fine." Andee interrupts Lykon. "That's my brother, Mykee. Do you think you could teach him how that regenerator works, so he can build one himself."
"Yes, I am programmed for instructions at all levels."
"What else can you do Lykon?"
"I have thousands of subjects, from social etiquette, to athletic skills, and most subjects of technical knowledge."
"So Mykee, what do you think? Huh? What do you want? To be a dopey kid with a bad attitude, or would you like to learn, and start building lightships?"
Mykee is squirming a bit. "Sorry Old Tom. It wasn't right, what I said."
"Come here little man." Old Tom gestures for Mykee to approach, as he seats on his chair. Mykee walks up to him. Old Tom grabs him by the shoulders and pulls him on his knee.
"You're not a little boy anymore. You're still a kid, but you're growing into a young adult, a very smart young adult. But all those smarts are useless if you don't have self-discipline. Look at the adults around you. Everyday we have to deal with problems and stress, and if we didn't have self-discipline, we would all go crazy. That's the hard part of becoming an adult. It's self-discipline. That's why I don't want you using bad language. It starts with something as simple as that, but life gets more complicated, and you need to learn now to keep those emotions in check. Obviously you want to ride in a lightship. I'm an old man and so do I. But this isn't the time and moment. Andee had an opportunity. Because of his skills and  discipline he was able to rescue that pilot. So now he got a reward for it. That's how life works. You figured out that white panel, and now it's yours. That was your reward. Now you've got this. This is your opportunity, and now you need to discipline yourself, and apply those smarts of yours wisely. OK?" Mykee nods drowning in humility.
"Sorry Andee. And sorry Old Tom." As he turns to give Old Tom a hug.
"OK, as long as you learned your lesson." Old Tom responds.
"I did. I did."
"I don't know. I'm not sure he's learned his lesson yet." Andee interjects. "What do you think Lykon? Has Mykee learned his lesson?" Lykon looks at Mykee who's still got a sad down turned pout.
"You have not introduced me to Mykee yet, but I like him. He seems sad so I will find a way to cheer him up. If he is interested in lightships, I will create a 3D schematic of a basic design and start teaching him how it works." And suddenly a holographic schematic of a random lightship appears in the air between Lykon and Mykee.
"Whoa." Mykee's eyes go round.
Andee sinkers. "Yup, I think you and Mykee will get along just fine." Then looking to Mykee. "You want to meet your new friend?"
Mykee looks at Andee meek and a tad embarrassed. "Ah, yeah, but I'm not really sure what to say."
"Introduce yourself. You need to talk to him for a while and he'll get to know you. It takes a few weeks for him to get to know you really well."
"Really? How come he is a boy now? He was a girl before."
"There's like a thousand different things he can be. You can choose."
"Really? How?" Mykee quickly is quickly getting excited again.
"I'll show you." Andee pulls the vidrom out of his right satchel.
"Wow, you got a vidrom too? Is it from Ricio?"
"Of course it is."
"Wait, let me check it." Old Tom interjects. He takes out his little device which looks like a mini-vidrom, similar to Ricio's device when he left Andee alone with the Omega Obelisk. After a minute or so, Old Tom seems satisfied.
Andee starts showing Mykee how the orb works. The vidrom functions just like the white panel so Mykee has no problem navigating it. After about an hour of instruction, and trying many different variations of the animebot, from light-fairies, to furry animal creatures, to huge monsters and robots, for now, Mykee settles on a modified version of Lykon the Jasurai. Instead of being a real human, he is now a humanoid robot, dressed in old Earth samurai attire, but with a robotic animal head rather than human. Kind of looks a bit like a robot rabbit. Finally satisfied, Mykee turns to Tom.
"Hey Old Tom! Can I show Lykon around." Old Tom looks a bit indecisive.
"OK, but you have to promise me something."
"Of course, anything."
"Don't ever let it out of your sight. And don't let anyone else know you have it. You can't have that thing in public. You're going to have to keep it hidden. Got it?"
"Yeah, of course." Mykee responds his excitement growing.
"Oh, and you'll let me scan it every day. I still don't trust anything Bitani."
"Sure, OK, no problem. Come on Lykon. Let me show you all the junk. Ever played, hide-and-seek?"
"Of course, all the time." And both run off like two kids at play. Andee watches his little brother run off quite satisfied. Old Tom on the other hand looks worried. Andee studies him for a moment than pulls up a stool at Tom's worktable.
"You're full of surprises." Andee glares a tad accusatory at Tom.
"Me? You're the one breaking all the rules, to the point that it's no longer a situation of will we be banished, but when?"
"You worry too much Old Tom."
"Because I'm old enough to have seen how much there is to worry about." Old Tom drives his point home with a hard look. Andee concedes a tad before he speaks.
"But Ricio is a good guy."
"He could be the greatest guy ever, but he's a Bret."
"What's your point?"
"They think you're a Starfighter. The Starfighters made a mess for the Bitani."
"Ricio said he never heard of them."
"That means nothing."
"I'm telling you he is not lying. Why would he show me so much if he was like the rest of the Bitani?"
"I don't know, but I guarantee his father knows who the Starfighters were. And if he thinks we're what's left of them. Than it's over for us."
"How can you be so sure of that?"
"Because the very Bitani that called for the purge, and hunted down the Starfighters was Brandberd Bret, Ricio's father. Their family rules the city." Andee looks away not knowing what to say. "Their family has ruled over Carpatia for a long time. Ricio is the next air in line after Brandberd. He's still a young kid, and probably like you, a fanatic about lightships and the races. You have that in common, but nothing else. His destiny is to rule over us, and our destiny is to be ruled. I'm not trying to crush your friendship, but one day he will be your sworn enemy."
"I'm sorry Tom, but I just can't think that way."
"Of course you can't. And even Ricio may not think that way now. But things change when you're responsible for others. You, your future family. Him, the whole of Carpatia."
Andee takes a painful deep breath, and shakes his head.
"I'm not trying to tell you not to be friends with a Bitani. Hell, if this friendship is real, no one on this world would be happier than me. But I don't think it's going to stay that way forever."
"Wait? So now you want us to be friend?"
Tom responds with a single hardy laugh. "I would love nothing more. Ricio will eventually be Governor. I can't imagine a Bitani Governor with a Carpati best friend. But if that were to happen, shhh..." And Old Tom loses his words.
"The situations between us would change."
"Of course."
"You know Ricio did say something really strange. Well, lots of things, but this one I understood... kind of."
"What's that?'
"He said that they didn't need us to grow their food. They could do it all with machines, and he doesn't know why we're kept ignorant and as farmers." Old Tom's face turns hard under a heavy frown. "You never heard this before?" Old Tom shakes his head in the negative. "What do you think it means?" Andee asks but Old Tom looks at him with an indecisive frown. "I mean, why are they giving us electricity? Taking care of us, if they don't need us to grow their food? But then they deny us other things. It makes no sense."
Old Tom is gently nudging his head in agreement, but doesn't say a world. He looks in deep in thought. Andee waits but no response comes.
"So what do you think?"
"I don't know what to think son. I didn't know they could grow their own food. I'm as confused as you are." Old Tom responds clearly disturbed by this tidbit of information.

The atmosphere is cool and misty. It's late in the morning but there is no sun. It's hidden behind a thick haze. Nayaa is at Andee's front door, shaking the handle as if she is trying to rip it off its hinges, but with no success. She starts knocking quite aggressively, and as she does, it opens. Andee calmly steps out.
"Hey, why is your door locked?" Andee looks at her without answering as he closes the door behind himself. "I couldn't get in." She continues.
"Now you know." Andee answers nonchalant as he steps away. She gives him a dirty look then follows.
"I'm so excited. I haven't seen him in so long." Nayaa instantly changes subject and beams with joy bouncing next to Andee.
"I know me too. I can't wait to get there." As they head out and up the stairpath. They cross the wide dirt road above, and continue up the stairpath. Nayaa lifts up her water flask and offers it to Andee.
"I'm not thirsty."
"It's not water. Try it."
Andee looks at her with a suspicious glint. "Did you pee in it?"
Nayaa frowns. "Dumb dork." She shakes her head at him disgusted. "No."
Andee concedes, grabs the flask and takes a sip. "Berry-fizz?" He reacts with strained looking eyes, surprised by the sudden surge of fizzy sweetness in his mouth when he was expecting bland water, or something worse.
"Yup. It was crazy. It came this morning. These guys showed up with two huge metal containers full of the stuff. They even have a nozzle so that it sprays out all bubbly like in the shops."
"Really?"
"Yeah, your buddy Ricio came through. I was just joking, but the guys who dropped it off said that when they're empty, all I have to do is let them know at their shop over in The Triangle, and they'll deliver new ones."
"Are you serous?"
"Yeah. And they said they'll do this forever."
"That's crazy. I never heard of such a thing."
"Ricio is a really cool guy. Why is he with that Silly-asstra chick? I don't like her. Something's off about her."
"Her name is Silestra."
"Yeah, whatever. I'm way more interesting than her. And you know, I'll say it. I think I'm just as pretty as she is. If I had her dresses, I bet I would look as good as she does."
"You, in a dress?" Andee scoffs with a smirk.
"What? I'm a girl. I can wear dresses."
Andee shrugs and doesn't say a word as they turn left from the stairpath onto a small dirt road and head East. Nayaa studies him for a moment.
"You suck."
"OK, you can wear a dress. It's no big deal." Andee responds defensive.
"No, it's not that. You're a jerk."
"Oh-oh. Are you getting into one of your moody-moods again?"
"Hey. I'm not the one who tried to swallow her whole. I saw you two kissing. It was disgusting. If I hadn't walked by you probably would have had sex with her right there."
"You know, you have a bad habit of making things up in your head, and then the next day believing they're real."
"Dude, another second and you guys would have been going at it. No wonder your mom thinks..." but she cuts herself off. Andee turns to her perplexed.
"My mom thinks what?"
"She probably noticed how horny you are, and got crazy ideas."
"What are you talking about?"
"Nothing." She responds than snaps her head away feigning disinterest.
"That's what I thought."
They walk in silence for a while, but not even a minute goes by and Nayaa looks like she's itching from the inside out.
"You're mom thinks we're having sex." She finally blurts out unable to hold it in.
Andee looks at her with a frown, holding her eyes in his glare struggling to see thought her intentions. "No she doesn't. You're trying to screw with me again. I told you. It's not going to work any more."
"That's what she said."
"No she didn't. You probably said it."
"Why me?"
Andee just lifts his brows at her with an accusatory glare. She smirks and looks away.
"I would never have sex with you."
"Good."
"Really? You're a jerk." And she whacks him in the shoulder.
"What? Wait. So you want to have sex with me?" Andee looks at her shocked. Nayaa just stares at him almost unsure for a moment.
"No." She finally responds with a meek voice.
"Yeah you do. That would explain a few things."
"No, no way dude. You're crazy. You're gay. I'm not having sex with you. Eww gross."
"Good." Andee snaps. Nayaa scrunches her face annoyed. They walk in silence for the next minute, but Nayaa looks like she's itching again.
"Explain what things?" Nayaa finally speaks up.
"Why you're so jealous of Silestra."
"I am not jealous."
"Please."
"Of that silly-ass Bitani chick? No way." Nayaa looks away agitated. There is another moment of silence.
"I know what the problem is." Andee starts the conversation this time.
"No you don't. I'm not jealous." Nayaa snaps at him. He just shrugs his shoulders and continues walking in silence. Nayaa is looking at him with anticipation. He ignores her. It's obvious she wants him to say more, but nothing. He's walking, calmly looking ahead. She struggles to ignore him. For a while. That itch.
"What?" She finally snaps at him in frustration.
"You're horny." Andee responds mater of fact. Nayaa frowns and looks at him with a hard glare. "Am I right?"
"No, you're wrong."
"Please. You're sixteen, you're horny, but you're still a virgin."
"You don't know that."
"Really? Are you saying you're not a virgin?"
"Maybe."
"Who? Dirin? So you and Dirin actually had sex the other night?"
"Eweghaldlhsghhh." Nayaa makes her ugly gargling body shaking disgust move.
"Look. I'm no expert, but before I had my first relationship, all I could think about was sex. Because I wasn't getting any. I was a virgin and I though it was like the biggest thing in the universe, and I had to have it. And I was frustrated and horny all the time."
"I'm not frustrated."
"Please, you're the definition of frustrated. And you probably don't even masturbate."
"That's none of your business!" And she whacks him in the shoulder again.
"Well, do you?"
"What? Punk off. You can't ask me that."
"Ok. But if you're not you should."
"Dude we're not talking about that. What me and my gina do is none of your business. I don't ask you if you spank your willy. Ewww..." Shaking her head. "And don't tell me-don't tell me-damn it! Now you made me think of it. Eweghaldlhsghhh!" And she shakes her body again jogging in place. "Get out of my head Andee's willy!" She yells drawing some glares from a few people walking on the road.
"Ok. Fine." Andee responds dismissively and continues on silently.
They walk without speaking for a while.
"Yeah, I'm horny." She blurts out of the blue. "It sucks. Masturbation doesn't help... that much. I just... why can't we just, get it out of the way, just..."
"We? So you do want to have sex with me!" Andee looks at her both shocked and accusatory.
"NO! No-that's not what I meant!" And she punches him hard in the shoulder again.
"Aww! Stop it."
"No. I just... Ahhh..." But she loses herself in frustration.
"You need a boyfriend."
She looks at him with a frown. "That's what your mom said."
"My mom's pretty smart."
"Maybe, I do. Hey, did you know that when a guy offers you berry-fizz he is actually flirting?"
"Sure, I guess."
"I had no idea. Do you know how many guys offered me berry-fizz? I can't believe all those guys were flirting with me, and I never realized. I've never even had one boyfriend, but I could have been rich with boyfriends. I'm so dumb."
"And now you've got a life time supply. I guess you'll be alone forever." Andee responds with a smirk. She looks at him with a disapproving look, but finishes it with a giggle.
"You know, Dirin asked me out to some berry-fizz."
"Eww. That's what you get for kissing him."
"No, he asked me way before that."
"Oh, so that's why you kissed him? You like him."
"No. I mean, I wasn't sure at first. When I realized he was flirting with me, I kind of liked it. And for some reason I was impressed with him."
"So you do like him."
"I thought I did. But the whole way to the prave all he did was brag about his dopey farm. I don't care about his farm, and alcamas, and all the credits his family's got. He was kind of annoying. And he's a horrible dancer."
"Good, he's a jerk. He probably only asked you out because you ringed his bells."
"Huh?" Nayaa looks at Andee mystified.
"Dirin thinks he's the best at everything. You put him in his place and now he wants to, I guess conquer you. If he can get you, then he wins. He'll have his way with you, than dump you, just to prove that he's better than you."
"That's not happening."
"Good. You should talk to Gono. I don't know why you always ignore him."
"Gono? Why? He's a weird little ghimur."
Andee looks at her with a frown. "That's obnoxious. He's a cool guy. Why don't you like him?"
"He's OK, but the other night he was creeping me out. Saying weird stuff, then looking at me all weird, then looking at the ground-all weird, just being... weird. He wasn't like that when we were kids. I remember I couldn't keep up with him at ghimpour back then. But I guess he got hurt and then I never saw him again. Now he's just weird."
"That's cuz he gets nervous around you."
"Why?"
"You haven't noticed?"
"Noticed what?"
"Come on really?"
"Yeah really? What am I supposed to have noticed?"
"He's in love with you."
"What? Gono?"
"Yeah! He's got a huge crush on you. He thinks you're the greatest thing that's ever walked on this world."
"Whoa, really? I don't believe it. Why doesn't he say something? How am I supposed to know?"
"You're supposed to notice." She responds only with a hard frown. "Now he thinks you hate him."
"Why would I hate him?"
"Because you ignore him."
"Oh. Well, I guess that's true. But I still think he's supposed to say something, do something, no?"
"So you like him then?"
"I don't know. I don't like that he hangs out with that Dirin."
"But you like Dirin. You kissed him."
"I did that to piss you off. But it pissed me off more. Eweghaldlhsghhh!" She does her disgust dance then spits on the ground.
Andee laughs causally. "Ha, good. That'll teach you."
She rolls her eyes. "So why are they even friends?"
"They're neighbors. He's kind of stuck with him. Like I'm stuck with you." Winking at her.
"Yup. That's true. Lucky you though. Can you imagine having that guy on your back?"
"I don't know, he's pretty skinny, and a pushover. He might be a bit easier to deal with than you."
"You think so?" Nayaa steps back and jumps on Andee's back. "You're never getting rid of me. I'm going to be on your back forever."
"I know. I'm doomed. I've come to terms with that reality."
"You're moving too slow. Speed up you worthless two legged alcama." And she starts to pretend whack him with an imaginary alcama whip.
Andee suddenly snatches his shoulders forward favoring his right, flipping Nayaa off his back. She somersaults landing on her feet, but in a squat with one leg out like a martial artist ready to pounce.
"I can get rid of you. Get you off my back, if I have to." Andee smiles at her teasingly. She stands up nonchalant, unconcerned with the way Andee tossed her.
"You never will."
Andee shakes his head in agreement. "I guess I'm pretty used to being tortured by you. It would be weird to be free."
"Yes it would." And she jumps next to him, wraps her left elbow against his right, and both happily skip down the orange dirt road.

They are headed east on that dusty orange road which is near the top edge of the township. It has now become quite narrow and the homes are fewer and far between. They are close to the east end of town.
It's an overcast morning. Thick clouds and haze are blocking the sun. They're both wearing their double cape jackets. Nayaa's black jacket is shorter than Andee's only reaching to below the braw line, just barely covering her beige cross-weaved linen top. It's made from inch wide ribbons, cross-weaved diagonally, creating a rhomboid shaped checkerboard pattern. Her oval cape flows from over her shoulders down past her lower back. Andee has a similar diagonally cross-weaved beige top under his jacket, split in a V down his chest and also underarm since it's sleeveless. It's also longer ending just above his pants. His light brown jacket is also longer than Nayaa's, but still short, only reaching to above his waist. Off his shoulders, his long cape is triangular with its center point reaching to just above the back of his knees. They are both wearing fingerless leather gloves that extend half way up the forearms under the sleeves of their jackets. The jackets themselves are made from the same cross-weaved technique as their shirts. Long, inch-wide leather ribbons weaved diagonally to form the jacket and sleeves.
Andee's pants are relatively loose and made from mostly brown-orange alcama leather. They are made from large patches, braided together loosely with shoelace thick strings of leather allowing air through. The braided strips run in all directions connecting one patch to the next forming his trousers. The patches are close in color, but they don't all match exactly. Over the front and a bit to the outer side of each thigh, his large satchels are hanging from a wide belt around his waist.
 Nayaa's skin tight leather pants are made from very dark brown alcama leather. Like the jackets, they are made of one inch wide cross-weaved ribbons of leather, this time square weaved, but only on the outer and inner sides of the leg. In the front and back, there are only the horizontal ribbons running parallel to each other with the small gaps between them allowing the air to circulate. Hanging loosely around her hips is her broad belt with the two ornate satchels that reach to the knees.
They are both wearing a the standard Carpati footwear. A flat bottom moccasin with a gap between the big toe and the rest. The sole is made from thick leather, bottomed with ridges cut out of alcama hoof, layered like roof tiles overlapping from heel to toe. They are extremely flexible and able to curl round large rocks for good grip, but hard enough to protect the foot from sharp gravel and stones. The top portion of the moccasin is made of a solid chunk of alcama leather, but from the ankle up, it turns into inch wide straps that cross-spiral up the leg to hold the shoe in place. Nayaa's front and back straps spiral up and over her calves to just under her knees, so they look like boots, but Andee's only spiral around his ankles.
These are the standard clothes they always wear, but today one thing is different. To the right of each of their thigh satchel, strapped to the side of their leg, both have something attached. Andee's looks like there segments of thick rope, bundled tougher, and stiff as wood, with metal caps on the ends.  Nayaa's bundle is clearly three ornately carved wooden batons. They are attached to the belt at the top extending down to slightly below the side of the knee. Andee's bundle it a little under two feet long. Nayaa, who is about a palm shorter than Andee, has a bundle that is just a couple of inches shorter.
The narrow dirt road is nothing more than a foot path now. Up ahead the trail seems to end at a natural wall of stone, but it actually turns up into a rugged mountain path. The massive wall of grey rock in front of them is a tall cone shaped dome that sticks about 50 to 60 meters in the air. When Andee and Nayaa reach it, instead of turning up the rugged path, they hop up on the side of the greystone cone, and start rounding the huge stone dome on a small naturally protruding ledge in the rock. It's just big enough for their feet to shuffle sideways. They transverse the thin ledge like two expert mountain climbers. The tall dome is round, and after a minute or so of side shuffling on that thin ledge, above the steep drop, they are now on the east side of the dome and also the Township.
From their new vantage point, looking down on the north-east slope of table mountain, the Carpati Township pretty much comes to an end. There are some homes built into the cliffs further below, but they are sparse, and mostly near the Flatlands. Almost all are farms. The east side is very different from the west side. The West End slope is packed with homes, and the Flatlands below are full of markets, warehouses, and factories. It is a busy place with many people and lots of activity. From Andee and Nayaa's view, it is clear that the East End is quiet, sparse, and rural, doted by spread out large farms. There is also a lot more vegetation on this side of the mountain, where the West End is almost pure desert with only a few scattered dry shrubs.
Andee and Nayaa continue their climb, but this time down into an open space on the other side of the grey dome of rock. It's a large cave between several other cone shaped formations of graystone. The large cavernous opening in the mountain is triangular in shape with the far corner looking like an elbow of sorts, so they call it The Elbow. It's well hidden in the mountain with the opening to the elbow facing east, and not visible from the homes and farms below, nor from the city above. In the far end, in the very corner of the elbow, there is what looks like a stick fighting school.
There are 12 young kids, standing face to face in pairs of two, and practicing in unison various blows with their sticks. They are using actual sticks, some straight, some a bit wavy, most just old dried up tree branches. They are being led my a man who is facing them thus with his back to Andee and Nayaa. There are four more older kids, in their early teens, practicing separately further out from the elbow. They are more advanced and are full on sparing with perfectly straight and well made one piece wooden staffs. Sometimes two on two, sometimes all four against each other. Wrapped up in their match they ignore Andee and Nayaa who are about twenty meters away and approaching.
Nayaa looks to Andee and gives him the most subtle of an eye squint. Andee seems to understand her message, and equally imperceptibly gives her a nudge with his head. She leaps into a cartwheel and then starts hand-springing, hands to feet, hands to feet, towards the four practicing teens. They finally notice her quickly approaching and stop, but hesitantly. All four take up half fighting stances, not sure if they're being attacked or if this a friendly tumble run.  Nayaa ends her tumbling with a leap and two aerial somersaults. As she spins in the air, her right arm swings out with the three bundled sticks flinging out. As she lands on her feet, facing the four students, the swinging wooden batons separate, opening up with a hard click into one solid staff. It's now full length, but with two metal joints between the three wooden pieces, locked in tight into a single weapon. 
The startled kids look at one another but there it no time. Nayaa attacks. She spins the staff in front of her in figure eights so fasts it's a blur, the whole while slowly advancing towards the kids. She then forcefully swings her staff at one of the teen boys who is in a defensive stance. He tries to block Nayaa's blur, but it comes at him with so much speed and power, it knocks his own out of his hands. Nayaa dives onto her staff, using it instead of her arms to cartwheel. She lands with her back to the kids and kicks the boy's staff away towards Andee, who simply stands there and watches.
The man teaching the kids is also watching, as are the young kids. The other three lunge towards Nayaa, all together, but it is fruitless. Nayaa, even though initially with her back to them, easily knocks one staff after the other out of their hands, either with her own or with kicks. In less than thirty seconds she's got all the teens disarmed. She stops and stomps one end of her weapon on the ground, and then leans on it, with her left cheek against, it in a most relaxed pose and smiles at the four defeated kids. The teens look a bit disappointed but not scared.
The young kids immediately applaud as does their instructor.
"You two can never come through the front door, can you?" The Instructor greets them with a smile and a snip. 
"It's our short cut. We have to use it." Nayaa responds with a grin.
The Instructor smiles than looks to Andee. "Are you two so good that I'm no longer worthy enough to be visited?"
"I'm sorry Master Sensei." Andee approaches first with an apologetic tone. "It has been a while, I know, that's our fault." He gives his old teacher the standard greeting, which is back of left forearms against left forearm and left shoulder against left shoulder, in a halfway kind of a hug, ended with a gentle head bow. Nayaa follows and does the same. 
"Kids! I know you older ones remember my two best students. This is Nayaa and that's Andee." Master Sensei introduces them and the kids in unison wave and say hello. "They got so good they didn't need me any more."
"Ah come on Master Sensei, we'll always need you." Nayaa interjects.
"You've got lots of students here." Andee looks over the kids.
"You two were among my first. Now parents pay me to teach their kids."
"Really? Now I feel bad. I never paid you once."
"I didn't start doing this for the credits. I did it to make sure the Art of Parza did not die with me. And the way you two excel in it, I am honored to have been your teacher."
"Why thank you Master Sensei." Andee responds humbled.
"Now that you're here, maybe you two can help me with my new apprentices." Pointing to the four teens. "They think they're ready for the Parza ceremony. What do you think?" Turning to Nayaa. She turns to the three boys and one girl, and forcefully pounds her Parza staff into the ground in front of her feet, and leans with her chin against the top.
"What do you guys think? Are you ready?" Nayaa addresses the apprentices casually but with authority.
"No." They respond in unison, a bit deflated, looking meekly up at Nayaa who just schooled them a moment before.
"There. Problem solved." Nayaa turns to Master Sensei with a big grin. Sensei laughs.
"Oh Nayaa. My little Nayaa, even though you're taller than me these days." Master Sensei responds with a big smile. "You haven't changed a bit. You were both... my most challenging, but also my most brilliant student." Sensei continues with a proud smile.
"Hear that Andee? Most brilliant." She smirks at him with an exaggerated cocky toss of her hair.
"I heard. Most challenging." Andee counters her dismissively. She rolls her eyes.
"Nothing has changed between the two of you." Sensei laughs and pats Andee on the shoulder. Then turns to the four apprentices with his hand extended towards Nayaa. "This is how good you want to be. You kids still have a way to go, but don't look at today's defeat as a disappointment, but a lesson. Now you can see how much more you need to improve. Take that as a challenge and be determined to succeed."
"Yes sir Master Sensei." The four kids react in unison. Sensei turns to Andee and Nayaa.
"Are you two up for a challenge? To give all these kids a demonstration"
"Of course." Nayaa responds. "I haven't challenged Andee with my brilliance in a while." And gives him another cocky look.
"I'm ready Master Sensei." Andee responds with a hard look to Nayaa.
"Kids! Sparing circle." Master Sensei shouts his order.
The kids quickly rush in a large circle while Andee and Nayaa each pull out a wooden arm guard out of their satchels. They attach the arm guards with the built in leather straps to their left outer forearm. The wooden guards extend from just beyond the elbow to past the wrist, ending at the fleshy side of the outer hand. At each end the wood curves out into hooks which can help catch the opponent's staff and prevent it from just sliding off. The hardwood guards only cover the outer edge of the forearm.
Now fully geared and ready, they turn to Master Sensei and gently bow their heads to him, then turn to each other, and lock eyes. They move away by circling each other to create the necessary distance. They're eyes are locked into each other's, and like two dancers getting set they both sidestep, in fact sweep sideways, towards their positions. Andee grabs his folded staff off his thigh and with a flick of his wrist snaps it open. Nayaa is holding her open staff vertically, behind her right arm, from the bottom third segment pointing up, behind her right shoulder extending high above it.
They side step until they are four meters apart and perfectly centered in the circle.
"Attention!"  Mater Sensei commands with authority.
They both stop and slam the bottoms of their staffs into the ground in front of their toes. They are holding on to them with both hands, at chest level, which falls in the middle half of the top third segment. Their movements and posture are clearly ritualistic, emphasized by the absolute unison and flow of their movements. With staffs and bodies rigid, and perfectly vertical, they stand in attention, face to face, and eyes locked into one another's.
"Salutations." Mater Sensei yells his next command.
In unison, both Andee and Nayaa bow, gently bringing their foreheads to a soft touch of the top of their staffs. After a two second count they gently lift up locking eyes again. Their faces are strong, but calm. No expression of any emotion, just pure confidence and focus.
"Fight!" Mater Sensei drops his right arm with a yell.
Like two machines operated by the same program, Nayaa and Andee sweep their staffs in beautiful unison to behind them while stepping with their right leg back, from attention stance into fighting stance. Both have their left knee bent out front, and right foot back with the leg at a near forty five degree angle to the ground. Left arm is up and out, elbow bent horizontally at ninety degrees in a defensive stance with the wooden arm guard out front, like a mini shield. The right arm extends back, parallel over the right leg, at forty-five degrees to the ground. The palm is up, holding the staff from below the second joint, at about the middle part of the bottom third segment. The staff leans on the back of the arm extending up over the back of the shoulder, with the tip pointing up and out past the right side of the head. Both Andee and Nayaa are locked in fight stance like statues.
They hold the position unwavering. Neither move in the first few seconds. Without breaking his stance, Andee gently lunges forward, stomping his forward left foot like a fencer. Nayaa does the same and Andee retreats with the same stiff stance. They do this several times, each time bluffing an attack, but neither break their rigid fight stance. Then Nayaa calmly breaks her stance and stands upright. The staff is now perfectly vertical behind her right arm. She casually walks in a circle. Andee is still in fight stance, holding his staff from below, and over the back of his right shoulder at forty-five degree angle. He suddenly swings the staff out and around in a big fast underhand sweep. From his shoulder, the staff circles out and around with the tip at nearly the speed of sound. It is so fast is 'woojes' with a ghostly gust by Nayaa's face flinging her hair gently in the air, but she is out of range and does not flinch. The staff sweeps round to the left, where he brings the end of the staff to the ground in front of his left foot with a hard stomp, all in a fraction of a second. He rises, placing his left hand over his right in a relaxed salutation stance, and leans on the staff as if bored.
Nayaa casually swings her staff from back to front, and than starts doing "the figure-eight" again. At the astounding speed she spins it, it looks like a propeller. The tip of the staff is 'woojing' loudly like a chorus of wispy whaling ghosts in the wind. Watching Nayaa do her thing is a beautifully haunting sight, but suddenly she is pulled up into the air from the momentum of the spin, flips over, and does a cartwheel on the tip of the staff. She does two in a row, but on the third she comes to a full stop upside down, into a handstand, on one end of the staff.
The kids moan and groan in awe. Nayaa's body is vibrating from the tension in all her muscles as she holds herself balanced, upside down, on the tip of the staff. She causally arches her legs over her back landing upright on her feet, but with her back to Andee, and then bursts backwards with stunning speed turning one-eighty. Her staff sweeps at Andee, its tip moving at near the speed of sound. It 'woojes' at him so fast all he can do is lift up his own while turning... wham! Nayaa's staff slams perpendicularly into Andee's with a loud wooden crack from the impact. Nayaa's right foot is now coming as a side kick right into Andee's left ribcage. It's too quick for him to move out of the way, so he blocks it with his wooden armguard. The kick knocks him backwards. He flips back hand springing onto his feet in a squat, defeated, but staff still in hand, although on the ground. The kids cheer with applause. Nayaa gives them quick bow with her chin.
"Break!" Mater Sensei yells. Both Nayaa and Andee slam the bottom of their staffs on the ground in front of their toes, both hands gripping their staffs from the top third segment, but then relax leaning on their staffs casually.
"Kids. I just want to remind you that Andee and Nayaa are the best of the best. What she just showed you was a distraction. Andee did the same by leaning on his staff pretending to be bored. But Nayaa took it to the extreme." Master Sensei looks at her with a smile. She replies with a humble toothy grin. "What she did you can only do when you become a true master of the Art of Parza. So kids remember that. Watch what these two can do, and remember that this is what you want to become. Nayaa and Andee used to come here every day. And they practiced for years to be this good. Remember that as you watch them." All the kids nod accepting their lesson.
"Attention!" Master Sensei snaps his order. Nayaa and Andee stiffen back up, again holding their staffs in front of their chests, with one end on the ground.
"Fight!" Mater Sensei drops his arm with a yell. In unison they sweep their staffs behind them and step back into the forty-five degree fight stance. Their movements are so perfectly matched, so smooth and beautiful, they are rhythmic art to the eye. An absolute pleasure to witness. Both hold the rigid fight stance with cold confident glares, for a brief second. Nayaa is first to spin her staff, but only a fraction of a second before Andee.
The Parza technique seems to be one where the staff is held almost always 'upside down'. In fight stance the staff is held from near the center of bottom third segment with the weapon behind and above the back of the arm extending up over the shoulder. From that position when they swing the staff out towards the opponent, it comes out, essentially, underhanded, in an underhand sweep. The thumb is near the tip, while the staff extends out from the bottom of the hand, and gets swept around in a big fast sweep from right to left, where the left hand can now catch the staff directly under the right, and using its incoming momentum, sweep it right back out in the opposite direction in the same 'backhanded' style. It is all one move and as fast as lightning in the hands of masters. The underhand sweep is the predominant offensive move and it can come from the side or up and under. And its momentum allows for easy switch from left to right.
This is exactly what both Nayaa and Andee are doing, and doing it at insanely fast speeds. Going back and forth, from hand to hand in this way, both are creating fast figure eights in the air amplified by the haunting sounds of the sweeping staffs. It's another show of skill, but once again Nayaa is first to attack. The two commence a battle of epic proportions. The noise of the staffs crackling against each other, and the wooden forearm guards, sound like a hundred fireworks going off all at the same time. Their movements are so fast they are mostly a blur. Only the crackling is a hint of contact made, but it means contact deflected. In watching their sparing match one thing becomes immediately clear. Those may be sticks in their hands, but the way they yield them, their speed, skill, and precision, in their hands those are not mere sticks but weapons of deadly destruction. Anyone with half their skill, never mind no skill at all, would be broken, battered, bruised, and even killed by their speed, power, and skill. These two are in fact real warriors.
"Break!" Master Sensei shouts. Andee and Nayaa stop and gently place their staffs vertically in the ground in front of their feet.
"Salutations." Master Sensei orders calmly. Both gently bow to each other, than to Master Sensei. The kids roar into applause and cheers.
"Can we see your Parza staffs?" Several kids yell out as they rush the two young Parza masters. The kids huddle around, and both Nayaa and Andee hand them their weapons. The kids pass them around inspecting the staffs with awe and admiration.
Both are identical, made of three wooden segments joined together with two metal joints. After being asked, Nayaa twists the two end segments, in opposite directions, witch unlocks the metal joints allowing for the three pieces to be folded together forming a three bundle baton, if seen on end. Holding it from the center segment, with a strong flick or her wrist, Nayaa snaps it back open.
"Can I try?" One of the apprentices asks excited.
"Sure." And Nayaa hands him her staff. He twists the ends and folds it closed with no problem. He then grabs it by the middle segment, snaps his wrist like Nayaa... well almost like her. He doesn't have the power and speed. Nothing happens. He tries several times. The other kids start to giggle.
Nayaa first pouts mockingly and than smiles at the kid.
"How do you do it?" He asks more curious than disappointed as he hands it back.
"Like this." Nayaa grabs it and instantly snaps it open.
"Woooo..." The kids cheer in unison.
"It's not easy. It looks easy when I do it because I have lots of practice. It took me months to get it right. And even now, one side or the other, won't snap open completely sometimes." The kids all nod satisfied.
"Did you build this yourself?" Another one of the apprentices asks.
"Yes I did. Well with his help." Nudging to Andee.
"We build ours together." Andee chimes in.
"Why is yours look like rope?" One of the kids asks pointing to Andee's still open staff.
"To start the Parza ceremony you first have to come up with your own design. This is something that will be yours forever and represent all that you know and the hard work you put into it, so it must be yours completely. Picking a design is not easy. At first I had many ideas. In fact, for years while training, I kept coming up with different elaborate ideas, but when it came to carving it, this was the only one that made sense to me."
"Why?" The same kid asks.
"I like the contradiction. It looks soft and weak, like it's supposed to bend and fall apart in a fight, but in reality it's as hard as rock."
"It's important the design represent you." Nayaa ads. "So Andee's represents him perfectly. He's soft and pudgy on the outside." She pokes him with her finger. The kids giggle. "And he's got rocks for brains on the inside." The kids howl with laughter.
Andee gives her a coy smirk as he taps his staff vertically into the ground. It truly does look like rope, with two metal notches. In fact, the color and rough carving technique he used makes it look exactly like a piece of rope, making its stiffness and perfectly straight line seem almost surreal.
Nayaa's staff is much more heavily ornamented, but also hectic. It is carved with organic shapes, mostly abstract, but a few that look like plants or even animals. Both staffs are dark brown and the wood looks treated and extremely strong.
"How did you make yours?"  A little girl asks Nayaa.
"It took me six months to carve the designs. Unlike Andee's, mine is far more complex, and it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted, and then to carve it."
"Was it hard?" The little girl asks again.
"No, it was challenging. And I'm always up for a challenge."
"And then?" Another kid chimes in.
"Then you have to strengthen it." Andee adds. 
"I know how, by burning it." Another kid yells
"It's more than that." Andee continues. "First you have to place fist sized black or graystones into the fire. Than take the three carved pieces, already joined with the metal elbows, and you boil it in hard water for six hours."
"How does water make it hard." One of the little girls asks.
"Yeah good question. How?" Nayaa ads with an inquisitive glare.
"It's not the water but the minerals." Master Sensei cuts in. "It's called hard water because is full of very tiny dust called minerals. When you boil the staff in it, all that water replaces the natural moisture in the wood with minerals, and then it's the next step that makes it hard." Nodding to Andee.
"Yes, and the next step is the baking. After boiling, while still hot you wrap the sticks in the large leaves of the Pond Plant. Then you bury them in the extremely hot rocks that you put in the fire You have to make sure the bundle is completely covered by the red hot rocks. Then you cover the hot rocks with sand, and you leave them like that for two days. On the third morning you take out your Parza staff and let it dry in the sun for two more weeks. It makes the wood light but hard as rock, yet it retains its flexibility.
"How about the arm guards?"
"Same with those. We made ours later, but used the same procedure."
"Alright kids, that's all for today." Master Sensei interjects. "And please don't use their shortcut. Use the tunnels." Master Sensei excuses the class than turns to Andee. "So what's on your mind. You said you wanted to ask me something."
"Yeah, I do, I do." Andee nudges with his head for Sensei to follow. They walk away. Nayaa stays behind. She's already screwing around with the kids. They are having a hoot laughing as she fumbles and stumbles, tripping and tricking them, while they try to take away her staff. She is training them in her own special way.
Andee walks with Master Sensei to the edge of the opening overlooking the Eastern Flatlands. At a stone ledge, strategically carved into the rock to take advantage of the view, Andee and Master Sensei have a seat.
"You know Old Tom pretty well don't you?" Andee asks after they seat.
"I do indeed. We go back a long time."
"Who is he really?"
Sensei gives him a long look. "Ask him."
"I have, but he refuses to talk about it."
"That's his right."
Andee releases a deep breath and looks down. "Do you think, I mean, is there any chance that Old Tom may be a spy?" Andee looks up saddened while Master Sensei reacts with a shudder, so shocked he can't even speak. "I'm sorry, I know you're old friends but he's been real weird lately." Andee continues.
"I-I I'm stunned to hear you say that. I can't even conceive of such a thing."
"See, neither can I, and that's what's got me so baffled."
"What would even make you think such a thought?"
"It's complicated, but it started a few weeks ago." Andee tells Master Sensei about the rescue, Mykee's white panel and ship schematics, his reward from Ricio, everything. Master Sensei listens quietly but towards the end looks a bit stunned.
"Wow. What have you been up to Andee?" Master Sensei asks looking very concerned.
Andee shakes his head. "I don't mean to be rude Master Sensei but you've got the same look on your face Old Tom has. What the hell is going on here? Am I really a Starfighter? Is that the real issue?"
"What do you mean you're a Starfighter?" Master Sensei asks with a squint. Andee then recounts the story told to him about the Starfighters, and his personal experiences at the Friendship Center and Ricio's lack of knowledge of them.
Master Sensei listens carefully without changing his expression or any sort of reaction
"So am I a Starfighter?" Andee asks raising his tone slightly and looking hard at Sensei, but the Master is looking ahead, seemingly lost in thought. Andee jumps to his feet. "Is my father a Starfighter? Is that why he's gone?" Andee raises his voice almost shouting.
"Sit. Sit down." Master Sensei requests calmly looking up at Andee. With a heavy deep breath Andee sits.
"It's complicated. Things were very different in the past... before the Purge."
"That's when they got rid of the Starfighters?"
"Yes, but it was a lot more than that. They got rid of anyone they thought were troublemakers. Even people that weren't but maybe helped them, whether they knew they were helping or not. Because Old Tom trades in parts, back in the day a lot of Bitani tech passed through his hands, so he was nearly banished himself."
"OK, but still..."
"He had lots of troubles. So he had to get rid of a lot of stuff, bribe people, do what he had to do to guarantee his safety, but also your father's."
"Because my father worked for him."
"Yes. And whether he was a troublemaker or not, from the Bitani point of view, he was dealing in stolen tech, so that made him, and Old Tom, and your whole family, troublemakers."
"But we..."
"It doesn't matter if you were involved or not. The Purge was ruthless. They got rid of everyone they thought was a problem, or might be a problem in the future."
"So then my father was banished."
"I don't know."
"Old Tom says he just disappeared one day. Left, and never came back."
"Your dad used to do what Mirceu does now. Go out there and collect parts after crashes, and one day he never returned."
"Then he must have gotten caught and banished, because there is no way he would just leave us." Master Sensei is gently nodding his head as he once again looks lost in deep thought. There is a long moment of silence until Andee cuts in. "What's wrong Master Sensei?"
Master Sensei turns to Andee. "Tom feels like he failed your father. And I'm sure he feels that he'll fail you too."
"But, I don't understand. It doesn't make any sense. I'm not out there collecting parts risking getting caught. Mirceu's out there, and no one dares touch him."
"Sure, but the Bitani know who you are. You can't hide your face. Many may see you as a hero now, but if you keep poking around, they'll turn on you. Even your new friend."
"No way. Not Ricio. He's as guilty as I am. He showed me his house. Gave me his tech."
"With his father's permission?" Andee looks hard at Sensei than turns his glare to the earth at his feet. "People are complicated. Friends today can turn enemies tomorrow. Tom's concerned. Your mom's concerned, and now so am I."
Looking back up at Master Sensei with confidence. "I can take care of myself. You thought me well."
"If it was that simple."
"But it is that simple. We had no problem taking care of those two sentinels at the warehouse, and we didn't even know what they were. Had we known, it would have been even easier. That's what's killing me. Why keep these things from us when knowing would help. What else is out there that I don't know?"
Mater Sensei takes a deep breath. "Maybe things will change in the future."
"Did they change in your lifetime?"
"They did."
"They did?" Andee repeats surprised.
"There were times when things were worse, but also times when things were better."
"Was there a time when you could visit the city? Know about Bitani tech?"
"No, there was never such a time. Not in my lifetime."
"See, it won't change, unless we change it."
"That thought keep to yourself. Do that for me Andee. Please." Andee nods his head.
"And your meetings with Ricio, and the tech you got. Don't tell anyone about it."
"I won't. And I know that's why Old Tom is so freaked out, but why doesn't he trust me?"
"Son, it's not about trust. You don't understand what it was like during the purge. You were still a little boy. It put the fear of death into us all. During the purge everyone over ten was interrogated and threatened with banishment if they talked about hoppers, the troublemakers, even sentinels like the ones you saw at the fence."
"Why?"
"They wanted the new generation, you guys, to grow up in a world where you don't know of these things."
"I still don't understand, why?"
"Before the purge things got out of hand. With Hektor becoming a champion, and many other Carpati joining the races, many learned how Bitani tech worked, and many started to rebel. Back then we had Sentinels patrolling the streets on their little hover-peds. Hoppers used to fly over carrying goods from the warehouses to the city. Some Carpati even had lightships that they used daily for..."
"Are you serious?" Andee interrupts Master Sensei with a stunned look on his face. Sensei just nods his head up and down. 
"It really was a different world back then. Older Carpati were allowed to move into the city to work, but more and more started attacking the Bitani, stole things, and essentially caused a lot of trouble up there. There was even a big explosion in the city. They said it was sabotage by Carpati troublemakers. It was after that the Bitani purged everyone they saw as a troublemakers, including their leader, the Starfighter and all his family, and to make sure it did not happened again they decided that it would be best if the new generation, your generation, knew as little as possible about tech, their army of sentinels, and other things."
"What other things?"
"Take what we do, the Art of Parza. When I was an apprentice we practiced in the open. But during the purge it was banned. This is why I teach so few and only here in the elbow. And why your first lesson, and the first lesson of every student, is to keep this place and what we do a secret."
Andee is looking at the ground shaking his head, eyes hard and frustrated. "Man, I thought I hated the Bitani before, but I hate them even more now."
"And what are you going to get out of it?"
"What?" Andee responds surprised by the sudden change in topic.
"Hate? How is that helping you in life?"
"How can I not hate people that take so much from me?"
"Remember the first rule of discipline. You either own your emotion, or your emotion owns you."
"Yeah, I know." Andee responds deflated, kicking up dirt with is foot.
"I know you've heard this a hundred times but I'll remind you again. You can't be a master without first mastering your emotions, and hate becomes an emotional cancer if let loose. It will eat you up from the inside and destroy you. You can't harm your enemies with hate, but you will most certainly harm yourself."
"I know Master Sensei, I know. But it's so hard... not to hate."
"You don't have a choice. You already have a real enemy out there. You can't afford a second enemy in here." Tapping on Andee's chest. "An enemy far worse than anything out there." Andee looks at him with a long glare. Then they both look out over the Eastern expanse in quiet meditation.


End of Chapter 8                 next,                 Chapter 9 : Doggstar

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