Book 1 : Sacred Warriors
copyright©2015 Zorin Florr
In his dizzied state Andee suddenly finds himself moving a bit sideways. To regain his balance he flashes his eyes down to his right foot and quickly finds his intended flow. A fraction of a moment later, when he looks back up... nothing's changed. Everyone is exactly where they should be... except him. The man in blue... is not there.
Nayaa, speeding through the market, is now doing the dance with the crowd as she spins, leaps, and twirls around people to gain ground on the skinny guy. She's on his heels, only three meters behind. The man suddenly turns right, heading towards a clothing stall with a canvas roof atop metal poles. Around the stall there is smaller alley. It looks like that's where the skinny guy is heading. Anticipating his intention, Nayaa takes a hard right, but there's a large fat man pulling a small hand cart between her and the stall. Without a moment's hesitation she runs up the hand cart scuttling up onto the man's shoulders, all in a flash, then dives forward startling the bejeebers out of the poor guy.
"Aheey! What the hell..." The man yells shocked looking up at Nayaa flying over his head away from him. Her arms land on the metal post holding the far corner of the canvas roof, and as the skinny guy rounds the corner towards the alley, Nayaa's feet come spinning round the pole right at his face. His eyes ogle out, but it's too late. Nayaa kicks him in the face knocking him backwards. His feet fly out from under him as he drops hard to the ground on his back, already out cold from the kick. Nayaa lands next to him in a squat. She immediately starts rifling through his thigh satchels and finds Andee's credit fold. The people around have stopped and look at her with suspicious glares. The fat guy pushes through the crowd reaching the edge and stares at her with murder in his eyes. His lips are churning like he is struggling to speak but too confused and angry to string a cohesive sentence.
Nayaa suddenly feels his stare, and the rest of the glares, and looks up. "Hey, he stole this from me first!" She lifts the credit fold up in the air. "I'm just stealing back what's mine!" And jumps to her feet. Everyone is gawking at her with accusatory eyes, especially the big guy. She lifts up the credit fold and dangles it teasingly at the fat man. "You want to steal my stuff? Huh?" Then looks at the rest of the crowd sweeping the area, dangling the credit fold, "Wan'na steal my stuff? Any of you?" She challenges them all with her own strong glare. The fat man shakes his head with disapproval and turns away, as does most the crowd. A handful still linger. Nayaa looks down at the unconscious man. She squats next to his face and gives him a hardy slap.
"Hey genius, wake up!" But there is no movement, not even a reaction to the smack. "Actually please wake up. I'm too young to be a murderer." She pleads genuinely concerned. A few of the lingerers approach and one spills water on the unconscious man's face. The skinny guy snaps awake startled. He dizzily scrambles to his feet and runs off stumbling and falling a few times on the way. Nayaa casually watches just as Andee comes to a hard stop, finally catching up.
"What the hell was that back there?" Nayaa confronts him with real anger.
"I'm sorry, are you OK?"
"Yeah I'm OK, but you're not. You haven't stumbled like that since you were a kid. What happened?"
"Nothing. I thought I saw something, but..."
"It was nothing."
"So you knocked me down for nothing? Really?" Nayaa retorts still angry and now suspicious. "If you're going to knock me down, at least do it for something."
"I guess you got the credits?" Andee changes the subject, his tone nervous and uncomfortable.
"Of course I got the credits. In fact, I got you these credits twice. Maybe I should keep them all for myself." Holding the credit fold up in his face.
Andee nods in agreement, eyes lost in some other place, staring right through the credit fold and right through Nayaa. She squints her eyes as she studies him for a moment.
"OK, now I know for sure... something. It's something. Not nothing. What's wrong?"
Andee looks away. Looks around for a moment. He seems indecisive. Struggling. "Ok, fine. Did you see a guy in a blue hood?" He suddenly blurts out looking her hard in the eyes.
"What? Where? What are you talking about?" Nayaa reacts with exaggerated confusion.
"Back there? Did you see a guy in a blue hood? Before I bumped into you?"
"No. Did you?" This time she responds incredulous.
"Have you ever seen a guy in a blue hood? Anywhere?"
"Ever? Hello, I don't remember the fashion sense of everyone I've ever meet. What kind of question is that?" She stops and thinks for a moment. "Although... a fashion fumble like a blue robe, that I would remember."
"Never mind." Shaking his head. Andee is in no mood for Nayaa's clowning and changes the subject. "Can we get some food, I'm starved."
"Yeah for sure, but what the hell is wrong with you? Blue robes? Are you going jovial on me for real? Cuz you sure are being weird."
"Maybe I'm just hungry. I didn't eat anything today."
"Yeah you did. You ate two berryfruit right in front of me, you weirdo."
"I meant a more substantial meal. Real food." Andee snaps at her.
"So you're saying you're suffering from hunger madness?"
"If such a thing exists, than yes."
"OK, I'll buy it." Lifting up the credit fold. "Cuz I have credits." She winks and takes off. "Come on jovial-A, keep up with me."
The giant red sun is approaching last horizon. There is no moon in sight but with the four hour long twilight on Carpatia light will be plentiful. Andee and Nayaa are in an industrial area full of warehouses. Like many of the buildings in the Carpati Township most are made from orange adobe, especially the newest ones. Older buildings are larger and made from metals and modern polymers, but most are run down. The two friends look lost as they wonder down a broad dirt alley, one of many that crisscross the area. Ahead, a caravan of loaded alcamas is approaching. Ten beasts tethered together, loaded with sacks and boxes twice as big as their bodies. Andee stares at the poor animals and is struck by a pang of sadness for them.
His mind wonders back in time to Toni, the alcama owned by his dad when Andee was around five years old. He can remember it clearly. There used to be a shed by the west wall where Toni the alcama slept, but during the day it roamed around their top terrace in front of their house. He remembers how it had to be tied to the wall with a metal wire since it ate everything, even rope. If made from what was once organic, such as rope, cloth, paper, whatever, an alcama will eat it. They are loyal beasts if well trained and cared for, but with an aggressive and violent temper if frightened, abused, or feral. A large beast, it is taller than the average man, with a long neck and floppy ears that hang and flap in the wind helping the animal cool off in the heat of the day. It has a long snout that is essentially a foot long trunk and very dexterous. It can easily grab and handle things, and are known to steal, but most of the time the trunk retracts flat on the snout and rests there when not in use. It's a vegetarian with a large wide mouth filled with broad flat teeth that will chew anything to powder, even fresh moist wood.
They are beautiful creatures. All alcama have a draping mane of hair starting at the chin and flowing down the neck to their chest. It hangs loose like a curtain with the longest part just before the front legs where it hangs close to a meter, nearly touching the ground The mane has vertical stripes, usually of three alternating colors from the top of the neck down. The stripes vary between light yellow-white-brown, brown-black-orange, and yellow-red-white. There is also a long stripe down the center of their back that is usually the same color as the darker of the three mane stripes, and is connected to them along the back of the neck. The rest of their very short fur varies in color from dark brown to light sandy yellow, with the occasional white and orange, and variations in between. On its shoulders, it has a hump where it stores fat and water. A well fed alcama can go without food for nearly two months, and no water for two weeks. The hump is also where human riders sit. It is soft and comfortable and has few nerve endings making anything carried on the hump more comfortable for the animal. Its legs are long and it has three hoofs, a big one in the middle on which it walks on solid ground, but with two smaller ones, a few centimeters higher up and back near the "ankle", that spread out when laid flat creating a wide "flat foot" for walking on lose sand. They are a desert creature, but they also love water and when they find a pond they will go for a dip whether their human handlers want them to or not, and are very good swimmers.
"Hey, reality to Andee, are you still in this world?"
"What?" Andee pulls back from his distant stare at the alcama caravan.
"You were zoning off to the moon again."
"No, I was just..."
"Thinking about all the old chicks you're going to impresses with your stumbling and fumbling." She interrupts him then ends her words with a goofy inquisitive look. "Like you've been doing all day."
"No I was..." But this time Andee loses his train of thought.
"Dancing with moon-ferries?" Nayaa finishes his sentence still making big goofy eyes at him.
"Man, you've been on my case all day today. Can you give it a rest?"
Nayaa makes a sad child like pouting face. "OK, I-sorry."
Andee shrugs her off looking away frustrated.
"Ok-ok, so what were you thinking about? Seriously." Andee ignores her. "Please? Come on, I'm serious. I really want to know."
"No you don't."
"I do actually. I'm being serious." Expressing herself with genuine interest.
"If I tell you you'll just find another way to ridicule me over it."
"That's true." Nayaa responds mater of fact. "But you need to snap out of it. If that's what it takes... that's what it takes. So, what were you thinking about?"
Andee locks his eyes to hers with a hard penetrating glare. She doesn't flinch. "Ok, if you really want to know, I was thinking about Tony."
"Tony?" Her head taken aback. "The alcama? Uh, why?"
"That's what I was thinking about."
"You are punk out weird today. You seriously need to snap out of it." She states with a clearly serious tone. Andee turns away from her. She whacks him in his right shoulder. "I mean it, snap out of it."
"I don't care if you don't believe me. But..." Andee cuts himself off in mid sentence.
"That... that guy in the blue robe! It's just... its like..." He's struggling with his words his face convulsing in frustration.
"Like what?" But Andee shakes his head with no answer. "You really are freaked out." She then concedes.
"Of course!" He snaps. "I'm not crazy! And I'm not just imagining him. I don't just see things that aren't there, and..." He cuts himself off again.
"And what, come on."
"There's something off about him."
"Like, uh-he's not there?"
"You can't stop can you? No, what I meant... you said it this morning. Sometimes you just know. You just feel it. This guy, I know he's real, but the worst part, I'm absolutely sure that he's watching me. He's following me."
Nayaa quickly looks over her shoulder. She then exaggeratedly looks left, right, all over the place, up in the sky, everywhere, all with exaggerated movements of her body. She rushes to a boulder ahead, lifts one side and looks underneath, than looks back to Andee with big round shocked eyes shaking her head with exaggerated concern. Andee can't help but giggle.
"Ha, I made you laugh." She snaps to her feet and walks back next to him.
Andee nods his head and takes a deep breath. He looks ahead. The sad looking older man leading the Alcama caravan is now just a few meters from then.
"Maybe he saw the blue guy." Nayaa nudges her chin to the man, and then without warning jumps ahead, stepping in front of Andee, and rushes up to the man before Andee can react. Andee freezes and stares at her frowning, downright fuming.
"Excuse me sir. I'm sorry to interrupt your journey, but may I inquire you about something?" Nayaa asks with exaggerated politeness.
"What? Uh, yeah, what do you want kid?" The scruffy older man lifts his eyes off the ground as he answers seemingly perturbed by the intrusion.
"Have you noticed any loud noises back the way you came? Music and such." She asks with a sweet and friendly tone.
Andee releases a deep breath and his face softens upon hearing the question.
"Makes sense. Kids out here. You're looking for the prave."
"Yup." Nayaa answers unabashed.
"Sure, it's back there somewhere. Near dome rock over there." Pointing behind him and to the south past more warehouses.
"Thank you sir. May you have a wonderful evening and a joyful journey." Nayaa answers continuing with her exaggerated polite tone.
"Yeah, sure, joyful." The man scoffs under his breath as he takes a good look at Nayaa. He then stretches his left cheek out to her tapping it with his finger. "Plant a kiss right there pretty lady, and I'll be real joyful."
"Don't push it old perv, but thanks anyway. And yes, I am a lady." Then looks back to Andee, and with a taunting turn of her head, gives him a 'see how mature I am' look.
Disappointed, the man moves on with his caravan while Andee cracks a snarky smile.
"I can't believe I forgot." Nayaa blurts out.
"Dome rock. I know it. My brothers used to tell me all about it."
"I've heard of it too, and I think I know where it is. I'm sure it's visible from the outcrop. The lightship circuit isn't far from it. It's got to be over there, past those warehouses." Andee points southwest.
Carpatia's four hour long twilight is long gone and darkness has settled. With no moon the night it is as dark as it can get on this world, which is not quite that dark. There is a gentle purplish glow all around the horizon, while the sky is a very dark navy blue. The light of the giant red sun still lingers, diffracted by the atmosphere, just enough to make night on Carpatia a darkened purplish-blue world of shadows with hardly any stars. Only a handful have the power to glitter through the lingering sun's glare.
There is lingering light but luck is not with Andee and Nayaa this evening. After following the man's advice they have just reached a dead end. The alley they followed is walled up with warehouses on the left, and closed in by a huge fence on the right. Worse yet, at the very end of the alley, between them and dome rock, is the biggest warehouse so far.
They stare at the structure between them and their destination. It is very different than any of the warehouses they've passed so far. It looks well built from modern metals and polymers. There is not a splatter of adobe anywhere on it, and it's clean an in perfect condition. The front section is only two story, but with a sloping roof up towards the much larger rear section that extends far beyond what they can see.
"What now?" Nayaa asks looking up at the giant windowless building in front of her.
"Dome rock should be pretty much on the other side of this thing." Andee answers studying the features of the structure. "It kind'a looks Bitani doesn't it?" He half mumbles his question then looks to Nayaa. She shrugs her shoulders seemingly unconcerned, then resolves the problem.
"I guess we go over."
"I guess we do." And with that both start climbing. The walls have little grooves, just big enough for finger tips, and protruding fixtures such as lights and a pipes. Further up there are a few setbacks. Both these human ghimurs clamber up the wall with no difficulty. They run up the sloping roof but when they reach the wall of the much larger rear section, there is no way up. It is a smooth six to seven story wall, all the way up to the gabled roof and with nothing to grip. Dome rock is beyond and to the left of this large building, but the left side is just more wall to wall tall structures, all of them behind their smaller front facades. So they head to the right, and climb down into the long narrow courtyard between this and the next warehouse.
"I haven't seen any security around here." Nayaa observes after they hop to the ground.
"I noticed. They probably have recorders."
"What would they look like?"
"I don't know. But lets stick to the wall and stay in the shadows." Following the line of the wall Andee looks past its end at the wide open spaces beyond it, where the dark purple horizon is visible. "Once we're past this warehouse we should be clear. It looks like this is the last building before open desert."
"Man this thing is huge." Nayaa follows his eye line.
"I know, lets go." Nayaa nods in agreement and follows Andee with her back against the wall.
They scoot cautiously but the warehouse is long. Half a kilometer at least. After a while they start walking more casually, but still staying close to the wall and hopping from shadow to shadow. The corner end is not far now.
"You hear that?" Nayaa stops and listens. The faint sound of the electronic base is thumping in the distance.
"We're almost there."
When they reach the end of the warehouse the empty desert beyond opens up. They can clearly see dome rock off to the left as a black silhouette over the purplish horizon, but it's still far, at least an hour's walk.
They are casually walking away from the large warehouse under Carpatia's bleak sky. Nayaa suddenly squints and stretches her face forward. She can see what looks like a string of faint lights, parallel with the horizon, between them and dome rock. They seem to start from one edge of the industrial park all the way around to the other, encircling them.
"Did you notice those lights before?" Nayaa asks perplexed.
"No, I didn't. I think they just came on."
"What are they?"
"Dun'no. I can't tell."
After a few minutes they get closer.
"I think it's a fence." Andee is first to comment.
"Yeah, I think it is."
They continue walking and after a few more minutes they reach the fence. It is a three meter tall fence made of interlocking thick metal mesh. There are faint lights on top of the posts which are about four meters apart.
"Why is it buzzing like that?" Nayaa asks noticing the strange hum coming from the solid and well built metal fence.
"I don't know." Andee answers following a step behind Nayaa. She leans in, getting her face closer and closer, then gently reaches out to touch it.
"No!" Andee snaps and lunges grabbing her wrist. "Don't touch it. I think it's electric."
"Huh?" Nayaa doesn't understand.
"Electric, like our lights."
"In a fence? How?"
"Not sure actually. Mykee would probably know. He's all about Bitani tech. What I do know is that the electricity sent to our homes by the Bitani comes through buried metal wires, and is very dangerous. If you touch the metal part of the wires, it can kill you."
"Well, duh, it causes fire, everyone knows that. It's how it makes light." Nayaa emphasizes her point with a condescending tone.
"But it can also kill if you touch metal that has electricity in it."
"You mean set you on fire?" She asks with a disbelieving tone.
"Nope, just kill you right out."
"I never heard of that."
"I have, at Old Man Tom's junkyard. Last year we salvaged a piece of a wrecked lightship that was full of electricity. One of his mechanics was taking it apart and got zapped hard. He didn't die, but Old Tom said electricity passed through his body because he touched the metal. It burned his fingers and knocked him unconscious."
"So you think the Bitani put electricity in this fence to do that to people, intentionally? Why?"
"You know the Bitani are hiding all kinds of things from us?"
"That's what you keep saying."
"I say it because it's true. You've seen some of the tech the Old Tom has in his yard from the wrecked Bitani lightships. They have things we can't even imagine."
"You know, everyday you sound more and more like the troublemakers."
"I'm no troublemaker." Andee shakes off the concept, but then thinks for a moment. "But what if they're right?"
"How could they be right? They're troublemakers. They wouldn't be called that if they were the do-gooders." Nayaa emphasizes her point with broad round eyes lifting her brows.
"Maybe, whatever, but we've got to get over this fence somehow or we're stuck here."
"If we had a pole we could vault over it. We could easily clear that, no?" Andee nods his head in agreement. "Hey what's that?" Nayaa suddenly changes the subject as she points over Andee's head. He looks over to the north following Nayaa's finger.
"What? What are you looking at?" Andee is struggling but sees nothing in the dark blue sky.
"That black spot, above Peak Crest. Up there. Way over the horizon." Nayaa is pointing North above the highest peak in the ridge of the north mountains.
"I don't see anything."
"Great. You see men in blue robes but you can't see that obvious black blob moving in the sky."
"Oh wait. OK, yeah I see it."
"See, I don't imagine things."
Andee's flicks a quick dirty look her way but then both watch the dark shape approach silently from the opposite side of the warehouse. It gets closer and closer until it simply disappears into the far side of the gabled roof of the warehouse.
"What? Did you see that? Where did it go?" Nayaa blurts mystified.
"Maybe it landed on the other side." Andee answers.
"In that tight courtyard we were just in? No way. That thing was too big. And it flew right into the roof and vanished. I don't even understand what the hell it was."
"A hopper." Andee blurbs out loud.
"I'm not sure."
"You said hopper. What's that?"
"I don't know."
"But you said it?"
"When I rescued-ah, Ricio, he was waiting for a hopper."
"A hopper?" Nayaa repeats herself lifting her brows.
"Yup, a hopper. Some kind of Bitani flying machine, but he didn't want to tell me about it."
"So you think that's what that was?"
"He said it was big. It could carry lots of people."
"Why would the Bitani carry people into that warehouse, at night?"
"I have no idea. Maybe it's not people. Maybe it's something else."
"I've got a bad feeling about this." Nayaa changes her tone. "We need to get out of here, now. Come on." And she takes off running in the direction of dome rock along the fence. Andee follows. The fence is long and both jog by it for a while, but it is a wide curve and it is now turning them away from dome rock and back towards the warehouse district. They stop, and in that moment, the light atop the nearest fence post suddenly glares bright right into their faces.
"Oh-oh, what does this mean?" Nayaa asks nervous.
"Crap, some kind of security. They can see us."
"Look!" Nayaa shouts looking past Andee. "What is that?"
Once again she is pointing at something dark moving in the night. This time it is two small black blobs moving towards them at ground level, but fast, very fast, and coming from the warehouse.
"What do we do?" Nayaa looks at Andee concerned.
"Run!" He shouts, and both take off.
The bright light on the posts follows them as they run past each one, lighting up one after the other. The two dark shapes are gaining fast, pining them closer to the fence. One moves slightly ahead squeezing them even closer, and rides into the light. Illuminated, it looks like a hovering black bobsled crossed with a moped. On it, leaning forward and riding it like a speed bike, is a man dressed in an all black leather body suit and a black helmet.
The forward hover-ped quickly moves in front of the running duo and comes to a hard stop sideways, but remains floating and completely dark and quiet. The identical one behind, stops as they break hard themselves now caught in the middle. The lights on the fence suddenly all go back to dim, like they were before. The dark riders nearly vanish, but they are in line with the horizon. Details are hard to see, but their silhouettes are clear against the purplish background glow.
The man on the front hover-ped rises, standing up on his foot rests, which have slightly lowered when he did so. At the same time the handles have risen also, so now even standing upright he is still holding on to them. He stands there for a moment, helmet still on, yet clearly staring at the two without making a movement or sound. The guy on the rear hover-ped puts his feet on the ground and remains seated but with handles moved up with his new position to give him a more comfortable upright seating stance.
There's a standoff for a moment. No one makes a move. Andee and Nayaa seem lost and extremely intimidated. They've never seen such devices, nor people dressed in such strange outfits. Add to that the aura of unpredictability from the unexpected long glaring silence from the rider up front, and this whole thing rises to a new level of surreal, if not a down right terrifying scenario for the two inexperienced teens. Nayaa, frozen stiff, gently leans back until her mouth is next to Andee's ear.
"What do we do?" She whispers.
The standing man on the first hover-ped suddenly raises his right hand with something in it.
"Go!" Andee shouts and both take off running towards him, but split, each running on opposite sides of the hover-ped. Andee passes between the front of it and the fence, while Nayaa passes behind it. As Andee runs past the front, the hover-ped turns after him with the rider still standing on his foot rests. Nayaa suddenly stops dead in her tracks, then forcibly hops backwards turning towards the hover-ped, landing behind it, and shoves it forward with all her force. It slides with ease. The standing rider falls backwards thrown of balance. His falling momentum forces the hover-pad forward even faster, right into the electric fence and; POW-ZAP! Large sparks explode everywhere. The lights on the posts flash and then go off completely, while the man falls off his hover-pad, flat on the ground, and does not move. Andee stops and turns catching a glimpse of the explosive mayhem while Nayaa runs up next to him. The second hover-ped heads to his injured partner and stops to help him.
Looking to Nayaa; "Off the thing and over, can you do it?" Andee asks and nods with his chin to the front of the second hover-ped now facing them. Its rider is still on it, but helping his dazed partner rise up off the ground and not looking at two teens.
"I think so." Nayaa answers nodding her head.
"Go, I'll follow." Nayaa bolts off running towards the hover-ped. She leaps with her right foot onto the front, and using it as a boost she shoots up into the air diving over the rider somersaulting right over the fence just barely clearing it. The rider drops his partner as he forcibly looks up and over following Nayaa's move and sees her land safely on the other side. He quickly snaps back, but Andee is already the air flying towards him. He lands with his right foot on the front of the hover-ped. The rider accelerates forward just as Andee leaps up. The negative momentum from the forward thrust cuts Andee's summersault short, and as he flips upside down over the rider he is far below where he needs to be to complete the leap and clear the fence. As a result he and lands near the top, head down like a gecko, and with the tips of his feet over the top edge, but on the fence itself. His face is squinting and teeth grinding, from the anticipation of the electric shock... but it never comes.
The rider spins his hover-ped towards the fence. Andee realizing he's still alive and okay, looks up at the approaching rider, and then scuttles up over the top as quickly as he can leaping next to Nayaa. The two take off like bandits towards dome rock.
After running for as long as they can at full speed Andee slows down and looks back. The fence is no longer visible. The faint lights on the posts are still off. He comes to a quick stop. Nayaa halts next to him. Both squat down and scan the area where they had their had their quick escape.
"Do you see the guy on his tin-can alcama anywhere?" Nayaa asks between breaths.
"No, I don't think they're following us." Andee answers squinting, staring hard into the distance. "I can't even see the fence. You must've damaged it when you pushed that thing into it. Good work girl." Andee looks at her with a smirk.
Nayaa rolls her eyes. "Yeah, and if this... young woman... hadn't done that, you would have been killed... I guess." Nayaa retorts and Andee looks at her nodding his head in agreement.
"Lets go. We're almost there." Nayaa jumps to her feet eager.
"Really, you're still in the mood? I just want to head home. This day's been crazy."
"What? No way. After all that? Nope, no way. I'm going to make it to this darned prave even if it kills me."
"Fine, then lets get there already."
They start jogging the rest of the way. As they come around dome rock they can feel the music like a living tingle in their skin, while the beat is reverberating like a second heart in their chest. With two of their senses overloaded a third is about to be blown out. Beyond the shrinking edge of the stone dome, as they come around it, a bright glow of light unveils before them a kaleidoscope of fluttering shapes that light up their eyes with awe and excitement. Ahead of them now, next to the wall of stone, is a large glossy black building. It is a simple octagon, nothing exciting, except for the light. It is lit up from all angles, especially from inside with light emanating outward from its top. But in front, in front is the most shocking sight of all. In front of the building there are several lightships. Andee stops in his tracks and stares with childlike awe.
"Come on." Nayaa looks back at him inpatient.
"Can you see this? I' mean..." Andee is besides himself. Several lightships right there, right in front of him. He starts approaching the closest one. It's white, rounded in the front and sleek. Smaller than the racers, but more elegant and even more mesmerizing, and with a much bigger bubble, yet smaller body.
"Wow, look at this, but it's different. I've never seen one like this in the races." Andee mostly talking to himself muses as he approaches the ship. Nayaa is nowhere near as fascinated. Her eyes are on the building, specifically, the entrance which is swarming with people. She leaves Andee to gawk at the ship while she approaches the club.
Andee gets within a meter of the lightship and reaches out to touch it.
"That's close enough?" A voice startles him and he takes a step back.
"Is this yours?" Andee asks nervously looking around trying to figure out where the voice came.
"No. My employer." The voice answers.
"Ah." Is all Andee says as he focuses into the darkness on the other side of the lightship. He finally sees a shadow of man just standing there. He looks at the other lightships, and then beyond them, into the darkness. There is a whole row of men in black standing guard. Partially hidden in the dark they look like shadows. Andee walks to the next ship. He stops to inspect this completely different lightship. It is sky-blue and has an open bubble. No top at all, just glass in the front and around the sides. He looks inside at the beautiful interior. It has two seats up front, and a horse-shoe couch in the back, all the way around from the back of the passenger seat to the back of the drivers seat. Every centimeter of this ship is shiny, smooth, and looks brand new, both inside and out. The interior is a at a level of luxury that Andee can not even comprehend. He stares at the intricately textured white leather on the dashboard, on the seats, and on the hand rests. At the shiny and textured chrome fixtures, buttons, and panels. This ship's classic beauty is beyond anything Andee has ever seen. In fact these lightships make Hektor's champion racer look like a bucket of junk.
While Andee is drooling over the ships, Nayaa is heading for the front door, but a scuffle a bit past the entrance catches her ear, than eye. She walks closer, than stops, and sees two adults arguing with a couple of teenage girls, just two lightships away.
"In the ship right now!" Yells the woman at one of the teenage girls.
"Mom, why?" The girl dressed in a sexy moon-fairy outfit complains.
"We're not discussing this. You're seventeen, you don't even have a licensee to pilot this thing." The mom yells back.
"You're so unfair. You did this when you were my age, hypocrite."
"That's enough!" The man yells at the girl. The other girl is quiet. "Get in, you're grounded until you're 25, you hear me? And if you steal my ship again I'll banish you down to the township. You want that? You want to live down here permanently?"
"Yeah, maybe. You're so unfair, you're the worst parents ever. I hate you!" The sexy fairy princes stomps her feet in absolute frustration with her parents.
"You stole my ship?" The father interjects.
"Don't you understand that?" Mom adds, looking at her baffled. "And you didn't tell us where you were going. We were worried sick. You know how long it took us to figure out where you were?"
"That's why I didn't tell you. I'm staying. I don't want to go."
"You're under age. They're not going to let you in, especially with me standing next to you." The dad responds pleading to her common sense.
"I hate you! Go away. Leave me here. I'm never going home again... with you. You're so unfair..."
"Enough! Get in the ship now! Now young lady!" The father yells. The girl begrudgingly jumps in the lightship. Her friend follows quietly.
"Unbelievable this girl." The man shakes his head at his wife who is now at the controls. "Take them home. I'll be right behind you." Then slams the door closed and walks up to the next ship.
Nayaa is frozen on the spot. She stared at the whole scene and is still staring as if it has not ended. She looks absolutely stunned, mesmerized, lost in another dimension. Andee walks up to her. Stops and looks her up and down. Waits a moment for her to notice him. Nothing. She's frozen like a statue staring into empty space. He bumps her arm with his elbow.
"Hey, reality to Nayaa, are you still in this world?"
She snaps as if from a dream, and immediately smiles. "You gawked at these things enough? Come on, we finally made it. It took us a whole day to get here... but we're finally here!" Nayaa instantly changes moods, her excitement growing. She grabs Andee by the hand and drags him. She shuffles through the crowd to the entrance bypassing the line. The door is guarded by two men, one standing, and the burlier of the two sitting on a stool. As she approaches the burly man on the stool lifts up his palm stopping her in her tracks. He looks her up and down for a second then zones in on her eyes.
"Hey, misty green eyes, you might be pretty but you still got to wait in line." Pointing down through the hectic crowd to the end of the long line.
"Oh, I'm sorry sir, but the line's so long, and I have credits." She lifts up her fold with a toothy smile.
"You old enough to be in here?" The bouncer on the other side of the door asks.
"Of course. Look at me, I can't even stand still." She flicks her wavy black hair and starts twisting, shaking her hips at the sitting bouncer who seems friendlier, giving him a taste of her dancing skills.
"You can dance, no doubt. But a line's a line." The burly bouncer answers unperturbed.
"Oh, but I'm craving to be praveing. My hips are shaking, and I'm not faking. I need to dance. I need to dance now." And she energizes her twists tapping the bouncer's thigh with her hip.
"Ohw, here-here now, we got a party girl on our hands." The burly man sinkers amused and fist bumps his partner on the other side of the entrance.
"You got the prave, I bringing the party." She continues still dancing in place.
"I like your style. What's your name?" The burly bouncer asks.
Nayaa leans in to him. "The mist of your wondering thoughts." She answers raising her nose up in the air with mock cockiness.
"Lol, what?" The man laughs and slaps his knee. "For real girl, what's your name?"
"Just call me mist, cuz I'm the girl you want, but... mi-i-i-st." She elongates her last word accented with a big toothy grin of a smile.
"You one crazy funky chick, and that body, awww... forget this party, I want to take you home." The burly man changes the subject as he looks Nayaa up and down. She continues to dance and twirl her hips.
"You'd be taking a 15 year old home. Watch out." Andee interjects.
"Wow damn, 15?" The bouncer jerks his head back clearly surprised. "Hey, as long as I don't know her daddy, I don't care." Then laughs out loud and fist bumps his partner again.
"Wow, maybe we should leave. I don't think it's safe for you here." Andee responds clearly uncomfortable.
"This is my grandpapy. He worries about me." Nayaa counters with a dismissive flick of her wrist towards Andee. The bouncer laughs slapping his thighs. With a pout towards Andee; "Don't worry grandpapy, I'm a big girl now." And continues rocking her hips to the beat, now gently bumping Andee's waist, teasing him, playing a little mock seduction game at his expense. The bouncer is slapping his thighs laughing with joy.
"Girl you're in. I wan'a see you move like that on the dance floor." The bouncer shouts at her excited.
Nayaa stops dancing. "How much does it cost to enter my dear gentleman?" She asks with exaggerated innocence.
"Nothing. You go right in girl." He responds between laughs.
"Why thank you kind sir, you're so very generous." She exaggerates her polite good girl demeanor and reaches out for a handshake.
"Ha-ha. I do like your style... Mi-i-ist. I'm Domie." Laughing he reaches out and shakes her hand. "Need anything in there just mention my name."
"Alright Domie.... Domie-from-the-door, Domie-from-the-door." Nayaa repeats his name with a bit of a chant.
"Lol, that's right girl, I'm Domie-from-the-door."
"Lets go grandpapy. We'll find a seat for you inside so you can rest your old bones." Nayaa mocks Andee then walks into the club. Andee, unimpressed, follows somewhat begrudgingly.
Domie is laughing and slapping his thighs as Nayaa walks through, but then suddenly gets serious when Andee steps up.
"Wait!" Domie lifts his palm stopping him in place. "Wha'ca think?" Domie looks over to the other door guy. "Wrong age?"
"Nah, wrong attitude." The other door guy replies nonchalant.
"Sorry grandpop, but you... are too old." Domie states his words with a straight face, than busts out laughing slapping his thigh again.
"Ah Domie, my darling, you're not gon'a let him in?" Nayaa responds stepping back out disappointed. "Thanks for letting me in, but I guess we'll have to leave."
"Hold on girl. He's in, don't worry. You're cool enough for both of you." Domie than leans in towards Nayaa. "Be honest, he's a bit jovial, ain't he?" And flicks his head towards Andee.
"Ha-ha-ha." Nayaa laughs out loud. "Yup, he sure is. Come on my jovial grandpapy. There's pretty lights in here. You'll like them." She mocks him as she grabs his hand and drags him in before he can respond. And of course Domie is laughing hysterically and slapping his thighs.
"That was fun." Andee states sarcastically once past the door.
"It was actually." Nayaa sincerely agrees.
"And you weren't offended by what that guy said?"
"I though he was disrespectful."
"He's a guy, he can't help it. You're all the same."
"Please, we are not all the same. I am definitely not disrespectful like that..."
"Excuse me!" She stops cold, snaps round, and shuts him down in mid sentence. "You? You, not disrespectful?" She accosts Andee, her eyes huge and tense. She looks beyond furious. "All my life you've been disrespectful! This morning you called me a little girl! You threw fruit in my face! You berated me in front of your mom! You're all the same! Men! You disrespect us and then you wonder why we give you a hard time?" She turns away but then quickly turns back. "And, and... I'm not finished! After all that crap this morning, I helped your mom clean out those jars... and then-and then, I helped you carry the fruit to market... and then, then sold all your damned fruit for double the price... and then, chased some lunatic... and-and, and then, caught him after you knocked me down... and-and, and then, shared my half of the money with you... and... and then I saved your life.. and... and then..." She freezes still for a moment and instantly calms down. "Well that's it."
"OK-OK, I get it, sorry." Arms up in the air and extremely defensive.
"And! And then..." Aggressively lifting her index finger into Andee's face she suddenly continues. "I got you into this kick ass party for free. And all because of my fruity dance on a stick. Are we not here because of my fruity dance? Hmm? Hmm?" She questions him pushing her finger and face into his causing Andee to lean back.
"Yes, yes, we're here because of your... fruity dance, whatever that is." Andee replies defeated but with a smile.
"OK then. And--and my fruity dance is a young woman's fruity dance. Got it? I'm not a little girl."
"Never forget that."
"OK, follow me. I'll show you how it's done." She grabs his hand and drags him once again. As they step deeper into the club their eyes open up with awe.
From the outside, the club's walls looked like impenetrable black glass, but once inside, the glass is transparent. The silhouette of the mountains in the purple horizon is visible almost all the way around, except where the stage and DJ booth are. On that side the octagon is partially embedded into dome rock itself. The club has no roof. It is completely open air except for the four high glass floored mezzanine that runs all the way round the glass walls. It ends and begins with two glass staircases down on either side of the DJ booth and stage.
In the center there is an octagon shaped dance floor, about a meter below regular floor level, with four scaffolds around its perimeter. Each scaffold supports either four or five platforms spiraling around the vertical structure like an oversized artistic staircase. Each platform is a meter higher than the next with enough room for a dancer or two to fit on each. All four scaffolds have the same basic spiraling, or alternating platforms, which makes it easy for the dancers to climb from one level to the next. The platforms vary in shape from round and square spiraling up, to triangular and oval alternating up.
There are two large bars on opposite walls and one on the mezzanine. On both floors and tucked close to the outer wall there are sofas, ottomans, high tables, lounges and chairs, each on their own slightly higher platforms. They have good visibility over the crowds into the club, and also out thought the glass wall at the mesmerizing glowing dark purple horizon.
The decor and transparency are elegant, but the real draw of this club is the light show. The projectors are well hidden. None are visible but their 3D animated images are everywhere. They are not projected on a screen of any kind, rather, they are free floating three-dimensional colorful neon shapes that live in the space of the non existent roof. The space above the dance floor is filled with a myriad of 3D light displays in all colors. Most are animated creatures such as pixies, insects, animals, birds, and even plants and flowers. They look like living cartoon characters dancing in rhythm to the music, but also flying and zipping around back and forth like a living ceiling of light. There are also light ribbons, swirls, sparks and other animated shapes that meander above, but also down into the crowd. The ribbons swirl around the dancers. Light bubbles pop in and out, and grow engulfing people within them. Sparks of light fly like fireworks over peoples heads, and geometric shapes like boxes, triangles, discs and spheres, both solid and grated, expand and contract across the whole club, sometimes virtually trapping people within as if they are in a transparent cell made from walls of light.
The lights in this open air and transparent club are not just a show but a living spectacle. They don't just shine over the crowd but actually interact with them. The bubbles play with the people sitting in the lounges. Many reach out to catch them, but they burst, bounce, or expand, or just whisk away. The bright ribbons of light swirl and whirl around both dancers and those standing still. Light sparks fly from person to person, and the light creatures from the ceiling, zip up and down and interact with the crowd so that everyone is having fun.
On the dance floor there is one added feature. 3D anthropomorphic light dancers. They are human sized, but with large heads, big eyes, some with human faces, while others with animal faces but human-like features. They are transparent light projections glowing in color on the dance floor, yet they are dancing with the people as if they were real. They are not just inactive projections, but in fact interactive. When a person makes eye contact, the projected dancer will respond by complementing the person's dance moves, keeping in rhythm with them. All across the dance floor there are people dancing with people, but also some dancing with these animated 3D light beings.
Both Nayaa and Andee walk around the club in awe. The light spectacle above, and all around them, has got them entranced. Andee is just looking enjoying the sights, but Nayaa is bouncing, jumping, reaching out trying to catch the bubbles and ribbons of light as they buzz around her. She is laughing and clearly enjoying herself as her hands pass through the 3D lights. She looks at the dance floor and points excitedly at the 3D animated beings.
"Look! Light ferries! You think they came here from the Moon?" She asks with a big excited grin. Andee smiles and shrugs his shoulders. She smiles giddy, she knows they are not real moon ferries, but it is fun for a while to think that it could be so.
"Come on lets go." Nayaa grabs Andee by the hand and tries to drag him to the dance floor but he is reluctant, when suddenly he feels a tap on his shoulder. He turns around.
"Oh look who's here. Isn't your mom worried you're out past last horizon?" Dirin smirks mockingly towards his friends, one of which is Gono.
"Oh great." Is all Andee says.
"Go away Dirin." Nayaa snaps at him.
"Awe, and look who he's with. I recognize you from school. A sophomore." Dirin looks at his friends laughing dismissively. The friends laugh but Gono steps aside. He wants no part of it. "Is this why you dropped out of school, to hang out with little girls?"
Nayaa's eyes tense instantly. She frowns, and before Dirin's can think of the next insult, she swings her right leg forward with a beautiful front kick right between Dirin's legs. He instantly hunches forward, eyes pulsing and vibrating like they are about to burst out of his head.
"I am not a little girl!" Nayaa snaps enraged at Dirin. Rather than reacting with concern, Dirin's friends, Madko and Rog, immediately start laughing.
"Oh... she nailed him right in the bells?" Madko shouts and starts laughing.
"I can hear them ringing. Listen!" Rog puts his hand to his ear, leans forward, than laughs. Gono simply steps away and up to Andee.
"Sorry about this. Come on, forget them."
"My job is done here. Now I'm going to dance. Andee, you better not chicken out. I want to see you on that dance floor." And with that Nayaa heads off.
"What are you guys doing here?" Andee turns to Gono.
"What are you doing here?" Gono counters.
Andee just shrugs his shoulders.
"Hey man remember what I said to you the day of the race." Gono changes subject.
"Yup, guess what?"
"Dude, not this again. I'm not guessing anything."
"God you're no fun. I have an appointment! Man! At the Bitani friendship center." Gono's face suddenly goes bright with excitement. "That's why we're here, to celebrate." Pointing to the crowd. "Look out there man. Half of those kids are Bitani. See they mix with us. They don't hate us." Gono, bright eyed, is looking at Andee waiting for a response but gets none. "Come on you're not even happy for me?"
"Ok, ok, I'm happy for you. I mean..." But Andee cuts himself off.
"But what? Man there's always something."
"You know what, no, there's nothing. I'm happy for you. I hope it works out. It's great."
"I know, it will, and you're coming right?"
"Because man, if I get a job up there I want you to get one too?"
Andee once again just looks at Gono with no response.
"Come on, would you refuse if they gave you a job up there?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know? You don't know? Wasn't that our dream?" Gono responds bug-eyed in shock.
"Yeah, but that was years ago. Things change."
"Come on man, seriously?" Andee just shrugs his shoulders. "Listen man, you really need to come tomorrow. Because..." But now Gono cuts himself off.
"Because I know something. "
"I'm sure you do."
"I'm serious, but I don't want to tell you. Just trust me, come with me to the appointment tomorrow and you'll find out."
"Are you trying to hook me with a mystery because you know I can't stand mysteries?"
"Ha, ha. I wish, no. But I guess if it works sure. But really no, I'm not doing that. It's a surprise, and I want it to be that way until tomorrow. So you're coming right?"
"Sure. I've never been to the friendship center. Lets see how friendly they really are."
"Excellent!" Gono throws his left arm around Andee's shoulders in excitement.
The club is thumping. The music is a mix of drum and base with electronic melodies all drowned in a sea of grinding rhythmic electric guitar riffs. It's dance music with an edge.
Nayaa is in the middle of the dance floor dancing with a 3D light partner. She is keeping her moves toned down staying in step with everyone else.
Andee and Gono are leaning on a railing around the dance floor. They watch the dancers quietly for a while.
"So-oo you and Nayaa, what's the deal?" Gono interrupts the peace.
"Deal? What do you mean?"
"You guys hooking up? Is she you girlfriend..."
"No!" Andee responds with pure shock and disdain on his face. "Dude, she's like my little sister, ewwww. No way."
"Really? Cuz I kind'a thought..."
"No way man, nooooo..."
"Cool." Gono reacts satisfied with a broad smile. He focuses his eyes on Nayaa. He watches her dance. He looks at her long legs in her skin tight pants. Her flat stomach exposed for under her tight little top. Her muscular arms with their glowing golden skin. There are hundreds of girls in that club, but his eyes are locked only on one.
Andee on the other hand is looking up. Across from him on the mezzanine there is a group of Bitani kids. Their light and brightly colored clothing, made of the finest fabrics, makes them stand out from the Carpati with their more course earth toned attire. The Bitani also seem taller and slimmer in general with finer features. But Andee is not looking at the group. He is looking at one in particular. A tall blonde in an all white transparent draping dress. Her breasts and hips are covered with a beautifully spiraling body hugging white wrap visible through the dress. The dress itself is more like a haze of ribbons around her body wrap. When she moves the dress flows with her gestures making her seem ephemeral, almost like a light-fairy. Andee's eyes are locked on her when a voice intrudes in his thoughts.
"Man she's hot." Gono blurts out loud.
"Yeah she is, she is beautiful." Andee responds dazed.
"I thought you said she's like your sister."
Ah--wah, what are you talking about?"
"Nayaa man, I'm talking about Nayaa. Look at her. Those long sexy legs, man she's way taller than I remember. Is she still in school? I haven't seen her in months."
"Ah, yeah-yeah she is."
"Dude look at her. She is gorgeous. She's even hotter than the Bitani girls, and they're all usually knockouts."
"Yeah, I guess, she looks alright."
"All right? Man." Gono shaking his head in disbelief.
"Why don't you go talk to her?" Andee challenges him.
"I will, but... I still can't believe you hang out with her every day and..."
"Dude, I told you she's like my little sister. We grew up together since were kids. I don't remember a day where I haven't seen her around. When we were kids we did everything together. Honestly, if it wasn't for her I don't think I would be as good as I am at Ghimpour, stick fighting, and all that. She pushes me, and she learns so fast, and then I have to get better because I can't stand losing to her. So that's how it is with her. She's like my sister and training partner. It's just the way it is."
"I get it, but that's too bad for you. She's gorgeous. I can't believe how much she has changed from last year. She is woman now. Look at that body."
"Dude she's still 15."
"No she's not, she's 16 in a few days, and I'm 17 so what's the problem?"
"No problem, to me she's still... It doesn't matter. Look, obviously you like her, go talk to her. "
"Yeah, I should. You know you could help me out. Put in a good word for me."
"Dude, I don't know. Say something positive to her about me. Or better yet come up with something where we have to hang out together."
"We're hanging out now, why don't you go dance with her?"
Gono releases a dissatisfied deep breath and shakes his head.
"Listen man, I'm not your match maker. She's right there. You want her, go to her."
"She doesn't even know I'm alive."
"Make her notice you. You're into this music, you can dance. Don't say a word just go dance with her."
"Alright, but you're coming with me." Andee shakes his head no. "Dude, come on. Help me out here." Andee reluctantly agrees. They walk to the dance floor.
Gono nervously approaches. He starts dancing, slowly approaching her but too scared to make eye contact. Nayaa, like Gono said, doesn't even notice him and immediately confronts Andee. She starts spinning in place on the tips of her toes like a ballerina, then stops with a hand gesture challenging Andee. Andee's nerves go out the window. The challenge is on. He too spins on the spot but on his left heel, gently leaning back and with his right foot slightly out forward. He then twists his torso to the left sweeping down with his head near his left foot while his right foot swings up to counter balance his windmill like move. He continues spinning this way gaining speed. His strange position makes him look like a spinning windmill, with his right leg and body each being opposite props. The movement looks un-natural, nearly impossible, yet he is doing it. The crowd around him begins to pull away and watch. Gono, who was still attempting a dance move or two with Nayaa, concedes, since she is in fact ignoring him. Her eyes are focused on Andee and his accelerating full body windmill twirl. Gono takes a step back with the crowd.
Nayaa and Andee then proceed to break the dance floor with their moves. Every elaborate move you can imagine, from spinning on their heads, knees, arms, back, to somersaults and flips, Nayaa and Andee do them all. They utilize the floor, they jump up on the scaffolding platforms, climbing, jumping, dancing in their own unique complex acrobatic style.
The whole club comes to a stop and turns into a theater with only two performers on show, Andee and Nayaa. Nayaa starts engaging the 3D animations and they mimic her movements but even they can't keep up, yet the combination of Nayaa and Andee's elaborate art, intertwined with their 3D animated partners, makes for a spectacle like nothing else.
They dance for nearly fifteen minutes before exhaustion catches up with them. They end their dance with a graceful bow. The club rips up in applause, then everyone goes back to their fun. The floor quickly fills back up with dancers now eager to push their own limits. As Andee turns to walk away he glances up at the staircase to the mezzanine. Walking down the transparent steps, in fact flowing down the steps like a moon fairy, the blonde Bitani girl is gracefully descending, eyes locked on Andee. He looks at her mesmerized for a moment, then makes eye contact. When he realizes she has been staring at him the whole time he freezes on the spot.
Nayaa, who walked away looks back to see why Andee isn't walking next to her. She sees him frozen on the spot. She walks back, grabs his wrist and nudges him, but his gaze is locked and seems to have him glued to the spot. Nayaa finally follows Andee's eye line and sees the sight that has got him mesmerized. She looks at his face, and than back at the girl. She snaps her eyes back to Andee with a frown and then dismissively tosses his wrist out of her hand. Then with an aggressively angry twist she turns away and walks off.
Andee stands in a trance as the crowd in front of him parts like the red sea giving the blonde moon fairy a clear path to him. She walks gently and steps up just inches from Andee's face.
"Very impressive. You and your girlfriend are amazing dancers." She speaks with a tone as sweet as honey.
"Uh-her, no, no she's not my girlfriend."
"Oh." She pauses a moment widening her beautiful smile. "Your dancing was incredible, what do you call it?"
Nayaa suddenly walks up behind Andee and answers for him. "It's called the fruity dance. He's a bit fruity. Look at him." And gives the blonde a fake exaggerated smile.
"Go away." Andee snaps. Nayaa rolls her eyes and keeps walking past him and the Bitani girl, looking her up and down with disdain clearly written on her face.
"Don't mind her, she's a bit crazy. She's been torturing me since we were kids."
"I see. I really like your dance. The fruity dance?" The Bitani girl asks innocently. Andee laughs nervously.
"Maybe Nayaa's version. I'd prefer to call it the Ghimpour... ah-hmm." And Andee is stuck. He was trying to say something smart, but stumbles.
"The Ghimpour. That's interesting. Does that mean something?"
"Ah, it's a sport. I'm kind-of a champion in it. I'm pretty good I guess."
"Is that why you were able to rescue that pilot... with such amazing skill?"
"You heard about that?" Andee asks dumbfounded. She shakes her head up and down. "Wait. How do you know it was me?"
"I saw you."
"You did? How?" Clearly shocked and perplexed.
"Everyone saw it. It's all over the vidroms. You're a hero. Every Bitani knows who you are, and what you did."
Andee looks staggered. He looks around at all the people in the club, but they are all focused on their own fun.
"You OK?" She asks him with a sweet tone.
"I'm not sure. I was recorded? How? I didn't see any..." But his words fade.
"Recorders are everywhere on the circuit so we can see every angle of the race. Don't worry it's a good thing. To the Bitani you're a hero. Maybe one day you'll be a pilot. You'll have most of the city cheering for you."
Andee looks at her completely thunderstruck. Her words express a concept he can not even fathom let alone contemplate. In any other moment the reveal, and idea of her words, would have consumed his attention and been priority, but he feels like mush in the presence of this girl. His confusion over what she said will have to be dealt with later. He makes a mental note of her words and focuses back in the moment.
"How about we forget the race and dance. Can you show me some moves?"
"Yeah, ah-sure, of course." Andee answers nearly shaking struggling to turn his thoughts away from the shattering meaning of her previous statement, and focus on her.
He steps up to the beautiful blonde and asks to see her style than tries to incorporate her moves into his acrobatics. Some combinations work, some don't. As the experiment continues they succeed more and more, but sometimes stumble, which makes them both laugh. They seem to be having a good time.
Gono is leaning on the rail and catches sight of Andee. He watches his buddy dancing with his new Bitani friend. Gono looks completely awestruck seeing his Carpati friend dancing with a beautiful Bitani girl, and does not notice Nayaa walk up next to him. She leans on the rail with her left shoulder rubbing against his right. It takes him quite a long time before he looks over to see who's arm is rubbing against his own. When he does, he overreacts and snatches away startled.
"Oh hey. I didn't see you." Pulling away from Nayaa.
"Yeah, its just me." She answers deflated.
"Uh..." Gono seem confused for a moment, but then blurts out. "Look, that's Andee dancing with a Bitani girl. Isn't that amazing?"
"Yeah whatever." Nayaa rolls her eyes looking away.
Gono looks nervous, a bit confused. Doesn't know what to say. He is afraid to make eye contact with her. He keeps his eyes locked on Andee and the Bitani girl. After a long pause he speaks up.
"Well, she can't really dance, not like you." Gono speaks but without looking at Nayaa. "You were amazing. They way you move, and... the... the way you look when ah... you do... ah-mmm... I don't know why Andee..."
"She's blonde and probably older then him. That's all it takes." Nayaa cuts him off than bolts off in a fit.
"Ah yeah... wait-what?" Gono blurts still looking at Andee and the blonde not noticing Nayaa leaving. "I'm sorry, what did you..." he asks turning his head to where Nayaa used to be, but she is no longer there. He quickly turns back and sees her disappear into the crowd. "Damn." Shaking his head disappointed with himself.
Andee and the Bitani girl are now just dancing. No more lessons. He seems more nervous now. His movements are very restrained. The girl is more aggressive. She teases him rubbing her chest and stomach against his. Not knowing how to react Andee jumps back and starts doing some of his acrobatics forcing him to pull even further away from her. Almost immediately everyone stops dancing forming a circle around him. After a couple of minutes he stops. He invites the blonde to join him. He twirls and spins her. She laughs and the crowd cheers, even the 3D animated characters start clapping.
Outside, Nayaa is quickly hopping from crevice to crevice up to the top of dome rock. She takes a seat on a protruding edge looking down into the open air club. The ceiling of transparent animated shapes paints the people below in color. She brings her knees up to her chest, wraps her arms around them, and rests her chin on top. Andee and the Bitani girl are no longer visible on the dance floor. It is again full of people and animated light characters dancing.
Suddenly two animated characters grow in size. They expand into giants over the entire club. They are so big their eye line is almost as high as Nayaa's. They begin to dance, but also hug, kiss, and flirt.
Andee and the Bitani girl are off to the side talking, but they both stop to look at the giant display. Looking up, Andee notices something on dome rock. The light from the giant holograms lights up a person sitting up top. Andee squints and realizes it's Nayaa. He looks over into the face of his beautiful friend. He seems to hesitate for a moment, but then speaks up.
"Hey, it was really nice to meet you, but ah... I think I have to go."
"Oh, so soon? The party doesn't end till sunrise."
"Yeah, but... I'm sorry I do have to go. Uh... I... well, I guess I'll have to go."
"Ok. I'm here almost every other weekend. Come see me again. My name is Silestra."
"Yes I will, definitely. Definitely. I'm Andee."
Silestra smiles and shakes her head in agreement. "I know." And winks at him. Andee nervously shakes his head in response and scoots off. The blonde sees him away with a beautiful inviting smile.
Nayaa watches the giant 3D anime mimic movements of the dancers, including some of her own. She then looks to the circular path in front of the club where the lightships are parked. Her hand reaches to her neck and pulls out a necklace. She twirls a little medallion between her fingers while still looking down at the circular driveway. It is beautifully carved into the natural stone to accommodate the Bitani ships. After a minute or so she lifts up the medallion. Her eyes are distant and remain that way as she pulls them away from the ships and locks them on the medallion. It's a split circle, from top to bottom, with two back to back L's in the center. She looks at it and twirls it in her hand. A moment later she feels someone behind her. She looks over quite casually.
"Hey." Andee gently announces his presence as she turns, but once she sees him she looks back to her medallion, and than past it to the light dancers, ignoring him. He steps up, squats down, and watches the dancers with her. He turns his gaze to her left hand which is still twirling the medallion.
"That's you mom's necklace, no?" He asks gently. She looks at him with a serious and cold glare. Andee humbled looks back down at the party. Nayaa turns her gaze back to the driveway where she witnessed the fight between the Bitani girl and her parents. Andee watches the giant 3D anime for a while before looking back to Nayaa. Tears are flowing down her cheeks. Andee looks confused. He leans in a bit. It is! Those are tears on Nayaa's face. Andee seems both shocked and concerned. He scoots closer and seats next to her.
"Hey, what's happening? What's wrong?"
Nayaa gently turns away.
"I haven't seen you cry in years." He gives her a moment, but she's still looking away quietly rubbing her eyes.. "If I did something, I'm sorry."
Nayaa suddenly breaks out into a full sob. She struggles to control it, to swallow the knot in her throat, but can't stop. The tears flow, and the sobs force themselves from her chest. Andee reaches out with one arm and places it on her shoulders, gently pulling her in. She meekly resists at first, but Andee pulls her in close. She lets go and leans into Andee's chest. She starts crying, seriously crying in Andee's arms. He is petting her hair on her upper back. He seems bewildered and confused but more than anything concerned.
"Hey, whatever I did, I'm sorry." He speaks softly. "I'm sorry for being disrespectful to you for so long." Andee continues still petting her back.
She casually pulls away from his chest and starts wiping her face. Andee patiently watches her. After clearing her eyes she looks at him, at his concerned glare. Her face changes from puffy red sadness to a coy smile. She then whacks him in the shoulder with a hard punch.
"Ohou." Andee looks at her unsure.
"It's not you. You dork."
"Then what is it?" He asks politely, rubbing his shoulder.
"So I ran into you for nothing, and now you're crying for nothing?"
She giggles a bit. "Yeah." Wipes her face some more. Andee waits for her patiently. "It's... I don't know. I suddenly remembered my parents, and, I don't know really. I just got sad for a moment. It was like a bomb, it just went off. Sorry about that. Didn't mean to dump it on you."
"Hey, you didn't dump anything. And I really am sorry for mistreating you. I never realized I did. I know you miss your parents, I miss my dad, and your brothers are gone, but you got me. It doesn't matter if we're not related, to me you're family, and I love you just as much as Mykee. We pick on each other, sure, but you know its always in fun, even though you're the one who takes it too far, all the time." Emphasizing his last phrase. Nayaa smiles, and leans in and gives Andee a big hug and a somewhat awkward kiss on the cheek. Andee turns to do the same to her, but she pulls away. They both stop and stare at each other for a moment. A second later Nayaa whacks him again, this time with the ball of her palm in his chest.
"Dork." And smiles. Andee laughs to himself.
"Lets get home before my mom freaks out." Andee changes the tone as he gets up.
"My aunt is probably fast asleep. She could care less."
End of Chapter 3
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