Chapter 1:

(JULY 31, 2158)

Beyond the Far Away Gates

From the start of the morning, through the growing cold of sundown, an air of anxiety and worry mingled in the mind of a young man with golden hair. He had felt the mysterious emotional mixture stir since the early morning. A thread of prescience had caught hold of him several years ago and now reeled in his fear with an exacted duty. The young man’s eyes were fixed on a point just above the ridge line and had been for the last half hour. His throat had become despairingly dry and his squared jaw had clenched firm, grinding his teeth.Bookmark here

The young man’s uncertain pacing stole his patience and prompted his protective nature to the forefront. This impatience took him quickly out of the house and to the hill overlook, where he combed the ascending path for his beloved treasure. An involuntary flexing and pumping of his hands was finally stalled as his eyes locked onto a lone figure climbing the path toward him. He muttered a thanks to the Gods, even though he was certain they were indifferent to his plight, and rushed down the hill to greet the object of his attention.Bookmark here

“Is something wrong, Frederick?” the girl said as the young man sprinted toward her. Her face prepared itself anxiously for an uncertain answer.Bookmark here

“Thankfully not,” Frederick replied. A smile broke his worried face as he looked upon the cute paled-face girl.

The fading sun reflected off her golden hair with a warm sandy color, her sea green eyes looking anxiously back like a perfectly painted vignette. Her small nose and pouty lips possessed a true beauty only found in the angelic domain. A light band of freckling dotted the refined lines of her cheekbones and bridge of her nose, accentuating each feature with a sublime youth. There wasn’t a fault to find upon this beautiful being.

“I just needed to calm down, I suppose.” Bookmark here

He took the girl’s hand and led her up the path, staying slightly in front. He chastised himself for getting worked up just because she had been a little later than usual.Bookmark here

“Okay then, I’m glad you’re feeling better,” the girl replied, her hand comfortably resolving to be led by him.Bookmark here

“Did everything go well at school today?” Frederick asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I guess so,” the girl said. “I don’t think my classmates want to interact with me, though. Well, except for one girl, but she always seems cautious when she talks to me.” Her voice declared its disappointment at the fact. Frederick’s hand grasped her more firmly as if to tell her not to let it bother her.Bookmark here

“That’s to be expected,” he said.Bookmark here

“You told me as much when I started there. I didn’t doubt you, but I would have preferred it if you were wrong...just this once,” she said.Bookmark here

“I wish I was wrong, too. I probably shouldn’t have said anything about it to begin with,” he said.Bookmark here

“No, it’s okay,” the girl said, tugging his hand back to stop. She embraced him from the side and smiled innocently up from his chest. “I like it when you’re honest with me.”Bookmark here

“I’m always honest with you, though,” he said, embracing her back for a moment before leading the way up the hill again.
Even though he couldn’t see her face, he knew she wore a loving smile.Bookmark here

“Maybe they just need some more time to come around,” he continued. He winced at his own suggestion, knowing full well he would rather her stop attending all together.Bookmark here

“Maybe,” she responded. There was a melancholy to her voice. Frederick doubted that she believed his words either.Bookmark here

The two walked hand-in-hand to the front door of their house at the top of the hill. An uncomfortable reluctance filled them both as they released their grip from the other. Their parting was never easy, but they both knew a general routine was in order once they were inside their house. The girl ran up the stairs to shower and change as the young man fell in line with making the two of them dinner.Bookmark here

Frederick’s cooking habits were automatic by now, having done so almost everyday for eight years, but his thoughts were no more apparent than the day he had first felt true affection for the sister who had gone upstairs. The thoughts of the young man flashed in a disorderly mess of circumstantial hypotheticals.
What if something happened to her? What if he wasn’t able to protect her when it mattered? What if he failed her completely?Bookmark here

He glanced toward the Magnetic rifle resting in its rack in the foyer. It was merely a tool, he knew that much, but it gave him confidence. It was an extension of his protective nature, an archetypal symbol of the power he desired but could not possess on his own.Bookmark here

“Dinner looks good as always, Frederick,” said the girl, having finished her shower and popping in behind him in his unfocused state.Bookmark here

“It’ll be just a few more minutes, go get the table ready,” he replied, unsurprised by her sudden appearance.Bookmark here

His hand brushed her face, sweeping a damp golden tress of hair from her eyes. The girl clung to his hand for a moment with a smile before doing as she was told. She moved across the kitchen with purpose, setting everything in place for the dinner that was about to be served. She sat down and waited patiently, watching her brother as he skillfully finished up his cooking.Bookmark here

“Frederick?” the girl prompted as food was scooped onto the plate in front of her.Bookmark here

“What is it?” he replied.Bookmark here

“Do you think we could go somewhere tomorrow?” she asked.Bookmark here

“After school? I don’t see why not,” he said, as he finished serving his own plate. “I can come over from the range when you get out.”Bookmark here

“No...I didn’t mean after,” she said. Her eyes avoided his, betraying her feelings.

Frederick had told her before that she didn’t need to be coy about things...that she didn’t have to be embarrassed to ask him for selfish needs. There was a momentary pause as Frederick waited patiently for his sister to reflect on this advice.

“I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to go to school tomorrow,” she said.Bookmark here

Frederick heard the bluntness in her voice, a simple dejected tone one step removed from pleading. He had been right to be worried earlier. Something certainly had happened that made his sister say this. Perhaps it wasn’t something so serious as to warrant immediate retribution, but the implication of it escalating to something more was apparent. His eyes were cold and did little to complement the soft tone he prepared for his sister.Bookmark here

“You can tell me what happened, Karin,” he stated. “Even if you don’t think I can help...I can at least try to think of something, no, I will think of something.”Bookmark here

“I’s just...I don’t want to worry you,” she replied, “because you’re always worrying for me.”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry,” he said flatly. His still-cold eyes contradicted his apology. “You know I can’t change that.”Bookmark here

“You don’t need to change,” she said. “It’s nice knowing you think about me as much as you do.” She smiled sweetly at him, her beautiful eyes pairing genuine affection with her words. Bookmark here

“Karin, what happened today?” Frederick pressed.Bookmark here

Karin shook her head in earnest.Bookmark here

Her face didn’t suggest physical harm, but perhaps some sort of verbal abuse, Frederick thought. Bookmark here

He decided that it was best not to pry anymore, after all, she would come to him before anything became a serious matter.Bookmark here

“Okay then, let’s have a little fun tomorrow,” he said with a change and a smile. “Did you have somewhere in mind?”Bookmark here

“No,” she replied. “Maybe we can just walk around the Court…”Bookmark here

Frederick sighed quietly, knowing that it would be unwise to brazenly show-off his sister’s truancy.Bookmark here

“You know Father wouldn’t appreciate hearing about that. He’ll think we’re abusing our power,” Frederick stated.Bookmark here

“I know,” Karin responded in a mumble. “I just thought it would be nice to do something when there wouldn’t be anyone around.”Bookmark here

He knew to take that as Karin not wanting to be seen by her classmates. The unfortunate side to that was how likely it was they would be spotted by one of their older siblings, or even their father. They wouldn’t make it out unscathed tomorrow if he followed through with her wishes. He settled on telling her he would consider it, evoking a pleasant smile of appreciation from her.Bookmark here

They returned to their meals in front of them. The food wasn’t exceptional, perhaps a little above average than what one might find in the Court Promenade. Karin could care less, and would gladly reject even the most capable chef in favor of her brother’s cooking. Frederick understood why, and even relished the thought a bit, but couldn’t agree that his skills were to be treated as sacred.Bookmark here

Frederick watched his sister carefully as he waited for her to finish eating, taking both of their dishes for cleaning when she was done. A nagging thought rattled about in his head the whole time. It was similar to that clawing thought that had set him off earlier in the day. He needed to prepare for something. He desperately needed to prepare. If he didn’t struggle here and now, he would have nothing but regret. Bookmark here

Another cursory glance to the Magnetic rifle by the door sparked a sensation of misfortune deep within him.Bookmark here

“I’m going to read for a bit, do you need help with any schoolwork?” he asked.Bookmark here

“I have a few Model Citizen templates to fill out, it won’t take long,” she responded. Her tone for enthusiasm toward the subject was as dry as his asking.Bookmark here

The idea of sending his sister to something as pointless and subversive as Citizen School was a crucial component for his anger and frustration. There was nothing Karin could learn from the school that he himself couldn’t teach more precisely. He was painfully aware as to why she must attend, for the reason was the same for him several years ago.

A pointless obligation
Those few words defined his thoughts on it clearly enough.Bookmark here

He nodded in response and headed up the stairs to the room they shared. The room was fairly bare: two beds, a sectional sofa, a desk and chair, bookshelves, a dull dresser and a small walk-in closet. Yet, this was more than sufficient to their needs, and to most, might even be considered luxurious. There was an adjoining door to a bathroom that was as spacious as their room and, without a doubt, unique to the wealthy Elite.Bookmark here

Frederick grabbed a thin grey book from the shelves and laid out on the sofa. The book he had grabbed was less of a book and more of a manual with no more than thirty pages to it. The contents, however, were far more valuable than a thirty book chronicle of the world’s history. Bookmark here

He flipped through several pages before finding the one he sought. The page had a detailed blueprint of the city’s dampening shield, the Molecular Barrier. Being that there were only a handful of these shields in existence, made this particular piece of paper a valuable state treasure, or in this case, city treasure.Bookmark here

An ungrateful smirk crept on his face at the thought of being one of the “lucky” Elite. He and Karin had been born into it after all. It wasn’t that the privilege of the Elite wasn’t a beautiful thing to possess, but it came with duties and responsibilities that he had little affinity for.Bookmark here

One in particular was the defense service he had to provide in the event of foreign invasion. He was to assist in the evacuation of the Citizens to the very last man. The obvious problem was that he regarded most Citizens with contempt.Bookmark here

Karin had her own duties to fulfill as well, something that left him bitter and malcontent. One such duty was completing citizen school among the proles of the city. The intended outcome was an integrated perspective of both Noble and peasant. Bookmark here

As her brother, Frederick felt there was little point in forcing interaction with the proles he hated so much, especially when he could teach the desired perspective without putting her in a dangerous situation. No amount of complaining was enough to persuade their father, however.

It is the duty of the ruling elite to understand the Citizens under their authority
, their father would say.
Of course, the other duty that would follow Karin’s graduation in a couple years outraged Frederick even more. Bookmark here

Frederick continued to studiously memorize the design of the dampening shield, its layout, vulnerabilities and emergency protocols that preceded catastrophic meltdown. It was all dryly laid out, but informative nonetheless. His older brothers had likely done the same around his age, and possibly even a few of his older sisters had too. Although it was unlikely for any such catastrophe to occur, everyone in the family was well aware of just how cruel fate could be. He hated to dwell on such things, and hastily reined in his wandering thoughts.Bookmark here

An hour passed before Karin came into the room, finished with her schoolwork. She carefully placed her finished papers on the desk and hesitated slightly as she approached her brother.Bookmark here

“Can I sit with you?” she asked.Bookmark here

“Of course,” he said, “but I don’t think you’ll enjoy what I’m reading.”Bookmark here

“That’s okay, I just want to sit with you,” she said. Karin laid down next to her brother, resting half her body against his, placing her head on his chest.Bookmark here

Frederick patiently awaited his sister to arrange herself comfortably before he continued reading. Every so often he caught himself glancing down at the adorable face of his sister sleeping so peacefully on his chest. He couldn’t help but stroke her hair, and fell into the trap of imitating the peacefully sleeping beauty.

Before he knew it, his eyes were closed by an overwhelming and sudden fatigue. By the time he awoke, the black night outside was being driven off by a warm blue creeping over the horizon. The new day had come and his thoughts turned only to the sleeping girl still clinging to his chest.Bookmark here

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