Chapter 4:

Chapter 4: Dammit Jodoc!

Gathering


Michael was greeted with a dimly lit room that had a low hanging, naked light bulb with a round table underneath it. Around the table were some chairs, and he took note of them. The clock on the wall that said 8:00am sharp. “Wait it’s only 8:00am??” he questioned. “We were in that hallway for what seemed like forever!” He wondered where everyone else was, and he let his eyes float back towards the table. There were five chairs. Sitting down, he stretched and then mid-stretch he snapped back. “Five chairs?!?!? Teams are only allowed four people! What was going on?”

True, there are six elements to choose from in the sphere ceremony, but that was how it always went. Four people on a team would choose an element each and then hope for the best that no one had chosen the same as another. This was to keep a team from becoming unbalanced which would lead to severe problems.

Two cycles ago a team had three out of its four members choose light spheres. What followed was a disastrous race culminating in them coming in last place. It was an awful sight to see. They were almost even annihilated on one planet because their power just couldn’t offset the element of the planet. Whatever the final part of the temple was, it didn’t go well. What was it? They had to fight a demon, a Minotaur, or a Goddess. It had been a while since the last race to regeneration and Michael couldn’t remember exactly what the final challenge on that planet was. What he did remember was that watching the fight. It was like watching a baby play with a rag doll.

The door shot open into the darkness and someone tripped coming in, or they were pushed. Eyes as fiery red as they could possibly come, this individual was a sight for sore eyes. She looked exhausted. She looked confused for about two seconds and then shot Michael a very nasty look. She was clearly surprised though that someone else was there .Eyeing a chair next to her she placer her hand on the armrest. Intense gaze still intact, Michael was about to greet her with a simple “hi…” when the door opened again and in stumbled a girl followed by a boy.

They fell on top of each other. It took them a very long moment to stir and sit up. They were wearing very dazed and confused expressions. In fact, it almost appeared to Michael that they had been, no, he didn’t want to say it but, sedated?

“Oh my god. This is what Kensia was talking about. They must have broken the rules and were sedated," he thought horrified. As he looked at them though, they did look a bit similar.

Yet again, the door opened abruptly and in stepped another individual.They wore all black and they had no standout features other than that their hair was black along with their eyes. “Oh, it is another girl.” The next thing Michael knew, the clock ticked to 8:02am and a ding rang out.

A disembodied voice announced, “Welcome team number four to the race to regeneration. Now that all members had been assembled, you may now start your time within this room. Remember at 9:00 sharp, you will be escorted out the announcement stage and the sphere ceremony will begin. You will be presented for the universe to see, so as always, please be prepared. Begin!”

Everyone was looking around the room at each other with a mixture of suspicion, distrust, and curiosity. The two sedated individuals must have come to rather quickly as they were now looking around the room as well. Decided to take a semi-leadership role, Michael stepped forward first and sat down in the chair nearest to him. Slowly the other individuals all followed suit. Before things could possibly become any more awkward, Michael decided it was time for introductions. “Hi everyone. I know this must be painfully awkward for all of us, but we might as well deal with it and get self-introdu-”

“I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO ANYTHING! DAMMIT JODOC!” the previously drugged girl suddenly burst out while hitting “Jodoc” in the back of his head.

The boy, who Michael was assuming was “Jodoc”, responded just as loudly, “well it’s not my fault that crazy maid lady was trying to rush us out! I just wanted one more bite and as soon as I was done, I was going to come to the door.”

“Jodoc,” the girl countered, “she tried to stop you three times. SHE EVEN GAVE YOU THREE WARNINGS, AND YET YOU DIDN’T LISTEN. For once in your life, please, just listen to me. This isn’t easy on any of us,” she sighed putting her face in her hands.

“Ah ha! They’re twins! That’s why they looked so familiar!” Michael smugly mused. Now that he was concerned about it now. He had never seen twins before in his life and these two were fascinating to watch. This was some primetime entertainment.

“I DON’T CARE IOVITA. I REALLY DON’T CARE RIGHT NOW. I JUST WANTED THE BITE OF FOOD. Maid-lady could have waited the five seconds it was going to take instead of drugging us,” Jodoc angrily countered.

“You are such an idiot sometimes. Start acting your age already,” Iovita said.

“We aren’t going to be able to enjoy any good food for like the next few months at the least. THE LEAST,” he gestured vigorously while saying this, “you could have done, would have been to support me. I am you only sibling and brother after all,” Jodoc responded.

Iovita just sighed and placed her head in her arms on the table in front of her. Whether it was a sign of irritation or a sign of resignation about what her brother Jodoc had just said, Michael did not know. He did not make another attempt to speak nonetheless.

“Yea yea yea whatever,” Jodoc said with a dismissive wave of his hand towards his sister. “I’m Jodoc and this is my twin Iovita,” Jodoc said.

“Hi! I’m Iovita. I’m 25 years old,” she said with a big smile.

“She’s really cute.” Michael thought. “She’s way cuter than I expected for someone in this competition!”

Jodoc flashed a smile towards Michael and extended an open hand. “Sorry that we interrupted you. It was totally out of line. We can really get into it sometimes as siblings, but I’m sure you understand. You have a brother or sister of your own yea?”

“Actually I do not,” Michael responded. “I don’t have any family to speak of.”

“Oh…” Jodoc said falling back, “I’m really sorry…” Jodoc started to say with his voice trailing off.

Michael cut him off with a wave of his hand. “No really it’s fine. I’m used to it by now.” “I guess since I’m talking now that I’ll attempt to introduce myself again. I’m Michael. I’m from the planet Beatrix. I’m also 25 years old. It’s nice to meet you all as well.”

“Oh right,” Iovita chirped in. “Sorry to butt in, but we are both from Endymion.” Once again awkward silence fell over the room. They then shifted their eyes to the girl with the fiery red eyes who sighed and gave in.

“My name is Selena and I’m from Celestina. I’m also 25 years old.

“This year must have a central age requirement, and it must be 25 years old,” Michael mused before realizing, “Wait… Celenstina? Isn’t that actually close to Endymion?

“Well yes. The only planet between us is Hegiput. We are actually closer together than you are. Beatrix is was out there,” Selena said with a slight disapproving voice.

“Well I guess that is true,” Jodoc said laughing. I’ve never been out to Beatrix.” Everyone paused again. Then everyone shifted towards the final member. The girl with the dark hair, dark eyes, dark face, and all dark clothing. It seemed that was all that she was. She looked at everyone making eye contact and then in a very unexpected turn, a massive toothy smile broke out across her face and she exclaimed, “Hi everyone! My name is Luna and I’m from the planet Nippo. I hope that we can win this race! I’m also 25 years old.”

“Nippo is also way out there on the other end,” Iovita cut in. “Aren’t you close to Protogenia?”

“That’s right! Don’t forget Protogenia has the temple of Altheggan on one of its moons!” Luna responded a little too enthusiastically.

“Talk about an unexpected shock. She looks nothing like her features and her initial demeanor,” Michael thought.

A set of twins was highly rare. In fact, they were so rare that Michael was a flurry with questions. However, out of respect and politeness, he held back. There was also Selena with a fiery expression and what seemed like a saucy personality to boot. Then was Luna who seemed to exist merely as a walking juxtaposition. “Maybe she’s crazy?” he thought. Then he, of course, rounded out the group. “Talk about a grab bag of characters, this… this was going to be different.”

Now that self-introductions had finished, as brief as they were, everyone was not really sure how to go about assembling the group. Jodoc first broke the ice. “Let’s pick a central leader for this group going out. We need someone with a strong sense of direction and leadership to help lead us.”

“Is that really necessary though Jodoc?” Iovita countered. “Why can’t we just be a group that works together and that be it? Any major decisions we need to make can be brought to a vote. We could do it something like a 3 vote majority thing that way we could ensur-”

Selena cut in, “Nah I really don’t like that idea. Especially since you are both twins. We would easily be outnumbered if the two of you worked together and made one of us into your ally. I just met you, so I don’t trust you. I am against idea, and am with Jodoc on having a central leader.”

Luna apparently decided that it was her turn to chime in. “I hear what you are saying Selena, but I really prefer the vote. Put me in the vote basket,” she said. Things started to escalate as people went back and forth sharing their opinions and arguing about what they should do. Michael didn’t really care either way and he started to zone out.

He glanced at the clock and saw that it was now 8:15am. They were getting nowhere and they needed to strategize about how to handle the ceremony. They needed to present a strong, united front to make sure that the people back home, and the viewing public, thought that they were a reliable group. Public polls and how the public viewed you was extremely important. If you have a favorable view compared to the other teams, the trials and temples would be easier to deal with. Still not paying attention, Michael was trying to formulate his argument for why he should have the Sea sphere. However his mind drifted to leadership. On one hand, a leader did sound nice. They would make all the decisions and be recognized everywhere post-race if they won. On the other hand though, leaders take all of the heat if something bad happened. Then again, they would instantly get more glory, as the leader and the group would be shadowed by the leader. However, if they went with the vote option, it would make things seem fair within the group. Selena did have a point though. If the twins did band together, as they quite possibly could, then all they needed was one ally to push their own agenda through the group. True the races had puzzles and trials, but then again nothing was usually too intense to where they had to make life altering decisions. “Man these outcomes both suck. This feels like such a catch-22,” he said groaning mentally. Suddenly he realized that the groan had not been mentally, but out loud.

“We realized that you haven’t said anything,” Jodoc cut in.

“We would like to hear if there is something that you want to say,” said Iovita.

Michael sighed. This was becoming more and more exactly what he didn’t want. Cornered, he had to say something that made sense, and at the same time, encouraged the team. “I see positive and negative points to both sides. A vote does open up what it is that we can and cannot do, but if someone forms an alliance, we would potentially have a problem. A central leader also has its merits, but at the same time, if that leader makes a decision that the rest of the group doesn’t like, then we would have to follow through no matter what. Regardless, we really need to make a decision, fill out these forms, sign, and agree to all of the contents.” Michael now became aware that suddenly, all the other chatter from the other members had died down and everyone was listening intently. “I’m not saying that one is better than the other,"he said struggling with words and pausing in between. "but we need to bite the bullet, focus, and get this done so that we can strategize for the sphere selection ceremony,” Michael finished.

Luna raised a small hand covered by a black glove surprising everyone in the room. “I vote that we make Michael the leader and let him lead us.”

Michael’s body immediately went cold. “N-N-N-No… th-this was n-n-n-not wh-wh-what…” he stammered.

“All those in favor, say yes,” Luna continued. Michael looked around the room in horror as one by one everyone nodded their heads. “All opposed, say no.”

Still stuttering and not finding the right words, Michael heard three distinct yeses followed by a, “Well, you have made the most neutral yet supporting argument. I suppose yes,” Selena quipped.

“Crap. How did this happen?” he thought.


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