Chapter 1:

The Dyad (Plus One)

Next to Me

The dark waves raged on around Satoshi, almost disguising his short stature, dark hair and matching clothes in the inky velvet of night, while a woman sat in front of him on the concrete and rocks of the pier. Her long brunette hair whipped around her face while her body seemed to glow due to her pure white dress and flats. Meanwhile, the teenage boy was visibly gritting his teeth, either as a sign the environment was reflecting his mood or vice versa.Bookmark here

What the boy was focussing on was not the woman, but the girl about his age in her lap. The boy stared at the girl's back, watching the rising moon shine off the metallic wings that protruded from there and through her off-white jumpsuit.Bookmark here

"I was modified so I could be with you, Satoshi," the girl told him flatly, with a robotic echo near the end of the sentence. Her eyes, which were at work piercing him and striking his heart with needles, were an unnatural shade of electric blue, instead of the icier blue he'd admired in the past.Bookmark here

Satoshi screamed at her, noting the bright blue, scratched yoyo enclosed in one of her pale fists, "Nova!"Bookmark here

He turned his attention to the woman. "This was not what I intended when I started to make robots, Celesta! Don't go messing up humans because you can!"
Nova was only ten when she had to move to the Japanese countryside due to her parents' work. She was a brunette, blue-eyed child of two blondes, so she frequently got mistaken as "someone else's child".Bookmark here

Even though she knew that, she sometimes couldn't help but feel it was indeed true, and the Asians around her would point out her eye colour every time she would try to associate with them, including when she went to school. No matter how much she tried to speak English or Japanese to them, they would rebuff her.Bookmark here

Had this been a Western country, she would not have had this trouble. She could have even been called "beautiful" in another life.Bookmark here

Unfortunately, that was not her universe.Bookmark here

As she wandered across a gravel path one day while taking a route she'd never been on before, the rocks crunched under her yellow sandals. Just when she started to find comfort in the lonely noises, a wooden building (a traditional Japanese house) she'd never seen before came into view.Bookmark here

A dark-haired child - if she tilted her head a little, she could discern this androgynous, short-haired child in the red shirt and shorts was in fact a boy - was sitting on the woven floor of the open part of this building, cross-legged and watching something on a blocky TV within the exposed maw of this building.Bookmark here

She scrambled across the gravel and a muddy canal, still full of rainwater from the recent downpour, but then became conscious of how dirty she'd become when she clambered on to the porch section of the building in front of the boy.Bookmark here

"Do you want to play with me?" the girl asked him in perfect (yet a little too polite) Japanese, shocking him enough to drop the remote he'd been holding. His chocolate brown eyes went searching before they discovered she was rummaging in her sundress's side pocket for something...which soon was revealed to be a bright blue yoyo.Bookmark here

He nodded slowly and carefully, as if he didn't quite understand what she wanted.Bookmark here

"Okay. My name is Nova," she explained concisely.Bookmark here

She looked at him expectantly, only to find his mouth moving but his throat not making a sound.Bookmark here

"Can you talk?" she cocked her head and smoothed out her yellow sundress while she waited.Bookmark here

"I just did!" he growled, causing her eyes to light up. "I told you my name is Satoshi. You're new around here, aren't you?" In his anger, he snatched up the yoyo, slid the string on to his middle finger and flung it at her face in a fluid motion, only stopping short of hitting her by a tiny margin.Bookmark here

Her eyes lit up with curiosity and confusion, his question ignored. "How did you do that?"Bookmark here

Wordlessly, he performed it in slow motion, his mind suddenly becoming too fixated on his actions and his self consciousness to remember to ask her to use the front door next time.
Almost seven years after the duo met, they had to separate again.Bookmark here

"You mean you have to leave today?!" Satoshi cried, lifting goggles off his head. Lately, he had been experimenting with robots and it was planned once he finished this year he'd go to Australia to start university early, but he hadn't expected her to leave before him.Bookmark here

"I'm sorry," Nova told him, much more casual than when they'd met. Sorrow glittered in those gray-blue eyes of hers, her mouth ajar with unspoken words of regret. "I have to go back to Sweden, but I'll be thinking of you all the time." She rummaged in her off-white jumpsuit's pocket to produce a scratched yoyo. Having faded over time from a tonne of practice, it looked like her eyes - dull and worn.Bookmark here

Satoshi was about to say something before he was interrupted.Bookmark here

"So this is your girlfriend, brat?" a woman's voice rang out from the next room. The source of the voice then stepped out into Satoshi's backyard barefoot - she was a pale version of brunette, but also had brown eyes like the boy.Bookmark here

In furious protest, the boy made his arms into a cross, his mouth moving into a silent scream before he gave up his charade by yelling, "Celesta!"Bookmark here

"Is that a foreign name?" Nova queried, whirling the yoyo by the string using the force of her wrist.Bookmark here

"It's the name of a musical instrument, actually," the woman explained with her head held high. "I'd never give away my real name to such a brat. He may be a genius, but he can't even do his own laundry!" She stuck out her tongue at this fact. "That's why his parents - university professors - had to hire me to take care of him."Bookmark here

Celesta's gaze continued to go past Nova, so she turned around to see, indeed, there was laundry behind where she was standing. It, like Celesta's white dress and her ankle-length hair, flapped in the breeze while a blocky robot on conveyer belts was milling about, collecting it into a basket.Bookmark here

"It's just about to rain," Satoshi snapped Nova out of her fascination, flapping a hand at rainclouds gathering overhead. "If this continues, you'll never be able to leave the ground."Bookmark here

Nova jumped on the spot, prompting questioning glances from both Celesta and Satoshi.Bookmark here

"You said I'd never leave the ground, right? I already did," the girl reasoned.
A few hours later, the flight to Sweden failed to get off the ground because one of the passengers was deemed "missing"...Bookmark here

A passenger called Nova Lundgren.Bookmark here

Next to Me

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