Chapter 19:

The Prelude to Takebacks and Terrorism

Tetraprisma: Chromatic

“You good, Shiera? You ain’t touched yer food,” Aubrey said between bites. “Lunch is about ta be over.”

I poked at my spaghetti with my fork. It reminded me of ropes, strangling my thoughts. “I’m just bored.”

She sniffed the air. “Yer cortisol’s way up.”

“Stop doing that. It’s weird.”

“Tell me what’s goin’ on, then,” Aubrey groaned, finishing off her fried… something. I couldn’t tell whether it was chicken or fish. “You ain’t been actin’ like yerself fer a good while.”

I put down my fork. “You don’t know what I’m like.”

“Sure I do. Usually, you actually eat yer food.”

“You’ve known me for a week.”

“Some say I’m a good judge a’ character.”

“I say you aren’t.” The bell rang. “So stop asking what’s got me down. Nothing’s got me down.”

Aubrey grabbed my shoulder before I could walk away. “And this is whatchu act like when yer under a lotta pressure. Spill the beans. What’re ya worried about?”

“It’s nothing!” I spat, more forcefully this time. “I have to get to my next class. Let go of me.”

“We got our next class together, and the transition time from lunch is seven minutes. We can wait.”

I pushed her hand off of my shoulder, scratching my skin on one of her nails. “Nosy bitch. Mind your own business, dammit.” I stormed away before she could grab me again.

I found myself in the courtyard. I’d told Aubrey I wanted to leave for class, but in reality, I’d probably stay out here until the last second. Besides, Aka told me that the alchemy teacher didn’t count people late. I’d be fine.

I sat on a bench and reclined, staring up at the purple streaks on the atmospheric canvas. I have to save Kori, and I have to do it before Sakira decides to cut his facade, if he has one. Not to mention the Queen of Atlas wants it done within the week. Talk about pressure.

I wanted so badly to go into autopilot, to not think about everything I’d have to do. Responsibility was a crushing weight. They say great power comes with great responsibility, but this isn’t what I thought they meant. I thought I was ready.

“Greetings, Shiera,” said Sydney. I blinked, snapping back to reality— she was sitting next to me on the bench.

I turned my head the other way. “Go away.”

“How was your meeting with the Queen?” she asked. “Splendid, I can only assume.”

“How did you know about that?”

“It was a guess.”

“Great frickin’ guess, then,” I mumbled.

Sydney scooted closer. “Mind telling me about it?”

“Don’t you have classes…?”

“Don’t you?”

I slumped my head. “Fine. The Queen wants me to find some heirloom of hers by next week. And, uh, Kori had it, which means I have to go rescue him even faster.”


“My brother.”

“You have a brother?”

“Yeah. He’s my twin.”

Orange hair fluttered in the fleeting wind. I pushed some out of my face. “And what’s this about rescuing him?”

“Sakira took him as a test subject.”

“So that’s how you got your powers,” she concluded. “You made a deal with him.”

I made eye contact with her— her eyes seemed almost glazed over, yet focused. “I didn’t mean to.”

“And yet here we are. Intentionality is often overlooked for action,” she replied, looking out upon the near-empty courtyard. Class would be starting soon.

“What can I do?” I groaned. “I can’t just fly into Reapra and snatch Kori. I’d get shot down.”

Sydney pondered this. “He’ll be back by the countdown.”

“The countdown?” I asked.

“In nine days, Atlas will be knocked to her knees. The countdown will begin just three days before. That is to say, Kori will return in seven days’ time.” She stood up. “Whether that be alive or in a casket is up to you.”

“Wait, you can’t just–“ but she was already gone, steadily marching to her next class. And just when I was starting to think maybe you weren’t that bad, you had to pull some weird prophetic shit.

I stared out again, looking further off this time. Beyond the open wall was a cyan film— the school’s shield. Just outside of that was Wall Phasma. I couldn’t see much beyond that, but out in the distance I could glimpse the skyscrapers of Reapra.

I heard the bell ring again. If I didn’t start walking now, even the alchemy teacher would call me late. I picked up my bag and stretched my arms before heading inside.

The hallways were deserted. I couldn’t even ask someone for directions— I had to pull out my phone again. Admittedly, I felt a little bit more clear-minded after talking to Sydney. She was just about the only person I could tell about Sakira, only because she already knew… somehow.

After reviewing the map, I started making my way to alchemy class. It was on the first floor past the cathedral, so I’d have to go a little ways. Suddenly, a thought inserted itself into my head. The Queen hated Nathan. Why?

Do you want me to answer? Sakira’s voice caught me off-guard, like throwing a stone into a reflective pond.

No. I want to think about it for myself. I’m tired of people telling me everything, and I’m tired of you butting in.

That’s fine. You know everything you need to.

Get out of my head. I waved him off metaphorically. After a bit of thought, I shot down the idea. Whatever. I’ll figure it out some other time.

By the time I made it to alchemy, the door was closed. I gave it a swift knock. Once it opened, I was greeted by a shorter woman— some dozen centimeters shorter than me. “You’re late, miss.”

“I got held up talking. My bad.”

She closed the door behind me. “You’ll be getting a tardy next time,” she scolded.

I looked around. This class didn’t have assigned seating like war history— I could tell since Aka and Aubrey were talking at the back of the class. I decided I valued my education over friendship and took a seat at the front. Plus, I didn’t want to confront Aubrey over what had happened beforehand.

“As I was saying,” the teacher resumed, “this class is a new combination of what used to be honors alchemy and honors chemistry. Because it’s new, we haven’t yet split it into honors and on-level. This is your chance to get ahead.”

Chemistry? We still have to learn boring Earth shit?

“That said, because of the current war effort, any grade below a B will not be counted towards your GPA. I understand there will be those students who glide through this class without doing a bit of work, and those students will see it come back to bite them in the future. I trust you will make the decision that aids you.”

I’m done with making decisions, man. I just want to go home. I stared off into the distance absentmindedly. But I guess that starts with rescuing Kori. I need to get the school to like me if I want to give them the plan, and hell if I get them to like me without good grades.

The teacher spoke up again. “We won’t be doing any work today, since it’s the first day for a few students. You can thank the war for holding them up.” I put my head down and yawned. Maybe it would be a good time to catch up on sleep.

I was awoken by a tap on my shoulder. “You only missed the first unit. This packet has everything you need to know,” the teacher told me. I sat up and took the packet– Damn, that’s heavy! She moved onto the next new student before I could tell her I’d already done unit one on Earth.

“Psst,” I heard a whisper from my left ear. “What was that shit about tryna get ta class early?”

I nearly smacked Aubrey in the face. “I got sidetracked.”

She crossed her arms and lowered her head. “Oh, didja now? With what, the grass in the courtyard?”

“Sydney was out there, dumbass,” I shot back. “We were talking about what happened last block.”

Aubrey blinked. “You got a class with ‘er?”

“No, she’s just omniscient or something.”

“That’s a weird thing ta say ‘or something’ after.”

“I didn’t ask, or something.”

Aubrey puffed her cheeks. “How come Sydney gets to know and I don’t?”

“I didn’t tell Sydney. She already knew. Before it happened,” I said. “And then she started saying weird prophetic shit about a countdown. I dunno. She’s weird.”

“Dammit, stop overcomplicatin’ shit. What happened?”

I sighed. “Yeah, I have to get Kori back in a week.”

“Who says?”

“The Queen.”

“Okay yeah alright I can see why that would be pressuring yeah,” she whispered, averting her eyes. “I didn’t even know she was back.”

“She’s gonna come back again in next week, too. She wants me to have some heirloom before then,” I muttered.

“Heirloom? What about Kori?”

“Kori had it. Then he got captured, which means Sakira has it.” I put a hand on my forehead. “And she said that if it ever fell into Sakira’s hands, it would mean the end of Atlas. And then Sydney said that shit about Atlas falling, and, oh shit, I think I might have brought the apocalypse.”

“Yer fine. Clearly we ain’t dead yet. Maybe Sakira don’t know he has it. Plus, Sydney’s loony. I ain’t listenin’ to a word she says.”

Aka looked over at the two of us. “What are you doing…?”

“Nothin’,” Aubrey said.

“No, I mean, like, your body. What are you doing?”

Aubrey was leaned over on my desk, swaying her tail high in the air along with her hips. I hadn’t realized how close she was to my face. Once Aka pointed it out, she backed up and sat down. “Sorry.”

The two resumed their talking as I looked around. I was actually irked at how closely it resembled a normal high school science classroom. Even the room temperature was a few degrees colder than the rest of the building. The science room curse— not even Atlas was safe from it.

The tiled popcorn ceiling reminded me too much of Earth, so I looked away from it. I always hated that material, whatever it was. Just as I rested my head again, the intercom clicked on.

“Can Aaron DeAndrick and Shiera Beta please come to the headmaster’s office? DeAndrick and Beta, please come to the headmaster’s office.” That was Ms. Copper’s voice. It’s probably about the war plan.

“Alright, see you guys later,” I said, grabbing my bag again. Each time I picked it up, it got a little lighter. “We’ll see if they let me back.”

Aka gave me a single wave of his hand, and Aubrey shot me with finger guns. As I made my way (again) through the winding hallways, I thought (again) about the conversation I’d had with the Queen.

I say I hate Nathan a lot, but I really just wish he were home more. The Queen sounded like she seriously, genuinely despised him. It’s weird. She respected my mom, but my dad’s the actual descendant, I think. Is it because he stole that charm from the Hall? It doesn’t really do anything, though.

The office’s imposing doors stood before me. Well, if this doesn’t go as planned, say goodbye to that heirloom, Teresa. I pushed open the doors and, without glancing at the table, took a seat at Milliheim’s desk, next to Aaron.

Ms. Copper drummed her fingers on the mahogany desk. “Ms. Beta, Mr. DeAndrick. We’ve brought you back because we’d like to hear more of your plan. The spirits are planning to attack Ensilion and the Great Bridge, so we need a flank strategy that’ll take us straight to Reapra. We trust you two will provide.”

Slashed Ink.
Steward McOy