Chapter 15:

The Musuem Tour

[NO LONGER UPDATING] Ceres's Chaos: A Tragic Space Opera

Ceres absolutely dreaded this upcoming part of the year, where it was time for the annual orphanage tour to the museum, or more specifically, the Athen Planetary Museum of Star Records.

That was the short version of the name, the not so short official version had the inclusion of every corporation and individual that 'donated' to it, their names almost covering the entrance wall.

It was part of the local educational requirement that every year, students of any school would have to go for an annual tour. Considering being the only major city on the planet, the museum was doing relatively very well for itself, monopolizing the local population and the space port.

Due to the sheer number of students, multiple schools usually took their tour at the same time for the same year, so the Zone where the museum was held was almost always busy in the first half of the year, bustling with young teenagers.

While Zone 17 Military Orphanage wasn't necessarily considered a typical educational school, and its students mostly orphans that were better referred to as military recruits or cadets, they weren't exempted from such a requirement.

The tour groups were bundled together in their year rather than their friend groups, so Ceres, Erik and Braton were grouped together with the rest of the 20-year-old 'students' for this trip, leaving Ardan and Lisa to be grouped in another tour separately .

"You think they're gonna teach us something new this time round, or the same boring drivel again? That monster of a painting last time was the ideal weight for my routine. Maybe I should take it home this time." Braton yawned as the students sat on the hoverbus that was taking them to Zone 1, where the Athen Planetary Museum was.

The double-decker hoverbus looked more like a prison van due to the frames on the window that seems to prevent something from getting out rather than getting in, being one of the cheaper ones that were available for hire.

The seats were positioned two to either side of the bus per row, with the middle aisle being left open for them to walk through. Braton looked behind his seat to see Erik and Ceres sitting together.

"It better be something new." Erik absent-mindedly played with a spare nerval plug earned from his riot repairing days. Erik wasn't too interested in what they've been teaching them before, which was only fantasies and myth about how humanity rose to the stars from their ancient homeland, Earth, a thousand years ago. It was all child stories.

The Museum accurately deciphered through surveys and feedback that it had the best reception compared to droning lectures of the finer points of imperial succession history or the relatively peaceful colonization of Athen and continued existence as an imperial territory.

Ceres didn't reply, absolutely focused on his multi where a brutal contest between man and a Glucose Rush stage timer was occurring.

He had managed to beat his previous record, but the all-time record planet-wide was at least 20 stages in front of him, his position still fixed at the seventh. His right hand moved in a blur as his brain quickly computed all the possible combinations.

It was a hallmark feature for Ceres to play this game during any form of transportation, and many in the orphanage recognized Ceres as a crazy guy who was obsessed with that particular game.

In reality, Ceres justified to himself that he was playing this in order to train his brain plus hands. As with any addiction, the first stage is denial.

All inner zones were similar to the industrial district that Ceres fought in which was Zone 5, being made of large spacious underground caverns that could fit an entire city in itself. By ancient human standards, each zone could be called a metropolis.

There were thirty-six zones in total, with twelve being inner zones and the rest being outer zones. Naturally, the more centralized the zone was the more expensive it is, as the city developed in an outward circular manner from the center.

The museum was extremely large such that it even extended into the ceiling of the spacious cavern that it occupied, which was Zone 1, the heart of New Saint.

Zone 1 was one of the richest underground inner zones and highly contested areas, making the previous industrial district of Zone 5 look like a slum.

The city seemed to grow around, along and upwards of the massive hourglass-shaped columns of cavern rock that acted as huge pillars holding up the ceiling.

The entire Zone existed in a three-dimensional layout, with buildings dotting the ceiling that made use of Floa-induced anti-grav technology, making the Zone feel like it was a loop of nonstop buildings and skyscrapers that extended indefinitely.

Massive amounts of shuttles followed traffic routes in the air between buildings, while large holographic advertisements selling the latest exosuit design or civilian ship dotted the sky through preplaced drones.

On the ground, Zone 1 was extremely packed during the day as it was where most of the corporations in Athen had their headquarters at, making it also the center of transportation.

Major cargo elevators that brought spaceships up and down from the surface landing pads operated non-stop all year round, with containers of imported food and consumer goods stocked to the brim in nearby warehouses, while crew members took their much-deserved offshore leave before venturing off.

While Ceres hated most of the museum trip from as early as he could remember, this part of the trip was always the one that excited him the most.

Despite having participated in riots across the inner zones, he has actually never been to any of the four 'rich' zones apart from this annual museum trips, which were Zone 1 to 4.

His nose barely keeping its shape against the window, he was enthralled by the various technological marvels and ingenious solutions that the inner zone citizens applied year after year, although he would never get to touch them ever. His amber eyes flickered non-stop, trying to take in all the sights.

Unless he wins the competition, which gives him undoubtedly the best starting position for a shot at entering the Dest Legion.

The reminder of this in his brain dampened his ecstatic feeling at seeing Zone 1, as every minute spent here amounted to another minute that could've been spent training.

He had just dedicated himself to the competition as a promise to himself, yet he was here. Ceres sighed but still kept craning his neck and straining to see everything as the hoverbus floated along its designated route that was assigned by the city administration AI.

It was also responsible for the horrible numbering sequence of the thirty-six zones due to the lack of budget by the city administration themselves in the beginning, seeing as the zones were numbered in no particular order, not even chronologically.

The hoverbus soon started descending to its landing zone within one of the public shuttle parking buildings, upon which the students would take an elevator down to the ground and proceed on foot.

The hoverbus didn't have an authorization to park anywhere closer to the museum or its private parking space, because of the sheer amount of bookings that snapped up those slots extremely fast.

Reaching the ground, Ceres stepped out of the cramped elevator that was previously being brutally murdered by the insistent jumping of childish 20-year-old orphans against the panicked shouting of the volunteer teachers who brought them along.

What greeted him was a seriously packed pedestrian street filled with people from all walks of life, though not as bad as what he had just experienced in the elevator.

The street was decorated with beautiful holographic balloons and flowers floating in the air, flanked by varying types of architecture in housing choice. Most were extremely high-rise sleek condominiums that seemed to be only held together by glass, but a considerable minority was shorter-height imperial architecture, forming marble pillars and decorations that painted wonderful battles and events that occurred in imperial history.

In the middle of the street were all types of people: multiple buskers who played elegant music, financial consultants who hounded anyone unfortunate enough to catch their attention, start-up CEOs who had their entire life in a single bag and part-timers running media terminals wrestled for dominance of the attention of the pedestrians on the street, mostly being office workers heading off for lunch breaks.

Ceres' eyes were drawn to a media terminal that was right outside the elevator entrance, which displayed in large holograms rotating around it the latest news headlines and stock market information.

People could pay for specific reviews of the latest news at different media terminals, whose main income stemmed from being able to predict future trends in the market or the impact of political news on the economy.

["Political News Today! Zachary Denar Loeric, the 561th Imperial Prince who graduated from the Imperial Royal Academy on the capital two years ago has finally publicly pledged that he will be participating in the succession race!]

[He is currently intending to build a base of supporters in Athen, hoping that the scion of the Dynasty of Hawthorn and current in-charge of Athen, Cardenia Hawthorn, would join him in his main push for a better life for all commoners across the empire.”]

[“She has not replied to our request for comments, but it is a tricky position for her as her Dynasty already supports five other imperial princes and princesses while she doesn’t support anyone personally. Zachary doesn't seem to be worth it at the moment for Hawthorn to back, having nothing to his name currently, but this may be subject to changes in the future."]

["In other local news, Henry Lesion, at the young age of 34, has been appointed as the new deputy director of the police enforcers' city division. His longstanding clean record and former enlistment into the Alpha Legion is a testament to both his skills and dedication to keeping the streets of Athen clean.]

[Many citizens may remember him as the champion of the competition from sixteen years ago, which was also the instigation for the mass riots during that period. He has vowed to never let that happen again under his watch.”]

[“The promotion comes after a stunning execution of a long-running series of anti-graft policies that have exposed a deeper underlying network of corruption and rebellious activity that thankfully is only limited to a few public figures and not anywhere near our main sponsor Keira's Skincare, experts in rejuvenating your skin so you don't look a day past 200. Sign up today at Zone 4 in the Seras General Hospital, Level 12 for a free consultation."]

Ceres didn't care about the news that hardly affected him, especially the shameless sponsorship advertisements, but the next one was the main one that caught his attention.

["Chad Athen, an up and rising promising star from the top of the Five Families College has boasted about winning the entire competition. Looking down on almost every other participant apart from his own team, he was quoted saying that “No one deserves my time in this competition.” However, he hasn't lost a single match both internally nor externally; not even come close to losing one!”]

[“He seems to be the perfect graduate at this rate, adept at weapons, unarmed combat and exosuit repairs! The upcoming graduation competition seems to be a rollover at this point as not even his own schoolmates can top his results! He will be participating in the exosuit repair category, so that will be one category to watch out for!"]

An image of Chad appeared floating over the media terminal, causing Ceres to almost mistake him for some celebrity if it was not for the fair skin that was a stark contrast to the outers. “Why is he even participating in exosuit repairs, he should go for a modelling competition instead!” Ceres thought to himself.

["The principal of the same Five Families College, Oliver Athen, could not be reached for comment on his grandson. However, it is a well-known result that over the past sixteen years, the Five Families College has won ten years of the local graduation competition and is currently on a five-year winning streak!”]

[“Their students even go on to perform in the system-wide competition, with their last student Rachel Athen being the winner of the system-wide competition 4 years ago! Rumour has it that Oliver Athen is also planning to establish a research university on this planet, which would be in direct competition against the universities that are already established on Strathon, the main planet of this system!"]

Ceres felt a slight pinch of anger rise within him, though just a minor one. “No one deserves his time? What an upright prick.” Ceres mumbled as he realized that Chad Athen would be in the same category as him for the competition.

Since Ceres decided to win the competition, the two of them were bound to meet each other. Erik, who was also joining the exosuit repair category, stood next to Ceres near the elevator entrance, reading the same piece of news.

"Wow, imagine if I won the competition... Then I'll be on the news too! Though a bit less condescending. Are all inners like him?" Erik whistled, letting himself fall into a rabbit hole of fanciful imagination where he won the competition, still twiddling with the nerval plug in-between his fingers.

"I don’t think we can generalize all inners like this, but more critically, if he's planning to fight in the exosuit repair category of the competition, he’s going to have to face us. Let him live longer in his bubble.” Ceres smirked confidently and walked off, following the main group of students who were already being led by the teacher away from the elevator entrance and towards the museum after doing a quick headcount.

He already felt hyped up for the next 9 months of training, but he had to get this trip over with first.

The museum was a massive construction, partially funded by the Dynasty of Hawthorn to paint both the imperial family and themselves in a good light.

Shaped like an hourglass, the museum span the entire vertical height of the cavern. This gave visitors a fascinating experience when they walked on the walls, not noticing that they may be in a different orientation to others outside through the middle of the ‘hourglass’, where the gravity would flip without discomfort.

It also had various sections catering to different ages. When the group of students saw their newly assigned tour guide was bringing them to a different section of the museum than what was usually done before, Braton secretly rejoiced while Erik put away his nerval plug to listen attentively. Ceres immediately perked up, being interested.

Finally, they were doing something different! No more fairy tales and childish stories!

The acoustic design of the museum was so well done that you could hardly hear the voices of other visitors at the different exhibits both around and above, preventing others from interrupting each other.

The students had to wear earpieces to hear the tour guide speaking even, as though the entire museum was in a vacuum where barely any sound could travel.

The silence was almost unnerving, the visitors being able to hear their own blood thumping in their ear if it wasn't for the earpiece provided by the museum that could play relaxing lobby music.

As they followed the tour guide, Ceres checked his multi-terminal for the museum tour agenda which had just been updated when he entered.

Certain sections were compulsory, like the one their tour guide was leading them through, while others were completely optional, vastly different from previous years where they were forced into three sections only.

The students had two compulsory sections and three optional ones, where a reflection and report were expected for each section after the trip. He looked forward to some optional ones, but for now he had to grit and survive the first two compulsory sections, hoping it wasn’t some boring drivel.

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