Chapter 1:

Chapter One: Initiation

Binary Star


"Spica, you have to go!" Mother`s desperate screams rang in my ears as I clawed out to her and Father. I wanted to touch them, but they were just barely out of my reach. The escorters had me locked in their clutches, trying to drag me onboard the S.S. Lillium. I squirmed and thrashed to no avail. "But I don`t wanna go! I wanna stay with you and Father!"

Father reached foward and gently stroked my cheek. His eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot. He forced an awful, despairing smile. "Spica, listen to me. You have to go on the ship. You have to escape. There isn`t enough room for your mother and I. You can`t see us anymore. From now on, you need to learn to live on your own. I want you to help Berenice, and I want you to protect and watch over little Chi, understand?" I sniffled hard, biting my lip until it bled. "But...Father..."

"No buts," Mother said. She narrowed her eyes as if to appear angry, but I knew she only did it to mask her fear. "Listen to your father. Go with your sisters. The nice people on the ship will help you and take care of you, okay? You`re going to find a new home, a better home. You and your sisters have such a long and bright future ahead of you...I wish your father and I could be around to see it. When you get older, whatever happens, don`t ever give up. I love you, my little Spica."

She leaned toward me and planted a small kiss on my cheek before the escorters yanked me away. They dragged me onto the loading dock alongside Berenice, who clutched a perpetually crying Chi

in her quivering arms. Her pink eyes were swollen with tears. She looked as though she wanted to scream, but no voice would come out. I reached out to my parents one last time. "Mother...Father...PLEASE DON`T LEAVE ME!"

Those words reverberated in my brain as the airlock doors sealed shut, enclosing me in a windowless prison of steel. That was the last I ever saw of my mother and father. The escorters pulled my sisters and I along, deeper into the bowels of the S.S. Lillium. The metal floors beneath my feet quaked and shook. I felt that the entire structure was being propelled or lifted upward. My ears popped, and I began to wobble, so I swallowed to regain my balance. A sharp pain sliced deep into my gut. I felt sick to my stomach.

Faster and faster the ship ascended, ever increasing the hellish pressure. A pair of nurses arrived to take little Chi and whisk her off somewhere, while a few of the escorters took Berenice to our room. I would have come too- if it weren`t for the gush of fluids rising up in my throat. I wrestled away from the escorters, collapsed to my knees, and vomited all over the shiny, buff-polished steel floor. "Spica!" Berenice exclaimed. Despite her struggles, the workers kept pulling her away.

Meanwhile, I coughed and hacked on my own fluids. Dripping tears and running snot mixed in with the vomit, creating a sickening slurry. I trembled all over. I couldn`t make myself stop crying. My throat ached. Weakly, I staggered to my feet and turned my head, gazing out of the main window. It was a heavy, impossibly thick pane of glass that stretched across the entire length of the ship. I stumbled toward the window and pressed my face against it.

Lillius resembled a tiny, glowing blue sphere in the distance. Behind that hung an ever-growing, white-hot ball of light. My home planet was barely a pinprick in front of it. Our sun, Spica, the star I was named after- was now merging with its smaller sister. The smaller star was sucked toward, rapidly consumed and swallowed into its harsh nuclear flame. The closer they merged, the larger and larger Spica grew. I stared on in a mix of terror, disbelief, and pure awe. How could something like this be happening- to my own home, no less?

In school, I was taught about events like this, but they all seemed so impossible to actually be real. Even if it were real, it would never happen to us. There was no chance. As a naive child, that was what I thought. But here it was, happening right before my eyes.

A brillant, overpowering flash of light filled my field of vision. The intense light swallowed everything around it. My eyes burned, feeling like they would melt in my skull, but I could not tear myself away. All I could see was pure, hot white. I expected to be blinded by the monstrous solar flash. But slowly, my vision faded back into view. I wish I had never seen what I saw that day.

Lillius...it wasn`t there anymore. It was just...gone, as if it had never existed at all. All that remained of my world was a loose ring of shattered dust and rock orbiting the now-massive sun. Spica`s little sister had been eaten. Everything, everything I ever knew...it was all gone. My home, my friends, my family, the mother and father I loved so much...all disappeared, evaporated into celestial dust. My eyes burned because I refused to blink.

All of this...it was too much for me to take in at such a young age. I was just a child. I couldn`t comprehend it. I sobbed loudly. My hot tears ran down the cool glass. I don`t know how long I stood by that window. It felt like years. Time seemed to move so slowly in that moment. I watched Spica and the remnants of my home grow smaller and smaller, until they became a tiny speck in the distance, and then vanished entirely.

Now, I was surrounded by darkness, a pitch-black, empty canvas speckled with stars. At the time, I didn`t realize that the fate of my entire species was at stake. Our home was gone now. Where would we go? What would we do? Those questions should have weighed on me more than anything, but instead, all I heard were the voices of Mother and Father, replaying in my head over and over again. I had to remember their voices. I needed to remember what they looked like. If I forgot them, it would be like killing them a second time.

A couple of the escorters approached me. "Spica Virginis, come. It is time to join the cabin with your sister." They whisked me away to a small room. Berenice was kneeling on the bed, sobbing into a pillow. Her long blue hair was matted and stuck out in all directions. One of the workers gestured to her. "Ms. Virginis, your sister is here." She looked up. "Oh, Spica..."

I ran up and jumped into her arms. I probably squeezed her tight enough to break her ribs, but I didn`t hear a peep of pain from her. "Why...why did this have to happen?" I sniffled. "Why did Mother and Father have to die?!" Berenice shook her head. "I...I don`t know. Sometimes...bad things just happen." She rattled as she clutched me in her arms. Poor Berenice. Now that Father and Mother were gone, she had to take care of Chi and I all by herself. She was just as broken as I was, but she had no time to mourn. She had to replace both of our parents, learn to do all of the things they could do on her own.

From that moment on, I swore to myself I would become just as capable as her. Even if I could never be equal to my sister, at least I could be close enough. I had to. Not just for her and Chi, but for Mother and Father as well. After all, who knew what the dangers of our new home would entail...

PRESENT DAY-

I jolted upright, drenched in sweat. The sheets tangled around my legs as I tumbled out of bed and hit the hard metal floor. I groaned in pain and laid there for a while, simply staring up at the ceiling. I just wanted to lay there forever. You`d think after all these years, that nightmare would eventually go away. It didn`t. It lingered like a curse, to constantly remind me of what I lost. But I couldn`t dwell in the past. Today was an important day.

I crawled to my feet and stumbled my over to the vanity, grimacing at my reflection. All I saw was pain reflected in those sky-blue eyes. I stripped out of my nightgown and pulled on my 501st Wing Scout uniform, a simple, black and white skirted outfit lined in pink and studded with magenta buttons. It was complete with metallic knee-high boots, a sailor collar, and a red scarf.

I combed my short pink hair and put on a white ribbon headband. At least I could look halfway presentable to the council and not get kicked off the team before I was even assigned my mission.

When I finished dressing, I took the elevator up to the initiation ceremony. But, to be frank, 'ceremony' was a bit of false advertising. It was more of a debriefing than anything.

The Commander would give us our mission, location, and the Earthian we were to be paired up with, before beaming us down to the planet`s surface and leaving us to take care of our own business from there.

Us Lilliputians` search for a new home had taken us to a distant planet in a faraway galaxy. Out of all the planets we investigated, this place, apparently named Earth, was our best hope for survival. The rest of the options were either uninhabitable to our kind or populated by dangerous native races. We made the decision to travel to one of the planets where the local inhabitants shared our genes, but that turned out to be more difficult than we had originally anticipated.

The first location, a colony in the Pleiades Star Cluster, was populated by a race of colossal carnivorous monsters known as Nephilim, who possessed a very dangerous taste for Lilliputian blood. At that rate, the diminiutive remainder of our kind would end up on a plate. The second, Hanabira, seemed nice enough, until we discovered that the planet`s air was oversaturated with oxygen, and therefore unbreathable to us. The others were much too far for the S.S. Lillium to reach with its limited fuel supplies. So we went for our last closest option- Earth. It had everything we needed. Food, water, breathable air, stable climate- it seemed perfect, a little too perfect, for that matter.

But there was a catch. That catch being the planet`s dominant sentient species, who we paled in comparison to. Next to them, we were little more than insects. The humans, or Earthians, as we liked to call them, were terrifying, no doubt, but we were at our wit`s end. We couldn`t keep wandering the expanse of space forever, waiting for some perfect planet to drop into our laps.

Lillius was gone. We needed a new home- and fast. Even with Earth`s giant natives, this was the best chance we would get.

So, we started sending transmissions. We sent coded messages in the universal language of mathematics, which the humans were thankfully intelligent enough to pick up and decipher. For a few months, there was a lot of back-and-forth messaging, lots of questions about what Earth was like, whether or not we came in peace, things like that. Of course, we never intended any harm. Even if we did, we would have no chance of defeating the Earthians. We weren`t imperial warlords, we were refugees from a dead planet, and the meager weaponry we had left could not be wasted on an unwinnable galactic war.

The message to the Earthians was simple: we didn`t come here because we wanted to, we came here because we had to. As it stood, we were entirely at the humans` mercy. The future of our race hung on whether or not they would let us stay on the planet. But by the grace of the universe, we came to an agreement. We would share our technology, stay out of their way, and allow life on Earth to continue as normal in exchange for us to colonize Earth and call it our new home, under the protection of the Earthian governments. At last, it seemed like the Lilliputians had a future.

Unfortunately, we would have to learn to survive the hazards that nature entailed, and adjust to living alongside our new massive-sized neighbors. To accomplish that, Scouts like Berenice and I were sent down to Earth on missions to learn more about humanity and their world. For females on the S.S. Lillium, there was one of two fates: to be a concubine, or to be a Scout. My sister and I chose the latter.

We studied and trained hard for many years to become Scouts, and now, our day of reckoning was finally here. We could be sent to anywhere on that huge blue planet, for any reason. Berenice and I would likely never see each other again. We were both keenly aware of that fact, but we accepted it anyway. After all, this wasn`t for us. This was for the future of our species, for our children and our children`s children, for the mother and father we had lost so tragically all those years ago, and for all the poor unfortunate souls who weren`t lucky enough to be taken away on the S.S. Lillium. That was what our mission was for, and I was determined to accomplish it- at any cost.

When I arrived at the initiation ceremony, the Commander of the 501st Wing Scouts was there to greet us. Her name was Sigma Hydrae. She was a tall, lean woman clad in the typical jet-black, double-breasted Lilliputian military coat. Her long, forest-green hair nearly flowed down to her knees. A dripping scar ran down the right half of her face, passing over one of her intense golden eyes. She emanated an aura of immense power. "Salutations, Virginis Sisters." Her voice was polite, yet stern.

Berenice and I saluted her and said, "Greetings, Commander Hydrae." I glanced over to Berenice. Her uniform was lined in blue, and her matching hair was tied back in a bushy ponytail by a black bow. She was superior to me in every way. Not only was she a head taller than me, but she stood straight and resolute, while I couldn`t stop fidgeting. She was an ideal soldier. I just barely managed to pass the test to make it this far. Although I was determined to be a successful Scout, I felt so awkward among these powerful women. I didn`t belong here.

"I congratulate you both on passing your final exams," Commander Hydrae said. "I am well aware it is nowhere near easy for anyone. But now that your training is over, the hard part is only just beginning. You will each be sent down to Earth on your own separate missions, and you shall be paired up with a human who we have deemed worthy of being your guardian. You will live alongside them in their home residence and gather data about Earth`s customs, culture, and most of all- dangers. Everything you encounter will be submitted back to us in an official report detailing your findings once every month. Take heed that you will be entirely on your own in your mission. No one will help you, and no one will rescue you. Your only assistance from us will be the weapons and equipment in your pack. If something happens to you, we cannot save you. There is no guarantee that you will survive the hazards Earth possesses, and you may not come back alive. Do I make myself clear?"

Berenice and I nodded. "Yes, ma`am."

"Very good," Sigma replied. She handed each of us a holographic tablet displaying our mission, objectives, and the human we were to be paired up with. "You will have until the end of the day to get your affairs in order," Sigma explained. "After that, you will be beamed down, and your mission on Earth will begin. I wish you luck, both of you. You are now dismissed." I swallowed hard. "Thank you, Commander Hydrae. We will do our best."

Strangely, Berenice vanished after the initiation ceremony ended. I expected her to talk with me about it, but she just went off on her own instead. I tried my best to shake it off. She probably had more important business to attend to. My sister had many friends here on the S.S. Lillium she would have to say goodbye to. Today may have been the last day she would ever see them.

I took a glance at the tablet Commander Hydrae had given me. Apparently I was being sent to a place called Tokyo Denki University, a school where matured humans learned certain specialized skills or trades. There was nothing like that in our society. Once we finished basic school and reached adult age, our occupations were chosen by the Lilliputian queen, based on our talents and abilities. My mission was more of a cultural one, to study the habits of human behavior and the way their society ran. For a technologically lesser species, the Earthians possessed a shockingly complex and diverse range of societies.

And speaking of Earthians, the one I was paired up with was rather...scary-looking, as I might put it. Not that he appeared initially threatening, but he had a look about him that suggested something deeper than one would believe. He had short, spiky, grayish-black hair and hazel-brown eyes, just a few shades darker than Commander Hydrae`s brilliant gold. "Jinnai Kobayashi, 18 years old," I read aloud. "How strange..."

Just then, I was tackled from behind and nearly knocked to the ground. A little purple-haired girl rushed up and threw her arms around me. "Hi, Spica!" Chi cheered. "I heard you got a mission! That`s awesome! What`s it about? Where you going? Come on, tell me, tell me!"

Chi Virginis was lucky enough to be spared from most of the suffering Berenice and I were forced to endure. She had only been a baby when Lillius was destroyed by the stellar collision, so she had no memory of her home, her parents, or anything, for that matter. Hence her overly-bubbly personality.

"Now, calm down, Chi," I grinned, ruffling her short, wispy purple hair. "This is a very important mission, you know. It`s a secret." Chi stuck out her lip and pouted. "Aww, can`t you tell me anything? At school today, we learned about the Earthians! They`re supposed to be really, really big, they could even hold the tallest Lilliputian in their hands! You and Big Sister are going to meet an Earthian, aren`t you? Please tell me!" I chuckled nervously. "Chi, I really can`t-"

The mischevious girl swiped the tablet from my hands. "Oh, so that`s the Earthian you`re going to meet! I don`t know about you, but he looks scary! Aren`t you afraid? I mean, he might eat you!"

I hadn`t considered that. Humans were supposed to be partly carnivorous, but they didn`t seem to be as bloodthirsty as the Nephilim. Apparently they didn`t eat sentient beings, but still, no one really knew for sure. I laughed awkwardly again in an attempt to downplay my fear. "Don`t be silly! Don`t worry, he`s not going to eat me. I`m sure he`s very nice. The council wouldn`t pick a mean one, right?"

"Yeah, I guess you`re right," Chi muttered. "Spica, when are you and Big Sister going to come back?" I bit my lip. "I...I don`t know. But we won`t keep you waiting too long, I promise.

And I`ll bring you back all sorts of cool stuff from Earth, how does that sound?" Chi clamped her arms around my waist once again. "That sounds great! I hope you have fun! Come to see me again sometime, okay? And be safe!"

I nodded slowly. "Of course I will." I felt bad about lying to Chi, because I couldn`t promise any of those things. Still, she was my precious little sister. I had to settle her mind at least a little bit. It was all I could do.

I spent the rest of the day gathering my clothes and my meager belongings, stuffing them into my pack. Today might be the last day I would ever set foot on the S.S. Lillium, so I needed to take everything I possibly could. It was better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it.

As I lifted up one of my older outfits, a piece of paper slipped out of the bottom and drifted to the floor like a falling leaf. I picked it up. It was a wrinkled, weathered photograph, the last memento I had from Lillius. Mother and Father were smiling as they held me, Berenice, and a tiny Chi swaddled in blankets in their arms.

I couldn`t remember where we had taken that picture. Maybe it was when Chi was born. Perhaps it was my birthday. Or maybe a holiday. I didn`t know, and I could not recall. All I remembered was when Mother stuffed the picture into my pocket before the escorters dragged me away onto the ship.

I gazed at the photograph, my lips trembling. Those happy faces, frozen in time. Even if the entire world dies, as long as that picture exists, that moment captured will be preserved for all eternity. I could almost hear the laughter through the echoes of the past. I stuffed the photo into my pack and sealed up the metal lid before I burst into tears. In that moment, I remembered what I was really doing all this for.

That day seemed to drag on forever, but my time came soon enough. With all of my weapons, equipment, and possessions in tow, I left my cabin behind for the last time and headed down to the docks. Berenice was already there. She swiveled her head over her shoulder. "Hey, Spica. You ready to go?" I nodded slowly. "Yes...I am." I wanted to ask her about her mission, but Scouts were forbidden from disclosing their objectives, even to each other. To each of us, we were headed to parts unknown, possibly to never see each other again.

Berenice sauntered up and placed a hand on my shoulder. "Don`t look so sad, Spica. This is for the best. We can finally get off this cursed ship and see our new home." I shook my head. "You...you don`t understand. This could be the last time we ever see each other. What if something happens to us down there? What if we get killed? Then little Chi will be all alone. You remember what Mother and Father said, don`t you?"

"Yes, I do," Berenice replied. "But they also said to not give up no matter what happens. Listen, I know you`re afraid, but you can`t let that get in the way. We have to go, we don`t have a choice. Just keep your head up, remember your training, and you`ll be fine. I love you, Spica." I hugged her tightly. "I love you too. I guess...it`s time to go."

Berenice and I split up and traveled to the beaming stations on our own. I didn`t look back. I stepped into the cramped, pure-white pod and sealed the airlock door. I programmed my destination into the system. A loud hum filled the compact space. I felt the vibrations from the floor radiating up into my legs. A bright light swirled around me. It felt as though the molecules of my body were splitting apart. A whole new world awaited me. All I had to do was swallow my fear and accept it. I crossed my arms against my chest and sealed my eyes shut as the gossamer light consumed me entirely. 

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