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Chapter Three: Cradle

  1. Once out of the library building Celeste began sprinting towards the nearest public transit docking station. The ferry had about another ten minutes until it arrived, and after the mild confrontation with Professor Yama, Celeste was nervous about staying too long. There were four University students clustered together discussing how unfair the calculous exam had been. She decided if she tucked herself into the seat behind them, she would be harder to see if protectorate decided to search for her. She pulled out her library book, and flipped to where she left off, but could not concentrate. If Yama changed his mind and contacted protectorate, it would draw attention to her status, or lack thereof.

    Her parents had died she was seven. Afterwards she had been placed in custody of guardians. They had moved her from what was left of her home in western city of Mundai, to overcrowded home in the middle of the continent in the town of Enduan, where the nearest water mass was tiny creek over thirty kilometers away. The family she was with had taken in four other children, Two older boys, one older girl, and a girl around the same age as Celeste. Her guardians were very busy and so not much attention was payed to Celeste. They enrolled her in school. Her first day, dressed in uniform, navy blue pleated skirt, with navy blue button up blouse, her hair in neat and tidy braids, she should have blended in with the other students. Yet as she stepped off the ground transport, everyone stopped their play to gawk at her. She was a daughter of dirty subverses. She tried to avoid their gazes and looked at the ground as she walked past to her classroom. When she came in, the teacher introduced her, “This is our newest pupil, Cell-est-ee”. Celeste grimaced and the prolonged e sound added to her name, “uhm Celeste.” She corrected. The teacher smiled and nodded, “please take your seat.” Nearly everyone often mispronounced her name, and after this moment most of the students mispronounced it on purpose.

    Three weeks of she faced continuous bullying and harassment, for not only was she a spawn of subverses, she had the nerve of being too smart and making other students look bad in comparison. Once she was grabbed by the neck by one thick fisted boy, and locked in a storage container filled with old unused gym equipment for the entire school day. They had let her out, and when she went to the headmaster she was given detention for three planetary rotations, and an extra rotation for lying. Celeste did not serve her unfair sentence. She decided that she rather take her chances elsewhere. That night when her foster family was in heated argument she stole one of the other foster boy’s book bag, packed clothes and food. Knowing she would have better chances in the East she headed for Azai.

    Five solar rotations later, here Celeste sat at a ferry station with no family to call her own. Her blonde hair that reached down to her elbows she tied back into a messy and loose pony tail. As the ferry chugged towards the stop, Celeste pulled up her tattered gray bag with a red strap and put away her library book. Celeste waited for the four other students to get on first. From the front pocket of her bag she pulled a slim clear card from her bag. The navigator did not look at her as he extended his crystal pad towards Celeste. She passed her clear card over the pad and they both glowed green momentarily and she boarded. This ferry was old and probably in dire need of surface, with faded lime green paint, and rusty hinges. In the back of the transport was a row of empty seats which Celeste preferred. The vessel rocked gently from side to side, which she found comfort in. It reminded her of her house boat, and the gentle swaying it would do as soft waves rocked it like a cradle. She remembered her mother and father sitting on the porch watching the two moons rise.

    For a moment she closed her eyes and tried to remember. For a moment she was a little girl, barefoot in a nightgown, running to jump into her father’s arms. He held her close and named the stars. “Over there, we call that star Zubra” he said pointing at Earth’s son, which seemed an impossible distance away, “is a solar system we suspect may support life.” “Will we put people there someday? Like we did to Unpha?” Young Celeste asked. He smiled at her, “Univah,” he corrected, “maybe someday, but not for a very long time.” Her mother chimed in with a kind smile, “you are up past your bed time.”

    Celeste tried very hard, but could not remember their faces. She knew her father had short hair that was blonde like hers, her mother had long red hair, but her day dream could not pull the rest of their features together. Along with her home photos, including the ones in data storage had been destroyed. All their belongings burned to ash with her parents. Celeste had been told it was what they deserved.

    Twenty minutes later she swiped her clear card against a panel on the wall to signal that she was ready to get off, and the ferry chugged slowly to a stop. Getting off she smiled seeing her only friend Ava only a few meters away. Ava was three solar rotations older and had the curves of a woman already. Her hair was dark brunette hair that contrasted with her nearly white skin and her eyes a deep green. She wore much tighter fitting clothes and a Blue corset over her long sleeved white blouse, and tight black pants. She carried a blue hand bag that matched her corset. The corset was just for show as she much liked to show off her figure. Celeste adored Ava. She met her within her first solar rotation in Azai, and Ava took her under her wing.

    Ava knew from the beginning that Celeste was intelligent. Celeste may have kept her nose stuck in books, but she had more understanding of how computers worked than her. When she had met Celeste she had a foundational knowledge of the three different programing codes, and over several solar rotations Celeste knew more code than anyone Ava had ever met. Celeste was very useful, but very naive and Ava found it fortunate that they had met so she could guide her.

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