Timelining!

Late as usual. This time my excuse is…

Anyway, today we’ll be looking at timelines, what some ‘sensible’ people might have done before they started writing a word; and done for the length of the book, not just for backstory. Well, ‘sensible, schmensible’, that’s what I say! Not that that’s not what you should do when you’re being sensible, just that I’m not sensible. Ever.

(Seriously; did you see what my plan is for NaNoWriMo? I’m practically insane!)

As always for Troped! planning posts, here’s the page from the notebook o’ notes. Please note that the ‘Arbitrary Birthdays’ are done the British Way, i.e. day/month, i.e. the Proper Way. 😉

Troped 8

There’s a bit of obscuration in the Arbitrary Birthdays section, a while ago I had decided that Amy had skipped a grade because she was so intelligent, but I then realised that threw all the other ages out of whack, so I’ve discarded that plot point and decided she had skipped a grade due to her intelligence, but then had to repeat a year because of the murder of her parents.

In case it’s too scribbly–Amy and Hannah are sixteen, Jericho is seventeen but in the same year as them, just a few months older, and Tess is seventeen but in the year above. Harbinger’s age I took a while to decide on, it depended somewhat on how old he was when he volunteered as an Altercon, and thus when exactly the Altercon experiments began. Nic(k) was born in 2141–and I’ll tell you what my train of thought was on that one so you can understand the ‘I FORGOT HOW TIME WORKS!’ note and know just how stupid I am.

‘Duuuuuuh… Luce is the oldest, and he’s thirty-three, but he’ll be thirty-four later on in the year, so 73 minus 34 is 39, so he was born in 2139. Niccolo is two years younger, so he was born in 2137.

Wait! That’s not how time works!’

And it was actually a fair few minutes before that clicked with me.

The small Altercon timeline project is pretty straightforward in and of itself; it’s not set in stone and is only there to give me a rough length of time in my head, so that if I have to talk about past events, I’ll know where they are in relation to each other. The points of interest, in this case, are the paragraph at the top of the page where I lay out the idea that randomly occurred to me while I was writing Chapter 2, about Zhirenkov being replaced by a robot duplicate by his wife after Nick killed him, and that in the course of writing the timeline I randomly decided why exactly Zhirenkov had killed Regatta (Winnie’s ‘sister’).

Also I drew a compass for no reason.

That’s it for today folks! NaNoWriMo approaches fast and soon you’ll be hearing far less from me because of it, so I’ll leave you with the first remark my mother made when I let her look at the notebook I’m using to plan out ‘The Points’, this year’s NaNo project …

Mum: *frowns* …You’re writing a book called ‘The Pants’?

Chapter Two: Mysterious Stranger (II)

Two days later than I’d said it would be, once because of crappy internet, once because Miss Marple was on. (Both times because I hadn’t actually finished this section of the chapter–but we had a NaNo prep meet today and I took the opportunity)

No further introduction this time–when we last left our heroes they were shooting the breeze in the mall-type-place when they noticed the mysterious ‘Harbinger’–who had run into several of their number in chapter one, literally, giving our heroine Amy a small wound that had since healed up suspiciously fast–watching them from the next floor up…

 

*~*~*

Jericho recognised his all-black ensemble, his hair and the shape of his frame from seeing him knock Luke over that one time.

He was standing next to a short black girl with pigtails and glasses; a girl who was kind of hard to miss in her long sparkly rainbow-coloured coat. Jericho had seen her around school too, but didn’t know her by name. She looked like she was talking to him happily, but he just kept looking at them, and if Jericho wasn’t mistaken, at Amy in particular.

Warning bells were beginning to go off in Jericho’s head.

“Oh my god, that is him, isn’t it?” said Hannah. “Is he looking at us?”

Amy waved at him. Jericho felt like he should tell her not to, but he couldn’t think of a good reason to stop her from simply waving. He didn’t believe Harbinger was really cursed, after all.

“You sure you want to attract his attention like that?” asked Jocelyn.

Harbinger tilted his head for a second, then waved back. The response was slow enough to make him seem even creepier.

But the girl next to him saw him wave, and after a brief exchange of words she’d taken him by the arm and begun leading him towards the escalator to their floor.

“Crap, are they coming down here?” Luke muttered.

“Who’s the girl with him?”

Amy’s question elicited shrugs from everyone in the group. And you’d have thought someone in their group would know who such a stand-out figure was. Maybe she…

No. No, he seriously couldn’t think of a reason he hadn’t heard talk about her. Probably that meant he had, and he just hadn’t been listening.

“She’s pretty short,” Jocelyn observed. “Maybe she’s a Freshman?”

Jericho shrugged. Strange as it was that anyone at all willingly hung around a guy nicknamed ‘Harbinger’, let alone a short, quirky Freshman, he wasn’t all that interested. He was even about to change the subject while they waited for the two of them to appear, but then, without warning, Mercedes Talbot swooped in behind Harbinger from the other direction and began following him and the girl down the stairs.

“Oh, no,” Jericho groaned.

“Is that… ?”

“The love of Jerry’s life!” laughed Shane.

Jericho hit him. A little.

“Come on, be nice,” said Hannah.

Before their eyes Mercedes caught up to Harbinger and snaked her arm around his, not physically pushing the girl out of the way but casting her aside with a look somehow. She said something to him, her lips almost touching his ear, and then grinned and laughed. Harbinger’s expression didn’t change any more than it ever had, as far as Jericho had seen it.

He did see the short girl roll her eyes in annoyance. She must have at least been familiar enough with the school to know about Mercedes and her wiles.

A few seconds later the three of them were within speaking distance. Mercedes gave Jericho a flirty wink, but he just nodded, not missing how her eyes began to sneer as soon as they travelled in the direction of the girls. Amy looked like she could barely contain her anger.

“Hi, Jerry!” said Mercedes, resting her head against Harbinger’s. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Hey,” Jericho muttered. He’d usually tell anyone who said it not to call him Jerry, but in Mercedes’ case he preferred she knew as little about him as possible.

Hannah stepped forward, always eager to harmonise a negative atmosphere, and spoke cheerfully to the three newcomers.

“Hi, Mercedes.” Then, to the other girl, “I don’t think we’ve met—I’m Hannah; this is Amy, Audrey, Jocelyn, Luke, Jericho and Shane.”

“Tessa,” said the girl, extending her hand to shake with Hannah. “Tessa Lovelace. Everyone calls me Tess.”

“You a Freshman?” asked Luke.

Tess laughed, “Uh, Senior, actually.”

The group stared.

“Yeah, I get that a lot. Anyway, I was just saying to this guy he should come over and say sorry; he told me about running you guys down earlier, and I figured he was probably too embarrassed to do it on his own.”

Harbinger didn’t look embarrassed. He didn’t look anything at all. He said “Sorry,” while looking off to the side.

“That’s okay,” said Amy. “Look, the scrape healed right up. Can’t even tell I had it, mostly.”

Now that, that made Harbinger’s eyes widen. It was just a touch, but it was enough to let Jericho know the guy wasn’t one of those androids the conspiracy nuts were always whispering about.

“Does look like you missed a spot shaving your legs, though,” said Mercedes. “You should look in to that.”

Jericho was sure that if they’d been in a cartoon, Amy’s eyes would have literally gone red. He himself was only not offended on her behalf because he was so surprised that Mercedes had said what she’d said so brazenly. Seriously, who said things like that just out of the blue!?

Amy didn’t take it lying down though.

“Well, I generally don’t show them off enough for people to notice, Mercedes,” she said, with icy, false niceness. “But I’d be glad to have you over sometime so you can check for me, and I can help you with your English class like Cheviot wanted, so you don’t fail it again.”

“Amy…” said Hannah.

“Oh, Nick and I’ll work something out,” said Mercedes, still smiling but not as much as before. “And while it’s always nice to have offers, I’m afraid I don’t swing that way. You’ll have to ask Tessa here.”

She snapped her fingers then reached out and gave Tess a pat on the head—and from the look on Tess’ face the insinuation must have been on the money. It made Jericho grit his teeth—Luke wasn’t exactly interested in the ladies himself, and they did say the C through F class stations in the United Colonies of New Cascadia lagged a century or so behind in social issues. In his experience, Rhea was no exception.

“Maybe I will,” said Amy, also through gritted teeth.

“Mrrraow!” said Shane.

Jericho hit him. Harder than before.

“Ow!”

“Anyway,” said Amy, heaving her bag over her shoulder, “I’m going to be late for curfew. You want me to let the Doc know she’ll be grounding you tonight, Jericho?”

Jericho rubbed the back of his head. “I guess I can be at least that considerate,” he said.

“Great,” Amy told him. “I’ll see you all later.”

“Ames,” said Jocelyn.

No dice. Amy walked away without another word, towards the elevators. Jericho sighed heavily, and was about to turn away and try to figure out how to get rid of Mercedes without getting too confrontational, when suddenly Shane pointed out something that for once wasn’t entirely pointless.

“Hey, what’s with that guy?”

He was looking the other way from where Amy was going, and Jericho followed that line of sight, though he would have seen what was going on eventually anyway.

A man, black, in an old-fashioned black suit and sunglasses, a hi-tech looking silver device moulded noticeably onto his ear ran along the top of the railing around their floor itself—seemingly heedless of the massive drop below, perfectly balanced. People were stopping to stare as soon as he passed them, and he passed them faster running on the railing than Jericho thought most people could run on flat ground.

For a few seconds their group stared without saying anything. Strange as this sight was, there was certainly nothing to suggest it was anything to do with them. Then, just as he reached the same place Amy was walking in front of, he jumped off the railing.

“Amy!” Jericho shouted across the court, as loud as he could.

Amy turned just in time for the stranger to grab her around the shoulders.

Chapter Two: Mysterious Stranger (I)

Hello, ladies, gentlemen and shitlords of all ages, today I wanted to make the very important announcement that the TV show ‘Gotham’ is awesome, and if you haven’t watched it yet, you must do so now, or I won’t be your best friend!

Also we’re starting chapter two of Troped!. Mysterious Stranger. It’s a trope that pretty much speaks for itself–the stranger normally turning out to be either an exposition dump/mentor figure of some kind, sent to ensure the hero receives ‘The Call’ and usually doomed to die not long after, or an eventual love interest whose job is to see exposition is not dumped too soon so later reveals aren’t spoiled, even when it would make far more sense to explain everything right away. I’m looking at you, Teardrop.

Obviously this one isn’t the latter, as that job falls to Harbinger. As for the former, you might think these characters are normally reserved for fantasy novels, but I think they have their fair share in sci-fi too–how many times have we seen a ‘I knew your father before our dystopian government killed him and now you must take his role in the resistance!’ asshole show up? The variation being the wanker who instead of exposition just forks over a Mcguffin and hopes the rest will sort itself out.

Of course, this Stranger isn’t one of those types either. What type of stranger are they really? You will find out… in a week or so, because unfortunately he doesn’t show up in the first 1200 words that I’m about to post. Next post on this blog will be my commentary on ‘Halo‘ (the Adornetto novel, not the game. Sorry. I’m so sorry) and after that we’ll see how it goes…

*~*~*

II

Mysterious Stranger

 

“So Mercedes Queen-of-the-ladies is sexting you after school now? The plot thickens.”

Shane nodded like an idiot after coming to that conclusion and let a strawberry lace hang out of his mouth. Jericho jerked his Minipad away from the idiot and practically slapped the image off the screen.

“Deleted,” he announced. “And don’t worry, this plot is about as thick as a blade of grass.”

“Yeah, but grass has, like, cells and stuff, right?” said Shane. “With… vacuoles… and stuff?”

“Oh, like the one between your ears?” asked Luke, tapping Shane on the head. “Come on, everyone knows Mercedes Talbot casts her hooks out to every large body to see what will bite. At this point it’s not even worth talking about.”

“Unless our man Jerry feels like biting, huh?”

Jericho glared at him.

“Uh, sorry—Jericho feels like biting.”

“That wasn’t the only problem I had with what you said. I’m not taking any of Mercedes’ bait, and I’m frankly offended that you think I would; she’s obviously insane and she’d probably cut you as soon as kiss you.”

He punished Shane for his stupid comment further by reaching into his pic-n-mix bag and stealing a gummy worm.

“Hey…” said Shane weakly.

“Oh look, it’s your sister,” said Luke suddenly.

Eden, was the first name that came to Jericho’s mind, even after four years of her not being the only one and the fact that Eden randomly appearing at the Recpod at this time of night was patently ridiculous. It was Amy of course, his foster sister, her and her friends walking out of the cinema and talking loudly. His eyes flickered up to the display board to work out what they’d just seen.

‘Immortal Blood: Heart of Desire’. He cringed. Surely not?

“Shit, man; it’s almost ten,” said Shane. “Don’t you two have a curfew?”

Jericho shrugged. “I’m breaking it,” he said. “Don’t see why she shouldn’t too. Though I guess she could make it if she hurries. It’s not like my mom will really flip out or anything.”

“Hey, Hannah Wright is with them!” said Luke. “Think Shane should try his luck—”

“Dude, shut up!” said Shane hastily. “Don’t say stuff like that where she could hear it; she’ll totally shoot me down!”

Privately Jericho knew Shane was right about that one, but it wasn’t his place to dash his friend’s dreams of skipping through a meadow hand in hand with fairy-princess Hannah, or whatever his dreams concerning her were. He caught Amy’s gaze as she passed into the food court and waved. She smiled and waved back, and when her friends saw her do so they followed suit.

Then Amy suddenly stopped, still looking at him but not really at him (if that made any sense) and narrowed her eyes; considering something. After a moment she tapped Hannah on her shoulder, said something, then started walking towards him. This was a surprise for Jericho, who might have liked Amy to be the sort of girl who came up and talked to him when they saw each other in public—they had lived together for almost four years now—but he wouldn’t have expected her to.

She’d never really tried to get that close to him, despite their being so close in age. Not that he could blame her, considering how much it had to have hurt for her to have lost her real brother.

As she came closer he noticed a patch on her leg that he soon realised was a band-aid. He was curious, but not worried. It wasn’t a big band-aid.

“Hey Amy,” he greeted her once she was close enough to hear without yelling. “Everyone.”

The girls responded with a few ‘hi’s.

“What happened to your leg?” asked Shane.

Amy grimaced and then twisted her grimace into a smile. “Oh, we had a run-in with a celebrity,” she said.

“Cool,” said Shane. “Did you get their autograph?”

Jericho slapped the back of his head.

“I think for Harbinger that counts as an autograph,” said Audrey Huntingdon.

Harbinger? The guy who’d tried to kill a bunch of people by driving a Transpod into a building? The guy who, the way Jericho had heard it, was petitioning to have the ‘H’ in ‘GBH’ legally defined by his own name? The curse of Rhea High?

“No way, the Harbinger?” asked Shane. “Don’t you know him, Luke?”

“Know him?” Luke laughed bitterly. “I swear he broke my arm last summer. Medics said it was just a bruise but I don’t know. I’m sure I heard a crack.”

“What, on purpose?” Hannah asked him.

It hadn’t been; at least not the way Jericho had seen it, and he had been on the football pitch at the time, but he wasn’t surprised to hear Luke answer in the affirmative. He took everything personally.

Shane sometimes did as well, glaring like an idiot as he was as soon as Hannah Wright talked to another boy. Moron.

“So what’s his real name anyway?” asked Amy. “He can’t really be called ‘Harbinger’.”

Luke shrugged. “Something St. Kilda,” he told them, “or at least that’s what Coach calls him. Your leg okay?”

Putting her bag on the nearest plastic table in the food court, Amy rested her foot on the seat of an accompanying chair. Jericho saw Shane tilt his head a bit as if to get a better look at her upper legs and promptly backhanded him across the chest with a glare. Amy peeled the band-aid from her knee without comment.

“Whoah,” said Jocelyn, peering closer.

To say Jericho could see why Jocelyn had made that explanation wouldn’t have been entirely accurate. He couldn’t see anything; not on Amy’s leg anyway—and neither, apparently, could Amy, who did a pronounced double-take on seeing the unblemished skin. Maybe it was a little yellow, like there’d been a bruise that had faded to almost nothing, but that was… well, almost nothing.

“No way,” said Audrey.

“What?” he asked them.

Hannah leaned forward and put a hand gently on Amy’s knee. “That is so weird,” she said. “A few hours ago it was all torn up.”

“Well it wasn’t that bad,” said Jocelyn. “You had the band-aids, Hannah—were they like, active-healing brand? Frontier X make, or something?”

“I don’t think so,” said Hannah. “I didn’t have the box with me, but I don’t think my mom would buy stuff like that, they’re supposed to be super-expensive.”

“Huh, maybe it just healed up on its own,” said Luke.

Amy frowned. “Yeah, maybe.” She put her leg down. “Anyway, that’s the story of our fateful meeting with Harbinger St. Kilda. He skated right into me, fell over, stared at us for a while and then skated off.”

The words she said were dismissive, but the way she said them made Jericho feel like something about the encounter had really bothered her. Maybe when she said Harbinger had ‘stared’ at her. Maybe he’d done it in a really creepy way or something?

“A-ha, speak of the devil and he appears,” said Shane, pointing up at the next floor where, behind the railing on the other side of the court and looking down at them, was Harbinger.

Metaphysics

According to an episode of MST3K (which, as you’ve probably guessed, is where i get all my information) a metaphysician is someone who does not believe you are dead… when you die.

The reason it’s the title of this post is nowhere near as inane as the above statement though, and given just how inane that reason is you can guess how accurate your average MST3K movie is when it comes to… anything. No, in this case the word is use because it has the prefix ‘meta’ in it, and that’s the theme of today’s Troped! post, in case you weren’t looking at the picture attached to this post.

Here it is again, for your perusal:

Troped 7

As you can see, your author has decided upon a sudden twist for her latest novel–a twist of the postmodern variety. Postmodernism was always a feature of this novel, what with the semi-self aware characters and the constant trope-referencing, but now I have realised that area into the novel in to an actual plot point.

That being that every few chapters the reader will recieve a blog post from the author of the novel. Not me, the author, but the author that I’ve made up to create the story I’m writing from an entirely played straight perspective. The readers won’t see this novel, nor would they have wanted to, as it’s cliched and badly written (even more so than I’m writing it), instead getting the story from the perspective of me, the author who created the author writing the story.

Does that make sense?

Readers: No.

Well, too bad, it makes sense in my diseased mind!

This novel will be written entirely on the author, Siren’s, blog–a blog entitled ‘Ninquelote Wrytes’ for super bad-spelling effect. I’m thinking about making the critic of her work a card-carrying SJW constantly complaining about the portrayal of the female characters, and despite the note at the bottom of the block paragraph have decided that the characters in the story have no knowledge of what’s going on in their author’s life. How i have decided Siren and Ilia affect the plot might give too much away at this point, but suffice it to say that the major twist in the middle is something they play a big role in.

Next time on Troped!, we begin Chapter Two.

Backstory, Worldbuilding, and Other Things

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, this is your author writing. If you’ll look slightly to the left in the section labelled ‘Things’, you’ll see a new thing, that being the Troped! Saga-Project-Thing, where all posts related to this project and an introduction to said project will be lovingly listed for those of you who can’t find the page you’re already on. Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiings…

That being this page, wherein we delve into some of the tedious minutiae of writing an ingenious (-ly cliched) novel. Since it’s always the will of the villain that the ball gets rolling, their motivations are the most important to the plot. While Mercedes’ motivation is not entirely clear to me yet, the stories of the other four Five Bad Band members are–we knew that Cheviot and Twist were the victims of horrible experiments, and that Twist was only there by accident, but why was Cheviot? And what made Winnie the robot join them?

Troped 5b

So, Nick was a drug-dealing public school prep (I have since decided that his real name will be ‘Niccolo Mackenzie’, and his fake name ‘Nick Cheviot’, where before the first names were switched. This makes the obvious Machiavelli reference all my fault, not his) who accidentally killed three people and permanently damaged two more. One would imagine he finds it bitterly ironic, therefore, that he must regularly shoot up in order to survive.

Winnie meanwhile, had a ‘Dead Little Sister’ trope noted beside her name, and having the same scientist/CEO who experimented on Nick and Twist be responsible for her death seems to fit them nicely. I like to think Winnie has a shrine to Regatta on the Parhelion, and that while Winnie is largely emotionless in make-up, Regatta was a bubbly kind of soul–perhaps much like Tessa Lovelace (See other Troped! posts), which could give those two characters an interesting dynamic.

I haven’t mentioned Adrian yet. During the break-out in which he was taken hostage (did the Turner parents have something to do with the break-out? Probably so.) he was left for dead, but rescued by Nick–earning his undying loyalty, even to the point of turning against his own sister.

It does make me wonder why the hell Cheviot bothered to do this whole ruse as a high school teacher if he knew where Amy was and that she was the one who had the serum the rest of them needed to survive without the constant drug-use in her blood. Why didn’t he just get together a team and kidnap her? Perhaps he didn’t know where she was. Perhaps he’d spent the past four years putting himself and his followers in key locations throughout the galaxy where they could get records of high-schoolers who might be Amy and it was just his luck that she happened to be at the school where he, the leader, had placed himself.

In that case it must have been Frontier X who was hiding her identity. Who is Frontier X, you might ask? Well…

Troped 6

After the worldbuilding information on how many colonies there are in the galaxy we get some more information on the man who made the Altercons, killed by Nick when he escaped Ambrosia and rescued Adrian. (What exactly happened that day is food for thought for another time). I realised Trine Zhirenkov is said to be out to get Amy, but I think she’d let her live long enough to lure Nick and his gang out of hiding. Their respective schemes and how Amy came to be on Rhea and living with the Solus family require much more thought though–for another time, perhaps.

Enjoy the existence of Johan Zhirenkov, Winnie’s penpal, who she probably acted as bodyguard to along with Regatta when he was a child, learning what it meant to be human and all that shit. Also enjoy Mercedes’ hobby, the page-marker once again falling onto the page, and me mispelling the word ‘Chief’.

Tomorrow (hopefully) we get a post on one of my other novels, in honour of the NaNo prep month beginning, as the novel in question was last year’s NaNo project. After that, be prepared for a massive twist in the direction of Troped!, not the twist, but an interesting turn of events I probably should have thought of sooner all the same…

Chapter One: Ordinary High School Student (III)

A little later than usual, due to me watching anime online and losing track of time (for the record, here’s a question to anyone watching Re: Hamatora–WTF was up with that ending!? Way to finally explain almost all the problems I had with the series… and then ruin the whole thing with a resolution completely pulled out of your arse!)

Ahem. This is the third and final part of Chapter One; after this we move on to more planning, backstory, solidifying ideas, and all that technical shit. Before that you can have the pleasure of another one of my book deconstruction lites, next time will be a dystopian tale of what happens when an author feels like commentary on a topical issue should form the basis for their novel, but doesn’t actually seem to have anything to say about that issue. Ladies and gentlemen–prepare yourself for XVI, coming in a few days or something.

When we last left our own heroes, Amy and her friends were leaving school, talking about what they were going to do that afternoon. (Wow, that sounds like a real page turner, doesn’t it?)

*~*~*

But surprisingly it was Jocelyn who nixed the idea with an annoyed groan.

“I’m tired of watching other people’s stories,” she complained. “Junior year is half over, so we’ve only got another year and a half of being ordinary high school students. Everyone knows that’s where the best opportunities come from, and at this rate we’re just going to end up being a group of girls Hero McProtagonist crashes into as he runs after Badman Von Death. Maybe one of us will get taken hostage for about a minute, but that will be it!”

“Oh, Jocelyn,” sighed Amy.

“I’m serious! At this rate I won’t even warrant a hair-colour description; and I worked hard on my stupid hair!”

Amy sighed again, a dozen scoldings Dr. Solus had levelled at Jerry running through her mind, and all on the same theme. ‘He who goes looking for trouble, finds it’.

“You do have nice hair today,” Hannah assured Jocelyn. “Very Marilyn Monroe. Except, you know, purple.”

“Sunset Violet was the colour I got from the catalogue,” Jocelyn said indignantly. “The point is that if nothing happens before we get to college we’re just going to end up knife-fodder in a slasher story, and if we survive that then assuming we don’t go into law enforcement we’re pretty much doomed to Chick-Lit.”

Audrey frowned. “That’s… a very simplistic view to take, Joss. Not that I should be surprised, I suppose—coming from you and all.”

“Besides, what’s wrong with Chick-Lit?” asked Hannah. “It’s where the least bad things happen!”

That was true, probably—Amy wasn’t a fan so she supposed she wouldn’t really know. On the other hand, bad things had already happened in Amy’s life. Even now she sometimes found herself keeping an ear out for the station-wide emergency alarm, and she always made sure she knew where the nearest evacuation route was, no matter where she was on the station.

Rhea was her home, her second home, but no less precious to her than her first now she knew what it was to lose one. If she had to, she’d have liked to have known what it would take to protect it, so she could maintain her life on board.

“Law enforcement wouldn’t be awful either,” she mused.

“Yeah, but you’d have to study on Earth or one of the A-classes,” said Jocelyn, “But you can be an ordinary high school student anywhere; and you’re more likely to find your true love.”

Amy snorted. “Not at this school, if the guys I know are—”

Thump.

Just as the four girls were passing out of the gate and onto the street, a boy on roller blades crashed right into Amy, sending both of them and Audrey crashing to the floor. Amy yelped as her knee scraped against the paving stone while Audrey managed to break her own fall somewhat with her satchel, but the boy was jarred into an impromptu midair spin, landed awkwardly and skidded a foot or so along the curb before falling into the road.

Jocelyn and Hannah darted forwards.

“Oh my god, are you guys okay!?” cried Hannah, diving to Amy’s side.

“For Christ’s sake watch where you’re going!” Jocelyn shouted.

Cringing, Amy sat up and clapped a hand to her knee, a large part of which was now mottled with little half-torn away pieces of white skin, welling up with tiny trickles of blood. She clasped her hand against it with gritted teeth and looked angrily to the boy who had knocked her over.

He’d rolled onto his back, and with his knees drawn up she couldn’t see his face, but he was dressed all in black and, somehow, was utterly silent.

“Amy, you’re bleeding!” Hannah whimpered, biting her lower lip at the sight of the small amount of blood on her knee.

“I’m okay,” said Amy. In actual fact her knee hurt like hell, but for the moment she was more angry than in pain. Who skated so fast when they couldn’t see what was coming around the corner?!

Whoever he was, he sat up a few seconds later and crawled back to the sidewalk, although he was hardly in any danger on the road. Very few small vehicles travelled the streets of Station Rhea; with the Monolifts in between the various layers of the stations and said layers only supporting little more than fifteen thousand people, there wasn’t much need for personal transport on the station—the only vehicles that did go over the roads were the public services vehicles, and that wasn’t that often.

Safe from such perils, Amy was able to get a good look at the guy, and was surprised to find what a good look it was. Black hair—bottle-black, by the look of it—silver-grey eyes, pale skin; the two bandages on his face and the one wrapped around his upper left arm, disappearing beneath his t-shirt, did almost nothing to detract from the fact that he was beautiful—like, mythical godly being beautiful.

But they did make her wonder if this god made a habit of crashing into things.

“Jesus,” snapped Jocelyn. “No wonder they call you ‘Harbinger’!”

Blinking, Amy looked from Jocelyn back to the boy for confirmation, but he just sat there, staring at them.

Harbinger. She’d heard that name before around the High School—’I hear they took Harbinger off the bench last week; five people died!’, ‘Did you hear Harbinger was at a club last night? He used it to put half the staff in traction’, ‘You know we haven’t heard from Harbinger lately—maybe the government finally weaponised him and he was deployed to the roving fleets’.

With stuff like that she’d thought ‘Harbinger’ was some famous sports star or internet celebrity, not a student at her school! Was he really as much of a walking disaster as all that? She tried to take a closer look as if just by looking at him she could somehow come to a conclusion, but…

Such amazing eyes… they have to be modified, no one has eyes like that!

Suddenly she realised he was looking right at her. She averted her gaze quickly, but he didn’t say anything.

“Hey, are you listening to me!?” Jocelyn yelled at him.

Amy looked back and saw the boy still staring right at her. She felt a shiver ripple over her shoulders and for a moment the pain in her knee was forgotten. There was something odd about the look he was giving her, something odd about him in general, come to think of it.

There was just this feeling…

Without a sound he stumbled to his feet, shaking slightly on the unsteady row of wheels. She saw his left leg flinch when he put his weight on it, but the intense expression on his face didn’t change at all, he just put the leg down again, more gently.

No one said anything for a few moments. Then the boy turned, and skated away.

“Hey!” Jocelyn yelled again. Audrey stood up and dusted off her jacket and Hannah relaxed a little.

“Was that really Harbinger?” she asked.

Jocelyn just sneered so Audrey filled them in.

“Yeah, that’s him,” she said. “He’s super into athletics; I see him sometimes when we share the field with the boys’ teams. Even when he’s not playing team sports though, the accidents that happen are crazy—I saw him trip himself and two other runners up once, one guy almost broke his arm. No wonder people think he’s cursed.”

“You’d think they’d throw him off the team by now,” said Jocelyn, huffing.

“No way,” said Audrey. “He’s the best we’ve got by a long shot.”

“I heard he does it on purpose though. Remember the collision that totalled the equipment shed last semester?”

Amy remembered it. “That was him?” she asked.

“They got their hands on a Transpod somehow,” Jocelyn told her. “And everyone else in the pod was drunk except old Harbinger, that’s why he was the one driving.”

“They must not have found anything suspicious about it though,” said Hannah. “I mean, if they’re still letting him come to school and all. Maybe one of the others did something stupid because they were drunk—yanked the steering wheel or something.”

“Transpods don’t have steering wheels,” said Jocelyn with a roll of the eyes. “I’m telling you, he crashed it into the shed on purpose. There’s no way he couldn’t be doing this stuff on purpose. He’s crazy.”

Crazy.

In the distance, Amy could still see Harbinger getting further and further away, skating on the road now and seemingly going nowhere. Somehow, even after what Jocelyn had said, there was only one thought in her mind.

What’s his real name, though?

Chapter One: Ordinary High School Student (II)

So it’s an exciting day at Rachelloon Productions; I finally figured out how to do those widget things. Sort of. Maybe I’ll do some more later, but for now you’ll all have to make do with a single page about the marvellous me. I know–it’s like giving a chocolate cigarette to a crack addict, but I’m sure you’ll all live.

In Troped! news I’ve decided pretty much how this whole chapter is going to go, and cut a few things from the outline I’d decided on back in ‘A Plot of Sand’. Where we last left our heroes, Cheviot made fun of Jericho in his English Lit class, the bell rang and everyone left except Amy and Mercedes, who now approaches Cheviot in an unsavoury manner…

*~*~*

“Mr. Cheviot,” she called, extending the last syllable of his name by an extra beat.

He was still smiling, though he must have known what was coming.

“Yes, Miss. Talbot?”

“I got your e-mail yesterday. About my grade.”

“Ah, yes. Did you have any questions about the catch-up requirements?”

‘Catch-up requirements’ was a phrase Amy pretty much expected to hear in conjunction with Mercedes Talbot’s name. It would have been a surprise to her if Mercedes hadn’t been failing this and probably every other class. But then, that’s what happened when you spent more time ruining other people’s relationships than you did paying attention to your own work.

Mercedes grimaced and stopped in front of the teacher, so close that he recoiled against the desk and Amy was almost sure she could see genuine discomfort. He kept smiling, but she was beginning to feel annoyed for his sake.

“Not really a question,” said Mercedes. “I was just wondering if I really had to do it. I don’t think I’m going to do Shakespeare any better the second time around.”

Cheviot sighed. “I’ve said before I’ll help you with it, Miss. Talbot. You’re brighter than people give you credit for; you just need to put in more of an effort.”

“Isn’t there any other way I could make the grade up, Mr. Cheviot?” she whined, and then she leaned forward as if to trap him on the desk, but he evaded her at the last second with a chuckle.

Amazed by the other girl’s brazenness, Amy began to seriously consider speaking up. This isn’t a middle-aged gym teacher who hasn’t seen a real girl’s boobs up close in years, she thought, angrily. Cheviot won’t fall for it; stop embarrassing yourself!

“I’m afraid your only other option is to repeat the entire year,” said Cheviot.

Slumping a little, Mercedes took up Cheviot’s previous perch on his desk and crossed her legs, tartan miniskirt bouncing above her knees with enough force from her abrupt movement that it showed off at least two more inches of leg than it should have. Sadly for her the gesture was lost on Cheviot, who had his back turned so he could open his filing cabinet.

“Would I get to be in your class again?” she asked, licking her lips.

“Unfortunately, the chances would be slim. More likely you would be in Mrs. Morrin’s class and I must warn you, she does ‘Hard Times’ every year. Why don’t you come along to the reading club after school and I can set you up with a tutor?” Cheviot picked a folder out of his filing cabinet, closed the drawer and turned back around. “Miss. Turner, for instance—”

Not me! Not me! Not me! thought Amy desperately.

“But I’m just way too busy, sir,” whined Mercedes, slithering off the desk and towards Cheviot again. She actually reached out and tucked a few short strands of black hair behind his ear before he could tilt his head out of her reach. “Things to see, people to do—you know what I mean, right?”

Cheviot sidled past her with the folder held up between them, somehow still smiling and somehow still calm.

“It sounds like you lead an exciting life. Have you thought about talking to our guidance counsellor about—”

“Ugh, they already sent me to her, but she’s so boring and the whole thing is useless anyway. What do I really need any of this for when I’m just going to be a supermodel, you know?”

Supermodel? Amy was incredulous. Sure, Mercedes had what it took to steal boyfriends from more ordinary-looking girls, but there had to be a million girls as pretty as her looking for the same position, and Amy’s bet was that the vast majority would have vastly more appealing personalities!

But Cheviot just kept smiling, and said, “It’s good that you have a goal in mind. Now, I’m afraid Miss. Turner wants to see me, so if you’re sure I can’t interest you in some extra help with your work…?”

Pouting, Mercedes rolled her eyes and turned to the door.

“I’d be happy to get some extra attention from you, Mr. Cheviot, but I’ll have to check my schedule.”

“Well, you do that and drop me a line when you figure something out.”

“I will. Goodbye, Mr. Cheviot.”

“Goodbye, Miss. Talbot.”

Mercedes mercifully left the room at that point, giving Amy and then Jocelyn a nasty smirk on the way out as she flipped her dark hair over her shoulder. Her stupid high heels clicked all the way down the hall. Amy found herself rolling her shoulders uncomfortably; amazed that Mercedes could literally make her skin crawl.

Cheviot meanwhile looked like he was trying his hardest not to cringe before he finally relaxed and turned to Amy.

“And how can I help you, Miss. Talbot?”

His eyes were green too, but naturally so—pale and tinged brown. Amy wasn’t so stupid as to have a real crush on a teacher these days, but she had to admit that she could understand why a good quarter of the girls at school apparently were.

He wasn’t even that stunningly attractive or anything; though hardly plain-faced either, with gold-tan skin, fine features and a small, neat, black goatee. There was just something sophisticated about his looks and mannerisms that made him compelling.

Not that it meant anything, of course. It was just the way things were.

“Um… about the reading group… ?”

“Oh yes, did you get the list for this semester?”

“Mm,” she nodded. “I was just wondering, uh… the first text is ‘The Clerk’s Tale’?”

“Yes,” said Cheviot, with a little resignation. “The school board wouldn’t let me do the Miller’s.”

Amy made a mental note to look that one up later. “Yeah, um, I was looking for it online, and some of the links said they were presenting it in translation… so I wanted to make sure we were doing the translated version, because that’s what we all thought was going to be—”

Cheviot was already shaking his head. “Oh, no,” he said, dashing her hopes. “We’re doing the original. I’m sending you all the files tonight.”

For a moment Amy had to stop and blink. Nervously, she mumbled, “It’s just that I looked at the first page of the original and it was kind of… incomprehensible.”

Cheviot chuckled. “The version we read will have a glossary. Don’t worry about it; Chaucer is always difficult at a first glance, but once we go over the conventions of Chaucerian English I think you’ll pick it up pretty quickly.”

Amy wasn’t so sure. But she didn’t want to press the issue and sound stupid, so she smiled faintly and nodded her head.

“Oh, okay. Uh, I guess that was all I wanted to know.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“Great, thanks!”

She laughed a little, gave him a small wave and then almost lost her balance turning on one foot to the door. Crap, maybe she was stupid enough to have a crush on Cheviot. She hoped he didn’t think anything of it.

By the time she left the class she could see Audrey and Hannah had found their way to the classroom and had been standing with Jocelyn just out of her view in the hallway. She breathed a sigh of relief.

“Hey,” she greeted them.

“How was ‘the Chev’?” asked Audrey, accompanying her question with a little faux-street gesture. She sidled next to Amy and the four of them began to walk towards the exit.

“No one calls him ‘the Chev’, Audrey, that’s just stupid,” said Jocelyn.

“He was fine,” said Amy, trying to nip Jocelyn and Audrey’s bickering in the bud. The two of them had been best friends practically since before they were born—their mothers had met at a New Parents group on the colony—and by this point they were like an old married couple.

Audrey put an arm around her shoulder. “Uh-huh. The Chev is always fine.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Audrey, stop it before I disown you as a fellow human being.”

Audrey dropped her arm back to her side, smirking. She wasn’t being serious when she called Cheviot ‘the Chev’, or even when she referred to him as ‘fine’; she wasn’t even in his class for English. But Audrey liked to tease Amy like crazy, and did so with a dry and comically bored tone.

Well, Amy found it comical anyway. Most of the time. Hannah too, apparently, since she was giggling beside them so much.

“Where are we going anyway?” she asked, as they walked out of the building and onto the grounds.

Hannah shrugged. “Movies?” she suggested. “The ‘Immortal Blood’ movie came out. It’s supposed to be good.”

“I don’t see how it could be,” said Audrey, “seeing as the books were a load of crap.”

“You think everything is crap,” Jocelyn told her. Then she grinned. “Maybe ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ is playing?”

“For Jerry’s sake, I hope so,” said Amy. “If he gets held back again he’ll probably have to take catch-up classes with just him and Mercedes.”

“Yeah, and then she might breathe in his general direction and give him an STD.”

“Jocelyn!” cried Hannah. “Don’t say stuff like that!”

Jocelyn gave her a look. “I’m serious though, you should have seen her trying to sex up Cheviot in the classroom just now—she was practically shoving her tits in his face going ‘give me a better grade Mr. Cheviot, and I’ll give you a—'”

“Okay!” said Amy loudly. Each of them swiped their Mini-Pads over the security barrier on their way out of the main gate. “Moving on, I’m totally up for seeing ‘Immortal Blood’, once I message Dr. Solus and make sure it’s okay. What about you guys?”

“If you don’t mind me making snide comments the whole way through,” said Audrey. Amy would have expected that either way.