I enjoyed writing this story and had nearly finished it. I shelved it because I didn’t like how I’d portrayed some romantic elements, and wanted to revisit before continuing. Have fun with this five-chapter, unedited excerpt.
The eight-thirty airbus to Ignis City was late again and Rihka rolled her eyes. The raised platform where she stood was crowded with teens of various ages, awaiting the next airbus transport. Many were squeezed into uncomfortable school uniforms, which made them even more irritable and she tried to avoid the small fights and squabbles that broke out every few minutes.
She checked her timepiece again, wondering why she’d bothered to rush, cutting herself on a cheese knife in the process. The digital device embedded just under the skin told her the airbus was already half hour late and Rihka held back a groan. The last thing she needed was another warning for tardiness. To pass the time she inspected her cut, it did not look as bad as before but she sucked on it just in case. Her mother had always said that saliva was the cure for all ails. However, since being transported to Tabor Island the seventeen-year-old begged to differ, there were definitely many things that a little spit could not fix.
Rihka plucked her forefinger from her mouth as her friend Majin approached. He looked just as unkempt as always and his tangled mess of dark curls seemed more matted than usual.
“You’re just aching for headmaster’s punishment aren’t you,” she said in greeting as he came to stand beside her. He was a few inches taller than her five foot eight frame and was slender with gleaming dark skin. He grinned and Rihka saw that he had at least, brushed his teeth.
“What’s the point of no ‘rents if you’re not going to live it up Rih?” he asked, running a hand over his hair for emphasis. “Anyway, I’m thinking of getting locks, think they’d suit me?” Rihka shook her head ignoring his question,
“You do have parents Maj and I’m pretty sure they’d be pissed if they saw you now.” Magin scowled at her, an expression she was seldom on the receiving end of.
“Shut it Rih, not all of us have family dinner and a nice little expense account to fall back on. You might have parents, I have two people who spit me out and when they thought I wasn’t good enough, left me here to rot.” He turned away from her, quickly engaging in a lively conversation with a group of boys who went to Mid-northern Secondary with them. She couldn’t blame him for his anger. She’d thought her parents had loved and doted on her too, until she took the Integration Test. It was then that everything changed.
Throughout their lifetimes, citizens of the Republic of Seloquay took two major exams. The first was taken at eleven and determined which schools or apprenticeships children would be placed in. It involved a combination of tests that analysed academic, physical and mental aptitude. Those that did well moved on to prestigious secondary schools that boasted advanced programmes and incredible opportunities for their students, those that did not, were sent to live on Tabor Island, away from the rest of the population. They were seen as society’s dark stain and while some parents, like Rihka’s, still supported their charges from afar, others were left to fend completely for themselves.
Rihka had done moderately well on her exams and was among those that attended one of the basic institutions that offered few chances for advancement. Those that failed the I-T1, as the Integration Test was more commonly known, were excluded from the school system all together and endured harsh apprenticeships that usually included heavy manual labour.
“Majin,” she called as she saw the airbus approach. With its bright yellow body and blue stripes along the sides, it was hard to miss. Rihka moved closer to the edge of the platform.
“Shit,” she heard Majin say behind her and soon saw why. As more and more patrons noticed the airbus, the platform became a sardine tin of jostling people, who were not afraid to play dirty in order to secure a seat within. Rihka felt herself being pushed forward and she pushed back hard, not willing to take the ten-foot fall to the gravel below.
“Stop pushing for hell’s sake!” she shouted, annoyed with the usual morning ritual. Her shout set off a few frenzied swears in her direction, but Rihka ignored them, as long as no one put hands on her, she was good. The airbus came closer and they could hear its unique horn sound. It was like some kind of weird song with just a few sharp chords in its arsenal. As it landed at the edge of the platform, Rihka felt herself pushed forward once again, this time sandwiching her between the unopened airbus door and the throng behind. “Push them back Magin,” she said, barely able to turn her head to deliver the order.
“Yea, got it,” Majin said and him and a few others nearer to the front did as she asked. This allowed Rihka to lean away from the door so that it immediately slid open. Just as quickly she jumped in, knowing that if she didn’t, she’d be just as easily trampled. She ran to the middle of the airbus, securing a double-seat for Magin and herself. He came in not long after and dashed to join her, knowing how crazy things got the more people filed in.
“Have anything to eat Rih?” he asked when they’d settled. Rihka smiled and shaking her head, pulled two sandwiches from the depths.
“At least save something for lunch will you?” Majin laughed, tearing into the first sandwich,
“You know that won’t happen,” he replied cheerfully, “I’m hungry now, I’ll worry about lunch and whatever else later.”
“Fine, but don’t come knocking at my door tonight asking about food, I refuse to cook, I’ve done it all week and . . .” Rihka stopped, her gaze narrowing as it fell on an enemy.
“Get up,” were the first words out of Jae’s mouth. She’d been a thorn in Rihka’s side since they’d first been sent to the island and it seemed that the girl had no intention of ever letting up. “Didn’t you hear me?”
“Come on Jae, give it a rest,” Majin interjected, still chewing on his sandwich.
“This has nothing to do with you dumbass,” Jae fired back. Majin laughed,
“Wow, look who’s talking, apprenticeship much?” he responded, which drew even more laughter from those around them. Jae’s face reddened, but she didn’t skip a beat. She knocked the sandwich from Majin’s hand to the floor. He stood up, dark eyes flashing angrily,
“If you weren’t a damn girl,” he seethed, shaking his head.
“Scared to hit a female? Maybe that’s why you failed,” Jae retorted, a wicked grin crossing her face. Majin raised a fist, then let it drop to his side.
“You know Jae, I made that sandwich, with food I bought with my money. You just wasted my money.” Rihka hated violence, but she knew how this worked. Majin wouldn’t fight her and if she didn’t, the unwritten rules clearly stated that neither of them deserved to sit. She stood, passing between Majin and the seat in order to squarely face Jae. The girl was a little shorter, but her imposing personality more than made up for it.
“I knew you’d have to get up for me in the end,” Jae said laughing. Word spread through the crowded airbus about what was going on between the two and soon the elevated noise above the low hum of the engine, all but stopped. “Now move,” Jae said, looking at her with such hate that for the millionth time since she’d known her, Rihka wondered what she’d done to inspire such loathing.
“Sorry, can’t do that,” she replied simply, dark brown eyes staring Jae down. Jae gave a side grin then raised her arm to slap Rihka. Rihka caught it, pushing her back and farther into the aisle. Jae came at her again, catching her full in the face with a hard punch. Rihka shrieked, rage building in her as pain spread through her jaw. She raised her leg and kicked Jae in the stomach, unconcerned with who could see her unmentionables, as she followed it up with another high kick to the chest. As Jae fell back into the crowd, students tried to pull back, make themselves smaller, do anything that would ensure they were not a part of the exchange.
Jae came charging again, but Rihka was ready. She’d been training hard for her Reintegration Test – the R-T2 and as she ducked Jae’s clumsy advance, saw that it was beginning to stick. She slapped Jae hard, then grabbed her throat, squeezing as she peered deep into her hazel eyes.
“Now, I’m going to sit and you’re going to go away and leave us alone, cool?” Jae nodded, her face reddening even more than before. Rihka released her, turning away.
“You know this isn’t done right?” Rihka turned back to where she stood rubbing her neck, “Just cause you got a few lucky shots in, this is not done.” Jae stumbled away, pushing her way far to the front of the airbus and away from Rihka.
“Shit, you messed her up Rih,” Majin said laughing. Rihka nodded absently. She didn’t revel in her victories, residents of the island never really won. Jae wouldn’t stop, just as none of them ever would. It was all about survival and in the end, every one of them wanted off of the forsaken island for good.
A few minutes later the airbus pulled up at Ignis City’s main terminal and she got out with the others. Looking around, taking in the bustle of the Gifted going about their business, Rihka breathed a sigh of relief. Here there were no spontaneous fights over bus seats or food. There were no children abandoned by their parents lining the streets, hoping to take whatever they could from each other. There was not the fear of being kidnapped and sold for nefarious purposes. There was just Mid-northern, her afterschool job and maybe a movie with Majin at one of the town’s cinemas. It didn’t matter that the Gifted treated them like second-class citizens. Just being away from the island, was the best part of Rihka’s day.
Bullies too early in the morning, read on to Chapter 2…