A couple of months ago, I meant to post Chapter One of Revenge and I got side tracked. So, without further delay…
Denoy, Planet Tarsius
Mariposa frowned at Berto. “Did you get in trouble today at the Academy?”
Berto sat by the fire pit, cooking a wild taffit bird on a makeshift spit. He tore off a leg and handed it to his sister. “Don’t eat the bones, Mariposa, and no, I didn’t get in trouble.” He took a bite of taffit. The juices from the succulent bird dripped down his chin. He wiped it off with the back of his hand. He was hungrier than he thought. The sweet aroma of the roasting bird had his stomach growling but the luscious taste made him forget how he had to live.
“I saw you talking to Headmaster Torres.” She took a bite of the leg, glancing up at him.
“Headmaster Torres found a job for me. I start tomorrow after classes. I’ll learn how to fix wing ships, then maybe cargo ships.”
“What about me? Who is going to watch me while you’re gone?”
He bowed his head. Seven anos was too young to leave alone, but he had been orphaned at that age with an infant sister to take care of.
“Promise me you’ll stay here in the cave when you get finished with classes.”
“Aren’t you going to walk me home?” She bit her lower lip and raised her brows.
“Mari, I would, but the job is on the other side of Denoy. I would be late getting to work.”
Mari pouted, on the verge of tears.
“Look, Mari, it’s only for one day. I’ll ask my new boss if you can come with me. You can study while I work.”
“Can’t I go with you tomorrow?”
“No, Mari. I have to speak to the boss first to make sure it’s okay. Now, eat your taffit.”
Later, he tucked her into the makeshift bed of reeds and palms with a blanket he had stolen years before. He looked forward to the day he could pay for his food. When he couldn’t catch anything to eat, he’d stolen it.
He washed up by the small waterfall that trickled into a shallow pool. The coolness of the cave and the smell of wet rock was constant and kept out the heat of the day. The cave had been their home since he was seven. He curled up on the mat beside Mari’s and went to sleep.
The next morning, he dressed in the only clothes he owned—ragged pants and a stained shirt along with his worn-out sandals. Mari’s dress was short and tattered and her sandals no longer fit. Soon he would be able to buy her some clothes.
After gathering wood for the fire pit, he showed her how to use her energy to make a spark. Several tries later, Mari succeeded.
“Can I make the fire when I get home?” she asked excitedly.
“I’ll help you gather more wood so you’ll have enough.”
Their home was at the base of Dos Santos Mountains, hidden in the forest where there were plenty of dead branches to gather. The main trail through Denoy led to the next village, but the trail to their cave was concealed by trees and thick underbrush. He placed the kindling they gathered against the far wall of the cave.
He walked with Mari to the Academy through the woods as usual. He heard the birds chirping and small animals scurrying under brush. Denoy was set in a clearing, surrounded by the forest on three sides and the mountains on the other. Vaedra, their sun, was bright and warm as always in a cloudless sky. The homes were all dome-shaped brownish-red dwellings clustered on either side of a dirt road in the center. The road led from the forest and ended at the shipyards near the Academy. One of those homes used to be theirs.
He had to beg the Headmaster to let him bring Mari to class with him when she was an infant. He explained to Torres their only aunt lived in Eloy, another village on Tarsius. He hadn’t seen her since before his mother died and didn’t know how to contact her.
It took a while for Mari to adjust but the instructors had given him plenty of latitude when they learned his mother had died and his father disappeared on the same day. Eventually, the instructors got used to having Mari around.
The day dragged on. His studies held no interest for him. All he thought about was the chance for a better life and learning some new skills. Finally, the alarm sounded and the classes dispersed. He spotted Mari, heading down the steps of the brownish-red colored building. He hurried to her.
She turned at the sound of her name.
“Go straight home and stay in the back of the cave, Mari.”
“I will. When will you come home?”
“I’ll be there before dark. You can start the fire just before then.” Their lives would be different after today. Maybe soon they would have a dwelling to call home, instead of a cave.
He squatted down and hugged her. “I’ll be home as soon as I can. I love you, Mari.”
“I love you, too, Berto.”
He raced to the area that once housed a thriving ship-building business. Some time ago, something happened that caused them to stop production. Ignacio’s Repair Shop was just before the gated entrance to the Denoy Ship Yards.
“You must be Berto,” a short, round man said. Ignacio’s tan was darker than his own.
“Yes, sir. Headmaster Torres sent me.”
“Come, let me show you my shop.” Ignacio pointed out the sections of the shop where certain work was performed. There were women and boys, slightly older than himself, working in all the areas. The first was the navigation section, then a thruster section. Another section was devoted to cooling and heating, another for life support systems, and the main section was for engine systems.
“Since production was halted at the shipyards, I’ve been busy repairing all the old ships. I’ll start you off with the thruster section. I expect you to be here every day until dark. You get paid once a week. Do you have a place to stay?”
“For tonight, sir.”
“There’s Community housing over there.” He pointed to a tall, dome-shaped light brown building across the way. “They serve two meals a day. Do you have any questions?”
“Uh, yes sir. I have a younger sister that I’m re- sponsible for. I was wondering if I could…well…bring her to work with me? I promise she won’t be any trouble. She’s quiet and she’ll study while I work.”
Ignacio studied him. “What about your parents?”
“It’s just me and Mari.”
“How have you survived?”
“I’d rather not say, sir, but we’ve managed. I really need this job.”
“You hiding something, boy. Doing anything…illegal?”
“No sir. It’s just…I don’t want to leave Mari alone. She’s too young.”
“Torres said you were a hard worker. I’m willing to give you a chance. All right, be here after classes tomorrow—both of you. Maybe I can find something for her to do as well.”
“Yes, sir! You won’t regret this. Thank you, sir.” He shook hands with Ignacio and hurried out the door.
Berto ran as fast as he could through the village to the path in the woods that led to the cave they called home. As he approached the rocky cliffs, he thought he heard muffled sounds. When he got to the mouth of the cave, darkness had settled over the forest.
A piercing scream cut through his heart. Mari!
The dim glow from the fire showed three shadowy figures about his size, leaning over something…Mari!
Oh God! One held her arms down, another held her legs. A third person was on top of her, trying to rape her. The boy’s white-blond hair and blue eyes marked him as Chromian.
“No!” Berto’s shout echoed throughout the cave as his anger and adrenalin surged through his body, his gut tightening. He lunged for the boy on top, but the energy built up inside him shot out through his hands before he reached him, throwing the boy across the cave, slamming his head against the wall.
As his rage built, his adrenalin pumped faster throughout his body. He reached for the boy holding down Mari’s arms, the energy surged again, throwing the boy against another wall. The boy hit the rock hard then slumped over.
He glared at the last boy, who held Mari’s legs, moving toward him. He fisted his hands at his sides to keep from doing more harm, but the boy ran out of the cave. The last boy and the second one, with their brown skin and eyes, were Tarsian, like himself and Mari, but he didn’t recognize either of them.
He scooped up Mari and hugged her tight. She clung to him, weeping. His heart pounded from the ordeal. His mind was dizzy with comprehension of his newly discovered skill. He had only pulled things toward himself or started fires with his power but this was new. He could feel Mari’s body trembling…or was that him?
“Mari, I promise, I will never leave you alone again.”
They were no longer safe here. He helped her dress, gathered the few belongings they had, and left the cave, carrying her in his arms.