NOTE: I’m changing the premise, so here is the new Prologue.
Summary (temporary): Argent Cross wakes up to find himself ten years older and without any memory of what led him to his coma. But the world he has woken up to is not the world he knows—and he is its enemy.
“Next, Argent Cross.”
I get up and look back to the rows of seat where other candidates wait for their turn. My friend Azure, several seats to the right, gives me a thumbs up and mouthes me a good luck. I smile back at him and walk towards the door. I adjust the tie beneath my sleeve-less vest before I knock the door.
“Enter,” is the muffled reply.
I swallow and turn the door knob.
“So how is the interview?”
I sigh at Azure’s question.
“Please don’t ask. I’m trying to forget it.”
“Come on, it can’t be that bad.”
My shoulders slump even more.
“I stuttered through the whole interview. I think no one understands me.”
“I see. Even if they do, they won’t have a good impression on you.”
As expected of a best friend, Azure holds nothing back.
“But hey, you don’t have to worry that much. They’re informed about your condition, right? I think they’ll be more understanding.”
Somehow that doesn’t make me happy.
“I hope so.”
I lie and Azure sees through that. But he doesn’t comment on it. He changes the topic instead.
“Speaking of which, next week is Aureolin’s and Tenne’s birthday. Have you finished their presents?”
I shake my head. “I’m too nervous for the interview. I’ll try to finish on time.”
“Don’t forget you still have to frame it.”
“What do we have here? The turtle is finally out of its shell!”
I cringe at that voice and look up. Standing before us is Illey, my old classmate—and bully. As always, his four ‘trusted advisors’ are flanking him, making a display of power and strikes fear to everyone, especially me.
“And what business does a pig have with a turtle?”
Well, everyone except Azure. That’s why he’s my friend.
“A business which is not yours to pry, knight in rusty armor. Are you going to try protect him again like back then? We all know how well that works.”
Azure stands up. He’s now towering over Illey, who’s only as tall as me. But Illey is not scared. He has his friends to hold Azure off so he can escape. He can’t win, but he can run. And that’s a win for him.
“This time will be different, Lydens.”
Illey throws a glance at me before replying, “I don’t think so, Aquees.”
A storm is brewing. wind and ocean standing off each other, but staffed off before it can turn into a storm.
“Alright, no fighting in the hallway.”
All jumps in surprise and turns towards the speaker. We are all expecting a teacher , but what we see is another teenager around the same age as us. His voice has completely changed to adult’s though.
“Who are you?” Illey snaps, probably very annoyed that he’s scared for nothing. There are few people he’ll listen to and another teenager is not included.
“Your future instructor,” the teenager replies, flashing a friendly smile. It tugs on my memory. I have seen this person before. Somewhere and somewhen recent.
“Yeah, right,” Illey deadpans.
“Well, officially not yet, but once the paper is done, I’ll be teaching chicks like you to fly like a peregrine,” he says, flashing a badge pinned on in his jacket’s inner part. It’s a simple, circular badge made of silver with a flying falcon, seen from the side, engraved on it. The falcon’s wings and tail goes out of the circle and those parts outside are made of gold. Anybody applying for Hfeavesti Academy of Pilots recognize that badge, and I finally have a name for the stranger.
“You’re Troya Aquees. The youngest Peregrine ever.”
Troya shakes his head.
“Not anymore after the end of semester. But my point is, you—“ Troya points to Illey, who is now very pale, “—better watch your attitude. Especially to your future ground crew. They’re your eyes on the sky, your legs on the ground, and sometimes your dietary and activity ‘advisor’. God forbid if you make enemy of the latter.”
I look at Troya in surprise. How did he know I’m applying for the ground crew program?
“But that is if you manage to pass the test in the first place. It’s beginning in…” Troya glances at the wall clock, “…30 seconds from now.”
Illey and his friends turn even paler and they make a mad dash towards the classrooms where the testing is held, Troya’s friendly farewell trailing after them.
“Good luck, eggs. See you later when you become chicks!”
Once Illey and the others are gone, I come to realize how silent the waiting room is. I glance around the room and see people are staring at us, including the teachers. I think my face is redder than a cooked lobster now.
“Thank you,” I say, not forgetting my manners, “But how do you know I’m not applying for the pilot program?”
Troya snorts in a friendly way. “Pilot instinct. We can smell our kind. But honestly, you don’t look like a Peregrine fanboy or a flight enthusiast like your friend here.”
It’s Azure’s turn to blush. Well, to be fair, it’s not that hard to figure out he’s an aircraft maniac. He may be dressing neatly like the rest of the candidates, but his airplane shaped bag charm and the way he’s eyeing Troya in awe is more than telling.
“You said you’re going to be an instructor. Is that true?” Azure asks, not making an effort to hide his enthusiasm. Troya responds with a nod.
“Yup. I’ll be teaching the flight maneuver class. Get an excellent in beginner’s flight class, and you may join my class in the second semester as research student. Of course you get to try some flight maneuvers.”
Azure’s eyes are literally shining now. I’ve never seen him this happy besides when he got his conditional acceptance letter. It is the reason why he doesn’t need to take the test like Illey, but still need to pass the interview like everyone else.
Suddenly a sultry jazz music can be heard. It’s Troya’s phone.
“Whoops. I have to go. See you in the academy!”
“Of course!” “Thank you again!” Azure and I reply at the same time. Troya waves us a thumbs up while speaking to his phone, “Hello Ashie—no, I didn’t forget—just cleaning up some mess—you know, the usual.”
“I’m going to fly with the Peregrine,” Azure says in determination. If I have to paint a scenery to describe the current him, it’s going to be a calm looking ocean with a strong undercurrent. He’s just like a wave—unstoppable. Strong. I’m kinda envious of his mental strength.
I turn and see my mother waving from the entrance. She’s still in her work attire: a t-shirt, tight fitting pants, and a jeans jacket that was only blue once. Her brown hair is tied messily into a high bun and there’s a large black smudge on her left cheek—probably eyeshadows transferred from her fingers when she scratched her cheeks. I wonder if she realizes that. We approach her and she gives me and Azure a bottle of water each.
“Mom! You’re early,” I say after drinking the water. I didn’t realize how thirsty I was until now.
“The new make-up artist starts working from today, so I dumped all my work on him to pick you up,” she explains guiltlessly. “How’s the interview?”
We walk to the car as I explain how badly I screwed up. Like Azure, my mom doesn’t think me stuttering the whole time is a screw up.
“Don’t worry about it. The goal is not to get accepted anyway. I’m proud of you for trying,” she says, messing with my hair affectionately. I reluctantly swat her hand.
“But I want to get accepted. I don’t want to spend my time in home all day anymore.”
“I know, Argent. We will get you into a nice school somewhere. No need to beat yourself up for today. This is only your first application. It’ll get better with more practice.”
“But applying for school is too much work.”
“Oh dear, you don’t know work until you really work.”
After we drop Azure off, we go to pick up my sister at her school. Or rather, the open field beside her school.
Like always, she’s playing soccer with her boy and girl friends. Usually those who don’t know her will guess she’s one of the girls in the team, but to their surprise, she’s the most boyish boy in the whole field.
“Call her, Argent,” mom says, fingers tapping the steering wheel. Her face tells me that she’s thinking on what punishment Vert deserves for playing in her school uniform instead of the prepared sport clothes.
I get off the car and cross the road. I have to shout several times before I get her attention.
A boy with long fringes haircut stops chasing the ball and turns to me. All follows his example. The whole match stops for me.
“Brother!” the boy—or rather girl, my beloved little tomboy sister Vert, squeals. “You’re out? Wow!!”
The rest of the ten year olds immediately turn to Vert.
“Vert, that’s your brother?” the redhead, Gules, asks and then giggles upon receiving a nod. “He really is more handsome than you!”
Just as I’m wondering what exactly Vert told them about me, the kids rush to surround me. The smell of sweat, earth, and sunshine overlaps each other, accompanying a tirade of questions.
“Vert’s big bro! Can you really draw?”
“Paint my squiggles for me!”
“No! Draw my cat first!”
“Nuh uh! You all from the losing team! Winners first!”
“But you were in the loser’s team yesterday!”
“Everyone, stop it! Let my brother decide!”
Like well-trained puppies, they all fall silent and looks at me expectantly. I unconsciously take a step back to avoid the intensity of their stare.
“Argent, what took you so long?”
Fortunately mom is here to save me. She appears in a good time, like the main characters in tv shows. Vert squeaks at her sudden appearance.
“Mom! Why are you here?”
“To pick you up, of course. We are going to shop for dinner—and new clothes.”
Mom’s eyes narrow at the clothes word and Vert becomes very conscious of her muddy appearance.
“This is, uh, I can explain…”
No she can’t and we all know that.
“Of course. Now go take a bath and change. You have ten minutes.”
Vert dashes, takes her bag, and dashes again towards her school. Mom sighs at her antics and turns towards the rest of the kids and shows a plastic bag full of water bottles.
“Now, anyone wants a drink?”
The whole kitchen is quiet save for the sound of us working. Mom is chopping the tomatoes, me peeling pears, and Vert pounding the beef when we hear the door opens.
“It’s dad!” Vert announces. She puts down the meat pounder and rushes out to greet him. Then we hear her shouting from the entrance. “Oh! Grandpa Cor!! Welcome!”
A hearty laugh from an old man reaches our ears.
“Hello there, Vert! Healthy and cute as always!”
Mom and I wash our hands and go to the entrance to greet our guest. He’s the old gentleman standing in front of my dad, who’s putting his soaked umbrella to the stand.
“Welcome. Do you want to join us for dinner?” mom asks. Grandpa Cor shakes his head, his santa-length goat-shaped beard swaying with the movement.
“Unfortunately, I’m just dropping the usual papers. A little bird told me that my grandchild is causing trouble yet again and I need to give him punishment before he can escape.”
Mom takes the plastic briefcase from his hand and gives him a sympathethic nod.
“I see. Please take some water then.”
Grandpa Cor laughs again. “As expected from the water lady.”
Grandpa Cor gratefully accepts the small pet bottle and excuses himself.
“So, need any help for the dinner?” dad asks, shoes already off his feet. Mom crinckles her nose at his messy appearance. His suit is no longer neat and his pants are completely soaked. The only thing that’s completely dry is face.
“Take a bath first, then you can help Argent making the salad and dessert.”
Dad looks at her in surprise. “We’re doing a full course today? What’s the ocassion?”
“Argent went to the interview and test for the pilot academy.”
The surprise turns to elation.
“You went and register to Hfeavesti Academy of Pilots?” I nod. “Nice, my boy! Now you can show your bullies who’s better!”
“But I’m applying for the ground crew program.” And the bullies are registering to the pilot program, I want to say, but I don’t have the heart to say it. Dad looks happy. Mom and Vert too. There’s no need to sour it.
“Come on, let’s not waste anymore time. We got delicious food waiting to be prepared!”
We all, except dad of course, walk back to the kitchen. I pause at the living room. There’s a small, rectangular shaped black object on the cream colored sofa. It’s a game console called PocketPlay, my only friend when I’m home alone—or when I feel alone.
I continue walking and smile. For the first time in a while, I don’t have the urge to pick it up.