Outcast, Heathen

The year is 2413, and humanity is no longer free. After encountering an alien race called the Heathen, hope was lost. They let us live to serve, and some are more than happy to live in peace this way. Others can't resist an opportunity to fight back. **NOTE** Due to dire disagreements with my chosen operating system, Outcast will sadly be going some time without an update, either until the data is recovered or I have managed to recreate the scenes. Thank you, sorry, and I hope you enjoy what's there while I work like mad to update!

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5. Chapter Four

College let out an hour later than my usual school classes, so when I went to check our secret meeting place I didn't expect Az to have been waiting for me.  What I found there instead was much more surprising, laying on the ground in a puddle of his own blood with the craziest grin on his face.

I stood over him, peering down to meet his eyes. "Minos beat you up again, huh?"

He nodded, sighing contentedly. "Yes, but I picked the fight this time."

"Why would you do that, Az?  You know he wins every time," I chided him, offering him a hand to help him stand.  I braced myself when he gripped my hand, planting my feet so that his weight wouldn't pull me down.

"Exactly.  I felt that I may as well give him my opinion on some matters, since the end result has yet to vary," he explained easily, brushing some dirt from himself.  Not that it mattered--his uniform was already filthy. "Besides, my father should be proud to hear that I started a fight, for once."

I looked him over skeptically. "And, what?  Your adversary bled all over your back?  You still lost."

"As long as I started it, he should be happy," replied Azrael, for the first time really looking at me today since I was called from class.  We stared at each other, and without a word we had to hug each other tight.

This was it, the day we had been dreading but denying existed.  He was going to Military Academy, and I was going to College for escorting.  Chances were, he would be sent off to combat somewhere across the galaxy, and I would be sold to an owner on another planet.  We had just a couple weeks left, and then it was over.

Tears came to my eyes, my hands trying to hold him closer.  This was my best friend, and there was nothing I could do but lose him.  Again, I couldn't help the upset that came with that thought, my anger now simply desperation.

"It's okay, Mint, we have our Locators, we can talk using those," he tried to reassure me, then he froze. "Hey, Mint?  Do you have an umbrella?"

I let him go, sniffling as I wiped my face dry. "No, it's not scheduled to rain for two more days."

He pointed upward silently, just as the droplets began to fall from the black cloud above.  I couldn't contain a screech, dodging for the nearest overhang.  Az was right beside me, but both of us still got splashed by the rain.  I waited for the burn of acid, confused when none came, and I lifted my arm to investigate.

"Hey, Az, this is--"

"Water," he said confusedly, staring at me in mingled shock and horror.  He shook his head slowly. "It's just water."

"...What?"  I didn't expect an answer, and I didn't want one.  Not the answer I was thinking, anyway, and I couldn't even admit it to myself.  But Dante was still too early in terraforming to rain simply water, let alone without it being scheduled.  All weather was controlled by research stations around the globe, simulating seasons until the planet could take over with its own.

Azrael cleared his throat. "So, um, should we stay here, in case it stops being water?"

I looked around, finding the overhang surprisingly spacious and dry.  I took a seat as far from the rain as I could, patting the ground beside me for Az to join. "Here, I saved you a spot."

"How generous of you," he laughed, sighing tiredly as he sat. "I wonder how long this storm will last."

I stared out at the falling rain, the pattering of droplets different from the acid we were so used to. "I don't know."

We sat in silence for awhile, uncomfortable with the situation at hand.  Az continued to bleed slowly, soon sitting in a puddle again.  I looked over, remembering my introductory classes and the health book I now carried with me.  As an escort in training, I was now to study Heathen health so that I could later provide first aid for my master.

Well, seemed like I had a test already. 

I pulled out my text book, silently finding the information I need--combat wounds and treatment--before taking off my undershirt to use as a rag.  Azrael turned to stare at me, curious at first, until he realized why I was inching out towards the rainfall.

"Mint, what are you doing?!  That could be acid for all we know!" He protested, moving to stop me.  I stuck my hand out, catching some cool, smooth liquid.

"It's still water," I told him with a laugh, holding out my shirt to soak it. I pulled back, wringing out about half the water so that I wouldn't drench my friend. "Here, let me see you."

"Why?" He asked warily, but he didn't try to stop me as I dabbed at a cut on his shoulder, wiping away the excess and drying blood. "Since when do you know first aid?"

"They had an introductory class today, and those are the primary courses for training escorts," I told him with a smile.  My rag went too close to a particularly nasty cut, and he hissed in pain. "Sorry."

"It isn't that bad," he contradicted, trying to play tough guy.  I ignored him at first, but when I went to clean some more he stopped me with a hand. "Please, Mint."

I stopped, confused but unwilling to push it. "Okay."

I sat back, my rag being tossed to the side.  The rain was coming down harder now, almost torrential, and our small patch of dry ground was receiving the occasional mist of icy water.  I leaned against the cold, hard building behind me, a shiver running through me.

"Are you okay?" Asked Az, concerned.  I forced a nod, freezing and unsure of what to do.  He and I were still quiet, the gap of these changes feeling like it was growing by the minute. "Come here, you're cold."

Without glancing over, I set up my backpack for cushioning and laid down with my head in his lap, like I always did.  The only difference this time was the safety I sought from our old habit, shelter from the storm of rain and events alike.  It seemed we could be granted that small respite, as well, out here in the rain where not a soul would see us.  Even the Heathen guards were taking shelter now, knowing that any humans out past curfew tonight would be little trouble.

As his hands began to braid my hair out of habit, out of a small safety we had hidden away from his father, this felt like the last time.  I didn't know if it was premonition, but I knew we would never be able to sit like this again. After tonight, as soon as the rain ended, my grasp would slip and I would lose Azrael to the Heathens he called brethren.

 

 

The door closed behind me, but my father was there waiting again, staring at me with disappointment.  Coiled in one of his right hands was a whip, but I took more interest in the cane he was balancing on with his left; if his combat wounds were already bothering him, I was in for extra punishment tonight.  He took in my ruined uniform and hissed a sigh. "Again, Azrael?"

I was too proud to look away, meeting his violet eyes daringly. "I got into a fight.  Then it rained, I'm sorry I'm late.  Sir."

My attitude took him by surprise, and I saw him wrestling with whether he thought the change good or bad.  He took a neutral stand for now, until he could learn more.

"I recognize my son's blood when he comes home covered in it," he replied smoothly, indirectly accusing me of my failure.  He obviously wanted to ignore this, though, already preparing to change the topic.

I hadn't gone through this just to get ignored again.

"I picked that fight," I defended myself indignantly, realizing a second late what I'd said.  I shut my mouth, looking away in fear.  What had I just gotten myself into?  Defying him twice in not as many minutes?  But he seemed amiable to listen to my defense, simply staring at me boredly.

"Oh?  And what human did you abuse in this fight?" He asked skeptically.

"I-I-I told Minos that he looked like he had Mirian rot, and then I hit him.  A lot," I amended, hoping that that detail caught his attention.

He did nothing to hide his surprise, impressed. "Minos, the Master's son?  The heir to the political throne of this world?" I nodded timidly, waiting for my sentence.  Would he cane or whip me first?  I was surprised instead by an amused chuckle, despite the lack of humor I found on his face. "Good.  Practicing already for Academy, that's good.  Not enough to get you out of a whipping for being late, and certainly not to excuse your extra hours of training."

I stared at him in shock, at once wary and gleeful. "...Good?"

His face hardened to a glare, the scars there turning him into the war-hardened general I knew as my father.  He raised his cane and I flinched but didn't try to dodge the instrument--that would only make things worse.  I stifled my outcry when it cracked against my arm, feeling ten times worse than anything the bullies had done earlier.  But he had a skilled hand to guide his strength, something none of them could claim.

I saw Mint's mother waiting behind my father, doing her best to mask the concern I could see on her face.  More of my worry went to her than to my father raising his cane for another blow.  If he saw her reactions to this, she would be lucky to get his cane.

But the titan that was my father could no longer bear his weight on his knee, crumpling to his knees.  He made no sound, sitting there in obvious pain as he glared at me.  Mrs. Brown was at his side to tend to him in an instant, ever the faithful escort.

"Find your trainer, tell him to begin treatments," growled Father, and I could see how furious he was--at his weakness and, more importantly, my unfinished punishment.  I had the feeling my trainer would make up for it, though, and I left my father struggling to stand in the healing hands of Mint's mother.

The halls were empty, no matter how many slaves I knew were roaming through the walls out of sight, scrambling to ensure that everything was perfect for their Heathen masters.  The house was just that, as well--kept clean, neat, tidy.  I could leave a room a filthy disaster, and when I returned it would be spotless and straightened.

Mint was going to be doing just that someday soon, catering to the every need and whim of an unknown Heathen somewhere in the Empire.

But none of this seemed to matter for my trainer, Mephistopheles.  To him, slaves were slaves, the only differences were breed and pedigree.  Just like so many of my brethren, slaves were lesser creatures, easily broken and easily replaced.

I stopped where I was in the hallway, surprised by the force this was hitting me with.  Why should it matter to me what fate awaited her?  She was just a human, from a Tertiary planet, no less.  Had she been from a Secondary, I could understand having an interest based on greed, but she was very poorly bred!

Maybe it was her eyes, such a deep, pure blue they could strike a chord in any Heathen.  They burned like the sun of our Homeworld, and I knew that was seen as attractive.  Her hair was also visually attractive, bright red that it was, although some might find the color aggressive and offensive.  So, it was unlikely her physical appearance mattered, not that I felt possessive of her that way.

Or did I?  What had Minos said?  That he would have her at least once, and the rush of aggression at that thought took me by surprise.  I wanted to find something and make it bleed and beg for mercy, and I hated it.  I hated that I felt so violent, but I hated it more that there was nothing I could do.

Never having a better time to train, I kept on my way, the anger doing nothing but burning hotter than before.  So, when I burst in on Mephistopheles with clenched fists, for once he seemed to appraise me with respect rather than pity and disgust.

"Good evening, Superior Azrael," he greeted me, the title of respect only ever there because of my father's ranking and our military lineage.

I ignored the formalities, however, needing more than anything to unleash this feeling. "My father sent me here for treatment."

By the look in his eye, I knew that he thought my current mood was because of my father. "Ah, yes, he has been pushing for it.  Follow me."

Mephistopheles led the way into his guest quarters, into the study where he had set up a strange series of wires and machinery.  I waited while he set up a table obviously meant for me to lay on, motioning me over.  I did so, sitting in the surface tentatively at first.  He handed me a glass full of an amber liquid.

"Drink that, it has a specialized mixture of proteins and supplements that I designed to make the procedure faster and increase the rate of success," he explained, turning on the machines around me.

I sniffed the compound, not thrilled by the idea of consuming it. "What exactly is this treatment?"

He gave me a look of surprise, having likely assumed I had been told. "Electrical growth stimulation.  Your father hired me as a trainer specifically for my expertise in it."

Electrical growth stimulation.  My father was displeased and desperate enough to resort to this experimental treatment?  To attempt to force me to mature possibly years faster than I would otherwise?  He was above growth hormones, of course, but not by much.  My father's obsession with our family's pride would eventually kill us both.

But in spite of this knowledge, I laid down on the table without protest or resistance.  Mephistopheles attached the machine, and as I felt the first, faint sparks beginning to burn and shock my body, I felt something similar deeper than the treatment could have gone.  Like my anger earlier, I felt the beginning spark of defiance at the madman I called Father.

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