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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7. Chapter Six

 

We stood staring at each other, waiting for the end. On the edge of the world, at the thinnest points of the crowd while the countdown kept ticking away, the time until the wormhole slowly slipped away. This was it, the moment we had dreaded for years.

“Attention all recruits, fifteen minutes to boarding.”

Mint stared up at me desperately, blue eyes the only evidence of her despair. She was smiling for me, the sudden prodigy son off to claim my future. I tried to return her smile, but I couldn't. There was no way that I could smile in the face of losing everything that seemed to matter so much to me now. I still didn't understand how or why, but she mattered to me more than she should, as a human.

I looked over at where my father stood some thirty feet away, watching with the eyes of a cruel master. The only reason Mint's presence was being tolerated was as an honorific sign for her mother to display to my father: the presence of her family seeing off the only child he had. At least this small amount was tolerated, even if my father knew better. No matter how we tried to hide, he still somehow saw through everything.

“That's you, isn't it?” asked Mint timidly, pulling me back to where she was, her vivid red hair pulled back into a beautiful weave. Only a stray strand fluttered about her face in the breeze, stirring the strangest urge to tuck that strand away. But I heard the end of the ten minute announcement, understanding what she was saying.

I nodded slowly. “Ten more minutes, and I'll be on my way to the Homeworld.”

“Must be exciting, going back to your species' home,” she replied, and even if she wasn't aware I heard how wistful those words were.

“Well, who would be excited to go to a planet full of spoiled Primary politics?” I tried to tease her, but the smile she wore didn't change.

“I brought you a farewell gift, Az.” She looked down, reaching into her pocket for something. She held it out to me, a small circlet of woven strands and beads. I took it in one of my hands, letting it rest in my palm. “It's not much, but I—I have your Homeworld on one side, and Dante is on the other. The beads in between are the stones used to suppress Witchcraft.”

I slipped it on, finally letting myself smile. “Thank you, Mint. I'm sorry, I didn't bring you anything.”

“Attention all recruits, five minutes until boarding.”

The announcement stopped us both short, and Mrs. Brown stepped forward with her own bundle of herbs to give me. There were dried flowers mixed with some of the sacred flowers of my home, their blue color barely diminished even with most of their life gone. I smiled and nodded, but she was already leaving. Mr. Brown was last, giving me a knife, relatively large to be carrying around.

“No, I—”

“Take it, Azrael. I was saving it for whatever son I had, but...” He cleared his throat sharply, nodding once. “Safe travels.”

That left Mint and I again, her tears finally showing through. I wanted to comfort her like I normally did, but it wasn't safe out in the open like this. As it was, most of the other recruits were already on the ship, their friends and families dispersing around us. What was I supposed to say, though?

What could I say?

“I—”

“Azrael!”

The sharp whip of my father's voice cut me off, leaving an empty ache on my tongue and a bruise in my throat. I couldn't turn away, though, no matter how much I knew appearances mattered in this world. What did it matter at the end?

“Yes, Father?”

“It's time to board,” he told me firmly, all but commanding me. I spared him a glance, nodding to acknowledge him.

“Yes, sir.” I turned back to Mint, finding myself hollow. “I have to go now.”

She nodded, and the strength it must have taken her to keep herself together then was admirable. “Yeah. I'll miss you, Az.”

Those were the words, now that it was too late to speak them. All I could do was nod as I turned to the ship, having to run half the way as they began to close the doors. But I made it, just as the airlocks sealed shut with a finality that was nearly painful. I stared around at the Heathens I would be going to Academy with, all of them severe and so very predatory. The only comfort I had was the bracelet on my wrist, and the girl who wove it.

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