Racing through the halls my heart leaps against my chest. My feet throb as they slam against metal floors, radiating through the rubber sole, their sounds echoing down the lengthy metallic coffin. Just looking straight was rough as sweat glides into my eyes and I constantly wipe out the salty sting, only to see an endless path. The bright lights blaze the halls, forming shimmering ribbons as they bounce off the sides. Their high intensity shows its around noon and that we haven’t missed it yet. My excitement and determination is the only thing keeping me from falling over and gasping for air.
“Orion, hurry up!” my friend Dag, yelled out from far ahead. His figure so small my index finger would be about the same height if I stretched it out.
Dag is a year older than me and the rest of our friends. Not much difference in age but to Dag it was all the difference he needed. He is tall, has dark brown hair and was the athlete of the group. Able to outperform any of us without breaking a sweat. But he wasn’t just muscles, he was blessed with a superb mind to match. His talents made him popular with people outside our little pack and everyone at school knew him, not that it’s hard considering the small population. The image within the school was a tower within a village. On the other hand, I was your average fifteen-year-old. The shanty shack next to the tower. With average height, normal grades and being slightly good at sports I’m far from spectacular like Dag. The sole thing not average is my name. Few parents call their children after constellations. The cliff note is comparing night and day breed more similarities.
“I’m trying!” I yell back with scratchy lungs.
“You’re so slow, the others are already there!” he continued to assert to me. His iron voice echoing.
Dag had been getting progressively impatient ever since we left my house. After the first half a dozen times, it wears thin. It wasn’t even my fault we’re late. Not completely. It’s nearly impossible to get away from my exceptional brother when he’s hounding me as he does. If Dag hadn’t tired of waiting and crafted a distraction, I would still be with him, being interrogated.
Dag stops up ahead, giving me a chance to catch up. The air scratches the lining of the lungs. Each breath punches the ribs out. My exhaustion stops me without trying. My legs were on fire. Each fiber turning into lava, no shape but a hot jelly. All while Dag kept a light jog to keep his muscles moving. It’s so annoying, the disparity in our athletic ability. He still was only lightly winded while I passed that point four hallways ago and am hunched over my knees begging for air. I’m not out of shape, he’s a damn machine. I don’t know how he can keep up this pace.
“Let’s cut through here,” Dag pretends to suggest, running off without input, not that he ever considers it. I’m just forced to follow behind, hoping I catch my second wind and my lungs don’t implode from overuse. That would mess with my weekend.
We sharply take the next right and hurry down the corridor. All of which look more or less the same. Milky passages stretched to infinity. A white abyss, stain with a vein of red on each side. But to us, it was a familiar path. It was, however, the last route we wanted to travel, for several reasons. Regrettably, it was the only choice we had if we didn’t want to miss the eclipse.
I swear though, if I didn’t know this place so well I would get lost, which happened on multiple occasions when I first moved here. It is like a maze with a series of dead ends, intersections and open areas, not including the restricted ones. Luckily, that doesn’t happen and within a minute we entered one of the base’s larger chambers.
The place was entirely lit with artificial lights, each inconspicuously embedded into the ceiling, set to automatically change in intensity based on the time of day. The well-masked face leads to moments where most stare up and expect the sun instead of a blank canvas. But the lights aren’t the first thing you notice when you enter this chamber. The huge oculus showing the dark starry sky held that honor. An un-judgmental eye illustrating the emptiness of the cosmos with the twinkle of a thousand stars. It would be a comfortable sight under normal, and private, circumstances. Unfortunately, we weren’t alone. Adults are working the hours to get ready for the twentieth anniversary of Icarus’s founding.
The place was under heavy renovation. Construction and plastic banners spread out everywhere. Loud machinery was at work, screaming to drum busting levels. Not to mention the ventilation running at full blast to get rid of the smoke that singed your nose if inhaled. Sparks were flying into the metal shell, bouncing and leaping off into a shower of short-lived ember rain. Men were moving tables to the side. Anticipation showing on their faces like children. Everything to get ready for the party despite the large time left till it happened.
“Hey, you kids, what are you doing here?!” a scary man hanging from the ceiling howled at us. He held a huge rotary belt cutter twice mine or Dag’s size that cut into the metal like butter. I can only imagine the strength it took a man to tamed such a beast. “This place is restricted!”
“Sorry, in a hurry,” I shouted without either of us slowing to acknowledge his authority.
Our response didn’t go over well with his loud grunting going on. His voice a signal to the separate lions in the den, the others stopping with their work to watch the two gazelles dashing through the field. It seemed as if the workers were ready to chase us so we ran harder towards a group of moved tables.
Dag vaults over a table blocking his path and lands on the other side without touching the surface. Running, I give myself a slight push, but instead of guaranteeing to mess up this pretty face, my body drops to the ground, a leg outstretched. Momentum sends me into a gentle slide. The lights dissolve as I glide under a table. The friction on my thigh heats it up as the floor and my pants give a fumbling kiss to each other. Getting to the other side, my body stops, my leg nearly cooked, and I get back on my feet, flying. We miraculously got across the chamber without a single person getting in our way.
No one bothered to chase and leaving us in the clear. That was the first good thing to happened to me all day. About time. It was bad enough having to be around my stuck up brother for the last hour. He sees my subpar test scores and he goes into a lecture like he’s the boss of me. Or worse, my parent. Living with him was my nightmare, especially since he seems to always know when I’m up to something.
After running for a little longer, we arrived at a metal door. It seemed out of place as it was the only one in this section of the corridor. It appears deposited here, only to beckon people into seeing behind it. Both of us were out of breath from our long sprints and we’re wanting to get inside. Dag knocked on the door twice, then once and finally four more times.
It wasn’t an odd knocking style but the signal we told the others to keep what we were doing a secret. We aren’t exactly supposed to be here. But it didn’t leave Dag or me nervous. It left us excited. In a second the door flew open and it exposes a beautiful Japanese girl behind it.
Sakura wasn’t thrilled.
“What took you so long?” she asked her voice holding a slight accent from her Japanese origins. That just made what she said sound even more fierce, but also cute to the point it made it hard not to laugh. Sakura is an attractive fifteen-year-old girl, at least I think she is. Her hair reached to her slender shoulders and was striped pink over a section of her natural jet black color, much to her parents’ horror. The shape of the stripe made a crescent moon, projecting over her soft round face. “It’s almost time!”
“His brother wouldn’t let him leave,” Dag responded.
“Just get in here!” another voice rasped from inside. Dag went in while I gave a quick “all’s clear” check before doing the same. Sakura closed the door and it left us in this dark chamber. The only illumination were the lights marking the floor and Gem using a flashlight to do his job at the other the other side of the. Unfortunately, the two sources of light only helped enough to watch where we were stepping and barely make out who we’re talking with. Despite the dim situation, we couldn’t afford to turn on the lights unless we wanted someone to realize this room was being used, in an off-limits area.
“Is everything ready?” I asked, fumbling my arm around until I discover a guard rail.
“Yep,” Gem replied. He was another friend of mine, a tech genius, and brother of another companion of ours that couldn’t make it. “The shutters will open and we’ll have a first class view.”
“How much time is left?” Dag inquired.
“About, five seconds,” Gem frantically answered.
The three of us propped against the rail like little kids while Gem stood next to the button to open the shutters. Once Dag, Sakura and I were in place he pounded on the switch and ran up beside us. The tools in his belt jingling all the way.
As the shutters slowly opened, a light came barreling in and started to fill the room along with the low hum of the blinds. The edge of the radiance creeps up our bodies, inching towards our heads. Our excitement was so high our bodies quaked and we could sense it through the reverberating railing. The light ultimately reaches up to our eyes and we’re able to see the colossal ball of fire shining on the opposite side of the glass. If it wasn’t for the specially designed window to filter the rays, the four of us would be blinded right now by the magnificent yellow sun.
The glass prevents us from seeing all the details we were hoping to see. They were planning to install a new window to screen the lights without distorting the colors, but even without it, this was still an awesome view. The full spectacle of the sun shining upon us lasted only a few seconds when the light abruptly fades. A massive object blocks out the warm rays. Darkness creeps along the same path as the light did just moments before and brings the room back into obscurity. The immense blue and white orb eats away the sun, but the sight is what I contemplate as something even more beautiful as the Earth eventually takes away and replaces the sun.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it,” Sakura whispered as she stayed her gaze on our own blue and white marble of the solar system. But for me, it represents an important memory. I’m not sure if it was good or bad but this scene is the same as it was the day I came aboard the space station Icarus.
“It sure is,” Dag being the only one to respond.
It’s typically no big deal, seeing the Earth from the observation deck but today the Earth, sun and Icarus line up so precisely. The deck would normally be filled with people, struggling and clawing through others to get closer, and we wouldn’t be able to approach the window. But with the renovations going on everywhere, this scene belonged solely to us. A gem of our memory tucked into a star cover box in our minds. If only for a minute. The shutters suddenly began to close and our spectacular cosmic spectacle was short lived.
“What the heck Gem, why did you do that?” I cried.
“Um, it wasn’t me!” he stammered while standing next to me, now remembering that he had come up to join. There was no way he pressed the button. Not unless he grew a few feet, which he could have used. And if it wasn’t him, then who could have-?
“Care to explain what you four are doing?” a familiar voice firmly stated from behind. And here I thought I had met my quota on lectures for the day. We steadily turned to see a character in the same doorway Dag and I had come through. Metal ornaments glint off the man’s suit from the light that had entered from the hall. His stature firm and had an assertive air of confidence that felt like it could physically push back average people without a finger being lifted.
It’s Pyxis alright.
“Hey bro?” I weakly reacted, giving an off cooler greeting while trying to find a way for me to escape my brother.
“Orion,” he emphasizes my name. God, I hate him when he does that, which isn’t any different from how I usually feel about him.
“I mean Sir,” I rephrased my word choice. The distaste is evident in my voice. A thousand lemons would give a less bitter palate. He just gives my actions a sigh and a shake of the head, being used to my “disobedience” as he would put it. I was the one who wasn’t playing nice between the two of us and I’m still the one who is getting angry by his flat reaction. He ordered us to follow him like we were one of his underlings and we had no choice but to comply with him. He was blocking the only exit.
My brother took the four of us to Icarus’s detention center, which is just another way of saying jail. It was a place that sees little of anyone over eighteen. They originally made it as a temporary holding facility but I don’t think they’ve used it even a hundred times in the last twenty years, except for people like us. It has basically been turned into a year-round detention center for teens who act out and get into trouble on the station.
He guides us into our cells; I mean rooms. One by one we’re corralled into our individual chambers. I’m the last caged. He holds the door open while I skate towards the threshold. A step short of crossing it, my face meets my brother’s. There is second of staring, my expression showing the distain I held towards him. A one-sided spitfire erupted from the glaring. His face burning off in my head, the thought so simple it felt like I could make it happen. An obscene name gets called from under my breath after the gaze is severed and am pushed forward, stumbling in as the gate slammed shut.
“You four don’t know how much trouble you all have caused!” he states to all of us. He tells us we were stupid and how we were lucky that we didn’t blow ourselves out into space. He focuses his frustration to everyone but I know he is mostly directing his emotions towards me. Not that I care. He’s the last person on Earth that I care what thinks about me. Actually, I guess it would be above Earth. “Now sit here until you’re released.”
He walks out on us and it leaves us alone in our cells. The jail’s silence doesn’t last long. “Man, Pyxis is such a jerk,” Sakura stated. She placed her arms on the opening so she could lean on them. Her legs were so far back that if that barrier disappeared her nearly pale face would become bright red.
“Try living with him,” I huff at the thought. I plant my back against the wall, eyeing the others. It is true, Pyxis is a jerk. Every time I wake up in the same house as him feels like a punishment. A hundred years of hell compacted into a single day every time we cross paths. And like the eternal damnation, with less fire and brimstone, it wasn’t a choice to be dragged here. I sought none of this, I never asked to live with him. He just goes around barking orders like he owns me.
“Hey, he’s just doing his job,” Gem spoke, sounding as if his voice shivering. Gem isn’t someone who enjoys going against the wave, and when he does it just makes him overly nervous. He’d rather keep his opinions to himself if they differ from everyone else’s. “He has to follow Icarus’s procedures or he could get fired.”
“Yeah,” Dag agreed. “Your brother got stationed here because he was the top of his class and the youngest graduate at the academy in fifty years. Not to mention his achievements on the battlefield.”
It is just like Dag to defend my brother. It’s not something I hold against him. Dag’s goal is to enter the Academy and be able to stay stationed here. In that respect, he views Pyxis as a role model, even if it’s twisted. However, that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
“They’re right,” Sakura joins their side.
“Just a second ago you called him a jerk!” I raised my voice, but not threateningly. There was a slight prick in my chest like I was given a wrapped gift on Christmas and opened it to find out it was socks. You can’t get angry about it but it can disappoint you.
“I still think that,” Sakura defended herself. “I mean, he’s your brother and we’re your friends. But I can understand what they’re talking about. And, if it wasn’t for your brother, you wouldn’t be on Icarus.”
I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. It was a hard truth to think about, but it is true. If not for Pyxis, I would be back on Earth doing who knows what. A continuous string of days linking to form a monotonous lackluster life. It’s certain that I wouldn’t be in one of the few places people have the chance of going. Sleeping on a bed of stars, watching from the seat of gods. The celestial planets coming and going as if only to see you. It would seem like a dream to live in space. Also, I wouldn’t have met these guys if I hadn’t come.
The only thing is, I never had a choice. Back on Earth, I would be alone, with my only remaining family up in the stars. This is life on Icarus.