It had been 18 years since the end of the Slaughter, an all-out war that consumed 90 billion lives. To avoid another one, Guardian Fleets were established by nine First Species to keep order and peace. Second Species, 25 of them including human, footed the bill.
Jack Martin was getting ready for his night out. He was one of the five candidates sent to the Training Center of Guardian Fleets by human government this year. Although only 18, he already had the build of a grown man, tall and solid, his shoulders broad and iron, his legs long and thick. His weathered face and flinty blue eyes suggested he was 30 something. Jack attributed it to the five year military program he got on colony Starlight. Besides the ragged look, he had another souvenir: a scar cutting into his right eyebrow.
It had been three months since Jack arrived at the Training Center. He remembered the first day and he wasn’t impressed. Segregated from First Species, human and others were crammed into buildings converted from warehouses. In Jack’s dorm which he shared with Lucis and Erikon, he had one bed, one chair and one locker. He had to share the only table with his two roommates. Back on Starlight he had his own room.
“Jack, Glycan will catch you. It’s just a matter of time,” Lucis said and raised his head from a screen filled with navigation diagrams. He had green protruding eyes on a thin and long face, his skin as pale as bleached flour. Lucis Willianson always carried a high and mighty air, because his father was the Secretary of Defense of human government.
“They can try,” Jack said confidently, attaching a knife on his belt. It was an old piece with a steel blade. He trusted it more than laser knives.
“If you pass Glycan’s kitchen, can you pick up some snack? I am kind of hungry,” Erikon said, patting his belly. He got a round face, round eyes and an eagle nose. Due to his large body, he looked older than 18. In his defense, he was still carrying a little bit holiday weight, although Christmas was three month ago. His family name was Kingson, meaning he came from money. His father was the sole owner of the Kingson Industry, the giant in weapon manufacturing and the designated contractor for human space fleets.
Unlike Jack who came from Earth, both Erikon and Lucis were born on colony Starlight where rich folks lived now. One could tell that just from their names. Only earthers like Jack had names so earthy.
“Maybe not this time. I have to take care of our homework,” said Jack.
“That’s right,” said Erikon and nodded at Jack.
“I will be back. Don’t wait for me,” Jack said and opened the door.
“Jack, I will wait because I care about you. Anyway, bring snack,” Erikon said gently like a caring mother.
“Go fuck yourself.”
Laughing, Jack shook his head and left the room.
It was close to midnight. The hallway was quiet and empty except for two trashcan-looking robot janitors. Fast and light like a jaguar, Jack quickly made to the first floor from the fourth floor using stairs. He passed the dining hall, snuck into the kitchen and climbed down into the sewer well there. It was a maze below, but Jack knew his way around. He had been sneaking around and only until recently he found his way to First Species district. Ten minutes later, he reached the water-recycle facility, an enormous structure with huge pipes running in dozens of tunnels. He climbed onto one of the pipes and followed it to Glycan territory, each First Species having their own area. Not a soul was around at this hour. The ground looked like a huge mirror and there were tall and thin buildings standing like blades, connected by layers of nets. Jack quickly located the Glycan library which he already visited once without invitation and got in through a vent on the sidewall. He crawled in air ducts for about 10 minutes and arrived at a vent slightly above the floor. He listened carefully for several seconds and then entered the room.
In the center was a rectangular garden, filled with colorful flowers and surrounded by tables and chairs. Each table had a shallow slot used for crystals generated from Glycan’s body. They were like fingerprints, unique and special. It was one of the two things that set Glycan apart from other species, the other being their diamond shining eyes. The rest of the floor was occupied by hundreds of cubicles. Jack walked into one and sat down at the table. He knew even if there was no homework, he would still come here. A man could only be as strong as his brain. To achieve his dream, he must arm both his body and mind. Jack took out a crystal which he got the first time he snuck into this library. It was left on one of the tables near the garden. When he placed the crystal into the slot, a beam of light passed through it and landed at his forehead. He now saw the library inventory in his head.
“Search dark energy,” Jack thought.
Thousands of results popped up in an instant.
“This will take forever.” Jack dived into it and soon lost track of time.
Suddenly he heard crying, very faint and distant. It was the kind someone struggled to keep it unnoticed. Jack stood up slowly, opened the cubicle door and peeked out. A curvy figure was sitting on a chair about 20 yards away, her back facing him.
“Shit. Why now? Should I wait until she is gone?” Jack murmured quietly and backed away from the door on tiptoes.
“Clank.” His right foot hit the chair.
The girl immediately turned around and stared in his direction.
Jack froze there holding his breath. At this distance, he couldn’t see her face but only her figure. She was tall and slender, her waist small and smooth, her hip round and full, her legs long and straight.
The girl stood up and walked slowly towards Jack. “I see you. Come out,” she said gently.
Jack hauled out his knife and stepped out of the cubicle. Now he saw her face and was taken aback by her beauty. She had a perfect diamond-shaped face with thin brows, a delicate nose and sweet lips, her eyes clear, deep and pristine like autumn sky. Her hair was dark blonde and wavy, tumbling over her shoulders like waterfall.
“I mean you no harm. What’s your name?” She asked, staring at the knife.
“Why?” Jack asked, knowing she could easily report him to authority.
“Nothing. I just want to know you,” she said, smiling.
“Hahahahaha,” Jack laughed. “Listen, I don’t want to hurt you,” said he.
“Neither do I. I am Gloira, by the way. I--”
Jack ran flat out towards the vent before she finished.
“Wait!” She shouted, chasing after him.
All of a sudden Jack turned and fired a fist at her face. Gloira dodged it, her uniform morphing into an armor suit.
“Why attack me?” She asked in surprise.
“Why follow me?” Jack shouted.
“I just want to talk,” said Gloira.
“So that you can buy time for guards,” said Jack.
“NO, I just want to know you,” Gloira shouted.
“Fine, I guess I have to beat you first,” Gloira said in a hard voice.
“We shall see,” Jack said, dashing at her, his fist swinging at her head.
“Bam!” Gloira blocked it with her right arm.
Jack grabbed her waist and threw her over his shoulder.
“Crash.” Gloira hit hard on the floor.
Jack jumped on her and straddled her tight.
“Now you really piss me off,” Gloira said, a red dagger popping out of her right fist. She thrusted it at Jack, but he caught her wrist and drove the dagger to her neck. She used both hands, trying to push the dagger away. Jack dived down with all his weight. Now the dagger was right over her neck.
“Whoosh.” The dagger disappeared.
Jack pinned her hands over her head, his nose inches from hers. She smelt like the most beautiful lavender.
“Now what?” she asked angrily, looking into his eyes without fear.
Jack understood why she wasn’t afraid at all. He wasn’t stupid enough to kill a First Species, especially a Glycan, and he would have to let her go. Then she would tattle-tale. While thinking about solutions, he noticed the necklace she was wearing. It had a silver-looking chain and a blue crystal, the size of a quarter. He suddenly had a brilliant idea.
“Remove your armor!” He ordered.
Her armor suit morphed back to the white Glycan military uniform.
Now Jack felt her soft body and he was getting a boner. Gloira blushed, her ample breasts pushing against his chest.
“Don’t tell anyone what happened,” said Jack.
“I won’t,” the girl said eagerly.
“I believe you,” Jack said and snapped the necklace in the blink of an eye.
“Please. I won’t say anything. I promise you,” Gloira begged.
“You better or you will never get this back,” Jack said and got up.
“When can I get it back?” The girl asked in a shaking voice.
“When I see fit,” Jack said, heading to the vent.
When Jack returned to his dorm, Erikon and Lucis were asleep. He quickly got into bed and fell asleep in a second.
“Beep! Beep! Beep!” The morning alarm screeched tirelessly.
Jack woke up with a heavy head. He wasn’t sure whether last night was a dream or not, but then he found he was wearing the necklace. Everything flashed back to him in an instant.
“What is that?” Erikon asked in a sleepy voice.
“I’m not sure,” Jack said and showed the necklace to Erikon.
“Look like some Glycan crystal,” Lucis said confidently while getting dressed.
“How do you know?” Erikon asked, scrutinizing the necklace.
“I read. If you read as often as you eat, you would know.” Lucis smirked.
“I wish one day they could make knowledge like food. You learn while eating. Speaking of that, we should go for breakfast.” Erikon gave the necklace back and quickly threw on his grey trainee uniform.
“Yea, it’s six. Let’s go,” said Lucis.
Jack put the necklace away and got dressed. They had three types of uniforms: combat, service dress, full dress. He wore the second one most. It was a high stand-collared gray suit coat with gray trousers. The material was some sort of engineered fiber that could clean itself. The name tag was on the left chest and the Guardian Fleets emblem, a flying dragon in a circle of nine stars, was on the right chest. Trainees had no rank in the first two years of the four year training. When they got it, they would wear the insignia on their right shoulder.
The three soon arrived at the dining hall next to the dorm building. Morning light bled through the cracked ceiling, shining upon some 100 tables packed so close to each other that there was barely enough room for chairs. Junior and senior trainees thronged the hall and the line wound around like a fat snake. They quickly fell into the line. It took them 20 minutes to get their meals and another five to find a table. Lucis and Erikon got started as soon as they sat down. The breakfast was a bowl of soup, two pieces of bread-like thing and an Ieleo which tasted like a rotten apple.
Jack was starving, but since he was the team leader, he waited for the other four members of the team. There were 18 teams in this class year, each having seven or eight members. The team leaders were selected in the first week based on the results of physical tests that included 20-mile race, 10-mile swim, 200 crunches, 100 push-ups, and 40 pull-ups. Jack scored the highest among 130 trainees and picked his own team.
“Same every day,” Erikon complained and slurped his soup.
“It has all the nutrients you need.” Lucis sounded like an expert.
“Remember what we had on Starlight? Man, I miss the old days.” Erikon sighed.
“We are Second Species here,” Lucis said plainly.
Jack was about to make a comment, but felt the wind behind his neck and ducked. From the corner of his eye he saw a fist flying by.
“Man, you are good!” Sayilin said, retracting his fist. He was a Jynese who had two green bean sized eyes but four huge ears, two at front and two at back. Jynese lived on a pitch black planet, so their eyes were more like decoration, but their ears evolved to sonar stations, so advanced that they could “see” subtle face expressions. Also their skin was so white that they had to wear sunscreen whenever there was light. In Sayilin’s case, he wore one with a popcorn scent and he applied so much that his pointy nose was barely visible.
“So you guys feel OK after yesterday’s flight test?” Sayilin said, sitting next to Jack.
“Look who you are talking to. Of course we are fine. We spent two years as midshipman before came here,” Lucis said, pointing at Jack and Erikon.
“Actually, I threw up last night,” said Erikon.
“Well. Don’t blame yourself. You don’t have my eyes,” Sayilin said with a big grin.
Jack saw Orizy, Titainein and Idi walking into the dining hall. He stood up and waved at them. They nodded at Jack and went to get their meals. Twenty minutes later they joined the table.
Orizy Qo was a Sulan who lived in acidic oceans on planet Tiuou. They were aquatic mammals with fins, four limbs and a tail. His dorsal fin was so high and long that those who didn’t know better often thought Orizy was carrying a huge blade on his back. Underneath his service dress was a high-tech bodysuit filled with acid, leaving only his face exposed. He had big blue eyes but no eyelids and a mouth that never covered his large and jagged teeth. Sulan was renowned for the quality of their merchandise. Orizy himself came from a famous family manufacturing all kinds of tools.
Titainein was a Tizuee, a species famous for their sexy bodies. Even though beauty was in the eyes of beholder, it was widely accepted that Tizuee nailed it. Titainein herself was a very fine example. Every part of her body was sculpted by some kind of magic. A riveting curve ran from her blooming breasts down to her hips. Long and straight red hair echoed with her red lips and rosy cheeks. Her eyes, one green and one blue, could capture the soul of any living creature. One thing that set Tizuee apart from others was that they had two brains, each connected to one eye. It was believed that Tizuee never needed to sleep. On the side note Jack didn’t pick her because of her beauty. She was the Tizuee princess, the only heir to the throne. That would come in handy in the future.
Idi was short for Ititolitanjamoeiweu Dtsomahaliseiesio Isoliwoieiyeumatalonisoli Iefjiefjeiwhfhwuirjrie Iefjeiowieitueieonwi. Jack shortened it. She was small and cute and looked much younger than 18, the minimum age requirement for enrollment. Idi was a Dolanz and she was a farm girl back on Dolanz’s home planet Yieie. A few things about Dolanz: they didn’t have ears, but they heard very well. They could change their skin color to whatever they wanted. They wore headbands to show their social classes. Idi was wearing one made of blue stones which was the lowest rank. Originally Jack didn’t want Idi in his team, but Titainein insisted taking Idi in.
“So, team leader, you got anything from Glycan Library?” Titainein asked with a sweet smile.
“Show them! Show them!” Erikon jumped in right away.
“You know, I always feel that we can just write this essay based on the dark energy research done by Jynese,” Sayilin said proudly.
“Come on, Sayilin, we talked about this,” said Idi.
“What is it, Jack?” Orizy got excited.
“It’s just a necklace,” Jack said and showed it to everyone.
“Jack, you mugged a Glycan or what?” Titainein asked.
“Told you. It is a Glycan crystal,” Lucis said and nodded at Erikon.
“I know that as well,” Sayilin added quickly.
“This particular one is from a dead Glycan,” said Titainein.
“Seriously?” Orizy asked.
“Yes. When a Glycan dies, its body will disintegrate and leave one crystal behind. That is why this crystal has a much deeper color,” said Titainein.
“Impressive,” said Jack.
“And this crystal stores the owner’s memory. Only family member can read it,” Titainein added.
“Jack, where did you get the necklace?” Idi asked in a worried voice.
Now everyone gazed at Jack, waiting for the answer.
Jack lowered his head and thought for a long second. “I picked it up in the Glycan library.”
“So you stole it,” Orizy said carefully.
“Oh, boy, one day you will get all of us killed.” Sayilin sighed like an old man.
“Don’t you worry. I will return it,” said Jack.
“Wow, timeout, timeout, someone is lucky today,” Orizy said, nudging Jack and pointing at a Tizuee girl who was smiling at Jack.
Following Orizy’s direction, Jack saw her and got reminded the Glycan girl in the library, even though they looked so different.
“Jack, Jack?” Titainein called.
“Yea,” Jack said, shaking his head.
“Are you OK? You saw a ghost or something?” Sayilin asked.
“Go talk to her,” Orizy urged.
“Come on, Jack, she is pretty,” said Sayilin.
“No, I am not popular with girls,” Jack said decisively and turned his back to the girl.
“What? What are you talking about?” Titainein asked.
“It often starts like this, but once they learn my background. They never call again,” Jack said in a calm voice.
Erikon and Lucis nodded their agreement.
Sayilin and Orizy shook their heads in disbelief.
“Anyway, we have the museum tour this afternoon. You guys excited?” Titainein broke the awkward silence.
They started discussing the upcoming tour and forgot the necklace.