Ghosts of Eden.

The following is an AU adaption of Infinite Ryvius which takes place approximately modern day (2030); setting, some character names, and certain character relations have changed quite a bit, but the general story remains preserved. This was originally a game played at Wayfinder written by Ben Schwartz, and I have merely typed up my version of it. So it's doubly not my story.

Disclaimer: The following story is for enjoyment purposed only. I do not own the characters, the setting, or really anything. And I'm not making any money off of it. No affiliation with Virgin Galactic either.

Not many people have goals like "Take over a space station." But Aaron Blue, leader of the Marines, wasn't normal.

Blue was a dangerous man. Smart, charismatic, and completely ruthless. A powerful personality, an unparalleled ambition. Eighteen and fearless, and described by his enemies as a tad egomaniacal. His enemies, however, didn't often last too long. The Marines were the kind of gang where you crossed them, and you would turn up dead. Then your family would, then a few of your friends, for good measure.

That was Blue.

And even better, as the son of Oakland Chief of Police Kieran Blue, as he was polite and soft-spoken in public, a good student at Berkeley High, no one would ever suspect him of brutal killings or other unsightly activity. He was just another student. Technically. He cut all his classes and passed them out of sheer brilliance. But that was all just a well-crafted illusion.

The Marines were a quiet gang. They didn't care about drug wars, or drive-by killings. No prostitutes. Sure, they controlled the streets, but really, they were after bigger fish. They infiltrated important places, blackmailed powerful people, stole very valuable things.

Like now. Blue had set his sights on the greatest prize yet: turning this space station into his own private kingdom. And what Blue wanted, Blue got.

He glanced one last time at his gang-Seth, Eric, Michelle, Tim Andrews, Stefan, Morgan with Deckard and the rest of her muscle, and, of course, Sierra Cay. They were valuable assets, all of them, so he made sure he took care of them, protected them, treated them decently. Well, Sierra was more than an asset. She was his best friend and sometimes-lover. Even though his heart lay elsewhere.

But he had other things to worry about. Like making sure that the four new kids integrated properly in his gang. Sierra seemed to like them; she had been hanging out with Morgan a lot. The others hadn't bothered on commenting. So it would work. It had to. There could be no internal strife if they were actually going to pull off snatching Virgin Galactic's jewel from right under their noses.

And right now, his plan depended on the wile and cunning of fifteen-year-old Michelle Cay.

She had been stringing some Zwei sucker along for months online, convinced him to open up the back door of the ship for them. Now he was meeting them-well, her, as he didn't know that she was bringing the gang along, too-well, he was in for a nasty surprise.

Michelle glanced back at her sister for support, then rapped three times in quick succession on the hanger door. Behind her, the Marines smiled encouragingly. This was what she wanted, she told herself. Joining a gang. Being just like her sister. Her idol. The most badass awesome person in the universe.

And it had been easy enough to strike up a relationship with her old friend who lived next door, who was off being some big-shot pilot cadet in Singapore. She had strung him along for months, flirting online, until she managed to get the whole gang a free ticket to space. Blue was very impressed. Her sister was proud of her. It all seemed perfect.

The one eensy teensy catch was that she sort of fell for Charlie for real. He was nice, and kind, and he seemed to genuinely like her for her. And it was just‚ the look on his face. When he saw her. It melted her heart.

Of course, his shift in expression when he caught sight of the rest of the gang brought her definition of "guilty" to a whole new level.

And falling for some loser kid like Charlie? The gang couldn't know. Her sister couldn't know. She needed to be badass. She needed to be strong. So she decided to do the mature thing, the next time she caught him alone, and kill him. That would be the ...not the *right* thing, but the badass thing. And she just wanted to be badass, like her sister. So she would kill the kid. Not that she knew if she could do it, to be honest.

Oh, god. Who knew joining a gang would be this hard?

Julia Habana fussed with her uniform-a brand new red silk tunic underneath a perfectly tailored grey stripe suit jacket, her skirt, her blue scarf (her favorite color) thrown in just the way she had always imagined of those first aviators, the angel-winged necklace...

She fingered the angel-winged necklace guiltily. It represented flight, freedom, and the blue stone tucked inside of it reminded her of...well...

Lucas had bought it for her. For their six-month anniversary. She had asked him not to, but when Lucas got an idea in his mind...

Now was not the time to be thinking of Lucas, she chastised herself. She was going to be going into space. Leaving the planet behind, creating a whole new world. Eden. Virgin Galactic's brainchild, the next step for humanity, and she, a seventeen-year-old ace pilot, was going to be one of the first to step on it.

Well, she would have to share her moment with a bunch of other high schoolers. The best of their respective schools, but still...the College Preparatory School, CPS, was fairly respectable; its only problem was that it wasn't Zwei. She had some friends who went there, like Amy, the girl who knew everyone and invited them all over for tea. Berkely High was big enough to be filled with some fairly smart and interesting people, like Drake, a hacker friend of hers, and Conor, a good friend of his who would talk to her about theoretical physics and advanced nanotechnology, using the wrong terms to boot. He was a strange one, quite shy, but they had bonded after she mentioned how much she wanted to get off the planet, get into space. Since then they had been having quite a few discussions about groundbreaking physics over the Nets. She liked him, although she couldn't really figure him out. Ah well. At least he was more normal than his sister.

San Francisco Tech were also represented here, standing in the teleporter right behind the Zwei kids. One of her technical friends, Simon Rutan, went there. She had flown some test flights for him to get to try out inventions of his in different pressure, zero g, mostly because she just liked flying and he needed a pilot daredevil enough to agree to take him up. Besides, what with her tuition tightness, all the little odd jobs paid.

SOTA, the School Of The Arts, was to the far side of the room. Julia was vaguely familiar with it, as she tried to keep up with the rising talents of various actors and singers. She had been to some plays directed by Jay Brice, and had told the flamboyant and friendly chaperone how much she had enjoyed his work. She could appreciate the arts, despite her inclination towards science and technology.

And then, of course, there were the Oudeterrans. The strange sect of Christianity against having children because of overpopulation problems. They seemed more like a cult than anything else, really. Kara and her family had just converted, and Charlie had been quietly Oudeterran for a while. Really, she wouldn't care too much about them if the recent spree of Oudeterran murders hadn't included Asa.

She noticed that Apollo Asphodel and his daughters were on the ship. Normally, she would go and introduce herself-she liked having connections with powerful people (she had tried to email Adrian Branson, but had only gotten an automatic response to contact his secretary, so instead, she decided to introduce herself and become friends with his son, Tate. Other notable exploits included a long email conversation she had started with Griffin Simpson, Prime Minister and Supreme Ruler of Canada, but that was another story entirely)-but she didn't want to get involved in any creepy cult-y religion stuff. Not that she knew enough to judge it as a cult. It just struck her as strange.

And then, of course, there were the inmates. The kids in juvie who were, for some reason, also invited. They were standing right behind her and-

Julia's blood froze. Asa. He was there.

She glanced across the seat, but Mckenzie hadn't noticed him yet.

"Lucas," she hissed.

"I see," he whispered back.

"So, Mckenzie, how are you?" she said, making eye contact with the girl. Look at me, look at me.

"Good, I suppose..."

"We're in space! Come on! What could be better?" Internally, Julia winced. She had never really cared to make small talk.

"It's just..."

"I know. But we're off the planet, so leave that all behind."

"He's gone," Lucas whispered in her ear. It only took a glance to see that the juvie kids had left for some other part of the teleportation room.

Crisis averted. Mckenzie and Asa had been dating, and they had been the sweetest couple. He asked her out when they were together on top of a Ferris Wheel, watching the sunset. They had been storybook perfect.

Which, of course, meant that something was going to go horrible wrong.

And that it did. Six months ago, Asa had murdered Kellen Adams' father in a spree of Oudeterran murders. And Adams was not only dating Drake, but was also Mckenzie's best friend. And in love with Mckenzie. Obviously enough to provide a solid motive for Asa. She testified about him bullying her, about a myriad of little details. And what with the rest of the evidence...

Well, neither her nor her classmates believed that Asa really did it. Heigar could fake more evidence than had been used against him in the trial. But there was a bloody knife at his house and plans on his Device, so he was expelled and locked away. And Mckenzie had been a complete mess the whole semester. She did not need to know that for some reason, he was on the ship too.

Suddenly, a hand slammed into her back. She whirled around to see the San Fran Tech kids playing a game of ninja. Lucas's hackles had already begun raising, she could see, so she yanked him back around.

"So. Eden," she said. "Are you all excited?"

"There's a good possibility that one of us might end up flying the thing," Heigar said. "I mean, look at us. We're all wearing the Virgin colors already."

Julia couldn't help but smile at that. They were all guaranteed top jobs pretty much anywhere upon graduation. They were the pilots of the future. And many of them would probably end up flying Virgin's spacecrafts.

"We're the Virgin group," Kara said.

"Yup. All virgins here!"

"Well, actually..." Julia glanced around at all of them. Kara hero worshiped Captain Alec Sparks, their celebrity teacher for their semester abroad in Singapore. Which had led to her sleeping with him. Mckenzie had hooked up with Asa, Heigar and Charlie had each had their own exploits. And of course, she and Lucas. And Aaron, a voice in the back of her mind added. But she didn't want to think about Aaron. She hadn't heard from him since she'd been in Singapore...and...well...they had never really spoken anyways.

"I'm fairly sure that Pat is the only one who is really a virgin here," she said.

Everyone looked at little Pat Sparks and laughed. Captain Sparks just shook his head. "Look, kids, keep it to yourself and I won't bother with reporting anything."

Julia smiled the shark-tooth grin of a girl who knows she's right. "Only Zwei kids can deal with Zwei relationships."

"Oh, quit your Zweining."

That brought a whole round of giggles to the group. "Good one, sir," Charlie said.

"But...but Zwei?" Pat said. It earned a few chuckles.

"Oh, shut up," Lucas barked.

"Lucas!" Julia chastised, wrapping her fingers around his shoulder. "Come on now. Be nice!"

"Why should I? It was a stupid and overused pun, and-"

"It never hurts to pretend-"

"Oh, oh really now?"

Julia winced. She had hit a nerve. She had hit a big nerve. "It's not like that," she protested.

"Oh. Oh really?"

"I'm happy, I really am. And you're happy. We said we were going to make this work." She shot him a look. It seemed like they had this fight every day.

"Fine," he said.

"Come on, don't spoil it. We're finally going to be living in space!" she said. She wrapped her arm around him, trying to calm him down. He sighed and nodded.

She hadn't always been this clingy. He hadn't always been this angry. They had been friends once. Best of friends.

It started with her induction into Zwei Academy. She had been such a hopeful freshman-getting in, getting in on scholarship to the best school in the world, despite what her parents said. She had been such a ball of idealistic excitement and energy in orientation, and everyone was supposed to introduce one another. She had been talking with a nice kid, a boy, tall, dashing, sweeping blonde hair, intelligent eyes, but a sort of a hunch, like he lacked the confidence to stand at his full height. Lucas.

Then the person sitting next to him introduced him as Alexandra Sorren's son.

She had stood up at this, protested, "He's his own person! He's got a name! And it's Lucas!"

And Lucas looked at her with such an expression...


They became friends. Best of friends, but only friends. They would argue about everything, from the politics of the South East Asian Protectorate to favorite authors (she loved pretty much everything Schwartz, especially his ongoing series of Schism, but he preferred more old-school, with Neil Gaiman.) She was the only person who would argue with him, who would treat him like a person.

She should have seen it coming. It was inevitable. She was smart, she was fairly attractive, and he felt like she was the only person who actually knew him.

He fell brutally in love with her.

And she didn't reciprocate a single bit.

And now despite how good of an actress she was, the strain was starting to show. He had sort of picked up on it. And they both had ways of dealing with their new Zwei relationship-he exploded at everything, she began clinging to him like a vine. And she hated it. She hated what she was doing to him, what it was doing to herself.

But she had to. So she didn't regret it.

Tim Andrews checked his Device one more time. Despite the fact that he had never come into contact with any sort of technology like the teleporters before, they had been relatively simple to hack. And Blue had asked him to hack them, make sure that they would work. What Blue said, he did. He had been that awkward creepy hacker kid in the back of the class, the one publicly humiliated, miserable, alone, liked by no one. His temper didn't help things out, either. Most people just didn't understand him, so he kept to himself.

Until Blue had found him, and made him someone. It was odd jobs-hacking things, making sure court cases went smoothly, clearing criminal records. Nothing too difficult. The teleporter had been the hardest job yet, but hey, he was just that good.

Even better, while in the process of reading the code, it was simple enough to figure out which code corresponded to which people. And it would be so simple to delete them. And thus a brilliant idea hit Tim Andrews: Blue wanted to take over the station, and he could pave the way for him. He rigged it so that upon arrival, none of the chaperones will get the jump-start from the teleporter that will prong their post-teleport selves back to life.

As soon as they arrived at the station, every adult with them was going to die. He grinned. It was perfect.

He glanced back one more time. He hadn't told Blue yet. It was going to be a surprise. Such a great surprise. He couldn't wait.

Captain Alec Sparks looked around. All of the students were here, so it was time to-"Alright. Everyone, please step in your teleportation squared. Zwei kids, pop quiz. I need you to synchronize the teleporters, dock the ship to the side of the station, then set the autopilot plotting a course back to the spaceport in Singapore. Got it?"

They all nodded, then broke up, Charlie heading to the navigation stat in the front of the room, Lucas and Mckenzie to the wheel, and Kara to check systems. Julia meanwhile took out her Device, checked the frequency of the program for the teleporters-mind you, technology that none of them had been aware existed until a week ago-and proceeded to head to each teleporter, synchronizing it. She didn't bother to make eye contact with any of the students, except to remind them to keep their arms and legs inside the platform if they wanted to remain whole. She didn't know how the teleporters worked, so she figured it never hurt to be extra careful.

When she had finally assured that all of the teleporters were on the right wavelength, she headed back up to the cockpit in front. Passing Charlie in navigation, she glanced over her shoulder and corrected a few coordinates. "More efficient," she explained.

"Of course. Thank you," he said.

She glanced across to Kara. "Got everything?"

Kara nodded. "Double-checked."

Then she took her place in the cockpit next to Lucas. "We already did everything," he growled.

"Well, good for you," she said as she held the ship steady. Virgin docks were extremely well-designed, and thus quite easy to park beside.

"Alright! All ready!" she reported to Captain Sparks.

"You got the autopilot?"


"Then everyone to the teleporters as the countdown begins!"

They made their way in a perfect Zwei line to their own positions in the teleporters, grinning aloofly. Why shouldn't they be proud? They had just docked a spaceship perfectly, and were about to meet Adrian Branson and live on his new space station for the week of their lives.

Nothing could spoil this, Julia thought.

"Eight, seven six, five-"

Suddenly, a group of people burst into the room, too fast for anyone to react. Pointing guns around, they leapt into the empty teleporters. But, of course, no one could go out and stop them, or it would distribute the teleportation process.

"Three, two, one!"

The whole world blurred and swayed, and suddenly, they were in a very similar-looking teleportation bay, in the Eden.

Captain Alec Spark's body fell to the ground, limp.

There were screams from all around as all of the chaperones-every single adult on the ship-fell down, the appearance of stone-cold dead.

But they couldn't be dead. They couldn't. Julia quickly knelt beside Sparks, trying to examine him. It was cold on the Eden, too-too cold for her to properly tell anything. Heigar knelt down beside her, shaking Sparks.

"Is he dead?" he asked.

"Can't tell. Might be some strange teleportation technology failure," Julia replied.

"But why? And how?"

"Maybe it targeted everyone above eighteen?"

"I'm eighteen."

"I genuinely don't know." She glanced around. Charlie was sobbing about something along the lines of it was all his fault. Many of the other students, besides screaming or shaking their chaperones, had gathered around the newcomers. One of the fired a shot, and everyone stepped back and fell silent.

"Our presence may come as a bit of a surprise," the handsome young leader of the troops began.

"You can say that again," Julia whispered. She was caught between staring at him and wondering what to do with Sparks's body, which she was still kneeling beside.

"We live in a world of greed and corruption. Megacorporations control vast fortunes, while people are starving. We need a fresh start, a life away from all of this. The Planet Earth has already been taken, divided, bought and sold. We're not going to wrest it away from them. But Eden does give us the potential to create a new society. A society of freedom, away from all of this."

"What about our teachers? What did they do to you?" one of the kids shouted.

"I'm not sure what happened to your teachers. The teleporters are Virgin technology. I can't vouch for their safety. You need to ask the scientists who created them. I'm really sorry, but we're here to create a better world."

"With guns?" another kid yelled out. "Doesn't sound like much of a utopia to me."

"As soon as we're safe and in control, the guns can go away. But right now, we need to ensure that there is no panic, and that everything transitions smoothly. Now please, we are not here to harm you, but stay out of our way." Then they all ran off into the darkness.

Julia let out a low breath. Machiavellian-she could admire that. Most idealists weren't okay with little things like guns, especially when they were potentially firing at innocent high school students. So yeah, she really admired it. Idealism combined with pragmatism, and an idea just crazy enough to work. And besides, Blue, leader of a group of freedom fighters? How romantic.

Not that she should be thinking about Blue at all. There were bodies lying on the ground, and as a student with medical training, she should be able to-

"They're all dead!" someone shouted at her. One of the Berkely High kids. Kellen Adams.

Julia just shook her head. "They can't be. It's too soon to tell. We don't know anything about the technology."

"I'm a medical student and they're not breathing. Listen to me, they are all dead!"

Julia ignored the girl, searching instead for a sign that Adams had been wrong. Finally, she managed to get her finger on the point in which there should have been a pulse. Should have been. Because there was none.

Desperately, she looked around. "We need to get him to a medical bay! I don't know what the teleporters did to him! This is beyond my realm of knowledge. We need...we need..."

Lucas swiftly came over to her side, and helped her hoist the body up. Heigar took the feet. Sparks was heavy, and although they were all in good shape (one's body had to be in prime condition to deal with more extreme G's associated with some of the flight stunts they would pull) none of them were athletic. Or muscular.

Most of the students had already headed downhill, looking for shelter. The air was freezing-sub-zero temperatures-and only dropping. But outside of the pavilion with the teleporters...

It was beautiful.

The grass crunched underfoot, huge evergreen trees towering off in the distance, and the stars were the clearest she had ever seen them. No smog, no light pollution, no atmospheric blur, just pure, vivid lights sprinkled across across the velvet horizon. It was almost as if the glass ceiling didn't exist, like they were standing in the sky. The whole station was silent, but for the fading shouts of the teens below and rushing water off to their left.

"Come on, we have to hurry," Julia whispered. The others were already out of sight.

They made their way across the field in relative silence, every so often stopping to re-hoist the body. Down a hill, there were some buildings off to the left-

And another group of people. The armed leader and two of his friends. And this time, Julia had no one to hide behind. They came right up to the Zwei kids, shining flashlights at them. Up close, it was no mistake. There was no denying it.

Aaron Blue.

Aaron Blue was taking over Virgin Galactin's space station. And Julia Habana's two worlds had just collided in the most unexpected way possible.

"Julia? You're here?" Blue asked, genuine surprise written across his face.

"Yes. I was invited." It came out a bit sharp. She bit her lip. "It's a publicity stunt, Branson pulled a whole bunch of high schoolers to be the first in his new world. But it seems abandoned. And the chaperones at the teleporters. Do you know what's going on?"

He shook his head. "This place is messed up. I had nothing to do with that."

"Alright. Well." She stared at him awkwardly. Now that she could talk to him…they…they had never really *spoken.* Besides, shouldering a dead body could put a wrench in anyone's conversation.

"Do you have any idea where the medical bay is? We have to get him some professional attention," she said.

"There are some buildings down there. I really don't know." He made as if to move past them.

"Wait! Where can I find you?" Julia asked, hoping that he wouldn't hear the note of desperation in her voice.

"Just‚ around," he said. "Stay safe."

"You too," she said. Then he moved on back towards the forest, and she and the Zwei kids continued towards the buildings.

"What was that?" Heigar asked.

"What was what?" Julia snapped.

"Do you know him?"

"Come on. We're almost here." There were a few steps, then they hoisted Sparks inside through the door. A few of the other students from the other schools mingled here, and turned to look, but most of the commotion seemed to be coming from a room to the side.

Lucas and Heigar let go of the body, and Sparks dropped into the middle of the floor. There were no adults here-no medical bay-and she didn't have the time. She knelt down again, positioned her hands on his ribs, began pumping down. CPR. It had to work. He had to start breathing again. He had to.

"Daddy! Where's my father?"

She glanced to the right, only to see Pat bursting through the door.

"Kara, get the kid out of here!" she shouted. She turned back to trying to force air into her mentor's lungs. "He doesn't have to see this," she added under her breath. "He shouldn't have to see this."

"Julia, he's dead," Heigar said, pulling her back.

"No!" she cried, but she didn't fight him. Dead. She had never seen anyone die before. Not anyone she knew. He wouldn't wake up, wouldn't laugh, wouldn't hug his son, wouldn't fly, wouldn't dream, wouldn't-

Then the floor opened and his body disappeared.

Julia screamed, and clawed at the walls. Heigar and Lucas looked suitably disturbed.

"Let's get out of here," Lucas said.

"Don't let go of the walls," Julia said. "The floor is eating people. The floor is eating people. No one is safe."

"It's...some sort of organic disposal system," Kara said. "You're alive, so it should register you."

"Should," Julia said. She wanted to curl up in a corner and cry.

But she couldn't. She had to find out what was going on.

So she continued into the next room, the one with the rest of the students. She made very sure to never let go of the walls.

Inside the control room, one huge wall was covered in the screen of a computer, with a single mouse and keyboard on a pedestal. It showed a map of the station, and system analysis. Heat systems and oxygen were down, and everyone was shouting for attention.

Meanwhile, the clock ticked. 54 minutes, then they all suffocated.

Julia chocked down a sob. She wanted to live in space, not die there.

Aphrodite Asphodel glanced around at all of the panicking kids, and smiled. Of course Eden was going down.

She was making it.

This entire trip had been her idea. She had whispered the words in her father's ears: Eden was an abomination. The stars were glorious, they were perfect, they were God's creation, and to allow them to be tarnished with the plague of humanity would be absurd.

And she was the one pulling all the strings. Her father was wrapped around her little finger. In the beginning, she may have honestly believed the Oudeterran message-that humanity needed to stop expanding, stop having babies-but any semblance of actual religious belief had been long forgotten, replaced by a terrifying and ruthless ambition.

Not that anyone would suspect her. She was all smiles, quite pleasant, if a bit reserved. Always obliging and willing to talk to people. And with her two sisters-Artemis, whom she encouraged to indulge in her more…bloody…habits, to use as a hitman on anyone who threatened her father's rule, and Athena, the younger, whom she used to pacify others. Keep them from suspecting.

It had been easy enough to get a virus into the computer system. So every time these kids thought they would fix something, they would discover that something else was broken. The next things out would be communications and positioning. They should be set to crash into Shanghai, which was a major population center in China. Killing three birds in one stone, and a lot of excess people, to boot.

The Oudeterrans were here for one, simple reason: to destroy Eden, because Aphrodite Asphodel said so.

And they were making it happen. Now it was only a question of waiting, and killing anyone stupid enough to try to interfere.

Jeff Bell walked into the control room. A few people looked at the door strangely, but all in all, they ignored him completely.

He was fairly certain that they couldn't see him.

He was fairly certain that he was dead.

So why was he walking around, could see things, hear things, and think? That wasn't what happened when you were dead, was it? So he wasn't completely sure. It was a bit of a tricky situation, see.

He had built this whole fantastic space station. The Eden. It was his masterpiece. He made a fortune in Virgin Galactic, and was good friends with the Bransons, to boot. Adrian had supplied him with weird pieces of technology, and strange ideas. Jeff still wasn't quite sure where they came from, or how they worked. But they came together, and built a dream space station.

He had been looking forward to bringing his daughters up here, and showing them. Saffron and Pheobe. His little singer and poet. And he could see them, too-but they couldn't see him.

Was this what being a ghost felt like?

A ghost of Eden. What a quaint idea.

Something had happened, and then something went down with Adrian and his wife Evyna, and he had just sort of been wandering Eden since then.

Not alone, either.

No, there was another‚...ghost‚...who called himself Liebe. Jeff couldn't figure who he was-a part of his own personality split off from him? It was all so strange.

He glanced one more time mournfully at his daughters. He just wanted to hold them, but he could only watch.

It took a few moments, but Julia was able to get ahold of herself. This was a crisis, and emotional response was superfluous. Right now, she needed a cool head.

She glanced at the map, with the flashing lights. Everything seemed to be taken care of in the control room. She didn't have enough knowledge of computers to hack the doors, or of mechanics to fix the actual systems. She could read the map, sure, but there were a lot of other kids that could. She wasn't being of any help. So she could go out and pursue her own interests. Find out what was going on.

Fine someone.


She had met him-well, seen him, really, two years ago. Her sophomore year. She was walking home from the bus stop and she heard a little noise and she turned, and there he was, bleeding out in an alleyway. Something made her stop instead of just anonymously calling 911 then leaving. Perhaps the way he looked at her-a mixture of relief, longing, and pleading.

"I'm calling a hospital," she informed him, taking out her Device.

Fear flashed through those eyes of his, but his voice was completely steady. "You can't."

"Why not?"

"You just can't. It would be worse. No one can find me. Please, you can't call a hospital."

And, of course, being young and naive, prideful of her own abilities, and with a rebellious streak of her own, she asked him, "Do you think you can walk another four blocks, if I help you?" At his blank stare, she explicated, "I've been taking courses in advanced nanotechnology healing. I've got the equipment and the knowledge. You're going to die within a day or two if you don't get some serious help. And I can give you that help."

Silently, he stood. She hoisted his arm around her shoulder, and acting as his crutch, they continued the few blocks down to her place.

It was easy enough to smuggle him into the house-her parents weren't even home, they didn't care. Easy enough to bandage him up, to steal some nanotech from school and properly heal him.

Even with two stab wounds in his chest, she could tell he was attractive. Extremely attractive. High cheekbones, deep brown eyes, sculpted body, black-blue hair that hung over his headband. He was gorgeous. But he wouldn't say a word. Not about his background, not about what had happened to him. So she didn't push.

Three weeks passed. The wounds healed near perfectly-more to luck than to her own skill. And one day when she returned he was sitting up fine all by himself.

He didn't need her anymore.

There was a sort of awkward moment where he stared at her, and she stared back.

"My name is Aaron Blue," he said.

"Julia Habana," she replied.

Then slowly, he leaned forward and kissed her.

And she kissed him back.

And things just went on from there.

And when she woke up the next morning, he was gone.

But a few months later, he showed up again in her room at night. They spent the night together near-wordlessly, and the next morning, he was gone.

It kept happening, too. Becoming a pattern. He would show up, and they would explore their strange whatever it was without words. He never thanked her. He never said anything about himself, about anything. But there definitely was something between them, something more ineffable, and bond-


Even the word itself scared her.

Because Julia was smart. She was introspective. She knew herself. And she could tell that she was falling hard for this strange, mysterious boy.

Sometimes he showed up with new scars. Sometimes he showed up with new wounds, and she patched him up. She never knew when he was going to appear. She never knew anything about him. It wouldn't have been that difficult to find out, but she had wanted to respect his privacy. Besides, he had seemed so cagey.

And she was scared to destroy whatever fragile...thing...they had between them. She loved him, and...

and she didn't know what to do about it.

But as of right now, she could just find him, and figure out what was going on. What they were doing here. Why they had guns.

Everyone was shouting. Everyone was crowding around the keyboard. A good number of people were simply acting hysterical, crying in the corner, screaming about how they were all going to die.

It was vaguely like Lord of the Flies. In a space station. With less than 50 minutes of oxygen remaining.

And Drake Alvarado was tired of their pathetic noise.

He was smarter than them. More mature than them. Just generally better than them on every metric. Knowing that made it rather hard to deal with them, in general. Now was no exception.

"Them," of course, referred to just about every else.

He was a genius programmer, and brilliant enough at everything that he could be openly disdainful of everyone else, and no one could complain. Well, if they did complain, he wouldn't listen. Who cares about their stupid whining anyways? He programmed circles around every single computer teacher he'd ever had, and had taught himself everything he knew, to boot.

His idiot little brother wasn't making things easier, going around, trying to be helpful, hanging out with his stupid little girlfriend. Didn't the kid know he was only getting in the way?

Someone in the corner started sobbing. He groaned. The noise was giving him a headache. No one was getting anything done, and they were all just being idiots.

"Everyone SHUT THE FUCK UP!" he roared.

And the something rather surprising happened.

They did.

Everyone silenced themselves and turned to him.

Well, that was nice for a change. "Listen to me. Everyone step away from the keyboard. No one touch it. I know programming, so I'll examine it."

They obeyed.

"Okay. This is a closed system. The setup is rather simple-it monitors and synchronizes the various systems on the ship. Right now, heating and oxygen is down. I need one team to search for toolboxes, and another team to head to heat systems, and life support. Once you fix the system, it should generate a code, which we impute into the central computer to re-synchronize the system. If you do not have mechanical or programming skill, try to calm down, and wait inside. There were seats out there in the cafeteria."

One of the SOTA kids, with a tutu and curly hair, raised her hand. "My father works here. He built this place. He'll know what to do."

A few other people called out suggestions. But it was a lot more organized. The CPS kids went to find some tools. Tech kids headed for life support, which was everyone's priority. Drake stayed at the keyboard, tracking everyone's progress, directing everyone, keeping order.

He had become a sci-fi action hero, and was rather pleased with himself. Not that this was too different than his general state of mind.

A few of the kids seemed somewhat annoyed by his seizure of power; his brother began whining something about "How come you get to take over and be in charge? You're so egocentric?"

Drake grinned fiercely. "I'm not egocentric, I'm just smarter than you.