“Is this thing on?”
I double checked my camera, to make sure it was rolling and streaming, I adjusted my script so it would be visible and would read along as I go, a red streaming dot glowed faintly, and the Earth date was set to match my calendar: March 12th, 2119.
“All right, everybody, Roxanne Here, and I am coming to you live from New Washington Street, right here on the Naig; doing a pilot stream for my ‘Then and Now’ assignment!”
I flourished my introduction with down-to-earth formalities. If I was stuck with an assignment, I may as well have fun with it.
I turned my hand-me-down, hand-held camera towards my neighborhood.
“This skyscraper neighborhood complex is my home. It’s built upon a small cluster of terraformed space rocks. I live up on apartment B4 of the USNA… 1G5… ES9, but save yourselves the headache and just call it the ‘Naig’.
“The Naig is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the entire Novusphere. Each of the terra comets linked to it is no bigger than a mile, but they’re all connected with sturdy bridges that hold the Naig together into something bigger than the sum of its parts. And those parts are all linked to the rest of the whole wide Novusphere.”
I turned the camera clumsily back to myself.
“But we’re not going to go there yet, because we’re heading to my school right now.”
“A little background on myself:” I continued, since again, about 20% of my grade was based on these formalities. “I am 15 years old; I live with my mom and my older sis. In my spare time, I like to---”
I suddenly turned in shock as an explosion burst behind me, I just witnessed as something blasted the top seven floors of the Naig clean-off in an ear-piercing crash; clumps of heavy debris hurled down like rain. I rushed to take cover, As I witnessed a showdown involving Espies.
“What the hell?” I shouted, trying to make sense of things. I felt safe at this distance.
“Not this again!” I cursed on camera, which I shouldn’t have in retrospect. “This is not happening… the assignment is due tomorrow!”
I ran around my building from a distance, contrary to everything we were taught in espy battle drills. I did my best to record with my old camera while trying to avoid direct eye contact with the espies. There were others running away as well, so I hope I wasn’t standing out.
“Jousting in the sky on his storm-cloud steed, and wielding a lance made of lightning, is Morrow Knight – self-proclaimed warrior of justice and chivalry. He's a well-known “Heritor” hero by every regard. But what the hell is he fighting?”
Atop the building’s wreckage was a creature I had never seen in any textbook; the creature was freaking massive! It had giant bat wings; massive, ape-like limbs formed from tangled and withered vines; it bore wicked, green fangs and a scorpion stinger tail; and it had great, shifting black roses for eyes that burnt furiously that morning.
“I have never seen anything like this, before! But whatever it is, It’s a monster by every regard! Let’s hope Morrow Knight can stop this thing!”
It let out a horrifying, high-pitched screech as the beast swiped its vines at Morrow Knight. Luckily, the heritor hero was faster, gliding past the creature’s strikes as he retaliated on easy openings until finally, he struck the monster in the heart with his lance, surging it with high voltage. The monster slowly died in another blood-curdling scream as blood gushed out of its chest, but it couldn't die fast enough. In its dying breath, the monster clenched its fists and pounded furiously at Morrow Knight, who flew in too close to the wound, pounding him once, twice, thrice before both fell into the wrecked building.
And I got it all on camera.
“That was so intense! Did you all catch that? I mean---”
I let out a restrained cough. “it’s horrifying, isn’t it? But fateful battles between heroes and villains are routine here on the Novusphere. And this destructive routine endangers the people who only try to make a life for themselves. I take cold comfort from two facts, the first fact - Bargainby’s construction agency works formidably fast; by tomorrow morning, the building damage from all those destroyed floors would be cleaned and pristinely restored to regulation, but medical science has yet to bring all those dead people, children, and pets back to life.
“The second fact is that we must not succumb to fear at our day and age. If we give in to fear -- the villains win. Rather, we must fight the system, you guys, send a message straight up to the big man Bargainbutt to prohibit the use of Panacea-418! I can’t shake the feeling of sorrow for the potential many victims of today’s incident, and that it could have been me, in my very own apartment, had it only happened minutes earlier. It really could be any one of you, next. P-418 is dangerous and must be banned forever!”
Okay, In retrospect, maybe I oversold it, but rhetorics and facts are conflicting pillars of journalism, and one can only do well by using one to back up the other. Nonetheless, I remembered that this was supposed to be an assignment about my own life and family history, and not that of politics. I shifted the camera to display my second-hand pedal bike, got on it, and began to ride to school.
“Anyway, back to the show. Recently, riding my pedal bike like a cavewoman had become a guilty pleasure in its own ‘The-journey-is-its-own-reward’ kinda way. I used to be much bigger before I started, too; it’s probably related. When I found it, three years ago, it used to be a perfectly good B-bike, last year's model that some snob tossed out---Hold on.”
As I passed by the Naig’s branch of Bargainby’s Bike Garage, I slowed down my peddling and zoomed in, streaming the B-bike salesman in careful detail while flipping him the bird. He began to run after me, screaming that he’ll pummel me in the face. But I sped up and got out of there.
“So context - I took that B-bike as my own for a while, and, once the battery ran out, that B-bike garage there told me that this chunky, excessively shiny lump of metal was ‘last year's model’ and that the parts weren't even in circulation for months! Ahh, consumerism—ya shallow, heartless bitch.”
If I was already swearing, I’d go all the way.
“The clerk wanted extra just to order the right charging cable, and when I refused, he said ‘well, good luck peddling to school on it without a battery.’ at first, I thought he was crazy, but my lips spoke for me, saying ‘Challenge accepted.’ Next thing I knew, I sold the damn motor for scrap and installed older wheels light enough to pedal with, all by myself.
“And the rest is history. At this point, giving the B-bike garage people the finger every day on my four-year-old, manual B-Bike has become somewhat of a tradition. I always slow down just enough to piss off the store clerks of the day on my way to, and back from school.”
I made a turn into the ES9 highway, towards the Central Bridge.
“On most days, crossing Great Bridge ES9 on a scrapped-together pedal bike can be terrifying for a civ like me. But nothing’s gonna stop me from getting to school. What we saw just now is a big scoop that would make my friends at the journalism club bite the belt in jealousy, and you all saw it with me first. Tell me in the chat what you think of this headline - “Mystery Monster Mashed in NA1G, Morrow Knight Martyred - article by Roxanne Nocturne...”
I paused a moment to get a feel of my chatting. My watcher count was growing rapidly, with many shocked to see what I just recorded. Some were fighting amongst themselves over whether the monster was real. But nonetheless, there was a supportive anon voice there saying it liked the name, and one supporter was really all I wanted anyway.
My high school was at the next exit from the Naig, yet, merely getting to the other side was the real hassle. Doing it while recording it was even harder. I took that time to talk more about myself.
“I’m a second generation kid on the Novusphere, In my spare time, I like cycling (with the pedals), reading and metal music. When I grow up...there are a lot of things I wanna do - journalism, music, teaching children. But I don’t intend to lock myself down one career path like the others. I want it all!”
By the time I got to school, the yard was already empty: not a kid around on the basketball court, or on the stoop, not even a rebel to be found smoking in the corners. And they were smart to be on time, what with the parent-teacher conference coming up this weekend.
“Alright you guys, stay tuned for more of this stream after school. Roxanne Nocturne, signing off!”
I locked my bike before going in. Treading carefully, sneaking around the halls to get to class, being extra careful not to run, or step on the wrong floor tiles, lest the alarm go off and I’d have to deal with the hall monitors, ugh.
The pattern codes, surveillance monitors and security passwords had been documented and memorized through the perilous trial and error and the collective wisdom of students past, and their resources have become a crucial survival guide for students like me, who just want to get school over with the easy way.
I was almost in class, too, but just as I opened the door, the hall alarm went off. I cussed, realizing I must have triggered an alarm tile when I opened the door a little too wide.
“So glad you could join us, Ms. Nocturne.” Growled old Mr. Bears, my homeroom teach. “You and that mouth of yours are late again, I see.” My classmates giggled around me.
“Yeah, sorry about that, my home was nearly wrecked this morning and–.”
“Sit down, Ms. Nocturne!” The homeroom teacher barked, as the whole class fell silent before us, and, knowing all the rumors about him being a cannibal, a supervillain, and a very sadistic and hairy monster of a man, I did what any half-brained monkey would do in my position and sat the hell down.
“Bad day to be late, Rox,” Dystence whispered to me from the seat to my left. “Mr. Bears is extra cranky today.”
“I’ll bet,” I answered in hush tones. “He’s always like this before Parent-teacher night.”
“It’s not just that, Rox, There’s something else…”
“Oh,” I whispered. “By the way, I got a big scoop for the club, see--”
“Ms. Nocturne!” Mr. Bears barked again as his phone made a bird call tone. “The principal would like to speak with you after class.”
Way up in the front of the class, I heard smug snickering from none other than Dolly Flakes, that bitch thinks she’s so smart and special, it’s people like her that make my life hell in every regard. I thought angrily to myself.
The rest of math class was so boring, I sat the exercises out, and even mean old Mr. Bears knew better than to call on me, an infamous dyscalculic delinquent, to answer his unholy al-gibberish. Still, because I refused to be treated for my condition, there’s nothing else he could have done for me. And there's nothing more he would have, anyway.
“Hey, watch it!”
As the bell rang, I was promptly escorted by the mechanical hall monitor to the principal’s office, they looked and acted very lifelike, appearing like old-fashioned cops with school uniforms, armed with a baton and pepper spray in their belts, but these law machines were built to conceal all sorts of emergency weapons inside their four arms. Damnit, those screwbolts always grab your arm too tight!
The wait at the principal’s waiting room was utterly unbearable, especially because that immature brat Ten was sitting next to me, picking his nose. God, how can one nerd be so disgusting?
“Hey, what are you in for?” he asked me, smearing his nose-goop on the wall.
“Where do I even begin?” I replied. “You?”
“Mrs. Thatcher caught me playing Bloodshot Moon: Black Atonement in the middle of English.” Once again, the kid plugged his nostril with his index finger. Because the first time wasn’t enough to make me wanna vomit.
“Dude, you gotta stop picking your damn nose.”
“Why, does it gross you out?” he gave me a Cheshire grin, flashing his repulsive, yellow teeth on full display from ear to ear. I could see he ate walnuts this morning.
“Shove off, nerd. Seriously, how can a dork like you be Dystence’s twin brother?”
“What can I say?” He shrugged jokingly. “The Chanters are a package deal, Rocket.”
“Don’t ever call me Rocket again.”
“Whatever you say, Rocket.”
I groaned in annoyance. But from that point on, I gave that troll the silent treatment until I was called in. But damn, that was way harder than it should have been.
I sat down into the principal’s office, it was a comfy seat, with a rigid base but soft cushions that deflated and grew less comfy the longer you sat in it. The office was decorated with diplomas and certificates, a couple of high-quality paintings made in art class, a few ornate glass baubles and trophies, and a round, mock-wood table at its center with desk compartments beneath it. In the corner, there was a command board for school administration, managing files, et cetera.
Y’know, standard office stuff.
Principal Karma’s office always felt dark and stuffy, and things always seemed to move around on the corner of my eye. Like it was haunted or something. Well, technically it was.
I was taken aback when Ms. Karma called me from under the table. “I’ll be right with you, love, I’m just looking for my Squumpy.”
“My imaginary pet Squumpy!” She repeated. “I made him up this morning to keep my lunch warm, but the cheeky little thing seemed to have vanished with my ---Ow! My food.” As she tried to rise up, she bonked her head on the round table, as it seemed for an instant like the whole room, (myself included) felt it.
The whole room probably did feel it, actually. I’d expect no less from a “gifted” espy like her.
“Gotcha, ya little scamp!” she exclaimed triumphantly moments later with her missing creature in her grasp. As the translucent purple, box-shaped Squumpy chirped audibly like a bird and flailed about, wiggling it’s worm-like tails rapidly.
At least, I hope those were tails.
The principal placed the little Squumpy in a cage and locked it.
“Now, you sit there and think about what you’ve done!” she said, trying to sound assertive but cutesy and ultimately failing. Finally, she sat down, offering me from her bowl of walnuts. “Sorry about that, Roxanne. Would you like a--”
“No thanks.” I rushed to decline.
"Suit yourself." While she was eating the walnuts, and reading her computer screen, I heard typing from her haptic touch-pad keyboard, although she wasn’t touching it, but rather, I could see a few minuscule specks jumping on the keyboard from key to key in perfect precision. It’s a shame the principal can’t be bothered to type on her own computer, but rather creates imaginary friends to do the work for her.
“Right, then, Roxanne, we received a troublesome complaint about your behavior today.”
“--If it’s about me being late, I have a very good reason, Ms. Karma,” I interjected. “See, my building got crashed into during a fight between Morrow Knight and a monster and--”
“We’re not worried about you being late, dear. You’re not a child anymore.” She said with a fake smile. “But a very important man is here to see you about just that.”
“What?” I asked, flummoxed by that vague explanation. Who would possibly want to see me about getting my house blown up? The news? A S4tl1te admin? The minister of something or another?
My heart raced with fear and confusion, and what she was about to say into the intercom next proved worse than I could’ve ever imagined.
“Please come in, Sir Bargainby.”