Chapter 1: Introduction
“First day of the Academy… and it’s going to be amazing. I’m going to laugh, I’m gonna make jokes, I’m gonna live that college life, it’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be perfect, I'm going to have a perfect first year…”
“Do you have everything?! Did I do everything I could for you?!” Heather remarked, holding on to her son’s hand and looking at him with a mix of satisfaction and sadness.
“Mom, I’ll be fine.” Titus laughed, getting out of his mother’s grip and in turn holding on to her. “It’s just college.”
“And you’ll be gone for 4 months! You won’t know anybody, and you’ll be living on your own! Oh my god!” Heather gasped cupping her mouth. “You can’t cook! You barely clean your room! How are you going to function without me?!”
Titus Bartlett opened his mouth in a big grin beaming at his mother. “I can cook Mom you know that. And plus, I have roommates and there are synthesizers.”
Heather flung her hands to show her disgust, “That stuff isn’t real food-“
“Mom,” Titus cut her off and took her into his arms. “It’ll be alright. I’ll be alright. It’ll be a good day. It’ll be a good year. I promise.”
Heather began to sob, and held on to her son tightly, “You’re my boy, my baby boy. And you’re leaving.”
“And I’ll be back mom,” his tone became more solemn. “I’ll come on holidays, and whenever I get time off. I won’t we be one of those kids you don’t see anymore.”
“I know you won’t,” she said pulling away from Titus and wiping her eyes. “You’re good Titus.” She touched her son’s face and rubbed it tenderly. “Don’t ever forget that.”
“Yeah, I’ll never forget it mom, and I’ll never forget you and what you did for me. I’ll life my life, but I won’t sacrifice who I am. I’ll make friends, in fact; I think I’ve already made a few… if I can call them that…”
“Honestly dude shut up. You can have the bed.”
“Don’t tell me to shut up Evan, I called it first! By rights the bed is mine.”
“And I said you could have it Kevvy, you’re just over-reacting and dragging this out as usual!”
“As usual? We’ve known each other for what, an hour and you talk like you’ve known me for years.”
“During that hour all you’ve done is whine, bitch and complain Kevvy.”
Kevvy narrowed his eyes and looked away frowning, “Well maybe if you were a cleaner roommate…” he muttered under his breath.
“What was that?” Evan replied starkly.
“Hey guys,” Titus said cautiously, approaching the two. “I’m Titus Bartlett.”
“You’re late.” Kevvy said.
“Hey dude, I’m Evan, Evan Romans.” The brown-haired man extended his hand and shook Titus’. “The neurotic one is Kevvy Asher.”
Kevvy sighed and rolled his eyes, “I’m not neurotic. I’m just particular and selective… and clean. Please tell me you’re a clean person?”
Titus chuckled and looked over at Evan, then shrugged his shoulders apologetically, “When my mom cleans my room it gets clean.”
Kevvy groaned, and Evan high-fived Titus. “Were gonna get along great my man, just you watch guys. This is gonna be a great year! No, a great 4 years, together the 3 of us are gonna take the Academy by storm!”
“I’m sure we won’t.”
“Shut up Kevvy.”
“Ya, I think I can call them that.”
“No Evan, the cyclonic modulators need to be positively charged and not negatively, the neurons will be incredibly wacky otherwise!”
“You’re trying to educate me on Bot Building, the next Gregory Austen! The modulators need to be negatively charged! The magnetic sphincters are a positive charge! Together they give the central core the needed energy!”
“Oh please Evan, Gregory Austen is a hack.”
Evan gasped and his eyes widened, “Take that back Kevvy Asher!”
“What’d I miss?” Titus said swinging over Evan’s shoulder.
“Ow!” Evan exclaimed, shrugging off Titus and getting up to push him.
Titus laughed and put his arm around Evan. “Don’t the two of you ever stop fighting?”
“It’s exhausting,” Kevvy moaned, rubbing his temples.
“It’s your fault, he starts it Titus.”
“I do not, he’s lying Titus. He’s the agitator.”
“Look, you’re doing it again, arguing with me over the most pointless issue!”
“I’m not arguing-“
The sounds of the two of them slowly drifted from Titus’ attention as he caught sight of someone that took their place.
“And lastly, the college experience can’t be complete, without the falling head over heels for a certain girl, on first sight.”
Titus. Titus. Earth to Titus.
Titus snapped out of his trance with a playful smile, turning to Kevvy and Evan. “Who is she?”
“Someone out of your league, now c’mon we have class, don’t wanna be late now do we?”
“I’m not,” giggled Allyson. “I heard it from the horse’s mouth, they’re sleeping together.”
Jenna let out a hearty laugh and flipped her golden blonde hair, "He's such a slut, who knew the little rat had it in him.”
“Who knew he’d be such a bastard,” chimed a grinning Allyson.
“Hey look,” Jenna cut in, motioning towards the girl walking past them. “Know who she is?”
“I think that’s- Oh my god it is! Leah Watts! Holy crap, look at her! When did she get that gorgeous?”
“When no one was watching obviously,” Jenna chuckled.
“I’m going to go say hi to her, I’ll be back Jenna.”
“Leah? Is that you?”
“Yeah,” Leah answered hesitantly, “Do I know you?”
“It’s me! Allyson Cantrell! From Day Care!”
“Oh,” she responded softly furrowing her brow. “Didn't you used to pick on me?”
“We were kids! Vicious ones at that,” Allyson laughed. “Let’s let bygones be bygones shall we, were grown now, 18 or 19 years of age and ready to embrace the life of college, boys, parties, and of course-“
“Studying?” Leah interrupted sarcastically.
“No, I was going to say sex, but studying works too.”
Leah laughed, and Allyson laughed with her. “So wait a minute, are we in the same dorm?”
“The one on Enlightened Heights?”
“Oh my god we are!” Allyson shrieked. “Okay, what are you doing tonight? There’s a party happening over by Erutuf you just have to come with!”
Jenna’s heart skipped a beat as soon as he said her name. She held her breath in deep anticipation and slowly turned around to face the one who called her.
“I should’ve known you’d be here too,” he said with a charming smile.
“Jared, what a surprise,” she laughed. She didn't know what to do with herself, so she quickly moved in for an awkward hug. “So you decided to come after all.”
“Yeah, dad and all.”
“Yeah I figured,” she said. Her eyes scanned him up and down, admiring his perfect hair and skin, and his deep emerald eyes.
“Jenna, I know I kinda, avoided you all summer-“
“Speak nothing of it,” she said quickly. “It’s in the past, and I completely understand. We broke up. I didn't expect to hear from you; in fact I didn't even think we’d be talking now.”
“I still care about you though Jenna, I just want you to know that.”
“That’s sweet,” she said, trying not to sound vulnerable. “So what are you taking?”
“You’ll never believe this, but Astrophysics.”
“Oh wow look at you! That’s great, who would've known.”
“Exactly,” Jared said beaming proudly.
“Well I better be going, talk to you later?” Jenna asked.
“Woah,” Evan said, his eyes glued to his phone. “There’s a party tonight, at the Erutuf.”
“You’re late Evan, I already got the notification on PlumbBook, looks like it’s-“
“Zayn Rian! He’s hosting it!”
“I was gonna say that Evan.”
“Beat you to it,” Evan teased.
“I wonder if she’s going to go.” Titus asked speaking to no one in particular.
“Get off of her already man, you don’t even know her,” Evan said.
“Isn’t that how these stories begin, guy meets a girl he doesn’t even know yet knows she’s the one.”
“Looks like we have a hopeless on our hand,” Kevvy chuckled. “Her name is Leah Watts, she’s surprisingly a friend on PlumbBook, though I have no idea why we added each other- Oh wait, apparently we have a mutual friend, that must be why.”
“Watts… I think I heard that name in the news a year ago," Evan recalled, looking up in the air trying to remember, then turning his attention to his phone.
“Your memory goes back that far,” Kevvy remarked. “I’m impressed.”
“Shut up. As I was saying, I think someone in her family was involved in some sort of an accident, apparently it was fatal. Look here’s the news article,” Evan said sharing his phone with the others.
“It was her mom…” Titus said looking at the phone, “That’s so, sad. I can’t imagine how I’d live if anything happened to my mom.”
“Don’t even think about it,” Evan said. “These things happen sure, but don’t go on thinking like that, it’ll drive you crazy. I don’t even wanna think what life would be like without mine.”
“Ya well I’m living it, please let’s move on to other happier topics.”
“Titus, if and when you do talk to Leah, don’t bring this up,” Evan laughed.
“Zayn Rian my man!” Jared exclaimed high-fiving his friend before plopping down on the couch next to him. “Good turnout buddy, awesome music, but how the hell did you get the venue?!”
Zayn leaned back against the couch with a smug look on his face, “I got connections.”
“Connections? You mean to tell me you’re dealing with the Syndicate now?!” Jared yelled.
“Keep your voice down!” Zayn exclaimed in a hushed tone, leaning closer to Jared, “You know they have goons in here and those Bots are crazy! No, I’m not dealing with the Bot Syndicate I just know a couple guys and moved around a few funds it’s no big deal.”
“Alright Zayn if you say so, I’m just being a friend. I know how you like to get yourself into trouble.”
Zayn smirked confidently and grunted, “Ya, and I always get myself out of it scotch free. Don’t worry about me Jared; I know what I’m doing. And I’ve gained a mint over this party of mine, its win win for me.”
Jared let out a chuckle and relaxed a bit more, scanning the room and observing the people in the club. “Where were you today? You didn’t come for the first day, and your brother, where’s he? I haven’t seen him in the longest time.”
“I had bigger things to deal with than school,” Zayn remarked. “And I don’t know what Adam’s up to, probably in the Wasteland, he’s been obsessed with lately, it’s pissing my dad off,” he laughed.
“The Wasteland?! I bet! What the hell is he doing interested in that?”
“Who knows he’s such a weirdo, shame no one else sees it. So hey, I wanted to ask you, what’s up with you and Jenna now?”
Jared buried his head in his hands, shook his head and sighed, “Don’t start Zayn, please don’t start.”
“Look who finally decided to show up! Is your make-up all done?!” Kevvy sneered in between snorts.
Evan snickered at the remark then began choking and coughing.
“I figured Evan would be into this, but you too Kevvy?” Titus asked surprised.
“I know right!” Evan wheezed, “Imagine me shocked when the first thing he did was dart towards this thing!”
“You know if the cops come-“
“Shut up Titus! You’re killing my buzz! And who gives an ass about the cops, they're just a couple of tin heads anyways!”
“Woah woah Kevvy keep that to yourself man!” Evan exclaimed. “You know the Syndicate has hands in this place right!? If they hear stuff like that-”
“Evan, screw the Syndicate! They can take their robotic fingers and shove it up their metallic asses!”
“What flavor is he on?”
“Pineapple, he went for the strongest.”
“Take a seat Titus, blow with us,” Kevvy ordered.
“I don’t do drugs.”
“What is this, a PSA on how to deal with peer pressure?” Kevvy took a deep long suck holding his nose, held it in, and then let it all out in a long exhale resulting in bubbles coming out of his mouth. “Don’t be a little bitch, try the mint, it’s suited for newbies,” he squeaked.
“Yeah, I don’t know, I mean it’s a narcotic and all-“
“Titus, the mint is fine. The pathogen effects are so minimal you’ll hardly feel it; it’s just for the buzz and to calm your nerves. Plus, Leah’s here, this’ll help, trust me.”
“She came?!” Titus said taking a seat dumbfounded.
“My goodness she has you enthralled!” Kevvy bellowed.
“Kevvy relax, don’t yell,” Evan remarked rolling his eyes annoyed. “You’re such a lightweight. But yeah Titus I saw her earlier, she came in with Allyson and Jenna Skelton.”
“Skelton’s such a bitch, and she’s the mayor’s daughter too. Boy would I hate to have her as a daughter,” Kevvy stated belligerently.
“You don’t even know her,” Evan said narrowing his eyes at Kevvy.
“I do too; we went to the same Center, with Zayn and Jared.”
“Center?” Titus asked.
“A community center where some of the teens of Oasis Landing went if our parents weren’t really around, there were different ones all over the city. How do you not know that?”
Titus looked around nervously, and then fumbled with the Bubble Bar, “How do I start this?”
“Just blow, it’ll start up on its own ‘Miner’,” Kevvy jeered.
“You’re from the Mining District? Why didn’t you tell us?”
“He’s obviously ashamed Evan! It’s totally 20th century medieval up there. I’m surprised he found his way to the dorms, much less get the front door open. I’m not sharing food from the synthesizer with you.”
“You know Kevvy, I think the bitch here is actually you,” Titus shot back.
“I know, and I do a damn good job at it if I say so myself.”
“Who is that?” Jenna demanded, nodding to the dancing girl in green and yellow.
“I have no idea, she looks new,” Allyson replied.
“I don’t like her, there’s something off.”
Allyson laughed briskly, “You don’t even know her!”
“It’s just this feeling I have Allyson, she screams trouble. And I hate girls that give off that vibe.”
“You said the same thing about me when we met Jenna.”
“This is different Allyson trust me, nothing good comes from that girl. She’s more than a tramp, she’s something else.”
Allyson threw her hands up and laughed, “Now you’re calling her a tramp, you are a piece of work.”
“She looks and dances like she has no class, it’s just all crass from her. And how she’s dancing with that guy and look, look! Look at the way she’s staring at that girl you know.”
“Jenna, why don’t you ignore the mystery girl there, and focus back on reality, please.”
“Name’s Emily, Emily Chisholm,” the girl said approaching Leah with a seductive look in her eyes. Her body moved to and fro with the music, and she reached out and began pulling Leah to the dance floor. “Dance with me.”
“I don’t even know you,” Leah said abashed.
“I just told you my name, that’s plenty enough.”
Her accent was one Leah had never heard before, and her make-up gave off an exotic vibe, “You’re not from around here are you? Your accent…”
Emily gave off a mischievous smile and moved closer to Leah staring into her eyes, “Does it scare you? Foreigners of the big bad world outside this little bubble?”
A bold influence came over Leah, and suddenly she found herself with her hands above her head, twirling them around to the beat of the music. Her hips began shaking in a slow, hypnotic circular motion, and she was suddenly consumed by the underlying sounds of the music.
“Do you feel it?” Emily, asked, and she turned around and pushed back on Leah, grinding on her and matching the movement of her hips to Leah's.
“What’s happening?” Leah asked in a daze.
“I have you under a spell,” Emily whispered with a devious smile, and then she turned back around and looked over her shoulder. “But who else should I captivate?”
“Him.” Leah responded almost instantly.
“Jared Whaley? Yes he does give off vibes.”
“How do you know his name?”
“My dear Leah,” she said putting her hand to Leah’s face, “I know everything about you all. Now go, Jared would be much more fun.”
Leah suddenly came out of her trance; she shook her head and looked around. Emily was dancing in front of her grinning deviously, and made a subtle movement with her hand to shoo her away. Leah complied and quickly shot for the bar.
Emily stood there dancing, watching Jared with intensity, until finally he turned around to face her. She beckoned him to come over, and in an instant his body jolted, making his way over to Emily.
“Dance with me,” she whispered, her gaze never leaving Jared’s eyes.
“Who are you?”
“You’re lover,” Emily arched her back and pressed in close to Jared, turned around, and pushed her body against his and grinding once more on him.
“Do you see that?! Look at her!” Jenna shouted. “Who the hell does she think she is? She’s disgusting!”
“She’s just dancing Jenna.”
“Like that!? With Jared,” she spoke softly and looked down, “My Jared…”
“Oh don’t tell me you’re not over him yet Jenna! There was summer-“
“I am Allyson and don’t you forget it! But she looks like trouble and I just don’t want to see Jared get hurt!”
“He’s a big boy Jenna I’m sure he can handle himself.”
“He’s a man, and men are weak to women like her.”
Allyson sighed and rolled her eyes, “Well at least she’s trying to have fun and goes after what she wants, what are we doing? We’re not even taking up the wall, were sitting down! At a club!”
“Well you know what I’m done looking at them, I’m going home!” she exclaimed, getting up from her seat in her in a hurry.
“Take me,” Emily uttered.
Jared grabbed a hold of Emily and pulled her in, his eyes locked on to hers, as if stuck in a trap.
“Why am I doing this?”
“Because I’m the only one in this room and you want me, you want me badly Jared. And you can have me,” she spoke softly, then closed her eyes and inched closer to Jared. “Take me Jared, kiss me, kiss me now.”
“Can just say excuse-“ Titus jumped when he saw that it was Leah who cleared her throat behind him. “Oh, hi!”
“Hey, sorry I just wanted to get myself a drink; all the other stations are full.”
“Oh of course of course,” Titus said nervously moving out of the way for Leah. His hand shot out for a handshake, “I’m Titus.”
“Titus,” Leah repeated getting a drink from the synthesizer and taking a sip, ignoring his hand, “Nice to meet you.”
Titus feeling a bit awkward dropped his hand and looked around nervously, chuckling at the same time. “Should’ve blew a stronger flavor, nerves are getting the best of me.”
Leah looked at him with a smile, “You’re nervous?”
“Yeah, well sort of,” he admitted.
“Have a drink, but wait, you were blowing weren’t you, I can smell the mint,” she said, the grin never leaving her face.
“Guilty as charged,” he chuckled. “What’s a little bubbles to liven up the night. I see your nights been lively, with that dancing and all.”
“I was dancing?” Leah asked confused.
“Yeah, and rather sexy if I say so myself…”
“Is that a pick-up line?” Leah said, forgetting the fact she couldn’t remember dancing.
“Just a matter of fact,” Titus laughed, “It was a rather provocative dance.”
“You’re a perv,” she teased with a giggle.
“You’re a flirt and a tease,” he shot back with a smile.
“Titus, was it? I take it I don’t need to give my name as you probably already know it,” she said, giving Titus her full attention now.
“Now you’re just cocky with a tinge of narcissism,” he said. “You’re not that popular.”
Leah laughed and rolled her eyes, “Liar. I bet you wanted to dance with me out there.”
“And I bet you want to dance with me right now," he replied smoothly, inching closer to Leah with a playful look on his face.
“What’s going on here?” Allyson interrupted.
“Allyson, hi, me and uh, didn’t quite catch your name,” Titus chuckled at Leah.
Leah joined in with his chuckling, and then cleared her throat. “Was just having a drink.”
“Were you? And how do you know my name? You know what don’t answer that.” Allyson said irritated. “We should get going Leah, party’s winding down.”
“Aww don’t be one of those guys who leave the clubs early, killing it for everyone else.”
“You can drink and blow mint to your heart’s content til the sun comes out and the cops arrest you, blow head, but were leaving. Come on Leah, what are you doing talking to him anyways?”
“Allyson, what’s the matter with you?” Leah asked, “Nothing’s wrong.”
“Leah I want to go home, are you gonna make me leave all by myself?”
“What happened to Jenna? Can’t she go home with you?”
“We don’t live in the same place Leah! She lives at home and we live in the dorms. And plus she’s already left, got upset.”
“Upset?” Leah asked.
“It doesn’t matter, about Jenna or the stupid green and yellow girl, what matters is that I want to go home now and I don’t want to be myself so please Leah, can we just go?”
Leah sighed and looked back at Titus, “Sorry, maybe we’ll have that dance another time.”
Titus grinned, “It’s a date.”
Allyson grunted in disgust and pulled Leah away.
As Titus watched Leah and Allyson leave, a sharp pain pierced his head, followed by poundings; he clutched his head and grunted out in pain.
“Are you alright?” Kevvy asked, approaching the bar for a drink.
“I’m fine,” Titus snapped.
The pain intensified with each passing moment, the feeling he had just experienced with Leah was now long gone, replaced with frustration and headaches. “I’m going home. I think I’m done for the night.”
“What was that tonight?” Allyson asked.
“What was it?” Leah replied confused.
“First the dancing with that weird girl, and then talking with that loser, you were just full of surprises tonight.”
“Loser? Titus isn’t a loser, and why is everyone saying I was dancing? I just moved side to side in one place, I wouldn’t exactly call that dancing.”
“Great, you were doing drugs also.”
“Allyson!” Leah exclaimed, “I wasn’t doing drugs!”
“You don’t remember- you know what nevermind, who am I to tell you what to do and what not to do, I was just concerned.”
Leah giggled, “Concerned, really?”
“Do you like him?”
“Titus? He’s cute, admit it.”
Allyson sighed and looked away, trying to hide her smile, “Okay, but he’s a loser, I saw him doing bubbles with the other two blow heads. They’re nothing but trouble I’m telling you.”
“Allyson, oh my god I’m not getting married to him or anything,” Leah laughed, “We were just talking, and having a little fun, weren’t you the one who was telling me earlier that you wanted to do parties, and boys.”
“I remember,” she said smiling, “Well all the power to you Miss Watts, but my standards are a bit higher.”
“But then you’ll never get that 3rd item on your list, what was it, sex,” Leah laughed.
“Oh shut up Leah.”
The night was dark and still, with a certain uneasiness, save for the rain that pattered all around Titus as he walked home. He was stilling feeling the effects of the bubble drug, his head was throbbing, and he had difficulty walking in a straight line and keeping his umbrella held against the beating wind.
The hell is up with this wind
, he thought to himself pressing on.
Suddenly he heard a noise behind him, he spun around him to catch a glimpse of what it was. Nothing. It’s just the wind.
Truth was he couldn’t see anything through the darkness of the night.
The uneasiness he felt grew stronger, and he began to break out into a run. The rain hit his face as he ran, and the wind pushed against him, stifling his breath and making it that much harder to continue. But it was fear that propelled him forward.
Until a dark figure stepped in his path.
Titus stopped and gasped; he could make nothing out of it save the bright glowing eyes. Before Titus could react the figure lunged forward and bit down on Titus’ neck.
Titus screamed for a few seconds, until he had no more energy in him to scream. He could feel the blood coming down his neck, his vision went blurry, and soon darkness began taking a hold of him.
“It is time my friend…”
Were the last words Titus heard before he felt his life end.