The unrelenting hear glued my hand to the sweaty plastic of the boarding stairs. I forced a smile, the cameras blinking coldly back at me.
“I am pleased to announce that operation Foster is finally available to the public.” My voice echoed through the speakers, through the crowds, through the hundreds of televisions that still worked. “From today, thousands of ships will launch to take our planet’s inhabitants to safety.”
A cheer answered my statement, thousands of people suffering from heat exhaustion and starvation.
“We have pumped everything we have into this program, and it is with great relief that I promise you all salvation from the Global Warming disaster that we have recently suffered.”
As soon as the cameras were away from me, I sunk into the cool metal chair of my suite, accepting the glass of wine from my butler. My silk gown billowed out around me, the only thing I could bear to wear in this heat.
“The Minister of the Apocalypse would like to speak with you, Ms President.”
I sighed. “Go on, send him in.”
The short, plump man that had become the bane of my existence waddled in.
“I told you that we weren’t ready!” He clucked, waving a White House file at me. “None of these ships have been properly tested, you could kill half the planet!”
“And so could the sun. I told you that you only had until today.”
“And I told you that that was impossible!”
“People were getting impatient. We faced total chaos if we didn’t do something soon.”
This conversation had staled weeks ago, but ultimately we knew who had the power here. An aging minister who had been irrelevant until just months ago, versus the President of the free world? I had enough muscle behind me to get what I wanted.
“People could die!”
“At least dead people can’t fight back!”
Exasperated, he turned to the window. The countdown to liftoff was just a minute away; there was no point arguing now. The first fifty ships would be leaving, now, with the hand picked brightest scientists and richest celebrities, along with the families of the workers that helped to build them at short notice and the service men and women that helped preserve order during the literal end of the world.
I had always hated flying. From the second I felt the ground disappear out from under me, I was usually begging for whatever drugs the crew had to knock me out. Not today, though; today, the entire planet needed me to be alert as we headed out for years of travel in space.
I had been to space before, of course. Most people who could afford it had. The ascent barely phased me; it was watching the unprepared vessels that followed us that worried me.
Too few of them made it past the atmosphere. We knew it would be a long shot, but this… I could barely watch. It was like watching twenty tiny bombs go off in slow motion, exploding shards of glass and plastic and metal into the stillness of space.
“How many is that?”
“Almost half of our fleet.”
I sucked in a breath. So many dead… And with so many to launch tomorrow...
“This,” The Minister sighed, unable to even look at me. “This is why it’s the Brains that should rule the world, and not the Brawn.”
Hi, I’m Feswyn. If you’re listening to this is means you’re either really sad and interested in my story or you’re bored as heck and there's nothing else to do. One or the other. Yes, Toril, i know, I'm sticking to the script, thank you. This is the story of how two unlikely fri… no, Allies banded together to save the world. Brains and Brawns united against a common enemy. But let me take you back to the beginning, the competition to find the two saviours, one from each of the B’s. Okay, now the introduction is over, let’s start with my part of the story, shall we?
As part of the Brains, our quick witted nature and ability to think critically are highly sought feats, those who don’t quite match up to our standards end up in Brawns; No Toril, I’m not calling you stupid, let me tell the story. The competition today will determine who is the best and brightest of us. All of the competitors are between the ages of 18 and 25, making sure they’re old enough to go on a dangerous quest and young enough to go on a dangerous quest. I just about fit into this category, being 18 years 3 months and 29 days old, but that is irrelevant. The challenges my fellow Brains and I will have to do today, we have been training for all our lives. Brain teasers in the mornings and evenings, school dedicated to analysis and quick thinking.
I wake up, the feeling of excitement mashed with nerves and thrown into the pit of my stomach. I desperately try to digest the butterflies flitting around my insides. I mean, what is there to be afraid of really? The worst that can happen is I do so badly that I embarrass myself and my family and become a social outcast. As I put on my drab, silver uniform I realise something; I am, by no means, the most intellectually talented in the group and so it is fairly unlikely that I will win. This realisation helps to calm my nerves, because, although I will probably lose, the expectation to win isn’t as high for me as it is for the elite of our group and therefore I won’t be as disappointing as the best would be. I then go on to wonder about what the competition might entail. Perhaps it will be a chess tournament, testing us on our strategizing and forward thinking, as well as being able to knock the confidence of the opponent, or maybe we will have to navigate our way through a maze, doing challenges on the way through to evaluate how well we perform under pressure. I guess we shall have to find out. Once I have finished dressing, I make my way out of my bedroom. My bedroom is up a short flight of stairs: the type that reminds you of an attic. The bedroom itself is barely a bedroom, being a small capsule shape just above the bathroom, which is just large enough for a mattress on the floor and nothing else. I think the space was originally intended for storage by the way it’s completely bare, with no furnishing like carpets. I’m lost in thought about how I was going to deal with the shame of probably not being able to complete the first and therefore easiest challenge which was when I tripped, of course, not seeing something which was on the stairs and tumbling down the rest of the way, luckily only about 5 steps.
“Feswyn” my father called through “is that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me. Just fell down the stairs. I’m okay though”
“Good. Come through to me a second”
“Yes Father” I limp through to the living area, not quite over the pain of falling down the stairs, it will go away soon enough though, no doubt. I step through, to find my father in his usual seat, his cloudy eyes turned out the window, unseeing of the world but still somehow the wisest eyes I’ve seen. I guess as the saying goes, ‘you can only truly see, when you can’t’ it’s something like that anyway. Sensing my presence, he turned himself toward me. The explosion that caused his blindness also caused facial disfigurations which scare people at first meeting, but I’m used to it. The explosion that robbed me of a mother and my dad of the ability to see forced my independence. Making me get a job as well as going to school, in order to provide for myself and my Father.
The day started as any other. Morth’s voice broke through the darkness, a familiar but still haunting scream.
“It's ok.” I mumbled groggily, stumbling out of my hammock. “Ssh!”
The other boys were beginning to wake, now, complaining about the noise. “Shut him up!”
I ignored them, hobbling over the floorboards until I reached Morth. The smallest of the Nursing Wing, he was enveloped by the hammock designed for someone five times his size.
“You're ok.” I soothed him, lifting him up easily. “It was another nightmare.”
His sobs turned to gasps, and his gasps to silence. It was too late, though.
“There's no way he’ll last.” One of the others muttered. “Not at this rate.”
“Ssh!” I hissed again, rocking Morth back and forth. He was beginning to fall back to sleep now, his tiny fists gripping my long, black hair painfully.
I took him back to my hammock, laying him on my chest. He wouldn't be the first Brawn I had watched leave for the Institute, but as my brother, he would be the worst. Fifteen years here alone had taken it's toll; the thought of going back to that was unsurvivable. He showed all the signs of a Sapling, though; nightmares, clumsiness, and of course fear of the fight.
I pushed the thoughts aside, watching the wisps of sunlight spill through the shack window. There was no hope of getting back to sleep, but the calm before the storm of the coming day was always one that I relished.
With a start, I realised what that truly meant. The challenge. Today, both Bs would unite against the enemy that threatened everything. One of each B would be chosen to complete the top-secret task set by the Leaders.
There was no way I would be chosen; my temper had already earned me too many disciplinary marks for that. Despite the stereotype, Brawns needed more than strength and pugnacity. We needed to be obedient, restrained. I fell into neither of those categories.
A clanging disrupted my thoughts.
Morth jumped up, clambering over my chest with a painful kick to my ribs. He landed on his knees with a thump.
A few of the others snickered as they passed, but Morth just dusted himself off.
“Toril! Hurry up!”
I didn't need to be told twice, scooping him up as I ran after the others.
The breakfast run was by far my favourite ritual. With Morth on my back, I sprinted to the kitchens on the other side of the Nursing Field. Whoever got there first got the first choice of food. After breakfast came the weighing. Anyone below healthy BMI was sent to the Institute. I had been lucky enough never to see whatever lay in those underground tunnels.
Today, though, there would be no weighing. Today, we were shepherded towards the Divide, those eligible to compete in front. In the distance, the blue uniforms of the Brains clouded their metropolis. Stuck-up prats. We looked like trash in comparison, our distinctly indistinct greys, browns and blacks mottling together with the crumbling shacks we called home.
The closer to the Divide we got, the further bile rose up my throat. We were never usually allowed to mix with the Brains, they just looked down in us from their ivory towers while we literally fought for survival. The idea of standing next to the people that left us there-
I took a deep breath. Not today.
Today, I could do nothing but face my fate, just like the others.