Welcome to ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, readers new and old.
I've been sitting on this idea for several months and started to envision it as a way to get back to my roots a bit as a writer of Pokemon fanfiction. Just to get one thing out of the way for those of you that have read my works before, I've made an effort to keep the chapters long enough but not novellas in and of themselves, like I've sometimes been known to do.
And now for the disclaimers.
DISCLAIMER 1: Pokemon and all trademarks and copyrights therein are the property of... actually, in a legal sense, I have no idea. I just know that it's not me. This is a fan-created work that is inspired by, but not a part of, the Pokemon "Generation V" video game canon.
DISCLAIMER 2: This work contains instances of language, violence, and other content in the area of the American "PG-13" MPAA rating. It is recommended for readers 12 and up.
*Yawn* That was a bit boring, honestly. I'm not sure if it had to be done, but since it could potentially save me a lot of irritation later, I just went ahead and did it. Now we can get to the story itself. Fun, right?
I certainly hope so. After all, if I'm not enjoying writing and you're not enjoying reading, then we're all sort of wasting our time, aren't we?
Enough talking. On to the story!!
The Age of Harmony
Chapter 1: The Upheaval
Chapter 2: Aftershock
Chapter 3: The Day the World Crumbled
Chapter 4: A Grave New World
Chapter 5: The Decision
Chapter 6: A Free-Fall Education
Chapter 7: The Unbound
~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~
1. The Upheaval
“Reshiram, forge our path to truth!”
“Zekrom, watch out!”
The snarling of the two massive dragons – one black and one white – filled the skies as they trained their attacks on each other. Zekrom evaded a massive fireball shot forth from the other dragon and launched an attack of its own – a huge lightning bolt that tore through the sky and struck Reshiram dead center in the chest. The white dragon let out an enormous cry of pain as it flapped its wings furiously in order to stay aloft. It failed, but did manage to land on the ground without further damage.
Two tall, cap-wearing young men were commanding the dragons. One of them was standing to the left. His short, chocolate-brown locks flapped in the swirling winds under his cap as he clenched his fist and pointed to the other dragon. “Attack, Zekrom! Finish him!”
A shriek had come from somewhere to the outside. The brown-haired boy pulled up short. His counterpart, a strange-looking young man with wild-looking lime green hair down to his back, staggered back a step.
“Whit, what the hell’s wrong with you?!” the brown-haired boy yelled at a girl that looked rather like a feminine version of him. She was tall, and had rather long hair the exact same shade of brown. She had interposed herself between the two boys and their dragons.
“I’m sorry, brother, I just…I can’t,” she answered, shaking her head quickly. Tears leaked into the air from her tightly shut eyes.
“What do you mean, ‘you can’t’?” the girl’s brother snarled, gesturing with his hand. “You know this has to be done, Whit!”
“No, it doesn’t!!” the girl cried. She turned her head for a moment toward green-haired young man, whose pale face had gone even paler with shock. “He’s a human being, Blake!”
“Maybe you’re right…” the boy said, clenching his fist. “But he… he’s set himself against everything we stand for!”
“What do we stand for anymore?” the sister asked tearfully, backing toward the green-haired young man. “You weren’t always this bloodthirsty, Blake. You were sweet… then we started this journey, and now… now you’re willing to kill for the sake of your lifestyle? Maybe Pokémon aren’t as good for us as we thought…”
“Have you lost it?!” Blake snapped back. Zekrom roared in reaction. “All those years we spent in Nuvema talking about how great our Pokémon journeys would be? And you’re just willing to throw all of that away? Why?!”
“Because I love him!!”
The eyes of both young men widened. Swirling winds filled the silence between the siblings. The white-clad, green-haired youth’s jaw came unhinged for a moment.
“W-what?” the brother of the girl whispered breathlessly.
“I… I love him,” Whit repeated, her voice shaking terribly.
“You love him,” Blake repeated, his voice flat with incredulity. “You took a ride on a ferris wheel together. I’m your brother, Whitlea.”
“You don’t believe me?” the girl uttered.
“Do I believe you know what you’re doing? Hell, no,” Blake spat. “He’s brainwashed you somehow. But it’ll be fine. Once he’s gone, you’ll be back to norm—”
“YOU’RE A FOOL!” Whitlea screamed. “You really think I’m that weak-willed to let anyone brainwash me? This was my decision!”
“And this is my decision,” Blake replied harshly. “Team Plasma is a monster that must be stopped – and the quickest way to kill a monster…”
He gazed at N, his young face now etched with a look of revulsion and hatred.
“…is to cut off its head.”
Whit blanched. Tears started forming at the corners of her eyes. “Fine, then. Go ahead and attack with Zekrom. Destroy N. Destroy Reshiram… destroy me, too.”
And she planted herself right in front of the tall, green-haired young man and his white dragon.
“Whitlea… no…” Blake murmured.
The youth named ‘N’ stepped back. “What should I do?”
He looked to his side, at an ornately dressed man that looked somewhat like an older version of him. The red patch on the man’s eye glowed in a sinister fashion. “Hmm. This was unforeseen. Such fickle and wild things, human emotions. Nevertheless… it has no bearing on what we came here to do.”
Almost instantly, ‘N’ stepped up and put a hand on the girl’s shoulders. “W-Whitlea… you shouldn’t have come here.”
“I had to,” the girl whispered tearfully. “I knew what Blake was planning to do.”
The older, robed man sneered, switching his gaze between the two boys.
“Touching… but this melodrama has grown tiresome. You two see yourselves as some great heroes. In reality, you are not great. The truly great understand that sacrifices must be made in order to ensure the survival of those who deserve it. Hopefully…”
He turned and cast a meaningful eye at ‘N’, who instinctively put his arms around the brown-haired girl. The older, robed male allowed himself a smile.
“…when you rule, you will understand that much better than you do now.”
Whitlea paused for a moment –
She let out a sudden scream, trying to struggle away from ‘N’, who held her even more tightly, to the point where all she could do is stretch out her hand and yell, “NO!!!!”
‘N’ finally spoke. “Don’t! This isn’t necessary!”
“That’s where I disagree with you,” the older man said curtly, turning his attention away from them and toward the brown-haired boy. “Reshiram, destroy them! Use Blue Flare!!”
The tail of the white dragon glowed crimson, then erupted into brilliant red and golden flames. Reshiram released a keening cry to the heavens before inhaling. More flames burst from the creature’s mouth, these of an otherworldly shade of blue, aimed directly at Blake and Zekrom.
But Blake and Zekrom were no longer there.
Their forms had been replaced – replaced by that of a little, black-haired girl, no older than seven or eight. She could only give a hopeless whimper as her huge, blue eyes stared at the incoming assault in an expression of abject terror…
Long arms and legs flailed as a young man awoke abruptly from his slumber. He fell to the floor with a loud series of thuds, taking the sheets and blanket with him. He lay there, feeling sweat drip down his brow and yet shivering at the same time.
Damn… He swore mentally. Bet that woke her up…
Sure enough, a matter of seconds later, there were three loud knocks at his door. He sat up, looking around. He was in a small, ordinary-looking room. White-walled and slightly austere, its only bit of personality came in the form of the cluster of clothes that lay in a corner of his floor, next to the small closet.
“Dalton?” a high but somewhat creaky voice queried. “Dalton, are you alright?”
“Yeah!” the young man yelled back. His throat hurt from trying to talk so loudly, so soon after waking up. He jumped out of his bundle of sheets and ran to the door, opening it.
A thin, old, bespectacled woman with somewhat long, snow-white hair was staring back at him. She was wearing a nightgown. Her brow was creased in an expression of concern.
“Dear lord, boy,” she creaked, her voice incredulous. “You could wake all the dead in Azalea City with that screaming…and you’re all sweaty too! You look terrible. Maybe you should take today off.”
The young man sighed. “No, Ms. Lucy, I’m fine…”
The old woman turned her wrist. A small, gold watch was there. She peered at it intently. Dalton had no idea why she insisted on using a watch she couldn’t really see to attempt to tell time. “Well, in that case, you’d better get moving. Doesn’t your first class start at half-past-nine?”
“What time is it?” Dalton asked, his face falling.
“Eight-fifty…” she paused for a moment. Dalton’s heart instantly jumped into overdrive. “…six.”
The young man had already bitten his lip to let off a horrible swear in reaction to this news. Instead, he controlled himself and settled for a loud groan. “Thanks.”
“Of cour—” she started…but Dalton closed the door in her face. She smiled warmly. She knew he wasn’t trying to be rude…he was just in a hurry.
Meanwhile, Dalton had dove into his closet. He emerged almost impossibly quickly from it, sending more clothes flying onto the increasingly cluttered floor. Adjacent to his room was a small bathroom barely big enough for the sink, toilet, and shower it contained. He quickly turned both knobs on his faucet, thinking to himself that it was a very good thing that he usually showered at night, because he definitely didn’t have time now. After furiously brushing his teeth, he leaned down toward the sink. Catching a handful of the rushing torrent of water into his cupped hands, he slung it back onto his face and looked up into the mirror.
A young man in his late teens stared back. His hair was black and fell in neat, somewhat boring bangs down to his eyebrows. Two bluish-gray eyes stared back at him from underneath the curtain of hair. At the moment, these eyes were tired and were sagging a bit at the bottom lids. A white button-down shirt wrapped around his black graphic tee. Brushing his hair down with his hand, he checked his appearance for one final time before darting out of the bathroom and then out of his bedroom, grunting as he picked up a backpack near the door and slung it around his shoulder on the way.
He looked left briefly. This was a small apartment; the kitchen, dining area, and living room were all sort of melded together into one. The old lady was sitting on the couch, watching the news and apparently working a couple of knitting needles. Dalton had never asked her how old she was exactly. He’d always thought it rude.
“Ms. Lucy…” he tried to get her attention. For being probably around seventy, most of her senses were still as sharp as ever. She turned around almost immediately. “I’m going.”
“With no breakfast?” she lowered her knitting needles and ball of yarn and glanced at Dalton a bit sadly – but he was already moving toward the door.
“No time,” he uttered – but Lucy stopped him.
“Dalton!” she shouted. Dalton had the door open and one foot out of it, but he turned around. “Do you think you could pick up some milk on the way back?”
“…Sure,” Dalton answered. Lucy smiled apologetically.
“You know I wouldn’t normally ask something like that…” she said. “But if the DEPA auditors decide to come calling, it needs to look like you’re helping me out at least once in a while.”
“I get it,” Dalton sighed.
“You have a good day,” Lucy said, giving Dalton a warm smile.
“You, too,” Dalton answered before closing the door behind him. He locked it with a key he’d had clipped around the belt of his blue jeans, then set off down the stairs at a slight trot. He frowned as he approached the outdoors and noticed the relative lack of light for this time of the year. “Don’t tell me…”
He opened the small front door to the apartment building and instantly heard the pitter-patter of rain falling onto the pavement. He looked up into the wall of gray clouds, muttering “…Seriously?”
As he made the short walk to the college, Dalton made a mental note of Lucy’s last instructions. Gotta get some milk on the way back…
Lucy was a very proud, independent, old lady. But the Union Party didn’t know or care. They simply saw an old woman of about seventy and assumed she needed all the help she could get. Normally, Lucy would venture out and grab the groceries herself – or Dalton would at least go with her – but word on the street was that the DEPA was coming in a few weeks to do their end-of-term audits.
Why was this so important to Dalton? Dalton was at the city college under the Service Scholarship program created by the Department of Education and Personal Advancement – DEPA, for short. As the program’s name implied, it covered costs for a student’s education in return for their service to a person or people that the government had classified as ‘special needs.’ In most cases, like Dalton, a student was housed with an elderly or disabled citizen and under government mandate to help them in any way they requested. Dalton was fortunate in a sense; he’d heard quite a few horror stories about the Service Scholarship program. Most of the hosts weren’t nearly as kind as Lucy. In fact, he’d heard some of them were downright nasty, subjecting their caretakers to humiliating and demeaning tasks. What was worse was that the students had to do them without complaint; or else, the host would run off and tell DEPA, who would then revoke the student’s scholarship – and, in most cases, that student’s chance at receiving a higher education.
Unlike a lot of the Union Party’s ideas…the Service Scholarship program wasn’t that bad in theory. Hell, it was how Dalton himself was going to school with no family to help him, so he could only complain about it so much. Still, though… Dalton wasn’t very trusting of the Union Party.
He lived in what was geographically known as the Johto region. Politically, however, it fell under the People’s Federated Union of Harmonia. There were no political parties in Harmonia…just one party. The Party. The Union Party. They were the ones that made the laws and enforced them. It sounded simple… yet, like most things in politics, it was simply very complicated.
Harmonia operated under a strange constitutional monarchy-republic… thing. The chief lawmakers were at the Council of Eight. The way Dalton understood it from his government class, four of them were elected by the people, and four were chosen by Harmonia’s hereditary monarch. But Dalton, being the skeptic he was, thought there was more to it than that. First off, the voters for the four elected positions came almost exclusively from Harmonia’s central region – that is, the land once known as Unova. Most people in Johto weren’t afforded their own votes, but instead voted as cities. The thinking was that Johto’s common man was too far removed geographically and (although nobody came out and said it) educationally from the central hub in Unova to make an informed decision on who Harmonia’s leaders should be.
In fact, Harmonia seemed to be thinking along the lines that every child in Johto was somewhat lacking between the ears. When they annexed Johto to the Union, they made sweeping changes in the education laws. Dalton had heard of a time long ago in Johto where compulsory education only went up to the age of ten. Any remaining necessary skills were often learned on an individual basis at home or at a trade school of some sort. Under Harmonian rule, however, children started mandatory education at the age of four and continued for twelve full years before being considered for a two- or three-year trade school or a five-year college program. Dalton had wondered for a while about the early start time for schooling. He didn’t feel like four-year-olds (or their parents, for that matter) should have had to worry about homework. But the Union Party maintained that the sooner a child entered a structured, uniform education program, the more likely it was that they would unlock the full potential of their intelligence…
…or some drabble like that. When Dalton thought of the twelve-year program – when he visualized innocent, little four-year-olds being herded into a classroom before a state-appointed and Party-approved teacher, only one word came readily to mind: indoctrination.
But Dalton’s ideas weren’t mainstream. Most people around him loved Harmonia and loved the Party… or, at least, they had few to no complaints about it. Dalton could give the Party one thing to its credit: it was efficient – sometimes ruthlessly so. And it was that efficiency that perhaps bothered Dalton the most. It was the way that, every time Dalton heard on the news about a law being passed, the decision was always “unanimous” – and if not the first time, then certainly the second time. If a law had been shot down twice in a row by the Council, Dalton had never heard about it. It was fishy to him. Eight people wasn’t a lot, but it was far too many for everyone to agree on everything all the time…
As Dalton looked up at the pillared entrance of the main hall of the college, he heard a long chime-line tone ring and echo throughout the campus. Flipping his wrist and looking at his watch as he accelerated up the stairs a few moments later, he saw 9:22 and breathed a sigh of relief. I’ve still got some time, he thought as he entered the hall to the sight of many students conversing and interacting.
Right inside the main door, he came upon a classroom’s open door in front of him and to his left. A young man, probably about his age, walked out, and on the other side of the main hallway stood a blonde girl that was about a head shorter. With nearly no regard for Dalton’s existence or presence, she cut in front of him and jumped into the boy’s arms. Dalton hoped they would move to one side or the other, but they didn’t – they began locking lips like there was no tomorrow, right in front of him. After about ten seconds of this, Dalton couldn’t take anymore. He cleared his throat loudly. The boy and girl looked straight at him, arms still wrapped tightly around each other. They shuffled over to one side, eyeing him suspiciously.
Dalton noticed about three or four steps later and looked over at them. “Oh… sorry. Carry on.”
And, on cue, they resumed their make-out session near the wall. Dalton allowed himself a bit of a smirk, rolled his eyes, and walked away. He supposed it was a bit much to ask for a boy and a girl in their late teens to have grown past the phase where they couldn’t keep their hands (and lips) off each other. With a heavy sigh, Dalton reasoned that it could have been worse. After all, the people of Harmonia were still allowed to date, court, and marry whomever they wished – for now. He supposed that was an effect of the way the original king and queen of Harmonia had wed.
Dalton scoffed to himself as he entered his classroom, Room 117. On the other hand, he thought, maybe if Harmonia did arrange marriages I’d have a little bit better shot.
Dalton wasn’t ugly by any stretch of the imagination. He was, however, skinny, quiet, and very bookish. Those tended not to be qualities that girls in their mid-to-late teens valued in male love interests. That didn’t matter much to Dalton, though.
Dalton, you see, had a plan. He was going to become a Royal Historian for Harmonia. In order to do that, though, he needed top marks – especially in his history and his writing courses. After all, one couldn’t be trusted to help write and edit Harmonia’s history books without a firm grasp on the language…
The classrooms were set up in a rather interesting manner in his creative writing elective course, which was the first of the day. Of course, by now, most things in the school operated off computers. There were a couple of large tables, each with about a dozen or so small cubicles with chairs in front of them. Here, one could plug in his or her computer and do their work without worrying about feeling the temptation to copy anyone else – or vice versa. In a sense, he was around a bunch of people, but he was also alone when he needed to be.
Fortunately for Dalton, his earliest class of the morning was also his favorite: creative writing, taught by Professor Everett McCourt. For many reasons, Dr. Everett McCourt stood out among the professors of the College of Azalea City. Most of the professors were older, preferred a clean-cut appearance, wore dark suits and ties, and insisted on being called by their surname and title.
But when a kid decided to walk into the classroom and shout, “Hey, E-Mac! How’s life treating you?” (like a guy had just done on his way to his cubicle), this relatively young professor, still in his thirties, would smile good-naturedly and give the kid a nod in return. His eyes were a twinkling blue, his hair blonde, long, and slicked back, and he never looked quite clean-shaven. The few occasions for which he ever did shave (commencement and other equally high-toned events) took another full ten years off his appearance, to the point where he could almost pass for an older student.
He usually preferred a sport coat, shirt opened to the second button, and a pair of khakis, and today was no different. (When he was feeling particularly adventurous, though, he would teach class in jeans.)
It was still anyone’s guess how Everett McCourt managed to become a professor with such an informal bearing and casual demeanor about him. Dalton’s guess was that McCourt simply taught a lower-level course that a lot of majors didn’t take seriously – and that he happened to be pretty good at it.
Dalton sat down at his cubicle. He put his head down as he went into his bag. Then he felt someone tap him on the shoulder. He jumped horribly, banging his knee hard against the underside of the table and choking out a swear through his gritted teeth as he felt his lower leg start to go numb.
“Whoa, whoa…” he heard a voice chuckle. “You’re really edgy this morning.”
Dalton looked to his left. A tan-skinned boy with a light brown, curly mop of hair was settling into the seat right next to him. Dalton could just barely make out the striped v-neck shirt under the teenager’s black hoodie. Unmistakable, however, was the long, wooden deck of a skateboard stowed underneath the other youth’s cubicle.
“I’m guessing you woke up on time and skated to school today, Evan?” Dalton muttered. Evan Stanfeld was, for all intents and purposes, the only real friend of Dalton’s own age that the latter had. Dalton wasn’t a very popular young man around school, nor did he have any desire to be. People often mistook his dry wit for snark (on the rare occasions that it wasn’t), and the fact that his worldview was a bit…out there didn’t help matters. But Evan Stanfeld was too easygoing to care about any of that stuff – and without him, both college life and life in general would have been infinitely more boring. “Well, I woke up late… and ran.”
“You’re oversleeping a lot lately, dude,” Evan commented. Usually, Dalton didn’t know whether to take him seriously, but the unusually solemn tone in Evan’s voice indicated that the latter seemed genuinely concerned. “What’s going on?”
“It’s these… dreams I’ve been having…” Dalton murmured, almost under his breath. He didn’t really want to tell Evan, who was one of the few people that didn’t think he was slightly crazy. Right then, he heard a scraping behind him. Evan’s expression changed.
“Hey, Dalton…” a familiar feminine voice cut into the conversation and kept him from explaining the content of these dreams. Dalton whirled around. Right in front of him was a girl, straddling the next chair. Pale, freckly-faced, blonde, blue-eyed, and bespectacled, she somehow managed to skirt the line between plain and stunningly attractive. It was almost as if whoever or whatever created her had started out with the face of a goddess, then toned her beauty down in a few deliberate spots to make her more relatable to mere mortals. Dalton tried not to look at her legs, but did notice that she was wearing a blouse, a short skirt, and some quite long socks.
“Loretta…?” Dalton muttered in confusion. She was…well, Dalton didn’t know what Loretta was to him. Sometimes acquaintance, sometimes professional rival (if there was such a thing in college), Loretta Burgess’s mood and disposition, toward Dalton in particular, changed moreso than most women – and that was saying a lot.
“Dalton…?” Loretta imitated him, tilting her head in a similar fashion.
“What do you want?” Dalton asked casually. Loretta frowned, then bit her lip without meeting the boy’s eye.
“You have a free block right after this, right?”
Dalton raised an eyebrow. Since when had Loretta cared about his schedule…? “Yeah, I guess…”
“Can you stay after?” she asked. “I want to talk to you.”
Dalton saw the opportunity and couldn’t help it. “What’s up? Need help with a homework assignment?”
Both he and Loretta were near the top of the class. Who was number one and who was number two changed with the week. Loretta smirked as she jumped up off the chair and to her feet.
“That’s okay. I already finished everything on the syllabus for the rest of the semester,” she said offhandedly. Then, her voice and demeanor changed; she didn’t look quite as confident. “Just… I dunno, stay here after…”
And with that, she yanked up her bag and left, only to be replaced by another female student – a brunette that didn’t look nearly as happy with the seating arrangement and made a point to pull her chair as far as she could away from Dalton without moving out of the cubicle.
Dalton whirled around to Evan, who had a visible smirk on his face. “So, it’s those kinds of dreams, huh? Don’t worry about it. They’re perfectly normal. Hell, I started having them when I was about thirteen.”
Dalton let out a strangled grunt. “No, it’s not…”
“I keep telling you, man,” Evan intoned, slapping him on the shoulder. “Make love, not war. Seriously. You should hook up with her and have a bunch of super-smart babies. You guys could take over the world!”
“Better not let anybody from the Party catch you talking like that,” Dalton chuckled ironically.
“They’re a buzzkill. I had no problem with ‘em ‘til they tore down the one good skate spot in town to build a primary school…” replied Evan in his normal nonchalant tone of voice. “Just for the record, though, I dated a cheerleader and a nerdy girl in Year Eleven. Cheerleaders have the reputation, but they have nothing on nerds. I’m dead serious.”
“Wha—?” uttered Dalton a bit dimly. He could feel his face growing hot.
“You think I’m joking,” Evan said. He’d pulled his computer up right then. “I think it’s ‘cause they’re way more repressed or something…”
“Why are we even having this conversation?” Dalton asked, a bit exasperated. “Loretta comes over to talk to me, and the first thing you assume is that she wants me in a closet somewhere.”
It was right when Evan’s smirk grew that Dalton figured out that he’d simply given the boy more ammunition to use against him. “Closet, huh? Don’t go to the one on this floor – it’ll be occupied. Unless, of course, you’re into that sort of thing…”
Dalton rolled his eyes and was about to respond, but he was rescued from that conversation by a loud declaration of, “All right, ladies and gentlemen, let’s get started!”
His creative writing class went rather uneventfully that day. Dalton stayed behind as everyone began to leave the room, which wouldn’t be used for the next hour. Other students filed out, most in a hurry to get to other classes, some in a hurry to get home. Dr. McCourt was third to last to leave, jokingly asking Dalton if he needed help on an assignment. Evan, who stayed as long as possible, left next, insisting that Dalton give him a “blow-by-blow” of everything that happened with Loretta later, then leaving and snickering as if privy to the punch line of a joke that no one else heard.
Then there was Dalton.
It took him a couple of seconds of looking around for him to figure out that Loretta had left with everyone else.
Typical… probably her idea of a prank…
He was right about to leave as well, but he noticed that someone had left some of their things at a cubicle at the other table. A computer was open and a rather girly screen saver featuring bursting heart-shaped balloons was on display. Glittery writing appeared word-by-word in the middle of the popping hearts. Frowning, Dalton slowly walked over to the computer, thinking that maybe this screen saver or something else on the computer would give an indication of its owner.
Small heart bubbles burst into view, grew, and popped all over the screen. In the middle, an invisible hand with an invisible pen seemed to be writing on the screen in very flowery, almost calligraphy-like script:
“Mrs…” Dalton repeated as the abbreviation slowly came into view. His heart jumped as he saw the next word. “Lor… Loretta…”
So this was Loretta’s computer. She was married? Dalton didn’t know that. Never mind the fact that it was rare (although nonetheless legal) for someone less than a year out of secondary school to be married…but he’d never seen her with a wedding or engagement ring.
“Mrs… Loretta…” Dalton repeated. The first letter of the last word, being written slowly at the bottom of the screen, was a fancy uppercase ‘G’. An ‘r’ followed it very soon afterward. “Mrs. Loretta Gr—OUCH!”
For a real hand had appeared out of nowhere and snapped the laptop shut. His finger was nipped, but Dalton managed to get most of his hand out of the way. He staggered backward, flailing his hand, then he looked up…
Only to come face-to-face with Loretta Burgess.
“Uh… hi… Loretta,” Dalton said awkwardly, not meeting her eye. She still had her hand on the computer and looked flustered. Her normally pale face was also very pink.
“You’ve already seen it, so I guess I might as well cut to the chase,” she said breathlessly. Then, she inhaled very deeply and attempted to look Dalton straight in the eyes. “I know we haven’t always gotten along, sometimes we disagree in discussions and that kind of stuff… not to mention we’ve been trying to outdo each other in class all semester, but…”
She shook her head, looked down, and gave a smile.
“The truth is, I don’t think you’re all that bad,” she said. “I actually kinda… sorta… really… like you…… a lot.”
Dalton’s brain was scrambled. Aside from their interactions in class (which were competitive if not antagonistic, but certainly not friendly), they were virtual strangers. He’d been so focused on making sure his grades were in order that he hadn’t really focused on romance at all – except when Lucy would ask him every so often if he had a girlfriend. As for Loretta herself, he’d gone almost this whole first year of college under the impression she saw him as a rival and an obstacle – if she didn’t entirely hate his guts.
“I… I don’t know what to say,” he uttered. There were a lot of things that had blindsided him all at the same time – the fact that he was having a girl, and a pretty good-looking one at that, confess her feelings for him, first off. Then there was the fact that it was Loretta, of all people. “I…”
“Shh…” Loretta put her finger on his lips and then removed it. He’d never really seen it from the firsthand perspective, but there was no mistaking the hazy look in her eyes, the angle of her head, and the strange, pouty motion of her lips. She was leaning in to kiss him – and it took a second or two for him to realize, equally unmistakably, that he had no intention of backing off.
He could practically feel her breath in his mouth. Then, a strange ringing sound made him jump and then step back. “Wait…”
Loretta pulled back as well, looking surprised and disappointed. She watched as Dalton pulled out his cellphone and put it to his ear.
“Hello? This is Dalton Gregg,” he queried, before hearing a voice on the other end.
“Yes, this is Calven Tesla,” it said, sounding a bit rushed and panicky. Dalton’s expression quickly changed to one of confusion. Tesla was his building’s landlord, and he only ever called to discuss a rent payment. Dalton had taken the check down to him just a few days before, so he knew they weren’t behind. “You’re at school, right…? You’d… you’d better get back to the apartment quick. It’s Lucille.”
It took every bit of Dalton’s grip not to drop the phone as he disconnected the call. Through his worry-numbed brain, he barely perceived a pair of arms on his shoulder. “Dalton… what’s wrong?”
“I… I gotta go,” Dalton replied breathlessly, tearing himself away from her, grabbing his already packed bag, and rushing from the room. Loretta seemed stuck for a moment, then decided to blurt after him:
With the rain having slowed and nothing impeding him, Dalton went back home in a near-dead sprint. To his horror, he arrived near his building to find it being flashed upon by the unmistakable spinning red light of a city ambulance. He darted up the one flight of stairs and found the door to his apartment open. His heart pounded within him as he entered the apartment, and nearly burst out of his chest when he looked upon the scene.
Two men, both wearing the dark uniform associated with the city’s ambulance staff, were knelt and huddled around a body that was covered partially by the couch. A white-coated, glasses-wearing man stood nearby. One of the paramedics shook his head. The man in white took a deep breath.
Dalton rushed forward. The coat-wearing gentleman, who had apparently just noticed Dalton’s presence, tried to hold him back. His hands were quickly swatted away by the teenager. “I’m not a child, damn it!”
He arrived on the other side of the couch to see the body. Deep down, he already knew, but seeing her limp, fallen form with his own two eyes made it final, irrefutable –
Lucy was dead.
~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~
So what did you think? I know it's a bit early to get a feel for where the story is going, but if you see some things you did(n't) like, feel free to comment! I always respond to every review I get, and I try to do so in a timely manner. I don't bite, either - figuratively or literally. Heck, if you've got a question about the fic you think would be strange in the public forum, PM me. Or if you're writing a story yourself and would like me to review it. I probably don't review as much as I should, but I always do one if the writer specifically asks me, so I won't blow you off.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed reading this first chapter. I already have several written, so I should be back with the next one before too long. (And for those of you that know me, you also know that I'm good for that kind of thing. ^_^)