This year, I will be posting a chapter of my new online exclusive novel every week. Galactic Division Heroes: Kat follows a new character, Katarine Rafalsdottir, through the timeline of the first three Galactic Division novels. You can read Chapter One here.
I watched the main lights of the vehicle rotate until they were shining right at me, and I shielded my eyes from the sudden glare. Scared to make any sudden movements, an irrational fear of being shot clouding my mind, I glanced around me, trying to map out an escape route.
I couldn’t go back down the alley that I’d come from; There would surely be more security agents down there. That really only left running up or down the street. The vehicle was between me and the way home. I could run in the other direction, but I’d then need to double back at some point. If I really was worried about being shot, though, running would be stupid. They wouldn’t gun down a passive civilian. A suspect fleeing the scene of a crime, though, was a far more likely target. Besides which, there was no way I’d get away. I could sprint pretty fast, but I’d never outrun a security cruiser.
I stood in surrender, stopping short of raising my hands in the air. They couldn’t prove anything. I was perfectly innocent, for all they knew. There didn’t seem to be any sign of movement in the car. I tried to make out figures within, but the bright light radiating towards my face made it impossible to see clearly. After what seemed like an age, the front passenger side door opened, and a figure emerged. She shut the door, but leaned down to the window, apparently talking to someone inside. The cool breeze carried words across the air, but they were mumblings. I was too far to actually make any of them out. Finally, the figure began walking towards me. I tried to act casual, putting on a frown of concern. I was caught off-guard, though, when the figure stepped in front of the light, giving me my first good look at her. She was a girl. I don’t just mean she was female, either. I mean she didn’t look a day older than me.
“Hey, Miss,” she said, coming to a stop a good couple of meters in front of me. Thankfully, the light behind her began to dim, and I was able to stop squinting.
“Hi,” I said, trying to keep the fear from my voice. It helped that she looked like she could easily have been in one of my classes at school. Before I’d stopped turning up entirely. “Everything OK?”
“You seemed to be in an awful hurry. Would there be any reason for that?”
She might have looked young, but her tone was authoritative, and completely in control. Any confidence I had completely drained away.
“Actually, yeah,” I said, hastily forming a plan of sorts.
“Oh?” she said, a surprised frown creasing her otherwise perfect skin. “And what would that be?”
“There were a couple of men, on the other street,” I said, jabbing a thumb over my shoulder. “I don’t know what they were up to, but it was definitely something.” I felt bad selling out Seb and Ant to try to save my own skin, but they were either going to get caught or they weren’t. “They were lurking around, acting suspicious. They looked pretty startled when I walked past them.”
“Really?” she asked. She looked pretty sceptical, but I tried not to let that put me off. I nodded. “Can you describe them to me?” she said, pulling a pad from her pocket. My heart skipped. She was actually buying it.
My immediate instinct was to reply in the negative, but I quickly dismissed that. Claiming I had no information would just convince her I was guilty of something.
“Yeah, sure. So, they were both pretty athletic. You know, muscular,” I said of the super skinny Seb and Ant. “One of them was average height, but the other was super tall.” The boys were roughly the same height as me. I was reasonably tall for a girl at 5’11”, which made them both pretty average. “I didn’t really see their faces, though.” She looked up at my face, one eyebrow arched. “They both had pretty long hair. Greasy, matted over their faces.” She studied me for a moment, sizing me up. I tried hard to control my breathing, and return her gaze. “Two big, greasy guys. It kinda freaked me out. I walked away, as quickly as I could, but then I heard a loud clanging noise. So I ran.”
“What kind of clothes were they wearing?”
“I’m sorry, I really don’t know. Dark, black, I guess. It was hard to see, there wasn’t much light. And I didn’t want to look at them, you know? I didn’t want to draw their attention.” I folded my arms and shivered, then fought the urge to immediately bite my lip. Was that last touch too much?
“OK, bud,” she said, her face softening a little. “An alarm was triggered, we’re just checking it out. I’ll be back in a minute.”
She turned and walked back over to the security vehicle, and I let out a long, slow breath. So far so good, as far as I could tell. She seemed to be buying it, though she hadn’t let me go yet. I looked around, taking in my surroundings again, though being careful to avoid any sudden movements. I didn’t want to give the impression I was about to start running. Not when I seemed to be getting through it OK. She spoke to the person inside the car again, and still I couldn’t make out what was being said. I chanced a little shuffle forward, but it didn’t make a bit of difference. Standing still out in the dead of night was causing me to start shivering. After a good few minutes of conversation between them, I started to get impatient. Why couldn’t they just let me go? It was clear they weren’t going to do anything with me. They’d have done it already. It was like they were toying me, trying to scare me. I hated security agents.
Eventually, the girl started walking back over. She didn’t have a happy look on her face, and she was marching purposefully. My legs suddenly became weak. Had they picked up Seb and Ant? Had they sold me out?
“Some of my fellow officers have checked out an alarm that got tripped in one of the buildings in the next street. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” she asked briskly. I shrugged helplessly. “Someone set off a security shutter on one of the windows?” She phrased it like a question, but I just looked back at her blankly. She stared intensely into my eyes. “There was no-one inside, no sign of anything being disturbed. There’s nothing to charge anyone with, we’re just trying to ascertain what happened, so everyone can just get on with their day.” She seemed to be giving me an out. Indicating that no crime could be proven to have been committed. That if I ‘fessed up, she’d just let me go with a warning or something. It was tempting, if only to finally get out of the cold. It could easily be a trap, though. A way to trick me into confessing. She said they hadn’t found anyone inside. Again, that might not be true, but I thought it probably was. Seb and Ant were pretty slippery. They’d been sneaking in and out of places they shouldn’t for half their lives.
“Sorry, I really don’t know anything about it.”
“How old are you?” she asked, narrowing her eyes. It was the first personal question she’d asked me. It was an odd one to lead with, too. I’d been stopped by security officers in the past. Hassled for hanging around on the streets, never picked up for something specific. They’d always asked me for ID, though. My address, the details of my parent or guardian.
A grim smile appeared on her face, and she nodded almost imperceptibly.
“You know what I think?” she said. I shrugged, not knowing what the right answer would have been. “I think you set the security shutter off. You wandered around the neighbourhood, deep in thought. Saw a building with security system, figured you’d make a scene, get yourself picked up.”
“Huh?” I couldn’t understand what she was getting at.
“You’re not the first to try it. We don’t usually get much going on here,” she said quietly, motioning to the buildings around us. “It’s usually pretty quiet in this part of town.” She took a couple of steps towards me, her face within touching distance of mine. “It’s not such a bad thing, you know?” I just looked at her blankly, completely lost. “Service can be a good thing. Especially for someone like you.” She looked me up and down. “What, you drop out of school, when? Fifteen? Fourteen? You spend your time hanging out on the streets, make yourself look tough so no-one steps to you? Service can be character building.” She took a step back, waiting for a reaction from me.
“I didn’t do anything,” I said defensively, feeling a little hurt by the personal attack on my look.
“Even if we took you in, you’d be released in the morning,” she said, almost apologetically. “Getting arrested isn’t going to get you out of the Conscription. If your name is on the register, it won’t get taken off. If your name is gonna get drawn, it’ll get drawn. It’s a great opportunity, though. To fight for our very race? To help save the lives of the people you care about? So many people see it as a death sentence, but it’s not that. If nobody served, THEN it would be a death sentence. For all of us.” She searched my face for some sign that I might be buying into it. That I agreed with what she was saying. I was too stunned to react, though. I hadn’t expected a lecture on the virtues of joining the Galactic Division. And why did she care so much? Division soldiers would laugh in the face of a local security officer.
“Hey, Liberty?” The sudden booming voice coming from the security vehicle caught both our attentions. “We taking her in or what?” Liberty held a hand up at him, and he shook his head, stepping back into the car.
“Look, don’t worry about it. Whatever happens, it’ll be fine. You’ll either get to stay here, carry on living the life you’ve chosen. Or, you’ll get selected to be something more. Something better.” She offered me a tight smile, and began walking back to the security vehicle. After a few steps, she turned back to face me. “Good luck tomorrow,” she called over to me. “You registered at Central?” I hesitated a second, then nodded. “Then maybe I’ll see you there, bud.” She shot me a slightly wider smile, then walked the rest of the way to her vehicle, climbing in.
I stood completely still as they began to move off. I didn’t dare move, for fear they might suddenly change their mind. As they disappeared into the darkness, I breathed a sigh of relief. It had been an odd altercation, but I’d survived it.
I hurried back towards home. I was freezing by that point, and hoped that moving quickly might go some way to thawing me out. As I walked, I took in the last of the familiar sights. I kept playing the encounter over in my head. It had never occurred to me a any point that getting myself arrested would get me out of the Conscription. Did other people really believe that would work? If what she’d said was true, though, I really could have broken into my workplace by myself. Sauntered through the door, taken my time. Presented my ID to the security officers that turned up, safe in the knowledge that they’d have to release me the very next morning. A great idea, with one flaw, of course. If I then wasn’t Conscripted, then surely I’d face incarceration when I arrived hoe from the ceremony.
It was with great relief that I arrived home. I rued the time I’d lost talking to the girl, though. I’d have been home late enough as it was, but because of all that, I’d only get a few hours sleep at the most. That was a depressing thought. It was going to be a long day, and I’d have liked to have been a bit better rested. Oh well. I could just sleep on the transport up to the training ship. That was usually a pretty long journey, as I understood it.
I let myself in quietly, and took my shoes off. I was hungry, and considered getting a quick something to eat. Sleep, I decided, was far more important. I tiptoed down the hall towards my room, when a figured suddenly appeared out of the darkness, making me near jump out of my skin.
“Katerine Rafalsdottir! Where have you been young lady?!”
You can read Chapter Three here.