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’m still waiting for an answer?” Of course she was. I wasn’t sure if she’d woken up, and realised I wasn’t here, or if she’d been waiting for me all day. “Well?”
“I was out,” I said. “Obviously.”
“Out. Around. Enjoying my last day of freedom.”
“We’ve been over this Katarine,” she said dismissively. “That’s just nonsense talk. I want to know where you’ve been, and who you’ve been with.
She was in denial. Specifically, about the Conscription, but in all honesty, she’d been in denial for as long as I could remember. Ever since Dad had died.
“You know who I’ve been with,” I replied. “You know I don’t have any other friends, so I don’t really understand why you keep asking.”
“Well I can but hope,” she muttered. “I spoke to Mister Brava. You didn’t go to work today.”
“I had the day off!” I yelled in exasperation. “I told you I was having the day off about a hundred times.”
“And I told you a hundred times that I’d spoken to Mister Brava and cancelled it. You can’t keep taking time off, young lady. You’ll lose your job. And then where will you be?”
I felt rage building within me. As much as I was used to her pretending bad things didn’t happen, it was upsetting that she didn’t seem to care enough to even be worried that I might leave for ever the next day.
“In space, Mum. Remember? That’s where I’ll be. I’m getting Conscripted tomorrow, whether you can comprehend that or not. This time tomorrow, I’ll be up in a ship full of soldiers. Do you honestly think I would want to spend my last day working?”
She rolled her eyes, then began shaking her head vigorously. As if pretending the wide world didn’t exist would cause it to vanish.
“If you keep taking time off, you’ll lose your job. You need that job, Katarine.”
What she meant was that WE needed it. We couldn’t afford to live on what little money she was now making doing less and less hours at the centre. She never had told me how much Dad’s insurance money had been, but I found it hard to believe there could have been any left. Tired and angry, I stepped around her to make my way up to bed. Quick as a flash despite her advancing years, she jumped in front of me.
“Oh no,” she said. “We are not finished. You will talk to me young lady.”
“I was nineteen. Legally an adult. If I’d wanted to, I could have moved out some time ago. I could probably have afforded to as well, if I’d been happy enough to live with Seb and Ant. That would have driven me crazy, though. I could never have left her anyway, not by choice. She needed me, whether she could admit it to herself or not. Having my name pulled out the next day would be the only way I’d ever get away from her. It wasn’t really what I wanted, but it might just be good for both of us.
When my father had died, she had become a shell of a woman. She’d carried on with life. She’d acted, in fact, like nothing had really happened. I never saw her cry, and she never spoke about missing him. She wasn’t the same person, though. It was clear that it had affected her deeply. Her spirit just kind of went. Disappeared. It was as though she couldn’t bear to truly care about anything ever again. Including me. Yeah, she was yelling at me for staying out late at night, and always badgered me about hanging out with delinquents. But that was because, deep down, she knew she wouldn’t be able to cope if I went away. If anything happened to me, or if I decided to leave, it would finish her off.
“Mum, look,” I said, softly, patiently. “There is a twenty-five percent chance that I will have to leave tomorrow. I realise that means I’m far more likely to stay, but I can’t live my life like that. I have to prepare for the worst.” My actions that night had been the epitome of that attitude. “You may not like them, but Seb and Ant are my friends. If there was a chance I was never going to see them again, I had to take the opportunity to say goodbye.” As soon as I paused to draw breath, she opened her mouth to speak. “I realise your worried about me losing my job,” I said quickly, cutting off her attempt to interrupt, “but Mister Brava said it was fine. If I’m not conscripted, I promise, I will take no more time off for the rest of the year. Not even one day. Does that sound fair?”
She looked at me, her brain ticking over. She wanted to argue with that. It was her nature. But she realised she couldn’t.
“Agreed,” she said, “if you actually stick to it!”
That was fair. I wasn’t very honest with my Mum in general. It was her own fault, in my defence. She had so many rules, so many things she didn’t like me doing, places she didn’t want me going. If I told her half of the things I got up to, she’d be horrified. She’d have the security agents out looking for me every night.
“Can we talk about it tomorrow, Mum? Please? Regardless of whether my name gets drawn tomorrow, it’s gonna be a really long day. I’d like to get some sleep.” Pursing her lips, she considered it for a good minute. She was wide awake, and her blood was boiling. She wanted to have it out immediately.
“OK. But we WILL talk about it. I won’t forget this, Katarine.”
She knew she couldn’t win. No matter how much she wanted to change me, or rather, get the old me back, I wasn’t her little girl anymore. I hadn’t been for a very long time.
Before she changed her mind, I quickly made my way to my room, and locked the door behind me. I threw myself into bed, desperate to get some sleep. It wasn’t as easy as that, though. I was as annoyed as I was tired, and the more I thought about it, the more angry I got. I’d been out, risking my well-being, to make sure that she would be looked after in my absence. I might be going away forever the very next day, but she wanted to make it all about her. She didn’t care about my feelings. Not once had she asked me if I was scared, or nervous, or worried. At least Seb and Ant had addressed it. In their own way. They were the only real family I had. They’d also risked their well-being for me. They would get their share out of it, of course. And it was the kind of thing they had tried to talk me into many times. I’d broken the law with them, many times. I’d always stopped short of burglary, though. Somehow, that was a level of crime above what I was willing to do. Or rather, it had been. I began thinking about Mister Brava, and how devastated he would be that his beloved sculpture had been taken. Seb was right. If I had to go in to work and face him after what I’d done, it would be a nightmare. We had agreed that we’d find a way to get it back into his possession if I wasn’t conscripted, but I wasn’t convinced that Ant would stick to that. He’d risked getting caught, and to then have nothing to show for it wouldn’t be good for his ego. Plus, stupidly, I’d let him make the connection with the potential buyers for the piece. I’d distanced myself from the selling of the item for obvious reasons, and of the two of them, I cared far more if something happened to Seb. But it did mean that Ant could turn around and sell it any time he wanted. And he could choose not to get my share to Mum after all. Seb had promised he wouldn’t let that happen, but without me around to guilt him, he’d just fall back under Ant’s influence again, like he’d been when I first met them.
I listened for a while to Mum banging about, making a meal of going to bed, so that I’d know she was still angry. As if I needed any kind of reminder. Eventually, she settled down, and I tried to turn my brain off. It would be weird, leaving here. Leaving my home. Leaving my planet. I still wasn’t sure exactly how I felt about it, but I was definitely feeling more nervous than I had been up ‘til that point. It was starting to feel more real. It hadn’t been until my 18th birthday that I’d thought about it with any degree of seriousness. The months since had gone far too quickly. I knew others, on their eighteenth birthdays, made a list. They wrote down a whole bunch of things they wanted to do before the Conscription. Things they’d always wanted to see, experiences they’d always imagined having. Making sure that if they were taken away from their homes and their families, that it would be without regret.
I hadn’t made a list. Honestly, there’d been nothing that I’d ever wanted to do. Life had just happened to me. It wasn’t that I’d never had dreams. I remembered quite well some of the things I’d dreamed of doing when I was a little girl. Learning to ride. Trips to the beach. Designing my own dress for prom. None of those things mattered to me anymore, though. I’d left those hopes behind half a decade ago. Since then, I’d been living day to day. Left school because I wanted to. Got a job because I’d had to. Spent the time I wasn’t working trying to have as much fun as I dared, without letting things get too far out of control. I’d been lucky to meet Seb and Ant. They were hoodlums, but underneath, they were decent people. Well, sort of. If I’d fallen in with a worse crowd, though, it could all have ended so badly. I probably wouldn’t have survived to even face the Conscription.
Did I want my name to get drawn out? Not really. It would be something different. A spark of excitement in an otherwise dreary existence. None of that mattered, though. Somehow, I knew. I felt it deep in my soul. My name was going to be drawn in the Conscription lottery. I was going to be a soldier. How did I feel about that? I really didn’t know.
Come back next Thursday for Chapter Four