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 stepped in through the door to be met with a flurry of activity. Seemingly it had taken me a lot longer to find my way than it should have. Two girls were dancing about beside the door, making it tricky to squeeze past. A group of other girls were chatting and laughing in a group. Not a private quarters at all, then. I followed the numbering scheme, and located my bunk, the middle of three in a stack. I was taken aback, though, to find someone already sitting on my bed. I stared at her awkwardly, and she narrowed her eyes, looking back with a bemused expression.
“Can I help you?” She was a pretty girl with strawberry blond hair, tall and slim. There was no annoyance in her voice, and the longer I stared at her mutely, the more of a smile appeared on her face.
“I’m… I think this is my bed,” I said.
“Well, you’ll have to wait your turn,” she replied. Again, there was no malice.
“Well, I don’t….” I thought back to what it had said on the terminal. I’d memorised it. I was sure I had. I was pretty good at that kind of thing. I did contemplate going back out and checking, but then I’d only have to come in again and have the same conversation a second time. “I’m sorry, but I really do think this is my bed.”
“We share,” someone said behind me with a chuckle.
“We… share?” I turned around.
“Yeah, we share. It’s not your turn yet. Check your schedule.”
I turned back to the girl on my bed, or maybe our bed, for confirmation.
“Yeah, they arrange the schedules so that we take it in turns with the bed. Hence the sack,” she told me, waving a corner of the SleepBag at me. “It’s OK, I don‘t drool or anything. It’ll still be dry in here when you get back.”
I looked at my SleepBag, letting it sink in. I figured I’d have to share a room with people, which had in itself been a bit off-putting. But sharing the bed? I could see that the sleeping bag was designed so that the user wouldn’t have to touch any of the bed frame around them, but that was little comfort. Besides which, where was I supposed to put the thing when I wasn’t using it?
“In your personal drawer,” the girl said, as if reading my mind.
Rolling her eyes, she swung her legs down off the bed, and dropped down.
“I take it you didn’t see your drawer code on the C-terminal?” I shook my head. “These are the drawers for this stack.” She waved her hand around in front of a column of nine very slim draws built into the wall beside the bunks. “These middle three correspond to the middle bunk. This middle one, of the middle three, is mine. Now you’re lucky, because I happen to know the top one is in use. It hasn’t been closed properly since I arrived. Every night, I have to jam it closed so I can open my own. Whoever is sharing the bed with us either had a very elaborate outfit when they arrived, or they wear a super large.” She arched an eyebrow at me. “Anyway, by process of elimination, that makes this third one yours. You gonna stuff your one full too?” I held up my two packages. “OK, good, that should be fine.” I couldn’t tell if she was mean, or funny.
I placed my clothes and my SleepBag into the drawer as she climbed back up to her, or rather our, bed. As I was walking towards the door she yelled after me.
“Enjoy your dinner. I’ll be gone by the time you get back. Promise.” The group of girls giggled at this.
I marched to the dining hall, belly rumbling. It was pretty busy. Looking around, I attempted to make sense of how it worked. There were tables with people eating, and several machines lined along one of the walls. Kids were queueing up at the machines, walking away with trays topped with packages. Relieved that it was no more complicated than that, I picked a line and joined it.
About six or seven people back, I leaned out from behind the column to try to see how the machine worked. I didn’t want to be the one that didn’t know what they were doing, slowing down the process for everyone else. I couldn’t see much, though. There was a screen, but the writing was too small at that distance. It wasn’t until there was only one person in front of me that I could get a good look at it. It was pretty simple. She touched one of the sets of words on the screen, and a package dropped down onto a tray at the bottom. I didn’t recognise any of the writing, and it was impossible to tell what any of the food was. On my turn, not recognising the language on the screen, I chose the same option as the previous girl.
Sitting down at the nearest empty seat, I tore into the package. Some type of steaming grain. Strips of protein, and strips of some kind of vegetable. The protein was slimy, and upon further investigation, I worked out it was coated in some kind of sauce. It was pretty sour, and not the kind of thing I would usually choose to eat. I cut it up, along with the vegetables, and mixed the small pieces into the pile of grain. It was much more palatable like that. In a little pot was some kind of jelly-like substance. Sweet and tangy, again it wasn’t really to my taste, but definitely edible. I’d assumed the white liquid was milk, but that wasn’t what it tasted like. In fact, there was very little flavour to it at all. It was a dinner I’d been able to endure, rather than enjoy. I was still hungry, too. I considered going up for a second package, but figured it probably wouldn’t do to be getting in trouble on the first night. There were red-suited personnel in the room. They didn’t seem to be paying much attention, and it was doubtful they’d notice that I was on my second meal. It wasn’t worth the risk, though.
For the first time, I had a look at the people around me. We were all on the same dinner shift, but I didn’t know if that meant they had all arrived on the Anastasia that day, at the same time as I had. Some seemed nervous, others bored. We were all wearing the same uniforms, and there was no way to differentiate the newcomers from the ones who had already been on board for a few weeks. It was weird, seeing a room full of almost exclusively teenagers. I’d spent little time with kids my own age in the past few years, and I wasn’t sure I knew how to relate to them. Seb and Ant weren’t far away, but they were a very specific type of people. I wasn’t sure I’d meet many like them on board the Anastasia. But who knew. That was the beauty of the Conscription – it didn’t discriminate. Nineteen year-olds from all walks of life were here. I guess as fairness went, that was as good as it got. It was going to be interesting, though. How could such utterly different people possibly become a cohesive fighting force?
You can read Chapter Ten here