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 woke up, and dozed in and out for a while. I was sleeping with my head at the wrong end to see the room’s only clock, and I wondered if I should be asleep, at breakfast, or already at my first exercise on board the Anastasia. No-one else seemed to be stirring around me, though, and I figured some one would come and get me if I was late? One of the people in red uniforms?
After a while of staring up at the underneath of the middle bunk, I felt a buzzing in my wrist. It was a weird sensation, and it freaked me out. Grasping at my wrist, I felt the smooth hardness of the WristLink. It was gently vibrating. As alarm calls went, it could have been worse, I guess. However, it was certainly weird. The girls around me all began to stir. A couple screamed, several swore.
“What’s going on?” a voice cried. “Are we under attack already?” Laughter echoed through the room. “What? What is that?”
“It’s just time to get up, dummy!” Persia’s voice.
I did not feel like moving. It was comfortable in the bed, and I didn’t feel like I’d had nearly enough sleep. I considered just staying, to see what would happen. Even if I didn’t get in trouble for not being where I should be, though, the next person would be in soon enough wanting the use of my bed. That was going to be a real pain. It meant I couldn’t nip and and have a quick nap during my breaks. Assuming we got any. I hadn’t looked any further ahead than this morning on my schedule. That would be on my list of jobs for the morning.
I pushed myself up into a sitting position, and looked out at the other girls. Most had taken their overalls off to sleep, wearing only the white shirts and shorts. It hadn’t occurred to me to do that.
“What time’s breakfast?” someone called out.
“another half an hour or so, I think,” came a reply.
“Well what do we do until then? There’s literally nothing in this room?”
“Go get clean, silly. In the personal cubicle.”
“It’s only been a few hours, how dirty can I be?”
A chorus of ‘ews’ rang out. It hadn’t occurred to me to check for the nearest personal cubicles on the terminal the previous day, so I waited until a group of girls were leaving, and I followed them. I waited in a short line, and then got in and got clean. There were hair clippers in there, and I thought about taking all the fluff off. I didn’t want to freak any more new girls out, though, giving them cause to think we were all supposed to get our heads shaved. I’d wait a few days. I was a little doubtful of the clothes cleaner as I stuffed my outfit in it, but it came out after a few minutes smelling fresh and clean.
I went back to the room, and most of the girls were just standing around, nothing to do, but with very little conversation going on. That suited me. I wasn’t yet fully awake. I was ravenous, though. We stood around in awkward silence for several minutes. It didn’t bother me, but it was obviously making some of the others uncomfortable.
“Hey, Lavan, how are you feeling this morning?” Someone asked. Lavan shrugged. “Sleeping didn’t help?”
“I didn’t get much sleep,” she mumbled.
Persia waltzed in, glaring at us all standing about.
“What’s all this about? She asked.
“We’re just waiting,” someone told her.
“Because it’s not time yet,” someone else replied.
“It’s close enough,” Persia said, glancing at the clock. “It’s not like they’re gonna send us away.” With that, she turned back around, and left the room. The rest of the girls started following her, and after a few seconds I did too.
Our group made its way through the corridors, until we reached a set of double doors. There was a dull murmur of conversation emanating from the room, along with the sounds of trays clattering, and machines whirring. There were several queues leading to machines against one wall. Persia joined the shortest, and several girls lined up behind her. The rest of us joined the now-shorter queues to either side. When it came to my turn, I still didn’t recognise the language on the screen, so once again chose the same option as the person in front, lest they understood the wording, and knew the best choice.
As I walked away with my tray, someone grabbed my arm. My instinct was to yank it away, but I didn’t want to throw my breakfast, whatever it was, across the dining hall.
“Hey!” It was Gem. “Come one,” she said, leading me off towards the tables. A few of the girls from our room were sat down, and Gem lead me over to them before I could protest. Persia and the rest joined us over the course of the next couple of minutes. “I wonder what this is,” Gem said to me excitedly. I looked down at my own bundle. Yanking it open, the first thing I saw was a pile of grain in a bowl. It was dry and hard looking. There was a second bowl, the same size as the first, but it contained an off-white liquid. I tried a bit on my spoon. It was rich and creamy. Sour to the taste, but not necessarily in a bad way. I ate some grain with some of the substance still on the spoon. They went together well. Next was a disk-shaped, brittle object. I nibbled at the edge. Dry. Very dry. I tried to smear what was left of the off-white substance on it, and forced it down.
“Have any of you girls fired a gun before?” someone asked.
“I have,” Persia said. “My dad was a member of a gun club. They had a range that they went to, and would sometimes go for weekends, out in the middle of nowhere, to shoot target trolleys.”
“What’s a target trolley?”
“It’s pretty difficult to get a hunting license. My dad tried, but you have to have a job that involves… I don’t know, something to do with farming or animals. I don’t know the exact rules. So the trolley just drives around an assigned area, like a wild animal, and you shoot it.”
“That’s weird,” Lavan said.
“It’s sport,” Persia said, shooting her a glare. “Anyway, he took me a couple of times. I wasn’t much good at it, really just cos I wasn’t really trying. But I know how to load a couple of different rifles, how to aim them.”
“I hate guns.”
“Yeah, well I think you’re gonna have to get over that one real quick,” Persia said.
“What do you think we’re gonna be doing in the exercise this morning?” Gem asked me.
“I have no idea,” I said. “Hopefully something easy.”
As the group broke into more individual conversations in twos and threes, the noise level rose. Gem asked me another question, but I couldn’t hear it above the rising din, so I just shrugged. I looked around for somewhere else to sit. There were a couple of empty seats nearby. One was on a table of all boys. They were sat in silence, calmly eating away. I yearned to go over and join them, but I was worried about offending my roommates. I wasn’t that concerned about becoming close to them, but I didn’t want to have to endure frosty relationships either.
“Well that was gross,” the beautiful girl, who I had learnt was named Indira, said, pushing her tray away. “I hope the other options are better.”
“Which option did you pick?” someone said.
“I don’t know. The first one, whatever it meant.”
“What was it?”
“Most of it’s still there, take a look,” Indira said. We all looked.
“I had the same,” Lavan said.
“So did I,” Persia said. “But I didn’t pick the first option. I chose the last.”
“Did anyone pick the middle option?” Gem asked. A couple of girls raised their hands. “What did you get?” She leaned over to try to see their trays.
“It was the same,” one of them said. “The middle option was exactly the same.”
“Oh, great,” Indira replied, a contemptuous look on her face. “so there is no option.”
“Maybe that’s just at breakfast?” Lavan said. “Maybe there’ll be choices for the other meals?”
“I didn’t think it was half bad,” Persia said. “I’ve definitely eaten worse.” She clawed at her hair, pulling both sides away from the middle. “I think you have the right idea, er..?” Persia looked over at me.
“Sorry, what? Oh. Kat. I’m Kat.” It was the first time I’d spoken my name since arriving on board.
“Kat. Right. I think you have the right idea. With the hair? This is getting all tangled already. I had a bag, but they didn’t let me take it into the Conscription hall. You’d think they’d have a rake, or a brush, or something we could use.”
“They have clippers in the personal cubicle,” I said. “They might have had a comb or something as well. I didn’t notice.”
“You’re not really gonna cut off all your hair, are you?” Lavan asked.
“I hope it doesn’t come to that,” Persia replied. “But I need to do something.”
After a few more minutes, Persia pushed herself up and away from the table. Almost in unison, half of the rest of our group followed suit. She glanced sidelong at them, bemused, and then shrugged.
“I guess it’s time to see what the Division are going to do with us,” she said. “Good luck everyone.” She made her way to the door, with most of the group in tow.
“Are you coming?” Gem asked me.
“Oh, uh, I might be a few more minutes.”
“I can wait?” she said.
“No! I mean, it’s OK. I don’t want to make you late. I’m just gonna finish this, and then check the terminal, see where I need to go.”
Gem nodded, but looked a little bit hurt. I felt bad, but I was suffocating. I needed a minute before I marched off into who knew what. I watched them leave, and then let out a long, slow breath. Not touching the rest of my food, I gazed around the room, looking for any familiar faces from Erran. No-one jumped out at me, but then, I hadn’t seen anyone who would have been at the Conscription for several years. I waited long enough to be sure I wouldn’t run into any of the others out in the hallway, then pushed up from the table. It was time to see what the day would bring.
You can read Chapter Twelve in the next couple of days