When A Planet Falls
Author's note: My sister and I started writing this because we were homeschooled and we had nothing else to do.
August 22, 3101
On a planet called Kalem, named after its King, Noelox Kalem, a group of scientists gathered around a new magnifying device, that is, in many ways, a lot like the telescope, only far more advanced. Dr. Rob Orion, the scientist who invented the device, was sure that there were things they couldn’t see with their telescopes; no matter how advanced they had gotten throughout history. Of course there was only one way to find out; develop a new, more advanced, telescope that could reveal what they knew was always there. They suspected that there was another planet, with life, besides Kalem, Pinegrave, and Earth. But, depending on how you chose to see it, it could be wonderful or, most likely, tragic for not just Kalem, but Pinegrave and Earth, too. They had named the device Lucy, The Sky Magnifier.
Dr. Orion had just finished the invention, the evening before last, and he couldn’t wait to start testing it. The rest of his lab, although not quite as excited as him, were pleased to have made some progress as of late, because of the accident nearly a year earlier that had caused half of the building, and the staff, to go up in flames. Many lives were lost on that eerie September night, and several million dollars in equipment, as well. Fortunately, this long-awaited device had the whole building hopeful for a new breakthrough. As soon as Dr. Orion had arrived, everyone in his lab was ready for the first series of tests. They started immediately, hoping they could actually use it by the end of the day.
Now that they had officially gone through every test imaginable, they set it up in the highest tower. Dr. Orion removed his eyeglasses and bent over slightly, putting his eye up to Lucy. For several minutes, he searched the sky until, abruptly, he stopped. He slowly backed away from the magnifier and stood before his team.
“Boys, we’ve done it. We’ve found the hidden planet.” Everyone clapped and cheered, before realizing that it wasn’t something to be excited about. This planet could only mean trouble if it had stayed hidden so long.
“We should call the king, immediately, Dr. Orion,” one of the newbies stated. Rob eyed the group very carefully and then rushed out of the room, leaving the team in the tower.
“Noelox, I have come here upon your request. Now what do you want? You may choose to sit on your throne all day having your servants wait on you, hand and foot, but I have important things to take care for the people of my planet. So please, hurry it up, if you wish for me to be pleasant during this meeting,” King Bandaxi Pinegrave demands as he enters King Noelox Kalem’s palace, with two Symbols standing at his side.
“Ah, Bandaxi, how are you? Still using your power for your own well-being, I assume. I have called you here today for one reason and one reason only,” Noelox states, rising from his throne.
Bandaxi sighs, not at all hiding his disinterest. “Get on with it, then.” One of Noelox’s servants rushes in, offering Bandaxi a chair to sit in during this unusual meeting. As soon as he is seated, Noelox takes a step forward. He’s a very intimidating man to anyone besides the only person he wishes to intimidate, his one enemy, King of Pinegrave.
“Listen to me, take me seriously, for what I am about to tell you could drastically change the fate of both our planets,” he says in a low voice, hoping any near-by servants aren’t listening in.
King Pinegrave finally shows an ounce of interest, looking Kalem in the eye. “What is it, Noelox?”
The King sighs, dramatically, turning around in one quick movement. He returns to his throne and demands that all of his servants and family leave the room. Only then does he show Pinegrave his fearful expression.
“There is another planet that we must worry about other than our own. They aren’t too far from either one of us and they have a strong army and weapons. Although I do not know who they intend to attack, I do know that it will happen soon. Very soon, Pinegrave, do you hear me?” King Noelox says louder than he had meant to.
“You lie! We have searched the galaxy a million times for other planets with any life. There is no possible way that there could be an unknown planet!” Pinegrave shouts, now standing up from his chair. His
Noelox puts his hand out in front of him in an attempt to stop his enemy from getting any closer to him and his throne. “Stop, Bandaxi! You knew this day would come. We discussed what would happen if we ever found another planet that could be a threat to either one of us! You know what we must do, now, you agreed on it. We must put our differences aside and form an alliance, immediately! Our armies must fight together, our people must work together, and our families must stay together!”
“Never in a million years! I will never form an alliance with you and your idiotic methods of ruling your planet. You lie to me and my people, so we will never help you! There is no other planet! We would know of it! You just can’t handle ruling this planet on your own! Well let me tell you, Kalem, I will never help you or your people in any way, ever again. This means war!” Pinegrave shouts, turning to leave Kalem’s palace. Before he can reach the doors to exit, Kalem stands up from his throne.
“You fool! You know both of our planets are not ready for a war! We have hardly any weapons or trained Symbols,” he yells, forcing him to stop dead in his tracks.
“Whatever you need, Kalem, make sure your people have it by August 22, 3201. That is the day our planets will be at war. That is the day my people will destroy yours!” He replies, turning around to leave again.
“That is a hundred years from now! How will that even work?” Kalem yells after him, but he is too late. Bandaxi is already gone, returning to his ship, leaving Kalem and going back to Pinegrave, telling his people of the war that will take place in one hundred years on the day of August 22, 3201.
Kalem and Pinegrave have been training its people, creating new weapons and technology, and doing as much as possible to be ready for August 22, 3201. That’s only two years and fourteen days from today. Although the mysterious planet never did attack either one of the two planets, they are still out there, according to the people of Kalem. As for Pinegrave, they were never even informed of the planet. Not like they needed to be, since their king telling them that there would be war against Kalem was reason enough to do exactly that. At exactly three o’clock this afternoon, me and one hundred ninety-nine other teens between the ages of fourteen and eighteen will arrive at Camp Nervalex. This camp will train us long enough to be prepared for the day we will either win, or lose everything we have, trying to. It will afford us the opportunity to get used to the unknown powers stirring inside each and every one of us. Only one child out of every Semilex, which is a group of siblings that are twins, triplets, or quadruplets, is born with a symbol on their left wrist. That symbol is a crescent moon, a star, a cloud, a lightning bolt, a leaf, or the sun. Meaning, that this individual has a special power that is destined, in some way, to help our people defeat Pinegrave. We are called Symbols. We will fight to the end of this war, we will give up our lives for our people, and we will be victorious, whether we want to be, or not.
My name is Ella Daggerlight, I am fifteen years old. When I was born, my twin sister was taken from my family, to a different city called Lydia. She was forced to grow up in a school for mortals, like her. She was raised by teachers and a head master, instead of her mother and father, all because I was born with the sun on my wrist. The last time I saw her was that day, when we were born. Her name is Juliet Kellen, but that is all I know about her. She is not permitted by law to have any contact with anyone in our family. I am allowed to keep my parents’ last name but my sister got a recycled one. Once the mortal siblings are born they are taken to Zennect Raltoid, which means “Normal Lives” in Kalem. At the school, the mortal babies are assigned last names from a list of superheroes of our planet that have died. I have always imagined that she is very bright and too mature for her age, just as I am.
Camp Nervalex is the last place I want to be this summer, however, if you don’t show up after being chosen to train there, the government will execute the boys and lock up the girls for the rest of their lives. Symbols live a lot longer than mortals do, but we most certainly do not live forever. My great-great-great grandmother has reached one-hundred-seventy-eight and is expected to live twice her current age, as do most Symbols. My own mother is only thirty-two, since we have children very young here. My mother and father were married on her sixteenth birthday because that is the legal age for marriage.
I find myself constantly trying to picture what this camp might be like. Will it be extravagant, with things I couldn’t imagine in my wildest dreams, and make an otherwise boring summer, exciting? Or will it be the most wretched place on the planet, maybe even the universe? As excited as I am to find out what my power is, I am also extremely nervous because I might have a useless power and it could prevent me from helping, once we’re on the battlefield. Although that might be a good thing, since I don’t want anything to do with the war. Most people on Kalem are against it, but every now and again there’s some nut job that nonchalantly walks down the street wearing a T-shirt that says, “Kalem vs. Pinegrave: The Most Epic Battle in History!” and on the back, “Kalem For The Win!” even though it hasn’t happened yet.
As for my family, besides the sister I will never meet again, they do not support the war at all. I only live with my mother and my grandmother, but granny is never around. She’s always out with her friends. That is an odd thing to be said about a mortal grandmother, but mine is obviously not one. She’s barely fifty-six years old, so I’m all for her having some fun while she can still enjoy life. My father died three years ago from an explosion at his job. He retired from being a superhero when I was eight and became a designer for new weapons. They were testing one of his co-workers’ experiments and it failed, causing the whole building to go up in flames. Over 20 people were killed in the explosion.
I forgot to mention, only Symbols are permitted by law to have children. Honestly, I have no clue why, since mortals can produce a Symbol just like we can. But whatever the king says, goes, I guess.
I need to leave for the bus station soon, where a bus will take me all the way to Pluvalore, the city in which Camp Nervalex is located. I glance over at the alarm clock on my dresser and realize that it’s a little before one o’clock. Holding onto the suitcase that my mom helped me pack last night, I head out of my room. Mom had to be at work pretty early this morning so she said goodbye to me last night. I’m only going off to fight for our planet, nothing serious or anything. It would’ve been nice if she had called in sick to spend my last day here with me. But my mother has always cared more about her job than me. Not like she’s ever said it, but it’s kind of hard not to notice that kind of thing.
As I make my way down the staircase, I admire some family pictures framed on the wall; I may never see this house again. I miss my dad but with the way things are going, I’m glad he doesn’t have to stand by and watch his daughter go off to war and, potentially, be killed in battle. I pause when I come to one of my favorite pictures. It’s of me, my father, my mother, and my best friend Steven. At the time, I was only seven years old, fresh out of the first grade. My height, purple T-shirt matched with overalls, and pigtails prove it. Steven is a year older than me and we met when I was only three months old because my mom works with his dad. He is also a Symbol, but I haven’t heard if he’s been chosen to go to Camp Nervalex this year. Last year he was rejected because he broke his arm a week before the planned arrival day at camp. The year before that he was rejected for pretty much the same reason. He broke his leg skateboarding. They only accept two hundred kids every year. You have to be very healthy in order to even qualify, hence the reason he was denied. I was rejected for unknown reasons. I guess they just had too many healthy, war-prepared Symbols. This year, I got the letter in the mail informing me of the scheduled arrival and giving me the “Symbol Code of Conduct”. I haven’t seen Steven in a couple weeks so hopefully he didn’t do anything stupid enough to ensure his third rejection. Before I continue moving down the last few steps, I snatch the frame off the wall, pop off the back, and carefully tuck the picture into an unzipped pocket in my suitcase. The kitchen is a mess, but I smile anyway because this might be the last time I see it in person. I think I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for something like this. I stare down at the sun-shaped scar on my wrist as I adjust my grasp on my small-but-heavy suitcase. The symbol has been there my whole life but I’m still not comfortable with it. I doubt that I ever will be. Time to leave, it’s now or never. Except never isn’t exactly an option.
The bus station is as crowded as I thought it would be. People keep slamming right into me, not even giving me a glance just to make sure I’m okay. I make my way through the crowd and finally reach a safety zone near a blue metal bench and a no smoking sign. I check my watch and discover that I only have five minutes to get to my bus. Number 5608A. I don’t enjoy riding buses one bit. It’s, unfortunately, time to leave my safety zone. I cut through a group of people that are gathered in front of my bus. A girl gives me a dirty look but I guess it’s better than completely ignoring my existence. I’m almost at the door, I can see it. But suddenly I’m on the ground. I look up and see the man that knocked me down. He doesn’t seem to notice at first, but when he does his eyes widen.
“Oh! Are you okay? I’m so sorry! I’m the biggest klutz on the planet,” he says, helping me up. He lifts my suitcase off the pavement and hands it back to me. He seems like he is genuinely concerned, I even start to feel bad for him, but then I realize I’m the one that was nearly injured.
“It’s okay. No harm, no foul. It’s not like I’m bleeding or anything,” I smile. I can’t be absolutely sure but I think he’s a mortal. He looks average and he’s in his mid-forties, maybe early fifties. I glance down at my watch again. I’m going to be late.
“Have a nice day. I really have to go or I’ll miss my bus.”
“You take care!” he shouts as I walk away.
I’m finally on the bus and luckily there aren’t too many people. It takes forever to get to Pluvalore, according to the map they sent me along with an information pamphlet. It shouldn’t take more than an hour and a half if the bus driver speeds it up. I’m sitting next to a mortal guy that’s reading an anger management book, titled How to Cope with Your Anger. If I could move to a different seat I would, but the caution sign above the driver’s seat says not to walk around when the bus is in motion. I take out a book I’ve been reading lately called Flowers Bloom, Winter Dies. It’s a love story, if the title doesn’t give that away. A few minutes later, the guy with the anger management book gets off. I nearly scream when I see who gets on at the angry guy’s stop. It’s Steven! He sees me and smiles. I’ve missed that smile. When he spots the empty seat next to me, he immediately sits down.
“What are the odds?” he says, turning towards me with the biggest grin.
“Weird, isn’t it? I’ve really missed you these past few weeks. How was your friend’s wedding in Revelpex?” I ask him.
“It was okay, but you know how much I hate weddings.” Steven has a lot of girls in his circle of “close friends” and they’ve all been getting married the past three years. He likes to hang out with the older crowd, since his theory is that everyone our age, except me and him, are completely and totally immature. Which doesn’t exactly make sense, but I don’t want to bring it up and burst his bubble. Anyway, he finds social gatherings to be boring and a waste of time. And I don’t get out much, so it’s pretty obvious, besides practically meeting each other at birth, why we’re best friends.
“I missed you too, by the way. I was afraid you would be rejected again,” he says switching the topic from weddings to war.
“I’m just glad I don’t have to go through this without you,” I say shuffling through the pages of my book.
“I know how you feel,” he says looking away. I’ve probably made him feel uncomfortable. Steven doesn’t exactly love showing emotion, especially in public, which is pretty immature if you ask me. Another reason his theory is ridiculous. We sit there in silence, occupying ourselves with things we’ve packed for entertainment while we’re at Camp Nervalex, for the rest of the trip to Pluvalore.
When I see the “Welcome to Pluvalore” sign my heart starts to beat a mile per minute. How could anyone not be nervous when being forced into something like this? Stupid war. I really wish that this horrible feud would just go away forever. I don’t care about “dying in honor” or being a hero, so it’s kind of ironic that I’m destined to be one. Steven stands up and that’s how I know that we’re at the Pluvalore Bus Station. I’m pretty sure that Camp Nervalex is right next door to the station but I can’t be positive unless I’m looking at one of those “You Are Here” directories, since I’m terrible with directions.
“Come on, Ella, it’s already two forty-five,” I hear Steven say from the front of the bus. I hadn’t realized he’d already left. I get up from my seat and lift my suitcase from off the floor. I try to imagine what Camp Nervalex will be like, but I honestly have no idea what to expect. Our whole lives have revolved around this moment but we don’t even know what we’re getting ourselves into. I give an appreciative nod to the bus driver that drove us the two hours from Gineva to get here. When I step off the bus, Steven is nearly twenty feet in front of me, waiting.
“Hurry up, slow poke! We’ve only got about ten minutes to be there!” he yells getting further and further away from me and the bus. I start to speed walk to try to catch up with him. There’s a giant grey building with weird statues that look like animals, but have something human-like about them, next to it. It looks like the kind of building my father would have worked in. Right next to the building is a motel-looking place. I stand on my tip-toes to get a view of the sign. “Welcome to Camp Nervalex”, the sign reads. It, by no means, looks like a camp, at least from the front. I’m finally next to Steven, trying to catch my breath. He’s looking at the sign, too. The next thing I know he is in front of the building. He walks up to the door of the Camp Office and turns towards me.
“Well, here goes nothing.” He shrugs, twisting the knob and pulling open the door. We immediately see a woman dressed in all black. Even her hair is completely jet black. She looks like death. So I guess it’s appropriate that she’s here. She notices our presence and smiles, standing up from her spot behind the front desk.
“Hello! Welcome to Camp Nervalex, I’m Sarah Blossom, the guidance counselor,” she says waltzing over to us. Her appearance screams Goth, but her personality says Cheerleader.
“Hi, I’m Steven, and this is my friend, Ella,” Steven smiles.
“Come on in, make yourself comfortable,” she replies to Steven, not even glancing in my direction when he introduces me. I don’t point out that she says “yourself” instead of “yourselves”. Steven goes to sit down on a love seat that’s in the corner of the lobby. I awkwardly follow him so I don’t have to talk to Sarah.
“I’ll bring in some paperwork that you’ll both need to fill out. Be right back!” At least she finally acknowledged that there are two people here, not just Steven. Maybe I should start speaking for myself instead of letting him do all the talking everywhere we go.
Once Sarah is back with the paper work, we immediately start filling it out because there are probably about twenty pages, maybe more, to go through. I hear the bell that hangs on the top of the door ring, so I turn to see who has come into the office. I see a girl and a guy that have the same hair and eye color. They almost look related or something, but they can’t be siblings. Their green and black hair almost scares me into thinking they’re bad news, but when the guy starts talking to Sarah, I realize how polite he is. I’ve never seen such a smiley person in my whole life. I guess you really can’t judge a book by its cover, which I should’ve known from meeting Sarah, as well. Steven notices their arrival and looks terribly uncomfortable. I’ve learned to never ask Steven what’s wrong in the years that I’ve known him. If I do, it just makes him more upset. Even though I can’t help but wonder what his deal is.
The guy walks over with his paper work to where we’re sitting and the girl trails close behind him. He gives me a faint smile, and I have a strange feeling that this could be the start of a new friendship. Steven looks like he is thinking the complete opposite, however, with his side-ways-death-glare that Jaylar has somehow earned upon arrival. Once we’re finished with all that is required to sign-in, we are forced out of the lobby by Sarah, and into a giant field surrounded by cabins. The grass is so green and vibrant; I almost don’t notice the hundreds of people standing around, obviously waiting for something to happen. Zarlo Katrina, the owner of this camp, calls up the people that haven’t been assigned cabins yet and, of course, Steven, Jaylar, Iris, and I are the only ones that comply. After the cabins have been assigned and Steven is finished with his scary side-ways-glares aimed at Jaylar for being in the same cabin as him, we start making our way over to the our new temporary homes. Zarlo picked random cabin numbers and they just happened to get the same one. It’s not Jaylar’s fault, but no one’s going to inform Steven of this, especially when he’s already set out to kill Jaylar, for whatever reason. I’m ready to leave Steven to his ridiculous behavior, when he’s suddenly right in front of me. Only he doesn’t look angry at all. Somehow he got a hold of my hand.
“I’ll see you later, Ella. Just be careful, okay?” his eyes say he’s concerned.
“Be careful? What’ll happen to me, here? Everyone’s on the same side, if you hadn’t realized,” I reply, not at all fighting the urge to giggle.
“You don’t know anyone at this camp, except me. You can’t trust a soul. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you ever need help, just push the red button and scream bloody murder, do you hear me?” he whisper-shouts, handing me a walkie-talkie-looking-device. I stare at it a moment longer and give him one last hug before I have to meet my new roommates, or cabin-mates, rather. As soon as I open the door to cabin number eleven I hear the cheerful voices of the teens inside. Most of them do not acknowledge my entrance or my presence, but I’m awarded a couple of confused glances, which of course, is not what I expected. Trying to choose a bunk bed, I notice a break in the loud conversation, but when I turn around, everyone is staring at me, wearing blank expressions. Before I can truly react to the sudden turn of events, a boy slightly older than me approaches, crossing his arms.
“Are you sure you’re a Symbol? You look pretty average, like a mortal,” he smirks, eyeing me up and down.
“Uh…” is all my brain can come up with. Unsurprisingly, I have no clue how to respond to such accusations. I have never been told that I look so average, that I could possibly be a mortal. Luckily, that’s all I have to say, because another boy his age stands up from the crowd of teenaged-smirks. He is taller, leaner, and frankly, a lot more attractive, I noticed, than the guy who’s still giving me the evilest of grins.
“Come on Bryce, she’s just here to train. She’s obviously a Symbol. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have a symbol on her wrist, and she wouldn’t be at this camp in the first place,” he points out, glaring at the guy.
“Shut up, Chase, I was just messing with her. You don’t always have to take things so personally. You don’t even know her,” he says still grinning, as he returns to his bunk to continue the conversation, if you can even call it that, in which they had started before I arrived. The only person that defended me still stood in the same spot, right in front of me and my new bunk bed, which I had just chosen.
“Uh, thanks. I guess I owe you one, you know, for sticking up for me,” I manage to say, turning back to my bed. This mysterious person that I didn’t know at all, that just defended a total stranger, and who could possibly be not what he seemed, stared back at me even as I broke eye contact. I had to follow Steven’s instructions; don’t trust anyone here. Even if he did appear to be a kind-hearted person, he could also just be a backstabber, literally. And I don’t know about the rest of the campers, but Steven and I don’t want to be murdered in our sleep. Snapping back to his face, I wait for any sort of response. But one never comes.
“Are you gonna stand there and stare at me all day, or are you gonna move on?” I demand, wondering why he is still lingering after the whole scene has already passed.
“Just trying to be friendly,” he replies, his eyes focused directly on mine.
“Well maybe you would succeed in being friendly if you actually tried speaking after someone thanks you, instead of just staring blankly.”
“Maybe. You don’t owe me by the way, and I would be careful of what you say around here if I were you. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, little girl,” he warns, his eyes almost daring me to try something, even though I wouldn’t since he’s clearly a foot and a half taller than me.
“I’m not a little girl, I’m nearly sixteen,” I protest, noticing how loud the room has gotten. Everyone is engaged in some sort of conversation, some intellectual, most not.
“Sixteen, huh? You’re just a child, brownie,” he chuckles, obviously referring to my head of dark brown curls. I honestly feel like punching him in the face. We’ll see how smug he is after that little episode. Then I remind myself of the whole height issue, and also the fact that he looks like he could knock anyone on the planet out cold with just one swift movement.
“You’re only, what, two years older than me?” I cross my arms over my chest, glaring, doing my best to stay calm, but still trying showing him that I’m not a force to be reckoned with, whether that’s true or not. He chuckles again, more loudly this time, not even breaking his gaze.
“I’m much older than you, sweetheart, much older than you.” And then he’s gone, off back to where he should be, on the other side of the room. And that’s exactly why I can’t trust people here. They’re all the stuck-up, think-they-know-it-all, type of people. Before I do something stupid, I remind myself that I’m here to train; nothing else is important right now. Well except unpacking my suitcase, of course.