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Equilibrium Fan Fiction by Judas Austin

(This story will be completed in a series of installments)

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13

"David Abbott."

Kevin Halls stood to attention with the rest of the acolytes. It was the first graduation ceremony he'd ever attended and personally, he couldn't see what all the fuss was about.

"Kurt Bullen."

A sandy haired young man stepped forward to receive his new ID as the others applauded mechanically, then bowed to the Vice-Council and returned to his place in line.

"Thomas Caulfield."

That was the other thing, Kevin thought irritably. It was an unusually large class, with thirty two acolytes in all. Although there were fifty people chosen to become Clerics every year from the hundreds of thousands in Libria, most classes never had above twenty by the time graduation came. Those acolytes that weren't efficient enough to learn or perform optimum Gun-Kata didn't tend to live beyond the age of about twelve.

"Darren Chast."

I mean, it's not like we don't have anything better to do than stand around watching a bunch of smarmy gits get IDs, Kevin's treacherous mind whispered.

"Benjamin Dawson."

This is a waste of time. I could be practising Gun-Kata, or studying, or...or Christ, just doing something else besides this!

The head of one of the acolytes lined up for graduation snapped around suddenly, focusing on him. Dark hair, darker eyes and with a face that might be called coldly handsome, Kevin supposed, although he wasn't really qualified to judge such things.

Kevin abruptly blanked his mind. He was getting really good at that now.

The older acolyte's eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly, then he returned his gaze to the front. Kevin started paying attention, not because he was interested in the ceremony, but because he wanted to know who that acolyte was. He was definitely someone to watch.

"Michael Evans."

Unobserved again, keeping half an eye and ear on what was going on, Kevin let his mind wander. What would happen when he graduated? What would happen to his assigned partner? Working side by side with a veteran Cleric trained to detect the slightest fluctuations of human emotion probably wasn't the safest place to be.

"James Ewing."

I'll deal with that when it happens, he thought. One thing's for certain; I'm not going out like that poor guy in the furnace, even if I have to put a bullet in my own head.

"Martin Farrell."

Yeah, a treacherous little voice inside him whispered, that worked out pretty well the first time, didn't it? You can blast hell out of the targets, and you even shot that offender, but you can't turn the guns on the one person they would do the most good on, can you? You can't kill yourself.

"Alan Featherstone."

I can damn well try, Kevin thought savagely, applauding blankly with the rest.

"Graham Ferguson."

Sure, Kev. You keep on telling yourself that, why don't you? No, I think you want to continue living even if it is hell, because you have some quaint notion of...what? Atonement? Absolution? And you know damn well that a dead man can't atone any more than he can do anything to atone for.

"Jonathon Ferris."

With a sudden jolt of fear, Kevin noticed that the other acolyte in line was looking at him again, dark eyes narrowed suspiciously. Kevin returned his stare, face a mask, mind empty. The other continued to hold his gaze for a few minutes, then looked away again.

As the line progressed, Kevin found his own gaze drawn repeatedly back to the older acolyte. That one could easily be trouble, particularly if Kevin himself was partnered up with him later. Given there was a seven year age gap, it seemed entirely possible.

He watched, waiting to hear the name, until finally:

"John Preston."

Preston, Kevin thought. The name meant nothing to him, but then, there was no reason why it should.

Something trickled into his mind, a slight itch. Fear. Kevin glanced around, searching for its source, and his eyes met those of George Turner, one of his yearmates.

He's feeling.

A combination of relief and joy shot up Kevin's body like a geyser. If Turner was feeling, he, Kevin, could report him and alleviate suspicion. The one seeming weakness in the Council's attitude towards sense offenders was their belief that those off the dose looked out for each other...a belief that had saved Kevin's life more than once.

"Alan Ranger."

Come on, Kevin thought with an inward sigh. How many more damn acolytes could there be in this year?

He got his answer as the line dwindled and groaned inwardly. A lot, that was how many. He supposed it was good that so many had made it to graduation, but it was still a damn nuisance! And to top it all off, his back was playing hell with him again.

The pain continued to increase through the rest of the ceremony, and having to remain at attention didn't do much to alleviate it. By the time the last acolyte went through, stars were starting to flash in and out at the corners of Kevin's vision, and by the time he and his yearmates had been dismissed, the throbbing was making him a little light-headed. He reached out and collared Turner. Literally.

"Tell the Vice-Council I may be a little late, will you?" he said as impassively as he could. "I have to report to the medical wing."

Without waiting for a reply, he released him and started off. Acolytes in the same year did not officially have ranks, but there was a definite hierarchy starting with the best students down to the worst, and Turner fell broadly into this second category.

"Where are you going?"

Kevin turned, coming face to face with acolyte-no, he corrected himself-Cleric Preston.

"Medical wing, sir. I sustained certain injuries while in the Nethers and was told to report every day before commencing training in the Gun-Kata."

Preston's eyes narrowed very slightly.

"'Injuries'? Be more specific."

In your dreams, asshole, Kevin thought, then clamped down on that hard and said, "I was led to believe the details were filed with the relevant authority."

The suspicion on the young Cleric's face was obvious now, and he opened his mouth for what would probably be the last words Kevin ever heard, at least outside the Palace of Justice.

"Preston?" That was the Cleric's newly assigned partner. "Are you coming?"

Preston hesitated for the barest fraction of an instant, then nodded coolly to Kevin and turned away.

Kevin took one or two deep and silent breaths to try and calm his heart down, then started towards the medical bay.

"Acolyte Halls!"

Kevin froze rigid, not daring to move, one thought pounding over and over at his temples as he turned.

Oh Christ, they know! They've found out.

Two Clerics who had been present at the ceremony strode into his line of vision.

"It is Halls, isn't it?" the more senior of them said.

"Yes sir, it is," Kevin answered, snapping to attention. He recognised the Cleric immediately; DuPont, the highest ranking Cleric in the Tetra Grammaton and rumoured to be next in line for a seat on the Council.

"You're doing exceptionally well, acolyte," DuPont said. The other Cleric remained silent, clearly willing to allow his partner to do all the talking for him.

Kevin remained motionless, at attention.

"Thank you, sir."

"At ease," DuPont said, and Kevin relaxed very slightly. "Your instructors report that you've been almost at the top of all your classes since first joining the Monastery," the Cleric continued.

"I wouldn't know, sir," Kevin answered. "I've been informed that they're not permitted to discuss such things."

DuPont glanced at his partner, then back at Kevin.

"You've asked?"

"No sir; we were all informed at the start of this semester." Why is he asking me all this? Kevin wondered frantically.

It dawned on him that DuPont was standing there with the air of one waiting for an answer. Kevin shook his head.

"I beg your pardon, sir?"

DuPont's tone was calm, polite.

"I asked you what those dark glasses are for, acolyte."

Kevin relaxed inwardly. About that, at least, he didn't have to lie.

"Medical reasons, sir. My eyes are very light-sensitive. The glasses help me to see more clearly."

"Do you have a medical record of that, acolyte?"

"Yes sir, I do."

"Show me."

Kevin extracted the laminated card from his pocket and offered it to DuPont, who took it, making a show of examining it closely before handing it back with a nod.

"Everything seems to be in order, acolyte. Dismissed."

"Sir." Kevin snapped to attention, then turned and walked briskly away, waiting until he was out of sight before slumping against a wall. Too many more encounters like that one and the Tetra Grammaton wouldn't have to arrest him; they could just wait for the coronary to hit.

He looked at his chronometer, wincing as his clothes rubbed against the injuries on his back. Yep. Definitely time for a visit to the medic.

"They said nothing?" the medic persisted.

"Nothing," Kevin told him, bored. He was sick of repeating this to everyone who asked...particularly boneheads like this one who seemed to need to hear the answer about five times before it sank in.

"And you've no idea who they were?"

Make that six. "If I knew that, I would have-aah!" Pain bit into Kevin's back as the medic splashed ethadine onto the raw lacerations.

"Sorry. It's just if they said something-" now the medic was helping him sit upright and wrapping new bandages around his back "-the Tetra Grammaton would need to know."

Kevin kept quiet, mostly because he didn't trust himself to open his mouth without saying something he'd regret. The agony, which had now mounted into a series of screaming throbs, was doing shit for his self-discipline, not to mention making his head pound to boot.

"Can you at least give me some Talrium?" he demanded, his teeth clenched so tightly with the pain that his entire jaw was aching.

The medic shook his head.

"Sorry sir. We're not permitted to give you Talrium so soon after a Prozium dose. The effects of mixing drugs could easily result in a coma."

Fine by me, Kevin thought bitterly. That would be good. No more pain.

"I can give you some in approximately two hours, if you'd care to return then."

Kevin, rightly understanding this as a dismissal, slid stiffly off the bed, his uniform rasping against the injuries like sandpaper. The medic had botched the bandage job and the dressing would have slipped off by that evening, but he hardly cared anymore.

The Vice-Council gave him the option to sit out that afternoon's training on medical grounds, but Kevin declined his offer. He had a feeling that in the future, he was going to need all the Gun-Kata knowledge and ability he could attain, and then some.

The acolyte's resolve lasted all of ten minutes, the time needed for one of his yearmates to take advantage of his weakened state and slam him hard onto his back.

Bright white pain exploded in Kevin's entire body and his vision went grey, his senses temporarily dulled by the agony now thundering through him. He heard, as if from a long way off, the acolyte responsible saying something about his failure to block, then his entire world went dark.

When he came to his senses again, he was sitting-or rather, had been propped-on a bench to one side of the gym. The other acolytes were still going through the afternoon's lessons.

"Do you feel sufficiently recovered to rejoin your class?"

The words, at first, meant nothing to Kevin, were mere nonsense, then the events of the last few minutes crashed back into him and he shot a killing stare at the Vice-Council who was seated next to him.

"'Sufficiently recovered'?" he hissed, too softly for any of the other acolytes to hear. "What the fuck do you think?"

Panic constricted Kevin's chest as soon as the words were out of his mouth. For a few seconds, he literally couldn't breathe. Oh shit. That was it. Game over.

He forced himself to sit upright, ignoring the monstrous pain the action caused him with a superhuman effort, and cleared his throat, striving for a properly impassive tone.

"I apologise, sir. I believe my injuries may be dulling the effects of my Prozium. Naturally, I'll speak to the Monastery proctor and medics about increasing my dose." To Kevin himself, he sounded anything but natural.

There was a silence. Then Vice-Council Barrett said very softly, "Bullshit."

Kevin remained impassive.

"I assure you, sir, it's not."

"I know what you are."

Kevin didn't react in any way.

"You're mistaken, sir."

"Am I? It's my job to know what you're thinking, just as it'll be your job in seven years. If you survive that long."

Kevin made to get to his feet.

"I believe I'm recovered enough, sir. With your permission, I'd like to rejoin my yearmates."

"Permission denied. You're nowhere near recovered." Barrett reached up and pulled the boy down, not roughly but firmly.

Kevin continued to try to stand.

"I'm fine, sir. Really."

"You're not." Barrett increased the pressure. "Sit down." When Kevin made no move to obey, he stared hard at him, piercing the boy's eyes with his own. "That was an order, acolyte."

Kevin sat down again irritably, then wished he hadn't as the violence of the motion sent a new flash of pain up his back.

"Better. You can sit the rest of the afternoon out." When Kevin opened his mouth, Barrett raised a hand, cutting him off. "Don't even think of arguing with a Vice-Council, acolyte. That's something nobody on the dose would even contemplate."

"I wasn't going to argue, sir," Kevin lied.

"Of course you weren't."

They sat in a cantankerous silence for a few minutes. Kevin was itching to get back onto the exercise floor, but didn't quite dare to disobey the Vice-Council. He didn't know if the Monastery was watched like the rest of Libria, but he wasn't about to take that chance.

"You know," Barrett murmured very softly, "I'm surprised the painkillers don't seem to be working."

"What painkillers?" Kevin said sullenly. Catching sight of the old man's look he added, "sir?"

"You told me you were late to training because you'd been in the medical wing."

"I was. When I asked for painkillers, the medic pretty much told me to go stick my head in the Nethers. Some crap about the Talrium reacting with the Prozium."

"Bullshit," Barrett said again, sharply, then caught sight of the acolyte's expression and waved a hand. "Oh, it's been known, of course it has, but no more than any other allergic reaction. There have been people allergic to Prozium before now, but that doesn't stop the Council dishing it out."

Kevin's interest peaked.

"Allergic, sir?"

"Yes. They got a bullet through the head, all of them." Barrett shook his head. "Such a waste."

Kevin wasn't entirely sure whether the Vice-Council was referring to the lives or the ammunition, and didn't dare ask. Instead he settled for, "Yes sir." It was a pretty good rule of thumb; when in doubt, always agree with the senior officer.

Barrett shot him a sharp look, one which said he wasn't entirely ignorant of this, then shook his head.

"On your feet, acolyte."

Startled, Kevin obeyed as best he could, wincing slightly as he did so, and took a step towards the floor, only to find a hand drop heavily on his bad shoulder, sending a new wave of pain through him.

Some of his feeling must have been evident on his face, because Barrett withdrew his hand abruptly.

"I apologise, acolyte. I don't want you back on the training floor."


"You're to report to the medical wing immediately."

Kevin hesitated.

"Sir, I..."


Kevin moistened his lips almost unnoticeably.

"Sir, I just came from the medical wing and they were determined not to give me any painkillers. Why should it be any different now?"

"I'm coming with you, that's why. If they want to pull rank on an acolyte, that's fine, but I'll be damned if I'll let them get away with it with me. This way."

"Really, sir, I'm fine-"

"Acolytes who are fine don't pass out in the middle of training," Barrett said crisply, "and those who want to stay fine don't argue with a Vice-Council in front of eighteen witnesses and two security cameras. Now come on before I decide to drag you down there myself."

Kevin started to say that he'd like to see Barrett try, then caught sight of the look on the man's face and bit his tongue so hard he tasted blood. If the expression on the Vice-Council's face was anything to go by, he might do just that.

"Yes sir," he said instead, and followed as Barrett strode down the corridor and pushed open the doors into the mediwing so roughly that they almost bounced back to hit Kevin in the face. The medic started, taken aback.

"Sir? Is everything-"

"No, it is not," Barrett said flatly. "I just received a report that you denied an acolyte medical treatment."

The medic shot Kevin a look that was far from friendly.

"Sir...the effects of the Talrium and Prozium together-"

"-are, according to the law of averages, so unlikely to react that frankly I'm more concerned about the boy being struck by lightning. Give it to him now and that's an order!"

"Yes sir." With a certain amount of reluctance, the medic inserted a syringe into a flask filled with a clear, pale green substance, filled it, then withdrew it and injected Kevin with it.

"Good. And now, would you care to explain the state of this child's health?"

Child!? Kevin thought hotly. EXCUSE me?

"Sir...I'm not permitted to access such files-"

"You are, however, permitted to access the medication needed to treat him effectively." The sarcasm in Barrett's voice was very slight, but to Kevin's keyed up mind, the man might as well have broken into an aria.

Oh crap oh please please don't let him blow it now...

"Inefficient treatment can lead to physical problems in later life," Barrett continued, his voice as close to anger as someone on Prozium would get. "If this acolyte is subject to such problems as a result of your poor medical capabilities, I will personally see that it gets traced back to you. Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal, sir." Now totally cowed, the medic started to remove the bandages, only to find his hand gripped at the wrist.

"No," Kevin told him softly. "I don't want you. Not after you messed up last time, and all the times before." He released him. "Go find me a proper medic."

The man's eyes flickered towards the Vice-Council, as if seeking affirmation.

"What are you looking at me for?" Barrett demanded coldly. "He gave you an order. Do it."

"Sir." The medic snapped briefly to attention, a courtesy aimed somewhere between the man and the boy, then turned and strode from the room.

"You shouldn't have dismissed him like that," Barrett said.

Kevin narrowed his eyes.

"I'm not a child, sir."

Barrett chuckled quietly.

"You're eleven years old, lad, and don't call me sir. At least, not when there's no chance of being overheard."

"Alright, I'll bite." Now Kevin sounded almost sulky. "How should I have dismissed him, then?"

"People-even on the dose-get, shall we say, upset at implications that they don't know their job."

"Who said anything about implying? I told him straight. The guy's a shitty medic."

"And now he goes off in high dudgeon and he just might decide to wait a while before sending anyone else to see to you. You didn't pick a very good time of day to report to the mediwing."

Even with the boy's eyes hidden behind dark glasses, the look he turned on Barrett was enough to silence even the Vice-Council momentarily.

"I did not report to the mediwing, sir. I was practically dragged here."

"Yes you were," Barrett said unashamedly. "People on the dose don't have any feelings or desires. They would have reported here immediately upon encountering the kind of problems you did in the training."

"I am on the dose, sir."

"Of course you are," Barrett answered, his tone completely neutral and causing Kevin to wonder just who was kidding who in this strange conversation. "Though you seem strangely...emphatic."

"Like I said, sir, I believe that to be a result of my injuries."

"And I believe you're lying, acolyte."

The faintest of sneers flickered over Kevin's face before it returned to its proper impassiveness.

"And if I was, sir, do you honestly think I'd tell you of all people?"

"Why not?"

"I happen to not want to die, sir." Kevin glanced around surreptitiously. Where was the bloody medic??

"Interesting," Barrett remarked. "For someone on Prozium to openly admit to having desires."

"Lack of, sir."

"Claiming you don't want to die is the same thing as claiming you want to live, acolyte. You'd know that, if you paid more attention in your Emotional Recognition classes."

"Oh shit," Kevin said, to nobody in particular. He'd clean forgotten about that essay on hate cadences that was due in the next day.

Barrett raised cold eyebrows.

"What was that?"

"You heard me," Kevin muttered, not quite under his breath.

"Since there is, unfortunately, no laws against the use of profanity from younger people, my hands are somewhat tied on this matter," Barrett said crisply, "but for both our sakes, you will at least put on some semblance of respect when you address me, acolyte."

Kevin turned a smouldering look on him, one that surprised even Barrett into silence.

"Oh, I'm sorry," he said mockingly. "I meant, 'oh shit, sir'."

The Vice-Council glanced away. To anyone watching, the gesture would have seemed to be one of displeasure, but the real reason behind it was that he was trying desperately not to grin. He'd found and helped three sense offending acolytes in his time on the Council before meeting Halls, none of which had possessed a sense of humour-or at least, sarcasm-and all of which had been terrified of him. In a peculiar sort of way, it was refreshing to meet someone, even an eleven year old someone, who didn't seem to give a shit one way or the other what happened.

"And you're wrong," Kevin added.

"I'm...what?" Barrett said, very politely.

"Wrong," Kevin repeated in an overly loud tone.

Barrett turned back to regard the boy, anger warring with curiosity. He'd sent acolytes to the technicians for less than this-while the Tetra Grammaton wouldn't injure its agents any more than it had to, there were several forms of corporal punishment-but something about Halls encouraged you to listen.

"Explain that."

Kevin shrugged, then wished he hadn't as fresh pain sparked in his back.

"What you said about claiming you don't want to die. That's like saying that not hating someone is the same thing as loving them."

Barrett raised his eyes.

"An interesting point, acolyte. Tell me, have you any firsthand experience of this?"

"Love?" Kevin snorted. "Not bloody likely, sir, pardon my Entropian."

The door hissed open, revealing the same medic that Kevin had dismissed so rudely earlier on.

"Sorry, sir; my colleagues are occupied at present. If you'd like to-"

Kevin raised a hand, cutting him off.

"When are they likely to be available?"

The medic blinked.

"In about four hours, sir, at the next shift change."

Kevin slid to his feet.

"Fine. I'll come back then." He noticed with some satisfaction the brief flash in the man's eyes, a flash that was as close to anger as it was possible to get on Prozium, turned his back and walked into the corridor, then paused, glancing at his chronometer.

Two fifteen. The acolytes were probably getting to the end of their first break; while they couldn't get bored, even the Tetra Grammaton had to take physical limitations into account. Just enough time, then.

Kevin looked around, seeking a Cleric, any Cleric, and his eyes fell on DuPont, who was talking to his partner in a low voice. Something similar to a mental smile slid through the acolyte's mind, causing Barrett, who was already halfway down the corridor ahead, to half turn.

"Sir...I feel a little...unsteady," Kevin lied. "I believe I can make my own way back to the dormitory."

"Perhaps I should accompany you," Barrett said in similar neutral tones. His mind was anything but neutral; there was a strange look in the acolyte's eyes that unsettled him, and there weren't many things that had that effect.

Kevin shook his head.

"Thank you for your concern, sir, but it really isn't necessary. I believe my yearmates have already been deprived of enough education on my account." The words were almost by rote, and Kevin was as fluent in them as the Vice-Council.

Barrett opened his mouth to refute the acolyte's comment, but Kevin flicked his eyes very briefly to DuPont, and the Vice-Council shut up. Acolyte Halls might have no authority to get him committed for a test if he behaved...oddly, but Cleric DuPont had no such restrictions.

"Alright," Barrett said evenly. "I want a three page essay on the application of katas one through thirty six in enclosed buildings on my desk tomorrow."

Kevin's mouth fell open and he started to argue, but Barrett nodded almost imperceptibly in the Clerics' direction and the acolyte reluctantly subsided, much to the Vice-Council's personal satisfaction. Let the kid see he wasn't the only one who could make veiled threats.

Kevin snapped to attention, and Barrett strode away. The acolyte waited until he was out of earshot, then walked up to DuPont, and waited for a suitable break in the conversation.


DuPont turned a cool look on him.

"Yes, acolyte?"

"Excuse me for interrupting your conversation, sir," Kevin said smoothly, "but I have urgent information regarding one of my yearmates."

"Oh yes?" Now DuPont looked a little more interested. "And what 'urgent information' would that be, acolyte?"

Kevin almost moistened his lips, stopped himself just in time. There was no room for error in this.

"I wish to report acolyte George Turner for sense offence, sir," he said, every bit as calm as those lucky enough to be on Prozium.

"You're certain?"

"As certain as I can be without testing him, sir. However, since I don't have the authority for that, I decided it would be better to report the matter to you."

"Why not Vice-Council Barrett? He is your mentor, isn't he?"

Kevin cursed inwardly. He'd been hoping DuPont wouldn't ask that question...which, he admitted to himself, was probably the very reason he had.

"He was in a hurry, sir."

"A hurry," DuPont repeated, his tone so neutral that Kevin didn't know if the Cleric believed him or not.

"Yes sir."

"And it doesn't concern you that by coming to me with this information, you have effectively sentenced one of your colleagues to an early death?"

Kevin privately thought that given Turner's Gun-Kata ability-or lack thereof-he probably wouldn't survive the next big exams, but kept that particular gem to himself.

"No sir, why should it? I dose regularly, after all."

"Interesting. You've never wondered about coming off the dose, about what it must be like to feel?"

"No sir," Kevin answered truthfully. He'd wondered plenty of times about what it was like to not feel, but as far as being off the dose went, he could have written the book. If it hadn't been illegal, of course.

"You're not an offender yourself?"

Kevin floundered very slightly. DuPont was famed through the Tetra Grammaton for his so-called unique questioning methods, but to the acolyte they seemed to be nothing more than bloody stupid.

"If I was an offender sir, would I report my yearmate?" he said calmly. "We're taught that all sense offenders look out for each other, after all."

"Hm. Yes." Something in that idea appeared to amuse DuPont; a slight smile, too quick and subtle to really qualify as sense offence, flickered across his face. "Alright, acolyte. You're dismissed. I'll deal with this."

Kevin jerked to attention, then spun on his heel and strode away.

The dormitory was deserted when he got back to it. It was hardly crowded at the best of times-there were only two other acolytes living in the Monastery besides Kevin in this year-but right now, the acolyte was more than happy with the empty mattresses.

He lay down on his own with an inward grimace. God, for all the comfort these things offered, the Tetra Grammaton might as well have dragged a block of wood in for him to sleep on.

It was freezing as well. The Monastery was a place of extremes; you baked in summer, froze in winter and had, on average, about two nights a year where you were actually comfortable. Pillows and blankets weren't allowed either; what you saw was what you got.

Kevin glanced at his locker. He had an unexpected free afternoon, and there hadn't been any assignments that day; the morning lessons had been given over in favour of watching the ceremony, that was one good thing to come of it at any rate, the acolyte thought sourly. He considered. The most productive use of his time would be to write both those essays, one on hate cadences and that other Gun-Kata (and just what had Vice-Council Barrett been on when he came up with that idea? Kevin wondered) and then he could utilise the rest of his time catching up on back issues of Colonies, one of the few magazines that wasn't rated EC-10, and which dealt with civilisation in the other regions besides Libria. Most articles said exactly the same thing-ie, all other regions were comprised of barbaric, violent hedonists just waiting to march in and take over Libria-but Kevin didn't think that was necessarily a bad thing, and if he was honest, he didn't think it was all that truthful either. After all, how many of the writers had actually been to Xylyx, or Entropia?

Even if it was true, Kevin still planned to visit one day. Maybe if he ever got a seat on the Council, or...hell, if whoever he was in the Nethers with at the time was stupid enough to turn their back on him...maybe then he'd be able to find out for himself.

The acolyte shook his head irritably, fighting to clear it. At least the Talrium was starting to kick in now; his back felt less like the skin had been ripped off it and more like it had just been stung to death.

He glanced up at his locker again. Yes...it would be better to get both assignments out of the way first, then relax. He reached out for the relevant textbooks and then, because even in Libria there were conventions which ran deeper than the threat of being processed (or at the very least, severely disciplined) Kevin grabbed the latest issue of Colonies and settled down to read that instead. Let the assignments take care of themselves, at least for the minute. He had tastier fish to fry.


Chapter 2

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