chapter eighteen—((The Beginning of Knowledge))

The sleep that Aimee had been previously yearning for that evening came more easily after she returned to her room that night, strangely enough. She had been certain that she wouldn't be able to sleep, but when she lay down and closed her eyes, she slipped into the realm of slumber and found herself undisturbed until the morning.

Waking up was considerably easier than Aimee had anticipated as well, but the reminder of what she had learned about Royce made her wonder how he would act now.

She found out quickly enough. After dressing herself and preparing for the day, Aimee stepped outside just in time to almost run into Royce himself. The two of them jumped in surprise simultaneously; perhaps for the same reason.

"Oh, hey, babe." He mumbled awkwardly, the fingers of one hand straying to the nape of his neck to play with a lock of hair. "Uh, g' morning, I suppose."

"Good morning to you, as well…" Aimee tried to remember her formalities, awkwardly trying to avert his gaze. Feeling that the greeting was adequate, she started to move past him to start down the hall; she was unsure of what she would do or where she would go, but she would figure that out once the discomfited situation was over.

A hand on her shoulder prompted her to halt and redirect her attention to him, however, and Aimee did so reluctantly.

Royce cleared his throat as if it would help to clear his thoughts as well, and then proceeded to speak.

"Look, Aimee, I…about that whole thing…Celesse…" His voice seemed to soften at Celesse's name, and Aimee remembered the tenderness with which he regarded her. Swiftly shaking his head, Royce seemed to regain his composure to a certain extent. "Look, just forget about it. I'm…I'm really glad that you were willing to listen, I really needed it, and I appreciate it. I know I've given you a lot of shi—crap…in the short time I've known you, and I'm really sorry."

Her answer was easily found. "Apology accepted. But…Royce…"


Aimee swallowed. "How…how much time has passed since…since…"

He averted her gaze slightly, and other than a slight twinge of somberness his voice was hollow. "Celesse died seven months ago."

She replied quietly. "So recently…"

"There's so much going on that you don't know about, babe." Royce shook his head slightly and sighed. "That cemetery is home to a lot of souls killed by Elderan means."

He might as well have punched her in the stomach with that statement, but Aimee managed to maintain her composure. She added this to her list of things to discuss with the professor.

After a pregnant silence between the two of them, Royce spoke up, seeming more confident in his words than their previous conversation.

"Hey, babe? I was just wondering if we could, you know, start over. If we could be…"

A warm smile stretched across his lips, and he outstretched a hand, leaving it in midair.

"Friends? Or something like it?"

Aimee glanced from his eyes to his outstretched hand, and then back to his eyes. The decision was simple, and a smile emerged on her face, too. She slipped her hand into his and shook it decisively.

"Or something like it."

He laughed lightly, and exclaimed. "Alriiiight! Well, babe, let's go meet up with the guys. They went on ahead; we're gonna get some grub before heading off to the lab."

Aimee's eyebrows pulled together in a puzzled expression, and she started down the hall after Royce when he suddenly began to stride swiftly down it.


"It's a slang term for food, babe." He hollered over his shoulder, and Aimee thought for sure that he was deliberately quickening his pace just to annoy her as she tried to keep up. "Just follow me; they're at Lazlo's. He has some killer food, and I'm sure you're hungry."

"Come to think of it, I am." She was suddenly very aware of the fact that she was, indeed, very hungry. Royce took such long strides that she fought to keep up as he led her through the town square, which was just barely beginning to awaken with people, mostly shopkeepers setting up their small businesses. "And what do you mean, 'killer' food? Don't tell me he poisons people!"

Royce didn't hear her last comment, but sped on ahead, leaving Aimee to follow the sight of his bobbing blonde head from farther away.

Daring to slow her pace just a little to take in the sights, Aimee glanced about her at the small businesses and their owners as some opened homes for business while others set up stands outside, closer to the street itself; a shady tent for some produce and groceries, a couple of tables with various leather goods laid neatly upon it, some clothing stores, an elderly woman selling ceramics. A grocer carrying a cabbage or two in each arm gave her a casual, friendly smile and slight dip of the head as she slipped inside the tent to place them down. A worker quickly dusted some dirt away from the stand he was employed at. At a homemade jewelry stand, a woman sat fiddling with a pair of earrings that she was creating.

Back home, the Elders monitored—controlled, perhaps, now that Aimee thought about it—the shops in the marketplace. Here, it seemed like it was a free market.

She couldn't help but wonder what other differences there could be within the two societies.

An arm wrapped itself around her shoulder, and Aimee did not have to look to know who it was, though she did anyways just to be certain. Royce pulled her along, chuckling to himself.

"C'mon babe, I thought you just said you were hungry!"

When they arrived at Lazlo's, Aimee was abruptly overwhelmed with the feeling of being an alien from another planet yet again. In the society run by the Elders, eateries were kept neat and orderly with little or no decoration. Most were plain and uniform in design with white walls and tile flooring, the room for dining in separated completely from the kitchen except for the occasional sounds of cooking instruments being used or cleaned.

This establishment was the polar opposite. Before entering the eatery, Aimee examined the neon sign reading simply, "Lazlo's Diner". Entering through a pair of doors, she was further stunned by the environment. Though kept neat and clean, the walls were adorned with countless mementos and mix-matched décor, the walls painted an inviting shade of brown, though one could barely see the color in the minute space left between any couple of decorations. Tables were set with a small vase of flowers atop each surface, and a long counter with set-in stools close to the back of the room was set up to face an open wall that let one see directly into the kitchen. The room felt somewhat cramped due to its actual floor space and crowded walls, but it gushed a sense of welcoming that Aimee had never thought an eatery could possess.

From behind the counter, a stocky man with a cheery voice bellowed a greeting to them as he acknowledged her and Royce's entrance. She assumed quickly that this was Lazlo himself, and her guess was confirmed when Royce exclaimed. " 'Ey, Lazlo! Gonna rustle us up some grub or what?"

"Royce, it's good to see you." The man replied good-heartedly, rubbing a small glass with a towel before heading into the kitchen again. He reappeared swiftly. "Sit anywhere, I'll be serving you in just a bit. Your friends are right here." He gestured over his shoulder at the three boys sitting at the counter. From the looks of it, they had not ordered yet.

"Aimee, Royce, over here!" said Kieran with a smile just as Aimee's eyes had found him. Kieran, Brian, and Jonas occupied three of the stools at the counter, a few feet away from where Lazlo stood, now busying himself with the cash register.

Royce threw his arm around Aimee's shoulders once more and proceeded to pull her towards the counter. Plopping down in the stool beside Kieran, Royce allowed her to sit as well, taking the seat beside him in a huff.

"I'm not something you can just pull around with you like some sort of dog." Aimee grumbled. As Lazlo placed menus in front of her and Royce, she gave a quick 'thank you' and flipped it open. Her stomach rumbled at the sight of various meal choices.

"I see you two are getting along as well as ever." Kieran chuckled light-heartedly, his menu closed flat on the countertop. He must have already decided what he was going to order.

"We're like peas and carrots," Royce laughed, and his words were clearly a joke that Aimee did not understand, for the rest of the boys chuckled under their breath as he spoke. "And my name's Forrest, Forrest Gump."

Kieran caught Aimee's gaze and grinned slightly. "It's another joke regarding the Ancients. Royce, quit it with the inside jokes. It's just rude."

"Aw, Aimee doesn't mind, does she?" Royce grabbed her shoulder and shook it jokingly.

Aimee didn't answer, but provided a small smile towards Kieran. She felt grateful that someone seemed to understand her discomfort.

After Lazlo went around and took their orders, Royce and Brian began another round of their usual bickering. The sound of it was beginning to become routine.

"I like this place, don't you, Señor Stick in the Mud? Good food, good atmosphere…" Royce declared loudly.

In reply Brian rolled his eyes. "You liked Marie's place downtown too, and look how that turned out."

"How was I supposed to know that her husband was gonna kick me out for hittin' on their daughter? I didn't even know he was there, and besides, what law is there that says you can't hit on a girl if she appears to be completely available?" Royce exclaimed in a hurry. Lazlo walked by and carefully placed a glass of water down for each customer.

Aimee was about to ask whether or not 'hitting on' someone was another slang term, but she thought better of it and kept quiet, instead taking a small sip from her glass of water.

Brian scoffed. "Being attracted to a girl is one thing, Royce. Telling her that you'd like to meet her alone someday so that you two could 'talk in private' is another thing."

Royce replied lazily. "Eh, the guy was being overly sensitive." He laughed lightly. "Hey, remember that look on his face? And he didn't even bother to put the drink in his hand down; he just stormed right over…"

Royce got up and grabbed his glass, walking in mock furiosity towards Brian, the water sloshing around violently.

"It was really pretty funny when you think about it, and then when he—"Royce began to laugh again, forgetting the water in his hands. The majority of it came racing out at Jonas, ice cubes smacking him in the face. "—Oh…oops…"

His laughter abruptly halted while Kieran and Aimee fought to keep laughter in. Brian rolled his eyes and mumbled something that Aimee identified as 'idiot'.

Jonas sighed, got up from his stool, and took a brief moment to examine his now thoroughly soggy shirt, hair, and face. Shaking his hair like a wet dog, he shuffled off towards a short hallway in the diner, evidently the bathroom.

"S-Sorry…" Royce muttered after him. He looked at the closed bathroom door, then to his empty cup, and back again. He then glanced at Lazlo, who seemed to be having a difficult time not laughing as well. "Um, can I have another glass of water…?"

A small burst of giggles escaped Aimee's lips, and she buried her face in one hand, leaning on the counter. The others finally released their laughter as well.

She couldn't help but wonder how in the world she had managed to end up with such an odd group of people in such a foreign place. She supposed she had Kieran to thank—or to blame—for that.

And then, once again, she found herself wondering what her friends and family were thinking back home. By now they probably knew she was missing, but what were they feeling?

The questions popped back into her mind.

What about her parents? What about Ashleigh? What about Dmitri?

So many questions resounded in her mind, all pounding in her mind as one synonymous force that almost made her head ache. She wondered if any of her questions would be answered today. She also wondered if finding out more would simply confuse her more. So much wondering and no answers in plain sight. The wondering made her frustrated, but she tried to clear her mind, sipping at her water as if to wash away the thoughts.

Aimee continued to remind herself that she would learn more this afternoon, hoping that the answers she sought would be given to her.


Walking into the laboratory for the second time seemed infinitely less intimidating than the first time Aimee had entered. It remained relatively unchanged from the night before, though perhaps noticeably quieter. As the group entered the chilly atmosphere of the sterile, impersonal building, she heard the faint tweeting and beeping of machines coming to life upstairs.

"Greetings to you again, Professor." Aimee bowed slightly when the man appeared at the staircase. Kieran and Royce provided a similar albeit more casual greeting, while Brian and Jonas gave silent gestures of respectful acknowledgment.

"Ah, Aimee," Professor Carlson said after greeting everyone respectively. "Glad to see you. Shall we get started with our discussion? There is much to learn and few hours in a day."

He said it more as a suggestion rather than a question. Aimee vaguely wondered how long the professor thought this discussion was going to take. Surely there was a lot to hear and learn about, but would it take all day?

As if to answer her internal question, the professor smiled and said, "I'll try and keep it as condensed as possible. A need to know basis, I promise."

Feeling a little more at ease, Aimee shifted to face the rest of the group. Unsure of what to say, she let a bit of air escape from her lungs in a nervous sigh.

Royce met her gaze steadily. "Babe, if you want, we could leave and come back later. It'd be more comfortable, without us hanging around. Or at least, to me, it would…" He grinned and gestured to Brian. "I mean, I would hate to have this guy sitting around while I'm trying to listen to something important. So distracting, being all…himself."

"That's a lovely thing to say, Royce." Brian grumbled. "I'm simply touched."

"No problem, bro." Royce laughed and punched him teasingly. Brian scowled, and Royce punched again, a little harder this time. "Lighten up, why don'tcha?"

Thinking about it for a moment, Aimee decided that his suggestion did sound like a good idea, and she voiced her decision. As Brian, Jonas, and Royce departed, they gave her their salutations. There was no surprise there. But…

Aimee was too startled to move when Kieran gave her a small, gentle hug as a farewell. He stepped back quickly, perhaps a tad awkwardly, and said, "Promise me that you'll listen to the professor more than you did to me." A small smile crept across his lips.

She recalled how unwilling she had been to listen to him at first, and grinned slightly at the memory. "I promise you that I'll try to remain open-minded."

He chuckled lightly before following after the rest of the group, leaving the laboratory.

And suddenly, though several scientists strolled through the large establishment, Aimee felt very much alone. More alone than she had felt in what seemed like ages.


Bom! Rata-ta-ta. Tatata-ta-ta. Bom! Rata-ta-ta. Tatata-ta-ta.

Ashleigh looked on in the direction of the Elders' Council building. The multitudes of people that had come to see this event pushed and shoved against each other, all bustling to get a better look at something that had yet to even arrive. The anxiety, and perhaps anticipation, was thick enough to permeate the air, saturating it and letting it fill the lungs of others, who quickly felt it spread like disease within them, too. Within minutes the town square had become a cesspool of apprehension.

Bom! Rata-ta-ta. Tatata-ta-ta. Bom! Rata-ta-ta. Tatata-ta-ta.

Today was the day that the Elders were to present the army to the public. This army that they had supposedly been training secretly in preparation for encounter with the Mirantovans. An encounter that meant war. This was war?

Ashleigh felt a shiver rush down her spine at the idea, but there was no choice. The Mirantovans were going to destroy their way of life if they let them, wouldn't they? The Mirantovans were intent on destroying everything. That was what the Elders said, and so it had to be true. They would have to fight to protect their society, right? A fight that was with weaponry, with clashing metal and things of old. This was war?


She reminded herself of the pact that Dmitri and she had made; the pact to fight against these Mirantovans. To fight against those who had disrupted their infinite peace. To fight against those who sought to demolish their society. To fight against those who had killed Aimee…

Rata-ta-ta, tatata-ta-ta…

And suddenly, the first soldiers came into view. An unbreakable line of human bodies marched towards them, seemed to have no definite beginning and no defined end. All moved in unison, a tense and alert march.

Ashleigh felt the entire crowd holding their breath, as if to suck all their anxiety and apprehension back in. The moment was here, the army was being revealed!

The first multiple lines of troops were unarmed, much to Ashleigh's surprise, but upon closer examination she could see that they were all Forest-dwellers. Their uniforms were less decorated than the troops that followed them, perhaps because they were going to transform, rendering the uniforms useless anyways. They would fight with their own animal counterpart's strength as a weapon.

Following them in the huge procession of Forest-dwellers were the Humans, armed to the teeth with guns and sheathed knives. There were several elements to the army that Ashleigh did not recognize nor understood; they were separated into different factions, it seemed, with similarities between all of them.

Ashleigh swallowed when she saw that some of the younger troops looked to be around her age.

The pact, Ashleigh. Remember the pact. We're going to fight for Aimee…

On and on, the procession marched, until most of them were in view as they filled in the empty space in the square. The rows of troops went on and on, out of sight down the long pathway they had come from. Ashleigh now recognized that the path led to a corner of the Elder's Council building; a huge wall pulled away to reveal the tunnel with which the troops came from.

To think that a fake wall had hidden an entire army to the public eye!

But, Ashleigh remembered, there had been no need for an army beforehand. Now, the timing was serious. This was not some sort of sick, twisted educational thing. This was real, this was happening.

Bom! Rata-ta-ta, tatata-ta-ta.

Ashleigh saw that some of the troops were the source of the drumming that she'd been hearing this entire time. The sound was chilling as they rattled the drums with their wooden drumsticks, a marching tune that rang out like a warning ahead of them.

And then, as if they were signaled to do so, the drums hammered to an abrupt stop. Not a sound came forth, not even from the onlookers.

From somewhere in the square—Ashleigh could not see, for there were far too many heads to peer around—a familiar authoritative voice boomed across the multitudes of people.

"This, ladies and gentlemen, is just a fraction of the troops that we are hoping to put into the field for the protection of our beloved island." Phillip Collins voice was easily recognized as he commanded the attention of the crowd. "The Mirantovans are demented, vile, and cruel. They will stop at nothing to obliterate us."

No more than twenty feet away, Ashleigh managed to catch a glimpse of Dmitri; she was initially startled that he had ended up being so close to her in such a large throng of people. He stood amongst the people in the crowd just like everyone else, but the expression upon his face made him seem so perpetually alone. For a brief second he caught Ashleigh's gaze, but looked away as if he had seen nothing. His usually piercing gaze felt glazed over with contemplation.

Again, Ashleigh remembered their pact.

"What I ask is the unthinkable, but it is the sincere request of the Elders on behalf of our entire society. On our entire way of life. On the life of Aimee Vaughan," Phillip paused, perhaps in a small display of respect. "Which was taken by the barbarians that we now face as a community."

Ashleigh sucked air through her teeth, and let it out with a trembling sigh. Her fingers suddenly felt icy as she folded them loosely.

"We request the assistance of anyone who has had their Ceremony, or anyone close enough to that age," Phillip's voice was emotionless and stoic. "Anyone of that age or older, who would like to become an active member of this cause, to step forward."

At first there was a frigid silence. The people looked about nervously, to each other, and then all around as they awaited someone who would dare to take the first step.

"I shall commit myself to that cause."

Ashleigh whirled about, this time to find Dmitri again. His eyes had regained such a fire in them, that it almost scared Ashleigh to look at him. He stared unwaveringly in the direction of where Phillip stood with the other Elders. The people standing around Dmitri had begun to back away, as if out of respect. She saw his parents amongst the crowd, nervously glancing in surprise at each other.

It wasn't until Dmitri took a few steps towards the Elders that Ashleigh realized that he had been the one to speak.

For a few moments, all was silent except for Dmitri's footsteps against the brick of the town square. His eyes blazed with intensity, his movements oddly stiff and fluid at the same time as he presented himself to the Elders.

Phillip looked on him with little emotion, almost as if this were expected.

"Dmitri Knowles, am I correct?"

Dmitri nodded firmly. He stood with his hands in his pockets, eyes locked with Phillip's, looking more intimidating than Ashleigh had ever seen him.

Phillip, much to Ashleigh surprise, let a crooked smile cross his lips. The look in his eyes was unreadable.

"Your eagerness is commendable, Dmitri."

Remembering their pact for what felt like the millionth time, Ashleigh decided that if she waited any longer she would lose her nerve. She swallowed and went to stand beside Dmitri, annoyed at how weak her voice had decided to sound at this particular moment.

"I…I would like to commit myself to the cause, also!"

Dmitri looked at her briefly, to which she returned the gaze. He smiled slightly.

Phillip gave a look of acknowledgment.

"Ashleigh Schroeder, am I correct?"

"Y-yes, sir." She silently wished that her voice would stop shaking.

And Phillip noticed. "Are you certain that you choose this path for yourself?"

Ashleigh thought for a moment. She remembered everything that she had been taught about the Mirantovans since they had first been revealed to the public. She saw the troops before her, stoic and trained. She didn't want to be passive, not at a time like this, not when…not when…

Not when the Mirantovans had been the ones to kill Aimee. No, she would not let them get away with that so easily. Her wounded heart still bled for the loss of her dearest friend. There was no getting away with such a thing.

And finally, her voice took on the strength that she'd been seeking so fervently.

"Yes. Yes, I do."

This was war, after all.


Aimee sat down in the desk chair that the professor offered her, amazed at its comfort. She had never known what it felt like to sit in a cushioned desk chair, and not only that, it was capable of spinning! She spent the first few moments just spinning and entertaining herself with the chair before she remembered that she was there for much more important things. There were things to discuss.

Still, the chair was fun. She couldn't help but pivot herself in the chair a little, back and forth. Her head began to hurt from the motion.

"So, Aimee," Professor Carson sat down at his desk, which sat a few feet away. He pulled a briefcase out, laying it out on the desk, and unlatched it to reveal something that immediately caught Aimee's attention. She'd only seen them in textbooks…

It was a computer. More specifically, a laptop, but they were basically one and the same. Painted silver and very dusty, the thing certainly looked Ancient, but it seemed to be in perfect operation, since the professor immediately flipped it open and turned the thing on. In moments, he was swiftly tapping away at the keys. The motion was somewhat mesmerizing; how could anyone coordinate their fingers to move in formations like that?

The professor looked up, and continued his statement. "Do you have any initial questions?"

Aimee snapped out of her fixation with the laptop, and tried to think. After a few moments, a question that popped into her mind very quickly came out of her mouth, almost as if they forced its way out. "What happened to Jeffrey, exactly? What did he…what did he say that led to his…untimely departure…? And…" Slowly, another thought crossed her mind. "Come to think of it, what happened to Scott? Was he involved in this, too?"

Professor Carson smiled a tad solemnly and nodded. "Jeffrey, as you know, was that unit's first attempt to recruit in your specific Elderan community. He became antsy, however, because of the things that he had been learning. Kieran learned that he had been confiding in a friend, who eventually—inadvertently—betrayed him to the Elders because he thought that Jeffrey was a lunatic for the things he was saying." The man paused, letting the information sink in slightly. "The Elders obviously reacted very harshly, and you saw the aftermath. They played it off rather well. A bunch of specially trained actors, if you ask me…"

"I…I see. Poor Jeffrey…I can't imagine what it must be like to his parents…but…then…Scott…?" Aimee inquired. The information regarding Jeffrey was saddening, but she was determined to learn as much as possible. She tried to keep herself on topic, and as new questions formed she tried to keep them in order in her mind.

"Scott was a slightly different case," the professor answered. "Scott was intended to become a recruit, years ago, when he was just a boy. He took to our ideology very well, but he made the request to stay in the Elderan society. A very intelligent boy, he was in line to become an Elder. His goal in staying was to be one of multiple things: firstly, a spy and leak into the Elderan government structure and to their plans. Secondly, he wanted to rally support for the Mirantovan cause inside the Elderan society and, in his words, kill the beast from the inside out. It was a good enough plan, but as you saw, the public was not as receiving as he intended, and he ended up giving himself away, instead."

Aimee remembered the court case, remembered the mob. She remembered how Scott had so strangely urged that the Elders were deceiving them, how strongly he had urged them to think and to rebel against their own society. And no one had heard from him since the court case.

She suddenly came to the conclusion that he must have met the same fate as Jeffrey.

Swallowing hard, Aimee glanced at the professor. He looked at her reassuringly, saying, "It's hard for everyone to take in such kinds of information. This entire process is very difficult to digest, but your case has a bit more violence involved, sadly. I do apologize for that."

Aimee let her gaze fall to the floor below her, letting things fall into place in her mind. Everything seemed to make sense, and yet all of this violence made her wish that it didn't make sense at all.

The professor shifted slightly in his seat, leaning his chin on his hands in contemplation. After a small span of silence, he spoke. "Aimee, I don't want to go over every single little detail of the history behind this. But I suppose there is a lot to go over, so I shall start where I always start with new recruits.

"The Ancients, despite the Elderans' teachings, were not all bad. Yes, what they did teach you is technically true, but that's not the whole story. The Ancients were fighting to preserve the environment, because their previous lack of knowledge and ignorance had led to the deterioration of nature and its resources, as well as the ozone layer…even something as simple as water pollution! This led, as you know, to Blake Carson's extensive research regarding the creation of Hybrids and his experimentation regarding them. Now, you must understand, this wasn't the only issue within the Ancient time. There was also war, which you know about, between the various continents. Political tensions in the Middle East –you know where that is, correct? Ancient geography is rather confusing." After Aimee nodded, he continued. "Well, tensions in the Middle East, as well as in other international relations, began to escalate. This led to many conflicts all over the globe, causing problems inside individual countries as well as internationally."

"But—if I may say so, sir, I apologize to you—I already know this." Aimee said sheepishly.

"Ah, I apologize as well; I was getting caught up with my own words." Professor Carson laughed lightly. "At any rate, you know the basics of history. However, regarding the relations between Humans and Hybrids…How should I say, certain parts have been censored to you. Hybrid classes are separated from Human classes in school, are they not?"

Aimee nodded, and he continued.

"As expected. You see, what they teach the Humans is different from the Hybrids. They've taught you about how the Hybrids were oppressed and suffered much disdain from the Humans, correct?"

Again, she nodded.

"Well, to the Humans, they teach about how the Hybrids revolted and rampaged, trying to assert themselves in society." When Aimee glanced up anxiously at this, he raised his hands in a calming gesture. "Let me explain. All of what is taught is a part of one big history, but they separate it according to the respective races. Both parts are true, but they do not teach the truth as a whole. Some people may say that a half truth is somewhat acceptable, but I beg to differ."

The Professor turned his laptop so that Aimee could view the screen. On it, she saw two passages put side-by-side, juxtaposed to show the same event from two different points of views. One read about a Hybrid strike that had turned into a riot. Death toll, 132, totaled from both races. The other read about an attack from the Humans as the Hybrids were trying to have a 'civilized protest'. Death toll, 132, totaled from both races.

The same event; one side of which Aimee had already heard in the past. Different points of view. Two parts of a whole truth, but altered to be completely different.

Her eyebrows pushed together in a furious attempt to understand. "But…but…What success would the Elders have in doing that?"

Now she understood the tension that was underlying the community at home! Suddenly, she could understand why the Humans all detested the Hybrids, and vice versa. Now she could understand!

It suddenly made sense…

The Professor grinned. "Indeed. It seems like this manipulation would only cause more tension between the two races, doesn't it? In a normal environment, certainly. But the Elders have crafted their society under rules and regulations; violence is unheard of, correct?"

Aimee could do nothing except nod again. She was beginning to feel like one of the Ancients' toys—what was it called? A bouncy-head? No matter, she couldn't remember.

"Right. Well, with such a pacifistic nature engineered directly into the society, there was little fear in integrating this censorship into the community as well. Tell me, Aimee, have you ever read anything simply for fun? Enjoyment?"

Aimee found her answer quickly. "Well, no. Reading individually is impossible, but also frowned upon in society. It's too reclusive and wastes time. I've never seen a book other than a textbook in my life."

The professor nodded again, as if pleased to hear something that he was used to hearing. "Exactly. And they wouldn't tell you that straight out; instead of saying, 'you are not allowed to read', which would only perpetuate the public into wanting to read more, they twist it into 'reading is degenerating to society', or something of the like. To the public it means one thing, but to them it means one and the same."

Professor Carson pivoted slightly in his chair, bending over to open a drawer of his desk. He pulled out a medium sized box, placing it on the surface of the desk. He flipped the cover off, but otherwise didn't make any movement towards it.

He gestured towards the box. "Take a look. Pick up something that interests you."

Aimee stood, peering over the edge of the box to take a peek, unsure of what she'd see. Her breath caught at the sight.

Books. A magazine. A…was that a movie? What did they call those…DVDs? Yes, that was it. She stared at the contents of the box, gaping at what was before her. If anything, they were antiques, but…

She tentatively reached for one of the books, feeling its worn and tattered cover. A paperback! All textbooks were hardbound by requirement. This was the first time she'd felt a paperback book. It was strangely delicate, having aged throughout the years. Carefully opening its cover, she discovered that it had a musty smell, the pages yellowing with age but still white in the center. No diagrams, no pictures, no informational charts like one would see in a textbook. Just words, tiny little black ink printed on the fragile pages. She swallowed, reading a few lines from the page that she had managed to land on.

"Go away!" cried Mary. "I don't want boys. Go away!"

For a moment Basil looked angry, and then he began to tease. He was always teasing his sisters. He danced round and round her and made faces and sang and laughed.

Mistress Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells, and cockle shells, and marigolds all in a row."

Aimee closed the book to the cover, reading the title. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

"This…these…" She looked back at the box, then at the professor. "Wherever did you acquire these?"

The professor grinned. "A few treasures I've either managed to keep to myself or that people have given to me. I have a few more boxes, but it isn't much compared to…"

He suddenly fell silent, scratched his head, and fiddled with his glasses. The book still clutched in her hand, Aimee inquired. "Compared to what, professor?"

The man sighed. He suddenly looked older than he was, whatever he was. He simply looked older, as if time had magically aged him in the past couple of moments.

"Aimee, do you want to know the main reason why we Mirantovans want to make a stand against the Elderan society?"

She slowly sat back down in her chair, pulling it closer to the desk. The book remained in her grasp; she was unwilling to let go of it.


She felt the will to learn overriding her stubborn pride. After what she had learned, knowing how much there still was to learn…She had to know more. There was no stopping it, not now.

"That is what I came here for, Professor Carson."


Kieran smiled at Aimee's last remark. He had been waiting at the end of the staircase for the entire conversation, for three main reasons.

Firstly, if Aimee were to react badly to any of the information, he wanted to be there to help.

Secondly, he had promised that he would take Aimee to the market afterwards. Since there was no definite time to when the conversation would be over, he had decided to simply wait. The laboratory assistants and scientists paid him little mind, since he was just sitting against the wall by the stairs.

Thirdly, the professor still made him uneasy. He supposed that the professor would always make him uneasy, after everything that had happened…but still.

Kieran smiled, and almost laughed aloud to himself, running a hand through his hair and leaving it at the nape of his neck. Two out of the three reasons regarded Aimee. That fact amused him.

He had already traced several patterns into the ceiling, one of which vaguely reminded him of a bunny. There were several beats to be found in listening to the sounds of the laboratory's machinery, if one sat and listened. Even the clacking of the heels that the female assistants and scientists wore could make a nice little pattern of sound; again, if one took the time to listen.

I must be losing my mind. Kieran laughed slightly to himself. The truth was that he was perpetually bored. But he would wait.

Two out of three.

Very amusing, indeed.

A/N: o_o;; So…does anyone still remember me? 8D eheh.

So, I haven't updated this in forever. Like, seriously, forever. And a day. Because I promised myself that this would be done and posted by the Fourth of July. And I'm posting it now. Which makes me a day late. Oops. Eheh.

It's one in the morning and therefore too late at night for me to say anything clever in this author's note. Good night. xD

Just kidding. Quick recap: I do like Royce a lot. He is a fun character in so many ways.

This is such an information-spam chapter, I swear. But it's all important. And there is still more to come! Mostly because I got lazy, and the chapter needed to be cut off.

The whole army scene with Dmitri and Ashleigh, yadayada…fun stuff.

Oh, and Kieran's bit at the end! I enjoyed writing that.

Did I mention this is my 1AM brain talking? xD

Nighty night. Love you all to pieces.