Teen Heart Manga Stories Presents
A Shonen Write! Production of"Flight of the Kestryl"


One: Interrupted Beginnings


Within the confines of Nexus Station Lancet in the Veridian Sector of Human Explored Space, the unruly brown hair, constantly shifting blue eyes, and short, twisting nose of a boy peeked out from around the corner of a connecting hallway of the Pilot Bonding and Regulating Authority (PiBRA)'s Central Lancet Pilot Testing Facility. His eyes tracked back and forth looking for movement. None was visible, and the boy let his breath out in a rush.

"Yush! All clear, no one to stop me!" He stepped boldly out into the hallway and reached for the control panel next to a bright blue door. His forward movement was halted prematurely, however, as the back of his collar snagged on something, or rather someone.

"Ren-ton!" an exasperated voice called out, causing the recipient of the voice's ire to freeze in his tracks, his hair flopping out to stand on end.

"Charry, sis," the boy named Renton replied automatically, recognizing the voice. "I was just..."

"You don't fool me, Renton Ashton. I know exactly what you 'were just' about to do, and I'm not having it. You know its forbidden to enter the labs, especially during a Pilot Profiling. Now come away. And don't call me 'Charry'!" his sister replied in the same exasperated tone of voice, telling him that she had been looking for him for quite some time.

Renton looked up to see that yes, the "Avatar-Pilot Candidate Profile Testing in Progress" warning light was on. Beneath that was a seal that read 'No Access by order of Pilot Bonding and Regulating Authority (PiBRA). Underneath that though, in a large handwritten scrawl that could only belong to his sister was taped "This means YOU, Renton!"

"Ahh..."

She folded her arms and looked down her nose at her brother. "Well?"

"I only wanted a small peek." She continued to look down at him. He shifted his feet uncomfortably.

"Do you want to end up like last time?" she growled, stepping behind and wrapping one arm around his throat.

He gulped, as a remembered pain flared up, and in his mind's eye an image of an earlier encounter, with him on his back, his sister's elbow in his stomach. "N..no Charlotte." He whimpered.

"Then come away. Now."

Renton meekly obeyed and stepped away from the lab's threshold.

"Now, go!" Charlotte ordered, pushing him before her as they left. He continued to precede her on the way out, so she could keep an eye on him.

As he came out of a T-section onto the main inner corridor that traversed the station, he almost stumbled into a girl. "Sorry, didn't see you there," he said by way of apology. An apology that elicited no response from her.

Annoyed with her lack of courtesy he turned and called out to her, but the girl kept on walking. He changed his direction to follow her, and even went so far as to clap his hand down on her shoulder, but she kept on walking as though she had not noticed his presence, and soon his hand was leaving her

Determined to get something out of her, he raced on ahead and stepped in front of her to bar her way. She kept coming though, and simply walked around While waiting he took in her appearance: the corridor lights gave her skin a slight lavender tint and her hair a bluish-green hair semblance framing a small, lithe body he thought, while bleaching all the color from her clothing, from her knee-length dress with a cincture belt to her half-boots, nearly a picture perfect angel if not for the seemingly out of place listless look on her face. She didn't look up when he came near, and that drew his attention, more than anything else. As she passed him, Renton placed his hand on her shoulder to get her attention, and she stopped.

"Hey, are you all right? Do you need help? You look a little out of it," Renton asked, anger fading to concern. The girl said nothing under his interrogation, though she did turn her head to stare at him with eyes that sparkled with a gold tinge, her listless look giving way to something approaching a flicker of almost recognition.

And with that one glance, though he did not know it yet, Renton's life was changed completely. His sister would have said he had fallen in love, but Renton -being a boy- of course knew better than that and would have denied it, if pressed. Whatever would had happened, he had certainly not fallen in love.

He tried again, clearing his throat. "Um...its just that you appear lost," but his voice trailed off as he looked back into her eyes. Renton felt himself swimming, or possibly drowning in those eyes and then all of a sudden, something like an electric jolt ran through him.

He thought he heard something like a voice sounding in his head, a metallic, electric sounding voice :Connecting, please stand by:

The moment passed though, and the voice faded, and he came to himself again. The girl had passed on. In her place stood his sister.

"Who was that?" his sister remarked, looking over his shoulder. "Saa..I don't know. Just someone I ran into coming out into the corridor. She didn't speak to me."

"Huh...you were with her long enough. staring at each other for at least 5 minutes. Surely you must have found something to say to her."

"Not a word, and there's no way it was that long."

"Oh believe me, I timed it," His sister smirked. "So with all that time together, you must have gotten something out of her."

"Not even a name." Renton admitted.

"That's my brother, a looser even at love." she smirked again.

"Huh? Hey, what's that supposed to mean?" Renton asked.

"Exactly what it sounds like I meant."

Renton responded with the only ammunition he had, "Not everybody thinks a member of the opposite sex is automatically a love interest, sis." he grumbled as he slouched back the way he came.

His sister flushed. "Wha...what are you talking about? Baka! Anyway, come on. We'll be late to dinner if we don't hurry." She said, changing the subject, and striding away from him.

"Hey, wait up Charlotte!" Renton called, running to catch up to his sister.

"Actually, I'm not that surprised that you got nothing out of her. But it is odd to see an Shipa Avatar just wandering around the Corridor." she commented casually. Renton's forward movement ceased as he made an about turn to go back after the girl, but she caught him by his collar and turned him about face. "Oh no you don't!"

"But sis, an Avatar!...If I could just."

"No you won't. You are coming home with me. Leave it to my brother to fall in love with a shipa avatar!" she fumed.

"I did not fall in love with her!" He retorted. His sister just arched an eyebrow. "I've just never seen one up close and..."

"Not buying it," she said.

Renton fumed as they waited for the station magtrain to arrive, and a good portion of the trip through the tunnels until a suspicion grazed his mind. 'How did you know that was an avatar?' he demanded, stopping in his tracks.

"Because it was the one thing purpose-built to get your attention."

"So...you didn't know?"Renton blurted out with a hint of incredulity.

Charlotte just looked at her brother. He hastily backed down. "Ah...I was just asking, that's all."

"Well, keep your questions, and your hands to yourself." Charlotte said.

Still, Renton mulled over his brief but strange encounter the rest of the way home. Maybe his uncle would know what to make of it, he finally decided as they reached the front door of their oversized second tier living quarters.

#

"Haidee-sama, where have you been? We were worried, The captain's been looking for you" A woman in disheveled green uniform said to the girl in white, as she stepped through the docking extension airlock.

"Chotto," the Avatar named Haidee said. The woman sighed. "Haidee-sama, I wish you would stop using single word sentences from Japanese to communicate with us".

"Well then, excuse me," said the Avatar, turning to follow a set of fading yellow holographic arrows pointing aft.

"Harland, I'm worried," the woman said to a man, also dressed in a green flight suit, after a fashion, leaning against the bulkhead next to her with folded arms.

The man called Harland, instead of replying, glanced in the direction of the departing Avatar. "Did something good happen to her? There's a little more color in her cheeks today."

"I don't know. She's been gone since first watch, and there was a period of about 30 minutes when she disappeared from both Station and Ship sensors near the Pibra Block, and it has 'Nicholas' written all over it."

Harland's eyes narrowed at the mention of the name. "Nicholas, again...and Pibra huh? tsk"

"Those three are becoming more unruly with each passing day. Something must be done."

"Have Kamehito dial up the restrictions again, if you're that worried."

"That won't be enough, and you know it. We need a more permanent solution. Kamehito can't control Nicholas, or the others. He can barely see them as is." She punctuated her last sentence with a puff, that sent her tunic spreading out slightly. The name on her breast holopatch read 'Hilga Tetza', as it caught the refracted light of the exterior lamps.

"You know there's nothing I can do. Escorts are not under my command, or do I need to remind you?

"Oh, and here I thought you were the Captain of this glorious tub."

"Captain or not, it all relies on the Haidee's ability to attract a Pilot if we're to make any money." Was that a trace of exasperation showing on the face of the ice captain?

Hilga frowned. "After the last ...spectacular failure though, no Pilot in his right mind will come near her. Or us. Its all we can do to utilize temporins. If we don't do something soon, the crew..."

"..will do as they're told or be returned to Ft. Brillsing. No one wants that now, does she?"

Agate replaced the pupils of her eyes. "No sir, we don't."

"And find out what happened to her today, it could be important." he said before heading in the direction of the bridge.

'yes Sir" the woman said to the captain's back, disgust ringing on the syllables.

#

A few hours later, Renton pushed away the remains of dinner, and jumped up to claim his favorite chair in front of the googlescreen (whatever a google was) while Charlotte cleaned up.

"What are you watching?" His sister asked, from the kitchen.

"The Transtar Interjump 5000! The cockpit view is fantastic! And the tricks and flips they accomplish are first rate." His sister watched the schematic screen from time to time as she cleaned up from dinner. As usual, their uncle's place was still set; also as usual, it was untouched since he had not come home yet. Graphics showed the location and position of the racers.

Suddenly a pinprick of light flared on the screen. "What was that?" His sister asked.

"It was a racer hitting the wall." Renton said in a subdued voice. "When traveling at the speeds that Jumpers routinely achieve, once you're in the groove, the slightest miscalculation on the jump causes the jumper to wipe out with...spectacular results. Nearly always fatal results. Its one of the reasons why Thread Jumping is considered a Danger Sport."

Charlotte grimaced.

"Only bonded pilots can Jump though, so its not as if I'll ever get to do that." Renton replied to the grimace.

"oh yeech," his sister voiced. "That's enough of that, then." And she firmly changed the channels.

"Hey, I was watching that!" Renton complained.

"Not tonight you're not," she retorted, flipping channels until she came across a beauty maker-over that captured her attention.

Grumbling, Renton got up and went to his room. He switched on his favorite wall-paper: the inside of a Thread-in-traverse, and flopped on his stomach on the bed, kicking his legs in the air, while grabbing a well-worn copy of Jane's Threads, and a fold out chart of local Thread Points.

"You'll catch Thread Glare if you keep staring at that Thing." His sister said from the doorway. Renton just rolled his eyes.

"You want to take all the fun out of life. Anyway, don't you ever knock?"

Instead of answering, Charlotte pressed on. "Why are you always staring at that, anyway? Keep it up and you'll suffer Thread Glare."

He scoffed at his sister from his position on the bed. "I heard you the first time. And anyway, I view it because its calming, don't you find it so?" He said, switching scenes to another pattern, labeled 'Kingfisher-A'.

"No I don't" came the brusque reply.

"What's got in your recorder-chit? Anyway, Thread Glare only happens when staring at unfiltered Threads with the naked eye, and that's only because the color patterns are as bright as the sun."

She pushed a wisp of hair away from her eye. "When will you grow up?" she demanded.

"When will you lighten up?" he retorted.

"When mom and dad come home" she said before slamming the door.

Renton looked over at the black framed, smiling photograph of their parents, and sighed, before returning to his plotting charts.

#

The front door opened late that night. Renton could hear his sister slipping down to welcome their uncle home, no doubt relating his attempt to access the Training Labs yet again. Why couldn't she keep her nose in her own business, anyway? On the other hand, Renton thought...maybe he could get a word in first, and tell him about the Avatar, its not often that an Avatar left her ship...surely that would be more interesting than hearing about failed attempts to access the labs...

But when he got down to the living room, a conversation was already in place, and he crouched down by the door to listen.

"...He's impossible, uncle! He doesn't listen, he's constantly sneaking around. All he does is memorize shipa stats and Point Charts, and stare at that stupid Threading wallpaper! I'm the one who get's called in when he hasn't done his homework! Please, you have to do something."

A sigh was her reward. "Thank you for your concern, Charlotte."

"But, uncle...I can't even keep him from the Lab area," Charlotte replied to what she perceived as a dismissive reply. That got his attention.

"The lab?" their uncle looked up sharply at her words. "He knows he's not supposed to go there."

"Tell him that!" she snapped, "he's always sneaking around me. I don't know why Security hasn't caught him yet."

"All right, Charlotte. I'll have a talk with him." Uncle Mordecai said.

"Thank you uncle!" Charlotte replied, jumping up to hug him, "I knew I could count on you. He just doesn't get what he's doing to me, to us!"

Renton frowned as he turned away, his eagerness to share his run-in with the Shipa evaporating. Then the thought hit him, how would Charlotte know what an Avatar looked like anyway? Maybe she'd been pulling his leg the whole time, having a good laugh at his expense. He definitely was not looking forward to the morning.

The next morning, though no mention was made of his escapade, but he noticed his lunch box was considerably lighter than usual, Charlotte's way of reminding him he was still in the hotseat.


Tsuzuku / To Be Continued


In the next chapter:

Uncle Mortimer brings Renton in for a talk with startling results, while school passes slowly.


A/N This is a slightly edited version in of the original text in terms of formatting and minor changes for purposes of clarification at two points in the text. I went as far as to change the name of Renton's sister from Chiannis to Charlotte

Storynotes and Updates can be found at : myforums/Yuuenchi/742030