How was I supposed to get out of this one?
I walked over to the dorm, trying to think up of some excuse as to why I had the key to the arcade room and why I went inside without permission.
Nothing good came to mind.
I entered the building and went over to the door marked Dorm Security. I knocked on the door.
A lady sat at the front desk.
“Aster Arman. I was told to come here,” I said.
She smiled at me. “Oh yes.” She opened the desk drawer and took out an envelope. “Your care package was mixed up with the Year One students’.”
“Care package?” I opened the envelope. Inside were a school planner and pen, and a card. “What is this for?”
“There are vending machines on every floor and all around the school. That card gives you access to the best snack for you free of charge. Be careful though. You’re only allowed one snack per day,” she said. “You can also use it on the games in the arcade in this building and in internet cafes off campus.”
“I thought all I needed was my ID.”
“Your ID works for things like shuttle services and for discounts in stores and the likes. Most of those benefits are available off the school campus. This gives you access to a bit more perks within the school itself. It will come in handy in case you’re ever interested in the fairs, concerts and the likes hosted by Neptune or any of the other schools. Be careful not to lose it.”
I shoved them into my backpack and left, my heart still racing. No one had noticed yet that I’d gone into the arcade. I wondered how Gideon had gotten the keys and no one noticed.
I didn’t bother to go to class. It was already half over and the teachers didn’t take attendance anyway. The assumption was that if the students had enough self-discipline to get into the school and remain at the school then they would be responsible enough to manage their schoolwork properly on their own without parents or teachers behind their backs. I wasn’t even at the school to learn. I just needed to pass the tests and quizzes to remain here.
I went to the bench I’d sat with Krish that morning and laid down. I needed to calm down. Maybe it was my lack of sleep the night before that was making it even harder. I just wanted to go home.
When the bell rang for the next class period, I forced myself to trudge to the Science Department. Coffee was not considered a snack and I was able to use my new card to get a cup at one of the vending machines before I found my class and fell into the seat.
“You look even worse than before,” Jericho said.
“I’m just tired,” I said. I took a sip and burned my tongue. At least that helped to wake me up a bit.
“At least it’s Friday,” Ezra said stretching. “I’m going to sleep until eleven tomorrow.”
“If you do you’ll miss drone racing,” Seth said.
I finished the coffee and rested my head on the desk. Just a short nap should help me feel better.
I slept out the entire class again and Jericho had to wake me.
At least my classes were done for the day.
I stumbled my way to the Arts Department. I bumped into someone’s chest.
“Sorry,” I said, rubbing my nose.
“You’re Aster right?” the boy asked. He had a Science Department pin and a cadet pin.
“Yeah,” I said. “Look, if you want to talk to Malakai, I don’t know where he is.”
I tried to push past him. He held my arm. “Don’t go down that way,” he said. “Why?”
“There’s an entire group lying in wait for you.” Someone must have noticed me coming up here before.
“Thanks for the warning…” my voice trailed off.
“Rory,” he said. “I’m in Year Five.”
“Thanks Rory.” I continued walking. He caught up to me.
“Aren’t you going to try to avoid them?” he asked.
“Why would I?”
“I thought you’d find that kind of attention disingenuous and annoying.”
“It is but I understand. Malakai isn’t a very friendly person so it makes sense that they would be trying to get to him through me. They’re just thinking about their future, whether that be business or otherwise,” I said. I hadn’t missed the longing looks from some of the girls. Malakai was attractive and popular and tall and strong and smart and perfect. I understood their fascination even if I’d never felt that myself. “I don’t like being used but I get it. Even so, I won’t let them get to him. It is his decision who he wants to be friends with but that doesn’t mean I’ll leave him alone without backup.” I may not like him but I wasn’t about to let anyone use him if I could help it.
“I didn’t think you’d be so chill about it.”
“There is no point in making a big deal over something so minor. I have more important things to worry about.”
“Since you’re fine with here, I have another class to go to,” Rory said. “I’ll see you around.” He disappeared down the hall.
Just as he’d said, a group of three girls and two boys were waiting on me. They wanted to ask me to join their Computer Club, and bring Malakai with me. I was interested but I had to turn them down. Once I found Gideon, I’d be able to join any club that I wanted to. Or not. I wouldn’t be at Neptune anymore.
I shook my head. That was a worry for another time.
Mr. Moore was just #nishing a class. I had to wait on him to finish speaking with some students.
“What is it Aster? Not feeling well?” he asked.
“No. I want to go home. I came to get the sculpture.”
He checked his watch. “I have enough time to drop you home and be back for my next class.”
“You don’t have to do that. I can manage on my own.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, but I would appreciate it if you sign off on today’s exercise,” I said.
“Sure. I’ll call the cafeteria and ask them if you can take your tray home so you won’t have to cook.”
“Thanks Mr. Moore. I’ll owe you one.”
“For what? I’m a teacher. I’m only doing what is required of me,” he said. I didn’t think that was the case but I wasn’t going to argue with him. I didn’t have the energy for that.
I took the box and collected my tray from the cafeteria while managing to dodge all the students lying in wait for me.
More than anything I wanted to dig into those notebooks. What I ended up doing was taking a shower and crashing into my bed in just my underwear.
When I woke up, it was dark outside. I checked my watch. It was two o’clock in the morning. I’d slept for eleven hours. Next time I pulled an all-nighter, I have to be smart about it.
I finished dressing then went to the kitchen to heat up the food in my dinner tray. I took a few minutes to eat while watching cartoons. I washed it and put it to drain. I’d have to show Mr. Moore so he could confirm that I’d eaten. Once I was feeling human again, I turned my attention to the box.
I gathered all the notebooks and took them to my room. I spread them out on my bed. Gideon had his own method of labeling his notebooks. Soon I had them organized into categories by order of dates. I scanned through the first book in each category. Some were just for random thoughts and ideas he’d had but the others were parts of his research. He’d gotten much further in his research on tissue regeneration and organ replacements than I’d originally thought based on his notes back in his dorm room. I put those to the side. They were important but I doubted they would give me the answers I needed.
I flipped through the notebooks of his random thoughts. A lot of the notes were reminders to look up certain things for his research or assignments he had to hand in.
I picked up the last book. I immediately knew this was the book I’d been looking for. Scribbled on the first page was: Nibiru?
I turned the pages faster and faster. Diagrams of a building, computer code, random words scribbled onto the page, more diagrams of machines, more notes in a language or code I didn’t understand but looked familiar.
On the final page were the words: Aster, ask Melody about the blood red moon.
“Blood red moon?” I asked. My eyes widened. The command she’d been talking about. “Melody, tell me about the ‘blood red moon’.”
She didn’t answer. Instead I heard noise from the living room.
I stepped out, still clutching the notebook in my hand.
“Melody?” I called.
I spun around. “Gideon?”