Disclaimer: Here is the first proper chapter of the book. Sorry if there’s any grammar issues or spelling mistakes, I still haven’t gone through it with a fine toothcomb. There’s bigger issues I need to work out first. Like actually making time to work on it.
baoin verb. to meet for the first time
It was a very normal day at Kensington Hyde when Joshua and the others arrived. The buzz about them starting had been building since the new school year began last week. Rumours had gone round. ‘They can read your mind’ one year 7 boy told another. ‘They melt when touched by ice’ was one that was circulating around year 8. The year 11’s mainly talked of how they reproduced. According to them, a male and female would go into a room then 36 hours later, they came out with a baby. No one knew what they did in there, although that didn’t stop them speculating. Andi had heard every rumour under the sun. Mostly, she just ignored them because they were so ridiculous. But some, like the mind reading one, she felt she had to speak out against, squash them when she heard them. Trying to tell 11 and 12 year olds that the new kids were definitely not going to be able to read their minds was a difficult task. ‘Why would they want to know what you are thinking anyway? I’m sure it’s pretty boring in there.’ She told one particularly frightful girl at lunch. The girl had thought for a second then resumed her fretting, it was at this point that Andi gave up trying to teach anyone anything. They would see that she was right. She knew more then most about them.
It took Andi more by surprise to see one her age than she thought it would. She’d been staring at the back of Matt’s head when he arrived. It had taken longer than she would ever admit to notice that Miss Mills had stopped talking and to take her eyes off Matt. How could someone her age be so gorgeous?
It was Mr Hennah that introduced him to the class. He stood at just over 6 foot tall, all bone and sinew. The lines around his eyes and the rimless glasses perched on the end of his nose gave him the look of someone who might tell you off for breathing too loudly. The steel grey moustache that sat upon his lip didn’t help the judgement. Andi had seen passed that though. Once back in year 8, when she was trying to avoid the group of girls that ruled the year with bullying and teasing, she managed to fall in a puddle. Laughter had erupted until Mr Hennah appeared from inside the building. He told everyone to move on then helped Andi up. He had taken her to his office and even given her a biscuit. Since that day she’d known his secret, Mr Hennah was really a softy, who loved his students.
‘Sorry to interrupt Miss Mills. Students, this is Joshua. He will be joining your year and you are to be a credit to your teachers by treating him with the same respect you treat your friends with.’ It was at this point Andi noted how small he was. He couldn’t be any taller than her. Usually Hiroc were way over 6 foot but then she’d never seen one in real life who wasn’t fully grown yet. ‘Miss Mills, where would you like Joshua to sit?’ Miss Mills surveyed the classroom. Andi knew where this was going without even trying. The empty seat beside her seem to shout and scream “Pick me! Pick me!”. Mills was the exact opposite of Hennah. Her looks were as friendly as they could be. Long curly blonde hair, bright blue eyes and a perfect complexion yet she was the strictest, scariest teacher at Kensington Hyde. She was all smiles and sweetest until the moment you defied her. Then you better be ready to fight the devil. She even had a quiet voice that was about as delicate a voice as you could find. Somehow that made her scarier when you were on the receiving end of a lecture.
‘Ah just there. Next to Andi. Andi give a wave so Joshua knows where to sit.’ Andi made the smallest wave she could. Just one finger and one small swipe. Joshua made his way to her table. ‘Thank you Mr Hennah. I’m sure Andi can help Joshua from here.’ Andi moved her eyes to Hennah. He gave her a solemn look, most would take as a threat but a small nod told Andi all she needed to know. He approved of the choice. He believed in here. Trusted her. Andi feared that she may not live up to that, she may not even try to. ‘Andrea please catch Joshua up quickly. Joshua I have seen your reports from your old teachers. This work is well within your english capabilities.’ Andi failed to hold in the face of disgust at the use of her full name. It died when Mills shot her a look of venom, replaced with a polite smile, full of annoyance. Andi sighed once Mills had moved back to her lesson. Telling them all about poem structures. Andi loved English until she reached year 10, now she tried to love it in spite of her teacher.
What had she done to deserve this? At 14 years old, Andi was just hitting her awkward teen years and she was definitely not cool enough to be helping the new kid without getting teased by the idiots. Especially the new ‘freaky’ Hiroc kid. She didn’t have anything against the Hiroc, in fact her father worked with them on the Move-In. But as the absurd rumours proved, most kids at this school had never seen one of them in real life, let alone knew much about them really. Thanks to her father’s career path, Andi and her twin brother Isaac, were the exception to this rule of ignorance. Not a week went by when her father wasn’t having business meetings at home with this important Hiroc or that clever Hiroc. She knew that they were no different from humans at a basic level. They could be lovely like her Dad’s work partner, James, or they could be horrible like the one who had been at dinner last week, she didn’t remember his name. Everyone else knew only the bare facts about Hirocs. They knew about Contact Day. Every kid in her generation had grown up watching the footage. They knew facts and figures. 34 ships. A home planet called Domin and a leader called Kate. Until now, the Hiroc were far away and only on screens. Now they were here. In human towns and in human schools, thanks to the Move-In.
‘Hi.’ Joshua said quietly once he’d sat down.
‘Kalewa.’ Andi replied smugly. As she’d hoped, Joshua looked surprised at her excellent use of his language. If she was going to be stuck with the Hiroc kid, she may as well show off. Andi’s father had been teaching her for the past 3 years. He’d quickly become as fluent as a human can and expected the same from his children. He knew that it would be incredibly advantageous for his twin teenagers to know Hiroc-ish. By the time they got to working age the Hiroc would be widespread throughout Earth if everything went to plan and understanding Hiroc-ish fluently would be sought after in many industries.
‘Yes, I speak your language.’ Andi said in perfect Hiroc-ish, Joshua just looked at her blankly. Andi had gained her father’s language skills and already knew 4 of them reasonably well now. Her brother, Isaac, on the hand was useless at language but was a maths genius instead, their mother’s DNA helped him like their father’s her.
‘Your accent could use some work.’ Joshua replied in a perfect imitation of an english accent. Andi narrowed her eyes at him but could not help a smile. Joshua just stared back with a pleasant smile. His bright eyes sparkled at her.
While the Hiroc may look completely alien to most human eyes, Andi saw them as no different to humans now. Years of meeting them had made her accustomed to their subtleties. Their skin ranged from pale pink to the deepest maroons, with a few of them in the purple spectrum. Joshua’s fell in the red scale, a deep pink with a splash of purple spots across his nose like freckles. Their hair, which grew in similar places to humans, was always dark. The lightest Andi had ever seen was a deep forest green but most looked black with tint of some other colour. So far Andi had yet to see what colour hid in the dark tufts of Joshua’s hair. You could usually only see it in bright sunlight. While they had two legs and two arms just like humans, they were usually 6-7 inches taller and Andi could not think of a single Hiroc who’d looked overweight. She knew most of them ran miles a day to stay fit on Earth. Their home planet, named Domin in English (even the most adept human Hiroc-ish speakers could not pronounce the original name), had gravity at about double the force of Earth’s so to stay in shape they ran and worked out, harder than any human could. They also used oxygen just like humans but they were used to a much lower percentage of it back on Domin and in their ships. Some of them who had been on Earth since A-Day had lost their fitness and would struggle to survive back on Domin if they returned now. Until last year, they would have even gotten tired out on their ships. The gravity of Domin had been replicated on them but it was now being lessened to get all those still living up there used to Earth’s gravity. Last Andi heard, they were planning to get to Earth equivalent by the end of the year.
‘Thanks for the feedback. Back to the work, it’s pretty easy. We have to write an 8 line poem on each of the topics with those rhyming patterns. Seems your english is better than half the class so…’ Andi shrugged. ‘Also please don’t stick with me. I get enough hassle as it is. I don’t need any of the stuff that you are bound to get bouncing on to me.’ She half told him, half pleaded with him. While Andi wasn’t the biggest loser at Kensington Hyde, she certainly wasn’t Miss Popular. She preferred to stick with her few friends and stay out of the way of the stereotypes. ‘I wish I could say that this school is a good example of the human race but it’s a high school. And this is where they shove all the worst ones. Ignorance and prejudice run this place and you’re bright pink.’ Joshua looked at her taken aback. Andi could see his pointy bright white teeth glinting at her. She’d never wrapped her head around why strict vegetarians had such sharp teeth. ‘It’s a joke, Joshua.’ She said quietly, despite the fact that she wasn’t really joking. He slowly started to laugh.
‘Wow, you tell it how it is, don’t you?’ He smiled still shocked. ‘And don’t worry, I’m not completely offended that you referred to me as pink when I’m clearly cerise.’ He added with a glint in his bright aqua eyes. Andi gasped quickly then remembered a conversation she’d had with James once.
‘You can never offend a true Hiroc with the colour of their skin, Andi. Unlike humans, skin colour holds zero offence, importance or interest to us.’
‘Ha ha.’ She said sarcastically in reply. Joshua smiled. She was glad to see that he was on his way to developing a human sense of humour. He was definitely going to need it.
‘Do your ignorant classmates know how little we care about colour?’ He asked after a few seconds of silence. Andi had begkun to write knowing that whatever she didn’t do now, she’d be doing in Mills’ daily detention.
‘Doubt it. Some of the stupider ones still hold colour against other humans so you’ll get all the great names they come up with. I know a few choices ones already but I’ll let you discover them by yourself.’ Andi continued to write. ‘You should write if you don’t want Mills to keep you behind after school.’ She warned. Joshua looked at his blank tablet then took the stylus from the side and began to write.
Andi felt her comm vibrate on her wrist. She risked a small glance down at it. ‘What’s he like?’ Andi looked up a couple of tables to where Isaac was sat by the window. He clearly felt eyes on him and his head turned round slightly. Andi just rolled her eyes at him. He knew as well as she did comms were not supposed to be used in class. Mills was not the type of teacher to let it slip without punishment. A reply would have to wait.
The bell rang at the end of the lesson and movement began. Andi hit the send button at the top of her tablet and then rolled it up to shove it in her bag. Back in primary school, they’d used paper and books for work but nowadays more and more schools were moving paperless. Andi used the same tablet for every class and simply sent her work to her teacher at the end of each lesson. The downside of the tablet was that the teachers could see any students’ tablet in real time. Andi had yet to learn to not doodle in Maths, she got caught at least once a week by Mr Hyde. Whenever he did catch her, Hyde always brought Isaac up in the conversation. Isaac was in Mr Wahl’s class but that didn’t stop Hyde. He’d taught him last year and had expected Andi to a replica. He was sorely disappointed. Maths was not Andi’s strong point, it bored her, especially when Hyde was teaching it. Luckily for her it was only in Maths that she had to live in her brother’s shadow. In most other lessons they were evenly matched (except of course languages where Andi excelled) or not even in the same class. Now they were in Year 10 they took a few different subjects. While Andi did Spanish and Art, Isaac did Geography and Graphic Design. Their dad always said he was his mother’s son. Andi and Isaac wouldn’t know as she passed away whilst giving birth to them. They weren’t short of stories about her thanks to their dad though. And they could also thank her for their names, as she picked them. Although when she did, the midwife had told them they were expecting twin boys so Andrew had become Andrea when their Dad got a surprise girl. Andi suspected this was the reason she’d always been Andi and not Andrea to her dad.
Andi got out of the classroom as fast she could. Leaving Joshua behind. The tiny voice in her head that told her to wait was blared over when she saw Zooey outside the opposite classroom.
‘Lets go.’ Andi linked her arm in Zooey’s and pushed her down the corridor towards the stairs.
‘What’s the rush? It’s only History.’ Zooey knew Andi almost as well as Isaac did, probably better nowadays. They’d been best friends since basically birth. Zooey’s mother worked with Andi’s dad and had done for at least 20 years. Zooey had grown up alongside the twins. All three of them knew that their parents one day hoped she and Isaac would get married. And all three of them knew this would never happen as Isaac and Zooey had no interest in each other. Nowadays they barely tolerated one another whilst Zooey and Andi had become closer and closer as the years went by.
‘I just…there’s a Hiroc boy in my class.’ Zooey suddenly stopped and started to look over her shoulder.
‘Really? What was he like?’ Andi pulled her back round.
‘Zooey, you’ve met enough Hiroc to know they aren’t that different from us. He’s called Joshua and he’s like any other new kid…’ Andi was interrupted by someone jumping on her back. She barely held in the scream and it was even harder to stay on her feet. A familiar laugh echoed in her ear. ‘Matt! You ass!’ Andi spun round and hit him around the shoulder. Her heart thumped in her chest, half from the fright but mostly from the presence of Matt. They’d got together just before summer then spent the school holiday in parks and wandering around London.
‘If you’re going to have bright red hair, it just makes it too easy for me to spot you in the corridor.’ Andi rolled her eyes at him. Her dad had protested when she dyed it and her school gave her detention for a week when she refused to change it back to her natural mousey brown, but eventually they’d all given in and let her keep it just before the summer holidays. She had copied the colour that her mother had sported in her wedding photo. Andi’s dad had weakly protested at best but she knew he loved it. He always told her that she was a clone of her mother, something that Andi loved. ‘So how was the alien?’ He asked putting an arm over her shoulder nonchalantly. Zooey pulled a face and walked quietly beside them. Matt was an annoying addition as far as she was concerned. As hot and popular as he was, he had yet to introduce her to his cousin Kit in Year 11 so therefore he was useless.
‘Don’t call him that. He’s a Hiroc. He’s alright I suppose. Didn’t speak to him much.’
‘Wonder if he’s in any more of my lessons.’ They walked together to the Humanities corridor. Matt wondered off to go to his Geography class. Andi’s class was already forming a line outside the classroom. Their History teacher, Mrs Loch, also happened to be the headmistress. Theirs was the only class she was teaching this year. Each year, she taught the top year 10 history group and now it was their turn. She expected them to be stood in a straight line outside the classroom in silence. It had taken them 20 minutes to do it right first lesson back from the holidays. Now, in the second week of the year, they had managed to get it down to a couple of minutes. Andi wondered for a second if she should have helped Joshua find his way to his next classroom. Maybe she should have at least pointed out the lights in the wall. There were rows of lights in the walls that glowed in different colours. Each colour represented a different department. They were a life saver for year 7s at this time of year. The school was far from being sensibly organised and having lights lead the way to your classroom was a great help. Andi was sure there was a way of using your comm too. Some kind of map app of the school, though no student would ever admit to using it.
There was silence in the corridor when they heard the familiar sound of sensible shoes on the wooden floor. Mrs Loch walked towards them. She was wearing her traditional sensible skirt and blouse combination. Her dark hair was pulled tight up into a bun. Joshua was walking behind her, his head bowed. ‘Good morning class. Everybody in. Andrea Weller please wait outside.’ Andi’s heart sank. Yes, she should have helped him. She swore silently under her breath. Only once before had she felt the wrath of Mrs Loch. During a particularly rebellious stage in Year 8, she’d been brought to Mrs Loch’s office where Loch had spoken in a dark, quiet voice. She never shouted, never needed to. She was far scarier than that. Most students only had to see her and they stopped dead in their tracks. She demanded respect and got it.
The class filed in silently, Mrs Loch pulled the door closed behind Zooey.
‘Andrea, can you think why I have kept you behind?’ Andi looked down at her dirty black shoes.
‘Yes, Miss. I should have helped Joshua find his next class or at least showed him him the lights.’
‘Correct, Miss Weller. Now I would like you to apologise to Mr Alpha, then he will sit next to you and you will help him however you can.’
‘Yes, Miss. Joshua’ Andi looked up to his face. He didn’t look particularly offended by her behaviour. ‘Sorry I didn’t help you. I should have showed you to your next lesson, especially as it turns out I was coming here anyway. Sorry.’ Whether she meant it, Andi wasn’t sure. Well, no, she did mean it but she wasn’t sure she would have done anything different.
‘It’s okay.’ Joshua replied confidently. ‘You weren’t to know.’
‘Right, in we go.’ Loch opened the door. Andi and Joshua walked to their seats silently. ‘Now, can somebody tell me who lead Britain into World War 2?’ Loch asked, before they’d even sat down. To not only Andi’s surprise, Joshua’s hand shot into the air while he was still stood up. Hiroc reflexes are much quicker than humans and his hand was in the air seconds before anyone else’s. ‘Joshua?’ Loch looked at him.
‘Neville Chamberlain, Miss.’ Joshua offered without any hesitation.
‘Very good, Mr Alpha. I see that you have done your homework.’ Loch smiled lightly. Andi wondered how Joshua knew what she’d just learnt in the last lesson. Human history wasn’t Andi’s strongest. She knew Hiroc history surprisingly well. James had told her all about their necessary mass evacuation from Domin and about the 34 spacecraft the entire Hiroc species lived on for 12 Earth years trying to find a suitable planet to sustain them. Both Andi and Isaac had listened to him enraptured when he told stories of the old days back on Domin, when the old chief was in charge and things were in chaos before the current Chief, Kate, had taken over and put things into order again. Just in time, before they discovered the 3 world ending meteors that were heading for Domin. They’d had just 3 Domin years (about 5 Earth years) notice to do something. Evacuation had been the only option. With a Hiroc population of 5239 at the time, huge spacecraft had been built. All other non-essential jobs had been suspended and all of them had worked together building this species saving craft. There had been a group of 500 or so senior Hiroc who had elected to stay on Domin to save wasting any limited resources on the crafts. James assured Andi when he told her that they’d tried everything to get the elders to join them but they couldn’t be convinced and had surely perished with their home planet.
He’d also told her of the some of the history before the evacuation. She’d heard about all the different Chiefs there had been. The Hiroc Chief was akin to the American President with a few differences. Unlike the President, the Chief stayed in power until enough Hiroc asked for a replacement or the Chief wanted to step down. Only then did votes take place. Any adult Hiroc could be voted for meaning that it took many stages of narrowing down the candidates. It had taken a whole Domin year just to vote Kate in as the latest Chief. But such a system meant that it was not only people who wanted the power got it, sometimes it was better to give the power to someone who didn’t want it but could do the job well. Well, in fact most of the time it was better to give it to such a person. The Chief before Kate, whose name Andi could never pronounce or remember, had wanted the power only. His time in power had been the shortest ever in Hiroc history. Just 4 years. And 1 year of that voting was commencing. Kate was doing a much better job, James assured her. The Chief’s job was mainly to settle disputes between families and be the deciding vote on any major changes to the Hiroc society. Hiroc society was much more about families and the bonds between them. Each family worked within one area of their society. They might all be in the farming program or all in the entertainment program. James disliked to call them industries like humans would as Hiroc had no form of currency. Most resources were divided equally or some might be traded between families depending on their likes or dislikes. Andi had thought the whole idea was crazy. What did you do if you were born into a farming family but hated farming? James had told her that just because you were in the farming program didn’t mean you were definitely going to be working in the fields. You may be organising deliveries or moving produce between areas of the settlement. Andi still wasn’t convinced. Maybe because it wasn’t the done thing, then nobody spoke up about their hatred of farming and love of entertaining people? Andi wondered what type of family Joshua was in.
Loch had moved onto telling the class about the major events of World War 2. Before long a worksheet had been sent to their tablets and they were set to work. Holo-books appeared in front of them already at the correct page. Andi set to work, as it wasn’t her best class, she worked hard for her good scores. The class fell to absolute silence, the only sounds heard were the occasional cough or shifting in a seat. No one dared talk in Loch’s classroom when she’d asked for silence. The class was starting to learn the pattern of her lessons. They began in silence for the first task but later tasks would be done in pairs or groups and the volume would grow. Loch had even sprung a history quiz on them in their first lesson that included House points for getting answer’s right. No one except the teachers really cared about house points. Most students barely registered when points were given or taken away. Some couldn’t even tell you in which house they belonged even if their tie colour could. There were 5 houses at Kensington Hyde. Birch, Elm, Hawthorn, Rowan and Willow. Each had its own house colour, house motto (which not a single student could recite) and Head. Each student was assigned at random when they started at Kensington Hyde. Andi and Isaac were in different houses. Andi in the forest green tie of Rowan, Isaac in the navy blue of Elm. Hawthorns like Zooey wore bright red ties, Birch wore an attractive canary yellow (those ties became dirtied and faded suspiciously quickly, becoming a dirty muted yellow) and Willow wore dark purple. The idea behind it was that the school was built on the edge of a large park in London. Hyde Park to be precise. Their woodland houses were to remind them of the beauty they were lucky to be surrounded by, Mrs Loch had assured them at the beginning of their high school career.
‘Now Andrea Weller, maybe you could tell everyone which event had the biggest impact on the end of the war?’ Andi’s head snapped up from her page. Today was really not her day.
‘Erm…’ Andi had absolutely no idea.
‘Enigma machine.’ A whisper came from her left.
‘The Enigma machine?’ Andi ventured.
‘Are you asking me or telling me?’ Andi thought for a second and a memory from the work sheet she had just completed hit her.
‘The solving of the Enigma machine, Mrs Loch.’ Andi said with certainty she did not possess.
‘Good answer, Miss Weller. Who can tell me why this is a good answer?’ A sigh escaped Andi. She glanced at Joshua. He had a lazy smile on his lips.
‘Thanks.’ She mouthed when he returned her look. He smiled a bit broader and turned away to listen to Loch praising the student with the correct reason. The next 40 minutes passed without incident. Unless you count Mrs Loch catching a boy doodling on his tablet.