Chapter 1: The Mechanic
Creak went the bulky android arm as I screwed it on.
“Here you go,” I said, handing an astounded old man back his newly-fixed android.
“Wow,” he said. “When old Darla broke, I never thought that she’d run again. Really,” he said, looking up at me with true happiness in his eyes. “Thank you, Julia”
“No problem” I said, smiling. The old man handed me 50 shonis, highly overpaying me; but as I looked at him walking away with a bounce in his step, I thought I understood why. Father had always told me, ever since I was a little girl, that being a mechanic is the best job you could ever have. You get to fix broken things and make people happy. Plus, it pays well. Father always got more than other mechanics even, because he was known throughout Newistonia as being one of the best mechanics around. Back when Queen Maria still ruled, Dad would apparently sometimes go to the palace. But now that Queen Zarfina is in charge, everything’s different.
I straighten my long brown ponytail and put the CLOSED sign on the door of my small mechanic shop. I catch a glimpse of my bright green eyes in the glass and smile. According to Papa, my eyes are my best feature. I clamber into my hover. I turn it on and hear the familiar creak of the engine starting up. I pull back on the steer lever and slowly rise into the air. I love the feeling of flying above all the passersby without a care in the world. As I’m cruising along a memory floats back to me….
“There you go,” Mom says. “Now, just put your arm on the lever.” I try, but let go of the startup drive in the process. The hover drops two feet in the air, but Mom swoops her strong arms behind me.
“You’re doing excellent,” she says, laughing. I smile as she carefully maneuvered our way down.
I frown and shake off the memory. Just after that fine spring day nine years ago when I was just nine, Mom had left to, “pursue her acting career.” Two weeks after that we received a sid link from the Speshona City Hospital, saying that Camilla Roberts had died of mental illness. We didn’t get any further information.
To get my mind off things I decide to send a sid link to Papa telling him I’m almost home. I’d already turned on my edonscreen when a maniac driver cuts me off. “$%&@#” I say and slam on the horn.
“Command unclear, Julia,” my edon, Ida, says.
“It wasn’t a command,” I say, rolling my eyes.
“Okay Julia” she says as I pull into the spot outside of our small town house.
I get out of my hover and lock the door. I walk up the front steps and open the front door. “I’m home, Papa” I call out.
Chapter 2: Home Again
I walk in and go to Papa on the couch. He greets me with his usual “There’s nothing on T.V.”
“I love you too, Dad.” I say, and kiss him on the cheek. Suddenly he starts coughing. I frown. This hacking cough is one of his many ailments. He used to be a fine, healthy, middle-aged man; but when he hit 50 he started, as he put it, “getting old.” I made him stop working. What he mainly does now is watch football on T.V. and go for walks in the park. He doesn’t need to do that, but I want him to. It must seem like I’m being overprotective, but I just want to keep him as healthy as possible. I couldn’t bear to lose him, too.
I’m about to go to the cupboard and grab his medicine, but he says, “I’m fine honey.” I smile weakly. I put my arm down and open the fridge. “Anything good?” he asks.
“If half a slice of pizza and two chicken wings counts as good,” I reply.
“Can we order Italian?” he asks, as if I’m the parent here.
“Sure,” I say and send a sid-link to Bonnie’s Italian for three plates of their delicious steaming hot spaghetti. Our family loves Bonnie’s. My great-great-great grandparents went there all the way back in 5050. Now, 200 years later, Bonnie’s is still our family hangout. I sit on the couch next to dad and smile.
20 minutes later, I hear the buzz meaning weight has been detected near our front door. Our creaky old android Annie rushes to the door. She opens it to reveal the delivery android, Frank. We see a lot of him here.
“That will be 30 shonis,” he says, handing over our spaghetti. I put the money in his built-in cash register and close the door as he’s rolling away. I turn around to face Dad.
“Spaghetti time” I say.
Half an hour later, full with spaghetti we plop down on the couch. We turn on the news. What I see nearly makes me jump out of my skin. BREAKING NEWS: QUEEN ZARFINA, DEAD.
Queen Zarfina, dead??? It can’t be. I pinch myself on the arm and blink. Nope, the headline’s the same. It was no secret that she had killed her sister Maria to be queen. Everybody thought that she would do whatever it takes to stay queen. She has dozens of the best doctors in the world working tirelessly in her research labs. But I guess karma has caught up to her.
I turn to Papa and see he is wearing the same shocked expression as me. “Wow,” we say in unison.
Chapter 3: The Surprise
As I climb into my hover the next morning I still can’t believe that Zarfina is actually dead. It seems like she’s still here. Now I wonder who is going to be queen. She never had any kids, but no one ever worried about it, because like I said, we all assumed that she was going to live forever. Curious, I say to Ida, “Turn on newsfeed.”
“All right, Master Julia” she says. I look at the screen and the hover almost skids out of the lane. HONK. An old man glares at me as he passes me.
“Sorry!” I say. But honestly, anyone in my position would have done the same thing. Usually, handsome newscaster Tristan Cooper would cheer me up, but today, I want to punch him on the nose.
“WAR,” he says. Apparently everyone wants to be ruler. The first battle was only 2 miles from here in the rural Commentoy. “It could be coming to Speshona next.” Tristan says, before it cuts to ads.
I curse under my breath. “Ida, send a sid-link to Papa saying that there is a war.”
“I can’t do that, Master.”
“Adam Roberts’ edonscreen has been disabled due to the fact that he is now a patient at the Speshona City Hospital.”
Chapter 4: At the Hospital
I shriek so loud the old man driving next to me says, “Watch it, kid.” I’m so confused. Papa, in the hospital? He was fine this morning… Or was he? I don’t know.
“Ida, I need the directions to Speshona City Hospital. Now.”
“Turn left on Bridge street….”
“Papa!!” I call out down the long sterile hallway of the hospital.
I see a kiosk on the wall and type in Adam Roberts. Hall 6, Room 4, it says. I rush there and bang open the door. I see Papa lying unconscious on a white hospital bed. It’s my worst nightmare. I see a doctor taking notes in a corner and say, “What-what happened sir?”
“Are you family?”
I nod frantically.
“Adam suffered from an unexpected heart attack. He might not make a full recovery.”
“Not a full recovery?”
“He had been unconscious for 30 minutes before our sensor picked up on his body. Because of that, he was getting sicker and sicker before he received help. But we will try our best. And what is your relation to him?”
“He’s my Dad,” I say weakly.
“We will keep you updated, Miss Roberts,” the doctor who I now see has a name tag saying Dr. Roth says. He briskly walks out of the room.
I collapse into a chair next to Papa’s bed and squeeze his hand tightly. “Please be alright,” I whisper. “Please.”
When I wake up the next morning I’m blinded by the bright white lights of the hospital. At first I’m confused and expect to see my pale blue wallpaper, but then I realize where I actually am. I quickly open my eyes and see Papa on the bed.
“Jules,” I hear him whisper.
“Yes???” I say and jump up out of my seat.
“Don’t say it, Papa, don’t.”
“Well, keep running the shop for me. The month’s rent for the house is 400 shonis. You must have that.” Then he breaks into a hacking cough and I rush to get him a glass of water, tears pouring down my face. I try to hand it to him but he’s too weak to accept it. I anxiously pour it into his mouth.
“Papa…” Than he squeezes my hand. But soon, I no longer feel the pressure of his hand. Tears slosh down my face like big, heavy raindrops as a beeping sound fills the room.
A white medical android rolls into the room. It says, “Mr. Adam Roberts of Speshona, Newistonia has, as of 10:32 a.m., died. I will now take his body to the research labs.”
I stand there, helplessly, as the android takes away Papa, my papa, to some foreign research lab. I rush to the bathroom, sobbing,
Chapter 5: Hank’s Message
An hour later, all cried out, I sit in the clean white bathroom stall and think about how alone I really am now. No parents, or even annoying little siblings. I start sobbing again, but pull myself together.
“What should I do?” I mutter. I take a deep breath and take out my edon from my back pocket. In a shaky voice, I say, “Ida, locate my hover.” My voice breaks and tears start flowing again. I wipe them away and follow Ida’s directions to Lot 12, Row 49. I climb into the hover and rise into the air. The wind hits my wet face, making it red and raw. I try to ignore it and think, Just wait until you get home, Julia.
Just then, Ida says, “Incoming sid-video from Hank Brennan.” This lifts my hopes a little bit. I’ve had a crush on Hank since elementary school. Now he’s moved to Acconio, the capital, to work at the palace. But I still get to sometimes talk to him, even if it’s not often. His face appears on the screen and I quickly wipe my tears away.
“Hey Jules,” he says.
“Hey,” I reply.
“Listen, I don’t have much time to talk, but I just wanted to tell you something.” I nod. “So, the other day I heard some royal advisors talking about you in the conference room. They said that ‘Julia should be notified soon, it’s getting late. She needs to be here, now.’ So I just wanted to let you know that you should come here, to the palace, ASAP.” Then the screen goes blank. Hank has hung up.
Great, I think. Just what I need, a 200 kilometer trip to the capital. Although, it does seem like I should be there, but…
I frown and pull into the parking space outside of the townhouse I now live in, alone. I slam the door of the hover and run to the family room, where I fall down onto the couch, hug my knees together and start to cry, my back shaking with sobs.
Chapter 6: Getting Ready
I walk to the small chest where we keep the blankets and pull out an old, ragged brown one. It was Papa’s favorite. Wrapping it around me, I walk back to the couch and curl up in a ball, inhaling his scent of the mint gum he’s always chewing mixed with a tinge of Bonnie’s spaghetti sauce, and I am filled with nostalgia for my pop. What do I do, what do I do? I think, rocking back and forth. Well, I’ll pack for Acconio.
I smile shakily, grateful for something to do. I slowly walk to the room I’ve had my whole life, and go to the brown dresser in the corner. I pull out ten t-shirts, one (shudder) skirt, and eight pairs of pants. I go to my closet and take out my blue suitcase. I throw the clothes, as well as sneakers, sandals, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and five big shirts for pajamas into it. I grab an orange waterproof sleeping bag and a small travel pillow and throw that in there too. Then I get the brown blanket from the living room. Satisfied, I zip up the suitcase and call for Annie. “I’m going on a trip,” I tell her. “And I’m bringing you with me.”
20 minutes later, I have put Annie in the seat next to me in the hover, thrown my suitcase in the trunk and given Ida the directions to Acconio palace. I pull into the air and have Annie turn on music. Suddenly I wonder how long it will take to get there. I ask Ida this who replies, “17 hours.”
Not too bad, I think. If I spread that over the course of two days, I could get there by Tuesday. Then I remember when Papa and I used to go on road trips to the ruins of the American cities each year for years. Tears well up in my eyes, sloshing onto the leather seat in big heavy drops. I try not to think about how I’m going somewhere far away solely based on something someone overheard but about Ally Clarkson’s new song, “Rainbows!!” I laugh, and am slightly cheered up.
Later in the day, I’m bored out of my mind. Even though auto-drive has caused many hover crashes, I still set the hover to it. As the wheel turns, I turn on Ida and begin playing Candy Crush. I twirl the candies together and my thoughts begin to drift. To Mama, Papa… I begin to wonder about my mother’s death. When she died, I was too little to really understand. But now I wonder, why didn’t they give us further information. Mental illness??? Sorry, hospital, but that’s not much to go on. But maybe Pop got more information and just didn’t tell me. Poor, fragile nine-year-old me. Now I think I know what happened. Had Papa been hiding something from me? As I pull into a motel that looks like it’s from 2050, I begin to feel upset. My father’s perfect untarnished memory is now being ruined. I settle into a restless sleep in my room with a twin bed that barely fits into the room.
Chapter 7: The Storm
I wake up at around six the next morning, used to getting up to go to the shop. I grab my suitcase and walk out of the room. Instead of the transporter usually installed at hotels, there’s just an ugly, hot pink, tiny elevator. Well, this looks like it’s the best I’m gonna get, I think, looking down the empty hallway.
I shove myself in, barely fitting with my suitcase and press LOBBY. When I get there, I see the concierge asleep at the front desk. I slip a 20 shonis bill onto the desk and hurry out. I clamber into the hover and rise into the air. I see some storm clouds ahead and steer away, thinking once again about Mom. Hadn’t I seen the sid-link from the hospital saying Ma was dead? I think. But maybe the hospital was lying to Papa as well. I sigh. Maybe she really did just die of mental illness.
An hour later, I see a storm about 20 feet away. I press the WEATHER PROTECTION button on the front panel as Ida says, “Incoming sid-video from Hank Brennan.” Hank’s face pops up.
“I know why they want you here!” he says in an urgent whisper. I gasp, but then the screen is filled with static. I look out the window and curse when I see that we’ve hit the storm.
“Annie, can you try and fix the receptor?” Although Annie is an old android, she’s still equipped with weather protection. Or so I thought….
As Annie climbs up the side of the hover, a particularly ferocious wind hits it. The water gets in her head cables and I gasp as Annie’s dark brown eyes turn black. She falls down the side of the hover. “No!” I cry out as Annie tumbles down into the raging storm. I yank out the brown blanket and collapse under it, mourning dear old Annie. I peer out of the sides of the blanket and begin to steer. Annie….
Chapter 8: Newsfeed, Water, Getting There
Annie. How could she be gone? She’s always been there. The comforting, ever-present friend. She had been Papa’s android ever since he fixed her up when he was a little boy. Even though Papa’s gone, I thought that I’d always have Annie. She was the only connection I had with Papa left. Now….. I cry and wrap the blanket around me. About half an hour later I begin to wonder why they want me at the palace. Wrapped up in grief, I hadn’t had time to really think about that until now. I try to send a sid-video to Hank, but then realize that the internet receptor is now permanently damaged. I could fix it, if only I had the tools. I never had the best forward thinking abilities. Well, I guess I’ll just have to make do with what I have. Which is… nothing.
An hour later, I turn on newsfeed, thinking about the war going on. It seems like ages ago that I was driving to work and my life changed forever. “Now we are deep into war,” Tristan Cooper says. “It is spreading, and the palace guards have yet to do anything about it.”
I think about poor Hank, who is a palace guard. Newistonians are very strong-willed, so he and his co-workers must be getting tons of angry letters this very moment. I tune back in to hear Tristan say, “And the battles are getting closer and closer to our capital each day. In fact, channel nine has exclusive information on the recent battle in our own Speshona.” I gasp and think about all my friends that might have been harmed. As Tristan goes over the list of casualties, I cling to my seat and am relieved when I don’t see Big Joe, who has been like a grandfather to me, or any of my other childhood friends.
When the show ends, I realize that although I changed into a new t-shirt at the hotel, it’s sticking to my chest. I feel like a little kid again as I say “Ewww,” and pull over the hover. I go to the back of the hover and put up the wash partition. I undress and press the WATER button. “Aah,” I say as the warm water pours into my dirty hair. I’m so glad that I installed the shower update two years ago. At the time, I found it unnecessary, but now, I’m so grateful that I did. Thank goodness for dear old Papa, who said, “You never know when you’ll need a shower.” I laugh at the memory. 20 minutes later I’ve wasted hot water and gotten back into the driver’s seat. Then, towering in the distance I see the tall spikes of the Acconio palace.
Chapter 9: Arrival at the Palace
When I reach the palace gates, a guard brusquely says, “Identification.”
“Julia Roberts.” I pull out my identification tag, which the guard harshly scans. I remember going with Papa when I turned ten to get registered and be given an I.D tag. By the age of 11, all Newistonians are required to be registered with an I.D tag.
I sigh as the guard opens the gate and I drive through. Unsure of where to park, I pull the hover down on the side of the parking lot and climb out. I take Ida and shove her into my pocket. Sadly, there’s no Annie any more, so I just take my suitcase and walk to the front door. I spot a familiar face and wave at Hank, who smiles and opens the door. Looking left and right, he deserts his post and ushers me inside.
“I’m glad you came,” Hank says. “Where’s your dad? And… where’s Annie?” Right. He doesn’t know. This is going to be hard. I shakily take a deep breath and begin to tell him everything. About Papa’s death, and the storm. In a way, saying it makes me feel better, but it also brings back memories I’ve been trying hard to forget. Hank looks at me, his bright green eyes filled with sympathy.
“I’m so sorry, Jules,” he says, his voice barely more than a whisper. I smile weakly. Just then, his edon, which is clipped to his belt, buzzes.
Startled, I say, “Who’s that?”
He plasters a grin onto his face and says, “My boss, Royal Adviser Evan Patterson. He says to escort Ms. Roberts to her chambers.”
“How does he know I’m here?” I ask, clueless.
He points to the walls and I see that security cameras are on almost every single wall. “Well then, ‘Ms Roberts’ let me bring you to your chambers.”
I laugh, and hold out my hand regally. “Why certainly, Monsieur Brennan.”
He takes my hand and brings me down a long, carpeted (I would say hallway, but that seems too drab, sooo) corridor. He stops at a large, wooden double door. He pushes it open to reveal the most lavish room I’ve ever seen. Shocked, I stare at the queen size bed, large wardrobe and plush white carpet. I walk in, stunned, and plop myself onto the teal comforter. I’m ready to fall asleep, when Hank pulls me up and says, ”You havent even see the bathroom yet.”
“I have my own bathroom?!” I squeal like a kindergartener. Hank laughs at me, and I playfully punch him on the arm. “In my defense, I’ve never had my own bathroom before,” I say. He just keeps laughing, and leads me to the bathroom. A grin breaks across my face. There’s a separate bathtub! This bathroom is as big as my room back home in Speshona. I twirl around, taking in the shower with a thousand different settings on the shower head, the double sink…. I smile and walk back to the main room, noticing a door I hadn’t seen before. I push it open and see a humongous walk in closet, filled with ugly frilly dresses, but also, and I’m shocked to see this, a few plain cargo pants and about ten t-shirts. I happily pull them out. I only packed a few t-shirts, and have been running low on clothes.
Then I hear a buzz behind me. I turn around and hear Hank mumble something into his edon. I turn around and he says, “They want you in the conference room.”
Chapter 10: New Job, New Life
20 minutes later, I’m seated in at a long table with about 15 stern-faced men. They introduce themselves as royal advisers. The one name that I remember is Evan Patterson, Hank’s boss. “Julia,“ he says seriously.
“Hey,” I reply, unsure of how to address a royal adviser.
“We have some very serious matters to attend to….” It seems like he’s about to say something, but refrains. “Well, let’s just say that Zarfina never really was the true queen of Newistonia.”
My eyes widen. I mean, I knew she was never the best queen, but taking over someone’s throne… well that’s just pure evil.
“We unearthed some shocking information that some extremely upset palace doctors gave. We also found some files in her private quarters,” he continues. “We found out not only that she was never really the true queen, but also something more about her past. She was a poor orphan girl who Queen Amanda and King Andrew adopted. They took her in as their own,and raised her along with their daughter Maria.”
“Wait, so Zarfina was adopted?!”
Patterson nods angrily and I can tell he wants to get back to the story.
“As time passed, most people grew to forget that Zarfina wasn’t their true child. When Amanda and Andrew died, the crown passed to their first-born, Maria. Zarfina became extremely angry at Maria because in her opinion the crown should have been passed to her.”
“Why? Maria was their first-born.”
“Zarfina was a mere month older than Maria, but the royal advisors of that time decided that the royal bloodline must prevail. As you may know, after just five months into her reign as queen, Maria mysteriously died. People have long suspected that Zarfina killed her, but there was never any proof. You probably don’t know that Andrew and Amanda did have another girl, Camilla.”
I gasp. “Like my mom Camilla?” He nods solemnly. “How do I know that you’re not lying? Besides, if that was true, everyone would know about this. Zarfina wouldn’t have become queen.” I say frantically, biting my nails.
Patterson smooths down his bright red and gold robes and sighs, “Alas, there is more to tell.”
I wrap my arms tightly around myself, worried about what Patterson is going to say. I take a deep breath as he continues with his story.
“Zarfina, that clever mastermind, blackmailed the palace doctors into inventing the most powerful brainwashing device that ever existed. She then used it on all of the citizens through parties and meetings. She made everyone believe that she was her parents’ only child, and that Camilla didn’t exist at all. Camilla herself is brainwashed. She now believes that she was the late queen Maria’s hand maiden. Now that Maria is dead, Camilla moves to Speshona and begins a new life.” Shocked, I sit in the comfortable brown leather chair and begin biting my nails.
I think I know what’s coming.
“15 years later, she called Camilla back into the city. Camilla, having no idea about her true past, thinks that she is being called by the queen for some important business. She unknowingly lies to her family and travels to Acconio. Zarfina then –– ” he stops and says quietly, “I think you know what happens next.” I nod and tears begin to leak out of my eyes. All this time, my mother was the true queen. Which means… Patterson nods.
“You are the true queen of Newistonia.”
~ End of Part 1~