CHAPTER 1: Strange envelope
Annabel climbed up the stairs, with thoughts trying to grip on what the day’s event would look like. It was almost sixteen years now, yet she could still hear the cheering and happy screams of her racing crew, as if it were yesterday. She missed that frightful but yet enjoyable feeling of the adrenaline, which always bit her on her stomach whenever she mounted her H-Board. Oh, she just remembered that bright wine red H-Board, RCD-2427, with gold streaming underneath and a lightning bolt streaking its side. Not the most fanciful, but the fastest those days.
Every memory seemed anew.
She sighed when she remembered those days in the night camp with her crew, those nights when the star oceans the heavens and the moon smiled at them. Those rosy days with her husband, who was the greatest racer in the whole of Anadan, though he never won any international title. Annabel couldn’t help the smile. Her husband kept telling her that he careless about titles, to him, a good name was better than an expensive ointment. True to his words, people loved him dearly.
She was supposed to be in a hurry, but she ambled up the stairs, struggling to keep the lock of her hair under a tiny rubber band. The brunette hair had been her pride and a source of praise from her husband when she was still in her prime. Annabel bit her under lips when she remembered that the praises of her husband has tested the great beyond. It vexes her to realize that the emptiness which had been bay for years now, were trying to surface.
Today is a day of joy; I won’t ruin it for my boy.
Annabel felt something in her stomach lifting, but it stopped when it got to her chest. It was not the lone emotion of hopelessness, it was the confidence she had in her son, her only child.
She turned the knob of the brown wooden door and pushed it slightly.
“My goodness, you are still in bed? It’s morning already.” Annabel said reluctantly, it was not her intention to disturb him, but she couldn’t bear to see his days of tireless training crumble.
The familiarity of the room drifted her thoughts back to her husband. The memories of him were always constant here. This was his niche for ten years, before they got married and Jeff was born nine years later. Nothing had changed much. Everything still had that old woody smell. The picture of the gray hoe was still engraved elegantly on the wall and the book shelf stood neatly, towering half way to the ceiling. Jeff had personalized the room, but the comfort still portrays her husband.
The crease on Annabel’s tanned skin deepened, when her copper eyes rested on the rose decorated blanket lying on the polished wooden floor.
“Jeff, get up, have you forgotten what day it is?”
“I know mom”. Jeff mumbled and steered lazily with a sleepy frown on his young face. He yawned and sat up reluctantly, with his feet resting on the wooden floor.
“Good morning mom”. He greeted, rubbing his eyes but no longer dizzy.
“A beautiful morning it is, don’t you think?” Annabel asked. She heard Jeff grumbled something, but paid no mind as she leaned on the window sill of the west wind, allowing the sight of the city carry her away.
The street was alive with people as usual. Horns from the land Tripler were echoing nosily and the mumbo-jumbo, carousing what suppose to be a quite morning often makes her wonder if some people ever go to sleep. The smiling face of Dr. Jakins was on one of the bill boards, advertizing one of his newly designed tech.
“Get dress, today is your day”. More wrinkles appeared on Annabel’s aging face, as she lifted her gaze to behold the hovering neon signs which were meant to regulate flight. The government had down a good job this time by including directional signs, but some people kept disobeying flight rules. Annabel remembered vividly that she never obeyed one of that flight traffic for once. It was pointless, how can the law try to regulate flight, what is there to regulate? This is air for crying out loud, air means freedom.
“Sure. You are giving me the credit when the race has not even started. I won’t argue with you today, not this time.”
Jeff’s words made her look back into the room. She saw him making the bed. His dark hair dangles behind and his once skinny features; were now growing muscles. He really is turning to a man.
“You are finally learning the ways of the Gray, your father would have been proud” Annabel said
Jeff chuckled. “What has my birth lineage got to do with my manners, I don’t even have powers like the others”
“Everything my son, they think we are the weakest but without us they would all die. We the Gray feed the nation through our hard work, and hard work starts with good manners.”
Annabel couldn’t see what was funny, but she was bemused to see Jeff burst into hot laughter.
“You are funny mom, very funny, but also right. At least we got the speed like everyone else”
“That’s why I need you to go out there and prove to them that we are the fastest in the history of Anadan.”
“When there are the Reds?” Jeff asked looking straight into her eyes “I doubt, and talking about history, no Gray has ever made it to the fast five -“
“- And I know you will. I believe in you, you should also believe in you.”
Jeff paused for a moment then stood to face her. She saw hopeful eyes, yet somewhere behind that glamour was doubt swerving around him like vipers.
“I will mum; I’ll give it my best shot.” He managed to say. Annabel smiled as if that was the perfect answer she had expected.
“I know you will. Matt is downstairs, should I tell him to come meet you?”
“I don’t think you should, I will be downstairs in a jiffy.” Jeff said smoothly. Annabel nodded in agreement and strode towards the exit.
“You look perfect in that dress mom; one could easily mistake you for a queen you know.” Jeff teased.
“Don’t be ridiculous Jeff” Annabel flushed with an aglitter grace, trying to hide the effect of his compliment underneath a smile “this dress was made from cheap materials.”
“But that does not abolish its perfection, does it?” Jeff asked.
“Am flattered, you really shouldn’t tell a girl your age such words or we would have scores of them lining on our doorstep.” Annabel chuckled “Thanks for the compliment anyway.” She straightened the blue dress with her hands as if Jeff’s words have just brought out its beauty.
“Oh, before I forget, breakfast is ready, don’t let it get cold.” She said as she shut the wooden door behind.
Jeff shook his head with the smile never leaving his face. He opened his closet and picked up his father’s gray racing jumpsuit, and gray H-Board, which had the shape of a skate board – both of which were now his. He arranged the jumpsuit into his bag pack, changed into a blue shirt and jean trousers and picked up his Head-Plate. He was about wearing the Head-Plate when he noticed something that made him drop it immediately.
Jeff stared with mouth agape at his glowing hands.
“What in the five square is happening to me?” He asked rhetorically. He rubbed his hands on his jean pants with the aim of brushing off the glow, but that was to no avail.
Frightfully, his first thought was to rush downstairs to his mother, which he was about doing when something else distracted him. Jeff spun immediately to the direction of the only window in the room, where he knew the sound had come. He took a deep satisfying breath when he saw the window ajar and nothing out of ordinary. He was pretty sure he’d heard a flapping sound like that of a bird, but a part of him doubted it.
Jeff pulled the knob of the door leading away from his room to the passage, only to notice that his hands were no longer glowing.
“This is very strange.” He muttered
Some part of him was still tensed though, but he decided that there was no cause for alarm and relaxed. He picked up his Head-Plate where it had fallen and clipped it round his ear. The familiar sensation of the Head-Plate round his left ear, added a little comfort to his growing curiosity.
As Jeff flung his bag pack behind, he noticed a gold envelope sitting comfortably on the window sill. Startled than afraid, he placed his burden back on the bed and moved over to see what it was.
The golden envelope bore an unrecognized seal, with silver embroidery running from the top to bottom on each side. It was not up to the size of a file envelope and nothing on it suggested how long it had been sitting there or who had dropped it.
Jeff dared anyone to climb a two storey building at this early hour to drop an envelope, or was it his mother who had dropped it? He couldn’t tell for sure. Until critical examinations were carried out by his innermost self, he couldn’t summon the courage to pick up the envelope.
The envelope bore no address, not even that of the sender.
Who would be sending an envelope in this computer world? Jeff asked himself. The red seal on the envelope was as hard as a nut shell that it didn’t bulge when Jeff tried to break it. The envelope itself, though was made from what seemed to be paper, was much harder than the seal when Jeff tried to tear it open.
“What is this?” He asked himself again as he turned the strange envelope over and over again.
Giving up the idea of opening the envelope at that precise moment, Jeff tossed it inside his drawer.
“I will deal with you later, for now, I have a race win.”
With much courage and determination, he swings his bag pack behind and picked up his hover board. Shooting one last glance at the drawer where the mysterious envelope now was, he walked out the exit.
When Jeff came downstairs, he saw his friend Matt, sitting on the brown leather couch, with eyes buried on the screen of his device. The aroma of coffee and baked caked streamed the air, and were popping out from the plate seating perfectly on the dining table. Save for the food and a glass of orange juice sitting on the table, the table was bare and Jeff’s mother was nowhere in sight.
“Is that a new video game?” Jeff asked, noting the serious face Matt wore. Matt was strongly addicted to: food, his creative work and video game. The latter seemed to be taking effect now.
“Yea, it’s the new 3D air borne video game of Dr. Jakins”
“I suspected as much, that man needs a soft pat on the back, he has done much for this city” Jeff said walking towards his friend to get a clear view of the game.
“I heard the king would be acknowledging some laureates today. Do you think Dr. Jakins might be on the top list?” Matt asked, not sparing Jeff a single glance.
“I can’t tell; the king has a strange way of doing things. Let’s hope he acknowledges the poor man for his effort towards the growth of this country.” Matt nodded his head in agreement.
“Where is mom”? Jeff asked, suddenly observing her absence.
“I think she went through the back door”
“We should get going then, it’s almost time and late coming shouldn’t be our first impression, especially in the presence of the other extractors.”
Matt finally frowned and pulled his gaze off his cell phone.
“What about the food, have you forgotten that already?” he gulped.
“Oh,” Jeff raked his dark hair with his hand. “Maybe when I get back, we need the flexibility.”
Jeff noted a slight frown on Matt’s face that disappeared almost immediately.
“Let’s roll then.” Matt said as they stepped into their Hover-Board and soared into the busy air.