The year was 2135.
The hilltop grass bent lazily as a sad wind meandered its way, blowing past a man who was standing as he held the hand of a small boy. The boy held out an urn to the man who looked lost in thought, peering at the horizon where the last rays of twilight stretched across the sky bestowing it with a red hue.
The man finally took the urn from the small boy and shook it causing fine dust to take to the air. The wind caught the dust, twisting and swirling it towards the horizon. The pair watched it rise until it dissipated. After a few minutes, there was nothing remaining from the contents of the urn except memories.
Further down the hill, a group of onlookers talked in hushed voices.
"Do you think they will be ok?" The young lady asked.
"Ikaros was always independent before they met, but I imagine they were so in love he will never be the same," another older lady answered.
Close friends and family were gathered at the bottom of the hill, after the ceremony it was decided that Ikaros and his son would throw the ashes off the large hill into the wind. It was a symbolic gesture signifying they were letting Laine go.
"What about the boy?" The young lady asked.
"He is too young to understand, but anyone that age would miss their mother terribly," the older lady answered.
"I wouldn't be so sure," a man interjected. "Laine was so proud of him she showed me his aptitude , and they were off the charts."
"In what way?" The young lady asked.
"I'm not an expert, but I'm fairly sure he broke the test. All I could see were one hundreds," the man said.
"What will he do? With like that he should surely go to the Academy on ," the young lady observed.
"We should be more concerned with counselling, and day to day affairs," the older woman replied. "Will you go and see them? Make sure they're alright?"
The were interrupted by the woman in the hover chair turning to face them, tears were streaming down her face, and she struggled to speak, "I will look after him," she said dramatically. The words came out were blubbery as she was weeping openly. "Always." She said emphatically before attempting to move away.
"Cisse, don't," the young lady said and went to grab the chair. "Oh dear, why this chair. Please, Cisse, you are all alone, come home with me tonight."
"I'm fine," she said in a determined manner and off leaving the small crowd behind.
Etana Daedo was nine years old in the year 2139 when he went to his first Academy entrance trials.
"Etana are you ready?" His father called.
"Yes, Father," he answered as he left his room. It was the year 2139 and Etana was prepared for the most important day of his short life.
"She'll be here soon, I had to promise we would go with her," Ikaros said.
Etana nodded it did not worry him. Cisse seemed to affect his Father more.
A hovervan pulled up outside the front door to their small home, and a door slid open.
"Hurry up, get in," Cisse called from the Van.
Ikaros rushed his son down the pathway and into the Van. They sat opposite Cisse who was still in her hoverchair, which was locked into She would have had to order special hovervans to her chair.
"Let me have a look," she said excitedly grabbing Etana and bending his head over to the side.
"Wow its big," she said. "Is it military grade?"
"Yes, its gen three military-grade from Svarski," Etana replied.
"It's not big," Ikaros corrected, "His head is small."
Cisse , "His head is massive! Look closely at your son Ikaros."
"Now look at mine," Cisse ordered. "It's a gen two civvie." She looked lost in thought for a moment before she asked, "Have you put any apps on it Etana?"
"No, it was only installed yesterday," Etana answered.
"Don't you think its a bit premature Ikaros?" Cisse asked.
"Why?" Ikaros said defensively, "He finished cyberschool early with almost perfect , how hard could it be?"
"The others are thirteen Ikaros," Cisse said sternly.
"If it took them that long to finish cyberschool he will trounce them!" Ikaros
"They don't do cyberschool, not this crowd, they have tutors. Human tutors," Cisse informed them.
"I'm not concerned," Ikaros said.
Cisse leaned forward and summoned Ikaros closer, "I am helping with the fees, I know you don't have enough. And I have bitcreds from the settlement too."
Ikaros darkened and went rigid. He looked out the window as the countryside peeled away for the city. They lived just outside Paris, and the fifty-minute Hovervan trip couldn't be over quick enough.
"If creds were an issue he could attend a Academy," Ikaros said finally.
"Fortescue is only tier three, and with your employee , I can't imagine you would get a better deal anywhere. These Military Academies are not cheap to run. Not with the cost of Mechs, exos, facilities and living expenses," Cisse stated.
"As much as I hate Fortescue for what they have done to us, it was always her dream that he attend and something," Ikaros said sadly.
He continued to look out the window before saying sadly and softly. "Ok." He didn't make eye contact with Cisse, he seemed incredibly sad.
Sensing the , Etana looked out the opposite window, not wanting to intrude on the adult's They always underestimated him, he was able to piece together everything from a few they had with the false sense of security in thinking a young boy would not comprehend the words spoken.
Cisse and his mother worked together at Fortescue as Power Engineers, and his Father worked in another part of the company as a robot mechanic. His Father was apparently an mechanic saving the company, Fortescue, thousands of bitcreds a year.
His mother and Cisse were working on an experimental reactor, known as the Zero Point Energy Reactor when an out of control experiment caused an which killed his mother and almost killed Cisse.
Both Ikaros and Cisse received payouts from Fortescue. There was something in the details about negligence or responsibility for the on the companies part. It was these bitcreds that were paying for his entrance into the Military Academy. Otherwise, it wasn't something they could normally afford. The fees were normally in the realms of the richest one percent of the
"We're almost there," Cisse said after an imperceivably long time. Etana and his Father had been staring out separate windows for an eternity.
The grounds of the Fortescue Military Academy were impressive, the first with the sandstone walls and grass-covered lawns was of a medieval castle. It was impossible to house the almost eight thousand cadets in the few buildings which were topside. The Academy proper was an underground city.
His Father walked with Etana to the desk, while Cisse followed behind in her chair.
The robot attendant scanned and sent him to the trialist topside arena. Every other attendee was much taller than the nine-year-old Etana. They were twelve or thirteen, and it seemed like most of the thirty thousand trialists stared at the short boy.
There was a barrage of academic tests from logic, human studies, philosophy, strategy to abstract thinking and problem-solving.
Then came the physical tests. An obstacle course with climbing, , , strength and stamina tests. Etana failed dismally and was given a DNF. He was unable to complete the course, and it made him wonder if he was going to be disqualified.
"Son, it's fine," he said, but he looked extremely worried. Ikaros back at Cisse, and she looked as worried as he did.
They walked back to the trialist zone and waited for the virtual attendant to give Etana his overall results.
As he walked into the area and a large appeared in front of him, it had the results of the individual tests, but his eyes quickly skimmed past them down to the bottom. was all it said. He didn't bother looking into the details of the academic , it was pointless.
Etana turned dejectedly and faced his Father and Cisse. He had failed them. But that was nothing compared to the feeling that he had failed his mother.