Taking Flight, Part I
23 minutes past midnight, Kali closed her heavy, paper book with a thud.
She turned away from the book and shut her bloodshot eyes. She was too exhausted to heave a heavy sigh, and too discouraged to be properly frustrated with her work. She’d finished all of the practice problems in the last chapter, as her mother had insisted, though she was sure she’d gotten the last three answers wrong.
“You can’t expect that I both stay up all night to finish the book, and that I understand it, too,” she said aloud to her teddy bear. “I’m only human.”
She could almost hear the bear reply in her mother’s voice. “Your brother was able to do it.”
“Ergo, my brother isn’t human.” Kali finally heaved a sigh. It really was very heavy.
“No matter,” she took the bear- a puffy, white, and ridiculously adorable toy dressed in sparkly blue organza- and held it to her chest. “It’s time to dream, you know.”
Kali turned to her daybed, which took up half of her cramped room, and took a crescent shaped, metallic object and a white cord from beneath the pillow. She plugged one end of the cord into the object, and the other into the computer that sat on her desk. Then she placed the crescent over her eyes, and lay down on the bed, still clutching the teddy bear to her chest.
“Log in to astralnet,” she said aloud.
“Digital dreams-“ she murmured as lights on the crescent began to flash. “They’re the only dreams I have anymore…”
Under the shining crescent, her eyelids fluttered shut, and she found herself standing in an endless field of stars.
An exact copy of Kali’s teddy bear materialized in front of her, smiling brightly.
“Good evening, Kali!” the bear said in a chipper voice. “Would you like to log into Brave Sector? You have three challenges waiting for you, and there’s a general Brave Sector announcement.”
“I’d like to hear the announcement, first,” Kali said.
“Of course!” the Bear spun around, disappearing in a whirlwind of multicolored stars, and was replaced by a woman in elegant robes that draped like a toga over her lithe figure.
“Good evening, students and hobbyists of Brave Sector. In arena 3, at 1:30 est. top academy student Ingrid Sansloy will be racing under the username Mech7.”
“Oh, wow,” Kali said. “I don’t want to miss that. Bear, decline all of my challenges for tonight.
The woman disappeared, and Bear reappeared in her place.
“You might wasn’t to check your first challenge, before you decline,” Bear said with a wink.
Bear held out an invitation, printed on what appeared to be fancy cardstock embossed with roses. There was a message on it, written in gold ink.
To User Kali-C,
Meet me in arena three at 1:45, so I may systematically annihilate you in front of the entire sector.
You have been served,
Taking Flight, Part I