“30, 3, 5, 44, 14, 22 and 10. The girl on the screen put one hand to her ear and a shocked expression appeared on her face. “I don’t believe it!” she gasped barely able to speak as she looked directly into the camera. “We have a winner.”
In his office Gul smiled to himself and took his wallet from his drawer, it was finally over. For the last year he had been using his powers to manipulate the Big Dipper Lottery. He had made sure that the result of each draw was a roll over and finally when the amount he needed for his retirement on Adhara had been collected, 1 Trillion Zodiacs, he had made sure that his ticket was the sole winner. It had taken all of his Jinnian powers to pull it off, as week after week no winner was announced and the jackpot grew larger more and more people had bought tickets. Thankfully he had always been talented.
Eventually even The Alliance had shown an interest in the strange, impossible turn of events and a team had been sent to officially investigate. Admiral Gul had made sure that they found nothing untoward and so they had left. Now all Gul had to do was collect his winnings and get to hell off of this shithole station once and for all. He couldn’t wait to spend the rest of his life in the luxurious surroundings on Adhara where he would mingle with the creme de la creme of Alliance society. At last his dream had come true.
Gul opened his wallet and looked inside. The ticket was gone.
Arturo looked at the screen and then at the ticket in his hands. The numbers were the same. A tear seeped from his eye and he felt his nose beginning to run as he kissed the ticket again and again. Two days before he had been sitting in his usual spot on Portebello Road begging when Admiral Gul had passed by. “Please sir, spare a poor fellow some change?”
Admiral Gul stopped in his tracks and sighed. “I don’t have any change.”
“I-Am bless you and keep you,” Arturo had replied and then turned to look for someone else. He was accustomed to this kind of reaction, money was tight for everyone on The Big Dipper. People gave when they could but if truth be told most probably had nothing to spare.
It had been years since he had lost his job and spent all of their savings trying to keep his family afloat until he could find another, but another had never come. Now he, his wife and children were homeless moving from one shelter to the next. He wished that he could go back to Thoth but he never seemed able to muster the travel expenses and none of his family members on the homeworld could afford it either.
“Take this,” the admiral said handing Arturo a piece of paper before walking away.
“Thank you,” Arturo called to Gul’s retreating back. He looked at the paper the admiral had handed him, it as a lottery ticket. “What are the chances of me winning this?” he chuckled and slipped the ticket into his pocket.
Adhara Space Station was abuzz with gossip. A new family was about to arrive on the station and the Adhara Times had reported that they were the Del Bosques coming from The Big Dipper after winning an indecent amount on that station’s lottery thanks to a ticket that had been generously given to them by the station’s commanding officer Admiral Gul. “Well this should be interesting,” Adhara said to Admiral Shagsmoore Thanyu her new commanding officer and his daughter, head of station security Captain Roxzamora Thanyu as they watched the ship dock.
“I’m not sure that interesting is the word I would use,” Shagsmoore replied thoughtfully.
The hologram of Adhara bobbed up and down in the air with laughter, “Really? Which word would you use?”
“Deadly!” Roxy cut in, not a hint of amusement on her face or in her voice.
Shagsmoore nodded, “Yes, ‘deadly’ seems like precisely the right word for this situation.”
Carlito ran his hand along the silken sheets of his bed in his room at the swanky Hotel Orange savouring the feel of fine linen for the first time in his life. This was the way he should have been living all along. If only he’d worked harder or been born into a different family. But none of that mattered now. He would never have to struggle again as long as he lived.
It had been a whirlwind ride since his grandson Arturo had arrived on Thoth and called a meeting of the extended family. Few family members had turned up, just Arturo’s siblings, their spouses and children. Carlito knew that Arturo had contacted more family members but they hadn’t come. They all knew that he was out of work and must have assumed that he had come to ask for help. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
“We’re all going to live on Adhara,” Arturo had told his astonished family. Everyone had laughed. Then they had tried to hand him the meager amount they had been able to scrape together to give to him. “Use this to bring your family here,” Basilio had told his son with tears in his eyes. “We’ll help you.”
Arturo had hugged his father and thanked him and the others for trying to help him and then he had explained that he was a trillionaire. From that day Carlito had been planning, he was going to make sure that his family forged powerful friendships and alliances within The Alliance so that they could never slip into poverty again.
“Review this information,” Carlito told his teenaged great grandchildren as they each opened the file he had sent them. On the screens of their computers a plethora of information spewed out. He had paid a researcher handsomely from his grandson’s winnings to ensure that the information he received was correct and up-to-date.
“These are the people you need to make friends with,” Carlito explained, looking each of them in their eyes to make sure that he drove the point home. “These are the children from the most powerful families in the Alliance. When you become their friends you will be invincible.”
Parisa his fourteen year old half Jinnian great granddaughter, the child of one of Arturo’s sisters sighed, “But Great-grandfather, how are we supposed to make friends with them?”
Carlito glared at the girl, he had a very specific and dangerous plan in mind for her which did not involve her questioning him. “Open the file labelled “Brothers From Another Mother,” he instructed.
Each of the children did as instructed, the pictures of two boys were displayed on their screens along with a hefty written file containing lots of biographical information on each of them.
Parisa gasped, “I know them, they’re Cameron and Grun from Pyjama Party!” she squealed, “I love them!” She had learned about the boy band Pyjama Party only since moving to Adhara but she was already a devoted fan.
A smile broke out on Carlito’s lips, “Gooood!” he wheezed. “And now you shall have the chance to make them love you.”
“What the hell are you talking about you crazy old man,” Esteban, Arturo’s eldest son demanded. “We can’t make friends with these people! We’re tramps.
Carlito slammed down his computer on the table, “I am not a tramp, I am a gentleman!” he shouted. “And you children can become even more than that if you follow my advice.”
“But they’re royalty, they wouldn’t be interested in us,” Esteban insisted, turning to his older sister Estella for support. The girl simply shrugged.
“Well they certainly wouldn’t be interested in a wicked boy like you. You know nothing of real romance. In all the greatest love stories, princesses and princes just can’t help but fall in love with poor forest dwellers. We’re better than that. We’re rich!” Carilto replied. “And to think I had intended for you to woo Emerald herself. Now I will leave that to someone else. Hector, open the file named “Holy Grail”,” he ordered.
Hector, a handsome boy of seventeen, the same age as Esteban did as he was told without comment or complaint as his great-grandfather explained further. “This is Emerald Thanthou, the grand-daughter of the Queen of Bim. Although technically she is not recognised as a princess, she is the one we must get at any cost because once we get her, we’ll get them all.” With that Carlito threw back his head and began laughing maniacally as his great-grandchildren huddled closer together wondering when their great-grandfather had become insane.
Roxy reviewed the files she had compiled on the Del Bosques, in particular Carilto Del Bosque’s evil plan. When she was satisfied that it contained everything her younger cousin would need to know she sent it to Emerald.
A hush fell over the great hall as the new students entered. Everyone knew who they were. The Del Bosques, the Thothian paupers who had brought their way onto Adhara with lottery winnings. There were ten of them now enrolled at Adhara Academy their ages ranging from 3 to 19 years of age. They stood at the door looking around nervously until at last one of them, a girl who looked to be of partially Jinn heritage pushed her way through her cousins and rushed up to the table where the members of Pyjama Party were sitting.
“Oh my I-Am, it’s you. Cameron and Grun,” she squealed, as the hush in the hall somehow became deeper. “I’m so excited to meet you. I’m your biggest fan,” she blabbered barely able to contain herself.
“Oh Duat no! Can you believe the audacity of this wench?” Vulpesia said looking around at her friends Sue and Kamaria as she stood up from her seat. She was about to march over to the audacious girl and inform her of the rules of etiquette when she heard an “ahum” from a nearby table. Looking in the direction that the sound had come from she saw Blu of Ceres was looking at her. Vulpesia sat down, she knew from personal experience that it was better not to get on Blu’s bad side.
“I, Galatina am their biggest fan,” a voice boomed just as Vulpesia was sitting down. All eyes turned to look at the Ogian princess, who at seven foot tall towered above most of the other students as she marched over to confront her rival. Her uniform which like all others was modified to match clothing appropriate for her homeworld looked like roman armour giving her an even more intimidating appearance. “No one likes Cameron and Grun more than I.”
“I do,” Parisa insisted confidently standing her ground even though at only 5ft 4inches she wasn’t able to properly meet the other girls eye. “I know all about them. I love them.”
“Prove yourself,” Galatina demanded narrowing her eyes and pointing a short sword at Parisa.
Parisa swallowed, she wasn’t good at fighting but she knew what her great grandfather had told her. She couldn’t back down now, especially not with the entire school watching. She was just about to accept Galatina’s challenge when her cousin Esteban touched her shoulder. “Come on Parisa, you’ve caused enough of a disturbance,” he said trying to extricate her from the situation.
Galatina laughed, “How kind of your cousin to save you. He must have known that you couldn’t win.”
Parisa shrugged off Esteban’s hand, “No, he was just trying to save you from total defeat.”
A gasp went up from the assembled students, shocked by the unexpected comeback “Oh shame!” someone said in the background.
Galatina smiled grimly, “So you dare to imagine that you could defeat Galatina?” she boomed.
“Yeah,” Parisa said matter-of-factly.
“Very well,” Galatina said a shadow passing over her face as she unzipped her sword which was in fact a bag and pulled out a set of cards. “Since you dared to dream, let the trivia battle begin. The winner shall take her rightful place as the ruler of the Cameron and Grun fandom.”
“Bring it!” Parisa replied making sure that no sign of her relief was visible.
Esteban walked back to where his other cousins and siblings were still standing by the door and rolled his eyes. For a moment he had actually thought that Parisa was being challenged to a sword fight. If it was just a trivia battle she would probably win, their great-grandfather had been drilling trivia about each of their targets into their heads, night and day for weeks.
Within a few moments of the challenge being issued and accepted the two girls were seated on the dias where the teachers usually sat when the entire school was formally assembled. Bishop Jong, the most popular boy in school, youngest brother of the fashion designer Prince and member of the student council had somehow wheedled his way into moderating the competition. He had strolled up onto the dias and positioned himself between the two competitors in the middle of the stage. Bishop now held the set of trivia cards Galatina had pulled from her sword bag and explained the rules of battle.
“You will each be asked 5 questions, of course the one who answers the most correctly will be the winner. If there is a tie, we will have a sudden death round and the first to answer incorrectly will be disqualified. Any objections?”
“Galatina shall be victorious,” the giant said, to rapturous applause.
“Yeah maybe in your dreams!” Parisa replied, to a mixed murmuring of cheers and boos. She ignored it, sure that after her grandfather’s training she could win.
“All right, let battle commence.”
Bishop threw up his arms and smoke filled the stage. When it had cleared Galatina and Parisa were standing behind two lecterns which had risen from the floor. An electronic display on the front of the lectures displayed each of their names and the number zero. Parisa gasped and stepped back, unsure of what exactly had just happened.
Bishop smiled at the simple trick. The school had an unusually high number of impromptu trivia battles each year and thus the student council of which he was a member, had been allowed to install lecterns to appear on the dias when required. They were able to read basic identification information from the participants Com-Ds and input it into the lecterns computer to be displayed immediately.
“The first question goes to our newcomer Parisa.” Bishop said, not bothering to take the time to explain to the astonished girl. “What is Cameron and Grun’s date of birth?”
Parisa smiled, she didn’t even have to think. “Their birthday is 10010AY 7AM 14AD. They’re 14.”
“Correct,” Bishop said checking the answer on the card he was holding. The sound of hands running over the strings of a harp sounded and the 0 on Parisa’s lectern turned into a 1. Parisa looked over at Galatina and smiled smugly at her, but rather than look upset Galatina merely returned her smile.
“Now Galatina, you have the pride of Adhara Academy to consider so answer correctly, do you understand?” Bishop asked his expression becoming serious as he turned to face Galatina. Galatina nodded but looked down demirely.
“Does Cameron have any siblings and if so name them in age order.”
Galatina took a deep breath and named Cameron’s two siblings in order of their age earning herself 1 point as well. For the next few minutes the trivia battle continued as each girl answered the increasingly difficult questions perfectly. At last all 10 questions had been asked and both girls had 5 points.
“Galatina is surprised at your knowledge,” Galatina said smiling approvingly at Parisa. “But now you shall taste the bitterness of defeat.”
Parisa threw back her shoulders with pride. “No, you will,” she said and this time there were a few cheers in response.
“When you two are quite finished,” Bishop interrupted before Galatina could reply, “the sudden death round will begin.”
Parisa continued to smile but deep inside she felt sick. The questions she had answered thus far had relatively easy, after all her great-grandfather had been drilling trivial into her head morning, noon and night. Even still she couldn't believe that he would have been able to get his hands on every bit of information on Cameron and Grün immediately. There were probably many things, everyday things that no one would think to list that someone like Galatina would have noticed and remembered.
Parisa looked at her cousins who were still standing nervously by the door. If she lost her family would be even more of a laughingstock than they already were.
“Are you ready?” Bishop asked looking at Parisa in particular but addressing both girls.
“Galatina is ready,” Galatina announced giving Parisa a sideways glance.
“Parisa is also ready,” Parisa said unconsciously mimicking Galatina.
“And Bishop is ready too,” Bishop added. “Now get ready, the first to answer correctly wins.
Galatina and Parisa positioned their hands on their buzzers and waited for the question. Each girl glaring into the other's eyes.
“The first question is: When did Cameron and Grün first meet?”
Parisa slammed her hand down on the buzzer as fast as she could. She knew the answer, the question was easy.
Bishop looked at Parisa with a smile on his lips. “Well Miss Del Bosque tell us. When did Cameron and Grün first meet?” He asked arching his eyebrows.
Parisa’s chest swelled with pride as she said, “They first meet on 10014AY 06AM 02AD, at Soilel Palace on Bim.”
Bishop smiled at Parisa and then looking at Galatina his expression suddenly darkened. Oh my I-am, I might really win Parisa thought and just then Bishop turned back to her with a nasty grin plastered across his face. “I'm afraid that answer is incorrect,” he said.
Parisa’s face fell and she didn’t know where to look, she was so embarrassed. Everything was beginning to blur around her but for some reason Cameron and Grun’s faces remained distinct. They looked disappointed and a little disgusted.
“Well Galatina, you now have a chance to answer the same question. When did Cameron and Grun first meet.”
Galatina threw her shoulders back and cocked her head to one side. “According to legend, Cameron and Grun or Shaddock and Pomelo as they were known then met for the first time in 9014AY when they were born as twins. This is their second reincarnation.”
Bishop looked down at the card in his hand. This was something which he had never heard of before, mostly because he didn’t care. “Correct,” he said smiling at Galatina. “Galatina is the winner.”
A round of applause echoed through the great hall as Galatina waved and smiled at the assembled students.
“Wonderful, now can we please get back to lunch?” Bishop asked turning away from the contestants and walking back to his seat.
Parisa felt as if she would never be able to lift her head again. The students were cheering but not for her. She had shamed her family and she had no one to blame but herself.
“Well fought,” Galatina said, patting Parisa on the shoulder. “If Bishop had not asked that particular question, you might have won.”
Parisa's head still hung low. All of her grandfather's efforts had been for nothing and her cousins now looked even more pathetic standing isolated at the door.
“Well done,” said a voice that Parisa was sure she recognised. “You both did well.”
“Yes congratulations to both of you.”
Looking up Parisa could hardly believe her eyes. Her idols Cameron and Grün were standing next to Galatina. They must have ascended the stage when she was preoccupied with her own embarrassment.
Parisa felt her cheeks heating up, she couldn't believe that they were really this close and that they had seen her humiliating defeat. Just when Parisa was hoping that she would disappear behind the lecturn she heard Cameron's voice again.
“By the way Galatina, how did you know the answer to the last question?”
Galatina smiled enigmatically at Cameron and Grün, “Galatina was also there.”
Cameron and Grün's eyes narrowed in unison as they looked at their biggest fan. “We’ll speak about this at some other time,” Cameron said as he and his BFF turned away and went back to their seats.
The noise in the great hall was settling back into the normal din of conversation as the students went back to their lunch. Galatina shuffled her trivia cards and pushed them back into her sword bag. She was just about to descend from the dais when Parisa caught hold of her arm.
“That was really fun,” Parisa said forcing herself to smile. “But next time I'll win.”
“Join Galatina for lunch and we can discuss your membership to the official fanclub,” Galatina replied looking at Parisa hopefully. The official Cameron and Grün fanclub didn't have any other members and Galatina didn't have any particular friends. She was the only Ogian at the school and even though she was short for a giant she still towered over everyone else in her class. She wasn't bullied but she wasn't popular either.
“Ok, thanks,” Parisa said and together she and Galatina went back to the table where Galatina had been sitting.
At the door Esteban, Estella and their cousins watched as Parisa merged into the crowd apparently having forgotten about them. “Well that went differently than expected.” Esteban thought aloud as he watched a Varunian girl walk up to them.
Esteban recognised the girl from his great-grandfather's research. Her name was Lorraine and she was the head of the student council.
“Oh, hi everybody,” Lorraine exclaimed in a high pitched squeaky voice, flicking her blue hair about in what was supposed to be a cute gesture. “Wow! I'm really sorry that you've been left standing there. I'm afraid that's completely my fault. I forgot to have another table brought in to accommodate you. But don't worry that will definitely be done before dinner.”
Esteban looked at his cousins, somehow he didn't think that this girl had made a mistake.
“Don't worry, you'll still be able to have lunch,” Lorraine said seeing Esteban's expression. “We of the school council have finished our lunch so you can use our table. Just this once,” she offered leading them over to the top table where everyone except Bishop had finished eating.
“I have offered the Del Bosques our table,” Lorraine explained as the school council stopped their conversations and looked inquisitively at them, their lunch dishes had already been cleared. On hearing what Lorraine said all of the council members except Bishop left the table. Only one girl who Esteban recognised as Ta-Shra, Princess of Duat a former friend of Emerald stayed behind as if waiting for Lorraine.
“You'll be served momentarily,” Lorraine informed Esteban before turning to Bishop and saying. “Bishop, didn't you hear when I said that I had offered the Del Bosques our table?”
Bishop looked at Lorraine with a blank expression. “I heard.”
“Well?” said Lorraine trying to appear forceful whilst maintaining her sickly sweet demeanour.
“Well what? I heard and I chose not to obey. Be gone!” Bishop ordered continuing with his lunch.
“Oh well,” Lorraine sighed with an overly exaggerated shrug. “It's not normally done but I suppose you'll just have to join Prince Bishop for lunch. Sit down, I'll have someone bring you something to eat,” Lorraine said walking away with Ta-Shra.
Esteban, his sister and cousins sat down in the proffered seats and waited to be served. Their first day wasn't going too badly after all.
As they walked out of the great hall Ta-Shra turned to Lorraine and said, “I can't believe that we actually did a favour for that spoiled bitch.”
Lorraine laughed, “Don't be like that Ta-Shra, I'm sure that Emerald isn't as bad as you think.”
Ta-Shra smiled at her best friend. “You're too nice for your own good Lorraine. We both know what Emerald has planned for those innocent peasants. She's a spoiled bitch if ever I saw one.”
Lorraine laughed again but this time she didn't object and with that she and Ta-Shra left the hall.
(Since I've been finding it difficult to illustrate this story I will update the post at a later date when I'm able to produce the other images. I think it's better to push forward with the story-telling rather than be held up because of illustrations. Sorry for any inconvenience.)