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Tal and his brother Zarmir stand in the middle of the crowded field. Zarmir nonchalantly musing about while, fiddling at his cape. Tal makes a quick scans the signs until he finds the grouping that includes their last names. Tal takes the lead and guides his brother through the crowds of students and parents to the table with the letters “Ne-0” printed in front of it.

The two make an unusual pair. Those who look at them would never guess they were brother. Tal is a slender red skin Tiefling, with his hair raven black hair falling to his shoulders. His eyes are a bright yellow. He has two large ram’s horns that come out the front of his forehead and loop around his ears.  There is a freshly polished and painted lute that is strapped to his back. He is dressed in fine linens and would almost resemble a noble if his pants and boots were not sullied with mud and dirt from his travels.

Zarmir the other hand is a stout and tall human male. His broad shoulders and large arms prove to the world that he tirelessly spends his time training. His blue eyes scanning for trouble as he follows his brother. His short black hair is neatly kept. In fact, he keeps himself neatly. His suit is freshly pressed and his boots and pants don’t have a spec of dirt on them. His clothes are all brightly adorned with gold trimmings and his Northman family crest perfectly embroidered on the chest of his jacket. He uses the cape to slightly hide this small detail. Zarmir gows impatient with the whole ordeal. He just wants to get back to training and get stronger.

Tal gets them registered.  They receive a sheet with the words “Sylvan Towers 304” written under room assignment.

“Cool we got the same room” Zarmir says, unable to hide his excitement “we aren’t going to be separated after all!” Tal nods, sharing in the excitement.

Tal thinks for a second. He has seen this name before. He remembers passing the dorm room on their way to sports fields. He remembers how to get back to it.  

“Come brother, I remember the way” Tal says confidently. Zarmir shrugs and follows him without question. Tal was always better at these kinds of things.

Image by Zandria Ross from Pixabay

The brothers are the first to arrive. The door reads 304 and it is decorated with five small pieces of parchment, each with a different name. They recognize their own names, but not the other three.

“I guess we have roommates” Tal says as he reaches out to open the door. The door opens to a large living space, cluttered with neat stacks of boxes, chest, bags and other miscellaneous items. There are 3 reading chairs scattered about the room. There is a small empty fireplace at its center for the winter months. There are two bare shelves on opposite sides of the room.  There is a large window at the end of the room that looks out to the snow-capped mountains behind the school. Under it, a small table with two chairs neatly tucked under it. The large room empties into 4 separate rooms. Each room comes with a bed and a desk, but there is one with a bunk bed. That room is slightly bigger meaning that one of the singles is slightly smaller.

Tal takes a seat on one of the reading chairs and starts to play with his lute. He tunes it for a bit before fiddling with a scale he enjoys. Zarmir finds an empty space on the ground that fits his frame and drops to the floor to do pushups.

Image by Grae Dickason from Pixabay

Jalila makes her way through the crowd effortlessly. Crowds don’t bother her. She is used to moving through the busy city streets of Rexxentrum, and this was a lot more spacious. She looks down at the piece of parchment she was given at orientation. The words “Sylvan Towers 304” neatly written under room assignment. It doesn’t take her long to find the building. Jalila walks down the busy hall. She passes open doors with people talking loudly inside. She passes others carrying large boxes. She reads the numbers, each one getting closer to 304.

Jalila is an unusual creature. Her soft brown completion seems to glow even in the shadow. Her eyes are a pretty golden amber color and one might argue that she is unnaturally beautiful. She doesn’t quite look human, although she mostly is. A symbol of Bast hangs around her neck. In her plain navy blue soldier’s uniform, she stomps through the halls confidently. Some people will stop and stare but she doesn’t take notice, she has a mission.

The door opens and Jalila barges in. Tal stops playing his loot and stares at the curious new figure who now stands at the front of the room. Zarmir continues doing push ups.

Looking at the two guys in her room she says “Oh, so the dorms are coed. Cool. Nothing I haven’t done before.” She takes in the layout of the room. It’s nicer than any place she’s ever stayed at. My name is Jalila. What’s your’s?” her voice assertively filling the room.

“My name is Tal and this” pointing at Zarmir who continues to do push-ups “is my brother Zarmir.”

“ The r is silent” he adds from the floor.

Overcome by obvious bewilderment, she stares at the odd pair and asks “How are you brothers?”

“Adopted” Zarmir adds as he finishes the last of his set. He stands up, towering over Jalila and adds “He’s my adopted brother” Zarmir flexes slightly and inspects his biceps for progress. Satisfied, he puts his hand on Tal’s soldier “We grew up together so as far as I’m concerned, he is my real brother”

“That’s sweet” she replied. She understands the bond between an adopted family all too well. Her guard drops a bit, but the room fills with an awkward silence. Zarmir, looking into the rooms, is the first to break the silence. “I want my own room” he says as he continues with his inspection. He chooses the room he believes is the biggest and begins to fill it with his belongings.

“I don’t mind getting the small room” Tal says as he begins to gather his things. Jalila shrugs and walks towards the last single. She tries to hide the excitement of finally having her own room.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The door opens a third time. Varus, another tall human, barges in without saying a word or acknowledging the inhabitants. He’s dressed in dark brown leather. A hunter’s cap with the rim bent up slightly. His face is scared and an eyepatch covers his right eye. A small crossbow hangs limply at his side.  He passes the group wordlessly and walks up to a bare wall. He clears his throat and without looking away lets out “My name is Varus Silbarian. What’s your name? Why are you here?”

Tal confused by the new stranger’s mannerism replies “Um. I am Tal and I go to school here. This…”

“I wasn’t talking to you!” Varus interrupts sounding completely annoyed. He turns back to the wall and says “yeah I’m doing pretty good, how are you?”

Tal blinks, unsure on how to react. Finally he gathers himself and a bit annoyed asks “Im sorry…Who are you speaking with?”

Without turning away from the wall Varus says “I’m just talking to Dorthy.” The other two watch, confused by the whole situation.

“Ah Dorthy the door” Tal says, attempting to keep the conversation civil. They would be sharing a room after all.

“Dorthy is not a door” Varus turns looking offended.

“Ah Dorthy the wall, makes sense” Tal says as he rolls his eyes. He does not like this guy.

In an effort to break the awkward tension in the room, Jalila changes the subject. “Does anyone know what the test is on?”

“I hope it’s not a written test” Zarmir shrugs “I don’t know shit”

“Yeah” Tal laughs in agreement. “No one told us there would be a test, I didn’t see it on any of the introductory materials.”

“I don’t think anyone knew. Its kind of weird that they give us a test so early in the year.” Jalila continues trying to keep the conversation going but the conversation fizzles out naturally and they continue to unpack in silence. Tal takes it upon himself to break the silence once again by playing his lute. He plays relaxing melodies for his roommates to unpack to. No one objects.

Image by Computerizer from Pixabay

Across campus, the robot continues to try to get registered, but he is distracted. Ha has never been around this many people, nor has he been to a school before. At this point, people have started avoiding him, creating a clear perimeter around him.  They can’t help but to gawk at B.U.D. and they have good reason to. His body is entirely metallic. The platting that covers his body shines like in the sun. It isn’t flesh that connects the large pieces of armor together, but wires and cables visible through exposed patches. He towers over the crowd, peering over the heads of all the other students and their families. He moves slowly through the crow, distracted by all the new around him. He continues to grab at loose accessories and items until people no longer walk near him.

Eventually B.U.D makes it to the front of the correct table after trying all the other ones. He is intrigued by the concept. A tiny human woman hands him a  piece of parchment. It reads “Sylvan Towers 304” written under room assignment. Without looking at the sheet, he grabs it and sticks it in his mouth.

“Wait no! you need that” a panicked hand reaches up to grab at the sheet of parchment. B.U.D. spits it out, not fully understanding why he couldn’t eat the paper. “It tells you where you need to go” the small woman adds, shaking her head at the strange creature.

“Can I have one of those then?” B.U.D points at the stack of papers on a table behind them.

“No. You need to go find your room” she says slowly, “ You’re in Sylvan Towers 304. Just follow that path and you will see the scenes. I’m sorry I don’t mean to be mean but I have more people I need to help. Good luck and welcome!” She tries desperately to sound enthused. B.U.D nods and walks away from the table down the suggested path. He continues to get distracted by everything.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The door opens a fourth time. B.U.D. Stands on the other side with his arms full of pieces of parchments, like the ones posted on the room doors. “Can you believe they just leave these for anyone to take?” he adds as he walks through the door. He takes a step inside and pops one of the pieces into his mouth, this time swallowing before anyone could react.

He looks around, the 4 who were already in the room stare back blankly.  astonished and confused by this odd specimen, no one knows quite what to say.

“Hi” he finally says, breaking the minutes of silence. “My designation is Biomechanical Universal Diplomat, but you can call me B.U.D. It is very nice to meet you all” he adds with a slight respectful bow of the head. Taken aback by the tall new creature in the room they all introduce themselves. B.U.D towers over his new friends.

“Oh man. Check this place out you guys, and girl. Its so big!” He says as he walks to a corner, inspects it for moment and says “This is a pretty cool corner. Did you guys see this corner? I claim this corner if no one has claimed it yet!”

“No…that’s fine” Tal says, not quite understanding the situation. “Do you not need to sleep”

“I do a bit, but that’s why I picked this awesome corner.” Bud pops another piece of parchment into his mouth. The others look at him curiously. “Oh do you guys want some? They have these everywhere.” He begins to offer a sheet to Zarmir”

“No I’m good” he answers “I’m just going to be in my room. I will see you tomorrow.” And with that, he closes the door behind him. No one else takes his offer, and he gleefully continues to snack on parchment.

“Why are you eating parchment?” Jalila asks finally.

“I’m collecting data” B.U.D replies.

“Data? Data for what?” Tal joins in.

“Data for the Mother Ship”

“What’s the Mother Ship?”

“It’s the mother ship. I was sent here to collect data for the mother ship.”

“Sent? Sent from where?” Tal continues to ask. It seems the more he talked to B.U.D, the more confused he seemed to become.

“I was sent from the mother ship” Clearly this conversation wasn’t going anywhere. Tal gives up on his interrogation.

They spend the rest of the night unpacking and exchanging more awkward conversation. They talk about what they think the test, but no one does anything to prepare for it. They all go to bed, all sharing different levels of anxiety. A new chapter to their adventure has just begun.

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