The Power of Formations - Chapter 14 - Gemini Academy
For the n-th time, as he became aware of his surroundings, Emmet could barely believe what was happening. It almost seemed like a dream. He was sitting in a speeding formation-powered railcar, in some kind of enormous fantasy city? And he was going to go to an elite formations school? Just a few months ago, he had been on a tiny farm growing wheat, beating up a bunch of harmless horu-beetles. He had never been to school, nor had he ever even heard of the word ‘formations’!
Any time he looked out the window, a strong sense of disbelief would overwhelm him. He had a strong suspicion that this whole thing had been a long dream.
Yet, Tauruk’s annoyed look told him that it was in fact real. As they slowly approached closer and closer to the Gemini Academy, over the course the two-day trip, Emmet felt his excitement grow more and more.
Finally, the railcar slowed and the Gemini Academy rose up into view. Emmet had thought he was done with shocks, that he had seen all the grandeur possible, but with one look at the massive academy, he knew that he was clearly wrong.
Enormous, thousand foot high thick golden gates. An entrance that was so enormous and extravagant that it would be fit for giants fifty times Emmet’s size. Further, there were formations literally everywhere. In the lights, in the grass, on the doors, on the windows, on top of the buildings, on the gates, in the departments of the school floating above the main building, along the walkways, and even in the air, there seemed to be random formations out and about. Most of these looked like floating, glowing intricate patterns.
Floods of people were walking toward the hulking entrance, looking like tiny ant-like dots on an enormous plane. Clearly, people had come from all over to attend the academy.
The railcar stopped and the three stepped out to a scene of great bustle. All around them were various other students and their parents, hurrying toward the academy while looking confusedly down at maps and other pamphlets.
“Alright kids, time to move ya guys in,” Torhah pulled out his own map and two little badges, one gold and one silver, handing them to the two children. “These are your students tokens. You’re in building 3C, room 427… That’s about three miles west from here, we’ll have to take a formation shuttle.”
The two kids nodded and followed him forward. Taruk carried a large floating suitcase behind him on some sort of formation, while Emmet merely carried a humble little sack on his back. There wasn’t much for him to pack – just a few sets of clothes, some toiletries, his contraptions, and his book.
The three threaded through the crowd, Emmet disorientedly bumping into numerous people and almost getting lost several times, until they finally made it to a shuttle station and stepped into a stalled sleek vehicle, decorated fancily with accessory formations and gilded with a sleek gold coating. They took a seat and the shuttle soon began to speed along, its formation locomotives humming powerfully.
Inside the shuttle, the three spotted multiple other pairs of students and their parents, all of which without fail dressed in expensive-looking cloaks (only Emmet was in plain clothes). Some of them were attentively looking into textbooks, others were messing around with complicated-looked formations in their hands, while still others were excitedly looking around just like Emmet. Without fail, all of them seemed to be around Emmet and Taruk’s age – 11-12 years old.
The shuttle stopped three times before stopping at a more peaceful scene, and the three stepped off. Here, there were smaller, more sparsely spaced buildings with large amounts of greenery in between. Although there still clumps of people moving about, some also lugging large suitcases carried on colorful midair formations behind them, there was much less of a bustle, and people seemed to be less rushed.
The three found their building and stepped inside. With one look, they were amazed. The entire space was optimized. On one side was a small efficiently-packed lounge area with barebones couches and tables, and on the other side was a much larger extensive study/experimentation station. Here, there were barrel after barrel of various materials, formations components, and circuitry parts, combined with specialized booth stations meant for studying and building. Clearly, the school was singularly focused on formations.
The three took a colorful formation-powered elevator up to the fourth floor, and after traveling a short distance, quickly found their room. From a glance at the names on the door, they found out that it was actually shared with three others students.
As soon as they reached the door, they heard a chorus of excited voices ring out from inside.
“What classes are you thinking of?”
“I don’t know yet, but for sure, I don’t want to take Introduction to Formations again. I’ve already learned all that!”
“Don’t get cocky. I’ve heard that despite its mundane topics, it’s actually an extremely difficult class! There an added level of complexity in each step. At this level, it’s worth relearning the concepts.”
“That’s to be expected of the Gemini Academy.”
Tauruk excitedly strode forward and opened the door. The three peered in. Inside, there was a warm, spacious loft with six beds spread out throughout the room, several dressers, closets, and four specialized desks in separate corners. Toward the back of the room, three young boys were huddled together on a technicolor mat, all wearing fine cloaks. Sensing the door had opened, they stopped their conversation and turned their heads to inspect the new arrivals.
“Oh hey! You must be Tarauk, right?” One of them exclaimed.
“Yeah! That’s me,” Tauruk scanned over the three boys there and waved with a smile. “You guys are… Fontezul, Torkam, and Ralun?”
“Haha, that’s us!” The boys laughed. “Welcome to 427! You’re kinda late, we all arrived more than a day ago.”
“Dang, I hope I didn’t miss anything!” Tauruk strode forward, casually pushing his suitcase toward one of the remaining unoccupied beds. It floated over and landed on the bed with a light thud.
“Nope! Orientation isn’t ‘til tomorrow,” the boys remarked, welcoming Tauruk in. “Nothing’s happened yet. But after tomorrow, things are gonna happen rapidly!”
“Before that, ahem, Tauruk…” Torhah a bit haughty interrupted from the back, resting his hand on Tauruk’s shoulder. “At least have the decency to say goodbye to your father!”
“Ugh…” Tauruk reluctantly turned and greeted his father. “Yeah, yeah, goodbye father…”
“Be a good student!” Torhah scowled and patted Tauruk on the head. “Don’t forget to send letters. And study hard! If you’re still as useless when you come back, I won’t let off easy!”
“Yeah, yeah,” Tauruk groaned. “Don’t worry, father. I already promised to you that I’ll do well.”
Torhah smiled, clearly pleased. After lingering his gaze on his son for a few moments, he turned toward Emmet and gave a slight smile. Then, he turned and left the room.
This would be the last time Tauruk or Emmet saw him in four years.
The three students chuckled. “Tauruk, come over here and chat! What did you think about that entrance exam? Pretty hard huh?”
At that moment, one of the boys realized that there was another person still in the room, and glanced toward Emmet. After noticing the plain way he was dressed, however, he seemed to lose most of his interest. However, he still looked at him and said: “Oh, and this is…?”
“My squire,” Tauruk said monotonically, as if there was nothing worth talking about. He strode forward toward the group of three and sat down to join them.
“Oh,” the three other children let out a brief sound of acknowledgement and then no longer paid attention to plainly dressed boy standing near the entrance. In fact, this would be the last time in nearly two years that they would pay any attention to Emmet – for the first year and a half, they wouldn’t even know his name.
Emmet would later find out that one of the other children also had a squire, which was why there were six beds. However, he was out running errands for the student, so he wasn’t present. If he was, he wouldn’t have been included in the conversation either. Why would he be? He wasn’t a student. It wasn’t like squires knew anything about formations.
Emmet smartly shut his mouth and strode over toward the last empty bed, which was in a small simpler corner of the loft where the two smallest beds were located. Clearly, these two beds were for the squires. Putting down his plain sack, he unpacked his stuff into a little dresser prepared for him and sat down on the bed. It was very quick – he didn’t have many belongings.
Looking around at the new setting, he suddenly felt a bit overwhelmed. This was just too drastic of a change. This was his new life?
“Hey, squire,” a voice rang out.
It took a moment for Emmet to realize the voice was directed toward him. He looked over and saw that Tauruk had addressed him, his face completely emotionless.
“Ah, uh… yeah?”
“Go register me at admissions,” Tauruk said, tossing Emmet his gold token. “Don’t forget to bring back my ID.”
“Uh…” Emmet stared back at Tauruk in amazement.
Were they strangers? If he didn’t have three months of history with him, even Emmet would have been fooled. Tauruk’s eyes were blank, like this was the first time he had laid eyes on Emmet, and he was just looking at a nameless servant.
Still, Emmet knew he had no room to argue.
“Um… alright. Where is that?”
“Just find it,” Tauruk said noncommitedly while turning back to his conversation with the three other students. The topic had turned toward the school’s different professors and famous alumni, and each student had passionate opinions.
Emmet held onto Tauruk’s gold pin with a bit of exasperation. He hoped that this wouldn’t be his fated role. For four years, would he just be a lackey sent out to do errands?
Luckily, the admissions office was only a block down from the dorm building, and Emmet found it quickly. It was a large fancily decorated hall with a large, winding lobby. On the walls it said “Admissions Office – 3,” indicating that this was just one of many. Although Emmet couldn’t read, he could infer from context the meaning. Turning in Tauruk’s gold student badge and his own silver badge, he received two metal cards – one gilded gold card studded with shiny rubies, and one card made of plain steel, each with numerous microformations embedded inside. The expensive-looking one was for Tauruk and the plain one was for him.
When he returned back to the room, the four boys were were still heatedly discussing. Not wanting to bother them, Emmet placed Tauruk’s gold card on his desk and slinked away. For the rest of the day, he just relaxed on his new bed and single-mindedly tackled some tough puzzles from his book. Just before he went to sleep, he met the other squire, an average-looking and mild-mannered boy named Jiro who greeted him kindly.
At least one person actually acknowledged him as a human.