Category Linkin Park

Look to the Stars by squashie

Chapter 1. Selection

[I had a weird dream, got out of bed in the middle of the night and tried to write it down. Then I decided to turn some bits of it into an intro for a short and slashy sci-fi fic before I forgot the essence of it. As one does. Anyway. If you think it’s worth me carrying on with something weird like this, let me know. I won’t be offended if not. It's a bit out there. (See what I did there?) Hope you all had a lovely Christmas if you celebrated it and a lovely Monday if you didn’t. I drank too much egg nog, which is perhaps why I’m having weird dreams. Love to all. x]


Chapter 1. Selection


“It’s archaic. We’re surely beyond this now, as a people—”

“Kenji,” says Muto, “You cannot become Sky Prime if you do not cooperate with this. The ritual is old, but it is part of the symbolism of the rank itself. It is important. How many times do we need to have this conversation? You need to understand—”

“What if I don’t wish to be Prime?”

Muto throws his hands into the air, bioluminescent beads jangling at his wrists. “It is written,” he says, exasperated. “My time is ending and your star is rising.”

“I can pilot a craft out into the Distance perfectly well without having to suffer this disgusting ritual—”

“Yes, you have the ability,” says Muto. “But not the permission. Tradition is important. It’s not just for you. It’s for them.” He indicates the hum of voices coming from outside the synthetic habitent. “You are a boy, Kenji. They do not want to entrust their future to a boy. Now go out there and make your selection.”

“And what about the ones I have to select from? How do they feel about this tradition? What if they don’t wish to be selected?”

“Kenji… they were falling on their knees at the registration, desperate for the opportunity to become Selected. You have ten to choose from, as custom dictates, but there were tens upon tens applying for the honour—”

“That sickens me,” says Kenji, running a gloved hand over his close-cropped dark blue hair. “They don’t know me.”

“They know you as their Prince, and tomorrow, they will know you as their Prime. You must go now. They are growing impatient.”

And indeed, the hum of voices has become a loud buzz. Muto is standing now, holding out his hand to his son. Reluctantly, Kenji takes his father’s hand and allows himself to be led out of the habitent and onto the raised moonlit dais overlooking the crowd of eager Observers, several hundred in total, their faces illuminated by the flickering white glow of solar torches.

The Observers cheer as Muto and Kenji emerge behind the podium, and Kenji steps forward, bowing his head humbly and respectfully to his people. Muto retrieves the Prince’s crown from its place on the podium and settles it carefully onto Kenji’s head. It’s a crown of tiny iridescent shells fixed onto a simple steel hoop, and it sparkles in the light of the three moons. Kenji, clad in his formal white tunic and matching trousers, with soft blueskin shoes and gloves, feels every eye in the crowd upon him, and wishes for a moment that he could be dressed in a simple grey robe, hidden amongst them, anonymous.

At the front of the crowd, draped in gauzy dresses of blue and white are the ten women Kenji must choose from, standing in a row looking up at him with nervous excitement. He shudders, his mind tuning out the drone of his father’s voice as he goes on and on about the power of tradition, the rich history of their people, the great things they have achieved on this tiny, far-flung planet of Niknil, and how so much of their prosperity and success is owed to the bravery and curiosity embodied by the Sky Prime, setting off alone into the stars to forge connections with other civilisations, to learn and trade and return with knowledge and wisdom for his people.

Kenji’s eyes shift from one Selected woman to the next. They are diverse in size and shape, in skin colour and hair style, all young and beautiful, but he doesn’t wish to spend the night with any of them. His selection will have to be at random.

Kenji is resentful of this tradition, its anachronistic feeling, his lack of any say in the matter, his father’s failure to acknowledge the possibility of him being… otherwise inclined. He has never explicitly told his father of his preferences, but he has never made any effort to hide this truth either, and he is certain that Muto must, at the very least, have some inkling that his son does not have an affinity for women. It makes this event all the more frustrating for Kenji, suspecting, as he does, that his father is insisting on upholding the tradition in its original form even though he knows that it isn’t right for his son.

The Sky Prince appraises the last of the ten women in the row and then sees, just behind her, a young man. He is wearing the customary dark grey robes of the Observers, but the way he has arranged the garment over his shoulder has left swathes of his body exposed to the elements. A thin shoulder, a pale chest, part of a smooth, flat stomach, an angular hip… Kenji’s gaze slides appreciatively over this body before he drags his eyes up to the young man’s face and is startled to find that he is staring straight at him with big, dark eyes, glittering in the light of the lamps. Kenji looks away for a moment, embarrassed, but finds his gaze drawn almost immediately back. The Observer’s face is beautiful, delicate and strange. His short, curly hair is dyed a bright white and he would look innocent were it not for the fact that he is seductively biting his bottom lip, which appears to be pierced, and continuing to stare straight at the Sky Prince with flagrant disregard for the accepted codes of respect. He even has the audacity to smile — a devious little smirk — and Kenji feels a fluttering in his chest, heat rising in his cheeks. Who is this outrageous and distracting creature?

“Kenji,” says Muto. “You must make your selection now. You must take your first step into your future.” He gestures towards the low stairs leading down from the dais, and Kenji begins his descent, his eyes flicking desperately over the Selected, trying to make a last-minute decision. But he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to lie down with any of these women. He doesn’t want to touch them or couple with them. He doesn’t want any of them to bear him children. He just wants to get into his Skycraft and set off on his first adventure into the stars.

The Selected think that they want him, but they don't know who he is. Whichever one he selects will be disappointed and feel used when the night is over. He hates the thought of disappointing any of them almost as much as he hates the idea of lying with them in the first place.

His heart is kicking in his chest as he walks along the line of women, avoiding their hungry eyes, trying to ignore the eager murmuring of the crowd behind them, cursing himself for being so incapable of making a decision. He is going to be Sky Prime. He needs to be better at things like this, to set an example for his people. He needs to please them.

But why should he? He never asked for any of this. He never asked to be born into the lineage of the leaders, or to be sexually indifferent to women. He didn’t ask for this humiliation. If he’s going to be the most important person on Niknil — the very symbol of its pioneering greatness — then why doesn’t he get a say in the way traditions are carried out? Why isn’t he allowed to opt out entirely?

Kenji reaches the end of the row of Selected and his eyes fall once again upon the slim form of the young man, who is still staring at him, still smiling at him, and it occurs to Kenji that even if his father is unwilling to acknowledge his orientation, that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been noted and accepted by other casual onlookers. He has never been intimate with another person before, but he has indulged in bold flirting when the opportunity has presented itself — and it often has, given his striking good looks, his natural charisma and his status as Prime in Waiting. The beautiful Observer is now running the tip of his tongue lightly along his pierced bottom lip, his eyes still locked brazenly onto Kenji’s, and before he can stop himself, Kenji extends his gloved hand to the young man and says:

“I select him — if he's willing.”


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