chapter 1

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chapter 1

Beika flew a travel cloud. It was a vehicle without wheels, constructed by encoding the program for a basic structure, then rapidly collecting water droplets that turned white and fluffy as they followed the altered aircodes. The travel cloud stayed on course by following the skycodes, as directed by the programmer.

The travel cloud she used at the moment was as long as she was tall plus two feet more, as wide as her armspan. Just enough space for herself, Marceau, and their satchels. Marceau sat beside her, a young lady of her same age, with green curly hair that fluttered in the afternoon breeze, with a frilly skirt she had difficulty pinning down over her lap. Beika wore loose, almost baggy trousers, and enjoyed the breeze.

Beika flew over the fields and forests of southeast Pendi. They were almost at the river Pembagi, thick by a few miles across, dividing Pendi, her nation, from Selatan, the one beyond the river. She kept the travel cloud moving in a straight line, carefully watching the flickering from the memory jade. Memories stored in jewels did not change over time, unlike memories stored in lifecodes that either faded or were reinterpreted.

He was a close friend, even if he did not think so. Her memory jade was filled with him, memories of walks around town, memories of days together listening to concerts in the music programming halls. By activating its search programs, it would seek out the person most prominent within the memory jade, if he were within range of skycodes and groundcodes. It would find only him. She was not stopping now.  She would not let him go so easily. 

Her hair, straight, black streaked with white, blew in the breeze. She raised her spectacles over her eyes. “It’s him. It has to be him.” 

“You’re crazy, Beika,” the other programmer flicked her green hair off her shoulder. “Then again, you’ve always been a little crazy. You’re the only one who ever bothered about ‘Melan-cho’.”

“It’s ‘Melan-ko’, Marceau.”

“Melan-choo, Melan-chow…the same annoying loner firespark Melancho of northeast no one cares about.”  

Beika rolled her eyes. But she had no intentions of giving up. Even at the borders of Pendi. She would even go to Selatan itself if she had to. But she was not giving up on him. 

The two young programmers looked down from the travel cloud. One glanced from the woods below, to a flickering memory jade in her hand. The flickering was faint, yet unwavering. 

“We’re at the border,” Marceau said, “The timelines say…” 

Beika faced her. “I don’t care what the timelines say, Marceau. I have to find Melancho.” 

“We haven’t found anyone like him. Give it up. We have other fire programmers. They will work something out. They will not need the Crimson Master’s apprentice.” 

To Marceau, he was just the Crimson Master’s apprentice. Marceau was an assistant to the defense committee. If Beika managed to find the Crimson Master’s apprentice, the committee wanted to know. But Marceau had no high hopes. To Beika, he was Melancho. She needed to find him, because he was her friend.

The memory jade stopped flickering. It started to glow, faint yet consistent. Beika pointed down.

“There.” She began to steer the travel cloud lower, into the trees. 

“How sure are you?” Marceau asked. 

“I’m not very sure, but I have to try,” Beika turned her back to Marceau and lowered the travel cloud through the leaves and branches. 

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