In this sector, towering structures with blinking red lights blanket the satellite’s surface while various spaceships frequent its atmosphere and ports. Handling a portable yellow and black drill, a lanky, young man in a yellow spacesuit and bronze gravity boots, mines the rugged surface.
It’s been six months since Evin transferred to the primary moon of Gala 6.7-9, a green gas giant, for work, hoping to collect enough credits for a date at the resort on Tower.
His co-workers, likewise attired, avoid the expelled debris while hauling massive boxes and cylinders to the dump vessel before it departs the moon. As the drill burrows, it screeches against a metal plate and snaps off. With his mouth agape, Evin watches the tip fly away.
“Aw, Come on! Not today!”
Electric sparks pop as the spinning cylinder slows to a halt.
His company assigns each worker a drill, and breaking one would cost an entire paycheck to replace.
Dejected, he scans the rotating device to assess the damage and looks at his watch. Under the time flashed this warning: 4 out of 7 m units.
Recalling his first day of class, Evin smiles, and schemes…
“Okay class, listen up,” says a woman dressed in a one-piece burgundy and black uniform.
A digital projector illuminates the room and draws the student’s attention. After everyone settles down, she points her stick at the diagram on the wall.
“I know you just graduated from recruit training, but you still have much to learn, if you wish to make it in this region. Back on earth, there was an assumption that if science was advanced enough, it would be indistinguishable from magic. However, because of the emergence of L Breakers, 200 years ago, we were proven wrong”
She draws a line in the middle on the projector screen and writes, “Magic” and “Science” on each side.
“There is a distinct difference between science and magic. Science, the observation and study of the world, simplifies much of what we know about the universe. However, the laws of physics and thermodynamics severely limit our capabilities. No matter how much we know about the world, we must adhere to the rules”
“Magic, on the other hand, defies nature and helps you exceed the limits of science. The first tier for beginners is earth magic-fire, wind, water, or rock which ignores physics. Since our bodies are produced by nature, using magic comes at a cost. Exercise it, and you will incur a debt of some sort. The stronger the magic, the greater the repayment. This tab is called Magic Liability Cost ( MLC.) Each of you here has a limit on how much debt you can incur, which is known as the Magic Liability Score ( MLS.) Exceed this limit, and you will suffer the consequences. “Yes, Samantha,”
“Instructor, how do we repay the debt?”
“You repay the debt by sacrificing time or magic scores. It depends on how big or small the debt is. The indicator on your wrist will flash when you have exceeded the limit and what it will cost.”
“Wait,” Samantha, scratches her head, “That’s it?”
“Yes, and those with low magic will receive more alerts.”
“What are some of the consequences for exceeding the limit?” another student asks.
“It varies for each person. In extreme cases, you will turn into a monster or lose your life. When you exceed this limit, you’ll succumb to whatever the penalty is and we call that, Karma.”
I think I can get away with it.
He extends his palm over the drill, and it radiates green. The cooling sensation in his palm intensifies as light green sparkles travel from his glove to the object. His magic restores the drill but leaves Evin’s hand numb.
“There,” he wiggles feeling back to his hand.
“Warning!” A female computerized voice echoes in Evin’s helmet, “MLS reached. Please refrain from using magic for the next twelve hours.
“Yeah, Yeah. I know,” he sighs and shuts off the drill. With a light tap to his waist, he deactivates his gravity boots and sails towards an open hatch populated by his co-workers.
Evin, a twenty-five-year-old, weak, un-impressive male in both magic and science, devotes his days struggling to enjoy a modest and easy-going life. His sole hope is retiring with a generous pension, yet, those days seem distant.
He stops near a window that reads “Return Drill Here” and places his in the opening beneath it.
He greets the worker inside with a quick wave.
“Hey man,” the guy says over the intercom, “Did you score any crystal today?”
“No.” Evin sighs, “Nearly broke my drill on a metal plate.”
“Well, better luck next time eh?”
“Yeah,” Evin replies, “See you again.”
Body straight, he grabs a moving service cable that pulls him inside a small, cozy shuttle. Once inside, he taps his waist again and drops to the metal floor where he waits for the room to pressurize.
“Please do not take off your helmets until the room is pressurized.” A masculine voice speaks on the intercom. Air and steam hiss from the roof and fill the craft. The small shuttle takes him to the Operations Facility Worker’s Unit.
Ever since the arrival of the L Breakers, Mankind was able to achieve its romantic goals of space exploration. Warp drives, gravity emitters, and teleport devices are some of many inventions that have been developed with the help of magic. However, due to its limitations, fuel, metals, and gas remain as fallback resources.
“Pressurization complete, please remember to turn your uniforms in for wash.”
When the shuttle doors open, Evin heads into the locker room, undresses, and puts on blue coveralls and steel toe boots.
His earpiece buzzes inside his locker and he answers it.
“Finally, I thought this ear-com didn’t work” A female speaks, “Why can’t you use telepathy like everyone else?”
“I’ve said this a thousand times, Anitra. My MLS is too low”
“Oh, that’s right. Where are we supposed to meet up anyway?”
“In the lobby at Tower 7,” he says, “I’ll be there at seven.”
“Okay hun, see ya there.”
Taking the bud out of his ear, he leaves the locker room and migrates to the adjacent cafeteria. Scores of workers and armed men wait in line for their trays in a cargo-sized room.
The facility is a combination of magic and modern technology. People stand on bright floating glyphs and teleport across rooms while forklifts beep along the smooth metal surface. Walking through the populated cargo area and into the hallway, he reaches a gold hall with fluorescent lights leading to various shops ranging from clothes stores and game rooms. He stops at a kiosk with a flat touch screen that says, “Spells”
“Let’s see if there’s anything new today,” he mumbles as he swipes through the list.
Spells are free so long as there is a spell kiosk nearby. He passes Meteor Shower and Super Nova because of the cost. The cheaper spells had tiny fireballs and icicles. He reaches the bottom of the list and finds a spell with an MLC of one named “Gamble.”
“Well, this is new”
He brings up the description.
“Cast a random low-level spell.”
“Might be useful”
He taps the screen a few times and shifts it to a black screen.
“Please place your hand on the screen for download” The female machine spoke.
As Evin places his brown hand flat on the cold screen, the screen brightens with iridescent sparkles that travel to his palm. A tingling sensation runs up his arm as the spell enters his body and mind. The event ceases and the screen turns off.
As Evin walks down the hall looking at his indictor, a hand shoves his face. After landing on his backside, the offended young man gazes up and glares at a tall man with long blonde hair and pointy ears wearing a militaristic uniform with white gloves and polished black shoes. His pretentious cape waves about as he eyes Evin with a contemptuous scowl.
“Watch where you’re going!” Then, he turns and walks off.
Evin springs to his feet and snaps, “Why don’t YOU watch where you’re going!”
The elf stops, turns around, and glowers at Evin so much, that it sends chills down his spine.
“Watch where I’m going? Clearly, you have no idea who you are speaking to. Let me enlighten you, my dark-skinned buffoon. I am Elred Admonis of the Admonis family. We are the owners of this facility. I think your feeble mind can comprehend the gravity of my social standing.”
“I don’t care,” Evin pokes his index finger in his chest, “you just shoved me.”
Elred, searching his pockets, retrieves a strange, black rectangular device and aims it at Evin.
He presses the button on the very top corner and a green scanner shoots from the device. After scanning Evin for a few seconds, he shoves the device in his coat pocket and checks his indicator.
“Seven?” the elf’s eyes widen as laughs and turns around, “Ah-haha! What a waste of time. I’ve seen rats with better scores.”
The elf mocks Evin on his way to the cafeteria.
This was normal for anyone with low scores. Evin was more or less used to it, but lately, the insults have been happening more frequently. Maybe the demand for people with high scores is greater because of colonial expansion or maybe he is just a sucker with bad luck, either way, he continues.
After passing a few shops, he heads into “ADDENS CASTLE”
“Finally,” he sighs and rolls his eyes.
Evin’s sanctuary, a combination of video games and gym equipment, helps him relieve stress and maintain mental clarity. Exercise and fun had no bearing on his score. Losing himself in his pastimes, he plays a few shooters, flight simulators, and lifts weights.
While he bench-presses, his watch blares in his pocket.
“OH SHOOT, MY DATE!”
He sprints out of the place, goes to his room, showers, puts on a suit, and heads for Tower 7.
Tower 7 is the exclusive area for social gatherings. Parties, political banquets, and wedding celebrations are just a few of the events taking place here. The gold shingles hanging from the roof of the square tower display the grandeur of the architecture and the ivory double doors welcome the elite. A gold and diamond chandelier glistens above a fancy dining hall with large windows that showcase the distant constellations. Servers busily take orders while soft music graces the banquet. The bouquet of roses and carnations on every table creates a calm and romantic environment.
Evin, in a black suit and white tie, arrives with his bouquet of tropical flora and searches for his date. Anitra, a tall attractive dark-elf with amber eyes, slung her long, silky, black braided ponytail over her shoulder. Evin recognizes the woman admiring the view as she stares out the window. Her sparkling white dress graces her slender body while she clutches a purse beneath her shoulder.
Astonished by her beauty, he frequently visits the Logistics Office, her place of employment, on his way to work. Her job, as a first-level logistics analyst, consists of documenting and shipping mined crystals. She was elegant and well-kept, something Evin admires. It took him some time to work up enough courage to ask her out, but she accepted. He saunters up beside her and looks up at the stars.
“It’s an incredible sight isn’t it?” he says.
Surprised, Anitra whips her head towards him.
“Evin, it’s you.”
Runny mascara lines her soft flushed cheeks and her glassy eyes fill with emotion.
“Is something wrong?”
“No-nothing,” she wipes her face with a white cloth, “I was just thinking about a few things.”
“Well, why don’t we talk about it with a dance?”
She nods and he extends his arm.
The couple saunters to the center of the glass dance floor and faces one another. He grabs her hand and waist while she places her hand over his shoulder. As one, they waltz to the soothing music.
As the two sail, Evin gazes into her amber eyes which seem lost and forlorn.
“You’re not fooling anyone with those eyes,”
“It’s that obvious?”
The two separate and he gracefully pulls her back while their feet glide.
“It’s hard to hide when you’ve been hurt.”
He gazes into her eyes as her braided hair moves.
“Tell me, I’m here.”
“I’m not sure you want to find out.”
“Have you ever been in love?”
They twirl in tune with each other, and the music takes them away in a trance. The Dark elf dances with a provocative sophistication that lulls the senses.
“This isn’t love?”
“No, this is something that’s happening. When I was young, I had this fairy-tale infatuation with love. Thinking that it’s all about the flowers, the dances, and the pretty dresses. But as you get older, you realize that those are nothing but short events that play out in a long life.”
He was silent because he didn’t like where the conversation was going.
“I wanted something that’ll last forever and for a while, I thought I had it. Up until now.”
Then the trance breaks and the two release their embrace while everyone else continues dancing. Evin casts Anitra an anxious look as heartbreak settles in.
“You broke up with someone,”
“Yes,” Anitra looks at him and a guilty tear rolls down her cheek.
“I was just using you to get back at him,” she says, “I was hoping that he’d come crawling back to me so that I can force him to love me. Little good, that did. I’m sorry for dragging you into all of this.”
“Tell me one thing,” he says as he balls his fist in anger. “Why did you pick me?”
He knew the answer. He just wanted her to say it.
“B…because of your score.”
His heart sinks, but he wasn’t surprised. Deep down he knew there was an ulterior motive involved. How can someone so beautiful, graceful, and well-known date someone like him? Even so, he dated her anyway and hoped it would be different. The ache in his heart corrects his foolish naivety.
Evin, hurt and dejected, turns and parts ways with his date for the evening.
Later on, he lies down in his one-bedroom apartment with a closet and a washroom. With lights off, the moon shines a faint blue light in the window. Evin stares at the ceiling with his hands behind his head.
What am I doing here? I left earth to make it on my own and carve out a piece of the good life. But all I’ve gotten is rejection, insults, and heartbreak. I don’t want anything grand. I just wanted a simple life, a wife, kids, and the ability to take care of them, but my score is keeping me from reaching my goals. Why was I born like this? Why do scores even matter?
Evin’s thoughts trail off as his drowsy eyes slowly shut. A dark veil closes over his eyes and he dives into a deep slumber.
In the next work cycle, Evin drills away his rage. Gripping the handles, he pushes the drill hard into the surface, expelling debris in all directions.
He keeps his mind blank, trying to ignore murderous thoughts.
Then, his drill strikes a metal surface, and the drill tip snaps and malfunctions again.
Evin slams his drill to the ground and kicks, “Oh come on, you’re gonna quit on me too!?”
He places his fists on his hips and looks at the void. Taking a few moments to cool off, he counts down from ten and takes a deep breath.
Alright, Evin calm down. You had a rough day yesterday but don’t let it get to you. Just gotta keep it going.
The self-therapy soothes his mind and he musters a smile. With a relieving exhale, he kneels to pick up his machine and hoovers his hand over it to repair it. However just as he was about to use his healing spell, he notices a flickering blue light deep in the ground. Evin squats and peers into the hole.
He removes chunks of rocks and dust around the illuminating blink. Then, with one heave, he removes a sizeable chunk of rock overlaying a silver, metal coffin with a rectangular looking glass and a flickering blue light at the very top. Six feet in length, the metal coffin had the words KARMA 01 imprinted on its surface and a busted terminal with exposed wires. Confused, Evin stands and looks around, wondering if anyone saw it. He folds his arms and closes his eyes.
Okay… what’s this thing doing all the way out here? Should I report this? Looks like it’s been here for a very long time. And why is it named Karma?
Evin wants to report his findings, but his curiosity makes him investigate further. His feet clank on the metal coffin and he drops to his knees. He sifts the moon dust off the looking glass, and he notices a pair of closed eyes.
This confused Evin even more. This moon had just been discovered to have bio-crystals; there is no possible way that humans or elves could’ve been here. So why was there someone buried here?
“Let’s see if I can fix this broken terminal,” he says.
Evin opens his palm over the busted terminal and a wave of stress courses through his body as green sparkles rain from his palm to the mechanism. He raises his left arm to look at his MLS on his rectangular watch as it turns from two to three and three to four.
“Its… really… draining… my score”
His rattled nerves make him sweat more.
“Warning, approaching MLS limit”
“I have to stop.”
Evin tries to pull his right hand away but a hidden force seizes his arm.
Using his spare hand, he grabs his wrist and tries to pry his arm free.
Panicking, His boots scrape the metal surface as he desperately tries to escape. His hand goes completely numb as he huffs in exhaustion from the spell. A glance at his wristwatch and his eyes widen in horror.
“Magic Score Limit Breached. KARMA…KARMA…KARMA”