Eagle Perfect: Legend of the First is a parody of dystopian young adult novels, in which two ‘chosen ones’ vie for the status of world-saving protagonist. New readers should start at Chapter 1, or you can consult the Table of Contents.
Chapter Six: The Journey Begins
Legend spat a mouthful of muck onto the floor. The two Guardsmen did the same. Somehow, he was controlling them, seeing what they saw, feeling what they felt. Legend was accustomed to considering the feelings of others—the Sector Code required it—but this was far more intense than anything he’d previously experienced. It felt as if his senses would overheat from all the information they were receiving, and for some reason, he thought of sawdust.
If he were not presently situated in an Administration prison, and wanted for the unauthorised killing of a Sector Coordinator, Legend might have felt encumbered by his newfound accessories. As it was, he figured they might be useful in securing his escape. Quite why he felt entitled to escape he wasn’t sure – the Administration wanted him dead, and the Sector Code said the Administration was always right. That his sentence had no basis in fact was irrelevant, and Legend realised he was veering dangerously close to the crime of Demanding Justice. Confident that a mentor figure would soon materialise to explain the situation and eliminate any ambiguity, Legend focussed his attentions on escape.
The first challenge was untying the leather straps around his wrists and ankles. As he hopped to his feet, the two Guardsmen hopped up too, mimicking his every move in real time. So accurate was their mimicry that, despite a lack of handcuffs or ankle bindings, the Guardsmen still stood with their feet together and their hands behind their backs, just like Legend. Turning on the spot, Legend presented his hands to be untied. The two Guardsmen also turned, such that all three sets of hands were facing inwards. With all eyes facing outwards, however, Legend could do little more than grasp blindly with his fingers (and thus, the fingers of the Guardsmen) in the rough vicinity of his straps. Fortunately, he could feel what the Guardsmen touched, and was soon able to release his bonds. The ankle strap was much simpler—he could untie it himself—and Legend couldn’t help but smile at the sights of the two Guardsmen unfastening their own, non-existent ankle strapping. (“Sights” plural, because Legend had three different viewpoints of the action.)
With his limbs freed, and his mimics in lockstep either side of him, Legend made for the cell door. They doorway was not wide enough for the three of them, but after a three point turn and some synchronised low speed manoeuvring, they managed to sidestep through the opening as a cohesive unit.
“Where are you took the handsome boy?”
Legend and his posse turned to see a warden eyeing them suspiciously.
“I were thinking Sloen want him dead.”
“Yes, but not here,” said Legend and both of his Guardsmen. “That cell is entirely white, and his blood will surely leave a stain.”
Convinced by the practical nature and sheer volume of the explanation, the warden stepped aside and let them pass. Legend hoped he was going in the right direction.
* * *
Three hours, several wrong turns, and a small chicken later, Legend finally emerged into the morning light of Hospitality Sector TZ33. Dusting the feathers from his shoulders, he realised he had no idea where to go next. Staying in Hospitality Sector TZ33 seemed like a bad idea, given the Administration’s desire to have him killed, and Hospitality Sectors TZ34, TZ35, and TZ36 were out of the question for the same reason. Indeed, the only un-Administrated place he knew of was the Railweb, which would be suicide, but worse. “And the Lyceum,” Legend remembered, “where the presumptuous farmchild and his decrepit elderly companion were headed.” But for all Legend knew, the Lyceum could be worse even than the Railweb. If only that mentor would come along, Legend could start blindly following and asking inane questions—
“There you are. I’ve been searching everywhere for you.”
Legend looked up in amazement. She was, without a doubt, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Even if he had not been in the market for a mentor, he would have followed her for the warmth and purity that radiated from her every freckle and both dimples.
Unfortunately for Legend, she was a good ten years older than him, and talking to someone else.
“You Guardsmen are never around when we need you,” she continued, “which I understand, because you have important responsibilities. But my needs are equally as important as anyone else’s in this Sector, so I demand that you assist me now if you have the time and are not otherwise disposed.”
Legend smiled. It felt good to be back amongst normal people.
“Well?” the woman continued. “Are you going to stand there smiling, which you may be doing for any number of reasons including unconsciously and I am not judging you for, or are you going to help me?”
“How can we help?” said Legend and his two automatons, each at a third of their normal volume. “Miss…?”
“Eleanora Dant, brancode 7736241.”
Legend nodded, as if he knew exactly what a brancode was and why this woman would feel compelled to mention it on first meeting.
“It’s Glammon, down at the old Faramiah Inn. The man looks to have killed himself without permission from the Administration. Gouged out his own eyeballs and whatnot. It’s got the town in a real lather; they’re having all sorts of Ideas. If he can do that, why can’t we?”
“You want to kill yourself?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t know it was a choice until today.”
“I don’t think it is. The Sector Code forbids it.”
“But he did it anyway. His actions have caused us to question our own decisions, and that’s affecting our feelings.”
“What do you want us to do about it?”
“He’s already dead.”
Eleanora stared at the Guardsmen.
“How will we punish him,” Legend continued, “if he’s no longer alive?”
“That’s your job to figure out. All I know is the Administration exists to protect our feelings, and Glammon’s killing himself made us feel inferior for not thinking of doing the same, and also sad to have lost a friend. He must be punished.”
Legend nodded. That certainly sounded correct, and yet he felt as if a fog or perhaps a small amount of steam from a boiling kettle was preventing him from seeing a deeper truth in the situation.
A crowd had begun to gather, eagerly awaiting his verdict. Several people he recognised, including Old Saeffra, who made her living carving regular-sized bars of soap into much smaller bars of soap. If no punishment was handed out, they would become suspicious and report the incident to the Precincture. Mentor or no mentor, Legend needed to act.
“All those who demand punishment, raise a hand.”
Every person within earshot raised a hand. Some raised two.
“You will have your wish,” said Legend, “but it is not Glammon who will be punished. It is you. How dare you question the Administration? Did you not think that the Administration allowed Glammon to die in order to protect you from an even greater discomfort?”
Muttered admissions began to circulate amongst the crowd, acknowledging the plausibility of this explanation.
“For your lack of faith in the Administration, which is almost certainly a crime under the Sector Code, I sentence you all to death.”
* * *
Legend allowed his words to sink in, knowing that more would soon follow which would fundamentally alter the meaning, but seduced nonetheless by the tension his pause was creating.
“Unless,” he finally resumed, “there is one among you who knows the way to the Lyceum and can see us there safely.”
A silence fell over his audience, followed by timid whisperings and looks of utter confusion. Legend glanced at Eleanora, hoping that she might step forward. She did not.
“This is official Administration business,” he said, “so don’t be shy about possessing unauthorised knowledge.”
He looked at Eleanora again, imploring her to be the one to lead him on his journey. It wasn’t entirely out of the question—she was branmarked, whatever that meant—and besides, he suspected they would get along as travelling companions. Aside from being beautiful, she was… well, he would get to know her in due course, and no doubt he would uncover some positive attribute of her personality to latch onto. Yet she remained resolute in her ignorance.
Legend scoured the rest of the crowd. He had assumed that someone would know the way to the Lyceum, and was now coming to grips with the reality that he might have to kill every single person here. This made him nervous, as he didn’t know how to fire a crossbow. Fortunately for Legend, a solitary hand slowly rose from the throng.
“You, come forward.”
The arm came forward, and soon revealed itself to be attached to the body of an elderly man, which was in turn attached to the neck, head, legs, feet, and other arm of an elderly man, all in the regular arrangement. Legend sighed. This fellow was twice as old and twice as thin as the Magic Knight, and would be entirely incapable of lifting a sword, let alone swinging it in anger if the moment required it.
“Do you know the way to the Lyceum?” Legend asked.
“No,” the old man replied, his bony finger pointing at Eleanora, “but she does.”
Eleanora’s shoulders slumped in defeat. She stepped forward and kneeled slightly so as to be level with Legend’s ear. In a voice barely louder than a breath of air, she whispered:
“You’re making a terrible mistake.”