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 Two: Too Competent to Find Himself in a Life or Death Situation in the First Place
Legend smiled as he slid the next invoice off the pile. Paperwork was an important aspect of hospitality, and as the youngest invoicing operative in Hospitality Sector TZ33, Legend understood the value of hospitality. In the margin of the document, in Legend’s handwriting, was the usual statement: “I am grateful for the sacrifices people like you make on a daily basis, and as such your accommodation is on me today.” Beneath that, written by the guest, would be the usual response: “I couldn’t help but notice how hard you’ve been working; I hope this exorbitant tip brightens your day”.
Except the usual response wasn’t there. There was a response—Legend had read it twice—but it certainly wasn’t usual.
“Father!” he called out as he got to his feet.
He stumbled out to the front counter, where his father was busily booking and unbooking restaurant tables.
“Father, what does this mean?”
He handed the invoice to his father, who read it and promptly incinerated it on the nearby fire.
“It was an Unusual response”, his father said.
“Yes, but what did it mean?”
His father’s eyes told him he was venturing into unsafe territory, and as if to emphasise the point, a patron in the lobby stood up and left.
“I- I’m asking for Heroine. She wanted to know.”
“Heroine?” his father shouted. “Have you been asking Unusual questions?”
“No, father,” a young girl’s voice rang out from beneath the floorboards, “but I will get started immediately.”
“That won’t be necessary,” he replied, before directing the full force of his gaze onto Legend. “Legendiah Obadiah Faramiah the First”.
Legend gulped. His full name was only recited in moments of absolute naughtiness, such as the time he made up a double bed using queen-sized linen.
“I wish you had not asked me that question, but I am bound by the Hospitality Oath, and it would be rude of me not to answer, unless of course you were to retract the question.”
“Father,” said Legend, “I apologise for asking such a question, and I realise the trouble it could cause you as my nominated parent. Nevertheless, I value my curiosity above your wellbeing, so I insist that you answer.”
“As you wish. The message contained a set of directions.”
“Directions to where?”
“Not where, Legend, but when.”
“Very well, directions to when?”
“That I cannot say, for I have already destroyed them. Now, run to the precincture and inform Coordinator Nicer. We must not be thought to be acting Unusually ourselves.”
Legend nodded and left.
* * *
As Legend hurried through the streets towards the precincture, he couldn’t help but feel conflicted. He knew that someone in his situation should yearn for something more—something beyond the walls of his sector, the dictates of his industry, or the teachings of the Administration—but he felt no such yearning. Probably because of the eighteen months of Corrective Affirmations he endured between the ages of nine and ten. It had seemed like a lot at the time, and Legend had since heard stories of people from other sectors going blind after just two weeks, but his had been a particularly difficult case, apparently.
For similar reasons, perhaps, Legend also felt no resentment towards his nominated family. He knew that someone in his situation should distrust his artificial familial unit, and long to meet his birth parents. He knew that he should resent the repetitive nature of his work as an invoicing operative, and long for the sort of life that would be punishable by the crime of Adventure. And yet Legend loved his father, loved his sister Heroine, and loved his work as an invoicing operative.
Having dwelled on the matter for a good few blocks, Legend could not even remember why he had presented the Unusual invoice to his father in the first place. Of course it was Unusual, what more was there to know? He should have destroyed it immediately and thanked the Administration that he was not exposed to unfamiliar ideas more often. And yet something about it had made him act differently, had awoken some buried urge—
—The smell of sawdust. The sound of hooves. Darkness. A fire burning in the distance. A female voice screaming in his ear. A sudden blow to his temple—
Legend shook his head, clearing the visions. Not again. Legend was already the youngest invoicing operative in Hospitality Sector TZ33, and even though his appointment had been the result of a bureaucratic oversight within the Administration, it must have hurt the feelings of his fellow operatives when he received his bronze inkwell. Hadn’t he caused enough trouble without adding unauthorised visions to the mix?
* * *
“Coordinator Nicer will see you now.”
Legend closed the door behind him and looked around the vast waiting room. Aside from the superintendent, the place was empty – and yet Legend had only just arrived himself. How did they know—
“The Coordinator has been expecting you,” said the superintendent.
That was almost certainly a bad sign.
As Legend crossed the marble floor, he couldn’t help but wonder if the superintendent had somehow read his mind. Such a power was not unheard of, but Legend had only ever seen it in senior members of the Administration. Erring on the safe side, however, Legend focussed his thoughts on how much he loved his life in Hospitality Sector TZ33, and how grateful he was for the Administration’s continued benevolence.
Exiting the waiting room, Legend made his way up the staircase that led to Coordinator Nicer’s floor. Though he had not set foot in the building for years, he retained vivid memories of his daily visits to Nicer’s office during his period of Corrective Affirmations. Everything was as he remembered it: the cool stone walls, the steady glow of the battery candles, the distant hum of the gear room in full swing. The only difference was the smell, which was more ominous than he remembered. As ominousness isn’t normally detectable through the olfactory senses, Legend figured something important was about to happen.
He arrived at his destination floor and crept the final ten paces to Coordinator Nicer’s office. The Coordinator wasn’t fond of loud noises, so Legend tapped softly on the heavy wooden door.
He waited, then tapped again, louder this time.
Still no answer.
After a minute’s silence, Legend tapped one more time, louder than his previous tap but not so loud as to constitute a knock.
Legend sighed, formed his hand into a fist, and knocked.
Casting aside all pretence of quietness, Legend pounded his fist against the ancient timber. BOOM BOOM BOOM… creeaaaaak.
The door swung inwards under the force of Legend’s pounding, revealing Coordinator Nicer asleep on the floor in the centre of the room. Except he was not asleep. A river of blood was gushing from his neck, staining his long blonde hair and the dragon-fur rug on which he lay. His turquoise eyes, normally so comforting, now stared blankly at the ceiling above, and his once-healthy skin was pale and desiccated.
Legend took a step back, wanting to vomit but not wanting to create a mess that someone else would have to clean up.
“Stop right there!” a voice cried out from the direction of the stairs.
Legend turned to see four Administration Guardsmen, their crossbows levelled in his direction. This would take some explaining, but he was confident that once they’d all sat down with a pot of tea, reason would prevail. Either that or he could blame his father.
Yes, that was probably a better idea.
Legend retreated into the Coordinator’s office and slammed the door behind him, just as four crossbow bolts cannoned into the woodwork. Hurdling the corpse in the centre of the room, he leapt onto the desk and launched himself through the enormous glass window that looked out over the town. He fell…
…and then grabbed hold of a tree branch, swinging to the safety of the trunk with a strength and coordination that felt almost surreal. He hurried down the tree like it was a gentle staircase with a pleasant handrail, and hit the ground running.
Back through the town he raced, past the inns and hotels and B&Bs, and past the innkeepers and hoteliers and quaint married couples who tended them. He knew that his actions would be perceived as Unusual, but he didn’t care.
A crossbow bolt slammed into the dirt in front of him. He turned and cut down a service lane, a shortcut in the technical sense of the word, but no place for an invoicing operative. His reputation in the sector would suffer irreparable damage if anyone were to see him.
Fortunately, he made it to the other end unsighted, and after a few more twists and turns, found himself back at his family’s inn. Safe at last.
The sound of gunfire from inside. Legend raced through the front door to see his father slumped over the arrival desk, blood oozing from the hole in his skull.
“Please don’t!” cried a small girl.
Heroine! Legend ran downstairs just in time to see a tall robed figure pull the trigger of his handmusket, and his sister’s brains spatter against the far wall. She dropped to the ground, lifeless and destroyed.
The figure rounded on Legend, and pulled back the hood of his cloak. A pair of turquoise eyes stared straight into Legend’s soul, framed by locks of long, blonde hair.