16 Indomitable friendship and new affections

"But I have to say, that pipsqueak was really something. I'm surprised they let someone like him in."

"He's actually pretty talented for someone so ordinary. He has a charm we modified guys don't have," John said.

The guy chuckled. It was the same guy who pushed Theo. "You can be funny huh? You're probably the second strongest guy on this ship and you're telling me something like that?" He chuckled some more. "You're going to betray him on the field and enjoy his despair, aren't you?" His tone went dark.

They were on the terrace of the artificial garden. The terrace was two stories high and there was grass below, at the bottom: the terrace floor was made of glass. The air had the fragrance of hundreds of flowers from many planets.

Some birds were chirping; tranquil.

The ceiling was high, maybe five floors, and looked like the sky; artificial.

Truly a blissful place.

"Not really." John flashed a brilliant grin. "It's more fun to betray assholes like you, Monty."

The guy- Monty's face went pale. "Wh-what are you saying, John? Yo-you're joking?"

Monty was an explorer. He wasn't that experienced but confident enough, in his skills. One could even say he was overconfident. He also had a knack for judging people on based on the first meeting.

"Do you know why they call me 'the backstabber'?" John showed his teeth. "It's because I hate some people. You're one of them. You like to 'push' people right?" John remembered how Monty had pushed Theo against the wall and his teeth rattled.

Monty took a step back. "Stay back!" He took out a knife.

It wasn't an ordinary knife: sharper than most blades. Soldiers or rather explorers weren't permitted to carry anything more than a knife inside the ship. It was standard protocol. But even carrying knives were seen as malpractice. After all, they weren't going to war.

"Are you sure you want to point that at me?" John grinned and taunted.

Liters of sweat poured from Monty's face. 'What the hell happened to him?' Monty couldn't believe his eyes. He was shaking. He didn't know why but his body was telling him to run. Modified humans, especially explorers were supposed to be fearless yet he couldn't stand his ground.

Even moments ago the guy in front of him- John, was just a friendly guy and a very competent comrade but now, now he looked more like a predator that feasted on Monty's fears.


For a second John blurred. No, he moved so fast that Monty only saw his afterimages. Just a centimeter away, John glared at Monty. "Next time, you lay a finger on- you even point your damn finger at my buddy, and I'll 'push' you off the ship. Understood?" His voice was robotic. No emotions. But his eyes were a different story; bloodshot.


"Good. Now run along. And if you tell anyone about this-" John smiled, walking back.

"I-I won't."

"I'll hold you to your word." Obviously, John didn't trust Monty even for a second but he laid out his threats anyway. It was more fun for him this way.

Monty almost staggered but ran away. John stared at the garden and smiled. There was a reason he was called 'the backstabber'. Rumor went that he used to pretend to be people's friend and they would mysteriously get injured: that was back when he was in high school. Before John could do anything, he lost all his friends and school ended. No one knew to which extent the rumors were true or how they first started.

But time never stopped and John became a lone wolf.

He met Theo at the college. Obviously, Theo didn't know about John's nickname nor did he care. He trusted John as a fellow human being and as a friend. Everything else was irrelevant. That's how the two came to know each other. Of course at first, John didn't give two hoots about Theo but eventually, things happened.

And as the memories came flooding back to John's mind, he grinned and just sniffed the sweet scent of the flowers, staring at the fake sun in the holo sky.

Truly a blissful place.

Someone watched from the shadow. The silhouette of a girl. John noticed her but didn't care. He only smiled and enjoyed the beauty and the sweet-sweet fragrance of flowers.


Few moments prior to that, Voli Sellapi was walking down the corridor of a garden in the Ainmester explorer ship. She came to this ship for work. She only had one goal: get rich.

She heard a noise and stood by the entrance of the garden. There was a terrace above. Two guys were up there. She knew one of them. 'What's Monty doing up there? Some kind of trouble?'

She was about to call out but suddenly Monty fell on the ground and started to shiver. Something was wrong. Monty wasn't like that. Voli knew Monty for a short time but she thought highly of him. A robust, strong individual, at least that's what she'd thought up until now. But it all shattered.

Voli's bright red hair flowed with the artificial wind as she witnessed something primordial: fear itself.

Monty was swimming in his own sweat, while the man in front of him stood erect with utmost sincerity. Voli was staggered at the sight. She had never seen something so terrifying, something so majestic. The man standing wasn't some random soldier. It wasn't someone who bragged about superior genes. It was the kind of person who knocked out opponents at full force and had no remorse in doing so. Voli could tell it at just a single glance. 'He's beautiful.'

And perhaps a bit terrifying.

The man said something to Monty and he barely got up and ran away. The man- John stood by the terrace and gazed upon the garden: he'd noticed Voli but didn't care.

Voli gazed at John. This was the first time she saw him but it felt like she'd known him for years.

She was mesmerized- no spellbound by John's smile. And now Voli Sellapi had one more goal.

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