Prism An Original Story by Kaisaan and DotCom prism (n) 1. A transparent body, often of glass and usually with triangular ends, which separates a singular beam of light into a multi-colored spectrum. 2. A medium that misrepresents whatever is seen through it. “Life is like a prism. What you see depends on how you turn the glass.” ~Jonathan Kellerman --- On the first morning of the annual Auction, the air was warm and gentle as the caress of a trusted lover, lightly scented with a native fruit the Cerebrae had come to call starfruit. It had a tart, vaguely citrus flavor, and was generally too bitter to eat straight from the creeping vines that sprouted the small, garish red bulbs. But when baked, as for today's festivities, into tarts and sweetcakes, the starfruit abandoned its harsh acidic qualities in favor of a moist and succulent sweetness that stayed with the taster until fading into a pleasant aftertaste. In the generation since the Cerebrae had first discovered their new home, the once common starfruit had become something of a rare delicacy, typically enjoyed only by the wealthier families, and even then, only on special occasions. Those who knew how to cook and coerce the starfruit into releasing its pleasant flavor were even rarer. After hundreds of years, even most Prodigies were stumped on the strange dichotomous nature of the fruit, preferring to turn their considerable intellects toward more achievable culinary tasks, such as the purification and fermentation of various crops that could be made into liquor and other spirits (though it was universally agreed that the wine of a well-tilled starfruit was the greatest delicacy of them all). In short, starfruit was a simple staple loved by most, if not all of the planet's inhabitants, and on a day like today could only foretell wealth and happiness, at least of a sort. And Rora Skyfall was allergic. Or at least this is what she told herself. She'd been refusing starfruit cakes and tarts for as long as she could remember, even early on in her twenty-something years. If she was being honest, it was easier to say she was after the joy of rebellion. Especially today. While there was still a small handful of Cerebrae from her cycle yet to have graduated to the individual schools of study for their power class, it was fairly safe to say Rora was the only Empath in her cycle. Having fallen several generations after what her people called the War of Reclamation, her birth cycle was fairly large, mustering about 280 Cerebrae, nearly all of whom had survived into their early adulthood. Their cycle had also had the highest number of males in several generations, nearly forty born in all, and most of them well into Pater grooming. Not that Rora knew much about that. Her Empath class had shown early, very early. Early enough that the Matrons in charge of her birth cycle had seen fit to separate her from her cycle brothers and sisters. Days like these reminded her why. She only vaguely remembered the day they'd found she'd be different. She'd been young, even by Nuathal or Aavan standards. Maybe only four or five cycles old. She'd been playing with the other Cerebrae from her birth cycle, and a Matron chasing after one of them had fallen. It had not seemed serious at the time. No one had known of the internal damage that would eventually cost the elderly Matron her life. But young Rora had started screaming in pain, understanding even more than the injured Matron had. They'd at first thought she'd been upset, but when she began complaining of dizziness, nausea, and headaches, the Head Matron had demanded she'd be removed from the other children. In time, she had learned to temper and control her Gift, to the point, even, of negating her own powers, but it was far preferable to being a forced recluse. Even so, she'd had a long tradition of hiding herself away when the Auction rolled around each year. It gave her the appearance of despising the holiday -- and she did -- but not because she was a cold and bitter person...and she was. The Aavan bought and sold in the Matriarch's massive courtyard at the far edge of the city where young Cerebrae were born and trained were enormous, often even by Aavan standards. Many Cerebrae agreed: the bigger, the better. Keepers, Pushers, and Telekinetics especially preferred the large orange and red Aavan, fierce and strong, and all the better for training. And even Rora could not deny it was a sight to see, the white marble courtyards and expansive glades filled with cages and Cerebrae in their finery, and Aavan kept and polished to a high sheen. But even from a distance, Rora could feel the stunted hatred, fear, confusion, and most of all, the pain. It had woken her that morning, throbbing through her bones even before the first of the three suns had risen. She had been unable to eat breakfast, the scent of the rich Auction plate set before her altogether too much for the ache in her head and arms and shoulders and chest. All training Cerebrae were released early for the Auction, as close to a holiday as the Cerebrae would ever come, aside from celebrating their victory in the war generations ago. And even those Rora considered friends now flocked to the Matriarch's courtyard to see the Biddings commence. But Rora hung back, relentlessly angry and sad, watching with deep green eyes and a scowl on her already unusual face. "Are you coming?" Siya stood just to Rora's left, her own violet eyes catching the suns' light and throwing it back. Siya was a Prodigy from Rora's birth cycle, though her sheer size, nearly half a foot taller than Rora, had made the Matrons classify her as a Telekinetic...until she began composing sonatas in the beginning of her third cycle. Siya, too, had been separated from her sisters for a time, her own considerable Prodigy gift well beyond the others of her cycle. It was then Siya and Rora had met, and stayed friends, the former far too calculating to be offended by Rora's often barbarous words. "What do you think?" Rora's scowl deepened. The headache she'd had all day had deepened into making her vision uneven. She fought back the impulse to be sick. "I think you ought to see one of the Whisperers for something to make you feel better and come have fun with us." That was Rogan Skyfall, a Pater from the same birth cycle. He was the only Pater in four generations not to require beautification surgery before his induction, and he was the youngest Pater in six generations. He stood a full foot and a half taller than both Siya and Rora, had dark skin, beautiful blue-black hair, and eyes the color of a sunset. Even the older Matrons found him lovely, though he had not been used yet. Rora was never sure whether it was his preening, or just his personality that made Rogan look at the world through rose-colored lenses. Everything was beautiful with Rogan. His past, his future, his words. In his world, there were no problems. Not even from an Empath who could speak to stone. "Fun. Of course," said Rora drily, and Rogan laughed before shrugging. "Just an offer." "I'm sure I can witness the elders beat down the Aavan from here, thanks." "Rora, don't be absurd. They're enormous creatures. Even the zipsticks are like little pinches to them." Siya's words were not spoken out of malice. She was a Prodigy, in many ways Rora's exact opposite. For her, everything was thought and reason. There was no room for anger or sadness or cruelty or love. Rora turned her green-eyed gaze to her friend of twenty years. "That's not true." Siya shrugged without taking her eyes from the courtyard scene. The Biddings were to begin in a few short hours. "So you say." "Well, then, go see Matron Sumilah, if you're going to be a poor sport," Rogan interjected, seeing the argument that was about to crop up between his friends. Again. "Though I'd assume Risa will be at the Auction..." "All the more reason to stay away," grumbled Rora. Risa, her half sister by way of her adoptive Matron, Sumilah, had been named the next CloudDottir, and lived like near-royalty for it. For a Dreamer, Risa was notoriously proud, often flaunting both her skill and wealth in anyway she could. What Sumilah saw in her, Rora couldn't guess. "The quickest way to Matron Sumilah's is through the Auction. Just walk by with us," suggested Siya, once again unaffected by Rora's sore mood. "You can handle that, can't you?" 'No,' thought Rora, as she felt, rather than heard, and Aavan give a short growl of rage and pain. But it was no use trying to explain to Siya, or Rogan, or even Sumilah. Such was the plight of the Empath. "Alright," she relented finally, hefting her bag over her slender shoulders. "Let's go. But I can guarantee you I won't like it." Rogan laughed again, sweeping Rora up in a hug that nearly knocked her off her feet. "A Dreamer now, are you?" "No," said Siya. "Dreamers smile more." And even Rora had to laugh at that.