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A Strange Meeting

It was a small courtyard, poorly tended, on the far end of the compound that was her escape. The plants here were grey and withered, the roofing surrounding it was patched with rust from rain, and there were no benches to sit on, but here she was alone. Here she could write.

Nebulus was unliked among most of her peers and had few to call associates, little say friends. She was scorned for her race and she allowed few who looked past that into her world.

Her world, as it were, was far away. Her race was among few remaining indigenous peoples in the quadrant, though they were dying off piece by piece. She was taken into the compound with the other strays from the galaxy supposedly to save her people from the disease that plagued them, though she wondered why she’d never had a chance to go back and see them since.

It was all she longed for, and her loneliness and distance from the other students was often what she wrote about in her solitude after lunch. Her small black book was half full of longing poetry, monologues, and the occasional doodle during a boring class. Another poem began to spill onto the pages as thunder rumbled overhead.

The thunder then fell off the roof and began to talk to her.

“Hey there!” came a sudden voice as a boy her age dropped upside-down beside her. She started with a yelp and slammed her book shut. The brown-haired boy, dressed in clothes wilder and heavier used even than hers, looked at her with a mischievous grin as he hung down from the roof, his lower legs supporting his weight.

“What’cha doing all the way out here? This place sucks,” he remarked. Nebulus just sent him a disgusted look and leaned away from him.

“Man, this is boring,” he continued, undaunted. “What do you do out here?” Grabbing the edge of the roof with one hand, he flipped his legs over him and landed on the grass beside her. While Nebulus didn’t generally associate with other students, she knew she hadn’t seen him around before. She wondered what this new kid was trying to pull with her.

He leaned against the support pillar Nebulus was sitting against. “What’s going on?” Tired of his company, Nebulus rose and began to move towards the hallway, frustrated that her one sanctuary had been taken from her.

“Hey, what’s this?” the boy asked, snatching the book effortlessly from her hands.

“Hey, give that back!” Nebulus screamed as the boy opened the book up and began to read. She dove for the book, but he avoided her grasp easily, his eyes on the page.

“Man, this stuff is depressing,” he commented.

“Give it back!” Nebulus shouted louder and attempted to take the book back again, but he continued dodging her with swiftness she couldn’t match. He giggled childishly, no hint of malice in his voice or expression.

“Come and get it!” With that, he took off running.

“You jerk!” Nebulus cried and raced after him. She chased him through the halls with all the energy she could muster, but he seemed always to evade her just close enough to be mocking.

“Give that back!” They jumped over fences and crawled under tables, twisting and turning through the halls. Heads turned as they raced past, but no one bothered to ask what was going on or help. The way the boy seemed to be enjoying her reaction fueled the raging fire in Nebulus’ heart, but no matter how intent she was on it, she simply couldn’t catch up to him.

She began to slow as a stitch formed in her side and her yells became pleas, but the boy never faltered. Finally, she struggled so much climbing over a wall into an unused sports court that by the time she reached the other side, he was gone. She slid down the wall, folded her arms over her knees, and cried.

Nebulus lied face down on the bed in her small room some minutes later, sobbing into her pillow. All her deepest feelings, her most heartfelt expressions and the only ones she allowed herself, were gone into the hands of that creep. Her haven was destroyed and he was probably going to share what she wrote with the whole compound. She was going to be a source of ridicule for years.

A knock sounded on the door.

“Go away!” she snapped through her pillow. There was no response.

The knocking persisted.

“Leave me alone!” she yelled, raising up so her voice wasn’t muted.

The knocking continued.

“I said…” she began and stormed over to the door, but her words stopped short. Opening the door, she saw the same mischievous grin, and her black book.

“Hey, just wanted to give this back to you,” he began as casually as if he’d borrowed it with her permission. Nebulus snatched the book out of his hands and examined it carefully. It was in perfect condition, no pages missing, no marks, no anything. Her gaze rose to his retreating form. Tossing the book carefully on the bed, she bolted down the hall and leaped. Her weight slammed him against the floor roughly and immediately they began trading blows. Nebulus poured all her aggression out in her vicious attacks, sparing him no mercy. He would pay for humiliating her and if she left scars or broken bones behind, all the better. Her fists rained onto him with as much force as her small frame could manage.

Minutes passed as they grappled on the floor of the hall. Nobody bothered to step in or even stayed to watch, as Nebulus was unliked and the boy was unknown, and none of the teachers happened by in that time.

Finally, her strength exhausted, Nebulus removed herself from her opponent, weary and panting. Her anger was spent and her vengeance satisfied, and she sat beside the wheezing boy, breathing heavily.

After a moment, the boy’s wheezing turned into laughter. Nebulus shot him an astounded look. He was obviously bruised and coughed a few times as he laughed, but he continued regardless. His reaction so baffled her that she didn’t know what to think.

“That was great!” he exclaimed, the smile back on his face as he sat up. “I haven’t had that much fun in a long time!” Reaching his right arm over him, he held a hand out to her.

“I’m Cole, by the way. You’re Nebulus, right?” Nebulus only stared at him, at a loss for what to do. Cole plucked her hand out from under her and shook it, then laughed again.

“See you around!” he called out as he got to his feet and jogged away, limping just slightly.

Nebulus could only watch him leave with the same spring in his step, wondering where in the galaxy could that boy have come from.

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