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    Meta was a good child. He knew he was a good child. His fathers said he was a good child. He always reminded himself that even if others called him strange, he was a good child. His parents, their opinions mattered.

    "Bro." Jecra made Meta look at him.

    Meta was glowering at some children across the hallway, ones he'd constantly disagreed with in history classes. Even as Jecra had grabbed him, he was still staring at them. 

    They were just stupid. They were irresponsible. They were lesser than him, because they decided they wanted to joke around at school. This was their future and they were throwing it away. Meta reminded himself he was a good child. He was a smart child. He was better, because he was diligent. He was committed to his studies, his teachers loved him. His parents loved him because he wasn't some immature little brat like the rest of them. He was different from the crowd, and that made him special.

    Meta's thoughts swirled behind his vindictive eyes. The way they joked and laughed after looking at him, clearly they were talking about him. They were gossiping about him. 

    Jecra clapped his paws infront of Meta's face. Meta looked at him, still scowling. 

    "I'm going to tell dad on you if you start another fight, bro."

    "I didn't tell dad about your fight two days ago." Meta snapped.

    "Dad said that if I start telling on you, he's going to buy more of those gummy snacks I like."

    "That's not fair at all!" 

    Meta's eyes began to water despite himself. He kept his eyes narrowed, but he felt the hiccups of a teary rage boil under him. 

    "Oh stop it, you big baby." 

    Jecra scoffed, crossing his arms. Meta pouted, trying to bring up a defiant and scary gaze. However, his face was as cute as it was nonthreatening. It was as though he were the softest Waddle Dee to ever exist, making an endearingly stupid face.

    "All's fair in love and war." Jecra smiled cattily.

    "Don't pretend you're suddenly smart," Meta growled, "you heard that in a movie."

    "Whatever, get to class, your super smartness." 

    Jecra slapped his paw on the locker next to him before walking away, getting some fellow kids attentions on him. Some sheepishly backed from him, while others just gave him their attention for a moment before going back to their conversations. He'd gotten a few inches away before turning back to Meta.

    "I've got all four of my eyes on you, bro. I'm going to get my gummy snacks."

    Jecra ducked into a classroom which lit up with noise of the catboy conversing with his other friends. Meta's mind blackened with the typical thoughts of festering disdain. He had history next, which meant more arguments and more people causing conflict just for the sake of it. His little wings twitched, much did his eyes, at the thought of having to go into that room full of idiots. Meta heard that in the upper grades, they segregated people to specific classes off their grades. No one was lumped together at literal random.

    Then he wouldn't have to deal with all these cretins. They could hardly even read above their grade level, he was sure. No one was on Meta's level. Meta, he had the best grades in class. He was the smartest. He was almost the fittest too, but that title went to his brother. It didn't matter, though. He was superior where it counted more. Smart people were rewarded by society, and smart people were accredited with rewards. Physically strong people weren't, aside from their bod.

    Meta comforted himself, sighing out shakily as he wiped his eyes. He decided he'd needed to move on from this and prepare himself for history class. So, he unlocked his neat locker, took his textbook out from his neat, organized stack, then headed to class. 

    He sat down in his spot, dropping the textbook down onto the pseduo-wooden desk. He sat at the front, since it was as the farthest one could be from the gremlins of the back row and the dumb fools of the middle. Only those who cared, like him, sat at the front. He was happy to take the torch, as per the usual.

    Meta waited out the break time, hearing the school bell chime and everyone scuttled into class. Loud conversation overtook Meta's senses. He picked out conversations and listened to them before scanning to the next. They were all pointless. They were all so superficial, talking about trends and television shows. Mouthbreathers. 

    Eventually, the teacher entered the room, conversations settled, and textbooks cracked open. The clock ticked rythmically in the background, and some children whispered under their breaths to one another. Keep themselves 'entertained'. The teacher wrote things on the whiteboard and then, he'd begun to ask questions to the class. 

    "Can anyone tell me where Lord Uniclipsia got the idea to invade the Northern Star?" 

    He'd asked. Meta Knight, along with maybe one other student, raised his hand. The teacher smiled at him, and gestured at him. 

    "She got it from her mother, because her mother was the warlord before her." Meta smiled back, confident.

    "You're not wrong."

    The teacher then gestured at another student.

    "She got it from her brain." 

    Cracked one of the jokesters in the middle-back of the class. Amused huffs surrounded them, and the teacher seemed a little annoyed, yet humored too.

    "This is class," Meta turned in his seat, "keep your super duper funny jokes until after. You're wasting my and everyone else's time, so keep your clowning to the circus."

    The kid he'd just lectured was the one who'd snickered at him in the hall earlier. They sat in a clique of friends, who all looked at Meta as though he were some braindead person whose intelligence was next to none. Oh, the irony! They were the fools, not him! They were the stupid ones!

    "Woaahoohooh, calm down, buddy."

    "You calm down." Meta spat.

    "You're way too heated for history class. Did someone wizz in your cereal this morning again?"

    "My cereal was perfectly fine!"

    Meta felt as though he'd needed to get up out of his desk and smack this kid. Though, it was class, and he prided himself in at least not fighting in class, unlike Jecra. Plus, the idea of Jecra rubbing those dumb gummy snacks in his face while his dad scolded him was imagery that got Meta even more heated. All in all, frustration caught in him like a windstorm. Threatening to tear some tree branches off and wield them like bats against any unfortunate creatures that might be stuck in the storm too.

    The teacher looked concern for the rising tempers.

    "Both of you stop it before I send you to the counselor." 

    "Oh nooo, not the counselor!" 

    The other kid sarcastically cried, chuckling before quieting. Meta glared at them for a while longer as they smiled smugly back at him. Meta turned back around to look at the teacher. He cleared his mind and thoughts, and took to the rest of class without much else of issue. He'd kept to himself when more smartass comments were given by that joker, but he internalized his ideas of lashing out again.


 

    Jecra sat, lax on the cafeteria's rectangular bench seat. He was pretending he was some sort of mobster, 'inspecting' the gummy candies he'd been given as though they were paper money. He flicked through them, even sniffed the wrappers for 'authenticity', then he smiled.

    "Yeah, yeah, this'll do. Now get outta here." 

    Jecra waved away the shy child who'd given him the candies. They'd waddled away quickly to go rejoin their equally timid group of friends. Next after them was Meta. Jecra reflexively held out his hand to take gummies, but Meta gently moved it out of the way with his nub. Then, Meta gripped lightly onto his lunch tray.

    "I should tell dad about you stealing other kid's lunches."

    Meta had a dark glint in his eye, trying to gain ground against his larger stepbrother. 

    "Bro, I'm not taking their lunches. They're giving me their lunches because I provide a service. I'm basically a hero, or like, a savior." Jecra leaned back further against the metal table, his friends nodding along with him. 

    "Heroes typically don't take money or rewards when they save people." Meta frowned.

    "Well, I'm a modern one. I've got bills to pay and mouths to feed."

    "Do you now?"

    "Yeah."

    Jecra and Meta stared eachother quietly. A thin friction developed as Meta narrowed his eyes, yet Jecra's stayed nice and widely open, not a single sign of frustation. Jecra broke the silence and giggled, rubbing the middle of his face with one of his paws's 'fingers'.

    "Give me a break, bro. I'm helping people, I just want gummies too. This way, I get to have both. At least I'm not making them give me their lunchmoney or something."

    "Whatever." Meta scoffed, then smiled. "I'm going to tell dad."

    Jecra frowned and stood up. He was far taller than Meta was by the fact that his torso was much longer than Meta's simple little orb form. Meta had to crane his entire body to look at Jecra in the face.

    "You won't."

    Jecra sounded much more serious now, but his tactics didn't work on Meta. He just knew Jecra was scared. He could tell from the way his eyes went from normal and round to cat-like slits. Typical Jecra. Be as scary as he wanted, but he was always scared when he had to be.

    "No, I won't."

    Meta replied. Jecra smiled then sat back down.

    "Don't scare me like that, bro."

    "I like to scare you, though. It's funny."

    "Okay," Jecra huffed, "first off, it's not funny because there's no punchline, and second off, it's not funny when I'm the guy who's getting tugged around by the ear. 'Kapiche?"

    "'Kapiche."


 

    Sirens blared outside. A blizzard poured against the windows and made the entire house shudder and creak. The lights had long since gone out due to the hail mixed in with the fluffy snow just absolutely busting a lot of the electricity lines. For their safety, the whole family had moved down to the basement. The wooden walls, while sturdy, sounded very loudly agonizing standing against the harsh wind.

    Meta was covered by his blankets. He'd taken them from his room before he came down. They hugged him and shrouded him with their simple pleasures. The sound of yelling in the other room would normally be the exact opposite of pleasure, but it was music to Meta's ears. Both of his dads were absolutely chewing Jecra out for the behavior the teachers told them about. Those same teachers which Meta told about Jecra's activities. Specifically those ones.

    They had nothing better to do, and honestly, this sort of thing was so normal to the point where there was no reason to be huddled into one corner and shivering in fear. Plus, arguments made the minutes go by.

    Meta turned a page of his book, allowing the world of the page unfold in his mind. Sure, the pages described war and famine and were generally written in a 'facts only' way because the book was a textbook, but it's not like Meta had anything else better to read.

    The page told of great warriors, great strategists.. The sort of people that history remembered because of their contributions to war. It was such a depressing thing, to be remembered for war things and nothing else. If Meta went into The War, he'd be an engineer. Definitely. He just needed to get through school first.

    Meta's bat ears began to ring from how loud everything was. The wind. The arguing. He pouted and put the textbook over his face. 

    "Maybe I shouldn't have told on Jecra, they're so loud."

    He grumbled, taking the textbook off his face. He decided to get out of his nice, warm burrito of blankets and go to the other part of the basement. Thankfully, all the basement was rather furbished because the boiler was in a separate space. No cold concrete floors. Just cold carpet.

    Meta swung the door to his and Jecra's temporary room open. His dads looked at him. Jecra glared.

    "Can you be a little more quiet, please. My ears hurt." 

    Meta didn't wait for their response, he simply shut the door and got back into bed.


 

    The principal was in the classroom for once. He had his hands behind his book, looking very official and classy in his suit. He stood at the front, waiting for all the kids to calm down and be quiet before he decided to talk.

    "I'm sure you all remember the Ice Dragon attack over the weekend." 

    The principal stated. Kids murmured general agreements, including Meta. The principal scanned the room before continuing, looking briefly at the door before back to the class. 

    "Can anyone tell me what Ice Dragons do?"

    The principal's question got Meta to raise his hand. The principal looked at him, and the hand lowered.

    "Ice Dragons can make big blizzards, and can generally use the power of ice and snow to hurt people or places. Sometimes they're used to make it so battles can't be fought in certain places, because soldiers don't have coats or the right materials to prepare against the cold."

    "Yes. What else?" The principal pressed.

    "What.. Else..?" Meta parroted.

    No one came to Meta's assistance and answered the principal's query. The man smiled.

    "Ice Dragons can create life. Sentient life, in the form of little snow creatures. The GSA designates these creatures as 'Chillys'. They can't speak, and with the right technology, their ability to create ice weapons from nothing can be suppressed. Some Chillys have been left over since the Ice Dragon's attack, and some have decided to live peacefully among us. Does anyone here have a phobia of monsters? Raise your hands."

    A few kids put up their hands. 

    "I want all the people who put up their hands to realize that once The War ends, we may be living in a world were sentient and peaceful monsters are commonplace. It's your job as the people of tomorrow to recognize that possibility."

    The principal made a 'come here' gesture towards the door. The door gently opened and closed, revealing a.. Snow.. Creature. Some kids were startled, one person even screamed. Despite the fact that this snow creature looked fairly docile and not really very threatening at all. The Chilly, as it was, hopped all the way to the front of the class. It fanned itself with a paper fan, trying to keep cool.

    "This Chilly here has decided that it wants to learn how education works, so that in the future, it can get a job as a teacher. It won't be joining you, but I will be bringing it around the school to show it what classrooms and lessons are like. Additionally, to make sure this Chilly doesn't melt, the entire school will be cooler than normal."

    The principal was very factual about all this. Meta couldn't honestly believe that this.. Thing was here. The Chilly waved to the class, but no one waved back. Meta put up his hand.

    "Can it talk?" He'd asked, eagerly.

    "No. Chillys can't talk."

    "How is it going to be a teacher if it can't talk, then?" He continued.

    The Chilly decided to answer him. It went up to the whiteboard and got a marker from the little tray. It wrote on the board, with relatively quick speed, 'Hello'. Meta watched the monster with studious eyes. The Chilly put the marker back into place. The other kids murmured. Meta just blinked and grew quiet.

    "If any of you see Chilly in the halls or a different Chilly outside of school, do not bother it. Thank you."

    The principal walked out, bringing the Chilly with him. The teacher, who'd been quiet the entire time, finally got up from his desk to get to the front. He stumbled back, seeing as how Chilly had left a small pool of water where it'd stood. Then he simply just realized what it was and got to the front anyways.


 

    "Mom, you won't believe what happened at school."

    Jecra chirped, running up to his mom. She smiled idly at him, allowing him to continue. Meta simply didn't care since he was at school too, so he tuned out the conversation. Instead, he just decided to wander around the dojo. Watch some people who were training.

    He stared intently at some of the dojo-goers, all of them training, and most of them being adults. The kids had already left for the day, so now it was only adults who remained to continue their martial arts training. It was hypnotic, almost, the movements of some of the adults. It was certainly better than just staring at a wall or looking at punching bags.

    "You know, Meta," Jaculum, Jecra's mom, spoke, "you and Jecra should join my dojo at some point. You especially, though, since you look like you're a bookworm."

    "They give us like, ten hours of homework every day and I want to spend the weekend with my friends." Jecra groused.

    "We get five hours of homework," Meta corrected, "Jecra just saves all of his until the last minute. Also, PE is hard, I don't need any more time being spent on physical stuff."

    "Five hours of homework is way too much!" Jaculum was aghast. "Children need more time to be kids, I swear all the education system's good for is for churning out factory workers." 

    She collected herself before continuing, having a sympathetic look on her face.

    "Look, I'll give you boys some books I've written on the fighting form, and you can read them if you want. But that doesn't mean you don't come in and see me anymore, 'kapiche?"

    "'Kapiche." Jecra nodded, smiling.

    Jaculum turned tail and went to the back rooms of the dojo, likely to her office to get her books. When she came back, she had two plastic cover books for the both of them. The pages were covered in pictures and various words. Lots of this stuff seemed pretty helpful.. For catboys like Jecra. Meta was unsure if he could apply it to himself.

    "Alright, now get on outta here. Your father's probably wondering where you are." Jaculum shooed.

    Jecra and Meta waddled back out, joining their dads in the authentic northern cuisine restaurant that was right next to Jaculum's dojo. Thankfully, they'd gotten there before the food had arrived for all of them, so they didn't miss out on much. Meta had a little bit more time to look through the pages of the book as they waited.

    "No reading books at the table." Ulnare, Meta's dad, reminded him.

    "Kids are always reading their books at the table nowadays." 

    Briner, Jecra's dad, sarcastically huffed. Ulnare puffed his cheeks at him. Meta closed his book anyways, though, out of respect for his dad. The food came, steaming hot, and they dug in.

Chapter Text

    "Heeyyyy babe.. Where you goin'?"

    Jecra, smarmy, smiled at the women who passed by the store he and Meta loitered infront of. The woman didn't so much as look at him, much less acknowledge him by gracing him with her voice. He frowned and crossed his arms.

    "Catcalling gets you nowhere, as usual." 

    Meta stated blankly, wrapping himself in his edgy goth orb cloak. Maybe he was getting too old to be edgy, he'd had the thing since middle school, but honestly it helped cover his wings better than anything else he owned. That, and it had a nice and super duper cool hood which magically shrouded his face in shadows.

    "I don't know why they never give me a chance."

    "Maybe it's because they don't want to get with someone who's trying to randomly quote-unquote flirt with them on the street."

    "Why not? They're like, compliments."

    "Jecra, you're stupid."

    Meta scoffed and Jecra frowned. He watched another woman go by and he sighed. He was just forlorn about not having a significant other, Meta knew that well enough. Not that he empathized. 

    "Maybe if you got a real job, women would glance your way." 

    Meta continued and Jecra rolled his four eyes. He'd begun to follow, and Meta Knight followed. Jecra walked until they reached the bulletin board on the side of the local deli. Jecra scanned it briefly before ripping a piece of paper off.

    "Got a job now." Jecra sneered.

    "And which one is it this week?"

    Meta asked, looking at the flyer he took it off of. Ah. Those bright colors and those confident soldiers on it.. Yes, that'd most certainly be a job. One Jecra would quit on day one, and probably get fired from life during too.

    "I'll just join the GSA when they come to the planet."

    "You think they'll want you?"

    "I've got some real valuable skills," Jecra flexed his muscles for example, "they'd be missin' out if they didn't take me."

    "Yes, I'm certain the GSA would love to take some nobody who bullies old ladies."

    "I don't bully old ladies," Jecra put his hands on his hips, "they're paying me to do em a service, I just gotta be firm sometimes."

    Meta strolled over to the board. He could only reach so high, but that was fine. He picked off a paper from the board and shoved it into Jecra's chest. Jecra took it from him, scanning the page and wrinkling his face.

    "You need a better job than bullying people into giving you money, Jecra. We're not children."

    Meta sternly stated, standing his ground and looking up at his brother's face. Jecra sniffed, rubbing under his nonexistant nose with the same hand that held the flyers.

    "I don't bully people, it's different." Jecra dismissed.

    "When the GSA, a literal army, comes around, you realize that joining them means you have to fight monsters until you die, correct?" 

    Meta didn't disagree with the idea of fighting monsters, he just didn't think it was an adequate use of time. Monsters like Chilly were essentially commonplace in society now, they might as well just give up and give in to whatever space abomination was creating these things. Made a better world for everyone and everything if they'd just stopped fighting, he figured. More productive.

    "Well, first off, babes love a guy in armor, and second off, lots of money. Best of both worlds." 

    Jecra smiled.

    "If you even return from the first fight you're in."

    "I've got plenty of battle experience," Jecra waved it off, "I'd be fine. I'd probably be the best there, really. They'd be lucky to have me, again."

    "Going to the gym and reading your mom's books is not battle experience."

    "But-"

    "Especially not when you apply it to old ladies who forget to pay you. They don't even fight back, that's not exactly a fight."

    Meta was rather gruff about it, and Jecra couldn't help but laugh.

    "I fight plenty of other guys. Thugs and all that. It's called protection for a reason."

    "Sometimes I wonder what went wrong in your brain that you became like this," Meta sighed, "I guess I must've just drained all the smartness out of you with my presence. Are you legitimately going to join the army, or are you joking."

    "Um, duh, of course I'm joking. I'm not stupid. Going into the army is like, just asking to get killed."

 


 

    Jecra and Meta stood in a long line filled with various other people, all marching towards the same spaceship. They'd been there for about an hour, literally everyone in the city had been commanded to stand in this ungodly long line. Thankfully it wasn't very hot or too cold out, so Jecra hadn't much reason to complain other than just being bored. Finicking with Meta Knight and harassing the guy infront of him only brought Jecra so much entertainment. The appealing structure and amazement of the large, disc-like ship they stood infront of had worn off within two minutes of getting there.

    Thankfully, time had rewarded their patience, and they'd gotten to th front. There were a multitude of fancy looking set up tables infront of the ship's entrance ramp. Aliens of the round variety sat by the tables and floated by the ship's little ramp. Some were armored, but all of them looked rather busy with papers and trying to sort through the people who approached.

    Jecra was nice enough to go first, approaching the table kept by a rather frazzled looking alien woman.

    "Hey there-"

    "Give me a second." 

    The woman hushed him, pulling out a new form. Jecra put out his pre-filled out documents on the table, and the woman shoved the form towards him. 

    "Fill this out and make it quick, please." 

    She'd commanded. There was a surprising about of silence and concentration from the blonde man, filling out the paper and slapping the pen down. He'd opened his mouth as to talk, but the woman held up a finger to tell him to wait. She slid his own documents back to him, then looked over his form.

    "Go into the ship." 

    She'd stated, absolutely. Jecra sighed then trudged off, leaving Meta to repeat the process. The form had some.. Very strange questions on it. Not one he'd exactly expected. He hadn't filled out something like this since he did that 'about me' form for his old grade school classes. One of the questions was if he had a nut allergy. A nut allergy. He had one, yes, but he'd sort of grown out of talking about it. Not like nuts were very common.

    Regardless, he'd filled it out, and exchanged papers.

    "Go into the ship." She'd told him just the same.

    Meta waddled past the tables and went into the ship. He'd passed some others who were walking out, looking enthused. Meta followed the route of people flowing out, going to where he assumed he'd needed to be. He'd got a little lost once he no longer had people to reference, and he sure wasn't going to ask for directions, nor wander aimlessly.

    Meta sighed and just stood there, waiting until someone walked past him. He followed them directly to a room, one which Jecra was already occupying. It was fully viewable from the outside, thanks to the glass walls. It seemed to be some sort of medical bay, with an actual doctor in there. Jecra was getting his eyes looked at, sitting up on a medical table. 

    Meta watched on silently, listening for sounds behind the glass. he heard muffled questions from the doctor and unenthused answers from Jecra. Once the doctor was done, Jecra got up and left, looking like he'd been told both the best and worst news of his life. He hadn't noticed Meta at first, but he coughed and Jecra swung around to notice him.

    "Bro. I've been drafted." Jecra said.

    "Ah." Meta replied.

    They stood and looked at eachother. Meta's numbness washed over his mind. Being drafted, legitimately.. That could only mean one thing. Perhaps, since Meta and Jecra weren't blood related, Meta wouldn't suffer the same fate as his brother.

    Meta had nothing more to say, as the words couldn't make it out of the static fog of his head. He pushed into the doctor's office, leaving Jecra out in the hallway. The doctor, four armed and rather chipper looking, fixed up the table. Meta took after his brother and jumped up onto the padded table, sitting down on it. 

    "How are you doing today?" 

    The doctor asked simply, typing some stuff into his computer without looking at his new patient.

    "Fine."

    How else was he supposed to feel, he wondered. Fine was just fine.

    "Do you have any family in the past that've been Star Warriors?"

    The doctor's questions had gotten immediately clinical, down to buisness. Even this guy was busy. He had people to see, others to wring through for the traits they needed.

    "Not as far as I know."

    "Do you have any combat experience?"

    "I used to fight in grade school."

    "And how old are you now?"

    "I'm in college now."

    "Oh? What for?" The doctor's enthusiasm was one Meta classified purely as fake, just there to make conversation.

    "Engineering."

    "The GSA could always use more engineers. Take your hood off, please."

    The command was quick, and Meta was quick to obey. He had a very nice, round looking face. Nary a scar or a scratch.. Nary an imperfection. He truly was the best looking in the galaxy. A superior face he'd cared for.. One that was only meant to be seen by the worthy who could handle it. But since this doctor had to, he supposed he could allow them to gaze upon his beautiful face.

    The doctor scooted over in their rolly chair. They were far taller than Meta, so they didn't even need to get up out of their chair to look in his eyes. They squinted at him, before they pulled out some sort of strange tool that wrapped around the side of their head. It reminded Meta of the glasses that jewelers wore in order to inspect gemstones.

    They pulled on the skin near to his eyes, examining deeply into just one of his eyes. Meta felt his skin crawl slightly, but he knew it was purely for.. Whatever. The doctor smiled then rolled away. Meta put his hood back up.

    "You're a Star Warrior, how nice."

    "Oh." 

    Meta was.. Somewhat unsure of what he was hearing. Only somewhat. There was no shock, there was no astonishment. He just.. Was a Star Warrior now. He couldn't exactly think about it any other way. The thought crossed his brain. What was he going to do about schooling now? Well, he didn't have much choice in the matter, he guessed. 

    Meta felt his eyes blur and if there was a feeling for it, he would've felt his eyebags get heavier.

    "Star Warriors get plenty of benefits, don't sound so glum. Lots of money, fame, etcetera."

    "I'm drafted, then."

    "Yes. You should go tell your parents the news, we've got about two days until we leave your planet."

    The doctor went to his computer, and Meta went out the door. The office was re-filled by some other guy who fit their initial qualifications.

    Jecra hadn't waited for Meta outside the hallway. Instead, Meta found him at their old home, explaining the situation to their fathers. Meta watched Jecra's exasperated face twist from stress and general annoyance. Meta had joined the conversation, but he hadn't really. He'd long tuned out the conversation and just watched as though it had nothing to do with him.

    It's like he were a ghost, really. Just in the background, watching. He heard arguments that brought up old wounds, things that made Jecra's eyes water and his tongue lash more harshly from anger. 

    Meta had no opinion on it. He walked out from the argument to go sit on the steps of the house. He wiped at his face, shakenly exhaling as he sat. He'd promised himself to not cry over anything trivial. This was trivial, Meta told himself. Being drafted into war, being told he was a Star Warrior, being sent to die, that was all trivial. This was trivial, he didn't need to cry about it.

    His face grew hot with shame as he kept reminding himself not to cry. He was a rock, he was unmovable, and he was unemotive. He'd cope properly with this, and he wouldn't cry. Things would be fine, this was trivial, he thought over and over again as as he laughed and sobbed at the same time. He'd laughed to try and take the strain off the idea of crying, to make fun of himself for doing so.

    Stars, he was so angsty. He couldn't believe he was crying over something so trivial. It was stupid. He shouldn't be crying over something this meaningless. This was meaningless. The whole draft was meaningless. He was just some angsty teenager crying outside his parents house because he was emotional and baby-like. Crying didn't help anything, but he kept doing it anyways because he was stupid. And angsty. And edgy. What's more edgy than a guy wearing all black, crying outside of his parent's house, right on the steps?

    Maybe he could go dramatically run off to some childhood hangout spot too, so he can brood and angst and cry there instead. Maybe he should go dramatically throw himself into someone's arms and lament about how sad he was. Stars, he was so stupid. He needed to stop crying. No one would take him seriously.

    He needed to stop. After this, he promised himself, he wasn't going to be a child. He wasn't going to cry. He shouldn't cry. It wasn't like him to cry. It wasn't good to cry, it made him look stupid. Especially over something so meaningless like being forced to go to war. Who would cry over something like that? Not him.

    He had two days to stop crying.

 



    Meta and Jecra had loaded up onto the ship an hour ago. They'd been placed in a small room with a wall-bound television, which was being fiddled with by a guy in full armor. It'd taken him a couple minutes to get the thing running. Neither Jecra nor Meta had anything to say, just sitting in their plastic chairs and waiting patiently for instruction. 

    They'd felt the ship jostle a bit, going into orbit. They were probably shooting through space by now.

    Jecra'd looked especially downtrodden about the whole situation. Meta's face was widely covered, but he appeared just as miserable. When the television flicked on to reveal a Batamon like Meta, the mood did not lift. It just meant they were going to get instructions. Instructions for their war, instructions for all the stuff that was to come next.

    "Welcome, Star Warrior. My name is Uther, I am the leader of the GSA. You, Star Warrior, reside within my command. You've been drafted into The War due to your title. If you do not know what a Star Warrior is, I will explain."

    Uther was a armored orb, neon green in skin and dark in armor. He most certainly looked like some sort of dark knight, there to cause havoc and destruction. It was just an aesthetic choice, though. Meta could empathize.

    "A Star Warrior is someone chosen by the Stars. You are predestined for greatness, and predestined to fight evil. In order to live up to your predecessors, you will be going through our training programs to ensure you are able to do your job correctly. You may choose what you want to specify in,but you will be a master of all forms of combat you are capable of by the time we're done. You will be given private quarters and you will be separated from GSA members in terms of training. You will receive further designation and instruction from onboard staff or fellow warriors."

    Meta mused the idea in his head. What privilege they were given.. Other warriors would undoubtedly be egotistical. Not to mention the scorn they'd no doubt garner from normies. He couldn't see the separation and division they were given ending up very well. Not that he wouldn't appreciate being cushioned in his own room, of course not.

    "You will undergo a year's training onboard."

    Uther kept talking, but Meta zoned out. He continued about something or other that wasn't very interesting, and quite frankly, was just common sense knowledge. Meta found his eyes wandering around the room, then, the television shut off. 

    The two of them, a little dazed looking, stood up and were escorted out. Within a fair few minutes, they were taken from the ship to a huge space dock, which apprently they'd landed at while the pre-recorded Uther had gone on blabbing. It was crawling with aliens, but the two brothers just kept following the one armored guy they were told to follow.

    The ascent from the docks was quiet, Meta mostly perused (what he assumed to be) the mothership with his eyes and ears open, but his mouth closed. Jecra still looked like he was the guy from two days ago, being told he was a Star Warrior in a doctor's office.

    Once they'd gotten to their rooms, they'd had to split off. One room per person, that's how private quarters worked. However, Meta stopped Jecra before he could disappear behind his door.

    "Jecra. I know this has hit you hard, but you need to cope with it."

    "I am coping. I'm coping so well," Jecra smiled, "you don't even know. I am the best at coping."

    "I'll see you tomorrow, then. I'll be here, Jecra, if you need anything."

    "Ok, bro."

Chapter Text

    After they'd gotten their designations and some more uniform-esque clothes, they were allowed to roam the ship at their leisure. Jecra was practically glued to the body-sized windows that the mothership had. Being able to see out these huge standing-aquairum sized windows out into the sea of the Stars, the cosmos, the galaxies, whatever else, was something he simply could not get enough of. Meta barely had the temperance to keep himself from it as well, standing back a healthy amount.

    Jecra literally almost had his face pressed against the glass. For the past couple of minutes, it was nothing but awestruck silence from both of them. The silence was rather homely, comfortable enough to keep that way.

    The ship passed by planets, circular, oval, even cube-like. Each one was met with silent observance. As of right now, they were passing one shaped like a red heart. It had a little happy face on it.

    "I wonder what that one's called.."

    Meta wondered to himself, mulling over answers in his head. It looked very cutesy, so it'd probably be called Happy Hills or something equally teeth-rottingly adorable.

    "It's called Ripple Star." 

    An etheral voice echoed from behind the two. Meta turned to see who it was, but Jecra was still entranced by the beauty of what laid beyond the window. Behind them stood a fully armored knight. Bipedal. A light blue cape and dark blue armor, their visor was just as dark as the Void between Stars. Barely present in there was the small indication of two red eyes. 

    Despite there being no threat at the moment, their sword was drawn and shield was kept in their other hand. The sword was pointed at the ground, but Meta still found it curious. Perhaps it was because they did not seem to have a sheath on their person.

    Considering their armed presence and figure being taller than even Jecra, Meta couldn't help but feel on guard.

    "I am Sir Irwindale. I have been in the Star Warrior's allegiance long since before you were born. Many, including yourselves, will train under me in the coming months to be proper and chivalrous knights."

    "Wuh?" 

    Jecra finally pulled his face away from the window. He blinked for a second, seeing the new presence. 

    "Hey, do you know what that planet is?" He questioned.

    "It is Ripple Star. It is inhabited by pacifistic fairies who do not associate with violence, much less war. Ironically, they have forcibly stricken themselves from the GSA's visiting lists through use of threat. Unfortunate, considering how they too have a Star Warrior on their soil somewhere."

    "Planets can do that?" Jecra pressed.

    "We do not have the resources or time to force them," Sir Irwindale prefaced, "and we're never particularly short in normal hands. Though, once the new queen ascends to the throne, we will see if she allows us to recruit the Star Warrior who lives there."

    "Star Warriors must be in short supply, then, if you're not worried about anything else there." 

    Meta stated and Sir Irwindale gave a silent nod, allowing what that meant to seep in.

    "Well, you got us two. Who else do ya need? By the way, babe, just saying, you've got some great calves. The armor lookin' great on you." 

    Jecra got a expression on his face that Meta knew was on there despite not looking. Meta knew Jecra was trying to make light, to help himself with this new situation. It was better- no. More normal for him to be acting like this than how he was acting before. Meta was unsure whether to scold him, so he didn't. Sir Irwindale was quiet for a moment, either stunned or expecting Meta to take care of it. When neither of them said anything, Irwindale took up the post.

    "I am your superior and you will treat me as such."

    "I'd love to treat ya to dinner, babe."

    "Hm." Sir Irwindale was flat in the delivery of that, "I will keep that in mind."

    Jecra made a 'chk-chk' sound with his mouth and gave the superior finger guns while winking. Meta thought it was just as smooth as sandpaper, and he didn't doubt his superior felt the same.

    Just then, a bell rang. The brothers were startled slightly, but Irwindale was calm.

    "That is the lunch bell. Go eat. You will need it."

 


 

    The food hall was something straight out of a grade school. They were all benches, picnic tables lined up horizontally across the hall in strips. On one end of the strips was the kitchen counters, tended to by various aliens who wore nets wherever they had hair, gloves where they had hands, and aprons where they had body. 

    They tended to large batches of assorted food, all fairly well cooked. Some of ingredients were maybe a bit old and past their prime, but most of what was on Jecra and Meta's trays smelled delicious and were piping hot. Neither of them could resist the smell and sat down as quickly as possible at the nearest seats they could find.

    The place was pretty packed, they had a hard time finding anywhere reasonable, but they did manage to cram themselves in there like two baby penguins in the baby penguin cuddle group. As soon as they'd sat, it was like they'd just went face-first into the food. They didn't really do that, but it was pretty close considering how fast they snarfed up the mishmashed brown meat soup known as 'chili'. The day's special went down pretty quickly, the two of them didn't even bother to pay attention to the people around them. At least, for a while.

    Meta had managed to look up, catching glimpses of a woman who'd put her tray down far before Meta or Jecra did, standing infront of the table and staring out at the sea of people. She'd stood there for a while. By now, she was seated, watching them eat with a face shriveled in disgust. 

    "Do you have any respect for the people around you?" She snarled, watching Jecra heft another spoonfull of assorted meats and juices into his mouth, making loud smacking noises with his lips as he did so, "Chew with your mouths closed and stop eating like animals."

    "Excuse us. We-" 

    "Swallow what's in your mouth before speaking."

    She cut Meta off, making him sheepishly silent as he swallowed. He paused before bothering to speak again.

    "We-"

    "You should at least have some sense of table manners. It's revolting to have to sit next to you."

    "Then sit somewhere else, lady." 

    Jecra's open-mouth chewing and talking caused a bean to fall out of his mouth and onto his clothes. The woman's brow was knit tightly, her face a scowl as she shot daggers at Jecra. Jecra, however, did not care in the slightest and continued to eat how he so pleased.

    "I will have you know I am Sir Garlude."

    "Oh, you're a du-" Jecra tried to say something back, still not bothering to chew before talking.

    "Knights are referred to as Sir ."

    Jecra gave her a look, squinting at her. She looked like she'd taken a shower recently, she had her purple hair (which was the same color as her skin) in a ponytail, kept up by a golden bracelet. On her forehead was a crown, gold too, with a jewel in the center. Aside from that, she wore amor which covered her entire body, as well as pauldrons. Aside from that, it was clear to both of them that this woman and her jeweled face was not to be taken seriously.

    "Did your mom buy the paper saying you're a knight for you, Sir Garlude?" Jecra sneered.

    "My mother was a knight, my other mother is a knight, and they train knights at a school which my family has upheld for generations. I don't just own the paper that says I'm a knight, I own the school that trained me, and the reputation I gathered for myself. Praytell," Garlude leaned forward, slamming her elbows on the hollow metal table with a loud crash, causing the other people at the table to startle and look at the arguing parties, "what're your references? Where did you go to school for combat training? Why, of all people, are you two, who can't even manage table manners, here when someone else could very easily fill your place? Which, I assure you, someone will very easily do so when you die on the battlefield, you'd probably be careless enough to walk right into an enemy ambush."

    Jecra and Meta were in shock by the sheer.. Wrath of this woman. Like she'd just been looking for a reason to fight and one sneer was enough to set her off into a vicious tangent. It's like she was rehearsed, she barely even needed to pause.

    "Lady-"

    "Sir. I am not a midwife." She corrected.

    "Sir," Jecra repeated mockingly, "we're just trying to eat here. We don't need you insulting us to our faces. And for the record, we're both Star Warriors, we deserve to be here just as much as you!"

    "Oh, hail the chosen ones!" Garlude laughed, "Surely these two women with no actual combat experience are the most important in the galaxy, for the Stars said so! Oh yes, you're so important! A Star Warrior needs no manners or tact!"

    "Stop giving us such a hard time!" Jecra, defensive now, was on the precipice of shouting.

    "Show you deserve any respect and I will." 

    She emphasized respect with a special amount of toxin. Afterwards, she grabbed her tray, stood up from the table, and promptly left to sit somewhere else. Awkward mumbles ensued around the two and Jecra sighed, poking at his food with his hands. 

    "I sure hope we don't have to deal with her again." He grumbled.

    "Knowing our luck," Meta put another spoonful of chili into his mouth, "we probably will."

    The two continued to eat in nervous silence. Meta was more concerned about how loud he was eating, but Jecra hadn't bothered. Meta knew he was doing it just to spite that woman, but honestly there was no need to be rude just for the sake of being petty.

    They were lucky enough to finish up eating before another bell rang. Some people in the cafeteria shuffled out the door, and taking that as a cue to leave, Jecra and Meta took the lead after putting their trays in the proper place.

 


 

    The two wandered a bit aimlessly before decidedly following someone like two creeps. Thankfully, they seemed to have gone the right way, because they were lead to a large training facility. Training dummies along the wall and a huge obstacle course on the other. The course looked ungodly. Standing infront of the course was a familiar face. Or, well, helmet.

    Meta wandered up to Sir Irwindale while Jecra oggled some weapons.

    "Sir Irwindale, this, what.. Is this?" 

    Meta gestured to the course, which seemed to be filled with swinging axes, barbed wire, mud, tubes, rope, walls, and a variety of other threatening things that would not be nice to traverse through or around.

    "It is the onboard agility testing course which you will be using intermediately for the coming months, between the other courses."

    The knight pointed their sword to each piece of the puzzle as they described it.

    "Mud, water, confined space, hazardous material, balance," they'd pointed to a balance beam suspended over a pool, "aerial agility, wall and rope vertical climbs, all these and more are within your current curriculum."

    "I thought you were meant to teach us how to fight.." 

    Meta eyed the course with dread.

    "That will come in time. Join your friend now."

    Sir Irwindale commanded and Meta hesitated, but he did as he was told and joined Jecra. He was poking at the maces and swords all laid out on racks. He was very smart, so he poked at one of the swords on the business end, slicing one of his paws. It was just a little scratch though.

    "Ow." Jecra sucked on the part of his injured paw. 

    "I don't know what you expected."

    Meta said flatly, picking up the sword by the handle. It was certainly bigger than a pocket knife but it was just as heavy as one. Well, that's an exaggeration. It was fairly lightweight, Meta had doubted for a moment it was even a real sword. They looked like they were heavier on television, this couldn't be a real sword. Then he remembered just a second ago Jecra had literally injured himself on it.

    Meta held it for a moment before quickly putting it back. As he did, he heard someone groan from the door. It was that woman. Garlude. She'd seen them and immediately, her first reaction was to audibly groan. 

    "Of course I have to be in with the idiots.."

    She'd hissed under her breath. Jecra didn't say anything to it because he couldn't hear it, but because of Meta's advanced capabilities to listen in to even the slightest hush, he was able to hear her. Jecra, however, did see her mouth move.

    "What'd she say?" Jecra whispered to his stepbrother.

    "I'm not letting you start another fight." He'd whispered back.

    Jecra huffed and just glowered at Garlude as she passed by. She stopped for a moment, looking them over, seeing Jecra's little wound and smirking. 

    "What's the face?" Jecra shot, and Meta put his palm to his face.

    "Training hasn't even begun and you've already got a wound. It's pathetic." Garlude snapped back.

    "Okay, listen miss-priss, I don't know what manners are from your planet, but from my planet we call people like you," Jecra paused for dramatic effect, "a jerk."

    "And on my planet, we call women like you entitled little babies who whine when they're told off."

    Jecra gave her a look when he was referred to as a woman, because last time he checked, he was not one. Thinking about it, she'd called both him and Meta women before too. It was just.. Odd. Jecra choked, trying to think of something to say in reply, his eyes dodging around the room before settling on her, essentially allowing her to continue.

    "We're not women." Meta interjected.

    Garlude looked at them as though they were some sort of foreign object. 

    "What are you, then, if you're not a woman?"

    "We're men."

    "Men? What is that?" Garlude looked genuinely confused.

    "We're not women, that's all." Meta clarified.

    "I see. Regardless of what you are, you should just give up now. You're never going to be a true warrior, and certainly not a knight."

    Garlude scorned, her smile a challenge to Jecra's pride. Her turning away was essentially a slap to his face as she headed off to go to Irwindale. Jecra watched her go with eyes narrowed at her back.

    "Another person who needs a good punch to the head." 

    Jecra growled, watching Garlude's ponytail sway as she walked, as though her very hair was an insult. Meta didn't want to be making enemies this early, especially since this was.. Well, the army. The only enemies they should be making is with the opposing side. Seeing as how they now shared 'classes' with Garlude, they were going to have to get along with her. It'd just be to their detriment if they didn't.

    This was unlike the classes in grade school. Meta wasn't the top dog here. Garlude was. She was superior to him, so he'd have to heel for her. When it came to Jecra, perhaps it was healthier for him to make a rivalry for himself. Meta'd hate to see him strain and mope like he was doing just a few days ago. If a 'rivalry' with Garlude took up his thoughts rather than despair, perhaps that was better. Key word being perhaps.

    "Don't talk to her again. Okay?"

    "Fine." Jecra huffed.

    The two noticed the congregation around Irwindale now, and both of them decided to join. They both made sure to be as far from Garlude as possible as they joined the huddle.

    "Greetings. I am Sir Irwindale. I will be your instructor. For the future months, you are the mercy of my lessons and my sword, alongside a select few instructors who may replace me should I be absent." 

    Irwindale greeted themselves to their new pupils, looking around the crowd of young recruits with a near nonexistent gaze. 

    "Your first lesson will be a lesson in humility. In which I will break all of your inflated egos into nonexistence."

    Meta saw exactly the point of the course now. It was literally just there to make them exhausted and tired, not anything else. Their first shots before actually getting into anything.. How nice.

    "Torture at the hands of Enemy's monsters will be pale in comparison to the training you do here." 

    Sir Irwindale simply stood there, commanding and threatening all these things. Meta could practically hear his future exhausted pants and sore groans. That, and Jecra's complaining.

 


 

    "It hurrtts.." 

    Jecra whined, trying to dust himself off. He was covered now in cuts and bruises, his clothes were just drenched in various earthy liquids, and he looked positively exhausted. Meta was essentially the same way. The two of them had managed to finish the course, but at what cost?

    Meta certainly wasn't free from grime or harm either, he nursed his with slight winces too, looking around to the others. The only person amongst the crowd who seemed to be without injury was Garlude, though she was still plenty dirty. Despite the course having meant to get rid of egos, she looked at Meta and Jecra with an awful smug expression.

    Meta's pretty sure she aced the course with flying colors and is proud of herself for doing so. He just didn't want to make an enemy out of her, so he would keep the viewing of her to himself.

    Brushing himself off, then helping Jecra discard some of his more destroyed clothes, the two of them shuffled off out of the room, seeing as how Irwindale had long since left for whatever reason. Everyone else was leaving, so the two of them were doing so as well. As they wandered back to some living quarters, a bell rang across the ship. It was the same bell they'd heard when it was lunch.

    "It must be dinner." 

    Meta remarked, making Jecra's eyes light up.

    "We gotta get dinner."

    "Yes, lets."

    The two made their way to the cafeteria as silently and gracefully as a pack of wildebeests in a stampede. They were just about as quick as well. They'd gotten there, got their trays, got in line, and got their food. Just as they were about to sit down, however, Irwindale had appeared seemingly from out of nowhere. They stood infront of the tables, blocking the way to sit.

    "It's dinner time. I'm looking for you to treat me to your dinner now." 

    Sir Irwindale still had their sword in hand as they approached Jecra. With their other hand, which the shield was strapped to below their wrist, they took Jecra's plate.

    "What!? No! That's mine!" 

    Jecra whined like a child. Meta scoffed briefly as Jecra got what was coming to him for flirting with his teacher. 

    "I believe you said before lunch that you would be letting me have your dinner for the night."

    Irwindale had taken it pretty literally. Jecra stammered, then looked over to Meta to bail him out of this situation. It was rather cruel to let Jecra just have his dinner taken..

    "We can share, Jecra." 

    Meta submitted pretty easily. Jecra was happy about that to a certain extent, but it was obvious by the situation he would've preferred had Meta y'know. Actually talked to Irwindale about giving the food back.

    "That is very generous of you both. Goodnight."

    With that, Irwindale marched away, their metal armor clanking as they went up to the kitchen counter and returned the meal that was originally Jecra's to the chefs. With that, they left the cafeteria entirely and disappeared past the doorway's view.

    Jecra quickly narrowed his eyes when he'd watched the entire display. Yeah, that guy just took his food and returned it. Didn't even eat it, he just put it back. Something about that made Jecra even more bitter, and it made Meta furrow internally. 

    Meta sat down and soon enough, Jecra was sat beside him. It was a big enough meal to share, and considering the place they'd come from, that was bigger than some meals they'd gotten when they were kids. A lot more tasty too.

    "Everyone here is a jerk, even our teacher." Jecra remarked, "Maybe that recruiter was the only decent person here and we just got lured into a ship full of jerks."

    "It would help if you didn't flirt with Irwindale."

    "It's not my fault he took it literally! Plus, that woman, what's her name, she has no excuse."

    "I can agree with you on Garlude. Lets just try to get through this with no more problems. We're going to have to live here, after all."

    "I just want to meet someone who's friendly and has a sense of humor, is that so much to ask?"

    "Perhaps."

    "Everything here is just miserable," Jecra sighed, "it's hard not to be miserable in a place like this."

    "I'm sure you'll find some friends soon enough."

    Meta pat Jecra's back. He was hoping for the two of them, really. If Jecra could socialize, Meta wouldn't worry about scolding him as much.