Teen Heart Manga Stories Presents
A Shonen Write! Production of"Flight of the Kestryl"

Previously in Flight of the Kestryl

Renton Ashton is a boy living on a PiBRA station in deep space who likes to explore. Caught by his sister Charlotte in a restricted area of the station, on the way home he has a run-in with a strange girl, whom his sister labels an Avatar. That night he overhears his sister complaining to their uncle abut his behavior.

And now, chapter two: Grounded?


By the third day of increasingly lighter than normal lunches and playful spiting by his friends at school, with no word from his uncle, Renton figured he was in the clear. That afternoon, however a message and an escort were waiting for him when he got home from school. He sighed, as he followed the uniformed flunky from the apartment to the tubes.

The trip to his uncle's office, nestled within the headquarters section of PiBRA, was uneventful, and silent: not a word was spoken to him by his escort -chosen, he was certain, to make sure that he didn't get "lost" on the way to his uncle's office and for no other reason.

"Ah, Renton, come in," His uncle said, looking up as the door opened to admit the boy. "Thank you Madeline. If you could find some drinks, that would be welcome. I'm sure Renton is a little thirsty as well, so coffee, and a fruit juice? Yes, Coffee and a fruit juice, I think."

"Yes sir," his secretary said, bowing on her way out.

Uncle Mordecai waved Renton to a chair in front of the desk, and waited until after Madeline returned with the drinks on a tray before speaking again. "So, what do you think of the office? Nice view of the Inner Station, wouldn't you say?"

"Yeah, if you like 40 shades of gray," Renton said without thinking, and immediately regretted the comment.

Uncle Mortimer, however, laughed the comment aside. "You're right about that. I sometimes wonder what station designers were thinking, coating everything gray without even a hint of color. A little color is good for the soul. Keeps us in check." A click of a button lowered the curtains, causing overhead recessed lamps to come on.

"I'm sorry we don't get to talk as much as I -we- might like, but my work here at PiBRA is especially demanding at Testing season, which, in a way is what brings us together today."

'Wow,' Renton fumed softly, 'the old man sure doesn't' beat around the bush.'

"Now, I'm given to understand -by Charlotte, among others- that you've been seen near the Testing Facilities. Again. Is that a correct summation?"

Renton grew defensive. "I've been exploring the station, yes. There's nothing says I can't do that."

"Exploring the station is not why we're here, though. Being found in areas of the station that are off-limits, and potentially dangerous, is. So, once again, have you been in areas of the station that include the PiBRA Testing Facilities?"

Renton frowned before replying. "I have not been in the Testing Facilities."

"Is that so? Then you won't mind giving me a promise, man to man, that you won't go near those facilities in the future, either."

"Eh? But that's where..." Renton began.

"I said in or near. You have answered truthfully as to 'in', but, have you been as truthful about 'near'?" Uncle said, breaking in.

"But to tell me not to go somewhere is..."

"My prerogative as Director of PiBRA Testing and your legal guardian."

Renton glared at his uncle in silence, pointedly snatching up his glass of juice and sipping air from the straw. After a moment, Uncle pushed his chair back, got up and walked around the front of the desk, where he perched-

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to curtail your explorations somewhat, until I can be sure that you know to stay away, unless you're willing to give me your word that you won't go near a PiBRA centre of operations in the future."

"What does that mean?" Renton asked, suddenly wary of his uncle's demeanor.

"It means, that for the next two weeks, and apart from school and school-related trips, or going on errands with Charlotte, or someone else approved of before hand, when school is out for the day, you will come straight home. In other words, you'll be grounded. Is that what you want?"

"You can't do that!"

"I am your guardian, in your parents' stead. I can and I will, do just that."

Renton fell back into his seat, deflated.

"Its not a permanent restriction, Renton, its more of a probationary check." Renton only glared at his uncle, who sighed and rose up out of his seat, walking over to the paned windows. "I thought we could hold a conversation man to man. It appears I was wrong. But you will abide by this decision. I'll deal with Charlotte later, she should not have been in that area either, but this conversation is about you."

"I would forget about any harebrained notions of running away to get tested, however. My staff has been given descriptions of you, and all the testing centers have instructions to turn you away."

"And another thing, don't refer to your sister as "Charry". It's not very becoming."

"She's my sister, not yours!" Renton snapped.

"It doesn't matter whose sister she is, she should be treated with respect, and that includes how you say her name."

Renton began to rise out of his chair, louder protest ready to spew out when his uncle's next words stopped him cold.

"I think you should go home and reflect on our conversation, before I make it three weeks"

#

Renton didn't remember how he got home -though he must have, as he could hear Charlotte's voice

"This is your fault! If you hadn't told him where you found me, I wouldn't be in this mess." Renton said.

Charlotte shot back. "If you wouldn't go into restricted areas in the first place, forcing me to follow to keep you out of trouble, neither of us would be in this mess. What would happen if the Station Police found you instead?"

Renton went on ignoring his sister's question. "And what did he mean, 'harebrained notions' about getting tested, anyway. Anyone can get tested."

"Not us. It's always been one of the family rules, and you know it."

"That doesn't make it right, keeping us away from testing," Renton fumed.

"Just drop it! I've had enough of your whining about being tested" Charolotte snapped.

"But why *wont* he let us get tested? Renton sulked.

"Who cares?" Charlotte replied. "The question is, why would you *want* to be tested?"

Renton just looked at his sister."Who wouldn't' want to get tested for the opportunity to join with a Shipa Avatar. It's the adventure of a lifetime! To be able to soar through the spacelanes with a Thread at your back!"

"Yuck, I'd just as soon not have an alien inside my mind."

"It's not an alien in your mind, they're not that intrusive. Besides, that's what the implant sets are for."

"No way. You know as well as I do, more so I wager, the failure rate of neural-implants"

"You'd rather sleep through your journey then, I take it" Renton shot back.

"I'd rather not have to take a journey at all. but if I have to, then, yes. Any sane person would want to sleep through a Thread transfer. It's not safe, even for your precious Bonded Pilots"

"That's just prejudice and you know it. A Bonding is what allows both the Shipa and humans to communicate, and travel safely between the stars. And that still doesn't say why *we* can't"

"Because it was your parent's wishes that you not be tested, and was included in their will. Can you not just accept that this is what it is?" Uncle said, surprising them both by coming into the room.

"Uncle!" Charlotte said, jumping up, "you're home early today."

Renton just turned away at the sight of his uncle.

"You don't have to understand your parents decisions that they made in your best interests, you just have accept them and abide by them. It was in their will." Uncle said.

"I'm always having to accept things I don't understand. For once I'd like to understand what I have to accept," Renton grumbled.

"You think you're unique in that regard, do you? We all0 have that we must accept without understanding, even hard things at times. This is just one of them." Uncle replied, as if Renton had asked a question.

#

At school the next day Renton found it hard to concentrate: He still didn't see why they had to stay away from the labs, and no matter how many times he was scolded or grounded he had always managed to sneak into the lab section.

"Something you'd like to share with the rest of the class, Mr. Ashton?" a sharp voice jolted him back to reality, which as luck would have belonged to Mr Redfeather who taught multidimensional geometry (which apparently was the current period's subject).

"No? then perhaps you would be so kind as to tell us the answer to question number 5."

Renton looked down briefly at the page before responding with the first number that came to his head. "42"

The teacher actually managed to look crestfallen, which was hard for a man with a perpetually drawn and sallow face, but he managed. "Hmmmpf. If only your penmanship was as sharp as you mind appears to be."

He returned to his daydreaming, just managing to avoid further instances of being singled out by teachers: If only evading Charlotte was as simple as lab security. PiBRA didn't seem to employ the brightest of guards, if he could sneak by that easily. But having to sign in and out everyday when he got home, to prove he was obeying Uncle's grounding restriction was just too much! He sighed.

The only positive result about the whole fiasco was that Charlotte was under the same restrictions, but that just made life more unbearable for him when they were home together. The other side was that lunches continued to be minimal, and today's was no exception. Moreover, what little pocket money he had wasn't enough to keep it supplemented for long. He sighed again, and turned back to his current absorption, tracing the Great Thread Chase of the Kestryl of 2614, even though he had the wrong charts for it.

"Hey Ashton, what'cha looking at over there?" a classmate from another group called out, noting the oversized chart he had spread out on the desk, "A Point Comparison Chart for the Drake-Weber Cluster," he replied absentmindedly.

"A what on who?" his companion, a boy with green spiky hair with reddish tinged skin broke in.

"A Point Comparison Chart, what pilots use to determine the best route through Interspace," Renton said in an exasperated voice.

"Never figured you for a Therd, Ashton." the other guy said. Renton cringed. "I'm not a therd, I just enjoy tracing thread patterns," he said in his defense, which he had to admit sounded shaky, even to himself.

"Which makes you a therd."

"Am not!" he said hotly.

"Then, what is that?" he asked, pointing to the chart. "It's for my class project, famous Thread Runners of the last century."

"As I said, you're a therd. But at least you're our therd," the same boy answered.

Trying to change the subject, Renton turned and asked the classmate, Ayim Clarence, "Have you ever seen an Avatar? I have the feeling that I ran into one around the station a while ago, but don't know how i would tell".

"Me, seen an Avatar? They never leave their ships, you know that."

"Oh, right, yeah." Renton said, crestfallen.

"But, hey, if you like, my older brother has this program involving Avatars. Supposed to be incredibly realistic depictions. She'll do anything for you, if you know what I mean" the guy with the green spikes said.

Renton blushed. "Ah...ah...no thanks. I'll pass."

The other boy shrugged. "Suit yourself."

Renton lay down on his desk and covered his head with his hands. Could this situation get any worse?

#

"hmm...the Haidee's back to her colorless self, I take it," Harland said, coming into the ship's mess as the Avatar walked out, one hand slowly tracing a lighted arrow on the holowall.

"At least the Escorts have calmed down as well." Kamehito offered. Harland turned to look at him. "And that's a good thing why?" because they're not pranking us, obviously."

"it also means she's slowing down. We don't have time..she doesn't' have time"

"Well, time is the one thing we can't control." Kamehito said.

"When did you become a philosopher?" Harland asked sourly.

"Well what do you want us to do Harland, drag a pilot in off the street against his will and force a bond?" Second-in-command Hilga asked from the kitchen area.

"if it comes to that, we just might."

Hilga stared at him.

"What's so all-important about finding a proper Bonding Pilot anyway?"

"An unfinished obligation" He wrinkled his nose at a half-empty ration pouch, and pair of plates left out on the counter. "Gah..grouple. Why does it always have to be grouple. Who's cleaning up after her this time?"

All eyes in the room turned to face Harland, and he was bombarded with a chorus of nay-sayers. "Not us, we've already had our two week rotation."

"Not I... I did it last time. it's your turn captain. the Roster says so." Hilga Patz said.

"I'm exercising the Captain's Prerogative, and exempting myself from that duty starting today."

"You can try, but it won't make the mess go away. It'll just stay here until you're ready for it to go away."

"What we really need is a dedicated crew-member to take care of these matters," Kamehito [no last name] remarked. "If you like, I could go through the spacer guildhalls"

"No, we don't have the funds for an additional crew-member. We're it, and that's the way it's going to stay," Harland said, rebuking the suggestion.

"Couldn't we re-direct one of the Escort Protocols, the DCM, for instance?" the ship' doctor (a nurse really) asked?

"There's no way I'm allowing a NLK5 loose on this ship without restrictions.

"Then you'll just have to take your turn like the rest of us. If you don't, it'll just pile up, and the Haidee will start leaving items everywhere like the last time. You don't really want to sit on another half-eaten gruple cake now, do you?" Hilga asked sweetly. "It'll still be your responsibility, though, captain."

"I'm the Captain" Harland rumbled.

"On an under-crewed, overworked ship, to whose said crew you just made a pronouncement that no additional crewmebers will be brought on. That places the onus on you to create and maintain a happy, stress-free work environment. And right now that requires your taking a turn looking after the Haidee. Which includes cleaning up after her," Hilga said with her arms crossed, leaning against the bulkhead of Frame 134

"I'm the Captain!" he repeated, plaintively.

"And I'm the navigator, and the helmswoman, and the XO", Hilga snapped back. "You're not the only one with large amounts of responsibility on board. And we all take a turn looking after the Haidee. Just look around you."

"I'm the engineer, and head maintenance, and Quartermaster. I've barely enough time to fix things that broke yesterday, yet alone perform today's or tomorrow's preventives" said a stout gentleman in pale, stained pink coveralls liberally bedecked with meters and tools. "And not having a supportive DCM Escort does not make my job any easier."

The aforementioned Kamehito [no last name] chimed in with a smirk, "I'm corporate public relations, guild-bound, and the owner's liaison, so I'm out regardless."

"Who always finds a way to shirk even the lightest imposed duties anyway," an anonymous voice whispered to no-one and everyone, causing Kamehito to glare as he looked around for it's source, unconsciously playing with the ribbons of a green beret that lay on his head.

"And I'm the ship's Doctor, which is three jobs in and of itself, and I see far too much of the Haidee as is." spoke up a seated woman in a off-white lab smock with a blue holotag hanging askew over her breast pocket, which might, or might not have read Lara Fernstad, M.D., the tag kept flickering. Her wavy blonde hair shook as she moved. "And if all we're going to do is prattle over who's going to clean up after the Avatar, then I have better things to do with my time." She used her thumb to push up an old-fashioned pair of rimmed glasses and stood up. She returned her tray to the reclamator, and walked past Harland and out the door.

The doctor's action appeared to be a general signal, for with that, everyone else also got up and left the compartment. Harland was reduced to repeating the same phrase again, only this time to an empty room. "But I'm the captain..."


Next time in "Flight of the Kestryl"

Renton chafes under his grounding restrictions, and plans a big escape


Tsuzuku / To Be Continued

A/N In order to get back on a regular posting schedule, I am forcing this chapter out, warts and all, so please consider this a Beta Edition. Hopefully any kind soul who reviews it will point out what I missed, and I can clean it up before next month's release of chapter three, tentatively scheduled as "Old Tricks" Please be patient with me as I (re)learn the the art of storycrafting.