Chapter 1: Routine
The legendary warrior turned to face his young fighter.
“Listen to me,” he said to the fighter. “Look at yourself. Look at what you have become. You can be far greater than you are now.”
The warrior towered over the young fighter. He was so muscular, so immense. The young fighter thought, “Why would he want to talk to me?”
“You must avenge the deaths of you ancestors,” the warrior continued. “Do it for us—for your clan—for your entire race!”
The young fighter heard a distant voice calling him. “Meh-Eh-Au, wake up!”
“Do it for us!” the warrior repeated.
The young fighter was being poked by a hard object.
“For your clan!”
“Wake UP, Meh-Eh-Au!”
“For your entire race!”
Meh-Eh-Au was being prodded with the bottom end of a pike. As he stirred, his eyes fell on the very stern face of his master.
“I…” said Meh-Eh-Au sleepily. “Where am I? Was it… all a dream?”
“Yes,” said his master. “Come, Meh-Eh-Au, we have much work to do.”
Meh-Eh-Au was used to the routine by now. His master, Master Saesh, would escort him out of his little room, down a long hall, and into the preparation room. In the preparation room, Master Saesh would wrap up Meh-Eh-Au’s front and hind legs in a leather-like material, and slip small, strength-building weights into the wrappings. Then, Meh-Eh-Au would be taken to a training room where he would run laps, attack large punching bags, and fight with his fellow trainees.
Meh-Eh-Au knew very well why he had to do this. He was inferior—an Outsider—a non-Aadaurot. He had to obey the masters, the Aadauroti, because they were superior creatures who had been in power for thousands of years.
Mater Saesh often told Meh-Eh-Au of how the reign of the Aadauroti began and how a long time ago there were five clans warring against each other. Each clan was led by a different creature and each creature had a special power.
Dakilé led the Clan of Wisdom. She was very calm and thoughtful. Her excellent strategies and battle tactics earned her the leadership of the clan.
Ziett was the leader of the Clan of Ingenuity. Tools and weaponry were abundant in Ziett’s clan because of his resourcefulness. His ability to think quickly was also helpful to his clan.
The Clan of Sorcery was led by Rmo. She taught magic to her followers so that they could use it in battle. Rmo could also manipulate fire. Anything that opposed her was easily incinerated.
Xaino was a perfect leader for the Clan of Strength. Everyone that belonged to the Clan of Strength had excellent fighting abilities, but none could compare to Xaino. He relied completely on his own brute strength in battle.
No matter how great these four leaders were, none could come close to Aadau. Aadau had all of their powers and none of their weaknesses. He did not have Xaino’s lack of brains or Ziett’s lack of brawn. He was not as passive as Dakilé. He did not share Rmo’s love for total chaos.
As opposed to the other leaders, Aadau was smarter, stronger, more cunning, more resourceful, and more agile. He also had a special pair of gloves that had magic properties. When Aadau wore them, he could manipulate water, fire, earth, wind, and lightning for his own purposes.
It was Aadau who triumphed over the other clans. Aadau won the war. Aadau led the Clan of Power into total domination of the planet.
Meh-Eh-Au and the other trainees were lucky to be taken care of by the Aadauroti. The least the trainees could do for the Aadauroti was to give them respect and obedience.
As Master Saesh and Meh-Eh-Au entered the wide, circular training room, several other trainees greeted them. The trainees stood in a row with their heads close to the floor and their left forepaws raised. They were trying to duplicate the Aadaurot way of bowing.
“We greet you, Master Saesh,” they said in unison.
Master Saesh smiled. He seemed to like the attention those inferior creatures were giving him. It didn’t matter that their greeting looked and sounded absolutely awful.
At one point or another, every trainee wished for an Aadaurot body. The Aadauroti were beautiful, grey-skinned, slender, and tail-less creatures. They stood on their hind legs, which was forbidden for the Outsiders to do. The Aadauroti called the two legs that they didn’t walk on, “arms”. At the end of each “arm” there was a long thin paw called a “hand” which could grip a metal pike. How the trainees longed for these differences.
Physical appearance wasn’t the only thing that set the Aadauroti apart from the Outsiders. Speech was another strong difference. The Aadauroti invented the language that was used worldwide. Therefore, they could speak it with great ease in a firm and smooth voice.
On the other hand, it was a struggle for the Outsiders to speak just so. Several of them had thick accents, and others were absolutely incoherent. Meh-Eh-Au didn’t like how the sounds of the language changed. When saying “Aadau” for instance, his mouth had to open widely for the first syllable and had to close halfway for the second. “Aadaurot” was harder because his mouth had to open wider to say the third syllable than the second. The plural, “Aadauroti”, was a challenge because for the fourth syllable, Meh-Eh-Au couldn’t open his mouth much at all.
“Now that all eight of you are together,” Master Saesh addressed the trainees, “you may begin running laps. I will time you.”
Meh-Eh-Au knew who would complete the laps first. It would be Meh-Eh-Sah, the “leader” in this group of eight. The lizard-like Meh-Eh-Sah was faster and more muscular than the others. Meh-Eh-Au thought at times that Meh-Eh-Sah was built with Aadaurot technology. But that was ridiculous.
Just because Meh-Eh-Au was sure of the outcome didn’t mean he wouldn’t try to beat Meh-Eh-Sah. He started off running slowly and gradually picked up the pace. Soon, Meh-Eh-Au was running alongside Meh-Eh-Sah. Meh-Eh-Au couldn’t believe it; he just might win this time.
His hopes were dashed once short and bug-like Meh-Eh-Vah zipped past him. Then, Meh-Eh-Au stumbled as Meh-Eh-Kseh brushed him with her wing. Next, Meh-Eh-Au was passed up by Meh-Eh-Tiu who used his two tails to help gain momentum so that he could propel himself ahead. Meh-Eh-Au was so angry at this that he didn’t see Meh-Eh-Zai, Meh-Eh-Eh, and Meh-Eh-Weoa run ahead of him. Finally, Meh-Eh-Au finished—exhausted, enraged, and last.
Meh-Eh-Sah, trotted in a circle triumphantly. He wagged his tail, flapped his wings, and declared, “I am the winner!”
“Oh, good. The hairless miracle does it again,” said Meh-Eh-Tiu as he groomed his furry paw. Meh-Eh-Tiu was opposed to Meh-Eh-Sah being the “leader” and often challenged him for the title.
“I resent that statement,” said Meh-Eh-Vah, who had an exoskeleton with spikes instead of fur.
“Does it matter if you have fur or not?” added Meh-Eh-Kseh, who was bird-like and had feathers.
They were a diverse group. Some were stronger while others were weaker. Four of them could fly. Two could instinctively swim. There were other trainees with other qualities that the eight of them didn’t even know about. All of them shared one characteristic: they were Outsiders who could only survive with Aadaurot training.
Master Saesh called a break and he, along with the other masters, fed the trainees. Each trainee received a small bowl of food and water. The trainees didn’t care that the food had the consistency of soggy cereal, nor did they complain about the small portions. The Aadauroti told them that if they ate too much, they would be too full to train properly.
The only two who had a problem with the rations were Meh-Eh-Tiu and Meh-Eh-Weoa. Meh-Eh-Tiu hated that Meh-Eh-Sah got the most water. He wasn’t sure if that was because Meh-Eh-Sah needed more water to cool his fiery body, or because the Aadauroti favored Meh-Eh-Sah the most.
Meh-Eh-Weoa was upset because the Aadauroti wouldn’t give her as much food as the others. The Aadauroti told her that she had plant-like qualities and that she could absorb light to make her own food through photosynthesis. Meh-Eh-Weoa didn’t know how to accomplish this since the lights in the training room—the brightest lights she had ever known—did not give her much nourishment. Sometimes, she had to resort to begging the other trainees for some of their food.
“Meh-Eh-Au?” said Meh-Eh-Weoa through a thick, squeaky accent.
It was a rare occasion that any of the trainees would talk to Meh-Eh-Au. Meh-Eh-Weoa was the exception. Still, every time she said his name, Meh-Eh-Au would get nervous.
“Meh-Eh-Au?” said Meh-Eh-Weoa, trying to get his attention.
Suddenly feeling shy, Meh-Eh-Au shoved his head into his food bowl. He took a mouthful of the soggy mush, pretending to be hungry.
“Meh-Eh-Au?” Meh-Eh-Weoa repeated a third time.
“Yef?” said Meh-Eh-Au with a mouthful of slop.
“Would you share, please?” asked Meh-Eh-Weoa as her long ears drooped. “I’m still hungry.”
Meh-Eh-Au gulped down his mouthful.
“Fine,” he sighed. “I wasn’t all that hungry, anyway.”
After the break, the trainees split into two groups: winged and non-winged. The winged group practiced flying. The non-winged group was strapped into harnesses. Each harness was attached to a pole that was connected to a larger pole in the center of the room. This enabled the trainees to run across the walls.
“Let’s hope that you don’t fall out of your harness like you did last time,” said Meh-Eh-Tiu to Meh-Eh-Eh.
“I couldn’t help it,” said Meh-Eh-Eh. “My legs are too short and my body is too skinny and slippery.”
Meh-Eh-Au liked wall-running more than racing on the ground. Since Meh-Eh-Sah wasn’t in their group, there was less competition.
Meh-Eh-Au didn’t enjoy Meh-Eh-Sah’s bragging about how he flew better than anyone, but it was true; the other winged trainees flew less than well. The worst was Meh-Eh-Zai who could only fly backwards. Meh-Eh-Au feared that the Aadauroti would beat Meh-Eh-Zai with their pikes, due to his poor flying abilities. The Aadauroti had made a point of showing trainees the punishment for disobedience by beating a bad trainee. Meh-Eh-Au didn’t want to see it again.
“Why can’t you fly correctly, you little pest?” scolded Meh-Eh-Zai’s master.
“I apologize, Master,” whimpered Meh-Eh-Zai, “I’ll try harder to fly the right way.”
The master grabbed Meh-Eh-Zai by the scruff of his neck.
“Trying isn’t doing,” he spat.
“Forgive me, Master,” Meh-Eh-Zai cried.
The master glared at Meh-Eh-Zai. The little trainee shut his eyes and lowered his ears. His tail automatically curled under his hind legs. Meh-Eh-Zai prepared for the worst.
Luckily, there was no beating. Meh-Eh-Zai’s master simply put him down and repeated the words that every trainee had heard many times before:
“You must learn to do things the right way. If I didn’t train you to be strong, you’d be dead by now. I don’t even know why I even bother with you, though. Only Outsiders who are worth training should have the right to live. If you don’t work your hardest for Aadau, you have no need for existence. After all, since Planet Aadau is suffering from overpopulation, one more Outsider means one less Aadaurot.”
Meh-Eh-Zai’s master noticed that the other trainees were staring at him and Meh-Eh-Zai.
“Get back to work,” ordered the master. “All of you.”
After flying and wall-running, the trainees beat up punching bags. Meh-Eh-Au looked forward to this every day. He liked trying to destroy his big sack a different way each time.
Meh-Eh-Au batted his punching bag with his paws. Then, he chewed and tore it up. Noticing that he was the first to finish off the sack, Meh-Eh-Au stopped to watch the other trainees.
Meh-Eh-Sah burnt his punching sack to a crisp. Meh-Eh-Tiu froze his in ice with his chilly breath. Meh-Eh-Eh saturated her bag with bubbles that came out through her tail and strangled it with her long, snake-like body. Meh-Eh-Vah sliced his up with the razor-sharp blades that were on the tips of his front feet. Meh-Eh-Weoa and Meh-Eh-Zai simply bit and clawed at their sacks.
Meh-Eh-Kseh only stared at hers. Destroying punching bags was her weakness. All she could do was to peck the bag with her beak and beat it with her wings.
“Meh-Eh-Kseh! Why aren’t you doing anything?”
More trouble. This time it was Meh-Eh-Kseh’s master who was angered.
“Answer me, Meh-Eh-Kseh,” the master ordered.
Meh-Eh-Kseh’s eyes lit up and two yellow beams shot out of them. As soon as the beams touched the punching bag, it exploded into dust.
“Well done, Meh-Eh-Kseh,” said her master, much calmer this time. “But let’s be quicker with your new attack. You’ll have to practice it more often.”
After all the sacks were destroyed in one fashion or another, Master Saesh called Meh-Eh-Au to go with him to the examination room. This was Meh-Eh-Au’s least favorite part of the day. All of the machinery, lights, and examination tables in the room were quite overwhelming to him.
Upon entering, a few of the many Aadauroti in the room hoisted Meh-Eh-Au onto an examination table. They put a breathing mask over his nose and mouth. Meh-Eh-Au did not struggle; he had been through this many times before. He knew he would only fall asleep for a short while.
It was not the same kind of restful sleep that Meh-Eh-Au had at the end of a day’s training. It was a half-conscious sort of sleep. He could still see and hear, even though all of the sights and sounds were jumbled into one big mess.
After he awoke from the strange sleep, Meh-Eh-Au was taken back to the training room. There, he was instructed to fight with one of the other trainees. Meh-Eh-Au would often lose the fight.
The day’s training was over after the fights. The masters removed the wrappings that tied the weights to the trainees’ legs. Then, the masters took their trainees to a room that resembled an indoor swimming pool. Here, the trainees would swim.
The trainees didn’t know it, but there were cleaning chemicals in the water in which they swam. They were actually taking a bath. The intense training made the trainees perspire and the Aadauroti decided that swimming in the water and chemical mixture was the most efficient way to make the trainees clean again.
After the swim, the trainees were fed. It was still the same soggy mush. It always was. None of the trainees cared, though. Food was food.
Finally, the masters escorted the trainees to the small rooms in which they slept. Meh-Eh-Au was usually weary by this time, but like most nights, something kept him awake.
It was the dream. Meh-Eh-Au had the dream every night, and he would usually think about it before drifting off to sleep. Why was he standing in the presence of a warrior? What was the warrior telling him to do? Why did he dream this dream?
Master Saesh told him that dreams meant nothing. They were just events of the day that lingered in the mind. Only the most special creatures could remember their dreams. Meh-Eh-Au knew that there was more to the dream than he remembered. He believed there was some meaning in the part that he forgot.
Right before he fell asleep, Meh-Eh-Au thought that he wouldn’t have much time to rest. Master Saesh would wake him up, and the whole routine would start over again.