Finlay's Fortune & Fame I

Prologue: Preparations

“News today of more protests against the construction of the domes in more than a dozen hextricts has alarmed some local government officials. We will have more on this on the evening news. Now, back to our look into the future Champions already making names for themselves.”
Heavy bag of seeds in hand, Finlay paused to listen to the broadcast for a moment. The reddish fur on his ears stood up as he listened intently, his hands squeezing tightly around the loose canvas sack. This was everything he lived for. Something inside him welled up every time the news spoke about the champions.
There was supposed to be an announcement, a real bit of news direct from the Council soon. Finlay was getting more and more excited as the day went on. As soon as he knew where and when to sign up, he would go and become a champion too.
Another bag of seeds, ready to be milled into whatever his mother needed, slammed onto the stone floor of the warehouse. The work was tedious, but it helped to earn the extra credits. Living on the bare minimum everyone got each month would keep you alive, but not much more. Finlay was tired after a full day of lugging around the canvas sacks, but the credits were all a part of his plan. He tapped the sensor just under his right ear.
“Nora, any word from the Council on their big announcement?” He paused to wipe the sweat from his brow, ears twitching in anticipation. And a little anxiety. Ever since the announcement of some massive threat to the planet, it was all Finlay could think about.
“Not yet,” Nora responded in her calm, emotionless way, “I will inform you when anything is posted about the arenas.” Finlay sighed and adjusted a bag of seeds that was sliding out of place before heading back out to the delivery cart.
The air changed from the cool, dark of the warehouse to the sharp, bright heat of the late summer day as he climbed the short set of stairs. The cyborg delivery driver was still leaning against the cart, chewing on a stick of some sort of jerky.
“I’ve got more deliveries today you know.” Finlay rolled his eyes. “Then get off your hairy duff and come help me. I mean, for real.” Finlay wasn’t having a very polite day today. The heat had his tail drooping and his ears flat, not a good feeling for anyone on Serra. The summers always dragged on a little around the larger of Serra’s two stars. It happened every year but didn’t make it easier for anyone with an abundance of fur to handle.
“Hey, you’re the one who wanted to earn a few extra credits for whatever this thing is the Council has planned. You know, there are already some champions who have bought crates of gear. Been shipping stuff around for them. It’s actually where I’m heading after this job.” Finlay paused; he was used to everyone he knew going on about how none of this whole Council business made any sense to them. To have someone apparently know something already was incredibly interesting.
The news that something was out there in the void beyond the light of Serra’s suns and that something meant harm to all of Serra’s inhabitants was not the easiest for people to wrap their heads around. It had been generations since anything even remotely resembling war had been part of their reality. Not since the Schism had there been any real conflict on the planet. This was why the champions were needed. And if he could already buy the equipment needed, Finlay was one step closer to becoming one of those champions. The sound of snapping fingers bolted Finlay out of his thoughts.
“Hey! Reality calling, get back to work you…” the cyborg man stopped short of any real insult, but Finlay heard it anyway and narrowed his eyes angrily before grabbing the last two bags off the cart. With a sarcastic flourish he waved at the man.
“There, cart’s empty. You can go, happy now?” Finlay stomped off towards the stairwell.
“Geez, you don’t have to be an as-“ the warehouse door slammed shut, cutting off the last of the delivery driver’s sentence.
His mind was whirling with the news that already champions were lining up to purchase gear and do their part in supporting the Council and their project. He heard the message pop up on his data pad that the credits from helping the delivery driver had been deposited to his account.
Quickly, Finlay sent off a message to the driver asking if he needed help with those crates in the city tomorrow. Maybe he could make even more credits and get a lift into the city. More importantly, he could sign up and purchase his own equipment. There must already be a way of seeing who has purchased these crates, hopefully he could find that out tomorrow as well.
Putting away the data pad, Finlay opened the door to the house, instantly being assaulted with the smell of fresh greenseed butter and a distinct hint of something sweet. There was only one answer to a smell like this, investigation. He hurried quickly through the house towards the kitchen.
“Mom,” he spoke very calmly, “I don’t want to alarm you. But there is a big problem.” His mother instantly dropped the spoon she was using onto the counter and turned around, ears flat with a worried look.
“Oh, my goodness, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” Finlay took his mother by the shoulders and took a deep breath before speaking.
“There are far too many cookies on that counter.” He grabbed three of the still hot cookies and took a great bite out of the biggest one. His mother’s face was priceless, a mixture of anger and amusement and horror all blended into a gasp of astonishment.
“Finlay! Do not,” she swatted him with the towel from her shoulder. “do that, to me!” She swatted a second time for emphasis. “I hope you burn your mouth you rascal.” Finlay raised his shoulder to take the onslaught.
“It’s ok mom, I saved you. I’m a hero.” She rolled her eyes. “Well I am, you know how too many cookies ends up being such a problem all the time. Glad I could be of service.” His mom just shook her head incredulously and clucked her tongue.
Munching happily on the warm cookies, Finlay walked into his room to lay down for a bit. He noticed a light blinking on his link node. He picked up his data pad and scanned the messages, quickly and easily seeing one listed as from the Council.
“Nora! Why didn’t you tell me this had come in?” The answer came after a short pause.
“You were talking to your mom; I wasn’t going to be rude.” The answer was stated simply but Finlay just let out an exasperated noise.
“Seriously?”
“Yes, seriously.” Finlay took a deep breath.
“Can you please, just read, the message. Please.” He sat down on his bed as Nora read the message into his earpiece.
“The Council of Six would like to extend to all future Champions an offer. To help facilitate the building of the arenas, Champions can purchase their gear in advance and leave it stored in our facilities. Not only will this assist in the construction of the arenas, but it will also help increase the public presence of any champions involved.
“We are happy to provide storage and to assist potential champions with any logistical needs we can meet. It is the champions themselves who will help lead us and protect us when the time comes. We owe them the respect and honour they deserve. Our offer today will help to ensure that all champions will be recognized as the heroes they are.
“These arenas are integral to our continued existence, and if we pull together, we can make sure our world stays bright. For the Future. For our People. For Serra.”
Finlay’s heart was racing. He had been saving to buy his starting gear and quickly pulled up his online wallet. A few keystrokes and he had pushed his credits into the Council’s hands, buying several of each type of crate they would now be storing for him until the arenas were operational. Nora chimed in.
“I presume this was the message you were waiting for?” He shook his head.
“Not really ‘the’ message, but certainly ‘a’ message. It’s exciting Nora, I’m glad to know they are doing something. We can’t just sit here and wait for this threat, whatever it is, to find us. We have to be ready.” He pulled his hand into a fist.
“I will be ready.”
“So, if I keep working for a few extra credits, I can buy some of my gear ahead of time and my name will start getting out there.” Finlay paused to finish a bite of his dinner before continuing. “That’s why I need to keep at it and earn what I can. It’s the only way I’ll be able to compete with the people who can afford to buy large quantities of equipment.” His mom didn’t say anything at first, instead thoughtfully tapping her food with her fork for a moment.
“I really don’t understand what this is all about.” Finlay knew his mom was not convinced by the news of The Threat heading towards Serra. “We have lived for generations without any need for these violent games. How do you even know you will be any good at it? You’ve never even been in a fight in your life.”
“It’s about strategy mom. It’s not about fighting or whatever, well, I mean it kind of is.” Finlay was getting frustrated; he could feel it welling up in him. “What are we supposed to do? Just sit here and wait for whatever it is out there to come drown out the light of our suns?” “How do you even know it’s true, Finlay? How do you know the Council is even telling the truth?” Finlay couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“How can you even say that mom? Why would the Council lie? What benefit would it give anyone other than all of us being able to defend ourselves?” He pushed his plate away. “I don’t understand how you don’t get this. We are in danger. This is a chance for us to do something about it.” He stood up and walked away from the table to his room.
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