REND - Chapter 1.2

Published at 14th of May 2022 02:33:29 PM

Chapter 1.2

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I slapped myself then looked at the bathroom mirror. “Stop grinning like an idiot,” I told my reflection. My cheeks twitched but the sides of my lips still turned up. Fuck it, this wasn’t the appropriate face for the circumstance at hand.

The memory of my stupid fake scream lingered on my mind, threatening another bout of giggles. I honestly couldn’t remember an instance in the past I screamed for real, be it in fear or surprise. Maybe when I was a kid? Don’t think so. The roller coaster ride I had with my cousins three years back was the previous fake scream session I had no choice to do. It would've been super weird that time if I sat in rigid silence while the coaster twisted and turned like pasta coiled around a fork.

“Ah shit.” I snorted trying to stop my laughter, remembering my dumb stuttering fake yelps riding the Spiral of Doom. "Be serious, you bitch," I hissed at the mirror.

Earlier, I wanted to tell Deen to shut up about anything that could get us quarantined and examined, but that didn’t suit me. Instead, I texted her to ask if we should say anything 'about the weird stuff that happened.' This way, she was in charge, and she would feel she had to take charge. I didn’t specify anything; she should know what I was talking about. Kelsey’s grotesque contortions and screaming she wanted to die a human...ladies and gentlemen of the jury...was Kelsey turning into an Adumbrae?

Couldn’t say that beyond a reasonable doubt, but better safe than sorry.

I didn't want to have a record for being investigated of associating with an Adumbrae, much less a record for possibly aiding and abetting, or even hiding the existence of one. Law school was already difficult, there was no need to make my life harder. And I was sure Amber Deen shared my sentiments.

Deen had texted back, “We shouldn’t mention anything about that.” And that was that. Good thing too—I was hoping she wouldn’t be a stubborn rule stickler and drag us through getting tested. She also apparently valued a clean record.

Class was about to start in five minutes. I didn’t go with Deen straight to class from the cafeteria because I felt I couldn’t control my face just yet. I played it off like I had to wash my face to recover from the shock. It was true in a way. I was shocked I had to prepare a shocked face as a witness to a suicide. Not something I thought would happen ever.

I splashed my face with water a few times and inhaled deeply. Blank your thoughts, blank your thoughts. “There, awesome,” I said as my smile fell. “Time to go—Oh, I forgot my glasses.”

Maybe about seventy percent or more of the students in Cresthorne wore glasses or contacts, so wearing one too formed some kind of subliminal connection with them. Glasses also made one look smarter, more dependable, and somewhat an overall better person. Sounds cliche, I know. But I’ve read that defense attorneys made their clients wear glasses to pump up their uprightness meter for the jury.

I arrived at my class with a minute to spare. Professor Gallagher wasn’t inside yet. Judging by everyone huddling around Deen and talking in hushed tones, they knew about what happened.

“Erind, we heard from Amber,” Adrian said as I sat down. “Are you okay?”

I raised a brow at Deen two rows down. She faintly shook her head. “I’m fine,” I said, playing the part of the delicate girl. “I just washed my face. It was really…shocking. I hope they find her...” I nearly added 'body', but that'd be assuming she was dead. She probably was, let's be real, but I didn't want to look like an asshole.

Adrian said, “We were talking about what could've caused it. Stress probably got to her. I heard someone four or five years back attempted to jump off the third floor of the library during hell week.” Everyone else chimed in with their theories about Kelsey's decision to throw herself into the ocean.

The door opening with a bang shut everyone up.

“Good morning class,” Professor Gallagher said. Everyone went back to their seats because the Professor was one of those your-spot-in-Cresthorne-is-a-privilege teachers and didn't hesitate to throw people out of class if he deemed them 'undeserving' of their 'spot'. He only brought with him the class list and nothing else. Running down his finger through the names of students, he called out, “Mr. Narvaez.”

We didn’t have any attendance policy, but since we’re still first-years it was a commonly held belief yet to be shattered by experience that attending classes would lead us to pass said class. Also, Professor Gallagher always assumed everyone in the class list showed up, and those absent had no 'spot' in the next session.

“Sir,” Carlos said, barely reaching his seat before standing up again.

“We started our introduction to International Law last week, but let’s run through it again before continuing with our overview of the course,” Professor Gallagher said. “What is international law?”

“It’s the collection of legal rules, norms, and standards generally accepted as binding sovereign states.”

“Sovereign states only?”

“Uh, no, sir! It also binds internationally recognized legal entities operating on an international level.”

“Text-book answer, Mr. Narvaez. You’ll pass the bar with that,” Professor Gallagher said with a bit of sneer. Carlos looked around nervously, not sure if he was being complimented or not. He wasn't. “Now, let’s dissect your answer, Mr. Narvaez. Generally accepted, you say. Who decides to accept that set of rules?”

“Well, the nations themselves, Sir.”

“Any specific person?”

“The leaders of such nations—”

“Which will then prompt the question what if the current leaders won’t accept the acts of their predecessors? A question for another time. Moving on. That covers treaties and agreements with international organizations. How about international customs? Important aspects of international law are based on custom.”

Carlos answered, “Consistent practice by the states coupled with a belief that such action was a legal obligation or opinio juris.”

Professor Gallagher chuckled. “A large part of international law is based on belief, Mr. Narvaez? You’re telling us that part of international law is based on previous practice and, more importantly, simply belief?”

Carlos looked hesitant. “Yes, Sir?”

“Are you asking me a question?” Professor Gallagher let out a hollow laugh. “It is true. Opinio juris sive necessitates, an opinion of law or necessity. Further along this semester, we will discuss how the hell can one show a state’s action was motivated by the belief it was legally obligated to do so. Sounds insane...because it is. You may sit down, Mr. Narvaez. And next time be confident with your answers.” The professor scanned the class list. “Moving on. Mr. Hartwell?”

I stood up. It was my first time getting called in this class. “It’s miss, sir.”

“I apologize. I assumed Erind was a male name.”

“Yes, I think it’s an Albanian male name?”

“Well then, Ms. Hartwell,” Professor Gallagher said, “Mr. Narvaez mentioned international law also bound international entities or organizations. Examples please.”

“The International Financial Cooperative, the International Commerce Organization, the United Nation Security Council”, I said, “including affiliate organizations combatting Adumbrae like the Free Will Initiative.” I specifically mentioned the Initiative because from my research I learned that Professor Gallagher once worked as an advisor for them.

He nodded. “We will be dealing with how these organizations, such as the IFC, ICO, and UNSC mentioned by Ms. Hartwell, are bound by international law to functions outside of what is explicitly written on their respective charters. The UNSC Charter, for one, does not mention a legal obligation to quarantine and blockade a member state with an uncontrolled Adumbrae seeding rate. Yet, there is no question it is obligated to do so. The ongoing blockade of Madagascar is a prime example.

“Cresthorne tailored our curriculum with the assumption all of you are pursuing a career related one way or another in humanity’s collective effort against the Adumbrae threat. We are, after all, mostly funded by the US Bureau of Interdimensional Defense. However, Ms. Hartwell, you didn't mention the Corebring Central Hive among the examples you gave. We have a substantial section of the syllabus devoted on the Hive. It saddens me you forgot about the main example.” Professor Gallagher raised the class list again to find the next person for recitation.

Gotcha, Professor, I thought with a mental smirk. “But, sir,” I piped up, surprising everyone. Deen gave me an incredulous stare like I was insane for speaking out of turn in this class. I continued, unfazed, “You asked for examples of the international organizations referred to by Mr. Narvaez that are bound by international law.”

“Pardon, Ms. Hartwell?” Professor Gallagher said with a brow raised.

“Sir, the Corebring Hive is not bound by international law.”

He scratched his thick beard, walked to his table, pulled out his chair, and sat down. “Remain standing, Ms. Hartwell. Mr. Peterson, tell Ms. Hartwell why she is wrong.”

“Sir,” Nielson Peterson said, standing up eagerly. “The Corebring Hive is bound by international law in the same way as all other international organizations. They are composed of states or interact with states; the states are bound by international law. The Corebring Hive is funded by states. By transitivity, the Hive is bound by international law.”

Professor Gallagher kept Nielson and me standing, and continued calling people to argue why I was wrong. This was going all according to my plan to upgrade my face this semester.

Based on my observations from my first semester, there were plenty of ways to classify professors at Cresthorne. Those intently observing if students listened in class, and those who didn’t even care if no one showed up. Those who droned on and on, going off tangent all the time and couldn’t finish half the syllabus for the semester, and those who stuck to the syllabus. And, of course, those professors who were more on the academic side, contrasted by those who teach with the disclaimer that whatever we learned was not how it worked in the 'real world'. Professor Gallagher was a this-is-different-in-practice type of guy. At least, I hoped my impression of him was correct.

Even Deen was called to recite. She glanced at me hesitantly before saying, “Patterson vs. Washington State, humanity above all principle. Corebrings are not under the jurisdiction of any international courts or any state, but they are bound by the legal obligation founded on the moral obligation of all people to ensure the survival of humanity. Especially in the fight against the Adumbrae threat. Thus, they are obligated to follow international laws for the good of humanity.”

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I nearly rolled my eyes. Moral obligation? How the fuck are you going to bind the Corebrings with moral obligation when they were the ones saving the world? They practically have the moral high ground in any scenario. The doctrine in that case was pure lip service.

More and more people were called. Eventually, half the class was standing. They must be annoyed at me for starting this argument. At last, Professor Gallagher said, “Alright, that’s enough. What do you have to say, Ms. Hartwell?”

I swallowed my saliva; I had been standing for twenty minutes now just staring at the board, playing a tune inside my head. I was already prepared with my answer. “Sir, no one can legally bind superhumans who can grind cities to dust.” Deen inhaled sharply at my audacious answer. There was silence. Professor Gallagher stared at me and I stared back, grinning sheepishly. “And Corebrings dictate what is good for humanity anyway if Adumbrae are concerned.”

His laughter boomed out, startling everyone. “Now, now, Ms. Hartwell. You can’t answer that on your bar exams.” He raised his hand, “Has anyone here met a Corebring face to face? A full-fledged Corebring, not the Initiates. A Melded Corebring?”

No one raised their hands.

“I suppose some of you will eventually graduate, and a fewer number will land a career in the field of interdimensional defense. Only one or two of you, if any at all, will probably meet a Melded Corebring. An important tip, do not tell them they have the legal or moral obligation to follow the U.N. or something idiotic like that.”

“Yes, sir,” I said with a smile on my face. Mission accomplished, the gamble paid off. With this, I have asserted a place in the hierarchy of the class. But no one would feel threatened by me because of the nerdy subdued persona I cultivated during the first semester coupled with my general friendliness. Bonus points, Professor Gallagher has a good impression of me now.

When the class ended, Deen ran to me. “I'm still right that you shouldn’t answer that on the bar exams.”

I laughed. “I know. I know.”

“Anyway, we’re going to have lunch at Casa Diaz. It’s the new Mexican bistro at Sanders.”

I checked my watch. I didn’t have anything after this, but it was a subtle assertion of dominance.

Deen hastily said, “Oh come on, you didn’t come with us for lunch last time. You can ride with me. We need some relaxation after that whole...thing, you know?”

“Okay then,” I said. “I’ll just get my bike from the rack. Can I put it in your backseat or your trunk? It’s a folding bike.”

"Sure, plenty of room in my car." Deen leaned close to me. "I'm relieved nothing has happened yet because They just took our statements," she said in a whisper.

"Let's hope it stays that way," I replied in an even quieter tone.

But when we went out of the classroom, a man in white clothes stopped us. So much for being in the clear.

On his chest was a badge depicting an eagle with six wings, the seal of Melchor Institute of Eloyce Field Studies. He noticed our concerned faces and explained that we should follow him because they needed to perform a routine check-up on us, witnessing the suicide and all.

"Nothing to be worried about," he assured us.

And that was a cause for concern!

Cresthorne has its clinic, just the usual clinic for stomach ache or migraine, mundane concerns like that. They could've given us pills or something for our nerves. Why did we need to go to Melchor? Routine check-up my ass. We were going to get tested, weren't we?

I shot a look at Deen. She was trying to keep a calm face but her anxious eyes gave her away. She mouthed, "I have no idea."

World. This is annoying.

Stop bothering me.




Why law student? How laws are crafted, government actions, societal biases, and moral inclinations of the population are largely ignored in stories with super-powered humans, focusing more on the fighting. Since REND is a psychological story, I wanted to also examine how normal people viewed this dangerous world, and what better way to examine all of the things I mentioned than with a first-year law student?

Do keep in mind that because this is a first-person pov story, Erind might not be exactly honest with everything she says. She isn't an unreliable narrator per se (misleading narration isn't a plot point), but she might not be honest to herself about her motivations, and it'll reflect in her narration and introspection.  

As mentioned, REND can be enjoyed in a relaxed way, or a reader can have a deeper dive, closely examining character development and watching out for hidden clues for the mysteries in the plot. The Author's Notes will be used to occasionally provide some hints or explanations, especially in the character development aspect. (In the process of adding A/Ns and rereading for minor edits.)


Please report us if you find any errors so we can fix it asap!