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~ Prélude ~

"Oh, I wish your brother would hurry up and get home. Surely running a simple errand wouldn't take this long!"

Geo said nothing but continued to read through his textbook and jot down notes. Autozam was a technologically advanced country, but he lived in a run-down neighborhood. Many of the families were underprivileged, and the school was far from most of the schools in Autozam; it was a public school, meaning that Geo and other students who attended were getting a free education. Free meant less technology and more primitive ways of learning.

That included simple books.

"Plus, he still has his studying to do, too!" his mother continued. "With our situation in Autozam, Holden and you need to get all the opportunities you two can get. Next year is his final year of school, after all."

He placed his pen on the table and stared at his mother with a frown. He and his older brother, Holden, had a secret from their mother. It was for her own sake; if she had known what they were up too, and they failed with it, she would be greatly disappointed. However, if Holden came back with the answer that the two brothers wanted, their mother would be pleased.

It was one of those cases in which the less their mother knew, the better. However, they were respecting her wish to take advantage of anything passes by that would get them higher in life.

"You know, Mom," Geo said, "I could help you with dinner. The final exam isn't until next week."

Without turning away from her cooking, she growled, "Study."

He sighed. Mood changes were dangerous from women of all ages. "You're putting too much stress on yourself, Mom. You work and then you come home and take care of all the household chores... you really need to rest."

"I'm fine."

Geo shook his head; it was never worth arguing with his mother.

He, like his older brother, was worried about her. Since his father had been missing ever since Geo was born, everybody had assumed that he was dead. Even before people began spreading rumors about what had happened to him, the Metro family was picking itself up and living successfully on its own.

Well, as successfully as a single working parent could muster.

In the year 1564, President Lancia Countach became President of Autozam, Geo read. Even from the beginning, the government seemed a little shaky. For starters...

"I'm home."

"It's about time!" Geo shouted, dropping all of his supplies to the table and running to the front door to greet his brother.

Holden was a head taller than Geo but much skinnier. Granted, the Metros had fairly small daily meals as compared to the ones they usually received at restaurants for special occasions, but Geo still managed to get more muscle than Holden ever worked for. Of course, Holden cared nothing for becoming stronger physically, for he felt keeping a keen vision and fast reflexes would get him further in life. It wasn't that Geo felt the opposite--he knew that getting good grades was better than anything--it was just that he was involved with more physical activities than Holden.

There was nothing wrong with a little fun, was there?

"So, what happened at the headquarters?" Geo whispered so that their mother would not hear. "Did we...?"

Holden only smiled and wrapped his arm around Geo's neck. "Come on. Let's give Ma a hand with dinner."

"Eh, not a good idea. She sounded like she was going to kill me when I offered," Geo said as the two brothers marched into the kitchen. "You better leave those groceries with me; she's really uptight with this studying business, and once she hears--"

Holden shushed Geo as they finally entered the kitchen, the scent of fresh baked vegetables of Fahren's farms swept the noses of the two boys. "That smells good, Ma! Where'd you get the money for the mussos, though?"

"Mrs. Durango lent some of the extras to me," she answered. "Did you get the asunas I sent you out for?"

"Asunas? You mean fake asunas." Holden stuck out his tongue as he released Geo from his grip and set the basket on the counter. "I wonder if there's such a thing as fake artificial meat."

She turned her head to face her son, her unnatural womanly height allowing her to stare Holden down. "It's the only thing we can afford right now. I know it tastes worse than what the middle class gets to eat, but it's better than what slaves get."

Holden sighed and walked past Geo and whispered. "Actually, I think slaves are better off than us as far as meals go. They feed the rich, they eat what the leftovers are that they feed."

"I heard that!"

He shook his head and opened his mouth, but before he could utter a word Holden snatched his arm and plopped him at the dining table. Geo glanced at his brother who reclaimed his seat from a few hours back, and just as Geo would have expected had it been any other day, he dug his nose deep into his textbook.

Geo groaned. He wanted to hear the details about how they made it in, why, and how they were going to find themselves actually in the academy. It was very expensive, after all, to attend. Sure, the kitchen was nearby and Holden wanted to surprise their mother instead of having her eavesdropping, but curiosity was consuming Geo's mind. Holden even neglected to inform Geo as to when they were going to tell their mother the great news--ah, this was going to be a surprise for him too, wasn't it?

"You know, Holden..."

"After dinner."

Geo frowned. That was it? They were going to talk about something after dinner. Holden must have thought that he knew what Geo was going to ask, but because Geo could not finish his sentence, he was unsure about what Holden was going to talk about after dinner. Was he going to spill the details Geo wanted to hear so badly? Was he going to tell their mother? Or maybe they were going to talk about whatever Geo wanted to talk about after dinner.

What was Holden thinking in his head?

He gave up and resumed his studying.

The president was given the privileges of a king. While the tradition is still followed nowadays for the president's husband/wife or child to take the position of president once he/she dies, the Revolution of 1610 changed the way the way the president was allowed to govern the country.

Geo frowned. The Revolution of 1610 was almost fifteen years ago. Was the government changed only that short time? Did the authors of the textbook think that the new system of government was actually working?

Although it seemed to be did not prove that it would work. It took fifty years for people to realize that the old political ways were only leading up to corruption. Would the recently revised government work?

And why was Holden holding back on, well, everything?

"Alright, you two. It's dinner time."

"Good!" Holden stated, shoving his books to the side of the table. Geo followed suit and threw his school supplies underneath the table. "I'm starved!"

"Hungry enough to eat my asuna?" Geo offered.

"Eh... no thanks."

His mother lightly slapped Geo on the back of his head. "You eat your own food, and Holden will eat his. I swear, you need to really begin to tolerate all types of artificial foods. That's all you're ever going to eat in Autozam as long as you're a normal, underprivileged citizen."

Holden and Geo exchanged momentary looks. This was the perfect time to tell their mother, Geo knew that. He knew that Holden was aware of it as well. But Holden had yet to tell him everything. Geo sighed and waved his hand at Holden, indicating that it was fine to spill the news now rather than later. Her bitter attitude needed some sort of a bright ray of light.

"You know, Ma," Holden said, gulping down a piece of food. It had to be the Fahren vegetable musso. He swallowed it without being melodramatic. "Perhaps Geo and I found an opportunity so that we won't be regular citizens of Autozam anymore."

Geo picked up a piece of the artificial meat asuna with his fork and stuffed it into his mouth, intently keeping an eye on his mother. She only frowned and asked, "What do you mean? You're not immigrating, are you?"

Holden laughed. "No, no! Far from it, actually. For the past couple of months now, as you know, the military had been looking for eligible cadets for the Autozam Air Force Academy from underprivileged families. Well... Geo and I tried out for it. We took all different kinds of tests. And, well," he paused, probably to make sure that his mother still had a peaceful aura about her. From the look in her eye, she did. Holden cleared his throat and moved on.

"I went to Headquarters today, which is why I was late and I'm sorry, but..." Another hesitation. "Well, Geo and I get to skip the first year of the Academy and begin next year as second year students."

She closed her eyes. "Pray tell, Holden, Geo, how do you plan on paying for this?" she asked dryly.

"Well, they know about our family situation, otherwise, they wouldn't have come to this neighborhood," Holden continued. "They only pick the best out of each community, and since Geo and I were the best, we both earned a scholarship into the Academy."

Geo quickly looked behind his shoulder and toward his older brother, who could only smile the tiniest bit. For a few moments there was silence, and Geo glanced back at his mother, who had the most unemotional face Geo had witnessed out anybody. Fury, sadness, joy were concealed with a mask of pure apathy. Was this a good thing in his mother's heart, or a terrible thing in which they should never have done?

Before either one of the brothers could say anything else, she broke down into uncontrolled sobs.



Holden and Geo stood, but their mother waved at them, indicating that they could sit back down. She would be okay. Again, the two brothers exchanged nervous glances, and then finally sat back down.

"Why," their mother started, using her napkin to wipe away tears, "why didn't you tell me... that you were planning this?"

"We didn't want to get your hopes up," Geo explained. "We knew that if we had told you, you would have made it your religion that we would make it in, if it was truly what you wanted."

"And if it wasn't what you wanted, with all due respect, Ma," Holden continued, "we didn't want any discouragement from anybody."

"Of... of course I would have wanted it," she said with a soft smile. "When I heard that those recruiters were coming into our neighborhood, I began to worry about you two. Would you try to go for it? Would you keep yourselves from humiliation? I didn't force you two to because I know how parents are when they try to force something onto their children, and... oh, but I never would have thought that you would have actually made it!"

As more tears streamed down her cheeks, and the two brothers took the cue to sneak a grin at each other. Who could deny that when good things happen to one member of a family, it's a good deed to the entire family?

Chapter One: Fréres
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Disclaimer: Magic Knight Rayearth and its characters belong to CLAMP, not me. Holden is my creation, though, and since I love him to pieces, you can only use his character if you ask. You can use his name, which is another story altogether, but not him. Anyhow, since the only thing I'm benefiting from this is my own personal enjoyment, there is really no point in suing, is there?

Written on November 1, 2001 by Bearit at