Updated: Aug 19, 2020
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you—the first chapter of the King's 100! Woo-hoo!!! If it's a story you'd like to continue reading, make sure to add it to your list on Goodreads and watch for it to release on July 21, 2020!
THE KING'S 100 by Karin Biggs
I handled my relationship with my sister the same way I handled a glass microscope slide—with as few fingerprints as possible and an irrational fear that one misstep could shatter everything. As I neared her office door, I found the hall of our compound to be void of patrol officers. A friendly voice served as the only sound, talking to me from speakers embedded inside my ears. “Princess, it’s time for you to review your match details. The queen sent me an alert to remind you.”
“Thanks, Chip. I just have to show her something first.”
A blue glow emanated from the underside of my left wrist as Chip processed my words and communicated with my sister’s own Bio-System. “Dottie informs me that Queen Evelyn is currently busy.”
I sighed. “Chip, she’s always busy.” My fist tightened around a folded card that confirmed a hypothesis I’d held since our parents’ deaths. I hoped it was the evidence Evelyn needed to finally initiate the formal investigation I had been requesting for years.
“Princess, your heart rate has accelerated and you’re not participating in aerobic activity. I suggest you return to your room to review your—”
“Chip, do me a favor and go silent for the next twenty minutes or so, okay?”
The metal door slid open as a service droid exited Evelyn’s office. I took a deep breath and stepped through the threshold before it closed again. “Your Majesty,” I said to my sister, tilting my chin to my chest.
“What do you want, Piper?” she asked. Her office smelled like copper and mint. Two large computer monitors lit her pale face and white-blonde hair, while she sipped on her afternoon cup of peppermint tea. The zipper of her grey vest touched the tip of her chin, although the cooler autumn temperatures had yet to arrive in our kingdom.
I straightened my back. “I thought your points last night about the new drone technology were exceptionally valid, considering the ambassador’s counter.”
“You’re interrupting me for a compliment? In case you haven’t noticed, your queen is quite busy. On top of needing to finalize this contract deal for the ambassador of Brumitas, I was informed that one of our security gates is down for the next twenty-four hours.” Evelyn glared at something on her monitor as her fingers punched the keyboard.
I rubbed my thumb over the edge of the folded card. “Oh…which gate?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. And I’m sorry to disrupt you, it’s just…well, this.” I held out the white card and waited a few more keystrokes till she took it out of my hand.
She squinted as she read the hand-written message. “‘Your mother is alive and living inside the Mondarian king’s Mansion.’” She huffed and handed the card back to me. “It’s a sick joke.”
“I considered the possibility of it being a fallacy, but what if—”
Evelyn groaned. “I thought you were past this, Piper. It’s probably just another taunt from your incident.”
My incident happened three years prior when I lost control of my emotions and sobbed at my parents’ End of Life Ceremony. The repercussions of the unacceptable behavior followed me through the years in the form of medication with unsettling symptoms and hand-written notes, stating my inability to represent Capalon as royalty. Most of the writers chose to stay anonymous, while others had no qualms signing their name and ward.
But the note in my hand was oddly specific, as opposed to a generic insult of my weak mind. The previous evening, I had prepared myself for another long sales meeting with our kingdom’s top innovators and foreign representatives, when I noticed the card tucked under my dinner plate. “I just thought we could have a chemist in the Science Ward look at the paper and ink. Maybe they could confirm the origin of the paper and—”
“Piper,” said my sister with a steady tone, “If Mother or Father were alive, I would be elated because I’d be free to complete my research on solar photovoltaic technology without any concern for the state of our kingdom’s budget or trade relations with our allies.” She pushed the keyboard under her monitors and lifted the steaming teacup to her chest. “You’re the princess of Capalon and you’re about to be matched to a boy who will be the prince. As royalty, we’re supposed to be perfect role models of innovation and concentration. But our citizens already know about your infamous meltdown, they’ve caught on to your wild notion that mother is still alive and there have even been rumors about your…singing.” She said the last word in a whisper as if our Bio-Systems broadcasted our conversation about my shameful activity across the kingdom.
I bit the inside of my cheek to fight off the embarrassment creeping up my neck. I thought I had been doing a good job of hiding my disgraceful affinity for singing. But once again, I was wrong. I was always wrong and Evelyn was always right. There was a reason she was queen, and I was Capalon’s royal failure. Capalon wasn’t the greatest kingdom in The Lands because of singing and crying, but because of our citizens’ ability to cut out distractions from their lives and concentrate fully on innovation in their respective Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Wards.
Evelyn sipped her tea, then shook her head. “What kind of example are you setting if you continue this kind of behavior? You need to pay attention to the things that matter, like your match details.”
Unlike most kingdoms, Capalon didn’t fall victim to the distracting illusion of love. We knew the truth—that love was just a word given to the release of various chemicals in the brain which could easily be ignored with dedicated practice. Instead of forming unions based on love, Capalon pairings occurred through matches of intellectual test scores. And as the Capalon princess, I had the honor of being matched with the highest-scoring male in my age group to continue the family lineage of the smartest minds in the kingdom. No other matches could take place in the kingdom until the completion of my match ceremony on my seventeenth birthday.
I nodded. “You’re right, sister. I’ll open my match details as soon as I’m back in my room. I apologize for disturbing you.” In need of something to calm my tense muscles, I took a couple small steps to the corner of her desk, where my sister kept a vial of my mother’s scented oil. It was strange for any Capalon to hold on to a keepsake from a deceased family member, but I knew Evelyn only held on to it for me. She pretended to get a call or read a memo on her computer screen so I could inhale the remaining mix of peppermint, lavender and lemon, before she chose to continue or end our conversation. The indigo vial was the only reminder I had of a person who slipped farther away from me with the passing of each day.
“Are we finished?” asked Evelyn, signaling the end of our unspoken ritual. “I need to complete this contract before I leave tonight.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” I tilted my chin down, then exited her office.
Once in my room, I fell backward onto my bed, preferring to stare at the white tiles of the ceiling as opposed to my windowless, grey walls.
Why did I think Evelyn would see any truth in the note?
It had been nearly three years since our parents’ speedcraft crashed along the northern tip of Mondaria. The day after the crash, Evelyn became queen and a month later, her match became the new king. For Evelyn, my parents’ deaths sent her into an unwavering sense of duty and power. For me, their deaths released all the unacceptable emotions and actions I had been taught to suppress, hide, and ignore since birth.
As Capalons, we believed firmly in facts and the fact remained that patrol officers recovered my father’s body from the speedcraft accident, but not my mother’s. Evelyn trusted the accident report stating Mother’s body had been destroyed in the flames, while I trusted my anecdotal gut feeling that she was alive.
I shut my eyes and pressed open palms against my eyelids, hoping to dissolve the morbid image of my parents’ demise from my mind, but like normal, it refused to budge until I found something to take its place. “Chip, open my match’s…on second thought, don’t do anything.”
I reached under my bed for an indestructible black box intended for protecting physical copies of research reports. But rather than filling the box with important documents, I used its protection to hide Mondarian artifacts I had collected over the years from the creek near our compound. If anyone ever discovered my abhorrent collection, the accusatory notes of my inept mind would triple in volume.
As a child, I would have been punished through the Capalon tradition of Focus—marathon sessions of seclusion in my windowless room to learn self-discipline through breathing. I should have been awarded a Token of Achievement for the amount of time I had been forced to endure in Focus for things like singing, tapping my leg or lagging behind on test scores. We were taught to be thankful for any opportunity to improve our minds, but my gratitude was routinely suppressed by the heavy weight of isolation. My only reprieve from the unsettling loneliness of Focus came at age nine in the form of my Bio-System, giving me a forever companion within my own body. After the installation of Chip, the torturous threat of seclusion in Focus eased with the option to play math games, listen to archived research studies or guess my health-stats.
But even with the companionship of Chip, nothing compared to time with my Mother and sister. When my father was away, my mother led us down to the creek and allowed my sister and me to perform any unacceptable behavior we pleased—spurred by her belief in a healthy cleanse of the mind. My mother’s scent mixed with the smell of creek water, the sound of Evie’s laughter and the feel of my facial muscles pulling my mouth into a wide smile. If I had been gifted the option to choose my location for Focus, it would have been in the creek where my fingertips grazed not cold, windowless grey walls, but soft, mossy earth under a ceiling of treetops and never-ending sky.
I unlocked the box’s heavy lid and removed a few of my favorite artifacts, which included a purple polka-dotted sock, a green and red jeweled pin in the shape of a tree and a cracked plate with an artistic depiction of a boy playing in snow.
My fingers moved on to my most recent find—a red card with Mondarian citizen information for a girl my age named Paris Marigold. I wished I could communicate to the girl in the picture to ask her if she knew anything about my mother and why she was smiling.
I set down the girl’s card and picked up my favorite item—an antique voice recorder with only one recording I had left untouched for nearly three years. Taking a deep breath, I pressed the ‘play’ button.
“Say something,” said my happier, younger self.
“That’s an object of our enemies, Piper! You should toss it back over the gate so it can be destroyed.”
“Oh, come on, Evie! Say something. Anything.”
“Fine. Piper Parish…is an ignoramus!”
The recording stopped in the middle of our howling laughter. I found the recorder a few weeks before our parents died, during a time when I could already feel us becoming two completely different people. Where Evelyn stayed short, I grew tall. Her hair kept to a wavy white-blonde, where mine darkened to a stick-straight dark-blonde. She took pride in winning research debates and I celebrated a day without being punished for humming in the labs. The precious stolen moments with our mother in the creek decreased as we grew older, loosening the thread that held us together. The day my parents died, Evelyn unraveled, and I was no longer viewed as the little sister she could laugh with in secret, but as her greatest source of disappointment.
I dropped the recorder and chewed on my thumbnail.
Evelyn deserved a sister who could be the princess the kingdom needed—a girl who reviewed her match details without hesitation, ignored any and all distractions and hid her unnecessary emotions.
Evelyn deserved better.
And I was so tired of being seen as Capalon’s problem princess.
I can do better.
Hairs raised on the back of my neck as my adrenaline spiked. Maybe our relationship needed my behavior to improve to bring back our days of laughing in the creek. And if I put my wild ideas about my mother behind me, maybe I could finally move on and make my sister proud.
Excited with my new burst of determination, I hopped up from my bed and marched back to my sister’s office, passing a waste-droid in the hall. “Chip, ask Evelyn for permission to enter.”
The door opened and Evelyn greeted me with an eye roll. “What now, Piper?”
I held my head high and spoke with conviction. “Your Majesty, I just wanted to say I’m sorry about the note and about everything—the singing and my erratic emotions included. You’re right. If I’m going to be matched soon, I need to take my role as princess seriously and…” My eyes settled on a newly empty corner of Evelyn’s desk.
Following my eyes, Evelyn cleared her throat. “I just deposited Mother’s vial into the incineration chamber of the waste-droid. I can’t help but feel it’s been partially my fault for allowing you to have unnecessary emotional attachment. But if you’re serious about your previous statement, then you’ll agree that this is the best move for you and for Capalon.”
My throat swelled and my heart rate increased.
Terrified of the truth behind my sister’s eyes, I took a step back toward the door. “Yes,” I choked out. “I want to do what’s best for Capalon.”
Evelyn continued to speak, but I sank into an emotional pool of water, hearing only muffled sound and losing my source of oxygen.
I nodded to my sister’s inaudible words, then exited her office without a formal goodbye. I needed a private space to hide before the unacceptable emotions took over. The thought of my windowless room constricted my lungs, so I headed to the skybridge and took the elevator down to ground level.
“Princess Piper, you’re heading outdoors,” Chip said. “Would you like me to clear all citizens from your path so you can enjoy the benefits of a brisk walk without interruption?”
“No.” Citizens in my vicinity didn’t need to be alerted that the princess would pass them at a dead sprint.
“May I call a hover pod for you?”
“I just…need to get…to the creek,” I said between heavy breaths as I pushed my way through a sea of grey-clad citizens and my feet pounded against a cushioned walkway. The ground switched to the leveled grasslands of the Field, where a group of primary level citizens gathered around surveying equipment. A young girl spotted me and pointed. “Innovator Harris, isn’t that Princess Piper?”
I didn’t wait to hear Innovator Harris’s response and entered a dense line of trees, then hopped down the bank of the shallow creek. When my feet met sand, I bent over and rested my palms above my knees. “Chip…talk me down.”
Blue light emitted from my wrist. “Princess, inhale on one, two, three four and exhale on one, two, three, four.”
Breathe. Focus. Breathe.
With Chip’s assistance, my breathing calmed but the anger in my chest roared with an untamable fire. I picked up any small rocks I could get my hands on and hurled them as hard as I could down the creek. I blamed my mother for causing me to be a poor excuse for a Capalon princess.
She was the one who embraced us and touched our cheeks when mothers were instructed not to show physical affection to their children. She was the one who sang to us in the creek and encouraged us to search for Mondarian artifacts when Father was away. And she was the one who told me I had a gift through my voice and to never stop using it.
My mother, the queen of Capalon, was defective, and I wished I could eliminate her from my mind as easily as Evelyn had. But it had taken me nearly three years to finally admit to myself that I would never move on until I knew for sure that my mother was dead.
The tears won their battle against my eyelids as I picked up my fifth rock. I hurled it at a tree branch, scaring a bird into a wild flight for safety. I blinked through my clouded eyes as I watched the bird land on a flat surface behind the tree. It puffed its vivid-red chest and ruffled its ink-black wings as it sent out an angry call. Normally my eyes would have been transfixed by the bird’s bright color, but they fell to its new resting place—one of the gates in our security wall.
Birds avoided the security wall and its scorching invisible forcefield that ran along the top, which meant—
The broken gate.
The boulders in the creek served as a crossing path as I bounded up the creek bank to get a closer look. After the bird flew away with a frantic call, I tossed a rock over the top of the gate to test my observation. A nervous jolt shot through me when it landed softly on the other side. The neurons in my brain jumped together to form a lightning-powered idea.
I could do it.
I could leave Capalon over the dead gate and search for my mother in Mondaria.
The idea scared me, sending me back into a tree. I picked at the bark with my fingertips as I processed the possibility and inhaled the scent of dry, autumn leaves. For years I had pestered Evelyn with my hypothesis that Mother was alive, only to be consistently turned away. I never considered the option to take the investigation into my own hands.
The security wall served the purpose of keeping our citizens inside the perimeter of our kingdom in addition to keeping our enemies out. Capalons were never permitted to leave the kingdom, aside from the queen and king and invited innovators. The world beyond our walls was too dangerous and filled with distractions, germs and evil people who wanted our innovative secrets. One kingdom even held a mandate for the right to kill Capalons if found on their land—that kingdom was the only place in The Lands where it snowed, the least technologically advanced, home to the king who could be holding my mother captive and most importantly, our one and only true enemy.
I removed the note from my pocket.
Your mother is alive and living inside the Mondarian king’s Mansion.
Maybe whoever left me the note knew I was the only one who would be willing to leave Capalon to search for her. I had Paris Marigold’s identification card and the dead gate. I just needed to make a few alterations to the card and scale the gate before it was fixed within the next twenty-four hours.
“Princess Piper, your sister will be visiting you in your bedroom in fifteen minutes. Would you like me to call you a hover pod to make it back to the Compound in time?”
I wiped my shirt sleeve across my cheeks. “Yes.”
Chip’s voice reminded me I would need to find a way to go offline if I didn’t want my every step traced by Patrol, landing me back in Capalon before I could even set one foot in Mondaria.
But how? The only way to operate offline was with voice permission from the king or queen to switch to manual-operation. And there was no way Evelyn would ever give me permission.
The hover pod returned me to the Compound in half the time it took me to run to the creek, so I examined Paris Marigold’s identification card, which sat on my bed with the other Mondarian artifacts. I would need to find a photo to replace her brown eyes, brown skin and brown spiral hair.
My metal bedroom door slid into the wall before I placed all the forbidden items back into the box. I sat rigid on the bed, blocking the items from view behind my back when Evelyn stepped into my room.
“Piper, about mother’s vial—”
“It’s okay,” I said with a forced cheerful tone. “I need to move on and eliminating the vial was the proper thing to do.”
She nodded and stepped deeper into my room. “I also wanted to confirm you’ve reviewed your match’s details before I leave the kingdom.”
“No, I’m sorry. I haven’t—”
“Haven’t what, Piper? Had the time? You’ve been too busy sneaking away to the creek to practice your forbidden singing?” She crossed her arms and leaned against my worktable. “Honestly, Piper, I don’t know how to get you to—”
“What I meant was…I haven’t received your formal permission.” My dry throat attempted to swallow as my thumb slid over the voice recorder behind my back.
“Formal permission?” Evelyn scoffed. “You don’t need my formal permission. I’ve been asking you to do this for days! But if that’s what it takes to get you to follow my request, then so be it. Permission granted by Queen Evelyn Elaine Parish of Capalon,” she said with punctuating movements of her hands. “Happy?”
“Yes. Thank you, sister. It’s just…I think that’s what Father would have done.”
Evelyn rubbed the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes. “Piper, I think it’s time to talk to the pharmaceutical lab again. Maybe they can give you something stronger.”
I nodded. “I’m willing to do what’s best for Capalon.”
Her eyes focused on mine and for a moment, I thought she might close the distance between us and offer me an embrace, but she pushed herself off my worktable and headed to the door. “I have to go. I’ll be back tomorrow night. Send me a memo when you’ve reviewed your match and I’ll set up a time for the three of us to meet.”
“Yes, Your Majesty. Safe travels.”
The door closed behind her and I hit ‘stop,’ then ‘rewind’ on the recorder. Evelyn’s voice emitted from the small speaker. “Permission granted by Queen Evelyn Elaine Parish of Capalon.”
Maybe I was suffering from mental weakness. Maybe my sister was right that I needed a more powerful medication to avoid the temptation of singing and crying. And maybe I was crazy, most of all, for believing that what was best for Capalon and my relationship with my sister, was to risk death in the kingdom of our enemies to find my mother.
The King's 100 by Karin Biggs
Published by Immortal Works Press
So, that's it! I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of my debut novel and make sure to sign up for my newsletter or follow me on social media for more goodies!