Barcode: Legend of Apollo

Barcode: Legend of Apollo
By Kashif Ross

WARNING: This book contains sarcasm that should offend people and unpredictable twists that may cause you to hurl your kindle at a wall. If you are known for launching electrical devices into barriers or human beings, I recommend you read the reviews in order to discover if Barcode floats your boat.

Copyright

Barcode: Legend of Apollo
© 2012 Kashif Ross
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the Author. Your support of author’s rights is appreciated.
All characters in this compilation are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Acknowledgements

Developing this novel required a team. Fortunately, I came armed with a militia. A few months before publishing, I contacted an old friend, Stephanie Yang, that was spectacular enough to make an amazing cover.

My editor worked with me to improve the world and the way people connect. Without Roxanne Piskel, this story wouldn’t have come to life the way it has. She’s more of an animator than an editor.

The support of my friends and family really helped me through this journey. My college resident, high school friend that’s read all of my works, summer camp coworker, and beautiful wife put in hours helping me develop this story. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.

Lastly, I’d like to thank my Writer for reasons only He could understand.

One

Overzealous freshmen continue pouring out of buses and cars, excited for the first day of school. They’re under the impression that graduating from Colt Academy means something.

The academy that they’re marveling at stands out like a sore thumb amongst the surrounding skyscrapers. The institution acts as a battlefield for crowds to watch gladiators slay each other, but it’s also a high school and college. The stadium measures two miles in diameter in an area that once was nothing but grass. After a massive war broke out on America’s land, most of the greenery disappeared and our country was left with a lot of dirt and no crops.

This building takes away from the metropolitan feeling of the neighboring businesses. I wouldn’t consider it beautiful by any means, but I’m sure the newcomers would disagree.

Excessive doses of adrenaline pump through the freshmen’s bodies. Those mesmerized by the local celebrities run frantically towards the gods dumb enough to arrive on time for their first day.

They’re coming right for me. Obviously, they know nothing of the class system that’s unique to our arena. Ignoring the clear difference between gods and mortals, the paparazzi attempts to interview me. Most of the investigation stems from the mouth of a girl that, I must admit, pleases my eyes.

“Are you the guy with Apollo’s barcode? Wow, you’re Apollo. But the gods use your government name, right? Spencer Colt. Your dad owns this place. Wow. I can’t believe I see Spencer Colt in front of me on my first day. We’re probably supposed to call you Apollo like our parents, right?”

Wow
. The ramblings resonate in my ears long enough. The crowd germinates with other new pests bold enough to wait for a response to the girl’s inquisition. Too bad for them, I’ve begun walking towards the rear entrance of the school.

Once I see a campus bus passing, I grab the external railing and steal a ride up the street. Due to the massive size of the school, these buses circle the stadium every five minutes. The driver waves from the front seat of the yellow tram as I hop on. I’ve never seen him, but every human in the city knows who I am. Before last year, when I got myself in a tiny bit of trouble, my face was displayed all throughout our smoggy city of Griffith Park.

After my trip to Dubai, I find myself missing things that I never had before, like clean air and plants. Griffith Park was destroyed after the Great American War. Presently, the only trees we can see are on the gigantic high definition displays that advertise Colt and Moreno products.

Everything in America is digital.

Dubai still produces things on paper and posters occasionally, but we don’t get those things here. Our clothes are coated with carbon nanotubes and our “paper” consists of cell phones and tablets. That’s the way our forefathers wanted it, and the way Dennis Colt manages our cities.

While passing Dennis’ office, I glare into his open window. I don’t see him. He’s probably waiting at the entrance to wish me a happy birthday. I might have walked through the front, had my grandad, Casey, not reminded Dennis of the day while picking me up from the airport. Dennis is obviously too busy making arrangements for the first day of school to remember something as insignificant as my birthday.

After creeping through the back entrance, I duck into the school garden—which is really just a bunch of rocks, a pond, and several waterfalls. Students come here to study. It’s a pretty quiet place to hide out in the beginning of the year, but when finals come around, I generally keep clear.

The garden is enormous, but doesn’t seem as appeasing anymore. Dubai’s made me lose all interest in our unnatural lifestyle. Everything in Southern California is centered around technology. We’re the most technologically advanced city in the world, thanks to the Moreno and Gonzales families. Still, my tablet can’t replace seeing leaves blow in the wind.

Honestly, I’m looking for reasons to complain. Deep within my data, I want to get away from all the people I hate, and all those that hate me.

My objective this year, is to not exist. I’d rather not have any professors or students notice me. My friends can find someone else to chill with. There’s only one year of school remaining. Grabbing my backpack and running away to another state sounds like an impressive idea.

There’s a certain amount of pressure that comes along with being the chancellor’s son. Since the arena was constructed, every Colt found their way into history books as revolutionary warriors or innovators.

I’m such a failure.

My instructors say I’m the first of the bloodline that isn’t naturally a top ranking student. Therefore, professors are inclined to boost my grades in order to keep “the great Apollo” at the top of his class.

I apologize dear ancestors. I will honor you by falling on my sword.

Damn. I don’t have a weapon yet. Give me a few days, folks.

I find a seat on a stone bench next to a small pond and watch as several lizard-fish swim and crawl through the shallow water. One has the flesh of a koi fish but the body of a garden lizard. The gold and black colors blur as my heavy eyes close and my head drops. I’m still jet-lagged.

As I open my eyes, a sharp kick lands between my ribs. Before my attacker can remove her foot, I grab it tightly and swing her into the pool.

The plague sitting in front of me with her butt dipped in an inch of water, and her arms folded neatly around her legs, just so happens to call herself Hannah’s best friend, though I knew her long before the two met.

This tomboy has a kick that’s out of this world. Her barcodes are powered by the goddess Atalanta. Every god and demigod has a code that they’re born with. That’s what separates us from Apes and humans. Some gods bond well with their bodies, while others pump so much power into their flesh that they can hardly stand. Ever. It can be a gift or a curse.

“You got my panties wet, jerk.”

“Why would a boy wear panties?”

“Don’t call me a boy, you ugly pig.”

“You walk like one, talk like one, but wait, you kick like a girl,” I tease, but my ribs scream in pain. Even more, I’m defiantly conscious that Michelle’s beauty competes closely with the most attractive girl on campus, Hannah. Still, she and I are mortal enemies that will one day battle to her death.

I’ve seen these visions in my sleep. Any morning I wake up after slaying her just so happens to be a great day. Yes. I’m very aware that many people consider these dreams, but if they are prophetic, The Writer does truly love me.

“What does Hannah see in you?”

“What do you mean? She said that in our first year you always gushed over my blue eyes, and wouldn’t stop raving about my face.” I watch the wicked witch’s eyes nearly leap out of their sockets, and her face turns pale. If the tattoos on her legs shine, I’ll need to flee for my own safety. “Geez. You look so upset; I almost think it’s true.”

The brat’s legs glow subtly.

“Don’t you dare think about kicking me with those lit.”

“Why?” she asks with a smirk. “You said I kick like a girl.”

“No mortal that’s ever hosted Atalanta has known how to control her power. Especially you.”

“My barcode’s meant to kick ass, Spencer. I can feel it flowing through me. I always wondered what data really was, and why we had this gift. But after researching the topic, I only learned one thing. These legs were created to beat on you.”

“Data’s meant to protect people.”

“How would you know? Who have you ever protected?” I grit my teeth and look away. Sounding apologetic, she hums, “You’re not that bad I guess.” I turn my nose up at her because I’m better than she is. “No you’re not.”

“Did you just read my mind?”

“Barcodes can do a lot of things, so don’t worry about what I did. Just know that data runs through your code that’s shared with your surroundings. You have to control Apollo’s power, or you’ll end up doing stuff.”

“What kind of stuff? The tattoos we’re born with are a raw technology that the gods created. Every barcode collects data from our surroundings and convert that into energy like flowers steal power from the sun. The way Professor Gardezi explains it, our power comes from the air, sun, dirt, and anything else our tattoos come in contact with.” But that power should give us physical strength. I don’t understand why she was able to read my mind. “Anyway, I might not look that smart, but don’t try to make me feel dumb just because my powers are weakened by these bandages.” Bandages that I hate. Dennis forced me to wear these in order to increase the power in my data. They’re his way of avoiding his responsibility to train me.

“It’s not 
just
 technology. It’s spiritual as well.”

“Whatever. Just shut up and go away.”

Michelle splashes water at me, and reaches her hand out, “Pull me up, you
failure.

I have to wonder if this dunce implanted that word into my psyche. Maybe all of Michelle’s insults have seeped so deeply into my own subconscious, that I’ve begun believing them. It’s as though I walk with a miniature version of her on my shoulders. Who needs a devil when there’s a portable Michelle in my ear, feasting on my confidence?

Without helping her, I leave the garden. A wet pelvis thrusts itself on my back, and Michelle wraps her legs and arms around my torso. I continue walking as she jacks a free ride from Spencer Express.

Michelle pulls off my hood, “Why do you always wear this stupid jacket under your armor?”

“I hate wearing this bulky armor on campus all day.”

More softly she asks, “Why didn’t you call me this summer?”

“While I was in Dubai, I won every rooftop fight against Mohammed Arena. After my eighth night, they were so upset I had to jump from the building before being attacked by an entire class. I had two options, either roam the streets or lock myself in a bathroom with no light or food. After weeks of starvation and delirium, I would’ve called you to share some parting words of how disgusted you make me. So, I chose the streets of Dubai.” Trying to decide where I should head, I use my phone to find my first period.

Michelle tightens her hold while resting her head on her arms. “You make me sick.”

“I hate you too,” I say while taking her down the hallway towards my classes. These stupid corridors are massive. I’ve attended this school for three years, and often roamed the halls as a preteen while waiting on Casey to take me home. After years of studying the first floor, I still manage to get lost. Thus, I occasionally use the navigation application on my phone.

Contrary to my rugged personality, I appreciate artistic things, but our hallways are overkill. The gigantic pillars covering the support beams are made of stone. Every classroom entrance is a double door that extends all the way up to the seventy-five foot ceiling. Fortunately, all doors are partially automated so an electric handle will help push the epic barriers. It doesn’t stop me from feeling as though I’m opening the gates of Hades.

The stones, expensive art, and pillars are one thing, but the décor is ridiculous. The colorful leather couches and checkered floors seem a bit much to me.

On one of my grandad’s accidental ramblings, he said my mom was the one with the expensive taste. The gladiator arena was a
man’s domain
, but she convinced Dennis that women needed their surroundings to stimulate them. Thus, he allowed her to change the place a bit.

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