While Farouk readied himself for dinner, the Alpha squad took liberty to tour the palace. Forty-three enchanted rooms, filled to the brim with gold and silver antiques, fur rugs, and furniture, kept them occupied. The rumors were quite true that the mystical Maharaja and his family lived in extreme extravagance. No expense was spared for their lifestyle of luxuries. It was no wonder that young Taqdeer wanted to allow her inquisitive friends to be privy to such an experience.
Hours later, Farouk emerged from his quarters in rare form. The chandelier lights enhanced the gold trim on his tunic, which also reflected hints of auburn in his eyes. He wore a medium-sized golden turban, bedazzled with a diamond and a single purple feather from a peacock. The Maharaja demanded that his family wear peacock feathers, rather than show allegiance to the dueling houses with feathers of either colored robins.
A man servant announced to Farouk that his guests had arrived. Though he looked more mature and regal than ever to the Alpha squad, it was the familiar nervous and pain stricken expression on his face that gave his true nature away. He gulped, then nodded for the servant to bring them into the dining hall. When Taqdeer entered the room, everyone’s mouth flew wide open. Not only had she brought her eleven schoolmates, but the number of guests had multiplied.
She explained that each of her friends told other friends about the dinner. She had no way to exclude any of them, especially since her family was deadest about her bringing chaperones.
“The more the merrier,” Farouk said, though his heart sank.
He led the entourage to the dining area. He shrugged his shoulders, as heard whispers and giggles behind him. The dining hall was every bit as magnificent as anyone could imagine. Spreads of succulent meats, countless sides, and endless amounts of desserts surrounded them. Taqdeer granted his wish to sit by her, but to his dismay, her attention was spent on her friends. He sat in silence and watched the lively bunch devour their meals like starved hounds.
At the end of the fifth course, the manservant announced that there would be live musical entertainment on the north side manor in the outer compound. Before anyone could move an inch, thirty more schoolmates entered the palace. Word of the Maharaja’s grandson hosting a soiree reached throughout the ashram in record time.
As the party moved toward the north side, they marveled as they passed by the horse stable. All the horses were descendants of the first six sent by the parents of King Klauvius IV as a gift. The Maharaja remained in good standing with the king, right until both their untimely deaths. Each mare and stallion were of the finest breeds in the entire kingdom of Celeste. Such rare herds would cause even the richest noble to be envious.
Farouk requested musicians to entertain his guests for the rest of the evening. The ensemble came with a wide variety of instruments. An acrobatic troupe was also included with the venue. The manor was filled to max capacity, but nothing hindered the ongoing merrymaking. Farouk hastily sifted through the room to look for Taqdeer. He glimpsed her as she exited the manor. He dashed outside in hopes of finally have a moment alone with her. His spirit was crushed once he found her in the embrace of an older boy.
Farouk did not want them to see him, so he climbed onto the rooftop of the horse stable and watched from above. Taqdeer did not shy away from the boy or seem fretful that they would be discovered alone. Together, the pair walked hand in hand out of his sight. The noise from below drowned out the sounds of Farouk’s uncontrollable sobs. He pulled a rhinestone flask from his trouser pocket and took a long sip. His hand trembled so much that he spilled some of the drink on his tunic.
“I’m such a dope. To think I wore this flashy thing to impress her, and she didn’t even give me a second glance,” he cried.
He removed his turban and tunic, poured the rest of the drink on them, pulled out a match, then set them ablaze. He sat by the fire and watched it burn with a dead look in his eyes. The drink and smoke caused him to fall pass out shortly after. He woke to the sound of horses neighing loudly and a fire alarm. The fire had nearly burned a hole in the roof. Farouk quickly jumped down to free the horses. He ran to the main manor to alert everyone to the fire.
At first, no one paid him any attention. Soon servants rushed in to evacuate the party. The fire force promptly arrived and put out the blaze. Fortunately, no living creature was hurt. No one knew the source of the fire until Farouk admitted to his mother and staff that he was the culprit. He begged her not to send him back to the ashram. He told her he would pay for the property damage himself by enlisting at Calvary Academy. It was the only way he could think of to redeem himself after such dishonorable actions.
The memory sequence faded out to black, and the Alpha squad was back in the lab.
Lt. Co. Adame spoke over the loudspeaker, “That concludes your 1st year exercise. You have completed your mission to learn why each had enrolled themselves at the academy. No reason was nobler or less than the other. Now you see that you all merely were perfectly flawed individuals who tried to navigate your existences to the best of your abilities.” The room was deathly silent.
~The Waring Robins~