Meet Mantis and Rose
Learn more about Mantis and Rose's childhood and younger days in the short stories below.
Rin momentarily watched as her brother played in the tall grass towards the back of the yard. School had just ended and their arrival home was only recent. Though the young boy was already quick to his favourite spot of the yard. The large amount of praying mantis in that area of the yard had always interested the young boy. At least, that’s what Beam always told her.
Rin jogged across the small yard, approaching her older brother. Beam looked up at her, brown eyes wide in excitement as he held up the small green bug on the back of his hand. Rin crouched down beside him, while she wasn’t really the biggest fan of the bugs, her brother always seemed to think they looked cool.
“Look!” His excitement was evident even in his voice as he pushed the bug towards her. From her crouched position she examined the creature, the corners of her lips turning upwards into a small, shy smile. Beam turned his attention back to the bug crawling over his blue wristband and up his arm. She remained quiet as she watched him play with the bug in the dirt.
Rin opened her mouth to say something when a call of both her and Beam’s name interrupted her and caused her to flinch at the loud voice. Beam stood up before she realised, having already set the mantis down. And she was almost knocked down by the force of him running by her. Rin slowly got up, turning towards her home, mama standing in the back door, arms crossed.
The usual mix of tired and anger was on her face, short dark bangs brushed behind her ear. Beam had gone by her and inside the house, while she dragged her feet on the ground, not particularly wanting to get to the older woman at the door. Mama always looked so upset with her, though, with the passing of papa, Rin couldn’t find it in herself to blame the woman.
“Hurry up Rin!” Mama’s voice once more snapped her from her thoughts and she quickened her pace. “You’re so dirty.” She sighed, roughly patting off the back of Rin’s shirt. The young girl did her best not to flinch away from the action. “Go clean up for dinner.” Mama pushed her forwards and Rin did her best not to stumble over her feet as she rushed into the house, heading straight for the bathroom to clean up for dinner.
Rin looked at herself in the mirror momentarily, before shaking her hands of the cold water into the sink. She reclipped the pin in her hair, keeping her short bangs from her eyes. She then straightened out her shirt. Presentable, yes, she thought so. She turned the light off in the room and found herself in the hallway leading to the kitchen.
Mama ignored her as she entered the kitchen, Beam already sitting at the table, a plate in front of him. “Eat your veggies.” The older woman ruffled her brother’s hair as she sat down beside him. Rin took her seat, pulling her chair in. “You’re late. Why can’t you be more like your brother?” Mama sighed, and Rin kept her head on the plate of food.
Beam picked up his fork and shoveled food in his mouth, blissfully unaware or ignoring the situation, the answer was less than clear. “Acknowledge me when I speak.” Though the words were reasonable, the tone was less than so and Rin hesitantly lifted her head to meet the gaze of her mama.
"I’m sorry, mae.” Rin’s voice was quiet, nodding her head in respect to the older woman. “Don’t make me teach you a lesson.” Mama’s huff was louder than her words and Rin couldn’t help but bite the inside of her cheek as she returned her gaze to the plate of food, her appetite suddenly lost.
After dinner was done Rin was in the kitchen washing the dishes, mama had disappeared elsewhere in the home, and Beam was at the table doing homework. “You shouldn’t let her push you around so much.” His voice was low, as to not be heard. Rin focused on her dishes, washing and drying them. “Rin.” After papa had died, Beam did his best to step up despite being only a smidge older than her.
It solidified him as mama’s favourite, and while Rin felt jealousy brew in the pit of her stomach she ignored it to focus on her task. “It’s fine. She’s just stressed.” Rin’s excuse was flimsy as was her voice as she put away another dish. Beam sighed, muttering something under his breath she didn’t quite catch. Rin held her head high, looking out the window onto the street, the light fading in the distance.
She dried the last dish from dinner and put it in the cupboard. Perhaps if she told herself that it was just stress, she’d start to believe her own words.
Beam nervously stopped at the door and looked around the hall of the local elementary school. It was still a somewhat familiar sight, despite it having been nine years since he was last here.
He still fondly remembers his younger days in elementary school, sitting on the floor in neat rows in the morning. Except today, the constant chatter with his classmates and the reassuring faces of his teachers are replaced by strangers, surrounded by various men in military uniforms.
One of the men gestured for him to join a queue behind the barriers near the stage. As he starts to move towards it, his mother pulled on his sleeve to wish him well yet again. He smiled back and reassured her, waving back to her and Rin as he joins the queue.
His mother disappeared into the crowd of spectators standing along the far end of the hall, as Rin followed silently.
Thailand practices conscription, with all males liable for conscription at the age of 21 through a unique system known as the lottery. Every local district office has a quota of recruits to meet.
"Are you volunteering?" The officer asked, looking up at Beam from his clipboard.
"No," Beam replied. Volunteering would mean serving for a year — half the normal length of service — as well as having a say in one's posting. For some, it's seen as a stable source of income too, but Beam had one already, and he also had plans to join an engineering school in the next few years.
Paperwork complete, the officer sent him to join the waiting group of young men at the side, turning his attention to the next draftee.
The local office had released its requirements for the year: it would need 24 enlistees, minus the number opting to volunteer. Beam did a quick count of those around him. Estimating about a hundred and fifty draftees who turned up, that would put his odds at around...
"One in six," he told himself. He can't be that unlucky, and in addition, there has been stories of districts where there were so many volunteers, the lottery was cancelled and everyone left the ceremony with their conscription obligations marked as completed.
A tap on the microphone brought the hall to a silence, as draftees and their family and friends looked towards the stage.
"We have eight volunteers today. We are now moving on to the lottery," The uniformed officer announced. The chatter resumed in hushed tones as he took a seat behind the desk on the stage. A dark green jar was placed in the middle.
That jar would decide the fate of each draftee for the next two years.
The first name on the list was read. The man walked up to the desk, where the panel of officials behind the desk checks his ID. He reached into the jar.
All eyes are on him as he pulled out a small piece of paper. He glanced at it, and his stolid expression turned into jubilation as he shouted in happiness, holding the black piece of paper above his head as he cheered into the crowd.
The same process continued several times, as the nerves built up among the group of remaining draftees, Beam included. With each draw of a piece of black paper, his odds fell against his favour.
The same procedure unfolds again, except this time, the draftee on the stage froze. The noise quietened down, as the audience noticed something amiss. An official walked over and took the piece of paper. He held it up, the bright shade of red effectively announcing that the first conscripted enlistee of the morning has been chosen. Loud chatter can be heard from the spectators as he led the young man off the stage for the standard physical and drug tests.
For Beam, the wait for his turn was nerve-wrecking.
"Ritthirong Tangtrongchit," the announcer called. Beam walked up the steps of the stage, and presented his IDs to the panel of officials. They gestured for him to draw a piece of paper.
He was mentally ready, whatever the outcome was.
He reached into the jar, fished around, and pulled out one of the rolled pieces of paper. He unrolled it, as the unmistakable shade of red revealed itself. He froze, as the sense of dread rushes up his spine and engulfs him.
He was not ready for this, it turns out.
Rin watched the events unfold from the floor. She watched as her brother walked up confidently. She watched as he froze, as her mother screamed sharply, as he was led off the stage, and as her mother turned away to discretely wipe away her tears.
She watched as, later, Beam made his way out to the spectator area, and as their mother embraced him, showering him with praise, affection and many, many questions he couldn't answer.
Rin then gave her brother a hug as he smiled back. "I'll be fine," Beam whispered. "I have a few weeks before I start, and it's only for two years."
As the group left the compound, with Beam and their mother talking as she trailed behind, she started thinking about the day's events.
Perhaps this was the break she is looking for, she thought.
A way to prove to her mother that she is just as independent and capable as her brother.
Fighting for what you believed in. That was a moral she held dear to herself. The protests that had broken out all over the city were no secret. The hush nature of it didn’t stop it from reaching people outside of the city limits in other provinces. Let alone her. A year off of being able to do the training she sought to do, she decided to join a cause she believed in. The red shirt hung loosely on her body as she surveyed the crowd of peaceful protestors. What she didn’t know, was that it was only the start of a revolution. It was quiet at first, where she passed out water bottles to the older protestors, those sweating under the sweltering sun above them. They were all there for a reason. The current political climate had reached a dangerous peak, and the people were calling for reprimand.
Rin was sitting on the sidewalk, taking a break from walking around, a young woman sat beside her and handed her a water bottle, bright smile on her face. Rin returned the smile and took the water bottle, opening it and bringing it to her lips. The woman took Rin’s free hand in her own and she had to do her best not to smile while drinking the water. When she handed the water bottle back, the woman brushed Rin’s bangs out of her eyes, soft affection passing her lips. As peaceful as it seemed, it wasn’t quiet, the sound of chants for change filled the air as people demanded their cries be listened to. There were onlookers, quietly watching, then there were men in uniforms, stoically listening. The people’s words falling on deaf ears. Or perhaps, falling on closed minds. Rin wasn’t sure how they could defend such a regime, her mind wandering to what she could do better.
The protests didn’t remain peaceful, however. A month later, a state of emergency was called within the city walls. Political assemblies were banned, people were being injured. But despite the crackdown, it didn’t stop Rin. Rin who turned her focus from water bottles, to the basic first aid she knew. She tried to stray from the front lines, unsure what she could do to help there. Instead, focusing on any of the injured dragged back towards her. She had to wonder, how did it get like this? Her mind racing as the sound of muted bullets reached her ears. It sounded so far, but with the shouting, she knew it was much closer.
After that Rin knew that standing back wouldn’t be worth a whole lot. Her quick thinking led her back to the front line she thought she feared. The call for help had her helping another woman prop up a tire against a high pile of wooden pieces, sticks, firewood, whatever they had on hand. She had seen these barricades before, but had stayed further back, blending into the crowd. But she couldn’t stay back anymore, not as the need to help filled her heart. The original crackdown had been unsuccessful, and only brought further support from the people.
The crowds were large, areas became overflown. The barricades she helped build served as a sort of a barrier for this problem. And she continued to work out ways of making them stronger. What started as weak sticks and tires piled on one another, became whatever they had on hand. The initial barricades had been added upon with tarps and concrete blocks. Rin finally believed she was able to do something. Her skills were spread thin, but her ability to remain calm and analytical took over any burnout or fear that may have plagued another.
And it only took another month from bad to get even worse. Live ammunition, explosions within the city, fires, and riots. Rin watched her city fall apart. She felt that what she was doing was no longer enough. As the military continued to put more and more pressure on the protests and the protestors, she took a step back from the barricades to try and find another solution. Attempts to negotiate failed time and time again, and she could only hope to be able to continue to help the overcrowding and the wounded. The armoured vehicles that surrounded the area were what concerned her most, rationality overtaking any fear, she knew their barricades would not hold against their vehicles. A shot had been fired, it was loud, and broke through the air like lightning. It hurt her ears, and she went down, falling into a crouching position with her hands over her ears, just like many of the other protestors who hadn’t been expecting the bullet.
She learned later who it was that had been killed. A live fire zone had been declared, she heard it from other protestors. Fear in their voices as the friends she had made among the red crowd reached her ears. She turned to a woman, a mother of two young children she had met in her time in the crowd. But as Rin opened her mouth to speak the sound of ammunition and loud rumbling caused her to pull the woman behind her, the two taking steps back. The armoured vehicles drove through their barricades and Rin watched in horror as the tank drove into the protestors, into people she knew.
The scene was horrific and Rin replayed it over and over in her mind as she turned and pushed the woman away from the tanks. She said something along the line of move, but her mind raced, she knew the dangers, but she still didn’t understand. All they were fighting for was a better government. And it warranted live fire, and bloodshed. Rin heard screams and she closed her eyes as she tried to still her breathing, seconds later she opened them again. They had reached the exterior barrier. A barricade she had helped build.
The two stopped, breathing heavy as they looked onto the remaining crackdown. Hidden by the shadows of an alleyway. She still heard herself speaking, but it was like she was on autopilot. Checking the woman over for injuries, and calming her down. Her heart pounded against her chest, but Rin reminded herself to stay calm. But still her heart beat so loud in her ears she struggled to process the thoughts running through her mind. Why? Why? That was what was playing the loudest. She understood, deep down. But she didn’t want to accept it.
Rin fell onto her bed, still covered in dirt and dried blood. She stared at the ceiling, her mind was finally calm. Her walk home had solidified her ideals. She wanted to be like her brother. She wanted to join the army. And she would. To make it better. To do better. The community only wanted change, and while Rin was sure she couldn’t do it alone. She’d make it better somehow. Her eyes closed as she pinched the bridge of her nose, an attempt to quell the growing headache. She’d be better than what she saw.
And she was.
The whole of the barracks seemed eerily quiet. It was merely 4 am, hours before the dawning moments of the day, yet Beam had been tinkering away for what seemed to be an age trying to create at least a functioning prototype of his new project before the daily roll call. Beam wasn't usually awake this early - the constant commotion of army life that he was used to had been replaced with by an empty, sheer silence. In a way, it was comforting. No other soul was awake to bother him and further distract him from his endeavour.
The monotonous sound of the arms of a clock ticking away echoed inside the workshop, disturbed only by the occasional disgruntled sigh and murmur from the Thai. It had been a few days since he was last able to further develop the gadget, with the original period of development disrupted by what he regarded as purely trivial, but mandatory, side-tasks.
This project, in particular, was personal to him with the inspiration for it stemming from his youth and days of his childhood when he would spend countless moments in the yard at his family home. Insects had fascinated him as a child and on some occasions, Beam had studied some of the creatures to meticulous detail; a trait that would become rather handy in the leadup to his enlistment.
A few LEDs flashed brightly on the PCB at random, the workbench lighting up with life for the moment.
The computer monitor glared at Beam. Lines after lines of metrics were displayed, only for it to end with “Segmentation fault (core dumped),” he felt as though the words were taunting him with his failure. Sweat built upon his brow, his forehead crumpled in frustration. “It had worked before, why not now?” Beam exclaimed as he held himself back from slamming his fist into the workbench. Time away from working on the electronics had had its toll, it seemed.
Unbeknownst to him, the workshop door slowly opened. Light from the corridor flooded into the room, illuminating the row of firearms lined up on their rack and the array of tools strewn about on the shelves that were caught in its path.
Dr. Elena “Mira” Álvarez observed Beam for a while, leaning against the door frame before stepping in. The door swings shut behind her, the electromagnetic lock clicking loudly. Beam jumped, swinging around to face Team Rainbow’s Director of Research and Development.
“Ah, Beam. I was wondering what the disturbance was at this hour.” she said casually, at the unsuspecting engineer.
“Oh. Good morning, ma’am. I didn’t notice you there.” Beam replied, still startled at her presence.
Elena had been a key figure in his development as an engineer within the military. Ever since he attended the engineering course, he had been more and more driven in creating gadgets, both in personal projects as well as for his former reserve, leading to a rather swift progression within leadership. He would not be stood in this very workshop if not for Elena’s guidance and wisdom.
“I’m just working on-” Beam continued, before being interrupted by his mentor.
“Your Insect project, right? And please, Elena is fine.”
"Yes, yes it is… Dr. Elena. This is the insect robot that I'm working on. How do you know about it? When did you..?" The Thai asked.
Beam's looked up, taken aback. He was completely surprised to hear that Elena knew about his project, after all, he had intended on keeping it a secret in the hopes of surprising his younger sister, Rin, once it was completed. An early birthday gift, he thought.
Elena gave out a little laugh. "Ever since you came up with the idea." she answered, in jest.
She had, in fact, noticed the project only a few days ago, whilst he was away attending to his other 'side-tasks', and instantly developed an interest in it after realising it was the work of her former student. Ever since Elena had met Beam and had seen his potential, she had become more and more intrigued with what he could do and what ideas he could come up with.
"Oh, I see," he responded, the joke had seemingly flown completely over his head. He was now looking back down as he continued his work. "I trust no one else knows?"
The Spaniard walked closer to the bench to get a closer look at the robot, closing the door behind her.
"None at all, only a handful of people have even entered the workshop this week with all these activities going on."
Beam sat up in his chair and adjusted his sitting position, his head now directed back at his mentor. He smiled. Although he intended to keep this project completely private, he was actually quite glad that Elena knew, if anyone had to know, she was probably the best candidate. She has provided guidance and recommendations on numerous occasions in the past and he couldn't think of a better teacher to be there for him.
The clock continued to tick. The alarm Beam had set on his wristwatch went off. The time for roll call was nearing, to Beam's dismay. He sighed.
"I was hoping to have a prototype working by now. Another day of delays unfortunately." he complained.
"Don't fret, Beam. I can come help later on. After roll call?"
“I guess, but I-”
“It’s never wrong to ask for a helping hand.” Elena smiled and waved at Beam, and slowly made her way to exit the room.
“I... appreciate it, Dr. Elena. Thank you for always offering to help. I’ll see you later.”