Carswells guide to being.., p.1
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       Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky, p.1

         Part #3.10 of The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer
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Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky


  Carswell’s

  Guide to

  Being Lucky

  By Marissa Meyer

  Carswell dunked the comb beneath the faucet and slicked it through his hair, tidying the back so it

  was neat and pristine, and the front spike dup just right. Boots sat on the counter, watching him with

  her yellow slitted eyes and purring heavily, even though it had been nearly ten minutes since he’d

  stopped petting her.

  “Today’s goal,” he said to the cat, he supposed, or maybe the mirror, “is eighty-four univs. Think I

  can do it?”

  The cat blinked, still purring. Her tail twitched around her paws and Carswell turned off the water

  and set the comb beside her.

  “I’ve never made that much in one lunch hour before,” he said, pul ing a skinny blue tie over his

  head and cinching the knot against his neck, “but eight-four univs will put us at a total of 7,500. Which means-“ He flipped down the shirt collar, “-the bank wil upgrade my account to ‘young professional’

  and increase the monthly interest by 2%. That would trim nearly sixteen weeks off my five-year plan.”

  Carswell reached for the tie tack that lived in the small crystal dish beside the sink. The school

  uniform only allowed for personal style to show through in the smallest of accessories, which had led to

  a trend among the girls of tying little gems onto their shoes, and the boys of splurging on diamond-stud

  earrings. But Carswell had only this tie tack, which he’d dipped into his own savings for rather than ask his parents, because he knew his mom would insist he buy something tasteful (code: designer) instead.

  It hadn’t been much of a setback. The tiny steel tack had cost merely fifteen univs, and it had since

  become his signature piece.

  A tiny spaceship. A 214 Rampion, to be exact.

  His mother, as expected, had hated the tie tack when she’d noticed it for the first time nearly two

  weeks later. “Sweetheart,” she’d said in that adoring tone that just bordered on condescending, “they

  have a whole display of spaceship accessories at Tiff’s. Why don’t we go down there after school and

  you can pick out something nice? Maybe a racer, or a fleet ship, or one of those vintage ones you used

  to like? Remember all those posters you had on your walls when you were little?”

  Returning her sweet smile, he’d responded simply, “I like the Rampions, Mom.”

  She’d grimaced. Literally grimaced. “What under the stars is a Rampion ship, anyway?”

  “Cargo ship,” his father had jumped in. “Mostly military, aren’t they, son?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “A cargo ship!” Exasperated, his mom had set her hands on her hips. “Why would you want a tie

  tack of a cargo ship, of all things?”

  “I don’t know,” he’d said, shrugging. “I just like them.”

  And he did. A Rampion had the bulk of a whale, but the sleekness of a shark, and it appealed to him.

  Plus, there was something nice about a ship that was purely utilitarian. Not flashy, not overdone, not

  luxurious. Not like every single thing his parents had ever purchased.

  They were just . . . useful.

  “Presentable?” Carswell said, scruffing Boots on the back of her neck. The cat ducked her head in a

  way that was almost authentic, and purred louder.

  Grabbing the gray uniform blazer off the door handle, he headed downstairs. His parents were both

  at the breakfast table (as opposed to the formal dining table in the next room), al eyes glued to their

  portscreens while Janette, one of the human maids, refilled their coffee mugs and added two sugars to

  his mom’s.

  “Good morning, young captain,” Jannette said, pul ing his chair out from the table.

  “Don’t call him that,” said Carswell’s father without looking up. “You can call him ‘captian’ after he

  earns it.”

  Janette only winked at Carswel while she took the blazer from him and hung it on the back of his

  chair.

  Carswell smiled back and sat down. “Morning, Janette,”

  “I’ll bring your pancakes right out.” She finished with a silently mouthed “Captain,” and another

  wink before drifting toward the kitchen.

  Without bothering to look up at his otherwise-engaged parents, Carswell pulled his book bag toward

  him and removed his own portscreen. Just as he was turning it on, though, his father cleared his throat.

  Loudly.

  Intimidatingly.

  Carswell glanced up through his eyelashes. He probably should have noticed an extra layer of frost

  sitting over them this morning, but really, who could tell anymore?

  “Would you like a glass of water, sir?”

  As a response, his dad tossed his portscreen onto the table. His coffee cup rattled.

  “The school forwarded your status report this morning,” he said pausing for dramatic effect, before

  adding, “They are not up to standards.”

  Not up to standards.

  If Carswell had a univ for every time he’d heard something wasn’t up to standards, his bank account

  would be well into ‘young investor’ status by now (interest rate: 5.2%).

  “That’s unfortunate,” he said “I’m sure I almost tried this time.”

  “Don’t be smart with your father,” said his mom in a rather disinterested tone, before taking a sip of

  her coffee.

  “Math, Carswell. You’re failing math. How do you expect to be a pilot if you can’t read charts and diagrams and-“

  “I don’t want to be a pilot,” he said. “I want to be a captain.”

  “Becoming a captain,” his dad growled, “starts with becoming a great pilot.”

  Carswell barely refrained from rolling his eyes. He’d heard that line a time or two, also.

  A warm body bumped into his leg and Carswel glanced down to see that Boots had fol owed him

  and was now nudging his calf with the side of his face. He was just reaching down to pet her when his

  dad snapped, “Boots, go outside.”

  The cat instantly stopped burring and cuddling against Carswell’s leg, turned and traipsed toward

  the kitchen-the fastest route to their backyard.

  Carswell scowled as he watched the cat go, its tail sticking cheerfully straight up. He liked Boots a

  lot-sometimes even felt he might love her, as one does with any pet they grew up with- but then he

  would be reminded that she wasn’t a pet at all. She was a robot, programmed to follow directions just

  like any android. He’d been asking for a real cat since he was about four, but his parents just laughed at the idea, listing all the reasons Boots was superior. She would never get old or die. She didn’t shed on

  their nice furniture or paw at their fancy curtains or require a litter box. She would only bring them half-devoured mice if they changed her settings to do so.

  His parents, Carswell had learned at a very young age, liked things that did what they were told,

  when they were told. And that didn’t include headstrong felines.

  Or, as it turned out, thirteen-year-old boys.

  “You need to start taking this seriously,” his dad was saying, ripping him from his thoughts as the

  cat-door swung closed behind Boots. “You’l never be accepted into Andromeda at this rate.”

  Janette returned with his plate of panc
akes and Carswell was grateful for an excuse to look away

  from his dad as he slathered them with butter and syrup. It was better than risking the temptation to

  say what he really wanted to say.

  He didn’t want to go to Andromeda Academy. He didn’t want to fol ow in his dad’s footsteps.

  Sure, he wanted to learn how to fly. Desperately wanted to learn how to fly. But there were other flight schools - less prestigious ones maybe, but at least they didn’t require selling six years of his life to the military so he could be ordered around by more men who looked and sounded just like his dad, and

  cared about him even less.

  “What’s wrong with you?” his dad said, not taking his eyes from Carswell, even as he swiveled a

  finger at Janette. She began to clear his place setting. “You used to be good at math.”

  “I am good at math,” Carswel said, then shoved more pancake into his mouth than he probably

  should have.

  “This report suggests otherwise.”

  He chewed. And chewed. And crewed.

  “Maybe we should get him a tutor,” said his mother, flicking her finger across her portscreen.

  “Is that it, Carswell? Do you need a tutor?”

  He swal owed. “I don’t need a tutor. I know how to do it all. I just don’t feel like doing it.”

  “What does that mean?”

  “It means that I have better things to do,” he said, setting down his fork. “I understand al the

  concepts, so why should I waste whole days of my life working through those stupid worksheets? Not to

  mention-“ He gestured wildly – At everything, at nothing. At the light fixture that changed automatical y based on the amount of sunlight that filtered in through the floor-to-ceiling windows. At the sensors in

  the wal that detected when a person entered a room and set the thermostat to their own personal

  preferences. At that brainless robotic cat. “We are surrounded by computers all the time. If I ever need help, I’l just have one of them figure it out. So what does it matter?”

  “Because it shows focus. Dedication. Diligence. Important traits that, believe it or not, are usually found in spaceship captains.”

  Scowling, Carswell grabbed the fork again and began sawing at the pancake stack with its side. If his

  mother had noticed, she would have reminded him to use a knife, but she as far too busy pretending to

  be at a different table altogether.

  “I have those traits,” he muttered. And he did, he knew he did. But why waste focus and dedication

  and diligence on something as trivial as math homework?

  “Then prove it. You’re grounded until these grades come up to passing.”

  His head snapped up. “Grounded? But mid-July break starts next week.”

  Standing, his dad snapped his portscreen onto the belt of his own uniform – the impeccably pressed

  blue-and-gray uniform of Colonel Kingsley Thorne, American Republic Fleet 186.

  “Yes, and you wil spend your vacation in your bedroom doing math homework unless you can show

  me, and your teacher, that you’re taking this seriously.”

  Carswell’s stomach sank, but his dad had marched out of the breakfast room before he could begin

  to refute.

  He couldn’t be grounded for mid-July break. He had big plans for those two weeks. Mostly, they

  involved an entrepreneurial enterprise that began with sending Boots up into the fruit trees on his

  neighbor’s property and ended with him selling baskets of perfectly ripe lemons and avocados to every

  little old lady in the neighborhood. He’d been charming his neighbors out of their bank accounts since

  he was seven, and had become quite good at it. Last summer, he’d even managed to get the Hernandez

  family to pay him 200 univs for a box of “succulent, prize-winning” oranges, having no idea that he’d

  picked the fruits of their own tree earlier that day.

  “He’s not serious, is he?” Carswel said, turning back to his mom. “He won’t keep me grounded for

  the whole break?”

  His mom, for maybe the first time that morning, tore her eyes away from the protscreen. She

  blinked at him and he suspected that she had no idea what his father’s doled out punishment was.

  Maybe she didn’t even realize what the argument had been about.

  After a moment, just long enough to let the question dissolve in the air between them, she said,

  “Are you all ready for school, sweetheart?”

  Huffing, Carswel nodded and shoved two more quick bites into his mouth. Snatching up his book

  bag, he pushed away from the table and tossed his blazer over one shoulder.

  His dad watned to se an improvement of grades? Fine. He would find a way to make it happen. He

  would come up with some solution that gave him the freedom he required during his break, but didn’t

  include laboring away over boring math formulas every evening. He had more important things to do

  with his time. Things that involved business transactions and payment col ections. Things that would

  one day to him buying his own spaceship. Nothing fancy. Nothing expensive. Just something simple and

  practical. Something that would belong to him and him alone.

  Then his dad would know just how focused and dedicated he was, right as he was getting the aces

  out of here.

  ~~~~~

  Jules Keller had hit his growth spurt early, making him a full head taller than anyone else in the class, and he was even sporting the start of peach-fuzz whiskers on his chin. Unfortunately he still had a brain capacity equivalent to that of a seagull.

  That was Carswell’s first thought when Jules slammed his locker shut and Carswell barely manged to

  get his fingers out of the way in time.

  “Morning, Mr. Keller,” he said, calling up a friendly smile, “You look particularly vibrant this

  morning,”

  Jules stared down the length of his nose at him. The nose on which a sizable red pimple seemed to

  have emerged overnight. That was one other thing about Jules. In addition to the height and the brawn

  and the fuzz, his growth spurt had given him a rather tragic case of acne.

  “I want my money back,” said Jules, one had still planted on Carswell’s locker.

  Carswell tilted his head. “Money?”

  “Stuff doesn’t work.” Reaching into his pocket, Jules pul ed out a smal round canister labeled with

  exotic ingredients that promised clean, spot-free skin in just two weeks. “And I’m sick of looking at your smug face al day, like you think I don’t know better.”

  “Of course it works,” said Carswell, taking the canister from him and holding it up to inspect the

  label. “It’s the exact same stuff I use, and look at me.”

  Which was not exactly true. The canister itself had been emptied of its original, ridiculously

  expensive face cream when he’d dug it out of the trash bin beside his mother’s vanity. And though he’d

  sometimes sneaked uses of the high quality stuff before, the canister was now ful of a simple

  concoction of bargain moisturizer and a few drops of food coloring and almond extract that he’d found

  in the pantry.

  He didn’t think it would be bad for anyone’s skin. And besides, studies had been showing the benefit of placebos for years. Who said they couldn’t cure teenage acne just as effectively as they could cure an annoying headache?

  But Jules, evidently unimpressed with the evidence Carswel had just presented, grabbed him by his

  shirt collar and pushed him against the bank of lockers. Carswell suspected it wasn’t to get a better look at his own flawless complexion.

  “I want my money back,” Jules seeth
ed through his teeth.

  “Good morning, Carswell,” said a chipper voice.

  Sliding his gaze past Jule’s shoulder, Carswel smiled and nodded at the freckled brunette who was

  shyly fluttering her lashes at him. “Morning, Shan. How’d your recital go last night?”

  She giggled and ducked her head. “It was great. I’m sorry you couldn’t make it. Um. I just wanted to

  say hi, and . . . you look real y nice this morning.” Blushing she turned and darted toward a group of

  friends who were waiting near the water fountain. Together they broke into a fit of teasing chatter as

  they flitted down the hal way.

  Jules pushed Carswell into the locker again, yanking his attention back. “I said-“

  “You want your money back, yeah, yeah, I heard you,” Carswel held up the canister. “And that’s

  fine. No problem. I’ll transfer it over during lunch.”

  Harrumphing, Jules released him.

  “Of course, you’ll lose all the progress you’ve made so far.”

  “What progress?” Jules said, bristling again. “Stuff doesn’t work!”

  “Sure it works. But it takes to weeks. Says so right here.” He pointed at the label, and Jules snarled.

  “It’s been three.”

  Rolling his eyes, Carswell tossed the canister from hand to hand. “It’s a process. There are steps. The first step is-” He respectfully lowered his voice, in case Jules didn’t want the sensitive nature of their conversation to be overheard. “-you know, clearing away the first layer of dead skin cells. Exfoliation, as it were. But a real y deep, intense, all-natural exfoliation. That takes two weeks. In step two, it unlocks al the grease and dirt that’s been stuck in the bottom of your pores. That’s the step you’re in the middle of right now. IN another week, it’l move on to step three. Hydrating your skin so that it has a constant, beautiful glow.” He quirked his lips to one side and shrugged. “You know, like me. I’m telling you, it does work. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s skin care products.” Unscrewing the cap, he took a long sniff of the cream. “Not to mention . . .no, never mind. You don’t want it. It’s not worth mentioning at al . I’l

  just take this back and-“

  “Not to mention what?”

  Carswell cleared his throat and dipped forward, until Jules had lowered his own head into their

  makeshift huddle. “The scent is proven to make you more attractive to girls. It’s practically an

 
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