Tosier had idolized Kirn since the days of their childhood. Kirn was the blacksmith’s son; Tosier the son of a beastbot repairman. As children, they were errand boys for their fathers, and became friends as they ran back and forth through the neighborhood. Strong and graceful, Kirn would hoist heavy bundles of beastbot feet, or boxes of fruit, or iron kettles onto his shoulders and hurry through the sandstone alleys towards the repair shop or the bakery or the grocer as if the fate of the planet were at risk. Tosier often begged his father, Grosko, for something heavy to carry—a package or a bundle—but Grosko would invariably hand him a bill for services rendered or a flyer for the upcoming sale on courier-class beastbot wings and say: “Any boy can carry a heavy load, my son. There’s nothing to that. But the carrier of words must be trustworthy and truthful, and I know you to be both.”
Tosier was always happy to have his father’s trust, and he did his lightweight errands to the best of his ability, but he secretly disagreed with his father’s philosophy. He could not, after all, carry a heavy load. He was not, therefore, the same as any boy. He was not Kirn Pralit, and no amount of wishing would make him like his friend. And while Tosier struggled in and out of doctor’s offices, his young spirit weighed down with breathing machines and robotic vision correctors, Kirn grew into a tall, handsome Alarian youth with every imaginable athletic ability.
Despite their physical differences, the two boys were well-suited in temperament, shared an interest in robotics, and a mutual sense of humor, and they found enjoyment in one another’s company. Tosier was not given to envy or bitterness; his admiration of Kirn expressed itself in loyalty and praise rather than envy. Kirn could not help what he was, and he was never boastful. Besides, Tosier’s intellectual talents were considerable. He excelled in philosophy, biochemistry and physics, things that Kirn struggled to understand. Tosier was thankful—of course—and after a certain age, he learned that complaining was in bad taste. But inwardly, in his dreams and inner feelings, he still wanted above all things to be agile, fast, athletic. . . to experience the freedom and joy of a healthy body. It was perhaps irrational. But some feelings do not submit, even when the mind condemns them.