Introductions to Rafael and Royal– and their homes and some of their family– on Port City High School’s prom night. Much of this is the same as usual for Rafael, who didn’t attend prom. Meanwhile, Royal is dragged into an anxiety-inducing discussion about his future.
A day in Rafael’s life– woken up early to take care of chores and keep the peace for two sides of his family. Overworked and tired following the previous night where he also had to step in for family, he misses his chance to be with his friends, who, unlike him, are eager to step out of their high school lives into what happens after.
Royal’s father takes him to Roman Labs (est. 1958) the company he started when he moved/defected to the United States. Royal sits in on a meeting about the company’s proprietary networking software and fears he’s made a fool of himself. His father has his own plans for Royal, though, which Royal is presented with, and the weight is enormous.
It’s the last week of school and over the course of four years, even as it comes to its close, it never gets easier. Later, more evidence as to how Royal and Rafael’s lives have skirted around each other in this small town.
On a vigilant nightwatch, Rafael is confronted with figures and memories from the past that he would’ve loved continuing to avoid. Elsewhere, Royal unwittingly ventures into what will lay the groundwork for changes in everyone’s lives, and when he realises, he barrels straight ahead.
The kids aren’t alright, and desperately, impossibly want to be. Here is where things begin to shift.
Graduation time at Port City High School. Rafael graduated, but out of exhaustion from what’s already a constant performance, chose not to walk. More from Rafael’s past and how it conflicts with the present as he tries to keep everything together. Royal, a graduate from Port City High from a few years back, is seen embarking on the earliest of early stages of his research, testing the waters, finding out just how much he has to work with… and then suddenly the past that frames Royal’s present comes into new focus.
Rafael tries to decompress but ends up stuck, half-awake, trying to deal with family, and, stressed, takes to some of his more unhealthy coping mechanisms. Royal is also kept up late, relentless in his pursuits, and learns a new name– “"Kazra Alreeja" [sic] ”
Tiff applies to Roman Labs, sending Rafael into an intrusive-thought spiral– remembering how the lab has been a strange and non-interventionist presence in his life, but could’ve been more than that. His dad and Royal’s dad once crossed paths in the worst, most embarrassing way– and he knows it’s embarrassing, yet somehow still tough to deal with. Rafael is also invited to the Talented & Gifted party/reunion!
Royal finally talks to Dr. Kasra al-Ridha, astrophysicist prodigy working in the UK. Kas can be swayed by little– except for a massive raise. Royal leaps from this into overdrive, and from overdrive into intrusive memories that frame where he is now, and then back home, where noise and trepidation make the air dense and difficult to breathe. A brief glimpse of his heritage before it’s shoved into the trash.
Rafael attends the Talented & Gifted party, revealing that he was in their same program in elementary school, but doesn’t illuminate as to why he no longer is. His friends do their best to mitigate his unease, but to little avail– overwhelmed, he fades out. And ends up with a dog.
Kasra al-Ridha takes the bait, but remains suspicious… Royal is eager, and the calmest he’s ever been when he greets the interns working on his new and exciting project– which the doctor isn’t fully convinced Royal’s being upfront about.
The project is revealed over a fancy (and in Kasra's case, somewhat illicit) lobster dinner. Kasra has a fucking meltdown over this news
Rafael's first day of work at the lab results in him getting mixed up in, or really, jumpstarting, the secret goings-on of Royal and Kas (new nick/name!)
The final chapter of Arc II. Rafael makes a decision, a callback to his past that marks a turning point for his future and everyone (everyone) else's.