In 2023, the French Biochemist Enzo Esther was bestowed the Nobel Peace Price for his discovery, innovation, and derivation of the “Esther” resource, thus establishing the first link between science and religion.
“Sergeant Code? Sir…?” echoed the disembodied voice in Fark’s head. The sound of the woman’s persistent voice mixed in with rhythmic tapping of high heels on the waxed marble floor created an odd song. The colorless hallways streamed by, accepting his crowded thoughts like a blank canvas. Critical technological transport from the biotechnical organization, D.O.G.G, had recently been intercepted by petty terrorists. The transport convoy was not only cut off en route, but the terrorists actually managed to seize the tech. And because this happened in his district, Fark was the one who would be getting shit from the old men upstairs. His day had just begun and it was already rocking off to a bad start. He turned another countless corner into a busy corridor. It had taken him a while to notice the secretary struggling to keep pace with him.
“Report” he said flatly, instantly regretting it. He braced himself for a plate of bad news. He watched her subconsciously nodding over her headset as if the person on the other end could see it. “Adams…?”
“Uh…right!” She shuffled through the many clipboards in her arms. “As you know, as of 6 AM this morning, assailants hijacked bio-technology from one of D.O.G.G.’s confidential convoy; we have confirmed that these assailants are Rogue-related.” ‘Hijack’? With security like that they were practically giving it to them. Five hundred thousand dollars worth of crap security, too bad they forgot to gift wrap it. Fark nodded.
She went on to tell of the Carbonaine vehicle the criminals had pre-prepared and large sum of them escaped with the tech. Fark nimbly stepped to the side, dodging a man pushing a cart filled with supply boxes down the hall as he spoke.
“Escaping in a vehicle that massive? It doesn’t make any sense…Are we tracking them?”
“Yes, we are in hot pursuit as we speak, we should hurry.”
The two pushed and pardoned their way to their adjacent offices where Adams shoved her paperwork in her desk and grabbed a jacket, her favorite duster. Fark made a few calls to other Tectum districts letting them know to stay off his turf. Adams barged through the door right when he took his Beretta 92 from his lower desk compartment.
“Why do you still carry that?” she asked, not expecting an answer. Fark froze briefly; noting the weapon Adams holstered, and then comfortably placed the pistol in his waist holster.
“You gotta remember the basics, Jess.” He swiped his hat of the desk and put it on his head, careful not to forget it. The two spent a moment gathering and sorting what needed to be done and Fark made a few quick orders to his personnel.
“That’s become your symbol around here, you know.” He searched for what she may be referring to. Instinctively, he placed a hand on his head once he realized, feeling the large letters on the panel.
“Oh this? Can’t go on a case without it.” A bit of nostalgia revealed a glint of a smile on the officer’s hardened face. He reached back into his desk and pulled out car keys.
“No, no, no, we’re not using a car that’s older than I am. We need speed.” She tossed her E.S. Card on the table. “We’re using my Madison. I’ll be in the lot, hurry or I’ll leave without you.” She turned and trotted through the door.
“The 2020 Ford GTR4 Tungsten ain’t old, and you’re not that young!” He barked, voice rising toward the end just before the door slammed shut. Fark stared at his keys, the E.S. Card, and then back at his keys and reluctantly dropped it back into his desk. ‘Leave without me?’ Good luck with that, I have the card, idiot. He grabbed his badge, the E.S. Card, grabbed his jacket swiftly off the rack, and darted through the door.
“To all units who are in pursuit, the suspect vehicle has overturned upon route one-eighty one, suspects have been begun confrontation. First response units are holding fire, and awaiting verification.” The voice from the communications radio crackled.
“Make a left here, it’s faster.” Adams said pointing at the intersection that was coming up fast. Fark turned so sharply they skidded through traffic a nearly smashed into three cars or so. He expertly maneuvered the vehicle into the Y-36 highway, tires screeching and cars frantic to avoid the mad driver. The Madison is a reliable machine; he floored the pedal and kept the sirens roaring as he weaved between traffic. His attention flickered back and forth between his own GPS and Adams rapid directions.
“No doubt this is rebel related. But why would the rebels commit such an outright attack? Its suicide no matter how you look at it.” The large buildings on her right were racing past her window, “what are they planning?” she wondered aloud.
Fark pressed a little harder on the pedal. “Doesn’t matter, most likely one of their petty heists gone wrong, let’s get there before…” They continued driving in high-speed silence as they stopped to listen. Above the quiet hum of the Madison’s engine, there was a sound of a dreadful roar that overtook the highway.
“No! We have to get out of here!” Lyn used her hands to cover her ears in attempt to block the deafening sound of automatic weaponry. Ace burst into a hasty sprint and beckoned for them to follow. Leo could barely hear what Ace was saying in the cry of cross gunfire.
“Grab -- to me! Keep ---- together … we have to stay -way f--- the street!” Leo followed Ace until he was swallowed by the smoke followed him in. They could actually hear bullets whiz directly past their heads. Leo reached out an arm out for Ace’s shoulder and Lyn grabbed on to him. Running blindly and flinching at every single shot that was fired, they pressed on until they had reached a small clearing behind an overturned pickup truck.
Leo was a bit relieved that he could now see his friends after running for what seemed like hours.
“Where to now?—Keep down!” Ace shouted as he slid into the middle of the clearing.
“If we head to the Tectum, they might shoot us on sight!” Leo shouted. Ace took this into account. His face tightened while thoughts sped through his mind. The thought to escape the scene by passing behind the Rebels struck him but he could see from here that large fire and debris completely destroyed any chance of escaping that way. Even if they succeeded in climbing over the hazardous flames and metal, they could easily be mistaken as Rogues and killed by Tectum fire. The same thought had run across Leo’s mind as panic threatened to overwhelm him.
“Agh! Dammit! Why would Rogues drive a semi that big anyway? Not a very decent getaway vehicle.” Ace yelled in frustration.
“Semi… That trailer was carrying a tank of Carbonaine…” Lyn’s said slowly, fear shaking her voice. Lyn was usually hard to shake, so hearing her speak made Leo prepare for the worse.
“So?” Ace asked not seeing her point.
Lyn faced Ace wide-eyed as the color drained from her face. “Carbonaine is highly explosive Ace…” The three exchanged looks of instant horror.
Standing Leo declared that it didn’t matter where exactly they ran to, but as long as they got the hell away from that overturned semi-trailer. Ace gritted his teeth and yelled between breaths, “You’d think those Tectum morons would be intelligent enough to not shoot at the thing that explodes!”
“Stay close Lyn, we’ll get out of—!” An arm had caught Leo across the chest and the air had left lungs with an oof sound. The force was so great he was sent airborne and his legs went skyward. The next thing he knew he was looking up at the mixture of smoke and sky after crashing on his back. All he could think about was the searing pain across his chest until Lyn’s cry brought him to attention. Ace hadn’t heard Lyn or seen Leo fall and so, he kept on running. Struggling to his feet, he looked frantically for Lyn in the shifting clouds of smoke. Then he saw a strange, tall, muscular figure close by, moving ominously toward something. Leo moved swiftly through the guise of smoke as not to draw his attention. Leo was close enough to feel his killing intent, see his worn clothes, and when his head hastily jerked to the side. It was Lyn. He kept his body closed to the ground and Leo watched as he pulled out a strange, long metal rod. He kept his distance. A harpoon! That really is a harpoon isn’t it?
Lyn had been struggling to get on her feet and had not noticed she was about to become potential prey. What do I do? I can’t possibly hope to fight this guy. The Rogue then revealed himself to Lyn, bearing a grin that was the very essence of evil. He lifted the harpoon high in the air and walked menacingly toward her. Lyn’s faced filled with horror as she back peddled on her hands and feet. Damn it, Ace! What would you do!?
The Rogue screamed with the harpoon high over his head sky and leaped in a mad lunge. His image blocked out the sun. With adrenaline pumping through his veins, Leo charged him with such speed and the force of the collision sent both of them flying over his intended target, and not a moment too soon. Leo scrambled to his feet, as he saw the Rogue doing the same. He unwillingly locked eyes with the Rogue’s deadly gaze. He clutched his left shoulder which appeared to be damaged due to smashing against the concrete. He roared, and dashed wildly preparing his arm for a deadly right hook. Leo nimbly dodged and connected with a roundhouse to his unguarded side. The Rogue crumpled as Leo caught sight of a gleam off to the side: the harpoon. It had landed next to Lyn. The Rogue let out another nasty yell and pursed Leo as he sprinted for the weapon.
He put all of his strength into his legs, the sound of gunfire made his heart race. There was no way he could allow himself to fail. Tirelessly pounding one leg after the other on the asphalt, He wouldn’t allow himself to be killed here. He was now close enough to see that Lyn understood what he was aiming to do. Not able to stand, she reached for the metallic object with all her remaining strength and tossed in Leo’s direction. “Catch!” she called as the harpoon flew through the air.
The Rogue was so close that Leo could almost feel his irregular breaths. Don’t look back! Just focus…focus… focus! The Rogue lunged in the air just as he barely managed to catch the harpoon. As soon as Leo felt it firmly in his hands he twisted violently with all his momentum, wielding the harpoon like a baseball bat. All of the muscles in his arms tensed for the blow and right before impact, a shrieking loud electric pulse went off nearby and the Rogue was struck by a brilliant display of plasma electricity.
Leo had turned around so quickly while dashing to strike the Rogue, that he was completely disoriented and fallen backward, not to mention the blinding light from the shock round. He had almost fallen onto Lyn. They exchanged glances of confusion as the ashen Rogue’s corpse lay smoking on the ground. Then like from some old horror film, another figured appeared to simply materialize from the smoke. It appeared from the way he shifted his weight, that he was holding a large weapon. He moved slowly towards the two.
“Tectum.” Lyn whispered so softly Leo questioned whether or not he actually heard it. As he emerged from the guise of smoke, his steel honor armor glistened in the sun. The helmet completely covered his face, except a small opening his revealing his icy eyes. He noticed the two instantly and in an almost mechanical analysis; his head turned from the electrified Rogue, to the harpoon that Leo held firmly in his hands. Leo and Lyn where poisoned from fear. The presence of the officer made it feel like he was inhuman, that any attempt to reason with him would prove futile. Leo could almost feel Lyn tremble beside him. Or it could have actually been himself.
“Burn, Rogue scum,” droned the emotionless voice. Leo felt completely helpless and was too exhausted to act. The rifle began to emit a sickening whirring sound that started low pitch and quickly rose. The following events seem to happen all at once and at the same time, they seem to exist as still-images, frozen in time. Leo noticed Ace had finally found them and yelled something from several meters afar. It must have been rather important as he didn’t initially acknowledge the Tectum honor officer. Leo had also heard Lyn whisper again. But he hadn’t heard what. Leo didn’t know whether or not the Tectum officer had fired due to the mind blowing Carbonaine explosion that followed. The sound of surrounding gunfire was quickly deadened by the monstrous explosion, and a cloud of flame shielded the sky. Suddenly, everything got really quiet and really bright. And then really dark…
Leo had never been in any kind of serious accident. He thought for sure he had died in that crash. He opened his eyes expecting to see something he can’t explain, but to his surprise he was looking up to the sky. He looked down at his own body: covered in rubble. He moved his limbs slightly to check if he was still in one piece. Everything was ok, nothing felt broken. He lifted his upper body and removed about a pound of rubble that was on his chest. He looked in front of him: at the street. It looked like a hurricane torn through. Vehicles were flipped, on side walks, demolished, smashed into buildings entrances, or any combination of the four. The air was painted with smoke and dust.
There seem to be no casualties as far as Leo could see on the street intersection before him. He could hear the streets echoing in pain and fear. A stirring in the rubble to the left, snatched his attention. A figure slowly pulled itself from the ground. Leo saw it was a person: Ace. “What the hell just happened?” He said when Leo caught his attention. They both looked around for the bus or what remained of it. It’s hard to imagine a vehicle staying intact after a collision of that magnitude. It had ended up several feet down the street, completely demolished. It looked like it came in straight from the vehicular recycling compound. They both got up, and both searched a bit for other survivors. Leo could see some of his school-mates rising and some already standing as he was, trying to cope with what lay before them. Ace turned to Leo and shouted.
“Damn, hey, we better get out of here before Tectum show--” He looked into Leo’s eyes. “Are you…ok man?”
Ignoring the question, Leo began a sudden sprint towards the bus. There was something important that sprung in his thoughts. Ace followed not knowing exactly what Leo was running to. He darted pass the some of the students, jumping off of debris as Ace followed. The bus had somehow managed to land upon of several parked cars on its side. As the two entered the wrecked machine, Leo jumped inside and had to grab hold of something to orientate himself in the angled bus. “Yo, Leo we gotta go, the Tectum will be here soon.” Ace warned from the outside of the bus.
“Lyn!” Leo called desperately. He feared for the worst as images flashed through his mind. He searched where she had been sitting and saw on the ground. He was initially flooded with relief but that quickly vanished when he noticed she wasn’t moving. “No…” he said quietly. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Lyn. She couldn’t be-. He crouched next to her, turned her over and put an arm around her back. No blood, no scratches. “Lyn… wake up.” He didn’t know what to do. His heart began to be overcome by sadness and time seemed to stretch. Lyn coughed just then. Leo was so startled that he nearly dropped her.
“…Leo…? What just hap--”
“I’ll explain later, we have to move, can you walk?”
“I think so.” Leo started to help her up when he noticed her staring at him.
“Huh? Oh, nothing.” Her leg was clearly injured so he offered his shoulder. They hobbled towards the bus ‘exit’ which now was a heap of twisted metal, and climbed down. Most of the kids were already heading away from the crash scene.
“Are you alright?” Ace asked looking at the bloodied leg.
“Yea, it’s just a bruise, no big. Thanks…” She gave him a weak smile.
“Dude, seriously what’s going on with this” Ace made a circular motion with his finger around his eyes. Lyn had the same look of concern Ace had. Leo was about to ask what they were talking about when he realized the present danger.
“We have the vicinity surrounded. Come out with your hands up or we will use the necessary force.” echoed a mechanic voice from a transmission vehicle. Tectum Forces. The ‘Protectors’. The Fist of The Council First. Those bastards. They do nothing but abuse their power and treat civilians like dirt. People don’t like to admit it but there are some good Tectum enforcers out there. The main purpose of these guys, most likely, is to purge the Rogues. Strict orders directly from the Council First allow any Tectum or Tectum-like organizations; endow them with these powers and rights. What they do to us isn’t as much of abusing their power as it is enforcing it. They would stop at nothing to defeat, capture, or kill a Rogue. Even go as far as harsh-interrogation or killing civilians connected to Rogue activity. Rogueism is a serious crime and will not be forgiven. Period.
The Tectum had set up a defensive position, weapons drawn and used there own vehicles used as cover. Leo could see they were just basic arms, not meant for extreme operations, but this level of strategizing and tactics meant it had to be Rogue related.
“Shit! Get down!” Ace yelled as he headed for a nearby wrecked car for cover. Leo and Lyn followed.
“You don’t think there talking to us?” Lyn asked listening intently to what the Tectum was shouting out of the loudspeakers.
“I don’t know, but something’s about to go down,” he said peering over the car.
The three all looked. Tectum forces weren’t exactly concentrating on them looking at them, but rather further down the road.
“Your final warning, Come out with your hands up.”
The road behind was almost completely blocked by a mixture of car wreck, the coach bus they were just on moments ago, and the colossal 16 wheeler on its side horizontally.
They were focused on the semi-trailer wreck as one man crawled out from under the wreckage. He was at least fifty meters away, but Leo could see the ripped clothing, his tattered grim face and the blazing intent in his eyes. He faced the opposing line of Tectum with an unwavering, sturdy stance with the luggage of what he carried. He loosely held on to a large traveling backpack with his bloodied right arm. Ace leaned a little forward out from under the cover of the destroyed sport car to get a better look.
“What is that? What’s he carrying?” Lyn whispered eyes fixed on the man upon the overturned Carbonaine vehicle. Ace didn’t reply, as he was too concerned with the device the Rogue was pulling out of his jacket. He fastened it to his ear and began speaking.
“That’s a head set, but I can’t make out what The Crasher is saying.”
“…The Crasher?” Leo asked, questioning the name Ace had given him.
From such a distance, it would prove impossible to hear him, but they still concentrated on eavesdropping anyway. The Crasher must have been having quite the conversation with whoever was on the other end, because he suddenly started laughing.
“What the hell is so funny? Doesn’t he know what kind of situation he’s in?” Ace said standing up. The Crasher casted a quick side glance at Ace but didn’t seem interested; instead the Rogue turned his attention toward the Tectum blockade. Unconsciously, the Rebel man lowered his voice, even though he knew there would be no way the young group could possibly eavesdrop. Ace guessed he was communicating with other Rebels and he spoke for a brief half a minute, his gaze never leaving the police force amassing at the intersection.
“W-what’s that he stole…from a Biotechnical Facility!?” Leo cried out without warning. Ace and Lyn hadn’t heard a single word from the man upon mound and wondered how Leo understood him. They were about to ask him what he was talking about when the Tectum commanded The Crasher to surrender.
“You bastards don’t understand what kind of mess yer gettin’ into, huh!?” His voice seemed to echo for miles and didn’t contain an ounce of fear. There was a silence that followed that seemed to carry his voice even further. The only sound that could be heard was the clang of still falling debris.
“Our operations don’t need yer meddling so if any of you fools have half-a-brain stem you’d just pack up and go!”
The Tectum were unfazed, about 26 officers had their weapons focused to put him down. Crasher closed his eyes and hung his head in contempt and reach for something in his back pockets. “Actually, I didn’t expect y’all to just go away, really…” he said calmly. There was movement from under the surrounding wreckage as he spoke.
“Guys...” Ace’s voice trailed off as Rogues, dozens of them begun to surface and readied various military-grade weapons toward the Tectum. Each and one had the same bloodlust in their eyes as the Rogue that stood next to them. The instant the mound of cars became swarmed with armed Rebels, Leo felt his face pale and the breath leave his lungs. He knew at that point that if he did not get of their fast, his life would be in danger. He quickly passed over the amount forces The Crasher had and knew this would be a small war. He saw a young man among them not much older than himself.
“I was hoping things would get like this!” Crasher yelled, revealing two objects ejecting plumes white smoke from each hand.
“Grenades!?” Lyn exclaimed.
Leo jumped to his feet, “This is bad, we need to go, now!”
Crasher flung the two ordinates skyward as they exploded into two brilliant clouds of thick smoke that almost completely blanketed the sun. He bellowed “Come ‘n get me!” as his image was swallowed by the falling screen.
“Open fire,” the transmission vehicle said in its cold metallic voice and the sound of weapon fire filled the skies.
It’s a good thing Jun, Kevin and Marina took the liberty of setting up their packed suitcases by the front door or else they would have missed this bus. Leo sat in the middle of the bus at a window seat. Lyn sat across from him where the isle would be between them. She also had a window seat.
They were in one of those huge buses called grand coach. They rode for about 20 minutes before the bus stopped to pick up another person. He looked into the aisle to see who was coming on. It was none other then Ace Arclight. Leo’s known Ace for quite sometime now. He remembers the time they got lectured by the principle for switching the locks of a rival middle school sport team’s lockers. They had to travel home still wearing their net-ball sport gear. It was pretty funny. It wasn’t funny the next day when they stuck in the principle’s office all day.
Leo beckoned to him. He saw Leo and went to sit next to him. Leo got up so he could sit next to the isle and Ace would be next to the window.
“Where’s Lyn?” he asked. Leo leaned back so he could see her. He caught her attention. “Hello Ace.” She said.
“Sup, mama,” he replied. Lyn shook her head and continued reading her book. “You see that? She totally digs me.” He said with infinite confidence and nonchalance.
The last thing Leo remembered is the bus making yet another stop for another student. We’ll never get there at this rate, he thought quietly. An extended bus ride wouldn’t help calm his nerves. Then he dozed off. He then realized he was dreaming. He was alone. Naked is what he felt, and he couldn’t find himself able to look at anything else but at the vast, dead wasteland that lay before him. He turned around in circles trying to make sense of what he was looking at. He was strangely reminded of a time long ago when he had gotten separated from his family unit after attending a public district town hall meeting. He wailed for minutes that seemed like hours as the faces of strangers passed by the lost little boy. No one tried to help him as they may have thought he wasn’t a resident of Tallor and didn’t belong here. But nothing compared to the cold isolation he felt now. There was nothing but large brown rocky hills and harsh unfertile ground. No sign of life anywhere, accept this, ominous looking tree. It was completely white and had no leaves. Leo gazed at it, he could have sworn it wasn‘t there five seconds ago. He glanced skyward as a stirring had caught his attention. The sky itself glowed and eerie red with black clouds. The weight of his fear suddenly felt like it weighed a ton, and crashed on his very being.
‘Keep it together kid, it’s just a dream!’ he wanted to shout out, but no sound was heard. A dream it was, but Leo knew something strange was about it. He just didn’t know what.
Then from the ground, about 20 feet away, raised wisps and wisps of shadows and darkness. The wisps soon became as thick as fog and slowly began forming high in the air. A marvelous but eerie sight, indeed. Leo was suddenly welled up with fear. The clouds above formed an arc around this ever-growing fog. Then from out of the thick, black darkness, a HUGE curved blade shot out of it. Leo has seen different types of weapons in his studies about warfare in the times of Napoleon and the Chinese Dynasties, but none like this. Leo watched in horror as huge skeleton-like hands materialized from the fog to wield such an awesome weapon. A shock wave of dust and rock flew from the sheer power of this awesome monstrosity. He could feel blood trickling down from his nose and forehead. Then Leo knew. He knew what made this dream so strange. He can feel his bare feet on the rocks. He can feel the shock of stone and dust. In dreams, feeling physical events and occurrences shouldn’t normally happen, at least not so…vividly. It’s just the brain’s perception on how it will feel to have something happen to you. He could feel it all as if it were real. Even the persistent thumping in his chest.
‘No’ he wanted to say. ‘Don’t look this way.’ He couldn’t bring himself to form the words, as the monstrosity turned a sickly hand to beckon him.
Everything went black. Leo could hear his panicked friends calling his name and he could feel someone holding him. Leo! Leo! The voices were disembodied and anxious. His breathing was stiff and all he could see was white. Moments later he could vaguely see Lyn’s face looking down on him and the face of some other student that had gotten up from the seat in front of him to see what was the commotion. Ace had been holding him down into the seat by the shoulders.
“What the hell dude? You go ahead and have a seizure on me?” Ace yelled, barely able to shout between his panicked breaths. Leo’s head was still in the dream.
“What?” he said drunkenly, looking at him.
“Are you Ok, Leo?” He turned his head to the left toward the familiar voice. “You scared me to death.” Lyn said patting her chest. As Leo looked around he could see that he caught most of the bus’s attention. Nothing like this has ever happen to him before. He was more scared than embarrassed. “I’m alright” Leo replied.“Here, clean yourself up.” Ace said to him holding up a tissue. Leo looked at him confused. Ace pointed around his own upper lip. Leo used his arm to wipe his face on the place Ace indicated. Leo was surprised to see blood all over his sleeve. He had a bad nose bleed. Leo looked back up to Ace and smiled, ready to accept his napkin offer. “Some dream you had there.” As Leo reached for the napkin he caught a glimpse of the bus window behind Ace. His brain didn’t even get the chance to comprehend the 18-wheel Carbonaine vehicle that was speeding toward them.
“Get ready for first day at the academy, dear” Marina Walker said in a sing-song voice. She opened the huge curtains as rays of sunlight came bursting into the room. Leo squinted in surprise. “Time to get ready, you have twenty minutes to get dressed.” Marina warned as Leo got out of bed. Leo’s knees felt like they were made of rubber and he could smell the sweet scent of the marshmallow and chocolate tea that was being crafted downstairs. He could almost taste the mouthwatering smell of bacon.
“Mm, smells good.” he thought to himself. Ever since Leo and his mom had been relocated into this household, Marina has been a little more cheerful. Before they lived here in this neighborhood, they lived in the slums of Lower Tallor, a place well renowned for its high Rogue activity. Leo and his mom are vicinenated to three other people in this household. A vicinen is family unit that coincides with another Family-Unit in living under one or more households. Marina Walker, Leo’s mother, vicinenated with the Griffin family unit. They have been this way for 2-3 years and among the Griffin family unit there are three individuals.
Kevin is a slim, good looking funny-guy that always seems to be smiling. He’s there when you need him and can trust him with a fortune. He‘s a great car salesmen. He makes the customer think that he actually cares about their current predicament, and that he’s trying to give them a good deal. He is around 30 and is married to an Asian woman named Jun.
Jun is long haired, slender, and around the same age as Kevin. Leo doesn’t really know a lot about her, for they don’t speak much. She is always home late from her own job at a school as a calculus school teacher.
Kevin and Jun have a daughter named Lyn Griffin. She’s the same age as Leo. She’s around his height and has black hair that reaches her shoulders. Rather sociable, he has been asked out quite a few times in the passed month. Of course, she turned them down, something about those them not being right for her. Leo knows this because she tells him about most of it. Leo’s never been one to engage in girl talk.
Leo stumbled out his bedroom door as he made his way to the bathroom. As he passed Lyn’s room, the door was ajar so he peered inside. Lyn was sprawled out on her bed with her sheets almost completely off and her hair all over the place. The pillow-side of the bed was faced towards to the door and the bed itself was to the left of the room. She was face up and wearing only a vest and underwear. He was used to seeing her like that. Almost.
“You’re going to be late for the bus.” Leo warned trying not to stare. She slowly turned her head up to face him with a “whatever Leo…” that got mumbled out. She mumbled something else but he didn’t hear. Then, without a word, she turned towards the wall opposite to the center of the room and continued sleeping in an almost fetal position. He went into the bathroom and began brushing his teeth.
Leo is 16 years old. Not much of a social guy and always seems to be thinking about something. He’s a junior that is about to go to Tobish Tagen Academy that is an hour away in travel time. He is to stay there for 3 years on the campus along with 5000 other students. The grades are good, 95.5% average to be exact, although he doesn’t put much effort into his work. Lyn shares some of his types of studies and is around an 86% grade average, but she’s really smart, maybe even smarter then Leo, just lazy.
After Leo finished up in the bathroom he went back to his room to slip into his school uniform. It was a white button-up shirt with long sleeves, matching black jacket to complement if the weather called for it and black pants. The standard uniform. Here’s one thing that hasn’t changed over the past decade, Leo mused as straightened out his shirt. Leo ran back down the hall with his jacket neatly on his shoulders and stopped by Lyn’s room again. She’s was comfortably wrapped in sheets on her bed. Leo walked towards the windows in her room and removed the blinds. Light crashed inside. She covered her face with her hands in defense.
“Rise young grasshopper, the bus will be here.” He said with a grin. She sat up with a face of protest and squinting at the direct sunlight. Lyn got out of bed and walked to her dressing table. She picked up the digital clock.
“I still have plenty of time to sleep.” She said half dazed and crashed back into apparent slumber.
Leo jogged downstairs, nerves jittering from the thought of moving away to
Tobish Tagen. He opened the fridge and grabbed a bottle of nice, cold, refreshing water. He shoved the bottle in his book bag as he walked towards table. He caught a glimpse of his mother opening the front door.
“Oh Hun, I forgot my E.S. card again can you bring them for me?” She requested
“Sure thing, mom” he replied.
“No need. I got them.”
Turning around toward the direction of sound, Leo saw Lyn on the steps, card in hand. She tossed them to Marina.
“Thanks Lyn. Oh dear I’m going to be late. Remember don‘t forget to email me every week from the Academy you two…I’m proud of you, both of you…” With a smile, she closed the door and left. Lyn and Leo commenced to eating the sizzling bacon and omelets.
“Excited?” Leo asked.
“Not really.” She answered curtly. “I bet it’s just going to be some stupid academy, with stupid laws and regulations, with stupid social groups.” She took a sip of chocolate.
“Come on, moving so far away for three whole years. You gotta admit that’s cool.
“I guess.” This would be a new experience for them both, moving to a new environment, meeting new people and carving a path into their futures themselves.
Just then Kevin Griffin came into the kitchen from the downstairs bathroom. He made a dramatic yawn as he stretched his arms as if he were to hug a whale, and was wearing nothing but a bath robe and boxers.
“Ah, beeeeeeautiful morning. Is it not?” he stood gazing out the kitchen window. He grabbed his mug and began boiling coffee beans. “Smells good.” he said.
“The coffee?” asked Lyn.
“No, your breakfast. Seeing as you guys have to leave right now I‘ll be more then happy to take it off your hands.” he said as he scratched himself, grinning. Lyn turned around to face him.
“Very funny dad, we still got time.” A look of confusion crossed his faced as he turned back towards the front window.
“Oh? But isn’t that your bus outside?” Lyn and Leo whipped their heads to the window.
“Oh crap, the bus.” Leo said as quickly as he stood up. They both grabbed their belongings and ran towards the door. Kevin called out to Lyn.
“Yea?” she said turning around.
Kevin threw a bottle of nice, cold refreshing water to Lyn. She caught it.
“It’s going to be a long ride.” He said smirking as he turned around. Lyn thanked him and walked out.
“Bye Kev!” Leo shouted just before Lyn closed the door behind her.
“Ah, these kids grow up so fast… I must be getting old.” Kevin thought aloud as he made his way toward the sugar cabinet.
The clay bowl felt warm upon Fiona’s palms as the cool ocean breeze whipped against the fire. The stew was delicious; it tasted like being enveloped in warm cloth on soft bed during a relentless thunderstorm. Fiona took another sip, tilted her head back, basking in the taste and her own poetic prowess. Karok took a large munch of his self caught fish which was slightly overcooked and re-living the pride of the catch with each bite, which in fact wasn’t of very many.
“Here Karok, I know the seas weren’t kind to you today, but you should have a bowl or you’ll starve on the way to Hoarfrost.” Evie gave an encouraging smile, another bowl in her outstretched hand clear of the fire. “It will make you feel better.” Karok eyed the bowl. It did indeed smell delicious and he knew he it would be a long boat ride, but his manly pride told him to enjoy the fish he had caught with his own two hands. He looked off to the side, taking another small bite in order to make it appear more filling that it actually was.
“I’m fine with just this.” He said, trying to sound as cool as possible, but wasn’t convincing anybody. A flash of anger appeared across Evie’s face so quickly that Karok doubted ever seeing it. Perhaps it was the shadows casted from the fire. For a short while, the only sound that followed was the crackle of the firewood, and the tiny bites of Karok’s crunchy trout.
In the next moment Evie had simply vanished out of thin air, and the bowl she held remained suspended above the ground and held by strange wisps of energy. The campfire lashed wickedly at the force of the dissipation. Karok only had time blink before she was upon him. She used her own body to pin him down in his seat. One hand in a vice grip on Karok’s cheeks, the other delicately motioning the bowl over.
“It’s for your own good…Say ‘ahh’, please.” Karok reluctantly opened his mouth and promised himself he wouldn’t enjoy it too much. He had to keep a free hand on the bowl to keep it from spilling over as Evie practically poured the stew down his throat. Fortunately, it was cool enough for Karok to do so without burning his insides and he finished it all quickly. To hell with pride, this stew was too damn good. Karok took moment to catch his breath before asking for another.
Lann arrived shortly after, panting from his haste and stopping before now the vacant camp. Regretful that he hadn’t made it in time for something to eat; he set off toward the pier. Evie and Karok were busy loading supplies and crates onto the main deck; Fiona was held up on the quarter deck and beckoned Lann aboard the ship. Once he was on, he made his way to the quarter deck.
“Took you long enough, may I see it?” She asked, almost skeptically, holding out a hand. Lann reached in his pack, whipped out the map and shoved it in her palm.
“Here you go, good as new. No even better, take a look.” Fiona hummed questionably, and made her way inside the captain’s cabin, unrolling the map. Lann followed. Once they were inside, she flattened the map on the observation desk and noticed the extra marks and notes scribbled 4-5 miles to the south-east of the known Hoarfrost entrance. They begin to discuss the team’s plan of action, which in most cases erupted into argument and outright dueling. Eventually they would come to a healthy, unanimous decision…most of the time.
“So you looked up and there is was? It didn’t bother attacking?” asked Evie, perched nimbly on the ship’s bowsprit, deeply interested the story. Karok had a foot planted firmly on the side of the prow, effortlessly pulling up the lashed anchor.
“That’s right, even the kobolds that had come to face me had dropped their weapons and turned tail. The beast roared so loudly that entire cave shook.” With a loud splash, the submerged anchor finally broke the surface of the water. Evie gave a delighted smile at the thought of such a fearsome beast existing in Hoarfrost. “There was an opening at the top of the cavern in which sunlight came in, which was quickly blocked by out by the arrival of the monster. As to why it didn’t attack, was because it couldn’t. Fortunately, the opening wasn’t large enough for it to fall through.” Karok hoisted the heavy metal from over the boat-side and Evie helped clear room for him to set it down, letting out a sigh from the exertion. Evie began rewinding the large pulley that the rope was attached to. “That was when I first joined the Crimson Mercenaries, about 3 months ago. If that creature had committed and situations were slightly different, I wouldn’t be here talking to you now.” Karok propped himself against the mast, recalling the incident and the look in the savage creature’s eye when it bellowed at him. Evie stared in wonder and excitement at the thought of Karok brushing so closely with certain doom. She was about to ask another question when the door to the captains deck swung open and a proud looking Fiona marched onto the center of the deck with an exhausting looking Lann following behind.
“Ok crew, we are going to make a small detour off course for the sake of Brynn’s research. Afterwards we will continue along with our primary objective of investigation the anomaly known as “The White Tyrant”. Are we all in agreement?” She asked facing each of the team with a beaming smile and spirits as high as the tide. The pulley Evie had been turning clicked to a stop.
“…You two came to a mutual agreement on this?” she asked skeptically.
“Yes, it was Lann’s idea after all.” Fiona responded. Karok and Evie exchanged confused glances.
“And no one was punched?” asked Karok. “Stomped? Thrown overboard, or-”
“Not this time!” Lann said laughing loudly. Karok turned back to face Evie, and quietly joked that this rare event undoubtedly is a bad omen. Evie nodded and laughed the laugh he liked to hear.
Fiona turned to leave but stopped short of the troubled look on Lann’s face. She asked him what was wrong.
“Hungry. Did you save me any?” he asked hopefully. Fiona laughed heartily and told him that she did not. She searched to the left and to the right of the deck and found what she was looking for.
“There, that should fix your appetite until we return”, she said with a warm smile, patting him on the back she walked past. Lann bore a dull expression at what she directed him too. Off to the side near some crates and barrels were several random vegetables scattered about, particularly squash and pumpkins. Lann walked drudgingly toward it. Better than nothing, he thought to himself.Fiona made her way back to the quarterdeck where she felt most comfortable and gave the okay to set off. The rest of the crew readied the main sail and topsail and thanks to the favorable winds, the ship had set sail in no time.
“Ah, hold on a second guys, I almost forgot the map!” Lann shouted back to his comrades as he jogged his way back toward Mercenary Outpost. He had spent a lot of time at the outpost fashioning his equipment and brandishing his armor in order to prepare for the coming journey. Needless to say he was very excited.
A waft of freshly cooked fish permeated through the docks and filled Fiona’s lungs along with the salty breeze from the Tahtich River. She turned toward the source of the scent and found it coming from a pot strung by an iron stand over a roaring campfire. By it stood Evie, on one of the large stones that circled the fire. Her eyes reflecting the scarlet from the blaze and focused intently on the complicated dish. Her hands gripped the wooden spoon with knowingly and professionally as she stirred. Across from her, a large hulking frame sat perched; close to the large fire deep in concentration at the preparation of the meal of his own. Karok’s two trout were pierced on a stick, dangling above the flames that grabbed and lashed out to meet them. Fiona couldn’t help but grin at the humorous scene of someone of Karok’s size preparing two measly fish in juxtaposition to Evie’s skillfully crafted fish stew.
Lann kicked open the door causing it to slam inward as Marrec started in his seat. It was so sudden that his helmet clicked and clanged briefly and gave Lann an angry look.
“Forgot something, I’ll only be a minute!” Marrec was about to seriously discipline Lann about house rules but before he could utter a word. Lann was already halfway upstairs. He sighed and slumped back into diligently finishing his report. Lann searched the highs and lows of his quarters, but the delicate scroll of parchment was nowhere to be found. Fiona’s gonna be pissed. She said I would lose it too…
He echoed the resentment in his mind, of telling her that he had in fact lost the map and seeing her condescending grin. “No surprise Lann, that’s why I drew a copy, ohohoho.” He mimicked, prancing about the messy room in mockery.
“And…finished”, said Marrec quietly to himself as he placed the final punctuation mark on the stack of pages. He tried his best to ignore the ruckus going on in the room directly above him, but could ignore it no longer when Lann came crashing back down the stairs.
“Have seen an old scroll? ‘Bout this big, left it upstairs overnight.” He asked Marrec from across the room, probably louder than what was necessary.
“I have not Lann. Maybe I can help –“
“I wonder who could have taken such thing…” spoke a voice from over to the side that managed to somehow sound like sly rat. There stood Gallagher grinning like a fool.
“Just give it back man, I have to get goin’.” Lann wore a bored expression as he held out his hand.
“Maybe we can help each other out. See there is this special erg in Hoarfrost-” he didn’t get to finish because of the firm grip Lann had around his collar.
“Do it yourself weasel, I don’t have time for games. Now give it back.” Lann said as he attempted to put the most menacing face he could. Though it only succeeded in making Marrec stifle a laugh under his helm. Gallagher also grabbed Lann’s shirt and returned the menace. The on-looking Marrec couldn’t hold back anymore.
“Eh, you pickin’ a fight? What makes you so sure that I have the stupid map anyway!”
“Because since I came here, I’ve never told anyone that it was a map!” A long silence followed as a bead of sweat rolled down Gallagher’s brow. The only thing that could be heard was Marrec’s stifled laughing at the two morons.
Gallagher was about to retort with something clever when the door in the back of the room swung open. Captain Aodhan followed by Ceara walk out from the Outpost’s library. The Captain didn’t seem particularly interested in what was happening and strode toward the Outpost’s exit, only before stopping before Marrec’s desk, who was struggling to clear the tears from his eyes from laughing too hard. Not an easy task with a helmet equipped.
“Sir!” said the mercenary, snapping to attention.
“Ah, fine job Marrec, I’ll bring this report with me on my way to Rocheste. I’ll be back in two nights.” He turned to address everyone else in the room. “Marrec will be in charge until then.” He nodded and existed through the door where Lann caught a glimpse of Gywnn. He waved with one free hand while still in a death lock with Gallagher and she pretend not to notice as the doors shut themselves once more. Ceara looked surprised to see Lann.
“Lann, you are here, I thought you had already left. Regardless, I’ve learned something very-…What’s going on?” She looked in confusion at the two angry men. They both released one another and Gallagher threw his hands in the air.
“The jig is up. That map that I gave you earlier was Lann’s. But since you were able to put it to good use… we can all get what we want.” He smiled, showing ALL of his teeth. Ceara’s gazed sharply at him and held it like ice. Lann folded his arms.
“Let me guess, you gave it to her asking if she could find a good place to harvest ergs from the Hoarfrost Caverns, she agreed, and then he would strike up the offer with me and make a nice profit of suckering us both. Is that about right Gallagher?” Lann stared hard.
“You told me those ergs would be for Brynn to research. It also isn’t right to steal things from people!” she cried whacking him with a book.
“Yow! It worked out fine didn’t it? Lann has his map, you’ll get your ergs if he goes through with it and yes we can use them for stupid research.” Gallagher said shoving his hands in his pockets. He walked off and sat on his own desk, scribbling hastily on parchment, probably devising a new scheme Lann figured. Ceara sighed.
“Lann... if it isn’t too much trouble...” She handed the modified parchment into his hands. Lann gave it a quick inspection.
“Doesn’t seem too far off track. No problem, I’ll check it out.” He said giving an assuring smile.
“Thank you, I will wait for you to return to me…uh! I mean return to Brynn because he will want to see - but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see you – um...” Ceara’s cheeks quickly because the same color as her hair.
“I’ll come back safely Ceara.” He made his way to the door. “Wish me luck guys! I’ll come back with that Polar Bear’s head on a mantel!”
“If ya can find a mantel that big”, Gallagher sneered under his breath.
“Good luck…” said the embarrassed Ceara. Marrec gave him a nod, slid a fine health potion flask his way, and with that Lann slam the door and was gone.Ha, that girl. Lann thought to himself on the path back to the docks. Getting so worked up all over Brynn. A single black bird rose above the reddish shine of the late afternoon sky, crowing loudly above Lann.