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Old 05-24-2013, 02:38 PM   #1
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One

32Autumn87

Hi. So, my name’s Nick. It doesn’t make sense to tell my journal that, but I doubt my grandfather ever planned on anyone finding his. Someone once told me all the reasons why it was therapeutic to keep a journal, but I wasn’t really paying attention.

I thought about starting one, but there was nothing really worth writing down. Wake up, eat, mine, crap, sleep. That’s been every day for as long as I can remember.

But today’s been a bit different.

---

Wiping streaks of mud and sweat from his eyes Nickolas Varne stepped out from the shade offered by the catacombs out into the blistering midday sun. From inside he heard a rough voice wonder, “Where you goin’? Day’s barely unbearable yet.”

He turned back to the sight of Jon Rocha’s wide frame emerge into the light, his oldest friend beaming a grin. Wind whipping by a welcome relief from the eternal heat Nickolas shrugged cooly and replied, “Had a thing.”

Jon leaned against the outcropping of rock forming the entrance and only grinned wider, blue eyes shimmering as he wondered, “Going to try and spend time with Avry?”

The accusation turned Nickolas absolutely red, young man kicking at the sand and quickly replying, “No, nothing to do with her. I’ve got something I was looking for, out there.”

Desert reflected in his eyes Jon hesitated, torn between a days work and the prospect of another adventure. He eventually shook his head, golden strands of hair escaping a nearly perfect combover as a result. He said in turn, “What about water? Will you have enough?”

Nick only grinned in response and replied while waving, “I’m always ahead on water. And if not, you owe me.” With that, he headed out alone into the wild.

Miles later he stood, grandfather’s ledger in hand and a dissatisfied frown perched on his lips. He pulled out his compass again, rechecking to ensure just where North was before going over his pace count again. He looked around and sighed, beginning to understand why the old man had just become another one of the Missing. The last page only had one cryptic message scrawled before several torn pages.

Third stomp’s a charm.

Everyone had always said the coot was crazy. He was known to go out into the desert for weeks and a time and surprise everyone by showing up one day to work the catacombs again, as if nothing had happened. How was a mystery. When he and Jon set out to explore they could never even scrounge more than a day’s supply of extra water to do so.

Maybe he was crazy too. With a sigh, Nick raised his foot and brought it down hard in the sand to no effect. Another stomp came and passed and he paused, wondering for a moment what he even hoped to find, anyway. Regardless, he did so one last time.

A moment of silence was all he found. Overhead, a vulture cried and he shielded his eyes to catch sight of the buzzard. Frustration edging his tone higher he cried out, “Screw you!”

A tremor beneath him brought his attention back down to the surface of Reah. Less than a yard away the golden grains pulsated like whitewater rapids, falling inwards to reveal flights of stairs leading only into darkness.

Nick stared at the journal and said to no one, “Okay.”

Through the rabbit hole he stared in amazement as lights flickered to life, revealing a room larger than any he’d ever come across in all his seventeen years. Bars of silver all stacked neatly into perfect rectangles taller than he was absolutely shimmered. Vats of water bubbled, heaters springing alive along with the lights to purify their contents.

What caught his eye most, though, were the rows upon rows of rifles, handguns and blades. He’d never even come across a weapon without a soldier attached. He took another step towards the cache and pulled out a notepad of his own.

---

I think my grandfather really was crazy.
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Old 05-24-2013, 02:38 PM   #2
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Two


33Autumn 87



It's funny how even if you find an underground warehouse full of everything illegal under the sun, the thing you might find yourself thinking most about is a girl. I am, at least. I might tear this page out if I start to suspect I may go missing.


But there's this girl I know, and I really like her. Thing is, I don't think she feels the same. I mean, I've never asked. I don't want to mess things up, you know? But how am I supposed to know if I dont?


She smiles at me all the time, and it always turns me into an idiot. She goes out of her way to talk to me and do things, but... we've been friends since we were like, five. So, It's hard to say. Oh yeah, where was I?


Something about a cache.


---


Dark eyes sweeping out over her cell within the processing plant Avry Joans let her second in charge know, "The belt on line seven is coming off it's tread, Danny. Get someone over there to tighten it up before it gets free." The man at her side nodded, quickly darting off to solve the issue.


She turned at the sight of another supervisor approaching, brushing away strands of dirty blonde hair as the man asked, "Miss Avry, we had a worker not show. Could you float us someone with training in purity checks on the end product?"


Her brow furrowed, eyes darting over the distance as her mind's eyes ran over each member of her team, contemplating their skills and which she could do without for what felt like an eternity. Less than a second after he asked she shouted, "Johan! I'm gonna need you over in quality control. I'll give you an extra half hour in turn."


The situation handled, she gave one last look at her cell, the production line again running at maximum capacity. She turned and jumped at the sight of Nick only inches from tapping her on the shoulder. Excitement in his eyes he leaned in close and spoke in an urgent half-whisper, "Avry, you got a minute? I really gotta show you something."


She exhaled, panic receding as she spoke though pursed lips, "I suppose. Shouldn't you be in the catacombs?"


When Nick only smiled and waved for her to follow she frowned, following suit. In her small office he pulled his HSpace transmitter and tapped away at the screen, gleaming bar of silver transported out on the worn finished wood of her desk.


Dark eyes wide Avry simply gawked at the bar of silver, inspecting the cool metal in her hands and musing, "This is better than anything our facility could even hope to produce." She set it back down and turned to look at her oldest friend beaming her way and wondered, "... Where did you find this, Nick?"


Grin only growing he replied, "You'll see."


---

About time I get to impress her for a change.
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Old 06-07-2013, 04:20 PM   #3
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The Cache



Three





34Autumn87





I don’t remember gramps very well. I think I only really have one memory of the guy.



He’d been gone for weeks, and everyone was sure he was just another of The Missing. Basically, that the guy had gone off and finally died out there. The nearest city, Leiore, was three weeks away on foot.



And out of nowhere, I hear my little brother shout, “Granpa Stiles!”



There he is, standing in the doorway. He looked larger than life somehow, even though he must’ve been almost in his sixties by then. His shoulders cast a shadow over the two of us like some sort of eclipse. And when I asked where he always went, he just beamed this huge smile down at me.



And for some reason, it always made me feel better.



---


The orange sun kissing the horizon goodnight in the distance cast the desert in a shade akin to fire. Nickolas smiled at his two oldest friends, checking his compass one last time and mulling over the pace count before coming to a stop.


Canteen brought to bare Jon took a heavy swallow, wiping the sweat away from his brow with the Tomas hide wrapped around the plastic. He smiled back as best he could and wondered, “So... where’s this amazing thing you wanted to show us?”


Nick grinned wider at his friends and issued a warning, “Get ready, you’ve never seen anything like this.” Three stomps later, the three stood in place now basked in an awkward silence. Numbers crunching in his head, Nickolas swore aloud and took another ten steps.


And then their jaws dropped.



Dark eyes as wide as could be Avry Joans stared at the underground warehouse. She took in the sight of the water treatment and collection tanks, taking note of the fact that each vat treated the water to exactly one hundred degrees Celsius. She took inventory of the fact that the ration boxes were all dehydrated, and not set to expire for another three years.


She only briefly inspected the weapons, hand hesitating for an instant before coming to rest on the stock of a rifle. She took a deep breath, attempting to catch it before making a scene. Already aware of the answer she uttered out, “What could this all be for?”


Jon stood beside the mountains of silver piled almost as tall as himself and exclaimed, “Who cares?! This is our ticket out! We owe your old man. Seriously.”


Nick checked over the HSpace inventory he’d prepared the night before, letting them know, “I spent last night tagging and uploading everything already, I just wanted you guys to really see it all.” With a few taps of the device in hand, a green light emanated through the entire cache.


The water, food, and silver all shimmered momentarily before breaking down into green lines of code and vanishing from sight. Avry stared at the now desolate room, wondering, “Wait, you inventoried all of this last night?”


Eyes belying how far-gone he was Nick smiled her way and replied with a shrug, “Yeah, it’s not that big a deal. There’s even cots and camping supplies. I left us out a night’s worth. I’m gonna go crash.”


He made his way over, completely ignoring the food and water pass out inches from hitting his own cot. Small smile at her lips Avry looked through the overnight supplies, eventually mining a blanket out to drape over Nickolas. She checked her own HSpace module to find it’d been invited to sync already.


Massive frame causing his cot to creak in protest as he took a seat Jon glanced over at her and wondered, “So, what now?”


Avry continued rifling through the contents of The Cache, breath beginning to get away from her again. She slipped it back into her pocket and laid back, breathing with her stomach a few times to relax before replying, “I guess tomorrow we go Missing.”



---



I’d say I impressed her. At least a little. Thanks, old man.
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Old 06-18-2013, 05:08 PM   #4
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The Cache



Four



35Autumn87



So here's hoping we don't get hopelessly lost on the way to Lieore.



I never even thought I'd ever see the city, let alone ever leave Mannard. For some reason, I almost want to turn around and go back. Even though there's nothing left for me back there. At least I know it. We could live off the water, keep things simple. But, what then?



Its not every day an adventure comes your way.



---


Midday sun beating down on them with an intensity that could meld the sand beneath their feet into glass the three trudged on in silence. Draped now in long white coats with hoods pulled high to shield their eyes from the heavens, they stopped only long enough for Nick to again check his compass and mentally verify the pace count.


Jon inhaled nearly a quart of water in the interim, turning to Avry with a smile in order to jab, "I'm surprised you were willing to just head out. Didn't even ask the old man for permission?"


Frown beset on her olive complexion Avry cast him a quick glare, taking a steady breath before letting the expression fade. She replied through pursed lips, "We weren't as close as you think."


Jon only shrugged in response, turning to see Nick waving for them to follow suit. He wondered aloud, fingers interlaced behind his head as he lazily walked, "What if we're going the wrong way?"


Nick stopped for a moment, recalling the coordinates he'd penned for Liore before their departure. He looked up, brow furrowed at the idea. Ocean of dust the only landmark he had to work with, he replied plainly, "Then I guess we're screwed."


The tallest of the three hummed in response, crystal blue eyes sharpening at the sight of two figures slipping into sight. Jon beckoned to the others, "We have company heading our way."


Dark eyes finally finding the two Avry asked, "Think we can get around them?"


Nick debated their options before responding, "It would take a lot of energy and potentially get us lost. They might just be travelers like us."


The two ended up proving him wrong.


Knife extended their way the larger of the two slashed the tool menacingly at the air while his companion stated with an almost professional air, "Now, we don't want anyone getting hurt. Just hand over what you've got and we'll be on our way, kids."



Frown beset on his face Nick glanced over to see Avry slip behind Jon, looking away to cast the thought from his mind. He looked from the knife to the would be bandits and replied with a voice he was surprised to find shake, "W-we can't. We're on our way to Liore. We won't make it if we do."



The thief moved in closer, blade still sharp as it pressed against the cloth of Nick's

coat. The man grinned as he said, "Last chance. We don't really care if you die here or there to tell the truth." Knife drawn back, the man cried out in pain when Jon's hand enveloped the wrist in question, turning the joint to an unnatural angle with ease.



Nick's eyes widened at the sight of the second thief reach into his robes, revolver shining as sunlight licked the metal drawn to bare. He stepped in between Jon and the bandit, watching the hammer rise and fall as the next chambered round slid counter clockwise into place.



A disappointing click was all that emanated from the weapon.



Jon turned at the sound, releasing his grip to shove his best friend aside and shatter

the jaw of the would be murderer with a single thunderous punch. He glared at the two and extended a hand, commanding, "Avry, rifle!"



HSpace module in hand Avry tapped the screen, selecting the first she could find to materialize in a green glow. Jon cocked the weapon and fired into the sand, gunshot echoing for an eternity. He trained it now on the assailants and ordered, "Now, give us what you've got."



Bones like jelly, Nick found himself shaking even with Avry helping him back to his

feet. He croaked out, "Except water. Keep what you've got."



Minutes later Jon inspected the revolver, mining some sand from the weapon and firing a single round into the sky. He slid the weapon into his belt and turned to Nick with a smile, slapping the still winded figure on the back and saying, "I'm glad this fool never cleaned the damn thing, or you'd be a goner. But thanks."



Sun still bearing down on them, they turned to see the would be bandits vanishing into the horizon before continuing on.



---



I don't know how he does that. Just acts without a second thought. I mean, I did too. But all I did was step in the way. He would have fought.



And I saw Avry go to him right away. Not me. Can't blame her.
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Old 06-23-2013, 07:43 PM   #5
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The Cache



Five






“Is he dead?”


The three stood gawking down at a figure sprawled face down in the sand, red royal crest adorned across the back of his robes. Nick sighed, kneeling to pull aside the fabric to reveal the dark complexion of a young man. His fingers pressed gently at the neck for a pulse, brow furrowing as he said, “Nope, he’s alive.”


HSpace module extended out towards Jon, Nick took shook the unconscious wanderer and said, “Get some fresh water out. Let’s try to wake this guy up.”


Device in hand Jon looked at the menu and hesitated, replying back, “Are you sure we should help him? He’s a soldier.”


Irritation settling into her tone Avry materialized a fresh canteen and said, “It doesn’t matter if he is or not, he’s stranded out here and we’re going to help him.” With that she unscrewed the lid and generously splashed some over the man’s sand worn features.


With a start the soldier exploded from the sand, foot planted behind Nick’s as he forced him off balance. When Jon moved in close the warrior smoothly took him by the wrist with one hand, right elbow slashed out to strike him in the face. Stunned, Jon stumbled back to find the soldier move in, hands grasping his collar on either side, X formed by his wrist strangling the air from his lungs.


Spots forming in his eyes, Jon’s knees gave in and he weakly grasped at the soldier’s robes. The young man’s attention snapped away at the sound of Avry’s voice shout, “Hey! We’re only here to help!”


The soldier looked at the three keenly and let go of his prisoner before collapsing a moment later himself into the sand. Voice rasping out of him he said, “I’m sorry, I thought you to be bandits at first. Are you all right?”


Blood finally circulating through his thoughts again Jon coughed an unintelligible reply, instead opting to offer a thumbs up. Worried eyes locked on his bruised neck Avry kneeled to help him up before tossing the remainder of the canteen towards the man they’d saved.


With a frantic scramble the soldier snatched the container and drank all her could, coughing as he even managed to inhale some fluid. Voice still dry he held it back out and spoke, “Farrel Aden. Lance Corporal Aden, if you’d like. I’m sorry again if I hurt either of you.”


Nick drew some more water out, refilling the canteen and offering it back. He wondered, “What were you doing out here all alone?”



Farell's dark eyes looked out into the abyss, speaking in between gulps to recant, "I was leant to a small platoon sent out here to stop a gang of marauders attacking military and civilian shipments passing through Volstagg, but a sand storm ended up separating me from the others."



At last regaining his bearing, Jon accepted Avry's help with a scowl and absently rubbed at his throat. He sized up the soldier who'd so effortlessly subdued him in a new light and wondered, "And they left you behind?"



HSpace module drawn from his robes, Farrel seemed distant as he replied, "The mission comes first. If finding me became a hindrance, it was their duty to move on, and protect Volstagg." He tapped away at the screen, coordinates coming up in an intant. He let them know, "The settlement is only a few miles west. Is it out of your way?"



Nick regarded the map system installed on the soldier's device jealously before shaking his head. The soldier replied with a grin, "Then please, let me repay your kindness. I owe you all, especially the big one."



-----



37Autumn87





A soldier, out alone in the sand. He was abandoned, left to die. And somehow, it didn't seem to bother him much. I wonder if he really meant what he said.



I don't think I could leave Avry or Jon hanging like that, no matter what the cost.
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Old 07-01-2013, 02:28 PM   #6
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The Cache



Six





37Autumn87



I've never seen another town before. I was born in Mannard, a little blip in the sand of dusty old houses and dark caves.



I wonder how Old Man Stiles felt when he came across his first real town. To gathered the things he did, he must've traveled all over.



If he had the chance, why didn't he take us with?



---





Eyes wide, the three regarded the trading outpost of Volstagg like an alien world. People moved with a sense of intense purpose down the main road, stopping only to inspect the wares at trader's tents.



A group of Tomas squawked by, Jon grinning with excitement at the sight of the two

legged flightless birds. He exclaimed with the brightest smile, "Wow, I can't believe they've got Fjords! We've got to get some for the rest of the trip." He stopped, hand hesitantly extended towards the tan plumage. The Tomas cawed out, brushing it's beak under his hand to Jon's glee.



Farrel Aden smiled at the kids, watching Avry take the smallest one, Nick, by the hand and lead him over to a stand containing mangoes. The young man's face turned the brightest red, but she didn't seem to notice. The soldier drew his HSpace module out and said, "Well, I don't know about Tomas, but I'd like to put you all up in a lodge for the night. And have all the mangoes you can, miss."



Avry let out a high pitched exclamation, quickly slicing a fruit apart and nearly inhaling the flesh inside. She eventually slowed to chew the fruit, voicing some semblance of a thank you between bites.



A villager approached, drawn by the sight of the Royal Crest on Aden's back and wondered, "Sir, were you with the squad that left yesterday?"



The Lance Corporal turned with a start, wasting no time in demanding, "No, we were separated. Do you know where they went?" The man nodded, letting him know that it was common knowledge where the men who raided supply caravans resided.



The soldier imputed the coordinates and thanked the informant. He turned to his saviors and let them know, "Tomorrow morning I'll be gone before dawn to try and catch up to the others. But it's late, so I owe you three a room. I take it the lady would like her own?"



Tawny eyes wide Avry replied, "No! Uh, I'd rather stay in the same room as them. Those two can share a bed." Jon and Nick began groaning in response, quickly silence by a hawk-like glare.



After enjoying the best meal he could remember, Nick waited until the others were fast asleep to slip out of the room. He gingerly knocked at the door of a separate room, relieved to find their soldier friend still awake. When asked if he needed anything, he replied, "I want to learn how to fight. Jon was much bigger than you, but you took him down in seconds, without really hurting him. I want to know how"



Dark eyes intrigued, Farrel nodded and hummed. He opened the door wider and said, "I can't do much in one night, but I could at least teach you a basic thing or two."



---



He told me guys like us usually aren't bigger or stronger than our enemies. But they don't know how to use that strength, and if you do, they'll be helpless against yours. And above all, no matter what is happening remember one rule.



Just be like water.
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Old 07-05-2013, 11:14 AM   #7
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The Cache



Seven





38Autumn87



It hit the fan, in a heartbeat.



---



Farrel's dark eyes snapped open at the sound of a gunshot.


He was on his feet and peering out the window of the tavern in seconds, scowling at the sight of the sun kissing the horizon. He quickly counted over a dozen men in the main street, with others forcibly searching every building along the way.


A man with a scar running across his face separating an eyebrow and leaving part of his chin beardless fired a twin barrel shotgun into the back of a second fleeing civilian without a touch of hesitation. Dusty boot planted in her back he cleared his throat before announcing, "We know there's a soldier here! I'm gonna bury someone every couple minutes until he comes out!"


The three all woke with a start to the sound, Jon drawing his revolver from beside the bed seconds later at the sound of the lock on their door shattering in. Farrel ignored the weapon aimed his way and ordered, "Stay inside, and out of sight! Under the beds, in a closet, I don't care. It'll all be over soon."


Shotgun reloaded, the bandit leader smirked at the sight of a young man thrown to his knees, hands bound behind his back. He leveled the weapon between the boy's eyes and said, "I'm gonna count to three! If-"


"No need." The group all turned to the sight of Farrel emerge into the light, white robes contrasting the world around him. He slowly stepped out into the road, completely nonplussed the the bevy of weapons now pointed his way.


The man leading the bandits known as Thom Kayne smiled and let Aden know, "Thanks, I hate counting." He pulled the trigger, splattering red across the dirt road.



The soldier only glared, offering no reaction other than raising his right hand. Silver bracelet gleaming, he pressed his thumb to the device and announced, "You have all trespassed against the Kingdom of Varea. Her Majesty has entrusted me with Antoich, and the right to decide your fate. And today, you all die."



A bright green light emerged into his hand, dissipating to reveal a simple silver three foot blade in hand. A gleaming bar materialized at his brow, beginning with each temple and around the back of his head. He smiled at the wide eyed stares of the bandits as one finally uttered, "He's from the Vanguard!"



Two men opened fire, wave of bullets reflected harmlessly only inches from their target by a lucid barrier shimmering with each impact. The soldier swiftly dashed through the attack and struck, blade gleaming with each arc swung. He slid to a halt past the bandits, both erupting into a bloodied mess in his wake.



In their room, Jon emerged from the closet at the sound of gunfire. He checked the revolver and glanced out the doorway. He stopped at the feeling of a hand grasping his sleeve, turning to see Avry plead, "Don't go out there Jon. They're killing people."



Tan eyes regarding her carefully his grip on the revolver only tightened as he replied, "That's why I have to go. I can't let them get away with it."



He turned to see Nick at his side, rifle materializing in hand. Jon watched him load the weapon and chamber a round before saying, "I'm coming too." Before his friend could protest he said, "You always go first, I know. Let me watch your back at least."



They all jumped at the voice of a man order, "Cute. How about you all drop your weapons?" In the doorway a bandit approached, gun in hand extended. He let them know, "Don't try anything smart now, I don't have any reason not to kill you."



Then the windows shattered, pulse passing through throwing everyone in the room off their feet.



On his hands and knees Nick looked up to see the bandit scamper for the misplaced revolver, leaping in time to catch the man before his fingers reached the handle. The thief reared back, right food catching ground as he pushed with all his might to force the kid half his size back.


Farrel's advice passed through Nick's mind in an instant and he turned with the force, taking the man by the collar and propelling him face first into the wall. Blood erupting from his nose the man writhed on the ground, taking no notice when Jon drew his weapon and ordered on his way out, "Keep your gun on him Nick!"
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Old 07-05-2013, 04:26 PM   #8
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The Cache



Eight






Another bandit fell by his blade, Lance Corporal Farell Aden ignoring the blood coming to splatter on his cheek. His dark brown eyes focused on the leader of the men, barrier still reflecting bullets as he swiftly moved to strike.


Thom Kayne raised his shotgun and fired in time to catch the soldier only feet away, buckshot rippling along the shield as it was deflected. The force sent Farrel sprawling to the side, his enemy grinning wide at the sight.


Before he could recover Thom fired again, this round sending the Vanguard reeling down into the dust. Voice triumphant he announced, "Keep firing, that shield can't last forever." He quickly reloaded some fresh shells and shot again to keep Farrel off his feet and went on, "Can't imagine how it's lasted this long. Boys, someone toss a grenade."


As one of his men drew the instrument and pulled the pin Thom wondered, "I wonder how you'll do against this."


The man pulled back to launch the grenade, Farrel spinning his blade upside down and planting it in the dirt road. He pressed his thumb into the bracelet again and said, "Pulse!"


The shield around him wavered for an instant, before exploding out. Eyes wide, Thom stepped behind one of his men as the wave hit, throwing every bandit off his feet and shattering every window in sight.


Farrel struggled to catch his breath, glancing around to see the men who moments before had been firing his way now either dead or fighting for air with collapsed lungs. A shot rang out, pellets catching him in the shoulder.


Sword still standing tall in the dirt feet away he saw Thom Kayne rise feebly, coughing until he vomited nothing but blood. Weapon wavering in hand he said, "It's a damn shame you weren't there with your friends! We killed them all. Even tortured the last one to find out about you!" He paused, blood still dribbling from his mouth.


Shotgun reloaded one last time, red spittle flew from his lips as Thom screamed, "But this is it for you!"


Thom jerked to the sound of a gunshot, stumbling headlong before crashing through a storefront window where he remained still. The soldier looked to see Jon in the doorway of the tavern, staring at the revolver in his hand. He shook his head and ran over, voice wavering as he asked, "Are you okay?"


Farrel stripped the robes from his shoulder and inspected the injury, letting the young man know, "Yes. Barely clipped me. Thank you."


Their prisoner leading the way, Nick and Avry came into sight both staring in awe at the destruction and bodies strewn about. Farrel drew his blade from the road and asked, "So you three even captured one? Good work."


Jon smiled sheepishly and said, "Well, Nick did."


Sword drawn, the soldier commanded, "Under Her Majesty's authority I have already sentenced you and your lot to death."


He moved to strike, skidding to a halt when Nick stepped in the way of the prisoner. The young man let the rifle fall to it's sling and held both hands up as he said, "Hey! No. We've already got him. It's over."


Jaw set in a grimace Farrel remained poised to strike and said, "I have already decided his punishment. Any who would steal from the Empire and kill her citizens deserves only death."


Nick remained rooted in place, defiantly replying, "I won't let you murder a helpless man. He can be punished, and he could change. I-I won't just watch you do this."


Silence settled in the air between the two, Farrel eventually relenting with a sigh. He pressed his left thumb into the bracelet, halo and sword deconstructed in green light. He replied slowly, "Normally, I would never let this scum live. But you're right, he has surrendered. You," He glared at the prisoner and asked, "What's your name?"


Tears streaming down his cheeks the man sniffled, spitting aside blood from a broken nose and said, "Wane. Wane DeVry."


Citizens beginning to come out and see the destruction left in the bandit's wake, Farrel took the man by his collar and pulled him to his feet. He said, "It's only thanks to that boy, Nick Varne, that you aren't dead. It's up to the people of Volstagg what happens to you now."





---



38Autumn87



We leave for Liore in the morning. Farrel is going to stay here, in case more bandits come. He gave me the map application he had on his HSpace, which is going to make life a lot easier. He even got us some Tomas to ride, which we probably could have done on our own, but it's a lot less suspicious if he does.



I guess I should feel proud for not letting him kill that man. But like I said, he could learn his lesson and become a better person. Or he could go back to his old ways, and kill and steal again.



If he does, does that make it my fault?
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Old 08-03-2013, 04:05 PM   #9
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The Cache







Nine







45Autumn87



Liore.



I knew I wouldn't be ready for it. I mean, it's the city. Nobody from the Catacombs had ever even made it out here before, ever. It just doesn't happen.



But I had no idea how little I knew until I got here. Now I know.



---



The bewildered trio wandered through the city on the backs of their Tomas, birds now leading the way as they'd long let go of the reins. Steel structures yawned at the sky, shining in the golden sun so bright that Liore had been visible days before they arrived. For the life of him, Nick couldn't fathom the sheer size of some of them, the steel caverns seemed etched into the sky itself, not erected by the hands of man.


They marveled at the sight of shipping containers lazily drifting in between the metal monoliths, kept adrift by the neon purple glow born from the Gravlights stationed on each. Jon was the first to speak, fingers rustling through the mane of his mount as he said, "We gotta find a place to shack up and give these guys a break."


Tawny eyes torn from the mecca Avry wondered, "How do we even find a hotel around here?"


The three slowed to a stop at the sight of a man wander into the road, tattered clothes whipped about in the wind. He extended a hand and asked with a forlorn look in his eye, "Could one of you spare some water? I haven't had a drop in days."


Avry cast a glance to her friends before passing the man her canteen and replying, "Can't see why not. Here you go mister." The vagrant polished off the container without a second's pause, another vagabond quickly appearing with hand outstretched. Within minutes the trio was surrounded on all sides, crowd nearly forcing them off the spooked Tomas.


Jon yanked at the reins of his mount, shouting out, "Woah, Escher! Easy!"


A crisp whistle stole the attention of the forming mob, young man decked out in a black suit and thin brimmed hat adorned with a blood red tie the producer. His fingers slid from his mouth and he smiled, letting them know while a blade flickered into view in one hand from a butterfly sheath, "Anyone who doesn't know how to scram gets cut in a minute or less. Now get!"


The throng clamoring for their resources dissipated nearly instantly, the young man shrugging before sheathing his weapon. He rechecked the fit of his hat and sauntered over, offering back Avry her canteen with a wide smile. Nick couldn't help but notice the way he seemed to drag out certain words or mispronounce others as he told Avry, "The name's Dario Russo. I take it you guys are fresh to in the city, huh?"


Cheeks flourishing red she only nodded in return, the sharply dressed Dario grinning and replying, "Well, I know a place you guys can stay, even hang up those roosters of yours." He turned away, hands holstered in his pockets and stopped a step or two away to wonder, "Do you guys... have any credits?"


Fingers gently brushing through his Tomas' tawny mane Jon thought for a moment before replying, "Just some water and s-"


Avry cut him off, faking a quick laugh and stating, "Just water. A pretty decent amount. Is there some way to convert it to... credits?"


Dark eyes growing quizzical Dario hummed before replying, "Yeah, there's a bank down the road from my place. But you're gonna need to find some work, can't spend all your water. Luckily, my place of employment is in need of a few people in possession of a Tomas or two. Courier job's yours, if you want it."


Nick asked aloud, "Courier?"


Dario looked back with a smirk and replied, "So you do know how to talk. Yeah, real simple stuff. Just moving mail around, honestly. In a city like this, it's someone's best bet at making sure what they want gets where it needs to be."



- - -



It's not glamorous, but I guess we're couriers now.



Beats mining silver until you die.
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Old 08-05-2013, 06:52 AM   #10
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This says it has over 600 views... are they just bots or are people reading this?
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Old 08-10-2013, 06:56 PM   #11
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Ten





49Autumn87





Everything is different here.



Nobody says hi, or even looks at each other as they pass. Almost feels like it's rude to.



That Dario guy seems nice, but the work he has us doing is strange. Every day we just meet up with him, are given a few parcels and sent about our way. It actually is pretty good work for learning as much about the city as possible, but I still get the feeling something about it isn't right.



I haven't mentioned it to the others, but tomorrow it will have been five years.



Since



Since they died.



---



"So you guys named your Tomas?" Cerulean eyes sparkling in the midday sun, the fellow courier the group had come to know, Rohn Coler regarded them with a touch a fascination. He looked down at his own steed and scratched behind its ears, saying with a touch of melancholy, "I think I'd named mine Tim then, after my dad."


Jon Rocha nodded at the sentiment, and patted Escher's long golden mane before letting the fellow busboy know, "Not a bad idea. I named mine on a whim, really. Can't remember where it's from but it's catchy and this guy seems to like it. They even answer to it after a while."


The four slowed to a stop at a crosswalk, children dressed as skeletons all carrying a long poster giggling as they passed. Nick watched them with a frown and wondered, "What's all that about?"


Rohn turned to look at the three and cocked his head, shrugging and answering, "Oh yeah, Dario told me you guys were still pretty fresh. Do you guys not have holidays out at the Catacombs? Tomorrow's The Day of the Dead. Kids dress up and get candy, and everyone celebrates the people who ain't with us anymore."



At the mention Avry's brow furrowed, biting at her nail until the terrible revelation came and she looked over while asking, "Nick, are you okay?"



Gaze cast down at the ground, Nick slowly nodded before replying, "Yeah. I, uh, I'm gonna head back. I'll see you guys later."


Rohn scratched at his messy head of blonde hair, expression pained as he said, "I'm guessing he's lost somebody. Sorry about that, guys. I know how he feels."


On the back of Escher still, Jon listened to his Tomas caw in hunger. He smiled sadly and said, "We all do. He'll be all right. Just always takes a little time to himself around the anniversary. Where to next?."


Outside their apartment complex, Dario Russo waited with an air of impatience for his couriers, shined black leather shoe clicking against the pavement. When all but one came into sight he smiled, casting out a wave and letting them know, "I'd like to let you guys know tomorrow's a day off, so you guys have a 3 day weekend. I'd like to celebrate your first week with some drinks, where's the little runty-looking guy?"


Avry thought for a moment before replying, "He... lost his parents five years ago tomorrow. When Rohn told him about Day of the Dead he went off alone." She noticed Dario still waiting and went on, "Probably on the roof of the apartment. He usually-"


Dario waved her off and said, "I'll meet you guys at the bar. Rohn knows the way. I'll talk with Nick."


The setting sun cast lingering shadows throughout the buildings gracing Liore, cracks of light occasionally managing to slip through and spill out into the streets. Nick stood at the edge of the roof, elbows against the concrete barrier watching the sun slowly slip below the horizon.


He turned at the sound of the access door slamming, frowning at the sight of Dario Russo saunter his way over and perch himself only feet away. He took his black hat off and looked at the material, wondering, "I'm guessing you lost someone, huh kid?"


A heavy silence fell over the two, darkness beginning to infiltrate the air. Dario eventually nodded, affixing his cover back in place and getting ready to leave when Nick said, "Five years ago tomorrow. I didn't feel well that morning, so they told me to stay in bed. They went off into the mines. Last thing my mother ever said to me was drink a little extra water today, and I felt bad because I knew we were already tight on it."


He paused for a moment, blinking away tears before continuing, "They didn't come back. I left the house to find everyone still panicking. One of the tunnels had collapsed. They weren't even in it, but they both went in to try and get people out. They got a couple. Avry was one of them, though she still got hurt pretty bad. I guess she was buried for half an hour before they got her out."


"Then, it really gave in. I remember thinking, if I'd been there I could've stopped them. But then Avry would never have gotten out. I spent the next few days digging. I found them both, they must've gone trying to get one last person out because there were three bodies. I wouldn't have even known it was my mom anymore, but her hair was the longest in town." Nick gave in, hanging his head as tears slipped from his cheeks to rain down on the city below.


Dario reached over, draping an arm over Nick's shoulders to clasp a gloved hand on the kid's shoulders. He took a deep breath and let him know, "I lost mine too. My mom got hit by a drunk driver, and the sun hadn't even gone down. Less than a month later, my old man hung himself. Bastard took the easy way out."


He let go of Nick, noticing the youth had quit crying. Dario gave his best smile despite his own damp eyes and said, "That's why we have Day of the Dead kid. Everyone in this world is missing someone. You can't spend the rest of your life remembering how or why they died. Do me a favor, and think about your best memory with those two."


Nick looked away, purple glow of the freights drifting by illuminating the small smile slipping over his face. As he opened his mouth Dario lightly punched him in the shoulder and said, "Nuh uh, don't tell me that shit. That memory is yours. It's one treasure no one can ever take away. Got it?"


Nick gingerly rubbed his shoulder and nodded, following when Dario tugged at his suit and said, "Good. Now lets go, our friends are waiting to celebrate."



---





It was my tenth birtday.



I had to start working the mines, and hated it. It was dark and hot down there, and the dust in the air made it hard to breathe. When I'd gotten done, I was in a terrible mood.



I'd always told them how one day I wanted to be like grandpa Stiles and adventure in the desert. That night, they took me out and taught me how to read a map, and my father gave me his compass. At the end of the night we set up a tent in the desert and spotted constellations before bed.



I miss them so much. But I'm so glad I ever had them at all.
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Old 08-17-2013, 02:27 PM   #12
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The Cache



Eleven








Nick sat alone in their new, small one bedroom apartment. It was two if you were willing to count the cramped bathroom still needing a shower curtain. His eyes remained cast out towards the city, now illuminated between the golden lights below and purple ones on high. The alcohol didn't sit well with him, but Jon, Dario and Rohn seemed to love the stuff.



"It's beautiful, isn't it?" He turned to see Avry come in, his friend giving him a quick smile and pulling up the only extra chair they had. She asked after watching the city with him for a few minutes, "Are you doing okay?"


He smiled sadly and replied, "Yeah, I just miss them. Talking to Dario about it helped some. He said to think of my best memory of them. That tomorrow is all about celebrating the good things they did, not just being sad because they aren't around. I guess that would make them smile."


Avry looked down, taking a deep breath before saying, "I miss them too. I wish I could thank them for what they did. They saved me, Nick." She stopped for a moment, mouth open as she searched for the words before going on, "I was trapped all for fifteen minutes. I could hardly move enough to breathe. I was bleeding and couldn't even tell where. I really thought I was going to die"


"Someone heard me screaming. And I couldn't make out what they were saying, but I knew they were trying to get me out. I was still so scared, and hyperventilating the whole time. And then I heard your mom start singing, it was a beautiful lullaby. I couldn't make out the words, but I knew I was going to be okay and I started calming down. Before I knew it, your dad's hand took mine and they both pulled me out."


She stopped again, wiping away tears. Voice faltering Avry said, "My parents didn't come down there for me. They stayed above like good managers and directed others around. That was my first week as a manager in the catacombs. I never even got to thank your parents, they brought me up and went right back in. And then..."


She smiled and said, "I still sometimes feel like I'm trapped, and can't breathe. And when I do, I think about that lullaby. I take a deep breath, and usually, I'm okay. They were heroes, Nick. And when I look at you, I know you are too. You don't need to hurt people, you save people. You already have since we left, and people who wouldn't have done the same for you. I just wanted to let you know about them. And what happened."


Nick smiled her way, and thought for a moment. He debated with himself before asking, "Could you turn away for a bit?" Avry looked over quizzically and he explained, "I just, trust me for a second okay?"


She complied and turned her chair, still facing out the large window. Nick began to sing the lullaby, faltering at first. And when he'd finished Avry again wiped away tears and turned his way and said, "That was it, thank you Nick." He nodded and the two fell into a brief hug.


He eventually pulled back and said, "Lets go make sure Jon doesn't make himself sick."


They would find he already had.



---





Left shoulder bound in a sling, Farrel Aden stepped into the Royal Court. He made his way into the Vanguard's quarters, passing through the body scanners confidently. He approached his superior, First Lieutenant Hari Li and snapped a salute while reporting, "Lance Corporal Aden reporting."



The Lieutenant returned the courtesy and said, "Good work Corporal. I heard about Volstagg. I've appealed to Colonel Koitz to have to stationed on Royal guard." The officer paused and continued, "And he declined, at this time. But! As a result of your performance, he has specially assigned you to one last mission. If you follow it's rules and execute it successfully, he said he will have you stationed. There's only one catch."



Farrel half laughed at the idea and replied, "Anything, sir. What is it?"



Hari Li seemed hesitant as he said, "You won't know anything until acepting, and the Colonel will brief you and be in charge. With those caveats, Lance Corporal Aden, do you accept this mission?"



Farrel stood straight and replied, "I accept my mission, sir!"



The officer nodded and began to walk away while ordering, "All right. Go to the infirmary, that arm has to be cleared before you can go. And you'll be getting ussued some new equipment as well. Good-day, Corporal."
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Old 08-19-2013, 07:03 PM   #13
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Tweleve





53Autumn87



I was afraid of monsters when I was a little kid.



I remember once being so afraid there was something under my bed that I couldn't go to sleep. Grandpa Stiles came in and only smiled when I explained to him that the very idea that I couldn't know there was nothing there was what scared me.



He told me, "If there really is something under there, it's only your fear that gives it strength. Even in real life, monsters aren't so scary once you get to know them."



---






"Ain't nothin' gonna happen. Quit being such a wuss over some fairytale nonsense." The first of the two walked and talked with a swagger, as most did the first time they had a gun of their own to carry around. He stopped and looked around the four way intersection, hungry eyes searching for a target.


The second, and smaller of the two shifted uncomfortably and replied, "Yeah, yeah. But I dunno man, I've heard it's started up again. People dyin' on the night of the full moon. You know that's the Jaeger-"


Hand extended silencing his friend the first thug cut him off, "I don't want to hear that shit. That thing's been dead for years, all right? There's always gonna be some copy-cats. I ain't scared. Now c'mon. There's an alley right outside this theater, lets see if anyone's unlucky enough to leave out the back."


There was. A young boy skipped through the dark passage, parents holding him slightly afloat by one hand each. His mind was atwitter with memories of the movie he'd just seen, The Mask of Zorra. He paid no mind to his mother bemoaning the fact they hadn't just left through the front entrance, or his father unsuccessfully attempting to reassure her.


A man pulling a glimmering gun out managed to steal the youth back to the real world. Weapon extended the first thug said, "Everything you got and no one dies."


The father grimaced, slowly drawing his wallet out and throwing what he had to the smaller of the two. He quickly rifled through it before tossing the leather aside and reaching out towards the mother, stopped only when the father pushed back and said, "Hey, she doesn't have anything!"


Gun cocked, the leader aimed it at the father's face and said, "Well, we got a hero. Look close at what happens to heroes kid..." A flapping sound caught the gunner's attention. Dark eyes slowly flickering up to the sound of a jacket billowing the man barely had time to scream.


The scream in question was followed by a single gunshot, which caught Nick, Avry and Jon's attention. The three had been standing outside the theater, excitedly discussing the film in question. Avry tossed her coffee aside and dashed after her friends when they hurried towards the noise.


She skidded to a stop when Nick turned her way, shaking his head and saying, "I don't know if you want to see this, Avry. It's bad. Two guys really messed up."


She pushed past him and regarded the scene. The taller thug lay on his back, blood dribbling from his chin still cocked at a bizarre angle. It took her a moment to realize his head had been turned entirely around. The second remained slumped against a wall, blood slowly dribbling down to pool along with the rest from where his skull had been smashed into the brick.


Jon stepped back from it all and said with disgust, "We gotta call the cops. These two guys were probably messed up by some thugs or something."


"No, they weren't." She stepped between the dead, seemingly ignoring the other two as she spun in a circle, tawny eyes tracing out a pattern no one else could ever hope to see. She pointed at Nick and said, "Check the tall guy's palms for gunpowder residue." When he had she didn't wait to hear his answer and said, "Tall guy was the one who fired the shot. But I can't seem to find a place where it hit, and there's no blood... Jon, flashlight."


She waved the beam of light around, dissatisfied frown coming to her lips. Eyes growing wide she looked up, scanning the walls until she found the bullet hole in question, scar in the brick three meters from the ground. She hummed to herself and said, "These two were attacked by someone, who came from above. But there's no access stairs in this alley... just some freights. Nick, Jon!"


Her light reflected the shining eyes of a young man hanging on the edge of a cargo vessel slowly sliding by overhead. Even from the distance Nick thought he saw surprise flicker across the monster's bloodied face. Black jacket flapping in the wind, the young man jumped over ten feet to latch on to the next shipping vessel, and again to slip from sight.


Flashlight in hand falling to her side Avry looked at Nick when he wondered, "Any idea about that?" She only shook her head in response.



---



Legend is, something or someone called the Jaeger used to terrorize Liore almost ten years ago.



If anyone committed a crime on the night of a full moon it would find the criminals and kill them all, usually in the most painful way possible. They say it looked like a man, but didn't move like one.



Supposedly one night the cops laid a trap for it, and when it came to strike down a ne'er-do-well they surrounded and opened fire. The Jaeger didn't die until it took five cops down with it.



Legend is, it's back. At least according to Rohn and Dario.
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Old 08-19-2013, 07:52 PM   #14
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I was afraid of monsters when I was a little kid.

I remember once being so afraid there was something under my bed that I couldn't go to sleep. Grandpa Stiles came in and only smiled when I explained to him that the very idea that I couldn't know there was nothing there was what scared me.

He told me, "If there really is something under there, it's only your fear that gives it strength. Even in real life, monsters aren't so scary once you get to know them."
Just wanted to say I really like this opening.
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Old 08-25-2013, 05:38 AM   #15
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Thanks for reading, I appreciate that.
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Old 09-13-2013, 09:13 PM   #16
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The Cache

Chapter 13

58Autumn87

It's been a few weeks since we came to Liore, and I'm still not sure what to do next. There's so much I haven't seen, and so many things I haven't had a chance to do in the Catacombs.

Time and again, I think about that cache of weapons Old Man Stiles left for me.

What in the world was he planning to do with all that?

And why did he vanish without using it?

There's got to be an answer out there, somewhere.

----

Nick ran through the gloom drenched streets of Liore, sky darkest in the minutes just before dawn. Breath growing thready, he checked the map on his HSpace transmitter and turned left, continuing his run down Luther Boulevard. Even when his body screamed for him to give in he pressed on, slowing rather than stopping.

The words of Farrel Aden rang in his mind, pushing him further with, "You can't change weather or not your opponent knows more, or weighs more. But if any scuffle lasts more than a minute, the man who can keep his breathing steady always wins."

In time, he slowed to a stop in front of their apartment complex, throwing his hands up over his head and trotting in place as the battery acid began draining from his veins. Jon emerged from the doorway, excitement raising his voice to a fever pitch as he exclaimed, "Hey man, hurry up and shower. Instead of working today Dario got us into a Yessica concert!"

Perplexed, Nick spoke in between gasps to wonder, "Who's that?"

Jon rolled his eyes and pushed his best friend through the door while criticising, "Only one of the biggest names in music. Have you listened to the radio lately?"

Less than an hour later Nick joined his friends on their Tomas, birds squawking in enjoyment as the three let them trot towards Liore Stadium. As he dismounted his own pet, Jon snapped his finger, Escher gently snapping his reins up and latching it to a pole before nestling down into a comfortable squat on the ground.

His own Tomas struggling against being tethered, Nick wondered, "How do you teach yours to do all these tricks? I haven't even taught mine to be quiet."

Jon shrugged simply, patting Escher's plumage and replying, "I dunno. It just comes easy to me. I could help you sometime." He tossed his bird a treat and moved on to soothe Nick's and help root it in place to rest.

Red tie the only accent against his otherwise dour black clothing Dario approached briskly, drawling out impatiently, "Hey, you guys were supposed to be here ten minutes ago! C'mon we aint got all day! C'mon!"

The young man lead them through the back doors of the stadium with a grin, Rhon turning to smile at them as Dario explained, "Alright, today's gig is probably one of the best you'll ever get. You guys take these," He handed each a laminated card emblazoned with Yessica's stylized Y and a backstage number and a simple pager before going on, "And just go out in the crowd, mingle. Have fun. Dont, I repeat, don't drink. And if you see anything weird, at all, just hit your pager and one of us Red Suits will come running."

Eyes examining her items critically, Avry looked up with a small frown and wondered, "So, we're security? What, do you guys think something is going to happen?"

Dario flashed a wide smile and replied, "No, we're security. Yessica is huge right now. Like, anything could happen. She's paid the Red Suits to make sure her concert goes well. You guys are just extra eyes and ears for us. If you see some crazy shit, just let us know and we'll handle it. Stay out of trouble, and hey," He gave the four a thumbs up and finished, "Have some fun. You're getting paid to see a concert. That's kinda badass."

Rohn turned to the others, clipping the laminated card to his black jacket. He shrugged and said, "He has a point. Her music is all right, but it beats running packages in the sun all damn day."

Nick followed his friends past the suits dressed up like Dario and out into the crowd. He couldn't help but gape at the wave of bodies all clamoring at the sight of their star walking out on stage. In a burst of applause, Yessica smiled at her adoring fans and asked, "Hey Liore, did you miss me?"


---

I guess mysteries can wait a day or two.
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Old 09-15-2013, 06:57 PM   #17
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Chapter Fourteen



58Autumn87



Things sure went to hell quickly.



---





Dress hugging her tight beyond description, Yessica had to remind herself she'd made it by hand and didn't have anyone else to blame as she approached the stage. The crowd came alive she emerged into the light, outfit glimmering in two toned silver and gold beneath the spotlight's glare. Emerald eyelashes blinking in the halos, she took in the sight of the crowd.



More bodies than she could ever hope to count all roared applause and cheers, so much so the sound of her microphone barely registered as she began to speak, "Hey Liore, did you miss me?" The thunderous response made her grin, mic taken in hand as she exclaimed, "Then lets have some fun!"



The music which followed was quick and carefree, songs all seemingly written by someone with tunnel vision on a never ending party. Nick enjoyed the beat, but didn't really feel much for the lyrics. He noticed Jon on the other hand couldn't seem to sit still, gently bobbing to the tunes and absolutely adoring the beauty cast in high definition displayed on a screen over the event.



At his side he struggled to make out Avry asking, "Do you think anything is gonna happen?" He leaned in close, shaking his head as she nearly screamed the question again. Nick looked around, cascading lights illuminating the crowd for only seconds at a time. So far, they hadn't seen anyone act suspicious in any way. He looked at her and offered only an unsure shrug.



Rohn appeared from the masses, gingerly managing four plastic red cups in hand. He grinned and offered his friends one each. Beverage in hand Nick looked down and wondered as loud as he could, "I thought we weren't supposed to drink!"



Rohn waved a hand dismissively, patting Nick so hard he nearly dropped his beer. He answered with ease, "Ain't shit gonna happen. You need to chill out, little dude." His cool blue eyes trailed past his new friends, to a man approaching all alone. From a long dark coat, he produced a dark instrument, which Rohn quickly recognized as an automatic pistol.



Eyes locked on the backstage passes, the man lifted his weapon and fired. Rohn grasped Nick by the shoulder, switching places in time to catch the hail of gunfire instead. Thrown against the rail with lead in his back, Rohn grimaced as he heard the man level his weapon at the three and demand, "You guys are here to sniff out any trouble right? Well, hello. You're all coming with me."



Screams began to drown out the song playing, followed by controlled bursts of gunfire. The crowd quickly panicked, concert goers realizing all the exists were locked before falling to the floor as instructed. Music trailing off, Yessica looked out at the chaos momentarily before Dario appeared, pushing her head down and whisking her off backstage.



Avry looked back, wondering aloud, "What about Rohn?"



The man checked the edge of his gun against the back of her head and pushed her forward, ordering out, "Don't any of you three talk. I only really need one of you."



Still lying on the dance floor Rohn stared up at the lights continuing to change, unaware that they were dancing alone now without any music. He waited until no one was looking, hand grasping the bar and pulling himself off the floor now soaked in his blood. He cracked his back against the metal barrier and stretched, pinpointing the places where the shards of metal were in his back.



From his pocket he produced a small disc of shoe polish., nose curling at the smell after opening the container Fingers dipped in the black sludge, he trailed black marks down his face while slowly inhaling. Someone on the ground looked up at him, blood dripping from his dark coat slowing to a stop now.



He looked down and held a single finger to his lips offering the terrified onlooker a wink. Then he gracefully took a few steps and propelled himself off of the railing, hand finding purchase in a support beam above. He flipped up on top of it and leapt off, out of sight.



Just outside the entrance to the back stage the man stopped, trailing his gun over the three. He smiled and said, "I meant what I said, that I only needed one of you. The Red Suits are pretty old fashioned, they won't act up if I have one of their own as a hostage, but I don't need any loose ends causing trouble."



He brushed a lock of dirty blonde hair off her face, eyes flickering over her as he said, "I think it's your lucky day, girl." He turned and levelled his pistol towards Nick, unaware that beside him Jon's fingers were just brushing the handle of his snub nosed revolver hidden just beneath his shirt.



Finger beginning to force the trigger in, the man looked away when the lights all turned off. Voice irritated, he exclaimed, "That's not part of the plan. Idiots!" He turned back to the sight of a barrel just inches away from his nose, Jon letting him know, "Drop it pal. Thing is, we don't need you alive."
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Old 09-21-2013, 06:40 AM   #18
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Chapter Fifteen





The trio pushed on into the back stage with their hostage out ahead of them. Nick turned to look back out into the pitch black they'd come from, his friends slowing down to turn his way. He asked the others, "What about Rohn? We have to go and get him."



Jon mulled for a moment, torn between getting their new source of information back to Dario and their new friend. He glanced out into the darkness and pulled their hostage's semiautomatic pistol from his belt, tossing the instrument over to Nick and saying, "Be careful. If the lights come back on, just get back on the ground like everyone else, okay?"



Fingers grasping at his coat Avry glared at Nick and ordered, "Don't do anything stupid."



He grinned as best he could at the two of them and waved the stolen weapon while replying, "Too late. You guys be careful back there too."



Cast in the red glow of the emergency lights back stage Dario continued to keep the pop singer in his charge low while the two moved, keeping one hand on the back of her neck and the other just a second away from his belt. Two men emerged into sight, weapons drawn at their left.



As their enemies began to spout demands Dario pushed Yessica to the floor and maneuvered between her and the aggressors, knife drawn screaming through the air until it found purchase in someone's neck. The man choked out a bloody cry, his accomplice turning to look and only realizing his mistake when a second knife ended him as well.



He looked down to Yessica still on the floor and asked, "You okay?" She looked up at him with a glare and accepted a helping hand back to her feet. He looked around for any more danger and demanded, "Before we cut out of here, I gotta know. Why are the Blue Suits after you? I have an idea, but I want to hear it from you."



"Dario!" He turned, blade in hand freezing in hand less than a second from being tossed out at the sight of Jon and Avry leading a man their way. He relaxed and listened to Jon go on, "We captured one of the guys starting shit."



Dario sheathed his instrument and counted four remaining throws before asking, "Good job. I'd have preferred if you guys had just laid low. But... where's the little man?"



Avry frowned at the question and replied, "Rohn got hurt when this idiot attacked us. Nick went back for him."



Hands positioned over his head, the would-be gunman replied with a snicker, "There's no way that little runt will ever make it. They're gonna eat him alive out there, you-"



He was silenced by Jon decking him upside the head with the revolver in hand, their hostage stumbling aside to the floor nursing a bleeding ear. The whole group turned to the sound of gunfire beginning to erupt again outside, followed by screams of terror.



In the sweltering black ampitheater, two of the men looked up and screamed, opening fire at a figure drenched in shadows above. They stopped only to reload, eyes trapped on the ceiling as one of them wondered, "Think w-we go him?"



The other turned away, searching desperately while replying, "Don't think so. I didn't see a body." He turned back to see something flicker in his peripheral vision, his partner now on the floor in a bloodied heap. The man cried out in fear, wildly firing up into the air and dashing away towards a fire exit.



He collided with the door, remembering he'd locked it when the concert had started not long ago. Fumbling for the key, he never saw the agile figure descend, weight thrown connecting with a single boot forcing the hostage taker's head into the steel door. The murderer pushed off, vaulting backwards back onto his feet.



He turned, blackened expression blank as he regarded another man level a gun his way and scream, "You monster!" The man aimed and fired, rounds only ending up in the wall as the figure first dashed to the left, and then danced through the line of fire to reach his target.



Gun pulled from his enemy's hand, the monster's voice rasped out, "I can see you aim the gun. You're too slow."



Hands still slicked with shoe polish wrapping around the man's throat, Rohn stopped when he uttered, "Y-you're the Jaeger."



White smile shattering the darkness, he began to squeeze, man's shoes slipping off the ground as he effortlessly lifted him up. As he felt his prey begin to slip from this world Rohn replied, "That's right." He let the corpse fall to the floor and turned at the sound of footsteps, eyes slicing through the darkness to see Nick approaching.



Rohn vanished again into the nothing, intently watching his young friend now searching for him.
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Old 09-25-2013, 06:51 PM   #19
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Chapter Sixteen



Sneakers squeaking against the viscous fluid on the dance floor, Nick looked down to see a body sprawled at his feet. He fell to his knees and turned the figure, squinting through the bleak lighting to realize the corpse was in fact, not his friend Rohn. He let it go with a start, spinning at the slightest sound to his rear.



He lifted the automatic weapon and fired, phantom moving with ease to avoid the attack and close the distance between the two. Nick felt impossibly strong fingers pry the metal from his hand and toss the gun aside harmlessly.



He realized in an instant what stood before him, and why there was a man dead at his feet. The Jaeger was here, and it had been killing any criminals it could find. Fear beginning to settle in his soul, he took a step back and regarded the monster. Even in the dark, he could make out the dull black shine of what he recognized as shoe polish staining the creatures’ blank expression.



He felt the double doors push against his back now. The Jaeger took a step forward, hand reaching out only grasping Nick by the shoulder and pushing him to the floor. Finger to his lips, it quietly warned him with a hush before the doors burst inward, spotlights flooding the entrance as a swarm of policemen flooded in.



Nick looked back to find the air where The Jaeger had been empty now. As an officer helped him to his feet, he realized it was lucky he didn’t have the gun anymore.



Backstage, Yessica jumped at the sound of law enforcement storming the area. She took Dario by the sleeve and said, “I’ll tell you exactly why the blue suits were after me, if you can get me out of here without them finding us.”



Interest peaking his eyebrows, Dario thought for a moment and replied, “Well, I know a way. My older brother and me used to sneak in but I don’t think you’ll really care for it.”



She didn’t really care for it.



Voice straining as she struggled to breathe in the noxious air, the pop singer couldn’t help but complain, “You used to sneak in through the sewers?!”



Dario stopped, flashlight in hand snaking out into the murky depths before shining back to illuminate the four. He tossed the girl a grin and replied, “Yeah. How else do a couple street urchins make it into Liore Ampitheater? Sorry, we aint all born with silver spoons and shit.”



At that, the singer fell silent and the four continued on through the dank air. In time, Dario looked up and waved at the others, using Jon to open a pothole so they could escape. He waved out and bragged, “Not three blocks from these two’s apartment. Which, princess, is where you’ll be staying.”



Heart jumping into his throat, Jon exclaimed, “You mean, she’s gonna be staying with us? In our apartment?!”



Already leading the way again Dario scratched his head and replied, “Well yeah. Can’t stay with any of us. Blue Suits would figure it out. So she’s gonna stay with you until we can find a better option. And I’m getting’ that explanation, tomorrow.”



Outside the entrance to their complex, Avry’s eyes widened and she dashed ahead to wrap Nick, who had been patiently waiting on the curb for an hour, in the tightest hug she could. He blinked in surprise before returning it and letting them all know what had happened.



Head bobbing, Dario turned around and tipped his hat while saying, “Tomorrow I’m gonna go see which hospital scooped up Rohn then. I’ll let you guys know, good or bad. Have a good night, kids.”



“Wait.” He stopped, turning to see Avry looking off in the distance. She cocked her head to the side, and began muttering before breaking into saying, “It doesn’t add up. The Jaeger killed every guy he came across with a weapon, and you even shot at him Nick. But instead of killing you, he took your gun right before the cops came.”



Nick thought about it and shrugged, replying, “Maybe he saw us earlier.”



Avry only shook her head, locks of hair tossed about in excitement. Her voice raised as she explained, “Don’t you get it? Rohn! Rohn was with us, and he knew you. The only reason it wouldn’t hurt you was if the Jaeger was Rohn!”




---



She always does that.



Figures things out I would never in a million years get. In a few seconds, too.



I don’t need proof, either. She’s always right.



The question is, what do we do now?
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Old 10-04-2013, 06:25 PM   #20
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The Cache



Chapter Seventeen





01Winter87



As if waiting for permission a dry cold settled in this morning, air stinging my lungs while I ran this morning. It never felt like this in Mannard. I can’t help but wonder if it’s this city. The buildings only seem to soak up the chill, the streets magnifying the effect.



We haven’t seen Rohn since it happened. He used to stop by every day, if only to talk a while. Looking back at it, he seemed kind of lonely. None of us knew here he lived, or what he did when he wasn’t running parcels.



I just keep thinking about that night, when I saw him coming towards me. For a split second, I was absolutely sure I was going to die.



I can’t shake the feeling I got.



---





The apartment almost felt colder than the streets outside, even with the space heater placed in the corner whirring away in vain. Nick let himself in, still slightly breathless from his morning run to find Avry sipping away at a cup of coffee with their newest friend, Yessica. On the couch Jon let out a loud snore, almost waking himself up before rolling over and burying himself in the cushions.



Nick pulled his hoodie off and tossed it in the hamper. He headed to the sink, readying a glass of water and wondering, “Heard anything yet from Dario?”



The young pop sensation turned his way and shook her head, dark locks of hair flowing. She replied, “I don’t think he found your friend. He’ll be by any second.”



Three loud rasps came from their front door, as if on cue. Dario let himself in, removing his black hat from a messy head of hair. The darkness welling just under his eyes said it all, and without asking he headed over and prepared himself a cup of coffee. The young man perched himself at their table and took a sip, hissing from the scalding temperature. He looked at the three and said, “Goes without saying, I couldn’t find the guy anywhere. But you,” He aimed a finger at Yessica, “Owe me an explanation. Why were the Blue Suits after you?”



She took a deep breath, smoky eyes coming to rest on her hands as she said, “Well… they’re after me because I’m a metahuman.”



Silence settled over the room, Jon still snoring away in the background as the three looked at her in a new light. Dario looked her up and down again before uttering out, “You don’t look weird to me.”



Yessica’s tan features cracked into a smile, girl looking up and shaking her head. She thought for a moment, and tipped her head at an angle before saying, “Sucks about the glass.” On the far end of the room, Jon snorted so loud he jumped off the couch and drew Nick’s attention with a start. His elbow grazed the glass perched on the edge of the counter, container slipping off to shatter against the porcelain floor.



They all turned to look at the pop star, young woman only offering a shy smile. Eyes still nearly glued shut, Jon rubbed away his fatigue in vain and wondered, “Why’s everyone so tense?”



---



Eyes the palest shade of gold regarded Liore with the keenest interest from the stern of the EAS Murphy. Her arms remained crossed at chest level, dark colored robes emblazoned with the royal seal flapping in the wind behind the thin figure.



She regarded the city as her enemy now. Somewhere within, it housed a dangerous metahuman who had already caused over fourteen documented deaths with no signs of slowing. There were probably many more, off the record. To her, this was unacceptable.



First Lieutenant Maria Sinh of the Vanguard held a hand up, Varean war ship shuddering to a halt with her silent command. The soldier pressed her thumb against a silver bracelet on her wrist and stepped off the edge of the deck out into the frigid night air. The city leapt her way, sky scrapers yawning up at her in the blink of an eye.



In a purple glow she gradually slowed to a near halt, slicked black combat boots coming to rest on the edge of one of the steel caverns housing the citizens of her new enemy. Halo fully materialized in a neon green glow at her temples she issued an order to her men with a thought, “Remain at a distance. When I’ve killed the Jaeger I’ll radio for pickup.”
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