Intro: Okay, a bit of introduction here. This story was originally going to be "Eyes on the Planets." I've been working extensively on the plot and came up with a completely new story, so thus a new idea. It has all the same characters and the same setting as "Eyes," just my original story has been scrapped (except most people would not know this since most people did not know my original story.)
Criticism is always welcome. I know I have some issues with tense and small grammar issues, so feel free to point those out. Also PLEASE post any comments you have, whether good or bad. But especially good! If I know people like the story, it will definitely make me want to write more.
I plan for my chapters to be fairly long so I'm posting them in "Parts." This story will primarily be a Tragedy of sorts. It's based on a different reality of sorts where humans have developed the technology to build planets. Alright, that's all for now, hope everyone enjoys.
Chapter One - Part One
Emptiness echoes as zip cars travel across the blank darkness of space. The darkness is only pierced by the light of four planets. Zipping by, Jae whispers the name of his own home: “Zajsk.” He was on his way home and his excited breath made the cold air of the zip car turn white with each breath. Four years of training and he was finally done. He had done the impossible. He finished training for the Calmar Army and he refused to join.
“Jae. Jae, look at me.” Jae was staring at the swirling sky, thinking about his situation. “Jae!” He felt a sharp pain in the back of his head.
“What?! Jesus Christ, teacher, what?” Jae said.
Teacher grabbed Jae's face and turned it towards his own. “It's your turn next! Remember, look directly into the director's eyes. Answer exactly as I told you. You face severe punishment if you do not.”
Jae looked at the small platform. Despite its small size, it was fairly elaborately designed. The director of the Calmar Army was sitting on a large red and orange blanket with a simple design of alternating chevrons. Currently, another student was sitting across from him staring blankly into his eyes. His answers to the Director's questions held no meaning. He said as he was told. For some reason, this made Jae a little queezy.
The student stood up, thanked the director and strolled off the stage. Someone cheered in the audience and the director stood up and stared straight at them. His black hair combed back slickly on his head, his cold, cobalt eyes were a void like space. The person stopped cheering.
Slowly, Jae walked towards the steps to the platform, his teacher stayed behind. He stopped at the steps. His thoughts were completely scrambled.
“What do I say? If he asks... no, no. He never asks that. He's staring right at me, he wants me to walk up. I can't do it, this isn't what I wanted. I never asked for this. I'm not even sure what they do!”
“JEPMAN, do you plan on standing there all-day?” Jae jumped as the director spoke. He quickly scurried up the stairs and sat on the blanket across from the Director. He fixated his eyes on the cobalt voids and was sucked in.
“Jepman, you have shown great promise as one of our students. What is it that you have learned?”
Jae responded as he was told: “To control the flow of my motions according to the flow of energy inside me. I am not a machine, I am a living utility against the wrongs of the universe. My hands are my knives and my feet are my guns. With this, I will never die. I will only pass on into a glorious infamy.”
“Very good. What is it that you have really learned?”
“To kill with my own hands.”
“Jepman, the Army requests your services. We require your confirmation of your ability to utilize what you have learned for the greater good of Calmar. Will you accept?”
The air suddenly turned dead-man cold. Jae felt absolutely nothing. His eyes slowly drifted from the Director's eyes to a spec of dust that was floating a good three meters away. It seemed to shimmer with gold as it fell to the ground. But as it hit the green grass, the gold dust perished. Jae made his decision.
“I respectfully decline.”
“Wha-what?” The sound was audible to only Jae. The crowd had already started mumbling among itself. “You what?”
“I decline, Director.” Jae said it louder this time. He was sure of his answer. He would not become a weapon of death. Out of the corner of his eyes, he could see his teacher staring coldly at him. His teacher had warned him that declining could have dire consequences, but he did not care. After four years of grueling training to turn him into a living, killing machine. He was told he was not a machine, but he knew that the Army had only one purpose for him.
“Okay, Jepman. I accept your answer. If you would, please step off the stage.” Cold shivers ran down Jepman's spine as the director spoke to him. Jae stood up as the Director made some motions towards a group of soldiers standing near the platform. The soldiers nodded and walked away. Something was wrong here, but Jae didn't care. He was basically free now. Once he walked off this stage he could take the little money he had, grab a zip car off Calmar to Zajsk and see his family!
“Jae, Jae. JAE!” The sharp pain again. “Do you know what you have done? Do you even understand? Jae, look at me.” Jae turned to look down at his old teacher. Jae towered almost domineeringly over him, but teacher has a presence to him that immediately made students follow his orders.
“Yes, teacher, I am aware of what I have done. I have freed myself from years of servitude to a monstrous group of murderers. I am now free to do what I wanted to do in my life.”
“No, you goddamn idiot. You do not understand. It's too late now. I can do nothing for you. But go home and you will understand. Go home and feel the idiocy of your actions.” Teacher's face contorted into a face of hate.
“Okay, old man, sorry to disappoint you.” Jae turned around and kept walking towards High Hill. The small city of Sirmána, home of the Calmar army, became even smaller.
Sirmána stood in the cradle of a large valley and the only way out was a small trail that twisted through the thick trees of the nearby mountains. Jae made fairly good time on the trail, his long legs taking long strides. His brown overcoat kept him comfortable in the cold of the tall mountains. As the trail reached the top, the trees got thicker and it began to snow. At first it was just a thin layer of ice over the trampled, brown trail but soon Jae was pushing himself through a good two feet of snow. His pace slowed to a standstill.
Jae eyed the falling snow. He slowly reached out his hand, letting the flake land on his finger. It immediately melted. The bushes rustled in the wind. Jae dismissed it as an animal and slowly stood up.
He felt a hand on his neck.
“Do not move.” The voice attached to hand said.
“I do not need to move to kill you.” Jae whispered.
“Oh, I’m sure.” Jae suddenly realized it was a woman’s voice. He eyed a tree nearby covered in snow and he started screaming.
“Hey, what are you doing?” the man attempted to yell over him, “NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU OUT HERE.”
He stopped screaming. “That wasn’t really what I was trying to do.”
There was a faint creaking noise followed by a large “WHOMP!” Jae felt the hand suddenly release from his neck.
“I hope that snow isn’t too heavy,” Jae said as he turned to see an arm and head sticking out of a large mound of snow.
“You are a bastard, you know that?” She sneered.
Jae reached down to shake her hand.
“Hi, my name is Jae. Why are you trying to kill me?”
The woman stared intently at Jae. Her eyes were hollow.
“Alright, I’ll just get going then,” Jae said casually as he turned around to start walking again.
“NO! No, please, don’t leave me here!”
“Why shouldn’t I? You tried to kill me. Might as well return the favor.”
“I- I thought you were from that damn army.”
“So what if I am?”
“So what? They’ve – they...” She was shivering so hard, her eyes were shaking. “They’ve been trying to force me off my hand for years. They say they need it for training bu- but...”
“It’s okay. It’d okay. I’m not in the army. I’ll let you out, just promise not to kill me.”
Jae eyed her, slowly making circles around the mound. He laughed a little.
“I- I prom-m-mise... just ge-e-et me out-t of here be-before—“
“Okay, okay. One second.”
Jae stood in one place facing the woman and closed his eyes. He slowly walked towards the snow mound. His eyes quickly flicked open, slamming his foot on the snow. A shockwave blasted towards the snow, flinging it off the woman’s body.
Jae quickly recomposed himself and walked towards her, offering his hand. The woman looked at him, eyeing him like a piece of meat.
“I’m Laura,” she said, grabbing his hand.
“Nice to meet you, Laura.” Jae lifted her up. “So, where do you live? I could certainly use a good meal for an apology.”
Laura laughed. “Alright, come with me. It’s this way.” She grabbed his hand and started leading him off the path into the forest.
The forest at this altitude was not very thick, mostly composed of a few large trees scattered a few tens of feet away from each other. The snow was knee thick, but Laura was skipping through it like it was solid ground. Jae, attempting to emulate Laura’s nimble prancing, saw a house a bit off in the distance with the snow cleared around it, making it stick out even more. It was a while before they reached it.
“So, Jae, why are you way up here? You were walking the path away from Sirmana.”
“I am walking to the space-tram station. I just refused admittance into the Army.”
Laura suddenly stopped, “You what?”
“I goddamn heard you. Do you know—“
“—what I’ve done? Yeah, my teacher said the same thing.”
Laura just stared at him. Her empty blue eyes slightly glazed over with tears.
“Have you seen your family yet?
“N-no, that’s why I am going to the Tram.”
“You poor kid... you-you don’t understand.”
“Okay, I’ve had enough. What do all of you know that I don’t ‘understand?’ Huh?”
“You have to find out for yourself, Jae.”
She grabbed his hand again and kept strolling through the snow.
“So why do you live way up here?”
“My husband bought the land and built on it about 20 years ago. He liked the year-round cold. The army was small, then. They never bothered us. Now, they won’t stop pestering me. Especially after my husband died.”
“So... You’re single?”
She turned and slapped him.
“No-no, not what I meant! Ha ha! I meant you’re alone?”
“I am, yeah,” she said, very quietly, eyeing her foot in the snow.
“We’re here!” Jae celebrated, excited at getting inside out of the snow.
Jae looked up at the large blue house. “All alone in here? Must be lonely.”
Looking up as well, Laura stood next to Jae. “It is but I have the ghosts to keep me company.”
“Figure of speech. Now, c'mon and get inside. I'll make you something to eat and then you can go on your way.”
Although the house was simple, it was also absolutely gorgeous. It was similar to houses built on Earth that Jae only saw in books. It was a Colonial style house, very old fashioned. Not something Jae was used to seeing. The bright blue siding and the tin white roof was extremely striking. It was two stories tall, with a facade of white framed windows.
“Nice house you've got, Laura. Your husband did a great job.”
Laura just nodded and walked through into the entrance with Jae following.
The inside of the house was just as beautiful as the outside, although not very well kept. There were knick-knacks everywhere all covered in dust. As Jae walked inside he looked around at the rooms. The kitchen was to the left, a large room with a couch and some chairs was directly in front of him, and to the left looked like a study with a large wooden desk and an older computer. He removed his coat and hung it up on the hanger nearby and followed Laura into the kitchen.
“Unfortunately, I am a bit low on food but I'll make what I can. I think I have some rice and maybe some meat, although I have no idea what kind of meat. Chicken maybe? I guess we'll find out.”
She quickly got busy in the kitchen as Jae made himself comfortable at the kitchen table, a nice and large oak table. Jae noticed that there was a high-chair nearby. She doesn't look old enough for children, though... Jae thought.
“Don't mind me asking but how old are you exactly?”
“Thirty-Eight, Thirty-Nine next week in fact.”
That's quite a bit older then Jae expected, she looked twenty-four at most.
Setting a pot under a stream of water in the sink, Laura turned on the stove and set the pot full of water on the stove. Sighing, she sat down opposite of Jae putting her face in her hands. Her breath could be seen leaking from in between her fingers.
“Do you have any firewood or something? It’s freezing in here.”
“Uh, umm...” She lifted her face from her hands. “No, I was actually out in the forest earlier so I could get some. I forgot when you showed up.”
“Okay, well, I’ll go get some. I’ll be back,” He said as he stood up and walked towards the front door. Laura lifted her head higher.
“Jae, how long has it been since you’ve seen your family?”
“Four years or so.”
‘That’s a long time.”
“Yeah... yeah it is,” He whispered as he walked out the front door.
Laura's house was cold, but walking out into the frozen tundra of the forest hit Jae in the face like a two ton boulder. He buttoned up his overcoat and bundled up his arms, doing the best he could to warm himself up. The snow was still deep, getting deeper, and he had a difficult time wading through it.
As Jae shoveled through the snow, he couldn't help but think about Laura. He thought of her as a puzzle he couldn't quite put together. It felt like there were twenty pieces to the puzzle and none of them fit together. The main one digging into his mind was the high-chair at the table with the distinct lack of a child. She also seemed to know more about the Army than most civilians do.
Jae decided when he gets back, he'll ask her about her kid. He was curious and his curiosity usually overrode his sense of humility. But he needed to get more information out of her, especially whatever she seemed to know about his family.
The anticipation of seeing his family was almost as overwhelming as his curiosity. Walking though the cold forest, he could see his sister's eyes, filled with tears from the last time he saw her. Her big, burning green eyes told him he was doing the right thing going home. A fierce glimmer shimmered through Jae's eyes as he felt a reassuring feeling of comfort from the warmness of his family memories. He was going home.
But first he had to finish getting firewood and he had lost himself in thought. “Good God, it's cold.” he thought outloud. He belt over and lifted a frozen piece of snow from the cold.
He knocked on the door to the house.
“HELLO! LAURA?!” He yelled with no response. He'd been standing outside the house for a few minutes knocking, his left arm cradling a large bundle of wood.
“Hello?!” Well, he was sick of waiting so he lifted his leg and busted down the locked door.
The door flung open, releasing the wonderful smell of food to attack Jae's nose. He ran inside, dropping the wood on the ground. He looked right to the study: Empty. He looked into the great room straight ahead: Empty. And finally into the kitchen: Empty except for one thing.
At the spot where Jae was sitting was a plate of rice and chicken. A bottle of wine was sitting next to it with a wine class. Jae saw his worried expression in the crystal.
Laura was nowhere to be found. The kitchen was spotless except for a single yellow piece of paper. Jae walked over to the paper and read the note on it, written in a curly beautiful script:
“Kid, get your face off the window!” The gallery owner's face was almost red. Jeremy had been paying no attention to him as he yelled at him from his counter through the glass. Displayed right there in that window was one of Jeremy's own pieces. He couldn't read the price from here, but he could tell it was some obscene number.
“Okay, kid. You like that artwork as much as the next person but unless you intend on buying, which I am sure you are not, will you get your goddamn face off my goddamn window!”
Jeremy saw the condensation from his nose gradually dissipate as he removed his goddamn face from the goddamn window.
“Now get going kid!” the shop owner yelled, punting Jeremy into the street.
Despite the cars swerving and honking around him, Jeremy was in awe. There , in that window, was his artwork for an exorbitant amount of money. Perhaps it's his own fault for not signing anything but he liked it that way. He didn't paint for money, only to make people happy. And, besides, he liked living on the streets. To him, Harrisburg was his home and he wouldn't live in a box in his own home.
Another car almost hit him, “Yo, get out of the street! Are you crazy?”
So many people yelling at him today. He stood up and walked back to the sidewalk. Back at the window was his pack, an extremely cumbersome hiking backpack full of clothes, cans of food, and random art supplies. As he picked it up, he saw the gallery owner glaring at him through the window slowly lower hand hand under the counter. It looked something like a bat and with that, it was time to leave.
Jeremy slung the pack over his shoulder and strolled towards his destination. Walking through the droves of faceless people, he did his best to lose his own face. It wasn't exactly easy being over six feet tall but he certainly tried his best, but he felt eyes on his face either way. Being tall did help him snake through crowds, though.
Ahead he saw his destination: the art store. “LAURETTA'S BRUSH” the sign said in large, bold, Romanesque letters. If Jeremy did have a house in Harrisburg, this was it. The building, being a remnant from the city's “Future Living” initiative. It was high tech but extremely broken. The door was meant to slide open like a window but that stopped working long ago. Instead it had to be lifted open from the ground up. It made a god-awful, high-pitched squealing noise as Jeremy shoved it up. It wasn't exactly the most ideal place for an art-shop, but it was one of the favorites in Harrisburg so people kept coming.
Slowly walking inside, his pack made a distinctive sound.
“Blue-eyes! Is that you?” A voice exclaimed from a storeroom behind the counter.
“Lauretta, I told you to stop calling me that,” Jeremy said, blushing.
Lauretta walked from the back with a large white bag in her hand. “I have your supplies right here, Blue-Eyes.”
Jeremy smiled and walked to the young woman. Lauretta was a little bit older then Jeremy, around 20 years old. Her mother had passed the art store to her when she died a few years ago. Lauretta had changed the name but the place had been the same for years. She was tall, although not as tall as Jeremy, with long black hair and shining green eyes. Her voice, like her eyes, was shiny. A shiver passed through Jeremy's spine.
I love your story. I especially love the way you do the characters. You say little about them up front, and instead we figure them out through subtle details.
One thing I'm confused about though. The first chapter seems to take place on another planet. However, the second chapter takes place in a city called Harrisburg. Is this a futuristic version of Harrisburg Pennsylvania, or a city on another world that is also called Harrisburg? Is this story set on another world, or Earth, or both? I'm sorry I'm not getting this.
...and from that day forward, anytime a bunch of self-important ranting morons are together in one place, it's called a FORUM! Unless it's a LEGISLATURE!
I love your story. I especially love the way you do the characters. You say little about them up front, and instead we figure them out through subtle details.
One thing I'm confused about though. The first chapter seems to take place on another planet. However, the second chapter takes place in a city called Harrisburg. Is this a futuristic version of Harrisburg Pennsylvania, or a city on another world that is also called Harrisburg? Is this story set on another world, or Earth, or both? I'm sorry I'm not getting this.
Haha, the explanation of the setting is coming up BUT I'll explain a bit. The setting takes place on 3 man made planets in a... somewhat unspecified year. It was going to be 2074 but someone pointed out that being able to create planets 65 years from now didn't seem realistic.
As for where the characters are. Jae is on Calmar, the first planet created which is slowly falling apart. Jae is making his way to Zajsk, the third planet created and also his home planet, where he was born. The second planet is The States where Jeremy lives and where Harrisburg is. There's quite a bit more back story, but I'll reveal it more in the story. I don't want to give it away.
Also, I'm happy you like the story so far. I have always believed that you should get what a character looks like from their actions and people's reactions of them rather then straight out description.
Jeremy was never quite sure what to say around Lauretta but she generally took care of the talking herself. He was never one for words anyway.
“Here you go, Jeremy,” she said, handing him the bag of art supplies. Jeremy stood staring at the bag for a few seconds before reaching down and taking the bag.
“Thanks, Lauretta,” he murmured. He set his pack down on the ground along with the bag. Slowly unzipping the bag, he removed a few articles from the pack.
“Man, you have a lot of stuff in there,” Lauretta observed, “You still have that painting of your parents?”
Jeremy nodded without looking at her, pulling the painting out of the pack. “First painting I ever made.”
“It's beautiful, Jeremy, although it makes me really sad just looking at it. Their eyes look empty.”
Jeremy took some of the supplies out the white bag, breathing deeply to keep from breaking down in front of Lauretta. He never looked at the painting of his parents unless he needed a reminder of why he painted. Otherwise, it stayed in his pack covered with a few plastic bags and some bubble wrap to keep it safe. It was his first painting and only painting he made for himself. Only thing that was more important to him was Lauretta.
“Are you okay, Blue Eyes?” Lauretta asked, setting her hand on Jeremy's shoulder.
“Y-yeah, yeah. I'm just fine,” he stuttered, standing up and turning towards Lauretta. He smiled looking at her vivid eyes.
“Well, no need to open old wounds! Hey! I got an idea, lets go get some food or something. It can't be anything fancy, but I haven't eaten since breakfast so I'm starving. I don't know about you.”
Jeremy was starving. “I don't have any money though.” He said, his eyes shifting left, looking at nothing in particular except for his lost dignity.
“That's fine, Blue Eyes, I'll pay,” she said, smiling kindly. Another shiver went down Jeremy's spine. “C'mon Tall n' Blue.”
Jeremy zipped his pack and hauled it over his shoulders. Within this time, Lauretta was already at the door getting ready to lock it.
“This damn thing. It's supposed to automatically lock when I leave. It stopped working yesterday afternoon. I swear, I am going to get this piece of junk replaced some day,” she fumed, kicking the squeaky door.
Jeremy played limbo getting outside because the door had gotten stuck sliding up. He could've sworn Lauretta's arteries were going to burst as tried to push the door back down. Instead of the door sliding down, Lauretta was lifting off the ground.
“Jeremy... a little... help here...” She gasped.
Jolted awake, he rushed to the door, putting both his hands on the bottom of the door. With all his weight and Lauretta's the door squealed to life, slowly inching down. Finally, with more work then either Lauretta or Jeremy would be willing to admit, the door reached the ground. Jeremy celebrated while Lauretta spewed out profanities at the door that was the bane of her existence.
“Alright, Blue Eyes, lets get going.”
“Shouldn't we lock it?”
“Are you kidding? Getting that door open is more work than any robber would be willing to do to rob an art supply store. Either way, as I said, the lock is broken and there's no other way to lock it. Gotta love 'future' technology.” She said, rolling her eyes.
She raised her arm and attempted to put it around Jeremy's shoulders but couldn't quite make it. Eventually she gave up and put it around his waist. “Maybe I should start calling you too-tall instead.”
“Oh please don't,” he said, laughing.
“You know that just makes me want to do it more,” she said, squeezing his side with her thin hand. Another shiver went up Jeremy's spine.
They strolled down the sidewalk, a sad little sidewalk that seemed like the city planners couldn't decide if it was going to be cement, metal, or brick because it changed every quarter of a mine. Despite Harrisburg's worse-for-wear look, it was a nice city.
“So Blue Eyes, have you ever been to the Chinese side of Harrisburg?”
“A few times, yeah.”
“I've heard that it's the most beautiful city on The States.”
“Pretty, yeah. Not very homeless friendly, though.”
“Well, it has been around the longest. When did The States get made again? 2122? Haha, you remember New Years Eve 2221?”
Jeremy remembered New Years Eve 2221 quite well. His eyes lowered as he thought of the day. He could see his parents, the empty look in their eyes. A look of desperation, a look of lost hope. Those eyes slowly closed and turned around, leaving Jeremy staring at a dark alley veiled by a void left by his parents.
“Y-yeah, I remember. Everyone thought 2222 was going to be the end of the universe or something.”
“Gotta love the crazy people, huh?” She said, squeezing his side again.
“Gotta love the crazy people,” he agreed, “So, umm, Lauretta, do you even know where we are going?”
Lauretta stopped, leaving Jeremy walking. “Oh, yeah. I forgot to consider that. How about there?” She asked, pointing at a seedy looking Chinese restaurant.
“You think I care?” Jeremy said, laughing.
“I know you're homeless, but I also know you're not without taste.” She said, shoving him on the shoulder. Her long black hair swung gracefully with the force of her shove.
“I hope you're kidding. Anything would taste good right now.” He wasn't lying either.
“Well, creepy Chinese restaurant it is!” She said, skipping across the empty road. Jeremy followed close behind.
They reached the door which was painted in a pealing red paint with a golden Chinese dragon stenciled on top. Lauretta opened the door and stepped inside, grabbing Jeremy's hand forcing him to follow.
“Welcome!” A slim young man greeted them as they entered. He quickly handed them some menus and before either could say anything, they were seated at an enormous table facing the window looking outside.
“Umm, thanks?” Lauretta said to the young man. He nodded and skittered away. “Well, I think I already love this place.” She said, giggling.
Out of no where, another young man showed up wearing a red changshan and a piece of digital paper in his hand. “So what can I get you two?” He said, smiling like they were the first customers in years. They probably were, judging from the outside.
“Umm, well, we haven't even had time to look at the menu. We could use some drinks though. Have any Huangjui?”
“We do! I'll have two glasses immediately!” And with that, he was gone.
“Well, okay,” she said, following the waiter with her eyes, “So, what do you want?”
“I... don't know. This whole menu is in Chinese,” he said, staring blankly at the menu.
Laughing, she grabbed the menu from his hands. “Well, I can read it just fine. I'll pick first.”
Jeremy chuckled and looked out the window as she browsed the menu. Looking outside, he saw a tall man walk out of the alley between to short steel buildings. He looked nervous and disheveled. Something looked familiar to Jeremy. Suddenly his and Jeremy's eyes met. Jeremy knew those empty eyes immediately.
“Lauretta?” He said quickly, nudging her with his elbow, “Lauretta!” He spoke louder.
“What is it, Blue Eyes?” She said, glancing up from the menu.
“It's... it's my dad!”
“What?” She said, quickly dropping the menu to look outside. Jeremy quickly pushed back his chair and scattered towards the door. His dad was already walking down the road.
The snow was getting thicker but also easier to stand on top of without sinking in. A few miles back Jae had seen light smoke of multiple chimneys. He thought it was the small village of Floritica, which he knew was to the south. He was heading in the right direction, the counterfeit sun rose in the south. Jae kept following it hoping that the fake, yet reliable, sun had not randomly ventured off its path. It might have been fake, but Jae could almost see the chariot in the haze of light dragging it along its path.
He wished he had brought something to entertain himself on the way. Snow was pretty but it's also incredibly boring and there was barely any wildlife for him to watch, which was certainly more entertaining than watching snow fall. Calmar had long since lost most of its wildlife, most were transferred to The States. There is some farming on the south fragment and a little bit of herding. Calmar was a dying planet and only the most loyal of the Calmar Army or the villagers who can't afford to leave stayed. The poor souls on the west fragment are mostly stuck there because no ship would land on there as such weight would tear the small chunk apart.
Finally, there was High Hill, Jae's destination and the city of greedy sons-of-a-*****es. The bastards were so connected to their mansions and “idealistic” little utopia that they spent billions to rais the city on large floating platforms. Before, it was home to many villagers of various wealth. Now, the rich have kicked everyone who didn't help pay for the “relocation” of the city out, most of them moving to The States. Only the rich can live in High Hill and only the privileged can visit. Unfortunately, High Hill is the only city on Calmar connected to the Zipline Trains. Even better, they only go to The States, another glorious man made planet.
Jae had never been to The States but he had heard it is as beautiful as Earth; Less devastated than Calmar and less artificial than Zajsk. He looked forward to it because, in his memory, he had never seen an animal bigger than a snow hare.
Speaking of which, Jae saw one hiding in the snow nearby. He was always in awe of nature, but seeing those two black eyes in the feather-white snow strangely made him hungry. It was time to find that village before he eats what's left of Calmar's wildlife to extinction. Jae drudged faster through the snow; the hare flung snow into the air as it scurried into the darker parts of the forest.
He passed three more potential dinners before he finally reached the village. The snow slowly became less thick and more ice-like as he got closer. It was still fairly deep, as demonstrated bu the village sign, the two inches of it sticking out of the snow.
“Hey!” Jae turned towards the shouting voice, “Hey there stranger!” The man had a thick Earthen accent; a strange mix between Chinese, American, and Russian, or so Jae had been told. It was similar to the Statesian accent but just slightly different.
“Yo,” Jae responded, raising his hand in greeting and slightly slouching in exhaustion.
“Oh, a Zajskian? Your kind are rare around here. Well, any kind is..” He trailed off.
“Just making my way to High Hill.”
“What do you want in that godforsaken houndtown?”
“Taking the zip-train to The States.”
“Ah, I see... well, good luck even getting up to the nest. They're insanely picky these days. They're particularly picky against members of the Army...”
Jae glanced at the man quizically. The way he said 'Army' sounded like he knew Jae was, or used to be, part of it. “Shouldn't be a problem.”
The man surveyed the imposing Jae. The man was no slouch himself but he obviously seemed a little intimidated by Jae. Generally Jae was a warm person but it was cold and he was cranky.
“Does this town have an inn... or some woman?”
The man chuckled, “We have an inn, most woman are taken or old.” He winked.
“Oh well, please take me there,” the snow started falling again, “Quickly.”
“I hope you are not expecting anything fancy.” The man said, smiling and showing straight, shiny teeth.
“Of course I am.”
“Well, prepare to be disappointed.” Jae turned towards the village and a sharp pain pierced his side.
“Really?” Jae laughed in frustration, grabbing the man's arm, “I mean, really?” Jae pulled the man's hand away, a sick, slick sound accompanying the small knife exiting his torso.
Jae turned around, still holding the man's hand. He glared at the man's wide, gray eyes. His straight, white teeth were still shining and he started laughing.
“I heard about you,” He said.
Jae blinked in surprise, “Have you?”
“You're the child that refused the director.”
“Oh,” Jae laughed, “You're from the Army? Did they order this?” Jae broke the man's wrist, he hardly winced.
“Kill me if you can,” he taunted, avoiding the answer.
“Nah, I'll just cripple you. I hope you don't enjoy those legs of yours,” Jae smiled. In one swift motion, the man was face first on the ice-like snow with Jae's knee on his back. “C'mon, you're from the army. You should be able to put up at least a little bit of a fight.”
“I don't need to,” the man laughed, muffled from the snow.
An excruciating pain wracked Jae's head, like someone had just stabbed him between the eyes.
“Y-you poisoned me?” Jae said through groans.
“Mildly, just enough to weaken you.”
“Wea-weaken? I feel like I'm dying.” Jae fell onto the snow, grabbing his head in pain. He couldn't even yell, the pain was too much. He couldn't hear either, only a loud ringing in his ear. He rolled on his side into the fetal position. The man, smiling with his straight-white teeth, stood up and walked over to Jae. Kneeling down, he looked Jae straight in the eyes and said something. Jae only saw his lips move through his agony. The man stood back up and kicked him on the head with his heel. The pain subsided as the world went from white to black.
The darkness was strangely peaceful. The darkness was not dark, though. It was actually full of a dull sort of light. The light delicately acquiesced through nothingness, shedding its gossamer hands on the silhouette of an object Jae could not quite distinguish. He focused his eyes on the object, slowly piecing it together from subtle hints in the haze of light.
He saw an orange stem covered in thin filaments, each with a light yellow glow emanating from the pen-end. He reached his hand out for the stem, wrapping his fingers around it and started climbing. The thin filament prodding into his skin with each drag up the stem, but there was no pain. Closing up on his right, he saw another stem branding off into the darkness. On the end there was the vague shape of a flowering blossom. He contemplated abandoning this stem for the new stem since he already knew what lied at the end but his curiosity got the best of him. He needed to know what lied at the end of this stem. And so, he continued climbing.
He passed several stems on the climb up but each one was short with a known end; his choice was made. He couldn't see the end of this journey but he knew he was destined to reach the end. As he climbed, the vague light grew brighter, almost like a rising sun. He felt he was close, though. The sun was starting to set. His hands were bleeding from the thin filaments breaking his skin, but yet, he still climbed. Already he could see the end.
It looked like a bud. It was bright red and the closer he got, the more it blossomed. He ventured closer and closer, the red bud opening more and more. The bud housed a red flower of great and horrible beauty. But before it finished opening and before he reached its sweet scent, the darkness started to return. His last look at the glorious flower was of blood pouring from its peddles before darkness retook him and he landed on the ground.
He felt a shove. “Jae...” It was a woman's voice. It was familiar. “Jae... wake up. I know you're in there.” He slowly opened his eyes to see hollow eyes staring into his own.
“It's alright. You're alright now,” the comforting voice said as Jae attempted to lean up from the ground. He forced his eyes open and saw he was in a damp, concrete room harshly lit by a long florescent light. He saw a glimpse of someone quickly leaving the room through the only door.
“He-e...” Jae tried to yell, his head still wracked in pain, “Hey!” He lifted himself up, realizing that he was devoid of clothing. “Well, that's not good...” he murmured to himself.
He tried to stand up but his legs were too weak to lift even themselves. He peered around the room and noticed his clothes balled up in a corner near the door. He bent his legs, attempting o make them usable again. The pain was still there but he was eventually able to lift himself up and lumbered slowly towards his clothes. They were wet and Jae really didn't want to put them on, mostly because the smell emanating from the damp wad could only be described as piss, but he didn't have much of a choice. Holding back vomit, he put them on as best he could.
Pain still shot through his body, but he used all his effort to find his way out. Walking out the only door, he found himself in a similar damp, concrete hallway. He closed the door to the room and looked down the dark hallway. Looking left he saw nothing but more darkness, but right he saw a small glimmer of light. He continued shuffling towards the light.
Much to Jae's excitement, the light was from a door left slightly open. He pushed it outwards. The light was so bright, he could almost feel it physically push him back into the hallway.
“Yo, dude, watch how fast you open that – oh, **** man, what the hell happened to you?” Jae balanced himself on the door handle as he glanced down at the man. Jae looked up to see where he was.
Straight ahead was a tall, shiny-white building towering over smaller, squat buildings. The scenery was unmistakable. Somehow Jae had been dragged to High-Hill. He looked back down at the stout man who was still staring at him like he had seen a ghost.
“Do you know where I can get food?” Jae muttered so quietly, he wasn't sure the man heard him over the rumble of the nearby crowd.
“Dude, you ain't going nowhere. I'll call a mull-cart and you can crash at my place.” The man pulled out a small device and spoke “Mull-Cart” into it. At that moment, Jae's legs completely gave out and he fell, slumped against the shiny white wall behind him, his dirty clothes leaving a dark brown mark. He started chuckling.
Jeremy bent over, sweat dripping down his face. He had turned a corner and missed where his father had gone. The road was long and lined with shops and buildings. He didn't even know where to start looking.
“Jeremy!” he heard Lauretta yell down the alley he had just chased his father down, “Jeremy, what is going on?” She ran up next to him, breathing deeply, “You yelled something and just went running after that man.” Jeremy ignored her, staring down the busy road.
“He got away...” he gasped, between breaths.
“Who?” She took a long breath, “Who was that?”
Taking his gaze off the road, he quickly glanced at her, “My father, Lauretta...”
“What? You told me he was dead.”
“They are, or were, or are. I don't know, okay. That was definitely my dad. I'd know those eyes anywhere.”
“Eyes? Really? You're identifying him by his eyes?”
“Well, he looked just like my father in the portrait too...” he trailed off.
“You painted that years ago.”
Jeremy lifted himself and started walking down the road. “I have to find him.”
~ ~ ~
“Quick, close the door!”
“Noah, what's going on?”
“Close the door!”
The woman slammed the door as the man sat down at a dark brown table in the room lit by an overhead light.
“Turn off that damned light.”
“Noah, what's going on?” She said, concerned.
“It doesn't matter right now!” He snapped at her.
“It does to me. Why are you out of breath?”
“I- I was being chased.”
The woman turned around and looked at the man. “By who?”
“I-” The man cautiously shifted his dark eyes, “I don't know.”
“Then why are you so nervous? We could take anyone.”
“Carry, I was being chased. Does it matter these days?”
“No, I guess not. Still, you could have-” she stopped herself and pulled out a comb from her back pocket and strolled over to the man. “Your hair is a wreck and the council meeting is in a few minutes.” She started combing his black hair.
“I think it was our son.”
She stopped, “What?”
For a few seconds, every feature on the man's face was accentuated, as if the incandescent light had flickered brighter. “I'm not sure, okay...”
The woman walked to the other side of the table. “He can't find us. He can't know.”
“I know, Carry.” He weaved his fingers into his combed hair. “I know...”
The woman walked back over to the man and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. “Lets go Noah. The meeting is soon.”
“I'm going to take a shower first.” He stood up releasing himself from her arms.
He turned around before he closed the door to the restroom, “Alright, Carry.”
The chairman quickly entered the large room, his footsteps being muffled by the soft carpet. Each member of the council sitting in a small circle of chairs quickly rose from their chairs when the first footsteps were heard. Not a single word was said as he sat in his own chair as each member followed suit. He glanced at each of them quickly before speaking.
'Welcome back, ladies and gents. For the record, this is meeting number forty-two for the Calmar Army of The States. I will quickly take roll.” The chairman stood up and walked to the first chair to his right. He put his hand on the man's shoulder, which was quickly swiped off. “Vermond Mar, good to see you again...” Vermond forced a quick smile. His grey eyes shifted uneasily away from the chairman's. “Good to also see you still can't look at me, Mare.” The chairman quickly patted Vermond's shoulders and move to the next member.
The chairman looked into the female occupant's eyes. The woman looked straight back, her eyes a vacuum for his stare. “Chairman.” She greeted. “Carry Johns, I see you were late as usual.” The woman scoffed. “I dare say, Chairman, you stand outside that grand door of yours for twenty minutes to be late just because you enjoy watching us stand for your presence, isn't that right?” The chairman chuckled. “Keep it up, Carry. You're always a joy.” The woman rolled her eyes. Slowly, almost sliding, he shifted to the next member.
“And her loving husband, Noah.” The chairman widely smiled. The man did not. “Do we have to do this every goddamn time, Maku?” The sharp sound of skin striking skin sounded in the room. “I am the Chairman, Noah. Remember that.” The man, with no reaction in his red-stained face, peered without emotion at the chairman's scowling face. The chairman knew he should not start a battle with Noah, and Noah's eyes and demeanor told him this clearly.
Shaking his head, the chairman rested his eyes on the next member. “Chloe Vert, how are you?” The small woman moved her silver hair from her face, pulling it into a ponytail. “Fairly well, chairman. My pre-massacre breakfast was glorious.” Everyone turned their heads towards her. “Massacre?” The chairman asked. “Oh, you know what I mean.” She winked. Shaking his head, he shifted to the fifth member.
The chairman stood in front of the man. “How are you, sir?” The man asked. “Sick of looking at you.” The man frowned. “Surely you don't mean that.” “Of course I do, Gary,” the chairman smirked. “Well, oh well. Can't fix what's chronically broken.” Gary smiled. “Oh shut up, Gary.” The chairman shoved the man off his chair, hitting the floor with a dull thump.
“Member number six.” The young man in the final chair stood and saluted the chairman. “Good afternoon, Sir!” he yelled, bombastically. Everyone else in the room cringed. “Markus, really not necessary.” “Sorry, Sir!” Everyone winced again. “Markus, please sit down.” “Sir, yes Sir!” Once again.
“Oh my god, Chairman, get this over with.” Noah spoke casually.
“Alright, Alright...” he walked back to his chair and sat down with little dedication, “ I am sure you all know what this meeting is about.”
Markus stood quickly. “Jae Jepman, Sir!”
The Chairman winced, “Yes, that is right. Jepman, our first rejector.”
“Chairman, the proper procedure has already been taken care of,” Chloe spoke curtly, pulling out a small plastic bottle from her overcoat pocket.
“Yes, but he has yet to discover it. Still, he is the first and an example must be made.”
“The first, Chairman?” Chloe questioned, dropping a gold ring into her hand from the bottle, “If I recall, he is--”
“Chloe!” The Chairman interrupted, “I said first. We consider him first.”
“Your word, Chairman.”
“So, Sir, Chairman, why do we care? Isn't it the Zajsk Council's job?” Carry inquired.
“Well unfortunately – or not, I guess – he is on his way here. Zip cars only go to Zajsk from The States.”
“So are we going to kill him?” Vermond asked quickly, almost excited.
“For god's sake, Vermond, calm down. No, we are going to help him.”
Vermond frowned, “Help?”
“Yes, he needs to feel despair and responsibility before he dies. So we are assisting him.”
“Then we kill him?” Vermond asked with anticipation.
“Of course.” Chairman said as Vermond clapped excitedly.
“Chairman!” Markus announced.
The Chairman winced, “Markus, if you have something to say please write it down.”
Markus saluted and pulled out a small notebook from his pocket. The chairman lowered his head as Markus wrote. He finished, stood and marked to the Chairman. He handed him the note. “Thanks, Markus.”
“Sir, yes Sir!”
The director winced as he read. “Not a bad idea, Markus. I'll see if I can get Calmar to work on it. Anyway, we are done for now. You will get messages weekly. Follow them to the word.”
The Chairman stood, as did the six members. “Good afternoon.”
“For the good of Calmar!” All six members shouted.
“And for no one else.” The chairman recited.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A note slipped under the door, sliding under the nearby table and passing Noah's peripheral vision.
“Chloe, our note is here!” He shouted.
She walked into the room from the bedroom, snapping her bra on as she excited.
“Good morning to you too, Noah. Also, we haven't done laundry for weeks. Just letting you know.” She strolled into the kitchen, pulling out a bowl.
“Just wear what you can, okay? We'll do it after we finish the note.” He bent over and reached under the table, picking up then note. Silently, he read over it as the sound of cereal hitting the bowl filled the room.
“Oh, this should be interesting.”
Carry finished her cereal and walked back into the bedroom. “What is it?”
He was still staring at the note, reading it again in his head. 'Apparently we are in charge of the group ensuring he gets from the carstop to a place to stay.”
She walked out of the room, sliding on a green-sleeveless shirt over her torso. “Sounds glorious.”
“Yeah, well, he gets here today, so we need to go.”
“Now? It's been something like a week since the meeting. Why did they wait this long to give us the note?” She groaned, “How long do you think this will take.”
“A few days?” Noah said casually. Carry glared at him. “Oh, the clothes... right.” Carry sighed. “Oh well, we'll just have to wear what isn't dirty as hell.” She stormed back into the bedroom.
“Yeah, yeah...” he turned back towards the note. He sat and waited.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He continued looking down the busy road. There were many buildings on the road, very few were residences.
“Blue-Eyes, lets go back. We left without paying.”
He grabbed Lauretta's hand and pulled her close to his position. “Look.” He stated, pointing towards an open door with a woman standing near the doorway. Quickly, she turned around and slammed it shut.
“What? That's an... orthodontist office.”
“I doubt it.” He pulled her out onto the street, sprinting towards the building. “I'm going in!”
“Jeremy, no!” Lauretta pulled him back from kicking the door open. He fell on his back from the force. “Ouch! What the hell, Lauretta?”
“If it is your parents, either knock or wait for them to leave. If he was running from you, I doubt a 'slam-the-door-open” entrance would go over well.”
Jeremy stood up, holding his back in pain and sighing heavily.
“Okay..” Jeremy sat down next to the door.
“Jeremy, you left your pack at--”
“Oh ****!” Jeremy rocketed up and sprinted back to the alley.
Yellow lights flashed lightly through the blinds prompting the small man to stand up from his chair. He stabbed his cigarette into an ashtray on the white card table and strolled over to the blinds. Attempting to turn the rod to close them, but the blinds did not budge.
“Damn things...” he muttered.
“It's alright, man. My eyes are closed anyway,” Jae consoled.
“Well, mine aren't and that ♥♥♥♥ing sign has been driving me crazy,” he said bitterly, “I'll be right back.”
Jae nodded and the man left the apartment. Not to soon after, Jae drifted off into silence while he laid on the couch. His sleep was dreamless.
But it also didn't last long. Not twenty minutes after falling asleep, the stout man slammed into the apartment. Jae quickly leaned up, startled by the man's loud fuming.
“What's wrong?” He asked in a daze.
“Nothing!” He lied, “I got your clothes. They're still pretty ratty but at least they don't smell like horse piss.” He threw the warm, rolled up clothes at the half-naked Jae.
“Thanks, I appreciate it.” He said as he placed the warm clothes under his head and tried to nod off again. It was futile.
“Dude, get ♥♥♥♥ing dressed. I didn't clean the damn things for you just to have you wrinkle the ♥♥♥♥ out of them. I'm don't want to look at you naked either, I don't even know your goddamn name.” The man pulled the clothes from Jae's head and threw them on his chest. “And man, how can you be comfortable? You're two feet taller than the couch.”
Jae looked down at his feet. The man was right. Jae turned to sit on the couch. He grabbed his (now) gray shirt and flicked it in the air, attempting to get rid of the wrinkles he just created with no luck.
“So, you're here, half naked in my apartment and I still haven't asked your name.” The man said from the nearby kitchen.
“Jae...” He answered, muffled by the shirt over his head.
The man walked out of the kitchen with a bowl of mac and cheese. “Say what?”
“Oh, aren't you fancy?” The man chuckled.
“Blame the parents.” Jae laughed a bit as well.
“I'm Randy. Poorest ♥♥♥♥♥ on High-Hill.”
“R-A-N-D-I-E?” Jae joked, thinking it would be hilarious of he was right.
“♥♥♥♥ no. Randy with a 'y.'”
Jae pulled on his pants, tightening the buckle while stretching his legs. He did a few high kicks, almost hitting Randy in the nose. Randy didn't flinch.
“Watch where you're throwing those,” he joked.
“You didn't seem worried.”
“Have a good sense of distance. You're too far away to hit me.”
Jae laughed while slipping on his shoe. “Oh am I?” Jae stretched his neck, flipping overhead ,using the nearby couch as leverage, onto one hand diagonally facing Randy. His heel rested directly on Randy's jawbone. He was clearly frightened. Jae flipped back around and slipped into his other shoe.
“Jesus, man. How the ♥♥♥♥ did you do that?” Randy shook his head and skulked back to the kitchen. “I need to keep my damn mouth shut.” He mumbled to himself.
“This is a nice place, Randy,” Jae commented, lounging back on the couch.
“Maybe for you. It's the worst apartment in High-Hill. Only have it because of my parents,” Randy replied.
Jae decided he didn't want to delve any farther into it. He changed the subject. “I need to get to the zip cars at some point.”
“Why's that? Speaking of which, I never asked you why the hell you came out of that warehouse looking like ♥♥♥♥.”
“It's a long story,” Jae attempted to avoid the question.
“Does it look like I have anywhere to go?”
“I'm going to Zajsk and I need to go to The States first.”
Randy walked back out of the kitchen carrying the same Mac and Cheese bowl. 'Why?” He asked.
“Family,” Jae said curtly.
“Cool, my family lives on The States. Haven't seen them in forever.” Randy sat on the carpeted floor next to the couch.
Jae rolled over covering his eyes with his arms. “I'm sleeping.”
“Alright.” Randy took a bite of his Mac and Cheese.
- - - - -
“Hey.” Randy prodded Jae with his hand. “Hey Jae.”
Jae groaned, his back felt like someone shoved a rod down his spine in both pain and stiffness.
“Jae, it's almost ♥♥♥♥ing ten A.M.” Randy prodded him again. Jae swiftly grabbed his hand and squeezed. “Oh ♥♥♥♥, oh ♥♥♥♥, ouch, oh my god.” Randy sprung up, trying to pull his hand from Jae's iron grasp. “Jesus, man, let the hell go before you break them!”
Jae laughed quietly and released his hand. Randy, not at all amused, glared straight at Jae, cradling his half-crushed hand in his other hand. “Get the hell up. We're going to eat.”
Jae rubbed his eyes. “What time is it?”
“Ten A.M. We're getting lunch.”
“Alright,” Jae leaned up, pulling his wrinkled overcoat from under his head, “I need to go by a bank to get some money.”
“There's one nearby. Don't wear that ratty piece of ♥♥♥♥,” he was referring to the overcoat, “go throw it onto the pole. Just took a shower, the steam might loosen it up.”
Jae stood and walked to the bathroom. He stepped back out, “Lets go.”
- - - - -
High Hill was glorious in a disgusting way. It was nice to look at but only on the surface. Underneath was just a bunch of pricks with more money than most of them knew what to do with. The center of the city was dominated by an enormous cathedral and government center, which were really one and the same. Each year, the pious Premier was replaced by the next richest person decided by a council. Jae hated this place and avoided it like a plague.
He peared at Randy who was standing next to him on the packed train. “So why live here, Randy?”
“My dad was Premier four years ago.” He said rather nonchalantly.
“What, really?” Jae stared at him.
Randy stared back at him. “Yeah, really.” He dismissed Jae. The train slid to a stop. “C'mon, Jae.”
He followed Randy off onto the ramp. He looked down at the crumbling ground far bellow the glass floor. Above them was the white, shiny underside of the city that stood before the destruction below. The reflection of the crowd was distorted and shifting through the contorted painted metal.
“It's just above. I swear, they have the best goddamn brunch ever.”
“Ever?” Jae joked. A man shoved past him, giving him a dirty look.
“Ever.” They pushed through the crowd of suits, all of them eying Randy and Jae like they had a contagious disease.
The escalator was the longest Jae had ever seen. It reached from the train platform up around a mile to the surface of High-Hill. It was also fast and got Jae and Randy to the surface in about two minutes.
“Okay, how did that thing not kill us?” Jae asked as they stepped off, “It moved snail-like at the beginning and end but in the middle we were trucking it.”
“Hell if I know.” Randy said, already walking down the sidewalk.
Jae turned back towards the escalator and shrugged.
- - - - -
Randy was right, those were the best pancakes Jae had ever had. He was also amazed this place even existed. Compared to everything else in High-Hill, this was a complete dump.
“Good god, Randy. Why are these so damn good?”
“Apparently the owner has a family recipe from the 20th century.”
“Well, they're amazing, but I doubt any recipe has been around for 300 years.”
“Have you ever been to Earth, Jae?” Randy asked out of the blue.
“No, well, once but when I was a kid. I don't remember it, really.”
“Did you know that they're a few hundred years ahead of us in technology?”
“So I've heard.” Jae took another bite of Pancakes.
“Yea, the Calmar System has been stuck with the same technology for almost 200 years.”
“Yeah, I know that. I like it better this way, personally.”
“Doesn't it seem odd to you? I mean, dude, people on Earth don't have countries. Cities have taken over continents. They haven't had a war for almost 100 years but here we are in the Calmar System with 200 year-old technology, distinct countries, a constant war on The States, countries arguing over Planet Number Four, and an exclusionary city that has no other purpose than to stroke the money-dicks of rich ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥s.”
“Well, Earth does sound nice. It is over-crowded, though.”
“Not so much, that's what they tell us in school here. Since the Calmar System was built, they've had very few population problems. They have three other planets to put the rejects now.”
Jae took another bite from his pancakes> “Well, it is weird, but what makes you so passionate about it.”
Randy had long stopped eating, staring blankly past Jae into nowhere. “I-I don't know,” he laughed and focused his eyes back onto his eggs, “Never mind, forget I said anything.”
Jae though about it but couldn't figure out where Randy was going with it. It was odd, though, very odd.
- - - - -
“Well, now what?” Jae asked as they stepped out of the restaurant. It had gotten colder outside and the artificial sun was higher in the sky. There wasn't a cloud in the sky.
“Did you leave any stuff at my apartment?”
“No, I don't believe.”
“Well, I'll take you to the zip train then. They're nearby.” Randy turned right and walked briskly down the sidewalk. Jae followed suit.
“Randy, I really can't thank you enough for, uh, saving me, I guess?” Jae laughed.
“Well, it's no problem. Although, I'll admit, I am kind of curious why you stumbled out of a warehouse wearing piss-drenched clothes.”
“Would you believe me if I said I was poisoned by the Calmar Army, or one of their devout or something?”
Randy stopped, “What, seriously?”
Jae looked at him inquisitively. “Yeah, why? Know something about them?”
“Uh, it's nothing. Don't worry about it. Lets get you to your train.” He started walking again, faster.
“I trained in the army for four years and it seems like everyone knows something about them that I don't.”
Randy kept walking, even faster without looking at Jae.
“Oh wait, Randy, my overcoat.” Jae placed his hand on Randy's shoulder.
“Do you still have money left over from brunch?”
“Well, good for us, we're in the clothing district. Go buy a damn new one. We ain't going back to my apartment.”
Jae protested a bit. He had owned that overcoat for years and felt attached to it. But it was a little worse for wear and Randy was refusing to go back.
“Alright, what the hell. I'll see if I can find one” Jae ventured into a nearby shop and Randy sat on a white bench.
- - - - -
“Alright, well-” Jae walked towards Randy on the bench, “This should work. Took me forever to find the right one that didn't cost a fortune.” He pulled the collar on his new overcoat and rubbed his hand down the creases. Randy flicked his cigarette skillfully into a nearby ash-catcher and stood casually.
“Alright, lets go.” He seemed less in a rush now.
The zip train station was already visible, a visual eye soar compared to the rest of High_hill and Jae loved it. Steel bars covered in paint and graffiti reminded him of his home town. The zip lines hung above , razor-thin filaments that hung taunt along a mechanism connected to the stuff horizontal bars.
“♥♥♥♥, we missed the afternoon train.” Randy lamented. He signed deeply and sat again on a nearby bench. Jae rested next to him.
“So why'd you help me?” Jae asked.
“You looked so ♥♥♥♥ing pathetic... and mostly harmless.” He chuckled.
The bench was built to be uncomfortable to keep homeless from napping on it. They were shaped like tubes raised a few inches from the platform that Jae kept sliding off when he'd try to relax. Despite the extreme uncomfort, Randy was napping silently next to Jae and he noticed that one eyes was open, shaking like he was in a dream.
Thus Jae had nothing to do than to attempt to balance his ass-bone on the ungodly benches while eying the others waiting for the zip-train. There were four other people, two of which Jae could only see their feet under a large advertisement stand. The two he could see seemed to be a couple, which could be assessed by the tongues down each other's throats. They didn't look like High-Hill kids, their clothes were trendy and colorful which was immediately a dead giveaway that they're not from this city, probably from Harrisburg.
They had gotten a bit too much into each other for the public and they realized it. They slithered off to someplace private. Jae noticed that one of the two people Jae couldn't see got up to move to the empty bench.
He watched the man's feet stroll over to the bench and his face peaked out from the edge of the stand. Jae immediately stiffened up and almost fell off the bench, startling Randy. The man was wearing a gray skull cap but he was smiling and Jae knew those tiny teeth better than his own.
Randy had shaken awake, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Jae looked away from the man and faced Randy. “That's him!” He whispered with urgency.
“That's who?” Randy rubbed his eyes.
“He brought me here!”
“Oh?” Randy at first looked frightened but then he took a second glance at the man. “Well, go beat the ♥♥♥♥ out of him.” He said matter-of-factly.
“He poisoned me last time, but I should be able to take him this time.”
“Well, if he poisons you, I'll beat the ♥♥♥♥ out of him for you.” Randy slapped him on his shoulder. “Go get him.”
The man was not an idiot, he was looking at Jae now too. His smile was still there, still taunting Jae like a red cape to a bull. Jae was full of anticipation as he stood up and walked away to a vending machine nearby. He walked to the side of it and stood flush with the chain link fence surrounding the train station. He thought about the layout of the station. It was surrounded on all sides by the fence, the bench the man was sitting on was about four feet from the outside fence with its back to a planter.
He could take the man face to face but he tried that last time and it didn't end up very well. So he decided to sneak up on him from the back. He left the station and walked around to the fence directly behind the man. He scaled it as silently as he could, coming to a rest in the planter right next to a dead rose bush. He stepped lightly on the dirt and silently creeped behind the man.
The man had no time for reaction as Jae grabbed his neck and lifted him from the bench, flipping him over and slamming him into the rose bush. Despite what Jae thought would be a move that would cause the man to cry out for his mother, the man stood up and jumped off the planter, his face was bloody from the thorns.
Jae jumped out of the planter and place a fist onto the man's nose, making a satisfying crunch as it landed. Yet, the man didn't make a sound as blood poured from his nose, making red dots on the concrete ground. Jae jumped back a couple feet, placing some space between him and the man. Jae stared him down but the man seemed distracted by something else, looking towards the bench Randy was sitting on.
Jae circled the man in order to face the bench and noticed Randy wasn't there anymore. A split second later he felt a presence behind him. He quickly jumped around the man, dodging a punch by Randy aimed for the back of his head.
“Randy?” Jae asked, surprised.
“Sorry Jae, just need to get you to Zajsk without a fight?”
“What? I was going there anyway?”
“I can't have you beating one of my men, though. So I'd prefer to take you blacked out.”
“Like hell. ♥♥♥♥ing hell, Randy, what the is this? Are you in the army?”
“Not exactly. But whatever, lets get this over with.”
Randy and the other man stood next to each other. They both came at Jae circling around in opposite directions. Jae watched Randy circle to his left. He quickly cut him off and grabbed his arm. For a split second, Jae and Randy's eyes met. Leaning back, Jae flipped Randy's head directly onto the concrete. He stopped moving and collapsed onto the ground.
The other man stood still near Jae, stopped in mid-kick about to hit Jae in the back of his head. His smile was gone now. The artificial sun was blocked out by the sun for a few seconds as Jae grabbed the man's leg and twisted it, flipping the man face first onto the ground. He put one foot onto the man's back, and slammed the other onto his head and his limbs went limp.
Jae reached down and felt his pulse and felt he was still alive. He shrugged and went over to Randy and felt he was still breathing lightly as well.
“Oh well,” He said to himself and went to sit on the bench again just as the bomb-shaped zip train arrived. The doors opened and Jae stepped inside. He turned around and sat in one of the chairs facing outside. The train was empty except for Jae. Silently, the train left the station and High-Hill and Calmar.