Author: Xhoyl PM
Two survivors set out to find the one responsible for destroying the world they once knew, and find out if they can ever go home. None can be trusted. For the greatest enemy may yet live among them. Or worse, in them all. (This is an old, old draft, so if you're coming from another story hoping to find something good, move along.)Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Sci-Fi - Chapters: 2 - Words: 7,219 - Reviews: 24 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 10 - Updated: 08-16-10 - Published: 09-18-09 - id: 2721821
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter One: First Sacrifice
Black lightning like cracks spread across the evening sky, displaying the sunset that took place simultaneously in the outside world. Torrents of flame and wind toppled the noble skyscrapers that dotted the landscape. In the center of that great city stood its only power source, a towering maw of electric prowess. The very air pulsed with wayward power. A young man stepped forth from the building as it crashed to the ground, issuing a final wail of agony. Currents from its last farewell flowed through him without mercy. His face contorted as every muscle tried to free itself from his skin. Xhoyl was forced to his knees.
A shadowy figure appeared far to his side. It walked slowly and rhythmically, as though intent on reaching him, but wary of the static presence still in the air. Xhoyl snapped his head to get a better look. The figure stopped. His mind was in too much conflict with his body to focus. Looking down at his hands against the backdrop of his buttoned black shirt and dark brown leather jacket, he clutched them in an effort to gain some control. Finally gaining some, he precariously stood up and bolted. The figure followed.
Electricity continued to flow through him, clinging to his bones, unwilling to escape into the ground where it belonged. It made his light brown hair stand on end, and his navy blue jeans cling to his legs. He was afraid to touch the metal belt holding them up. Trying to force out the unnatural and searing sensation, the pain crackled into the ground, and he finally regained almost full function of his senses. Remembering his task, Xhoyl touched his watch. A miniature, but highly detailed hologram appeared and stood on its face. The visage of a man in a green and white cloak bowed.
"Hello again. Syntax at your-"
"No time. What's going on?" Xhoyl said.
The hologram adjusted its glasses. An odd habit for an artificial intelligence. "Someone overcharged the grid." It looked slightly perturbed.
"I can see that. Anything useful you can tell me?" Xhoyl looked behind him. Whatever was following remained vigilant.
"To be perfectly honest, no. As I mentioned earlier, most of my data is damaged because of the surge. Only a program as sophisticated as myself could have saved anything at all." Syntax folded his arms. "I'd be thankful if I were you."
"Sure, thanks. But right now that's not good enough. Sorry." Before Syntax could protest, he shut off the hologram.
Xhoyl quickened his pace as his strength slowly returned. They were in Central Station. Civilians were escaping to safety nearby. People just always had to get in the way. He had to stop the pursuer now or Dumon would have his head. Stopping abruptly, he turned around. Hand on the hilt of one of the two large jagged swords strapped to his back, he was prepared to defend himself if necessary.
With his vision clearing he noticed who it was for the first time. Before he could tell the figure to stop, he ran headlong into him. Their skulls knocked against each others; his daze returned.
The station looked horrible. Derailed trains lay in burning piles of twisted metal. Broken tracks sprawled in every direction. People cried for the recently deceased.
Xhoyl socked him again, this time with his fist.
"Hey, what was that for?" Malax exclaimed as he rubbed his twice-hit forehead.
"For scaring me half to death after I almost got cooked alive." Xhoyl said.
Malax became suddenly serious. His steely grey eyes showed genuine concern. "I know. I couldn't help you if I died too." He ran his hand nervously through his pitch black, short spiky hair before pulling out a pocket flashlight. Inspecting Xhoyl, he roughly held his wrist. "Seems you're vitals are okay. I couldn't even comprehend how many volts you just absorbed. I'll have to study your body structure later."
Malax; the man was said to be a lunatic by many, a genius to others. Xhoyl was in between those schools of thought. He wore a long grey overcoat, with a silver chain dangling from his right pocket; it attached to his pocket watch. It differentiated him from the other doctors, of which he was the head. Xhoyl knew his real hobby however, which was usually a lot less controlled, and often more dangerous. He was usually the guinea pig for what Malax referred to vaguely as "science".
"I'm fine. I know my own limits." Xhoyl stood up and helped him to his feet.
"So, what exactly happened in there?" Malax asked.
"I couldn't accelerate breaking the barrier. The security measures wouldn't allow me, so I thought that maybe destroying the place would do it. I had no clue what would happen. Not even Syntax could tell me, but I didn't have much of a choice."
"Syntax?" Malax said.
"Hmm? Oh, he's the database program that looked over the grid, among other things. Apparently a pretty advanced one. Figured we could use him."
Without warning, Dumon tapped on Xhoyl's shoulder.
"I heard about your family." Xhoyl turned to face the towering man; his face betrayed nothing. "Your mother was one of the best councilors I've ever had Xhoyl. And your poor sister. . . " A single tear rolled down his cheek. "Forgive me. I cannot begin to express my sympathy."
Xhoyl wanted to punch him. The man knew absolutely nothing about what he'd lost. Loathing aside, as a boss he wasn't that bad. He just didn't like his smug face. Xhoyl was the second in command of the peace division. In other places they may have just called them police, but here they were so much more. "There's no time for mourning." Xhoyl's cold blue eyes surveyed the sky. The cracks had spread much further. They now touched the edges of the city. "The barrier's going to break soon." Xhoyl stated flatly.
An ear splitting crash boomed in the distance. At the edge of the city, real light poured through the newly made hole in the barrier. Something, or someone, had broken inside early.
"Xhoyl." Dumon ordered. "You and Malax investigate. But above all else get out of here alive. We need you two." He pulled out a massive halberd with an insignia engraved on its head. With the press of a concealed button, it extended to his height. "I'll get these civilians out." Xhoyl had to admit; sometimes he liked his style.
Following the sound that had broken the barrier, Xhoyl and Malax ended up on a deserted highway far above peoples homes. Hundreds of cars littered their path, all completely useless. Their owners must have abandoned them recently. The surge had taken out almost everything.
"Leave me alone, you bastard." A woman screamed. A distant shadow plunged into the depths below. A man stood in the center of the road. His tattered mantle consisted of only white and black, along with the rest of his clothes; they streaked across almost as if in constant battle. As they neared, Xhoyl could see him grin.
"What did you do to her?" Malax yelled as he prepared to charge the stranger. Xhoyl held him back.
His smirk remained. "Smart friend. Best not make rash decisions." He stared at Xhoyl with the most horrible yellow eyes. "To answer your question, it's none of your business. Don't worry; she's perfectly fine. . . for now. Be thankful I'm too busy for you." He slowly walked towards the edge.
"I won't let you hurt her." Malax said. He stopped.
"Ha. You think she's one of yours? We're Zaralians." He unsheathed a long jagged knife caked in blood. "One more chance. Leave me to catch my quarry or I'll suddenly find much more interest in you." His gaze was haunting. Windows to the soul indeed.
Xhoyl looked away, afraid what might happen if he continued. "What are you talking about? Zarial has been gone for years."
"Right you are. But not all of us left with the rest." He threw back his neck length bleached hair in an effort to be dramatic. "We, my friends, are the Dissenters of Zarial." Peeking over the edge, he looked like a child being told he had to wait his turn. "Look, this is between me and her. While I generally don't mind a good rough and tumble, she's getting away." He gave his unnerving smile again, waved, and vaulted over the railing.
". . . Let's get going." Xhoyl started to run again. Malax didn't move.
"We have to go after her." He said.
Xhoyl skidded to a halt and turned around. "What? Why? We have our own problems."
"I know but. . . " He contemplated his words carefully. "She could be a useful ally."
Malax was right. A Zaralian on their side would be phenomenal. He still doubted it could be that easy. But if there were even just a small chance. . .
Without warning Xhoyl leaped off the edge. Malax followed him. They both crashed to the ground seconds later, leaving massive fissures in the concrete. Not like anyone would notice. Up ahead they saw the man jumping from rooftop to rooftop. The woman was a few dozen houses ahead, but he was catching up steadily. They followed after jumping onto a nearby roof.
They went in a separate direction. He knew it would lead them to the woman before that man reached her. His heart pounded in his ears. He was going to take that guy down. Sensing another earthquake, he jumped almost rhythmically, completely avoiding the tremor. It was getting easier to tell when they would hit, but they were also becoming much more severe. This had to end quickly. They neared the woman, but she didn't seem to notice them.
She nearly ran into the two, and looked utterly perplexed as they held their hands out for her to stop. Her face was almost completely covered, a red scarf wrapped around all but her forest green eyes. A black hood obscured her hair, but tufts of blond escaped. Her knee high, crimson skirt flowed vigorously in the tumultuous wind. She motioned to push them out of the way, but Xhoyl grabbed her arm before she could.
"Don't even begin to think you're doing me a service." Her brow wrinkled in annoyance. "His impulsive persona is only a guise, he has more than enough patience to chase me until my dying breath." Looking back once more, she caught them off guard and shoved them out of the way, continuing her sprint. They recovered and ran after her.
"Look lady, we didn't come all this way to be ignored." Xhoyl said while running alongside her. "Now, we're gonna help you whether you like it or not." The three deftly dodged some flaming debris. She had good reflexes.
"First of all, my names Shazma. And second-" They jumped off a house as it crumbled to the ground. "Even at the risk of my life I don't want help from your kind. And that's assuming you could do anything, which is another mistake, because he will gut you before you can cry for your mother." Xhoyl cringed a little at that statement, for more reasons than one.
"I don't doubt that your sentiments are slightly noble, but you're only going to make my situation worse." She suddenly had a gun in her hand. Xhoyl couldn't figure out where it came from. She fired back at the pursuer, but they seemed to have no effect. If anything, they only steeled his resolve; his speed increased, and on his face was a grin that almost made you afraid to be alive. Xhoyl paled. He wasn't so much into taking him down anymore.
"What exactly is he?" Xhoyl turned his head to Shazma. He'd been shot before, and while it never pierced his skin, it hurt like hell and could not be shrugged off so easily.
"Didn't he tell you? He's one of the Dissenters. A select elite that chose to defy Zarial. And before you ask, despite being one of them, yes, I am running. I have very. . . special talents." The gun was gone again in an instant. Did she retract it up her sleeve? "While he," she motioned her head in his direction, "is a wretched beast. And a mad one at that."
An enormous burst of wanton energy resounded throughout the entirety of their civilization. Shattered fragments of bio-electric glass fell from the heavens. They could see the real sky now. They were supposed to be synchronized, but this looked so much more. . . real. The stars overhead seemed almost brighter and more vibrant than he'd ever seen them before. Technology could only do so much.
"Hey." Shazma exclaimed. Xhoyl snapped out of it. "I imagine you haven't seen the real world your whole life, but we're in too deep for bloody star gazing. If you absolutely insist on trying to help me, then I need you to do something."
His interest was piqued. "I'm listening." She got closer and leaned in as if to whisper to him. Instead, she grabbed him by his shirt and threw him into her pursuer. They tumbled for miles. Xhoyl strained to remain conscious as every inch of him slammed against stone, metal, and wood. Finally, they fell to the ground below. Xhoyl imagined she was having a good laugh at his expense right now.
Xhoyl got to his feet. The man was still on the ground. She hadn't been kidding about him. His head still hurt like he'd hit a boulder. They were at the outskirts of this district. Almost out of the city, but not quite. The barren, broken homes of the poor looked far worse than usual, if that were possible. He'd walked these streets many times before. The destitute regularly revolted in a city like this. Especially when they actually held some power.
The man opened his eyes and had a knife to Xhoyl's throat. There hadn't been time to blink. No one could be that fast.
"So, she used you to make her escape. Can't say I blame her. We are never above using people. Me in particular." His grin was back. "But without her I'm afraid I need something else to occupy me." He took the knife away from his throat and pushed Xhoyl in front of him. "You'll just have to do." It would be in no way a duel between equals. He drew his swords amid the gentle rumbling of the ground. The quakes never lessened beyond a dull roar anymore.
"Are you responsible for this?" Xhoyl said.
"For what? The destruction of your precious city? Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps I'm just a hapless bystander that happens to be strolling by. Or maybe I'm behind everything. The mastermind that orchestrated this beautiful cacophony of ruin. The mystery is just delicious isn't it?" An answer Xhoyl expected of a him. "You must be curious though," he said with the mad glean in his eyes.
"About what?" Xhoyl said, trying to keep the conversation going.
"My name. A personage as fearsome as myself must have an exceptional one. A name that strikes fear into the hearts of lesser men. That's just the way it goes."
"So, what is this fearsome name?" Xhoyl looked around, Malax was nowhere.
"Ril." He vanished. Xhoyl felt a slash at his back. It wasn't a straight cut, but all in one stroke. He fell to his knees, warm blood trickling down his bruised legs. All he could hear was the laughter. The disembodied laughter that come from nowhere and everywhere. Then it was over. Ril was gone.
There was no time to be grateful. The city would crumble to dust any minute. He painstakingly got to his feet and ran. Nothing had ever made him bleed. Ril had done it so easily. So practiced.
Xhoyl was getting worried about Malax. No. He could take care of himself. If he didn't get out of this disaster area it wouldn't really matter anyway.
He arrived in one of several urban districts. Stores with their broken neon signs threw fits; merchandise danced among the shards of glass left from looting. The tall buildings were collapsing regularly, but this was the fastest way out.
"Going somewhere?" He turned around. Dread filled every facet of his being. The odds were not looking good. "You didn't think it could be that easy did you? Leave you with a little scratch and call it a day? I'm not so easily satisfied." Ril showed his teeth. Crooked and rotten. Just like his heart. "Now it's time for some real fun."
Gone again. Xhoyl could think of nothing else to do but run. His eyes had to be playing tricks on him. Who could just appear and disappear into thin air? It defied science. And common sense. He felt another cut on his lower right leg. He caught a glimpse of Ril for only a fraction of a second. Jumping out of the way of a falling building, he continued down the pitch black streets. Right arm. Upper thigh. Left shoulder. He was being sliced to ribbons, and there was nothing he could do about it. His training hadn't prepared him for monsters like this.
Looking behind, he saw the center of the city become engulfed in a blazing inferno. It expanded and was gradually accelerating. Behind him the remnants of the city sizzled with blinding heat. Maybe that would take care of him. The temperature rose substantially. Beads of sweat ran down his dirt and blood soaked forehead. He wasn't fast enough. The edge of the city was within reach, but the fire was too close.
Another slash. Damn it. A mocking laugh echoed against the myriad of falling debris. Wait. The fire started low and rose. A higher elevation could save him. After receiving a gash to the back of his head, he began climbing the nearest falling building at an angle. Ril decided to show himself again and followed.
"Isn't this just the greatest time of your life?" Ril's laugh reached an all time high pitch level. Seemingly all at once he received a dozen deep cuts to his extremities. Too much blood. Everything around him was losing focus. He ran with his last ounce of strength and leaped off the building as an explosion consumed the entire city. Upside down, he saw the city then contort inwardly; its contents vanishing as it imploded in upon itself. He nearly went deaf with the sound of crunching sonic metal. All that was left behind was a flat, emotionless, steel surface. Pravos as he knew it, as everyone knew it, was gone. Plunging into an unknown world, the darkness of his mind triumphed.
(Author Edit: If anyone is wondering, Xhoyl is pronounced Zoil, and Malax like Mal-iks. Thanks for reading, and please review.)