The Acuran Empire

Chapter 6

Acuran Empire 171 AD – en route to Tunadang.

The vessel that Anne had told Lillith to board was superior to any public transportation systems that she'd ever laid eyes on. It was almost like a giant version of the Falcon except wingless. The massive vessel hovered above the water and had an open air deck. There was room for a glass roof to close over the deck if it rained. The vessel fulfilled every single need or want that it's passenger's could possibly have. Lillith went over what Anne had told her under her breath.

"I am Lily Fletcher, niece of the Isen's," she murmured as she boarded the vessel along with an enormous crowd of people, "my cousin's are called Jasmine, Yvonne and Trea."

Satisfied that she knew her cover story by heart now she went and found herself a seat. Other people soon joined her and she spotted a few Dragga in the mix. The Dragga always gave her the creeps but as long as they stuck to their own kind she didn't mind so much. Those octopus like creatures always attracted most of the attention in any public space because there were so few of them. Their tentacles hovered just above the ground and their round jelly fish like head appeared to have no eyes at all. It didn't appear that they had mouths, either, but somehow they still managed to speak. Lillith sighed and then looked around taking in the sights.

There were several department stores on board the vessel along with many fast food restaurants. There were public toilets off to the right and there was a large big screen television in the centre of the room. Many of the vessel's patrons were gathering around it watching some sport. Lillith didn't bother to watch. As the daughter of General Stryder she hadn't had time for such things and she didn't plan on starting to feign any interest in whatever it was now. Gradually she grew bored with the random 'oohs', and 'aah's,' sounding from the television. Bored she wandered outside onto the deck. It was already crowded with people throwing a beach ball between themselves. In one corner of the deck there was a game of volleyball being played. On the other side of the pool there was the two Dragga's Lillith had spotted earlier. They appeared to be having a conversation of some kind.

"Lillith," a very familiar voice sounded from behind the pre-teen, "it's good to see you again. Apparently the other gods have noticed my return from oh so very far away. Had to give them the slip. I tell you, court is so not fun."

"Duh," Lillith replied, "what do you want?"

"Actually I've come here to tell you congrads on not listening to me," the god explained relaxing on a nearby beach chair, "you've really managed to mess things up big time, haven't you? I did mention you needed a conscience, oh wait, I put in an order for one of those for you. Apparently Zelios didn't find it quite as amusing as I did."

"Obviously," Lillith answered dryly, "berating me for ignoring you is all well and good. But I'm on my way to Tunadang to meet some people. Friend's of Anne's."

"Don't worry I've checked those people out," Gryo said musingly, "I've got everything in order once you get there. Oh and Lillith, take an interest in Sky Racing. I hear it's the latest craze in Tunadang. There's championships and everything. You don't have to race of course… just gain some knowledge of the sport. Some people inside are watching it, y'know."

"Goody, more advice from a god," Lillith replied sarcastically, "well doesn't that just about make my life complete. Fine, I'll listen. Of I go, listening for no damn reason whatsoever."

"Good girl," the god called after her, "you have fun now!"

Annoyed Lillith mimicked Gryo under her breath. The God was always giving her new tasks to complete and if she ignored him something always seemed to go terribly wrong. Such as what had happened with Shadi, Lillith reflected. The woman had tried to kill her and had ended up murdering Ian instead. A wave of fresh guilt and grief washed over her. It wasn't fair. It should've been her. It was supposed to have been her. Sulkily she made her way over to the big screen television. There on the screen was a first class open-air hovercraft. From her knowledge it was called the Belie Con Three Sixty. They were supposed to be used for—she actually had no idea why these craft's were used. They were shaped and looked pretty fragile compared with the Falcon Lillith had crashed in. She then tuned in to what the commentator was saying.

"And it's finally Kova's turn! She's known around the world as the Slayer for all her successful defeats of the most ferocious monsters," the commentator bellowed, "she's got the looks, charm, and logic that all the contenders for the Hunter Class needs. Today they've put her up against a level five monster, an Arrkya!"

Lillith let out a low whistle. Arrkya's were supposed to be enormous vicious creatures that could slice a man in two with a wave of its talon like paws. True the creature was dog like in its appearance but many things about it looked unnatural and completely alien. On it's head there were two insect like antennae that bore an extra set of eyes. It had a long snarling mouth of a dog's, and vicious tyrannosaurus like teeth. The creature's bulk was probably the most amazing of all. It was three times the size of your average t-rex. Its size didn't stop it from getting around with its awesomely long talon like legs. It's tail was probably the most dangerous of all. It was long and from Lillith's estimation the size of a anaconda snake. On the end of it's tail was a metre long scorpion like edge used for slicing through its victims. Enraged this beast could do some serious damage. Now this girl, Kova, was going up against it in this Hunter Race.

"What were they thinking?" a woman asked terrified as she chewed on her nails, "no one can defeat that!"

"She's only sixteen!" a bloke nearby said enraged, "hell, she probably hasn't even…"

"What's the deal with this race?" Lillith asked the woman as she sat down next to her.

"Oh the Hunter Race? Or the races in general?" the woman asked kindly as she twirled some of her curly brown hair around her finger.

"The races in general," Lillith answered, "I can see why an Arrkya's a threat. They're vicious. She probably… I mean, no one has survived an encounter with one of those things."

"That's what the rumour says," the woman nodded, "no one. But Kova's got a special influence with animals, creatures. She's tamed some of the most vicious… but I don't know about these things. In the Hunter Race you're supposed to bring an animal under your control. You can't leave your hovercraft. It's open-air and the Belie Con Three Sixty. They're fragile for heaven's sake. She only has to use the things available in her craft."

"What about the other races?" Lillith asked, "I mean I've been told there are four of them, right?"

"Right, so Hunter Class is one of them. Then there's Show, and that's basically making your craft look as best as it can possibly be. It has to be perfect and certain things can make or break a good Show vehicle. Don't ask me what though, cause I'm not the Show type person. I'm more into the Hunter Class and Dime Race. Now the Dime Race is the no rules all out war on the racetrack. You pick your own way through, top up throughout the course, find you're own fuel, ammo and whatnot and you also have the ability to take out other players. Tis male oriented for some reason. Probably too dangerous for a female to try. Lucas Dey's is the best at it though. He and Kova are on the same team, and they rule. Now the third race is the Circuit Race. That's just your average race with full-blown rules and stuff. Three laps and the first across the finish line wins," was the explanation that was given.

Lillith thought about what had just been said for a couple of seconds. So there were the Hunter Class, Show, Dime Race and Circuit Race. The Dime Race was the most dangerous followed by the Hunter Class. The least dangerous ones with barely any risk were the Circuit Race and the Show. She could see why there'd be interest in this sport considering the risk to the average person's life. But that was all it sounded like to Lillith, an unnecessary risk. She'd rather risk her life getting up every day and being the average human being than having to make it more dangerous and heighten the risk by doing a sport such as Sky Racing. It was an interesting concept, though. What she couldn't understand was why the God wanted her to take an interest in it.

"And there goes Kova!" the commentator called excitedly, "dashing girl. She's got the style all right. There's the net being fired. Ah, misses. The Arrkya's seen her. It's charging towards Kova. Kova turns a sharp left narrowly missing those claws. You want to be more careful when you're facing those things. Anyone else would have been pulverised. Not Kova, the clever girl. She's circling around and around the beast now at hyperspeed. The camera can't get a lock on her, so we'll just assume she's trying to tire the beast out."

Lillith watched amazed as Kova's hovercraft burst into view again. The creature's two top antennae were twisted around each other in a very awkward position. It was clear that the beast needed the two top antennae to see what was going on and to enable it to control its massive frame. Or, to see what its massive frame was actually doing so as to not lose track and fall over. Either way it's number one asset was now useless. The Arrkya gave a frustrated roar and for a couple of seconds the picture of the race faded out. It soon flickered back on again though and the commentator was sounding really excited.

"And she's done it!" the commentator was saying sounding thrilled, "she's actually done it. The beast is lying on the ground looking as dizzy as hell. She took out the beast's antennae to prevent it's three hundred and sixty degree vision. Once that was out of the way she circled around and around the monster again and again until eventually the beast plummeted to the ground. It goes to show that even the most dangerous of creatures have the same weaknesses that us as humans have! We get dizzy, or we get tired and fall over just like this massive beast! Congratulation's Ariel Kova!"

Lillith nodded in approvingly. This girl had shown some strength and used logic at a time anyone else would have panicked when they had found out what they were up against. Not Kova, certainly. One day Lillith hoped to meet the woman but in the time being she had her own life to consider. Probably to save at the very least. Risks weren't something she was accustomed to, but Ariel had taken it all in her stride.

"Wow that was really fantastic! Hah! You owe me a drink," Lillith heard some guys discussing the race say in the corner.

She frowned and looked at the screen again. Hunter Class was certainly worth watching and all the excitement. Maybe she'd actually get to see a death in the race. For now though she had more important things to worry about. Such as getting off at this crossing and meeting the Isen family. They all would be looking forward to seeing her no doubt. Or they'd be waiting in anticipation quite uncertain of their new houseguest that was supposedly their niece. Hopefully they were looking forward to seeing her and had the story straight. Otherwise the authorities might get concerned. It wasn't long before the vessel docked and it was time to get off.

Lillith had arrived in the Tunadang harbour and enjoyed the gentle breeze that greeted her. To her surprise there were tons of people gathered on the port waiting for the new arrivals into Tunadang. She quickly scanned the crowd and hoped that the Isen family were there ready and waiting to greet her. As she looked a second time she spotted the sign the Isen family were holding up. Welcome Lily Fletcher. The girl let out a sigh of relief and followed the flow of the crowd and joined the Isen family.

"You must be Lily," a man said greeting her, "it's a pleasure to finally meet you. Anne's talked of you with such pride. She really likes you."

"Thanks Mr Isen," Lillith said nervously, "uh… Anne's spoken of me?"

"Say's you're one of the most brilliant boarder's she's ever had," Mr Isen laughed, "listen, it's best if you call me by my first name. Let's get going. I'm sorry that Sandra couldn't make it. Neither could the girls, they all had previous engagements that they had to deal with first rather than the arrival of their cousin. Especially since you've come all the way from Serf Bay to see them."

"So where exactly are we headed?" Lillith asked nervously, "Anne told me Palm City. But…"

"Palm City indeed my dear," Mr Isen informed her, "away from all those nasty business centre's though. We live in the suburbs an hour's drive from the city centre. We'll be right, though. While you're here you might as well take an interest in the Sky Races. That's what everybody is into and follows. I don't know what is hot in Serf Bay so… yeah. My daughter's tell me not to use slang because it sounds weird coming from my mouth. It sounds weird to me too, come to that."

Lillith nodded as Mr Isen kept talking and telling her all about Lanada and Tunadang. Everything here revolved around the races and everyone just plain enjoyed them. There were thousands of places where you could buy hovercraft odds and ends and even buy whole racing crafts. There were also your ordinary shops riddled in amongst everything else. He also told her about the racetrack his daughter's spent a lot of time at. They weren't a part of any team but they preferred to flirt with some of the racer's there and make themselves noticed. It didn't make sense to Lillith, and she informed Mr Isen of this. He just laughed and told her not to worry about it. Sky Racing was important only to the native Tunadang's, and they'd notice immediately if you weren't from the area.

They soon found Mr Isen's own hovercraft after getting Lillith's luggage from the reel. The drive to Mr Isen's home was indeed an hour long as he'd predicted. It was a quiet little house and nothing like the home that Lillith had been used to. It wasn't very big but it was definitely twice the size of Anne's boarding house. Lillith's home in Cape Toun had been about three times the size of the house Lillith was now entering, or staying at. General Stryder had loved to indulge in a lot of luxuries. She felt another pang in her heart and realised she missed her parent's terribly. There was guilt in that sector too, because she'd just run away without a word.

Mr Isen helped Lillith unpack her things from the hovercraft and carry them inside the house and to her bedroom. It had already been decorated with posters of famous Sky Racers and a picture of Ariel Kova, the girl Lillith had watched defeat the Arrkya. There were other posters too, some of Lucas Dey's and one of some bloke called Damian. She shook her head in disbelief. The people who had decorated her room were obviously enthralled with Sky Racing and the people who drove those crafts.

"Jasmine decorated it," Mr Isen informed Lillith, "she went a bit overboard with the posters. They all enjoy Sky Racing a little too much. Told them so but none of them believed me. You take your time and get used to everything here. We'll let you know when it's dinnertime. The girl's are going to the races again tomorrow and they've promised to take you. You'll enjoy it I promise. In the meantime just spend the rest of the afternoon settling in. You've a big day ahead of you tomorrow."

"Thanks for everything," Lillith answered with a smile, "it means a lot to me."

"Not a problem. You just enjoy yourself is the main thing right?" Mr Isen ordered and then closed the door behind him.

Lillith stared for the rest of the evening at the door. She knew she had a lot to make up for in lost time. Tomorrow she was going to the races and she was going to have to get along with the Isen daughter's. Mr Isen was nice enough but it wasn't the same as having her real family with her. She didn't even know how long she was staying for. Sometimes life truly sucked. She wished things hadn't got all crazy on her and she was still Lillith Stryder, daughter of General Stryder with a bright future in the Army ahead of her. Lily Fletcher did have a future… or did she?

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Hey guys. Thought I'd leave it here, any questions just post them. Thanks for your reviews.

Need to know:

Sky Racing: consists of four races. Hunter Class, Circuit Race, Dime Race, and Show. There are four team members that compete in every different part of the race.

Hunter Class: taming of wild beasts and still not killing yourself or the beast in the process.

Circuit Race: Racing around a straight race track. First to the finish line wins.

Dime Race: No rules all out race. Pick your own course through the race. Find ammo and everything you need to make your hovercraft stronger, faster and even take out some of the other players.

Show: showing off your hovercraft. It has to be perfect. No mechanical faults or anything like that. You get points for the looks and body of the hovercraft and lose them for many of the faults.

Lanada: capital of Tunadang

Tunadang: country across the Krypton Sea from Serf Bay

Palm City: the capital city of Lanada.