Act 0: The Prologue
"Dark times fell upon the country of Mortion. There was an issue of too many people within the walls of Tonoko City along with more issues of how much food the city provided and there were only a few jobs, leaving many homeless. This lasted for a few years, unfortunately. Eventually, a few citizens ended up leaving Tonoko, furious that the Baron of that time could not do much to help the city with its limited supplies. Expanding wasn't an option, nor was trying to build several new structures with the nearest mine or forest about 50 miles away. Determined to fend for themselves, the group of people walked together, deciding to leave Tonoko to the Baron and let him handle the problems.
As they walked, they endured hardship and nearly lost people of the group every day to disease, hunger, or fatigue. The group was soon dwindling from the original number of people, which was around 50, to roughly 20. It wasn't until about six months had passed before they supposedly reached the end of the desert, seeing the forest before them. They cheered and quickly began to chop down trees and when they found a mine, they began to extract the minerals and stone from it. They worked hard, constructing buildings like a City Hall, houses to sleep in, stores to buy food in, and most importantly designated areas of supposed farmland for the stores. Before even six more months had passed, Jaden was founded and quickly grew in popularity. It expanded easily due to being near natural resources, unlike Tonoko. This led to a higher population count as the city could easily adapt and hire workers to continue construction. In about 10 years, Jaden was twice the size of Tonoko. However, the increase caused the need for a law enforcement group to be formed. This group was known as the Jaden Council.
The Council was comprised of five people – Hiru James, Roland Rutan, Melody Jay, Jacob Parley and Tamara Mar. They were the most qualified of any other candidate. Most notably, however, was Roland. He was picked for his hard work ethic and very kind attitude toward others. He was a burly man, a Festo. He helped anyone he could, whether it was something as simple as carrying a barrel to a specific spot or as complex as figuring out costs to run a farm. He would give his own speeches to small groups of people, inspiring them to better themselves and work harder. A few even wanted him to be their mentor, though he never accepted because he didn't like favoritism.
The attention that Roland had received was getting to the chosen leader of the Council, which was Hiru. The others sided with him, not liking the attention he received and envied the respect Roland gained. He also feared that he would be taking over as head of the Council and began to plot something against him. Then, one day, Roland opened his door to find the police there, accusing him of crimes against Jaden. He was then arrested and shown to his shed, which was stocked with illegal weaponry from both Jaden and Tonoko. There were no permits within the shed and no records kept at any of the local stores in Jaden or Tonoko. Roland tried to plead his case, but no one would believe him. He was thrown in prison as the Council decided on what to do for a punishment. A death sentence rumor quickly spread, making even Roland believe he was going to be killed for a crime he didn't commit. He sat there in his cell, contemplating what to do.
A few days had passed and Roland was still awaiting his sentence. He had just about given up before there was a small clanking sound. Before he could react, the stone wall to his right crumbled and revealed several young men. He questioned them, wanting to know why they were coming to help him. All of their responses were because he helped them at one time or another. Smiling, Roland stood up and headed out of the hole. They all thought they were home free to get to a house to hide out before Roland would notice police officers running to their position, laser guns ready. He narrowed his eyes, ready to fight them off as he was handed a gun of his own by one of the townspeople that helped break down the wall. He called out to them, telling them to stop or there would be casualties. They didn't listen, prompting Roland to yell for the townspeople to fire and fight alongside him. They complied and a fight would erupt within the small area, leaving quite a few casualties in the aftermath.
Roland gathered the remaining townspeople and led them toward the City Hall, where the Jaden Council was waiting. They burst into the City Hall, with the guards being knocked out cold, and hurried to the first large room. There, they found Tamara. She immediately began to beg for her life, afraid that Roland was going to kill her. He did end up sparing her, but had the townspeople tie her up, effectively arresting her. She then confessed where the other Council members were hiding, which lead to Roland seeking out Jacob first.
Jacob was stowed away in the military quarter of the Hall, heavily armed with weapons. He aimed a Shock Gun at Roland as soon as he walked in. They got into an argument about what had happened and that Jacob refers to it needing to happen with no explanation as to why. This prompted Roland to dodge a shot and fire back. The firefight ensued, leaving bullet wounds in both of their bodies. However, Jacob was wounded much worse than Roland was. Roland did not spare him though, shooting him point blank in the head as Jacob went on about being able to find him and hurt those close to him. He checked around the room, soon finding a purple liquid in a small jar. He decided to place it in a compartment within the room to look at later, wondering if that was the same purple residue that he had seen on Jacob's fingers.
The next person to deal with was Melody. Roland found her within the Earthwarden quarter of the City Hall, which held archeology fragments, books on a natural energy that could be used much like one would describe as magic known as Terran Energy, and documents on great landmarks. Roland approached her, watching her sit atop a statue. Trying to confront her, she immediately interrupted him with her own objection to his way of teaching. She repeated the same thing Jacob had gone on about – that he needed to be killed and that he threatened their way of life. Roland looked past it, noticing the purple residue on her lips. It was the same from Jacob's fingers. There was a pattern and he wanted to figure out why. Before anything could be done, however, Melody attempted to move and ended up slipping, falling to her death as she landed on her head and her neck snapped. Roland wasn't pleased with the events, but it was out of his hands. He then headed into the main corridor, where Hiru was waiting.
Roland grew suspicious right away, wondering why Hiru was expecting him and acting so calm. There were containers of the purple liquid near him and behind him. It was then explained before Roland had to jump out of the way of trap door that the Jaden Council had been linked with the Tonoko Council, whom exchanged Nether Energy in a liquefied form for other exports Jaden could offer like minerals, food and so on. Hiru openly drank a large cup of the liquid right in front of Roland, soon dropping it and the effects were immediate. Hiru's fur and skin turned dark purple and he grew two extra pairs of arms, totaling six. A bulge formed at the side of his neck, rapidly forming into a second snarling head. Roland couldn't believe his eyes – Hiru had given into temptation, even after hearing of how the Tonoko Council was ruling after discovering Nether Energy imbued land. Jumping out of the way of Hiru throwing a chair toward him, he tried to come up with a plan. He continued to move out of the way of projectiles the transformed Hiru launched at him, noticing he was constantly protecting something in the back by always immediately turning toward him. It was then Roland decided to trick him and tried to flank Hiru on his right side. When the attention was brought to him, Roland slid on his heels and passed underneath him, in between his legs. He grabbed onto the left leg, then with most of his strength, yanked it from under Hiru and caused him to fall forward. Hiru cursed Roland, struggling to get up due to his new sudden increased body mass from the transformation. This gave Roland and opening and he shot Hiru point blank in the back with the pistol.
The bullets that fired were absorbed into Hiru's form as he roared out. Shocked by this, Roland backed away as far as he could in the room from the now once again standing abomination before him. Immediately, the large hand of Hiru swooped down and shoved Roland against the wall. It caused him a great deal of pain, but he endured. Roland regained himself and dodged another swipe. He landed near the Council's table before noticing Hiru's own sword sitting in its sheath next to the larger chair. He ran toward it as he quickly came to the conclusion bullets may not work, but a sword might.
Hiru slammed his fists into the ground, causing the floor to crumble as a shockwave was sent toward Roland. Once he noticed it, it was too late. He fell to the floor below, but he had grabbed the strap of the sword's sheath. Groaning, he fell onto his right arm and was forced to use only his left arm to help himself get up. It felt like it was broken from the impact as he couldn't easily move it now. He managed to yank the sword out into the open and pointed it toward Hiru. Only emitting a feral growl, Hiru charged toward him. Roland blocked his attack and threw him back with just a single thrust. He then charged at Hiru, readying the sword. He dodged a few objects thrown at him, such as a podium, before the sword connected with Hiru, going deep into his chest cavity. Gasping for air rather suddenly and coughing up a storm as he returned to normal, Hiru continued to curse Roland before finally passing away.
The people on the outside watched on as they were still injured, wondering what became of Roland. Their thoughts were abolished when he came out of the Council's building, holding the sword in his left hand. He looked at the people before him and declared that the Council was defeated and that Jaden would be a new safe haven from the families and corruption of Tonoko. Thus Roland was deemed the new mayor of the city and has been ever since. The end."
As my mother closed the book, I sat up despite feeling sleepy.
"Thanks, Mama," I said, yawning sleepily. I hugged her best I could like I usually did with a good story being read to me. "I wish I was as awesome as Mr. Roland!"
"I know you wish that, honey," my mother smiled gently. "You're awesome in your own way though. It is time for bed though."
Her thin fingers gently brushed through my uncombed black hair. I leaned into the rubbing, always enjoying it quite a bit. I looked up at her, always finding her smile calming me or just causing me to smile back. She had lush blonde hair that went down to her middle-back, light brown fur that felt so soft to the touch and her eyes were a gentle green color. They always sparkled in the candle light when she lit a candle for my bedtime story. We had electricity, but we conserved it at night in this manner. She was in her night gown, clearly ready for bed like I was supposed to be, too. It was bright blue and had a leafy pattern sewed into it. I leaned forward and nearly fell off of my bed, grabbing onto my mother's arm suddenly as I didn't want to get hurt.
My mother just grabbed me gently and calmed me down with a gentle hum in my ear before laying me back in my bed. I looked at her and then smiled again, kissing her nose gently as she gave me my good night hug.
"Get some rest now, my little Lane," she said, still gently rubbing my head. "You need your sleep to aid you in growing up to become a tough man like your father."
"Okay, Mama," I nodded before closing my eyes and trying to tuck myself in.
I felt her tuck me in after a moment before she had gotten up and blown the candle out.
"Sweet dreams, baby," her voice echoed from the doorway before it closed.
I would smile and fall asleep peacefully every time she said those words. I felt warm. I felt like I was in a perfect world.
The morning would soon come and I'd wake up to the sound of breakfast being made and the sunlight beaming down on my face from the window. I rubbed my eyes gently before crawling out of bed, yawning gently. I walked into the hallway, adjusting my blue pajamas. I then grumbled before heading back into my room, always disliking how my father usually joked about wearing pajamas as a boy. He was a fun father. He goofed off, was serious at times, and overall always made sure he made time for my mother and I. He worked hard for us. He wanted to provide, despite being miles away from Tonoko or Jaden. I only questioned why we lived in a hut, out in the middle of the swamp, once. My mother told me that it was for the best. She described Tonoko as the Baron's terrible place to rule directly and that Jaden was infested with bad people, which she called criminals.
As I headed downstairs after changing into a yellow t-shirt and a pair of brown shorts, I could hear my parents talking. I then leaned against the wall right before it ended and it was just the railing and its posts and listened.
"Someone's looking for you, Jason," my mother sighed. "It was only a matter of time and you know it. We're barely getting by as it is. We can't have another problem surface."
"I know," my father said, leaning against the wall. "When that person comes by again, I'll give him a talking to. Just… well, you know what to do…"
"I know, but I don't like it," she said. "We're a family, Jason. "We… can't be on the run forever…"
My father stood up and walked over to her, giving her a tight hug.
"I promise that things will turn out fine," he said, though he was trying to whisper.
My mother nodded and then headed to the oven to take out some food she was cooking. It smelled nice as I could tell as I came downstairs fully now. My head was rubbed by my father, who then hugged me.
"My little champ," he said. "Sleep well?"
"I did, Papa," I nodded. "Mama tucked me in real well, just like always."
"Good," he chuckled. "I'm gonna head outside to get some lumber. You just eat your breakfast and go exploring like you always do, alright? You know your mom loves the fact you want to explore Krater when you grow up."
"Yes, sir!" I smiled, feeling his hand rub gently against my head again.
"Good boy," he said before standing up and heading out of the house.
I sat at the table and watched my mother fix my plate. Once I received it, I ate every last bite of the delicious food. I then hugged her for the meal.
"Aw, sweetie, you don't have to hug every time," she laughed gently. "I do love it though. I hope you continue the hugging tradition when you get a wife one day."
"No way, Mama," I smiled. "I'm staying with you forever. You're the best cook!"
"Oh, you'll get that special girl one day," she said. "Until then, I'm happy to fill in as the great cook!"
I clapped gently, always getting excited when my mother appreciated my praise.
"Now, go on, explore," my mother smiled. "You have your little Holophone, right?"
"I do, Mama," I nodded. With another hug, I set out to go exploring in what my father referred to as The Great Backyard.
I looked at my Holophone as I headed outside, smiling as my mother and father were just one button away from being called if I had gotten lost. They usually guided me back to the hut if I ever did lose my direction. I put it in my left pocket before looking around as the trees were wilting at this time of the year. There was one more month left and it was the beginning of The Blessing of Kings week. Mother taught me how to celebrate it. Every day, we light a candle for the brave souls that ventured Krater when it was a very new planet. These souls went to discover and create many of the countries within In, such as the one I lived in – Mortion. It also allowed gift giving in the middle of the week. I always loved my parents' gifts, even if they weren't fancy. On the previous Blessing of Kings week, I had gotten a bicycle I was riding a lot if I were to go somewhere with one of them. I always made them things in return, like a Vinecone sculpture of my father, a drawing of all of us and so forth. I was hoping to figure out something this year to top my family drawing.
My thoughts about my gift were broken, however, when I heard a few noises coming from my left. I looked around and scratched my head. No animals within my eyesight. I wondered what was making the noises. I kept hearing them, so I slowly walked toward them. I peeked through a bush, seeing my father and what looked like a man dressed in a strange mental suit and a helmet covering most of his face arguing with my father.
"The Draft isn't an optional thing, Mr. Silverbane," the man said. "I'm giving you 12 more hours to come and sign up or we'll withdraw our protection on you against the Crimson Gavel. We may even be forced to apply force ourselves in other areas if the Gavel isn't enough of a threat."
"Bite me," my father growled at him. "You come near my family and I'll bite your head off, personally. I've told you several times now I'm not interested in this war or your damn military. Leave me and them alone."
The man sighed before pulling a what looked like a real version of my toy laser pistol on my father.
"You either come or you die, Mr. Silverbane," he said. "The choice is yours. Once you are dead, however, your spouse cannot object to being put into the Draft either or she'll suffer as well."
"You'll make my son have no parents then," my father said. "Is that something you want haunting you?"
"To be frank, I don't give a damn," the man said. "What's the answer, Acrolyte? I can make this quick and painless or you can keep your filthy race alive and serve Baron Runo in his military."
My father narrowed his eyes, but let out a sigh. He nodded and held out his hand.
"Good, I knew you'd see things our way," the man said, getting out a pair of real laser handcuffs.
Once he became close enough, however, my father grabbed the man's arm with the cuffs and head-butted him before twisting his arm behind his back, causing him to groan in pain. My father then grabbed the man's suit's collar and made him run straight into a nearby tree several times before grabbing the laser pistol from the ground. He seemed to move directly in front of my vision and I heard it go off. I didn't know what that meant, but it didn't sound or look good. My father then moved something in front of him, pushing it into the nearby river. It was as if he knew I was watching. I covered my mouth and stood up before trying to turn and heading back home once my father was heading back in that direction.
I followed him closely, not wanting to get lost. I didn't understand what I had seen. What happened to the man? Why was my father running? I could see tears swelling in his eyes as whenever he looked around, I noticed his panicked face. It made me feel like he had done something worse than bad. Though it wasn't long until I saw the hut and I slowed down, letting my father get farther ahead so I didn't arrive too soon after him. As I stopped, however, I heard a beeping noise. I looked around and followed the said beeping and it eventually led to a timer connecting a long wire to something. I looked and noticed it headed back to my family's hut.
I still didn't understand what it was, so I picked up my pace and ran toward where my father was. By then, he had gotten inside and I could see my mother and him hugging before turning to the window. They seemed to watch me run toward the hut. Tears were flowing down both of their cheeks as they raised their hands at me. I still didn't understand, but I was growing frightened. Why were they going to wave? Why were they crying? It wasn't until I was half way there before I heard the beep rapidly increase and a loud boom echoed throughout my ears and around me, causing them to ring unbearably. I looked in horror once I could open my eyes, seeing the smoke before me. The hut had exploded.
"Mama!" I called out, continuing to run now. "Papa! Mama! Papa!"
I looked around frantically, wanting to find them. I wanted to make sure they were okay. Instead, I arrived directly in the middle of the debris and found body parts blow everywhere. I found my mother's arm and my father's, holding each other's hands. Tears began to swell in my eyes, as I continued to call out for them. I never received a response. I remembered my Holophone after a moment of this and pulled it out. There was one missed message on it and I quickly hit the green button. It connected and I could hear my mother sobbing.
"Lane… if you… are as smart as I think…" my mother said through her sobs. "Then… You'll check your messages… I'm sorry, baby. I have…. A secret stashed for you that will help you. You may not find it for years, but it's…"
She was cut off by the sound of my father running inside and hugging her close, both crying audibly now. The explosion then occurred, effectively ending the message.
"Mama…" I said, looking at the arms on the ground. "Papa…"
I sat down as I played the message again, reaching out and holding my hand on the hands of the severed arms. I kept my hand there, sobbing and repeatedly saying their names until a I heard twigs break and some footsteps. I looked in the direction they came from, seeing a burly man in a trench coat approaching me.
"There he is," the man said. "The parents… What a shame. Quickly, take him. Runo still needs more in his Academy."
I let out a pained groan as my right arm was snatched and I was yanked from the hands I was trying to hold. I tried to go back, but I ended up being picked up so I couldn't run and put over the man's shoulder. I looked around, noticing a couple of my parents' friends staring at the debris and then looking at me, a strange blankness to their expressions. They were the ones I began to loath. They sold me off to the Cryptic Guard Academy after promising to take care of me to my parents.
As I was carried, my head began to hurt as there was a distant sound of what was perhaps an alarm and someone yelling over a speaker. I closed my eyes and then held my head as I was carried before there was darkness and my eyes opened back up and I woke up in my bunk, sweating a bit.
The nightmare still lived on.