WRITING Dynasty: Origins Showcase (Constructive Criticism Welcome)

Discussion in 'SHOWCASING' started by Doctor Freak, Oct 25, 2015.

  1. Time for the "Super Awesome Introductory Post". Hello, everyone! I'm choosing to post the first three chapters of my currently first and only completed story, called Dynasty: Origins. I'll also link to an external site that hosts the rest of the comic.

    Constructive - and only constructive please - is welcome. This was actually my first attempt at a "first person" perspective.

    The full story can be viewed at deviantART | Mibba | Fiction Press

    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.

  2. Chapter 01: Cryptic Illusions

    Ever since that day, my life hasn't been stable enough to sit still. I wanted nothing to do with the area that was within destroyed hut. Thus, the Cryptic Guard found me and drafted me, though I was in the Cryptic Academy instead of the military itself due to needing to be trained how to fight. I hated it. I had to wear the Cryptic colors, which were a combination of crimson red and black, along with white belts. I sat in my dorm, finding it rather difficult to still stay indoors despite now being at the Cryptic Academy for a good decade. My roommates were already brainwashed, I assumed. They called me strange for reading non-military material and not entirely focusing on combat training, yet I still won majority of the time if I sparred with them.

    "Is that the military handbook, mate?" one of my roommates asked in a kind manner. He was a Promus Alpha, a race of canine humanoids which the alpha stated he was a Promus that was unusually tall as they were normally a short race. His black hair was slicked back, freshly combed as he had just come from changing into the restroom after showering.

    "No," I answered. "It's a book on the history of Mortion. If I'm fighting for it, I might as well learn about the province, right?" I just chuckled as the boy gave me a strange look. I sat back and continued to read the book, occasionally running my hand through what was left of my white hair. I had to get it cut to stay within the Academy, so I was now sporting a short hair look with small spikes at the tip of my hair. It did resemble a buzz cut from afar, but up close it was more like a flattop.

    "Well, you need to study the military handbook if you wish to graduate and get into the action," the same roommate said as he sat on his bed. "I've been studying and I will be put on the field tomorrow, I'm hoping."

    I tried to stifle a laugh as I knew being released from the Academy meant being placed under total mind control as I did notice soldiers acting much more obedient after their final training. I wasn't stupid or blinded by a patriotic duty like some of the boys I met year after year within it. I was only in the Academy because I had to be. I didn't have a home otherwise. I feel dirty for saying it, but the Cryptic Guard was technically my home even if I didn't like it.

    "Attention!" Commander Vaxis, my division's commanding officer, called from the doorway. "Up and outside! We got a little house cleanin' to do."

    I let out a nearly silent sigh as that usually meant we were doing yard work. Though this time it meant the group was lined up while I was called out into the center.

    "Silverbane," Commander Vaxis shouted, "why are you still here? You've been in the Academy for ten years now. You should be jumping at the opportunity to serve Mortion and protect it from our foes. Who are our foes? I ask again, maggot. Who are our foes?"
    "The Bodaren and anyone who resists the Baron and the Queen's orders, sir," I stated calmly.

    "And who else?" he shouted, nearly destroying my eardrum.

    "Criminals, sir," I stated. "No matter their hardened resolve, always bring down the criminal even if needing to use lethal force."
    "Good, good," Commander Vaxis chuckled. "Now, drop and give me fifty one armed pushups, you pile of trash."

    I complied to the Commander's wish and got into position, beginning my pushups almost immediately. My reaction time was as twice as good as it would be with another soldier, it seemed.

    "At ease," Vaxis stated. "Silverbane, you've overstayed you're welcome indoors. I filed for you to be sent out into the Jeheree Desert with the next squad to look for people that aren't supposed to be outside of the city."

    I stood up, panting and sweating from the pushups and looked at the Commander. My eyes showed my disbelief in the fact he was forcing me to go into the battlefield, but I still answered "Yes, sir!"

    "Good," Vaxis smugly replied. "Back to your quarters, Silverbane. Better get ready. The rest of you, pushups. A hundred, now." The rest of my division complied as I headed back to my bunk.

    I grumbled under my breath once I knew I was in the clear of any ear shots of any of the Cryptic Guard that "ran" this program. I pulled my tank top off as it was damp with sweat. I then pulled on a clean undershirt before finding my Guard Gear within the nearby closet. The armor was rather bulky and hard to breathe through. The shoulders were heavy and colored a bright red. They glared easily, with the logo on the sides being the most reflective when it came to blinding citizens or other guards with them. I hoisted them onto my shoulders, strapping them into place as I pulled on the protective chest plate. Combined, the shoulders and chest plate alone felt as heavy as a boulder. I then pulled the red leg armor on, snapping it around my legs and waist. The entire suit was causing me to nearly fall over due to its weight as I walked over to the helmet that matched it and put it on slowly, grumbling under my breath since I was still rather angry about being deployed.

    "Silverbane, you ready?" I heard Commander Vaxis shout from down the hall. "Just put on the suit, maggot! No make-up!"

    I walked out of my bunk within the excessively weighed down Cryptic Guard uniform and headed down the hall. I had the official Defiler gun in my hands. It was basically an automatic machine gun, though modified to fire laser bullets instead of the old "classic" kind. I approached Vaxis fully armed and armored up, ready to go out on a rookie patrol of Tonoko City. With a nod, I was let through the gates and approached my escort name Virgil Tanner. He was a somewhat tall man, around five foot, eleven inches. He was a Fastoona, a race of bipedal raccoons that seemed to share the traits of a grizzly bear. He was somewhat fat, around perhaps three-hundred and fifty pounds. His mustache quivered below his nose when he saw me, seemingly pessimistic about my outing. His gray fur rustled a bit in the small breeze outside.

    "You sure he's ready, Vaxis?" Virgil asked my commander.

    "I'm positive," Vaxis replied. "He has barely seen any action, yet he aces majority of his tests. I want him to be in action though. I want him to see that a damn test is nothing like the real thing. Find some criminals. They're everywhere. We can see anything."

    I pondered that a moment as Vaxis talked to Virgil, wondering if the Cryptic Guard really did see everything that happened in Tonoko. If they did, why was there a crime rate still? Why did people still resist them or have ideals that they could overthrow the Cryptic Guard and the Baron and the Queen? I shook my head gently once my name was shouted by Virgil.

    "Come on, new meat!" Virgil called out. "Time for your rounds! I'm pairin' you up with Yuno, maggot! She needs her training as well!"

    Yuno. That name rung a bell in my head as if it were six in the morning on a Sunday. I knew Yuno from basic training and had befriended her. She, of course, stayed in the female barracks as we were separated, but we did keep each other company when we were allowed to talk to one another. She was heavy on the warfare, though she wasn't crazed about killing people. She only wanted to bring justice in a quick, but not destructive manner. You see, Yuno was a lovely and curvy Festo, which is a bipedal four armed feline race. Her green eyes sparkled every time I saw her, while her sensual sway outside of her heavy plated armor was a bit of a signature of hers. She usually swayed her hips in a gradual motion, letting the eyes settle on her somewhat thick but curvy legs. Her hair was a soft brown color and long, but usually tied into a ponytail. Her blue fur rustled in the wind when she was only in a t-shirt and a pair of cameo pants, which she always wore combat boots with. She was the youngest of seven children, being the only girl. She was toughened more than perhaps a normal girl would be, due to her family having a history in the Cryptic Guard and she was practically raised as a soldier like her brothers. I never knew her last name, but frankly, I didn't care. When a boy my age sees a girl with such beauty as Yuno had combined with the combat skills of a professional assailant, that boy tends to not focus on anything other than the girl herself. When I did see Yuno, my heart still skipped a beat despite knowing and seeing she was covered up with Cryptic Guard armor herself. The armor was so bulky that even her sway wasn't noticeable. The Baron and the Queen figured the designs of the suits to be foolproof, so no one could tell which guard was of what gender, thus disabling the ability to bribe unless the said guard took off their helmet. There was also a device in the helmet that modified our voices, making us all sound like a very deep male voice.

    "Morning, Silverbane," Yuno greeted me as she approached me. "Let's head out. We report back every hour, telling Commander Virgil our findings. Lucky and Sean will be helping us patrol, but they're already in the city."
    "Understood, Yuno," I nodded before turning toward the gate and heading out into Tonoko City. For the first time, I was on my own with Yuno. Despite the big suit of armor and the hot weather, I felt good about going around the city without the need for a senior Cryptic Guard escort. However, I did question why Lucky and Sean were tagging along. They weren't good guards at all. In fact, they perhaps would arrest anyone they could if they could even plant evidence on them just to be in a good standing with Commander Vaxis. They made me cringe at the thought of any other Cryptic Guard soldier being like that.

    Yuno and I patrolled the first portion of the city at a somewhat slow pace. It was only a half an hour later and we were just arriving at the Tonoko Town Square. I looked around, yawning within my helmet as it had been rather boring already.

    "It seems like everyone today wants to be a good citizen," I joked to Yuno.

    "It may seem that way, but there could be hidden ulterior motives," Yuno stated. "You just have to develop a skill to pick up on them. Over there, there's an illegal substance transfer happening." She then began to hastily walk toward the direction she pointed, approaching a couple of males. I followed behind her.
    "Oh, crap, a Cryptic Guard," I heard one of the boys she stood in front of say. He tried to turn and run, but Yuno was too quick and managed to grab the back of his collar.

    "Too late," Yuno said. "You're under arrest for illegal substance distribution. Empty your pockets."

    The boy grumbled and did nothing until Yuno stroke him in the back with the butt end of her weapon. It wasn't unethical within our military, but perhaps elsewhere it was. A few purple glowing pieces fell to the ground and made my eyes fixate on them. I had wondered what the substance was as it clearly wasn't something easily obtained. I don't know how Yuno knew about it either. As I pondered this thought, Yuno had the boy cuffed and on the ground. I radioed the commander, and then we escorted the boy toward the center of the Town Square.

    The boy was handed over to Commander Vaxis, whom seemed to have quite the gleam in his eye when the boy was given to him, as if he enjoyed punishing those who broke the supposed law. Yuno and I then set back down our patrol path within the city, I found myself dragging a bit behind her, with my eyes sometimes fixating on Yuno's bottom despite being unable to see the sway. It seemed to be a habit of mine whenever I was around her.

    "So you're finally out training?" I heard her ask, snapping me out of my strange fixation with her bottom.

    "Oh," I said, blinking and then nodding. "Yeah. The commander was becoming a bit impatient, as I didn't seem to want to go into battle. So he thinks this will do me some good."

    "I would agree," Yuno laughed. "You did seem to be a bit sheltered in that Academy, Lane. You need to see some action in order to truly know what being a Cryptic Guard soldier feels like. There's nothing better than apprehending a criminal, Lane."

    "I can only imagine," I chuckled as I listened to her talk. "Do you have any idea what that substance was and why it's illegal though?"

    "Shouldn't you know about it already?" Yuno asked me. "Well, I'm not sure on the exact name of the substance, but I know it can be abused and causes hallucinations as well as having potential to permanently alter one's mind."

    "That sounds like one powerful drug," I chuckled. I then heard my Communicator go off and raised my arm to hit the answer button.

    "You two," I heard Sean's grizzly voice over the Communicator, "get over here. We have some prisoners that we need you to escort. While you do that, Lucky and I are going to scout the North end of the city. There's rumored to be a resistance movement up there."

    Yuno and I both sighed quietly. Lucky and Sean had always dumped their prisoner catches onto others, in particularly Yuno. We reluctantly headed toward Lucky and Sean's location, finding two seemingly innocent civilians cuffed up to one another. One was a scrawny man, whom looked barely taller than a Promus – which were rather short canines. They only averaged out to a maximum height of four feet, unless they were an Alpha. He barely looked like he was able to hold up much of a fight. His lack of muscle tone was apparent, his arms slightly flabby as he was a bit chubby. His lower lip quivered as he looked especially nervous when we arrived. The other civilian was a younger woman whom seemed to be barely sixteen. She looked like a Festo, like Yuno. She had dark blue fur and an obviously younger complexion.

    "Here, take the troublemakers back to the Commander," Sean snapped at both Yuno and I. "We have to search the Upper City for more of these resilient types. Take the evidence Lucky and I found and hand it over to the Commander as well." He pointed over to several objects piled up near the two arrested civilians. I simply nodded as Yuno looked over the two as I approached the objects.

    "Good," Sean stated. "We're goin' now. Get those low-lives to the Commander ASAP." He then marched off, making me mutter an insult under my breath.

    I've never liked either Sean or Lucky. They were perhaps the worst Cryptic Guards I've ever seen. Though I was surprised that they managed to catch more criminals, as for the first time the Dunce Duo had begun to capture quite a few criminals. To me, it was suspicious. They had a terrible track record until only a couple of weeks ago. After examining the supposed illegal objects, I did find something interesting.

    I then used my Cryptic Guard helmet'ss scanning utility, primarily used for crime scenes. Luck and Sean's handprints were all over these objects, which shouldn't have been possible if they were wearing their Cryptic Guard gloves. That told me that perhaps these objects were placed around the two civilians, trying to purposely frame innocent people to gain reputation from Vaxjs and the Baron and the Queen.

    "Yuno," I said. "Come here. I need to talk to you about something."

    Yuno shrugged and kept her Plasma Rifle aimed at the civilians, walking over to me. "What is it?" she asked.

    "These objects have Lucky's and Sean's DNA all over them," I said quietly. "If they were in uniform, that wouldn't happen."

    "DNA?" Yuno asked. "Are you trying to defend these low-life criminals? I know that Lucky and Sean are morons, but that's not an excuse to blame them and then set the criminals free."

    "Yuno, it's quite obvious to me that Sean and Lucky planted this evidence," I said. "Don't let your supposed friendship with them blind your judgment."

    "It's perhaps your judgment that's being blinded as you dislike them," she humphed. "If you refuse to do your actual patrol duties, I might as well arrest you, too."

    I blinked at that, being legitimately surprised that Yuno said what she did. I was perhaps her closest friend, yet she was willing to turn me in. I bit my lower lip and sighed, as that was the last straw.
    "Fine, but round up a Carrier Wagon," I said, bluntly. "We can't escort them halfway across the city without causing a panic or a riot. If they are terrorists, then we shouldn't give them the pleasure in striking fear into the citizens."

    "There's the proper Cryptic Guard procedure," Yuno laughed, nodding. She swayed in the opposite direction of me, trying to flag down a Carrier Wagon.

    Luckily, there wasn't one terribly close. I approached the two prisoners and knelt down before them, undoing their cuffs.

    "W-What…?" the man asked in belief as the woman only shook and looked like she was about to run, but she was obviously frightened.

    "Go," I said, pointing in the direction ahead of me.

    "But…" the man said, which he then took off while grabbing the woman's hand and bringing her with him.

    I stood there, sighing as I was alone now. I had just freed two innocent people that were going to be wrongly sentenced, but the way anyone else would see it was very different. To any of the Cryptic Guard, I had just committed a form of treason.

    Immediately, I was turning to walk away. I wanted to run, to hide. I kept my pace, however, to avoid any suspicion. Though to my surprise, I heard the whirling hover jets of a Cryptic Carrier Wagon less than a minute later. There was one closer than I thought. Yuno hopped off of it, looking around for me and the two supposed 'guilty' citizens. Spotting me, she ran over to my position.

    "Lane!" she shouted out, though I continued to walk. "Lane! Get your ass back here! The prisoners have escaped under your supervision!"

    I looked back at her momentarily with silence and a glare that she couldn't see. Prisoners? They weren't even arrested yet. I then slowly lifted my Cryptic helm off of my head and narrowed my eyes at her.

    "I will be part of no military that wrongly arrests and accuses the innocent," I bluntly stated. "I also will not befriend someone who isn't phased by the acts of Sean and Lucky. Planting evidence is illegal, yet you condone it. Come and get me, Yuno."

    I then moved and threw my helm to the ground as she stared at me. When she began to walk toward me, clearly ready to arrest me, I turned and took off as fast as I could. I had challenged her, but I wasn't going to be arrested; at least not under these circumstances.

  3. Chapter 02: Colored Crimson

    It felt like I was running for hours. I quickly had become tired, but I had urged myself not to stop. It would allow the Cryptic Guard to catch up and capture me. I'll admit that it wasn't a smart decision to basically desecrate my uniform, as I could use it to blend in. However, there's a special tracking chip within it anyway. They would find me regardless.

    The longer I ran, the heavier the remaining uniform felt to me. I had managed to escape into Upper Tonoko. I hid in an alley, looking around for a possible store. Luckily I was near the Upper Tonoko Apoca-Store, which was one of the top stores to cash in on the "Apocalypse" otherwise known as the Great Battle for Krater and more commonly the Great Wars. I didn't know much about it at the time, as I thought the Apoca-Store was even more of a sellout for popularity for profiting off of these dire times. Given the circumstances I was in, I had to walk in to buy a change of clothing. I wanted to be quick as I wasn't much of a fan of the "hipster" kind of look, with wearing outdated attire and the like. I quickly looked around the store, grabbing a blue t-shirt, a pair of black sunglasses, somewhat baggy cargo pants, and a pair of running sneakers. I managed to barely scrounge up the money for the ensemble and quickly hurried back to the alley to change.

    Changing my outfit wasn't that easy. It took a near twenty minutes just to get the suit on, where it was perhaps thirty or forty minutes to undress. I managed to do so with minimal sweat, making sure I wasn't too slick for the new clothes to already ruin them. I pulled on the cargo pants first, as it was more common to see a male without a shirt than without pants. I pulled on the running shoes, tying them rather quickly before finally grabbing the blue shirt over my head and over my chest. I swung the sunglasses onto my face, adjusting them gently on my nose so I'd be able to see. I looked down at my Cryptic Guard suit and sighed. I needed to ditch it somewhere, perhaps somewhere that it couldn't be found by anyone except for me. I then noticed a grove behind a dumpster that was further in the alley. I walked over to it, gripping the sides and pushing it forward with all my might. I then had a moment of glee, revealing a deep hole under the building that was big enough to hide the Cryptic Guard suit. Quickly, I grabbed the lower half of my suit and pushed it into the hole. When I grabbed the top half, I reached into it and gripped the tracking chip, biting my lower lip as I pulled as hard as I could, ripping it out. I then placed it down as I hid the top half and proceeded to move the dumpster back to its location. Once that was done, I picked the tracking chip back up.

    "See if you can find me now," I mumbled to myself before heading further down the alleyway and stuffing the chip into the back of a Hoover Gar, which was a garbage truck. I sighed with satisfaction as I watched it ride off with the chip, though I still needed to alter my appearance more. I did think it was time I had gotten a haircut, but I was out of money. I did stumble upon about perhaps five Tin, which is Tonoko's and Jaden's form of currency at least, as I walked down the sidewalk. I looked around, thinking I would find some more.

    After about perhaps half an hour of walking, I did hear a somewhat nasally voice coming from a nearby pub, which was named Jack's Tavern, and I decided to investigate it.

    "What do ya mean I owe you that much Tin?!" the nasal voice screeched. "Ya said I got a tab, Jack. Can't ya just keep addin' to it?"

    "No," a burly and intimidating voice, assuming his name was Jack, stated bluntly. "I am sick of giving you beer, seein' you drunk off your butt, and just pilin' up more debt."
    "Come on!" the nasal voice whined. "I need my happy juice! That babe over there has a date with me, Jack!"
    "That 'babe' you're pointing at is a toaster," Jack sighed. "You're too drunk to know you're being denied. How the hell did you get this drunk without visiting?"

    "She ain't a toaster!" the nasal voice yelled. "She's the love of my life and we're gonna make little Promuses together! Oh, hey, baby, you got nice, long legs."
    I peeked around the corner and raised an eyebrow, watching the Promus talking to a chair and stumbling quite a bit. It was rather strange for anyone to be drunk in the afternoon.

    "I ain't discussing your tab or serving you until you're sober," Jack humphed before slamming the door in the Promus's face.

    I blinked at that, then sighed as the Promus was whining now and pleading for his "lady" and that she wasn't a toaster yet again. I approached the Promus and stopped him from banging on the door.

    "Calm down, buddy," I told him. "You do need to sober up. How about I buy you some ginger ale?"
    The Promus looked up at me with bloodshot eyes, apparently upset about the whole "debt" thing. "Uh, yeah, sure, pal," he said, stumbling again as he tried to stand up.

    "Just sit down," I said, opening the door and walking inside. I took a few minutes, then returned to the Promus and handed him a large cup of ginger ale as I sat down in the chair on the other side of the table.

    "Gee, thanks," the Promus said, sipping on it after he took it. "I'll repay ya, I promise."

    "No need," I stated. "You just need to sober up and settle your debt with Jack there. The name's Lane, by the way."

    "Bernie," he said after he sipped again on the cup.

    "So what's going on exactly?" I asked as I sat back in my chair.

    "Ole Jack is goin' on about me not payin' off my IOU's, aka debt," Bernie grumbled. "I ain't got a job and I used to get some money from medical expenses, but I stopped getting help from the Baron's health program for some reason. They claimed I can work or something when I know I can't. I'm too jumpy. I'll jump at the sound of anything if I'm not drunk. Plus I also can't be around a lot of people. One or two is fine, but an entire office? It gives me the shivers."

    "Well, I'm looking to make some money myself," I said. "Perhaps I can help with your debt. I can work something out with Jack in there."

    "Really?" Bernie blinked. "Why's a stranger like you helpin' a guy like me?"
    "Think of it as good will," I said. "Plus it'd be nice to have someone I can contact. Just put your name in my Communicator." I pulled the said Communicator out of my pocket and handed it to him.

    He was quick to agree and placed his information inside. "Thanks, uh, Lane!" he cheered and proceeded to hug my arm due to his small stature.

    "Well, don't get too attached," I said. "Once your debt's paid off, you're getting a job."

    Bernie pouted and then sighed, nodding. I then stood up and made him wait at the table as I headed into the bar again, this time namely looking for Jack. I had only talked to an attractive barmaid when I had gotten Bernie's ginger ale. She was still there, winking at me as I passed her by. Jack sure knew how to hire helpful and attractive women. The barmaid, named Brittney, was a Festo. It seemed like the four-armed feline race were made for tasks such as Brittney's. She was apparently one of the best barmaids in Tonoko, with using her four arms to their full potential. Either one was cleaning the bar with a dish rag or one of the others was holding some sort of liquor for her customers. She had long, dark blond hair and her fur was colored in a soft blue. She was curvy in all the 'perfect' places. Well, at least perfect to me anyway. I did finally find Jack in the back, knocking on the door as he was supposedly in his office, with it wide open.

    "What?" the burly man asked in a grumpish tone.

    He was a large insect-like man of a race that I had only read about, called the Kreemer. They were the most recent species to claim Krater as their home, with adding a new tradition to the entire planet within the last ten years, which was called the Blessing of Kings week. Despite that, they were still rare to find.

    Jack was fairly large in height and size. His red skin was easy to see within the dimly lit room. He wasn't muscular; however, as he had a large beer gut and long, fat arms for an insect. That didn't make me think for a second that he wasn't stronger than he appeared, as looks could be deceiving.

    "Yeah?" he said, looking up at me with his fly-like eyes. "What do you want? An IOU like that drunk idiot?"

    "No, but I did want to talk about that IOU," I said calmly. "I need to find a place to stay a while and lay low. If you can help me find that, I can help Bernie out there pay off his tab. I'm sure a man like you has some deliveries or something."

    "You're payin' off his tab?" he asked, sounding a bit surprised. "Hardly anyone likes that drunk. I guess we could work somethin' out." He seemed to think for a moment before getting an idea. "Hey, I know. I got some backorders to a client needin' their booze and they're gettin' antsy. They don't have time or are too high class to pick it up themselves and I don't have any brave delivery boys willin' to face the client, it seems."

    "Why are they afraid of the client?" I asked, feeling like I needed to know why.

    "I ain't sure, though his name's Don Bortelli," he said. "Take my Speedal Truck out back with them orders and I'll consider that drunk's tab mostly paid off. If Don gives ya a good evaluation, maybe I'll hire ya as my usual delivery boy."
    "Fine," I nodded. "I need some way to earn Tin anyway."

    "I'll give you some money to probably afford a hotel for a night," Jack shrugged. "But that's all I'll give until I know for certain that you're reliable, boy. I'm entrusting a damn stranger with my famous booze."

    "Fine," I stated before grabbing the keys to the Speedal Truck and heading out of the office. "Bernie, we're going for a ride." I then grabbed Bernie's short, fuzzy arm and carried him outside like that.

    "Hey!" Bernie groaned before I let him down once we were at the Speedal Truck. "You're bruisin' the merchandise, man. Well, what did ole bug boy say? It's got somethin' to do with this truck, don't it?"
    "It does," I said, climbing into the driver's seat. "I'm supposed to deliver this beer to some guy named Don Bortelli and your tab will mostly be paid off."

    "Don Bortelli?" he asked. "Wait a second here, there's no guy named that. Well, maybe there is, but the only Don Bortelli I know of is part of the Bortelli family down in Downtown."

    "Bortelli family?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

    "Some family that's good at business, I think," Bernie said, hopping into the passenger's seat now. "Let's go! I bet this baby can get us there in five minutes!"

    "Fifteen," I corrected. "I'm not breaking any laws on this job."

    Bernie rolled his eyes and pouted, crossing his arms. I then started the truck, heading into the direction of Downtown Tonoko.

    Once we arrived in Downtown Tonoko, it was a bit of a sight for sore eyes. I had only seen most of Tonoko, especially this portion, through my eyes as a Cryptic Soldier Initiate. Through my marches, the Downtown district was described as a cess pool of crime and debauchery. I still believe the "facts" given off by my instructor back then were still blinded by the Cryptic Guard's bias or fully falsified for him to believe. What I saw the moment I drove into the quiet streets of Downtown was the simplicity of quiet city life itself. There were a few men and women walking to some destination, while others seemed to hurry to a bus stop or to their apartment. I saw no crime in this area, at least the obvious kind. I looked at the address on the navigation system within the truck's guidance system, finding it rather easy to drive there. I parked the truck, hopping out and heading down a brick pathway up to a rather luxurious home. I then knocked on the door, looking around for a moment before it opened.

    "And you are?" A skinny Promus Alpha asked in a bit of a nasally voice. He wasn't much taller than me. He wore a striped suit, which was colored a light green, along with a darker green tie. His yellow beady eyes stared me down as if he assumed I was a dangerous threat. His gray fur seemed to stand a bit as he seemed like he did need to be always prepared for something.

    "I'm Lane Silverbane," I simply stated. "I'm a new delivery boy for Jack's Tavern. Sorry about the backed up order. It's all here in the truck, sir."

    "Jack's Tavern?" the Promus Alpha asked. "It's about goddamn time. Load it into the house, ya scrub worker."
    I noticed he reached for a gun in his jacket pocket, assuming I'd protest. I knew better than to do so as I just walked back to the truck and unhitched the back, then picking up two barrels at a time to load into the house. It only took about half an hour, but it was easy work to me.

    "Ah, this must be Jack's new delivery boy," a hefty voice echoed from the kitchen as I set down the last of the barrels. The voice belonged to a large Festo man in a purple suit, striped like the other man's. He seemed a bit older and had gray hair, slicked back into a smooth appearance with some rather thick hair gel. "The name's Bobby Bortelli, aka Don Bortelli."

    "Don Botelli?" I asked. "The name's Lane Silverbane, sir. If you don't mind me asking, what are you the Don of exactly?"

    "Ah, a curious boy," Don Bortelli chuckled in a low, but loud, voice. "It is perhaps a great compliment for you to admit being ignorant of the organization I run, boy. I'm the Don of the Bortelli family, obviously. The Bortelli family, however, is part of a larger framework known as the Crimson Gavel."

    "That name rings a bell," I stated simple. "The Crimson Gavel's a criminal organization, according to the Cryptic Guard."
    "The Cryptic Guard?" Don Bortelli asked. "You're not some sort of spy, are ya, boy?" He narrowed his eyes at me as he awaited my answer.

    "No, I'm not," I stated. "In fact, I perhaps am on their Most Wanted list already as I let two convicts go free as I knew some Cryptic Guards were planting evidence on them. So I'm more or less on the run, thus not in the Cryptic Guard."

    "On the run, eh?" Don Bortelli asked, stroking his chin gently. "Well, tell you what, boy. If you wish to keep the Cryptic Guard at bay, you can run some initiation errands that would possibly lead you into a low ranking membership of the Crimson Gavel, granting immunity to those dimwits and thus agreeing to use your services for all of the Crimson Gavel families."
    I hesitated for a moment, now realizing that I was offered to join the Crimson Gavel, which was basically the mafia in Mortion. It was one of three choices. Either stay on the run and risk becoming arrested, turning myself in and suffering possible execution or join the Crimson Gavel and earn the right to use Immunity if I was ever caught, but grave tasks may be attached to that "Get Out of Trouble" card. It certainly wasn't free. I continued to ponder this, gulping gently as I rubbed my neck a bit nervously.

    "Your offer is accepted, Don Bortelli," I said, almost completely reluctantly. "What would you have me do now?"

    "Oh, boy, you work a bit too fast," Don Bortelli chuckled. "Settle down and find a place to stay. We'll cover the costs of Room & Board. Since you've accepted my offer, meet me back here tomorrow at six in the mornin' and your road to Immunity can begin. Now, take this card with the payment for the beer, though I just deposited quite a bit extra for you to spend on some artillery. You're gonna need it in this business, boy. Get yourself a decent weapon. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a party to set up." He then left me in the den as one his lackeys escorted me out of the house.

    I sighed as I stood in front of the house, alone again. I had done something that I even swore to myself that I would never do. I had initiated the process of becoming one of the Crimson Gavel. I knew it would lead down some questionable paths, but I wasn't prepared at all for some of the jobs that lied ahead of me. I took a deep breath and placed the card in my pocket after electronically depositing the payment for the beer into Jack's account on the card. I kept the money left over, as it was meant for me to get ready for whatever task Don Bortelli had for me. I approached the truck slowly and then climbed into it, finding Bernie munching on a small bag of chips.

    "Where did you get those?" I asked, looking around the inside of the car, as I didn't remember having snacks in the car."

    "The Mega Food Store," Bernie said with his mouth full. "You were taking a little too long so I walked to the nearby store. So what happened in there? Am I still havin' to pay that tab?"

    "It's significantly less now that I delivered that booze," I said. "I'll have to ask Jack about another errand to fully get rid of it. As of right now, I have to come back here tomorrow if I want any help for my own issue."
    "Well, at least we're gettin' somewhere with somethin'," he stated. "Though now what?"

    "Well, I've got this Tin Card that'll probably get me a decent place for a short while," I said. "You're welcome to stay with if you need a place to stay, too, Bernie, but I'm going to require you to help me out any time I ask. Got it?"

    "Oh, wow," he blinked. "Offerin' me a place to stay in exchange for help? Ain't my usual style, but why the hell not? I'll do it, Laney boy. You helped me get my tab down. The least I could do is help ya out with research or somethin'. I know this city like the back of my paw." He held up his paw to emphasize it.

    "Good to know," I chuckled, turning the truck on and then revved the engine before heading toward the more bustling side of Downtown. I knew of some vacant apartments there that would be perfect for Bernie and I.

    The apartment I managed to rent for at least the month wasn't too bad. It was a small two bedroom apartment, pre-furnished with beds and a living room with television, cable, and a comfortable soda. Bernie already made himself at home as he sat on the couch watching early morning cartoons as I looked out the window in thought. I was dressed in the same outfit as the day before, as I had no options for better clothing. I scratched my head gently, ruffling my spiked hair a bit. I was contemplating how I was going to get out of this initiation into the Crimson Gavel. I didn't completely want it, but I wanted the Immunity. I wanted to be able to do things how I wanted, though I would occasionally have to obey one of the Dons of the Crimson Gavel, whom I researched through my Cryptic Communicator that they were referred to as the "Crimson Council" when it came to fighting a turf war or just against the Cryptic Guard. I then looked down at the screen of my Communicator, reading tidbits of information of the Crimson Council. A piece of the news on the Internet interested me as I looked. A Bodaren sighting.

    The Bodarens, the only race older than my own on the planet of Krater. I read about this race in some of the old Cryptic History Books, though I did also look online to avoid only being fed the "lies" about them the Cryptic Guard fed its initiates. They were a race that worshipped the all-powerful Time Lord, a dragoness named Magazor. The race considered themselves to be mortal vessels of her soul, transmitting the very fabric of time across the planet to keep life afloat. Wherever they went, flowers and trees seemed to flourish, water refilled even if it evaporated long ago. They were a peaceful tribe for quite a while. Then they became game for more powerful races, forced to defend themselves against more powerful races such as my race, the Acrolytes, or the Festo. No matter how hard the Bodaren tried, they could never fit in with the other species. They were shunned if they weren't imprisoned, possibly tortured and then eaten. Due to their inept socializing, they began to believe all of the other races in some way were trying to destroy the Time Lord Magazor through killing their kind. This lead to perhaps Krater's first war, The Great Rush. It wasn't a long war, perhaps only two years, but half of the Bodaren population on the planet was slaughtered by the blood and toil of the war. Dwindling in numbers, quite a few of them began to adapt, attempting to use tactics against their opponents and doing more tactical plans lead the Bodarens gaining their territories more quickly. Due to this, the faith of Magazor was question as the Bodaren moved away from the thousands of years of their natural defenses to needing to prepare for invasions and attacks, thus believing they were no longer immortal. This angered some Bodaren, while others remained loyal to Magazor. A good portion broke off, becoming an alternative Bodaren race, even starting a war with the Magazor Worshippers; this lead to the first Civil War, and second war in Krater's history.

    That was all I knew as I looked through the article. Bodarens, as to my knowledge past the supposed events of the Bodaren Civil War, were extinct. The professionals at the Mortion Science Institution thought so, at least. It sparked my interest and I made a mental note to check out the location of the sighting later, which was near the Tonoko Water Industries' Pump Station.

    "Ever wonder what life is like outside of them walls, buddy boy?" Bernie asked, interrupting my internal thought process.

    "I've found myself wondering sometimes," I stated. "I vaguely remember the time I was outside of the city. The security is rather tight and even the Cryptic Guard agents that get to see the outskirts or travel to Jaden are usually squished among one another in a vehicle transport, limiting their view. It's not like it matters, as most of them are brainwashed by the time they are able to patrol."

    "Brainwashed?" Bernie asked, seeming genuinely confused. "It sounds like the Cryptic Guard are definitely a problem, though what about that guy back there. Don Bortelli, right? Gonna get help from him?"

    "I'm not sure," I said. "I have to get on his good side first, but then he may be on board to help. As of right now, I'm nothing more than an errand boy to him. So don't get yourself into trouble. I don't have the power to bail you out."

    "I understand, Laney boy," Bernie nodded. "Ya got the Promus Promise! Now, are we gonna watch some TV and celebrate or are ya gonna sit there, all distant and stuff."

    "I guess I could use some chuckles from TV," I shrugged and sat down on the couch. "No betting on games, got it?"

    "Bah, you're no fun," Bernie pouted. "I guess I do have to watch out for that. I do owe some guy like 1,000 Tin."
    "What?" I blinked, looking over at him. "You owe more people money?"

    "Oh, right," he chuckled nervously. "I forgot to mention that. I'm kind of hidin' from him. They don't know this address, thankfully."
    "What if someone spots you coming here, Bernie?" I asked, a bit angrily.

    "Chill, Laney boy," he said. "They won't know I'm here. I don't plan to go out much. I mean, we got here and moved in and no one spotted me, right? Right."

    "You don't know that yet," I sighed and brought my palm to my face. "Well, if someone does see you, then you come to me and I'll deal with them. I expect my favors to be repaid, Bernie. Got it?"

    Bernie simply nodded as he continued to watch the television screen. I sighed yet again as I stood up, unable to enjoy the television program on due to now knowing Bernie had a gambling issue along with his debt to Jack. Quite frankly, I was surprised that there wasn't a connection between Bernie and the Crimson Gavel. I scratched my head and just stood up, heading into the bedroom. I laid down on the pre-furnished bed, closing my eyes. Like I did with my parents' demise, I wished for what I had done to be a dream. I wished that I would wake up and it would be the same drill as it was with every Cryptic Guard In Training within the Academy. I wished for Yuno to be my closest friend again. I wished for so many things as I drifted to sleep. However, wishing doesn't get you anywhere. At least, none of my wishes come true.