Sci-fi self-analysis.

My Nanowrimo was fun, even though I failed hard.

Here’s the reminder of the notes I had ready:

They get attacked by Pirate and Grey.  They lose ball, chase to arcade.

Toybox mows them both down them with her weapon.  It’s awesome.

Axis and spitter with third ball, 10 seconds countdown, massive brawl outside the arcade.

Toybox suppressing Pirate and Moonwalker.  System Seven beating down on Axis.  Parliament gets shot by Shooter.  Spitter walls himself with gloop, blasts Grey and Pirate.

Bluebird, Spitter and Shooter have the three packages.

Shooter’s team Wins.

***

More mystery drama. Shooter decides to hurt herself by accident to see the doctor again.

Same crazy Doctor talks to Shooter, Broken arm, weeks to heal.

Shooter asks her to come closer.  “I want to escape.”

There is a way.

+++

Plotting with doctor, Doc knows Axis, Bluebird and Shooter know.  They’ll need to know about the mind control.

They’ll need to get Spitter to know, and trick Toybox.

Doctor altered implant in secret, no more headaches.

Joanne understands everything.  The fix is easy.  Bluebird accepts it, and Axis gets one too.  Bluebird is actually Amanda.

=

Another match, but this time there are scouters.

Which record everything.

Match is in an abandoned factory, still has machines inside.

Mad Science.

Same attack, doesn’t work, Shooter is jumped and Axis only gets Immolator.

They mob Bluebird and Toybox, Spitter gets away barely.

More action, Cutter shows off the fact he’s a sociopath clearly.

Jackal turns out to be a bitch, no sympathy for her.

They give up on chasing Shooter and go for Bluebird.  Brutal takedown.

Loss.

=

Lunch.  Bluebird convinced Spitter.  Shooter takes Axis away for a moment.

They argue, but quietly.

Axis gives a kiss.  They plan to escape during a match.

=

Another round, this time against Ace Nights again.  Construction site.

Fight, Moonwalker is Susan.  Grey is Larry.

=

Sneaking into Susan’s room. Interrogation.  She breaks down.

“You sold us out. Don’t talk to me.”

=

Escape plan: Take Bluebird, Axis and Spitter.

=

Match against Abovers.  They all go in, then split.

They scatter, Drop the stuff that’s tagged and run for it.

They split up, Cutter and Jackal chasing Joanne.

=

In media res ends, the others come out.

She’s caught by cutter, time for torture session.

Three bodybags, she’s hanging off a ceiling.

“No, NO!”

Gives up, the body bags are Larry, and two other unknowns.

Susan’s wheeled in, and the doctor.

Susan breaks down completely.  She’s a total wreck.

“Wanna see how the nanites work?”

Lobotomy right there and then for Susan.

Doctor gets a new breathing hole.

Let Shooter down, toss her in a cell.  Susan’s there after an hour.

Susan is pretty much gone,  Acting on baseline instincts while being unable to actually move with proper reactions.

“You should have told us.  We’d have helped you, Susan.  Andrew would have saved you.”

Waiting for rescue.  It comes.

 

Anyway, the idea behind this was the mixmash of secret identities, having people fight with unique and dangerous items while not trying to kill each other and classic Sci-fi.

You know, the type that follows this formula:

New invention/Discovery -> Effects civilisation -> Story is about several different users of it.

I’m talking about the Biogloves, btw. I still had things I was working out, but trying this core concept taught me how to do it better.

Nanowrimo Chap 2

I woke up in a dark cramped space with my mouth gagged and myself bound.  Naturally, I was panicked due to my situation.  I was also sleepy, partly due to how I am and maybe because I was given something to keep me asleep.  Whatever the case, I’m waking up and I’m in trouble.

I could feel the metal on my wrists and the clinking of a chain.  Both of my hands were cuffed behind my back.  I tried to get a feel for them and sighed internally as these were the real deal and there was no safety release to be found.

My next step was to find out what I was in.  Was it the boot of a trunk or a crate or…

No. It wasn’t a coffin, I was bunched up.  It couldn’t be a crate either, It felt soft from the matting.  I was in the trunk of a car.

In the trunk of a moving car, I learned as the vehicle hit a pothole and bounced me roughly in the cramped space.  I suppressed a scream, trying to listen for something, anything.

The faint sounds of the car moving across the road.  It sounded like I was still on a road.  The car took a heavy turn on some direction, shifting me.  I took a moment to see if my legs were tied once the car settled down.

They weren’t.  I could try and kick at them when they opened the doo-

No. They’d retaliate and it would only enrage them.

I resigned to waiting and hoping that I and my friends weren’t killed or worse.  A hard thing to avoid thinking about when you are tied up in the boot of a car.

After untold hours the car stopped somewhere.  After a few moments of hearing doors open and close the trunk opened and I was pulled out by two complete strangers.  I took a quick glance and saw two other cars, Susan being lifted out of the boot of one of them.

The scenery showed me that we were at the edge of some woods with a small building in the middle of nowhere.  Making a break for it would prove to be futile, as the expanse of trees and the length of time I spent awake in the trunk told me.

Susan made a muffled scream in her gag and was shaken my the shoulders and told to shut up.  She did so.

I was first to go in the building.  It was damp, dark and had jury rigged electricity, but that was it.  I was dragged down the hallway, my captors uncaring that I stumbled as they just dragged me into a room and placed me in a chair.  A lamp was on the floor in the corner trying to light up the area poorly, pointing itself at a desk with two chairs and another lamp.

Somebody came in and from the faint blue-ish glow of their body in certain spots I could tell it was a courier because their armour was on.

They sat down in front of me and pulled the gag out with a swift and single tug.

“Hey,” said a female voice.  A her, I noted.  “What’s up?”

Not how I’d start an interrogation.  I didn’t know how to respond.

“We talked about it and we came to an agreement we won’t kill you,”  she said.  “Now, that might seem worse if you are the cynical type but I assure you we mostly just deal with playing our games.  It’s pretty rare that somebody snoops like you three did, and you did quite a number on Raven, Anarchist and Roman back there.”

Her helmet hid her features, and I couldn’t tell who it was.  Drillbit had her own distinctive helmet that didn’t hide her face, and Jackal sounded like a guy with her voice modulator off.  The only other name that came to me was…

“Redzone?”

“Bingo,”  she replied.

Redzone.  The leader of a minor team that got a lot of hate online, in the hidden deepwater websites that hosted and talked about couriers and the game itself.

Why have her handle me?

“What? Why you?”  I asked.

“Well, you’re just smallfry.  It’s easier to have someone your age talk to you anyway.”

“You’re my age?”  I asked, incredulous.

“Yup.  Now, here’s the big question; why where you there?”

Were we going to die or not?  She wasn’t acting like it.  Maybe she was lulling me into a false sense of security.

I mean, why kid nap us if they weren’t going to do something, like hold us for ransom or keep us and…

Ugh.  No.

I hoped that maybe they’d be lenient.  They wouldn’t hurt a fan, right?

“I…  I saw Hammerhead Jack and I wanted to see what was happening.  I heard there was a delay for the match but I didn’t realize it was happening there,” I said.

She shifted in her seat and I flinched.  “Don’t hurt me!  …Please?”

She laughed lightly in her mask and patted me on the shoulder.  It was oddly comforting.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,”  she said.  “I’ll see you later.”

She got up, turned and walked out of the room, and I wondered one thing.

What about Susan and Andrew?

That sparked me to stand up and shout.  “Hey, what about my friends?  Wait!  Will they be fine?”

Redzone slammed the door behind her.

Fuck.

Minutes passed.  The door swung open and Redzone was back. She pointed outside into the hall.

The command was clear.  “Out.”

I got off the chair and quickly walked to the door, but froze up when I realized that whatever I was walking to wasn’t necessarily good for me.

Redzone shoved me out the room and grabbed onto my arm, leading me down the hall.  I followed at her pace, which was evidently not mine as I stumbled once or twice before I reached where I was supposed to go.

I was strong armed into another room, with more tables and chairs and obviously haphazardly done electricity.

This room even had a generator in the corner.

I took a look around and found who I both hoped and didn’t hope to see; Susan and Andrew.

I hoped to see them because it meant they were alive.  I didn’t because I feared that we’d all be kil-

“Don’t worry, we won’t kill you,”  said a voice that I recognized as Red Raven.  He was leaning on a wall behind Andrew, his arms folded.  “That being said, we can’t really let you go.”

Andrew turned and gave him a look I guessed was probably made of pure hatred and responded to Raven.

“What the fuck gives you the right to kidnap and assau-”

Red Raven’s answer to his question was to grab Andrew by the head and slam it down on a table.

A very thorough answer as Andrew, Susan or I didn’t ask anything else because Andrew was busy holding his bleeding ear and both I and Susan were terrified.

“Fuck,”  I heard andrew mutter.

“Now that we have the pleasentries done and dusted, time to talk business.” said Red Raven.  He walked behind Susan and placed his arms on her soulders.

Redzone cut into the planned speech.  “Kidnapping you like this? Out mistake.  We went too far for something so silly.  If anything, I’d have just scared you and ran.”

“Actually we were going for that,”  cut in Raven.  “They just sort of made a wrong turn and go caught by Roman.”

What part of scaring is involves shooting a firework into our chests?

I didn’t say that, fearing an answer like Andrew got.

“So here’s the problem.  We can’t keep you, we shouldn’t have taken you, but we can’t let you go either.”

“You can,”  said Susan softly.  “I promise I won’t tell, I swear.”

“Sure, you promise,”  said Redzone, walking to the door.  “But your friend over there?  He looks too nice to do that.  Too much of a white hat.”

Raven smiled and continued the one-two speech.  “Not like it would help anyway, complaints about us get trashed pretty quickly.”

She opened the door and two more stepped in.  Roman and someone I didn’t recognize.  Roman was in costume, the other didn’t even have a Bioglove on.

He smiled and dropped off a five fingered Bioglove on the table next to me.  My Bioglove.

“How?”

“Easily.  There’s a reason there’s no arrests for playing courier.  You’ll find out soon enough.”

I still didn’t understand.

Roman walked over to Susan and grabbed her hand.  A faint click made her yelp and pull her hand away.

Roman was uncaring at her reaction.  “Calm down, christ.  It’s not going to kill you.”

He did the same for Andrew, then walked over to me.  I took a step back, looking directly at the tool he was holding in his hand.

“What is that?”

“Implanter,”  he replied.  “It puts chips in that give more to the Bioglove when it’s on and tracks you.”

“What?”

Redzone smiled.  “It’s much easier to keep an eye on you in the show, kids. Anyways, Congratz; you’ve al become Couriers.  See you in the game.”

What?

+++

We became couriers.  The idea was strange, and stupid, and odd.  Why?  Why do something like this, in this day and age?  It’s illegal!

They claimed or at least implied that they had people in the police network, hiding reports.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to believe.

Was this all a big conspiracy?  If it was, why?  Who would benefit?  I didn’t think that a bunch of teens who evidently couldn’t even handle being near each other without arguing (as Cutter and Hammerhead’s conversation told me) could invest the time and effort to set up some big, multi layered conspiracy.

I looked at my right hand again, the fifth time since I was thrown into this cell after Roman gave us the implants.  My palm looked like I’d taken a bad shot from a dirty needle.  Black crept from the centre of my palm to my wrist and wrapped around my fingers like tendrils of death, with a microchip-like device embedded in the middle, just under my skin.

I wanted to pick at it, but they said that the black stuff would kill me without the implant there to stop it.  Luckily they also said it would diffuse throughout my body, and the massive stain would disappear.

The implant was also there to aid with the modded Biogloves.  Not only did the Biogloves couriers use have a larger surface area than commercial Biogloves, but  The chip and black stuff actually added even more bio-electricity to the mix.

Basically, I’ve been turned into a giant battery.  I hoped it didn’t overload my normal Bioglove, which I was afraid of wearing for that very reason.  It sat on the table in my cell, I’ve not even tried to put it on.

I began to worry about home.  I was gone for at least two days.  My parents must be searching or maybe they are on the news, crying in front of a camera.

Did the search even get out?  Part of me hoped that Redzone was lying about the police thing.

The cell door opened.  Redzone.

“Time to get up,”  she said.

I got up off the bed  and walked out the cell.

“So we’ll be choosing your character,”  said Redzone.  “You know, the name and weapon and stuff.  Just simple things.”

“Isn’t it homemade?”  I asked, looking at her.

“Nope.  Some of it is made to look homemade to fool the watchers.  A lot of it is actually experimental tech.”

I didn’t get it.

“What?”

“What I’m saying is that we aren’t just playing some thuggish game.  We are actually field testing stuff for the military.”

“Then why do it like this?”  I asked.  “Why not have it in secret?”

“Cause it actually cuts down on actual crime if they have courier up and running.  With the exception of me, Raven, Hammerhead, the refs and maybe Axis, most of the players here are people from genuinely shitty backgrounds.  Courier is a form of escapism, one that is cheap and helping the government.”

“Then why is it illegal?”  I finally asked.

“It takes up criminal enterprise,”  said Redzone as we reached the end of the hallway. It lead to an elevator and Roman was in. He wasn’t wearing a mask and I could see his golden hair and blue eyes.  “Toybox, Roman.”

Roman smirked.  “Sure, B4.”  He pressed a button as I entered with Redzone, and we went down.

“Basically, it’s a fake type of criminal recreation that takes up actually dangerous criminal recreation.  It’s stopped drug problems in this state pretty well.”

“You can’t keep the secret forever, you know.”

“Eh,”  she shrugged.  “We have backup plans if that happens.”

The elevator stopped, leading to another hallway.

It wasn’t much of a hallway.  There was the elevator door at the end me, Roman and Redzone were in, and the door at the other end.

That was it.

The walk was gratingly slow, and the sheer brightness as the doors opened nearly blinded me for a moment.  I guessed the ramshackle upper half of the building was just a way to hide, considering how clean this room was.

There were a few items all over.  Hammers, swords, shields, guns of all shapes and sizes, Bioarmour, several things I was sure wouldn’t even work how they looked and at the very end a selection of Biogloves and a clothing store worth of helmets, boots, capes and whatever.

“We have a lot of experimental stuff mixed in with regular clothes and whatnot,”  explained Redzone as she lead me into the room.

I saw Andrew and Susan talking as they stood in front of a rack of guns, with Raven and another Courier I didn’t recognize watching.  There were a few other guards, I noticed.  These ones actually had military uniforms on, except for one guy at a firing range.

I pointed at him.  “Who’s that?”

“Sam Doyles, he’s part of R and D.  He made half of these prototypes on that rack there,”  Redzone said, pointing at where Susan and Andrew were.

I walked over to them and called out.

“Hey, Andy! Sue!”

Andrew and Susan turned to look at me, and Susan tackled me with a flying hug.

“Oh my god!”  she squealed as she crushed me.  “I missed you I thought we were going to die my arm looks like it’ll fall off I’m so gl-”

I stopped taking in her sheer happiness at seeing me alive and looked at Andrew.  His reaction was stoic.

That did not bode well.

“You know this is your fault,”  h said.  His ear was bandaged up, luckily.

Susan let go and stood beside him.

“Yeah,” I replied.  “I’m…”

“It doesn’t matter,”  he filled the pause.  “What’s done is done, you couldn’t know they’d do this.”

He held his hand up for emphasis.  It was black all over, but more faded than me.  I looked at my own right arm and saw the black was fading, too.  The diffusion was slow, but getting there.  Soon it would be complete.   We’d be theirs; the governments.

“Why would they do this to us?”  I muttered under my breath.

The silence lingered, not me nor Andrew nor Susan broke it.

The Scientist did, however.

“So how are my new guinea pigs?”

Sam Doyles clearly lacked social nuances, as his first words and professional look evidently revealed to us.  Why was he even here?

“I want to show you something.  Well, recommend something at least.”

He walked over to the shelf next to the gun rack we were all crowded around.

He picked up a tonfa that was very very long at one end, making it improbable to wield.  Way too long to wield consistently.

“Got to thank the bio-electric conversion technology,”  he muttered.  “Makes things really amazing.  Conveniences like phones and computers, free electricity up to a point… Revolutionary.  My parents would have killed for what you all get by wearing a glove.”

He held it and pointed the shorter end of the tonfa at the rest of the stuff on the rack and Redzone stepped in.

“Hey doc, don’t shoot your other stuff.”

“It’s fine,”  he said with a grin.  “It’s Dr. Harley’s stuff I’m shooting.”

His Bioglove lit for a moment and the tonfa snapped to it’s extended position.  Not only that, it shot out something, and the rack fell to bits along with the three other guns it had on it.

“He makes backups all the time, the filthy bastard.”

I could feel the guttural groan from Redzone as several presumably expensive pieces of technology fell to small bits from something.

Doyles pointed the long end at us, showing that it was hollow inside.

“Razor wire.  It fries the Bioarmour and is great for crowd control.  The delivery is for show, I wanted the ammo tested.”

He tossed it to me and I caught it with both my hands, not wanting to set off another round of its payload.

He walked to another rack, one with more complex tools and what looked like model planes.

“Here’s some drones.  They can carry stuff.  The part I want to test is the AI.”

He pointed at one of them.  “You can carry it like a backpack and deploy it in the field.  Imagine, a portable predator drone that works for us and can be deployed anywhere!”

Andrew gave a curious look at the weapon.

“I don’t like drones.  I’ve seen the documentaries about them,”  he complained.

Doyles gave Andrew a dirty look.  “Pah.”

I looked around and grabbed something simple, a handgun looking thing.

“This yours?”  I asked Doyles.

He gave a nod.

“Okay, I’ll take this.”

Redzone tapped me on the shoulder.

“You sure?”

“Yeah,”  I replied.

She gave a nod herself and made a few gestures into her glove.

“You should pick a glove, armour and costume,”  she said.  “Over here.”

I followed her to the arrangement of gloves and armours on racks and shelves.

“It’s like a store here.”

“Yeah, but it’s more like an Inventory,”  she said, happy to explain her place of work.  “We have a firing range and even other testing machines.”

“Then why not use just those things?”

“I explained some of the reasons Joanne, I don’t want to explain every little nuance about this whole operation, not right now.”

I picked the White lined and dark green fabric Bioglove.  It extended past my elbow from what I saw of it and had a sticker with a series of numbers along the side.

“Yeah, that one should give a lot of juice,”  I justified to myself.

I saw a few left handed gloves out there on the shelves, too.  At least the government isn’t being discriminatory to southpaws by accident, I noted.

“Don’t put it on,”  Redzone warned.  “You’ll just burn your arm off, the diffusion isn’t ready.”

I looked at my hand again.  They grey was fading from it, albeit slowly.  At least it didn’t look frostbitten any more.  It looked like I’d gotten it covered in liquorice, instead.

I held the glove in my other hand, just to be safe.

“Okay,”  I said.  “Armour, then getup, right?”

“Right,”  said Redzone.  “Name too, maybe.”

“Will I be on a team with Andrew and Susan or will we be separate?”  I asked as I picked up a bit of full body clothing that had green lines all over it.

“You and Andrew will be together, Susan will be on a different team.”

“Who is the guy with My friends and Raven?  Will he be on the team with me and Andrew or Susan?”

“You’ll find out soon enough,”  Redzone said.

I put it back for a more generously defensive looking Bioarmour with blue lines across it.  I also felt uncomfortable having such a casual conversation while she effectively babysat me, but these things happen and I can’t help it.

“I didn’t test the pistol,”  I noted to myself and Redzone.  “What does it do?”

Redzone gestured a few times then aimed it at the ground.

“Special anti-friendly-fire gun,”  she said.  “Doesn’t shoot people it shouldn’t, even if you walk in front of them with the trigger down.”

“That sounds dumb, what about trigger safety?”

“I’d trust myself to have this thing pointed at my mother.  To get a misfire from this gun would require a serious stroke of luck.”

“Right,”  I said, holstering it in one of my pockets.

Last thing on the list was the more aesthetic equipment.  An arrangement of all forms of clothing, from tophats, goggles and collars to high heels, scarves and shoulder pads.  All of them had tags, like in a store.

“Wow, it’s like the storage room of a drama club.”

A tapping on my shoulder made me turn around and see Susan and Andrew.

Susan finally chose something.  Those somethings in question were large boots.  Andrew still held the tonfa that Doyles gave him earlier.

Raven and the unnamed courier were chatting idly behind them, something about a gym card not working.

I looked back and saw Adrew holding two gloves in his left hand.  A blue and a green one.

“No Bioarmour?”  I asked.

“I’m taking it last,”  he said.  “About earlier…”

“It’s fine,”  I said.  “I understand.”

“Yeah, Susan chewed me out for being an ass.  I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”

“Okay,”  I said.  Andrew was… solemn.

I decided to break the silence as Susan picked out a nice neon pink and blue helmet.  “Did Raven tell you about how we’ll be split up? Redzone told me.”

Susan looked up at me.  “We’ll be split up?”

“Apparently you might be in a team with that dude,”  I said, pointing at the unnamed courier.  “Or me and Andrew will.  She didn’t say.”

Redzone butted in.  “And I won’t.”

Susan looked sad for a moment, then smiled.  “Figures they’d do that.  Fuck the government.”

Redzone gave a look.

“Ain’t treason,”  Susan noted.

Susan picked out some more flashy pink clothes, leaving no space for boots due to what she chose.  Her clothing was surprisingly baggy and her helmet had a pretty wide screen that was blacked out.

“I’m done, not much of a shopper and fuck capes.”

She left to get her Bioarmour with the unnamed courier following her leaving me, Andrew, Redzone and Raven behind.

“So Raven, why are you and Red in costume?”  I asked.

“Why not? It’s practically our work clothes,” he replied, gesturing to his body while posing in an attempt to highlight his costume.

I picked out some Blue trousers and a heavy looking jacket. Looking about, I skipped the helmets and eventually picked up a gas mask that covered the lower half of my face.

I put it on, not wanting to carry it along with the Bioarmour, the Bioglove, the jacket and the trousers.  Thank god I had pockets for the gun to be put in.

Andrew was still selecting his costume when I turned to Redzone.

“Done, what now?”  I asked.

“Take it over there,”  she said while pointing at a desk with an army grunt behind it and a computer on it.

As I walked to the desk I spotted Doyles.  He was heading into a door at the side of the room next to the racks of guns and the stuff from a rival researcher he nonchalantly destroyed.  It was marked with his name so I figured that was where he worked in private.

I wondered if there were more labs connected to this storage room.

I placed the stuff on the desk and Redzone started talking to the guy.

“This is what she wanted, Richard.”

The man behind the laptop, Richard looked at the tags on the equipment and typed them in.

“Name?”  he prompted.

“What?”

“Pick a name.  Like Redzone or Dolly or whatever,”  Richard explained.

“I’ll go for Blue.”

Richard typed it in and a short buzz sounded out from the computer.  “Taken,”  he commented.

I didn’t have anything good to call myself, and honestly I didn’t want to call myself anything either.

“If I let you choose, you won’t give me a stupid name, right?”  I asked Richard, with a teensy bit of hope in my tone.

“Stupid Answer is taken too,”  he replied without looking up.

Redzone chuckled and tried to turn it into a cough far too late to be anything but obvious.

“Fine,”  I threw my hands up.  “Shooter or whatever.”

“Shooter…”  Richard paused.  He beconed me to lean in.

I leaned in.  “Yes?”

“…Is not taken!”

Redzone nearly burst out laughing.  I guess it’s hard to be professional in this environment, but still…  I groaned internally at the situation.

“Okay, good.  What now?”

“Well, You can stay here till your nanites diffuse properly, then either you can try your stuff on and test it or go home.”

Home.  That prompted many questions.  My parents should be worried.  Our parents should be worried.

“Okay,”  I said after a sigh.  “How on earth are you going to sell this to my mom and dad?  Mom’s a hardass and my dad would never be able to keep his trap shut.”

“We already have a cover story,”  she replied.

“Yeah, what about this?”  I threw up the arm with the implant.  It was almost fully faded.

“It’ll become invisible, almost hard to notice after three hours,”  Redzone said.  She took off her bioglove and her armour stopped glowing.  She showed me her hand by almost shoving it into my face.  “See?”

The implant was all but gone, and unlike my right hand hers was normal.  It didn’t look like my arm did a few hours ago when Roman injected the stuff into us.

“Wait? Nanites?”

“Well what did you think it was in you?”  laughed Redzone.  “Charcoal dust? Tattoo Ink?”

I didn’t like this conversation.

***

A few hours later and I finally got a chance to change into my outfit.  Somehow for the strangest reason I haven’t really crashed from the high of meeting the people I used to watch online and being kidnapped by them, but the feeling of sheer oddness was simply excruciating.  I didn’t believe that any sane group of people would create such a stupid conspiracy.

Yet, I didn’t really react.  I asked questions yet I felt content with such ham-fisted answers.

Simple wrongness plagued me, but some form of apathy didn’t make me look into what was the twisted parts of this situation that I feared.

I sat alongside Andrew, Susan and about seventeen others in different rows.  The others around me were all different, some with weapons on, some without.  Just like me and my friends were dressed up.  A grunt in a uniform was taking a register on a podium.  I did a quick glance behind me and saw several teams worth of couriers behind me.  Redzone, Cutter, Jackal, Hammerhead Jack, Red Raven… tons of em.

It felt like I was at church, but everyone decided to dress up as power rangers or the justice league instead of attend in church suits.

“Ann Walters,”  he said into a microphone.

A girl in front called out.  “Here,”  she said.  The man ticked off a clipboard and she sat down.

“Joanne White,”  he called out.  My name.

I stood up.  “Here.”

I sat down as he ticked my name off, turning to look at my friends.  Andrew was silent, I think he might have been irritated by the look in his uncovered eye.  I reminded myself to make fun of him for choosing such a stupid disguise.

I leaned in to say something and he grabbed my arm, and then hushed me as the man at the podium continued to speak.

“Listen,”  he whispered.

I tried to focus on the guy I was only half heartedly hearing moments before.  “-e referring to you by the alternate names you have chosen.  You’ll be separated into four groups of five and we’ll have two preliminary matches to select the final candidates.”

I reacted at that.

“…Final candidates?”  someone asked.

There was a few murmurs in the crowd.  Disagreement.

One of the couriers stepped out to explain.

“It’s cause we do this stuff in seasons, to make it feel natural.  Winners go first.”

That was reasonable, it’s not like there is four full teams ready to just go out and play, that would be unrealistic.  I also knew the teams were already set up.

“Axis, Bluebird, Shooter, Spitter and Toybox will be team one.  Anvil, Beatdown, Huggy, Lifter and Red Berry will be team two.  Grey, Pirate, Moonwalker, Parliment and System Seven will be team three and Deadbeat, Edison, Foamer, Maximum and Orange Agent will be in the last team.  Team four.”

I looked at Andrew.  “Shooter, you?”

He turned to me.  “Axis.  Lame, isn’t it?”

I smiled.  “I’m going to look for Susan after this and see if she’s the idiot who chose Moonwalker or Huggy.”

Everyone eventually teamed up, and me and Andrew got to look at our two teammates and the government agent leading our team to prevent us getting too violent.  I wondered who the government agent for team Mad Science was?  Cutter and Jackal seemed to be far too violent and took control of the situation far too much.

Our team had the most women.  Andrew or Axis as he was going by was one of the two guys in our group.  Spitter was the second.

Spitter had some special helmet on that connected to a supply of seven small canisters from the back.  It lit up to protect his face and there was an arrangement of nozzles facing outwards to the front. He wore winter clothing and his face was hard to see behind his helmet.

Bluebird, in her blue coloured glowing glory was wearing what reminded me of a jetpack on her back, but with wings.  I had to ask and grabbed her sleeve for attention.

“That’s a jetpack, right?”

“Yeah, I saw it and took the thing before some crazy scientist guy broke it.  Cool huh?”

“It is?”  Spitter asked as he butt in.  “Nice.  All I have is this chemical spraying thing.”

“We’ll get to see in the match,”  said the second girl in the team apart from me, Toybox.  She was carrying two briefcases on her, her purple Bioarmour glowing.  “I’ll show mine in the match, too.”

I hesitated.  “Shouldn’t we reveal exactly what we can do now, or at least say it?”

Spitter looked at me.  “What can you do, Shooter?”

That put me on the spot.  “My gun won’t fire if the bullet will hit you… I think I can fire away without a care.”

Toybox rolled her eyes behind the female form business suit that covered her Bioarmour.

“-o the teams will be team one verses team two, Team three verses team four.  We’ll do it in training rooms we set up. Floor  B15 for One and Two, B20 for Three and Four,”  finished the man speaking as we chatted away.

A referee showed up.  He had a single briefcase instead of two.  Only the packages.

“Come on,”  he said.  “One and Two.”

We followed him to the elevator, and stood around in opposite corners, the ref separating us.  We faced each other, for some strange reason.

Floor B10 was a really large open room, similar to the storage room me and Axis had gotten our tools.  The main difference was the lack of weapons and several destroyed cars laying about, with three buildings assembled from welding trailers and caravans together.  A half-assed attempt at making some scenery to hide in.

My gun glowed a little as I squeezed it in my hand while everyone got in place.

I could feel the tension in the air as I looked at the intense stares of the other team.  I could also see what the other team was using.  Beatdown’s gloves were both too large and metal to be fashion.  He would be a melee courier, probably someone who would pound anyone going for a package.  Huggy was much the same, but he wielded large powerful hydraulics along his arms, supporting a metal frame around him.  I wished I could have chosen that, he looked safe as all hell in it.

I spent too long being jealous of Huggy’s armour to notice the fact that everyone was ready to move.  The Packages were flying off and the referee was moving away.

Axis and me shot at the other team as soon as the ref counted down to one and said go, but Lifter did something with his glove and my aim went off into the air.  I only shot Beatdown in the leg once and missed twice.  The wires from Axis still hit Anvil and her Bioarmour indicated the hit.

Huggy and Beatdown charged as soon as they realized it was safe to do so, or they thought so.  Spitter’s helmet shot out a ball of foam foam that exploded in a massive ball of smoke as it hit the ground and made a foul stench.  My eyes watered as I ran away from the fight and found a car, which I hid behind.

Bluebird was flying away and Anvil was chasing her, a hammer in his hands. I aimed at them and fired rapidly, hitting Anvil in the back twice.  He fell down and Bluebird left.

“Damn, too intense.”

I looked around and saw that there were observation decks.  Occupied ones.  Who w-

Lifter found me and tossed my leg into the air, knocking me off balance.  I couldn’t see him but he got me.

“Damn, she hasn’t got a package,”  I heard somebody mumble.  I was dropped to the ground and Lifter ran off outside my view.

I dropped my gun.  I needed it if I was to stop them from getting one of the three packages.  I scrambled around when Axis showed up, holding a package.

“And- Axis!”  I called out.  Stupid.  Why would I call him Andrew?

“Shooter, what is it?”  he asked as he ran over.

“See my gun?” I asked.

He pointed under a car.  “There.”

I got up to get it when Anvil hit me with the hammer and sent me flying into a car.  I dented it and my Bioarmour felt too much strain.  A warning klaxon shot out as it died on me.

The ref came running over.  “Shooter down! 30 second out.”

I sighed as Anvil stopped his downward swing and struck Axis instead, sending him across the open space into one of the ramshackle buildings.  I could have died from it if he hit me again.

I could see a few sounds of metal tearing and whatnot as I got up slowly.  Soon, my suit booted back to life, taking some of it’s energy from the nanites in me.

“I’m clear,”  I said proudly.

The ref smiled.  “Go.”

I picked up my gun from under the car ran for the center field between the three buildings.  Bluebird, Axis and Spitter were there.

Bluebird had a package and Axis lost his.

“Where’s Toybox?”  I yelled as I waved my gun.

“She’s busy ganking!”  yelled Axis in response.

I wanted to scream at him.

It’s Two/One.  I wanted to scream at Axis  as I got there.

“What now?”  asked Spitter.

“We curse our lack of huds and attack them head on?” I joked.

Spitter gave a smirk.  “Okay, we have range, they don’t.”

“Yeah but Lifter,”  voiced Bluebird.  “He’s annoying as hell and keeps messing up my jetpack.”

I nodded in agreement.  “Lifter, then Anvil.  Spitter, what else can you do?”

“Sticky gloop, Burning gloop, gas versions of the smog and burning stuff… almost anything,”  he explained, pointing at his nozzles.  “I’m low on the stuff that makes gass though.  And sticky stuff.”

A roaring sound filled the giant room.  “Toybox down, 30 seconds.”

Damn it.

“Where are they?” I asked.  “I’ll attack from one side, everyone jump in while Lifter goes for me.”

“behind a building, the small one there,”  said Bluebird, pointing at the shortest building.  It only had one floor.

Okay.  I could do this.

I ran for it and went inside as everyone followed, hiding behind cars.

The interior looked like a normal home would, but it was all off since something (I assume Hugger or Anvil) hit it.  Hard.

The table was knocked over, a drawer was open and pictures were on the floor.

I crept to the window and saw Lifter talking to Red Berry, who held a Package.  I took aim and fired.

“Lifter Down! 30 Seconds!”

Everyone charged in, including Toybox.  We got the second package, pulling it from Red Berry’s hands.

Anvil charged in and struck Axis with a swift strike of his mallet, but Toybox got him with her weapon.

A sniper rifle.  His Bioarmour couldn’t take the strain at all, and shorted out.

Spitter walked over and picked up his package, then looked in my direction and gave a thumbs up.  We won.

“Team One Package Secure.  All three held.”

I took a long breath and smiled as Axis walked into the small building I was in.  He found a knocked over chair and picked it up.

“Nice going, Shooter,”  he said.

“Don’t…”  I paused, forgetting what I was about to say.

“Yeah?”

“Never mind, Axis.  We’ve won.”

Why do I feel so tense?

Chapter 1

“We’re coming to get you!”  echoed the voice of the pair of men behind me as I ran.  My shoes were caked in dirt, my clothes were torn and bloody.  I’d lost the lace of one of my trainers, making me run in a sort of limp.

“I’ll catch you, you thief!”

I shivered at the thought.  Cutter was unhinged on a good day, and today wasn’t good for him.  He had an excuse to use me as an outlet, and I knew that if I let him catch me, I’d be in for a very bad day myself.

I ducked into one of the abandoned buildings in the street, careful not to kick stones or shift rubble.  I didn’t want to make a noise and I knew they couldn’t see me.  They’d have to use their Biogloves.

I clenched my right arm, turning my own Bioglove on as I began to sneak through the building.  I made the gesture for a torch and the fabric lit up at my fingertips, allowing me to see in the darker areas.

The ruins of the old city were vast, and easy to get lost in.  Even worse, I had little chance of escaping Cutter and Jackal on my own.

I could hear Jackal scream out in the distance.  “Where are you?”

I smirked at that.  Did he think I would just let him find me? 

I saw a broken mirror hanging on a wall, next to an arrangement of ruined, dirty seats.   I moved my right hand around, the light illuminating the room a little.  I left the room for a door and progressed down a hallway, making sure to give a quick look into every room for something to use.

I finally caught glimpse of a closet.  I opened it, and stifled a shriek as moths, flies and dust blasted me along with the remains of several coats.

I kicked it to the side with my good shoe and gave a quick look.  They were in better condition than the jeans and shirt I had on, but dusty.

“Could use a change of clothes,” I murmured to myself as I touched my left sleeve.  The shirt was originally white, but it was so encrusted with old blood and dirt that it looked more like a deep shade of brown now.

I felt a thud to the back of my head, forcing my into the closet.  I quickly turned around, and saw Cutter standing there, his tool in his hand.

“Got you, sweet cheeks,”  he said.  Everything went fuzzy as the glow from his Bioglove lit up his dagger, and he stabbed me again in the stomach.

Cutter smiled behind his helmet as he picked me up by the ankles after flicking my blood away and sheathing his knife.  As he began the task of dragging me out the house,  I started to think about how I got here as my vision slowly became darker and darker.

***

 

Three Months Prior:  New Frontier City.

“Joanne, time to wake up!”

I groaned at the voice of my mother, then seethed at the sight of my broken alarm clock in the corner of my room.  I must have thrown it in rage instead of hitting the snooze button.

Before I could get up (or considering a more likely scenario of me not perceiving a long passage of time where I was still half asleep in bed) my mother barged in, vacuum cleaner at the ready.

“Oh god,”  I muttered as she turned it on, blasting my room with noise.

Her plan worked, and I jumped to my feet from the bed, covering my ears.

“I get it! I get it!”  I said, almost laughing.  “I’m up already!”

My mother was a good estimate of what I’d look like in a few years.  She had the same straight black hair as I, but hers was cut short, resting above her shoulders. Both our lips, our almost perfect teeth, our noses and our legs were the same, with the only thing from my father’s side being the colour of my eyes and my ears.

“What do you mean, dear?”  asked my mother jokingly.  “I’m just cleaning your room!”

“I need to get dressed first,”  I replied as I got up and gestured to the door.  “Can I have a moment?”

She took ages turn the vacuum cleaner off and leave my bedroom.  I was tempted to slam the door but I didn’t.  Instead, I quickly turned to the dresser in my room and pulled it open, selecting a pair of blue jeans and a white T-shirt to wear.

I rushed into the shower and changed into my clothes preferring personal hygiene over tardiness.  Reaching for my bag, I paused and took a deep look at my right arm.

I forgot my Bioglove.  Great.

“Mom?”  I asked, walking back upstairs into my room.

“Yes dear?”  she asked from her own bedroom.  She was making the bed.

“Two things; what’s the time and did you see my Bioglove about?”

“It’s late and I don’t know,”  replied my mother.  “did you bring it home?”

I smirked at the question.  Of course I did, the front door wouldn’t open without my Bioglove.  I raided all the obvious places for it once I entered my room.  On the dresser, under the bed, in between the sheets… nowhere.

Then I heard a crack as I stepped back, and looked at the clothes I wore to bed with a horrified look on my face.

“Oh god no,”  I muttered, stepping off the pile of clothes and moving them away.

My fears were confirmed as I picked up my Bioglove; I damaged it, badly.

I made a deep sigh of annoyance as I lifted my Bioglove and fitted it onto my right hand, only to see half the lights activate.  My index finger and thumb worked perfectly, but only the knuckle light for my middle finger worked, and my ring and pinky had no lights at all.  The back of my hand and my wrist lights were okay as the black piece of clothing lit up in lines reminiscent of Tron’s aesthetics.

I turned my hand over to look at my palm and saw the crack in the device.  I could see my bare palm, and the lines to my pinky, ring finger and my middle finger were blank, due to the damage.

Damn, I thought to myself.  The Repairshop in the middle of town is too busy and expensive.

I resigned myself to a crippled Bioglove as I set out for highschool, hoping it wouldn’t impede me all day and that my teachers would understand.

As I closed the front door, I heard my mom one last time.  “Don’t forget, your dad’s coming to visit!”

I smiled at the thought.  They were broken up, but the breakup wasn’t messy, and they both tried their best.  Mom wasn’t married, she’d taken a job as a janitor at the local shopping mall.  Dad was remarried, I had a brother in law three years younger than me.

Me?  I was Sixteen.  I didn’t enjoy the privilege of a “Sweet Sixteen” birthday like some of my peers, but I enjoyed a smaller party with the few friends I did have.  Friends who were surprisingly as late as I was.  Susan and Andrew.

Susan was dressed more feminine than me, yet at the same time more relaxed.  Her midriff showed, but she wore a combo of a dark red tube top and small leather jacket well.  Her denim shorts reached just below her knees and were a loose fit, unwilling to cling to her.  Apart from her clothing, the most noticeable thing about her was her hair.  She had her black hair cut short except a small thin segment on the left side of her fringe which she both kept longer than the rest of her hair and dyed red.  Susan’s Bioglove matched her red and black theme, like her hair and top.  Her black running shoes also had red streaks along the side.

Andrew, on the other hand was dressed in a blue background on yellow and white flower Hawaiian shirt.  He wore dark green shorts and sandals, giving a more lazy look than I did, which was impressive.  His blonde hair still had remnants of bed head which contrasted his personality of being cautious and anxious most of the time.

They were both walking towards my house as it was closer to the high school and they were conveniently further away in the same general direction.  Susan was furthest, and Andrew had pressured her to drive a car for safety reasons, but she doesn’t think she can afford it.

Andrew saw through my stepford smile as he approached.

“What’s got you down?”  he asked as I joined the pair.

I held out my right arm and we all stopped to take a look.

“Wow,”  said Susan, looking at my Bioglove.  “You wrecked it, didn’t you?”

I shrugged.  “Stepped on it by accident,”  I explained.  “It was under my nightgown.”

Andrew, the only boy in our small group, chuckled as I showed off the crack in my Bioglove.

“The repair shop in the town centre will charge that right arm anyway Jo.  You’ve picked a bad time to break a Bioglove.”

I knew that.  The Bioglove was a handy device.  A tool as common as the Mobile Phone was in the nineties and new millennium, and the Tablet was in the new tens and twenties.  A device for the new fourties onward, created in 2038 and marketed in 2041.  Since then it took the world my storm with its countless utilities and apps.  A Tablet couldn’t be a key or a drivers license or a battery like a Bioglove.  A Tablet needed power in the first place.

Susan grabbed my right arm gently and ran her finger along the crack.

“Looks like it isn’t redistributing the bio-electricity,”  she said.  “I know a guy who can fix that, he’s got a shop in Wess-”

“We ain’t going to Wessenwald,”  interrupted Andrew, channelling his parents.  “My parents would kill me then you.  In that order.”

Susan scoffed at the thought as she let go of my right arm.

“Joe’s isn’t in Wessenwald, Andy.  It’s just outside of the old city.”

The old city was a ruin, the remains of a failed expansion to New Frontier.  Most of the buildings there are derelict, and it’s a hotspot for homeless squatters and vagrants.

“Old city is worse.  At least the thugs in Wessenwald are clean.”

“I’ll prove it to you. We’ll go there and if we are too far near Wessenwald or the old city, we’ll go back.”

Andrew didn’t say anything, he only gave a curious upturn of his eyebrow as a reaction.

“I promise,”  Susan continued.

After a pause, Andrew gave in.  “Okay, fine.”

We got back to walking to school.

“So why’d you take it off anyway?”  asked Susan.  “Was it because of that Courier thing you watch?”

“No, they delayed the match till later on today,” I replied.

“Good,”  cut in Andrew.  “That stuff is illegal as hell.”

“Come on Andrew, it’s not that bad!”

He put a hand up to my face.  “You’ve seen the so called accidents. There is a reason why it’s banned.”

Deep down, I knew he was right.  Courier was banned, and for good reason.  It’s a game that combines the crimes of consensual assault, Bioglove cracking and trespassing at the very least.  In fact, the only way to watch it is on private networks online as it’s streamed after a delay.

“It’s not like I’ll ever get involved anyway, so don’t complain,”  was all I could say.

Andrew dropped the subject along with me and started talking about a different one; homework.

“So you didn’t do maths?”  he asked Susan.

“I never do maths,”  she replied.  “It’s not like I’ll fail for that.”

“Sure, but you aren’t keeping yourself in top shape,”  he replied.  “Exams are soon, and you admit it isn’t your strong point.”

“I know the basics well enough, I know I don’t need to use algebra where I’ll be working.”

I cut in.  “Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn it however,”

Andrew nodded at me in approval.

“It’s due anyway,”  Susan protested.  “Don’t get on my back!  Besides, you probably have nothing done too.”

“You’ll still be chewed out,”  I said.  “You don’t want Danny to see you being treated like a little kid now!”

Susan blushed and punched my shoulder.  “Shut up, Jo.”

“What?  It’s true.”

Susan stopped talking and began to look a little embarrassed over my teasing.  I’d have felt bad, but myself and Andrew had been teasing her with this ever since we caught her gawking at Daniel in the cafeteria at lunch once.

We eventually reached the high school and I sat down next to Susan for maths.  As Andrew and I predicted, she was scolded for her lack of homework.  She’d only given maths homework back three times, mostly because it doesn’t affect grades.

I’d wondered what she was doing in place of her maths homework.  She never did homework for any of her classes, but I only had her for maths so I only commented on it. Andrew never had a single class with her either, so we only had our word to go on with her other studies.  We both assumed it was like the only example I’d witnessed, and speculated that she never did any of her homework unless it was a special occasion.

The final question was what was she doing in her free time?  She never told us.

I had my own problems, with my broken Bioglove.  Some of the functions (mainly writing) required the use of all fingers, and I broke three.  This was highly inconvenient as it meant I couldn’t take notes properly.

I’d have to do my notes by hand, wait to get my Bioglove repaired at Joe’s (If Andrew doesn’t chicken out) or the central mall, then redo them all again with the Bioglove.

Or, I could take a picture of my writing and hope the text reader didn’t mess up too badly.  It didn’t do poorly with my writing, so I assumed that it would work well.  I guess I could try the picture thing, and if editing the notes became too much of a hassle I’d just copy it out.

By the end of the day we’d all agreed on going to Joe’s repair shop.  I was curious on how she knew of such a place, I needed my Bioglove repaired and Andrew was concerned about Susan, as he’d confessed at lunch when Susan dipped into the toilet to leave me and Andrew alone.

We walked, and after a few minutes reached an area mostly devoid of buildings.  There was a flat expanse of dirt that had large pipes, piles of gravel and diggers.  A construction site, I thought.  Andrew had no complaints as we reached Joe’s repair shop.  It was a small thing next to two other stores. a convenience store and a book store.

“Odd combo of shops,” I said to Susan as we walked up to ‘Fat Joe’s’.  I noticed there were many small lights around the signpost, and one or two were missing.

“Hey there Joe,”  Susan said aloud as she barged in, bells up above clinking.  “Brought some friends from school here, one needs a repair cause she stood on her glove.”

Joe was behind the counter.  He was unkempt in a was that reminded you of a fat alcoholic and not a repairman.  The store had Bioglove models nailed to the wall for security reasons.  Almost all f them were unremarkable, except for one which caught my eye.  I saw that before, several people wearing the make or what should have been the make.

“Hey lady,”  said Joe, his voice as gruff and awful as I imagined it.  He looked about 30 years old, or older.  His shirt wasn’t dirty, at least not when I took a second glance.  “You gonna bring it over?”

I walked up to the counter, removing my Bioglove.  I put it on the counter as Susan looked at the model I was staring at earlier.

“You got a three finger in, Joe?”

“Yeah,”  he said, picking up and inspecting my glove.  he saw the problem, the issue was repairing it without the end result looking like a shoddy mess.  “Had a customer come in here looking for one.  I went and got them bulk instead, just because.”

Andrew was the next person to ask a question.  “Why’d you make a store out here, you are nearby the old city,”  he said with the grace of a newborn lamb.

Joe looked up at him, a curious look in his eye.  “It’s an investment.  There’ll be new houses here, and with that comes customers.”

“I’ve seen the construction out there, it’s not going to be finished this year.  Even if it is, not everyone will move in.  You’re lying.”

“That isn’t the only new house kid.  Restorations are actually happening in the old city and I still get customers from Wessenwald,”  replied Joe.  He got up for the back of his store then turned to me.  “I’m going to be able to do a patch up, but it’ll be about fifty. You ok with that?”

I nodded.  “Sure.”

Andrew slammed the door of the store as he left, surprising me.  I didn’t even hear him till he banged it.  Susan was too busy prodding the three finger model on the shelf to react, leaving me to leave the store and follow Andrew.

I caught him smoking out y the side.  I thought he kicked the habit.  He took a draw and leaned against the wall.  I decided to do the same, but upwind so the smoke didn’t breeze into my face.  He looked at me.

“Christ, for a guy that’s doing his best to keep me and Sue safe you really are a sinner, aren’t you?”  I asked him with a grin.

Andrew have a small laugh and took another drag.  “Do as I say, not as I do.”

I smiled at that.  I was also glad Susan was busy in love with Daniel.  She was missing the prize right next to her.  Not that Susan and Andrew be able to handle each other if they tried dating.  Susan was an incredibly troublesome girl to deal with and Andrew was an overprotective hypocrite.

Not that those were flaws, mind you.  I’d have loved to have Andrew wrap his arms around me, sealing me off from the big, bad world.

Andrew interrupted me from my own fantasies.  “Shouldn’t you get inside to see how he’s doing?”

I got off the wall and walked back in, only to bump into Susan at the door.

“He’s taken it into the workshop, he’ll be about 15 minutes he says,”  she said.

The question was on my mind, so I asked her.  “How’d you know Joe?”

“Oh?  He’s a friend of a friend.”

“You never show us your other friends,”  I said.

“A girl has to keep her secrets,”  she replied with a smile all too smug.

We all knew her other friends were less reputable, at the very least.  She only came to our current high school when she moved, and she admitted that she was nearly expelled before her parents left for New Frontier.  Maybe that ties in with her homework issues?

I entered the store and sat down on a chair near the counter, listening to the sounds of Joe using tools on my Bioglove in an attempt to repair it.  I checked my wallet and saw that I had about eighty on me, so I was in the clear to buy the repairs.

The three finger model that Susan and I looked at was stealing my attention again.

I got up and looked at it, trying to get a feel for how it should work.  It only covered the Ring, Index and thumb, which was odd.  Didn’t it need the pinky and middle fingers for some functions, or did it have an alternate method of running it’s functions.

I looked more closely at the ring finger and saw a strip running along both sides of it, clearly a different texture.  The lines were different too, exactly like the ones everyone who plays courier uses.

“They wear this,”  I said to myself quietly.

The dark green material with golden lines was a different colour scheme to what I was used to wearing and seeing, but I liked the look of it.  I wondered what company made this?

Andrew came in, interrupting my thoughts.  “Where’s Susan?”

“I don’t know, she left a few minutes ago,”  I replied.

“Didn’t see or hear her.”

“Maybe she went to the store? I’ll go look,”  I said, walking out the store.

I turned to the convenience store and gave a sigh.  Andrew was too tense here.  I turned back to say something, and I saw someone I never thought I’d ever meet in real life.

I saw a courier; I saw Hammerhead Jack.

It was him.  He had the full gear he wore during matches.  His white and blue colour scheme, his speed as he raced along the street on his motor skates, his helmet, the dorsal fin on it.

Most of all, his massive, almost comical hammer, powered by his Bioglove.  The hammer glowed blue as it received power from his Bioglove, leaving a light trail behind his wake as he dashed into the construction site.  My head followed him as he sped across the open space of the road.

Andrew caught on.  “What are you looking at?”  he asked, turning his head to see what I saw.  “Oh, crap.”

I was more enthusiastic, and willing to share it.  “What do you mean, crap?  That’s awesome!  I just got to see a courier playing!”

Andrew put his head in his hands and sighed deeply.  “Goddamn groupies,”  he mumbled.

I crossed my arms and pouted playfully.  “Hey!”

Andrew quickly changed the subject.  “Susan’s probably in the convenience store.”

I sighed as he tapped me on the shoulder to go.  The temptation was too much; I was going to snoop and Andrew couldn’t stop me.

“I’ll be waiting in the store, Andy,”  I lied.  “Get her and come back.”

Andrew sighed.  “Go in the store, I’ll be mad as all hell if you get picked up by some thugs because you followed a crush through the bad part of town,”  he said as he walked into the shop.

If only he knew,  I thought.

Walking to Joe’s while keeping my eye on the Store Andrew walked into, I backed away towards where I saw Hammerhead Jack go to.  I walked past the city block with the early stage construction site and another block with residential buildings, many up for sale or rent.  I kept myself within eyesight of the corner of Joe’s store, allowing my to easily run there if I wanted to in theory.

I don’t know how much help Joe’s place could be if I got in the sort of trouble that required me to run away.

Eventually I encountered a more developed construction site, clearly taking the form of a stadium.  I was able to get a look from one of the openings where the stadium hasn’t been constructed yet, and there I saw the couriers in the centre of the stadium pitch, planning the round.

The delayed round was being played before me, and I had a chance to watch it.  Excitement took over as I sneaked under the stands, allowing me to hide myself while getting a view of the Couriers.

Hammerhead Jack was there, talking to another player with his team behind him.  I could see all four of his teammates, and knew their names by heart.  Red Raven, Fifty Fifty, Drillbit, and Anarchy.  Together they called themselves the Abovers.  A terrible team name, but an interesting combo of tools and players.

They used Triple finger gloves instead of the standard five finger model, and illegally boosted their power consumption by lenthening the input contact that touches the skin.

Biogloves naturally run off bio-electricity, using an input contact to take faint electrical and magnetic force and convert it into electricity.  With this extra power, they could power their tools and armour.  Makeshift weaponry that is harmless to them because of their own armour, powered by Bio-electricity.  The military perfected that tech years ago, but it became public as a replacement for bullet proof vests and so on.  ‘magic is real’ was the advert slogans for bio-electric tech.  It was almost true.

Red Raven was to the right.  He was wielding his trademark talons, his beaked mask and black cloak hiding his body and giving him a plague doctor appearance.  I could see the red glow of his Bio-armour under his cloak.

Fifty Fifty wore two bio gloves and wielded a shield and sword like tool combo.  The shield was a ranged repelling device that could sent heavy debris across a large distance easy, and the sword used a similar tech to cut from a longer range than normal, too.  He was at the far right.

On the left side, Drillbit was looking at anarchy.  Her helmet and facepaint wasn’t as good of a disguise, but it was speculated online that she had something to alter her voice and wore eye colour changers.  Her drill-lance was spinning away idly.

Anarchist was holding a small metal tube and pointing at it as he tried to get Drillbit’s attention, possibly repelling grenades he and Fifty Fifty made.  He was a smart guy, and wore a silly disguise similar to old images of anarchists from propaganda posters. He was at the furthest left.

On the other team I saw team Mad Science.  The group consisted of Immolator, Cutter, Jackal, Roman and Searchlight.

Immolator used stolen heat emitters used by riot police, that worked by giving th sensation of extreme heat to irritate.  These devices gave their waves off in a single direction over a distance.  His wires from his modded triple finger glove looked like magma as they covered him and his brownish reddish covering.  He was the team leader, but everyone saw his control was superficial.

Cutter was standing to the left of Immolator.  He was known for being the team leader in all but name, and for using an array of knives.  He had a blue and black colour scheme, and acted like an ass on camera.  Andrew would name him every time the subject of couriers came up if he watched this stuff.

Jackal was faster than most other couriers, using his crossbow like harpoons to catch people and a tracker kit with darts to keep tabs on them if he can’t get a good shot in or Immolator tells him to team up with Searchlight.  He dressed like a dog with the mask and clawed gloves, and was known to be Cutters lackey and the second reason why Immolator isn’t the team leader.

Roman dressed like the name implies, with the red and gold outfit and a face mask reminiscent of a gladiator. His name was also a pun, as instead of wielding the weapons gladiators used, he attacked from range with his home made firework rockets and flares.  He was using a second pun; Roman Candles.

Searchlight was a scout who used no weapons apart from a baton in emergencies.  He didn’t normally fight if he had the option of running away, and mainly used a drone and camera to find packages and couriers.

Immolator and Hammerhead Jack were arguing.  It wasn’t heated as you’d expect from two groups of criminals playing a bloodsport, but still an argument and as far as I could tell from the body language it was tense.

I could barely make out the words.

“–referee’s not here dumbass,”  finished Hammerhead.  “We can’t do this, no camera, no package.”

Immolator scowled at Hammerhead and crossed his arms.  “We could just fight for real, you know you’d enjoy that.”

Hammerhead groaned ad turned away, dismissing his comment with a wave as his team followed him.

“What, afraid you’d lose?”  asked Jackal, her voice modulator off.  She sounded different with it not overlaying barking and altering pitch.

I took a moment to realize that Jackal was a girl.  That was new.

Cutter shoved her hard and Jackal stumbled.  “Watch the fucking voicemods, dumbass!”

Jackal quickly touched something on her helmet and spoke, her voice back to how it should have sounded.  The barking and deepness she was known for was there again.

“Fine, just don’t hit me.”

Hammerhead Jack waited for them to stop before speaking.

“I’m not stupid, and neither is anyone on my team.  We’ll wait for the ref and package.”

“Ref might not be here,”  Cutter cut in.  “Could be missing.”

“You know well your whole team would be screwed if that was the case,”  replied Red Raven, his voice as shrill as his modulator.  “You’d be retired for good.”

The conversation was one part interesting and one part revealing.  Did they actually imply murder, twice?  I thought that was mainly an act.  They were teens playing an illegal sport, not murderers.

Or at least, not attempted murderers.  Even Cutter hasn’t attacked anyone on camera, as far as she could remember.  There was one incident where he threatened A member of another team, but that was him being a heel, right?

It didn’t matter, the referee came onto the pitch, waving his arm and whistling.

“Hey, no fighting.”

He was wearing a completely white and featureless mask, and white and black striped referee clothing.  He was carrying two briefcases in each hand.

Both sides turned to look at him as he put the briefcases down on the sand.  The pitch didn’t even have grass yet.  He opened them, and took out a screen from one case.  He fiddled with it using his gloved hand, and six circular drones shot out, and scarrered in the air.

“We’re live, kids,”  he announced.

The second briefcase had the packages.  There were three in a game, and the rules of courier were simple; get all three and hold them for 10 seconds.  How you got them was what made the game so brutal.  It was a violent, brutal scramble to grab and keep all three packages at the same time.

The six drones hovered around the two teams and referee.  I’d never seen their cameras before.

“And ten, nine, eight…”

The announcer began the count and in excitement, I mouthed out the countdown along with him from my hiding place.

“…three, two o-” I had a hand cover my mouth from behind, surprising me.  I turned around and saw it was Susan, caught between trying to be cross and failing to hold back a smile.

“Didn’t think you’d run away like that,”  she said.

I shushed her and pointed at the referee.  The two teams split up already, and the ref was picking up both of the briefcases.

“Where were you?”  I asked quietly.  “Andrew was looking for you in the other shop.”

“I was,”  replied Susan.  “And he’s pissed.”

I saw Andrew, who was a mix of angry, sad and disappointed.  I expected him to scold me like a child.

“You stupid girl,”  he whispered.  “look at us!  We’re trapped under some bleachers while maniacs are running about with fucking flying cameras everywhere!”

How long was he here?

“It’s okay,”  I said, trying to calm Andrew down.  “We can sneak out the side.”

“But you won’t,”  he added.

Susan decided now was the best time to wrap her arms around each of our shoulders in an embrace, a grin plastered on her face.

“Let’s watch a few mins of it, then try and sneak out while they are distracted.”

She turned to Andrew and gave a look which I assumed was her puppy-dog pout.  Andrew gave in.

“I can’t drag both of you back without getting us all in trouble,”  he justified to himself.

I turned to look out the bleachers.  The referee was gone, but Jackal was chasing Fifty Fifty through the field.

Fifty Fifty turned around as Jackal caught up and raised his shield.  Jackal quickly dodged to the side, but he was too slow.  Fifty Fifty adjusted his aim as Jackal tried to close the gap and got a direct hit.

Jackal was knocked off his own two feet as the shield repulsed him and sent him backwards.  Fifty Fifty spent no wasted time turning back around and running away across the bleachers next to where I was hiding.

Jackal’s Bioglove lit up as his armour protected him from hurting himself as he impacted the dirt.  He coughed a few times and slowly began to get up.

“Fuck,”  he muttered.  “That smarts.”

I turned to see Andrew and Susan’s reactions to the display before us.  Susan was entertained, leaning in.  Andrew was anxious instead, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Andrew, how are you holding up?”  I asked.

“We need to leave,”  he whispered, visible stressed.  “It’s dangerous here, what if one of them hides under the bleachers?”

Jackal was on his feet and ran up the staircase right above us.  A chill went down my spine at the thought of being caught.  I stayed silent as We heard him quickly move away to look for Fifty Fifty.

Andrew grabbed my arm gently and progressed us further along the underside of the stadium bleachers.

“Way back’s too risky, let’s go.”

I decided it was time to split.  It wasn’t as interesting to see live as the fights were spread out.

We reached a dead end, the only exit maintenance door into the stadium building.  Andrew checked it, and it luckily didn’t have a lock installed.  He opened it and went in.

“Come on,”  he beckoned.

Susan followed with me behind her.  I closed the door.

We heard fighting inside.  Drillbit, Roman and Immolator.  The whizzing sounds of fireworks filled the building.

“Shh,”  said Andrew as he slowly crept in the only direction allowed to us in the staff access; up a staircase.  We got up two flights of stairs before we noticed the sounds from Roman stopped.  The staircase led to a hallway going in two directions, I didn’t wand to risk being seen, and neither did Susan or Andrew.

“Drillbit was caught,”  said a voice.  Red Raven.  A beeping and clicking noise followed.

“She’ll be fine, the ref has it out for Cutter and if anything happens he’s dead,”  said anarchist.

I slowly crept backwards down the stairs as they got closer.  Everyone did.

“Still, we shouldn’t be waiting for the bastard to make the first move,”  Red Raven replied.  I could see Andrew nod as he said it, an agreement between two people who shouldn’t see each other.  “It makes me feel complacent in him pushing it.”

“He does it to everyone, like Siren and Redzone.”

Anarchist and Red Raven walked by, Anarchist placing a mine on the wall in front of us.  Our way was blocked.  No, we were stuck in place.  Andrew was furthest in front, but when the mine beeped twice I knew what happened; It registered his Bioglove, and set off.

Now, luckily Anarchist and Red Raven were between us and the Mine, because they took the full hit, and their armour protected them.  Unluckily, that meant that we were noticed, and we still got hit by the flashbang, even if it wasn’t as bad as the two Couriers.

I had tinnitus ringing in my ears, Andrew and Susan must have had worse.

For a second I thought to drag them down stairs, but Red Raven was knocked down the stairs behind us from the blast and was getting up.  Anarchist was knocked out cold, his head bashed against the railing of the stairs as it went up another flight of steps.

“Shit,” I said, grabbing Susan by the arm.  “Up, let’s go.”

she looked at me as I grabbed Andrew and pulled him to his feet, He stumbled up the stairs.

“Hey,”  said Red Raven, getting up.  “What the fuck are you doing here?”

Susan pushed him in the chest, hard and he failed to catch her as he grasped at her and the railing.  He tumbled back down the stairs, his armour taking the impacts for him.

“Run!”  I yelled, heading down what I hoped was an un-mined corridor.  We tried every door, some were dead ends, some weren’t.

A drone tuned around the corridor as we reached the end.  A camera drone.

Andrew threw his hands over his face and swatted at the thing, cutting his palm over the propellers as he hit it.

“Shit,”  he said as blood shot from his wound and the drone hit the floor.  “That hurts!”

Susan ran ahead.  “We have to get out, now!”

I knew that.  We were in deep trouble, the referee saw us.  I covered my ears as the sound of the drone screeching filled the hallway.  Fuck.  Andrew continued to open doors to look for a way out.

“We have three unwanted guests interfering, players,”  said the referee as he spoke through the drone, loud and clear.  A drop of sweat dripped down my spine.  “I’ll forgive any misbehaviour if you catch them.  They are hallway 104.  Two girls and one boy.  The boy is blonde, in sandals, green shorts and has a Hawaiian shirt on, the first girl in a black jacket and jeans and the second girl in a white shirt with black hair.”

“He saw us,”  said Susan, terror seeping into her voice as it was too quiet.

104?  I thought about it. There can’t be that many hallways.  The 10 thing must mean we are on the first floor, which was obvious as this the first hallway we saw.  The only question left was why would he state it like that, did the Couriers know the floor plan that well?

Even when the stadium was so minor and still in construction?

I shook the thought away, running until I saw an actual exit.  A car park entrance.  It was a staircase looping around an elevator shaft.

Andrew followed behind me and Susan, he removed his shirt and bandaged his hand with it.  He used his left one, luckily.

I just realized I needed to get my Bioglove back from Joe’s.  Dammit. 

Susan was the first one down the stairs, me following behind.  Andrew  couldn’t sprint as fast, holding his hand in his shirt.

“Fucking hell this hurts,”  he said behind me.

I felt a punch to my gut.  “Shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize this would happen.”

I hoped he wasn’t mad at me.  I got him hurt because of this.  Susan reached the door to the car park and Roman shot at Susan when she opened the door.  A direct hit sent her into the elevator shaft.

“Susan!” yelled Andrew.  Luckily the shaft was a ground floor level, and there wasn’t a basement level.  Still, Susan was hurt.  Her shirt and stomach had burns and singe marks where she was hit, and she had the wind knocked out of her.

A second rocket interrupted our moment of terror as it hit the elevator shaft again from the open door, making Susan scream.

“Come out and I won’t hurt you,”  announced Roman.  “I promise.”

“Fuck off,”  yelled Andrew in response.

A second passed, and Roman gave a retort in the form of another rocket.

I ran to the door and pulled it closed after it hit the shaft.

I turned to check on Susan.  “Susan?”

Susan was shaking, but she was up, limping to the elevator shaft.  Andrew grabbed onto her and pulled her up out of it.  She brushed herself off and put her arm around Andrew’s shoulder.  I couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy followed by guilt.

We might die or be kidnapped and I’m thinking about high school drama, I thought as I scolded myself internally.  No, it was worse.  I was still ignoring the fact that the people I was a fan of were attacking me, and got two of my closest friends hurt.  Roman even attacked first.

I asked the question we didn’t want to ask.  “What do we do?”

Andrew gave me a foul glare.  I understood.  Two of us were hurt, a maniac was pinning us at the bottom of a staircase, and eight others were closing in, each with weapons that could kill us if they wished.

I took a deep breath, opened the door and charged out.

The shock wave from the rocket as it hit the ground next to me nearly took me off my feet and blinded me, but I knew where it came from. I made a beeline for Roman as he stood behind a pillar.

I turned around it as he pointed his launcher at me and I pushed it away to the side as he fired.  The shot went off in the distance and he was too slow to react as I gave him a headbutt.

It hurt me more than it hit him as his armour took the impact, waves of energy flowing into his bioglove from where I hit him.  He still reeled back from my hit however.

He went for a punch as he stepped backwards but I decided to grab onto him and tackle him to the ground.

Even though he was a guy and stronger than me in theory, his Bio-armour weighed him down.  He fell over with me on top and I took the time to punch him repeatedly with both of my fists until his armour couldn’t take the strain and broke.

Three swift jabs to the side of the head and he was out.

I got up, turned and yelled for Andrew and Susan to follow.  They did, but painfully slowly in comparison to the adrenaline rush I had.

It was only fitting that ran up ahead outside of the garage, only to see Hammerhead Jack and Cutter standing there.  They were positioned just out of sight from the right position, but in a way that they’d come into view as you left the car park.  Hammerhead was holding onto his hammer, and cutter a knife.

Cutter smiled behind his mask as he saw me freeze, out of breath from my spint.  “Hey here, sweetcheeks.”

I took a step back and turned to see Immolator, Drillbit, Searhlight and the Referee close in on Andrew and Susan.  It was six against two, and they had the advantage.

They had every advantage.

I turned back to Hammerhead and Cutter.

“So, what to do with you?”  asked Cutter with a sinister tone.

Hammerhead stuck his weapon in his way.  “That’s for the sponsors to decide,”  he said.

I felt it was the only chance I had, and I felt as thought this would save my life.

“Jack?”  I asked, my voice cracking in fear.

“Yeah?”  asked the man before me.

“I-I’m a fan, so could I have an autograph if I’m not going to be k-killed?”

Hammerhead Jack smiled as everything went suddenly dark and I lost my ability to move.  I went limp in the dark and passed out.

 

 

 

What the hell am I doing?

So I’ve started the first story arc with When the Hunting Party came, and it’s an answer to a question.

I didn’t know where I was going until now.  I had character arcs assembled, and I actually removed them.

For instance:

Ryan isn’t a terrible fighter:  You’ve read so far, and Ryan loses over and over.  I don’t want him to be badass immediately, I want him to develop into something.  He’ll improve as time goes on, but we’ll have to give him a reason to fight, no?

Biohazard had her own arc first:  Biohazard is a girl.  I’ll reveal that.  Also, she has an entire arc to herself, soon.  It’ll be right after the Texas Arc.

Derek was a bad guy:  I had the idea of power going to his head, or the effects of his power affecting him like it did with Maxine and Ellen, but nope.

Ricky/Plural had his own interlude:  It was scrapped for a reveal later on, mainly to introduce us to the Biohazard Arc.

 

 

 

 

 

Haitus over.

So I had a second haitus, which was not my fault again.

 

And I had time to think about this current story arc.  I sorta regret making Re-Education as I’ll be having to write at least 2,000 more words of it before going anywhere, but I think it’ll do fine as it is.

Anyway, time for some exposition.

Sacrifice hasn’t revealed her power.  It’s powerful, and she’s only gotten stronger.

Ryan needs to be aware.  Technically you can overwrite his awareness of what is happening by either mind fuckery before he reacts, blindsiding him or hiding the trick in a way it looks plausible.

Bloodwitch was a character from another story I came up with long ago.  I’ve been thinking about it and I totally changed her character from a violent, crazed alien merc to what she was there.

 

The characters in Texas had odd naming schemes.

That’s because they were different groups at first.

Here’s the full rosters for the Royal guards and the Generals:

 

Royal Guards of Texas:

  1. Assent
  2. Corvus
  3. Hydra
  4. Merly
  5. Oculus
  6. Pariah
  7. Shax
  8. Wendigo

Generals:

  1. Aim
  2. Escher
  3. Ester
  4. Heavy
  5. Kelpie
  6. Pheonix
  7. Slug
  8. Vine

If you can’t tell, there are themes but they are mixed up.

Aim, Vine and Shax are named after demons of the Ars Goetia. You’ll see some other members later on.

Kelpie, Hydra, Wendigo and Pheonix were part of a gang.

Escher, Ester, Heavy, Slug, Assent, Corvus, Oculus and Pariah were all individual characters on their own, with Assent, Heavy, Escher, Corvus and Oculus being the NHN Texas senior branch, and Slug being the sole remaining Junior branch member.

There were a lot of capes in Texas, and only those 16 remained, minus the King.

(I’m thinking on doing a rise to power prequel for that, but it doesn’t seem like I’ll enjoy doing it right now.)