Chapter One -Worlds Apart
September 14, 2016
Beyond the rolling plains, past the curves of the valleys lay the biggest city in the entire western half of the country. Built into the hills and flats of the grassy terrain, it had sprawled out and consumed every small community it came across, enveloping them into its entirety.
The city Vinton glowed in the black prairie sky like a warning beacon.
Alan inhaled the cool night air as he exited the movie theatre with the large crowd of people. Looking up Alan couldn’t even see the night stars past the light pollution, and he sighed quietly. Tilting his head back down he surveyed the parking lot to the movie theatre and the traffic congestion before the movie had all cleared up.
All that remained now were a few cars in the movie parking lot, and as Alan took a quick glance around he saw the parking lot for the entire shopping centre was essentially empty. The shopping centre was northeast of down town and was a modern hub for the majority of people in that end of the city. It offered most services a person could need, from groceries to clothes, and even though it was out of his way Alan liked going to that movie theatre because it was flashier and more extravagant than most where he lived closer to downtown.
Just as Alan stared in the direction he was going to walk home in, his friend commented behind him, “Well that movie was a piece of crap.”
Alan turned around as the group of fellow teens he had watched the movie with formed a circle. Jared, who had spoken, was a tall boy with spiked brown hair and an old ratty green jacket. He raised a cigarette up to his mouth and held it between his lips as he took his lighter out of his pocket.
Another friend, Kim, a short blonde girl, who liked to wear very bright and colourful clothes and had a very high pitched voice, responded, “Really? I kind of liked it. And that guy was so hot.” Jared inhaled and then removed the cigarette from his mouth with a puff of smoke.
Raising an eyebrow he asked, “Which one? The guy with the motorcycle and the stupid haircut?”
“Yeah him! Oh I could stare at him all day,” Kim exclaimed as she let herself melt. Jared shook his head in disgust, drawing a slight smile to Alan’s face. Arguments between Jared and Kim were generally amusing.
“Guy was a wimp. He just went around whining and moaning about being in love, and then never did a damn thing about it. Like his motorcycle was pretty cool, but he grated on me. You like a girl, you ask her out. Don’t know why he made such a big deal about it,” Jared stated. Kim crossed her arms and put on a stern expression.
“It’s called angst, Jared. I wouldn’t expect you to understand,” Kim insulted, to which Jared gave a quick head shake and waved his hand, ending the argument. Alan just laughed.
“What did you think, Alan?” asked Kristal, the fourth in the group. Kristal was about the same height as Alan, who was several inches short of six feet tall. She had short black hair with a red streak down a set of bangs that ran down the right side of her face. Alan shrugged his shoulders in response to the inquiry, not entirely sure.
“Meh it was kind of melodramatic, but I liked it. There are worse movies out there,” Alan replied.
Jared scoffed and let out another breath of smoke as Kim pointed at him and said, “Ha.” Jared knocked away Kim’s finger, drawing a laugh from the other two. Alan peeked back to Kristal to see her smile, and he couldn’t help but admire how cute she was.
Normally Kristal wore a dim coloured t-shirt with a normal set of jeans, but that night her t-shirt was concealed by a navy blue jacket. Somehow she always managed to light up the room with her radiant blue eyes and her inviting smile. Alan could see himself having a crush on Kristal, but lately he had other things on his mind.
“Well I wouldn’t trust Alan’s taste in movies anyway, he liked Titanic so the guy’s a wuss,” Jared joked, eyeing Alan with judging expression.
Alan folded his arms and shot back, “I’m a wuss because I liked watching a movie about a big ship exploding?” Jared chuckled a little bit at that as he inhaled another puff from his addiction.
Kim rolled up her sleeve to check the time on her cat-themed watch, and with a gasp she said, “We’re past curfew! I got to get home or my dad will kill me!” For all the good it did the V.P.S. had recently established a curfew for people under the age of eighteen. It was in the hopes of reducing youth violence, but it still did very little good.
Kim quickly turned around and started hastily walking away, and Jared yelled after her, “Yeah and if he doesn’t I’m sure either the Brigand or the Wintu will!” That put an extra spring in her step as Kim sped up. Kristal looked at Jared with a smile of disapproval, making Jared shrug his shoulders.
Snickering, Jared turned to Alan and asked loud enough for Kim to hear, “Would you rather be shot by one of those techno freak Brigands, or stabbed by one of those ninja Wintu?”
“You should just tell her you like her,” Kristal stated, cutting off Jared, her face all-knowing. Then with a quick wave to the boys she followed after Kim. Jared’s face flushed slightly red as he and Alan watched the girls leave.
Jared then shook his head and took another inhale of his cigarette and asked Alan, “You good to walk home?” Alan nodded in reply, and Jared stalked away in the opposite direction Alan had to go.
Alan didn’t mind, he knew you had to take care of yourself first in Vinton. Alan brushed his hand through his styled dirty blond hair, and then pulling his leather jacket further onto his shoulders he began to hike home.
It was a about an hour long walk from the shopping center back to his house no matter which route he picked, so he chose the scenic one through a large hilly field. It was a nationally preserved park that consisted of several rolling hills and contained areas of wilderness growth that was named ‘Vinton Hills.’
Vinton Hills dominated a large chunk of the north end of Vinton, and even though the part Alan was going to walk through was really only a sample of the whole park, it was still going to take him a long time. From almost anywhere in the north to most of the south of Vinton people could see the hills, and it was a hot spot for joggers and dog walkers. There were many paths to walk up and down, some had been created by the city and some had just developed over time by repeat hikers. Occasionally Alan would ignore the trails all together and walk through the tall grass of the hills, just to take in the prairie environment that was in his own backyard.
Alan liked that he could see down town Vinton from the hills, the south tip of the hills just touching the concrete jungle’s north edge. The hills were one of the best ways to see the entire glowing down town core at night when at the height of one it’s many rolls. It was funny he thought, it was the last place he ever wanted to be, but when he looked at Vinton’s skyscapers during the night from a distance, it looked almost normal. Safe.
As his feet began to hurt, Alan realized he could’ve tried flying home, but he immediately shut out that thought.
Alan was not a normal sixteen year old boy. He looked normal and acted normal; to his classmates he was just that. However, Alan had a strange talent.
With only his mind he could make things happen by focusing on them. He was capable of anything.
When he was five years old, he turned off the television just by wishing it would turn off. He instantly cooked a steak when he was ten by concentrating on it. But when he was seven, he accidentally killed a bunny in his yard by staring at it for too long.
It had just been sitting there, munching on some plants he and his mother had planted in the garden, one of the few things they ever did together. She had such a busy work schedule because she had to support the two of them on her own, and they almost never spent time together. He just wanted the rabbit to go away. As he thought about it more and more he felt a snap in his mind and the rabbit had collapsed. Later on his mother inspected it and found it was dead.
Then when he was twelve, he tried to fly. He got ten feet in the air and hovered for a few seconds before falling and breaking his wrists. After that he had given up on trying to use his powers, deciding that he couldn’t control them no matter how hard he tried. Instead he had just decided to ignore his powers best he could. The thought of the dead bunny in his lawn was a constant reminder that if he wasn’t careful he could do the same thing to someone he loved.
The curiosity of what he could do with the powers always ate at him; there were times when Alan didn’t feel like he was in control of his own body. He knew the powers were a gift, he just didn’t know how to unwrap it. On the occasion, however, Alan had to use his powers to protect himself. The city of Vinton wasn’t safe at night anywhere, even in Vinton Hills.
Alan walked with a brisk pace through the Vinton Hills, keeping his head down most of the way. There were points where he’d look upwards and admire the beauty of the stars; Vinton Hills was the best place to see them. He walked up and down the rolling hills and curves of Vinton Hills, and began to pant from the workout. The comforting cool of the autumn air relaxed him though, and he was able to enjoy his adventure. But for the most part he paid no mind to his surroundings as he was lost in thought.
In his head he ran through all the homework he had to do the next day before he went back to school on Monday. His thoughts distracted him from the nearby sounds but then there was a rustling to Alan’s right. No wind had blown. Stopping in place Alan turned to face the large bush, one of the many Vinton Hills had. He stared in intently, waiting for something to happen.
A form then approached him from the bush, emerging from the darkness, and as it neared Alan could see it was a large man with a clean shaven head. In his hand he carried a large club with nails crudely hammered in. Although it was dark Alan could tell that he was wearing a piece of armor on his chest, something on the streets that was titled ‘a protector’. It was made to withstand gun shots and yet feel as light as a normal shirt. Alan cursed under his breath and took a step back but suddenly a hand reached out and grabbed him on the shoulder from behind, making him spin around and lurch free of the grasp.
He turned to see two more men, both with protectors on as well. The one who had grabbed his shoulders also had a clean shaven head, but had war paint on his face, a sign these men were in the Brigand gang. He walked with an electric club, a large rod that conducted enough voltage to knock a man unconscious, and protected the wielder via a rubber handle. The third man was scraggily and thin and wore a gas mask while brandishing a knife in one hand and a small gun in the other.
“Well well well... what have we got here?” asked the man in war paint as he chuckled making Alan take a few steps away from him. But Alan bumped into the first man he saw, making Alan spin around again. He tried to flee the other direction, but the third man stepped in the way and as Alan turned to find another exit he saw he had been boxed in by the three.
The man in the war paint laughed again and turned to his friend in the gas mask and said, “I think we should just take his money and leave him. He hasn’t done anything too wrong.”
The man in the gas mask waved his gun at the notion and his response came out muffled, “You’re too soft, Rex. We got to at least rough him up first, maybe even, cut him a little bit. Teach him who is in charge of this city.”
“He’s seen us. We need to kill him,” the large man chipped in a very deep voice and Alan’s spine crawled.
The one in war paint, Rex as Alan now knew, chuckled again and with a smile retorted, “Bah but you’re just paranoid Ibsen. And Flax,” Rex continued as he pointed at the man in the gas mask, “you’re just excessive. As long as the boy cooperates, no one needs to get hurt.” Alan looked around at the three, and debated for a minute just giving them his wallet.
But there was no cash left, he had spent it all that night at the movies and he knew that wasn’t going to fly with these freaks. Alan closed his eyes and began to concentrate. He had fought before late at night in situations like these, but never won. This time Alan intended to leave with some pride intact.
“So? What’s it going to be kid?” Rex asked as he brought his electric rod up to a swinging position. Alan prepared himself, a plan in mind.
“Money? Or pain?!” Rex finished as he swung down on Alan. But Alan’s eyes opened and suddenly what looked like a translucent wall of constantly blending colors appeared in the way of Rex’s attack and blocked it. Alan called it his ‘force field’ and it was a trick he had learned very early in his life. Then Alan shot his palm forward and a gust of wind carried Rex off his feet and took him five feet back.
Rex landed on his back and Ibsen and Flax were already moving in. Alan raised both his hands and the ground underneath the two rose slightly, strips of turf rising like carpet under their feet, and they stumbled forward. Ibsen recovered and swung his club at Alan but Alan channeled a small jolt of electricity through his fingers. A streak of lightning from his hands and struck Ibsen with enough charge to take him off his feet and put him on his back.
Alan panted; dealing with the physical toll his powers took on him. Every time he used his powers it drained Alan a bit of his energy, making him dehydrated and causing his muscles to ache. The more reckless he was with his powers the more energy it took.
Rex groaned and stated, “Kid’s some sort of freak! Get him!” Alan panicked as the three got back up and Alan didn’t have time to think about a second wave of attacks. Flax raised the gun and prepared to fire so Alan responded faster. He quickly lifted up any nearby pebbles with his mind and threw them at Flax. Just as Flax was about to shoot, the rocks hit him with surprising strength, knocking the gun out of Flax’s hand.
Then Rex came in at Alan with another swing of his electric club. Alan dodged it by ducking down and then he scrambled backwards to create space between him and Rex. Alan turned to face Ibsen who was swinging at him with the nailed bat and Alan just managed to raise a force field in time to stop the attack. But Ibsen’s swing turned out to be too powerful and it burst through the shield, shattering it like glass. It was if Ibsen had beaten Alan over the head when the force field broke, and Alan moaned in protest and fell to the ground. He was exhausted having used up all his energy to cast the last few attacks and his nose bled from the physical toll.
He had landed on his stomach and Alan tried to crawl away, but a sudden kick in his side stole the wind from his lungs. It made Alan spin over onto his back, and he peered up to see the three men now standing over top of him. He couldn’t do anything to stop what was about to happen, he had no more energy left and his world started to blur.
All he heard before his world went silent was Rex say, “Punk-ass kid.”
They kicked him while he was down many times, each kick more painful than the last. All Alan could do was wince and groan in protest as they beat him further and further.
So much for leaving with dignity.
Then a high pitched whistle caught the three’s attention, and they all glanced around to see the source. There stood a boy just over six feet tall wearing a brown, baggy unzipped hoody with a green t-shirt and loose blue jeans. His hair somehow managed to be wavy and curly at the same time, and it sat on his head unkempt.
What got everyone’s attention, however, was the sword that the boy carried. It was a large two handed broad sword, about four feet in length and one foot across. Its handle was round with grooves allowing for a better grip and the pommel was a small white gem which gleamed in the moon light. What scared the three thugs however was the fact the boy managed to carry the sword with ease using only one hand.
The boy grinned and asked, “Now if you three aren’t just the dumbest people. We all know not to attack people in the middle of the Vinton Hills, this is my territory!”
Rex raised an eyebrow and looked to his comrades, none of them sure what to think. Looking back to the boy, Rex had to ask, “What? What the hell does that mean?”
The boy’s grin grew wider and he stated as he pointed his sword at the three with one hand, “It means you should get away from that guy or you’re going to regret it. And when I say regret it, I mean I’m going to kick the crap out of you.”
Alan’s stomach throbbed and his head felt heavy, but even he was taken aback by this newcomer and his confidence.
“Just who do you think you are? This is the turf of the Brigands! Now get out of here, before we kill you!” Flax yelled, tired of the nonsense.
“You want to know who I am?” the boy asked, and he waited a moment for dramatic effect.
“I’m Jet, and remember the name because I’m carving it into your butts!” Jet then charged forward at the three, sword extended outwards. Rex managed to step forward and swing his electric rod but with a quick flick of his sword Jet parried Rex’s attack. Jet’s sword moved faster than Alan’s eyes could follow, and in the moonlight it was a silver blur. Without halting his momentum Jet swept his body down low and kicked Rex’s feet out from under him.
Ibsen was there next, and he tried to swing down on Jet with his bat. However, Jet quickly rolled off to the side, dodging the bat. Jet stood up to fully face Ibsen who was still off guard after his swing, but Flax quickly jumped in and swung his knife wildly at Jet.
With a grin Jet swung his sword and hit the knife out of Flax’s hands, sending it spinning away.
Holding back a laugh Jet remarked, “Mine’s bigger.”
Flax froze in fear and before Jet could act Ibsen attacked him again. The amount of noise Ibsen made as he moved easily alerted Jet to the oncoming attack. As Ibsen swung down behind him Jet quickly raised his sword and blocked the attack behind his back with one hand. Jet then spun around and kicked Ibsen in the chest with enough power to make him stutter backwards. Ibsen didn’t feel any pain from the kick, but his eyes widened as he saw Jet’s next attack coming.
Bringing his sword out in a wide arc Jet suddenly slashed at Ibsen. Ibsen covered his eyes with his hands, too afraid to see his fate. But much to his surprise he didn’t drop dead. However he looked down to see his protector torn in half down the centre by Jet’s sword.
“Now this time you’ll really feel it,” Jet commented and he dashed forward and leapt in the air at Ibsen. Outstretching his leg forward, Jet kicked Ibsen in the chest hard enough to wind Ibsen and send him onto his back.
Alan watched this on the ground in amazement, mesmerized by what was going on in front of him. Taking a moment to observe around Alan saw that Flax had become immobilized by fear, Ibsen was on the ground in pain but he couldn’t find Rex. Alan scanned the surrounding area quickly and then saw Rex standing behind Jet with Flax’s gun in his hand.
Time slowed for Alan in that moment as he yelled, “Look out!” and Alan threw up a force field. Rex shot at Jet, and Jet turned to regard the sound. Just as the bullet would have hit Jet, Alan’s force field stopped it in its tracks, ricocheting it wildly out into the night. The toll it took on Alan was too great however, and he passed out from exhaustion.
The moment of confusion for Rex was all Jet needed to charge at Rex before he could fire at Jet again. Jet reached Rex and punched him across the face, dropping him like a sack of bricks.
Rex put his hands to the ground and tried to stand back up while yelling, “Get out of here! This kid’s not worth it!” Jet wiggled his hand trying to dissipate the pain from smashing Rex in the face as the three scrambled to run away. Putting his hands on his hips Jet stretched his back and let out a content sigh.
“Nothing better than a good fight,” Jet commented. Resting his sword back on his shoulder Jet prepared to leave, but then looked back to Alan who lay unconscious on the ground. Jet raised an eyebrow and walked over to him.
“Kind of wish I had gotten here sooner though,” Jet said upon seeing the beating Alan had taken.
Kneeling down Jet checked Alan’s neck for a pulse to make sure he was still alive. Seeing he was, Jet stood back up and contemplated for a moment. He thought to call for an ambulance but naturally it was the one night he left his cell phone at home. He really didn’t want to just leave Alan lying there.
Slapping Alan in the face a few times, Jet said, “Hey, hey wake up. Wake up. Wakey wakey!” His attempt to awaken Alan failed, Jet reconsidered his options. Jet surveyed the area, and then shrugging his shoulders; Jet picked up Alan up with one hand and lifted him over his shoulder.
“You get to sleep on the couch big guy,” Jet stated with a smile, and then he made for home.
Meanwhile across the city in downtown, in the Rat’s Nest, a lone figure walked in the middle of the street. The sound of his boots hitting the concrete as he took each step echoed through the empty city blocks. His red hair flowed as he walked, and in his hands he held a long, slim, crystalline sword.
There was a scarlet trail dripping from it that stained the ground. The man had just taken out his new found frustrations on a group of Brigand thugs. He didn’t care; no one would know it was him.
As that realization settled in, he fell to his knees. No one would know. But he needed to make sure they would. Everyone needed to know. They needed to know who he was, where he had come from, everything he had learned in the past two weeks. And then when everyone knew the sick awful truth he had learned he would wipe Vinton off the map.
But why stop there? Ambition was growing inside him, an ugly rose sprouting in his psyche, with his thorns as sharp and dangerous as his intentions. This was his destiny, he knew now. Tonight, those thugs had just been the beginning.
Marath was just getting started.