Princess of the Shadows ➺ [FC Series Bk.2]

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Chapter 2: Sins, Martyrs &... Jessica

7 days later

Avalon was a modern city, in that every single aspect of it was somehow metallic, white, silver or a light blue. The buildings were all sky scrapers. The roads were all polished concrete. Avalon was also a city of well endowed citizens. The pure humans here were covered in very expensive silk clothing. While most looked refined and elegant in work attire, the richest quarter wore the more frivolous colours. These were also the New World citizens with collared and chained FC workers as their personal slaves. They refused to call them slaves, however, even though they did not pay them. The FC bunch in the city were clearly distinguished otherwise from all other pure humans. They were always mutated, ugly, often gassy and often rebellious.

Hence it was time for some more to die.

It was a weekly tradition since we were all transported to the New World cities.

Any martyrs of freedom, any martyrs of sin and any martyrs to violence were all killed for show. The modern world decided introducing a public incineration box was the best method of cleansing the New World of the sinning FC inhabitants. The ones who would not reform.

The New World had this ancient thing they believed in, called religion. They admired and prayed to a being called the Mother Earth. Not the soil, not the trees, not the resources around them. Simply a figure in their imagination that dictated their beliefs on a very particular topic.

They were pure humans - they had escaped the Spanky Dust bombs 101 years ago. They were untouched, saved and therefore chosen by the Mother Earth to survive as the rightful heirs to Earth. They resided in Avalon or Atlantis. For years they wanted to raze Frankincense City to the ground. We had been the last Old World city that survived with mutated inhabitants. The New Worlds had controlled our governing bodies but they had never fully controlled the people. That was because Dale, Lord of the Underworld, had the power to raze their cities to the ground first.

At least he once did, before we were sold out to the New World presidents by the infamous ghost legend of FC; Hacksaw. God, he was an asshole for bringing this life of slavery upon us all.

First, he creeped on me from the shadows, observing me from afar. Then he attempted to kidnap me; he failed. Then I met him for answers and when I refused his advances... boom, one text to the wrong person and FC was invaded by self righteous pious bastards - the pure humans of the New World cities. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they were all evil pretentious pricks. Some of them were okay. They were all, just very brain washed. Their education was unfalteringly the same.

That meant FC inhabitants were not just seen as mutants. We were seen as monsters. Immoral, demonised and unworthy of a free life. Frankincense City had been a place of restricted resources and trash everywhere - but it had been home. We all missed it like never before.

Luckily for us hopeful ones, instead of razing it to the ground, I heard the New World cities were using it as a prison. For whom; I wasn’t sure. Perhaps it was the worst of the New World inhabitants. I had heard that any psychotic or below standard New World citizen behaviour was not tolerated. Those beings were found and were quickly removed from New World society. Other wise if they stayed, Mother Earth and New World beliefs would be completely tarnished by, ironically, nature.

Nature dictated human nature - which was in every single one of us on this Earth. Mutated or not, we all felt emotion to some degree.

“Today we have a child and a mother of sin... we will be cleansed by their sacrifice,” a man dressed in a nut cracker uniform and a tall hat, reads from a digital device while standing on a very raised platform. He was high enough to be next to the glass box where the two innocent FC inhabitants would be incinerated for all to watch.

I sit in the front row next to Reuben. His family sit next to him and his guards sit next to me.

Behind us, all other residents of Avalon stand in the city square, in excited anticipation.

“I’ve imagined you watching your girls burn, almost every night before I go to bed,” Reuben whispers in my ear as I watch the nut cracker executer, prepare a few options on the incineration box.

“I’m trying to watch,” I snap, my eyes glued onto the mother and the child clinging to her knee. They were in tattered white clothes, clearly prodded and experimented on before they were sent here to die.

“All the slaves avert their eyes - why do you enjoy such a manner of death, Alyssa? You’re a little sick up in that head of yours, aren’t you?” Reuben is a natural at forming every sentence into a mocking string of degradation, “I don’t mind you watching, I think it’s pretty hot that you enjoy it.”

“It’s a mother and a child,” I whisper, while I refuse to blink as I watch them waiting to die.

I had to.

If I avoided watching, it was like I was betraying that secret part of who I was born to be.

They were my people being murdered and so they were my responsibility. I had to remember their faces. I couldn’t ignore that my Ultimate genes meant I wasn’t just born to rule these people, but to save them.

And I felt so utterly useless where I was right now.

“Let the cleansing begin,” the nut cracker man smiles and presses a button. First the woman and child scream - and then the box flashes with a blue light as if it’s short circuited. While the woman and child jump from the shock, the actual incineration does not occur, “We seem to have a malfunction, how odd, I shall inform the chief engineer of the unforgivable error that was made today,” the nut cracker nods to President Sir Greg, who in turn nods to him in approval of his decisive words, “The cleansing is delayed, we will return next week. You may disperse.”

“Sir Greg!” a woman dressed in a white uniform marches from behind the platform that holds up the incineration box, “We have an emergency, everyone must evacuate the city square!” the woman is loud, forceful and menacing. At least to the Avalon citizens, who all begin to panic loudly.

“What do you mean?” President Sir Greg stands and dismisses the claim, believing his city to be completely attack-and-rebellion-proof.

Oddly, I notice how the hat she wears covers her eyes, so I can’t get a good look at her face.

Although I do - when the hat flies off her head from an explosive to the left of the centre square, behind her.

I see the blast doesn’t touch a soul - but it comes from the second story of the sky scraper to the left of the square - so it’s close enough to cause the panic to exacerbate.

It does the trick.

Extreme panic ensues.

Sir Greg’s limited guards can’t stop the stampede - but I am one of the first to jump from my front row seat to avoid the panicked crowd.

I don’t mean to run - or get lost, but I get caught up in multiple herds of New World families shoving past, running to safety.

I get pushed to the edge of the podium, where I almost trip multiple times in the blue high heels Reuben made me wear with my ruffled blue dress.

“Alyssa!” a female voice calls out in excitement, “Thank god!” the next moment I’m wrapped in a careful hug to my side.

I turn, confused... and then I see the woman who called out that there was an emergency.

Her red wild hair flies out around her perfect petite attractive face. If I wasn’t straight - I’d probably think I’d bang that chick. Yep, any man could fall for someone as pretty as her. And it was natural beauty. Which made me sort of jealous because my flawlessness was all engineered.

Why the heck was I even thinking this?

“Who are you?” I ask as she grabs my wrist and pulls me through the crowd until we reach an alcove for a mobile store, but it was currently unoccupied and closed for the special holy cleansing day. Once we have some minimal cover she holds both of my hands, somehow understanding that my nails will slice her open because she is so gentle.

“My name is Jessica,” she smiles warmly, “I’m so happy to finally meet you.”

“Who?” I blink a few times, feeling rude but strangely finding it hard to keep the abruptness out of my tone.

Jessica.

My brain connects a few things together.

I already know she has to be a friend of my beasts... a friend...

“I’m a friend of Dale,” Jessica beams with happiness as she mentions his name, “I’ve been helping him plan to retrieve you. You’ll be safe now.”

“Dale,” I gulp and nod, slowly taking my hands from hers, “Careful,” I force on a smile, “I’m sorry for the confusion, I just wasn’t sure who you were.”

“A Shadow Girl,” Jessica exclaims, “That Gang of Shadows from Frankincense City exists here too, Alyssa... I help run our own organisation in Avalon. We don’t like some of the rules here - we prefer anarchy,” she shrugs and smirks just thinking about it.

Great.

So she was cheeky and cute too when she talked of rebellion. And she sounded pretty intelligent.

“How long have you known Dale?” I ask, trying to sound unbothered by this small unexpected change of events.

“10 months - isn’t he sexy?” Jessica whispers the question and purses her lips, “Everything about him is so... gangster.”

“Come on, come on, let’s go,” a taxi driver pops up in another white uniform with a black stripe down the middle, “Let’s go,” the taxi driver is clearly undercover, “Come on, come on,” Jessica follows first and I follow second.

My hands were curled because I had been seconds away from staking my claim on my beasts.

Now, as the driver takes us from the scene, obliviously saving Jessica, we are ushered into a white cab with tinted windows - I am seated in the back... while Jessica chooses the front passenger seat.

I try not to let that random seat selection annoy me.

I try, very, very hard.

“Welcome, Alyssa,” the taxi driver nods at me in the reflection of the mirror.

I nod but my eyes are glued to Jessica’s perfect mane of soft, touchable ginger hair. Slightly wavy, complimenting her green eyes. Her pert little nose and her full lips. And her perfect forehead - mine was probably a little too large. And her hands, perfect nails... although hardly lethal like mine, no doubt.

“I can’t wait to show you around,” Jessica beams with utter joy and happiness, “You’ll love the hide out. It’s amazing.”

“I’m a little behind on the grand story of the Gang of Shadows in Avalon... so... Jess... is STRIKE residing at this hide out? And what did they tell you about me? I’m just... curious,” I keep a level voice but my eyes rage.

So, I try to keep my eyes focused on the outside while Jessica replies.

“Serge hasn’t said much about you. Dale has said a few words. You’re a dear friend to them, Alyssa. A special friend. I’m sure they’ll be so happy to see you. Being a part from close friends can be so painful, I know how it feels. I left many friends behind when I ran away from home five years ago. I’m sure you’ve imagined embracing them time and time again, imagining a perfect reunion. I know because I do it all the time,” Jessica rambles off and I quickly decide she is a talker.

Fantastic.

“That’s all?” I ask.

“Yep, that’s about it,” Jessica turns around and looks at me over her shoulder, true kindness in her eyes, “How are you feeling? We have counsellors if you need to talk to someone about how Reuben... you know... abused you.”

“A-ah... I’m... I’m fine,” I answer right before the taxi driver blasts the volume on the radio to drown out our conversation.

“Sorry girls, I love this song!” he pumps his fist into the air and I sit back in my leather taxi back seat... and let’s just say that there are multiple slashes in the material that will need to be repaired.

Jessica only mentioned Serge and Dale.

So where the hell were Ace and Jose?

And I was a friend.

And apparently Jessica didn’t know I knew how to take care of myself.

After a year in captivity - while Dale had been free for at least 10 months?... I had some questions.

Fury was embedded into my thoughts.

I try to expel it, but a whole year of keeping in my emotions make it hard to do so.

I tell myself to keep cool. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself when I was reunited with two of my beasts.

I just wasn’t sure if they were mine anymore.

And I wasn’t sure if I was going to be the hero I imagined myself to be.

Because my thoughts had quickly turned from wanting to save lives, to wanting to take them.

Well, at least one of them.

And that one life was sitting in the front passenger seat of this New World taxi.

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