Chapter 1: Tyrannus
My phone is ringing. The sound slowly stirs me from my drowsy state. I know it’s got to be John calling. It wouldn’t be anyone but John at this hour. Anyone else who has my phone number knows that I only pick up the phone after ten.
“What’s the move?” I ask him when I pick up. I begin rubbing my eyes, searching around the room for the TV remote to turn on the news. The object is not in its familiar space on the bedside table. I hold the phone between my ear and shoulder, tossing the covers aside.
“You’re late,” he says angrily on the other line. I roll my eyes and pull back the couch cushion. Deep in the layers of dust the controller almost smiles up at me. I stand and push the plush cushions back into place, sloppily.
“I just woke up.” He sighs on the other line as I press the power button. The TV comes to life quickly, already set to the only station I ever want to watch. My tardiness is to be expected, everyone who worked with me knew this, as well.
“Are you on your way?” he asks impatiently. I bite my lip as I wait for the commercials to end. I’m not looking for some stupid story about saving puppies next door, I’m looking for criminal sightings.
To make sure I’m not on it.
“Anita?” he asks. I pull my phone away from my ear and check the time on my bedside clock. I don’t actually care what time it is, I just want to make sure I didn’t miss the sketches of the criminals on the eight o’clock news.
“Call you back later.” I hang up promptly and throw the phone to the side, focusing on the programming in front of me. John tells me the news is full of lies and that filling my brain with nonsense will only make me more paranoid about the world and its downfall. I don’t ever bother to tell him I’m making sure our names haven’t been put under the most wanted list.
The woman on the screen is animated like they all are. In the Kaine District, the Shifters are the only ones who don’t rebel against the system. But of all the other species, humans are most likely to be criminal.
Seven sketches pop up below her face on the screen as she continues with her daily news of executions. The wanted criminals are always posted as the news broadcasts their coverage on town executions the previous day.
“Four executions took place yesterday in the Kaine District,” she announces. I pause and quirk an eyebrow, pulling a bag of chips off the bedside table into my lap. Four is slightly more than usual. Typically, most of the criminals were humans but every once in awhile a group of supernatural rebels were accidentally caught by Kaine’s soldiers.
“Criminal sightings are not entirely uncommon when it comes to the Kaine District,” she says. “I must warn you, the video you are about to see is disturbing and uncut.” It was the usual warning. I knew it well. The viewers were bloodthirsty animals, anyways.
My full attention is turned to the TV as I munch happily on my snack. Alpha Kaine had seemed so kind and understanding when he first took on his new role as Alpha, leaving the title of prince behind him. Since that day it had only gotten worse.
His first month as Alpha had been a good one. The crime rates went down and the general happiness of the people skyrocketed. This included the humans.
The sudden disappearance of Alpha Kaine’s oldest brother had hit him and the rest of the kingdom hard. The king and queen mourned the loss of their son and the Lector District for several weeks. Kaine’s siblings had all spent the day holding special ceremonies to remember their brother and all the royal subjects they lost.
Kaine was different.
He had almost immediately turned to violence. He turned all the prisons upside down and killed every inmate with his bare hands. To him it was like everyone had a role in his brothers death. Everyone was responsible. At least, that’s what the people say about him.
The channel switches over to a video. A zoomed in shot of Alpha Kaine’s clenched jaw was the first thing to be shown in the video. He growls and shoves at the camera’s as the video feed continues to roll. My hand froze in the bag as he made eye contact with the camera.
“You want a show?” he yelled, his eyes a deep purple hue as he turns to the camera with a sly smirk. “I’ll give you a show.” He backs up with three lare steps and beckons the audience closer to the stage, pointing at the criminals.
“The convicted are charged with crimes of theft, and general treason against the crown.” He points to the criminals as he states their crimes. One of the four men was the thief. The other three were tried with treason against the crown. They were most likely a group of rebellious humans who got caught doing petty crimes like vandalism or arson in local businesses where the Kaine District flag was proudly displayed.
“How did the jury find them?” A reporter asks, a microphone plunging into the camera’s viewpoint. Alpha Kaine does not answer, pushing away the stick to hoist himself onto the stage.
Not guilty. That’s how the jury always found Alpha Kaine’s so called criminals. The mostly human jury always found the convicted not guilty. Kaine always killed them anyways. Most were lucky if they even got a trial in the first place. It was rumored that Kaine refused to allow trials anymore, frustrated that they never swung in his favor.
“It is a crime to defy your Alpha. Even if you do it indirectly,” he sneers in their faces, without remorse for their now spit covered faces looking back at him. The way he speaks to the criminal’s is not only a real representation of his anger, it’s a threat. Alpha Kaine wanted everyone watching the broadcast both live and recorded a day later to know he was the boss and no one could defy him without meeting his wrath and deady Enforcer.
It was just the way it went.
“You are all a bunch of lowly Kinters,” Alpha Kaine says, his voice practically dripping with disgust. My eyes widen at the television, shoving another chip into my mouth as I watch his punishment unfold. Most human’s ended up as Kinters - slaves to the supernatural. We were the lowly species and always got the wrong end of the stick.
The crowd gasps as Kaine degrades his captures. They all stand in a perfect line, standing on wooden crates with nooses tied tightly around their necks. The smallest man wants to speak. His lips part and quickly shut multiple times. When the camera notices this, it zooms in on the mans face.
Kaine watches the device shift with interest, turning to the bearded man who trembles in his rope bindings. “Do you have something to say?” he asks angrily. “Have you not made my life miserable enough, now you must humiliate my rule further by speaking when you have not been spoken to?”
The man’s lips purse tightly, he too, does not want to feel Kaine’s wrath. He shakes his head without a second thought. Kaine snaps and grabs the man by the throat, lifting him several feet above his box. The camera’s go wild at this display, one of the reporters begging the camera to zoom in a bit more to capture the fear in the man’s eyes.
Kaine does not spare the man, bearing his elongated canine’s at the profusely sweating man in front of him. Kaine’s arm is shaking as he holds the man, but I can tell it’s from the man’s trembling and not lack of strength from Kaine’s feral side.
“If you have something to say, Kinter, I would love to hear it. Think of it as your last words,” he tells the man, his eyes begging him to speak ill will of him just so he can punish him for it in a few moments. The man purses his lips slightly as Kaine’s jaw tightens.
“I have a family, Alpha. I beg for your mercy. I have done nothing wrong,” he sputters quickly. Kaine seems to be satisfied with this and drops the man without a second thought, watching his body creep into a fetal position with a cruel smirk. He motions behind him for his Enforcer, wiggling his fingers for the familiar feel of an axe handle.
“I will allow you mercy,” he says, knowing full well the man cannot see him with the way his body hunches over in a deep bow of respect for the Alpha. When the man’s eyes look up full of wonder he sees Kaine’s axe poised high above his head. “You will be the first to go.” He says, his axe falling down to slice the man’s head into two halves.
I wince but I am unable to look away as Kaine’s eyes wander back to the camera wickedly. “Kill the rest,” he says, not bothering to look as the Enforcer pulls the lever causing the rest of the fugitives to fall to their deaths, necks snapping in sync.
Kaine turns to the rest of the crowd. “Let this be a lesson to you and your families. If you disobey me, I will find you, and I will kill you,” he says, reciting the message he always gives at the end of each execution.
The broadcast is abruptly cut off and the screen snaps back to the reporter from earlier. She feigned disgust at the Alpha’s actions but she could not hide the underlying gleam in her eyes as she turned to her colleague and began to talk about the upcoming weather for the next few days. That’s when I shut the TV off.
The Shifters appear to feed off violence, or perhaps, dominance of the other races. The Shifters thought they were superior to all the other species just because they had the crown and the means to wipe out everyone else if they needed to.
The phone rings again, the screen lighting up as it vibrates, moving itself across the wood towards what would be a fatal fall to the cheap hardwood flooring below. I grab it, pressing the familiar green button.
“Where the fuck are you, Anita?” he seethes through the phone, his voice raising. I can practically see him, drumming his fingers nervously in his van as he waited for me to show up on the bus and crawl into his passenger seat.
“Relax, I’m just looking for my boots.” I say, tugging my pants on quickly, throwing my arm under my bed to blindly search for my footwear.
“We were supposed to be done an hour ago. What were you doing?” I refuse to talk to him about what was on the news today. John has a deep underlying fear of being caught and tortured to death by the Alpha. If I told him that the Alpha was cracking down on fugitive’s and petty crime he would drive away without a second thought and leave me to do the job myself.
“I’m leaving now.” I update him, pulling the house key from the hook by the door, tossing my jacket over my arm. “I can probably just catch the next bus so I’ll be there in like fifteen minutes tops depending on how many pickups we make on the way there. John sighs heavily into the phone.
“Hurry. Up. Or. I’ll. Report. You.” He snaps, cutting the connection.