“Hey King, wake up.”
Thief shakes me back into consciousness. I groan as sunlight peers through the skyscrapers and hits my eyes like a merciless laser beam. I look up to see her pretty face right in front of mine, and then my heart sinks with dread as I look behind her. The entirety of my city as well as my syndicate members sprawl throughout the ruins of the capitol, all of them staring me down in complete silence. In a V formation behind Thief on the marble stairs stands my top warriors: Ele, Zero, Owl, Crumb, Nero, and of course Pharaoh, all waiting for a long-overdue explanation.
I scrub the drool off my cheek and painfully use Thief’s shoulder to stand. I’m not injured but I’m extremely sore and my skin is still patchy and healing. It feels like a gigantic peeling sunburn all over my body. As I rise I expect to be ambushed by my own people for deserting them and then killing my second-in-command, but to my surprise my syndicate members all take a knee, then the whole city follows suit.
What a feeling--to stand on the ruins of our Kingdom’s monument with the amber throne behind me. To tower over hundreds of people at only five feet four...I never knew I needed something so badly until I received it. Take that God, I pray. Thought you could make me short and get away with it? Look who’s laughing now, bitch.
“Amen,” I say out loud by accident.
“What?” Thief asks. She doesn’t bow. She looks me dead in the eyes and sees me for the piece of shit leader I really am.
I turn my head too quickly to look at her and my vision darkens. I lose my balance and stumble backwards, then catch myself on the arms of the throne. For some reason I’m out of breath; I used up way more energy during the fight than I realized.
I try to redeem my moment of weakness and turn to address the crowd from the seat of the throne. “Does anybody have anything they want to say to me?” I ask, trying to control my rapid heartbeat. No one speaks up.
I point down to Drift’s lifeless body. “Does anyone have a problem with this?” Still, no one speaks up and several shake their heads no.
“Good. I’m leaving, Thief’s in charge.” Murmurs ripple through the civilian crowd while the warriors stay unmoving. They stand as I pick up Drift’s body and throw it over my shoulder, then silently ask Thief to follow me. The two of us leave the wasteland of a city as we deftly slip down to the one that still lies underneath.
We don’t talk to one another as we make our way back to my penthouse, simply because I have nothing to explain. She goes to the kitchen for a well-deserved drink and I go to the shower once again to scrub off the rest of the oil and dust from the fight.
I emerge wearing a slightly too-big brand-new combat uniform. I wrap a black silk rope underneath the heavy body armor and pull on my best pair of weighted fighting boots. I pack a small bag with a cantine and a first aid kit that I always have but never use, some soap, matches, a mask, and a pocket sized Bible that I always bring but can’t read. It’s a lucky charm I guess, Z gave it to me all those years ago.
I bring no weapons other than my knife and the leftover grenades from Colossus. I also grab the small hologram map from Pharaoh and I guiltily slip it into my pocket where it sits cold against the thin fabric between the metal and my leg.
I walk back out of the shower more refreshed than I’d been in a long time, however I don’t feel rested or that my energy has been restored despite my short nap upon the throne. Thief sits at the piano and slowly picks out the notes of a minor nocturne, she stops when I emerge.
“You’re leaving now?” She asks as she gets up to face me.
“I can’t wait anymore,” I say. “Between the week I was out and then this one where I was dealing with all this bullshit, Eli has to be with the Elite by now. It only takes two weeks to get to the portal from Colossus.”
“And it’ll take you about a month to get there from here,” she says.
“Right. Z’s nowhere to be found and that transporter’s busted,” I say. “I can’t take the tunnels because of the guards and Saint is too busy fighting them off herself. I’ll have to go the long way.”
“Yeah I don’t know where Z went,” she says. “As soon as he finished patching you up he disappeared.”
“He patched me up?” I ask. “Huh, no wonder it worked so well this time.”
“I wouldn’t say that yet,” she says and nods towards my yellow spots.
“I’m fine, I promise. This is just from the fight.”
“If you say so,” she responds. She clasps my shoulder and gives it a shake. “Take care King, I’ll make sure no one goes after you this time. Not even I want to deal with this mess and I know nobody else does either. Besides, this is your beef. I have a feeling you gotta take this one on your own.”
I grab her shoulder too, then unashamedly pull her into an embrace. “Thanks,” I say as she warmly returns the gesture. “I knew I could count on you.”
“That being said,” she says into my ear. “You better bring your ass back home, because if you don’t I will beat the shit out of you the moment I meet you at the gates of hell. I don’t care how long it takes for me to get there, I will take that promise with me to the grave. ”
I pull away and we clasp forearms. “Deal,” I say. “And hey, you should finish that piece,” I say as I nod towards the piano. “I like it, I want to listen to it when I get back.”
“I’ll try and find the time to do that while I’m running an entire country for you,” she says.
We both laugh. “Oh,” I say with a start. “Speaking of running this place, you know all that bacteria stuff that we kept in the throne room?”
“What did you do...” she says as her expression darkens.
“Listen, I might have busted the glass and those things sort of went everywhere...”
“They WHAT?!” She exclaims.
“Well I don’t know much about them but--”
“THOSE THINGS ARE TOXIC!”
“I mean, it looks like you know more than me so I figured I’d let you deal with it.”
“What if they get into the water supply? What am I supposed to do?!” She exclaims.
“I don’t know but I’m sure you’ll figure something out,” I mumble as I make my way towards the stairs.
“KING, ARE YOU SERIOUS?!”
“Yep. See ya!” I grab Drift, throw her over my now clean shoulder undoing the work I just did in the shower, then disappear upstairs and out the ballroom window before she can say another word, leaving her alone to clean up my mess as always.
I won’t tell you what I had to do to Drift’s body to make her ‘travel sized.’ When all was said and done, she was nothing more than a few vials of ink that I could slip easily into my pack. And that’s all you need to know.
I make my way over to a large garage and take out my bike. While most vehicles run on electricity these days, I persist with the old school gasoline-powered stuff. I control the pipelines on the coast and I’m friendly with a neighboring tribe that produces fuel (let’s face it, my kingdom might be one of the nicest to live in and has some of the best defense, but we’re definitely not the richest), so I can usually get around fairly easily on this thing. However with this journey I’ll need something that can take me farther than just a few miles before running out of fuel, especially since the last half is nothing but wasteland. Empress probably has something that’ll get me the rest of the way there...
I stop by a grocery on my out and gorge myself on fish, bread, and various vegetables, my last good meal before I resort to living off of whatever meat I can find out there. I don’t necessarily need to eat to stay alive, another power given to me through mutant blood, however the less I eat the smaller I am and the weaker I become. Just like anyone else.
With that I make my way out of the crater through a tunnel in the ground and begin my long journey. I do not look back behind me as the city disappears in the background, I do not attempt to take in the landscape of my home for what could be the last time. I only press onwards into the heat of the day, my mind set on one thing only, and that’s the destruction of the people who took my son.