His Magnificence

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A half hour later, the Sherwood arrived at the crumbled ruins of the old Newark train station.

As it glided alongside the faded, chipped sidewalk leading to the crumbled passenger platform, Jesse and Sarah looked in astonishment as they watched fifty pryvies, each more unkempt than the other, queued up single-file to enter what appeared to be a black hole beneath a graffitied platform.

Above it hung a wooden sign complete with gold lettering with a blood-splattering effect.


“What the hell is going on?” Sarah asked.

“What’s with the pryvies?” Jesse inquired as he clasped his hands over mouth.

Bristol stopped the Sherwood in front of a gigantic pile of white rocks next to the platform staircase. He looked toward Jesse for his expression.

“Is this… what I think it is?!” Jesse implored.

Bristol nodded.

“Oh my God,” Sarah whispered, then reached for Jesse’s hand. “I always believed it to be true, but… wow…”

“I wanted to apologize, Jesse,” Bristol said. “You were correct. The sewer colonies exist.”

Jesse extended his arm towards Bristol’s and grabbed his right wrist. “How did you know about this?! And why aren’t these patrolled by the police or military?”

“They probably didn’t discover this one yet,” Bristol murmured. All of your diatribes regarding projectdriht.link? Well, after the attack happened, my curiosity got the best of me. I looked up the site, and I saw a post about a colony springing up here uploaded this morning. So, I took a drive ’ere to see for myself. When I arrived before 900, there were hundreds, maybe thousands lined up.”

Jesse, panting, snapped his head towards Sarah. “We need to see this for ourselves! We need to tell everyone before we leave!”

“Yeah,” she stammered, nodding.

“Will you come with us, Mr. Bristol?” Jesse implored.

“You two go ahead,” he replied, smiling.

“Thank you,” Jesse whispered. “Thank you!”

When Jesse and Sarah disembarked, they instantly embraced and kissed.

“I knew it!” Sarah shrieked.

“It’s too good to be true,” Jesse countered. “But we must hurry!”

Nervously pacing themselves behind a frail elderly man wrapped in a brown tarp, Jesse and Sarah entered a void of total darkness. Carefully following, they descended three flights of stairs.

Eventually, they emerged in an abandoned railway tunnel with minimal light, and what they saw confirmed every single rumor they had ever read on the Project.

Piecemeal forts with discarded blankets, tarps, and any cloth available suspended on sticks or stilts for privacy.

Trash barrel fires to illuminate the underpass.

Worship tents, like the ones in Faithville, with prayer sessions inside and out.

Clothing outlets, infirmaries, and food banks within the grey train cars covered in cobwebs, all candlelit.

Frail pryvies feeding themselves scraps.

Their only source of electrical power is a wire hooked up to plasma TVs scattered throughout, tuned to reality TV.

An overall congregation of poverty-stricken, faith-clinging, under-educated human populace that, to Jesse and Sarah, were neglected behind by its government.

Hand-in-hand, they deliberately paced themselves like a cat stalking a mouse as they absorbed the bacterial personification of humanity they shuddered to think about. Their plain clothes stood out like tulips growing out of a flowerpot as random pryvies stopped to stare at them. As they passed the food bank, a withered man and woman, wrapped in white cloths, approached Sarah and Jesse, reached out their hands, and started spewing gibberish.

As their voices slowly increased, Jesse yanked Sarah away and implored her not to make eye contact. As they continued along, larger groups of about ten each stopped to stare, then slowly approached them like a swarm of bees around a hive.

Finally, as they reached the darkest portion of the tunnel, they attempted to count the shelters positioned one-by-one to their horizon line where light disappeared.

When they stopped, a hand grabbed Sarah’s shoulder, and she shrieked at the top of her lungs.

After Jesse snapped his head backward, two grimy arms interlocked underneath his shoulders and thrusted him backwards like a magnet adhering to a refrigerator door. “WHAT THE?!” he screamed.

Another did the same to Sarah. “LET ME GO!” she wailed.

A swarm of pryvies, all bellowing unintelligible orders, descended upon them, some wielding chains, others knives. Two others pointed silver Larsen .54 lasers at their heads. Flashbacks to the A train substation flashed through b their minds as their hearts pumped burning acids of fear.

“WHAT ARE NINE-PERCENTERS DOING HERE?” growled a sixty-something white-bushy-haired man.

“THEY’RE DCF AGENTS! KILL THEM!” boomed a shaved-headed afro-Freedomian woman wielding brass knuckles.

Then, a deafening whistle echoed through the tunnel, stopping all activity.

All human life in the tunnel turned toward a young thirty-something man, with black side-parted hair, thin round glasses, and a shiny black tarp wrapped around his torso in stark contrast to his light ripped jeans. The imposing figured emerged from the darkness, deliberately pacing slowly forward toward Jesse and Sarah.

“SEARCH THEM!” the man shouted in a high-pitched lisp.

Pryvies surrounding Jesse and Sarah frisked their pockets and patted them down head-to-toe. The wallets and ultraphones were handed to the black-caped man, who summoned their holographic ID cards from their wallets and studied them meticulously.

“Sarah Schale,” the caped man growled. “Fourteen years old, born 17 February 1 N.G. Hmmm, a beautiful natural-born Freedomian! And what do we have here? Jess-Jess… wait, this has to be fake! Born on Divinity Day 1 N.G.?! Jesse Maith, the Pioneers quarterback?! SEIZE HIM!”

Jesse raised his fists as the pryvie mob descended upon him.

Then, a voice rang out: “WAIT! Danny… this is Jesse Maith!” A salt-and-pepper bearded bald emerged in front of Jesse, stared in Jesse’s eyes, and continued: “I recognize that face anywhere on the telescreen!”

The man’s rancid breath caused Jesse to recoil and vomit in his mouth. When when the man stepped away, Jesse’s mood turned from deathly afraid to insanely confused as the Danny, the caped man, re-approached him, and smiled.

“Holy Joshy Josh! You are the Everton quarterback!” Danny said.

Jesse, panting, skeptically studied the green eyes beneath Danny’s glasses. “So, that means you won’t kill us?!”

“You and your girl here undercover DCF agents?” Danny asked in a pseudo-authoritative tone.

“What?!” Jesse scoffed. “Do we look like we’re undercover? We’re freshmen, for Joshua’s sake!”

“What are nine-percenters like you doing in a place like this?”

“How do you know we’re nine-percenters?”

“What pryvie can afford such a shiny tracksuit?”

“What do you want from us?!”

“The real question is, what do you want from us?!”

“If we tell you what we’re doing down here, stop pointing those damn lasers at us and let us go?”

Danny paused, then nearly pressed his nose against Jesse’s. As he studied the streams of sweat streaming down his nose, he frowned, then growled: “this had better be good.”

Then Sarah chimed: “we read about the sewer colonies! We didn’t know if they were true or not, so we came down here to explore and discover for ourselves!” Danny frowned as he studied Sarah, but her next statement quickly erased it. “We… want to help you stop you-know-who!”

A look of astonished surprise overtook Danny’s face. As a black circle formed between his lips, his equally astonished subordinates murmured amongst each other in disbelief.

Moments later, Danny took a deep breath and ordered their release. “Come with me,” he demanded.

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