0: Bleeding Oblivion
The fall from The Carriage was going to kill him. Zalez was sure of that. So he just accepted it, lying face down on the roof of a tower in the commerce sector of Antariz city. He coughed, spraying the gravel with blood. The air was heavy with smoke and poison so it just made his conditions worse.
He had been double-crossed, even though he knew that dealing with someone as untrustworthy as Udrax was not going to be easy. He had relied on rumors only and now he regretted it. He should have found out more about this guy before accepting to meet him at his flying Carriage but desperation led to his ruin. In the end, he'd been outsmarted by this guy. He just wished for the Reset to occur soon before Udrax found him.
The sky under which he died was a dull gray that hid the clear blue beyond. Not a dull gray of rain, but of generations of pollution leaving a permanent stain on the world. On the skyway, somewhere around the 20th story of the building, carjets whizzed past at insane speed, leaving behind a vague memory of violet afterglow. He heard the hissing of a descending carjet. His arrival would mess up everything. He worried that his plan would not work if Udrax interfered. All that had led to it had been driven meaningless. Unless…
The dull black, sleek carjet landed with a loud yet short crunch. It was a carjet built for style and luxury, with efficiency hidden under its dark chrome exterior. A carjet that could achieve insane speeds not in the air but on the ground too. The doors clanked open upwards and out came Udrax, the man himself, finally getting his own hands dirty for something. So dealing with me was that much important for this guy, Zalez wondered. Something about me has brought out the puppetmaster from his cloak of shadows.
The gait. The full black eyes. The cold expression. The twitching of the left eye. Udrax was so far removed from normal humans that he looked out of place in the light of day. This was a man of darkness who only exists in rumors. Now he walked up to Zalez with two mercenaries trailing behind him. One of them had a metal arm. They both carried weapons. Loyal dogs to an indifferent master.
Drugs. Technologies. Gambling. BioUpgrades. Cybernetics. Slaves.
This man made money out of thin air, doing all that should not be done. Not the King of the city’s underworld but the city’s underworld itself in human shape. And right now he stood before Zalez. A gaunt man with pale skin and completely black eyes. He was wearing lenses switched to a dark mode, adding to his inhuman appearance further. Zalez bent down and sat in front of Zalez with his legs crossed. The two men towered behind, looming like pillars with guns. Udrax snapped his fingers and pointed at Zalez. The one with the metal arm advanced, grabbing Zalez by the side chest, hurting him. He held back the pained groans. The man turned him over, causing the two men’s eyes to meet. While Udrax just stared down vaguely, his left eye twitching, Zalez looked into the darkness and saw himself being reflected. Stare into the abyss… Beyond that pale face with the swept-back black hair, the sky began to darken. The Reset was coming.
Udrax finally spoke, keeping his gaze intact: “You wanted to meet me. Here I am.” A low voice that sounded like sandpaper rubbing slightly against concrete. There was no emotion in it. Just a cold statement.
“Yeah but …. Not like this. A little more hospitable, perhaps.” replied Zalez, laughing a little but then stopping because it hurt too much. Zalez worked his brain. There had to be some way to deal with all this. He just had to figure it out. The Reset was getting closer. Anytime soon, the Alignment would occur taking him away from all this.
“I should make it clear that I do not intend to let you survive. I offer you death, nothing more.” Udrax continued in the same tone.
“So why am I still alive then? Finish me off.”
“I will but first, I need something you have. Tell me the location of The Client.”
He knew about The Client. Zalez was shocked but hid it well. Not much emotion showed on a face contorted with pain.
“What are you talking about man?”
“I had hoped that you cooperated but it seems that I must use other methods to dissect you.”
Dissect? Zalez wondered why he had chosen that word. This man was deadly, he knew that for sure now. He also understood that his predicament was of the unescapable kind. If only he could make it to the Reset with his brain intact.
“You're awfully patient,” said Zalez, playing for time.
“Why rush the process? You’ll answer me one way or the other.” To one of his men standing behind, he said: “Bring the device.”
The man with the metal arm turned, proceeding towards the carjet.
Zalez was hit by an idea.
Maybe I could incorporate this into everything.
He felt sorry for Udrax at the moment, as Zalez closed his eyes and concentrated all his remaining energy on a final contingency. The shape of the entire scheme was about to morph.
Zalez plunged into new waters headfirst.
The man with the metal arm turned, proceeding towards the carjet.
He returned with a helmet in his hand. It was dull indigo with wire and diodes protruding from several places. It was connected to a small switchboard with a screen and several dials and indicators flashing in a neon frenzy. The man lifted Zalez’s head a little with his metal arm and put on the helmet. Zalez did not struggle. He was too weak to do so. The man handed the switchboard to Udrax who flicked a switch.
The agony began.
The machine bit down on his head, clasping it tightly. Zalez felt like his skull would crack open like an egg. Slowly, excruciatingly, bit by bit, the machine removed his flesh, disintegrating it away. Flashes of red burned out his eyes and ate away his flesh. Zalez began screaming. The machine did not stop, now targeting his muscles. Methodically, the fine lasers cut down all the way to his skull. His face was gone. His eyes. Nose. Mouth. Ears. All gone. But he was still alive in a state of torment.
At some point, Zalez stopped screaming. His awareness was shattering. The pain had dislodged him from his existence. His sense of self melted away and led to nothingness. Zalez was in a dark void with an aurora of pain flickering brightly. Shards of awareness, memory, and personality scattered into the void. Then it was all over. The machine had cleared away his head and extracted his brain.
The sky darkened further as the five planets of Sorarix Galaxy began coming into alignment. One of the men picked up the machine and showed it to Udrax, who gave a short approving nod. The fourth planet to the star, Itrix Urba, blocked the starlight, forming a shadow on Itrix Vega. Udrax kept sitting, legs crossed, and looked at the headless corpse in front of him. His left eye twitched uncontrollably. His face expressionless.
Zalez had been captured.
Only one more remains now.
Enveloped in shadow, everything stopped. The Galaxy held its breath for an eternity before letting it all out in a sigh. The Reset took place. The world returned to the state it was in 24 hours ago. People. Vehicles. Memories. Back to their original positions. A Day forgotten. Men moved on unaware they were living a day on repeat. Memories of the time gone. To them, the day had never happened. Only a select few remembered. They are the Non-resets, men who determine the destiny of this looped world. A world that was about to plunge into chaos.
This was the event that led to the Birth of Oblivion!
1: New Morning
Zalez woke up in his carjet with no memories of himself. Something was off about everything. Zalez felt awake but did not understand that. He just emptily stared into nothingness as his brain did not interpret the world around him properly. Within him, the black void rose like water, drowning him. Then the gates opened, and data flooded into his mind. Shards of thought came together and formed images. Vague memories from the past.
Floating in fluid.
A man in black clothes beyond the foggy liquid and a dull glass with a hazy reflection of a face.
A name. “Zalez”
Is that it? He questioned the void.
No reply. The man in black smiled before the shards separated, dissolving into the black mist. The vision was over and Zalez surfaced into a hostile reality.
Lack of memories meant that Zalez did not recognize his surroundings. An old carjet, an Endeavor 256, its windscreen scratched, its leather seats torn in places and its chrome exterior faded into a rusted silver peeking from beneath the flakes of red paint. Its interior felt lived in, as signs of the human touch were everywhere. From the withered-down leather of the steering wheel to the faded digits on the control panel. Zalez felt like it belonged to him but he could not remember. He had been told his name in the vision but that was it. The disorienting feeling made him nauseated and he held back the bile. He found the door handle, pushed open the door upwards, and stumbled out.
Outside, on the concrete surface of the garage, he staggered, falling onto his knees and hands. Unable to hold back, he threw up violently. His breath came out in forced intervals. Inhaling and exhaling as if the world had run out of air. Sweat dripped from his forehead and his eyes darted around the messy garage. Spare parts and tools were scattered randomly all over the room. Only way in or out was the shutter.
He tried to think but his mind just screeched like a television tuned to a dead channel.
Who am I? Where? What is going on? He was besieged with questions and no answers came up.
I am Zalez. The man in black beyond the glass. The only two memories stood prominent in his blank mind. Zalez stood up awkwardly, his legs trembling. He brought up his hands in front of his face and looked at them for some while. Terror and despair gripped him as he let his hands fall down limply to his sides.
He could not even recognize his own hands.
. . . . . . .
Savexil VorteXia stood at the edge of the roof of the VorteXia Corporation headquarters, looking at the city down below. Ugly buildings towering over the city’s underworld like the stumps of burnt trees, and the VorteXia headquarters stood above the rest. The wind ruffled his blonde hair, shook his tie, and blew away the smoke from his cigarette. He took a puff, held in the smoke, and let it all out with a sigh. Enough. He threw down the cigarette and watched as it fell away.
He looked down at the city, ignorant of the Reset, continuing with its mundane routines. Day after day after day, it was all the same. Like ants walking in a line. Mindless mass of predetermined lives. Whether the people knew it or not, Savexil was present in all aspects of their life. His corporation had completely fused with this city, providing food, estate, medicine, access to cyberspace and so much more. This city was so dependent on the VorteXia Corporation that it could not survive without it.
He had everything he could want. Ever since he was born into his father’s world, Savexil never had to struggle to achieve anything. He always knew of his vast inheritance, the monolith his forefathers had built and now, in its perfect state, it became his dominion. Everything….
Everything is too much for one man to shoulder.
The screech and hiss of a metallic door being opened announced the presence of a visitor. Savexil slowly tilted his head back and saw it was one of his men. The ones involved in the darker side of VorteXia.
“Boss! The Board of Directors has assembled. They wait for you downstairs.” he delivered the message with a mock respectful tone.
It’s not me they respect! He thought. His father’s ghost haunted him still.
“Tell them I'll be down soon.” The man left.
Savexil turned back to his original position, standing at the edge. He took out another cigarette from inside his coat, lit it, let the fire die into a burnt glow, and then took a puff. Not for the first time, Savexil thought about stepping beyond the edge. A fall to death. It seemed like a beautiful way to die.
Zalez had been wearing a brown trench coat with its inside lined with fur. He dug around in its many pockets to look for something and almost gave up on the search when his fingers brushed against something. He pulled it out. A small glass bottle containing clear fluid with a label in neat blocky print that read: “USE ONLY WHEN NECESSARY!”
Zalez placed it back and reentered the carjet, looking for any signs of his own identity. He looked into the rearview mirror and saw a vaguely remembered face staring back. The reflection in that vision. Zalez saw messy black hair that hung forwards, brown eyes, and a sharp nose. A stranger to himself.
He found a pistol in the dashboard and a metal flask containing weak watered-down alcohol. He checked the gun. It was of an antique kind with metallic bullets in the magazine. He sipped the drink. It was watered-down wine but he had to work with what he got. Then he pocketed both and looked for something else. There was a card in that dashboard. One side of it was black with red lettering that stated: “MEMBER” and below it was more writing that said: “The Underland”. He turned it over. Red background with a simplistic logo in black. A human skull with horns.
Huh! What’s this? He pocketed it too.
He sat in the carjet and with his head down, wondered what he was supposed to do. Zalez knew that he was a person. He had lived some sort of life and understood the world around him, but what he lacked was experience. He knew nothing about himself and it made him feel so cold.
Parents? Friends? Full name? Birthday? Favorite food? Who did this to me?
There was nothing. Zalez just sat there, wondering what he could possibly do.
A thought came into his head: Might as well drive.
He opened the shutter and looked out into the city. Bustling traffic in the skies. Carjets were like carrion eaters circling the city. The city itself was a monster of metal and concrete. Massive buildings with their sharp, trigonal tops loomed over the denizens of this world. The garage was on the 4th floor. More garage rooms were visible in the area. The entire complex was garage rooms. Nothing else.
What was I doing here? He wondered as he turned back towards his carjet.
Time to go for a drive.
The world itself became a blur as Zalez clicked past each gear. The carjet flew in the skyway. The numbers were rising as the speedometer flashed in a frenzy. Avoiding traffic was getting harder and harder, as the drag force screamed and scratched his car. He decided to get rid of the problem presented by the traffic and lifted his carjet above the legally set sky lane height. Zalez was pushed back in his seat as the world lost all clarity. It was him and the carjet. The engine roared louder. The tail lights left trails of red for those to see. On that day, people who saw the carjet flying would tell how it was the fastest they had seen anyone go.
Inside, Zalez felt the strong push of the G-force crushing his insides, but he kept a firm grip on the steering. It did not click in him that what he was doing was quite insane until he saw the speedometer only showed “ERROR”. But he did not slow down. Above the buildings, he was safe from the threat of crashing. There were no birds in flight. The polluted air had taken care of them years ago. Zalez. The carjet. And speed.
A police jet had been stationed in the city, waiting for anything to disturb the normality of the day. The officer inside had been quite surprised when he saw the carjet leaving only a blurry red afterimage on his monitors. Turning on the red and blue beacon, he prepared to follow this madman.
“Initiating pursuit. Culprit in an Endeavor 256 breaking speed limits and flying outside sky lanes.” the officer announced in his communicator.
The rumor had spread soon after the day Zalez had been killed by Udrax. When Zalez had stopped showing up at his usual spots, it had become obvious what might have happened. Friends. Enemies. Acquaintances. Associates. Everyone knew. Like carrion birds, they all wanted a piece. Zalez dying meant that an empty Zalez was out there. Ripe for the taking and everyone wanted the fruit. While Udrax had gotten what he wanted already, the rest of the factions scrambled looking for the new Zalez.
The power struggle between the factions of Antariz had begun with Zalez at the center.
2: Expected Friction
Data was everywhere for those who cared enough to look for it. In the wires. In the air. In whispered conversations in dark alleys. In the VorteXian cyberspace accessible only to those willing to pay.
CyberFantasia. What an accurate name. Dreamworld for the addicts. Bezel thought, her metal eyes glued to the monitors, displaying all sorts of communications, looking for the tiniest of disturbances. The eyeballs were programmed to properly receive and sift through visual info and right now, she was watching to see if the screens changed. If it did, it meant that something had happened differently and therefore, was the work of a Non-Reset.
In the police airwaves, a new signal had emerged. He singled out the disturbance and listened: “Initiating pursuit. Culprit in an Endeavor 256 breaking speed limit and flying outside sky lanes.”
An Endeavor 256! This was worth reporting. She switched on the comm module.
“Rage, man, you there. I got somethin. Ain’t that his car?” She transferred over the signal and its geolocation.
Rage replied after a pause: “Yeah it is. Good stuff, Bez.” And then he cut off the comm call. Bezel went back to her screens.
While carjets can go fast, policejets are made for that very purpose. It didn’t take much time for the cop to catch up with Zalez and shoot out a short pulse to kill his Endeavor’s engines. It slowed to a halt and the cop flew up beside him. Over the mounted speakers of his jet, the cop ordered: “Fly down to a carport. Any attempt to flee or disobey shall result in your vehicle being shot down.”
Zalez thought if he just acted cool, he might get out of this situation.
Why am I worried? This should be a good thing. I'll ask the cops to help me out.
With a different resolve, Zalez flew down the carjet on auxiliary power with the cop following just behind. He checked his antique pistol for bullets. Just in case it was needed.
In the policejet, the cop had his monitor switched on, looking for something on the waves. Specifically, he was looking for the VorteXia signal, his generous benefactors. They were always willing to pay him if he had something that they wanted.
There it was. The VorteXia channel. He singled it out and activated its audiovisual interpretation. It was encrypted but he did not want to read anything. He just wanted to add his own info on the waves.
Endeavor 256. And he hit send.
The boardroom was below the topmost floors that were both Savexil’s office and home. In its center lay a lengthy rectangular wooden table with space for 12 people on either side. It was an expensive thing, as genuine wood was hard to come by those days and on the table was a large box. Big enough to fit inside a person and that is exactly what was in there. The box meant that this was an Icebox meeting.
At the table's head lay an antique armchair with decorations that depicted vines and roots and in the center a sun with a smiling face. A throne would be a better way to describe it.
This table of 24 was occupied by four people who were physically present and the Holoavatar of the fifth member of VorteXia’s Board of Directors. They had all been summoned by their boss and now awaited him.
The pale, gaunt man in a simple office uniform sitting closest to the head of the table was getting impatient. Artor Velgrave didn't like these meetings as they always ended in violence. He despised the sight of blood or gore so he wished he could just leave. Mr. VorteXia had never been so adamant about such things but the son was so different compared to him. The father had trusted him enough to let him handle all of the Corporations accountancy. The young Savexil didn't seem nearly as trusting as his old man.
Beside him was a man with a single ear, Ruben Varzteg, paranoid as always. His eyes darted all over the room like a meerkat's. If it had been anyone else it might have come off as odd but not for Ruben. Paranoia was part of his job as pest control. He took care of rat infestations within the organization itself and the box on the table was his work. On each day of the reset, he brought a different person if he could, each with something or else that made him worth subjecting to the Icebox.
"Settle down Ruben my boy. You seem a little too much on edge today." Came the booming loud voice of the giant old man on the other side of the table. "You too, Artie, young man."
"Don't call me 'Artie', old man!"Artor snapped at Old Man Jarvin, clearly no longer able to hold back his annoyance. "And what's even the point of this?"
He pointed to the box on the table. He then hit the table with his palm and stood up.
Ruben, who felt insulted, hissed back at him, "If you do not appreciate my work, tin can, you're quite welcome to piss off."
"Don't forget who funds your entire existence, Rat Sniffer."
"I don't get where all that big boy talk is coming from cuz I sure as hell ain't working for you. Maybe I'll put you in the Icebox next. Tell Mr. Savexil that useless piece of scrap metal Artor was a rat all along." Ruben chuckled at the prospect, his laughter coming out more like coughs than actually a laugh.
"Oi Oi boys, no need to grab each other's throats." Old man Jarvin said, as he too got up, towering over the rest due to his height. Even though he was much older than the rest of the room, not counting Genx07 Hakaba, who sat in a far-off corner from the rest of them, they feared and respected him due to his insane strength. Severe body training all his life coupled with whatever modifications modern technology presented had made Jarvin one of the strongest men on the planet. One of the oldest too if Genx07 was ignored. And it was easy to ignore him as he barely spoke and remained in his corner, his hand on the katana by his waist and his face emotionless. He and Aura were the only Non-Resets among them.
Both Ruben and Artor sat back silently, going back to what they were doing earlier. Ruben looked around the room like a meerkat, while Artor looked for some other reason to be annoyed. He found it in the form of the fifth member, Aura Bloodlock, the one who never showed up at these meetings. It was always her HoloAvatar, this time a pale blue woman with pink hair beneath a huge pointy hat wearing a gray robe with leafy patterns on it. Every time it was different and every time her HoloAvatar remained inactive until Savexil showed up. She was the newest member of the Board of Directors, brought in by Savexil himself and the others didn't know much about her.
"What's she supposed to be this time?" Artor said. "Can't she just be her normal form?"
"A witch, Artie my boy."
"A what?" Artor ignored the 'Artie', knowing it was pointless to argue with the old man.
"A witch. Oi Oi don't tell me you don't know what that is?" Old Man Jarvin actually seemed a bit disappointed.
Artor didn't reply but Jarvin continued anyway. "A witch, my boy, is someone who can do magic. They are as cunning as they are beautiful in the stories. Though in the stories my father read to me they were always ugly and scary."
Jarvin went on ranting about witches and his childhood in the way old men often do. Artor pretended to listen but lost track of what was being said. He didn't want to argue with Old Man Jarvin. He still remembered the time when he had angered him. He had been grabbed by the leg and thrown so hard out of the headquarters that he had woken up all bloody and bruised in some other building.
When Old Man Jarvin had stopped talking, Artor began his barrage again, "Shouldn't she be subject to the same rules as us? Why does the new boss give her so much free reign?"
"No No my boy that won't do! Not at all." Old Man Jarvin's looked grave and Artor grew pale.
What did I say now? Why can't I just shut up? Sweat rolled down his forehead as his inner voice belittled him.
"Artie my boy, you can't think of the young master like that. 'New boss'." He scoffed. "He's not to be called that, you hear me? He is The Boss now. You get me, boy?"
Old Man Jarvin seemed pretty serious now as Artor had struck a nerve within him. He had been loyal to Savexil's father all his life and that had transferred over to the son.
Before something regretful could have happened, an ethereal female voice spoke from a speaker in the Holoprojector fixed to the roof, "It seems you don't like me Artor! Weird, coming from a guy who trusts me with his memories each day."
The witch was awake, her large green eyes staring intently at Artor.
"It's not like that." Artor began defending himself. "I—umm—it's just that—uh you know—we deserve to know more about you. We trust you enough with our memories of each reset. Don't you trust us?"
She did not answer him. Her eyes went out of focus and her face went to its default state. A look of serene contemplation.
"Hey! Aura?" Artor asked. "Where'd she go?"
Her HoloAvatar had gone offline.
“Ummm” Artor hesitated.
"Oh, Savexil's gonna love this." She clapped her hands soundlessly and laughed. It sounded like a handful of coins dropped into a fountain.
Artor asked the question on everyone’s minds, "What is it?"
She didn't answer him, instead gave him a conspiratorial wink and rose.
"Savexil is here." She announced in her sugary voice.
The metal doors behind the throne-like armchair automatically slid open to let in Savexil VorteXia. They rose, everyone except Old Man Jarvin, and greeted the boss who sat down at the table's head.
Having settled down, he sighed, "Well let's get this meeting started. Who do we have in the Icebox today?"
3: Destined Meeting
Bezel saw the text transmission.
Bring him over to HQ. V
V. That was the VorteXia call sign.
"Shit." Bezel hissed. She rang up Rage but he was not picking up so she rang one of the Blaze Twins instead. It was Scythe who received the call.
"Hiya Bez! How's the monitor duty?" She asked.
"Cut the chit-chat. Where's Rage?" There was urgency in Bezel's voice and Scythe picked up on it.
"Why? What's up?"
"It's VorteXia. They're involved. Just let Rage talk to me."
"Rage isn't here. He went out with his little hunting party."
"Yeah, Bez. Don't worry. I'll call my sister and tell her about it. She went out with his party."
"Kay. Thanks. Do it." She calmed down.
"Yeah, Bez. Anything." And Scythe cut off the communication.
Bezel's focus was back on the screens. A lot was happening on that day and she wondered what it all was leading to.
… … …
Zalez got out of his carjet with his hands in the air. The pistol was tucked away in his inside pocket with the other stuff. The cop had a standard-issue stunner aimed at him.
"Get down. On the ground, now!" He barked out at him.
Zalez had no choice but to comply. He would have a nice chat with the cop about how he had no memories of himself and wanted to know if they could help out. It sounded like a good plan and for that he had to deal with all the formalities of being arrested.
Then he heard the click of the safety being released. The whizz of a stun being charged with energy. Zalez realized that he was about to be shot and his hand went to his pistol instinctively. He could not reach it in time. A quick flash of blue and Zalez fell to the ground, paralyzed but awake.
The concrete crunched under the metal boots of the cop who now stood in front of Zalez.
“Go to sleep, punk!” And then he kicked Zalez in the face, sending his consciousness into a frenzy as the world faded into nothing.
… … …
Artor Velgrave wanted to leave. Due to the Reset, there would be no profit for the company. All money gained would just return to the hands it was in 24 hours before. His position at VorteXia had become useless. They were now just filling in for roles that meant nothing in their world. Even these meetings were nothing close to the vision the VorteXia Corporation had held. Artor had seen the numbers. VorteXia was an entirely self-supporting company now, and the positions they help were advisors to a king that did not care. In this case, Savexil. The only child of Mr. VorteXia.
Ruben Varzteg stood up and reached out to the keypad on the IceBox; the box opened.
Like a presenter on a stage, he introduced the poor sod, frozen like a popsicle.
“Nickname: Opaque. Real name unknown. One of her men, that wicked Soothsayer.”
The man in question was alive, he was just frozen for the time being. He was in his 20s, quite young to be involved in the rather unpleasant side of the city.
Artor spoke up: “You captured one of them? I thought VorteXia had a truce with the …uhhh… what did they call themselves again?”
Artor expected an answer from Aura and saw she was offline. He had to look at Ruben for it.
“Our esteemed friends, the Sons of Destiny, did have a truce with us. They don’t bother us, and in return, we don’t break down their door and wipe out every last one of them, starting with that Soothsayer of theirs. This gentleman broke it. Found him sniffing around one of our warehouses.”
He interrupted himself with a small bout of coughing and continued. “Here’s the funny part. It was the warehouse that stores mineral water bottles. Somebody must have given him the wrong info. Poor Bastard.”
The poor bastard in question lay on the table like a feast for the beasts.
Jarvin did not like it at all. In his deep booming voice that seemed to emanate from his chest like an earthquake, he grumbled: "No No, that won't do! Not at all."
Savexil looked disinterested in the matter. He wondered why Ruben made it sound so imminent. It was probably one really thirsty guy, and now Ruben had VorteXia preparing for war against these underground folk. And what did it matter? The Reset would not let their actions linger for any longer than a day.
He spoke. “We will decide on further action if they challenge VorteXia again. We forgive them now.”
Ruben lost the fun he was having. So he spoke as he had so many times before at these IceBox meetings when Savexil’s father had been the boss.
“Master VorteXia, decide his punishment.”
Savexil said as he had seen his father do: “Ruin him.”
He wondered if he could ever escape the shadow of his father. Darkness fell across his face.
… … …
Rage got the message. VorteXia had become involved. Messing with the big fish meant trouble. Had it been anyone else, he would have stopped the pursuit, but capturing Zalez was too big of an opportunity to leave. Rage had to make a decision by himself. Asking the higher-ups would be a mistake. He knew Cypher would tell him to leave it, spouting some random prophecy that the Great Mother shared. Rage wondered if he could pull it off and if there was anyone crazy enough to take the job.
That was when Fuse came to mind. Positively proven insane. That man had a penchant to do the riskiest things and still make it out to the other side alive with his brain intact. And he was strong too. The right man for the wrong job.
Rage thought to call his handlers, Opaque and Jemz. From her hideout, Bezel heard the conversation. The directive given was simple: Tell Fuse to capture Zalez from VorteXia Tower.
This was interesting stuff. Rage trying to act on his own in direct denial of their treaty with VorteXia. Her lips shone from the glow of the screens marked by data, as she smiled and added her own contribution to it. A simple message to Cypher, forewarning him of what was to come. Even in the Reset, Rage’s actions might have consequences.
… … …
Zalez was dreaming.
Were these memories?
He saw his own reflection on a dark screen. Hollow eyes looking at a dead face. Floating in some glassy tube. And he saw it move. His own face beyond the reflection. He watched its similarities and thought if it was his own reflection that had betrayed him.
The face beyond the reflection smiled and its lips twisted, forming words. Zalez, trying to understand, suddenly felt a jolt, as he was pulled out of that vision by his own consciousness waking up.
Zalez had no memories. What little he had seemed to be present beyond a wall in his mind. A few snippets leaked out but the whole shape of his past remained inaccessible.
At the current moment, he remained unable to move, paralyzed in the trunk of a policejet. Was this how policemen were supposed to act?
The future was uncertain and Zalez let the moment take him wherever it would go.
… … …
After Savexil had issued the command, Ruben proceeded to cut the fingers off his victim. It was a clean process, thanks to the frozen nature of the said victim.
Aura, who had not been present for the meeting, suddenly came online. Her hologram began to move, and she spoke.
“Hey, Savexil. Want good news?”
Artor and Ruben did not like how she addressed him directly by name. It made sense for Old Man Jarvin to do so, seeing that he had pretty much raised their boss, but Aura had only joined them after Savexil’s father died.
Savexil gave her the signal to speak.
Her hologram stood up. She materialized a wooden staff out of nothing and dramatically pretended to use it to cast a spell. It was just theatrics that she enjoyed.
On the table, a small car appeared. More holograms.
Everyone looked at the car in silence. They wondered if this was Aura’s idea of a prank, or if had she really found him. That man.
“An Endeavor 256. A one-of-a-kind carjet used by nobody on the planet.” Artor spoke what everybody else knew.
Old Man Jarvin said in his deep rumbling voice. “So, he lives. No No, this won’t do! Not at all.”
Savexil came to the realization that he was back. The man who had ruined his life, and the only one who could fix it.
Aura had a big smile on her face, “He’s on his way. One of the cops under our payroll is bringing him. He says that the rumors are true. He has become hollow.”
“The Sons of Destiny will be moving too.” Ruben mused. "They all want him."
Savexil spoke the name. “Zalez.”
In his corner, GenX07 Hakaba opened his eyes. His senses were fully alert, and he grabbed the hilt of his blade, ready to draw.