The way back to the Hub’s Transit Station was a haze to Dent. His thoughts were wholly occupied with the situation and its implications that the commotion around him barely registered. What did all of it mean? The Factions, the Cups, and now whatever this Fun Place is. He could see the apparent reason; BLANK wanted to test them, pitting them against each other. If the vision that Macro had given him was any indication, they would be wearing some sort of skin whenever they entered the Overseer’s domain. Dent had only seen and experienced a Human form, yet he knew that BLANK would not constrict Their research to a single state. This, in turn, meant that the Initializers could be sure to expect other kinds of tests than the battle he had seen.
“But what is it for?!” He said out loud, his frustration with himself for his inability to see the deeper meaning of the Cup eating away at him.
“Ay, I reckon she’ll be apples. Don’t hop off spittin’ the dunny, mate,” a heavily-accented female voice said to his left.
“What?” Dent turned, his mind slowly catching up with what was happening around him. He saw that he stood in front of the compartments already. Once he turned, he could see the mass of individuals hovering behind.
The speaker, Initializer 755, Designation “Dee,” looked at him and said, “What mate? Never heard a woman speak now, did ya? Just sayin’ that those are the same compartments us squares rode in on. Just a different color.” Turning to her neighbor, Initializer 432, Designation “Chill,” she added, “Ya hear this, ya bludger? He doesn’t know what the compartments are for. Silly bloke, and he’s supposed to be our Faction Leader, no less. Are you all here, your majesty? Or did the chook pick at your speakers? I agree that Gertie was a little odd, but not so much that I forgot how we got here.”
“Suppose you’re. . . right there. Dee. Looks like. . . our Leader seems. . . a bit on the. . . slow. . . side.” Chill answered lazily, his speech pattern just a little out of sorts so that each word came out half a microcycle later than one would expect. It made it so that Dent wanted to jump in and help him find the next word. . . after every word.
“Ah, don’t listen to them, Dent. These two are just messing with you.” Out of the crowd, 204 hovered towards him, “And look at you! You’re a big-shot now!”
“Oh, 321-O, good. Do you have any idea what is-” His words died mid-sentence as he saw the enormous revolving emblem right over his friend’s body. It depicted a person speaking on a green background.
“Yeah,” 204 responded to Dent’s evident surprise, “Looks like I’m a big-shot now, too.” His voice came out bittersweet, torn between sadness and excitement.
“Well throw ya eyeballs on that, Chill. See this? Now that’s drama, I tell ya. Nothing like two friends bein’ ripped apart by our glorious Overlord BLANK, water take Them.” The cheery voice of Dee interrupted the reunion.
755 is a number from an excerpt on Australia’s wiki page. It states: “Australia has at least 755 species of reptile, more than any other country in the world.” – which suited my purposes for Dee perfectly.
432 Hz in music theory is supposed to give a strong sense of relaxation. The theory of its effectiveness and uses throughout history are subject to intense debate, though, and therefore the number’s metaphor was interesting to me.Awesomo’s Note
Chook = Chicken.
I reckon she’ll be apples = It will be okay.
Don’t hop off spittin’ the dunny, mate. = Don’t throw a fit.
“Suppose. . . you’re right there. Dee. Looks like. . . BLANK has. . . a sense of humor. . . after all. But. . . don’t worry.” While he spoke, Chill turned himself so that he was horizontal, looking upwards into a sky rippling with blue-green lights. “Just. . . take a moment. . . to relax. Man. Everything is. . . better after. . . some aurora gazing.”
Dent decided to ignore those two; he wanted to continue his conversation with 321-O. He had so many questions for his friend. First: what was his test? And what was the Faction he belonged to?
But before he could speak, Little Helper’s voice blasted from the compartment’s speakers,
“Resistors, please enter any of the red compartments. Faction Leader 42, your compartment has a black trident marked on the doors. We are leaving for the Fun Place within five clock cycles.”
With that, the doors to the four red compartments opened, and multiple rows of Initializers started moving towards the entrances. Dent didn’t know all of them, but he recognized Initializer 404 among the crowd, as well as 421.
‘Ugh, why is she in my Faction?’ Dent thought, watching Karen hover by.
“Well, Dent, I guess we will see each other at the Skyscrapers,” 321-O said. If Dent had had a heart, it would have broken from the tone in which his friend spoke. It contained a sense of unfathomable hopelessness. It spoke of a state of complete acceptance of something terrible.
“Things will be alright, 204. You will see. We will not need to dance to BLANK’s tune. I will find a way to get this done and over with. Just you wait,” Dent said with more conviction than he felt.
“Oh, Dent. You misunderstand. It’s not me I feel sorry for.” With that, 321-O quickly turned and hovered away, back into the crowd.
An intense heat shot through Dent, a degree of rage at his situation which he had never felt before. Within this furious torrent of anger, he found a goal. An idea that, if spoken aloud, would most likely end his existence. It was unformed as of yet, but it would grow from a concept to a plan. He would make sure of that.
END OF CHAPTER
Chapter 1 Epilogue
“Listen up, square folk. My name is Rex, but you will call me Kingpin.” The speaker, his athletic human body dressed in a sharp suit, crossed his arms and walked back and forth in front of the Initializers. “This here is the Fun Place. From this first revolution to the fifth, everything you behold is mine. Is that clear?”
Silence greeted him as the Resistors stared at the figure in front of them. Dent watched as the self-titled Kingpin casually tucked a shoulder-length strand of gray-white hair behind. “Great, first we get herded in and out of those compartments every few clock cycles, and when we finally make it to the last stop, this bozo shows up.”
Rex continued his speech, clearly not needing any response to keep talking, “If you call up your HUD, you will see that each of you has been given some Initializer Money, marked as ‘INI’ within your inventory. This is a currency you’ll be able to spend here. Oh, and I almost forgot!” He stuck two fingers in his mouth and let out a piercing whistle which was answered from way above them with a predatory roar.
A moment later, something enormous fell towards them from the revolution up above.
When the gigantic dinosaur landed just behind Rex, the ground beneath the hovering Initializers shook with the impact. The Tyrannosaurus straightened her knees again, let out a huff, then brought her scaly face close to her master, who started to scratch her jaw absently.
“This here is Diana. Her favorite food is. . . well, anything I give her, really. And if any of you decide to become trouble, I might just give you to my little princess here.” Rex said while scratching the large animal’s eyebrow ridge vigorously. As he did so, Diana’s left leg lifted up and started moving spastically with enjoyment.
Despite his anger, Dent had to stifle a laugh as he watched this strange scene play out in front of him. The colossal dino, reduced to an object of mirth by its similarities to the ordinary canine.
As soon as Rex stopped, though, the beast stood up straight and alert, ready to pounce and eager to do so.
“Alright, you floating pieces of dino-biscuits. Off you go to the second revolution where your HQ is located. Gives me some time to prepare for the next group.” He made a shooing motion with his hands and promptly turned, leaving the Resistors to board their Compartments again.
The second revolution of the Fun Place looked completely different from the first. The platform the Resistors hovered onto opened up to a plaza with five colored gates, each of them painted with the color and emblem of their Faction. Dent hovered in front of a nearly silent group, his fury simmering deep within him. He couldn’t shake the feeling of helplessness. The impossibility to decide his own fate was a constant source of fuel, igniting the fire that was his displeasure at all these beings that dominated the Initializers’ lives completely.
First BLANK, the unknowingly destructive force which unintentionally bullied everything They came in contact with. After that, Overseer Bitty, who seemed so sweet at first but turned out to be just another megalomaniac, ruling her domain with or without BLANK’s influence.
And now, this Kingpin fellow who threatened them with violence if they didn’t adhere to his rules. 42 had had enough; he was done with all these monsters.
As they arrived in the hallway of their Faction HQ, Dent floated up a small podium that stood next to an entrance. The words ‘Common Room’ were etched into the wall above his head, but he didn’t bother looking. He slowly turned to his 147 Resistance members, all tilting up to face him.
When he spoke, Dent felt the crackling intensity of his outrage reflected in his words, molding them into a piercing string of sounds, skewering the silence that enveloped them.
“Alright, screw this. Who is ready to stir up some trouble?”