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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 10:58 am 
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Ooo I get it. It's like two different abilities that can be used, but not together. And of course blood diluting is going to create lots of half-breeds and hybrids. Just had a thought: would flying be a recessive gene then, since it was weeded out by continuous intermingling with human genes?

Ooo, intrigue! Mystery! Excitement! \:D/ Can't wait to get to that part! Also hopefully more Ember :inlove:

Yayayayaya! I love different POV stuff, it's so interesting to look at someone's experience from different angles. As Obi-Wan would say, "a certain point of view". LOL ;)

Aww, poor Blade. :(

I find it intriguing that Ember has this kind of reputation of being a good man unless something pushes him over the edge. Like people love and trust him, but they're also afraid of him because of what he can do.

Awwwww Glory and Jet are so sweet together. :inlove:

ACH NO! Not again! *wails* Poor Jet, he just can't catch a break! :cry:

In conclusion: :D About the wings, do they extend from inside the...cuffs? on his arms? Like nano-tech or holographic wings or something? I usually picture them looking like the harness Falcon wears in the MCU, but Jet's sound a lot smaller and lighter. And pretty comfortable, if he can sleep with them on. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2018 12:14 pm 
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Helios wrote:
Ooo I get it. It's like two different abilities that can be used, but not together. And of course blood diluting is going to create lots of half-breeds and hybrids. Just had a thought: would flying be a recessive gene then, since it was weeded out by continuous intermingling with human genes?

About the wings, do they extend from inside the...cuffs? on his arms? Like nano-tech or holographic wings or something? I usually picture them looking like the harness Falcon wears in the MCU, but Jet's sound a lot smaller and lighter. And pretty comfortable, if he can sleep with them on. :D


Flying would be recessive. Though it's rather unclear how exactly it works as the Winged are interdimensional beings and their flight is not literal, like with wings. Some Royalty theorized it was, but lately the theory of scientists has been that they did not have actual wings. Thus the almost immediate inability to fly of the Royalty, after the first generation. Ancient history was a bit indistinct, as it was erased through many wars, only living in memory from that first era.

Jet's wings are also not literal wings--just that the bands around his arms allow him to fly. I didn't know it was not clear. I originally did have "actual" artificial wings, but then opted for the more streamlined approach. Orikal makes it possible. ;) A sort of antigravity force created so they're not bound to the earth. They are comfortable, they basically mold to his arms on the inside. Because flying was so essential to who the Royalty are, they had to invent a way to fly pretty early on. Originally (after things like balloons etc) it was like a jet-pack and gradually evolved into the present wings, esp after being able to harness orikal, which revolutionized City Magnificent society.

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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2018 12:22 pm 
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Chapter 9

I tried to struggle away, but it only sent fresh waves of agony through my head and arm, so I remained still and helpless until they dropped me in front of the fire, facing the other three cult members.

I sat there in a heap, a mass of pain, hardly aware of their voices and movements, just focusing on breathing, staying as still as possible. Behind me, I could hear the snap and hiss of the fire, but I could feel no heat. At least they would not be able to burn me with holographic fire. But would they actually try to hurt an outsider, and risk being caught? Normally, they would be caught if they tried anything, but since my sensor shield was still working, no one would come to my aid. Maybe I should shut it off. It might eventually degrade like the invisibility one had, anyway. If I shut it off, Ms would be able to find me almost immediately, and carry me out of danger. Or—which would be more difficult—I could snap on my other wing again and fly up out of their reach….

The cult leader swept one arm toward me. “These creatures taught us they were gods. But you see how weak and fragile they are without their armies of Ms. They do have innate power, given to them by demons. But this power can be defeated.”

He turned to me. “I believe, unlike Royalty, the Nobility can be salvaged. It would be easier to simply kill them, but we are not like they are. We are merciful.” He slid a long, thin blade from his belt. “Their evil is manifest in their lightning. The origin of the evil is the blood. If we shed enough blood, it will replenish itself with new, pure blood. Each Noble has a different amount of evil inside. We will know if the evil is fully purged when the new human is unable to produce lightning anymore.” He swept the knife toward me; it just barely missed my cheek.

Time to get out of here.

I wasn’t ready for Dad to find me. I didn’t want to fly back in defeat. So I slid my right hand into my pocket and slowly, carefully, lifted my wing to my left arm, cupping it to hide it from the cult members. Then I slipped it on over the burn. I winced as it scraped over raw flesh, but managed not to make a sound. Mesmerized by their leader, the cult members didn’t seem to notice my actions.

With my right hand to help push me up, I jumped off the ground.

My legs faltered. I barely managed to stay standing. My wings had not worked. Perhaps they had been damaged from the lightning like the invisibility program apparently had. Or maybe they just needed to be charged.

Either way, I wasn’t going anywhere.

The leader swished his knife toward me. “You see? The light is on our side. Take him.”

The Ice man and a reg woman with long brown hair sprang forward and grabbed my arms. They carried me over to a tall green mushroom and slammed me against its stalk. I stifled a cry as a metal bed post hit my back. They tugged a rope around my stomach, pressing my arms tightly against the post. I couldn’t get to the com in my pocket…though maybe I could give it a voice command. My situation was looking desperate if they were more than playacting, or if their game was getting out of hand because of finding a real live Noble…

The cult leader lowered his blade to my chest. I flinched, but the blade didn’t cut, it just rested there, over my heart. Maybe they were just really into the game and wouldn’t actually hurt me, other than rough handling which only hurt because of my injuries.

The others gathered around, looking at me with avid faces that reflected the glow of the leader.

“And now, we, Divine Humanity, will purge this creature of evil and give him new life, so that he may be reborn into the body of a pure human, the ones who truly own the multiverse.”

He lifted the knife away, to my relief—only to lower it again and this time, slice into my chest. The blade made a long, agonizing gash and I gasped as pain ripped through me, along with shock that he was actually cutting into me.

“Com—” I said, as soon as the knife lifted away—“stop the sensor block.”

No answer. But I had put it on silent mode, so I couldn’t tell if it had responded or not.

The cult leader passed the knife, dripping my blood, to the Mirage woman. She took it and stepped toward me.

“Com—call Dad—now!”

Nothing. Perhaps it was being particular and wanted me to touch it directly. I struggled against the bonds and inched my hand toward my pocket.

The Mirage woman stopped in front of me, red warring with orange across her face. She smiled. “Don’t struggle. I know this hurts, but it will be worth it, I promise.” She slid the flat of the blade over my arm, almost like a caress. I jerked my hand downward—but the rope stopped it before it could reach my pocket.

The blade lowered again and pressed against my skin—a quick shove, and cut down into it—I writhed away—

The albino from Ice hurled a punch across my face. “Stop struggling. It’ll only make it worse.”

I sagged against the bonds as pain throbbed across my cheekbone, my vision blurred.

Please, please, Winged, if you are there, help me.

BOOM!

I jumped, my heart leaping out of my chest. Had they shot me?

But no. I didn’t hurt any more than I had a moment ago. And the cult members had turned toward a figure in the doorway. Her hair shimmered over her shoulder like a waterfall of gold. Black clothes clad her strong, lithe body, and in her hands she held a large gun. She swung the gun toward the cult leader.

“Get away from him!” she said. “Or I kill your leader.”

“If you kill me, I will ascend, and another will take my place.”

“Yeah, but I doubt you want to feel the pain of leaving this plane.”

“Pain is but a moment’s kiss of eternity.”

“What does that even mean? Look, I’m tired of playacting, and I’m not leaving without Cash. You will not touch him again, because if you make a move toward him, I’ll shoot. It won’t be fatal, because despite what it looks like, this gun only stuns. But you will be incapacitated, and it will be unpleasant. You’ll be knocked out of your Flicker haze, and you’ll have to face reality.”

“R-reality?” said the Mirage woman, in a horrified voice.

“Yes, reality. Worse than death to you guys. So. If you’d move away from him, please. I haven’t got all day.”

The cult members looked at each other with bewildered, half-fearful faces. Then they shuffled out of the line of fire—all except for the leader. He stood in front of her; his long silvery hair floated around his shoulders like mist. “Your words will not trick me. You are Nobility, and you must be purged.”

“You’re really deep into it, aren’t you?” She lifted the gun to her shoulder. “Very well.” BOOM! A blast of white light knocked him off his feet, and he sprawled onto the ground in front of me, unconscious.

The young woman lowered the gun as she strode toward me, then leaned it against the base of the mushroom stalk. “You sure got yourself into some trouble, didn’t you?” She grabbed a knife from her belt and angled it toward my side. I flinched away. “Hey—don’t worry. I’m not gonna hurt you. Just gotta get this rope off.”

I nodded, in so much pain I could hardly comprehend what was happening.

The knife sliced through the rope, and it fell away from my body. I took a deep breath.

A gentle pressure across my neck. A cold, liquid-like sensation spread over my skin. Then, tendrils of euphoria crawled through me, dulling the pain.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Well, if anyone needs a medpatch, you do. Now, we’ve gotta do something about those wounds. Didn’t expect you to be more wounded than when Cade and Tania left you—but apparently the Flicker-heads found a refuge on the storage floor.” With her knife, she sliced off a piece of her black shirt, then wrapped it around my arm. She cut another piece and pressed it over the wound on my chest, sopping up the blood.

Even with the medpatch, it still hurt, and I must not have been able to hide it.

“Sorry,” she said. “Just don’t want you losing too much blood on me. Medpatch should fully kick in now, though, and pick up the slack.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. You said that already, you know. Cade did say you had a concussion….”

“I mean—thanks for all of this. For saving me.”

“No problem. Usually Flickerheads are pretty docile….but everything’s getting out of hand. Cade’s taking Tania home and I told him I’d come get you.”

“So you’re….”

“Their sister Sym. Short for Symphony. How are you feeling?”

“Better. Kind of shaky.”

“I’ll help you.” She slid her arm beneath my uninjured shoulder, and I clung to her opposite shoulder with my hand. She picked up her gun and we made our way over the blue fungi toward the door, while the cult members clustered around their fallen leader, some of them sobbing as if they’d lost him for real.

Sym gestured toward them with her gun. “I almost feel sorry for them. Well, if they hadn’t hurt you. They just don’t know fantasy from reality anymore.”

“They…might be even more dangerous without Flicker.”

“You’re probably right. But….not everyone is better under its influence….” A shadow fell across her face.

We stepped out of the door into the hallway. Relief hit me to be away from the Eclipse holo and the cult that had tried to slice me up.

“I think I can walk on my own.”

“Okay. If you’re sure.” She slid her shoulder out from under my arm. I followed her down the hallway to the elevator.

“We’ve got to go all the way to the ground floor,” she said. “It’s past curfew, so the cars won’t come to pick us up. We’re gonna have to walk home. Good thing we don’t live far from here.”

“I thought Quarantine didn’t have curfew during Festival.”

She shrugged. “I thought so too. Nothing makes sense. It’s like—this is a super-Festival, and there are no rules, except a few random ones.” She lifted her gun. “If I didn’t have this, I probably wouldn’t have made it to your floor.”

“Why? What’s going on?”

Before she could answer, the elevator doors opened.

Two people jumped out of the elevator and aimed their guns at us.

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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2018 4:00 pm 
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Ooo okay that sounds like the flight thing may have been a mental or pyschological ability. O.o

Do the Royalty and Nobility have oral traditions for passing history down?

Ooo okay so he's not like sprouting big feathery things from his biceps. \:D/ I agree, the non-feathery-wing makes it a lot more streamlined. Also the thought of Blade trying to flap himself higher with gigantic wings is a little too comedic. :P

Would orikal kind of be like the vibranium of Mag City? (I dunno if you watch Marvel movies, it's a big deal in Black Panther and the stuff they use to make Cap's shield)

Now to the stream of consciousness :D

This cult man who's trying to bleed Jet is just creepy O.o LIKE EEEEEK FLY AWAAAAAY JET

Aaaaaah yESSSSS SYM!!! *dances* \:D/ and she's totally kicking butt :inlove:

Ommmmygooosh the intrigue is building! Man I did not expect this to be the direction the story would go, but I'm loving it!

So just to clarify: It's Echo, Sym, Cade, and Tania, as siblings, in that order, right? :?

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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 12:57 pm 
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Helios wrote:
Ooo okay that sounds like the flight thing may have been a mental or pyschological ability. O.o

Do the Royalty and Nobility have oral traditions for passing history down?

Ooo okay so he's not like sprouting big feathery things from his biceps. \:D/ I agree, the non-feathery-wing makes it a lot more streamlined. Also the thought of Blade trying to flap himself higher with gigantic wings is a little too comedic. :P

Would orikal kind of be like the vibranium of Mag City? (I dunno if you watch Marvel movies, it's a big deal in Black Panther and the stuff they use to make Cap's shield)

Now to the stream of consciousness :D

This cult man who's trying to bleed Jet is just creepy O.o LIKE EEEEEK FLY AWAAAAAY JET

Aaaaaah yESSSSS SYM!!! *dances* \:D/ and she's totally kicking butt :inlove:

Ommmmygooosh the intrigue is building! Man I did not expect this to be the direction the story would go, but I'm loving it!

So just to clarify: It's Echo, Sym, Cade, and Tania, as siblings, in that order, right? :?


the Royalty and Nobility do have oral traditions-- they're practically living history, as they can live 1000 years :) They also have official history, which goes back almost 20,000 years, but the Winged were before that, so they can only speculate about them and about their origins and ancient history. Also much of history especially from the defeated Royalty was destroyed in the war so those perspectives are lost....

Ha it's a bit like vibranium in a way, in that it makes Mag City possible and it absorbs and stores energy. Mag City primarily uses solar cells with orikal, which translates solar energy in a very efficient manner. I hadn't heard of vibranium when I created orikal... it's sort of inspired by orichalcum, a prized metal of Atlantis (I may have mentioned that before).

what direction did you expect the story to go? :)

Close. It's Sym, Echo, Cade, Tania. Actually, since there are 9 kids in the family, it's Euphoria, Harmony, Symphony, Echo, Rhythm, Cadence, Tania, Donita, Sharlee.

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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 1:15 pm 
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Chapter 10


As they stepped into the hallway, a shadow swept over it, painting the walls with gray bricks. The tops of the walls morphed into crumbling rubble, and in the distance smoke rose from a burning Mag City during the Endless War.

Warzone. A holo I’d played quite a bit a couple years ago, before I got tired of the never-ending conflict.

Sym raised her gun. “We don’t want any trouble. But we’ll give you some if you try anything.”

“What faction are you?” said one beneath her opaque black helmet. They both wore black from head to foot except for a red armband. “I don’t see your colors.”

Sym sighed. “I’m not from any faction. I just want to get home.”

“There’s no such thing as no faction,” said the other. “If you think you can be neutral in this war, you’ll find yourself dead.” He gestured to me. “He looks half-dead already.”

“Yes, well, I rescued him from another faction. They were torturing him for information.”

“What faction are they?”

“Not yours.”

The woman gestured to the man. “Let’s go.” They lowered their guns and ran past us. As they neared, the woman grasped Sym’s shoulder. “Here’s some advice. Join the Vales. We’re going to win. If I see you next time without a color, or with the wrong color, I won’t hesitate to shoot.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

They ran the rest of the way down the hall and disappeared through the storage room door.

“Let’s go,” said Sym. I walked to the elevator and, grateful for the rest, leaned against the wall. Sym flipped from “100” to “1” on the glowing holographic controls. As the doors closed, muffled gunshots rang out from the storage room where the cult was, along with a cacophony of screams. The sounds shut off completely when the doors eased shut.

Sym touched her arm. “I could put on a faction armband. But it’s more likely they’ll shoot on site if I’m the wrong faction than if I’m none.

“You have a holocom, right? Cade told me you were invisible when he found you.”

I nodded.

“Maybe you should at least put some holoclothes on, so you don’t stand out when we get to the ground floor. I doubt I’ll be able to get you an actual shirt till we get home.”

I lifted the com from my pocket. It would cover my wings too. Without my wings, I could almost pass for a reg—unlike Sym, whose height and blond hair marked her as Nobility.

I brought up the holoflage program and scanned Sym’s clothes. A moment later, a holographic black shirt and pants spread over me, identical to hers. I felt better, less vulnerable, though beneath it the wounds were still there, bound with pieces of Sym’s clothes.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

“Better. I don’t really feel like myself yet, though….”

“Well, you were hit by lightning. Medpatches never quite fix all the symptoms of that.”

“Have…you ever been struck by lightning?”

“Not sky lightning. But me and my brothers used to stormdance quite a bit. I’ve got a lot of lightning—almost as much as Royalty—so I’m usually prepared for attacks. Except against Rhyth—he’s got about as much as I do, and he….well, he doesn’t play fair.” Her blue-purple eyes struck mine with an intense, searching gaze. I forced myself to meet it. “Cade told me you would find Echo for us.”

“Yes. I’ll go to the restricted zones and see if I can find him. It’s just that—my invisibility program isn’t working for some reason. I tried to hide myself from those Divine Humanists….but it wouldn’t work.”

“You made the program, right?”

I nodded.

“Then maybe you can fix it. You’ll have time when you get back to our house. Rhyth’s good at that kind of thing too, but he’s not always the most helpful. If it helps get Echo back, though….I hope he wouldn’t hold out on us.”

“I should be able to fix it,” I said, with confidence I didn’t feel. At least the holoflage was still working…and so was the sensor block, apparently, otherwise Ms would have swarmed the place by now. “Even if I can’t, I still have the sensor block, so maybe I can get inside anyway.”

“That would sure come in handy in Quarantine…. You must’ve thought you’d run into some trouble.”

“I wanted to be prepared. I’ve never been to Quarantine before.”

She tilted her head, deep shadows hinting secrets in her eyes. “How much do you know about why Echo disappeared?”

“I…just know that one day I was playing with him, the next day—no one would even talk about him. Like he’d never existed.”

“Cade doesn’t know. He was so young….but I was good at lurking in corners.” The ghost of a smile lifted her lips. “I put two and two together, and later I confronted Mom about it, and she told me the truth. Echo is only my half-brother. She had an affair with Flash Vale. Dad was kind of…setting out on his own during that time, and she was lonely, and Flash was, well—Flash. He made her feel loved. That’s what she told me, anyway. Besides being an affair, it was innocent on her end. She just got swept up in the romance of it all, and….She never had anything to do with the Vale family otherwise. She wasn’t wrapped up in their intrigues. Flash was just having another one of his flings, and Mom didn’t mean much to him. But Ember—” Anger sparked in her eyes—“he threw us in Quarantine anyway. All of us, except for Dad. We were sentenced for life. And Echo…By the Winged, I hope he’s only in one of the restricted zones.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have a suspicion. No proof, of course. But….he has Vale blood. Ember believes that DNA is absolute. If blood is tainted by that of a traitor, then that person is doomed to a fate worse than death.”

“So you think Echo is….” I couldn’t bring myself to say it. Dad could not have done it. Thrown an innocent little boy to a place of such horror…..

“In the Abyss. I don’t know, and Mom won’t even let me hint at it—but it’s the place he most likely is.”

“But—D...Ember wouldn’t do that! He’s just; he doesn’t punish innocent people.”

She gave me a strange look. “Maybe it’s like that on the outside. But not in Quarantine. Our family is being punished, and we are innocent. Even Mom. She didn’t mean to get involved with Flash Vale, it just happened. It could’ve been any number of dashing suitors….It was just our luck that it was the son of the greatest traitor in history.”

“But you’re only in here because Ember didn’t want to break up families. When you come of age, you’ll be able to get out.”

“If that were true, why didn’t Ember let us stay with our father, and just punish Mom?”

“I—don’t know. But if you appeal, I’m sure you can get out.”

“I am of age, since I just turned seventeen, but I don’t want to get out until we all can. I’m not leaving little Donita and Sharlee on their own. I could see if I could take them with me, but I don’t know if an appeal will work even then. In some families, there are third generations—other innocent children of the supposedly guilty, with little children of their own—and they have appealed, but were unable to get out.”

A sharp thud. The elevator shook and jolted to a stop. The large blue floor-indicator button glowed “10”.

“What the—?” She scrolled to the 1st floor button and tapped it. Nothing happened. “Let’s see if—”

The elevator doors slid open. Five black-clad figures aimed guns at us.

“Come with us,” said the one in the center.

“I know those things aren’t real,” said Sym. “So if you stun me, I’ll just wake up later.”

“We know they’re not real. We’re not on Flicker. But you can either come with us before we stun you, or after.”

“I’m not playing this game, okay? I’m done with Festival for the day, and I’m taking this man home.” She gestured to me. “He’s injured.”

“Is his name Cash?”

“Yes. How did you—?”

“Let’s go.” The leader waved her gun. “I’m not going to ask again.”

“What do you want us for if you’re not on Flicker and we don’t want to play?”

“You’ll find out.” She made a swift motion and the other four surrounded us. A gun prodded my back, and I stepped out along with Sym. Then, they marched us down the hallway and we turned left through a door. It opened to a half-collapsed building, where figures clustered around a fire, some of them sitting on piles of rubble, cleaning their guns or working on coms. Planes roared through a melon-colored sky; an explosion slammed into the silhouette of a skyscraper and it shuddered and crumbled, bursts of fire lighting the twilight as it came down. Even the air smelled like burning fuel. It was a very realistic holo. I could almost believe I was there, except I knew that the explosion was only gradations of light, and the guns could do nothing more than stun me unconscious—which I didn’t want to happen if I could help it. Maybe I could reason with these people, since they weren’t on Flicker. Why would they force us to play, anyway? It didn’t make sense.

A gun prodded me up to a boy who was leaning against one of the steel beams that were still supporting the intact half of the roof. He wore a long coat over his black uniform, and its collar was turned up, as if against the cold. His brown hair was tousled; it spilled over his forehead. There was something familiar about him….

He turned toward us.

It was Cade.

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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2018 11:50 am 
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It's almost like the Royalty are living in an alternate timeline since they don't know everything about their origins. :D I love how there's this feeling that the Royalty are doing the best they can to run the kingdom but there's also a vaguely unsettling realization that they may not be the real good guys here.

Oooo yes I remember the talk about orichalcum! Or part of it at any rate. Is that like a real metal? :D

Lol I was kinda expecting Jet to spend a lot of time sneaking around the palace trying to avoid getting caught and like having run-ins with other Ms and his siblings and stuff, yet here we are in Quarantine hanging with Sym and the rest of the non-Royalty! :D This is better than I what I had in mind, tho, since WORLD-BUILDING YEASSS

omg NINE OF THEM???? *incoherent shrieking* I adore big families! I can't wait to see how Jet reacts to a family this big. \:D/

*begins reading*

stormdancing? \:D/ Eeee I love the sound of it!

Jet: Ember doesn't punish innocent people! *conveniently overlooking the fact that he was about to be publicly humiliated for trying to help his mom*

Also which Vale is Flash? Would that be Sky's brother..? Which makes Echo Jet's cousin? O.o

OOOOO CAAAAAADEEEEEEE

Gah okay this is so whumpy because Jet keeps getting captured/put in danger and I just love it but also these people take cosplaying to the extremes. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 1:03 pm 
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Well it's kind of realistic that way. History has different versions. Of course there is the one truth, but very far back it's hard to know what happened, with no written records. A long game of telephone can distort things quite a bit....
They... are not always the good guys. After Justice became Sovereign everything got a lot better but even he made mistakes. In the past, there were some absolute tyrants. (Infinity's father, for instance)

it's not certain whether it was a real metal or not. I read this one Atlantis book once that had a real influence on me, probably in my writing in ways I don't realize. I don't remember the name of it....

:lol: Wow yes.. I could see why you would assume it was going that direction. I wasn't sure what would happen when I started myself. I had a version of Quarantine before but it wasn't so extreme. This version is better.

Yes 9! I had a version of how Jet met them but it wasn't right. But it did help create the characters, the dynamic of their family, though I've changed some things. Nobility often have big families because some of them end up marrying Royalty and Royalty need a large gene pool to choose from. They have to marry people with Winged blood-- they can never marry regular humans. That's the rule, anyway.

Flash Vale is Sky's brother. The middle. 1st was Dare, the oldest and more conventional, vs. Flash, the wild child. Echo is Jet's cousin. Makes things complicated and interesting ;)

the people in Quarantine do kind of tend to take things to extremes.... There is more to come for poor Jet I'm afraid (though not to the extent of Justice Lost)

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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 1:14 pm 
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Chapter 11
“Cade?” I said. “What’s going on?”

Cade looked at me, eyebrow raised, a half-amused smile on his lips.

Sym nudged me with her elbow. “That’s not Cade.”

“What?”

“That’s my other brother, Rhythm. They’re twins.”

“Oh.”

“Cade is actually right over there,” said Rhythm, sweeping his arm toward the empty area beyond the fire. Cade was cross-legged on the ground, a guard angling a gun in his general direction. He didn’t look too happy. Beside him sat Tania, her hair a mess, her eyes red as if from crying.

“What did you do that for?” asked Sym. “Cade just wanted to take Tan home.”

“They became belligerent. I can’t have them jeopardizing my mission.”

“You’re not on Flicker, are you?”

“No, Sym, I’m not on Flicker. That would defeat the purpose.”

“Then you’re letting this game get out of hand. Just—please, Rhyth, let us go. You can stay here and play your war games all you want. You know it’s not our thing.”

“I hoped you wouldn’t be like Cade. I thought my family would be supportive, but…maybe I was wrong.”

“We just want to get home. At least let Tania go. She’s no good in a fight, you know that. Then there’s Cash.” She gestured to me. “He’s injured. It’s only the medpatch that’s keeping him going, and he needs rest. He doesn’t need to get caught up in—whatever this is.”

“I need him. He’s the key.”

“You’re getting too wrapped up in this. Just like before. Warzone is not real.”

His eyes flashed. “I know it’s not real. I’m not an idiot.” His eyes softened, and he slid down the beam and sat on the ground, leaning against it. “Maybe I was a bit too…forceful with Cade. Though I should’ve known he wouldn’t listen to me….except I thought, maybe for something this momentous….Please. Hear me out, Symphony.” He patted the floor beside him.

“First let Cade and Tania go.”

“I’ll take the guard off them. But I can’t let them go home. Not yet.” He gestured to the woman who’d led us here, and she nodded and strode off toward Cade and Tania.

Sym sat down in front of Rhyth, and I sat down beside her, wondering what Rhyth had meant by saying I was the “key”.

“Okay,” said Rhyth, leaning forward. “It all started when I realized something. Anything we say in Warzone—it’s safe. There’s no sedition in here because it’s all playacting. How do I know? I tested it. I said things against Ember, against the system itself—and Ms didn’t descend on me and carry me off to the Zones. It’s fair game in here because Warzone is about spies and traitors. So the monitor algorithms are turned off—or have a very high tolerance.”

“So?”

“So—we can find a way to escape. We can gather supporters. It’s the perfect opportunity, during Festival when they’re not paying as much attention in the first place.”

“What’s the point? They’ll just crack down on us all the more after Festival’s over. And there’s no way any of us are getting out. Even if we did—they’d catch us and we’d get an even worse sentence.”

“That’s what I thought. Before. I mean, I’ve been trying to make a sensor block for months…. But I couldn’t make it work. Then—the solution falls from the sky.” He looked at me with a mixture of admiration and jealousy. “Cade told me you succeeded where I…failed. You made a sensor block. Not only that, but you made an invisibility program! And then, you happen to crash here. It’s like the Winged themselves arranged it.”

“You want me to make another one?” I said.

He nodded. “Help me with the coms that aren’t working. Guide me through any snags that I run into.”

“What do you want it for?”

He clenched a fist. “I want to get out of here. Not only that, but I want to make a new order. No more Sovereigns to arbitrarily throw people into Quarantine.”

“You’re crazy,” said Sym. “You’re only fifteen. And this—” she swept one arm around—“does not look like a full-scale rebellion. It looks like a couple of kids playing Warzone.”

He gave her a dark look. “Ah, but that’s the genius of it. We have time, during Festival. If we spread Warzone throughout each building, we can spread the word with it. None of us want to be in Q. If we actually had hope—it’d spread like wildfire and we could have a force of two hundred thousand by the time we broke through the walls by the end of the week.”

“Even if you could get that many, the Ms would stun us all if we escaped.”

“Not if we had a sensor block. That’s the key. And invisibility might come in handy too.”

“Rhyth—I want to get out too. But it’s better to wait—”

“Wait for an appeal? That’s never going to happen. The only way out is to force our way out. The only way to escape oppression is to knock the Sovereign off his pedestal.”

Fear flashed across Sym’s face. “Do you know what you’re saying?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Even with a sensor block, even if we could swell our numbers—Ember has control of the Ms.”

“His control has been thwarted before.”

“Only by Royal DNA.”

“If only we had that! But I’ve heard rumors that something’s happened at the top. There’s a reason we are left even more to our own devices during this Festival. The Sovereign has been compromised. He may have even gone mad. The entirety of Mag City is built on him, and if he falls, so does the system. We have to take advantage of this, before someone else takes control.”

“You still sound like this is a game. You don’t know the power of the Sovereign—even if he isn’t in top form. He could so easily crush us.”

“Let fear keep you down if you want. I’m going to do this, even if I don’t get the numbers I thought I would. Even if my own family doesn’t support me.” His eyes shot daggers at her.

“I just…I think there are better ways. Without risking your life.”

He stood, grabbing his gun. “You’ll see. Go home if you want. I don’t need you. But you won’t be a part of the first successful revolution against the Sovereigns in history.”

“Let’s go, Cash.” She stood.

“He’s not going anywhere. Neither are you, if you’re going to tell the authorities.”

“I’d never do that. But I do want you to reconsider. You can’t just start a movement and lead a rebellion in a week. Besides—there’s a better way than a violent one.”

“Go ahead. Take Cade and Tan. Cash is the only one I need.” He gestured to me with his gun.

“I’m not leaving him. If he stays, I stay.”

“Whatever. Just don’t get in my way.”

Sym shook her head. “Someone has to make sure you don’t get yourself killed.”

Tania and Cade walked over to us.

“Sym!” said Tania, and wrapped her arm around her sister. She smiled at me. “Hi, Cash.”

“Hi,” I said, half-absently, my mind still reeling from what Rhyth had told me.

“Sorry about that,” said Cade. “I didn’t think he’d go off the deep end.”

“What do you mean?”

“I told him about you.”

“You didn’t know.”

“When I said I’d warn you, he put us under guard. Otherwise I’d have gone back to tell you.”

“Good thing I got there when I did,” said Sym. “Divine Humanity got him.”

“What?”

“Even the Revel program’s getting violent.”

“Are you all right?” said Cade.

I nodded. “Sym gave me another medpatch.”

Cade glanced at Rhythm. “Well, you should be able to go home with us so you can rest. Rhyth doesn’t have any right to keep you here unless you want to. Do you want to stay?”

“Not really.” I didn’t feel very tired, but I also knew it was only because of the medpatch I was even able to stand. My mind felt a bit hazy, though. I didn’t want to get mixed up in any rebellion—I was in enough trouble as it was. Although…maybe I should stay and find out their plans so I could tell Dad….

Cade slid his arm around mine. “You’re coming with us.” He guided me toward the door, Tania at my side, looking at me with a furtively concerned gaze.

“He’s not going anywhere,” said Rhyth. I turned to see him aiming his gun at us, two of his soldiers mirroring him. “I’ll stun all of you if that’s what it takes.”

“I’ll stay,” I said. “I’ll show you how to make a sensor block. Then, I’m done.”

“Fair enough.” He gestured for me to come back to the fire.

“You sure?” said Cade.

I shrugged. “It’s not worth you all getting stunned.”

“You could get into trouble for this, you know. It won’t matter if you say he forced you.”

“I know.”

He squeezed my arm gently. “Stay safe. I’ll see you at home—soon, I hope.”

“Bye,” said Tania, her large blue eyes fixed on me.

“Sorry I didn’t get a chance to fix your holodoll.”

“Oh, that’s okay. I’ve got nine more at home.” She smiled, and slid her hand into her brother’s. They walked out the door.

I sat down on a pile of bricks near the fire—which felt suspiciously like a comfy chair. This was probably actually someone’s apartment, beneath the holo veneer. Sym stayed standing, her arms crossed. She glared at Rhythm, who stood across from her, avoiding her gaze.

“He came here to find Echo, you know,” said Sym. “That’s what the sensor block is for—not this ill-conceived rebellion.”

“You think too small, Symphony. You always have. When we prevail, we will abolish Quarantine. Ms will be ours. We’ll be able to find Echo—if he’s still alive. And they’ll never be able to take him or anyone else away from us.” He lifted a com from his pocket and handed it to me. “See what you can do with this. I want a sensor block and an invisibility program.”

I took the com. “You should probably watch and see what I do.”

Rhyth nodded. “I’ll gather the other techs.”

For the next hour or so, I worked on creating a sensor block, looking at my own com for a reference. Rhythm and some of his people huddled around me, watching and asking questions. Symphony sat not far away, watching a mini-holo and occasionally glancing at me.

As I worked, in the back of my mind I kept thinking that I had to contact Dad. Maybe this would help me get back in his good graces. I’d tell him of a rebellion brewing in Quarantine—not that it would ever get much of anywhere—but it’d be good intel all the same.

Then, a yellow hexagon popped up over my com. WARNING, it said in text, still on silent mode. EXTENSIVE DAMAGE TO INTERNAL SYSTEMS.

“Silent mode off,” I said. “What’s wrong?”

“I am trying to repair it,” came the modulated computer voice, “but it may be irrevocable. There is too much programming for the amount of remaining memory after the overload. I loaded it onto redundant systems but it m-m-may sh-sh-shut down if the damaged hardware is not r-r-repaired.”

“I have to fix this,” I said, panic building in my chest. If the com shut down, my holomask would dissipate. I doubted that Rhythm, a potential rebel, had much respect for any of the Marches, including me.

“Keep going until yours shuts down,” said Rhyth. “You can repair it after you’re done with ours.”

“Please—I need to make a call.”

“It’s not the priority right now.”

I couldn’t risk Rhythm seeing my real face. I snatched up my com and dashed behind the nearest pillar.

BAM! A flash of light from his gun. I just managed to hurl myself away from the pillar before it crumbled into holopixels and vanished. I tore to the next one. Fortunately it happened to be an actual couch and the stun beam flashed harmlessly into the fabric.

My heart pounding hard, I called Dad.

Busy….busy….busy…came the blinking reply.

A blinking purple circle popped up. Violet’s symbol. I touched it.

Vy’s head appeared in miniature, her purple eyes concerned, black curls tumbling out of her ponytail. “Jet! I’ve been going crazy. Where are you?”

“Just a sec. I’ll turn the sensor block off.”

“Is that Violet March?” said a voice beside me. Rhyth.

A flash of white light.

Then, nothing.

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Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2018 3:46 pm 
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So right out of the gate we have Rhyth being amused at being mistaken for his twin. He is clearly the chaotic energy of the two XD

*reads further* You are totally on Flicker, Rhyth. ADMIT IT

Rhyth: then the solution falls from the sky.

I love how Jet is set up as both the disgrace of his family and yet a (rather unwilling) savior to the masses.

Rhyth is clearly unhinged at the moment and I love it. :D

Rhyth: WE WILL OVERTHROW THE MARCHES
Jet: I am...I am so tired. Please let me sleep.

GAAAAAAA OMG HE JUST SHOT HIM!!!!

Also Violet appears. *fist pumps* YESS THAT'S MY GIRL

Omgggg I can't wait to see the next part! \:D/

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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2018 10:17 pm 
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Actually Rhyth isn't on Flicker. If he was, he wouldn't be able to tell reality from fantasy, and he'd think Warzone was actually real. He's high on his delusions of rebellion. :)

Yes Jet is sort of in between. He's not exactly disgrace...well he is at the moment--but he's an anomaly, people don't know how to deal with him. He's not supposed to be. And yet, it's true, that's just what makes him relatable. Like a bridge between Royalty and reg.... but tragically trapped in the middle, never to be fully in any one world.

Chapter 12

I stirred. Sparks of pain shot through my limbs. I opened my eyes. Rhyth was standing in front of me, cradling his gun. Two of his soldiers stood beside him. I was sitting on a chair disguised as a pile of rubble, and ropes bound my arms to the armrests. Beneath the numbness from the medpatch, my head throbbed dully.

“What did you tell Violet?” said Rhyth.

“Nothing.”

“What were you going to tell her?”

I wanted to ask her if Glory had rescued Peri, and if they’d found a cure for Mom. I wanted to find out if Dad was still angry, and if Blade was okay from the lightning attack. But if I said any of these things, Rhyth would find out I was Jet. I was in enough trouble as it was.

“Did you know about our plans before you came?”

I shook my head.

“What was your mission here? Why did you come to spy on us?”

“I’m not a spy.”

“Liar! You were talking to Violet March. She’s a spy.”

“She’s my friend. I thought she could help me, since you were attacking me.”

“He is Nobility,” said Sym. She was sitting near the fire, a guard holding a gun to her head. “It makes sense he’d know her.”

“I told you to stay out of this!”

“He’s injured. He needs rest. Let him go.”

Rhyth turned toward her. “And what if he is a spy? He’ll tell the Marches about our plans. I can’t let him go.”

“What if he’s telling the truth and he came to find Echo? Maybe you don’t care about finding our brother, but if he knows Violet, and the Marches find out what you did to him, they’ll tear us apart. They might even throw us into the Abyss. Do you want that, Rhyth? Or have you thought any of this out?”

“I am committed to the revolution. No matter what happens, I’m not backing down. I’ve got to see this through to the end, so we can be free.”

“I want to be free, too. But hurting someone innocent—someone who wanted to help us—isn’t the answer.”

“If he’s a friend of the Marches, he’s not innocent.” He turned back to me. “What was your mission here?”

“I told you, I’m not a spy.” That was true. Except I had thought about telling Dad about what Rhyth was doing….It wasn’t true that I’d come in order to find Echo, but now that I knew about his disappearance, I wanted to find him.

“So you just happen to know Violet March, and you just happen to be an expert at stealth tech. And you just happen to stumble on us as we’re planning revolution. Those are too many coincidences.” He grabbed my chin and looked into my eyes. His eyes were brown with gold flecks, with the intense gaze of a fanatic.

I wished desperately I had been able to turn the sensor block off, so the Ms could find me. But then, it might turn off on its own if the com continued to degrade…

“I want you to tell me the truth. Tell me how much you know about us. What kind of spy you are. What your plans are for us. If you don’t…I have methods to make you talk.”

He laid his gun down, and lightning crackled over his fingertips. I struggled, but the ropes were bound tight.

With a swift slash, a lance of electric current slammed into my chest. A sharp zap of pain.

“Please, don’t hurt him!” said Sym. “He doesn’t know anything. If he was a spy, he would never talk. You know how they train the intel corps. They’re elite. They don’t break under torture.”

“That might just be a myth they’ve propagated. Even elite have their breaking point. I just have to find it.”

“What’s the point of interrogating him? He’s not going anywhere. This is just wasting time.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Symphony. There is a lot we can learn from him about their defenses, their capabilities. Ways we can use him, if we can just find a way to break him open. For instance—” he slid his hand into his pocket and drew out my com— “I need to find out if you really are who you say you are. If you’d just give me the code to your com, I could learn the truth.”

If he broke into my com files, he’d find out I was Jet. He’d also find out if the com degraded to the point that my holomask vanished. If the sensor block degraded first, then the Ms would come and I’d be safe—from Rhyth, anyway. If the holomask degraded first, and it took as long before the sensor block degraded as it had since the invisibility program had…I’d be in a lot of trouble.

“I wanted to fix the com so I could keep investigating Echo’s disappearance without the Ms stopping me, like they did before. As soon as the sensor block degrades, Ms will come. Unless I repair it.”

“Then fix it.”

“I don’t have any motivation to do that. I can just wait you out. The Ms will find you, and they’ll see what you’ve been doing to me, and they’ll fly you to Ember himself for judgment.”

Fear flashed across his face. Then he said, “I’ll make you repair it.”

“I might not be a spy, but I’ll hold out long enough for them to find me. It won’t take much longer. I’ll tell Ember all about you. Unless….”

“What?”

“Unless you let me go. I don’t care about your rebellion.” That was true. Rhythm seemed rather deluded to think he could go against us with a small band of teens. It was likely Dad knew about it—or if he didn’t, it didn’t matter, because these people were stuck in Quarantine, and there was no way out. I didn’t need more to prove myself to Dad, either—at least, as long as Glory was able to get Peri out. If anyone could, she could—and she cared about me, and about Mom. “I won’t tell Ember about it. I’ll go home with Sym, and I’ll find Echo. And you will never lay a hand on me again.” I sat up as straight as I could, being bound, and though pain squirmed in my stomach, I felt like I had a real chance for my bluff to work.

“How do I know you won’t tell?”

“I’m a Goldstorm. We keep our word.” Silently, I substituted “March” for Goldstorm. Because it was true. At least, as long as we remained true to who we were. I was a little shaky about where Dad stood now…since he’d lashed out at Blade of all people….

Rhyth sighed. “I suppose I don’t have a choice.” He narrowed his eyes. “If you’re telling the truth about the com degrading.”

“Do you want to risk it? Who knows how long we have. It might already be too late. The Ms could land here any minute—”

“All right!” He scrambled for the ropes that bound me and yanked them away. “But if you betray me, no matter what happens, I will hunt you down and kill you.”

“You’ve been in Warzone too long,” said Sym. “Even without Flicker, you’ve buried yourself in a fantasy world, and you don’t know fiction from reality.”

He whirled on her. “If you weren’t my sister….” Lightning crackled over his hands.

“That’s not the reason. You’ve attacked me plenty of times. You just finally learned that you can’t beat me.” She smiled.

Rhyth turned his back to her and handed me the com. I dove into its core and frantically fiddled with the sensor block and the holomask, moving them to the safest place I could find and then deleting more nonessential programs so the com would have the leeway to repair itself, if possible.

Sym strode over to me and helped me to my feet. “Let’s get out of here. I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t want to help us find Echo anymore.” She glared at her brother.

When we stepped out into the hallway, which wasn’t plastered with Warzone graphics, I breathed a sigh of relief. Aches writhed through my muscles and pangs shot through my head and arm, but the medpatch still probably had a few hours left, thankfully.

And now, Sym was taking me to a safe place, away from all this craziness, and I could call Glory and Vy at my leisure, and find out if they’d found a cure, and I could take the sensor block off. If Peri had been rescued, I would stay and wait until Dad cooled off. If he hadn’t, I might have to go find him myself. If they found a cure, there would be no reason to stay. Except….I needed to help find Echo. I had to go see Mom (and Sabra…) but I also needed to help the Savannahs have their happy ending, too.

I hoped the rest of the Savannahs didn’t get in trouble for Rhythm’s recklessness. It would be horrible to get into Quarantine for something they didn’t do, and then be unable to get out because of something one of them did inside of it. I’d talk to Dad; tell him that the Savannahs were innocent. Even Rhyth hadn’t done much except tie me up and strike me with lightning…and threaten me with torture….

We made our way down the hallway to the elevator.

“Just ten more floors to go, and we’ll be free of this place,” said Sym. “I’ve never stayed at a Festival later than midnight. Even normal ones get out of hand by then. And this one…well, it’s not normal. It’s like something’s gotten into the air…something worse than Flicker.”

“I wonder….”

“What?” She stepped into the elevator and tapped the Ground button.

“Just….” It seemed everything had fallen apart since Mom’s madness. And without Dad….Glory was doing her best to hold things together, but Mag City needed its Sovereign. Even with things on autopilot—it all started to degrade. Like the spirit of the Sovereign held everything together, and when he or she fell apart, so did the world. I couldn’t very well tell Sym that though. “I’ve heard rumors….” I stopped. I didn’t want to spread rumors about our family. Besides the fact it was forbidden to reveal any deep weakness, I didn’t want anyone to know about Mom’s madness, expose her to public scrutiny. Although Sym seemed like someone I could trust. But I couldn’t reveal to her who I was. “Never mind.”

She looked at me strangely, then shrugged.

Floor 2—floor 1—

My heart fluttered. Ah! To escape this place! To be free…. At least, as free as I could be, without functioning wings.

The elevator door slid open and we stepped out.

Into chaos.

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My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2018 12:14 pm 
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What exactly are the effects of Flicker and how is it made? I am curious. *rubs hands together* ;twisted:

I really feel for Sym here. Stressed and tired and trying to corral her wayward brother before things really spiral out of control.

It's funny how Rhyth is so suspicious of Jet and how he stumbled upon them at that point in time, except that it IS a coincidence and yet Rhyth would never believe that because he's so caught up in his delusions of grandeur.

Sym: You just finally learned that you can’t beat me.
AYYYY YESSSS Sym is awesome! :inlove:

"into chaos..."


AIIIIIIEEEEE! But of course it would be chaos. and for once, we can't blame this on Rhyth \:D/

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Last edited by Helios on Wed Nov 14, 2018 11:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Welcome to Ameraka
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 1:24 am 
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Flicker is a synthetic drug made for taking with hologames, to enhance the experience. They ended up being too intense--there were deaths because people thought the games were real. So the drug was taken off the general market. But it was given to people in Quarantine, because they were considered expendable, and because Flicker would help keep them docile, help them stay in fantasy worlds and not go crazy in the real one.

Sym btw was in various incarnations back before Jet was himself... I believe she had a different name and different personality back then but parts of her were the same. I mean, there were prototypes for her. Some people just pop up and some have been brewing for a long time. :)



Chapter 13

Music pounded through the floor and thrummed into my bones. Holos—advertisements, abstract symbols, images of war and peace—whirled across the ceiling, some colliding in an explosion of light and color.

A few feet away, two Mirage women were yelling at each other. The one with shimmering iridescent skin punched the one with swirling orange and yellow skin in the face and she fell flat on the floor. People danced over her, their eyes glazed with drugged oblivion. Everything smelled the sickly sweet scent of Flicker, of alcohol, of roasting meat, of sweat. The smell hit me so hard I almost threw up. I probably needed food, since I hadn’t had any lunch or supper, but I didn’t feel like eating at the moment.

“Okay,” said Sym loudly, but still barely audible above the noise. “We’re going to have to get to the door somehow.” She slid her hand into mine. “Don’t let go. I don’t want to lose you.” Her blue-purple eyes caught mine. I wondered, for a moment, if she really cared about what happened to me, or if she only cared about me since I’d told her I’d help find her brother. It was only fair—she didn’t know me, except for when we were kids. She didn’t owe me anything. I was just glad I had an ally.

We pushed through the crowd. It was impossible not to bump against anyone, and though they mostly didn’t notice, it hurt my arm, my back, and the burns where my wings had been. I didn’t have a shirt on beneath the holo, after all. And the effects of the medpatch seemed to be fading.

We slid through the sweaty, writhing mass of people, whipped into an ecstatic frenzy of drugs and dancing. Pressure built in my chest. It was hot, and became hard to breathe.

I closed my eyes and forced myself to take deep breaths, like the therapist had taught me after I’d learned I had a mild form of claustrophobia. Envision something beautiful, calming. Breathe, in and out, with the splash of the waves. Sym’s hand anchoring mine. Pulling me through the sea, a steady ship in a storm….

Beep BEEP. I almost didn’t hear beneath the crush of people and the throb of music stabbing my head.

“Warning,” said my com’s voice. “Your holoflage program is degraded.”

My eyes shot open. “What?” I pulled the com from my pocket.

“Y-your holoflage program is degraded. Fortunately, I have rescued the sensor block and locked it in an undamaged area of the com.”

Panic hit me. “No—I want the opposite. Protect the holoflage. End the sensor block.”

“P-please r-repeat the command.”

“Switch the holoflage with the sensor block in the undamaged area!”

“I-I d-didn’t q-quite c-atch thhhhhhh—”

Did I still have my holomask? Could they see who I really was? Perhaps no one would notice in such a seething crowd.

“Hey, Cash, I think I can see the door.” Sym stopped, and her eyes widened. “What—!” She dropped my hand and stepped back, narrowing her eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Jet?”

I nodded. A cold numbness seized me. I couldn’t move. I felt like I was falling; the room whirled around me.

“So Rhyth was right. You are a spy.”

“No! I just came here for safe—”

“Hey, look, it’s Jet!” said a girl. More voices echoed her.

“Jet?”

“Jet!”

“Is that a holomask, or is it real?”

“Jet’s here, among us?”

The nearest people stopped dancing and converged, trapping me and Sym in a little circle. Sym looked at me, her face shocked and angry.

“Sym, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to lie to you. I just—”

“Did you mean what you said? About Echo? Or did you lie about that too?”

“I didn’t come here to find Echo.”

“Of course. You’re a March. You don’t care about us.”

“I do care! I meant what I said. I’ll help you find him. It’s not right, what happened to him.”

Her eyes sparked. “For Echo…I suppose I can give you the benefit of the doubt.” She took a step toward me.

The crowd surged around me, cutting me off from her. Tentative hands touched my back, my chest. Eager faces crowded close to mine. “I think it is Jet! Wow, he’s here in the flesh!”

“Hey, Jet, wanna dance?” said an Ice girl, her white hair sticking up in spikes.

“No, I want him,” said a girl in a horse holomask.

“He’s a March. Come to punish us!” said a boy, further back in the crowd.

“No—he’s Jet! He’s different,” said another girl, who I couldn’t see.

“I bet he heard what fun we were having, and came to have a good time,” said the Ice girl.

“I’ll give him a good time,” said a girl with black hair and holographic swirls on her cheeks, stepping in front of me and grabbing my arm. “Come on, beautiful.”

“No, I need to get going.” I glimpsed Sym, light glancing off her golden hair, as she pushed her way toward me.

“You came here to have fun, so why not have some?” She slid her arm around my back and gripped my wrist tightly. With her height (a few inches taller than me) and her golden eyes, she was probably Nobility.

“I didn’t really come to have fun.”

She laughed. “Then why did you come?” Her fingers pressed into the lightning burns on my back. I gasped.

“I’m injured. Please—I need to get home.”

“Oh, you’re hurt? Poor darling. I’ve got something for that.” She slid her hand into a pocket of her shirt and brought out a pinch of glittering dust.

“No—I don’t want Flicker.”

“It’ll make you feel so much better! You’re so tense, my love.” She laughed. Lifted the Flicker toward my mouth.

I wrenched away from her. A dagger shot through my shoulder and I couldn’t help but cry out. I pressed back into the crowd, away from the black-haired Noble, trying to find Sym and the door.

Another chorus of murmurs and screams. “It’s Jet! It’s Jet! Oh, isn’t he just—beautiful!” Girls surged around me, jostling against me, scraping my wounds with their jabbing hands.

“Please—I just want to go home.” I wished desperately for my wings—to just fly above the crowd. The irony was, I’d always longed to land among the people without Ms for chaperones, and now that I had gotten my wish, all I wanted to do was fly away.

Above the seething crowd, I glimpsed the door and made my way toward it, pushing through the giggling, squealing mass of girls. They grabbed for me, but I managed to glide away without any of them catching me.

Until a dense cluster blocked my path, and I tried to maneuver around it, but they noticed me and, like one, they burst after me and boxed me in and grabbed my arms and waist and legs, pulling my hair, their fingernails scraping my skin. I stumbled and fell and they screamed and slid their hands over my chest where Rhyth had hit me and pinched me and tugged at the waistband of my pants. I managed to hold my pants up but some more of them pulled my hair and several others began a tug-of-war, two holding my arms, two my legs, yanking hard, as if they’d pull me apart and keep those parts for trophies.

Snap! Agony shot through my left arm and then a brief relief before fire blasted through my shoulder. It must’ve popped back into place. One good thing about all this. But I had to get away before they pulled me apart. The lightning burns on my back and arms smoldered and fire raked them whenever someone touched them. My head throbbed. I struggled, trying to writhe away, but they held me in an iron grip.

And then I remembered. I might not be stronger than a crowd of people, but I had power of my own. It just didn’t always work very well.

Blocking out the pain and panic, I closed my eyes, focusing on the well of energy deep inside me. Lightning crackled over my skin and with a yelp, the people that were pulling me dropped me and I fell to the floor.

Masks loomed over me—birds, insects, glamorous men and women from history. But fear lurked behind their holographic eyes and they didn’t touch me.

I tried to get up but I slipped and hit my knee. A hand appeared in front of my face. “Here, let me help you.”

I grabbed the hand and came face to face with the black haired Noble. I stepped away from her, and almost slipped again. She held tight to my arm and guided me forward. “It’s all right. I won’t force you to take Flicker. I just got a bit carried away—you are Jet, after all.” She laughed, low and musically. “Let me help you. I’ll take you away from this place, if that’s what you want.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. We, the descendants of the Winged, have got to stick together. Rise above the rabble. I don’t even know why I came today…. Only that Festival defies conventions, and it’s kind of fun to slum it sometimes.” She laughed again, her golden eyes sparkling with an iridescent fire. “I’m Dazzle, by the way. Where do you want to go?”

“Find Sym. And the Savannahs.”

She wrinkled her nose. “The Savannahs? That ridiculous family? They’re a disgrace to Nobility, and I don’t mean their being in Quarantine. Why don’t you come home with me. I’ll take care of you.”

“But I promised—”

She seized my hand, hard, and her fingernails bit into my skin. She pulled me toward the door, which was where I wanted to go anyway, so I stopped resisting and let her guide me. Most of the people parted, as if they feared her.

Until one young man, his hulking form almost as large as Blade’s, blocked the way. “I want him,” said the man.

“He’s not yours,” said Dazzle.

“Ember took my son from me. I will take his from him.” A crazed light shone in his eyes. Lightning surged over his body, snapping and cracking with raw power.

He lifted his hands, forming a blue sphere of crackling electric current.

Dazzle stepped in front of me, and as the man tossed the ball of lightning, she made a cutting motion with her hands and a flash of her own lightning slashed into the ball and sliced it apart. The shreds sizzled harmlessly into the floor.

The man drew a long, trembling sword of lightning, but with a swift, elegant whirl, Dazzle danced toward him and hurled a splash of lightning into his chest and he reeled backwards, stunned.

“Let’s go, Jet.” She motioned to me. As we passed the man, she casually smacked a needle of lightning into his side and he collapsed to the ground, writhing in pain.

The crowd parted, and we walked through an open space to the large, gold-edged doors. Just before I stepped through, I glimpsed Symphony, dashing through the crowd. “Wait! Wait, Jet! Don’t go with her!”

I hesitated, but Dazzle pulled me out into the night.

The air smelled of wet pavement. Dark cylinders vaulted toward the sky.

“Come on,” said Dazzle, tugging at my arm.

“I have to wait for Sym.”

Dazzle smiled. “No, you don’t.” She caressed my cheek with a soft tingle of electric current. Then, without warning, a hard snap shocked into my head, and I fell into her arms, stunned, my body shaking uncontrollably.

“Stop!” said a voice, somewhere behind me. Sym. I tried to speak, but couldn’t. Couldn’t even cry out.

“See ya,” said Dazzle, and a dark shape hurtled toward us, and swept us into the air.

_________________
Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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