Well, can you believe it's been a year of me writing Paxcatia and I'm only on chapter 3? I should speed things up a little...
Here's a table of contents to make things easier:
Last Days of Marconis
by Jourdan Cameron
"Right here is where we part ways, Ms. Powton."
"What? Aren't you coming with us?"
"Nope, I've got a different assignment- observe and record working conditions in the factory. Now go on, and be careful. If there's danger-"
Katy laughed a bit at his last statement, and Casey rolled his eyes. "Yes, there's always danger" he continued.
"I know what you mean" replied Katy. She hid her disheartenment well- she'd miss Casey on the mission; he'd been an uncle to her.
"Well good, because if anything happens to you, your old man will murder me. Do we really want murder, Katy?"
"Only if completely necessary."
Even under cover of darkness, Casey's grin was visible. The team was currently waiting atop a roof for a transport ship that could be heard somewhere in the distance. As it approached the simple, circular docking station, its massive, cylindrical base opened, and like a remora sucking to shark skin, the ship attached itself to the docking station. Casey approached the massive tube, which was twice as tall as he was, and walked around it, urging the rest of the team come forward, and quickly. There was an opening on the other side, just large enough to fit a person through. Katy stared down at the crate that seemed to be moving upwards, almost imperceptibly, through the tube. Some invisible force brought it upwards, and Katy climbed quietly onto it.
"Don't forget to-"
"Right, almost forgot." Glancing momentarily at her hands, she clapped them together. Her gloves began glowing, the soft white light illuminating the shaft around her. It was a simple, gray place, boring and steely. A couple other rebels hurriedly made their way onto the surface of the hard, black crate, and soon, the small squad was in the ship's cargo hold. It was somewhat cramped, since it was never built to carry people. Still, as the invisible force carried the crates all the way to the end of the gigantic room, it organized the crates so that there'd be alleys just large enough for a person to squeeze through. The massive, black crates were quite wide but not all that tall, so the massive hold of the ship remained traversable.
This was the beginning of a long, boring trip over an ocean.
“Hey, do they have bathrooms on this thing?” Katy sighed- she wasn’t quite sure why Jonathan was part of this mission to begin with- he’d be nothing but trouble, as he’d always been.
“No, Jonathan, this ship was not built to transport humans.”
"Well are there any holes or something?"
"You mean the airlock, Johnny?" Mr. Peak seemed serious. He always seemed so serious, so sullen, so mysterious to the most of the other rebels that they got so caught up in trying to unravel the enigma behind his eyes, those two windows into the soul that everybody looked up into and managed to get lost. Perhaps that's why almost nobody knew his first name, and thus referred to him as Mr. Peak?
"Uh, I think I'll just hold it until we-"
"Don't you have to go so badly though? You're better off just opening the airlock and-" Johnny's face had quickly become a reddened mask of horror and embarrassment- was Peak serious or joking or seriously joking? He may have even been jokingly serious, for all Johnny could discern.
"Don't worry Mr. Peak, I think I'll be alright until we get there" said the stocky blonde spy.
"Alright" replied Mr. Peak, who began walking back towards the other end of the dim cargo hold, presumably to learn more about its contents.
"That's one scary dude."
Katy sighed. She suspected that this would be the longest ride, most monotonous ride of her life. She walked away from Johnny and the other rebels- something about Mr. Peak had piqued her interest.
"You have arrived at your destination. Thank you for riding with us!" David sighed- he sort of wished the ride could've been longer. It was nice and quiet inside the car. Stepping off the train, he found himself staring up at the massive red building. He remembered, vaguely, how it had been modeled after schoolhouses of old, complete with an odd pointed roof and windows framed with white, with odd bars running through them. As he entered the building, however, it was clear that this place was neither ancient nor outdated.
In fact, it felt very new. Unlike most of the cold, white, sterile institutions of learning, this one was different. David stared up at the ceiling of the great sunlit foyer- the walls were decorated with grand paintings, memories of a time long forgotten...
David decided to stop reminiscing and get about to finding his class. He pulled out his little device, the Unleash, and stared down at the luminous little red arrow that now floated a few centimeters above his palm.
"Guys, come look at this!" Maxwell Robinson had made a discovery aboard the dim cargo hold. He buried an arm in the crate and retrieved a white box of similar composition to the black crate. Robinson lay a hand atop the small container as it slowly seemed to dissolve into the air. The small white box glowed gently as Robinson pulled out what appeared to be a pill no larger than a tooth.
"Welcome to the final frontier" spoke a disembodied voice. The pill pulsed with white light as the words the voice spoke floated in the air, a few inches above Robinson's hand. "We have experienced so much in our lifetimes" the deep, vaguely feminine voice continued. "Is there anything we haven't explored?"
Katy bristled. She had a vague clue as to just where this single-sided conversation was headed.
"Our minds are the last frontier. Are you ready to re-percieve reality? Escape with me..." The voice trailed off as the little white pill abruptly stopped glowing. The word "me" seemed to fade away into white smoke as though this invitation was the last time the pill would dare beckon you forth into whatever world would be created deep within your head.
"Quite the siren's call" sighed Robinson as he dropped the pill back into the little box. Slowly, it re-materialized a cover and grew dark once more.
"What do you think it does?" Mr. Peak was standing a few feet away- nobody had noticed his form in the dim light of the cargo hold.
"I'm not quite sure" replied Robinson as he shoved the box into one of his jacket pockets. "Something tells me we shouldn't-" The same strange voice was speaking up again. It seemed to be coming from the other side of the cargo hold. Robinson gasped- and Katy dashed to the other side of the ship, towards the voice.
She arrived in time to watch Jonathan swallow the pill, surrounded by a few other rebels who watched with wide eyes and eagerly clenched fists.
Jonathan collapsed, his limp form laying still at the base of the big, black crate he was sitting on.
"David, you're late. Ah well, it's your first time here, isn't it?" A wrinkled gray old woman sat behind a large, brown desk. Disregarding the urge to restrain himself, David touched the striated surface- it was real wood. The woman behind the desk sighed. "Why does everybody do that?" David, startled from his trance, decided to sit down. He stared out at the classroom- there were five other youth staring back at him. Well, they weren't staring at him so much as through him. Their attention was focused quite closely on the actor standing inches away from David's doe-eyed wonder.
David walked right on through the educational illusion into his chair- it was comfortable, and from what he'd heard, the least accurate part of the whole experience.
"Begin" the old woman said, as the actor began moving. The man's face was covered in makeup- his face was pure red, his nose black.
"Now" the woman said "Who can tell me about how the art of postmodern street performance began anew?"
One of David's classmates at the far end of the room piped up. "Wasn't it after the anti-fantasy movements?"
The teacher nodded, the bun in her hair seemingly bouncing in agreement.
"Now, what other movements co-incided with the anti-fantasy movement? Julie, perhaps you can explain how the March towards Militarism set the ball rolling?"
Unlike the first student to speak, this one stared down at her fingers, nervously fidgeting. David sighed, and began. "The March towards Militarism marked a period of animosity towards any art that wasn't firmly rooted in the very reality that was driving the early Paxcatian Empire forward..." David's voice trailed off as he stared back towards Julie.
"The emperor thus decided that it was the people's imagination that spurred the growth of new weapons, and thus he decided to halt the March before the arts were wiped out altogether."
Julie's ears stuck out as bright red against her black hair- she was never a big fan of public speaking. Even though she was acquainted with everybody in the room, she just didn't feel comfortable in such a formal setting. After speaking, she stared down at her desk's blank surface. The teacher sighed quietly- she'd been trying to help the girl get over her fear, albeit with little success.
"An early activation?"
"That's correct, Ace, and it come from the transport ship mere minutes ago." Black Ace and Red Baron were communicating again, this time over the matter of an unusually early product activation.
"Can you get a visual?"
"No, the activator is still unconscious."
"I'll have the transport intercepted once it reaches the ground."
Near instantly, the command went out to Paxcatia's Defense Squad in the city of Nauda- an attack may be inbound on a transport ship. They were to be ready to defend their homeland with any means necessary.
"Have the slaves been behaving? There may have been an escapee."
"I haven't overlooked the possibility, which is why I ran a thourough scan of the facility a few minutes ago. One foreign body was detected and destroyed."
"Keep me informed of any further developments."
An ocean away, a group of slaves stood huddled around the body of a man they didn't know. One of them wept gently. With foolhardy hope, she put a finger to his neck, and gasped dramatically- "He's still got a heartbeat" she shouted. The man's bluish skin slowly regained color as one of the other slaves began breathing life into him anew.
In the corner of the garishly bright room sulked a weathered old man. "It's pointless" he sighed.
"What? How could you say that, this man's going to live!" The old man sighed again.
"When Red Baron finds him during the next sweep, he's going to get another does of the gas. He won't survive a second round."
A hush descended upon the small group- somehow, this man had gotten himself into the factory, and the slaves had no idea how to get him out.
Back in the transport ship, another group was huddled around a body. This body, though, had managed to sit up and whine about being crowded.
"Do you feel different?" "Why did you take it?" "Did you see anything?"
Jonathan stared dumbly into the the curious, concerned faces. One seemed kind of angry- he averted his gaze swfitly.
"I don't feel much different" he replied with a shrug. "Could you guys give me some room? I can hardly breathe with you guys pressing in so close."
"Jonathan, we're almost at the drop point." The angry face spoke to him. "Jonathan do you recognize me? It's Katy. You need to snap out of it!"
"I'm with you, don't worry" he replied quickly. Katy breathed a sigh of relief- annoying as he could be, he was like a younger brother to her. Katy could hardly believe it had been a mere couple of years since she'd joined the rebels with her father.
"Johnny, get ready to jump. And please, don't do anything that stupid again."
Jonathan stared back at her and nodded.
He wasn't looking at her. He was looking through the crate behind her. He could see its contents and he wasn't sure why, though he suspected it had something to do with the pill he swallowed.