Authors: J.R. Napier
J. R. Napier
*(note: audio version is updated separately from text)*
Young Minds Pt. 1
Young Minds Pt. 2
Family Pt. 1
Family Pt. 2
A New Day Pt. 1
A New Day Pt. 2
Mission Pt. 1
Mission Pt. 2
Mission Pt. 3
Mission Pt. 4
Ending Pt. 1
Ending Pt. 2
Reality Found Pt. 1
Reality Found Pt. 2
Reality Found Pt. 3
Young Minds Pt. 3
A New Day Pt. 3
Survival Pt. 2
Zero to Hero
Dreams Pt. 1
Dreams Pt. 2
Recovery Pt. 2
Ending Pt. 1
Ending Pt. 2
Duality is what gives us the illusion of reality. Dark and light, hot and col
they conflict and complement each other. Take away that conflict, take away that duality and you have to redefine what reality is.
This is a story of light and dark. One is light, shining bright like the spark of a sun, his presence burning everything around him. The other is the darkness, concealing, private, an abyss easy to get lost in.
Two worlds, two stories, two conflicts—many possibilities.
Welcome to Beta Earth
Beta Earth was thought to be a second chance for all people. Tired of wars and conflict, the people of Earth united under one political military force called the United Federation, or the U.F. for short.
The first act of the U.F. was to pull together everyone on Earth to help with the
of a nearby planet. The project was daunting and laborious but so appealing that people around the world became obsessed with it. The urge to fight was replaced with the idea of building a new utopia, a new start for everyone. This was the purpose of the
After centuries of work, the newly habitable planet was named Beta Earth. It was, as many people hoped it would be, a utopia. It became an escape from mundane life, a new adventure for everyone. Earth and Beta Earth both enjoyed many years of peace.
Until Beta Earth rebelled, wanting to be independent of Earth and able to keep its newly acquired resources. The U.F. tried to subjugate Beta Earth. However, this strained the U.F.’s resources and infantry.
Beta Earth’s utopian status fell as crime lords and land barons fought for land amidst the chaos.
From then on Beta Earth was only recognized as a shameful reminder of once peaceful times.
Soon Earth fell victim to the same fate, as the U.F. were spread too thin to protect all of Earth. Amid the crisis, the U.F. decided to only protect the major cities and towns of Earth. Everything else was deemed liability areas known as
. The U.F. offered the sprawls no protection and no acknowledgment.
With this, peace was once again officially shattered, leaving behind only a slow descent into chaos and distant dreams of a paradise.
Two little boys sit in a strange,
all white borderless landscape
. One of the boys looks around and analyzes his surroundings. The other boy remains curled up in a ball, crying profusely. A man suddenly walks up to them.
“Welcome Vin.” the man says calmly. Vin just quietly stares at the man.
“I suppose it is a bit too early for you both to be here.” The man says as he walks over to the boy who is crying. He watches the little one who is terrified and oblivious to his surroundings.
“Vin. He is your friend and he will need your help. Protect him well and teach him that there is always … a second chance.” These are the last words the two little boys hear before they both wake up from their strange dream
Time: Late afternoon.
Location: Earth—a small outpost between Sprawl 15 and City District 8.
Akari, a beautiful, athletic, middle-aged woman strikes a teenage boy. He slides along the ground and eventually stops in a dusty cloud.
“And this … is our history, boy.” Akari says as she looms over the boy, arms folded. As the dust settles, Clave, age sixteen, is revealed. He wears training gear. Padded armor that protects his arms, legs, and torso.
“So where do we fit … in that history?” Clave replies as he wipes a bit of blood from his cheek. His fist leaves a red smear on his face. Akari is slightly taken aback by the comment.
“Well, seems you’re smarter than you look.” Akari bends down to the young boy and looks into his fiery eyes. “We are the swords of our time. Like it or not our actions will probably end up scarring this Earth … and that is where we fit in.” She steps back and snaps her fingers at Clave. “Now get up, boy. We’re not done yet!”
Clave, cringes at the command. He turns his head and mutters under his breath, “Hag.” Akari catches the remark and frowns. Clave slowly stands. He doesn’t bother to dust himself off. He anticipates being knocked down again. Akari and Clave resume their spar. Neither one of them holding back. Akari actively criticizes and exploits all of Clave’s weaknesses and mistakes.
“Too slow! Where is your form?” Akari shouts. Each missed punch is met with a swift and painful counterattack. “Think, strategize, and anticipate!” Akari yells as she attacks. Every weak guard Clave gives is met with an extra forceful blow. Any slight defect in technique is met with a small laceration or a large bruise. Any loss in concentration is met with a hail of punches and kicks.
“I told you to concentrate!” Akari yells. It is soon apparent. This boy is not being trained for just one opponent. He is being trained to endure a constant barrage of assailants. Akari stops her attacks. Clave, covered with dust and blood, breathes heavily in an attempt to recuperate.
“And what is the lesson of the day, boy?” Akari asks. Clave, still fatigued, struggles to stand up straight and look Akari in the eyes
“If one opponent touches me. I am as good as dead.” He replies. Akari walks closer to Clave.
“And why is that?” Akari says as she lightly brushes dust from her clothes.
“Because by that time I’ve already made two mistakes. I’ve let them know I’m present, and I’ve left them breathing.” Akari slowly circles the boy.
“Interesting answer … some say no one is invincible.”
“That’s a lie.” Clave replies with little hesitation. Akari pauses in front of Clave.
“Why would you say that?”
“Because I am.” he confidently replies. Akari tries, but ultimately cannot hold back her smile. Although growing distastefully arrogant, her young pupil is shaping up to be quite the young warrior. Akari can’t help but feel a slight joy in seeing the fruits of their hard labor.
She walks past the boy as he stands at attention. “Not yet, boy. But you soon will be. Rest up. Tomorrow’s training session will determine whether you live or die in combat.”
Time: Late afternoon.
Location: Sprawl 15.
Not far from Clave, in an area known as Sprawl 15. Vin and his best friend Zuri, both age seventeen. Approach a small barter store. Any stores outside of a major city are considered barter stores and do not require a business license to sell.
Barter stores are different from city shops. They are willing to trade goods for standard credit chips or physical items. Since most of these stores don’t receive protection from their nearest city law enforcement agency.
Many of the sprawl store owners pay protection fees to the local gangs. This can be costly but owners have few other options. Outside the store, a shady-looking fellow named Tooth is waiting around. Tooth wears a hooded pullover and dark tattered jeans laced with silver studs and chains.
He leans against the barter store with his arms folded. He leers at Vin and Zuri as they approach. Without moving he greets the two in a deep, brooding voice, “Bout’ time you losers came. What tha' fuck took you so long?” Zuri slowly approaches Tooth.
“Sorry … had to pick up Vin. He got lost along the way.” Vin follows closely behind Zuri.
“Sorry.” Vin says softly. Tooth pushes himself off the wall but leaves his hood up. “Shut up! Damn, I guess this is what we get for letting maggots like you in.” All that can be seen of Tooth’s face is his shiny teeth as he speaks. “This store stopped paying Shane the protection fee. So, it’s well overdue for an accident … if you know what I mean.”
Tooth enters the store. Vin and Zuri follow close behind. Two middle-aged men, a woman with a five-year-old child and the owner stop their transactions. They watch Tooth and gang as they enter the store.
Tooth smiles as he walks around calmly checking out the merchandise. Zuri and Vin look around the shop nervously. Tooth pauses next to a counter filled with trading goods. He pounds the counter loudly with his fist.
The action grabs the attention of everyone in the store. Zuri moves slowly towards the store owner while Tooth is pounding. He then theatrically jumps up on the counter and kicks the trade goods. Items fly throughout the store. “Attention, customers. I just wanted to announce this place is no longer safe to trade in.”
The store owner reaches for something behind the counter. Zuri notices and points a gun in his face. “Don’t do anything stupid!” Vin spaces out as he stares at Zuri in shock. He can’t believe Zuri is holding a gun.
“Hey, new guy!” Tooth shouts. Vin snaps to attention and looks at Tooth who seems to be enjoying this.
“Get yer shit together and rob these fools.”Vin slowly breathes in and out which calms his nerves in the process. He then proceeds to take money from the two middle-aged men. “I’m sorry. Please just cooperate.” he whispers to the men.
“And hurry tha fuck up! If this guy stopped paying the protection fee, it’s only because he has a deal with the sector police.” Tooth snaps at Vin he then points at Zuri, “You! Get the money from the safe.” Zuri cringes at the command but obeys. He turns to the store owner.
“You heard him. Gimme the money.” The owner moves to slowly towards his vault. He unlocks it and retrieves a bag of credit chips.
“You young punks.” He mutters under his breath as he hands the bag to Zuri. Tooth hears him and holds his gun up to his ear.
“Ohh? What was that old man? You want trouble?” Tooth says revealing his shiny smile. Vin approaches the woman and child. The child stares at Vin blankly.
“Please don’t. I’m all alone. I need everything I have to feed and provide for him.” The woman quietly begs. Vin holds his head down in shame.
“I’m sorry. Please just give us your stuff. Tooth has a bad temper.” He softly replies. Suddenly a shot is fired. One of the middle-aged men is lying on the ground, bleeding and motionless. Tooth is holding up his gun and smiling. Vin covers the woman and child, instinctively protecting them.
He looks up to see Tooth with his gun still smoking. “All of you here. Tell your friends what you’ve seen. This place is no longer safe to trade in.” The store owner slams his fist on the counter.
“You damn punks! What did he do?”
“Shut up, old man!” Zuri interjects. The howl of sector police sirens can be heard in the distance. Tooth hops down from the counter.
“Looks like our time is up. Vin, get your ass movin’. Zuri, kill this clerk and let’s get the fuck out.” Vin looks at Zuri with fear and shouts.
“Wait!” Zuri nervously holds the gun and starts to shake slightly. Sweat drips from his forehead as he points the gun. Vin dashes over to Zuri as quickly as he can.
“What are you waiting for? Do it!” Tooth shouts. Zuri closes his eyes and squeezes the trigger. The gun fires and silence enters the room. A frown grows on Tooth’s face as he stares at the situation.
“What the hell?” Tooth says. Vin has pushed Zuri’s gun to the side. His actions cause the bullet to miss the store owner. Zuri is left in a daze.
“What happened?” Zuri asks as he stares at a bullet hole in the wall. Vin holds Zuri's gun by the barrel. His hand is burned by the heat of the gun.
“Thank you, brother.” Zuri whispers to Vin in relief. The sound of sirens in the background grow louder by the moment.
“Whatever. Let’s get out of here.” Tooth says as he heads for the store exit. The three run out of the store and into the sprawl ghetto. They jump over a fence and run into nearby alleyway. They navigate the tight maze by squeezing through tight building walls. Soon they enter a small, grassy field.
They all stop by a large leafless tree to catch their breath.
“Hand over the loot.” Tooth demands. Vin and Zuri walk over to Tooth. They hand him all the money and items they stole. Tooth examines the items. “Not bad. Shane only wanted us to spread a little fear into that place, so all this is extra.”
Tooth pockets most of the loot and then holds out his hand to Zuri and Vin. They approach Tooth to take what’s left over. “Here ya go, your cut.” Tooth says with a grin. He suddenly strikes Vin in the head with a balled up fist. The action causes him to kneel over, writhing in pain.
“Hey what the—” Zuri begins to shout before he is hit square in the cheek by Tooth. The force knocks him to the ground.
“You ever pull that shit again and I’ll kill you on the spot. You got me?” Tooth throws some credit chips at Zuri. They hit him in the face and scatter in the grass. Vin looks at his brother on the ground covered in credit chips. Zuri turns his head away in shame.
Anger swells within Vin. He clinches his fists tightly. Ready to enact retribution. Tooth notices Vin's contempt. “What? You want a piece of me, maggot?” Tooth says with a smile.
He knows they need the gang and any aggression towards Tooth might end in their dismissal. Vin bows his head subserviently. He has no other choice but to obey Tooth for now.
“Go feed your little family or whatever, and make sure you report at base tomorrow.” Tooth says as he walks off with a grin. Vin helps Zuri off the ground and then starts to pick up the credit chips.
“Remind me again why we work for them?” Vin asks. Zuri dusts himself off.
“Because now we can feed everyone at home. Come on. Let’s go get them some food.” Vin hands the chips to Zuri and says.
“I don’t know if I feel right. Someone died so we could eat.” Zuri looks at the items in his hands and then back at Vin.
“Then let me do the feeling for us. It’s not fair, I know … but we don’t really have any other choice.”
Zuri walks off but Vin stays for a moment under the dead tree. He squints as he looks around at his surroundings. Everything seems dark and gloomy. In the evening a strange, thin
purple mist consumes the town
. The buildings are run-down.
The grass suffers from malnutrition so it grows short. Most of the trees bear no leaves yet still stand. Streetlights and ground lights illuminate desolate main roads. Those roads, usually remain empty until morning.