Vile Heroes: Renaissance of a Resistance
By Mitch G
He could feel it behind him. Beyond the rock, the rock he was hiding behind, he could somehow sense it's presence. "It's still a bit away," he thought to himself, "But that will change in no time." His mind raced. "How can I kill this thing? How can a little guy like me kill a wyvern? Is this the only place on Lunar that even has one of these damned things?" He shook his head. "Focus! Focus now Ethan!" He could sense it closing in.
"I need to buy time." He reached for his crossbow. He took a bolt. He looked at it. "Red, no good," he thought to himself. He reached for another. "Blue, dammit." And another. "Green, jackpot!" He loaded the crossbow. He raised the weapon. His eyes kept scanning both sides. He was almost wishing for it to happen now. He could feel it coming. He could sense something to his left. He spun toward it, and fired the bolt. He then ran as quickly as possible. After a dozen seconds, he stopped. He could feel that something was wrong. "It's not following me."
He looked back. He thought to himself, "It should've followed me a bit before it felt the effect of the gas." The wyvern was laying on the ground. He cautiously walked toward it. The monster suddenly twitched it's head. He leaped back. Then the wyvern emitted a hacking sound from it's mouth. Red and green matter sprayed from it's mouth. Then it stopped moving. He began to walk again towards the monster. He looked at the creature's mouth. More of the strange liquid was slowly oozing from it's lips. "That looks like blood," he thought aloud, "but what's this green stuff?" He was almost standing over the cocktail of bodily fluids when he began to feel weak. He ran away quickly. He stopped several feet away. He was already feeling better. "That's the stun gas mixed with something... Maybe the beast's saliva?" He looked to his left. He could see a dark mask. "I was wondering what happened to that." He picked up the mask and put it on. Then he went back to the monster.
He spent several minutes looking into the wyvern's mouth. "Yep, it's dead." He looked down the monsters throat. "The bolt detonated right in it's throat." He reached down to his belt. "If that was a normal crossbow explosive, it would've stayed conscious long enough to take me with it." He drew a long, jagged blade. "Well, when I bring it's head in, I should be able to afford a better means of decapitating these things. The existing method is starting to turn me into a vegetarian."
Every minute he spent in the process of decapitating the beast felt like a nauseating eternity. When he was finally finished, he sat on the ground and rested for a minute. When he got up, he looked at his new trophy. It was only going to be his for a few hours before he turned it in for the one thousand silver bounty. Regardless, he was amazed that he managed to kill his biggest monster yet. "I bagged a wyvern this time," he muttered. He looked around for any other equipment that was scattered during the battle. After a while, he found his sword, his twin daggers, his case of assorted jerky, his canteen, and a picture frame. None of it seemed damaged.
As he left the cave (with the proof of his accomplishment in tow via rope and small wagon) he looked at the photograph in the frame. The group picture was from the last time they were all together during the daylight. He sighed, then said, "Frank, I'm still talking to myself sometimes. I know, I know. I am working on it. It's not like I'm letting it go. Jesse, I finally managed to deliver that letter to your mother. I'm sorry about the delay. It couldn't be helped. Vincent, are you still upset about the time I danced with your sis? I know I say this every time but, it was only a dance. Jesse looked so very depressed when she was on the dance floor alone. Jack, I found that wyvern we used to see sometimes. I have it's head right here. What I'd give to know what you'd think about it. Would you be proud of my accomplishment, or would you be upset that I killed the magnificent beast that used to fill us with fear, awe, and inspiration? Or maybe it's both. In any case bro, I'm broke, at least until I get back to town, and the grand banquet of jerky I brought with me today represents the last of my groceries. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I was on my last options. It was this or sell my body on the street. Obviously, I was quick to settle on this." He laughed for a minute. "C'mon, you know that was a joke. I've gotta keep my thoughts off of suicide somehow. Or did you want me to quit like I always used to?"
It only took an hour to get withing sight of the village. He knew this but it felt to him that he was trudging along the frontier for weeks. "I wish I didn't have to do this today,"he muttered. He remembered hearing that Xenobia was visiting there that day. "Touring your kingdom to make yourself look like a people's leader. But everyone with half a brain knows your just a fascist. A few years ago, everyone was even more desperate than usual. So what do you do? You have someone assassinate the president from the shadows while others did the same to everyone who would've been next in line to finish his term. Deny your involvement all you want, I still know better. Simply being away at the time with your family was just too convenient to be convincing. We should've picked your plan Vincent. Maybe then, we would've at least all be alive. Alive and with clean names. All my idea did was give the dictator the perfect scapegoats for her dirty deeds. And for dirt cheap too." He shook his head. "I'm doing it again."
After what felt like forever, Ethan had finally made it to the reward claims office. He placed the wyvern's head on the desk. The clerk said, "How may I help you?" Ethan said, "I came to collect my reward for this dead wyvern." The clerk looked at the wyvern's head on the counter. The clerk then said, "If this turns out to be real..." Ethan interrupted, "People make fake wyvern heads?" The clerk ignored him and continued, "...this would be worth one thousand silver." Ethan said, "Could you please confirm it now then give me the money? I don't want to sound pushy but I'm flat broke and practically out of food."
Ethan stood around for a painfully boring while. When he was about to give up waiting, the clerk showed up. He said, "Well, before I get your reward, I need your name for the record." Ethan thought to himself, "You can't afford to take the risk of being tracked. Quick, give him a phony name." He opened his mouth and said "Larry Mason." The clerk said, "Alright Mr. Mason, I need you to fill out this form while I get your money."
As Ethan left the claims office, he muttered, "I can't believe how long it takes just to count one thousand silver. As long as that time wasn't used to check my background though, I don't care all that much. If he had checked though, he would've seen through my simpleton alias..." He shook his head. "Dammit, I'm doing it again."
He could hear a faint roar. "Sounds like a group of cheering people. So the blind sheep are welcoming their new nihilistic ruler. I'd better stay away. If I see her, I would probably lose control and try to strangle her. And of course, she probably surrounded herself with a bunch of goons to keep people like me from ever getting within miles of her." He walked for few blocks. Then he started thinking about that night. That night over a year ago...
"We should withdraw," Ethan said under his breath. "What?" Jack yelled. Ethan could see how restless Jack was. Frank turned away from the window and said, "They're coming, but they're still a ways away. We can still make a clean escape." Jack stomped his foot and said, "You're going to quit again, like you always do." Jesse threw her long sword to the floor. Everyone looked at her as she said, "You'd prefer we actually carry out our threat?" Jack slammed his fist into the table. Without turning away from the window, Frank said, "The longer we discuss this, the closer we cut it." Jack sighed. He grabbed his hair with his left hand. He then said, "No, I don't want to kill several thousand people. That's cold, sadistic, genocidal, and a load of hypocrisy." Ethan could see some of Jack's hair start give. Jack released his own hair, then he said, "But we have to do something." Ethan shook his head. Jack stomped his foot again. Then Ethan turned to Vincent and said, "You've been quiet the whole time." Vincent replied, "It was fun to listen to you guys." Frank interrupted, "Wrap this up in the next moment, or never." Jesse picked up her sword. Vincent said, "Ok, I say we leave like Ethan said, and regroup with a new plan. We could even try my idea this time." He turned to Jack and said, "That's better than doing nothing except moping." Frank ran from the window. Ethan got up and said, "We need to leave five minutes ago." As Ethan started to run down the planned escape route, he heard screaming up ahead...
As he approached a street corner, he bumped into something and fell to the ground. As he got back on his feet, he realized that he bumped into someONE. He said, "Sorry." He then noticed he bumped into a woman. She said, "No, it was my fault. I was walking rather fast." He noticed she was about his age. He said, "It was my fault. I wasn't watching were I was going." He noticed she had light skin. (which was uncommon in that part of the world) She replied, "I wasn't paying attention either." He then noticed she had silver hair. (silver, not grey) He responded, "Normally, when people argue about who's at fault, they both insist that it's the other person." He noticed he was absorbing more details than normal. She laughed briefly, then said, "Well, I'm looking for the town theater." He answered, "Well, I believe I passed it on my into town. But I think they're closed today." She replied, "I know, I just want to see it. Could you please show me the way?" He paused for a moment, then he said, "Sure, I've got nothing to do anyway." As they started down the street, he thought to himself silently, "Nothing to do? I was going to buy some food and supplies. I must be losing it."
After walking for a little bit, the lady asked Ethan, "You wouldn't happen to live here, would you?" After a brief pause, what she said to him finally sank into his head. He replied, "No, but I used to live in a neighboring village. But that place burned to the ground a few years ago." He wondered silently, "At what point did my brain suddenly slump over?" He read the sign at the street corner. He said aloud, "We need to turn left here."
She then asked him, "What brings you here then?" He started thinking, "Why is she asking me about this?" He opened his mouth and said, "I just collected a reward on some monster I killed." He thought to himself, "Why did I just tell her that?" He then opened his mouth again. The words, "Don't say anything," continually repeated in his mind. Then he asked, "What brings you here, besides the theater?" He could imagine himself biting his own tongue off. She replied, "Well, I'm supposed to be at the meeting with my sisters but I felt like avoiding the crowd today." He gave up on regaining any control over his mouth. He read the street corner sign. He said, "Just turn right here and walk straight for a couple of minutes. You can't miss it."
He thought to himself, "At least it's over." She said, "Thank you." After a brief pause, he asked, "What's your name?" He could hear his own voice inside his head yelling, "Moron!" She smiled. She then said, "My name's Phacia. What's yours?" He immediately replied, "Ethan." He could hear all of his friends repeatedly yelling, "Moron!" in unison. Phacia said, "Maybe we'll see each other again someday." With his friends unanimous yell, "Moron!" still ringing in his mind, he answered, "That would be nice." He started back from where he came. After a couple of moments, he caught himself looking back.
A while later, his thoughts started to catch up with him. "Where do I know the name Phacia from?" He stopped dead in his tracks. "Dammit! Phacia is Xenobia's sister, you moron! Dammit!" He started thinking about what he said to her. "You stupid son of a... You told her your name! If she realizes who you are, all hell will break loose!" He hit himself on the head continuously. When he started to feel dizzy, he finally stopped. He sat on the ground for several minutes. When he started to refocus, he began pondering what to do next.
Ethan thought long and hard. "They probably know me by name. They probably heard about me when they caught my friends. They would never have sold me out, but Xenobia's thugs never wear kid gloves when there's something to find out. The last hours of their lives were probably..." He shook his head, "Focus Ethan!"
Eventually, his mind formulated a plan. "I need to get away from here. I can't risk going to the supply shop now. I'll have to make my jerky last longer. Just leave town casually. I should make it out if I leave now." He shook his head, then he stretched his arms. He slowly rose to his feet. He finally started walking.
He went only one block when he could sense a couple of soldiers behind him. "It's probably nothing. This could just be their patrol route. Gotta pretend I don't notice them." He looked ahead. There were soldiers standing at both corners ahead. "Don't panic. Security's only tight because the fascist is in town. Just keep going."
As he approached the street intersection, he felt that another person was nearby. Suddenly, he heard a familiar voice say, "Yeah, that's him." He spun around. The clerk from the rewards claims office was standing in a doorway. "That's the man who collected one thousand silver under the name 'Larry Mason.' You thought I wouldn't notice, didn't you?" Ethan's mind began to race. "I said, 'Larry Mason?' That's the name of that secretary who was embezzling from the government. He was convicted before the takeover. They only declassified it last week. No wonder I thought of the name so quickly. Damn, I suck at lying."
Ethan noticed one of the soldiers his back was turned to was coming to him. Ethan thought silently, "Don't panic. They can probably smell fear. Stay relaxed and focused." As the soldier grabbed his left hand, he felt that all of the guards were relaxed. He thought to himself, "Now or never!" As the soldier reached for Ethan's right hand, he elbowed the guard in the chest. He then backhanded him in the face with his left hand. He quickly turned, pushed the solider off his feet, and headed the street corner he formerly guarded.
He kept running. He could sense the other guards following him. He quickly reached another intersection. He could sense a soldier around the right corner. He turned right, pushed the surprised guard off balance, and stole his sword in one deft move. As he continued onward, he noticed that one of the pursuing soldiers collided into the still-dumbfounded soldier at the corner. He noticed a merchant cart up ahead. He slashed at one wheel as he ran by. He saw several more carts up ahead. He destroyed as many as he could as he passed them. As he slashed the last one, he sense that his pursuers were tripping on the debris. Several moments later, he could sense they had given up pursuit.
He slowed down. He started to feel relaxed. Then he realized that he ran right back into the heart of the city. "Dammit! They're going to block off the exits and search door to door. Dammit! Dammit all to hell!" He kept moving to avoid discovery. "I need a place to hide for a few minutes. I must come up with a plan."
Ethan walked a block with his heart pounding. "Calm down Ethan. Just calm down," he thought to himself. He spotted what appeared to be a dilapidated residence. He approached the door. He couldn't sense anyone inside. He casually entered the house. As he closed the door, he could see that nobody had lived here in a while. There was dust and cobwebs everywhere.
He brushed dust off of a step on a staircase, and sat down. He thought to himself, "How can I still be alive? How do I know about so much? Every time I've been chased today, I haven't looked back. I knew things nobody could've possibly known. How did I know the thugs chasing me had fallen over the clutter I kept leaving in my wake? How did I know the wyvern didn't follow me? In fact, how did I know where and when the wyvern would strike? How did I know that someone was standing around that corner? How did I know it was a soldier? How did I know those two goons were tailing me before that ambush? I didn't hear them, I didn't look back, and all the shadows were being cast the other way. How did I know the soldiers weren't taking me seriously when the one was arresting me? How did I know?" He sighed, and shook his head.
He felt someone coming. He quickly ran into the back and around a corner. The door opened. A soldier stepped in. He looked around. He walked into the back. He looked to his left. Ethan appeared from his right and grabbed him by the neck and right wrist. The soldier struggled to free his neck. He struggled for the ability to yell, "He's in here!" The soldier was trying to face his left. Ethan jerked him to the right. Ethan heard a cracking sound. The soldier stopped struggling. Ethan dragged him around the corner. He looked towards the front door. It was closed. Yet, somehow, he knew there was one more soldier waiting outside.
Ethan thought to himself, "Why am I wondering about how I can sense this? I just can. It got me this far, I might as well trust it." He searched his surroundings. He sensed a group of floorboards were loose. He pried them up. He then jumped down into the crawlspace. He closed the floorboards above him. He heard the door open. He heard a voice say, "What's taking so long?" He sensed the soldier walking past him. He felt that the door was still open. He quietly pushed the floorboards back up. He pulled himself out. He ran out the door.
When he merged back with the crowd, he approached a merchant cart selling blankets. He pointed at a brown sheet and asked, "How much for this one?" The merchant replied, "Five silver. I have a special going for today only. Three for ten silver." Ethan said, "Great, but I only need the one." He opened his travel bag and reached for his money pouch.
As he walked down the street, people wondered why a young man was dragging a brown sheet in the street. A few people even caught him changing which corner he was dragging the blanket by, as if he's trying to ruin all of it. Ethan had formulated a plan while he was walking. Nobody looking at him could imagine the entertainment they were about to receive as a result of his handiwork. It was going to start in a matter of minutes. The town theater, though closed today, is about to host a surprise show. And only one man knows it.
It didn't take long for Ethan to enter the alley opposite of the theater's front entrance. He crouched behind some garbage and threw the blanket over himself. A soldier walked by. When he felt that the soldier was gone, he continued preparations. He took from his travel bag his crossbow and one red crossbow bolt. He ducked back under his blanket. A soldier stood around for a while. He then moved on. Ethan got back up and made a slit in his sheet with the sword he stole from the one guard. He then loaded the crossbow. He ducked down. A small group of kids ran by. They were followed by a soldier who yelled, "No loitering in the streets!" Ethan didn't get up this time. He put the tip of his weapon through the slit in the dirty sheet.
He waited for several minutes. He relied on his strange, yet seemingly natural, sixth sense to let him know when the opportunity presented itself. When nobody was looking in the wrong direction and unable to hear the tell-tale, "twang" of the crossbow. There were several times that were almost perfect, but still presented a risk of discovery. It felt like he would wait forever. Then, he fired the crossbow.
The bolt flew true to it's target, a second story window in the theater. There was a loud explosion. Everyone looked at the theater. Ethan, however, didn't need to look. He could sense that the theater was an inferno. Ethan waited for the right moment, then he snuck out the back way.
Ethan walked casually towards an empty house. A nice one this time. Ethan could sense the door was unlocked. The owner of this place was either naive enough to leave the door unlocked, or someone simply forgot. Either way, he decided to go inside.
Inside, Ethan prepared for phase two. Ethan said to himself, "I didn't stand a chance of making it out of here before. Now that many of the thugs are trying to fight the theater fire, I can break through the skeleton staffed barricades at the town boarders." He shook his head and muttered, "I'm going to give myself away if I keep talking to myse... I've got to stop." He reached into his travel bag. He took a green bolt and his gas mask.
After a while, the two guards at a blockade were arguing. "We should be fighting that fire," the first one said. The second one said, "Are you kidding? I don't want to do more than I need to!" The first one stomped his foot and yelled, "It's too boring here! That fire is the first thing to happen in this town since they put this damn roadblock up." The second guard said, "Don't think of it as boredom, think of it as a little bit of r 'n' r." The first guard elbowed the other one and said, "Someone's coming." He then pointed to a cloaked figure approaching them. The second guard said, "Well, you wanted to do something, right? You take care of this guy."
The first guard started to step forward to stop the man. However, the cloaked man stopped in his tracks, and suddenly lifted his cloak. The guards could see a strange mask on his face and a crossbow in his hands. The second guard stared in disbelief as the man fired his weapon at them. The first guard heard a loud bang on the ground to his right. Before he could see what it was, he was surrounded by a strange green gas. He started coughing and gasping. He started to feel weak. He drew his weapon, then fell to the ground. He looked up to see the masked man walk by, seeming unaffected by the gas. The last thing he heard before he blacked out was someone saying, "Pleasant dreams..."
Ethan was trudging across the frontier. It was starting to get dark. Ethan thought to himself, "Maybe this is a good thing. I'll just use my sixth sense to reach the next village and camp nearby. If they follow me, I'll at least be able to use the cover of night to gain a lead on them." Ethan continued down the path.
It seemed like night was going to last forever. He was marching in the cold of the dark. He hadn't slept in over twenty hours. He only had five pieces of jerky since he got up last morning. He was exhausted, period. He could sense it ahead. He made it to the next village. He started to pitch his tent. Every second he was working for the privilege to sleep was like an ironic punishment. When he finished, he crawled inside, and collapsed.
Ethan opened his eyes. The tent had fallen on him. He crawled out from underneath. It was almost midday. He brushed himself off. "Why?" a familiar voice asked. He turned around. He couldn't believe it. "Why didn't you tell me?" It was Phacia. Ethan was puzzled. He asked, "How did you find me?" Phacia asked, "Why didn't you tell me that we could never be together?" Ethan blinked. He said, "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking..." He shook his head, then he said, "No, this isn't right. This doesn't make any sense..."
Ethan opened his eyes. The tent had fallen on him. He crawled out from underneath. It was almost midday. He muttered, "Deja freakin' vu." He brushed himself off. He then began to collect the remnants of his collapsed encampment.
When he had finished gathering his belongings, he proceeded to the village. This was the first time he actually could SEE the place. He could feel that someone who didn't belong besides himself was occupying the village. As he got closer, he sensed that soldiers had placed the village under marshal law. Ethan muttered to himself, "Marshal law used to mean something else. Today though, it simply means there's more military jerks policing the area than usual. Nothing else is different." Ethan paused for a minute. He thought to himself, "My own hometown was destroyed while my pals and I were on holiday. All my parents did was publish an underground newsletter that tried to warn everyone how much that bitch wanted to be in charge... Of how far she was prepared to go for it. Xenobia had the whole town torched to silence them. She wasn't even in control then. What is she capable of now that nobody can stop her?" He stomped his foot on the ground. "I can't let history repeat itself. I must find out what's about to happen. I must try something."
Ethan went to blockade in front of town. The soldiers signaled for him to stop. One of the soldiers asked Ethan, "What's your business here?" Ethan thought quickly, "What's simple and believable?" He opened his mouth and said, "I live here." Ethan thought to himself, "Is that it? Guess I can't take it back now..." The soldier replied, "Hold on for a minute." The soldier whispered to another soldier. The second soldier said, "You may enter, but you can't leave until the search is over." Ethan said, "Thank you," and moved on. He thought to himself, "I can't believe that worked. I can't help but feel that there should be more to it than..." He shook his head and thought, "Just focus and stay alert. If it's a trick, at least they can't catch ME by surpri... FOCUS DAMMIT!"
Ethan walked around the village. In one house, he could sense a couple arguing over something. In another house, two soldiers were catching a break, at the expense of the home's owner. One house's contents caught his attention. A young woman was sitting, watching the door and a group of various pointed objects that were floating in midair. He was intrigued by the fact that there were several objects just suspended by no physical force.
Ethan knocked on the door. The woman asked, "Who is it?" Ethan replied, "I don't think I'm the one you're setting your road runner booby-trap for." She asked, "What makes you think I'm doing anything?" Ethan replied, "May I come in just to talk?" There was a brief pause. Then she said, "Ok, but don't try anything." The door opened up in front of Ethan. He felt that she hadn't moved out of her chair at all. After Ethan walked in, the door shut behind him. He said, "How did you do all of this?" She stared at him for a moment. Ethan noticed that she was younger than he thought. She couldn't have been older than 15. She then asked, "How did you know?" Ethan paused for a moment. He then responded, "I could feel it." She looked at him funny. He ignored the stare and continued, "I could sense what was happening behind every closed door and window I passed by. You were just sitting there waiting for something to happen."
The array of floating, lethal objects slowly moved forward by an inch. She raised her voice slightly, "You're one of them, aren't you?" Ethan shook his head, "No. If you thought I was though, why did you let me in?" For a minute, there was no movement or sound. Finally, she said, "I never answered your first question. I can move things with my mind. I don't know how I can, I..." "...just can?" Ethan interrupted. She sighed, then she said, "Yeah." Ethan thought to himself, "I don't know how I can sense things. I just rely on this power I don't understand. It just comes naturally to me." She said, "I know. It keeps me alive. So I just trust it." Ethan stared at her in shock. He asked, "Did you read my mind?" She giggled, then she said, "No, you were just talking to yourself." Ethan put his hand to his face to hide his embarrassment.
She said, "My name's Cora. What's yours?" He replied, "Ethan." He started sensing around the area. A couple of soldiers were entering a house nearby. He also noticed that there was a tunnel which started right under the house. His eyes moved to the area right above it. Indeed, there was the faint outline of a trap door. Cora said, "There's something I need to show you. As one psychically gifted individual to another, I'm obligated to show you a world beyond this one. A world where psychic minds like ours can meet." Ethan said, "Soldiers could come in during that time. Why don't you put away the instant pincushion maker and hide us in that trap door you keep pretending isn't there?" She paused for a moment. Then the various sharp objects slowly moved apart and scattered to seemingly planned locations. The trap door then opened. Cora said, "Ok, lets go."
The tunnel went on for a surprisingly long ways. Ethan asked, "Who built this?" Cora replied, "My father built this. He used to love digging. This tunnel was his hobby." Ethan sensed ahead. The tunnel stopped not too far ahead. He asked, "Where are your parents now?" Cora sighed. After pausing for a minute, she said, "A month ago, soldiers came and took my father. My mother tried to stop them, so they killed her." Ethan thought to himself, "She has every reason to hate them as much as I do." Cora said, "Ok, were as far in as we can go."
Ethan opened his travel bag and a piece of jerky. He asked, "Are you hungry?" Cora replied, "No. Besides, I have my own little snack pack." Before he started eating his jerky, Ethan asked, "What was it you were going to show me again?" Cora looked into his eyes and said, "The telepathic matrix."
Between mouthfuls of jerky, Ethan asked, "Why are you looking at me like that?" Without blinking, Cora replied, "Well, I have to. This is the only way to connect our minds." Ethan swallowed another bite of jerky. He then asked, "What do you mean by 'connect our minds?" Still without blinking, she said, "In order to enter the matrix on your own, you have to have been there at least once before. If I stare in your eyes long enough, we'll form a temporary bond. That way, when I enter the matrix again, I'll take you with me." Ethan hesitated to bite on the jerky. He said, "This is starting to freak me out." She responded, "I know. Just hang in there. When my father did the same thing to me, I thought I was going to go berserk. This is the only way."
Ethan finally took another bite of jerky. When he swallowed, he asked, "Your father had psychic powers too?" Cora said, "My father could read people's minds. He knew the soldiers would've torched the town if he didn't cooperate. He tried to warn my mother not to interfere. She understandably didn't listen." Ethan scratched is chin. He then asked, "I just had a thought. All I can do is sense where things are. How can that power get me into this matrix thingy?" She said, "It's not the talent itself that counts. Your rare gift simply represents the fact that your mind has the capacity needed to enter the matrix."
Ethan shuddered suddenly. When he stopped, he said, "This is really getting under my skin. Are you sure there's no other way? I mean, can't you tell me how to get there? Can't you tell me what it's like so I'll know when I get there?" Cora replied, "Unfortunately, nobody can be told what the matrix is. You'll have to see it for yourself." Ethan could feel her mind. He felt uncomfortably close to her. Cora's eyes finally fell away. She said, "Ok, we're ready. Just close your eyes. I won't be long." After a brief moment of hesitation, he closed his eyes. He started to feel adrift. Then, he could see again. He could see himself being pulled across an endless sea of various dark colors. He felt like he was in another dimension.
The drift across the unknown seemed to go on forever. He still felt like he was being pulled. At one point, he felt like he was falling up. Then, as suddenly as it began, it stopped. He was floating in the middle of pitch-black nothingness. When he looked around, he could see many people. "Felt like forever, didn't it?" Ethan turned around. Cora was hovering behind him. She said, "Despite what it felt like, it was really less than a second." Ethan asked, "This is it? This is the telepathic matrix?" One of the other people said, "You sound exactly like every new face before you."
Ethan looked at this person. It was a female in dark clothing. There was some kind of blue mark across her face. She said, "Perhaps you introduce yourself." Ethan said, "My name's...Whoa!" He stumbled backwards a moment. Cora said, "Easy, easy... You have to get used to this place. Moving is difficult here." The dark-clothed woman said, "Moving is pointless here. Tell us your name." Ethan said, "My name's Ethan. I was just..." Cora interrupted, "Hold your horses. They have a rule against talking about your personal life here." Ethan shook his head. He then said, "Well, what's the point of being here then?" The dark-clothed woman interrupted, "We were in the middle of discussing a serious crisis. Quit wasting our time. Just listen and learn our names and the rules that way." Ethan clenched his fist. He then said, "Alright then. But first, I want to know your name Ms. High-and-mighty." She glared at him, then said, "For the sake of moving on, my name is Royce."
One of the telepathists said, "Perhaps we should use one of ourselves as bait." Another stomped his foot (in midair) then said, "Are you mad!? There's way too much risk involved." Royce finally stopped giving Ethan her cold stare. She then said, "We have to take some risks. We must find out who's attacking us." Cora leaned towards Ethan and whispered, "Someone has been kidnaping people who've been here before. The possibility of an insider has been constantly considered. But since everyone insists on following the rule against discussing personal matters, we can't figure out who or even if someone's selling us out." Ethan blinked, then said, "Whatever." Cora raised her voice slightly as she asked, "Were you even listening?" Ethan turned to her. The question finally clicked in his head. He said, "No, I wasn't." She grasped her forehead.
Cora then asked with an irritated voice, "What were you paying attention to?" Ethan shook his head, then he replied, "I was trying to remember where I remember Royce's name from..." Ethan raised his eyebrows. He then turned to Royce then said, "I don't mean to interrupt to break the rules, but I was wondering, Royce, if you know someone by the name of Xenobia?" Royce gave him the evil glare again. Then someone else said, "That's a detail about her personal life. You can't break..." Ethan snapped, "I know it's against the 'precious' rules. I already acknowledged that before I asked." Everyone was staring at Ethan now.
He ignored the stares and continued, "The reason I asked was that Cora told me that Xenobia's soldiers were her father's abductors. I do believe HE was here before." Royce snapped back, "What does THAT have to do with whether or not I know Xenobia!?" The others were whispering to each other. One of them then asked, "Are you saying that this 'Xenobia' is behind our crisis?" Ethan asked, "Don't you know who she is?" The man answered, "No, I don't." It was about that time Ethan noticed that telepathic's ears were different. He then replied, "Xenobia is the fascist leader of the vile tribe." Royce yelled, "Who the hell do you think you are!?" Everybody suddenly became silent. Ethan stared at her for a minute.
He finally said, "I knew it. You're THAT Royce. You're Xenobia's sister, Royce." Cora glanced at Ethan, then glared at Royce. Ethan said, "You've been party to the plot since day one, haven't you!?" Royce looked like she was about to lunge at Ethan. Cora said, "You've been thinking the same thing I was. I knew it. I knew she was responsible." One of the telepathist in the back came forward and asked, "Why didn't you say so before, Cora?" A weak sounding voice in the back replied for her, "She knew you wouldn't believe her. But that man..." Cora looked at him. She then yelled, "Dad!" and clumsily worked her way to him. Everyone was looking at them as she threw her arms around him and squeezed like they were still in the physical world. He hugged her back then continued, "...but this man didn't care about what you'd think."
Cora asked, "Are you alright? Please tell me everything's fine." He looked at her and said, "I'm sorry, Cora. Time is short. I have a minute or two before they find me." Ethan asked, "Before who finds you?" He looked up at Ethan and answered, "The guards at the mine. They're working me to death." Ethan stared at Royce and growled, "Before, I was only wanting to kill your sister. Now that I know you're a part of this, my vendetta extends to you. If I see you in the real world, you're dead!"
Cora's father said, "Now I recognize you. A couple of the other miners were wondering how you were doing. They were thinking about the night when they were captured by soldiers." Ethan was now giving the man his full attention. He continued, "When there was no trace of you in the prison cell, they hoped that you got away. They're names were Jack and Frank I believe." Ethan approached him slowly. "They're alive?" Ethan asked. "Yes, they've somehow managed to keep alive down here. They're about ready to start a revolt in hopes that they can kill one or two of them before they go down." Ethan raised his voice, "Where are you? What mine are you at?" The man paused. He then said, "It's just east of my old home. They had a load of new prisoners from other stops and they didn't feel like going far." Ethan shook his head. He then said, "I think I've seen the entrance before. Tell Frank and Jack to wait. Tell them they'll get a chance to escape soon."
The man nodded, then he looked back down to Cora. He said, "I must go now." Cora said, "No, please don't..." The man was about to reply to her when he started to twitch backwards, as if in pain. He then turned into a bunch of spots. Cora, still trying to hold on, fell face down. The spots quickly zipped away into the distant pitch-blackness. Ethan moved to Cora. He helped her up. He could see tears running down her face.
After a moment of silence, Ethan said, "Show me how to get out of here." Without looking up, Cora grabbed his forehead. Everything he could see quickly melted away. He started to feel like he way being torn apart in a thousand different directions. He opened his eyes. He was standing in the tunnel again. He looked around. He could see Cora. She was still crying. He then noticed that he could sense things again. He felt the tunnel. He felt the frontier surface just a few feet above. He could feel the road not far from the spot right above them. He could sense everything... ...except Cora.
Ethan shook his head. He tried sensing again. He can't detect Cora at all. He can see her and he can hear her. He can sense everything around them. He just can't pick her up on his sixth sense. Ethan sputtered, "What the hell... I can't detect you." Cora wiped her face and looked at him. She took a breath and said, "I forgot to tell you. Everyone who's been to the matrix is immune to each other's psychic abilities." Ethan hung his head low. He scratched his head and said, "You forgot. If we were to meet Royce right now, she could ambush me. And you just forgot to..." He shook his head. He muttered, "Forget it. I need to focus on what I'm about to do." Cora looked at him silently for a minute. She finally asked, "What are you about to do? Not what I think you thinking, are you?" Ethan looked away from her. He said, "I've done nothing but merely survived since I lost my brother and the guys. I've waited for something that's never going to just come to me. The only things I have to lose now, will be lost for certain if I don't go."
Cora looked up. She shielded her face as the dirt above slowly parted away. Ethan said, "I want to see them again. This is my one, my one and only chance." Cora looked down. The ground beneath them slowly broke away from the rest of the tunnel. She said, "I'm coming." Ethan immediately said, "Are you out of your mind?!" Cora snapped, "Are you?" There was a brief pause. She then added, "What you're talking about is suicide. You're begging to die by going. But you say that you've merely survived. You have no life to lose." She picked her head up to make eye contact. "Well, same here," she finished. The ground they were standing on started to rise up.
The chunk of dirt slowly carried them up. Ethan said, "You're not some wanted criminal." Cora looked away and asked, "I'm not? I've seen the telepathic matrix. We've exposed the truth behind Royce's intentions. How does that NOT make me a potential trouble maker?" Ethan shook his head. Cora looked at him again. "Just like you're willing to do what it takes to see the ones you lost again, I'm willing to walk through hell to see my father alive in the daylight again. And in case you've forgotten, I have a significant edge over any enemy."
The light was starting to increase significantly. Ethan squinted as he asked, "Have you killed a person before?" Cora started squinting too as she replied, "No, have you?" Ethan covered his face with his hand. He thought to himself, "Damn, am I a hypocrite." He then muttered, "No, I haven't." Cora then added, "So why does it matter to you? We don't know each other. All we know is that our loved ones and / or our death's are in that mine. If we don't work together, the latter will be the certain outcome."
The dirt reached surface level and stopped. Ethan thought to himself, "What am I arguing about? Way to go on thinking things through, dumbass. I simply need her help to upgrade my chances of success from none to slim." His eyesight was finally adjusting close to normal. He said, "Alright, you made your point. We better get going."
The sun was starting to set. Ethan and Cora were way off the beaten path. The many footprints were the only guides on the otherwise unmarked path. Ethan was carrying his crossbow. He was fumbling with his last three crossbow bolts. He muttered, "I wish I could've bought more than two of each." Cora looked at him and asked, "Two of what?" He loaded a blue bolt on his bow. He then cleared his throat and said, "Two of each color crossbow bolt. I used both of my green gas rounds and one of my red flame rounds. It's time I try the blue." Cora looked at the blue bolt and asked, "What does the blue do?" Ethan hung the handle of his weapon by his belt. He then took his sword out of his travel bag as he said, "Well, if you can't figure it out, just watch and learn." He hung his sword at the place his sheath would've been if he had the chance to buy one.
The guard stomped the ground. He said, "I can't get it out of my mind. That guy wasn't just sleeping while standing up." A second guard said, "Ah, shut your sci-fi fantasy paranoid gap. I don't need to hear about that or the miner that supposedly can read people's minds." A third guard quickly added, "I think they're the same guy." The first guy slammed his fist on the stone wall. He then said, "I'm only saying that we should've killed him." A fourth guard waived his hands in front of himself. He then said, "Hold it. Hold it. We have one more load of new prisoners coming in. After we give them the usual unwelcome, we'll cover for you while you go kill that guy that's bothering you. Will that be satisfactory, you retards?" The second guard started looking outside of the entrance. The third guard answered, "If it'll shut everyone up..." The second guard interrupted, "Ok, ok, ok. They're coming. Let's just do this and get it over with. We can discuss the later later." The fourth guard said, "Can't you say something less confusing?" The first guard looked at the prisoners and shouted, "Keep moving! Single file only! If anybody causes trouble, we'll kill you and the two guys next to you."
The crowd of people was silent as they marched in. They had various cuts, bruises, and scars on them. The first person in line was a man in a brown, dirty hooded cape. One of the soldiers that came in with the prisoners shouted, "Take off that cloak and surrender all of your personal belongings!" The man started to lift his hood with his left hand. Suddenly, he made a quick motion with his right arm. When he was done, a jagged cutting blade was lodged in the guard's neck. He then punched the guard in the face. He fell like a rock. For a split second, the other soldiers were in shock. They then started to draw their weapons. The man drew two daggers from his person and threw them in two different directions. One of them stopped in one guard's forehead. The other impaled another guard in the throat.
The man yelled, "Everyone, get out of here now!" He then rolled to his right to dodge the soldier attacking him from behind. The guard barely thought, "How did he see me coming?" before the intruder impaled him with his own weapon. The crowd was already trying to run out. The two guards at the door managed to kill a couple of the escapees before a teenage girl threw two knives into the air. The blades stopped in midair. Then one flew right into one the guards at the entryway. The other soldier looked up at the remaining projectile just before it too, reached it's target. Meanwhile, the last guard was holding off the other intruder while yelling, "Get everyone up here! We're under attack! I repeat..." The soldier was cut-off by the man's sword penetrating his neck.
Cora looked at the dead soldiers. She then leaned against a rock. She then kneeled forward and vomited. Ethan said, "I told you not to think about it." Cora cleared her throat. She looked up at him and asked, "You killed more people than me. How can you take it so well?" Ethan ignored her as he picked up his weapons as well as steal the weapons of his deceased enemies. A group of soldiers and few hooded men suddenly came up from deep in the mine. The commander yelled, "Hold it right there, scumbags!"
Ethan looked at the squad of soldiers. He took his crossbow. The commander yelled, "I said 'hold it right there,' you bastard! Freeze!" Ethan shook his head without breaking eye contact. He said, "No, you chill out instead." He pulled the trigger. The blue bolt explodes in the commander's face. Before Cora could blink, most of the enemy had been frozen solid. Several others had only been frozen partially. Only the capped men were still free.
As one soldier struggled to free his leg from the icy prison, one of the hooded enemies raised his hands and began to chant. The others followed suit. Ethan yelled, "Cora! Teamwork, quick!" He tossed every blade into the air that he could find. Each sword and dagger started to stop in midair then fly at the cloaked men. Some of them were sliced by the deadly bombardment, while others disappeared for a split second as the projectiles would've pierced them. Ethan could sense the immense power being summoned by the survivors. He quickly ran for cover. Cora followed suit almost instantly. She barely ducked behind a stone column just before a streak of fire blazed by. She then noticed that she and Ethan had taken cover on opposite sides of the room.
Ethan yelled to Cora, "Launch some rocks!" Cora yelled back, "What for?" Ethan shook his head, then yelled, "Just do it!" Cora visually scanned the room. Every free rock she laid eyes on instantly flew up and straight between Ethan's and her own cover columns. Ethan sensed that they were focusing on "blinking" to dodge the various rocks, just as he wanted. He ran out from his cover the opposite of the side he came from. He hastily loaded a red bolt to his crossbow. He then ducked behind the frozen squad. He could feel that they were still focusing on avoiding the stones. He sensed for a break in the flying parade of blunt projectiles. All he needed was a split second. When he felt it, he got up, fired, and ducked back down in one fluid motion. He felt that the magicians dodged the bolt, but they couldn't dodge the ensuing inferno.
As they started to writhe in burning agony, the airborne rock fury continued. This time, they didn't dodge. They fell to the ground like the rocks that pelted them. Ethan yelled, "They're down! Finish them off!" Cora returned, "Why don't you?" Ethan shouted, "Because, they're surrounded by several feet of fire. You're the only one who can reach them." Before he finished however, she had already started sending every sharp object she had at them. When Ethan could sense that they stopped moving, he got up. He walked over to the soldier struggling to free himself. He grabbed the guard's weapon, smashed the ice with the hilt, and shouted, "Get the hell out of here you piece of crap!" The soldier, stunned that he somehow survived, obliged the victor's demand without hesitation.
Cora glared at Ethan. He asked, "What?" Without looking away, she picked up every weapon available. She frowned at Ethan and said, "No, you chill out instead." Ethan was puzzled. Then it hit him, "Those are MY words." She shook her head and said, "Do you have ANY idea how corny that sounds?!" Ethan sighed. He then said, in his first calm voice since they entered the mine, "Let's focus on the task at hand, shall we?"
The whip cracked again. The miner slowly got back up. He wasn't fast enough though, for the whip cracked yet again. He fell back to the ground. He expected to get beaten, or perhaps they'll kill him. Yes, it was to be the end of his pain. He would soon feel no more. He closed his eyes and awaited his grand finale. He waited, but it didn't come. No death, no beating, and no whipping. Then, he heard an unfamiliar voice say, "I won't tell you again. Let them go!" He looked up. The guard that whipped him was running away. He couldn't believe it, so he look harder. He saw that the soldier was actually charging someone. He couldn't see who the guard was charging. Before he could guess what was happening, someone was flying towards the wall, back first. When the miner looked closer at him, he could see that it was the soldier who was flung back.
He got up to see who could've done this. He saw a few more guards lying around, either unconscious or dead. The only ones still standing were miners like himself, a teenage girl, and a strange man. The man announced, "This is jail break. Anybody who feels that they can fight, come with me. Anybody who simply cannot, just head for the exit." He slowly started walking. He didn't have the strength to speak. He couldn't tell them that he was going to try to just leave. He doubted he could make it out on his own strength, but this was his last chance to get out alive. He had to try. He didn't know or care whether it was day or night. He simply had to see the sky one more time before he just drops dead. On his way out, he noticed that some of the newer miners decided to help their aspiring saviors.
The soldier was walking down the unmarked path. He was running before. But now, he only had enough strength to walk the rest of the way. He needed to tell someone, anyone. He had to tell them what was happening in the mine. He stopped for a second. While he caught his breath, he noticed that there was a large group of people ahead. With renewed stamina, he started running once again. As he slowly got closer, he could see that it was a large military regiment. The same size regiment as a V.I.P.'s escort. He had to let them know, no matter what.
Ethan was staring at his hands as he walked deeper into the mine. He said to himself, "I can't believe I forgot." Cora gave one of the revolting miners a guard's sword. She then turned to Ethan and asked, "What did you forget?" He clenched his hands as if to hide them. He then answered, "When you asked me earlier if I ever killed anyone, I..." Cora looked at him, awaiting the answer. He sighed, then muttered, "I don't know how I could've... Dammit!" Cora impatiently interrupted, "What?" He shook his head. He slowly said, "I forgot...
He breathed deeply. He then said, "Yesterday, while I was trying to get out of another town during marshal law, I was hiding in an abandoned house for a minute. A soldier picked that specific time to check the place during a routine door-to-door." Cora interrupted, "So, you killed him and just forgot about it?" He ignored her comment and continued, "While he was looking the other way, I grabbed him by the neck. He tried to call for reinforcements from outside. I jerked him away from the door to keep him quiet. I heard his neck snap." He opened his hands again. He then finished, "I didn't even think about it until now. It only happened yesterday. How could that mean so little to me?" Cora looked at him funny as she said, "Geez! It doesn't bother you to simultaneously kill over two dozen people at all? And you don't even bother to remember the first person you ever killed the very day after! What the hell is that?!"
Ethan thought aloud, "Am I some kind of monster?" Cora almost said, "I'd say so!" when her mind began to wander. She thought of earlier. She immediately said, "No, you're not a monster. You let that one soldier go, remember? The one that had the frozen leg and couldn't fight." Ethan stopped in his tracks. One miner who wasn't paying attention bumped into his back. Ethan said, "You're right. I... I really needed that. Thanks." Cora turned around. She only then realized that he stopped. She then said, "Glad to help. But you didn't need to stop for that." Ethan shook his head. He said, "Oh. No, I didn't stop for that." He looked ahead and to his left. He continued, "I can feel them nearby." Cora almost jumped out of her shoes. She asked, "Where?"
A soldier said, "Just relax. Take a few breaths." The guard who was running breathed rapidly. He gradually slowed down to deeper breaths. The soldier asked, "Ok, now what's the emergency?" The guard answered, "The mine is under attack. Two strange, yet powerful people. They eradicated the entire reserve stock, except for myself." Another soldier, an officer, asked him, "You just tucked tail and ran?!" He defended himself by saying, "No. He had illegal crossbow rounds. My leg was caught in the blast radius of a freeze round. I couldn't move." The officer barked, "Then how did you survive?!" A familiar voice said, "That's enough!" Everyone looked at the speaker. She continued, "Someone's killing people at the mine. We must stop them, now."
"Alright, you've got us." Ethan felt his first shred of relief in the longest time. "Finally," he thought to himself, "They're finally starting to listen to reason. I'm glad that some of these soldiers value their lives over honor, pride, and the rest of that arrogant crap." Cora tugged his shoulder. She said, "Hello! I said, 'What are we going to do with them?'" Ethan stood for a minute. He looked at his recently gained following. He said, "They must be disarmed and escorted to the surface, unharmed. I need ten volunteers." Ten of the fighters reluctantly stepped forward.
He finally made it to the surface. He felt exhausted. (Of course, exhausted is all he's been for a very long time) It was night, so there was only light from the blue star. However, even that was blinding light for him. He could feel someone grab him by the neck. Someone yelled in his ear, "Alright, you punk! How many people did YOU kill, you bastard?!" A voice he recognized pleaded, "He didn't kill anyone. He can't walk straight, or pick up anything heavy, or even talk. He couldn't kill anyone if he wa... Ack!" A female voice yelled, "Stop this!" He heard someone gasping for air. He then felt his own neck being released. The woman's voice continued, "This isn't the way to do this. They're just escapees. All you have to do is watch them."
He had heard enough. His eyes still haven't adjusted enough to see. He couldn't stand this anymore. He was foolish for thinking he could see the sky one last time. He decided to just let go. He was tired of waiting for someone to kill him. He sank to the ground, face first. He breathed in his last. With that last breath, he barely squeaked out, "Let... ....me... ...die." If he had regained his vision, he could've looked up to see his fellow escapees, a few rookie troops, and a light skinned woman all gathering around him, all trying to figure out "why?"
"How many more pockets of active mining are there left?" Ethan asked with an air of impatience. The soldier was nervous. Ethan yelled, "We hit four so far! How many are left?!" The guard spat out, "Three! There's three left!" Ethan motioned the revolters to take him up. The soldier still sputtered, "There's three left," as if he was unaware of what was happening around him.
As they proceeded deeper into the mine, Ethan gradually noticed that Cora was drooping her head. He asked, "What's the matter?" Cora shook it off. She said, "Nothing." Ethan quickly responded, "That didn't look like nothing. You were almost eager to get to that last room. What's the matter? What changed since then?" Cora looked away from everyone. She said, "That last room. I thought he'd be there." Ethan paused, then said, "I see." Cora resumed, "What if they already..." Ethan interrupted, "No, don't think like that. There's another three areas to search. He could be in any one of them." One of the miners added, "Yeah, I'm sure he's ok." They both turned and glared at him. The miner defensively said, "What?!"
She shook her head and asked, "What happened to these people?" The second in command asked, "It's a mine. What did you expect?" She quickly said, "I didn't expect THIS! Not this." One of the rookies nodded his head, as if in agreement. She continued, "Not a group of people who are nothing except skin and bones, dehydrated from head to toe, and having the most bloodshot eyes I've ever seen. Not people who just collapse to the ground saying 'Let me die.' Not... ....this!" The guard originally from the mine defensively said, "These aren't just any people. They've been brought here as punishment for serious crimes." "Serious by who's definition?" one of the miners asked. A soldier hit the miner in the back of his knee. She yelled, "I told you not to do that!" After a long pause, she said, "I want to hear what you have to say. What did you do to be brought here?"
The miner reluctantly began, "I was a teacher before your sister came to power." An officer snapped, "He was a teacher of the old government. He possesses dangerous ideas." The miner counter-snapped, "I was nothing more than a math teacher. How, by the furthest stretch of any psycho's imagination, does that make me dangerous?!" A soldier almost smacked him in the back of his head with the hilt of his sword, but she raised her hand, almost in anticipation. "Is that a normal reaction for all of you?!" she yelled. She sank to one knee and thought, "How could I not know? How could this have escaped me?" She slowly got back up. "Do they know about this?" she wondered.
Ethan sensed ahead. He said, "There's nobody ahead." Cora said, "I guess they don't dig there anymore." Ethan sensed harder, "No, there's digging tools and half-full mining carts around. It hasn't been vacant for long." One of the miners commented, "Maybe they were moved because of us?" Cora glared at him again. He stopped in his tracks and said, "Ok, ok. I know when I'm not wanted." Ethan raised his hand and yelled, "Wait." He could feel something semi-fluid in that room. He could sense that it was a part of someone. "Blood," he thought without realizing he said that out loud. "There's fresh blood up ahead." The one miner caught up to them. Ethan turned to him and said, "You're definitely right about them being moved. Give me a minute to find them." He kept thinking, "Jack, Frank, please be alive guys. Please be alright. I'm coming. I AM coming."
He could feel it. He could sense where they were. He could practically see a large group of miners being beaten, whipped, cut, and even killed. He immediately yelled, "They're being tortured and massacred! Time is short!" Some of the slower miners started levitating. Ethan didn't question what Cora was doing. He just ran forward as he felt his way to the blood bath.
A frail looking miner asked, "Now?!" Another miner answered, "Not yet. Not until he shows up." A third miner asked, "Who is 'he' anyway? You never told us." The second miner answered, "Someone you both know. That's all I know." The third miner shook his head. The first miner stomped his foot weakly, then said, "We won't last much longer! How long until they get around to us?! What then?!" The third miner sighed. The first miner continued, "He's just jerking us around, Jack. Nobody's coming." "Just wait a little longer," Jack snapped. "Just a little longer..."
Ethan yelled, "Cora, put them back on the ground and focus on getting some weapons ready to give to the miners." Cora is struggling to keep up. She asked, "Which miners are you talking about?" "The ones being slaughtered," Ethan quickly replied. He, and Cora start tossing various weapons into the air. The blades started flying overhead, at the same pace as she was running. Ethan yelled, "As soon as you can see them, give one to every miner still standing." Cora was breathing heavily from exhaustion, but the thought of her father being the first corpse they find made her keep running. Ethan yelled, "Those sons of bitches won't see this coming!"
The soldiers were having their kicks with the blood of their victims. A few of them looked up in time to see assorted lethal weapons flying over them. Jack asked, "Now?" Cora's father quickly answered, "Now!" He grabbed a weapon out of midair. Jack and Frank followed suit. The commanding officer shouted, "What the hell is going on?!" Shortly after that, he felt something pierce through his chest. Ethan pushed him off his sword. He quickly slashed another soldier in the neck. He ignored the profuse bleeding of his enemy as he attacked yet another.
A group of miners and a few soldiers in their custody arrived at the surface. They looked to see the entire entrance surrounded by a small army of military personnel. A couple of the miners and several soldiers unwittingly said, "What on Lunar is this?" in perfect unison. One of the captured guards said, "Miss Phacia, you came to save us. Thank the blue star, you came to our rescue!" Phacia hung her head. She said, "Yes, I came to save you guys, but... ...but now I don't know who needs to be saved from who?" One of the guards, finally realizing that he no longer needs to keep his hands up, let his arms fall loosely. As he walked away from his former captures, he asked in a confounded voice, "What are you talking about? Except for us, all the other guards have been annihilated. We're the ones in danger." Phacia thought to herself, "I thought I was making myself clear. Instead, because they can only think of themselves, I've only confused things even more. Why can't they think of the miners as people too?"
The last few soldiers were surrendering. However, the very miners they tortured wouldn't accept their surrender. That fact was demonstrated with a mining pick in each guard's forehead. As the chaos finally seemed to be coming to an end, the survivors looked for someone to thank. Jack's eyes were scanning the room. He then spotted Ethan. When he realized who he was looking at, he said, "Son of a bitch. Bro?" Frank looked at around trying to see what Jack was talking about. He suddenly shouted, "Holy sh... Is this for real?"
Ethan breathed deeply. His mind was trying to piece together what just happened. His thoughts were interrupted by two familiar voices he never thought he'd hear again. "Ethan? My gods, you're alive, and here?" "Bro, you came for us?" Ethan didn't bother with his sixth sense. He had to actually see them. He looked over to them. "They're alive. Holy crap, they're alive!" He didn't realize or care if he said that aloud. He was running to them. For several minutes, all any of them said, or heard, were variations of, "Damn glad to see you again!" and "I can't believe you're still in one piece!"
Cora was frantically looking all over. She was looking all over. Every second she couldn't find him made her fear grow stronger. She was about to break out in tears when she heard him say, "Cora, thank the stars." She turned around and yelled "Dad!" She ran to him and hugged him like she would never let go. Not only Cora, or her father, but everyone was crying. For some, it was for joy. For others, it was to mourn. Even those who swore they'd never shed a tear in their lives couldn't resist. They all thought it was over, be it for better or worse.
The second in command said, "Just let me go down with a dozen men. I'll find them and destroy them." Phacia said, "No, I want them to come up here." The officer said, "So we can surprise them like the others? I'm not against that but... Ah, the hell with it! We'll do it your way." Phacia sighed. She then thought to herself, "They still don't get it. I just want to know exactly what's really going on, that's all. Why are they ready to shed more blood? Why are they so eager to prove just how full of hypocrisy they are?" She shook her head. "I wish I wasn't here right now. I wish I could've been elsewhere. If this ever ends, I'm going to look for that man I met yesterday. Ethan, I believe. He seemed nice." The reality of the present returned to her. "I've had too many horrible surprises for one night. The worst part is, I'm sure that there's another surprise or two coming up. Please let the worst be behind me, please."
It seemed to take forever. Then, everyone was finally over the moment. It was time to leave. The nightmare was over. "Where's Jesse and Vincent?" Ethan asked. Frank's eyes rolled down. Jack dropped his head. Ethan recoiled in shock. "No!" he yelled. "They're fine! They must be! You two survived, so they did too!" Frank reluctantly started talking, "There was a cave in. Vincent was caught under it. When Jesse tried to help him, one of the guards stabbed her in the ba..." "Stop!" Ethan yelled. "That's not true!" Jack sighed. He then said, "The bastard who did it was transferred from here months ago." Ethan yelled, "I said stop it!" Frank looked away. After a while, he said, "Let's just get out of here."
They had been trailing up the mine behind Ethan for a while. Jack asked, "Have you been here before?" Ethan said, "Yeah, on my down." Jack felt stumped. He then asked, "Do you have a photographic memory of this place or something?" Ethan thought for a bit. He said, "I'd have to lean on 'or something' for now." Cora injected, "So you don't know?" Frank quickly asked, "Know what?" Ethan stopped in his tracks. He turned to everyone and said, "I'll tell you after we get out. For now, I have to concentrate to get us out." He turned forward and resumed walking. One of the miners said, "I know the way out. Why not just let me take point?" Ethan turned to him without stopping. He said to the miner, "You may know the direction, but I'm the one who can tell if someone we missed is planning a trap." For a moment, they marched quietly. Jack asked, "What are you talking about?" Ethan stopped again. This time, he stomped his foot. He then said, "Please, wait until we get out. I need to concentrate right now. I'll answer questions when we can see the sky again." They resumed walking. Frank asked, "What's with him?" Cora's father answered, "We've all been through hell. Let's just all calm down. Just because the enemy's gone, that doesn't mean we should turn on each other to keep the battle going." Cora snapped, "Geez, you haven't changed dad."
After a while, after everyone had finally calmed down, Ethan suddenly said, "Oh, son of a bitch. We're screwed." Everyone was buzzing, "Huh? What's he talking about? What is it?" Ethan said, "Everyone, calm down." The buzz slowly died. He proceeded, "Like I said before, you can ask me how I know after we get out. What's important right now is that the only exit is blocked by an entire enemy battalion." Right on cue, the buzz started again. Ethan said, "Calm down everyone. Calm down." As the buzz slowly died down again, a miner said, "You said, and I quote, 'We're screwed' and we're supposed to calm down?" Ethan waved his hands and said, "Panicking won't help one bit." Everyone started to quiet down again. This was starting to stress Ethan out all over again. He couldn't waste any more time trying to calm this crowd. He had to come up with a plan.
He sensed the surface again. The miners who left earlier were all captured. One of them seemed to be dead. There seemed to be about as many soldiers up there than there were in the mine, total. "There's got to be more to this. I must know more. There must be a way around or a way through." He noticed that some of the guards seemed familiar. He recognized one of them as one the soldiers who surrendered earlier. He also recognized the guard he turned loose when he and Cora eradicated the rest of the goons guarding the entrance. He also recognized... "Dammit! The whole friggin' world's against me." He recognized Phacia. "It's the old half-baked plan all over again."
Jack said, "What did you say Ethan?" He refocused to his present location. He didn't hear what his brother said. He decided to just guess. "I just said that history is repeating itself." Frank leaned back against a wall. He said, "This time, I don't think anyone's getting away. We're screwed, just like you said the first time." Ethan went back to scanning the top. He focused on Phacia this time. He couldn't believe she was here to kill him. Something caught his attention. A miner did something to ask for death. The guard was swinging his sword. He stopped. "He stopped?" He was arguing with someone. It was Phacia. "Did she stop the execution?" The thug eventually backed off. "She... She is different than her sisters." Frank said, "What are you talking about?" Ethan found himself back with himself. Again, he didn't hear what was asked. He just said, "I think I know a way through. It's a gamble, but there's no option."
Phacia couldn't stand much more of this. Tensions between the guards and the miners kept growing. Every other minute she had referee the soldiers and the prisoners to keep them off of each others throats. Some of the troops were starting to look at her differently. Some of the men were getting impatient. They wanted to either go in after the enemy, or just leave. Phacia was seriously considering having everyone pull out. Then one of the watchmen yelled, "They're coming. A really big group is coming. It could be the rest of the enemy." "Pipe down!" one of the officers yelled back. "You'll give us away."
Frank asked, "What is this plan of yours?" Ethan could hear his anxiety. He answered, "Just let me do all the talking." Jack, still puzzled by the recent events, asked, "What if negotiations fail?" Ethan quickly answered, "We'll all die. Failure clearly isn't an option." Cora burst out, "Just let me get them with my usual flying surprise." Her father shook his head. He said, "The hostages up there don't have the strength to retaliate like we did, young lady." One of the miners who had been silent until that point started mumbling. A few others joined him.
Ethan stopped and turned to everyone. He declared, "This time, fighting is not an option. We are significantly out-numbered. You'll have to trust me because we're screwed anyway if this doesn't work. I'm asking you to summon any and all patience you somehow held onto during your hardships here." Ethan took a breather. He then resumed, "The one in command of the enemy outside is someone very high. You probably know her by name. I honestly believe that, despite who she is, how powerful she and her battalion are, and who's she's related to that I can get her to let us all go. It's a long shot, but like I said before, we're screwed if this doesn't work. As slim as it is, it's our only chance of getting out alive, so we might as well take it. Is everyone willing go along with this plan?" After a moment of silence, someone said, "You got us this far. You have my support and my trust." A few others said, "Yeah." Before long, everyone had said, "Yes," in one form or another.
One of the officers clenched his hand tighter around his sword. He asked, "What the hell is taking so long?" Phacia sighed. She then announced, "Once again, do NOT charge upon visual contact with the enemy. Approach them slowly, but do not engage.. No matter what, even if attacked, do not engage unless I specifically give the order to engage." She looked for a place to sit down and relax. She thought to herself, "How did this all happen? I only came to find out who the alleged fugitive was in the village what she was accused of. I couldn't believe how often I had to check to make them refrain from disgraceful acts. I thought they were just pig-headed rookies. Now I see the same behavior in the treatment of even the most helpless prisoners. If this is how they behave in the mine..." One of the soldiers yelled, "The enemy approaches!" Phacia looked up to see a large group of people emerging from the mine. She thought to herself, "I must tell Xenob about this later. She can stop this kind of conduct."
Most of the miners were blinded by the light. Only the blue star and all the smaller stars produced any light, but that was still too much for people who had adapted to a harsh, dark, subterranean survival. Cora pointed ahead and said, "They're coming for us." "I know," answered Ethan. He felt that they we're coming slow and cautiously. Ethan said, "They're not charging us. Relatively speaking, that's a good sign." Everyone was looking at Ethan. They were waiting for him to execute his "master plan." He slowly said, "Keep your weapons down. Try to calm down if you aren't already. Remain calm and follow me from ten steps behind." He reluctantly put one foot in front of the other. After he took the second step, he walked at a more casual pace.
At the time, only the captives and their guards were near Phacia. All the other soldiers were confronting the enemy in a relatively peaceful manner. The man who appeared to be the leader of the group was ahead of the others. He was blindly trusting his life to the commanding officer who so far, seemed to be following her orders. After a minute of what appeared to be a one sided discussion, he was, to her surprise, taken with an unusually small amount of force. They then started to take him back with them. Most of the troops surrounded the rest of the enemy and escorted them, single file. "Did I finally get through to them?" she thought aloud.
They finally came close enough for her to get a look at the face of the surrendered leader. "I've seen him before, somewhere." As he got closer, she slowly pieced together in her mind who he was. "No, I must be wrong," se thought. She waited for him to get closer to dispel the illusion her own mind was playing. She waited to no avail. "Ethan?" she muttered. "It was you who did all of this?"
Ethan kept walking. As he got closer, he thought to himself, "She doesn't seem to be taking the fact I'm here very well. That's good, right?" He started feeling guilty. "No, it's not good. I feel bad for what she's going through." The guard prodded him to make him keep pace. "Why do I feel guilty now? I knew before all of this. I knew she was in command of the enemy. She IS the enemy, isn't she? Why am I less than certain?" He kept trying to piece the answers together. The only force fit for the pieces he could muster in his mind however, was nothing more than an incoherent clutter. "Why do I feel bad about the way my enemy feels? Why is it that I'm not able to fight now? The enemy was distancing itself between the hostages and their bulk force. Some of them were the escorts for the soldiers who surrendered down there. They could've fought their captors if provided weapons. I still have a freeze bolt left. Between that and the attack Cora proposed..." A swift kick in the back of his leg brought around the "focus" that he failed to give himself. "There wasn't any call for that, and you know it." "That voice," he thought to himself. "That beautiful, soft, voice... What am I thinking?" He realized the kick had brought him down on his knees.
He slowly rose to his feet without looking at her. "I can feel," he thought, "that she's silently asking why I'm not looking at her. I also sense that she already knows the answer." What he thought about finally hit him. "I'm not a mind reader! How can I know this?" The answers were again escaping him. "I can't wait forever." He summoned all of his courage to look at her. In her eyes, he finally found the simple, singular answer to his massive collection of enigmas. After a moment, she broke eye contact. She was trying to hide her face. Whether it was from him, or from the troops, he couldn't tell. The more obvious answer didn't seem so certain, at least to him.
He finally spoke, "I did this. I started this because my brother and all of my friends were down there." She started to turn to face him. She then remembered the person(s) she wanted to hide herself from. He continued, "Two of them didn't live to see today. That leaves only me, my brother, and my last friend alive." He thought to himself, "I... I must be... I can't believe this. She really is shaken up by this. Does she feel the same?" He kept thinking about the bitter-sweet irony. "Two people who're supposed to hate and kill each other... The feeling is good... No, it's wonderful. The resulting inside conflict hurts like hell, though." He started sensing Phacia's face, the face she was trying to hide. "It's the same for her too. Damn, a choice must be made."
He could almost taste the tears she was hiding. "No matter what the result is... Dammit!" He kept wondering what could be done. Once again, the answer escaped him. He felt that the guard was looking away. "She is the only one who can choose. I can't deal with the pain if she..." He slowly drew his weapon. He made certain everyone heard it. She quickly spun to him. As the soldiers held the points of their weapons to his neck, he slowly handed the hilt of his blade to her. She didn't know what to think. She eventually grasped the handle. Suddenly, he quickly shifted the blade end to his own throat. A few of the soldiers drew their own weapons away. At first, only Phacia noticed the blood slowly running off of Ethan's hand, the hand that held the blade in it's place. He slowly said, "If you intend to stop me, you know what to do. Now's the time to end it, like you came to do, right?" Everyone was in shock. Jack thought, "What? Why?" Frank thought, "I thought I was the one going nuts." Cora was too stunned to think at all.
Phacia looked away. "Why?" she thought. "Why is this bothering me? I don't know him. I only met him briefly yesterday. Yet, for some reason..." "I did this," Ethan suddenly said. "I started this because my brother and all of my friends were down there." Phacia thought, "What? This was over friends and family? I shouldn't be so..." She started to turn to face him. "Wait," she thought. "Did killing all of these people justify saving the few?" She quickly faced away again. "Two of them didn't live to see today," Ethan said. Phacia thought, "What?" He continued, "That leaves only me, my brother, and my last friend alive." She thought, "They're dead? How many other people died down? Is that why he went?" She noticed she was crying lightly. "Wait a minute. I'm defending him. Why?" For a moment, there was only silence. "Maybe he should've attacked. My whole world has already been turned upside down tonight. I can't stand this. One horrible revelation after..." Her thoughts were disturbed by the sound of a weapon being drawn. She turned around quickly. Everybody had their weapons at Ethan's neck.
"What is he doing now?" Phacia thought. Ethan slowly raised what appeared to be the hilt of his sword. She didn't know what to think. She eventually grasped the handle. Suddenly, he quickly moved the blade to his own neck. "If you intend to stop me, you know what to do." Phacia was suddenly terrified. "Now's the time to end it, like you came to do, right?" Her mind raced, "This is it? He wants to die?" She could see the blood flowing from his right hand, where he held the weapon. "No, that's not it," she desperately rationalized. "He's trusting me." Then, the idea hit home. "He's trusting ME. Why me?" She couldn't bring herself to think at all. "Why me? Why did he trust me out of everyone else?" She simply couldn't think. Out of her panic, one impulse seemed to make sense. She slowly lowered the weapon. "I won't," she said.
She slowly lowered the weapon. "I won't," she said. Ethan slowly let go of the blade. "She made her choice," he thought. "Or, she couldn't make the decision." He slowly pressed his good hand against his bleeding palm. "If she has decided, that means she thought of something. If she had to think her way through, then it can't be a good sign." Phacia slowly turned away again. "On the other hand, if she couldn't decide, that means she's going through the same thing I am." He sensed her face again. He could feel a look of indecision... "No, that's not it," he thought. "It's more like confusion, or pain, or..." "I'm getting sick of this bullshit!" someone yelled. He then felt something... ...the old fashioned way. (on the back of his head)
When he looked up, he could see people all over. Everything was dark except for the people. He noticed that several of the faces were vaguely familiar. He then realized, "I'm in the telepathic matrix." "Indeed you are," one of them said. Ethan thought, "I spoke aloud again." One of the others said, "We've been waiting for you quite a while. Do you realize how slow time flows here?" Ethan shook his head. As he stumbled to get upright, he asked, "How did I get here?" Yet, another telepathic was quick to answer, "If we cooperate, we can force someone who's been here before to to return the next time he or she is unconscious." As he struggled to steady himself, he unwittingly thought aloud, "So I was knocked out..." Another person commented, "Unless the incident that 'knocked you out' has anything to do with what happened last time you were here, it would be best that we don't hear about it." Ethan asked, "What is this, do you take numbers just to add your two bits?" Seeming to be sarcastically answering in the affirmative, another person said, "We need to ask you about the vile tribe." Ethan noticed that the guy who said that had those strange ears. The round topped ears that momentarily caught his attention the last time. Rather than rock the boat further, he asked, "What about us, exactly?"
Time flowed almost as if not at all. During this painfully long slice of eternity, he learned that the people with round ears were in fact humans. That revelation made him realize that the stories he grew up with weren't myths at all. He spent a great deal of time telling them as much knowledge of history as he knew, reminding everyone that this was only what he heard. He assured them that he was certain that some things were probably exaggerated, fabricated, or even deleted by the bookkeepers. When he finally reached the end of that rope, he started to relax some. Strangely, he felt like a load had been lifted while another had been added.
He then spent a great deal of time listening to what the humans had to say. What their point of view of the past was. In the end, they agreed not to trust things that only one side of the story told. Instead, they would only believe the things both sides spoke of. They would only trust the parts that both versions actually converged. They decided that everything else would have to be investigated. Who better, after all, to challenge the "official" history than those who possessed the power(s) necessary to breach every form of security ever invented.
"Did I miss anything?" a familiar voice said. Ethan looked to see Cora's father. Then he heard another voice. "Ethan! Thank god you're alright!" Ethan asked, "Does this mean everything worked out, Cora?" She smiled and said, "You bet your ass!" "Don't talk like that!" her father ordered. "Sor-ry!" she replied. "But haven't you ever been relieved to see a friend come out of a close call fine?" "Enough," one of the psychics said. "You know the rules." They both backed down silently. Ethan asked, "Is my body still in pretty bad shape yet? I didn't come here by choice and I'd like to go back now." Cora said, "You're fine. I'm sure you can go back now." Ethan sighed. He then said, "There's two things I want to know when I get back. How we got out of that mission impossible and," he turned to Cora's father, "What the hell your name is because not being able to refer to you by name is really getting the hairs standing on my neck." He immediately answered Ethan, "Parker. My friends call me Parker."
"...So when they hit you on the back of your head, I said, 'Enough of this! I can do better!' and I started to pick up every rock, weapon and every other sharp of heavy object I could see." Ethan was only paying half-attention. He was only wondering about one thing. "I've seen her do it before," Parker commented. "I've seen her pick up that many objects only to have them all collapse when I called her name." The idea filled Ethan with dread.
He asked impatiently, "So what happened?" Parker shook his head. He then answered, "I had to handle negotiations myself." Ethan was given more questions than answers. Ethan asked, "What negotiations?" Jack interrupted, "You can't tell a story at all. He accepted the enemy's surrender. We made them form a single file line as we took away their remaining weapons and rations..." Ethan started to think about the abused miners who didn't let the guards to tried to massacre them surrender. He started to worry that they repeated the senseless vengeance. "What happened to them afterward?" Ethan asked. Frank said, "Well, the few of us had a hard time convincing everyone else not to kill them..." Ethan's heart started to sink. "...And we obviously couldn't just take them with us, so..." Ethan couldn't breathe. "...We just let them go, on foot." Ethan let out a large sigh. Frank asked, "What? Did I make you think we killed them or something?" Ethan laughed a bit, and said, "Yeah, you really did."
Cora asked, "By the way, who was that lady in charge, and what were you trying to accomplish?" Parker turned to his daughter and said, "The enemy commander was Phacia." Cora nodded. She then jumped a little. She asked, "You mean, THAT Phacia?" Ethan answered, "Yes, that Phacia." Ethan thought, "She didn't know even though he... Oh, that's right. He's a mind reader." He suddenly started to feel a dread. "He must've read Phacia's mind," he thought. "That means he knows... No, he could only read HER mind, not mine. I'm sure he just assumed that it was simply a weakness I knew about." His mind started to accelerate. "How would he know that? Maybe from my actions... No, he'd more likely conclude that..." "Anyway, what were you trying to do?" Cora asked. Ethan drifted back into himself. Cora said, "Are you even listening? I said, what were you trying to accomplish?" Ethan stumbled to say, "I-I was trying to end it with-without any more blood being... Spilled." Cora laughed, "Heh, including your own? Ha, ha!" Ethan looked at his hand and sensed the back of his head. Both were heavily bandaged.
Ethan said, "Forget it, we need to focus on what's going to happen soon." One of the miners said, "I'm going home." Jack yelled, "Hope it's still there in one piece." The miner looked at Jack as he continued, "That way, you'll get to see it one more time before the goons waiting there haul your dumb ass right back." Ethan looked down and muttered, "He's right." Frank asked, "What?" Ethan looked back up and repeated, "I said, 'He's right.' Do you really think they'll let us go this easily when they find out what happened? It won't be long before word gets out." Parker said, "There's a lot of matters to discus, a lot of ground to cover, and less time to do it all." Ethan stood up and stretched. Several others did likewise. He said, "Well, I guess this is the time that I say something like, 'This is only the beginning!' so... Uh... Dammit! Well you get the idea."
Everyone had just begun their march to get away from the crime scene when Ethan noticed something strange on the ground. Jack asked, "What is it?" Ethan replied, "It's nothing. Just keep going. I'll catch up." He sensed that it was a piece of paper. He tried to sense if there was something unusual about it. There was some writing, but his attempts to read it seemed rather disoriented. So he picked it up. He managed to arrange the paper until the writing made sense. It said, "I don't have to read your mind to know what's going on. I can still see your concern. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone." Ethan smiled. As long as nobody else knew, nobody would think strangely of him. The last thing he or anyone else needed was to question each other's integrity over this.
"Telepathic communication to just anybody may not be within my abilities," Ethan thought, "But maybe she'll hear me anyway." He cleared his mind entirely (for the first time ever) and started 'talking,' "Can you hear me? I don't know what to do about this, but I will think of a way out, or a way through. No matter how long it takes, I will find a way so that we don't have to fight. I will find a way around these boundaries. I will find a way to be able to tell you face-to-face how I feel. I will keep looking for a way for as long as it takes." His rationality wouldn't let him seriously consider that she got the message, but the rest of him wanted to believe regardless. He looked around him again. Nothing but the mine, the rock formation around it, and the frontier clear to almost any horizon. He finally noticed the others who were way ahead of him. "Son of a..." He started to run like he actually thought he could run the entire distance.
And so, it had begun. A resistance had been born out of the ashes of a previous movement. Most humans were oblivious to what happened in the frontier during the next several years. The vile tribe and the telepathics on the contrary, would remember what happened as "The Psychic Civil War." However, that is another story for another time.