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Jacinta Hansen · Alison Katsura · Eric Lysander

Prologue

The chip was implanted successfully. A young, fair-skinned woman lay upon a metal table, dark coloured hair tied up out of the way. Merely a cocoon of relaxed and vulnerable skin, she was kept away from obtaining consciousness by mask and mouthpiece-vented anaesthetic, fastened securely around her face. A man stood beside her, pulling off a pair of white, blood-stained rubber gloves, revealing a calloused skin colour of almost direct contrast underneath.

He placed his implements upon the table that lay at his side. At once, he activated a garment concealed holoslate, only to be pleasantly surprised. The chip registered. Cleanly, perfectly. As if it was always there. The response was more than pleasing, and the man could no longer restrain himself from smirking.

It matters not the ends taken to achieve. The end justifies the means.

I

This world. It’s such a cruel and irrevocably selfish place. The politicians and monarchs claim it's an age of prosperity, the many people spared of basic reasoning claim it's an age of prosperity, though it's anything but. I have seen too much to ever defend this. The world is slowly consuming itself in its own greed, choking helplessly on it's own gluttony in a slow suffocation.

It is the year 2121. In the past century a once comparably prosperous and peaceful humanity has fallen into a form of still chaos, as powerful minorities of capitalistic and government elite all over the globe have risen to such great levels of power to the point where people are dwarfed beneath them. The only measure of power is the amount of people a man is prepared to step over and crush beneath himself, through any means possible. Now, equality is non-existent, and happiness in nothing more than a fleeting whisper, as organisations dangle the world affairs on strings like puppets, bending the wills of the people to their whim and leeching the economies dry, simply for their own sakes; to boat their egos to further degrees and to consume and enslave competing powers foolish enough to even consider the fact that they have a chance against them.

This fact drives me relentlessly now. I grew up living in somewhat of a false bubble of hope and happiness away from the painful regime that dominates the surface. It was place called a "survival colony" by its inhabitants, secretive, underground cities built specifically to function on their own, to create peaceful human environments free of the taint of the outside world. I was blind, apolitical, ignorant, stupid. But I was happy.

Then, in a flash, everything changed. These worlds collided in the fires of gunfire as a third war consumed the world. The parents I depended on vanished, and I have not a single memory of when or how they did, and neither can I recall the last time I set foot within the colony. It seems as if my mind has been erased. To put it bluntly, this terrifies me.

All I have left of them is a single photo, and losing that would be the end of me. It's a terrible balance between hatred of the past and reverence of it, and yet I cannot step forward. The years I spent with them, despite the things i've learned and the events that changed me, are extremely precious to me. Such memories are extremely rare things in this world.

Despite all of this, I want the place grew up in to remain. Even if I do end my life as a minority of one, I feel as though I must preserve this last flame of hope for human existence. I've grown quickly to despise this world that stole the ones I love away from me.

In time, whilst spending endless weeks wandering the streets, scraping a up a living from the ground, I've learned that I've been living in a nation known as Sector Twelve, the oceanic zone located in the regions of New Zealand and Australia. The nation's controlling power is an iron-handed military dictatorship, racist and classist to the point of fascism in all but name. Any that do not fit its dream society are simply discarded as scapegoats, as vermin that supposedly cause all the ills of its already sick society, divorcing them from any form of support within the nation and condemned to lives of intense physical labour.

So many questions echo through my head about the little remnants of hope that still exist, glimmers of which flitters about society through word of mouth like a feather lost in a breeze - along with so many aspirations to learn about what they really are. Things like the war that split the path of my life astray, a war which my father was a valiant supporter of. What about the mysterious "Ghost_K" and the six that fight under that name in the name of justice alone? Their title was held high through stories of my childhood.

I wish they could do something about this world.

Cold rain. Rushing. Broken routine.

A young woman leaned against her motorcycle in the centre of a not so busy street. The occasional glance of slight intrigue was thrown in her direction by the lone pedestrian walking by. She was definitely not from around here. Dressed in shorts, grey tank top, with long hair tied back tightly into a ponytail, and a long muddy brown overcoat which took an attempt at keeping out the cold air; all indeed fashions unheard of in this part of the world.

Grasped in her right hand was a ceramic-coated dart launcher composed primarily of plywood and bamboo, and a compact radio communication device in her right. Weapons obscure enough to not be detected by the country's draconian immigration systems. Despite the lengths of effort taken, even her motorcycle ended up being pulled over for questioning. Even after having to dispose of the majority of black-coloured militaristic items for reasons beyond her own definition of sanity, her attire would be still enough indication to any passer by that she was prepared for combat.

She clicked down on her radio which seemed to add to a succession of times, almost in tedium, speaking: "Look, If she follows the plan we set out for her, we should locate her within fifteen minutes. What I'd like you to do is to search the lower catacombs for activity of her. That's more than easy enough for someone like you. If you find her, message me. You must resist any attempts of hostility. Her survival is our number one goal? Got it? " She paused. A look of annoyance seeped onto her face as she heard the reply.

*Sigh* "You're getting paid as soon as we retrieve her! Let's make this agreement simple: If one of us slips up, we kill them! That includes myself if I don't fork over the cash. Seems pretty failsafe don't you think?"

A boy crouched off to the left. He was dressed in a cool-coloured overcoat etched with flashes of industrial yellow, with a dark beanie attempting at concealing his blonde hair, though it still stuck outward at odd angles from underneath it. An air of inexperience seemed present around him. That, or simple laziness. He laughed at the woman's reaction.

"Not a people person, are you Alison?" He muttered in her direction, jokingly. She was too deep in thought to reply however.

"Alrighty then! Thank you, I'll see you soon with your payment then. Kay, bye." She switched off the radio.

"So now what?" Asked the boy as he stood up.

"We search the surface. I'm going to be a little mean here and take the motorcycle, you'll have to make do on foot."

She laughed.

"Do the same as I told the other guy… Eric, and if you see her message me. Cool with that?" she sounded as if she was almost forcing him to agree. She slid herself onto the seat of the bike and clicked on the ignition. The engine purred into life with a warm hum of fusion cells.

"Alright then..." He muttered, in a sarcastically cheerful response, digging his hands in his pockets.

"It'll be good for you. You've barley seen any real service anyway". She smiled at him slightly, and with that, she flexed the handle of the cycle and accelerated off with a screech, veering leftward into a distant street as she sped out of view.

...

A teenager strode purposefully down a jagged concrete street, dodging the multitudes of people was second nature to her as she advanced forward. A determination was visible within her. Fifteen years of age and just over five feet tall, her name was Jacinta Hansen, though this identity was hers only, as many others would recall her face to others. False aliases kept her untraceable.

She clutched a bag, dressed primarily in black counter-culture attire; complete with a hoodie, grey jeans, and long fingerless gloves wrapped around her hands, spanning up her arms to meet pink buckled straps below her shoulders. These were in all respects the type of clothes that would normally be worn by a teenage boy rather than a young woman. But this was for a good reason, despite the inevitable fact that these were her only clothes, she in-part exploited it for her own protection, using it as a means to keep unwanted attention away.

Flowing obscurely out of the hood was an unkempt blood red hair, she had meant to tie it back, but the hurriedness of her current situation led to her losing her hair band - meaning all the benefits of such an outfit were rendered obsolete.

'Of all possible things...' She kept thinking.

She was running late. Her intentions were fixed, concentrating only on the destination. And despite it's lethality, the gravity of the immediate situation was entirely oblivious to her.

Night meant nothing to the city, as it only brightened up with further life past the sun's melting into the smoky horizon. The landscape was alive with the bright flashy colours of amber and cyan, illuminating the landscape in an chilled glaze, reflecting downwards in the various scattered puddles in long spires of stretched light.

She calculated the amount of time she had left before her pay would expire. Ten minutes. That seemed reasonable, and to make up time took a fast left into an alleyway. The light retreated out, escaping from around her as it got progressively darker, and the passage was tight, about half a meter thick for a couple of hundred metres, with Jacinta inevitably having to awkwardly shuffle sideways through. She theorised that this alley would take her to the other side of the complex, taking this risk from a simple hunch.

Though she tried to stay confident and in control, a dull sense of fear and adrenalin began to rise up inside her. It was as if the buyers were deliberately wasting their time so that they didn't have to pay her despite the length of effort undertaken. In fact, it was highly possible that this was actually the case. What if she didn't make it on time?

She sighed. She was letting the worrying get to her again. The alley came to an end, and slipping out quickly she found herself standing on a high ledge looking down into a cavernous cellar. "Progress?" She thought wishfully.

It was echoing with activity, and packed dense with as many stalls and shacks as possible. Each stall was offering a whole new variety of product in its shelves. Illicit products of every trade and form, and indeed some of the items displayed were sickening. This was nowhere near to where she was expecting to end up...

But time was short. Chillingly short. She didn't even want to begin thinking about how the buyers would react to late deliveries, especially with lone teenage girls. Worry began to dangle itself between her perception of the immediate moment and future aspirations, things were looking cloudy. This was not good.

As such she resorted to wandering even further, down through the swaying mobs of blackened figures in an attempt to cut her way through the place in hope of finding another exit, but it wasn't long before she lost track of her steps. Every alleyway seemed to twist and twine endlessly like a labyrinthine maze, she was lost before she could make full sense of what a pitifully ignorant mistake she had made by even setting foot down here. Jacinta cursed herself for this.

"Stupid girl."

She could feel the dredges of regret pressing on her already. Darkness posed as her omnipresent companion, and the air ambient with a sickly sweet fragrance like that of liquorice, putridly strong. It was like limbo, not a single thing had even a touch of resemblance with the metropolis of the surface, and only a bizarre orange light made her surroundings and the hundreds of people around her visible.

Two minutes.

Her emotions began edging toward the point of losing control; her aching worry was quickly boiling down to the point where it was difficult to keep hidden with a simple blank face. Nothing was recognisable in the blackness; everywhere she walked just looked the same; like she was in a hall of mirrors. All possible plans that she had lay down to avoid such a situation gone up in smoke, she was going nowhere at a million miles an hour.

"How could this have happened so easily!?" She said to herself. A volley of thoughts raced through her head as she tried to theorise a way out of the situation.

Could she just head back to where she came from? No, she's been doing that already. Contact the dealer? No, impossible, she didn't have any method of contacting them to begin with. Just run away and not deliver the drugs? No, ridiculous, The likelihood of them tracking her now was almost certain. Drop the drugs here and run?...

...

"Lost contact?!" Exclaimed Alison after a third failed attempt at making contact with her hired mercenary. She gathered her emotions together and took a deep breath, and flicked off the radio.

"God damn, corrupt operatives. Great tourist service here isn't there…" She cursed to herself. Immediately, she began thinking through several ways to work around the situation effectively. Her radio crackled in with an intercepting signal, and she quickly listened in intently, asking sternly "Who's there?"

"It's Eric. I told you that hiring locals was a bad Idea. I'm going to go underground and look for..."

"What!?" Interrupted Alison, completely surprised.

"You heard me." Replied Eric.

She laughed in slight disbelief of this sudden streak of rebellion "You've been ordered to stay on the surface! We're dealing with foreign ground here! We are actually prosecuted in this part of the world! Hasn't this gotten through to you?"

"...well I may as well do my job rather than spend the entire thing with training wheels on. Trust me, I'm not as inexperienced as you think."

She was losing control. Damn kids, she knew she shouldn't have brought him, but despite that she decided against that hunch in hope she could allow him to gain some more field experience. "God dammit that's an order!" She spat.

"I don't know why but… I have to do this!" He mentioned, before fading out. His signal cut out.

"Gah!!" She groaned. Alison released the button on the radio and threw it on the ground in annoyance. It was too late to attempt at reasoning with him, even her own team mate had disabled communication.

"This is unlike him…" She thought. "Fascinating."

...

"Dammit!" spat Jacinta.

She felt a frustrating stalemate. This moment in time was the result of her naïve recklessness and lack of judgement of the consequences of such a job she decided upon, drug running? Was she really thatdesperate for money? Her senses seemed to had only just hit her then. Drug running was illegal for a reason, and crime breeds crime, sin leaves doorways wide open for sin. So her late delivery was very prone to being punished with violence… or much worse, sickeningly worse. Why didn't she think of this?

"Gahh!!... What's wrong with me?!". She agonised.

She sat herself down on a strewn bench that had seen its well share of abuse, head in her hands, and breathing deeply.

Situations that slipped out of her hands like running water, she despised them. Feeling starved, deprived of sleep, helplessly lonely and desperate for money was clearly too much for a young woman to bear, and now even paranoia came into the equation. It would be only a matter of time before she would collapse into a sobbing heap of hysteria.

"I can’t take this, I have no options. Nothing." She whimpered to herself, indifferent to how loudly she was actually saying this. She felt the urge to break into tears. Zero minutes, time was up. Her watch beeped loudly, hauling her out of her deep thought.

"Shit…"

A single second was all it needed, and she entered survival mode, the panic temporarily drowned out by adrenalin. She stabbed a hand into her bag ruthlessly, franticly grabbing what was inside, and then cast several tape-wrapped packets against the ground. She threw her bag strap around her shoulder and sprinting away as fast as she could, fighting back tears. She didn't want to see those packets ever again in her life - this whole situation began to terrify her. Racing through the masses of people, panting with every stride, she took to re-tracing her steps with any clear recollection she had of the past ten minutes. She had to get out alive, at all costs. Within minutes she found herself in an angled hallway, somewhere on the other end of the complex. The gradient ascended. 'Good, but was this a way out?'

She took the possibility of the thought to heart and ran up it nonetheless. At least getting away would buy her some time. A voice emanated from behind her which broke her train of thought. "Hey... You!!"

And with the echo of his voice came a surge of adrenalin, radiating through her body like a tide. She slammed her feet against the ground in a full-on sprint, her legs screamed at her in painful exhaustion. "Stop dammit!" he said, exasperated. She threw her head back for a glance, merely to catch a glimpse of her pursuer, but was met with slight shock. It was just a teenage boy.

'Wh...what?'.

In shock she lost track of her feet, slipping uncontrollably, her ankle twisting sideways in a piercing sprain, and she slammed against the concrete ground with a thud.

"Gah!!" She exhaled in sharp pain.

Her hands stung with grazed skin, as the warm sensation of blood bubbled lightly through. She had to get up, a panicked terror urged at her to flee, but the sheer exhaustion and roils of pain and paranoia just caused her to shiver in shock. It was as if she was paralysed.

Footsteps echoed against the floor onwards to where she lay, tentatively. Full black clothes and a beanie with blonde hair jarring out from under it, though to her he was a perfect stranger.

"Are you…" He said, then pausing. There was a noticeable trembling in his voice. "are you alright?"

Jacinta just lay there, staring emptily at the wall in front of her, not even looking at his face. She opened her mouth to tell him that it was her ankle but, she didn't know how to put it, or whether to say it at all. She felt as though she shouldn't trust him. Fear and guilt just boiled inside her, and all she wanted was to run away, but she felt that if she tried, she'd just provoke him to hurt her.

The boy cleared his thoughts and stood back, reminding himself of the little margin for error that was at stake. Pressing a button down on the headset lodged in his right ear, he spoke "Subject has been found"

There was the muted noise of a reply chime through.

"Be glad I found you when I did." He said to her. He sounded surprised, and a touch sympathetic, the polar opposite to she was expecting. Was this deception? Luring her into a trap?

"Another minute, and we'd.."

"I'm not falling for this you idiot." She stated plainly in her defence. Deep frustrated angst rose steadily inside her.

"What?" Asked the boy, confused.

She reached for her bag fearfully, what was inside was desperately precious to her.

"Listen" said the boy calmly. He touched her on the shoulder. Bad move, she retaliated instantly, knocking his arm aside in a single sharp movement. Angst boiled up inside her. She balanced her upper body up on her arms, sitting up. Her ankle was beginning to swell. Perfect. She hated this; she hated not being in control. Her movement was hindered, all she could do in her defence was yell at him.

"Leave me alone." whimpering. She could feel tears building up, and she quickly blinked the feeling away. This was beginning to become too much for her, she felt terrifyingly vulnerable.

The boy was startled, and mentioned as he turned away with arms folded "Look. I'm.. I'm sorry." He looked up at the ceiling slightly, avoiding eye contact. He was unsure of such an awkward situation, which evidently made him nervous. It made sense to her now.

The silence was shattered with the sound of a gunshot, which ringed metallically through the hall. The boy changed mental gear instantly with the speed of instinct, ducking down, and flexed his hands outwards in a peculiar way. Who was he? Why was he here? In the distance strode a tall man, seething with the air of self-purpose and self proclaimed authority. He was thin, with baggy clothes, and of possible South American descent, sporting dreadlocks and a thin goatee that twirled off his chin. He held a pistol in his hand clocked at ninety degrees leftwards, which he immediately reloaded. Intimidation shots. The next round was certain to be the real deal.

"Step away from the girl bud. I have an appointment with her." He yelled, with a malicious grin that failed to leave his face.

The boy sighed, before replying "I'm afraid not. You've breached the terms of the agreement.", with a sense of authority that Jacinta didn't realise he was actually capable of.

The man replied from across the hall, as he casually stepped towards them "Ha! Well guess what? I'm a goddamn criminal kiddo, I don't give a rat's ass about your damn agreement."

The boy flexed his fingers again, this time with effect. The room ripped with a drastic, unearthly change in temperature. It dropped to freezing in mere seconds, whilst a layer of frost encapsulated the walls outward from where he stood.

He was an elemental! What luck…

"Where the fuck are the drugs!?" the man spat at Jacinta. She could feel him glaring at him, though was too afraid to look him in the eye.

The boy glanced back at her, stern, and with a hint of compassion in his eyes. "You're going to be okay. I'll make sure of it."

For a split second, Jacinta felt strangely reassured. "huh?" She whispered, slightly confused amidst this filament of support. The man remained indifferent despite the sudden change of events. He even laughed.

With that, he slid his pistol back in his belt and looked away. His face erupted into a maniacal grin, before throwing his arm toward them in a wide arc, hand outstretched, forcing his entire body into the motion. A gale of displaced air boomed down the hallway at his command, and the boy was thrown back across the hallway in the wave of chaos, colliding violently into a pile of crates behind him.

He coughed, before struggling up out from the wreckage.

"W… well that was a surprise. Gotta say though..." He came. A stream of blood leaked from his lips, and he wiped it off on the side of sleeve. A smile crept up, visible from under his hand. He readied himself once more, and clenching his fists tight.

A gun shot ringed through the air.

It's bullet hit the boy in the abdomen like a surge of raw energy, knocking him inwards, and his now limp body toppled over, hitting the ground like a sewn-up ragdoll. It proved to be lethal, evident by the blood that poured out like a gush of stormwater, soaking his jacket with a deep red hue.

The man bust into hysterical laughter.

"Bloody classic!" He yelled. As with the blood, sheer horror soaked through Jacinta. She just watched that boy get killed, and the man was unchanged, as if the stranger's life was just of pointless value to him.

He was shot dead.

The phrase just scattered itself through her mind repeatedly like a shard of glass, but every time simply failing to make full sense. The only thing that seemed real was this urging sense for her to get up and run away as fast as her shivering body would take her. However, it was obvious the same fate would meet her if she even tried. The man strode over to Jacinta. This was the dealer, she was certain, and it was clear that today mercy would be the last thing on his mind. So she just lay there, trapped in horror, unable to run away. He hunched over and picked up her bag with a perverted smile on his face, eyebrows raised in sick demeanour.

"Didn't have to go through all this muckin about girl" he said gleefully. He took his time rustling through the contents of her bag, enjoying his moment of dominance, even swaying in slight excitement. "I was even gunna cut you some slack with the whole late business thing, but since you decided on keeping my stuff all to yourself…"

He paused, and the glee vanished from his face.

"What the..."

The drugs were nowhere to be found. His face filled angrily with bitter impatience.

"Oh… reeeeal funny." He spat distastefully. He took a photo from out of the bag. A deep horror cut it's way through Jacinta once more.

"No! Don’t! that’s…" She blurted. She wanted to get up and snatch it from him. Now hate then steeped through her, drowning out the fear, dominating it.

"Cute." He said with an annoyed sarcasm. It was clear his patience was burnt through to the core, but Jacinta remained in silence, despite the fact her emotions were erupting violently within her, and she could feel sick from the tension; she could barley breathe. The man took out a cigarette lighter from a baggy side pocket in his shorts, and flicked it on with the puff of a weak flame. His face looked indifferent.

"No!"… she howled, breaking the silence as she could no longer hold herself together silently.

The man snapped, discarding the contents in his hands, grabbing her ruthlessly. He snatched Jacinta up by the collar and lifted her off the ground, twisting her shirt, slamming her into the wall. Jacinta's head remained limp as she was stuck in helpless fear, staring emptily at his feet. Tears began to run down her face. He twisted her shirt tightly to the point where it began clenching her neck like a vice, strangling her. He drew his arm back slowly, before throwing it at her in full swing, fist clenched, into her gut.

He punched her again. Again. And a fourth time, as rage consumed him. To her he was consumed by obvious withdrawal symptoms. Jacinta threw up blood, choking on it helplessly, as she lay paralysed, her entire body screamed at her in seething pain. He threw her onto the ground without so much as a smile, and slowly, grabbed out a knife.

The crippling pain closed in upon itself, and swallowed away from within her, and Jacinta felt a deep, long-dormant energy crack from deep within her soul, and erupt through her body. She let it seethe through her, consuming her. Now, all she could think, all she could say, was...

"You're dead." She muttered in contempt.

"Huh?"

The roof caved and warped inwards with brutally violent force, screeching loudly in a metallic roar as it helplessly tried to resist the unnatural forces that possessed it; the shockwave knocked the man off his feet, as he flipped through the air and hit the floor. A pillar of concrete exploded up from beneath his body, crushing his thin frame against the roof with the crack of bone and sinew. There came no reply, no breath, only the gush of blood.

II

From the moment she slipped into unconsciousness, she knew nothing until she woke, a whole twenty-eight hours later in a derelict hospital bed. She remembered nothing about the five attempts to bring her back to life, the cardiac massages, the neutralisers injected into her body in attempts to halt any possible psychic disturbance after her outburst, the fight to make her live again. She learned all about it later, and for many hours clocking over into whole days after she recovered, she was weak and feeble, as if she were a crippled girl

The light blinded her as she was pulled into reality, as the blackness melted away into milky orange for a moment, before she opened her eyes softly.

The sound of a heart rate monitor pulsed with a constant beep - lonely, in the otherwise empty room. She realised it was hers, and immediately, was plunged into strange sense of unfamiliarity. Her surroundings where totally unknown to her.

She tried to sit up, but was met with a stabbing pain in her arms and back, with her resorting to sinking back into the barley padded stretcher sorely. He head felt heavy, as memories of even the past few days had washed away.

She began to look around, to try and get an idea of where she was.

The room that surrounded her was a dark musty grey cargo bay, comprised of a matte plasticy ceiling and accompanying walls. There was an air vent built into the centre of the ceiling, as well as several electric lights - only one of which was turned on, lighting up the room with a faint artificial gloom. On top of this, the gravity around her seemed to vary in a weightless sensation. It took a few moments before it was clear that this "vehicle" was floating indefinitely.

A muffled noise of movement shuffled in distance, and Jacinta felt a sense of worry seep in. She began to feel scared, confused, and she silently slid her hands around her abdomen in fright, hugging herself tightly. She hoped that if she remained as quiet, and take up as little space as she could under the covers, the noise would just leave her alone. The footsteps increased in clarity, gradually loudening as they strode towards the room. It was clear that they knew exactly where they were keeping her.

A light above the door on the edge of the room flickered blue as it unlocked; as fresh fear edge itself up her spine, void of her control. She clung to her knees tightly, and the door slipped open with a faint hiss. The figure walked into the room slowly, before stopping in the doorway. It almost sounded reluctant.

Somehow, the footsteps cooled the air of hostility which lay within her, as if they were familiar to her somehow. She wanted too look out from under the covers - just for a peek - to see who it was, but an equal force within her fought back hard, urging her not to.

She felt a hand softly touch her on the shoulder, and she burst into a chilling shiver; but it was broken with the sound of his voice

"It's okay." Stern, but compassionate.

Jacinta just mumbled, trying hard to keep the fear out of her voice, but it came only as a frightened whisper.

There was a pause.

"Scared… huh." He mentioned, a little quieter. She felt him sit down on the edge of her bed, and the hostility began to cool down from inside her. After about a minute, he continued; "Well, I just came to see if you were okay."

A dull sense of warmth flickered within her, and she crept her fingers around the edge of the duvet, before pulling it down, revealing her face. Surprise added a warmth to the boy's face. Blonde hair, pale blue eyes - It all seemed so familiar and yet, so new to her. She rubbed her eyes as she sat up within the bed, but it was a little while before she gained a faint idea of who he was.

"Do you… remember me?" He asked in a somewhat contented fashion.

"Oh! It's you..." She exclaimed, before unsurely looking at down at her hands, holding back a smile. An element of shakiness remained in her voice, and she was still weak from the sickening exhaustion - but she could sit up at least.

"Thank you for saving me" she said softly. She clasped her hands together tightly, refusing to look up. She felt afraid, that's he'd just ridicule her; that something bad would happen again.

He smiled slightly, in a way as if it wasn't the first time he'd heard this form of gratitude. He was polite about it at least. But who was he… Why did he save her? The sense of worry that flowed out of an array of unanswered questions lying within her memory began to rise steadily.

Was this fear, or just butterflies? She hadn't felt so grateful in such a long time, the feeling felt so mysterious and frightful to her.

More footsteps echoed down the hallway, and a woman appeared through the doorway. A young adult, seemingly in her physical prime, with long turquoise hair tied back in a ponytail. She was much more confident and sure of herself compared to the boy.

"Phew! Well I'm truly glad that you're alive and well." She gasped, sounding relived. She stood sprightly in front of them both and folded her arms loosely.

She smiled slightly, such an distinct smile, and friendly eyes of an odd pink shade. It gave her the impression that perhaps whatever ordeal Jacinta went through before, possibly wasn't so bad after all.

"Do you mind if I ask you're name?" She said politely, however it failed to mask a forceful nature within her that had just been revealed.

"It's.. I'm Jacinta." She mumbled.

"Well then, my name's Alison - and this is Eric!" Alison smiled.

"Eric..." Jacinta murmured, unsure of what to say, or in what manner to even behave around these… strangers.

"Haha, you're an innocent little one aren’t you!" She said with a smile. She patted her on the head lightly, almost patronising her.

"That, or you're freaking her out." Eric laughed.

"Haha, maybe she's just scared into submission by the geek that has just sat next to her." Replied Alison with a wink.

Jacinta looked at Eric's waist in a grey haze of confusion, trying to piece memories together. He was shot there, wasn't he?

"Are you... you're okay aren't you?" She said meekly.

"Huh?" He mumbled.

"Sorry. I... thought you were shot."

Eric's face softened with understanding.

"You collapsed on the floor and… bled.."

"...ohh.. Haha. I was wearing body armour. It stopped the bullet from passing right through, but it still left a gash." Eric replied with a nervous grin, as he unintentionally rubbed the back of his neck.

"I'm glad."

"You're okay, aren't you?" He asked.

Jacinta looked him in the eyes, just for a moment, and nodded her head. She tried to stop smiling, but couldn't help it. For some reason he made her feel warm inside.

"Ooer, pulling the moves there Eric." Laughed Alison. She was checking the drip connected to Jacinta. The Intravenous therapy was necessary to balance out her electrolytes, as she was heavily dehydrated. A much less confronting sight than what was earlier, as beforehand it was blood that was being transfused into her body.

Eric groaned slightly, annoyed, and leant back heavily against the wall supporting the bed.

"Shut up.." He sighed.

Jacinta giggled slightly.

"So dealer really did turn out to be corrupt… well, so much for that manoeuvre." Laughed Alison, with a peculiar tone of sarcasm juxtaposed with friendliness. "I'm sorry about that."

"It's okay. I'm alive after all. Eric saved me."

"...And got a bullet in the stomach. I call that good riddance after not following orders." She replied in jest. She then continued "Actually, it was you of course who actually saved both of you, Jacinta."

"Huh?" She replied bewilderedly. "Me?"

Alison turned and faced both of them. "You don’t remember, do you. That's pretty typical for when it first happens."

"...Do we have to tell her now? She's barley managing to stay awake more than anything." Interrupted Eric.

"She'll have to know sooner or later, Eric. After all, she'll have to be working with us.." She said curtly, crossing her arms again.

Eric sighed, shaking his head in annoyance at Alison's almost immature irrationality.

"Working with you?" Jacinta cut in, a glint of instant curiosity and confusion dimly shone through her face. She held her hands together tightly nervously.

"You're a Guardian. Jacinta" Said Alison, however looking away as the phrase left her mouth.

"I'm…" She mumbled - frightened. A terrifying feeling overcame her, like a black ominous cloud, but she had not a single clue as to why that word did.

Guardian

"No I… I can't be…" She fumbled with the words, trying to say her what she felt clearly. Such a phrase was upheld so highly when she grew up - But why did this hurt?

The word pierced her thoughts with the dusty feeling of a horrible malformed nostalgia. The image of her parents came to her mind, and instantly, control slipped from her hands.

"Look, I know this will be hard for you to get your head around it. But we don't have all the time in the world"

"True, but a few hours won't hurt." Remarked Eric.

Jacinta couldn't control herself. All of a sudden she was terrified, as if some long-dormant fear had decided to awaken and reek havoc on her tender emotions. Tears dripped down onto her hands.

"Shut up Eric." Came Alison, casually. Eric's rebellious streak was starting to get on her nerves.

Eric of course took none of that to heart. He leapt up off the bed and walked in front of her, crossing his arms angrily. He looked her straight into the corner of her eyes, however the glance was unreturned.

"Alison! Stop!" He spat.

"What? " She snapped.

She swung her head towards them both, completely annoyed, however what emotion was boiling up inside her evaporated. "Oh… " She whispered.

There was a silence.

"Oh dear..." She gasped sorrowfully, completely surprised, clasping her hands around her mouth in slight shock. To her it was simple chat about a career that she was all too used to, and then putting up with this average adolescent boy she had to take care of. She had no idea this was such a sensitive subject to her.

Alison sighed, and kneeled down in front of Jacinta, looking increasingly worried.

"W.w..w.." Jacinta babbled. "I don't even know why… I'm crying".

She felt a pair of arms envelop her. Her head softly touched up against a shoulder as Alison embraced her in a hug.

"I'm sorry." She calmly said. "I didn't know you were… in such a state."

"So it would seem." Came negative comment from Eric. "

"I miss my parents. I was… so cold and alone; and... I couldn't remember anything… I don't even know if they're still… li… alive..." she sobbed into Alison's shoulder, taking whatever comfort she could - even if it was a woman she just met.

"Shhh..." hushed Alison, quietening her. "It's okay."

Eric stood there quietly, a pure worried surprise beaming out of his still features.

"Well… " Replied Alison, glancing around slowly as she carefully thought of what thing to say next.

"You're going to be okay. Because… you're not alone." Alison said, comforting her.

"mm?" Jacinta whimpered.

"...Because we are just like you. We all are. And we'll all be here to protect you."

...

Index

K21LOGOpunk
Chronology
K21 - Dusty Blinds · K21 - I'm With You · K21 - Prayer · K21 - Kindred · K21 - Degenerate · ...
Prequels & Stand Alone Stories
Vallarian Trilogy · Ortus Continuity · Antecedence Double Trilogy · Artificial Elemental Trilogy · K21 - Broken Faith · K21 - Substantial Illusions · K21 - Judgement In Duty · K21 - Aces High · K21 - Limitless Sun · K21 - Distorted Closure · K21 - Loose Ends · K21 - Attache Case

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