Chrono Continuum Chapter 33
"Next stop, 2025 AD," commented Epoch. Rakin sneered in agitation. Why had Thanatos told Epoch to take him to 2025, anyway? He could see the end of the warp tunnel, and braced for any impact. After all, he had never been conscious when Epoch landed. He didn't know what to expect. As they reached the end, everything outside the ship disappeared in a bright flash, and Rakin looked around. It was like flying through a cloud, or so he guessed, as he had never flown through a cloud before. And then it ended, and Epoch was in the sky. Up above, dark, thick clouds of what looked like smoke blotted out the sun. Rakin looked down on the world below. There were holes blown in the ground, and small explosions would appear now and then. Rakin gasped as one explosion struck not too far from Epoch. "Epoch," he shouted, "get us out of here."
"Oooh," Epoch responded, "I love men who give orders." Rakin was about to remark on how he'd have to get Robo to change her programming, but she sped up, and he was pushed back into her seat. The smoke above thinned, until they were flying in nearly clear skies. Rakin figured they had gone far enough. "Okay, Epoch, you can stop here." A light buzz sounded from the speakers. Epoch slowed, but didn't stop. "Sorry, honey, but I've got my directions. We're almost there." Rakin folded his arms and sat back. He'd throttle Thanatos, the next time he saw the man. Soon, Rakin could make out towers in the distance, which grew as they approached. He sat forward. Was this a town?
Epoch abruptly started to plummet. Rakin held on for dear life, too surprised to scream. He closed his eyes as the grassy ground below apprached, and felt suddenly heavy, as Epoch pulled up at the last moment. He opened his eyes to see that Epoch was now flying a few feet over the ground. He heard a mechanical sound from both sides, and looked from side to side to see what it was. As he watched, the wings began to retract into Epoch. The feminine voice told him, "Now deploying wheels." As the wings retracted fully into the ship, and fell the few feet down to the ground. Rakin braced for the impact, but felt only a slight bump. He looked around to see that thry were moving on the ground now, still at their original speed. Grass and dirt flew as Epoch slowed to a stop. Rakin breathed deeply, calming down. Let it out. In. Out. He relaxed in his seat. "Is this it, Epoch?"
"Almost there, baby." And Epoch suddenly began to move again, causing Rakin to hit his head against the top of the seat. Soon, Epoch came to an area of ground covered with an unbroken line of stone, with many metal contraptions with wheels on them. She moved up onto the line with them, moving in the same direction. Rakin looked around, bewildered. "What is this?"
"It's called a highway, honey, a type of street, or road. And those machines with wheels are called cars." Rakin nodded absently, looking forward. They were approaching the area where Rakin had seen the towers, and they were getting bigger and more numerous by the second. Rakin could now see that it was a virtual maze of... streets. Rakin jumped as the canopy began to retract. He looked back to see it pull back into the back, as if it never had been there. He smiled. The wind felt good on his face. He couldn't help looking up at the tops of the towers as Epoch moved into the "maze". He barely noticed when Epoch murmured, "Not much traffic, thankfully." Rakin looked around interestedly at all the people milling about. Soon, though, less people were were walking about, and the area didn't look quite as impressive. And soon, as well, he began to notice words and pictures painted on the sides of the towers, some disgusting, and some he didn't understand. He turned back to the front, though, as he felt Epoch begin to slow down. She stopped altogether on one side of the "street", right by where a few people were walking.
He shivered. It was cold. And several of the people on the sidewalk were looking at Epoch with more than slight interest. He decided to speak quietly. "Epoch, why are we here?" He didn't hear a response. "Epoch?" A few more moments passes, and Rakin looked up as the canopy slid closed. Once again, he asked, "Epoch, why are we here?"
"I don't know, sugar." Rakin raised an eyebrow, indicating that she should continue. "My programming was to get you here, and wait for about an hour, or when you get back, whichever comes last. Afterwards, I'll follow your every command. Until then, why don't you go look around? Enjoy the sights? That sign over there advertises a quick way to get around the city." Rakin looked around, and soon spotted the sign she was talking about. Beneath it was a stairway that looked as if it went underground. Rakin shrugged. Why not?
Epoch's canopy slid open, and Rakin climbed out. "I'll be back," he called over his shoulder as the canopy slid closed again. Glancing over his shoulder every few seconds, he started to walk over to the stairway. He jumped as he felt the Magus' Black Wind, and heard a scream. It had been from a woman. He turned and began to search for the source. None of the people on the street seemed to have heard it, or to have cared if they had. He heard it again, and turned that way. It was the space between two of the towers. They were called alleys in his time. He ran off, at full speed. He skidded to a halt at the entrance, and looked in.
There was a man, with his back turned to Rakin. When he moved aside for a moment, Rakin could see two other people. A man and a woman. The second man was behind the woman, holding her by the arms, and she was struggling to escape his grasp. Rakin's eyes narrowed. He was almost certain of what was going on here. "Hey!" The first man turned to regard him, and his companion and the other woman looked at him as well. He pointed at them, continuing, "Leave her alone!" The first man turned back to the others for a moment, and then turned back to Rakin. "Go away, kid, for your own good. This ain't none of your business." Rakin stepped forward. "Yeah, right. Now, let her go."
"You asked for it, punk." The man bent down, reached into his boot, and pulled out a knife. And if that wasn't bad enough, the second man threw the woman roughly to the ground, and reached into his coat to pull out a thick piece of metal. A "pipe", if Rakin remebered that much of Lucca's terminology. Rakin looked worriedly to the woman, now on the ground. She wasn't moving. Reaching to his sheath, he grabbed the handle of his katana and drew it. He smiled. Let's see how they like that. The two men looked at eachother, smiling. The first man stepped forward. "What are you going to do with that, kid? Bruise the hell out of us?" Rakin glanced to his sword and gasped. It wasn't the usual silver color. In fact, it was brown. It was his wooden training sword, compliments of the latest time wave.
"Damn," he yelled, and threw it aside. He looked back to the two men. "I'll still take you on." The men smiled, and began to slowly walk forward. Rakin calmly walked toward them as well.
The first man struck as soon as Rakin was in distance, lunging forward while slashing his knife downward. Rakin jumped back. That was close. The man smiled, and repeated the maneuver. This time, Rakin raised his leg and kicked the man's wrist. He yelled, and the blade flew out of his hand, into the air. He lunged for Rakin, hoping to grab him. Rakin jumped to the side, and threw a kick into the man's gut. It connected, and hurt the man, but he still managed to grab the foot. At about this time, the second man got to Rakin, and swung the pipe at him from the side with both hands. Rakin brought his fist up under the man's elbows, knocking the swing up, so it passed over his head. Meanwhile, the first man was pulling him closer by the leg. Rakin jumped off his one leg, and the man pulled his leg some more. This caused him to end up sideways in the air. Using his free leg, he kicked the man in the back of his neck. It connected, hard, and they fell to the ground at the same time. The man landed on his face, with Rakin's leg underneath, and Rakin landed on his back, knocking the breath out of him. He looked up to see the second man's pipe bearing down on him. He sat up, and the pipe clanged against the ground. Taking advantage of the man's bent position, Rakin reached back with both arms to grab his neck, and push him away. The man fell back against the alley wall, hitting the back of his head. Rakin watched as he slid to the ground, and sighed when he didn't rise.
Pulling his leg out from underneath the first man, he stood, and began to walk to the woman. She was on the ground. He got down on his knees, and placed his head against her chest, listening. He smiled in relief as he heard a slight thump. She was alive. Although he didn't want to take his head from her chest, he realized that it wasn't safe to stay here, for him or her. Lifting his head, he slid one arm underneath her neck, one underneath her knees, and lifted her up. He turned, and began to walk out of the alley, careful not to trip on the unconscious thugs.
As he exited the alleyway, he looked lsft and right for Epoch. He spotted her, and several men standing around her. Slightly alarmed, he began to jog in that direction. One man, smoking what looked like a small white cigar, saw him, and made a gesture to his companions. They looked up and saw him, and turned as one to leave. When he reached the Epoch, he didn't see any damaged, and shrugged. "Epoch, please open up." In a moment, the canopy slid open, and he laid the woman in the back seat, and promptly jumped into the front seat. The canopy slid shut above him. He heard a gasp from Epoch's speakers. "Another woman? I might have known." Rakin rolled his eyes.
"Epoch... One, it's not like that, and two, you're not human." Epoch didn't argue. "So, Epoch, can we leave?" Silence. "Epoch?" A sniff sounded from the speakers, followed by several more. Rakin placed his head in his hand. "Epoch, please, cut it out." He sat up. "You know, the real Rita didn't care if one of her men had relationships with other women."
"Well, I'm more loyal than her." Rakin sighed. "That you are. Now, if this little melodrama is over with, can we go?"
"Sorry, sugar, but unless there's a big emergency, we're stuck here for another forty-nine minutes and forty-seven seconds... forty-six... for-"
"Got it," Rakin cut in. "So what should I do until then?"
"Go out on the town," Epoch re-suggested. Rakin raised an eyebrow. "Was that suggestion part of your program?"
"Let me check." He waited a moment. "Well, look at that. You're as bright as you are handsome. It turns out that it was a hidden part of my programming. And I'm also apparently programmed to... sorry... I forgot." Rakin's eyebrows drew together.
"What do you mean, 'forgot'?"
"I forgot. That information is apparently restricted to you." Rakin thought to himself for a moment. He finally sighed. "Well, I'm going out. Lock up, and try not to scare our guest if she wakes up." The canopy slid open. "Don't keep me waiting, baby," Epoch admonished. Rakin shook his head ruefully as he jumped out. As the canopy was closing, he was already heading back to the stairs.
This time, upon reaching them, he read the sign more carefully.
"This subway station goes all throughout Truce, for under $4.50." Rakin had no idea what the $ symbol meant. It continued, "This advertisement paid for by the Rocka Club, stop 17 on the main route." Rakin figured that a bar would be as good a place as any to go to, and went down. The first person he met was a fat lady standing before an odd contraption. She held out her hand, and ordered, "Money, please." Rakin blinked, and then figured out her meaning. Reaching into his pocket, he took out a gold piece, and placed it in her hand. She glanced down at it, and then stared in what looked to be disbelief. "What," Rakin asked, "is that not enough? Here," he reached into his pocket, but the woman shook her head. "No sir, this is more than enough. I'll get your change."
"Don't bother. Keep the change." She was obviously very surprised, but managed to pull Rakin through the odd, three-pronged contraption. Rakin walked on. The tunnel was extremely crowded, and Rakin found himself being pulled along with the crowd into a doorway in a metal box. Everyone either sat down, or stood, and held onto rings or poles. Rakin tried to help an old lady to the nearest seat, but she hit him with her bag, and stood at one of the poles. He decided to sit. In a moment, the doors slammed shut, and the box lurched. He glanced around nervously as the area outside the windows began to move. The box they were in was moving. He placed his hands on his knees as the box entered a dark tunnel, almost devoid of light. No one else seemed nervous in the least. In a few minutes, the box began to slow, and stopped in a cave similar to the first. A voice announced, "Stop thirteen. Stop thirteen." About half the people got off, the others stayed, and more came in. Rakin decided to wait for stop seventeen, his original destination.
Aside from a man who seemed to cough only when facing him, and a fat woman who sat across from him and kept eyeing him, the trip went by quite well. "Stop seventeen. Stop seventeen." He stood, and began the fight he had seen others participate in to get off before the doors shut. He mad it out just in time, as the door shut, and the box began to move. Spying the nearest stairway, he began to leave. When he was almost out, he dropped a gold piece in a man's hat, where he had seen several people put small silver coins. He was already upstairs by the time the wino noticed and jumped for joy.
As Rakin came to the surface, he saw a two-level building, with the words "Rocka Club" in huge red letters on the roof. Shrugging, he walked up to it and opened the door. He was immediately bombarded by noise, loud, somewhat musical sounds, and the smells of smoke, alcohol, and... a few unwashed customers. He walked in, letting the door shut behind him. The color of red seemed to be the color of choice for the painting of the interior, and the color of the employees. Rakin only noticed one male worker... Whoops, my mistake. Female, just ugly. He walked over to the bar, where an attractive bartender was quietly conversing with a drunken customer. Rakin couldn't help but smile when she offered him another drink, and, seemingly enchanted by her, he accepted. She really was doing her job, and doing it well. He sat down at a stool, and she immediately noticed and excused herself from her current conversation. Walking up to him, she looked Rakin over. "Aren't you a little young to drink?"
"If you've got something else, feel free to tell me what it is," Rakin replied, shrugging. The woman looked up at the ceiling for a moment, and back down at Rakin. "Water, and our Afrodesiac drink mix. Which one, or will you go for the alcohol anyway?" Rakin considered the Afrodesiac, but finally settled on the water, and told her so. Disappearing for only a moment, she came back, and told him that it would be two bucks. Rakin reached into his pocket for a gold piece, but found nothing. He checked his other pocket. Empty. He spun in his seat, exclaiming, "What the Hell?" He noticed that the crowd was opening and closing in a definite manner, as if someone was pushing through it. Jumping off his seat, he pursued. Except for one woman that he happened to elbow in the stomach, none of the people in the crowd seemed to care when he pushed them aside. When he reached the end of the crowd, he looked left and right, but didn't see anything suspicious. The door opened. And it shut. He looked at it. It had opened and shut, but no one had come in or gone out. That was his sign. He ran out the door, and skidded to a halt. He could see a form walking off, wearing a red cape, with a hood drawn over their head. He ran after the form. "Hey, you," he called. The person broke into a run. Rakin followed.
The person was fast, but Rakin knew that he could keep up with, if not go faster than, this thief. The person dodged into an alley. Rakin got to the alley and looked in. He could see the person walking leisurely away. "Hey, you," he called again. The person froze. "Turn around," Rakin ordered. It turned. He looked at the person. At the woman. She the first thing he noticed was the silver. She wore a skin-tight, form-showing top, that left the shoulders, elbows, and hands open, as well as the center of her chest. It ended a few inches above where her skirt began. It was a high-cut open-faced skirt, but she had on a piece of clothing underneath. Halfway down her thigh, another skin-tight stretch of material began that covered her leg, but left the knee open. And it was all made of a shiny, silver material. In one hand, she held a strange spear with a red ball embedded in the blade. A belt held a brown sac to her hip. The hood was still drawn over her face. He frowned. The cape he had seen before as purple was actually reversible. The inside was red. And he knew of only one other person to wear that type of cape.
"Where did you get that cape," he challenged her. She waited a moment before answering. "You... can see me?" Rakin nodded. "Of course. Why wouldn't I? Now, answer my question."
"Who wants to know?" He growled to himself in agitation. "The guy who you just stole from, and someone who has an interest in that cape." She crossed her arms over her chest, drawing Rakin's attention both to a golden necklace with a heart-shaped locket, and to... "Are you going to tell me or what?"
"It's mine. I've had it since I was found in it." Her entire outfit, including the cape, seemed to shimmer lightly for a moment. She reached up to her hood, and Rakin noticed that one hand looked as if it was made of gold. She pulled back the hood, and Rakin was mesmerized. She was beautiful. Her violet eye, for the other was covered by her hair falling across almost half of her face, looked at him slightly distrustfully. His attention was drawn to her hair. It was prevailingly violet, with streaks of blonde, brown, pink, and... Blue? The only bad thing about her face was that she wasn't smiling. She continued, "Now, how did you see me, when I was Chamelioned?" Rakin was about to ask what she meant, but there was a loud crash behind him. He spun to see a man standing there. It was the man in the alley from before, with a black eye. His companion was with him, and holding what Rakin thought was probably a gun. Footsteps from the other side of the two-way alley told Rakin that about three more men had arrived to surround him, and , incidentally, her.
"That was a neat trick," the lead man remarked as he stepped forward, "appearing out of midair like that. Was it those shiny clothes you're wearing? If so," he paused to lick his lips, "then we'll be taking them... and anyone wearing them." The woman exclaimed, from behind Rakin, "Damn! You couldn't just let me leave with your money, could you? You had to go and get me into life-threatening danger, didn't you?" Rakin glanced back at her. "If you want to leave,give them my gold. They'll probably let you go, if not me."
"Yeah, lady," one of the three new men exclaimed, "for some gold, we'd let you go with a few hickeys." One man, chuckled.
"No way," the woman replied. "I'm a thief, not a sell-out. And besides, I've stolen money from you. We've bonded." Rakin smiled as she stepped forward, beside him. "By the way, what is you name?"
"Rakin. Rakin Guardia. Yours?"
"Christina. But my friends call me Hotwire." Rakin glanced over at her and looked her up and down. "I can see why," he replied, jokingly. She smiled. The leader's main henchman smiled as well, as he raised his gun and fired.
"Fate makes fools of us all."
I'd like to thank Bryan, a friend of mine, for all the good quoted he's given me, although I didn't use one of them for this chapter.
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