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Thread: Conflicts by Fenn (Updated 6/14/11: Parts 8-9)

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    Fenn
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    Conflicts by Fenn (Updated 6/14/11: Parts 8-9)

    Conflicts
    By Matthew Cardarelli

    A short fantasy novel set in a distant reality, about one boy’s unwilling inheritance of the power to destroy the home he loves.

    Part 1: Blackout (12/15/10)
    SPOILER! :
    The light above the doctor’s head flickered violently. “Nothing in this dang hospital works right,” he remarked in an annoyed tone. He stared into the face of the laboring mother and quickly perked up. “Okay now, one more push.”
    Outside, all of Topia was still and silent. Cars noiselessly rolled along the road. A few birds cast shadows on the ground and silhouettes on the clear blue sky. The only audible sound came from the Vidium generator, which was gently whirring next to the main wing of the hospital. It was a fine example of the benefits of Vidium energy; the output was clean and quiet, barely noticeable to a common observer. Of course, the fact that Vidium provided an unlimited supply of free energy certainly factored into its widespread use throughout the city. Every lamppost, every car, every home was powered by Vidium generators, large and small.
    Back inside, the exhausted mother held her new son, rocking him gently and looking into his wide blue-green eyes.
    “Where’s Daddy?” the doctor inquired.
    “I…I don’t know.”
    “Will he be here soon?”
    “Actually…I don’t know who or where he is.”
    The doctor froze for a second, but quickly snapped back. This wasn’t the first time. He changed the subject. “What will you name him, Ms. Roll?”
    The mother smiled and looked down at her child. “Zinian.”
    The doctor smiled and nodded approvingly. He went over, sat at his computer, and started typing. As he did, baby Zinian began to cry. The doctor turned around, and noticed that the mother had a nervous look on her face. Remembering that she was a first-time mother and single parent, the doctor felt sympathetic for her, and stood up to help her.
    Before his eyes left the computer screen, however, the monitor began to flicker. Then it went black. At the same time, the flickering lights also shut off. “That’s unusual,” noted the doctor, “there must be a malfunction with the generator. The emergency power should turn on any second. I’ll call someone downstairs with my wireless to be sure.” The doctor reached into his pocket and took out his WiCom. A blank screen. The doctor stood still, puzzled. Generators could break down, sure, but why was his wireless phone down? He walked over to the tall glass window on the far side of the room and peered out. All across the city, as far as the horizon, not a single light shone. Every car on the highway to the right was motionless, as though time had frozen on the road. The backup power still hadn’t kicked on.
    Ms. Roll looked nervously from the doctor to her child, the latter of which continued to wail in the dim, sunlit room. She gave her son a smile only a mother can give, and softly hushed him quiet. The baby’s eyes snapped toward his mother’s loving gaze, and stopped crying.
    Just then, artificial light illuminated the room. The computer clicked back on, and the screen on the doctor’s wireless read, “Welcome” in bold blue characters. The doctor’s phone began vibrating in his palm. He held it to his ear. “Who is this?”
    “This is Forbes from downstairs. What the hell just happened?”


    Part 2: On the Brink
    SPOILER! :
    From the high cliffs rising up on the outskirts of Topia, the city appeared to be a jagged dome. The tops of the predominately white skyscrapers located at the heart of the city blended together. Moving outward, the heights of the buildings gradually decreased until they reached the impressive outer wall. Looming over the residents of the outer city like a solid, white, 30 foot soldier, the structure included fifty watchtowers spaced evenly along the perimeter. To the inhabitants of the city, it represented safety, purity, and perfection. To the two cloaked figures standing on the edge of the cliff, the wall invoked thoughts of lust, jealousy, and retribution.
    One of the figures sat on a nearby rock, turned his back to the city, and unfolded a wrinkled newspaper. The headline read: “Complete power failure has City in panic; Government speaker urges calm.” The figure contemptuously snorted, then spoke. His voice was rougher than the stone he was sitting on. “Those little brats are probably scurrying around like scared mice.” He turned his head to see if the other figure had heard his joke.
    Without turning around, the other figure replied, “Probably.” His voice was less gruff, and more confident, more sure of himself.
    The gruff man continued, “Boy, I’d love to be inside those walls right now, just to hear the fear in their voices. I bet their engineers are working overtime to figure out what’s wrong. Good luck with that!” He looked up and smiled to himself.
    The other man turned around and began walking towards the brown squares just visible on the horizon. He said dryly, “We need to get back.”
    Without a word, the gruff man slowly got to his feet, crudely folded the newspaper, and began following the other man.
    They arrived at the village and started down a wide street, surrounded on both sides by clay homes. The buildings seemed to grow out of the earth, their walls running down into the dry ground underneath. One each individual house a door and two windows, one on either side of door, had been cut into the clay. Some were covered with rows of branches and sticks tied together. On some buildings, the side walls had been engraved with the simple art of children using stones. That was it.
    The street was empty. The two men, the hoods of their grey cloaks hiding their faces from the hot sun, entered a rather large building. Over the doorway was etched “Assembly.” Upon entering, the two men took their places standing at the back of the room with several other hooded men and women. In front of them, some five hundred people sat patiently. A few leaned to one side and whispered inaudibly to their neighbor; most of the crowd, however, appeared silent and statuesque. Every seat was filled. Tension choked and stifled the already humid air.
    After a minute, an imposing figure entered through a side door, walked up the stairs to the stage and approached the podium. Despite his noticeable hunch, the man demanded attention using his stern expression. Every member of the crowd could see his face; his hood hung idly on his back. The wrinkles on his tanned face enhanced his stern and calculating expression. He took a deep breath and cleared his voice. Then he spoke.
    “As I am sure you all know, the day has finally arrived. Yesterday the entire city of Topia found itself without an energy supply for several seconds. Its people are now in a state of panic. Our predictions,” he paused, “have come true.”
    Fists shot in the air. The entire crowd cheered and applauded.
    The speaker flashed a crooked smile, soaking in the effects of his words on his followers. He raised his eyebrows, and instantly there was silence. Even the ricocheting echoes seemed to heed his gesture. He started again, “Now that the Day of Promise has passed, we must begin the search. I have already sent undercover agents to look up the records of every hospital into the city. Once we have compiled a list, we will begin identifying the affected children.” Another pause. The speaker was taking in his audience’s enthusiastic looks. “Banished men and women, go now, back to your homes. Tell your children that the time to return home is near. Tell them that they will finally know how it feels to live a perfect life.”

    15 years later...


    Part 3: A Teachable Moment
    SPOILER! :

    “Somehow, someway, energy
    Always seems to find me
    I don’t know what I’ll do
    Power
    I have no use for you.”
    “Wow, that’s really deep Zinny!” Cassidy gave Zinian one of her giant, I’m-just-happy-to-know-you smiles. He returned it with his own smile, a meek but meaningful grin.
    “Thanks Cassidy.” He turned to Leera. Behind her forced smile, Zinny realized she looked worried. “What is it Leera?”
    “Nothing. I mean, I like it, but it seems kind of sad to me.”
    “Why’s that?”
    “I’m not sure, exactly. It sounds frustrated.”
    Zinny shrugged. “Not really—at least, that isn’t how I see it. I’m just saying that I’m not power hungry. I’m …neutral. It’s simply an observation.”
    Leera’s expression brightened. “Oh! Okay then. It is a nice poem.”
    Zinny nodded appreciatively. When he looked back at Cassidy, she seemed excited. She was pointing at him intensely. Right away she asked him loudly, “Are you still going with your mom to volunteer at the hospital this afternoon?”
    “Yeah.”
    “Can I come help you? PLEASE!? I’ll have my parents drive me there.”
    “Of course, Cass. Why couldn’t you?”
    Leera chuckled. “I’ve never seen someone so eager to do community service.”
    “It’s FUN!” blurted Cassidy, “You get to work with tons of nice people helping other nice people who always thank you. Plus Zinny’s there and his mom is there, and she’s the epitome of nice.”
    Zinny smirked. “That’s nice.” He began to laugh. Leera joined him, while Cassidy stood up, red-face.
    “You two are trouble! I’m going to grab an apple.” Cassidy declared, now smiling. She walked across the school cafeteria to the growing-pots and picked a bright red apple from the tree. Thanks to unlimited supplies of Vidium energy, scientific advancements occurred rapidly in Topia. One of the most influential of these innovations was the agricultural phenomenon known as Instantaneously Grown Produce, or Insta-Fruit. Using advanced biological engineering, scientists were able to expedite the growth of fruit-bearing plants and vegetables. Crops that took months to grow now took days. Supermarkets could grow their own plants in-store. Soon enough, every house contained a garden which was harvested daily. Thanks to science, no human in Topia ever went hungry.
    As Cassidy strutted away, Leera asked Zinny in her usual, quiet tone, “Is it really as fun as Cassidy makes it seem?”
    “I guess. It feels good. You should come.”
    “I’d like to, but I have a huge project to finish for—”
    “Mr. Simmons?”
    “Uh huh. It’s on the use of Vidium energy for water filtration.”
    Zinny rolled his eyes. “Thrilling.”
    Cassidy returned, took a large bite out of her apple, and sat back down. She swallowed and said, “History next, ugh.”
    Looking down thoughtfully at the table, Zinny replied, “She who learns not from the past is doomed to repeat it.”
    “Yeah,” Cassidy said, “Over the summer.”

    The classroom was filled with the sounds of whispering and giggling students. Mrs. Reave, the history teacher, sat comfortably at her desk, reviewing her teaching plan for today’s class. At the top of the notes a bold heading read “Discovery and Deportation: Political Strife at the Start of the Energy Revolution.”
    Over the intercom, a deep, steady tone played. The warning beacon lit up a bright neon blue, signaling the start of class. Mrs. Reave stood up and stared out at her class. All eyes were focused on her. In a very professional voice, she started to speak. “Good afternoon class! It is time to continue our lesson. Yesterday we began discussing the discovery of Vidium energy. As a review, who here can explain to me how Vidium energy was discovered?” Several hands shot up. Mrs. Reave pointed to a blonde girl in the back.
    “Vidium energy was discovered in the year 700 by scientists tracking high levels of energy underground. They had to dig 2 kilometers into the earth just outside of Topia in order to locate the source.”
    “Excellent.” Mrs. Reave nodded proudly to the girl. “Today, we will be discussing some of the political conflicts that occurred during this important time in our city’s history.” As she said this, she walked over to her desk and picked up a small remote control. She pointed it to a projector on the ceiling and pressed a button. Immediately the projector kicked on and displayed a bulleted list on the Touchboard mounted behind the desk.
    Zinny’s head tilted to the side. He put his elbow on the desk and his head in his hand. As with almost every history lesson this year, he had learned about the subject already. Sure, now that he was a ninth year student the topics were covered more thoroughly, but in the end it was the same old material. The deportation of the “caveman” politicians, in particular, had been covered every year of Zinny’s classes. He understood the “lessons” he was supposed to be learning, and that was all he thought mattered. He picked up his pencil, put his notebook on his lap, and began drawing.
    Behind him, Leera was sitting upright in her chair, pencil in hand, eagerly waiting to scribble down the first important fact. Because of her quiet, humble nature, most kids were unaware of Leera’s intelligence. All of her teachers knew she held a top ten spot in her year level. She would make a fine engineer some day.
    Cassidy was sitting to Zinny’s left, next to the window. Because she sat in the front row, she had to at least feint an interest in whatever Mrs. Reave was saying. In reality, she could care less about history. She looked back at Leera, who had her head down already and was writing so fast Cassidy though she saw smoke rising up from the page. Cassidy rolled her eyes and turned to Zinny, and began wishing she had the bravery—or maybe it was apathy—to draw in class. Her grade was hovering just above the minimum pass, though, and she definitely did not want to be stuck in summer school right before she moved up to exploration school. If she could make it through this year, next year she could drop History, and Sci/Math, and take more interesting classes like Performing Arts and Music Composition.
    On the board, Mrs. Reave was explaining the different views held about the newly discovered Vidium. “The majority of the Topia community wanted to replace all alternate forms of energy with Vidium. They claimed that enough evidence had been collected regarding the safety and quantity of the source for widespread use.” She paused for a moment, letting her students copy down the note. “However, some people believed that we had not yet learned enough about the substance to be certain it was infinite—or completely reliable.” More scratching on paper, with a few rustling pages. Mrs. Reave looked down at Zinny, still doodling under his desk. Her eyebrows lowered. “Zinian!”
    Zinny’s head shot up as though a gun had fired. “Yes Mrs. Reave?”
    “Tell me,” Mrs. Reave said, “what was the name for the activist group who tried to prevent the use of Vidium energy?”
    “They were called the ‘Cavemen.’” Zinny relaxed.
    Mrs. Reave maintained her accusing expression, and through her teeth she said, “Correct.” Mrs. Reave didn’t hate Zinny; in fact, she thought he had great potential. She did, however, have zero tolerance for daydreamers. Gathering herself, she looked back to her class and continued her lecture.
    Zinny continued his sketch. Running his pencil smoothly—and quietly—across the page, back and forth, he shaded in the left wing of the butterfly. He could feel the rhythm of the tip on the page, arcing over the image gracefully. This was quite a detailed work for history, he thought. Usually he saved his best work for lunch, or after school.
    Cassidy leans slightly to her right to see over Zinny’s arm. She saw a highly detailed butterfly, with two completely different wings. The right wing was bright white, hardly shaded, except for several dark holes around the edges and in the center. They looked to Cassidy like burn marks. The left wing was completely different; many shades of black composed the basic shape. The edges of the wing were frayed and torn. In the middle, the bug’s body seemed normal, yet somehow pained, hurting. Cassidy returned to her notes.
    Mrs. Reave was still lecturing. “Now, the small riots that broke out between the two groups gradually escalated into the burning of the Vidium Mines by radical Caveman activists. This horrible act of violence gave the mostly pro-Vidium government grounds to eject them from the city. Anyone involved with the riots, and any politicians who were associated with the Cavemen, were deported. Shortly after, the White Wall was erected around the city, to keep rebels out.”
    A short boy to Mrs. Reave’s left raised his hand and asked, “Is it safe to say the Cavemen were wrong about Vidium being dangerous?”
    Mrs. Reave smiled. “Good question! Look around you. Vidium energy has been in use for hundreds of years. Has there ever been a single harmful incident involving Vidium? I would say the Cavemen were pretty wrong.”
    Another hand shot up. This time it was Leera’s. “What about the occasional blackouts that have been occurring for the last fifteen years?”
    “I believe reports have attributed the cause to the generators themselves, not the energy source, but another fine question. Where did we leave off? Ah yes, the descendants of the Cavemen. I am certain that those of you who watch the news often see stories about the attempts of rebels to sneak through the White Wall. These rebels live on the outskirts of the city, using inferior energy sources to survive. They are, in fact, descended from the original Cavemen from hundreds of years ago. Today, they are known as the Banished, and their entire purpose is to seek revenge on the city of their forefathers.”


    Part 4: Diagnosis
    SPOILER! :
    Zinny looked out from the window of the hospital and saw a jade green car pull into the garage. He turned around to his mother, who was preparing a tray of food. The long metal table was filled with nearly identical trays, each of which held a glass filled two-thirds with water, bread, a fruit, and a small candy wrapped in bright colored plastic. “Mom,” Zinny called, “Cassidy’s here.”
    “She knows where to go. Would you help me with these trays?” Zinny picked up two trays, balancing one carefully in each hand, and followed his mother out the door to the patient rooms.
    When Cassidy found Zinny, he was in a patient room setting a tray beside an old sickly man. The man’s thick, clumped grey hair fell strait down the sides of his head like a mop and onto his small shoulders. The man smiled at Zinny, then turned slowly and gave Cassidy a weak smile. “More company?” he remarked hoarsely yet pleasantly.
    Cassidy gave him a wide-eyed smile. “Hello, Mr. Seere! How are you feeling today?”
    “Quite well, in fact, now that you two are here. Zinian, could you pass that grapefruit?” Zinny handed him the fruit, and he bit into it enthusiastically.
    “Hi Cassidy. Start any homework before you got here?” Zinny asked.
    “If you count opening my Domestic Necessities book, then closing it, sure.”
    “I hate Dom. Ness. It’s so tedious.”
    “School is tedious.” Cassidy rolled her eyes.
    Zinian stood up from the bed. “Sorry, Mr. Seere, I have three other patients to go. See you next week.”
    “Goodbye Zinian! Work hard and have confidence!”
    The two children left the room, and Cassidy closed the door behind them. “Have confidence? What’s that all about?”
    Zinny gave a small shrug and started to push the cart of trays. “He has a different piece of advice every week. Last week it was ‘use good judgment and be prepared.’” He reached the next door and opened it. This room was twice the size of Mr. Seere’s. Inside, a small girl, probably ten or so, was lying in a large bed next to a machine. Zinny did not recognize the girl or the machine. A thin clear tube ran from the machine, a large rectangle covered in gauges and readings, to the girl’s left arm. Standing over the girl was a doctor, who was making notes on a clipboard, and a tall man holding the girl’s right hand. That man could only be her father.
    “Excuse me, may we come in?”
    “Yes,” replied the doctor, “You are the meal-men, I assume?”
    “Meal men and women, you mean, right?” Cassidy said from over Zinny’s shoulder. The doctor raised an eyebrow, smirked vainly, and turned back to the girl.
    The girl’s father turned, retaining his grip on his child’s small hand. “Thank you both.” He did not smile, but his eyes revealed his sincere gratitude. Cassidy took the tray to the table next to the bed and laid it gently.
    Zinny approached the doctor. He whispered, “What happened?”
    The doctor answered without glancing at Zinny, “Terrible infection. She had a bad cut on her leg, and covered it too late. Terrible accident, really.” The doctor’s tone did not match his words; he sounded indifferent at best, sarcastic at worst.
    “Was it recent?”
    “Two days ago, actually.”
    Now Zinny knew why he had never seen her before. He looked at the girl’s father. He was caressing her hand gently, rubbing his thumb across the tips of her fingers. As he did this, he spoke softly to her. Don’t worry. I’m here. I’m here. The words sounded almost like a chant, an incantation that he believed would cure his ailing daughter. Everything seemed dim in Zinny’s vision. He stared at the man’s face, as powerful thoughts penetrated his mind. Where is my father? Who is my father?
    The power went out.

    From the semi-darkness, the doctor’s head snapped up from his clipboard. The father also shot up, and looked at the lights on the machine. Fear consumed his features.
    “Don’t worry,” the doctor reassured him, “the crucial systems in the hospital have a hybrid electrical backup generator. It was installed three months after the first blackout. They don’t run on Vidium.” The father sighed heavily, and kissed his daughter, who was now breathing heavy with fear, on the head. Her body relaxed and she gave her father a brief smile.
    The sight of that parental affection sent red-hot sparks flying in Zinny’s head. Why did this bother him so much? He had lived all fifteen years of his life without a father; why did this image pain him, haunt him, torture him? It must be the blackouts, Zinny though. For some reason, they always made him extremely emotional. He was born the day of the first blackout, and he figured that would have made him comfortable with them, not sensitive. Instead, he found himself utterly depressed every time one struck. Considering there was a blackout at least once a month, Zinny quickly became tired of the cycle.
    He was pulled out of his mental spiral by Cassidy’s slender arm. She had thrown it over his shoulders and was now looking at him in a concerned way. Only Cassidy could have sensed his despair in the pitch black. “Are you okay Zinny?”
    Zinny looked at the faint outline of Cassidy’s face, and immediately his spirits rose. “Yeah. These blackouts just get me down.”
    “I can understand that. They stink. Darkness stinks.”
    “Yep.”
    Without warning, on came the lights again. The machine hummed quietly as it reverted back to main power. Cassidy turned to the father and said, “Nice to meet you,” then turned and walked out the door. Zinny followed her.
    The doctor did not take his gaze off of Zinian until the door was shut firmly. His eyes remained glues to the door for several moments, and his face could not hide his intense interest.


    Part 5: It Starts
    SPOILER! :
    The clay which held up the Lider Building was different than that used on the rest of the Banished homes. Instead of solid brown walls, the building used gray bricks, laid on top of a primitive resin of a similar color. Although stronger and heavier, the walls inside the building were far more gloomy and disheartening.
    Importe Gimms did not mind the bleak atmosphere in the Lider Building. As the highest member of the Trusteeship, he lived in a quarter located in the rear of the building, and had grown accustomed to the ever-present gray. Besides, the shade fit his usual sullen, disgruntled temperament. With a groan, he lifted himself into his reserved chair at the meeting table, using one of its arms for balance. He turned, sat up, tilted back his head, and observed the members of the Trusteeship; this was the most important meeting that they had attended in years. Fifteen years, to be exact.
    “Importes, welcome.” Importe was the title given to all members of the Trusteeship. Imp. Gimms has chosen it when he became the leader of the Banished. Before then, the members had simply been known as Trustees. Now, Imp. Gimms passed his gaze across the visages of each member, discerning the emotions each face betrayed. Some of the members harbored a nervous excitement, while others showed a false indifference to conceal their pleasure, and a few allowed wisps of ravenous flame to dance in their eyes. From up high on his place of honor, Imp. Gimms hunch became even more distinguished. Instead of minimizing his intimidation, however, it added an element of hardiness to his already superior presence.
    “For fifteen years since the Day of Promise, we have searched for the result which science promised us would occur. For fifteen years, our searches have come up empty. We know that the child exists, for it is the only explanation for the continued blackouts that have occurred in Topia since the Day of Promise. Yet, every hospital record shows that no child was born on that day. Many of our people have suggested calling off the search, and diverting resources to build an army. I myself had been considering this option—until three days ago. Last Sunday, I received a strange report from one of our insiders. He was working at the Heartland Hospital when he witnessed a very strange occurrence. Mr. Dirst, please join us.”
    In walked a large, long haired, and utterly sarcastic-looking man. The smirk tagged onto the side of his grin showed his eternally high opinion of himself. He turned to Imp. Gimms, bowed dramatically, and swung around to face the table and its members.
    “Members of the Trusteeship, I have recently witnessed an event that may very well have solve this great mystery of ours. While working my normal shift at the Heartland Hospital, around four o’clock in the afternoon, two young children entered the room of one of my patients.” Here Mr. Dirst paused for a moment, as though he were building up suspense in a campfire story. “They were volunteers, around fourteen or fifteen. One was an annoyingly optimistic girl, and she was accompanied by a rather quiet boy. As you may know, around this time a blackout stuck the city. There was nothing unique about this blackout—except the boy’s reaction. He stood where he was, stone-cold, evidently deep in though. I thought—and I’m a good observer—that he was shaking. It seemed like his mind was crashing, like he was having a mental breakdown. His friend put her arm around her to calm him down, and as if by magic, the power returned. Does that not seem like tantalizing evidence?” Mr. Dirst looked around eagerly in search of amazement or approval from the Trusteeship. He found only skepticism.
    A rather pudgy member looked towards Imp. Gimms and asked in a doubting tone, “Surely this is mere speculation? I would hardly call observing a mentally disturbed boy in a hospital evidence!”
    Imp. Gimms nodded. “I did not think much of the report myself. However, my curiosity led me to order a search. Mr. Dirst was perceptive enough to pick up the boy’s name, or rather his nickname: Zinny. A quick hack into the city’s computer logs brought back only one result: Zinian Roll, male, age fifteen. What intrigued me about this boy, however, was his birthday. Zinian Roll was born on January 14th, 735, one day before the Day of Promise.”
    “The day before?” asked the plump Importe.
    “Yes. It is quite possible, although not certain, that this date could be a mistake. The boy could have been born on the 15th. I am not making any guarantees, but I believe this matter requires further investigation. So, are we in accordance?”
    A unanimous “Aye” rang through the cold halls of the Lider Building. No member dared oppose Imp. Gimms on any matter; it was practically considered treason among the common folk to oppose the head Importe’s decisions. Besides, this was a harmless matter.
    Imp. Gimms smiled. Looking at Mr. Dirst, who had stood basking in his own glory during the rest of the meeting, he said, “Mr. Dirst, you may leave. Send in the messenger. I must let him know the information to be passed into Topia. Thank you for your assistance.” His tone appeared sincerely grateful, but those present knew that such gestures were a gloss, a mere reflection of good will, and a thin coating over his undeniably evil self.


    Part 6: Always More
    SPOILER! :
    “Later, Zinny!” Cassidy shouted, despite being only five feet from Zinian. Zinny raised his hands close to his ears, but could not help smiling at Cassidy’s warm departure. “Have a good day Zinny. Have a nice walk back,” said Leera, much more reservedly but no less caringly. Zinny waved and said, “You too. See you tomorrow.” With that, Zinny crossed the street and left his friends, who turned left and headed towards their own homes. This was part of the three kids’ routine; every day after school they would walk to the stoplight, talking over the day’s events, then Zinny would split up. The road they took passed mostly residential homes, and since regular work hours did not go for a few more hours, the roads and sidewalks were sparsely populated. This was Zinny’s favorite part of every school day: walking home with his two best friends, talking about the gravest topics some days, and having the most casual conversations on others. He felt at peace here; the dull pain of depression’s thorns retracted some, and let his mind savor the sweet breeze of adolescent satisfaction before their points tenderized him once more.
    When he approached a narrow alley halfway down the next block, Zinny stopped and turned right down it. He always took this shortcut, because it was both quicker and quieter than the main route. Aside from the worn walls of the buildings on either side, the alley was rather clean and bright. Nothing obstructed Zinny’s path, for the road was a waste collection route. A one way street, the alley was used by recycling vehicles to pick up the waste from the buildings in the area. Each building had a hatch on the wall, which could be opened to let the waste from all the inhabitants of that building slide into the truck. The technology used in managing this system was powered by, of course, Vidium energy.
    One landmark stood out among the monotony of Zinny’s shortcut route. Exactly halfway down the alley, the wall on the left side became far more worn. The paint was nearly gone, and a few fragments of brick had cracked off, revealing the framework. Zinny had no idea what this building had been used for, or what had caused it to be abandoned. It was simply a point of distinction on his daily journey home.
    Zinny looked down at his feet as he passed the decrepit edifice. He had taken this route enough times to know all its minor features: the door, somehow still intact, covered in scratches and cracks; the small dab of remaining paint shaped like an eye looking left, and the three broken windows high above. In the distance, cars roared on the freeway, and the rush of water from a fountain added a steady tone to the ambiance. Zinny floated along his train of though as though he were lying on a raft in the ocean, letting the gentle currents take him where they wished. His thoughts were islands appearing over the horizon; while each took a unique shape, none distinguished itself from the others. Only one island remained in sight regardless of Zinny’s course: how come I can feel happy with my life, but never content?
    Suddenly a bag was thrown over Zinny’s head. Caught completely off guard, he could not react before his legs were tripped up. His fall was softened by a hand holding the back of his sweatshirt. Zinny felt a human-shaped body fall on him, grab both his arms, and tie them behind his back. A voice to his left whispered threateningly: Don’t resist, and don’t speak. I have a gun. As Zinny heard the words, he felt the press of cylindrical metal against his back. The figure got off of Zinny, but kept the gun to his back. A second set of hands grabbed Zinny’s shoulders and, in a surprisingly gentle manner, lifted him to his feet.

    Zinny was led a short distance by his unidentified captors. He heard a loud screeching sound that sounded like the hinges of a door opening. Still blind, Zinny stepped carefully but briskly into the room, and allowed one of the captors to push him into a chair. He felt a tight pull against his wrists, and realized he was being tied to the chair by his wrists. Suddenly the bag was lifted from his head, and he took in a few deep breaths.
    His eyes did not take long to focus, for the room was dimly lit. Two more chairs stood in the center of the room facing his, which was in a corner. At the opposite corner was an old metal desk, in a similar condition as the building. On the wall to his right was another door, which looked strikingly familiar to the one outside the abandoned building. In fact, Zinny realized, this was the building.
    He now studied his captors. Both were men, and were quite tall. Their backs were turned and they were whispering incoherently to one another. The man on the left was leaner than the man on the right, whose muscle definition still showed under his black, baggy clothes. The clothes were peculiar, initially robe-like in appearance, but actually very loose pants and hooded shirts. All their clothes had tattered fringes, but the fringes were intended, for the precision and symmetry of each fray could not have occurred on accident. The leaner man had long, rough, tangled black hair, while the larger man had a close cut that started back at the top and ran down into white at the sides.
    After a moment the two men turned around. The large man had a sharp, thin face, full of malice. Watching his facial expressions, one would think he was cursed with bitter, foul-tasting saliva. The lean man, however, demonstrated far less violent mannerisms. He was intimidating, no doubt, and his long, solid face suggested a tough spirit, but he lacked the bloodlust of his partner. The two men took their seats in front of Zinian, and the large man spoke.
    “So, this is it huh?” The man’s voice was cutting, slightly grating, but still possessed an aspect of youth. Zinny could not tell if the man was talking to him or his partner, and remained silent.
    The lean man looked to his partner and said, “Not necessarily. Importe said there was a chance. His birthday was listed as the 14th, remember?”
    “Huh? My birthday is the 15th. I think you have the wrong person.” As he said this, the large man’s eyes widened, and a menacing grin ran across his face. Terrified, Zinny glanced to the other man, and saw that he was staring solemnly back. Zinny could not tell if he was awestruck or disappointed with Zinny.
    “So this is it then…” the large man muttered, staring at the floor. “Well, that was quick! I thought we’d have to interrogate him a while, huh Vledrick?” The large man gave the lean man, now identified as Vledrick, a friendly tap on the arm with the back of his hand, the continued. “Hah!” He stood up and glared down at Zinny. “Here’s the deal, kid. You have something we want. So we’re gonna bring you to our boss, and you’re gonna give him what he asks. Clear?”
    Zinny was stammering. Finally he replied meekly, “Yeah, but—”
    “But what?”
    “But…who are you? And why do you need me?”
    The large man looked at Vledrick, who shrugged, then gestured with his hand that he may as well tell him. The man took a breath, shrugged, and began his explanation.
    “I have no clue what I’m allowed to say, so I’m gonna give you the basics and you’re gonna be happy with it. I ain’t risking my butt for your curiosity. We are members of the Banished, the people you jerks kicked out 50 years ago. Long ago it was foretold that on the Day of Promise someone would be born who could defeat the army of Topia. You were born on that day, and you are that kid. But the idiot at the hospital put your date in wrong, so we couldn’t find you for years. Now we have.”
    Zinian had no idea how to respond. His mind was in a thousand places. The Banished? The Day of Promise? Defeating Topia? Ten minutes ago he was walking home from school. He wished he was still walking right now.
    “Hello, you there kid?” The large man was still looming over Zinny, looking impatient.
    Vledrick looked up at him and said, “Forget him, Yartin. He’s probably in shock.” Yartin walked over to Vledrick and sat down.
    “So, we gotta wait all day now before we leave?”
    Vledrick nodded.
    “Then we sneak out under cover of night.”
    Another nod.
    “Good thing the kid lives close to the city limits. Would’a been a pain to sneak him through the major city. Place is lit up like crazy at night.”
    Another nod. Vledrick seemed focused, lost in thought. Yartin, realizing the futility of continuing the conversation, got up and headed for the door leading into the next room. “I’m gonna get ready.”
    Vledrick just nodded.

    Without any windows, and with his watch stuck behind his back, Zinny had no way of telling the time. He figured his mother was worried sick by now, and probably called the police. She probably tried calling him first, but Vledrick and Yartin had confiscated his backpack and taken it into the next room.
    Just then, the two Banished men entered from the other room. Yartin was holding Zinny’s cell phone in his hand. Yartin approached Zinny, walked behind him, and undid the knot holding him to the chair.
    “Get up.”
    Zinny stood up slowly. He felt stiff and sore, but did not dare stretch. The first rope still held hands behind his back.
    Yartin pointed a thick, calloused finger at him and said, “Here’s the deal. We have a car parked on the other side of this building. It will take us about five minutes by car to get from here to our destination. Chances are your mommy called the cops already, and they’ll have a search out. We need to get them away from our route, so you’re going to make a call. When we get in the car, we’re gonna hold the phone to your ear, and you’re gonna talk to your mommy. Tell her you were kidnapped while you were walking him. They pulled you into a car and drove you across the city to 66th street. You’re in the basement of the large apartment there, and they want $10,000 in exchange. Tell them more information will be given when they arrive.”
    Zinian stared at him in stout opposition—for a moment. Once he realized the dire circumstances of the situation, and the danger he was in, he agreed. Yartin led him to the door. Vledrick grabbed him by the back of his shirt, while Yartin exited and checked the area. “All clear,” he said softly.
    When Zinny left the house he could hardly see. The alley did not have a single light, except for the light leaking from intersecting paths. He walked cautiously behind Yartin for about a minute, and then followed him left down a branching alley. At the end of this passage, illuminated by the street lights lining the road ahead, was a car. It was jet black and quite long, even for a five-seat, with heavily tinted windows and a metallic finish. Yartin walked around the car and got in the driver’s seat, while Vledrick opened the back seat and pushed Zinian inside, then got in beside him on the right. Looking around, Zinny felt hopeless. With the darkness outside and in, there was no way anyone could see him.
    The engine started.


    Part 7: Beautiful Lies
    SPOILER! :
    “What’s your mom’s number?” Yartin barked from the front seat. As he said this, Vledrick withdrew Zinny’s cell phone from his coat.
    “It’s on speed dial. Hold ‘2.’” Zinny’s voice was trembling.
    Vledrick began to press the number, but Yartin stopped him. “You know what you’re saying? Kidnapped on the way from school. Three men, two women, all armed. 66th Street. $10,000 big ones. More info when they get there.”
    “Got it,” Zinny whispered.
    “Good,” Yartin paused. “Oh, and make it convincing—really convincing.” As he said this, Zinny heard the faint click of metal, like a gun being cocked. The sound reverberated right through Zinny’s heart, causing it to double its pace.
    “Um, if I want to use the phone, don’t I…need my…?”
    “Vledrick will hold it up to your ear.”
    The car pulled out into the road. Vledrick held down “2” until the phone began to ring, then held it up to Zinny’s ear. As he did, the car hit a bump, and the phone smacked Zinny in the cheek. He was too afraid to comment. Soon the phone clicked, and the familiar voice of Saria Roll sounded through the speaker.
    “Zinian! Sweetie, where are you!”
    “H-Hi mom! I—”
    “Are you all right? The police are out looking for you. What’s happened? Please tell me you’re safe!”
    “Mom, I…I’ve been kidnapped.”
    “Kidnapped? Oh my God. By who?”
    Yartin turned his head around and eyed the phone. Zinny looked at him and froze momentarily. Regaining an ounce of composure, he replied, “I don’t know. These five people, two women and three guys, came up on me while I was walking home. They dragged me into the car and took me to their hideout.”
    Zinny’s mother interrupted, “Are you hurt? Did they hurt you?”
    “No, mom, I’m fine. But they said they want $10,000 in exchange.” Zinny waited for a reply from his mom, but all he could hear was rustling in the background, and a brief whimper: “Please…” Then a new voice came onto the phone.
    “This is the Chief of Police. Put me on with whoever is in charge.”
    Zinny turned to Vledrick, who leaned to the front seat and whispered something to Yartin. Yartin shook his head, and Vledrick repeated the signal to Zinny.
    “Sir, they said they refuse to speak now. They will give you more information when you arrive for the exchange.”
    “All right. Where do we meet?”
    “The basement of the Samberg Apartment on 66th street. Call my phone when you get there.”
    “Okay. Hang in there, kid. Play it safe, don’t take any chances.”
    “Yes sir. Um, can I talk to—?”
    “Hang up.” Yartin demanded coolly.
    “But—”
    “Hang. Up. The phone.”
    “Did you say something kid?” asked the chief.
    Vledrick slowly closed the phone shut. Zinny looked at his face, and in the dark it seemed filled with sadness, regret even. Did he feel guilty carrying out this plan? Zinny pushed the thought aside and focuses on his own emotions, which were still racing. He leaned back to try and relax his muscles, which had tightened from the tension and pressure he had been fighting.
    Something cool touched his hands, which were still tied behind his back. Slowly, without arising suspicion from Vledrick, he ran his fingers over the shape of the object. About three inches long, metal, with a sort of grip around it. It was a pocket knife. With a slight twist of his arms, Zinny grabbed the knife, and wrapped his fingers tightly around it.
    He couldn’t believe his luck. It would be a long shot, but he might be able to cut himself free without them noticing. He thought about chiefs words, “Don’t take any chances.” He remembered the click of Yartin’s revolver and shuddered. Then again, he thought, the chief thinks I’m on the other end of the city. If I can’t save myself, no one will.
    The car pulled onto a major road, which lead all the way through the city to the White Wall. Most civilians did not live on the outskirts, for fear of evil invasions from the Banished. Of course, there had been no direct break-ins for several years, but the stories of old had grown in scale over time. Most of the buildings here were factories, military institutions, or prisons. The particular section of the outskirts which Yartin was driving through served as an entertainment hotspot for factory workers, scientists, and fledgling entrepreneurs. The military and police forces were located on either side, but rarely entered this zone, making it a perfect spot to design a secret entrance from the outside.
    “There it is,” Yartin said. He was referring to a small bar named Uppins. The sign was green neon, and burned right through the thick darkness surrounding the building. Zinny guessed he had about thirty seconds before the car reached the bar and stopped. His heart began pounding, and sweat dripped from his forehead. It’s now or never. His hands began shaking.
    The car stopped. Yartin, caught by surprise, did nothing for a couple of seconds. He stamped on the pedal twice, to no avail. They were still about a mile from the bar, and it would take about five minutes of walking in open sidewalk before they reached Uppins. Yartin shook his head, swore, and got out of the car. He opened the hood of the car and looked inside. After a few seconds, he walked over and opened Vledrick’s door, which was facing the street.
    “Nothin’ looks wrong with it. It had to be the pedal, must’a disconnected or something.” He swore again. “Looks like we’re walking. Hold onto the boy; make sure he don’t try anything funny. He already knows the consequences.”
    They exited the car, and took to the sidewalk, Yartin in front and Vledrick walking on Zinny’s left with his arm around his shoulder in a pseudo-friendly manner. They had made it halfway down the road unnoticed when Yartin stopped and raised his right hand. He signaled to Vledrick with a downward point, and they ducked down behind cars parked beside the sidewalk. Vledrick pulled Zinny down behind his car, while Yartin moved a step ahead to hide behind a truck.
    “Cop,” Yartin whispered. “Some damn fine luck we got tonight. I thought you said cops never hang around here.”
    Vledrick just shook his head. Yartin peeked up and the cop was gone. He signaled them to keep moving, but Vledrick shot over to him and pulled him back down. Zinny, still behind the first car, saw his chance. He flipped open the knife and began cutting at the rope.
    Meanwhile, Yartin turned to Vledrick angrily. “What the hell?”
    “Another cop. Down the road.”
    “What? I didn’t see anything.”
    “I thought I saw the uniform. I’ll look again.”
    “Yeah, you—hey! What the hell are you doing?”
    Zinny looked up. Yartin was staring right at him. Just then, the rope holding his wrists together fell to the ground, making a soft thud. Zinny gazed into the eyes of his captor, ruthless eyes. He saw his hand reach in slow motion for his gun. The world seemed to stop. The gun was in his hand. He was raising it. Zinny brought his newly freed hands up to cover his face. Yartin began to raise the barrel. Panic, masquerading as electricity, jolted through Zinny’s entire body. It was the most potent emotion he had ever felt.
    Yartin disappeared. So did Vledrick, and the cars, and the sidewalk. The sound of a gunshot rang through the air, but Zinny could not see a thing, for every light in the city had shut off. He realized that another blackout had just struck. Zinny turned and ran for his life.
    His body still felt as though he was being electrocuted. His hairs stood on end as he sprinted. He heard hoarse cries behind him.
    “Get him!”
    “We can’t! If we’re caught…”
    “Fine! To the bar…damn it!”
    Zinny kept running. He had no idea where he was going, or when the sidewalk ended. He ran for a full minute, now two. He hit a broken piece of concrete and tripped. Before rising, he listened. No sound of footsteps. No more gun shots. No sounds at all. Zinny relaxed and lay on the sidewalk, breathing heavy. His body could go no further. As his eyes closed, the lights came back on, but were quickly dimmed by his eyelids. He left them to enter the comfortable blackness of sleep.
    Last edited by Fenn; 06-14-2011 at 10:20 AM.

  2. #2
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    49
    So are you going to be posting more of this?

  3. #3
    Fenn
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by 80
    So are you going to be posting more of this?
    In time, yes. But, although I have plenty of ideas for where this goes from here, I need to sort it out before I got rushing into the next part. Sorry for the cliffhanger.

    I'll try to get one more part done in about a week.

  4. #4
    Fenn
    Guest

    Conflicts update post #1 (6/14/11)

    Six months later, I have finally found time to continue Zinny's epic journey!

    Part 8: Translucent
    SPOILER! :
    Zinny woke up to more bright light. Instead of street lamps, the light illuminating the room flowed from long fluorescent ceiling lights. Looking around, Zinny realized he was in a hospital. Complex charts hung on the wall to his left, and machines clicked and beeped softly around him. He was alone, but not for long. Soon a nurse, dressed in white with a white cap and whiter coat opened the door and entered, followed by his mother. Zinny rested his head against the pillow and smiled. He was safe…but how? He tilted his head up. Was it really his mother? Yes. Zinny breathed a sigh of relief as he lay back down tiredly.
    The nurse came over to his right and starting adjusting the knobs and buttons on the large, cabinet-shaped machine behind him. Without looking over she asked sympathetically, “How are you feeling?”
    Zinny wanted to reply, “Lost and confused,” but, knowing this was not what the nurse intended with her question, simply responded, “Tired.”
    “Any aches or pains?”
    “A little sore, but mostly I feel myself.”
    “I expected a little soreness. You hit the ground pretty hard. Other than that, however, it doesn’t seem like anyone harmed you. You can leave this afternoon.” After saying this, the nurse looked at Zinny’s mother, smiled, and gestured towards him with her head. Saria beamed, and hustled over next to her son.
    “Are you all right, sweetie?” she said with a tone only a caring mother can achieve. Her expression was a bubbling cauldron filled with worry, fear, relief, and ecstasy.
    “I am now, mom.”
    “Please, tell me what happened. Do you remember?”
    Surprisingly, Zinny remembered the events leading up to his escape vividly.
    “Well, I had just split from Cassidy and Leera on my way home from school. I took a shortcut route through a recycle route—”
    “The recycle route? Zinian, I told you to walk the main road home. No one can see you in those tiny alleyways—” Saria caught herself, seeing the look of painful regret on her son’s face. She smiled apologetically and said, “I’m sorry, go ahead.”
    Zinian began to recall the entire story to his mother; the two kidnappers, the rope around his arms, the—he paused. He remembered all the nonsense that the man called Yartin had been talking about. Something about days of promise. Should he tell his mother? One the one hand it could be important and helpful; on the other hand it could be dangerous or just plain confusing. Not wanting to keep his mother hanging in suspense, he decided to out with it. Zinny was tired, dazed, sore, and most of all tired. He wasn’t in the mood for reasoning.
    Saria listened to the entire speech. Her relaxed smile gradually sank, and her face grew serious. Yet, when he had finished that part of the story, she merely said “That sounds like rubbish. Don’t worry your head about it.” With that her smile returned. Perplexed, Zinny paused for a moment before continuing his story.
    When he had finished, Saria did not say a word. She leaned close to him, hugged him gently, and stood up off the bed. She looked at him with concern. Still dulled my exhaustion, Zinny could not make out the true story behind his mother’s sorrowful eyes. Surrendering, he simple worked up a meager, apologetic grin.
    “Sorry, mom.”
    “Me too, Zinny.”
    Under normal circumstances, Zinny would have felt guilty upon hearing those words. However, his mother had not used the agitated tone that usually accompanied those words; rather, she said them in a compassionate and almost pitiful manner. Too tired to question the matter, Zinny turned his face toward the ceiling and fell back to sleep.


    Part 9: In Safe Hands
    SPOILER! :
    Zinny did not go to school the next day. He was allowed to leave the hospital that morning, but he was still bruised and emotionally drained, so his mother took him straight home. When he returned to the familiar setting of his living room, he grabbed his notebook, slumped down on the sofa, and began lazily doodling.
    He had talked with his mother the entire ride home. She seemed unnecessarily anxious. Zinny promised her that he would walk home on the main roads from now on. Nevertheless, Saria insisted on driving him to and from school for the next few months. In addition, he was required to call her whenever he moved from one location to another, and to avoid being alone at all costs. Zinny wondered for a moment if all this meant something. He thought back to the day before, and his mother’s suspicious behavior. In the end, though, he decided it was just a natural motherly reaction. Safety first.
    Zinny had homework to do, but he wasn’t in much of a mood to do anything other than draw and sleep. He figured his teachers would surely understand. The case was all over the news, and the hot topic throughout the city. The reports claimed that a student was kidnapped by two violent criminals, whose plans were foiled by a convenient blackout. There was no mention of the Banished or the Day of Promise. As far as anyone else knew, they were trying to make some cash.
    Just as Zinny was contemplating an attempt at homework, the door bell rang. His mother hastened to the door, shouting, “Be right there! Be right there!” Zinny stood up slowly, stretched his aching muscles, and shuffled to the door behind his mother.
    Standing on the front porch was a PDF soldier, in full uniform.
    “Is this the Rolle residence?”
    “Yes sir, can I help you?”
    “I am looking for Zinian Rolle.”
    Zinny took a few steps towards the door and said, “This about the incident right?”
    “Precisely,” replied the soldier. His tone was gruff, and it was evident that he took his job seriously. “Now that you are in a capable state, we need to ask some questions about what occurred two nights ago.”
    Two nights ago? Zinny couldn’t believe it had been that long already. The events were still so vivid, so immediate…
    Saria looked at Zinny. “Do you feel up to this?”
    “Yeah, mom. I’m fine.”
    “Okay, get your shoes on. I’ll start the car.”
    The soldier interrupted, “I’m afraid you cannot join us. Commander Dulface has asked that Zinny to be focused and unbiased. As soon as he is settled we will call you to come and wait for him.”
    Saria was caught off guard by the unusual request. She argued with the soldier for a few minutes, to no avail; Zinny would be going alone to the station.
    Well, thought Zinny, I guess this means I can’t do my homework.

    The PDF Station was an intimidating structure. A strange mixture of modern, futuristic design and the Roman style of architecture of ancient Earth, the giant chrome front doors slid open from underneath a circular, marble-like awning supported by four large pillars. The building itself stood menacingly surrounded by metallic black walls. The building had no shortage of sharp corners, reached four stories high, and extended who knows how many tens of meters back. As the cruiser pulled up to the front, Zinny felt both incredibly safe and inexplicably doomed.
    The PDF, or Public Defense Force, was in charge of protecting the citizens of Topia from all internal dangers, human or inanimate. They dealt with theft, assault, and homicide, as well as accidental injuries, fires, mechanical dangers, and other potential threats to the health and security of the cities inhabitants. The first three dangers were extremely rare in Topia, but the PDF kept themselves busy on recon and intelligence missions throughout the city. The station to which Zinny was being taken served as a local center; the Headquarters was located deep within the military sector.
    The soldier exited the car, walked over to Zinny’s door, and let him out. He urged Zinny towards the front doors, which slowly but smoothly slid apart to reveal the cold, stern interior of the building. It was evident by the dark grey walls and geometric furnishings that comfort was a secondary concern for the PDF. Zinny allowed the soldier to guide him from behind, and observed his surroundings. To his surprise, there were no hardened criminals in sight, at least to his knowledge. In fact, there was scarcely a citizen anywhere in the compound; just about everyone he saw wore a PDF badge of some design or another pined precisely on the left side of his or her chest.
    After passing through the main foyer, down a long hallway, up a flight of stairs, and halfway down a second hallway, the soldier stopped Zinny at a large brown door. The soldier removed a white identification card and slid it swiftly through the black box beside the door handle. A loud “Click!” resonated in the empty hallway, and the door opened.
    Zinny was no expert in criminal justice, but this was almost certainly an interrogation room. Blank white walls, a desk on the right, and a cabinet with files were the only notable aspects of this room. The exception was a large, wide-backed grey chair implanted in the dead-center of the room. To Zinny’s partial relief, the arms of the chair had no bindings, and there were no straps to be seen. These facts, although reassuring, hardly eased Zinny’s nerves. He could not help but think of the room in the abandoned building where his kidnappers had held prisoner all to recently.
    The soldier nudged Zinny into the room and said, “The Commander will be with you in a moment.”
    Ten minutes later, Zinny was still standing alone in the confines of the white cube. He could hardly call it a room, since other than the door it resembled a container: more fit to hold objects than people. Only fear kept him from opening the door to call for someone. He sat down in the chair—it was remarkably comfortable, despite lacking any sort of padding. The back of the chair curved perfectly along Zinny’s spine, allowing him to relax a bit. He couldn’t help wonder whether this sense of security was intentionally designed. As he was adjusting himself in the chair, the door opened.
    In stepped a frightening man and two assistant officers. The man wore the standard blue and brown officer uniform, but also wore what appeared to be a lightweight armored pad that covered his chest and extended out straight off of his shoulders. His helmet rested behind his neck; the armor design included a one-touch device which raised the helmet onto the wearer’s head. His face was just as Zinny expected: rough, well-defined, and cold.
    “Hello, Zinian Rolle,” announced the frightening man, “I am Commander Dulface of the Public Defense Force.”
    Zinny said nothing; he could only nod sheepishly. He looked at the commander’s pin. The man pronounced his name “dool-fas;” Zinny would have thought it was “dull-face.”
    “Welcome to one the most secure locations in all of Topia: The PDF Headquarters. Every action of every branch of our organization is controlled here.” The commander paused. “I have questions for you, regarding the recent kidnapping you suffered. First, describe the appearance of your captors.”
    Zinny described every detail of the two men: the quiet, long-haired, lean man and his large, scary partner, their black robes—intentionally frayed—and their strange-sounding names. Commander Dulface did not react.
    “Did they have any identifying insignia?”
    “No, not that I saw.”
    “Did they talk to you?”
    Zinny froze. He had told his mother everything they said, and she didn’t seem to overreact. He may as well continue his honest approach to the situation.
    “They said they were members of the Banished…” Zinny faded out, looking for a reaction. The commander did not move, but it certainly seemed like the word “Banished” had sent his thoughts turning. Zinny went on, “They mentioned a Day of Promise, and defeating Topia. And somehow I was going to help them. It was really confusing—”
    “What else did they say?” Commander Dulface swiftly asked.
    “Nothing. They told me their plan to kidnap me and that I had better follow along.”
    “Do not move. I will be back.” The commander left, but the two assistants remained in the room. They stood stiff and silent on either side of the door, and did not offer so much as a glance in Zinny’s direction. They simply stared from under the visors of their helmets at the wall behind Zinny. Their focus was so great Zinny was tempted to turn around to make sure he wasn’t missing anything.
    The commander returned in under two minutes. In his hands were several strange cables. Zinny had not left the chair. After closing the door, the commander handed the cables to one of the assistants, who approached Zinny and began to attach on to his right arm. Zinny pulled his arm away and looked with anger at the commander.
    “What is this?”
    “This is a test. The purpose must remain confidential until we have completed it in order for it to be successful, but I can promise that you will not be permanently harmed.”
    Sweat started to drip from Zinny’s head. “Permanently harmed? Is this even legal?”
    “This is necessary for your safety, Zinny. It will only be a few minutes.”
    Reluctantly, Zinny allowed the cables to be hooked up to his wrists and ankles. Once this was finished, the commander and the assistants left the room. For a few seconds, nothing happened. Then, Zinny began to feel a tingling sensation where the cables had been tightly fastened to his skin. At first it was practically imperceptible, but the feeling was quickly growing in magnitude. It was also becoming less like a vibration and more like a sting. Zinny’s hands and feet began to shake. He tried to raise them, but found he could not. He leaned over on of his wrists to inspect the cable, and took a panic-stricken breath. He was bound to the chair. He had not even noticed until now, but the cable ends that wrapped around his extremities had also been attached to the chair. The pain began to build, and Zinny’s whole body began to shake. As the pain grew, Zinny began to hear a humming sound. He also traced the cables to the wall behind him. They were plugged into a strange port; it looked kind of like…an outlet.
    Zinny was being electrocuted.
    Zinny’s body shook violently now. His teeth were clenched. He had no idea how much longer he would be able to bear this without going insane. The pain had spread all throughout him, inside and out. He twisted and wrenched his limbs desperately, to no avail. His knuckled had turned white. Unable to restrain himself any longer, Zinny threw back his head and screamed.

    The pain stopped. Not only that, but the lights went out. Zinny knew that could mean only one thing; another blackout. What luck! Zinny tempered his excitement, however; he was still fastened to the chair, and trapped in this building, with no hope of escape. All he could do was take several deep breaths and shake his head to flick off the beads of sweat dripping down his face into his eyes. He then leaned his head up against the back of the chair and sighed.
    The emergency power soon kicked on, and the lights in Zinny’s room flicked at half power. A few minutes passed before the lights came back to full strength. In normal circumstances, Zinny might have become bored from waiting, but at the moment his head was spinning.
    Commander Dulface and his wingmen entered the room soon after. Zinny was exhausted, but not enough to restrain his fury with the lifeless commander.
    “What. The hell. Was that!”
    “A stress test,” answered the Commander, “And you failed.”
    “Failed! How many volts did you put through me! It felt like hundreds!” Zinny’s chest and shoulders were rising and falling dramatically.
    “Your mental tolerance for pain was quite high, actually. Physically, your body displayed an erratic response far too quickly. You need to be monitored over the next few days.” Dulface nodded at one of his assistants, who walked over to Zinny and detached the cables from his arms and legs, then pulled out a strange contraption.
    “This device,” the commander said, “Is a vitality tracker. It will measure your blood pressure, heartbeat, pulse, and other devices while sending us live updates here in the headquarters.”
    “Why do I need to be monitored? That shock test didn’t prove anything.”
    The commander stared strait at Zinny with an intimidating glare.
    “You know nothing about the science and medicine we employ. You will wear this on your arm for the next week, and meet with us after that to discuss it further.”
    Left without an alternative, Zinny allowed the device to be placed around his neck. To his relief, it was lightweight and did not bother his neck too much. Nevertheless, Zinny could not help but feel like he was wearing a dog collar. This mild fear turned to panic when the commander pulled out a small remote capped by a brick-red button. To his surprise, however, the commander instantly handed the remote to Zinny.
    “Zinny, the device you are wearing has a small dose of a relaxant built in. Due to our observations in the test, we believe you may be prone to bouts of severe anxiety over the next few days. If you have such an attack, simply pull out this remote, pull the two grey safety triggers on the side, and then press down on the red button. When you release the button, the relaxant will be injected into your bloodstream and, I assure you, you will feel much better.”
    Zinny’s suspicions were rising, but he was far too relieved at having some small measure of control over the situation to object. Not to mention, he was still flustered from the “test” he had just suffered through. In fact, he felt ready to use the drug right that moment.
    Apparently the commander read his mind. “Before you leave, why don’t you try the mechanism? You seem quite nervous for some reason.”
    As if he didn’t know, Zinny thought. Zinny wrapped two twitching fingers around the safeties, and then slowly pushed his thumb over the large red button. It slid down smoothly and easily. When he released the button, nothing happened.
    Actually, many things happened at once, although Zinny did not feel the prick on his neck that he was expecting. He did, however, find that his eyes had been blinded by a whitish powder, which was also entering his lungs through his nose and mouth. After shutting his eyes, Zinny realized that he had not released the button at all; rather, a hand larger than his had wrapped around it and prevented his thumb from rising. Next, another arm passed behind his back, grabbed him by his left side, and jerked him off the chair, into the air. After a few bounces forward, Zinny heard the click of a doorknob. He felt a rush of wind as the powder rushed past him and his captor out the opening. Zinny rubbed his eyes with his free hand and opened them to find that he was rushing down the hall towards the window at the end. From behind him, the voice of Commander Dulface was bellowing into a walkie-talkie. Zinny tried to shake his remote-clasping hand free of his captor, but he could not. Then he heard a new voice, presumably that of his captor, speak:
    “Don’t let go of that button if you want to live.”
    It was hard to argue with that logic. Zinny stopped resisting and instead focused on the large glass window that they were plunging toward. The only option they had would be to turn left down the stairs, which meant facing several floors’ worth of armed PDF soldiers and staff members. Then again, Zinny thought, this might be a good thing, since the man or woman who had broken Zinny out was probably a member of the Banished.
    The window was getting closer and closer. In addition, Zinny thought he heard the thud of soldiers’ boots coming up the stairs. It was at this point that Zinny saw a small black spherical object fly towards the window and adhere to it. The ball looked as though it had shot out from his captor’s arm, but was likely fired from a gun of some sort. The ball hit the window, stuck to it for a moment, and then promptly exploded with a shocking force. This force, however, did nothing to slow the violent pace of Zinny’s captor, who reached the window in a full sprint. He (or she) then put both arms around Zinny’s waist, and yelled, “Don’t release that button,” before tossing him strait out the now-open window. Zinny closed his eyes, turned over in the air, and fell for a good half-second before landing in a remarkably comfortable spot. When he opened his eyes, he found himself in a strange airbag contraption.
    An engine started, and the cushion began to move, taking Zinny along with it. All Zinny could think to do was wrap both hands tightly around the remote to make sure he did not release it. The airbag deflated gradually, and Zinny realized he was in the back of a convertible. His captor was in the driver’s seat, and through the rear-view mirror Zinny could finally get a view. When he saw the face of the man behind the wheel, he could not believe his eyes.
    He was looking at a PDF soldier—the very soldier who had placed the device on his wrist.

  5. #5
    Fenn
    Guest
    I know no one is likely to read this, but for those who have I wanted to point out some factual errors I made:

    1. Vidium energy was discovered in 700. The present year is 750. So the teacher is wrong to say it has been in use for "hundreds of years (Part 3).

    2. The suicide device placed on Zinian is a neck brace. I mistakenly say it is put on his arm instead at one point. (Part 9).

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