Light brown hair
Hazel eyes so deep
They’ll haunt me in my dreams
You never knew
Last night I spent the night awake and thought of you
You were so far away it seemed
And even while we grew up close
Circumstances kept us apart
‘Time’ what it took to find you
So… when the walls of hope and doubt fall apart
All that remains is what lies within-
Could it be?
That ‘We’ could be…
Something real- something real
One day you will know… one day.
Vincent brushes his fingers along the walls of the Underground. They are rock, man-made. The nuances of grainy texture and indents in the walls reflect the crafter: human hands. They are the remnants of another time. One in which when mankind held unique differences- A reminder- that around the world, there are some places, if only a few, that exist apart from the A.N.I. dominance in the world.
Long ago- or so Vincent had read- before the ANI’s great cities, before the dark age, before the collapse, people would live independently- pursue their own paths. Now the ANI sectors are full of drones: people that perform solely to properly fulfill the will of the economic factories that contain them.
To Vincent, they were sheep. Rather than a world without rules, they prefer hell itself. Some promise of stability, and a false security, that slowly chokes away the life of the people that are part of its clutches.
Despite all this- deep down, he doesn’t care: Not about the cities, about the dominance, about the people that are still living free. He cared about a girl.
If he’d had his choice, he’d have run off with her a while ago. She was the one person who could save him from himself and his own self-destructive nature. Regardless, he knew she wouldn’t. She was too pure- too intent on a goal for the betterment of her home. His own reason for being here was less pure: revenge.
Revenge for a time when he overheard the murder of his parents from the cellar he was hiding in: for when he crawled out from under the cellar and watched an A.N.I. commander murder the town chief in cold blood: for the time when he felt the ashes fall on his skin from a town that burned around, for the time when the last look of his only home was driving away in a small Underground transport vessel to a place he had never been before.
While he’d learned to mask it and use it, He never had learned to let it go. It is this memory that holds him in place- figuratively and literally. Except when he is with her.
After all – she was there. —
She was six and he was seven. He had just arrived at Jess’s home town to meet with her father. Jess’s father, Mark, was a commander in the Underground and liaison to the two he’d just met. Jess went up to her father to give him a hug. Indirectly, Vincent has a reason to thank her father. How could he forget? For her father is the reason they first were introduced.
“We have a new friend; how about you say hi and tell him your name.”
Vincent peered out from the shelter of the two strangers who had brought him here. She had looked straight through him- with his burned skin and a distant glare.
“Hi, I’m Jessie.” and she curtsied. From that moment- he saw only her. She couldn’t know that for the next twelve years he’d remember that moment.
It was past curfew when he’d left his room.
A couple guards would walk the halls of the underground to make sure curfew was kept. He was trained in espionage and evasion and thus was well- equipped to maneuver around their paths. He swiftly walked through the halls making sure not to alert the passing guard.
As he got to the hangar door, he quickly hacked the lock, opened the door and then snuck inside.
However despite all of his sneaking to avoid detection – He unexpectedly was greeted by a familiar face.
A large tatted man, backwards hat, couple of arm braces and other such accessories stood up from his position a vehicle to greet him.
Vincent did the common greeting of those in the underground which involved pounding the chest with a fist and then using the back of the fist with the other person’s followed by turning said first sideways and once against bumping fists.
Vincent wasn’t a social bug in any form- but being a part of the underground – there were some who’d been involved for a longer time.
“Biggums,” Vincent replied. Biggums was a nickname. One, the man was big and two his first name supposedly started with M. everyone knew him as Biggums as much as if it were his real name however.
Vincent knelt down and looked at what Biggums was working on. It turned out to be an update via the on board display of the Kitward.
Sometimes he would work with Biggums on the vehicles. Biggums didn’t talk much so they got along great.
“What are you working on?” he spoke as he took a look under the vehicle.
“Oh, just recalibrating the equipment to keep it up to par,” he said while holding a diagnostics’ gun.
Barg was the lead mechanic. He was always working on something. With the provisional resources; it was a necessity to keep up with what was available. And it was a sort of an engineering job as well as a mechanical one.
“What brings you here after hours?” Biggums.
Vincent responded scratching his head, “I need some air…”
“Okay man, just be it back before two hundred hours- that’s when a mission’s due to be back,” Biggums threw him the keys.
“Sounds good,” Vincent replied as he caught them in his hand. He walked through the largest room in the underground towards his ‘bike’.
He got on, booted up the on board display, inserted the keys, and selected music files and routes.
As it loaded up the screen display showed on the visor and the silent hum of the magnet generator rumbled underneath it.
Two hundred years ago, magnetic roadways were the major form of travel along the freeways. Now the propulsion grid was all but abandoned in lieu of the hyperspeed railways that the trains used. There was no need for unstructured travel in an autocratic society. Even the ungoverned areas across the territory required little travel as the townsfolk were generally reserved within their own villages.
For the most part however, the propulsion grid still functioned and could be used for much faster travel than free travel.
Using this, Vincent planned to travel to a nearby overlook where he could spend some time to think. He put the V-Bike in drive and drove into the night.
“Jess- you have a letter from someone!”
Jess walked up to her host ‘mom’ from the dining room where she’d been sitting. Her guardian handed her an unopened envelope with a seal- indicated to be from the ‘school’ for something uninteresting.
“What is it?” her host mom spoke.
Jess opened up the letter to her expectant guardian, “oh… Uh… nothing important. Just an update on the ballroom dance that I’ll be an aide to.”
“Oh!” her host mom replied. “You’ve been elected to a ball?!
“I’m just working as an aide for an older diplomat.
The host- mom thought for a minute ignoring the reason, perhaps out of excitement, “You know- my daughter may have had something that fits you for that.”
“Oh?” Jess spoke with forced enthusiasm- Her host family was well meaning but dense… she’d always grown up as a tomboy – uninterested in her own femininity- the thought of trying to attract the opposite sex didn’t interest her.
Jess watched her host mother excitedly walk into her own daughter’s old room as she secretly sighed.
The mother and father she was staying with were part of an exchange program that jess had been assigned to last semester. She’d been there for a total of three months now.
She was quite studious but she had a charisma that people were attracted to despite her being somewhat aloof.
Jess followed her host mother to the bedroom where her mother pressed a button in the wall – revealing an opening where a storage of clothing was. Unlike a majority of the tower- Jess stayed with someone more notable- an accountant and a teacher- thus was able to enjoy the benefits of a more luxurious life.
Her daughter supposedly was a similar size to Jess.
Her mother pulled out a certain dress – Yellow with orange stripes. Somewhat showy and with ruffles on the bottom. Jess was somewhat shocked by it. It would definitely expose a lot of skin. She wondered what her host mother was thinking.
“Uh I don’t think it’ll fit the dress code…” she replied with her hand to her forehead.
“Oh?” the mother looked disappointedly at the dress, “what does it say?”
Jess re-read the note aloud.
“Welcome to the official party for…” she continued down to the dress-code, “attire must be formal. For the men- well-suited. The women may wear knee-length skirt or…”
“Nonsense!” Her step mother spoke, “there’s no way that it says that- let me see!”
Jess tried her best to tuck the note away- but her mom snatched it up.
The invitation itself only mentioned the ball- the attire part she’d made up.
“you’re a pretty good liar!” her host mother spoke.
“ahaha, I’ll give it a go!” she replied. Inwardly- she was groaning inside.
“Her step mother looked questioningly at her for a second then lightened up. “Great!”
According to her exchange mother – she looked radiant- beautiful. She pulled out a reflector- which Jess looked into. Cleavage was clearly visible. She thought that if someone flicked a quarter it would probably get caught between. Her upper thighs were also half exposed.
Jess was more a straitlaced type- definitely a tomboy – uncomfortable with something so revealing. It was at least five inches above her knees.
Jess tried to smile.
“oh!” her mom clapped while Jess looked into the mirror.
(There’s no way I’m wearing it like this….) She could see the host mom light up.
“Is there anything a little less… revealing?”
Susie frowned. They went through the closet. Jess would have been fine wearing her school uniform and probably would have- but susie wouldn’t have any of that. Eventually.
“a pretty girl like you should at least make some effort…”
Jess sat up in her room. After forty-five or so minutes of dressing up- she’d finally been able to escape after having chosen something of a compromise.
The entire note had been a lie. Under the pretense of a blank sheet of paper was another secret note. She removed the secret note.
Place ‘Scanner-bug’ into Elite- Archus (Level T), hologram unit.
At 19:30 the doors will open to ‘Archus’ home for a gathering of intellectuals.
As aide to ‘Elite’ Rich, you will escort him as usual through the premises. At 20:04, you will open window in hall B of second floor for ‘SX3’ member ‘Midnight’ (a diagram of the premises explained the route) to enter in. You will then continue on, business as usual- ‘Midnight’ has left the premises aiding ‘Midnight’ with escape if necessary.
It continued on with details and specifics that she’d long gone over.
Normally focused on the task and hand and easily put anything else on the back-burner. However, this time was different – Firescout was a codename for a boy she’d known when she was younger- ‘Vincent Elluvia.’
She leaned backwards and remembered a distant memory of a young boy and girl. Ten years ago she’d chosen her father over the boy.
In a darkly lit room, the light on the table lightened the features of a hard set man as he spoke on the com link:
“You promised you’d help me gain power…” he spoke.
“And I will.”
“but soon it looks like there will be peace…”
The voice on the box replied, “don’t worry… you’ll have your time soon enough.”
“Give me a show of good faith… take Sozo out of the picture.”
“Haven’t you heard the proverb- that a foolish generation looks for a sign…” the voice signed with acquiescent resignation… no matter how good the plan- there was always the human element, “very well.”
There was no need to mention, but Bill and Hansel were codenames.
‘Bill’ hung up the phone with a quiet fury and awaited the movement by ‘Hansel’.
Vincent looked over the railing- before him stood a small village at night under a moonlit open sky. He saw another light turning off as the day drew to a close for another house. It had been a while since he’d looked at a village for what it was- a home. He looked above him. The stars shone brightly overhead like nothing had changed since the last time he drew in the night sky, even though for him- everything had.
With so many thoughts rummaging through his head- he needed a place to think.
Soon- he’d be working alongside the same girl he’d met so many years ago. His memory of her was the one thing that kept him from needing his darker revenge.
Remembering this- a distant memory came back to him from his past.
“Do you read me? Requesting assistance at coordinates h.q. zero zero.”
A fifteen year old Vincent listens to the com as a simple recruit.
Some Underground members had requested assistance at a nearby post. Vincent’s own location had been the closest. He’d led a few others into the fray taking a position to see the predicament. While there wasn’t a designated unit leader, Vincent took charge.
The group that was surrounded and being closed on by three units of Allied personnel. It wouldn’t be long till they came into a firefight or forced to surrender.
If they went straight into to try and pull them out, there would be casualties- probably more than the people they would save.
He gave the command to the group to take a tactical position across the mountainside and try to hold down the Allied groups with suppressive fire. He told them as he began to rush around the edge of the perimeter.
“Once I give the go ahead draw fire to your position…”
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to flank them…”
Vincent rushed across the hillside and then gave the hand signal. The others fired their weapons and like he told them, they took a position thirty feet higher so as to stay in stealth.
As he thought, Vincent watched on as the Allied soldiers were attracted to the sound and not the personnel on the ground. He rushed downwards, halfway slipping down the slope and halfway. From his own position he would be able to get a better scope of the situation.
The group of six on the ground seemed to be pinned down by a group. There were only three Allied soldiers pinning them down as he got a better view. So as not to break stealth he walked behind them and hit him against the neck, knocking him out. His gloves were equipped with a sort of shock that instantly electrocuted his opponent into unconsciousness. As another turned he sent out a kick- his kick was strong enough to subdue the opponent. While still young, he’d gotten into scuffles in the orphanage and with the additional training he’d received – his kick was more solid.
Another solider from the distance- who’d been a part of the unit in a different location shot at him- Vincent felt the bullet whiz across him and instantly returned fire- an instant death shot- his first kill.
He didn’t have time to think- the third whose eyes were focused on the scope lifted up his head and turned to the noise in the time that Vincent had done all this.
Rather than a heartless villain that Vincent expected to see, it seemed like it was a kid, slightly older than himself and completely terrified.
Vincent looked for just a moment before deciding, “Put down your weapon, your radio, and run in that direction. NOW!” The underground didn’t have the luxury of P.O.W. as most of their missions were intelligence gathering and espionage.
After the boy had gone a fair distance away, Vincent rushed into the camp and led them out before the arrival of the other Allied groups.
It was a revelation to Vincent.
Who is my enemy?
The embodiment of his revenge was something else. The soldiers that followed the will of the politicians and commanders that sent them were pawns.
After giving a status report to the council, he first saw ‘her’ again.
“I heard what happened from my father…” Jess spoke. Vincent had to go to base to report the situation which led him to her for the first time in eight years. “are you okay?”
The funny thing, thought Vincent, after having killed someone for the first time- he was. Rather than be bothered, it excited him… All he had to do was pull a trigger and his enemy would fall.
That was the day that he was assigned to special operations.
They ate lunch together.
While Jessica had thought that underneath he had a warm heart- the other 99% knew him for who he truly was: a demon.
It had been over two years now. Ever since that day- he had been entrusted with the underground missions that most were unaware of. He wasn’t an assassin per say. His job entailed missions of espionage- if people got in the way, then that was how it was.
He looked back on the overlook at a town in the distance.
It was small. Light shone through certain windows like little lamps scattered across it. He thought he could have a home here if his heart could find any sense of peace.
—“I never got to see you much since we were separate.”
Jess and he were walking the halls in the afternoon after lunch. A year since the reassignment and it seemed Jess had been assigned to ‘nightbird’.
“Yeah, I know, we were just in different places.”
“I’m glad I get to see you more,” she said.
He tilted his head a bit. His heart swelled when she’d said that, but the words he was thinking didn’t come out: me too… he thought.
They split ways back to their respective rooms.
With her first assignment five months ago he had no means of contacting her until now… not that he’d know what to say if he had been able to.
It was due to new circumstances that he was up now. For this mission- their paths finally coincided.
Thinking about her always made him reflect on his purpose.
She was the one thing that held him back from needing this feeling. With her his heart felt something more. The only conclusion: he felt that after the mission he’d tell her how he felt.
The com on the head commander Souza’s desk had an ominous tone.
For one- why should this man have his channel? It was reserved solely for Underground. Personnel and the outside shouldn’t have access to it.
That, in addition to the tone of voice. One word was enough to set him off. He wasn’t sure what is was about the man.
Sousa responded, “Hello. Who is this?”
“I wish i didn’t have to do things like this.” the voice responded, “Commander Sousa- to get to the point. 323, 145, 119…”
The numbers were ominous to Sousa. He knew exactly where that was… but just in case, the voice reassured him:
“-They are the coordinates to your daughter.”
Vincent watched as the display light lit above him, signaling a private meeting.
He’d just snuck back into bed- Jayden snoring below him unawares.
Inside of his own wall of sound, he could hear the com come on,
“Vincent, please come to the main office. Vincent, please come to the main office,” he heard the automated female voice speak.
Oh boy… what was he in for?
He walked up to the commander’s room at the end of the office wards. Even though the commander seemed to be a busy man, this time- the hour seemed ridiculous.
“Come in Vincent,” he heard the commander speak from his chair as Vincent had opened the door to the ‘head office’.
In front of him the commander sat in a seat and desk that faced him. Across from him were two empty chairs.
Vincent walked in; the commander was sitting backward. He motioned for Vincent to close the door.
The commander commanded respect with the simple motion. It was something Vincent felt the commander had earned the right to by merit as well as the way he treated others… He closed the door behind.
Vincent looked around the room. Seeing as it was generally reserved for the main bosses, He hadn’t gotten to see it but twice before. Once when he was only seven before the Underground was what it was, a well-oiled defensive base, after secondly when his actions had been called into question, and he was to be brought to the Circle of Six: neither time gotten much time to admire what it looked like.
It was small room for the commander of a large organization but Souza was a man of simpler needs. There were bookshelves behind the desk and a simple drink and food dispenser. It was a comfortable atmosphere, cozy. Something that one would expect of Souza.
Vincent stood in front of the commander. He seemed to have a troubled appearance.
“Please sit down,” the commander motioned to Vincent at a chair.
Vincent wasn’t sure how much trouble he was in at this point. He had just snuck out, not to mention postings on the ‘net’ with his writing. He’d go along with it and just see how much trouble he’d have to make up for.
“Can I get you anything?” the commander asked sincerely.
So… this wasn’t about him then- otherwise, he wouldn’t have offered something. Perhaps it was something mission oriented- like the mission tomorrow.
“A cup of cocoa-” Vincent replied- he liked cocoa.
“Good idea,” As the commander got the drink for Vincent he got an extra cup for himself. He set the cup in front of Vincent and started drinking from his own.
He sat there in deep contemplation. Vincent looked at him for a while expecting something then eventually took a sip. After about a minute he spoke.
“The good news, supposedly there’s a peace offering made by an Elite in the city workings. I’m leaving the Underground soon.
“Oh?” Vincent sipped. The good news seemed that it was something good, “what’s the bad news?”
“I don’t trust if this is legitimate or not, so during the next mission, be on your guard.”
Vincent wasn’t sure if that was it and he should get up, “so…”
“Also, i need to ask you to do something…”
“Protect Jess…” The commander wanted her with the safest person he could think of- he thought about whether or not he should let him in on what was going to happen. He decided to do so.
“Done,” Vincent returned quickly.
The commander smiled pensively- “I always knew you liked her…”
Vincent quietly backed himself, while quietly responding, “Yeah.”
“Hmmm. After all those years… I feel partly responsible for taking you to the orphanage and…” in an instant the deepset expression left the commander for a more thoughtful one as he drifted off into a thought.
“-Well it couldn’t be helped, sir,” Vincent spoke. “You needed to run the base.”
“Even so, i don’t see why I couldn’t have taken care of both of you…”
Vincent wasn’t fond of this position, reassurance wasn’t his long suit. It seemed that the commander was waiting for a response though, so Vincent tried hard to think about how he felt. Yes, he resented him… but it wasn’t like there was anything else he could do. If the commander had been an ordinary man… but he had a lot on his plate and Vincent was more than a lost kitten.
“Whether or not I was upset with you about it, you did what you thought was best.”
Vincent justified him even though he did feel some resentment.
With a sigh of relief and resignation the commander put out what had been troubling him,
“Someone has leverage against the ‘Underground’.”
“What kind of leverage?”
“Coordinates to this base… and Jess’s location… Vincent-” the commander cut off his thoughts when he noticed Vincent trying to grasp the entirety of the situation, “- I have a terminal illness- a virus that’s been growing at a rapid rate. My body is losing its strength to fight.”
This, Vincent didn’t know about.
“What about Jess?”
“I love her very much and I wanted to tell her, but she’s vulnerable….”
“Isn’t it worse to tell her too late, and her having to wait, rather than tell her and have her have time with you beforehand?”
The commander gave it some thought.
It’s not that Vincent cared whether or not the General reconciled with Jess: he was just being accountable to do what he could. Whatever the general did was his own responsibility.
“You may be right, but now i think it’s too late.”
“That’s another thing I’ll need you for… I have one more request for you…”
Vincent looked up from his brooding downcast appearance to an attentive subordinate.
“If after my meet with the president, for some reason I can’t go on, track down this man- with information on the Underground…”
It was a little while after sipping their drinks in solitude that Vincent headed back to his quarters for the next day.