Chapter 2: A Premonition
Shadowed above by the massive Plate which contained the upper city, the slums of Megapolis were a dilapidated and often ignored portion of the city which was populated primarily by Mobians. While each sector of the lower city had its pockets of residential areas, only a few were lucky enough to hold communal amenities for the populace to use.
Over time, the numbers for army personnel charged with community protection in the lower city started to dwindle. This came with increased rumors that circled through the residential hubs about the fearsome Robians – ordinary Mobians transformed into soulless mechanical monstrosities – and the uptick of mutants being sighted around the common paths. The gossip caused the residents to keep to their own hubs and reduce travel to other sectors in fear of being attacked.
A church located beneath the unfinished portions of the Sector 5 plate was once a particularly beautiful building. After being abandoned by the citizens, years of neglect and disrepair caused the building to become a shadow of its former self. The exterior was stained by the dirty air exhausted from the underside of the Plate. The roof was full of holes of various sizes that let rays of sunlight shine through. Inside, the floorboards and pews running from the large double doors to the altar were in a state of constant decay. Several stained glass windows were shattered and those that were untouched were caked with grime. A structural column holding up the vaulted ceiling in the rear had fallen, leaving the rear portion of the building susceptible to collapse. The storage areas up in the rafters above were covered with a thick layer of dust. All in all, it was not a suitable place to live in.
As run down as it was, the spacious interior held something that many in the city would have called a miracle.
Carpeting the centre of the church floor was a field full of beautiful yellow and white flowers . They grew out of a large, round patch that was unearthed by removing the old floorboards. The field started from the altar and took up two thirds of the floor towards the doors. Plants were a rare sight in Megapolis; the lack of sunlight and the nutrient-poor earth were hardly sufficient to grow anything. But the flowers at this church were hardy and their caretaker even more so.
A female Mobian walked around the patch, her dirt-coated, pale hands held a tattered, soft-cover book which she thumbed through. She wore a white, form-fitting dress that went to the bottom of her shins, the edge of the dress tapering into points like flower petals, and a padded, unbuttoned short-sleeved forest green coat that reached above her midriff. Around her waist was a worn, brown belt, which sat snugly above her hips. Inserted in a holster on the back of the belt was a retractable, metal guard staff. Her dirt-caked leather boots made soft, muffled sounds against the old floorboards as she circled the patch.
The back of her vibrant, lime green hair was tied up into a braid and held up by a pink ribbon, while the bangs on the front framed her oval shaped face and complimented her bright, turquoise eyes. On either side of the top of her head were two, fully bloomed red rosebuds. Circling around the patch, she placed a finger on a sentence of a random page and read the passage from the book aloud to the plants growing in the field.
“-And then he showed his true colours.
Once the headquarters and the majority of the city were completed, President Kintobor started pushing towards military rule by establishing a massive army supported by RINGTEK-powered war machines. He used his army to crack down on dissenters and rebels who questioned his authority. He ran policies favouring Humans while persecuting Mobians, which only served to increase the existing generation-spanning tensions between the two. He discreetly raised the costs of living for those citizens forced to live in the lower city below. Those who could not pay those crushing fees were captured and subjected to experimental testing in the R&D labs high up in the headquarters, where no one ever returned from. These experiments, coupled with further research into Energen and its applications into living beings, yielded the SOLDIER program: soldiers infused with pure Energen to greatly enhance their bodies for military purposes.
Using his newly created military forces, the president then set his sights towards the rest of the world. His first act was to invade Mobotropolis – the capital city of the Western Continent – and annihilate its Royal Family. In the two decades since the coup, Kintobor expanded until nearly every region on the planet had an Energen Reactor, save for one; the secluded kingdom of Chun-Nan in the far East. The kingdom was wary of both the company’s technology and the growing influence the conglomerate had over Mobius. They resisted until a bloody war broke out eight years ago. Despite their mastery of magic and their knowledge of the difficult terrain, Kintobor’s vast army, their war machines and their unstoppable SOLDIER forces, conquered the tiny nation in little over a year’s time. That act firmly established Megapolis and Kintobor Inc. as the sole, dominant world power.
After the war, a brand new technology made its debut: Roboticization. This process involved the partial or total conversion of organic matter into a hardier, robotic form. Roboticization could even return missing limbs, which came particularly in handy for the veterans returning from the front. For a time, the innovation was deemed a blessing for the citizens. They believed that no matter what happened to them, be it loss of limb or sickness, Kintobor Inc. would swoop in and help with their wondrous scientific advancements.
That all changed only four years ago, prior to this book’s publication. Rumors abound in the slums, but what I could dig up was that the president discovered that the Roboticization process could transform individuals into mindless, robotic slaves. It is my belief that he began rounding up Mobians in the slums, with the commitment to use the process to remove their ills caused by the rampant pollution in the lower city. He then transformed them which had the effect of completely stripping them of their free will. These Robians were set them loose in the Slums to eliminate the vicious mutants and terrorize the denizens below, and in the Energen Reactors to act as guards against any interlopers either foolishly attempting to dig up company secrets or attempting to sabotage or destroy the reactors themselves as acts of terrorism…”
The woman stopped and snapped the book shut, a wry and bitter smile crossing her lips. She turned towards her flowers and knelt down to the patch. “That was pretty fascinating stuff, wasn’t it?” she asked the plants before her. “This guy, Kirby… he really knew his stuff, didn’t he?” Turning the book around to view the cover, she wrinkled the bump that was her nose. “The Untold Story of Kintobor Incorporated… Well, no wonder the book was banned up above. It’s lucky that I stumbled on one copy that missed being destroyed, right?”
The flowers didn’t answer back to her, but it was something that she was used to. Placing the book down to her right, she began working her hands into the damp soil. She moved around the patch, cutting dead leaves off the younger plants, transplanting seedlings to open areas where they could grow and snipping some of the fully matured bulbs to place in a woven, straw basket. After a good half-hour’s worth of work, she leaned back to stretch and mopped her brow. Tilting her head back, she looked to the holes in the roof above and beyond to the Sector 5 plate. Faint sunlight was streaming through the gaping sections of the unfinished portions. Her lips quirked upwards as she remembered the storm that had passed earlier in the morning. The deluge of rainwater provided much needed nourishment for her garden, which made her feel content.
Then suddenly, she heard the sounds of heavy footsteps just outside of the building. A deep, cold chill ran down her back and she stifled a gasp. ‘Don’t tell me it’s them again?!’ she thought frantically, hunching over into a bent position. She swiveled around and then crawled on her hands and knees as quietly as she could to a pew close to her and huddled underneath it. She held her breath and waited for the footsteps to pass.
She then felt a sharp sting on her index finger as something needle-like jabbed into it. Biting her lip so that she wouldn’t scream out, she saw that a root from her flower patch extended out and inserted itself into her finger. Her eyes widened into saucers and she tried to wrench her hand away but her body suddenly went rigid, as though she had been electrocuted.
She then saw visions, all of them moving in a rapid fire manner and many of which she couldn’t understand. The visions then slowed down enough that she could pick out a figure in them; a blue-furred individual wearing a uniform with a large sword on his back. It turned its head so that she could get a glimpse of the face from the side. She saw a single, glowing jade-green eye and a smirk that sent her heart aflutter until the figure disintegrated into wisps of silver and gold. Another figure appeared in his place – an orange-furred individual wearing an identical uniform with its back turned to her. Swishing about were two bushy tails…
At that point, the flower girl regained control of herself. She pulled her hand away and the root slipped out of her finger, leaving a shallow well of blood streaming from the digit. She was breathless and cold sweat matted her bangs to her forehead. Pinching her thumb to her forefinger to stem the blood, she first listened to see if the coast was clear, before crawling out from under the pew and moving towards a nearby floorboard. She wormed two fingers into a hole in the centre and pulled, causing the board to come loose. Placing it beside her, she pulled out the first aid kit lying underneath and set about bandaging her finger whilst mulling over the visions she saw.
The one thing she was able to discern clearly was the blue furred individual who then disappeared in a flood of silver and gold wisps of light. Realization dawned on her and she brought a hand to her lips in shock. ‘No way, It’s not possible…‘ she thought, ardently praying that whatever she dreaded wasn’t true, that the vision she saw was not what she thought it was. ‘He can’t have… died? After all of these years of him going missing, he’s now dead?’ She shook her head to banish the thought out of her mind. ‘Of course not! He couldn’t have died?! The voices are just… lying to me again, that’s all!’
Deep down, she knew otherwise. It was now the second time that she saw this sort of vision. The flower girl forced down the memories of the first time as a deep, cloying sadness began creeping into her heart. ‘…If he truly is dead – which he isn’t, I’m sure of it – it must have occurred… during the storm,‘ she reasoned as she finished tying the gauze to her finger.
Suddenly, her vision blurred as tears began forming in her eyes. She screwed them shut and her shoulders trembled as she succumbed to her sorrow and wept. She tried hard to keep herself from sobbing out loud and instead balled her hands into fists with her dirt-coated fingernails digging into her palms. Around her, the flowers seemed to resonate with her emotions; the petals and leaves drooped downwards as though they mourned alongside her.
It was some time until she finally calmed down. Breathing heavily, she eased herself into a sitting position, brushing stray strands of hair away from her face and wiping the tears from her puffy eyes. As she slowed her breath, her mind then turned to the other part of the vision: the orange figure with two tails. ‘Now, what could that mean?’ she wondered, her brows lowering into a scowl. ‘There’s no way that someone with two tails exists on Mobius… So what’s the deal here? What’s this vision trying to tell me now?’
The flower girl let out an exasperated sigh. “What’s the point in showing me these things?” she growled through clenched teeth. “Can’t they just… leave me alone?”
She felt the root that had penetrated her finger wrap around it again, this time in a gentle, comforting manner. The flower girl watched the tendril curl around the digit, a bittersweet smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. It was though her plants were telling her that these visions had to happen and that she could not run away from them any more.
She scoffed at the thought. “Well, so much for that,” she muttered to herself, her brows furrowing deeply at what she considered. “I won’t stop running, even if the voices and the visions want me to do otherwise… It’s not like they’ve ever shown me anything good anyway…”
The Mobian ripped the root off of her finger, stood up in a huff and brushed off the dirt from the knees of her dress. She felt something softly bump into her chest as she straightened up. She looked down to see her pendant; a simple, hexagonal locket coloured amber-gold with a window to the contents within on the front. Inside was a silver-white jewel. She collected the pendant into her palm, which was as small as her own hand and stared at the gemstone inside. The sunlight from above shone down on it and gave it a brilliant, shimmering glow.
“…I know it’s a little… ostentatious – funny that I know that word, huh? A friend of mine taught it to me. But anyway… Look, I know it’s important to you, so I figured… it needed a safe space, y’know? So I thought: What better place to keep it safe than around your neck and tucked into your dress?”
The flower girl made a noise of amusement as she remembered the moment she received the pendant, her lips curling upwards despite her sadness. She clutched it gently with both hands and put it against her heart. Closing her eyes and bowing her head, she said a prayer in her mind to the Goddess and then tucked the locket back into her dress. She then set about to gather up her things. She replaced the medical kit and the floorboard that hid it, picked up the basket full of cut flowers and finally the book that she was reading aloud.
Heading for the door, she plucked a brown, patchy satchel from one of the pews, stuffed the book inside of it and slung it around her shoulder. Checking to see that her retractable staff was in place, she opened the large church doors a crack to check if the surroundings were clear. Seeing that no one was around, she turned to smile apologetically at her growing patch of flowers before slipping through the door and closing it with a muffled click.