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Chapter 1: Unnamed
Chapter 1: (Unnamed)
Four shots rang out from his pistol, sending hot metal zipping through a man's head and wounding two others behind him. Return fire followed soon after with Aston ducking and weaving, attempting to scrape by as the bullets grazed his skin. His mask interfered with his heavy breaths as he ran aimlessly down a hallway. A bullet punched itself into his back, though it stopped just short of flesh; his vest had yet again saved his life.
As he is accustomed to, it never slipped his mind that he was always on the verge of death. He danced with him, twirling and twirling, always managing to break free from his cold embrace. “Heh! Guess I’m just one lucky son of a—!” His self-told remark was hastily met with the rapid gunfire from a horde of guards that he ran into.
He cut sharply to his right and continued down yet another hallway. At the end laid a door with the exit sign hanging from the wall, and without hesitation, he rammed into it, straight and true like an arrow landing dead center of its target. Bullets whizzed over his head as he tumbled down a single set of steps. He hurried back onto his feet and began making his descent further down, spiraling ever so slowly to the ground floor.
“He’s coming down!” A multitude of footsteps echoed from beneath Aston. They were going to corner him, he understood this.
“The hell I will!” He was now on the second story of the 100 or so complex floors. He flung open an office door behind him and skimmed over all of the possible hiding spots, choosing the farthest cubicle to the back left in order to recuperate himself. He dug into his pockets and grabbed his phone. He would need some medical treatment once he was done and finished, his mission was a bust. The phone rang for some time before a woman answered back.
“Yeah I’m going to need some bandaging when I get back.” He checked the time on his phone which read 2:00 AM, the time that he was supposed to be gone and out by. “Think ya can meet me at my place?”
“I’m already here. What happened to your client?”
“Deal went bad and he got domed right in front of me. Couldn’t do a damn thing.” The lady on the other end gasped and her tone flipped nearly on a dime.
“Yeah but listen,” he went quiet, they were near. “Is the vehicle there?”
“Should be unless someone towed it away.” A BANG came bursting from where the door was at the time, but now it was nothing but splinters and fragments.
“Hey wai—” he hung up the phone and slid it back into his pocket.
“Come out,” said an unknown voice, “make this easy for all of us!”
-Eat dirt, or better yet, from Aston’s hand emerged a grenade that he nicked from a body, -eat shrapnel.
He yanked the pin and tossed the explosive at the group that sieged the room. It hit the ground with a loud clunk, and not but three seconds later, a deafening BOOM shattered glass and threw debris every which way. Aston ran across the office and took a leap of faith through one of the broken windows. With his feet ready and his body braced, he plunged into a pile of plastic bags, the smell of garbage wafting over him. Not the most pleasant area to smack into, but better than breaking his legs.
He dug himself out from the trash and continued down an alleyway. He turned and shuffled, went this way and that, and eventually, he found his way out of that concrete jungle. The city never sleeps as he’s always told, and from his many years of experience, he can gladly say that it is indeed true. Thankfully, he didn’t have to traverse the populated streets, and instead he entered a side entrance to an old brick building.
Inside was one of many getaway cars that he owned, albeit this one was quite moderate in appearance. Nothing fancy or state-of-the-art like many new models in the year 3051, but it will keep him in the clear until he can take the underground transit.
“Perfect. Now to get to the drop-off.” Aston takes a set of keys out from his back pocket and presses down on the keypad. The car lights flare up then die down as he opens the door to the driver’s side. He slides the key in and the car roars to life. He backs the vehicle out from the building and turns to get onto the main road. The city welcomes him out from behind the windshield with all the blinding lights and advertisements encompassing his surroundings. Traffic wasn’t congested and was flowing nicely, a rare occasion.
-Wonder what’s on the radio… He twisted the dials on the dashboard and tuned in to a channel named Titan’s Hits and News. The upbeat voice of the radio host almost booms out from the speakers.
“Special thanks to our listeners out there! We wouldn’t be here without you!” He lists the lineup of songs and spills the normal shlop that people want to hear, a pet peeve for Aston. “More news related: Jade Street and the surrounding areas have been closed off due to reports of an explosion and sounds of gunshots. Several were found dead, including Dale Marynx, an executive for Mare’s Steel Co.”
“My! Who could have EVER done such a thing?!” he says as he begins to wail out laughing, smacking at his knees and swerving a bit in the process. “Damn him for all I care. Didn’t even pay in advance.” A red light brings him to a halt. He gazes at the light and sees deep within that crimson color his sins. In his bout of daydreaming, flashbacks of his time in the military strike him down, coming in motions of anger and resentment—his actions have never affected him, surely.
The light goes green, snapping him out of his reminiscent state. He drives just a few more blocks before turning into an empty parking lot, separating himself from the little traffic present. A string of structures lay silent, husks of what they once were, now plastered with “for sale” signs. A garage door attached to one of the buildings creeps open and a person waves him on. Aston let out a sound of amusement as he pulled in.
He parks the car and gets out to greet his young colleague. “Well if it isn’t Bren! How’s life buddy ol’ pal?” Aston gives him a hearty smack on the arm, the brown-haired teen rubbing away the tingling sensation that was left.
“I don’t remember ever being ‘pals’, you scumbag.”
“Hm! Not my fault Mr. Marynx couldn’t go five seconds without owing some drug dealers money.” Aston rolled his arms and began to stretch. “Why the hell would you care about that corporate lamb anyways? They’re all run by corrupted figure-fucks.” Sharp pain in his back paused his motions.
“Can’t say I know him well, but he did help my family. Besides,” Bren walked over to the car, stepping his foot into the driver’s seat, “I don’t like you.”
“Aw come on now! I haven’t done anything wrong, have I?” Bren swept his question off his shoulders and prepared to close the car door before, “At at! Now hold on there”—Aston wedged his foot beneath the door—“the credits are in the glove box. Thanks for your recent help.” Bren sighs, then nods.
“No problem. Now let me take this thing back.”
“Take good care of her!” Aston waves his goodbyes as Bren backs out and drives down the road. Aston walks over to the garage door and shuts it, securely locking it up.
-Can’t have that kid turning on me.
You’d expect a garage to have tools and equipment, but this one was empty. Nothing but a single chain clanging against the stone wall accompanied Aston. He stood and stared. He wasn’t looking at anything in particular, just lost in the solace of the room. Perhaps this is how it would feel if you were to simply exist? He huffed the words, “Now then,” before moving along to a metal hatch in the corner of the room.
He pried it open with the tip of his fingers, lifting it just enough to where he can slide down into the abyss. The hatch cladded shut as Aston flipped out his lighter and fumbled his way through the cramped space. Almost as if entering the mouth of a monster, it widened out, relieving Aston of having to hunch over the whole time.
From there the way split into three sections—each seemed to steadily decline further down. For whoever would be brave enough to come here would still have to find out which way would be the correct direction. Those well versed with the laws of the underground world know what to look for.
Aston scanned the room up and down, finding several different symbols littered about. A smirk inched out from the sides of his mask when a hash mark with a rectangle hovering over the top met his eyes. He found his spot, and so chose the left entrance. For half the distance it was dry, but the last half was sopping wet. The echoing of running water became audible.
“Man! Gotta love that sewer smell!” His own entertainment was growing into agitation as the pain from his wounds began to radiate over his body. Time for Aston was seemingly dripping away with his diminishing vitality, and so he journeyed on in the damp tunnels, following the marks. Deeper and deeper he went, a bottomless pit it seemed under this massive city, until he heard a train; he was close. Yellow work lights illuminated the decrepit station filled with bums, anomalous beings, and heavily armed men. A tiny front desk has people lined in front of it, a single person managing them all.
-I don’t have time for that!
A train was beginning to board passengers to drop them off at dark markets and other stations. One station of which he had to stop at: Easton. Aston stormed towards the train, keeping his head low, attempting to blend in.
“Ey,” a muscular man with a ball cap and a rifle stood between him, “you can’t enta unless I see a market card ora’ proof that you do business down heya.”
“Fuck man! I’ve been here several times! How the hell do you not recognize me?”
“You could be mister-fuckin’-Z for all I care. Now show me your card before I pud’a bullet in your head.” A groan exited Aston as he drew out a wallet and gave the man a black card. The man’s eyes widened once he got a closer look. He took out a little machine and slid it into a slot in the back—it beeped a few times, turned green, then handed the card back.
“You a mercenary? Coulda thought you’s some kind of assassin with dat mask on.”
“Hm! What of it? Can I go now or what?”
“Eazy there buddy. Got a tempa to match.” He stepped out from between Aston. “Go ahead.”
Aston spoke many unpleasantries under his voice, all the way down the train till he sat in one of the seats. Sweat was dripping from his chin. The pain was flooding him at this point. Blood was seeping from his shirt, though not enough to be fatal, it was still a concerning amount.
“Now heading to Silk Square—Silk Square,” said a voice over the intercom. The train squealed and screeched as the wheels began turning. Finally, he was on his way.
“Ay lookie there! It’s Malice!” A group of three approached Aston, hands in pockets, swaggering, acting as if they owned the place. One sat off to his side while the other two stood, holding onto the railing. The blonde one with a gray beanie next to him spoke: “You look pretty beat up there pal!”
“Heh! 04 and his posse!” said Aston. “You guys have business with me?”
“Nah, just coming to say hi from one mercenary to another! Ya know? Being friendly?”
Aston chuckled at those words, friendly.
“You guys tried killing my client a few weeks back and I had to put up with you punks.”
“Which is why we came to say hello!” the group snickered. Something was off about the atmosphere; it was tense, not an ideal group to have pleasant chats with.
“Thanks for your concerns. Now piss off, runts.”
“Hey now…” a knife flipped out from 04’s pocket and was pressed against Aston’s neck in a mere instant. “Don’t think we’ve forgotten about what you did…” Aston’s face grew excited as a maniacal laugh blasted out from him.
“Surely you didn’t want to show off your damn pocket knife!” Aston grasped 04’s hand and applied more pressure onto the blade, trickles of blood ran down its edge. “Go on...kill me.” The three men went pale, the other one getting up and preparing to draw a gun. 04 gazed upon Aston’s crazed yellow eyes. He ripped his hand away from his throat, not sure how to react to his bizarre behavior.
“Silk Square—we’ve reached Silk Square.” 04 decided to bite his tongue, using this opportunity to evade a possible outburst of violence.
“Nah, we won’t grant your wish yet, but remember, we may be in the same line of work, but our companies differ.” The shaken men get up and leave Aston behind, and nothing else is said. It was a pity that they didn’t have to meet their fate so soon.
-Damn rookies couldn’t even kill a man.
He peered out the window. Silk Square is one of the larger dark markets out of many that Aston had the honor of visiting. Nothing but degeneracy as he recalled—a place that one could fulfill his or her horrific desires. It further deteriorated the minds of those who needed an escape. His eyes began to focus on his reflection—Silk Square silhouetting his background.
“Now heading to Easton Station—Easton Station.”
He rocked with the motion of the train, beginning to feel numb from any sensations. The lights on the side of the tunnel would flash on his mask before quickly fading, then again, and again. His head began to pound, his hands and feet tingling. To have booze flow in his system would feel fantastic about now, and a cigarette to compliment his night—it was all very much appealing.
-this damn train needs to hurry the hell up!
“Easton Station—we’ve arrived at Easton Station.”
The train came to a hissing halt. The doors slid open and people funneled out, going who knows where. Aston would have to walk another series of paths before arriving at a manhole right above him. He was at the final stretch and was more than happy to be able to smoke and knock a few drinks back…or just drink the night away.
He climbed the ladder and popped the metal lid open, lifting himself up and out. He ended up in a narrow alleyway behind an extravagant apartment complex. Relief flooded over his body just from the sight of the building. He unlocked an entrance from the back and went inside, a nicely finished wood floor greeted him.
A terminal installed into the wall had various buttons and a screen—he tapped one and waited. A light humming noise joined together with the whoosh of an elevator door. Aston entered and felt the gravity pull down on him as he went higher and higher, all the way to the top floor.
“Thanks for sending the elevator down,” says Aston as he steps out and into the living room.
“Oh it was no problem Mr. Malice…” A woman walks up to him and gently caresses his arm all the way down to his hand. The smell of her hair bloomed in his face, a sugary scent; the color made him think of chocolate.
“Aston will do just fine.” he continues to walk over to the couch and flops down onto its soft and cozy embrace, relishing in the comfort of his rather opulent penthouse apartment. The floor is polished well, the living room having a bar counter and stools tucked away underneath. A glass coffee table sat in the center, surrounded by three couches; a sizable flat-screen TV is mounted on the wall left from Aston.
“Aw, you’re no fun.” She goes by his side and starts rummaging through a duffel bag on top of the coffee table. “Come on now. I can’t work on you like that.”
“Sure sure.” He sits up and takes off his mask, chucking it over to the side. “Need me to strip, oh wise Ms. Lyza?”
“Ooh yes please!” glints of amusement sparked in her emerald eyes. In one hand she has a few alcohol wipes, and in the other, bandages. Aston tears off the Velcro straps on his body armor and pulls it off. His shirt, soaked in red and sweat, had to be peeled off as if it were his skin. His body told stories of his past, rigid and callused—the scars of war now permanently engraved into his body. “No bullet wounds this time?”
“Nah not this time. I got lucky.”
“You must be awfully lucky all the time then.” She gently took hold of his left arm and wiped it down, his face would squint for every cut or bruise Lyza would go over. “Your house was a mess when I came in earlier.”
“Yeah and I noticed you cleaned up. You didn’t have to do—agh!”
“Oh? You may have fractured something.” She grabs his hand and rotates his wrist.
“FugAH!” his legs dart up from the pain. “Jeez, woman!”
“Found it! It’s only sprained.” She placed a brace around his wrist and set it back down at his side. “You’ve been drinking. Heavily.” Besides Aston’s exasperated breaths, silence had stricken them both. He knows that his habits have gotten worse, and for that, he has no reason, or at least he doesn’t believe he has one.
“I get carried away, so what?”
“No, this is not the same.” She dresses a final wound before dusting off her hands and giving a nod to her handy work. She inhales, puffing her lungs out and bending back, releasing the air as she slowly bends forward. “I am more than a doctor, you know? You can call me whenever you feel blue and I’ll take care of you.”
“Heh! I don’t think that’s necessary.”
“Well then allow me to ask you…” she folds her coat underneath her and sits closely at Aston’s side, pushing his head towards her and onto her shoulder. She strokes his hair, petting the lost, rabid dog. “How are you doing?”
A question that he had only ever asked himself. How are you doing? To be honest, he wasn’t sure how he felt, but if he could describe it, it would be empty. He has no real purpose, no sense of moral direction. He couldn’t ask someone to guide him because that would show something that he is deathly feared to show others: weakness. He dismissed the thought, giving her an answer that would be questionable even to his own ears.
“Hm? Are you sure? You could stay like this for a little longer if you wanted.”
“Thanks for the proposition,” he leaned away from her grasp and stood up, “but I think it’s time for me to wipe myself down and go to bed.”
“I can help you with that!” an invisible tail wagged behind her, ready for a response.
“No thanks. I got it.” She let out a crestfallen moan.
“What about dinner? I could make you something!”
“I’ll just eat the leftovers I made.” This was twice in a row that she had been shot down, and yet she was not ready to let up.
“At least let me stay the night!”
“Hell no.” Now, accepting defeat was her only option. Sulking, she packed her equipment and would have to try and repress her wants for a while longer. She perked up her glasses and grabbed her keys from the bar next to the door.
“Well Aston, I guess this will be my farewell.”
“Hm?” Her head peaked out from behind the door frame. Maybe, just maybe, he had a change of heart?
It took her aback. She’s used to him giving a word of praise and gratitude, but it seemed different this time. “You’re welcome! As for payment, do not touch alcohol for the rest of the night!”
“Huh? Are you the devil?”
“How rude!” she smiled at Aston. “Farewell.”
“See ya.” She gently shut it, leaving Aston again with yet another pit feeling. He went over to his window which overlooked most of the city. Vivid colors of blues, yellows and whites, and a tinge of orange mixed into a finely painted canvas. For such a pretty gold box with a ribbon on top, it had such an ugly secret within. He watched as the cars followed the roads, pumping life throughout the heart of Titan, the city.
-Perhaps she could’ve stayed?
For a moment, he might have felt a different emotion—something was speaking to him.
“A-s...ton,” it whispered in the back of his mind, prompting him to turn around, but nothing was to be discovered. This has happened a few times back then, but what was calling out to him? He always accepts it as another side effect of the late hours.
-Maybe I should just sleep.
It was now 3:56 AM, at this point, he was exhausted. He had to send in his report for the job he failed, but it wouldn’t hurt if he sent it in the morning, would it? His eyes had weights on them, setting out to send him to the world of slumber. He complied, and so kicked off his boots and slammed back down on the couch.
“If there’s a god, then bring me a sign of change,” he said as he started to drift away.
-Ha! The hell am I saying?
He sighed, giving in to his fatigue.