Chapter Two

Section Four was once a part of Koda City. It was a district of the city which homed the poor and repressed and of which had a reputation for high crime and disobedience. Eventually the conditions there became so bad that the lower class who lived there lead a revolt against the City in order to become citizens with equality. The governor at the time, a man named Lesius, along with the city representatives had long since made profit from their oppression. However, with the uprising he sectioned off the district from the city and the war began. It lasted fifteen years. Five years ago, it finally ended and Section Four became ‘the forgotten fourth’ it is today. A desolate wasteland without any connection to Koda City what so ever. The water, food and little protection that the City had once provided ceased during the war leaving the citizens to fend for themselves. They formed clans to survive and marked territories within the section, all along looking on at the city that abandoned them. Of course, countless died and countless more continue to. Many children were left without family, the fortunate ones were wiped out along with family. Alongside the mutations, Section Four is as desperate as it will ever be.
As we emerged from the main tunnel exit, the yellow glow of Artificial Sun shone about us, giving everything a dinged yellowy tint. The exit is comfortably hidden within the rubble of an old collapsed building. You have to climb over a few cement columns and broken scaffolding before you reach open space. Little Dig usually rides upon Leo’s back during the climb from out of the Pipeworks depending on how he is feeling. We take turns passing up supplies and hauling one another up. Casey today, begrudgingly taking my hand and saying nothing as I pull her up over the steeper climb. We usually stick as close as we can to the empty ruins of buildings when we walk. Single file, Yamota always at the back and Leo up front. The trek to The Reck’s territory is about forty minutes though often something would catch our eye and two or more of us would cautiously investigate. Scavenging was the main form of surviving because scavenging meant trade and trade is everything. Other options are stealing and murder.

We arrived at The Reck’s entrance in good time, Yamota began leading us to the main gates as per usual to instigate. The Recks had built their compound from scratch using anything they could find. Barricades, metal sheeting and sometimes broken cement used as brickwork to form the wall around the place. It was located on what used to be the main route into the city so the land was flat with a view of the surrounding buildings as well as the shining city itself. The gate guard keeper looked smug, sitting atop a chair that was perched atop a table. He held a gun and he held it with egotism that made him feel invincible. His responsibility clearly showing his prominence within the clan, weapons that aren’t homemade knives or clubs were extremely hard to come by in Section Four. The Recks are slimy and disloyal but their ‘contacts’ within Koda City makes them the main traders in the area. As Yamota approached, the guard immediately stood and held his gun in the air with his right arm. “Hold it!” The Reck climbed from off of his pedestal and came forward, being careful to stop at distance that he could easily fire from. “Clan?”
“The Rats.”
“Trade.” Yamota held up the rucksack he was carrying in the air with his right hand, before throwing it low to the ground, landing at the feet of the guard. The guard in turn pushed it open with his foot and then nodded, kicking it back at Yamota. “Come.” We all did as the guard commanded. “Sully, open the gate!” Soon after, the metal barricade lifted allowing us into the camp.
The inside of the The Reck’s compound was large enough to hold numerous tents and enclosures. The place was fairly busy, there were other clans there also who no doubt came to trade. The whole clan had a sort of punk-vibe which personally I thought was rather excessive. It gave them characteristic I suppose, and it did fit them well. There were piles of metal and parts as well as boxes and crates littered all about the compound. Little Dig pulled at Leo’s sleeve and pointed excitedly to a fully completed hovering automobile which a Reck was astride and revving in order to impress some girls from a different clan. Dust frantically pulled up from below it and formed a heated cloud around the area. It was probably the only working hover vehicle in at least twenty miles. It was a shame the thing wasn’t being put to better use. We had managed to grab the attention of a Reck when we had Dexter spot us from a distance.

“Well, well! If it ain’t Yamota, the pied-piper himself with his little rats. What a pleasure!” Dexter: leader of The Recks and five foot six inches of pure irritation. He began making his way towards us, his arms spread in a playful manner. As he reaches Yamota he places a hand on his shoulder and squeezes as if they had been comrades since childhood. “How are ya’ buddy? In need of a haircut still I see.” Dexter has a way of making me feel ill to my very core. Calling him a treacherous sleaze would do him justice. His short frame only makes his maddening personality even more so as he struts about like some punk lord. “Ellet! Sweetie, you’re getting more beautiful by the day. Tell me you’ve changed your mind and have finally decided to come be my babe.” Dexter starts to advance towards me and I try hard not to make heaving gestures.
“Dex, speaking of haircuts that Mohawk really doesn’t make you look any taller” I reply. I hear Little Dig chuckling under his jacket and a sly smirk fills my face.
“Don’t be like that. You know I love a girl with an attitude and now you’re just teasing. Be careful, or I’ll have to smack that bitch right out of you.” Dexter grins at me and winks; I express a small sound of disgust. “So what do I owe the pleasure?”
Before The Rats were formed, Yamota, Ruben and I were together. We had a few incidents with Dexter who wanted us to join his ‘little band’ at the time. Their way of doing things were not justified in our eyes, so we eventually declined. Believe it or not, my brother, Ruben once saved his life from a Mutation. I very often wish he hadn’t. We only ever come to The Recks in times of desperation, when we need certain items trading that we can’t acquire anywhere else. After a long stretch of pointless banter and much of Dexter’s boasting, we finally managed to get on to the subject we were here for and were lead to an open table towards the centre of the compound.
“Trade,” said Yamota as he placed the bag on the table. “Wheat bars for water.” Dexter peered into the rucksack filled with wheat bars and grinned in amusement.
“You guys have seriously been living off of wheat bars? Wow, times are tough, huh?”
“I’ll give you four bottles for that little lot there.”
Yamota cursed under his breath. “You have to be kidding me. This is at least a fortnight’s worth of food.”
“Hey, and that’s because you’re a pal. Listen, water is hard to come by now. If ya think I’m drivin’ ya hard then try building your own purifier.”
“Four bottles and canned meat.” There was a pause between the two. Finally Dexter nodded and motioned for one of his goons to remove our goods and bring the agreed trade. “I’m startin’ to think Ruben did the right thing in ditching you guys”, started Dexter. I felt my blood begin to boil and my face turn red. “If you’re having to trade blasted wheat bars, y’ know.” He chuckled to himself. The damned parasite has always loved to see us fail after turning down his offer to join him. ‘I wouldn’t join you on my last dyeing breath’, I thought to myself. I am guessing that Yamota, whilst standing next to me, felt the heat radiate from me and decided to change the subject. “Actually, something we wanted to ask”, he began. At this point our goods were brought to us and Leo checked it over. “What’s that then?”
“Jess and the children, we understand Laura is in some trouble with you lot?”
“Oh! You guys haven’t heard? The girl and the kids are dead. Burnt to a crisp I hear.” As he spoke, Dexter covered his mouth, exaggerating his gasp and made emphasise on the ‘P’ at the end of ‘crisp’. His posture only confirmed that he was rubbing in our loss, he was aware of the friendship between us. My guess was that he wanted to get Leo worked up and start some drama within his territory. As it was, Leo had momentarily paused from checking the trade and I noticed his knuckles were turning white. Leo on his own could take Dexter in a single blow. He is a well-built boy at the age of fifteen with definition in his arms and chest. Though the moment he does, we all land ourselves in trouble beyond compare. “Who did it?” asked Yamota with a no-nonsense tone.
“You think we did it? No, no. That Laura chick owed us goods, sure. But c’mon, would I sink that low?” ‘Yes’ I immediately thought. “Nah, besides I’ll let you in on a little secret. I got a contact in Koda that says that pretty red-head Jess had a mother livin’ in the city.” We all exchanged glances. “You bet. Not only livin’ but she had a pretty good position in among them nasty representative types at the top. Did your girlfriend tell you that one?” Dexter aimed the question at Leo with a wicked grin, who smartly dismissed the taunt.
“Are you sure about this? Why would Jess be in Fourth if that was the case?” asked Yamota. Dexter excitedly clapped his hands together. “Well here’s the interesting part! Mummy was naughty and decided to screw an undercover rebel durin’ the war, resulting in pretty red-head. Of course, mother was unaware that father was one of us at the time, but when the city found out they executed mum and had little red thrown in with us lot where she no doubt belonged.”
“And how is it you know all of this?”
Dexter tapped the side of his nose, “contacts.”
“I don’t believe you” interrupted Leo. Dexter let out a sigh before continuing;
“Alright, red had a half-brother. From the same dad, who wanted to join me a few weeks back. He was an alright kid, bit of a kiss-arse but alright. Told me his life story which was incredibly boring but somehow he probably thought I cared. Anyway one day he went out to take a dump or something and didn’t come back.” Dexter finishes with a shrug. When we kept silent, he called over to a Reck who was walking past us and gestured him to come close. “Jon, tell these guys. What was the name of that kid? The one with the chin.”
“The chin? Oh, the ginger? With the stupid dimple in his chin?”
“Yeah! What was it again?”
“Tim, wasn’t it? Tommy… sure it was Tommy.”
“Tommy. Maybe it was Timmy. Tee something.”
“It was Tommy. The one who’s mum banged that rebel?”
Dexter smiled and raised both his hands as if to say ‘I told you so’, and sent Jon on his way. It was odd how Jess never thought to mention this to us. Then again, she never mentioned anything about her past. Only that she started taking in children without homes about three years ago. I guess we all assumed that her past was the same as all of ours; lost children of the war. Had she known about her half-brother?
“Why did Laura owe you goods?” I asked.
“What is this? We came to trade not play twenty questions, so if we’re done-“
“We aren’t done. Just answer the question”, interrupted Yamota who had that look in his eye. It was the same look he used when he was on his last nerve. I could tell he was tired, run down and disappointed at the fact we hadn’t yet discovered the killer. It meant less sleep for him knowing that the danger was still out there and we didn’t know why. Not to mention, Leo would be aching for revenge or at least answers to the death of someone he held so dear.
“I don’t think you have the right to tell me what to do here, Yamota.” Dexter’s tone became suddenly serious. His hands were on the table as he was leant in close. His instant change in position and the tension in the air now sent a wave over the encampment that made everyone still and quiet in anticipation. I noticed several Recks touch their makeshift weapons either by instinct or as a warning. Kyle began to shuffle lightly and change footing, and Casey swallowed hard. The Recks had the advantage of number four to one and we carried no weapons bar a spare spanner which was useful when scavenging.
“Just answer the damn question.” Yamota was not backing down and I instantly wondered if it was a good idea to play the stubborn male just now. Leo straightened his posture and breathed in slowly, I could tell he thought he was ready for a fight. I knew that he wasn’t though. He wasn’t in the right frame of mind, still angry and still hurt.
“Ask me to answer the question one more time.”
“Answer the question or I swear by the dark itself, you will regret it.” That was it. There was a silence in the air for a short moment that made the breeze seem like it was screaming, before a loud thud. 

Yamota had taken a head-butt to the face and was stumbling backwards. I barely had time to blink before he had bound forward again, throwing himself over the table and planting his fist into the side of Dexter’s face. Had the situation been different, I would have laughed and cheered in delight but at this moment we were all in deep trouble. I instantly turned and took hold of Dig, throwing him under the table. I lifted my head to find Recks advancing on us like wolves, weapons in hand. Leo had changed stance and was already springing towards an oncoming Reck. Casey had made her way behind Kyle who in all honesty was not the best form of protection. He was wide-eyed and frantic, no doubt working out the best way to escape. I stood and, grabbing Casey by her backpack, pulled out that spare spanner. I didn’t reckon I would do much damage but I wasn’t going down without a fight. We were surrounded, Dexter’s goons had already amassed on top of Yamota and for a moment I knew that this was going to hurt. A lot. 

It was at that moment that it happened. There was a thundering crack all around us, the sound of which caused us all to stop instantly Rats and Recks alike. The sheer volume and intensity of the noise made my heart jump and my chest feel heavy. It echoed around the surrounding buildings with ferocity and I didn’t doubt that it had reached The Pipeworks. After enemy exchanged terrified glance with enemy, we all looked to the sky. The layer of Artificial Sun above the whole of the Forgotten Fourth began crackling as if giant snakes were let loose above it and were sliding over the top of the globe starting central and weaving its way out. It was an electrical current that sent waves of shadow sliding in and out of the derelict structures around us. At this, some began to rise to their feet without releasing their eyes from the spectacle. There was another sharp crack, then silence, then darkness. Immediately there were screams of terror. I felt Little Dig clench onto my leg with a strength I never knew he had. In those few seconds it was as if my complete sight had been taken from me and I saw a shade darker than any black I had ever seen. It surrounded us like a blanket and suffocated us in its embrace. My mind could not react fast enough to the sudden loss of sight and I became numb. 
Suddenly the layer above us returned, and with it my sight. It was then that I realised I had stopped breathing during the blackout. My heart was pounding to a rhythm faster than what I thought it was even capable of. Panic struck us all and the drama only a few seconds earlier was forgotten. The Artificial Sun was as it was, as it always had been, surrounding us innocently as if nothing had happened. Yamota got to his feet as did everyone else still remaining sat. The screams had turned into a nervous bustle. Clans were taking their goods and leaving hurriedly. Others were checking on friends and expressing emotions of fear we all understood. Dexter was wiping his bloodied face and exchanging glances. He flickered to Yamota and the rest of us, then began to rally his Recks together making the decision that our recent spat was nothing short of miniscule in comparison to what had just happened. “Evacuate our site, now! Everyone, piss off home! Recks, report to me when you’re done!” he screamed, leaving us to let ourselves out.

Yamota was with us in prompt time and making sure none of us were seriously hurt. Little Dig was still at my feet crying so I picked him up and pulled him close. Casey and Kyle were starting to take our goods and trade and placing them over their backs whilst Leo was spitting blood onto the floor and joining the rest of us. We didn’t hang around. We left the compound and trekked home double time without stopping to scavenge. In our minds we were all unsure of the stability of the Artificial Sun, terrified that at any point it would leave us again in that hellish darkness.

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