Sunday, June 30, 2013

Justice Battle

Hello, everyone! I apologize for the fact that I haven't put up any reviews; I've been having some trouble with figuring out how to say what I want to say in them. In the meantime, here's my latest short story.

Justice Battle

            In the hundred and thirty-first year of the Byzarian Empire’s reign over all Terevia, Emperor Virgilus Oroacer introduced a new way to show just how much power he had over those he ruled and just how undefeatable his warriors were. The Justice Battles pitted those criminals who had been sentenced to death against the finest warriors in the elite Emperor’s Legion of the Byzarian army in brutal, bloody duels with only one possible outcome. Lesser criminals also had their chance to fight in less fatal battles, and should they acquit themselves well, they would be offered a pardon and a place in the army in return for swearing absolute allegiance to the emperor. The Justice Battles quickly gained popularity with the general public, who viewed them as excellent entertainment. As time went on, the Justice Battles became less and less just and more and more brutal. The rules against killing in the lesser battles were forgotten, as was the custom of pardoning those minor criminals who fought skillfully. A new class of soldiers, the Vengeance Legion was established simply for the purpose of fighting in the Justice Battles, and before long, these glorified executioners began to receive more fame than the soldiers who protected Byzaria. By the time Gratius Thales succeeded Virgilus as emperor, the Justice Battles had become the bloodiest and most popular form of entertainment in the Byzarian empire, though those who thought far into them would likely wonder how just they truly were. Any criminal and any person judged to be a rebel to the empire could and most likely would end up facing the swords of the Vengeance Legion. Some brave citizens, especially those who followed the One God rather than Byzaria’s six deities, saw the perversion and lifted their voices to speak against it. These people were all too often branded as rebels and killed in the very events they decried. And so the bloodshed continued until one fateful summer day.
            “Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!” The cries of a thousand dusty throats rolled through the arena and echoed off the walls. Justus, one of the many Justice Legionnaires, stood in the center of it all, his sword held ready to kill his latest conquest. He held up a hand, silencing the crowd’s cries, and looked down at the man lying at his feet. He’d fought many men in his career: men so terrified they could hardly hold their blades, men who raved and cursed and fought like berserkers, and men of nearly every attitude in between. Never, however, had he faced one who acted as calmly as this foe. The man had defended himself surprisingly well, but he’d never attacked. He’d just blocked, blocked, blocked until Justus sent the man’s sword spinning from his hands, kicked his legs out from under him, and planted a foot on his chest to hold him down. Even then, however, he hadn’t lost his composure. He stared back at Justus calmly, without any last, begging pleas for mercy or curses upon Justus, Emperor Gratius, or anyone else. He didn’t even struggle or put up a futile fight to try to get back up and regain his weapon.
            Justus gripped his sword hilt tighter but didn’t bring it down. In a voice too low for those in the stands to hear, he asked, “What’s your name, man?”
            The man’s eyes widened slightly in surprise, but he answered in an equally low voice, “Hykinos.”
            “Hmm.” Justus had never heard of this man among the criminals or the major rebels, though he seemed vaguely familiar somehow. “And what’s your crime, Hykinos?”
            “Speaking truth,” the man replied, evenly. “Declaiming how perverted our culture has become and declaring the redemption of the One God.”
            “Ah.” A rebel, then, though the calmest rebel I’ve ever faced. Not that Justus had faced many rebels; other Justice Legionnaires were usually chosen to fight them. “How many men have you injured in your so-called truth-speaking, Hykinos? How many officials’ homes have you attempted to destroy to make your point?”
            “None,” Hykinos replied. “I follow the One God, and His way does not involve violent protests. He commands me to speak truth and do good to others, and so that is what I do my best to do.”
            Now Justus knew where he’d seen this man. He was one of the men who went about collecting food and clothes for the city beggars and offering to pray for people. Justus recalled one time in particular when he’d noticed Hykinos give his own cloak to a ragged beggar shivering on a street corner. He wondered, as he had then, what would prompt the man to do such a thing, and if it was that same influence that allowed the man to face death so calmly. Was it the One God they claimed to follow? Or was it something else? Either way, did this man really deserve death?
            “Justus!” Emperor Gratius’s voice rang out from his private box, cutting short Justus’s thoughts. “Get on with it! Kill him!”
            Justus nodded. “Yes, Emperor.” He raised his sword higher, ready to bring it crashing down on Hykinos’s neck. However, he couldn’t quite bring himself to do it. Killing a murderer, a violent rebel, or another who endangered others was one thing. They deserved death. But this man did good. Justus had seen it himself.
            The crowd’s chant of “kill him!” began anew. Justus looked up and surveyed the crowd. What if he’s onto something? What’s good or just about killing a man who hurts nobody, who helps those who cannot possibly have done anything for him, whose only crime is speaking his mind? Are we really as great as we think we are when we view the death of one who does not deserve it as nothing more than entertainment?
            “Justus!” the emperor called out once more. “I said get on with it!”
            Justus took a deep breath. He knew what he had to do now. He shifted his grip on his sword so he’d be using the point rather than the edge. Then he drove the sword down-
            Into the sand by the man’s neck. Silence fell like a boulder over the arena. Justus looked up at the crowd. “No.” His eyes traveled to the emperor. “No. I will not kill this man. He has done nothing to deserve death.”
            Emperor Gratius rose to his feet. “He has defied his emperor and the ways of our empire. I have judged him and ordered him dead. That should be enough for you, Justus. So kill him!”
            “I said no.” Justus’s heart pounded, but he would not back down. “I cannot and will not kill this man.”
            “Then your own life is forfeit.” The emperor at him. “Guards! Seize and kill them both!”
            Justus didn’t wait to see if the guards were obeying. Sheathing his sword, he bent and pulled Hykinos to his feet. “Come on. “ He started running towards one of the archways leading out of the arena and heard the other man following. “We’ll have to move fast if we want to make it out of here.”
            “Indeed.” Hykinos drew level with Justus. “I’m glad you made the right choice, Justus.”
            Justus didn’t stop running or even glance at the man, but a slight smile crept over his face. “So am I.”

Friday, June 28, 2013

The First Mission, part three

We last left Mikayla trapped in a room with a mystery man. Who is he? Will she be able to escape? What about the information she came to retrieve? Will her mission succeed? You'll find out today in the conclusion of "The First Mission"! Miss the first two parts? Click here for part one and here for part two!
The man straightened up. “So, Mikayla. You came back after all. Your mother said you wouldn’t, but I knew better.”

Mikayla scanned the room. Yes, there! There was the row of indentations that marked the ScanChip access ports. All she had to do was find a way to hold her ScanChip over one until it had the information they needed. As subtly as she could, she began working the ScanChip out of her pocket. “I didn’t come back because I wanted to see you.”

Her father took a step towards her. “Perhaps not, but you are here, and here you will remain.”

“I won’t.” Mikayla edged away from her father and towards the ports. “I have another home now. A better home.”

“With the Silver Bullets, I take it?” He shook his head disgustedly. “I am your father, Mikayla. You belong here with your brother and me.”

Mikayla took another step towards the ports. She was nearly to the closet one now. “What about Mother?”
Her father hesitated, a look of what seemed to be genuine sorrow crossing his face. “Your mother died shortly after she was brought back here. I tried to save her, Mikayla, but I couldn’t. There was nothing I could do.”

Mikayla struggled to fight back tears. “Oh.” She’d guessed as much, but even so, knowing that her mother was gone felt as if someone had struck her heart with a whip. She forced herself to keep moving towards the ports. “Even if she were here, though, I wouldn’t stay.” She navigated the ScanChip into the indentation and felt it click. How long will it take? How long will I have?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The First Mission, part two

We last left Mikayla going to join her team for her first-ever mission. How will the mission go? Will she and her team be caught by the Brotherhood? We'll find out (at least partially) today! Miss part one? Check it out here!
The rest of the team was already assembled at the exit when she reached it. The two men nodded to her as she approached, and the woman smiled at her. Mikayla nodded back, and they set off. A Shadowcopter carried them most of the way, its invisibility shields running the whole time, and they traveled the last mile on foot. Evening was beginning to fall by the time they reached the Brotherhood headquarters, for which Mikayla was glad. Even though security was higher at night, the lengthening shadows would make it much harder for her team to be spotted as they approached the building.

They circled around to the east side of the building, where the shadows were deepest, and crept towards the door. Two guards stood outside, and Mikayla knew that security cameras were watching the area. “VAAJams on,” Blade whispered. Everyone obeyed. He pointed to the building. “Raven, get going.”

The female Shadow Agent nodded, her face now serious. She slid off into the shadows and Mikayla lost track of her. Only five minutes later, first one guard, then the other slumped to the ground. Raven appeared by the door and beckoned.

In single file, the rest of the team crept up to join her. Raven already had a guard’s hand pressed to the lockscreen by the door, which slid silently open. Blade slipped inside first. Hawk entered after him, then came Mikayla, and finally Raven. The doors slid shut behind them and locked with a click. Mikayla forced herself not to shudder. We got in. Surely it’ll be easier to get back out, unless we’re discovered.

Blade set off down the brightly-lit halls. The others followed close behind, moving silently and swiftly. On this uppermost level, the halls were mostly deserted, and they were able to traverse all the way to the emergency stairs without seeing another soul.

Blade pushed the door open and beckoned for the others to enter. They did so, and he followed, releasing the door. Once it had swung shut, he whispered, “No more cameras until we get to the second underground level. Correct, Night?”

Mikayla jumped and then nodded. “Yes. The first underground level is just sleeping quarters for the ordinary people. Brotherhood leaders and their families are housed on the second underground level.” She suspected the others had already heard that information, but saying it out loud reassured her. Unless someone was taking the emergency steps, they’d have nothing to worry about for two levels.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The First Mission, part one

Hey'a, everyone! It seems I've been neglecting my blog of late, and for that, I apologize. I think that posts will be a bit more frequent this week and in the coming weeks, especially since the creative writing class I'm taking requires that I write at least one new story every week! I'll be posting the first of these stories today through Friday, and I also hope to post some book reviews sometime in the near future as well. These book reviews will be a slightly different format than the reviews I used to do on this blog, and there will also be more of them per post. I have no idea how long I'll keep doing these reviews, but I'd like to be able to release a book review post every few weeks this summer.

In the meantime, however, enjoy part one of "The First Mission", one of my latest short stories!

The First Mission

When Mikayla Alave received her first official mission, she was in the middle of hand-to-hand combat training, trying very hard to not wallop her opponent and getting rather walloped herself for her efforts. She didn’t have anything against the young man; in fact, she thought he seemed like a rather decent fellow. But lately, every one of her punches seemed to move faster and contain more force than it ought.

She sensed, rather than saw, her opponent’s punch headed for her gut. She dodged and instinctively started to try to kick his legs out from under him, but stopped herself just before her foot could hit. Slower. Slower. Go easy.

Her opponent’s fist hit her nose squarely. Off-balance from stopping her kick, she fell back and hit the ground. She shut her eyes and bit back a groan. Beaten again. What’s wrong with me?

“Cat! Night! Enough!” Her trainer’s sharp voice broke through Mikayla’s thoughts. A hand closed on her shoulder and jerked her to her feet. “What’s the rule when you’re beaten but aren’t seriously injured, Night?”
Mikayla forced her eyes open and looked her trainer in the eye, as she’d been taught. “Get back up again immediately, ma’am.”

Her trainer nodded. “And why is that the rule, Night?”

“Because if you don’t get up immediately, you’re likely to get killed,” Mikayla mumbled. She wished her trainer would let her be just this once. Couldn’t she understand that sometimes, even if you weren’t seriously injured, you didn’t quite feel like you could get up again?

“Correct, Night.” The trainer crossed her arms, switching her steel-grey gaze from Mikayla to her opponent. “Cat. You did well. Take a breather and I’ll be with you in a moment so we can talk about how you can do better.”

The young man nodded and sprinted off towards the benches lining the training room. Mikayla watched him go, fighting a sense of envy. She knew what was coming.