Chapter I

Steel Breeze

Liberty City was painted with light and darkness. The tall, steel structures of the business district leaned overhead, casting their fa├žade onto the busy streets below while the suburbs baked in the sun. Their only respites were the stubby trees spread judiciously throughout the urban living spaces and a thick breeze that careened from the hills and ridges northward. Summertime haze rose from the dark, glimmering cement and the afternoon drudged along in the lazy heat.

Suddenly, with a click and high, metal wail, a screen door broke the silence. A pink hat and pair of floppy, blond ears emerged from the abode. This boy, a teenage spaniel, traversed from the quaint front steps to the sidewalk with a ripped piece of notebook paper in hand. As he walked along the road, the streets were completely bare, at least in this neighborhood.

"Hmm, it must be a Sunday", the Mobian dog thought.

Without school, it was hard to keep up with which day was which, especially since most days were far too hot for plans. Today was different though. A high pressure-system made a walk to the city far more bearable.

The spaniel had made it to the first block outside of his street. It was there that the crackling, thin road crossed the smooth, well-manicured boulevard leading into the main section of Liberty City. He stood at the crosswalk for a moment, waiting for a handful of cars to speed along and clear a path.

In the distance, the whirring of a police siren resonated until and echoed from Liberty. The city itself wasn't exactly the kindest or safest, so the pink-garbed spaniel shrugged it off. But the ear-piercing alarm grew louder and louder. It was almost as if a herd of cops were racing down main street.

"They'd better not be chasing them down here."

The pink-garbed canine sighed, dreading the thought of having to deal with the secondhand results of criminal activity.

His mental disdain was ripped away though, as just before the spaniel took his first step on the pavement, a wave of jet-black coupes blasted down Main Street. He recoiled back in shock, but before the dog could even think, they had already flown out of sight. The boy took off his oversized hat and fanned the smoky, charcoal-reeking air.

He peered down the avenue in wonder, "Well."

His aggravation at the careless, death-wishing drivers left him speechless. In fact, the whole block was quiet now. Even the sirens had faded away.

After a moment, the rattled Mobian shrugged off the near death-experience and took another step, only to be greeted by a bright-green blast of light and pain. With a loud grunt, the dog twisted and rocketed back. His lower body fell onto a stranger's yard, but the rest of him collapsed on solid sidewalk. It was all a blur, but after a moment his chest and left arm throbbing in a dull ache.

As he staggered and tried to regain his footing, another set of silent, black cars drove down the street slowing for a bit. While the windows were tinted, the spaniel could tell that the passengers were eyeing him, but after an awkward moment, the cars sped off the same. Then, a familiar voice called out to him.

"Oh, Vihn! Oh man, is everything ok?"

Even with the acute ringing and blurry, concussed vision, Vihn could recognize that purple figure and accent anywhere. It was a classmate of his, Amasis Khnum wearing what looked like a Middle-Eastern shawl and glyph-like jewelry, or maybe his head was messing with him.

"Erg, I think I'm fine. Everything just; what are-"

The purple acquaintance cut him off there.

"I can't even understand you. Come on, I must get you some help."

Before he could think, Vihn was suddenly being dragged by the arm into a nearby car. His vision cleared a bit more and realized that the jackal was frantically speeding to Liberty. The rattled spaniel didn't have time to think whether the jackal had a license or not.

It took a few minutes to traverse through the daily traffic, but the vehicle finally parked. With the click of the car doors, the spaniel was dragged in the doors of a compact medical clinic. Within seconds, neuropraxia set in once more, and Vihn collapsed on the plush carpet. The entire waiting room was aghast and staff rushed to the duo's side as Amasis struggled to help up his schoolmate. The nurses and crew hoisted the unconscious dog onto a pad and wheeled him down the long corridor of examination rooms. Amasis ran along as well, being the only witness to Vihn's fall.

At the end of the corridor, however, one of the staffers, a tall elephant with neatly manicured tusks turned around, halting the jackal in his tracks. As he pressed the button, he muttered:

"The emergency hall is reserved for patients and staff only. Wait here. We'll bring him out once he's revived."

"But, I saw what happened, I can,"

The elephant cut the jackal-boy off

"It's a liability. Sorry."

The Large, brass doors parted and the nurses pushed the unconscious spaniel in. the doors parted once more as the group descended. Amasis sighed, a bit disheartened and worried about the fate of his friend. He looked up and started to turn back around, and as his shoulder turned, he saw that same elephant holding a phone and typing on it. It was not a modern, corporate issue phone either, just some cheap flip phone.

Amasis furled his brow, but walked back to the waiting room. As he stepped away, he turned to look at that elevator door. With apprehension and one final gaze, he closed the door and placed himself on a nearby couch. The lack of clarity was almost saddening.