Joining the Underground

Chapter 1

First Impressions

Haven City was supposed to be a paradise. At one point it might've been. Maybe someday it would be one again, but right now it's a prison in all but name. The fortunate don't realize how close the city is to extinction. They live where food and water are clean if not plentiful. The unfortunate who live in the slums are still at least blissfully ignorant of the city's virtually inevitable demise, either that or they're just too miserable to care.

I'm different. Living in the slums I learned quickly Baron Praxis was a liar, and when my fifteenth birthday finally arrived in all its dismal glory I formally joined the underground. Not being much of a fighter I was to be given lessons in self defense before actually being allowed to do anything of interest. Two years I've been waiting for those lessons. Samos, The Shadow, was a friend of my late parents and he brought me up for nearly thirteen years. By joining the underground I wanted, no I hoped, in some small way I could repay him for all the endless trouble I'd caused as a rambunctious and infinitely curious child.

That's why I'm currently standing in a dead end alley in the slums. My tutor's name is Torn. An ex-member of the Krimzon Guard. I don't trust him one bit and neither does anyone else in the underground. I was going to be his trial. We would be living together for as long as it took to get me combat ready or until Torn had proven himself to Samos and I got shunted off to someone else for further training. I'd been given instructions not to let Torn realize I was connected to the underground. As far as he was to know, I was just an innocent girl with a worried guardian willing to pay a little to get me some lessons in defending myself. Ha! Shows what he knows.

My knuckles rap gently against the door. "Scram!" The voice inside is a coarse low tenor. Unperturbed and curious to see the face that went with this particular voice I knock again. This time the door swings inward and I am met by a glowering visage that makes my knees weak. No one told me Torn was my age! I thought he was some old fart sick of working in the guard and ready to retire by revealing the last few members of the rebellion to Praxis.

"I said beat it!" For a moment I stand there dumbstruck. His features are sharply defined and his muscles well developed. The tattoos (or was it just one large tattoo) of probably precursor design covers about half of his face, the ends of each of his ears, and reaches down to cover his chest in its intricate pattern. A tiny sparkle gleams from the tip of one ear. "Who are you?" He asks the question slowly, his words dripping with suspicion.

C'mon, snap out of it! What was I supposed to say? "Are you Torn?"

"Who's asking?" He stands in the doorway keeping me outside.

"My grandpa says the slums aren't safe anymore. What do you think?" I try to meet his glare head on.

"They're safe enough…if you can protect yourself. Can you?" My eyes keep blinking and I swallow nervously.

"No. Can you?" He's to much. My gaze drifts to the ground.

"Yes." He steps inside leaving the door open for me. "Hurry up."

I enter quickly closing the door behind me. The room is sparse with barely anything inside. A tattered piece of fabric is stretched between two walls to form a hammock. There is one other door in the room, and a sink with running water. Various weights sit in one corner and a bar set between two walls for chin-ups or maybe laundry.

"I was expecting someone younger…" His voice gives nothing away except irritation.

"Yeah? Well I was expecting someone older, so I guess we're even." It's snide I know, but he nearly shut one of my ears in the door.

"Here." I catch the bundle in mid flight. "Put it on."

A/N: Well, I've got more chapters to post. Next time, a change of clothes and a haircut...or maybe not.