Hello everyone! Or maybe I'm talking to you for the first time, since this is my first story I've ever put in this section. If you're fans of "The Servant" over in FF X-Overs, you're probably coming over to see what my hiatus is putting out. Here's the answer. A novelization of the first Guilty Gear game.
Some of you might be groaning at the thought. A lot of novelizations make me do the same thing, although I've done my share of them. To tell the truth, I wanted to do a fanfiction set later in the series, but I've got this thing about doing fanfictions covering events that have only happened in my own private mental fanfic universe, so rather than confuse people I start at the beginning. I have wanted to do a fanfiction of this for some time. I thought that if it was done right the characters would be interesting enough to make a good story. I hope you still like it and give it a whirl. At least, give the first ten chapters a whirl. I hope to keep it interesting.
For starters, I wanted to lead into the story by doing ten chapters, one for each of the fighters available at the beginning of the game. In doing so, each story will gradually uncover more of the background story and the plot. So if you know nothing about Guilty Gear, hang on until the full first ten chapters are over. On the other hand, if you do know something about Guilty Gear, you may notice a few things that seem blatantly wrong. That's because I'm telling the story as if the reader has never heard it before, and hence doesn't know the whole story right off the bat. I enjoyed writing these first ten chapters, because forcing myself to devote ten pages to each character really helped me get inside their skin and crawl around a bit. This helped me to get to like them and not just write them as some brainless, drooling fighter to be dealt with.
The neighborhood could hardly be called that anymore. It hadn't been a neighborhood for nearly a hundred years. It was only because some computer log somehow managed to survive endless bouts of destruction within the IPF's database that it was still considered one. In truth, it was no man's land. Yet then again…70 percent of Earth was no man's land at this point. The fact that it had a record still recognizing it as a city block made up of Madison, Maple, Ash, and Buchanan gave it some points for recognition.
However, what defined a neighborhood no longer applied here. Neighborhoods had lawns and grass. The bare rocky ground had been blasted by bombs and magical power a thousand times over until it was completely irradiated. Even now, special radioactive counters would tell you that none of the lawns were safe to sunbathe on. Of course…you couldn't really hope to sunbathe anyway. Overhead, the sky was black and overcast with clouds. It was the residue of a special magical bomb that the enemy had tried to use in the last war. The after effects of these weapons were still hanging over a good 40 percent of all farmland on the planet. Magically charged warheads had been made to blast out a spell of darkness and gloom in the sky on detonation. The result was eternal darkness…or at least a few thousand years of it. None of the clouds had broken since they had first been fired nearly forty years ago. United Nations scientists had been working on the one over the Great Plains area of North America for ten years, and still couldn't get so much as a ray of light to touch the ground for more than two seconds. So hence, this neighborhood was low on the list of priorities of restoring.
Neighborhoods also had children playing and people having barbecues. The last barbecue had been last night, when a gang of scarred, sick, mutated-looking individuals brought down one of the giant rats that plagued the ancient sewer system (at the cost of two of their lives) and roasted it. About the only safe way to eat one of those things was to turn it to charcoal, but they didn't care. So it was small wonder how one of them now lay dead on the ground from contracting a disease the rat had, waiting until it was a bit darker out so that he could, in turn, feed the kin of the rat he had helped kill the night before. As for children, well…the corner of Maple and Madison was where the last child had been playing a game over one hundred years ago. His parents had been watching him somberly from the window, thinking of calling him in to the basement as the other neighbors were doing, screaming in terror and struggling to cling to life. But they knew that he, like the rest of them, would die instantaneously and without pain once the first neutron bomb hit. So they let him go. Both he and his family looked into the bright blaze of a nuclear explosion before they went on to the next world.
Neighborhoods, of course, also had houses. There were no "houses" here in the traditional sense of the word. The nearest home was nearly a thousand miles away, within an outpost watching a wasteland border, where a single sentry for the IPF kept a constant vigil for a population explosion of mutants. If they did come forth, they would hopefully be dogs or cats or deer or something of the like. Because if they didn't come like that, they might come in the form of a plague of rats or locusts. These monsters were always venomous, disease ridden, devoured everything in their path, and, worst of all, bred quickly. They'd have to call over half of the IPF in order to stop one of these things, but it had to be done and it had to be done quickly when it happened. Ignoring one threat of a plague, some four decades ago, had led to the area known as the Ukraine being swallowed alive. They had to firebomb the entire area and then subject it to enough radiation to make the old Chernobyl accident over two hundred years earlier look like a skin rash. It was either that, or let them rise up and devour the rest of the world.
There were some broken foundations instead of homes. Of course…these foundations had been broken and rebroken so many times that they were simply rocky pits at this point. The rest of the houses had long since been burned, scattered to the four winds, recycled into existing plant and animal life, consumed, excreted, and then recycled again. What was left was a gray, lifeless landscape…extending for hundreds of miles in every direction. Nothing stood out except rolling, lifeless hills…and a few occasional monitoring devices or terraforming units.
Yet despite all this, the neighborhood was not lifeless.
People did come out here, rare as it was. After all, what was left of mankind had made great strides in transportation and technology…among other things. The greatest of this, of course, had been discovering magic. It seemed silly to an outsider…seeing mankind so far in the future, victim at last to its own self-destructive nature…and yet talking of magic. Yet this was what had kept the last bit of humanity alive. After exhausting all other fuel and power sources, some researcher over a century ago had been fortunate enough to discover how to tap into the natural energy within all living things. His discovery led to genetic engineers tampering with the human code…selecting what precious few individuals had the ability to wield this power, manipulating the genes to isolate it, and then going about transgenetically modifying every human left. Now, it was as common as dirt…or death. It was through this power that what was left of humanity managed to survive the destruction of the environment, the resource wars that followed, and the even more terrible wars after those. Blending it with technology had created a new epoch of machinery…one that might actually one day undo and rebuild the wreckage of Earth.
Yet that was a long way off…and mankind still had the annoying habit of loving destruction over creation. Yet it had survived all other attempts at self-destruction. Why not this as well?
At any rate, environmental restoration was one of many projects that had taken off. It was still very much incomplete in terms of effectiveness, but it did the job enough to allow humanity to exist for another few borrowed decades of life. The wasteland would one day have to be reclaimed if humanity was to continue, and some were desperate enough to invest money in trying to restore it. Workers now came out here frequently…although always in armored vehicles and with heavy guards. Every few hundred square miles they put up magical vaporators to try and bring some moisture to the soil. In other places, magically-treated seeds were planted in an attempt to restart the nutrient cycling in the environment (it would be a hundred years before anyone could consider growing something that could be eaten, however). Automated radiation scrubbers hovered over the landscape morning, noon, and night…picking up every radioactive particle they could detect and, in turn, used them to keep itself moving and cleaning until all was gone.
Because of that, this place was not void of human life. And because it wasn't void of human life…the marginalized portion of society, of which there were still many, dwelt out here.
Such it was for the drunken derelict living at the corner of Maple and Buchanan. He was one of several homeless bums living in this part of the world. It wasn't the best accommodations…but when deciding whether or not to live free or live under the thumb of an international police force that you hoped wasn't corrupt in your sector, or a government that put all poor citizens into forced labor, or you like drinking liquor without having to be in a designated space at a designated limit, or you had some illicit business to take care of, or any other of a million problems…it wasn't bad. Of course, you had to be a hardy lot. You had to have eaten a lot of bad stuff in your time so that your antibodies were good and high. You had to be good at swiping water purifying pills from the workers who came by so that you could drink safely. You had to be good at hiding from the mutants or the drifting sub-human gangs who came through from time to time.
This derelict was good at all of the above. He might never had had much of a job or been too clean, but he had grown up in the wasteland and he knew it even when he was drunk. He had covered one of the basement ruins with metal sheeting and wood debris, making a fairly good roof and a "pit house" of sorts. He had even nailed the sides down, keeping anything from digging its way in. So long as he stayed quiet at night, nothing tried to get in, assuming it was simply an abandoned, filth-ridden hovel. Yet if something did try to get in, he had a shotgun and four good magical-charged shells left. Normally, he subsisted on the strange mushrooms that grew on the bodies of every dead thing in the wasteland, and occasionally whatever fresh meat he could find. Yet his last raid of one of the vaporator crews had yielded a crate full of canned goods in addition to water-treatment pills. He had no qualms about stealing from them. It was their fault for coming out here without locking them up.
There was an armored train that ran by once a week about twenty miles from where he was. He got on it occasionally, riding to some far cleaner city where people actually lived like they used to before the war. He didn't go to the cleanest cities, of course. Oh no…the rich lived there, and they had little tolerance for their isolated fish-bowl utopias being dirtied up by vagrants. You had to go for the middle zone, where upper middle-class people worked. There you could hit some up for money, which he did about once a month. A week ago, he had bore a lot of fruit. He had enough to buy eight bottles of whiskey. He preferred having a good drink and bad food to no drink and good food, after all.
Right now, he was leaning back at the collapsible entrance to his pit house. It had to collapse…otherwise anything that came by would get suspicious of someone living there. However, he had rigged together some metal rods to give him a sort of entryway. Wearing his oversized, tattered clothing, of which he always wore several layers at once, he leaned down underneath it, taking advantage of the wind break. After all…the wind in the wasteland was harsh and often at one temperature extreme or the other. He kept his legs covered with the more colorful shirt he had picked up from a clothing center for the homeless last time he had been in town. He liked the color. It had an old British emblem on it from their old flag. Of course…the derelict didn't know that. Few people who hadn't been alive a hundred years ago knew that.
The sky was dark and grim, yet there was still some light in it. Once it turned completely black, it would be time to go in. That was when the things would start coming out. The derelict wasn't scared. He knew what time was good to go in. And even if it wasn't alright, he wouldn't even have to bother getting out his gun. He had a pair of hand sickles lying near one of his hands. He had found them in the basement of the ruin he lived in now. Somehow they had survived without much rust or wear and tear for decades, so he figured they were good weapons. Then again, he wasn't in much shape to fight off an attacker now. The seventh bottle of whiskey was in his other hand, and as he lay back he lolled his head about listlessly. The bottle was half-empty already, and he didn't look ready to stop anytime soon.
The derelict let out a belch, not caring to be as crude as he wanted, and then hoisted the bottle to his lips again. He proceeded to take a big swig, letting the liquor slam down his throat and give him another jolt.
He realized a moment later that he might have hit some threshold. As soon as he slammed down the drink, some large reaction abruptly stunned him. A huge popping went out in his ears, and he thought for a moment that he had blown his eardrums. However…he had never heard anything like this before. It was sort of like thunder, only much louder…much more powerful. It sounded as if the hands of God had grasped reality, ripped it in two, and then let time and space slam back together. The derelict almost thought he felt it…for it seemed as if the ground, the air, and his flesh rippled violently, like he was the surface of the pond of time and someone had just thrown a stone.
Pulling the bottle away from his lips, the derelict blinked and looked at it in confused drunkenness, wondering what had been in that last gulp. He tilted the bottle around a bit and looked at it from different sides, as if this would somehow make it clear. As he twisted it around, however, he eventually looked through the bottom of it.
It was there that he saw something not far in front of him. It was only a smudge through the warped glass and his warped vision, and so he pulled the bottle down, blinked in confusion, and looked ahead of him to see what it could be. He was soon a bit puzzled at the sight, for it was something unusual even in this part of the world.
Sprawled out with his face to the ground, arms and legs seeming to weakly hold him up, was what looked like a young man. He was average build…perhaps even a bit thin…but he was also muscular. His body had been toned and sculpted through hard work and training. Yet what was far more unusual than a strong person having popped in out of nowhere was the fact that this person was buck naked. He didn't have a stitch of clothing on his body…although he had several scars, indicating he had been a man who had been roughed up in the past. Long blonde hair sprawled over his head and face, obscuring his facial features. He didn't move at first…just held himself there, looking neither live nor dead.
The derelict blinked. Based on how glazed his eyes were, it was likely that he thought he was dreaming. However, the person was quite real. After a few moments more, the muscles on his body stiffened. Its fingers clenched, and the form went rigid. Beneath the blond hair, teeth clenched, and the man began to grunt and strain. Slowly, his body began to twist and shift. His back arched, and his legs straightened. He grunted out louder as he did this, eventually making a mild cry. His head slowly turned up and looked out. He actually had a pleasant, youthful face, if not a bit rugged and ruddy…as well as having been roughed up not-too-recently. He seemed as if he was stretching out after having not moved in years.
He stretched like this for a good five minutes before he finally relaxed. First, he slumped back into a crumpled form, holding himself up off the ground with his limbs and keeping his head low. Yet a moment after that, he leaned his head up again. His face was again exposed, and his eyes cracked open.
Though looking tired and perhaps inebriated himself, the young man looked around a bit. His gaze showed some puzzlement, indicating that he was confused by what he saw and not seeming aware of where he was.
In the end, his face turned into a frown as he grunted. He spoke in an accent the derelict had never heard before.
"Aw, hell… Where am I now?"
The derelict blinked once, and then, as if not liking his latest hallucination, he took another shot of his whiskey in an attempt to replace it. It didn't work. The young man was still there when he finished. Frowning a bit, the derelict licked his lips, and leaned back a bit more.
"Hey fella…" He addressed the man.
The blond turned and looked to him on hearing this. He seemed to recognize him for the first time.
"Why ain't ya' got no clothes?"
The man stared back a moment longer, but didn't seem to care much about the drunk's question. Rather, he focused a bit harder on the man, and in particular his bottle. Slowly, he began to turn and rise to his feet, not caring about his nakedness.
"Say man…that whiskey?" He asked.
"Sure as hell is." The derelict answered. "Eighty world dollars a bottle."
The young man furrowed his brow. "World dollars? What the hell happened to euros?"
The derelict, confused at this vision making up strange words, furrowed his own brow. "What the hell is a 'you're owe'?"
The blond rolled his eyes on hearing this. "Great. At least I don't have to worry about having no bloody money on me this time."
Without another word, the young man stepped forward toward the derelict. Once he reached his side, he snatched the bottle out of his hand and took a swig. The derelict was a bit surprised by this, but having already concluded that the blond man who appeared out of nowhere was a hallucination, he figured that there was no way he could drink any of his liquor.
The blond handed the bottle back to the man a moment later…just before making a face, turning his head, and spitting out the liquor.
"What's that crap?" He said in an exasperated manner. "I've had dog piss better than that!"
The derelict snickered as he took another drink. "You find anything better, buddy…you let me know. Why don't you just call some to rain out of the sky like you did?"
The blond ignored this and wiped his mouth. "Forget the booze. What year is it?"
The derelict blinked. "Huh?"
The blond turned to him with an impatient frown. "The year, mate. What year is it?"
The homeless man grinned and let out a chuckle in reply. "You're more messed up than me, ain't ya', boy? Last I checked it was still 2181."
This seemed to make the blond react in shock. He gaped at the derelict for a moment, and then sighed and rolled his eyes before smacking his head. "Bloody hell…this is the worst one yet. I thought I was done with this crap. I stayed in the same place for five years last time. Now I'm over a bloody century in the future. Now I've got to get a damn job all over again…find some new place to live…and I ain't got any idea what's going on."
The derelict had picked up on some of this, and looked confused again. "Say, fella…" He spoke aloud after a moment, getting the young man's attention again. "What the hell you talkin' about? You ain't some Gear or something, are ya'?"
This only made the blond confused again. "Gear? That some sort of insult now? What the hell's a Gear?"
The derelict, drunk as he was, realized that the blond honestly didn't know what he was talking about. And that, in turn, only made the derelict more overwhelmed. He shook his head at the blond as he drank again. "Man…you are more messed up than me…if you don't even remember the Crusades."
Now it was the blond's turn to look more confused. "Crusades? What the…?" However, he cut himself off in mid-sentence. He seemed to realize that the homeless man was too drunk to be able to answer any more questions or to understand who he was or where he had come from. He decided a different tactic. He looked more relaxed and spoke to the drunk again.
"Say buddy…you know where the nearest town is?"
The homeless man gave a nod. "That'd be Fort Tantric…" Here, he pointed past the blond and out into the distance. "'Bout 1,020 miles that way."
The young man's eyes widened in flabbergasted shock.
The derelict frowned. "Aw, don't look like that. Let me guess…ya' don't even know 'bout the armored train twenty miles west of here. Ya' can be there in less than three hours if ya' ride that. It shows up in six hours, so if ya' hurry ya' can make it."
On hearing this, the naked man's shock and growing depression vanished. He brightened considerably. Immediately, he straightened up and looked ready to go. However, once he looked to the sky to get his bearings…he realized there was nothing to see. The sky was clouded over and black. Helplessly, he looked back down to the drunk.
The man frowned and pointed to the left. "Thataway."
The blond grinned. "Thanks a bunch, mate." He turned and began to move to leave. However, he had only gone a few steps when he seemed to take a better look at his situation. He realized that he was in the middle of a barren, godforsaken wasteland…and he didn't even have two rocks to rub together. And so, he found himself turning back to the homeless man.
He looked down to his legs, and noticed his shirt. On seeing it, he actually looked surprised and then happier.
"Hey…that's a shirt with the old Union Jack on it! So ol' England's still kickin' around?"
The derelict looked confused again. "Who the hell is England?"
On hearing this, the blond looked far more dismayed. "Take that as a no." He answered glumly. After doing so, he pointed to it and looked more innocent. "You mind, chum?"
The derelict snickered and waved at him as he took another drink. "Be my guest. You need it more than me, you trippin' dope."
The blond didn't dignify this with an answer, but simply took up the shirt. He quickly slipped it on, not caring for how dirty it was. It was long enough to conceal both his torso and his private parts. It was hardly an outfit, but he seemed to already be more energized and enthusiastic to be wearing it. He moved to leave again…but then spotted the sickles on the ground. He hesitated and stared at them a moment. He seemed to be thinking about something. He turned and looked around a bit more, and soon he spotted something else in the distance…a length of chain that was lying on the ground from the hunting expedition last night. He turned back to the drunk.
"Say mate…would you mind letting me have those sickles? If you ain't using them?"
The derelict grinned and chuckled again. "Sure, man from the sky…anything for my guest…" He half-cackled aloud. Normally he wouldn't have been so generous, but by now he was convinced all over again that the blond was some hallucination. He firmly believed that he could give him anything and that it would still be there after he was gone.
At any rate, the blond was very grateful. Smiling again, he took up both sickles, and then turned and walked over to the discarded chain. He snatched this up as well, wrapped it around his torso, and then gave a thumbs-up to the derelict behind him.
"Love to do somethin' for you in return, mate…but I'll have to get my own legs beneath me first."
For the first time in five years, Axl Low was having a very bad day.
Of course, he figured, it had been a rather bad life ever since about ten years earlier. Currently, he was on some train large enough to fit on two sets of tracks (at least, from what he was used to), getting shelter in some car with what he could only assume were mutant cattle, although they smelled twice as bad, and fiddling with attaching the chain he had picked up to the two sickles he had. To think…this was actually him on a lucky day. He had found a shirt and a weapon in no time. Not just any weapon. He'd have a kusarigama rigged out of this in no time…granted, it would have another sickle instead of a weight.
Ten years ago had been much worse. One minute, he had been sitting at some bar in Liverpool in the good old year 2020. The next…and he suddenly found himself feeling stiff, tired, and bare buck naked at the exact same bar, only in the year 2027. The bartender ignored the fact that he had apparently appeared out of thin air, but instead called the cops. While he was still trying to figure out why the drinks had changed along with the bar host, he was dragged out to the local jail for indecency.
That first "trip" had been the worst. It had only been seven years into the future, and so the cops assumed he was simply pulling their legs when he had no idea about the recent war outbreaks, the discovery of "magical" genes, and who was the current Prime Minister. If he knew then what he knew now, he would have kept his mouth shut, let them dismiss him as having been on a bad acid trip, and then dump him off on the street…hopefully with clothing. Yet at the time, he was genuinely scared and confused. He continued to push them about how it was possible that seven years had gone by. He wanted to know if he had been found unconscious, or had awaken from a coma, or if he had been the subject of strange experiments or alien abduction. No one could answer him…but they could examine his record and find that there were no files for Axl Low. The last one had been closed five years ago when he had been declared legally dead after being a missing person for so long. He had insisted on being alive too much after that…because the cops eventually shipped him out to the funny farm.
For five months, Axl had been in a padded room whenever he wasn't talking to psychologists, trying desperately to convince them that he was from the past. At any rate, none had believed him. He had no way of proving it, and he began to wish that he had gotten thrown into the past, so then he'd at least be able to tell people something that would make him believe him.
Then, one day, while he was reclining after one session…he got his wish.
The clean, well-padded asylum had suddenly become something far more dungeonesque, and he was left nude and sprawled on the floor of a cell along with a raving lunatic. Both his screams of fear and the lunatic's screams of terror at the fact that a nude man had suddenly appeared alerted the guards. They soon found out that a man was there who shouldn't have been before, and dragged him out. However, the fact that he was nude made them think he was crazy nonetheless. Somehow in the storm of questions that followed, Axl found out that he had gone back in time…this time to the year 1942.
Realizing he had once again leapt through time, Axl handled the situation with far more tact this time around. He made up some story about being beaten and thrown into the asylum after walking down a bad corner one night. It took a week of work, but he finally managed to convince them into thinking that he was perfectly sane. Some assumed that he had simply feigned this whole incident to get out of fighting the war against Nazi Germany, but he had bit off more than he could chew. And so, he was thrown back out onto the ruined street with a set of basic clothing.
Axl wasn't much of a historian, but he knew a bit about World War II. Realizing he was stuck here, he decided to flaunt it. He managed to make a few pretty pennies for the next two years, making bets on what major direction the war would take. As 1945 approached, he planned to make even more by betting that the Japanese would surrender after having two fantastic new weapons being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
But then, he had a better idea. He knew the end was coming soon to Japan. Why not try to make some profit from those who would really benefit? Using what money he had gathered, and going to a few illegal sources to help barter passage, he managed to go across Asia and to Japan itself. It was there that he had first noticed the weapon known as the kusarigama. He was fascinated by it, and bought it to start practicing with. After that, he started making a business off of "tipping" major Japanese businesses as to what day the A-bombs would fall.
Yet disaster struck again soon after…as he once again found himself flung forward in time…this time to the year 1988…right in the middle of a Yakuza gang war.
There had been other "leaps" after that. Sometimes they lasted months. Other times they lasted a week. Suffice to say, he had survived that incident with the Yakuza by playing dead. As soon as he was up and at it again, he got a new kusarigama and practiced with it again. He did every time he managed to leap through time, until he was rather good with that kind of weapon. He had always been a bit of a scrapper as it was…and he did have some special talents a bit better than the ability to fight…and now that he was being thrown back and forth through time he was hardened even more. He lost track of how many different eras he had been to, though the better…or worse…ones stuck out in his mind.
Frankly, he couldn't stand it. He was just some average joe. Why was he suddenly that guy from Quantum Leap? At least he got Dean Stockwell tipping him off to what was going on in each era… He had to start his life from scratch every time. The worst part was the uncertainty. He never knew how much to plan for in whatever time period he went to. He never knew if he'd be flung forward or back in the next second. No one had any knowledge or scientific expertise in any era he went to yet to know what was happening to him either.
This was hardly a safe way to go through life either. One of his trips had been to the year 2065. They were making up some sort of new biological weapons then. They looked like people…but they were monsters. They had some sort of magical control over their powers, only far greater than any human he had ever seen. Axl had nearly gotten killed by one before a leap flung him out of there. Strange…he thought he almost recalled the people there calling these weapons "Gears"… But that was over a hundred years ago. They were still talking about them now?
He had thought he had come to a stop for the past five years. He had been flung to the year 2015. He knew his way around this era well enough, and so he had tried to settle in again. He also tried to stay out of his own way. He had no idea what would happen if he ever met up with his present self, but he had read enough sci-fi novels trying to figure out what was happening to him to realize it probably wouldn't be good. He landed a job working at a pub as bartender. Part time, he ran a sort of martial training center out of his apartment, where he dazzled the people with the techniques and moves he had picked up from his time traveling.
It was here where, one day, he had met Megumi.
She walked into the bar while he was tending. She had just broken up with her old boyfriend, and was looking to have a drink to help erase the memory. When she saw Axl serve her, she had tried to hit it off with him on the very first night. He knew better. He didn't want to get involved with anyone when he could jump town at any moment, and he knew better than to try and get with a girl who might have an angry ex-boyfriend looking for trouble or an excuse to beat in someone's face.
Despite that, he had ended up talking to her for quite a bit of the night. She liked his personality, and he found himself unwillingly liking hers as well. She was a lot like he used to be…carefree and casual, but not to the point where she felt she could just step on anyone. Over the next few months, she came in often, and he found out that he spent a lot of the night talking to her, even to the point of telling other customers to shove it while he was chatting. Before he knew it, he was already friends with this woman. And both of them found each other staring at one another for most of the night even when they weren't drinking or serving.
For two years, Axl wouldn't let it go any farther than that. He couldn't. He never knew when he'd leave or leap. The longest he had ever stayed put was two years. He waited for that time to come, and waited for himself to leap on every new day. Each day it came closer, he felt himself growing more nervous and afraid. He avoided Megumi on purpose, not wanting to get any more attached to her. Never before had he feared jumping as much as he did now. He didn't want to be separated from her…more than anything else…
Yet three years passed…and Axl was still there. When this happened, he began to wonder. What if the leaping had stopped? What if he had finally settled down, and now was back in one time period? As time went on, he began to go from supposing this to hoping it…and then believing it. He thought his traveling was finally over with. With that done, he went back to Megumi, and this time wanted to be more than friends.
It took some time to get back with her, however. She had misinterpreted his behavior as pushing her away. He was lucky she hadn't found anyone else. But after a few months, they were back on old terms, and soon both of them started to go out. Axl actually ceased training with his exotic weapon not long after, instead running along with Megumi at every opportunity. They went everywhere and did everything together. They eventually got an apartment together, and then things got really nice. Axl almost forgot that he had ever been an involuntary time traveler in the first place.
At last, a month ago, he began to think about popping the question. However, he still had little money. He was determined to get a nice ring at least before doing it. And so, he had put more hours in, and intensified his martial arts training. Megumi noticed, and she realized that he was trying to get more money for something. She coyly smiled in response and just watched every day, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Axl loved it. At last, after years of misery, it seemed as if everything would finally work out… That's what he had thought last night when he went to bed…
That was what he thought until he woke up on that wasteland, showing his package in front of some hobo.
Axl wasn't a man who let anything get him down…but inside he was infuriated. Once he had finally made it to the train, he had broken down and cried. It had been too much for him this time. He had lost too much, and gone to some hellish future where he had no love or position or knowledge or anything else. He kept thinking that he had left Megumi alone over a hundred and fifty years in the past, wondering why he had run out on her…wondering if he was dead…living the rest of her life alone… He had taken up one of the hand scythes twice, and had put it against his chest both times…
Yet he forced himself not to let it get him down. He forced himself to keep going. Somehow…this time he'd get back to 2020. This was over a hundred and fifty years in the future. There was all new technology here. Someone had to know how to get him back. And he would get back…if it was the last thing he ever did. Until then, he had to stiffen up and let himself keep going.
A sharp whine suddenly went out, and Axl felt himself shift as the train he was on abruptly slowed. He looked up at this, and he realized that they must have arrived at their destination. With that in mind, he quickly got up to his feet. Normally, the recoil would have been so great that he would have been thrown to the ground. However, he was a bit better toned for things like this than the average person. Of course, he had no idea what the average person was like now. For all he knew he was in some bizarre future where Gears had evolved from man…or even apes, for that matter.
Nevertheless, once the train came to a stop, he quickly hopped over to the sliding cargo door. It wasn't locked, and he was easily able to open it and get out as easily as he had gotten in. After all…who would want to steal an oversized mutant cow? It seemed that in that regard, at least, humanity hadn't changed. Their trains were still the same. Although, this far in the future, he'd think everyone would finally have a flying car and a robot maid or something…although the hobos looked the same as they did in every generation.
Once Axl had pushed the door open, he leapt out and onto concrete ground. He looked up and surveyed his situation.
So this was the Fort, eh? He supposed he knew how it had gotten his name. It was night outside, but here was a real city. It had lighting and everything. Up ahead, on the horizon, rising out of the ground like a skyscraper, was a rather formidable and powerful-looking fortress. Apparently it hadn't just been a clever name. There were a few other skyscrapers rising along next to it, but not too many. It was a big city, no doubt, but no metropolis.
Looking a bit lower, he got a better look at his own surroundings. Typically, he was at some sort of train station. There was heavy and strange looking equipment running around, all of it battered and rusty. They seemed to be moving to the latest arrival to begin unloading material. There were no drivers, which meant they had to be automated somehow. There were several sets of tracks extending out a bit in every direction. Each one was a set of double tracks laid together, no doubt for the new "jumbo-sized" trains that ran along them. There were warehouses here too, most of them looking dilapidated but also of a more advanced style and architecture than Axl had seen before. There were roads running by them, and strange hovering vehicles were pulled up to them, no doubt this generation's version of a semi-truck. The place wasn't lit up terribly brightly, and there were few humans here, and so it was easy for someone like him to slip away. Just ahead, a city full of possibilities awaited him.
However, he'd need a few things before he went there. And he had an idea of how to get them.
Staying a bit low, for he wasn't sure how tough police were in this era at arresting stowaways, he began to run along the tracks for the warehouses. He kept his eyes open for a certain group of people. It was a bit odd. There was trash and debris all around, just like any typical dirty city. However…there were no homeless people. Usually, derelicts would be practically running a place like this. There were none here. That seemed weird. Why would they want to live out there in the middle of some wasteland when they could stay here where there were plenty of people to panhandle from and lots of food to pilfer?
Axl didn't know, but he didn't really care after a few more moments. He saw what he wanted. As he ran over one last set of train tracks, he saw a trio of people up ahead. They were near an overhead light, and yet they weren't hanging around it. They were staying to the shadows nearby. They looked a bit ragged and rough, and seemed to be smoking and tossing around explicatives at one another. It was obvious that these guys shouldn't have been there, and had some sort of illicit business going on. They'd do nicely.
Quite calmly, Axl straightened up, almost letting his package show from underneath his shirt, and began to strut toward them.
It didn't take long before the shadows of the men turned and focused on him. Though he couldn't get a good look at their faces from a distance, he knew they were glaring at him. One by one, they threw their cigarettes aside as they stared on at the oncoming person. Axl did pass into the light as he came, giving them all a good look of him. One of them snickered at the sight, but the other two seemed to be eying the weapon he held. He took a good look as he came on. He saw at least one of them had a knife. The others could be wearing guns underneath their clothing.
After a few moments, he passed into shadow again and reached the three men. He came to a stop soon after, and stared at them. He took another moment to look them over. One was quite a burly guy, making Axl look like a string bean in comparison. He wore some sort of smoother fabric that Axl didn't really care for, and it was ripped in several places to show off his hulking muscles. It wouldn't fit him. He looked to the guy with the knife next. Skinny little jerk with crooked teeth grinning at him. Hair was in a punk style, and clothing was too loud, colorful, and covered with accessories and pins for his taste. Last guy was on the other side. Real flamboyant guy. However…
Jeans…soft loafers…nice denim sleeveless jacket over a wife beater…though I'm not big on the oversized zipper…red band around the neck…fingerless leather gloves…my favorite color. And he must have some cash on him too from how new the stuff looks.
You'll do just fine.
"You lost, buddy?" This one asked, in a tone of voice that made it clear that he was not in any way, shape, or form Axl's buddy. This was a typical question that a thug asked. If he was simply lost, then it was time for him to get lost. If he desired something, on the other hand…then perhaps they could do business. However, based on his appearance, he doubted they thought that was the case.
"Actually, I just got into town." Axl answered casually. "I could use a change of clothes and some cash. You three mind sparing some?"
The skinny one snickered at the suggestion. The others seemed to think it was a bit amusing themselves.
"Either you're a junkie, or some cop with the lamest excuse yet." The big thug said, his muscle seeming to tighten as he said this. "Hit the road. I don't sell to idiots too stupid to remember to wear pants."
It was worth a shot. Axl thought. Now for the harder way…
"I like how straightforward you are, Tiny." He answered the big one. "But I wasn't giving you a choice. I like your friend's outfit too much. So how about handing it over before I'm forced to rip your little uniform a bit more?"
Almost immediately, the skinny jerk stepped forward, flicked out his knife, and pointed it at Axl's throat. He gave him some explitive along with a threat, bearing more obscenity along with it. Axl, however, stayed perfectly calm as he turned to the guy and raised a mock-impressed eyebrow.
"Well lookie here, Tiny… Looks like they teach dogs to say more than bark in obedience school now. Although I'd still smack him with a paper for saying that."
"You looking for an ass-kicking, dumbass?" The third snorted as he stepped forward. It was obvious the three were getting more annoyed.
Axl merely turned to him and looked more impressed. "Ah…now your girlfriend is coming to bail you out. Lucky you."
Tiny was getting rather mad at this point. He reached out both of his massive forearms, placed them on his fellow goons, and pushed them back behind him. Both of them were rather ticked off now as well, but they were subservient to the bigger one.
"You just made the biggest mistake of your life, wise-ass." The thug grunted. "Cops ain't stupid enough to talk to me the way you do. I'm a class D magic."
The skinny one snickered. "That's right, dipsh't. A class D. Bet you're pissin' yourself now."
Axl simply crossed his arms, unimpressed. "Class D magic? You've been playing too much of that D&D crap, ladies."
Axl had a feeling that everyone other than himself in this era knew whatever these "classes" meant, so his insult may have made him look to be the dumber of the three. Nevertheless, if these guys were talking about magic, they probably meant that special gene that had been discovered over a hundred years earlier. If so…then these boys were in for a big surprise.
Tiny looked insulted none the less. Abruptly, he stamped his foot down. A stray steel girder, about three inches thick, had been deposited there. Now, he knocked it up and into his fist. It was solid and strong, not rusted or warped or old. This was a good piece of steel. The big guy proceeded to put both hands on it and hold it in front of him. His two cohorts saw this, and broke into smiles. They stood back, knowing what he was about to do. Axl watched on, still very calm.
The thug closed his eyes and opened his mouth. Soon, he began to emit some chant…just like some of those goony kung-fu guys from the 1980 movies. Axl repressed the urge to chuckle. He kept watching, however. After a moment, something happened. The air around Tiny began to tremble…as if he was radiating heat or something. He kept focusing and chanting, and as he did the ripples picked up. A moment later, and Axl almost thought he began to see a light spring up around him. It was dim and lasted only a moment, but he saw it.
Then, abruptly, the thug grunted and flexed, seeming to focus all of that power at once. With one sharp movement, he turned the girder from a 180 degree angle to a 120. He sweat a bit as a result, and panted once or twice…but there was no mistaking that even the strongest weightlifters in the world in Axl's age would have been able to perform that feat if they put everything they had into it. Once that was done, the thug shifted the girder to one hand, wielding it like some sort of weapon, and stared at Axl. He stretched up to his full height, and let his size and power loom over him.
"Laughing now, punk? Ready to have me wrap the rest of this thing around your neck?"
If Axl had been any other person from his age…or at least almost any other person…he might have been sweating now, turning, and running for his life.
However, the fact of the matter was that Axl had always gotten along well no matter what time he was in because he had known about the magical gene long before it had been discovered. That was because he had been one of the few exceptional ones on Earth who possessed it naturally. That was how he got around without anyone ever doing any real damage to him or hurting him. He had willingly gone with law officers and thugs in the past…but not today.
Axl calmly stared up and back into the eyes of the thug, and reached up to start rubbing his chin.
"I don't know anything about this 'class' system you guys have…but any of you familiar with the good ol' term 'pyrokinetic'?"
Tiny looked stupidly back at him, not realizing that as Axl stared at him his brain was focusing on the metal rod in his hand. Slowly…he reached out with invisible mental signals and seized the molecules within the girder. With a bit of exerted force, he started to make them move…bounce around faster…gain more energy…
The metal girder, unseen by anyone, suddenly began to turn a bit red. The sound of sizzling went out, and a small plume of smoke came from Tiny's hand. The big man's anger suddenly vanished as he realized what was happening. He looked to his limb, and saw that he was being burned. What more…he began to feel it. Letting out a huge yell, the man dropped the girder and seized his scorched hand in agony. His two companions stared in shock at what had been done. But as for Axl, he merely cracked a bit more of a smile as he waved a finger at the torn vest the big guy wore.
Moments later, and flames ignited on the collar, all around his head. Tiny, already shocked and in pain from the previous burn, now gazed about in terror as it appeared fire had leapt up all around him. Terrified, the man turned and began to bolt away from Axl as fast as he could. The blond smiled as he watched him run. It wasn't anything serious. Tiny would get a bit scorched before he put the flames out, and he'd be sore for a month or so…but after that he'd seriously rethink his career.
As for skinny and flashy, they turned and looked back to Axl. He smiled casually back. They stared for a moment in flabbergasted awe…and then turned and began to run for it too.
"Leaving so soon?" Axl asked as they turned and bolted. With that, he dropped one of his sickles to the ground, getting some slack on his chain. A moment later, he snapped it up, whirled it around his head, and then lashed out with it. His aim was true, and the chain wrapped around skinny's leg. One yank later, and the thug fell to the ground face flat.
With another snap of his wrist, Axl loosened the chain and pulled it back. Flashy was too far away to get now with that move, but there was something else. He looked up to the warehouse nearby, and in particular the pole that was holding the light out over the ground. With another fling, his weapon went up and lashed around the metal. Giving a casual whistle, he yanked up and swung on it "Robin Hood" style, carrying himself over the ground in a moment and sending his body lunging for flashy. As he shot through the air and headed for him, he extended a foot and slammed it in the back of his head. Soon he was on the ground too.
Axl hopped off and loosened his kusarigama as he did so, bringing it back to him. He touched down on the side of the fallen man. Axl had no qualms whatsoever about what he had just done. As a matter of fact, he had counted on it. No one would care if he roughed up some criminals, and he knew that if he hadn't beaten them up they would have attacked him after he had egged them on so much. So it was technically self defense, right?
"Now, my nicely-dressed friend…" Axl spoke as he bent down and seized the man by the neck, immediately yanking him up to his feet. "About those clothes…"
Not too shabby.
Things were looking up in this new era. Never before had Axl done so well in such a short period of time. Now, in addition to his lovely Union Jack shirt, he had a nice sleeveless denim vest over it, some loose-fitting jeans, a comfy pair of loafers, and brown fingerless gloves. To top it all off, he finished tying the red neck band around his head instead, making himself a nice long bandanna that covered his top scalp. His homemade kusarigama was already wound around his chest with the sickles hanging to the side, and his pockets were filled with 483 world dollars…the exact amount of cash that skinny and flashy had on them.
The two disgruntled thugs were sitting in a heap in front of him now. One was practically nude, but luckily Axl wasn't interested in stealing underwear…especially not some strange guy's. Both were unconscious. Flashy had gone first, and skinny followed after he had directed Axl to the nearest public library. He had some studying to do, after all.
Now, as he turned and began to calmly walk toward his newest destination, Axl took the recent events as signs of good luck.
To be continued...
Next Chapter: Faith of Our Fathers...