Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Oddworld (c) to Lorne Lanning and whoever-else-made-it
Author's Note: A prequel to Running...Well at the moment I'm a bit stuck on the sequel to Running so I might as well write anyway. Axle is Screef, his name is changed by almost everyone who meets him (annoyingly for him); Axle was his original name: weird name (might change it).
I was actually going to do three oddworld updates today: this story, another one under the name of: The Damned, and the second chapter for Searching, sorry. But honestly I don't know if Searching is going to go anywhere now. I recently read another oddworld story 'Gabby's Song' (a very nice fic, totally recommend it if you haven't read it) and realized with horror that I had picked an almost identical story line...so yeah, that's a bit of problem, sorry.
He had always wanted armor.
Shiny golden armor, thick and strong, not the wimpy stuff that the lower casts got. He had seen others wearing it, some had even been those who weren't that high ranking in the first place, so it wasn't impossible not to get it. There were problems though, he did not have the rank to obtain such armor, he had no rank at all
(having being fired from his last job for brutal behaviour. While brutal behaviour was all part of being a guard it was not tolerated if the one beaten was glukkon, even though the glukkon in question was just a low ranking pud, and the "beating" had been little more than a rough shove ),
and this was a major problem if you did not have the moolah to afford it yourself instead of relying on the company to give it for free, then you pretty much couldn't do anything but dream. That was why that when Axle was told he was to be hired by GlassGlow Incorporated as a sentry guard (instead of the usual guard durty he had: lazing around, making sure none of the slaves ran off, you know, falling asleep a lot) he had been over the moon in joy, in a metaphorical sense of course, no slig could jump that high: if they could jump at all.
"You've been assigned to the outer perimeter, sector 7, just over that little river there." stated a little slig wearing a brightly coloured band around one arm with the company's logo printed onto it. While there were few things, if anything, that interested Axle he couldn't help but stare at the bright band. The reason for this was because it appeared ridiculous, the band was to indicate that this slig had authority, should be respected, the little slig was a supervisor; in charge of checking up on others and making sure no one slacked off. But with the combination of the bright coloured band and the tiny stature of the slig in question it all seemed ridiculous: no one would ever listen to this slig.
He was supposed to be showing Axle where exactly to go himself, though clearly he didn't want to; that was why he was pointing out where Axle was supposed to go rather than taking him there. The little slig had several good reasons not to bother or want to show him there, Axle slow moving mind supposed, the main reasons being laziness and fear; fear that Axle would punch him for no reason, or start a brawl. Axle liked this fear, it made him feel even stronger than he already was, though at the same time it also annoyed him greatly. Axle did not thank the small slig as he left, nor was he expected to; unless talking to a superior (boss, manager) or friends/allies with the other to some extent, politeness was not expected, it was not part of the guard duty, it was not considered normal.
Almost everyone was quick to get out of his way as he swaggered through, some stopped and followed him with their eyes. Axle noted that there were no other Big-Bros amongst the guard population, and it made him wonder why, but only for a short time. Axle was not one for thinking, he was more of a doer than a thinker. He didn't tend to think into the future, he lived in the now and prefered it that way, unfortunately though that was how it had ended up with him losing his last job.
On his record it had been stated that Axle had been fired from his last job as a guard for anti-social behaviour. His behaviour, however had not just been anti-social, it had been on the verge of being maniac. That was the way Axle had grown up, like most Big-Bros he generally thought he was better than all those who weren't, and if he thought he was being challenged he became highly aggressive and rude, it was the way of survival.
The last job at the previous company had been to guard some slaves who had been facing execution for attempting to escape; they hadn't even been contained, they were scrawny, stupid and lowly, they had just been expected to scrub away at the floor until they were taken away. Another Big-Bro guard had been assigned to the same job. Upon seeing each other both had immediately decided they hated the other, and within less than a minute the Axle and the guard were in a brawl, trying to kill each other, meanwhile all seven mudokons they had been guarding took the opportunity to escape; most of them had succeeded. And just at the same time, a glukkon supervisor had came waddling in to see what all the noise was about, he had been ignored. The glukkon hadn't liked his authority being ignored and had gotten too close to the fight, a careless swipe and he had been knocked out cold. The fight ended abruptly at this point, the other guard having the sense to run off before he was seen, Axle had just stared stupidly at the glukkon, wondering whether or not he had just killed him.
He had been fired within less than an hour from the incident; he was lucky he hadn't been arrested or shot, but he was a Big-Bro, a slig genetically altered by drugs, made by vykkers, he was expected to be aggressive and, at least, partly insane, his incident had been no big tragedy for anyone, except for himself. Incompetant was what the company had described his behavior as. GlassGlows had been a lucky break.
Axle easily found the bridge which led over the wide but shallow river, which meandered past the factory on one side, overhead there was a sort of roof, wooden and metal rafting making an ugly but strong support. Axle wondered why the glukkons would bother wasting their money on the roof and rafting, didn't seem a very glukkony thing to do, then he remembered that this was a vykker run facility, probably more functional than that of the usual, a lucky thing, very lucky; vykkers normally prefered not to use sligs (due to their said "low" intelligence) and hired interns instead (since they weren't often as violent or lazy).
Axle reached his post, it appeared though that the roof went no further than the bridge. The area he was guarding was in no way guarded against the rain; if it rained of course. It was just a large circle of concrete slabbed over the land with a thin path leading off either side, stretching out all along the edge of the perimeter. Presumably he was just supposed to stand there, occasionally do a little patrol around the edge and then return, rather boring really, but this was all guess work, no one had told him what exactly he was supposed to be doing, so if he liked he could just leave this day off and fall asleep, but he wasn't like that, unlike many Axle took his job seriously, if not, too much.
Axle looked around, he may not have been the brightest of beings but he had an eye for security weakness, and he was seeing a lot of them. There was only one security camera buzzing around by itself seemingly pushed to one side, the lens cracked and partly covered with mud, the guy in charge of watching the security camera was probaly asleep anyway, and the gate itself, though tall and foreboding, was missing a hinge and was only half closed, and there appeared to be no one else around here apart from himself.
Deciding that he didn't like this security failure Axle decided he was going to do something about it. He reached out towards the camera and attempted to grab hold of it and pull it back so that it was at least facing path rather than the wall, he abruptly pulled back as his arm felt like it had been punched. He stumbled for a moment in confusion, before his mind put two and two together and realized that the camera had just electricuted him.
So instead he faced the gate, and wondered, for a split second, whether or not they were supposed to be open. Two red lights blinked on in dark shadows and the electronical sound of metal legs standing up was heard. There was already a guard here, he had been mistaken, the other had apparently been sleeping in the shadows beside the gate.
It was just an ordinary slig but something seemed odd, he may have not been a Big-Bro, but wore armor; very battered old looking armor, it had long lost its shine, otherwise there was nothing really that different than normal but something seemed out of place, why was it that this slig had armor when no one else he had seen so far didn't? Something else was off as well, but it was impossible to say what. Well it was possible that he hadn't seen the guards that did wear armor, and with this thought Axle pushed all thought out of his head, and bluntly said.
"Shift's over. Get going."
Axle turned to look at the gate again, it probably should be shut he decided. He kicked the gate as hard as he could but it didn't budge. So he tried shoving it closed, that didn't work either.
"Yeh won't be able ta close it. De bloody thing's bin jammed foe several years now. Dem vykkers don't wanna waste der moolah on somethin' which will no doubt break again." said the guard with battered armor, in an odd voice, unusually high, words all horribly clipped and mutilated. "Also I don't recommend trying to ever touch da security cameras, the bosses won't like that. "
"What's that supposed to mean?" Axle asked loudly, feeling confused. The words were not insulting but the armored slig spoke in a way that made them sound like they were worse.
"Nuttin' much. Just,...watch it."
Beth watched from the shadows calmly and with seemingly little interest as a slig strode past and out of sight, completely unaware of her presence. Being calm though was not something that could be said for the younger mudokon beside her who was shaking in fear, terrified.
"W-we shouldn't be doing th-this! It's dangerous! We could be killed!" stuttered the nervous one, but quietly.
"Calm down, Zephyr. I've done this plenty of times before," said Beth calmly, but with a slight tone of annoyance in her voice. "and now it's your turn to learn the way mudokons should truly act when in living conditions such at these!"
"But I don't want to! They'll hurt me!"
"Not if they don't find out who you are. And anyway, I don't know why you're getting so stressed. You're not even going to be doing anything."
Beth waved her hand for him to be quiet as another slig came slouching along, but unlike the previous it stopped nearby; dangerously close to the ledge above of a large tank of water. Beth smiled at Zeph at this, and began to creep towards the slig who had momentarily paused to smoke a cigarette, wisely out of security camera range but unwisely because Beth was about, and was going to use this to her advantage.
"Ah! A rabid slog! There are rabid slogs everywhere!" Beth shrieked insanely leaping out at the guard. The slig quickly stepped back, barely having the time to look around before he realized he was standing over nothing, and dissapeared over into the tank, into which he disappeared with a yell and didn't come up again.
Beth looked a little surprised herself for a moment but then headed back to where Zeph was hiding.
"That was horrible! Do you know how much trouble you could get into by killing a guard?!" he asked fiercely, he was scared though, it wasn't anger.
"It was an accident, okay? I've never killed a guard before, I just wanted to scare him and run off!"
Zeph looked horrified for a moment but decided to keep his mouth shut.
Beth took one look back towards the tank then at Zeph, and went back. Hanging from a bunch of pulsing wires there was a controller, it consisted of a simple piece of yellow plastic and three rather large red buttons, checking she was out of sight Beth hit the middle one and the tank gurgled as it began to empty. Zeph looked questiongly at her as she came back.
"At least now he won't drown, or at least hopefully shouldn't." she stated, leading Zeph away from the scene, still out of sight. "Now Zeph, there's going to be a runner soon, up in the northern area bridge, I ain't going because I need to help the others but I want you to go."
Zeph looked even more scared than before.
"Don't you want to leave? Live free?"
"But they feed us here."
"What is given to us can hardly be considered food." Beth scoffed. "You must want to leave."
"Well I'm not going to force you to, it's your decision, though I disapprove of it. Come on, let's go back to work before they notice we're missing."
And with that the two silently departed, keeping out of sight.
Axle looked around at the lunch bar. He was quite sure now there were no other Big-Bros, and he couldn't see anyone wearing armor at all, except the slig poking his arm. Axle looked down at this certain slig and recognised it as the one from earlier, battered-armor-slig was the registered name for now.
"What?" he demanded; this should have put the other off into going away, but instead the smaller slig seemed to smile and sat down beside him.
"How'd yeh first day go, newbie?"
The term newbie was generally considered insulting and would have made most bristle in annoyance, or rage (depending on the slig), but Axle had never heard the term before since no one had ever used it on him before, no one had ever dared, and for a full fifteen seconds Axle was silent as he tried to figure out what it meant. He knew the word "new", but bie? Did it mean like: be? Meaning to be in a certain place in the future. So did that mean that the word 'newbie' meant: he was new in a future place of unknown origin? Axle's brain overloaded and he forgot what he was thinking about.
"This is not my first day." he replied.
"Yeh worked in oder factories before? Why'd yeh git kicked out?"
"Anti-social behaviour." quoted Axle, though in reality Axle didn't know what the meaning of the word social was, it was simply another word he had never heard anyone else use.
"Oh." said the slig nodding understandingly. "Well, yer 'ere now, ting's are lookin' up foe yer. Good place, dis place, da vykkers pay us good wages and don't ask foe much in return. And yeh get long lunch break hours." the slig paused to take a draught from the glass bottle he was carrying with him. "De name's Bas. What's yures?"
Bas nodded again but turned around as several other sligs arrived, and upon seeing them, came over.
After a lot of shouted greetings and slapping each other on the back the new sligs sat down as well. Ordinary little things with no armor, weapons were forbidden though in this lunch hall (a clever vykker rule) so it was impossible to say what rank they all were. They all apparently knew Bas well, possibly as a pack leader or something similar. Gangs amongst the slig guards were not uncommon.
They blinked at him curiously for a while in between bouts of conversations amongst each other after Bas had introduced them all. Axle was having troulbe remembering all their names, in fact he could only remember one, and he wasn't even sure if it was correct, but he believed the one slig, with single 180º degree "eye piece" instead of the usual seperate eyes on either side of the head, was called Cutter.
"So you're a Big-Bro, right?" asked one of the ones whose name he had of course forgotten.
Axle nodded, wondering why the slig would even question that, it was obvious, even for him.
"Awesome! We've never had your kind here before, ya know?"
Axle didn't know, nor was he sure whether or not he had just been insulted; maybe it would be on the safe side just to give the other just a little punch...or maybe not, he wasn't sure afterall.
"How many fingers am I holding up?"
Axle should have known that it was a total of four but he had never been tought to count, there had never been a reason for it, and this question infuriated him. Although in his simple view it wasn't an insult (though it was: to his intelligence) and he was just angry because he couldn't answer.
"Eight?" he guessed, having overheard the use of this number previously, remembering it since it sounded just like: ate = eaten = food.
The unnamed slig's face scrunched up, "face-fingers" drawing up into a fist to stop himself from laughing. Another slig beside the other, who had been drinking at the time, didn't fare so well and let out a snigger before going into a violent coughing fit.
"He's got the IQ of a door. Dez was right!" hissed one to Bas, luckily for him though Axle wasn't listening and was trying to help the coughing slig from choking by thumping him rather heavily on the back, if anything though this was just making the situation worse.
"Ah forget it. Yeh ain't dat smart yurself. It ain't 'is fault."
Axle tailed after Bas and other three sligs, who were all surprisingly eager to have him with them. They showed him around the place, pointing out important little things such as where the dorms were, what time he was expected to wake up at and what behavior towards others the vykkers expected. Bas explained the layout of the building in case of a fire drill or any other reason for the whole place to be evacuated, but Axle was like a seive, he forgot it all instantly. Also, though he didn't say this, Axle was having slight trouble understanding what Bas was saying a majority of the time.
"Now dem vykkers normally stay well outta da way, and we don't see dem much, but if they do appear yeh must treat 'em like royalty." advised Bas. "Ask 'em 'ow yeh kin 'elp 'em and agree wit everyting dey say. And yeh fellow guards, treat 'em according to dere rank in yure view, except dat damn supervisor. If he come around, tell 'im to bugger off, but don't give 'im anyting to report which could git yeh fired."
They were now back at the same place in the building where they had started, back just outside the lunch rooms. Cutter and the other two dismissed themselves at this point, quickly hurrying off to their next guard shifts. Axle questioned why there had been no alarm bell to announce this.
"Da vykkers don't like alarms. Says dey confuse up da system. So instead we have to check da time."
Bas pointed up at a round piece of metal clamped onto the wall. The round piece of metal was flat and had numbers littered all around is edge, two black sticks, one shorter than the other and not moving, moved slowly across the piece's face. Seeing the stupified look on Axle's face Bas added:
"It's a clock. Can't yeh read da time?"
Axle shook his head. "Never seen anything like it in my life."
"Most of da new recruits haven't. Dey just don't use dem dat often in da outside world dis days. Tell yeh what, I'll explain it tomorrow. But foe now I gotta run, just copy everyone else till then."
Bas was about to leave but froze as he caught sight of something behind Axle. He turned around to see what the fuss was about and spotted a rather suspicious looking mudokon, who had apparently been going past, staring at them. Bas sighed in annoyance and then shouted at the nuisance:
"What!? Git outta 'ere! Shoo!"
The mudokon quickly turned away from them and hurried off.
"Yeh shouldn't mind da mudokons dat much, I think dey thought o' the same everywhere. BUT watch out for Beth, she can be big trouble."
"She's a trickster. She may be just be another mud but she's causes more trouble dan a rampaging scrab. Don't be fooled into thinking yeh can just whack 'er over da head when she passes by and she'll leave yeh alone, nah, just keep outta her way. She won't be trouble for much longer though, if the bosses keep getting all the complaints dey do then Beth is going to meet with an unfortunate accident. The problem is though, no one really knows whether it's Beth or not, but I'm sure it is, she's always sneaking around all suspicious like."
The first week passed quickly, Axle had adjusted surprisingly fast and well. He and Bas were guarding the broken gate again, this was part of the routine when not patrolling, technically though it was only Axle guarding: Bas had slouched off into the shadows and had gone to sleep. There was a third slig as well but Axle did not know who it was nor had Bas deemed it important, meaning that most likely Bas had no idea who he was either. This third slig was awake as well, but was smoking a cigarette; this was aggrivating the Big-Bro but unfortunately the other slig didn't know this.
Axle watched the other slig take another puff from his cigarette with disgust. Axle was no tree hugger and cared little for personal health but he had never been able to stand the smell of smoke. The slig may have not known that Axle hated smoke but he quickly realized he was being stared at, though it was hard to tell if from the other slig's point of view whether or not Axle was glaring. The other slig instantly felt nervous, he didn't know much about Big-Bros but with all the rumours and tales he had heard he could guess that he was standing dangerously close to what could be equal to an angry volcano.
"Want one?" he asked offering a cigarette to Axle as a sort of peace offering.
The Big-Bro took one look at the half opened ciggarette packet being offered to him before snatching it and throwing it into the river which passed this side of the factory.
"Hey! What did you do that for?! Those cost moolah!"
"Get rid of that cigarette!"
"Why?" asked the slig angrily, hurriedly taking a few steps away, not eager to throw his cigarette away.
Axle didn't answer as he began to approach. The smaller slig instantly thought the better of it and ran away, though he did not get rid of the cigarette. Axle didn't bother following him.
Nearby a red light began to blink rapidly. Axle noticed it and stared dumbly at it for a few moments, then he went over to Bas and tried to knudge him with one foot, tried being the key word. Axle ended up sending the other slig flying, it was hard to control limbs which weren't really your own and weren't meant for anything but moving around.
After a bit of swearing and apologising, things went back to normal. Axle pointed out the light.
"O' dat's just ta indicate we got muds on da run again. Been happening a lot lately. We don't have to do anything. Just shoot any if dey come running dis way."
Beth had managed to escape into the factory's extensive system of air vents, with her were some ten other individuals, all depending completely depending on her for their survival. So far they had been very lucky, no one had been caught and if the little stunt she had done had pulled off the guards would still be searching for them on the completely wrong side of the building.
Zephyr was not with them, in a way this was for the better, if anything had happened to her brother on the way she would not have been able to deal with it. Beth advised the others to keep as quiet as possible as they followed her, she was wary of guards finding them and was nervous. Sure she had led many escape parties before, not all succesful, but the fear never changed. Clutched in one paw was a sealed jar deftly stolen several years ago by her predecesor, the previous mudokon rebel leader of this complex; he had given the jar as token for good luck when he had finally decided it was time for him to leave to the wilderness as well, nothing more had ever been heard of him.
Its contents were said to be dangerous, he had advised Beth to use it if she saw neccesary, but so far she hadn't, but carried it nonetheless, it made her feel more confident. They reached what appeared to be a dead end, but Beth had used this route before and knew this was fine. There was a metal grating, from which light flooded up from. From previous extensive use the grating came away easily, Beth had to be careful that there was no one in the hallway. Once she was certain she pulled back up with the grating and squeezed her way back past the others, urging them all to jump down. Once they were all out she went herself, dropping carefully so that the grating clinked back in place on its own, mostly.
"Get going! What are you waiting for? A shrykull to come save your lazy behinds?! Move, move!" she hissed, quickly taking the lead and running off ahead of them.
To his immense embarassment Axle woke up to realize he had fallen asleep. He looked around, it was dark now. Bas was still there though, or he appeared to be, but it was dark and Axle's night goggles only saw in infrared.
"Bas?" Axle questioned the other slig standing nearby.
"Nah, it's me, Dez." replied the other slig. "Bas left a good while ago."
He stood up, told Dez bye, and shuffled off. There was no need for infrared once he reache the bridge over the river, this was all lit up with lights. He continued on mostly in silence, the whirring mechanical noise from his four artificial limbs the only sound.
Axle paused as a loud metal clink, followed by several hushed whispers, interrupted the uneven mechanical sound. He looked around but couldn't see anything, he had probably just imagined it. He was about to continue, thinking that the noise was probably nothing to worry about, when there was several more clinks in succession.
Axle looked up. In amongst the thick metal rafters were a group of mudokons. As had been said before Axle was not the most imaginative of beings and would have probably just continued on his way if it hadn't been for the warning earlier that there were rogue muds in the area. They all looked terrified, and so it would seem: guilty!
"Hey!" he shouted.
One of the mudokons who had been out of sight till now suddenly leapt forward, throwing the liquid contents of a bucket at him. Axle had no doubt that it wouldn't hurt him in any way but instinctively tried to move out of the way, ready to shoot at the mudokon in revenge for its rebellious behavior. This idea immediately left his mind though as panic came rushing in like a tidal wave, drowning out all other thought.
He had tried to move out of the way of whatever the bucket's contents had been, he had tried but he hadn't been fast enough. A lot of it hit his masked face fully, some of it dripped down and splattered over his arm, the rest hit the ground and began to sizzle away at the floor. It was acid.
Axle roared in pain as it began to eat away at his skin. In blind panic he swung around, smashing into the nearest thing to him, trying to escape from the pain. He hit the wooden rails, partly rotten with age, and they gave way easily to his floundering form with a muffled snap.
The next thing Axle knew was that he was drowning, the burning sensation had gone but now he was swallowing mouthfuls of water, which went straight into his lungs. Axle scrambled around for something to hold onto, luckily for him he managed to find the bridge again, and grabbed onto one of the metal support bars. But he couldn't stay like this for long.
Spotting the shore not that far off, he used all the strength possible he had to push away from where he was. He was still in the water of course, but now it was shallow enough for him to reach the bottom with his feet, and with a bit of effort he was back on dry land.
Only one thing blocked him from getting back now, a barbed wire fence. No one was supposed to be down here after all so it had been fenced off. For a moment he froze in shock, the near death experience was new to him, but then came the rage. Axle took one look at the fence and smashed down the nearest pole, then he walked over the top of it, ignoring the little wire still remaining that scratched at his uninjured arm.
Many sligs looked up from where they were lazing around, on in the rare case working, at the furious Big-Bro who came storming through, dark crimson dripping from his face and forearms; everyone was quick to get out of his way, this was someone in a mood who would murder you as soon as look at you, and no one wanted to face his wrath.
Having passed through, the minor but annoying detour of passing through the building again, Axle was back on the bridge, ready to kill the mudokon and its companions as soon as he spotted them. The rafters above him were empty though, when he returned to where he had been stationed when he had fallen in the river there was no sign of the mudokon either. The floor was melted here and the rails broken and gone, this was definitely the place. And floating, out of place, in the river was a bucket, no doubt the one which the mudokon had been holding.
Axle was literally shivering with rage, the damn little bastard things had escaped no doubt, out of the factory and to odd knows where wherever all mudokons went when they escaped.
Axle swore and smashed the nearest rails to him in blind rage. He distantly heard the metal whirring as many sligs came running his way to find out what was going on. He didn't turn around until one of them was right beside him staring confused at the burnt floor, at which point he grabbed the other by the neck, strangling the smaller slig with one hand for no real reason except to take out his anger.
"Freeze!" was the instant chorus that met this action.
Axle turned to face them completely, very slowly, before dropping the random guard he had grabbed by the neck to the ground. Axle looked out at the small crowd gathered in front of him, all rifles trained on his face, all except one. Bas, watched him from behind the rest, with a sort of 'I warned you' expression on his face.
Axle wanted nothing more than to murder him right then.
A/N: Unlike Rookie (who is sneaky and clever) Axle is quite different, not that fast thinking and generally rather serious, never joking around or anything. He's not supposed to be nasty but angers rather easily.