Edge had re-entered the room and praised me for choosing the right path. He'd summoned a couple of Claws to take me to another room where they dressed me in blood red colours and burned my old clothes and my shades. I was angry as hell about it, but I didn't let it show. After all, wasn't I a new convert wishing to throw away all ties to the past? I was also mildly surprised when they didn't try to change my skates, but just got a paintbrush and painted them red and black. It was generally accepted that taking another rudie's skates away was a no-no. They dyed my hair from brown to dark crimson as well, which irritated me. Edge had come in later, slapped me on the back like we were old buddies, took me aside and told me about how things worked around here.
You were accepted on a provisional basis. Once you proved yourself in a variety of ways, you'd be given a glove and sworn in officially. Official claws had to wear red hoodies and trousers. Occasionally, a Claw would stand out enough to earn the right to be Edge's chosen and wear individual clothes. Blood, Cadmium and Ruby were the only chosen ones so far.
As I wandered around the corridors I realised I had no idea where I was, and neither did the other GG's. There was only one thing for it, I had to at some point figure out where I was, then get the message to the GG's and at the same time avoid doing any tags for the Claws for the sake of loyalty.
Walking into a large room with a large shutter taking up one wall, giving away that it was a garage, with beaten and ripped furniture everywhere. I saw several of the Claws. They were lounging around, two on a red sofa, one spraying a tag of a flaming demon cat raking its claws along the wall, a couple playing a battered old Genesis. It looked from where I was standing that they were playing F-Zero. I liked that game, but seeing some weird red-obsessed rudies playing it sort of took the enjoyment edge off it.
"Hey, it's the newbie!" A tall Claw unfolded from a deckchair and stalked over to me. "Edge told me to tell you that when you finish getting your clothes, to get your ass over to the training area."
"The training area?" I echoed.
"Yeah, follow the signs that tell you to go to the parking lot."
The tall guy rolled his eyes. "Don't you even know where you are?" I shook my head. "Fuckin' Hell. You know in Benten-Cho there's a half-built office building?"
"Well," He said proudly, "We own it. That's where we are now."
I nodded. "Cool." I said and I meant it. While I disliked the Claws and hated Edge, the thought of having an entire office building to call your hideout was just plain neat.
"Well get going, newbie."
I ground off a stair rail, jumped and wall rode over to the tarmac parking lot behind the building.
Edge was standing calmly in the middle of the lot, hands behind his back. Lounging by a battered old car were Cadmium, Blood and Ruby. Blood said something to the others and they laughed. Ruby had a sneer on her face. Edge turned to meet me as I rolled over the ground.
"Hey, Jolt." Edge was being amiable again and I wanted to hit him for it. I swallowed it, and said "Hey."
"Enjoying your new life as a Crimson Claw? Doesn't it feel more fitting to be on the winning side where you belong? You're a winner, Jolt. I can sense these things."
I mumbled a thank you and mentally screamed a fuck you at him.
"Wondering why I called you so early on after your recruitment?"
I was a little curious. "Kind of."
"Well, Jolt." He smiled. "I think you may have the stuff to be one of my favoured ones, like Cadmium, Blood and Ruby here."
I was genuinely surprised and before I could stop myself I blurted "What!?"
"Well..." Edge hesitated, like he was trying to get a train of thought on the right track.
"No-one has ever landed a blow on me before. And I don't think that any of my boys could be as downright stupidly brave as you. How's your rib by the way?"
I instinctively put my hand to my bandaged side. "S'okay." I shrugged.
"Anyway... I didn't bring you here to have idle chit-chat."
"Then why did you call me?"
"Well, If you're going to be in this gang, you've got to learn how to fight. You've got some skills, but none of them are good enough yet to be a full fledged Claw."
"So what do I have to do then?"
"There are three trials. First, you gotta race Ruby through Benten, and get to at least two out of three tag points before she does. Next, you've got to fight Blood and win. Finally..." He smirked. "You've got to prove your loyalty by going out, and bringing back something dear to one of the GG's."
"Okay. When do we start?"
"Ooh, keen aren't we?" Edge grinned broadly and ran a hand through his spiked hair. "You can start anytime you're ready."
An hour later, I met Edge and his chosen ones back at the parking lot.
"Ready to go, Jolt?" Edge asked, positively amiable. I just nodded.
I rolled over to where the start line was marked, and Ruby came by a second later, reeking of cheap perfume. She winked and licked her lips at me and that infamous wave of revulsion came over me. Cadmium told us where the tag spots were.
One on the face of the octopus model in Benten Circle, one on the wall near where the pick-up truck was parked and one on Benten Tower's balcony.
Edge began the countdown.
Instantly, we both shot forward, leaving twin trails of blue as we dashed for all we were worth. We were neck and neck long enough for the tart to whisper "You ain't gonna win, boy. You're going down." Then she bore down and moved into the lead. A rail was just ahead. I could tell that she was headed to the pick-up truck by the fact that she jumped the rail and went straight into town. Instead, I ground off to the right, headed for Benten circle. My path found me eventually skidding along the railing that crossed over above the Benten railway, where two old railway cars were rusting, covered in tags.
The sound of an approaching rail car made me wait a little before hooping onto the roof. So the wind wouldn't sweep me off the roof, I crouched and grabbed onto the edge between cars. I rode up the hill and jumped off at the workmen's entrance into Benten Circle, rolling up the cable, switching at the central pillar, skidding up another cable, jumping onto a hard shop canopy, and finally tagging the octopus with "Ride the Wave", that Garam taught me.
With no time to waste, I shot up another rail, making straight for Benten Boulevard. I cut through there, amidst various partygoers and veered off onto the same walkway where I had jumped onto the train roof. Pushing myself, ignoring the burning in my legs, I charged through the tunnel and darted up the Benten Tower steps. I became aware of a sound behind me all too late, as Ruby barged me out of the way, taking the lead. If she tagged the spot before me, I'd lose. She had a triumphant look on her face as she pulled out a spray can, still moving as fast as she could to the spot on the balcony.
Out of desperation, I grabbed a bag of marbles from a shop display, ignoring the shopkeeper's shouts, and threw it as hard as I could at Ruby.
The bag missed her, instead hitting the floor a couple of feet in front of her and bursting, scattering brightly coloured orbs everywhere.
Ruby wasn't able to stop in time and lost control, skidding over the marbles straight past the tag point, slamming into the wall at the end of the balcony. As she slumped down unconscious, I sprayed "Theatre of Sound" over the balcony, jumped the railing and ground down the pipe, heading back to the Claw hideout. One step closer to being a chosen one, one step closer to finding out exactly what Edge was planning.