Dragon Ball: The Third Dimension – Chapter 2

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Chapter 2: What Needs to Be Done

Crimson sat silently and listened to the sobs in the darkness. So many lives had been lost in the blink of an eye. He was finally processing what was happening and it was hard to take. Death was such an alien concept to him, even though he was an orphan. He knew nothing of his parents and Ecanoya always changed the subject when he tried to bring it up. This was different though, because this has left not just a handful of kids in a city of millions, this almost everyone now. Anyone who had lived in Taton had lost something, and he could do nothing but listen to their sobbing and weeping. Paul’s mattress was right next to his, although he hadn’t talked to him, Crimson wondered if Paul was even functioning properly. He was always bad with conflict, and he would avoid it if possible. If Paul found himself in a situation he didn’t want to be in he would just shut down completely. Crimson pondered if he would meltdown at any second and join in on the chorus of moaning and sobbing. When his thoughts turned to Jason, Crimson immediately grew weak. Jason wasn’t one for shutting down, as far as Crimson had seen he would stand up and smile even when presented with conflict. To see him just break, to fall into pieces and be a shell of his former self gave Crimson a sense of hopelessness. The only other kid who survived the orphanage besides Jason and Paul was Derek. He wasn’t much for conversation before, but now he seemed a lot more open to talking. Crimson even had a small conversation with him about constellations. It helped them both get their minds off of things. Although he wasn’t really the social type, Crimson liked Derek. He seemed like the only person around that just wanted to focus on something else than crying about the disaster. Derek had his arm dislocated while they were leaving the city. Apparently, while Crimson was unconscious, some of the leftover soldiers started attacking and prodding the crowd. Derek was next to a man who got his head disintegrated in an instant. Unfortunately for him, this big man fell on Derek and pinned him down. Jacob was too panicked and yanked him out from under him on an awkward angle, popping his shoulder out of its socket. He said he felt fine though, so Crimson left it at that.

As for his own wounds, Crimson didn’t have anything too major, but the doctors said that without proper instruments, they wouldn’t be able to tell if the blows to his head had given him any serious damage. They suggested that he take it easy and not wander too far from his bed. Ecanoya hadn’t popped in since the night before, and Crimson was wondering where he went. He gingerly pushed himself to his feet and looked down the long hallway of wounded people that stretched far on both sides. He walked towards the nearest source of light, which was coming from one of the makeshift windows. When he looked out it, he had to squint his eyes tight as they tried to adjust in the sudden change of lighting. When they finally had, he looked to see Taton, still smoking in the distance. The sunlight broke through openings in the clouds of smoke, and provided him with a sense of fresh air. Knowing now that it was morning, he walked his way over to Paul’s bed and shook him awake gently. Paul groaned and rolled over to look at him. He wouldn’t say a word to Crimson, but he acknowledged his presence. Crimson went over and did the same to Derek, who was right next to Paul. Crimson had to be careful not to move his wounded arm as he shook him. When Derek woke up, he looked around a bit, and then quietly sat up. Crimson gently tapped Jason, but to his surprise, Jason jerked his arm backward, as if flinging something off his arm, then he pushed Crimson away. When he got up and tried to tap Jason again, he choked out a loud and tearful “Go Away!” Crimson hung his head low and complied. He grabbed Derek and Paul and the three of them slowly left the room in search of Jacob and Ecanoya. As they reached the door though they turned and saw that Jason was getting up slowly. He trudged over to the three of them and pulled Paul aside. “It’s probably better if Paul stays instead of me…” He choked. He paused a little to regain his composure again. “I need to get some fresh air and someone has to be here to tell them where we went if they come back.” Crimson, Paul and Derek looked at one another and nodded. Jason stayed next to them, and Paul went to lay back down without complaint. Before they left, Jason turned to Crimson and said quietly “Sorry about before.” Crimson smiled sadly and patted him on the shoulder.

They exited to a part of the mines that was well lit. There was a dense crowd of people waiting around the medical bay and it was almost impossible to find anyone in it. They continued on into lower parts of the mines, asking if anyone had seen them by coming up with their descriptions. However, every time they asked, they received a “No” or a “Leave me alone.” It wasn’t a particularly good time to be searching for them. The crowd of people began to disperse as they got to the lower parts of the mines. They all also found that it was becoming slightly harder to walk.

“Is it me or does it feel somehow heavier down here?” Crimson questioned. Jason stopped and noticed it too.

“You’re right. It feels heavier.” He said in such a quiet voice that was almost a whisper. His voice sounded a little better, although still depressed.. It was like he was trying to think of something else now, like Derek, but failing. Crimson hung his head a little. He pitied Jason above all else because of what he lost. He wanted to forget all of the horror he witnessed, all the people that were lost, but he couldn’t. They were all suffering in their own ways.

Derek started adjusting his glasses and said. “Well we are starting to go a bit below the crust. Considering the planets size, it takes an incredible gravitational pull to keep it together. Thus the further we get into the mines, the harder it will be to walk. That is why most mining begins in hillsides, so that as many materials as possible can be extracted without acquiring the equipment necessary to allow a normal person to walk in the increased gravity in the lower parts of the mine.”

Crimson thought for a second and then asked. “How deep can we go before we get crushed?”

Derek shrugged and responded. “I am guessing that we could survive in anywhere between two to three times the surface gravity, but miners usually don’t stay in that amount for more than twenty-four hours just in case. There are some species from planets with higher natural gravity, like Saiyans or Zenkons, who can work even further down in the mines because their genetics allow them to adjust more quickly to more intense gravity.

Then Jason asked quizzically “So how does higher gravity actually kill a person?” He refused to raise his head to look Derek eye to eye. It worried Crimson, it sounded like Jason wanted to use it as a way out.

Derek responded “Why crushing would be the most obvious, but it is different for all races. Human’s, and races like us, will die because of the failure to have a proper blood flow to the brain, while some others will die because of bones being crushed…” He kept going on for a bit and Crimson zoned him out a little. He wasn’t in the mood to listen to how the different races could be killed after so many already had been. Eventually Derek stopped talking, and Crimson turned around. The two of them were listening intently to what sounded like chanting. Crimson and Derek slowly creeped further down the tunnel with Jason trudging behind, and they continued to listen. There was a rhythmic set of clapping going on accompanied several groups of laughter and shouting. As the two approached, Crimson looked back over his shoulder to check on Jason, and was surprised to see that he had perked up from his depression a bit and was walking in pace with them now instead of trudging behind. He assumed that the noise must of piqued his curiosity. When the source of the noise was in view, he saw a small crowd of people, clapping and occasionally all yelling at the same time in a small room off to the side of the main path on the mines. The festivities confused Crimson, and he stopped and contemplated whether he should actually go and find out what was happening. Jason and Derek continued on though, their curiosity outweighing their common sense at that point, so Crimson followed suit. When they reached the wall of people, they noticed they were all looking towards the center of the room. There was too much noise and confusion for Crimson to tell what was going on, so he pulled the two of them to the side, and looked for higher ground. To their left they saw a small dirt mound and they climbed up there.

In the middle of the room were two people, a Namekian man, and a Saiyan, who could be identified by his tail. The two were trading blows and every time one landed a hit, the crowd would cheer. It went on for about half a minute longer before the Namekian eventually landed a solid blow straight to the Saiyan’s stomach, causing him to stumble back into the crowd. People jumped out of the way as he fell back, letting him fall to the ground with a thud. Everything was quiet, then slowly someone began to clap. The entire crowd clapped and cheered for the Namekian man, who had a slight grin on his face. Crimson turned to Derek, and he noticed his glare. It was one of concern. He thought back to the conversation between him and Ecanoya at the diner, where he mentioned that underground crime rings were everywhere, especially outside of the city. It made sense considering how secure the city used to be, but he didn’t think one would be so close. He immediatly realized where they were, and his eyes shifted to Jason, but he wasn’t paying enough attention to notice. Now that the fight was over, people started noticing the three strange teenagers standing on the dirt mound in the back of the room. Crimson looked to the exit and noticed a couple of larger men, a few aliens and a human, were standing closer to it. They were trying to block their escape, and Crimson turned to look at his friends. Derek’s face was a rush of emotions, and it was obvious that he was trying to formulate a plan. Jason’s face hadn’t changed from that depressing frown. Even the immediate danger couldn’t shake him out of his mood.

A short, plump little Zenkon man weaved his way through the crowd and was the first to speak up to them. “Hey kids, you shouldn’t be watching things like this! Head back up in the mine before the increased gravity hurts you!” Crimson turned to Derek, and Derek seemed more than ready to abide to the man’s commands. The two of them hopped off the dirt mound and started moving towards the exit. A tall alien patted Crimson on the head and laughed a little. It annoyed him that a complete stranger was touching him, but he didn’t want to say anything. He stopped right before the exit and turned around to see Jason, still standing on the dirt mound. He had zoned out again, probably hiding beneath his depression. He didn’t notice the Zenkon growing more and more angry at him for his ignorance. He finally yelled so loud that it reached above the chatter of the others and could be heard by Derek and Crimson on the other side of the room. “Fine if you want to stay so bad you must want to be in the fights!” and with that the angry little man grabbed Jason from the dirt mound and shoved him through a parting crowd towards the Namekian. Crimson’s eyes grew wide and he ran back to help Jason, but was grabbed by one of the larger human men.

“Take a good look kid, because this’s our shelter, our fight arena. We’s don’t need no snot nosed brats from Taton mucking up the day to day operations of this here place.” Said the man who grabbed Crimson. He lifted Crimson off the ground a little so that he could see over the crowd. Crimson had guessed his game, they wanted him and Derek to see Jason get some punishment or get the crap beaten out of him so that they wouldn’t say anything to the hundreds of thousands of people camped in and around the mineshaft. His head turned to the side and he saw that Derek had been picked up by an alien man with pink polka-dots and blue skin with a head like a lizard. The bizarre looking creature intimidated them both. Derek watched in fear at the center area, where the crowd stood around watching. Jason had finally snapped out of his episode and noticed what was happening. He looked at the Namekian man in fear, which caused him to frown. Without even a word the Namekian man struck Jason in the stomach, causing him to fall to the ground like a ragdoll and start coughing. The man holding Crimson nearly dropped him and muttered “Damn, I wouldn’t think that he would hit a kid as hard as he hit someone who could actually fight back. This is a little too much…” Hearing the concern in the mans voice Crimson tried to use the distraction to wriggle himself free. He placed his feet against the man’s lower stomach and shoved, sending him flying out of his grip. The only thought that raced through his mind was saving Jason from the torture he was going through. Some people at the back of the crowd turned and saw Crimson scramble to his feet as he took a panicked tumble towards Jason. He listened to Jason’s muffled cries of anguish over the sound of the crowd and he pushed himself to run faster. He made his way toward the center quickly, barreling through the cheering people before most had a time to react. He tripped into the center circle, and looked towards the Namekian man, who was kicking Jason in a quick, rhythmic pattern while he laid crying on the ground. Jason’s mouth was beginning to leak blood, but the Namekian man wasn’t even hesitating. The man continued to kick Jason, and he wouldn’t even blink at the sounds of anguish coming from his victim. Crimson’s head was filled with rage, and he wasn’t about to let someone else lose their life because he failed to act. Without even taking time to formulate a proper thought about the situation, Crimson scrambled to his feet, crouched down low in his run, and grabbed the Namekian in a proper tackle. It was like tackling a stack of bricks, and Crimson’s injuries started to flare up and burn like he had hit rammed himself into a stack of hot coals with every injured part of his body. The increased gravity wasn’t completely twice the norm, but Crimson had struggle to keep himself upright. He had at least knocked the man off of Jason long enough for him to escape. When he turned around and saw Jason was still not moving, he grew even concerned about how serious the injuries were.

In the split second he took his eyes away, the Namekian man he had knocked off his balance swung his fist in a hook motion and connected it straight into Crimson’s face sending him sprawling across the floor.. His entire jaw and his teeth ached so bad that it overtook all other pains he had, which is what he needed to stand back up again. He quickly pushed himself to his feet and looked back to the Namekian man. Instead of running towards him like Crimson thought he would be, the Namekian man was standing right in front of him, as if he was there the entire time. Crimson looked around the room for anything that might help him, he looked from the lights, to a helpless Jason, to Derek, even looking to see if someone nearby had a weapon he could use in self defence. He knew Derek wouldn’t be escaping from the larger men now that they were on the alert from Crimson’s escape, and no one around him had anything he could use to save himself. A man behind Crimson shoved him forward and he found himself on the Namekian’s knee. He hadn’t even seen him raise it. He coughed as the wind was knocked out of him and desperately tried to catch his breath. With terror he looked up at the Namekian man, and listened as a buzzing sound started to come from his hand. It grew louder until a ball of ki became visible. Crimson fell back in surprise and landed on one of the glass cuts that decorated the palm of his right hand beneath the bandages, causing him to wince in pain. He looked up helplessly at the Namekian as he looked back emotionlessly at Crimson. Before he even had time to think, his chest was struck with incredible force. He screamed loudly and held the spot where he was hit. His screams came out awkwardly as he still hadn’t completely caught his breath from the strike in the stomach. He tried to look at his chest, but he was in so much pain that he couldn’t lean that far up. He saw streamlines leaving his flesh and knew how bad the hit was. He threw his head back on the ground and arched his back, then cried out some more. Through his tears he watched the Namekian man walk away as the crowd stood silent. Some were sneering, others had genuine looks of concern and horror.

As the Namekian man left, some men from the crowd came and helped Jason and Crimson to their feet. Before he knew it they were slowly being dragged through the hall leading away from that place. He looked around, trying to regain his senses, but the pain consumed him like a tidal wave washing over a single pebble, and he started to scream again. It continued for about thirty minutes, for him it felt like an eternity. People in the upper parts of the mines had heard the screams and he heard panicked footsteps. When he looked up he saw that a couple women were helping him along to the makeshift hospital, both were exchanging words like “What happened?” and “How could someone do this to a kid?”

The next time he gained consciousness he was in a strange place. It was like the hospital room he was in before, but it had a much better air supply. The mines had very little fresh air, even in a room that was meant to let some in. Crimson tried to sit up but a hand held him down. He wasn’t able to see yet, as if he was blindfolded. He listened carefully to someone talk. It sounded close, yet distant, as if he wasn’t really there listening to them. He laughed to himself a little and thought about how many times he had been in this situation. He had to keep a positive mood, otherwise depression would take him too.

“It appears we have third degree burns on the lower left portion of his right pectoral” a voice called out. “Several already treated injuries are found on other parts of the body, most just cuts, scrapes and bruises. Nothing too major. Patient appears to have suffered a head injury, likely happened during the invasion, will review later.” There was a clicking sound and the voice stopped. Crimson listened to a sound like scribbling on a notepad. He listened closer as footsteps moved a little bit away from him. They rounded a small corner and stopped on the other side of a thin wall. “This patient was brought in at the same time as the last, injuries are far different however. While the others major injury seems to be fire or energy based, this ones is entirely physical. Through an X-Ray examination, it appears there are at least seven cracked ribs and four broken ones. There are several bruises all over the body and a possibility of internal organ damage. Will consult Day later to see if there is a possible fix to this.” Crimson knew they were talking about Jason With that the voice continued down that direction, repeatedly speaking to itself. Crimson put his hand over his face and felt the blindfold that blocked his vision. He gently pulled it off and sat up to look at his chest. His eyes widened with horror and he looked at the injury. He couldn’t tilt his head to see it perfectly, but he could see the skin was severely burned, and at one small point it was completely charred. He wanted to scream, but he couldn’t. Everything that was happening was just too much for him to take in, but he refused to let himself cry. He knew if he started feeling sorry for himself he may never stop. He turned to his where the voice commented headed and saw a large sheet was hanging from the ceiling. The room was well lit enough that he could make out a silhouette of a bed and a figure on the other side.

He weakly called out “Jason?” There was no reply. He tried it again. “Jason are you awake? Hello?” There was still no answer. Crimson let his head fall back and he tried to rest. He couldn’t though, not because of the pain, but because of his concern. Ecanoya and Jacob were nowhere to be found, he has no clue what happened to Derek, and Paul probably didn’t even know what was happening. He sat back for a while before there was a loud slamming sound, like someone was tripping over themselves. Then he heard footsteps come sprinting down the hallway. He was excited for a second, thinking it would be someone he knew. When the footsteps passed him however, he saw that it was not anyone he knew. It was a Namekian man. Crimson wondered why there were so many Namekians around, he knew they were the second race to arrive on Soluris, but from what he learned about them, it seemed strange that they would be so numerous. Namekians had lived in other districts especially, so it wouldn’t make sense for them to seek refuge at a mine that was near a mainly human district. The Namekian man stopped at Jason’s section. Crimson realized immediately that it could be the same man that had caused their injuries coming here to make sure they don’t talk. He tried to sit up, but his injuries denied him this right. He fell back and began to enter a state of panic. He wasn’t even in condition to run in the event the man attacked.

There was a short silence, followed by small grunts and groans. There was a strange, alien sound that was like a buzzing sound, but it was rolling over waves of air. Crimson listened for a while, and decided that it wasn’t like a ki attack. He had heard enough of those in the brief time that he discovered they were real to know how they sounded, especially up close. It was crazy for him to think that not even a week ago he had thought they were practically fairy tales. It still seemed far fetched for him, and although he wanted to, he couldn’t deny what was happening. People moving faster than the eye can trace, blowing up buildings by controlling energy? It threw off his understanding of the world so much that whatever happened now seemed like a dream, or rather, a nightmare. One he couldn’t wake up from. When the noise stopped he heard a frantic gasp for air and coughing. Crimson nearly fell out of the bed in a scramble to check on Jason, but he stopped when he heard a soft “Thank you.” from none other than Jason.

“It is what I do, now would you mind if I left to give the same treatment to your friend?” a deep, yet friendly voice replied.

“Not at all, please be quick, I heard about his chest while they were dragging me here. How did it happen? Is it really that bad?” Jason responded in a panic. His concern touched Crimson, and made him feel emotionally and mentally at ease.

“Please understand that your friend is extremely lucky to even be alive. He was hit directly by a Ki blast which should have just burned right through his body. It appears that it was weak enough that it just dissipated after burning off all the energy it contained, luckily. It shouldn’t be a problem to fix it because of this, your friend will be fine.”

Crimson heard a sigh of relief and listened to Jason’s bed ache as if he flopped back. “That’s good, so how did it happen though? I thought they were just beating me up.”

The voice responded “According to your other friend, he ran through the crowd and tried to tackle the man off of you whilst he was assaulting you. Unfortunately he was stronger than your friend knew, and was merely stumbled by the tackle. While he was checking to make sure you were still breathing, the assailant knocked him halfway across the room and hit him with the blast.” Crimson felt a minor sense of pride. Hearing it from someone else made him sound extremely heroic, and he was able to crack a smile. Soon the Namekian man came around the corner and noticed Crimson was awake. He greeted him with a friendly “Hello.”

“Hello to you too.” Crimson responded in a raspy voice he barely recognized. He tried his best to smile to the man. The Namekian man returned the smile and stepped over to his injured side. “Just a question before you begin.” Crimson started and the Namekian man looked at him curiously. “How did you know about our injuries? Derek told you right? Where is he?” The Namekian man nodded his head.

“Yes your friend told me, you were lucky he was there, somehow that scrawny little guy dragged the two of you through the mines at a point that was nearing two times the surface gravity for a normal person. I guess looks can be deceiving. He got you to a point where you were able to receive proper help. As for your injuries, he told us a little about them, but he wasn’t descriptive enough, so one of the doctors had to come in here and blindfold you so you wouldn’t panic when you woke up, after that he made audio logs on both of your injuries and brought them to me.” He stopped and nodded to Crimson’s wound “Although it seems like you didn’t care much for the blindfold. This is going to feel weird, but don’t move alright?” Crimson watched him intently as he crouched down next to the bed. The man reached his hands out just above Crimson, one directly above his wound, another over his lower torso. He looked over Crimson for a bit and took note of his bandages on his other wounds. Crimson leaned his head back and tried to relax, but he couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing. There was a short pause before he heard that strange sound again. He looked at the man and saw that his hands were radiating with a green light. He wanted to jerk away, but when he was about to, he saw Jason walk around the corner.

He was still in a gloomy mood, but he seemed a lot happier than before. He was standing up straight now, not slouching in his own misery, but his face still had a hint of sadness in it. The sound ended before Crimson could return his attention to it. He looked back to the Namekian man and then looked at his wound. It was completely gone, there wasn’t even a scar left. His jaw dropped quick and he stared at his chest, not believing what he was seeing. In fact there was no more pain on any part of his body, he was completely healed. He looked up at the Namekian man and back to his wound several times, and both he and Jason just stayed where they were. Eventually the Namekian man coughed to get Crimson’s attention and said “I used a form of ki to heal you, I probably should have told you beforehand though, you looked like you were ready to jump out of the bed for a second there. Not all ki techniques are used for fighting. Either way I am glad you were able to come through, all your wounds should be healed, allow me to see you out” He stood up and helped Crimson to his feet. Crimson wobbled a little, getting his balance and adjusting to the sudden fact he could walk without pain. He led them through the hallway and turned to them. Jason and Crimson were watching all the wounded people rest as they passed them.

“If you can heal people that fast, why are there still so many wounded people?” Crimson asked. The Namekian man stopped and turned around. Crimson hoped he hadn’t offended him in any way.

“As effective as this healing is, I can’t do it that much. I only use my energy on those who are in danger of death, like your friend. I healed you because of how you were injured, and I would feel guilty leaving a kid to suffer from a wound like that. Although I wish I could help everyone, there is only so much I can do in a day before I am out of energy.” He answered. They all continued walking in silence. The room was much smaller than their last establishment, and now that Crimson was healed, his mind was less fuzzy. He could focus on more things now, and he looked up to see the shiny plastic fabric that was covering the place they were in. The Namekian took note of his curiosity and started to explain. “When King Sobrium blew up Taton the news spread fast. Any willing village or place within at least a hundred miles of the city is currently housing the wounded and homeless. It is the biggest city on record for the planet, and will take a lot of help to take care of the incredible amount of wounded people.

He stopped at a flap in the fabric meant to lead to the outside. “Anyway, you guys were probably brought here, as the mines were the first place people wanted to hunker down when Taton was destroyed because of how close it is to the city. Some people mean to get their belongings back, others to find family. I came from a nearby purely Namekian community that is about a hundred miles east, on the east of the Akabeth wasteland. Ever since, I have been busy healing people who are in any medical station on the outskirts of the mines.” He led them through the flap and Crimson winced at the outside light he hadn’t seen for a while. When his vision cleared, he looked around at the entrance to the mines. It was very hectic. There were trees being cut down to make more room for makeshift buildings, and any of the makeshift buildings that was already standing seemed to have several people crammed close together in them. Most of the tents that were already up had a different colored “X” on them to signify their use. The building they were in sat next to the entrance to the mine. The dirt path to the mine was littered with thousands of different foot steps heading in several different directions. All along the path were buildings, some were still in construction, while other seemed to have been scrapped together quickly . On the other side of the path, right across from the tent Crimson and Jason were in, was a large stone building, used to house the miners. Crimson wondered how they felt about this entire ordeal.

The Namekian man turned to the two of them as they stepped outside. “Now I don’t know if you two came here with anyone, but if you did, you might want to find them fast. Word has it that there was a section of the city where people were trapped by soldiers, and it is just being cleared out now, meaning come tomorrow there will be almost twice the amount of people here. Oh! And if you two ever need me again, my name is Dayereh, but call me Day for short. You can seek me out in the miners building.” He stopped and pointed to the large building Crimson noted earlier. “I will be in there along with the owner of the mines, and some other healers from other villages. If you can, refer anyone in need of immediate medical attention to this building, someone will take care of them.” With that he departed and left them. Jason tugged on Crimson’s shirt and the two looked at each other for a little while. It was awkward for the both of them, Crimson didn’t know what to say to Jason. He had felt heroic for a short while, but now he just felt stupid. He had thrown his life away to try and save Jason, without even thinking about how in the world Derek would have gotten them out of there. They were lucky that he did though, otherwise neither of them would be standing where they were.

Crimson had almost forgot about Derek, he yelled out to Day before he disappeared from sight “Hey! Where is our friend that brought us here?”

Day turned around in his walk and yelled back. “He said he was going back to Paul whoever that is!” While walking backwards he bumped his head on a wooden beam two men were holding and winced. Crimson chuckled a little at his clumsiness of “Day”. He was at least a lot more friendly and chatty than the last Namekian he had met. Immediately he thought of Rob, and he flashed back to the moment that Darwin snapped his neck. He saw Rob’s face, he remembered how he threw away his life attacking Darwin with Ecanoya to save them. He couldn’t believe how the death of someone he barely talked to affected him so badly. He shook his head violently. He had to keep his mind off of things like that. Jason looked at Crimson, slightly confused, but he shrugged and decided to move on to more important matters. The two of them walked back into the mine, both of them hardly believing how all the physical injuries were practically gone. The mental injuries were another matter. Crimson knew that no matter how much someone healed his body, no one could fix the trauma he just went through. His soul was beyond the reach of healing. Everywhere he looked were reminders of what happened. He didn’t want to let it break him, but he knew better than to think it wouldn’t eventually. For the meantime, he tried to distract himself, just like Derek.

They went a bit down the mines, and once they were at sea level within the hill, they knew the hospital was near. They turned into their original quarters and walked back to their little area. Derek was sitting next to Paul. When the two of them spotted Crimson and Jason standing straight without any bandages, they just sat staring with wide eyes. It was as if the two of them were processing what they saw. Paul jumped up and bear hugged Crimson, nearly knocking him to the floor in the process. “You idiot! I thought you were going to die!” Paul checked Crimson slowly. “You don’t even have a scratch on you anymore. What the hell happened with you two?”

Jason cut in and laughed. “Well we met a nice Namekian named Dayereh. He is in complete contrast to the one that used me as a hitting bag and roasted Crimson’s chest.” Crimson squinted angrily at Jason for joking about his wounds. At least he was laughing, Crimson told himself. Derek adjusted his glasses, as if he still wasn’t convinced with what he was seeing. Crimson turned to him and chuckled to himself..

Paul suddenly spoke out. “You guys arrived at the perfect time! I was just about to tell Derek about Ecanoya and Jacob!” Jason, Derek and Crimson all looked at Paul with an angry gaze. Paul put his hands up like he was caught by the police. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I know, should have been the first thing I talked about.” He wiggled his nose a little and then spoke very slowly. “Ecanoya came up here before Derek even arrived with the news. He told me that he and Jacob were sorry they were nowhere to be seen, they were just going to a meeting in a part of the mines that had about two times gravity, and when I told him that you three went looking down there anyway, he sighed angrily and ran back out. You guys must have been in the room at the time, so he must of missed you completely on his way back to search for you.”

Derek turned to Paul and cut in. “Meeting? What meeting?”

Paul turned to Derek and continued. “What? You guys don’t know about the meeting? Well I guess you have been hospitalized more than I have. I overheard several people talking about a couple guys who have organized a meeting really low down in the mines. They want to talk about a form of retaliation against Sobrium.” The three of them sat in silence for a bit, taking this in. Paul waited patiently for them before he continued.

Jason looked around to the three of them and called out. “Well then what are we waiting for? Let’s go see what this is about.” Without another word, the four of them made the journey further down into the mines. When they passed the room in which they were assaulted, they found it completely empty. Paul noticed Crimson staring down the hallway towards the room and he sighed. No one had to say anything, their gazes told Paul all he needed to know about where they were. Jason was walking in front this time, taking proud and happy strides. It was like how he used to be, except even happier.

Derek turned to Crimson and asked. “He sure is happy all of the sudden, do you know what’s gotten into him? I mean how did he get so happy, he has been in and out of the real world since the orphanage…” he stopped, as if just saying the words choked him up.

Crimson looked at Derek and sighed. He replied to his question “I guess finding a direction to go in is reinventing the purpose he has in life. Think about it, he lost everything with his sisters, but this meeting…” Crimson perked up and smiled to Derek “This meeting will let him find himself again and get back on track to who he used to be.”

Paul cut in between the two of them. “You guys really think that he will just bounce back that easy?”

Derek simply replied. “No, no one in their right mind could.” He stopped and thought a little. “Then again, had he been in his right mind back there, we wouldn’t have been in that mess.” He grumbled. The three of them looked towards Jason, noticing how far ahead he was, and they looked at one another, shrugged and hurried up to close the distance. It wasn’t that far down the mines anymore until they began to hear a lot of chatter echoing through the halls. Crimson crossed his fingers and hoped that it wasn’t the same group of people that they approached before. As they drew closer however, Crimson could clearly tell that this group was several times bigger, as the ruckus began to echo through the hall to the point where the noise silenced any attempt at communication between the four of them. When they reached the room in which the noise was originating from, they stood in absolute awe. The room stood at least five stories tall, with a winding track for minecarts to be pushed up and down. It stretched to the length of at least a city block both in width and length. At the very bottom there was a small stage with a couple of people standing on top of it, talking about something Crimson couldn’t even begin to make out through all the noise. Along the walls, on every platform, was group of at very least ten people. Crimson estimated that there had to be at least twenty thousand people there.

They stood at the top level, peering down towards the stage. Crimson scanned the crowd in hopes of finding either Ecanoya or Jacob. There were too many people gathered in the dim lighting of the mine to properly search the crowd. Crimson sighed and gave up, then he turned to the others and shouted above the noise “This part of the mine isn’t well lit enough, there is no way I can find Ecanoya and Jacob with this many people.”

Paul walked forward and peered over the ledge. “We have to keep trying.” he shouted to Crimson. Crimson sighed and walked toward the ledge. Looking down made him nervous, he felt off balance although he and the platform were completely still. The increased gravity made him feel like something was reaching up and tugging him down. Derek and Jason walked up next to them and helped scan the crowd. Even with the combined effort of the four of them, it yielded no results. Paul collapsed backward, letting out a loud thump as he hit the ground in two times gravity, causing him to groan slightly. He sat down in total defeat and looked up at Crimson and the others. Crimson watched Derek walk over to him and begin to sit down when suddenly a loud voice called out over a megaphone.

“Attention everyone! We will now begin the meeting. We apologize for the delay, but since this is our biggest meeting thus far, we wanted all of our speakers to be here for this. Now I know some of you in the crowd are from the several villages and towns within a few hundred miles of Taton who have come to help. I want to thank you for all that you have done, without you this wouldn’t even be happening.” The voice paused and everyone spoke between each other in hushed whispers. Crimson thought about Dayereh and how he was using ki to heal people. Derek and Paul brushed Crimson’s arms as they pushed their way to the front of the crowd on their platform. The voice continued once everyone finished whispering. “We are a group of people who used to live in the city as well, so to have people who didn’t even live there helping out, overjoys me and gives me hope that we can come together to overcome this challenge.” He cleared his throat and his tone changed to a more serious one. “Now we all know about Sobrium, the self proclaimed ‘King’ of our planet. What he failed to remember, is that Soluris is a very big place, and the effect of his actions only spread his reach for a couple hundred miles. We have gotten information on the four people he has left in power. First off is Gunlder, the largest of their group. This big red brute comes from Jerton a planet with several dangerous creatures, so his power has come naturally due to genetics. His job is to handle all military actions taken by the governing party.” People whispered amongst each other again and the man stopped. Crimson turned to Jason and watched his gaze shift downward. When the commotion died down once again the man continued. “The second one of discussion is Gij’zr, a member of the endangered lizard headed humanoid race of Neslons. He used to be a war criminal to them, but when Sobrium began exterminating the race as punishment for their support to one of his rivals, he freed Gij’zr and provided him with the training necessary to become as dangerous as he is now. Out of all of them he is the most loyal to Sobrium by far, and so he was entrusted as a sort of ‘Overall Leader’ where he reports things directly to Sobrium if he believes they demand his attention.” Again, there was a small interruption of whispers, and some people called out to the man speaking, trying to question him on various things. Either he didn’t listen, or he didn’t want to stop, because he continued. “The final two are Yvemer and Jervil. Both of them are brothers, but Yvemer is one of the longest surviving members of Sobriums army, while Jervil was only taken in because he showed promise. Yvemer is responsible for collecting all resources that Sobrium wants from the planet, while Jervil scouts for soldiers to join Sobriums army the next time he visits. Oh, and Jervil is the small one.”

Through the next wave of whispers and chatter, Paul slapped Crimson on the arm and Crimson glared at him and whined. “What Paul I am in the middle of-” Paul cut him off quickly and pointed.

“Look there, on the lowest off-hang before ground floor, it looks just like the one we are on, except it doesn’t have a ladder down. On the front to the left, do you see them?” He asked with a sense of excitement. Crimson followed his gaze to the spot in which he was looking, and his jaw dropped as he saw Ecanoya, standing with his rough, tangled beard and long hair directly in near plain view on the platform. His gaze shifted to the smaller, yet equally well built man next to him, and he knew immediately without even seeing his face that it was Jacob. The two were talking to one another and didn’t seem to notice the teenagers whom they looked after staring right at them. Crimson slapped Jason’s arm and he responded with the same angry glare Crimson had given Paul. Derek turned, hearing Jason and looked to where Paul and Crimson were pointing. Neither of them showed the level emotion Crimson expected, they simply noted in understanding and turned back to the man in the center of the room.

“Now the most dangerous man any of us will have to deal with, is Sobriums elite soldier and right hand man, Darwin McDarloss. He is an absolute lunatic whose unpredictability is only matched by the cold and cunning mind of his leader, Sobrium. He takes incredible pleasure in causing pain to others and is known to even joke about it. However in a fair fight, Darwin is far less distracted. If anyone were to fight Darwin seriously, he would drop his childish attitude and gain a stern expression. He rarely does this for any other reason, and will only act this way outside of battle if demanded by Sobrium. He is not on the planet anymore, but when he returns, hide wherever you can crawl into, because his power at ki fighting exceeds the four leading officers put together and multiplied by several times” He stopped and his voice changed from a professional tone to a much more grim one. “As you can see the people we are up against are incredibly dangerous, but at the same time very organized. ‘King Sobrium’s Army’ is not the only faction in the universe with this kind of power, but it is the only one any of you need to be concerned about. Many of you have come here for a solution to the problem of Sobrium, and I present one to you. We must fight to take back our planet.” The crowd broke into a sudden uproar.

“You just told us how monstrous and powerful they are and now you want us to fight them?” One voice shouted out.

“You’re mad!” Another called out.

“You’ll be sending us to our deaths! How is that a plan?” A third asked.

“Calm down, calm down! I know that it seems like an impossible plan, but it is one that if we pull off correctly, could work. I am not saying this is risk free, the reason I told you of the danger was to be realistic but it is either join us, or join Sobrium at this point. Choose what you want, freedom or enslavement?” The man concluded. People talked to one another for a while. Crimson and the others watched Ecanoya and Jacob discuss these options to one another, but couldn’t figure out what they concluded. Slowly, some people began to leave. At first it was a few, but then a large chunk of the crowd began up the ladders and ramps leading out of the meeting room. The man sighed and looked to the ground, waiting for those who wanted to leave to finish doing so. There was a hold up on the ladders as some people couldn’t climb in the increased gravity, and people who were less affected by it had to help them up. It took almost fifteen minutes before the entire place lost many of its supporters. There was still a couple hundred people left, but the original size of the crowd was severely dampened. The speaker handed his mic over to a woman standing next to him and she stepped forward and began to speak.

“For those of you who have stayed, I want to clarify the risk you are putting yourself in. If it is discovered that you were working against Sobrium, he and his guard will most likely subject you to torture which will end in your death. They will then approach anyone known to be in relation to you and enact the same violent treatment until they are satisfied. You need to let this sink in, your family, friends and colleagues are all in danger by your very presence here. Go now and you may be able to save them, stay and your life from now on will consist of hiding and operating in the shadows until our group is strong enough to confront Sobrium. You will have to leave what little you have left behind.” The woman paused and looked with a cold glare around the room. The small gathering of people that made up the crowd on the ground floor dispersed even further, to the point where there were only two or three clumps of people dotting the floor far below the four of them. Crimson looked to Ecanoya and Jacob, who were still talking to one another, but otherwise did not show any signs of preparing to leave. He sighed slightly and lay back on the wood boards of their offhang. He felt fatigued from being under the effects of the increased gravity, and could do nothing but listen at this point. He rubbed his eyes and waited for the meeting to continue. As he yawned Derek turned to him and gave him a slap on the stomach to get him up.

“Hey Crimson, don’t fall asleep in higher gravity if you aren’t used to it. It can be hazardous.” Crimson sighed and took his friends advice. He tried to sit up, but the task was strenuous. He felt as though someone was sitting on his chest, and it took a bit of effort for him to finally sit all the way up. Turning to Paul, Crimson could see a similar fatigue in his friend. He hoped this meeting would be over soon so he could go back and rest somewhere. The topic at hand interested him immensely, but he couldn’t help but feel drowsy. He yawned and continued to listen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ecanoya scratched his beard and watched the woman on stage whisper to her colleagues. Jacob turned to him and continued what he was saying earlier. “The idea seems pretty radical. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see Sobrium fall as much as the next guy, but an organized rebellion within a few days? Something isn’t right about this.” Ecanoya continued to stroke his stubble, thinking intently on the idea before them.

“I know it seems radical and far-fetched, but we should at least stay until the end. I want to get a clear idea of exactly how much of this they have planned out.” Ecanoya responded after a short pause. Jacob turned from him, nodding in understanding. The wait continued for a while, and every now and then one of the people would take the front of the stage and apologize for the wait before going back. Jacob shrugged his shoulders and groaned a little. Ecanoya turned to him, noticing this. “What’s wrong? Is the extra gravity beginning to get to you?” He asked slightly surprised. He expected a saiyan to be more comfortable in the increased gravity. They were nearly at three times gravity, and Ecanoya knew that even with his guard background, even he couldn’t stay in this comfortably for long.

As the wait carried on, Jacob let out a sigh and looked upwards. Ecanoya followed his gaze, mimicking the emotion. The two stared at the ceiling before Ecanoya began to scan the upper rafters. He followed the scaffolding up and saw that, at the highest point, were four familiar faces peering over the edge, laying on their stomachs in order to feel less of the brunt effects of the increased gravity. Ecanoya muttered to Jacob “Hey, are those… the kids?” Jacob turned to him and then followed his gaze.

“You have got to be kidding me.” Jacob exasperated. The two watched the four of them turn to one another and talk. Jacob’s gaze turned to one of confusion as he turned to Ecanoya. “Where are their bandagings? Paul is the only one who has any on him, just that one for the scratch on his neck. Derek’s arms are hanging over the edge, but one should be densely wrapped because of the dislocation. What the hell did we miss…?” Ecanoya scanned over Crimson first, and noted how, even though he had the worst wounds out of all of them, he looked perfectly healthy, if not a little pale because of the increased gravity. He ruffled his brows and thought about how this was possible.

“Maybe someone versed in ki healed them back to full health?” Ecanoya suggested. Jacob turned to him and thought about it, then nodded his head in understanding. The two of them lost focus on the wait while they watched the kids. It was hard to make them out since they were so high up, but Ecanoya knew that they were probably discussing the meeting. He chuckled to himself and wondered if they had spotted him and Jacob yet. A loud screeching sound rang through the room and Ecanoya, along with everyone else, turned to see the source of the ear piercing noise. On the stage, was a new individual, a man who wasn’t with the speakers on stage before. Everyone was waiting eagerly for this stranger to resume the meeting.

“I apologize for being late.” He began. “I would like to properly introduce myself to you all. My name… well no, the codename, I am using now is Ghost. I do so in case we may have any people in the audience who would wish ill of me or my family. I am the one who organized this entire meeting, and it is my duty to inform those of you who have stayed exactly where to go and what to do.” Ghost looked around the audience, studying their faces. Ecanoya noted how much different he was from the others. He couldn’t really read this man properly. It was difficult to tell what exactly he was feeling about those gathered before him. Ghost continued “Our plan is a simple one, but it will take a lot of dedication to pull off, and it will ask of you something that I don’t know if I can truly ask of all of you.” He stopped and the tension became thick. Everyone anticipated his explanation. “Sobrium is gathering forces from all the planets he rules over. He is growing his army to such a size that it is beginning to overwhelm even the strongest of his opposition. Which is why Sobrium is not our only worry here. The others are worried about this planet as well.” The crowd began to whisper to one another and he let them. He continued shortly after they stopped “There are at least four other major factions trying to hold claim on the universe. Aside from Sobrium, there is another Arcosian who was born with a massive power level. His family line call themselves ‘Heat’. The presence of this faction has been on this planet for a while now, but they haven’t taken much action now. It is assumed however, that now that their day to day operations have been changed due to Sobriums hostile takeover of this area of the planet, that the Heat will begin to take action before Sobrium can claim the entire thing for himself.” Ecanoya looked at the ground and thought to himself. There were now two mighty opponents of the same race fighting for control over the galaxy. He turned and saw Jacob acting unsurprised. Ecanoya wondered if he had known all along. Ghost continued the speech. “Orion’s Republic for Better Lives, or as they call themselves, the ORBL, is a mainly human based faction that operates very differently from the other factions. The ORBL focuses on maintaining order throughout the galaxy and providing shelter and care for all those who need it. They shun ki fighting among the civilian population, an ideology adopted by the founders of Taton. Overall they would be the ‘good guys’ in this struggle for control of the galaxy.” He took a breath and waited for the crowd to let everything sink in, then asked “Are there any questions before we get to the plan itself?”

One Zenkon close to the stage asked aloud “What about the other factions? You said there were four more and you only listed two.”

Ghost looked to the Zenkon and answered “Because the other two factions are simply not present on this planet, and we don’t need to worry about them. One is referred to commonly as The Gathering, because of how diverse their members are, but they do little to nothing in the way of actual fighting. The other is simply a humongous group of Pirates that don’t really go by a name, but prove to be an incredibly dangerous force. Why pirates would want control of the galaxy is unknown, but whatever they are plotting, it doesn’t involve this planet Soluris. Any more questions?” He scanned the crowd and found no one speaking up at all, and then decided to get down to business. “Now here is what you have all been waiting for, our plan. We only wanted the most dedicated people here to listen to this, which is why I had two of the other speakers try to dissuade the feint of heart from listening to this and spreading it around. Sobrium plans to visit Soluris more frequently than other planets, practically every two months. He does this for three reasons mainly. One, he checks in with the planet’s current ‘leader’ which would be Gij’zr, from his governing party to see if anything from the military requires his immediate attention.

Secondly he collects any and all resources that can be used to assist his army and empire. This will include for the most part mined minerals, as Taton has a large supply of untapped veins of copper, iron and warenai. These are the most important to him, as they help with the construction of armor, weapons and space faring ships. Third, and most important.” He stopped for a second and assured himself the crowd was interested, which they were. “He will draft anyone that fits the criteria into his army in order to increase the overwhelming number of his already massive army.” Ecanoya leaned against the wall as the man paused yet again. It was as if he was mentally preparing himself for what he was going to say next. Ecanoya looked to Jacob, who shared the same gaze of curiosity that the small crowd did. “Sobrium’s men will be checking for able bodied people they left behind on the initial draft due to the guards selfless act of distraction that caused them to be the ones drafted. However… they will be overlooking three groups of people. One is the injured, and obviously we can’t raise an army of wounded people to fight him. The second is the elderly, which we also can not raise an army of, but the final one we can definitely use.” The crowd practically tilted towards the stage in anticipation. Ecanoya even began to show signs of curiosity, dropping his calculating look altogether.

“Children.” Ghost said in one drawn out statement. “Sobrium’s lackeys will never investigate children for any sort of fighting potential until they reach the minimum age. Manipulating this, we can-”

“There is no way I am sending my son to fight a war!” One woman from the crowd yelled at Ghost.

“My daughter is not going to be weaponized!” A blue alien shouted. Soon most of the crowd was in uproar about the man’s plan. Ecanoya hated the plan as well. He cared for the four left over children, he was not about to let them throw away their lives as well. Especially not Crimson. Jacob turned to Ecanoya, and to his surprise, it seemed like Jacob was going along with this plan. Ecanoya became enraged when he saw the look in Jacob’s eyes. This man who he trusted with even Crimson’s life was willing to send him off to wage war on an alien warlord. Ecanoya turned around and ran back into the deeper areas of the mine shaft so he could ascend back to the area where Crimson and the others were.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“No way…” Paul said in a whisper. “They want… us… to fight monsters like that?”

“They aren’t serious right?” Derek asked in a hushed voice. “We are under the age limit enough that they will overlook us, meaning… they want us to help them.” Crimson and Jason were both too in awe to say anything.

Jason blinked a couple of times then said “This is a great plan.” The others stopped panicking and looked to one another, then to Jason.

“You’re joking right?” Crimson asked hoping for a ‘Yes’.

“No.” Jason replied with a straight face. Crimson and the others stared at him, dumbfounded.

“You honestly think going to war against Sobrium is a good idea?” Paul shouted at him. Crimson blinked a couple of times and looked up at his friend. He couldn’t believe he was having such an outburst. Out of all the time Crimson has known Paul, Paul has never had an outburst like that. Crimson knew then that the stress from Taton was embedded into people’s spirits. Even the most passive of people can become aggressive under enough stress. He pitied his close friend. He never really understood Paul, but he knew from the beginning that Paul doesn’t have any coping methods. Crimson guessed anger is the only thing his friend could resort to now.

Before Jason had a chance to answer Paul, a voice called out from behind the four of them. “No one is going to war.” Crimson turned and his eyes lit up with joy when he saw Ecanoya standing there with his arms crossed. He scrambled to his feet and wrapped his arms around him, happily expressing his relief. The others sat in silence as Crimson held Ecanoya close. Crimson let go and Ecanoya offered him a supporting smile. As he backed up and turned around though, he caught a jealous glance from Jason. As soon as Crimson turned to verify what he just saw, Jason’s expression changed back to normal. All four of them turned to face Ecanoya and they sat ready to listen to what he had to say.

“I know how hard this is for all of you, but I am going to assure you we are not partaking in any rebellion, because that will put your lives. Jacob and I both lost our daily lives in Taton, I don’t know if anyone from my family got out.” He paused and took a second to think about what to tell them next. Crimson watched him intently waiting for a sort of solution or plan that didn’t involve them becoming soldiers. They all hated Sobrium, but they didn’t hate him enough to blind them from the danger of trying to take action. Ecanoya continued “I don’t know about Jacob, but I personally cannot allow you all to throw away your lives for something like this.”

“So what, are we supposed to just bend our knee to Sobrium and call him King? I will not let it happen. I am going to join that army, and I am going to help bring him to his knees.” Jason retorted to Ecanoya. Ecanoya gave him a cross look and was about to scold him for agreeing when Derek suddenly spoke out.

“I think that Jason’s right. I don’t see how ignoring the problem will make everything magically disappear. It is not the best plan, and I admit that in spite of recent events I am not thrilled about this.” Derek stopped and offered everyone a sad, yet confident gaze. It was very much unlike him. Ecanoya scowled, angered that the children did not understand the gravity of the situation like he did. It was a lose-lose situation either way, but he didn’t want them to lose their lives instead of their freedoms. Derek composed himself a bit more and continued. “This has been really hard Mr. Takara. I mean- I just guess if I die, I would rather die with reason than without. I do not want to live under Sobrium’s rule.” Crimson blinked for a second and stared at Derek with a dumbfounded expression. He turned to Paul and his expression told that he too believed what Paul just said. As much as it tore his heart to pieces, he couldn’t go with Ecanoya on this. A large part of him wanted to go with his friends because they were all he had left, but a small part of him wanted revenge. Crimson wanted to make Sobrium pay for what he had done to the others. He didn’t ever want to show it though, as he followed Ecanoya’s teachings, and he wanted to be a more passive person.

“I understand your views kid, believe me I do. The losses we have all suffered are… too great for a word in any language to express.” All of them turned to look at Jason, who was somberly sitting alone, and shutting himself off from the world again. Just the mere mention of his sisters deaths had taken away the brief moment where he had started acting like his usual self. Ecanoya noticed him shutting down again and expressed his sadness through his eyes. Crimson looked towards him and saw the softest look of pity. It was a look he shared with everyone who turned their gaze to Jason. His depression extended beyond just him. It’s wretched fingers grasped onto everyone around Jason and pulled them down with him. His mood gave them all a sense of hopelessness. Ecanoya looked between the four and sighed “If this is what you all really want, then I cannot truly stop you. I just wish you would listen to me.” Ecanoya’s eyes moved slowly from one of the children of the other until they finally met Crimson’s gaze. “You agree with me don’t you Crimson? Can you talk your friends out of this since I can’t?” Crimson looked to the floor, ashamed to tell to Ecanoya how he really felt. Ecanoya blinked, astonished that Crimson, out of all people, wanted to go along with the others in this crusade against Sobrium.

Crimson kept his head low and didn’t dare to look up at Ecanoya. He knew before this even occurred how Ecanoya would feel about this. How it would feel like a violation of his teachings of patience and acceptance. He felt like he didn’t have any other choice however, as his friends were going to take part in this, and unless Jacob teamed up with Ecanoya to stop them, they were probably going to try it. What could possibly convince them so easily to throw away their lives? Even Paul, who was the biggest coward Crimson knew, wanted to fight. This meant something more than simple rebellion. He knew that deep in their hearts, all of them wanted this for revenge. They wanted to make Sobrium suffer as they have. Looking inside himself, Crimson could see that same feeling. None of them had much to begin with, they were orphans. Derek and Jason were in that orphanage long before either Crimson or Paul, and the loss of it, along with everyone inside it, hurt them far more. The entire situation was very crappy no matter what way any of them looked at it. Derek was right, fighting was a much better option, even if it risked their lives. Crimson also thought to how many people all over the mines needed someone to stand up in their name to fight Sobrium.

While Crimson thought, Jason turned to look back down at Ghost, who was waiting patiently while people talked and discussed the plan presented to them, and prepared questions for the speaker. Jason took a deep breath, puffed out his chest proudly, and stated to the entire room as loud as he possibly could. “I will join in on the rebellion! Screw Sobrium and his entire army, I want to see them burn!” Crimson nearly fell over from the shock of hearing Jason outright say he was going to be in the rebellion.  Everyone in view on the ground floor turned up and looked at Jason. He stood there like a shining beacon, under one of the brighter lights in the dimly lit mineshaft. Crimson gazed up at Jason and thought to himself solemnly. He could never be like that. Not before the massive city of Taton was completely vaporized, and certainly not now. Jason, despite the horrors he had encountered, has started to bounce back from losing the only family he had left. Crimson wanted to bounce back from experiencing Taton. He wanted to distance himself and be an outsider to the conflict, but he couldn’t. It was only a couple of hours ago that he felt like he could push through it, but the more suffering he saw on his way, the more brutality he experienced, the more things began to set in for him. It was almost like an elongated dream up until this point, where he was able to clearly see that Jason, like before, stood above him. He turned to Ecanoya and gazed at the disappointed look that controlled his face. Never before had he felt so insignificant. Even Paul seemed out of his reach.

“Well well, look at this everyone! We already got our first volunteer!” Ghost laughed in a proud manner “See everyone, if you step up now you will not be alone. There are others who are not even at this meeting who feel as we do, who want to see Sobrium brought to his knees and shamed. Now I would really like to continue, but I was just informed that members of the Heat empire crime ring were spotted in these mines, and I would like to avoid coming to blows with them. The meeting place has been decided as Willowpeak, the town on the farthest edge from Taton’s grasp. It is far enough away that we can avoid the peering eye, but close enough where we can receive information on Sobrium activities. I would have tried to find us one of the rouge towns that exist as their own city states, but we cannot assure their loyalty or support in an affair that has yet to bother them. Just know that if things go bad at Willowpeak, our only backup base is at Deten, which is on another side of Soluris, and the trip would take almost a three month walk for a normal person, which will help keep our operations separate, with as little info as possible on the other, should one fall. Now then, I take my leave, and I hope to see all of you there.” With this the hulking figure that was Ghost turned around and tapped his compatriots on the shoulder one by one as he passed them, and they all followed him in line as they left. Paul looked towards where Jacob was and noticed that he was turning to leave.

“Hey Ecanoya what does Jacob think on all this?” Paul asked him curiously.

“Jacob supports the idea of sending children with nothing left to lose but each other into a war where they will most likely lose even that.” Ecanoya replied bitterly.

“Oh…” Paul said sadly. He waited a bit then responded “Well we have more than each other to lose, I mean we have the two of you right?”

Ecanoya blinked at Paul and thought for a second. He then smiled softly, nodded to Paul, and then headed down a nearby bend in the mineshafts path to meet Jacob at the same point where he ascended. The four of them were alone again. Derek, Paul, and Crimson looked between one another, wondering if they made the right choice. Jacob however, stood proud and faced forward off the platform. They all sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity before Ecanoya came back with Jacob. The two were exchanging hateful glares to one another. Jacob smiled to the group “Hey guys! Sorry I ditched you earlier, just came down here with Ecanoya to see what all the buzz was about.” Jason turned around and walked over to Jacob

“I want to join the rebellion” Jason stated. “What do you think?” Jacob thought for a second about his question. He wanted all of the kids to jump into the rebellion, but he didn’t want them to do it for the wrong reasons. To Jacob, this was more of a matter of honor, not revenge. It was one of the few ideals that he carried down from his Saiyan heritage. He was more realistic than Ecanoya and he knew it. This problem would not disappear if they simply offered themselves up to Sobrium. Preparing the kids to defend themselves was the only option he had.

“Jason I fully support you in this. We will set out for Willowpeak right now if that is alright with you.” Jacob told Jason. Jason nodded, but turned to the rest of them. Everyone but Crimson was standing and ready to go. Ecanoya looked worriedly from one kid to the next, fearing for their lives. He was so relieved to see that Crimson was at least hesitant on this matter. It meant that he was thinking it through instead of simply jumping up, which brought Ecanoya a slight bit of relief, as it seemed like Crimson wanted to immediately jump in. It brought him joy that he thought Crimson was learning to evaluate situations more closely. Ecanoya didn’t want to fool himself though, he knew that Crimson would be dragged into this one way or another, but he could do his best to try to protect him from the world around him. He walked over to Crimson and crouched down next to him, tapping him on the shoulder to get his attention.

“Well are you ready to go bud?” Ecanoya asked in a soft voice. Crimson turned to him and his eyes shifted downwards for a second as he took a second to process what Ecanoya said. He then turned to Ecanoya and wondered why he gave up so quickly. He was sure that Ecanoya would try to stop him as soon as he said something, but he was encouraging him to join his friends. Was Ecanoya doing this so that he could stay close to his friends? Ecanoya noticed the confuse gaze and patted Crimson on the back of his ragged and tattered shirt. He took a second to look him over. There was a hole in the shirt by the chest region and he immediately realized what it was. Someone hit Crimson with a ki blast, and Ecanoya began to fume. Who would have done such a thing, and how is there anyone in the mines strong enough to manipulate ki? Crimson noticed his gaze and he shrank a bit under his gaze. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to avoid the question, so he turned to Jason, who had looked back and noticed the talk. Jason traced Ecanoya’s eyes and knew immediately what Ecanoya was looking towards. He jumped in a little to help Crimson explain.

“Crimson, Derek and I walked into the wrong meeting. I was too busy… remembering… to notice where we were. They threw me into a fight ring of sorts with this really nasty Namekian man. He beat me into the ground like no tomorrow, but just as I feel like he was about to finish it, Crimson runs in and tackles him! I was told all this when I woke up, but man I am sure glad he was so heroic.” Jason exclaimed, then turned a gaze to Crimson. “I wouldn’t be here without him.” Crimson offered a smile to Ecanoya, but when he was greeted by another one of his glares.

“That was stupid of you, I mean I am very proud that you reacted in such a selfless way, but…” Ecanoya clenched his fist. “They could have killed you both! I cannot let them do this to anyone who passes by.” Ecanoya growled. Crimson had never seen him this angry. For a second he foolishly thought that the fall of Taton wouldn’t affect Ecanoya. He had to remember that, as much as he looked up to Ecanoya, he was still just a man. There is only so much he can take. “Crimson, I am glad you acted Heroric.” Ecanoya said as he calmed himself.

Crimson laughed and waved his hand. “I am not the hero here, Derek is. Somehow he dragged the both of us up to the medical tent we were treated in!” Ecanoya turned to Derek and blinked. That scrawny little kid dragged Crimson and Jason, who were both almost twice his mass in increased gravity? It seemed far-fetched, but he was willing to accept it. He got up and thanked Derek, who offered a shy smile.

“I wasn’t the only Hero, I mean some of the men were so horrified by what the Namekian man did that they helped me drag the two to a point in the mine where the gravity wasn’t so intense.” Derek stated. Ecanoya turned to Jacob, who had a dark look on his face. Ecanoya knew it well, as he felt the same way on the inside. It was time to go teach the punks a lesson for harming children. Ecanoya nodded to Jacob, and he returned with a similar gesture. The two then took off down the hallway, and the children followed suit. Ecanoya asked Jason to lead them to the spot where the men were earlier, and sure enough, the fighting and shouting had started up yet again. Ecanoya knew this kind of gathering well. People jumped into these fights for all sorts of reasons. Some joined to win money, others for pride, and some simply to enjoy the rush of a good fight. This meeting was different though however. As Ecanoya entered the back of the room, he noticed that there were no bet boxes. Something was off about these thugs, and he knew it. Immediately, he heard a grunt from behind and he turned to see Crimson had been grabbed by a large man, and was screaming at the top of his lungs, muffled by the mans thick, meaty hands. He went to rush the man, but two men grabbed his arms from behind and held him. He tried to shake himself free, but couldn’t. One by one every one of them had been grabbed. It seemed that they had been expecting more interruptions to their fights.

Ecanoya stopped struggling and began to collect himself. Thinking was the only way he could get out of this. The crowd stopped cheering and a man, bruised and beaten, was shoved out of the crowd. He was obviously the loser of the latest confrontation. People parted ways to take a better look at the captives. The fat Zenkon man from earlier waddled up to Ecanoya, who he assumed to be the leader of the little gang. He turned to the kids and growled. “Can’t we have peace? This has been at least the seventh time we have been interrupted today! I will have to invent a new way to punish you idiots so you do not come down here.” He turned to Jason and waddled over to him. “You guys came back for more? What, did you bring daddy with you?” Jason growled and then spat on the Zenkons head.

“Ecanoya is a thousand times better than that scumbag, don’t ever mention my father again you fat little turnip.” The Zenkon roared in rage and hit Jason in the stomach with his tiny fist. Jason grunted as he was struck and Jacob began to frantically try to escape, but he could not muster the strength he needed. Derek and Paul looked around frantically, and Crimson tried to find another opening to break free.

The Zenkon waddled angrily over to Ecanoya and spat “If you are the most beloved than you face our arena champ first!” He turned to looked down the path the men had formed to the ring, and looked directly at the Namekian from before. “I want to have to hire cleaning crews to get rid of the mess you understand? Double payment for every one.”

A couple men from the crowd angrily looked at the Zenkon. “I won’t let you kill children.” One of the men shouted at the Zenkon. The Zenkon looked to the source of the voice and scowled.

“Stop me then.” He laughed and gestured for the men to throw Ecanoya into the ring. Crimson was overcome with fear for Ecanoya and began to scream again, muffled by the man’s big hands.

When Ecanoya was released, the men reformed the circle and he calmly asked. “I am sure there is a more passive way we can solve this.” The men in the crowd stared at him. Ecanoya scanned every face and knew immediately there was not an out from this. He then looked back the the Namekian, who had a serious look about his face. Ecanoya knew there was no other option, he must fight. Maybe he could simply incapacitate the man, and they would let them go? It was his best hope. Ecanoya began to focus, gently he brought his arms to his side, and then he placed his elbows on the either side of his torso. He raised his forearm up in a flexing motion, and they stuck at a ninety degree angle out from his body. He focused for a second and thought. He needed to muster power beyond his own physical body. He began to relax, but tense at the same time. He felt power well up inside him as he began to collect ki. The ancient method of ki fighting he knew was about to be put to the test in a battle against this man. The man slid his foot back, and tilted it to use the ground as a launch pad. The Namekian pounced off the ground like he was launched from a catapult. Through his focus though, the man seemed to be normal speed, almost slow to Ecanoya. With a swift motion he brought his fist forward quickly. The Namekian tried to trace his fist, but it moved too fast. The Namekian had launched himself right onto Ecanoya’s hand. Ecanoya popped the man up by pushing his fist further into his stomach, making him fly into the air a little as the force lifted him. His opponent was getting slower and slower as Ecanoya delved further into the depths of his power. He was almost using every ounce of strength, and he knew there was no way he could lose with the level of power he held over his opponent. As the man flew into the air, Ecanoya brought his foot to the Namekians legs ,causing him to tilt to the side while sitting, suspended in the air. Ecanoya moved his left hand back and put it out flat, ready to strike with the palm of his hand when he realized something. Crimson had been harmed, almost killed, by a Namekian man here. This was the only Namekian in the room, so Ecanoya knew right then that this was the perpetrator. In his split moment of rage he put more power than he meant to into his palm. It slammed itself forward at speeds the normal eye couldn’t track, but he could. He was too late to stop himself, and when his palm hit the man, it planted itself firmly against his chest, crushing ribs on impact as it sent a shockwave through his body. The man flew back in a straight line, not even descending from the air in the slightest during his flight towards the nearby wall. With a loud crash, the Namekian hit the wall and bounced off as if he were made of rubber, and he flopped to the ground. Ecanoya looked mortified at what he had just done, and looked up from the Namekian to the tightly packed stone he had connected with in a brief moment. There was a crater in the shape of a person wedged into it, with cracks running all along the sides.

The room was dead silent, with not a sound beside the falling pebbles that trickled down from the crack left in the wall. Ecanoya looked at the man and moved to help slowly, but other men rushed to his side immediately. Ecanoya focused for a second, and used his energy in a technique to sense the energy of his opponent. There was still a spark of life yet, but he would need a lot of time to recover. Ecanoya knew this was his one opportunity to get him and the others out. He walked through the parting crowd and looked angrily at every man holding one of the children hostage, and then to the two men holding Jacob hostage. They all slowly let go and backed up, afraid to suffer the same fate as their champion. Ecanoya grabbed Crimsons hand and pulled him quickly away from that place, never looking back. He wanted to get far away from the pain and suffering in the mines. Away from Taton. He wanted to leave it all behind and move on like he always has. The others followed suit as Ecanoya led them on their journey to Willowpeak.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Crimson rubbed his arms in a desperate attempt to feel warmth yet again. The air was so cold that even his breath froze as it left his mouth. He turned to look inside the store the others were in. He watched them all scurry about the inside of the smalltown shop, picking up items for their trip further up the mountain. It had to have been at least four days since they had left the minds. Willowpeak, and the area surrounding it, were fairly high in elevation, and it had much colder weather this time of year. Ecanoya had the others stop to pick up anothers days rations for the journey on the way, and Crimson was staying outside as usual. He didn’t have much of an appetite after seeing what Ecanoya did. It was so brutal and very unlike him. He wouldn’t even talk about it if the others tried to bring it up. Crimson felt something about Ecanoya he had never felt before. He was scared of him. A man with such incredible power was ragdolled in a few hits by Ecanoya. Was he always that strong? It also gave Crimson a measurement of the threat they were dealing with. Ecanoya was tossed aside easily by Darwin when he was just playing around, and Sobrium is even stronger than that. How could he possibly hope to be of any threat to monsters like them? If Ecanoya could put a crater in a wall at his best, then how strong were the others. His head was spinning and his body was shivering. He needed to be strong, he knew that, but he was in such a daze that he could focus on nothing for long.

He regretted staying outside while the others spent time in the warmth of the store. He expected Ecanoya to come out son to drag him inside. He wanted to talk to Ecanoya about what he did so badly, but he knew from experience that Ecanoya was a master at avoiding questions. He looked down both sides of the small street they were on. There were a few circular houses dotting the sides of the road, but other than that, it was hard to see past the falling snow. He shuffled in place a bit and watched his breath freeze in the air, waiting for the others to leave the store so they may continue their journey. They were very high in elevation now, near the peak of a mountain where Willowpeak was situated. Technically this small group of homes and the single shop were a part of Willowpeak, but their distance from the peak was still quite a ways. The mountain spanned at least a couple miles, and it had a collection of plateau like formations all over it, including the peak, which is why there were so many homes situated around it.

While Crimson waited he began to hear crunching. He stopped his thoughts for a second and listened to the approaching steps closely. He focused his sight through the thick downpour of snow and saw a figure jogging along the path. As the figure moved closer and closer through the snow, Crimson began to recognize the shadow. It was a Namekian man, who was in average build. By the look of the outline he was toned, but not quite ripped. His antennae gave him away instantly, even in a snowstorm where his actual body wasn’t visible. Crimson sighed and leaned back against the store. As the figure came into view though he began to recognize it. He had seen this Namekian before, but he couldn’t place his finger on where. He got off the wall and took a few steps away from the store in order to better see the man. He noticed Crimson and stopped. Crimson focused on his face and then realized immediately that it was Dayereh. Day was trying to catch his breath when he noticed Crimson, and he let out a happy laugh. “Hey… uhhh… Brinson was it?” Day asked.

Crimson was a little annoyed that a name as out of the normal as his was so easily forgotten, but he couldn’t help but chuckle at the clumsy and goofy man. “It’s Crimson, and hello Day!” Crimson responded with a bright smile. “What in the world are you doing up here?” He asked.

Day turned and looked at the store, and then raised his arms up as Crimson had, rubbing the length of of his shoulder to elbow in hope for warmth. He scurried into the store, and Crimson followed suit. As they entered the store Jacob turned from the shelf he was looking at and smiled. “Hey there, I thought that you were ‘fine in the cold’.” He chuckled. Crimson returned the warm smile like a gift to be shared as best he could. The cold had nearly frozen him to the bone. Ecanoya came over to him soon, holding a coat. He told Crimson to try it on, but he did not respond. Ecanoya looked at the ground, disheartened. He felt horrible on the inside and Crimson wasn’t helping his case. He couldn’t blame him though, as Ecanoya always told him that resorting to violence is a must not. Crimson probably knew that he had to, but after Crimson saw what he could do, Ecanoya wondered about the thoughts running through the boys head.

Crimson accepted the gift, and put the coat on. He wrapped himself in it and sat down on a chair by the front counter, hoping to keep himself warm. he looked up at the alien working the register. It was unidentifiable as either male nor female to Crimson, as it looked like a standing eel. It has a slimy, thin body, but a large menacing head. It’s skin was an ice blue, which made Crimson imagine that it probably belonged in such a cold region. It reached a slimy hand out from behind the counter and tapped Crimson on the shoulder, then used its other hand to point towards Day, who was staring at the ceiling, minding his own business. Crimson turned back the the alien and shrugged. Day was strange, but Crimson knew he meant well. Crimson looked at the isles to see what everyone was prioritizing at the moment. Jacob was with Paul, looking through the isles of the tiny store that had food. Crimson counted the isles quickly just to see how many options there were to choose from. There were only four aisles in two rows, and none of the shelves reached above neck level for even Derek, who was the shortest of the bunch. Crimson then turned his attention to Ecanoya, who was picking out coats for everyone’s comfort. Ecanoya acted as if what he had done had never happened, which was the biggest concern of all to Crimson. Ecanoya always talked about peaceful solutions, and the brutal beatdown of that man concerned Crimson. He was afraid of what this entire situation was going to do to the man he knew.

Crimson turned to the Aisles in the middle of the store, where Paul and Day were checking out magazines, books, and other materials for leisurely activities. He was about to get up and join them when he saw Jason. In the corner of the store, Jason was standing almost completely still, staring at a small wall with guns, both new and old. Jason’s eyes scanned the small wall mounted rack of weapons, and Crimson knew what this meant. Jason did not care about survival, comfort or entertainment. Jason was focused on the task at hand directly. Crimson envied Jason’s devotion, but it also concerned him. He was just standing there, staring at the weapons. No one else in the store had seemed to notice but the clerk, who was watching Jason with suspicion through the pale grey orbs that were his eyes.

Crimson got up and decided to be a bit more active. He went over to Day and Paul, who were laughing at a small magazine. Paul saw Crimson coming, and walked over to him with the magazine and threw the page they were staring at in front of his face. Crimson leaned his head back so he could make out the words. Paul was trying to hold in a hysterical laughter as he showed it to him. Day looked at Crimson from the other side of the magazine, and it was clear that he too, was trying to hold in his chuckle. Crimson looked at the page to see what the buzz was all about. There was a picture of an alien with a really long nose, wobbly body and a dunce hat trying to do math. Crimson joined in on the muffled laughter and Paul set the magazine back on the rack.

“I thought that was pretty humorous.” Day shrugged. The three of them sat around smiling like idiots, but the smiles dropped quickly. It didn’t feel right to be laughing. Crimson looked to Jason, who was still staring idly at the weapons on the wall. He heard a few sounds from the counter and turned to see Ecanoya and Jacob checking out. They were pooling the tiny bit of pocket money they still had left together to afford the few items they decided to pick up. There was a couple sandwiches jammed packed with various meats and vegetables that made Crimsons mouth water just from looking at it. Had Ecanoya and Jacob been saving their money for a sort of “Celebration” feast? Either way, Crimson did not care. They had been having one meal a day since Taton happened, and they weren’t very fulfilling. Crimson didn’t ever think he would see a sandwich like that again. Even Jason turned from his daze and stared at the food. Jacob noticed all the kids looking at the food and he chuckled to himself. He nudged Ecanoya who looked up from the money he was counting to him, and followed his gaze to the kids. Ecanoya smiled.

Ecanoya gave his money to Jacob, and Jacob plopped it into the mans hand. The man counted the change, but threw the paper cash back to them. “Is something wrong with our currency?” Jacob asked confused.

The Shopkeeper glared at him through his large grey bulbs and then responded with a hiss. “Sinccce Taton has fallen, itsss paper currencccy no longer has any value. Only Coinsss.”

“It has only been a week since Taton has fallen though! We were just able to use the money down the road!” Jacob exclaimed in shock.

“Even sssooo, Taton’sss paper currencccy holds no backing anymore, as their is no government. Maybe a few shopsss still accccept them, but I am sssmart enough to know otherwise. These are hard timesss, and there are more ahead.” The shopkeeper concluded. Ecanoya looked to Jacob, and the two started taking back the sandwiches in exchange for cheaper, less appetizing foods like basic bread and potatoes. Crimson was also asked to return his coat to the rack, as the change they possessed was not enough to afford anything outside of the food.

Once the clerk was paid, he waved off the group and sat behind his counter, readily awaiting more travelers. As soon as they were outside in the snowstorm, they all began to shiver again. Dayereh told them that he would that he was going to continue on to his destination, and that it was nice catching up with them. The group watched him jog off into the distance while they all stomped through the snow. Crimson followed close behind Ecanoya, focusing on the sound of his shoes crunching the snow. He wanted to think about anything other than the cold, however there wasn’t much he could think of at the moment. They had only been outside for five minutes, yet it felt as if nothing had changed on their two hour trek up the mountain. It’s paths were poorly maintained, and progress was harder to make as they made it further along the paths. Crimson turned to Paul, glaring at the snow that decorated his friends head. He chuckled to himself, but once he saw his breath cut through the cold air, he remembered how cold it was, and he began to shiver yet again. He looked toward Ecanoya, glaring at the back of the leather jacket he had purchased down the road. On many occasions has he tried to give it to Crimson, but he ignored him. Crimson had been so afraid of Ecanoya. He didn’t know why, just something about what he did frightened him. He could see now why Taton only wanted guards to have this power, because if any single person could walk down the street with the capability to destroy houses or incapacitate another man in one punch, it would cause several problems.

Crimson trudged behind Ecanoya, losing track of time to his thoughts. By the time he was reminded of the cold, they had begun to pick up the pace. The snowstorm began to calm, falling more calmly and peacefully to the ground instead of overwhelming the group. Jacob was in the front of the group, and he was the first to notice the lights at the top of the hill. He began to run, kicking up snow as he trudged his shoes through it. The others followed suit in his mad dash to what would be a finish, following close behind Jacob as he made his ascent. Crimson got over the one last hill and gazed around in wonder at what stood before him.

Willowpeak was a beautiful town, a marvel to behold. It was comfortably fixated in a small valley that sat on the top of the mountain. The buildings were small and humble, but inside them was a warm fire that illuminated the snowy evening. Other buildings, ones with signs that represented stores of some sort, were built in ways that resemble tiny mountains. The bizarre architecture fascinated Crimson. Paul, Derek and Jason eagerly pushed past Crimson and made for one of the stores. He followed suit with them, trying to catch up with their insane burst of speed in such frigid weather. Ecanoya turned to Jacob, who had been having as hard a time keeping up with the cold as the kids. Ecanoya was doing all within his power of Ki manipulation to keep them from becoming afflicted by hypothermia, but it was barely working. He wanted to force Crimson to take his coat, but he knew that forcing him to do something he did not want to would only cause the boy to distance himself even more. Ecanoya sighed and walked with Jacob to the first store the boys were running to.

They were almost to the bottom of the valley, on level with the houses, when Crimson turned and say Dayereh had just arrived at the top of the mountain as well. Somehow he must have gotten lost, because he had been moving at quite a fast pace the last they had seen him. Day waved to them when he spotted them, and they all waved back. While waving though, Day somehow managed to lose his balance, and come tumbling down the valley into another road of the town. They all stared in disbelief at yet another display of Day’s clumsiness. Crimson was going to go assist him, but Jason assured that he would be fine. Crimson didn’t believe, but Ecanoya and Jacob had arrived at their side, and pushed all of them into the shop quickly before he had a chance to assist Day. Once inside, Ecanoya and Jacob found two benches, where they brought the kids and sat them down. The two of them slid to the ground next to the benches, giving into the fatigue that had been plaguing them. It must have been a good ten minute gap in time before Crimson could regain feeling in any of his fingers. No one wanted to talk while they warmed up.

The next sound Crimson heard was a sort of whirring. It was like a laser was charging up, and when he looked up, he was face to face with a mark three military grade blaster weapon. Crimson acted before he even though, shifting his head to the side in the event it would be fired immediately, then sliding forward and placing himself under the barrel. He had almost grabbed the assailant when they brought the gun downwards to hit him. Crimson fell to the ground holding his head and he looked again at the gun, not its wielder. Then he noticed something he hadn’t seen before he moved to attack. The gun was shaking. Crimson realized that it was pointed in self defence, not in a threatening way, but that did not change his feelings about it. In almost a blink, Ecanoya was holding onto the gun, and Jacob was rushing to his side. The old man who had been holding the gun fell back in a feeble and pitiful manner. “Please, don’t kill me! I beg of you!” He pleaded in a raspy and desperate voice. Ecanoya dropped the gun and fell to the man’s side immediately. Guilt spread across his face as he scanned the man for injury. The old man shook in fear, whimpering pitiful pleas for the group to leave him and his shop be. Ecanoya tried to comfort him and get answers, but it was to no avail.

Crimson stood up, holding his head and looking to the old man. The old man was huddled on the ground, not even looking to the group. Crimson stood up slowly, and Jacob gently assisted him by allowing himself to be used as a support. Ecanoya gently turned the old man over to face them, and the old man looked into his eyes.

“Yo-you’re not one of the men?” The old man choked. His face was teary as he looked from one member of the group to the next.

“What men? Sobriums? Have they passed through here at all?” Jacob asked in a small panic. Jacob looked from side to side, checking his surroundings for signs of Sobriums men.

“Who?” The old man asked in a weak, raspy voice. “You must be new to the area if you don’t know about the areas bandits.”

Ecanoya furrowed his brows and placed a comforting hand on the old man’s shoulder. “I can assure that we are not bandits, but why would anyone from the local area turn to banditry? The mountain range is high up, which makes survival in the outdoors difficult in and of itself, especially if one wants to lay in wait to ambush a passerby. There also aren’t many places to hide this high up on the mountain, the path is covered in snow, but other than that it is void of anything but the incline further up the mountain and the drop off the side.” Ecanoya pondered aloud. Jacob turned back to the children and thought of the risk they were in if a town with little food at this time of year was being bothered by bandits. Perhaps Ecanoya was correct, it may have been better to try to find another solution, but still, everyone one of them pushed so hard to get to this place. The kids were exhausted from being pushed so hard, and telling them to turn around and go back would be cruel. At this point, they would just have to try their luck with this town. Ecanoya had a different view however, as Ecanoya wanted to leave the town immediately. Ecanoya came to the realization now that he never thought about before. How the kids truly felt. They seemed absolutely fine on the outside, in fact no one could even tell they were in Taton because of how goofy and silly they can still be, but that worried him more than anything. There was going to be a point where they were all going to snap, and reality will crush them as a boulder crushes a careless hiker. He didn’t have anyone to blame but himself if this happened. The last few days had been so foggy for him, as if he was having a never ending nightmare.

“I am sorry for attacking you.” The elderly man said empathetically “The bandits have taken so much so often that I have almost forgotten what it was like to have visitors come to Willowpeak.” Ecanoya offered the man a gentle, reassuring smile.

“What was the name of the perpetrators? Did they call themselves anything that I can use for reference?” Jacob asked the man. The man stopped for a second and thought, thinking through all of his encounters with the group until his most painful memory came up.

“My… My daughter was taken by these thugs a couple of months ago to server as a servant at their camps. I can still remember the words the kidnapper said to me when he knocked me to the ground. It was along the lines of ‘As a member of the Blue Bowtie Battalion, I claim your supplies and daughter in the name of Commander Blue.’” The man began to sob a little. Crimson and Paul stared at him with saddened hearts. They felt bad for the poor old man, and were able to forgive him for what he had done, however, Jason and Derek weren’t quite able to get over the fact that this man tried to kill Crimson when he wasn’t even a threat. The were not going to buy so easily into his sob story without substantial proof of his claims.

Jacob turned to the kids, looking between all of them and then glancing to Ecanoya. “Does anyone here know who the Blue Bowtie Battalion is? I have never heard of them.” Jacob commented

Ecanoya paced back and forth, cycling through his memories to see if the name rang any bells. Before he could spend much time in his thoughts, the old man spoke up a little. “I am guessing the four of you are probably from a couple miles away, most likely Taton. Horrible incident what happened there.” The old man looked to Crimson, whose eyes were glued to the floor since the mention of Taton. “The Blue Bow Battalion lives on the opposite end of the Willowpeak mountain range. They sit outside of Taton’s reach and rarely came within the borders of its land. Recently though, they have gotten a lot braver, and are attacking at a much higher frequency. Who knows why they have suddenly gotten so bold… the worst part is that we sent a man down to Taton a week ago and we haven’t heard any news since.” Everyones expression went instantly dark. Each of them sunk into their own little world, ignoring the outside while they viewed the past they had lost in a looping image. They saw the horrors over and over again, and to Crimson it was just like the nights when he would fall asleep outside. He would be away from the others, trying to find comfort in the stars like he always did, but never succeeding. The change in the world left him plagued by nightmares that he refused to talk about with the others. The others were the same way. Just the mention of Taton made everyone queasy, but each of them had their own way of hiding it, and their own way of coping with it.

“Tat-Taton’s gone… sir…” Derek muttered under his breath. It was the first time any of them had heard Derek so choked up. Jacob had spent enough time with kids to know that all of them had different tolerance levels of stress, and considering where Derek came from, he was not too surprised that it took so long for the stress of the situation to catch up to him. Jacob was worried about Paul and Jason most however, as the two of them were very close to the edge, but somehow just bounced back. If they were crying or sulking to themselves, he would be worried, but that is incredibly natural for children experiencing extreme trauma. These kids were either much tougher, or much more broken, than he originally thought.

“Gone? What do you mean gone?” The old man asked in confusion. His wrinkled face scrunched up, as if he was trying to solve a riddle. The room was silent, as no one who knew about Taton wanted to speak about it. The old man continued to gaze around between all of them, his curiosity growing stronger as the tension grew thicker.

Paul, the one whom none of the group expected to say anything, spoke out as if he needed to expel the information for the sake of his sanity. “About a week ago… or rather a week ago I-I don’t know it’s just…” Paul stuttered trying to search for the words to properly describe the horror he experienced, but finding none that felt right. “A warlord… from the intergalactic war.. h-he came to Soluris and ordered his forces to wipe out Taton and, well… they did. A single night is it all it took them to obliterate Taton and making several millions of people either dead or homeless and in most cases both.” Paul began to tear up. The more he talked, the more painful it became for everyone. Derek, Jacob and Ecanoya remained silent, but Jason and Crimson were on the verge of tears. Ecanoya strolled over to Crimson and began to rub his back, feeling nothing but pity for him and Jason.

“How do you do it?” Crimson asked with a choked voice. Ecanoya blinked and looked at Crimson.

“Do what?” Ecanoya asked in response.

“How can you be so calm Ecanoya? How can you be so strong in all of this! It is like everything hasn’t affected you or Jacob. I haven’t seen either of you so much as blink at the suffering around us Ecanoya! How?” Crimson snapped at Ecanoya. The long walk there had given Crimson the time to think about everything. He was on the verge of tears, but Ecanoya’s face didn’t change much at all, causing Crimson to grow even angrier.

Before he could continue with his rant however, Ecanoya cut him off. “Crimson I have moved from one sinking ship to another my entire life. If anything, I have learned that hope is the best tool of defence against the crushing weight of all of this. There has always been bad things going on, but we lived in Taton, and while it wasn’t Utopia, it was a city spared from the knowledge of the universe. Rarely would Taton be involved with anything outside its own comfort zone comprised of the city and the towns within one-hundred and fifty miles. I was born in Deten, the other city in which a rebellion will be near. By the time I got to Taton the place practically seemed to have a stone age understanding of the outside world. Being on the guard really strengthened me as a person, but it wasn’t until I met you that I became as resilient to things as I am now. The reason behind that? I got something for once that I really wanted to fight for. I have told you about my little brother right Crimson?” Ecanoya paused and waited for Crimson to nod slowly. “I don’t want to go through that again. So I need to stay strong for the both of us. If I am phazed by any of this it could get to me too, and then we won’t have any sense of direction. Hope is my weapon. With it I can drag us out of this pit of despair and towards a brighter future. That is what this is about. Jacob and I talked, and although I don’t agree about teaching you guys Ki fighter, I do see why you would need it in a world like this.”

Crimson blushed, feeling foolish for having asked this of Ecanoya. He realized the reason behind his actions now, knowing exactly why he beat the Namekian so brutally. It was on instinct. Ecanoya has one thing driving him and it was the hope for Crimson’s future, for all their futures. Crimson felt horrible for treating him so coldly with his incorrect assumptions. He turned to the others, who were listening in. They all seemed to have gotten a little bit of hope from the speech. Meanwhile, the old man was still trying to process what was told to him. They had all almost forgotten about him while they gazed on at the quarrel between Ecanoya and Crimson.

“So Taton really is… gone? That explains the unusual amounts of people passing through the Willowpeak area on their way through the mountain range, but you said this happened a week ago? Then why didn’t Taton send help when those brutes attacked us! It has been going on for much longer than a week and if what you say is true then it wasn’t like they were under attack for that long! Why couldn’t anyone come help me save my family! We may have sent someone a week ago, but he was only the last resort after a long line of letters and complaints. This is… how could they forsake us?” Jacob turned to stare out the window. He began to hypothesize something disturbing. He called over Derek in order to discuss it with him.

Crimson watched Derek get up and walk towards Jacob, but what they began to talk about he couldn’t hear. The old man got up from the floor and grabbed his coat, turning to Crimson and bowing a little. “I apologize for being so jumpy, I hope you can truly forgive me for my rudeness. I am glad that even though these hard times there remain some decent people. I am sorry for the trouble, you are all free to stay in the shop as long as you need, if you look at the back there are some blankets that you can borrow, just make sure to refold them, and put them back.”

“While I appreciate the offer, we are looking for a group of people that may have been gathering around here.” Ecanoya responded cautiously. He did not want to speak about the rebellion openly in the event it may bring them trouble. Judging by the man’s behavior, it seemed he truly did not know anything about Taton, however Ecanoya knew there was no such thing as too careful. The old man thought for a moment, placing his wrinkled old hand upon his chin and scratching lightly.

“While the amount of people passing through the town has increased quite a bit, I don’t know if there is an actual gathering near by. Could be the reason for it, however.” He concluded to himself.

“Do they all go to a similar location, or at least travel in a similar direction?” Jacob asked. Crimson looked between Ecanoya and Jacob and began to see the similarities between the two. Both were looking out for the wellbeing of Crimson and the others, but they both showed especial care for one kid over the other two. In Jacobs case he was caring more for Jason right now due to the traumatizing lose he seems to be recovering from, and Derek since he has known him a little longer than Paul or Crimson. Ecanoya does the same thing, but substitutes Jason for Crimson and Derek for Paul. They also both seem to be dead set on reaching the gathering place for those taking part in the rebellion against Sobriums rule. For the last four days they both pushed the kids through the journey. Crimson had never felt more fatigued than when they stopped to rest on the night before, when they had just reached the mountain range. There were many occasions where Derek and Paul would fall behind, and Ecanoya or Jacob would begin to carry them along. Crimson had one such fall back on an occasion, but Ecanoya helped him until he caught his breath just like they did for the other two. Jason however never stopped. Even when he was tired, even when it barely seemed like he could push himself at that extent, he would continue going. Paul and Crimson both shared an envy for his kind of devotion to the cause, and Derek tried to talk about it from a more theoretical perspective. Derek simply proposed that Jason was using this as a conduit for his lose. Something else to latch onto for new meaning. Derek said he had seen it happen before and then went silent and kept up with the rest of them.

All of them were pretty worn out, but knowing that their destination should only be a short walk around town in the blizzard gave them second wind, and pushed them to press forward. “Thank you for your time sir.” Derek said in a voice that sounded quite forced. Paul followed suit with his thank you, but before he could finish the old man waved him off.

“You guys take care now, I wish you all luck on your journey.” The Old man said while going to a corner of the strangely shaped store and grabbing a hanging rope to pull down a ladder. He climbed the ladder with a slight struggle that made Crimsons heart ache for him.

Jacob turned to all of the others. “Everyone ready to go?” He asked for assurance. With some hesitation, they all nodded. Crimson then perked up and remembered Dayereh, who had fallen just moments before they got into this shop. He had been so relieved by the warmth that he completely forgot that the klutzy Namekian man was in the area.

“Do you think that Dayereh, the Namekian from earlier, would know where the rebellion is? I don’t imagine that he came all the way out here just by coincidence.” Crimson concluded to Derek.

“Oh man, I practically forgot about that. That guy that healed the two of you went tumbling towards another street. Do you think he is alright?” Derek asked. Crimson turned his attention to the outside, a world practically consumed by the snow. It was impossible to see much farther ahead of the shop. The street, or what should be street, was covered in a powdery snow that was littered with footprints. It seemed to be too many to be just theirs, and Crimson nudged Derek in a slight change of topic. Derek followed his gaze to the footprints, adjusting his glasses slightly. “Those are a lot of footprints. If we were to follow the direction in which they went, I bet we can find our destination faster.”

Paul listened in on the conversation and leaned over, pushing Derek into crimson as he attempted to look out the glass entrance door to spot what they had. “Sounds like a good plan to me. Let’s hurry and go. I can barely move and if I don’t get up now I may not move from this spot for the rest of the night.” Jason turned to look at Paul and rolled his eyes. He knew that Paul always had a knack for over exaggerating his difficulties. Jacob walked up to the door, having overheard the plan.

“I agree with Paul, I think its probably our best bet. Let’s hurry up guys.” Jacob stated. Ecanoya shrugged and came over to Crimson, offering him a hand. Crimson smiled to him, and he returned the smile. Ecanoya got Crimson to his feet and helped him move along. The cold may have been hard to deal with, but at least it helped them ignore the fatigue they had. Crimson was having a hard time standing, and he realized Paul was not exaggerating, they were all truly exhausted.

Ecanoya helped Crimson out the door, and made sure Paul was able to keep up. The cold hit them hard, as the blizzard slammed back into them, refreezing their body’s in almost an instant. Crimson felt as if he were a paper bag, as the wind blew back and forth, the snow pelting him hard enough to actually cause him to shift in place. He was too weak to resist it, running solely on the hope that they were almost there. After a while his mind began to wander, causing him to lose himself in his thoughts. Paul followed suit, just mindlessly following Ecanoya and Jacob, locked inside his mind as if it were a shack to keep out the cold. Jason never wavered though, and stayed headstrong through all the pain. Derek, while not as strong as the rest, was smart enough to know that zoning out would be dangerous.

Jacob and Ecanoya exchanged glances to one another, trying to make sure they weren’t wandering too far apart from one another or the others. Jason turned, looking at Derek as he marched valiantly through the cold, rubbing his arms for warmth but not showing any signs of weakness. Paul on the other hand was slugging behind, and Jason was worried they may lose him in the cold. When he turned to check on Crimson he stopped dead. Derek noticed this, as did Paul. Ecanoya and Jacob turned back and told Jason to hurry up but they noticed it as well. Crimson was nowhere to be found.

Jason ran off into the cold, calling out for Crimson. Ecanoya and Jacob kept moving, following the footprints. Ecanoya called out sternly to Jason as he ran “You better find him! You owe him!” Jason acknowledged this. He would know the way back to the group, so he didn’t need to worry too much about that. His mind raced as he thought of what if Crimson had passed out in the cold, and he was being buried alive at that very moment. Jason continued his frantic search, his thoughts growing more concerned as time passed. Jason then stopped and thought about Crimson’s earlier concern, regarding the Namekian man that saved him. Jason ran towards the place where the man fell, using the shop from earlier as a landmark. He went behind there and saw a remarkable thing. Crimson, who was almost half of Day’s size, had picked him up on his shoulders and began to carry him.

“What are you doing?” Jason asked in a tired voice.

“I figured that when we had travelled down the road for a bit and there was no sign of him, so it would probably be best to come check.” Crimson replied in a weak, shivering voice. Jason groaned and helped Crimson carry Dayereh, picking him up and carrying him with them back towards the group. The cold ate away at them both, but their fear for Dayereh’s life was inadvertently saving their own. The two of them moved as fast as they could, trying to catch up with the group quickly. The blizzard seemed to start calming, and the two of them let out a sigh of relief as it gradually turned to nothing more than a thick snowfall.

“The footprints start to deviate more from the collective path on this side of town. There are two sets, and I am pretty sure the one on the right goes to the path back down the mountain.” Jason yelled. Crimson wiped his eyes to try to clear his vision of the snow that covered him, but he did little to clear his vision. His eyes were droopy, and the cold barely affected him anymore. Dayereh was practically being dragged along the ground as the two of them pressed on. “Just a little more, come on Crimson.” Jason encouraged him.

“Yeah… Just a little more.” Crimson said through his struggle. The two of them followed the tracks to the rest of the group and Crimson turned to look at Jason. Even through all his hardships, Jason seemed to have a neverending supply of hope. Crimson envied him to an extreme, and he wished he could be just like Jason, or Ecanoya, or even Jacob. All of them were strong enough to push past this. Jason was so strong that even the death of his only family wasn’t enough to break him completely. He kept finding something to fight for, and Crimson couldn’t. He found however, that this served as a sort of motivation for him. Crimson then thought that perhaps that his frustration may be the very thing he needs to find the solid motivation that he needed.

The two wandered up to a small shack where the majority of the tracks led to. Jason grabbed the handle, which was not as cold as he expected the rusted old thing to be. “Someone was here recently.” He concluded aloud. He tried to force the door open, but it was beyond his current strength. At this point, neither of them cared whether or not the shack was the meeting place for the mighty rebellion, they needed to get out of the cold. Jason heaved with all his remaining strength and the door began to inch forward. It made a deep cracking sound as he forced it open and fell inside. Crimson dragged Dayereh in and collapsed next to Jason, using his leg to kick the door closed and keep the snow out. They lay there, frozen to the point of near incapacitation. Crimson felt as if his lungs were going to freeze as he inhaled and exhaled rapidly. Jason gazed about the rusty shack, seeing only a small, dim bulb was the only source of light on the inside. Its light seemed to reach out desperately, but it barely hit the floor. It seemed to mimic the feeling in their hearts. A dim light of hope is all they could see through a sea of everlasting darkness. Crimson struggled, lifting his arm as if it had been weighted down and placing his fingers to Dayereh’s neck. He had a pulse, but now that the snow was not in the way, Crimson noticed upon further examination that he must have injured his head on the way down the valley after he tripped. Crimson felt horrible. If he had been smarter, he could have simply put Dayereh inside the old man’s shop, but the cold was all he could think about, making common sense fall further away from him as he spent more time in the cold.

Jason began to feel things again, as the shack was providing enough protection that the outside was not as cold as the inside. While staring at the light on the ceiling, he noticed a figure walk over to him. He bent down and looked at Jason, but the lack of light only allowed Jason to see a silhouette. It uttered some words Jason was too tired to hear as he slipped away into unconsciousness. Crimson heard them perfectly however, and stared at the figure with as much of a smile he could muster. He turned and repeated the words to Crimson. “Welcome to Willowpeak Mine, seat of the rebellion.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Are they ok?” Paul asked in a concerned voice as he paced back and forth.

“I am sure they are Paul, don’t worry too much.” Derek replied calmly. Derek sat atop a crate, cleaning his glasses and warming himself inside the blanket he had received. “To think that such a small, dainty shack was actually an entrance to a mineshaft.”  

“Where are Ecanoya and Jacob?” Paul asked, still concerned.

“Probably checking on the two of them. Ecanoya seemed pretty agitated ever since Crimson disappeared. It would be best to leave him be.” Derek stated. Paul groaned, yearning to check the health of his friends. The two sat in silence for a while. Paul gazed around the mines surprisingly well lit room, looking at the hard stone walls that were seemed to have been carefully carved and mined as if it was mined in a square with the intent of making it seem like the mineshaft was a form of building rather than what it truly was.

“So what about the strange way the mined the stone all over the place? It looks like it was purposely built for the purpose of a hidden home rather than a mineshaft, yet the tools, tracks, and carts remained unchanged.” Paul asked for clarification. Derek looked about the room, thinking about Paul’s claim.

“No offence but you are rather simple minded Paul. Obviously those from the rebellion fine tuned the mine this way so it would be a more comfortable living space. Otherwise it would be a poorly lit rickety mine shaft. Hell, I bet some people could sprain their ankles just for stepping in a divot. This way they eliminated that inconvenience.” Derek responded with a smirk of pride on his face. Paul got slightly red faced, embarrassed that there were so many questions he had that were simple for Derek to answer.

“Wait.” Paul said with a sudden realization. “If the rebellion started immediately after Taton fell, than that has to be at least a week ago. So you are saying they created the equivalent of an underground fortress in the matter of only a week?” Paul questioned with curiosity. Derek stopped and thought about this for a bit as well.

“Perhaps they used Ki to assist themselves? If it can be used to create explosive balls of energy and give people super strength, I am pretty sure someone with mastery over controlling it could carve a mine shaft into a proper base. Let’s stop thinking about that. I have warmed up a bit, let’s go check and see if the two of them have recovered.” Derek said. Paul nodded and took the blanket off of himself. He tried to stand up, but found he did not have the strength to.

“The journey has really taken its toll on me Derek. I am really worried about Jason and Crimson, but if I don’t rest I think my legs will just buckle under the stress.” Paul sighed before pulling the blanket back over himself and setting himself down to the floor. Derek rolled his eyes and pushed himself to his feet. He wobbled back and forth a little, realizing that the journey had sapped him of a lot of his strength as well. Derek stopped for a sec and straightened his glasses. He looked about, taking a second to collect himself. All he needed to do was to draw on the strength he knew he had deep within, and he would be able to push forward as he had always done.

He headed out from the room into the tunnels. The tunnel was a long, nearly thirty-five degree incline straight down into darkness. Derek saw the darkness at the end of the tunnel as something oddly foreboding. He remembered one of the men telling them that their friends were taken to a room near the top of the mines so they would be exposed to fresher air, which could help recovery. Derek sighed, thinking about what Paul said. This place was indeed a fortress. It was well ventilated, lit, and stocked with food. Who on Soluris would take the time to do all the things that have been done to this mine. It was as if someone was preparing for total chaos prior to everything. The very thought that someone was prepared for a space faction to attack Taton sent a chill down Derek’s spine, but that couldn’t be the case he rationalized. He climbed the incline, watching himself so as to not trip on the railroad and tumble into the unlit darkness of the mines.

He knocked on the wall just outside the room his friends were in. A familiar voice called out to Derek. “It’s ok to come in, we are just resting up.” Derek raised a brow and entered the room, looking around to the small cots, in which he saw Crimson, asleep with Ecanoya at his side, and Jason asleep with Jacob at his. On the cot next to them was the namekian man they had been running into so much as of late. Derek remembered his name: Dayereh.

“Why are you here Dayereh?” Derek questioned him. Dayereh looked at Derek, taking a second to remember the boy. Recognition spread across his face, as he knew the boy from a brief flash. It was Derek who brought Jason and Crimson to his care when they were both wounded. He thought it was rather humorous how the boys he saved would end up saving him in the end.

“I am here for the rebellion.” Dayereh responded, confused as to why Derek would ask such such a question considering where they were.

“I thought you were back at the mines helping people.” Derek said, almost angered that Dayereh would abandon that job.

“Look, I feel bad about leaving, but I knew I would be a bigger help somewhere else, somewhere I can make a true difference. So I came here, healing those who want to fight back.” Dayereh stated. For a clumsy man, Dayereh actually seemed to be rather brave, and bold. Both were things Derek could respect. “You should get some rest, the base seems to be shut down for the night, and it would be best if you had all your energy for tomorrow.”

Derek raised a brow and questioned. “What’s going on tomorrow that is so special?”

Dayereh smiled and responded. “Don’t you know? Tomorrow is the first day the rebellion kicks to its start. Tomorrow is the day we fight back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Crimson awoke early, gazing around the small room. He sat up slowly, as his muscles ached from the constant work they had put in to make it here. Never before had he felt so out of shape. He knew a walk of that distance would tire any normal person, but he still felt frustrated with his own weakness. It had been something plaguing his thoughts recently. Since Jason was attacked, he felt so helpless. He wondered if they did as well. Without the protection and care of Taton, he was learning how scary and tough the world can be. Crimson had never thought he would leave Taton. Of course he wasn’t caught up in a fantasy that nothing would change, but he always thought he would just live in the city for the rest of his life. If it wasn’t for the fact that everything seemed to have changed, the attitude of his friends, Ecanoya’s patience level dropping severely, Crimson even noticed the changes in himself. He knew he was acting a lot more shut in, yet optimistic. He knew someone had to have hope though, and he didn’t want anyone to worry about him. The others didn’t seem to pay him much mind, not even Ecanoya. He was acting happy for them, and it masked the pain he felt. He was sickened at the lose of all the lives in Taton. Crimson wasn’t always friendly, but he still cared about people in general. Ecanoya always taught him that hate breeds hate, but kindness breeds kindness as well. It hurt him to see Ecanoya losing a hold on those ideals. He squeezed the sheets covering him, clenching its soft cloth in his hand.

Gingerly, he folded the sheets up as quietly as he possibly could. He couldn’t see them, but he knew the others were probably asleep in the room. It felt good to be back into the routine that he followed at the orphanage. A little bit of something familiar was just enough to calm his nerves. Crimson snuck out of the room and made his way through the mine hallway. There was only a few lights lit in the hallway, mainly just lighting in case someone needs to do something in the early morning or late night. Crimson pressed up the slope to the exit of the mine, climbing the ladder to the shack he had been found in. When the hatch opened, he felt a rush of a colder air. He set it down gently, wincing at the loud creaking it made as it descended. Crimson turned and shivered a little as he tried to get used to the cold. He opened the door to the shack and stepped outside.The blizzard had stopped, and he had a clear view of the stars. His jaw dropped in awe, as he could see things in the sky he had never seen before. There was a large, silky streak of red and green gently moving across the sky. Crimson stared down at the snow to see that it was reflecting the colors of the lights. Even more amazing, was that on top of the mountain, the stars were more clear than ever before. He knew that the distance between the summit of Willowpeak and any other civilization was far, and the sky mirrored this distance. The blanket in the sky was covering the stars, and Crimson flopped down to take in this moment of complete tranquility. All the hardships in the past week seemed to melt away, covered and locked away by the blanket in the sky.

As the door closed slowly Crimson saw a figure out of the corner of his eyes. He turned and saw two other people, one boy, seemingly around his age, and a girl, maybe a year or two older than him, just like Jason. The two of them stared at Crimson and he blinked, surprised that anyone else would be out there. Crimson looked at the boy, who had long, shaggy, black hair. His face was soft, like Derek’s or Paul’s. His build matched his soft build, being frail and his bones were even visible. The girl sitting next to him was different however. She was tall, and well built. She was rather tough looking, as contrary to the confused look of the young boy, she carried an angry look, as if Crimson had been intruding on something. Her hair was about the same length and color as her brothers, but a bit more messy. Crimson shrugged and turned back to the stars. He tried not to pry on their personal business. The girl stood up and walked over to him however and stood with her hands on her hips, as if she was expecting an apology. When she saw Crimson was in an entirely different world, she groaned and kicked him lightly.

The boy walked up next to the girl, and Crimson expected his soft appearance to be matched by a soft personality, like Paul. The boy kicked Crimson right after the girl. Crimson sighed and tilted his head back against the shed and looked up at the two. The boy crossed his arms and they both looked at him like they were expecting something. Crimson could tell they wanted him to leave, but he hadn’t had much time to himself during their travels, and the smoke from Taton had blocked out the stars at the mines. He was not about to give up his first chance to relax since this all began. The girl was the first speak up. “Are you going to introduce yourself?” She asked to Crimson’s surprise. Crimson took his head from the shed and stared up at the two.

“Why do you care who I am?” Crimson asked the two.

“Well you are here for the rebellion obviously, and if you are under Sobrium’s age limit for recruiting, then you are going to be a comrade with us on the front lines.” The girl responded.

“Are you under fifteen?” Asked the boy, just to clarify.

“I thought the age was sixteen for humans and saiyans?” The girl questioned

“My name is Crimson.” Crimson said and the two turned to him, dropping the topic.

“What kind of name is Crimson?” The boy asked, squinting at Crimson. “I don’t believe you. Tell me your real name.”

“It’s Crimson.” Crimson retorted in a more serious tone. It wasn’t uncommon for people to be a bit surprised at his name. At this point he was used to it.

“Why would your parents name you Crimson?” The girl asked, sharing in the boys disbelief.

“They didn’t. I don’t have parents.” Crimson said, and the two of them seemed to freeze up.

“Did you lose them in Taton?” The boy asked solemnly. Crimson could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t mean to pry.

“They died in Taton, but thirteen years before Sobrium attacked.” Crimson said, wishing they would drop the subject. He knew very little of his family, not even their names. Ecanoya and Jacob both seemed to change subjects when asked about it.

“So you’re-” The boy began before Crimson cut him off.

“An orphan, yes.” Crimson said, doing his best to try to keep himself from looking like he was annoyed by the questioning. He knew they were simply curious, but to him it was a painful subject, and people don’t tend to understand that unless they feel similarly. It’s why Crimson liked to hang out around other orphans. They didn’t ask too much about his past, and he didn’t ask them about theirs. He knew he’d have to indulge the two however, as if he was going to be living here from now on, they wouldn’t stop wondering.

“In a way my brother and I are orphans.” The girl said, sparking Crimson’s curiosity. “This is my brother Bryce, or Olve by his saiyan name. I am Cabba. We were born in a lower district of Taton. Our dad rarely visited us, so we mostly took care of ourselves.” Crimson’s eyes drifted to the snow on the ground. He stared at the green and red hued snow, thinking about what to ask next.

“Why does your brother have two names?” Crimson asked.

“Well I am pretty sure you know about Saiyan history on the planet, regarding when they first arrived?” Cabba asked to reassure herself before continuing. Crimson nodded, allowing her to continue. “Well when the Saiyan’s merged with human society, some of them took on human names, to make fitting in with a peaceful society a bit easier. Our ancestors passed down the tradition of naming one of their children by two names through the generations. The saiyan name was there for them to remember who they are and where they came from, in hopes that one day we could have a home to ourselves, not shared with other races. A human name is a signature to remind them that we shouldn’t get too passionate about this dream, as we still have a life where we are.”

“So each Saiyan family gives only one child a Human name with their saiyan name? What’s the whole point of a reminder to be peaceful if there is only one child who has it?” Crimson asked.

“Because Saiyans had settled into Taton, and everyone thought we were peaceful. It was our secret way to speak out about our true feelings. However there are some families who have adopted completely human names, or just won’t speak about their Saiyan name. They are prideless.” Cabba spat. She was obviously very against the idea of peace between races, which made Crimson uneasy. He began to see why Ecanoya was generally untrusting of Saiyans. His thoughts drifted to Jacob, remembering that he is one of the people who has no Saiyan name. He could sense conflict coming, and he knew it was a runaway train that he could not catch.

“Why tell me all this then? I am human. I never needed to know about your grand plan.” Crimson stated, wondering what their angle was.

“It doesn’t matter what race you are. We are all here for one reason. The rebellion. When our father came back the day after the attack he told us that the best thing we could do now was to find a way to fight back. So we did. Besides, I told you the meaning behind the name thing because I was hoping you would tell us the meaning behind your name.” Bryce cut in, feeling ignored. “So you are gonna be on the front lines with us fighting Sobrium. My sister and I have talked about getting to know the others, and so far we have barely met any that are here for themselves, or want to talk at all.”

“Well that sounds about right. Some kids were probably brought here by angry or vengeful parents, and others came here by themselves, probably because they are tough enough to fight back on their owns, but as a result they are bitter.” Crimson said, practically reciting the words Ecanoya had spoken to him when he was talking about other children they may meet during their journey. Bryce and Cabba seemed nice, aside from their inclination towards fighting. The two of them sat back down and gazed towards the stars with Crimson in silence for a while

“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Cabba asked with a sense of wonder in her tone.

“It really is…” Crimson responded sincerely.

“It’s called an aurora. I heard they are a common site at the top of willowpeak, but sometimes they appear other places.”

“Do you guys ever wish you could just go up and touch the stars? Collect all those little dots of light scattered in the darkness of the sky?” Crimson asked to the two. They both stared at him for a second before Cabba began to laugh. Bryce however gazed even harder at the sky, lost in thought.

“Just so you know… I don’t know where my name comes from. I don’t think there is a significance behind it regarding my past.” Crimson said. He could feel Cabba and Bryce nodding in understanding.

“I honestly thought we would be the first ones to get up.” Bryce chuckled. “Is it a hobby of yours too? To look at the stars?”

“Yeah, I enjoy it. The stars always bring me a sense of calm. With all this craziness going on lately, I feel like the stars are the only thing that have been unchanged, untainted by the evil of Sobrium’s influence.” Crimson said in a quiet voice.

“Do you hate Sobrium? If you get the chance would you kill him?” Cabba asked to Crimson. He knew instantly that she was trying to test how devoted Crimson was. However Crimson hadn’t been in the rebellion long enough to say he was devoted to it.

“Sis, that’s enough, just leave him be.” Bryce pleaded in an annoyed tone. Cabba stood up and huffed.

“Fine then, let’s go Bryce.” Cabba shouted. Bryce was taken aback by her sudden anger, but before he could ask what was bothering her, she headed back inside the shack.

“Well she does have a point. It is cold out here. I am gonna head back inside. See you around Crimson.” Bryce said with a wave before he followed his sister back into the base. The door shut fast and Crimson sighed. He wished he had more time to enjoy the stars, but the sky was beginning to turn to a lighter shade of blue. Crimson stood up and went back inside to warm up and meet up with the others.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Now we are even Crimson.” Jason said with a smile, his back perched up against the wall at the head of his bed. Crimson laughed and gave Jason a huge, goofy grin. Jason laughed with him a bit. It was the first Jason had laughed in a week. Derek, who was sitting hunched over with his chin on the palm of his hands smiled. Everything seemed to be so more hopeful now that they arrived at the rebellion. Paul came into the room and everyone turned to look at him. Ecanoya stood over his shoulder and peered in, surprised, yet at the same time relieved after hearing the laughter.

“Come on guys, the introductory speech is going to start soon.” Paul exclaimed with a hint of excitement. Derek, Jason and Crimson got up and walked over to the door. As they left, Crimson looked to Dayereh’s bed. He was probably already at the meeting, that is if he didn’t trip on his way down the mineshaft. Crimson left the room and looked around. The mineshaft had better lightning now that it was daytime, and it was much neater looking than he thought. Instead of the rocky ground and walls that the last one had, everything was smooth and polished. If it wasn’t for the support beams and cart tracks, it wouldn’t even look like a mineshaft. It would be more like a slow slide. Crimson walked down the mineshaft, keeping his body tilted at an odd angle. The way down was a little steep, and since it wasn’t like the last mine shaft that had a dirt path, Crimson was worried he might go tumbling down the tracks like a runaway cart.

After a careful climb down, they arrived at the back of a small crowd. They seemed to be the last people to make it to the meeting. It was probably because Jason and Paul took forever to wake up. Crimson had to smack Paul a good five times with the pillow before he even groaned. The room they were in was cylindrical, with a bunch of seats spiraling around in a circle around the room. There was a small stage in the middle of the room. It reminded Crimson of the lecture halls that one of his old teachers took him, Paul, and the rest of the children from that old orphanage to, only smaller. On the stage, stood a tall, very muscular, man. It took Crimson a second, but he recognized the man as Ghost, the so called leader of the rebellion. They had walked in a little bit late to the meeting, and Ghost was already giving the welcoming speech.

“Again, I want to thank you all for coming. With that out of the way, I want to congratulate you for being foolish enough to stand up to Sobrium. This is a trap.” Ghost finished with a serious expression. The entire room reacted differently. Some immediately bolted to the door, but they were stopped by the sound of blasters and ki blasts charging. Ecanoya immediately shielded Crimson and Paul, thinking to himself that after all the work to get here, it may only end in his death. Jacob and Jason looked like they were ready to fight, and Derek hid his emotions behind his blank expression. A couple people leaped at Ghost, faster than Crimson could track. He recognized two of them as Cabba and Bryce. Ghost didn’t even seem to move, but he stopped everyone in their tracks, like they all hit an invisible wall. “Freeze, stop whatever you are doing and don’t move.” Ghost said and Crimson felt Ecanoya’s grip tense. “Bring me everyone who tried to run.” After a small commotion, everyone who had turned tail or looked like they were about to was brought to the front. They stood at the bottom of the stage, looking at Ghost fearfully. “The twelve of you have all failed.” Ghost said and the room was alive with whispers and confused gazes. Ghost turned to everyone else and straightened himself. “What just happened was nothing more than a drill. A test to see how you would all react in the face of sudden danger. Those of you who stood your ground, either by attempting to fight back, or rationally taking in the situation, reacted appropriately. Those of you who tried to take your children or friends and run are cowards. Who’s to say you won’t do the same when faced with a real threat?” The people who were brought to the front bowed their heads in shame. They were all kids. All the parents probably stayed behind to defend them.

Ecanoya relaxed and let go of Crimson and Paul. All three of them looked at one another, confused and distraught. The only reason they didn’t run was because it all happened so fast the thought hadn’t even reached their mind by the time it was over. Crimson wasn’t about to tell Ghost that though, as he was a very intimidating figure up close. From a few stories up he was small, and barely visible. From a couple feet away, Crimson got to take in the entirety of this hulking man. It was obvious he was Saiyan, as he had a tail wrapped around his waist, and black hair. He was very well built, and his muscles bulged from inside his shirt. His face had a shadow of a beard, kind of like Ecanoya’s, but more groomed. His face had two big scars running along it. One started at his nose and went to his nostril, and the other started atop his forehead and ran down to his cheek, traveling over his right eye. His eyes had the look of anger, but seemed strangely calm. It was the gaze of an old war veteran who was constantly on the lookout, yet still calm and rational in any situation.

The room took a few minutes to calm down and Ghost waited patiently for everyone to get themselves situated. Crimson spotted turned to see that Jacob had taken Jason and Derek to another side of the room, where there was more space to get in closer. Jacob was obviously far more interested in the rebellion than Ecanoya. When Crimson tried to press forward, Ecanoya simply placed his hand on Crimsons shoulder to hold him back. The room became completely silenced when Ghost clapped to snap everyone’s attention to him. “Now that my little test is done, I want to get down to business. If you are under Sobriums age of recruitment for your race, you will be trained to fight. We will have strict regimens and teachers who excel in the field of ki fighting. More on that later however. If you are over the recruiting age, life will become difficult for you. Sobrium’s plan for almost all planets he forcibly takes over, is to remove all able bodied residents to fight in his army, and any who avoid his recruitment or are unfit for his army are then subjected to forced labor. His entire battle strategy relies on sacrificing the expendable recruits to tire out the stronger enemies in an enemy army, then he will send in some one of high rank to finish them off. So the kids will be the ones going outside more often, while you all stay here and help us fight back in any way you can.” Ghost stopped for a bit, and Crimson was at awe with his calm demeanor. Ghost knew what they were truly up against, and yet he showed no signs of fear or cowardice. Paul noticed this too, and the two of them exchanged semi-worried glances.

Ghost began to speak about the different job openings for those above the recruiting age. They were mainly maintenance things like cooking, cleaning, and repairing. After that he nodded for a man standing towards the back who then began passing around a clipboard. When it got to Ecanoya, he stroked his beard and then tapped Jacob on the shoulder. “If you have any experience in ki fighting, you can volunteer to train the kids.” Ecanoya stated.

“I thought you were against the fighting.” Jacob snickered.

“I am against this. Teaching kids to fight an adults war is cruel. However, you should know that it would be even crueler to let them fight that war unprepared. If I tried to stop them from training, then they would die horrible deaths fighting sobrium. I hate to admit it but I am out of options, its one of the few times that being passive won’t work, Jacob.” Ecanoya said with annoyance. He was known for his incredibly passive attitude to the kids and Jacob, mainly through Crimson’s stories. Jacob and him never seemed to get along. Jacob believed in solving problems through force, and was eager to stand up for what he believed in, and he encouraged the kids to do the same. Despite these two differing opinions, the kids respected them both. It was hard to pick sides for them as well, especially for Crimson, who knew both of them very well.

Ecanoya signed up for the training job, along with Jacob. They passed the clipboard on and began to just have small talk about the weather. Derek eavesdropped on their conversation while Paul and Crimson fooled around. Derek’s eyes wandered to Jason, who was being incredibly quiet, sitting by himself. Derek saw something in Jason’s eyes that sent a chill down his spine. There was so much hate in his gaze. This rebellion was obviously giving him a new purpose. Without even talking, Derek could tell that Jason was preparing himself for a personal mission of revenge. After everyone had passed the clipboard all the way around, a man in the back asked “Anyone get skipped?” He waited a few seconds for a response, and after he didn’t receive one, he simply nodded in understanding and went on his merry way. Ghost then began instructing everyone where to go to learn about their assigned job. Only those who signed up for training were to stay in the room with the children.

“Okay, now that the basic work has been taken care of, I am going to introduce all of you kids who stayed to learn how to fight-” Ghost said before turning his uncaring gaze to the only adults in the room. “-and the ones who volunteered to train them, to the rest of the gang. In total there will be almost two-hundred kids training here, if I counted the number of kids here correctly. The rest of the kids went through an introduction earlier, or were taken to the back for already knowing how to fight. This is technically the main introduction, but some people were a little more eager to start fighting, and who am I to deny them?” Ghost chuckled to himself for a small bit. He began going on about a few of the students who went in back, attempting to motivate us with stories. Crimson, Derek and Paul shuffled over next to Jason. They all sat on the top row of the circular staircase. There was one story that piqued their interests out of the others however.

“Now there is a kid in the back, a saiyan, who went out a few days ago to challenge the Blue Bowtie Battalion, or the B.B.B. for short. He was a strong fighter, confident, intelligent, level-headed, but he was too prideful. Because he was the strongest of his class, he thought he could take on anyone even with only a couple days of training. We found him dead at the base of the mountain. He had never learned all the proper techniques, he was too rash to fight, and it led to his death. Don’t be confused, I do promote taking action if you can, but you need to be smart on how you fight.” He turned to look at Cabba, who was one of the first people to leap at him. He hopped off the stage and walked over to her. He placed his hand on her head, like he was measuring its size. Cabba quickly shook him off with anger on her face. Ghost chuckled and walked over to a wall, still holding his hand like cabbas head was in it. He then jammed his hand into the wall and ripped out a rock. All the kids in the room stared in awe. “If I was an actual enemy, this is what would have happened to your head.” Ghost said in a stern tone. He brought the rock up on stage and tossed it to a strange alien kid sitting in the front row. “Now throw the rock at me.” The kid grunted and chucked the rock as hard as he could. Before anyone could even react to the fact it had been thrown, there was a loud crunching sound and sand poured out of Ghost’s hand. There was an absolute silence. Even Ecanoya, who had experience in ki fighting, was not able to trace how fast Ghost had moved.

Ghost told the kids to stand up. After everyone got up, he immediately ordered them to pair up with someone on the other side of the room. Crimson went over to Bryce, while Paul paired up with a Namekian kid. Derek got stuck with some kid, whose appearance reminded him of a cactus with hair instead of thorns. Jason ended up getting paired with Cabba. “That should make twelve pairs. This person is going to be your sparring partner for the week. You will fight them, then choose a teacher out of the selection we have in the back room here.” He nodded to the three adults staying in the room, and motioned towards a small wooden door in the corner of the room.

As they left the room Ecanoya decided to talk with the woman who stayed. “So you have experience in ki fighting?” He questioned.

“I have a little knowledge of it. Mainly, I just don’t want to leave my daughter alone without knowing what we are getting into.” The woman responded in a soft voice. “My name is Natania, and you?”

“Ecanoya. I used to be a city guard, but things happened and I got moved to district watch. I lived in the upper continental district.” Ecanoya stated in an attempt to make small talk. Jacob opened the door and held it for of the two of them. he received a brief thank you, and then shut the door behind him. The sounds of a continuing conversation rang out from behind the doorway before being cut short by a stunned silence. Ghost then went over to a wall panel by one of the entrances and started fiddling with a few levers and switches.

The floor and seats began to raise to even ground with the rest of the room. The kids quickly evacuated to avoid being stuck. The center pedestal, where Ghost was talking earlier, then shifted into a large circular arena. “First up is you two.” Ghost said in a demanding voice to two younger boys. They got on the stage, and Ghost stood in the middle of them for a demonstration. “Alright you two, Don’t be at each others throat, you win if your opponent is knocked out of the ring, or you are able to knock your opponent out. Try not to kill one another.” It wasn’t the most motivating of speeches, and the kids looked unsure of what they should do. “If you don’t knock one another out in this match, you have to fight me.” Ghost said with an angry glare. That was plenty motivation for them because they started going at it immediately. It was obvious that they knew very little about fighting, since they were incredibly young. However they were both holding up to the hits really well. By the time the two minute mark hit, one of the boys had been knocked out. Ghost picked him up and set him gently on a little mat in the corner. The victorious boy looked like he had just gotten out of a car crash. They were really trying to knock each other out. Flailing their arms and headbutting. Luckily, the boy passed out before he had to feel anymore pain, and he was placed next to the other one. A man came back to the room and handed Ghost a notepad containing the names of every child.

“Alright, the next one will be…” Ghost stopped for a second to look at the notepad, then back up to the kids. Derek saw that it had pictures of their faces out of the corner of his eye, but never remembered getting his photo taken. “Bryce and Crimson.” Ghost yelled out suddenly. Crimson’s heart skipped a beat and he nearly fell over. It was their match already. Crimson and Bryce climbed onto the ring.

“Don’t take this personally Crimson, but I gotta knock you out now.” Bryce said in a serious tone. Cabba cheered for her brother, and when Crimson turned to her she chuckled and shrugged. Crimson turned back to see Bryce reeling his arm back for a hook. He ducked under it and jabbed straight into Bryce’s stomach. Bryce did a little hop back so Crimson only tapped his stomach, and then did another hook that hit Crimson in the face before he had time to react. Crimson went tumbling over, and Ghost stopped him from rolling out of the ring by standing in the way. Crimson pushed himself back up by Bryce kicked him in the head while he was still getting to his feet. There was a loud ringing in his ears as the world suddenly became a blur. Crimson groaned and rolled over, and felt Bryce’s foot on his stomach, but didn’t register any pain. There was another blow to his head and more ringing. Another one, then another, it kept going, but Crimson just stayed there, confused. He didn’t register much pain anymore, but he knew it was there. He began to feel a pattern in the way Bryce was hitting him. right hook to the temple, and left jab to the forehead. He began to focus, harder than he had ever done before in his life. He did not want to lose this fight. When Crimson knew the next right hook was coming he immediately sat up and gave Bryce a well placed headbutt right to the gut. Bryce reeled back and began hacking up a lung. The dull throbbing pain that felt like someone beating his head in a rhythmic pattern of a drum began to increase in volume, to the point where the drum beats became knife stabs. A sharp stinging pain and Crimson was fully aware of everything around him. He began to panick, natural instinct kicking in. He prepared to do a finishing hit to Bryce’s head, a haymaker. He and Paul used to do it in the back alley of one of their old orphanages because it made them feel tough because they could actually dent the dumpster. But it hurt them as much as it hurt the thing on the receiving end. He brought his fist back and set it at his side, limp. He then flung his limp arm like a sack of rocks towards Bryce. The back of his fist connected with Bryce’s head and he heard a cracking sound in his fingers. Bryce stumbled back a bit and almost fell of the ring. Paul watched in horror as Crimson began to sway back and forth. His vision became more and more distorted, and he did his best to stay awake. However, he soon passed out and fell backwards, tumbling off the stage.. Bryce stood in stunned silence, holding his head. Everyone in the room was impressed that Crimson was still able to fight after all that.

Even Ghost seemed stunned. A human kid, with no fighting talent whatsoever, almost beat a Saiyan kid who grew up on the streets. Even though the genes that gave Saiyans extraordinary fighting power as children were suppressed through years of passiveness in the city of Taton, people still considered them to be strong. Ghost smirked, planning to use this incident as a replacement to his previous underdog story. Jason and Derek grabbed Crimson and set him against a wall, propping him up and checking him to make sure he wasn’t hurt beyond the bruises and probable concussion. “You got your ass kicked by an orphan.” Cabba snickered at her brother. Bryce sighed and hopped off the stage. He never expected that Crimson would come close to beating him, especially when he should have been unconscious within the first few punches. His head hurt pretty bad from that last hit too, it was as if he was hit in the head by a brick. He sat down next to the unconscious Crimson, and decided to rest.

When Crimson woke up, Paul told him the results of each fight. “So, I lost my fight, but I didn’t do too bad. I got in a couple of hits before he knocked me out.” Paul laughed.

“You don’t look that beat up.” Crimson commented. To his surprise, Crimson noticed that he felt fine.

“Well we had a little help.” Paul nodded towards Dayereh, who was speaking with a couple Namekian kids in their native language. Crimson got up and stretched. He felt a bit stronger. It was like waking up the day after a hard workout. “Oh, and Jason won his by a landslide. Man everyone was stunned by how well he can fight.”

“But Jason was against Cabba! She is the oldest one here!” Crimson exclaimed.

“Everyone thought the same thing. However Cabba barely hurt him. Ghost said he must have an extreme amount of hidden potential.” Paul explained. Crimson frowned, feeling a bit jealous. People said he did good, but he still lost his fight. Not only did Jason win his, he won his against a saiyan who was supposed to be the strongest fighter here. “Cabba is just as surprised about it though.” Paul stated.

“And Derek’s fight?” Crimson asked.

“Derek won by a small bit against the cactus dude. Turns out he can grow needles any time he wants. It was weird, and Derek hurt his hand a lot, but he still won.” Paul informed Crimson. Crimson scanned the room and saw the cactus kid sitting huddled in a corner of the room. Dayereh probably healed him as well. Paul interrupted Crimson’s daydreaming by asking “By the way, how did you stand back up after taking a beating like that?” Crimson’s thoughts were a bit fuzzy. The healing effect may have removed the pain, but the grogginess of waking up after being knocked out was still there. It was something he was starting to get used to.

“I just sort of, refused to give up, I guess.” Crimson mumbled. Paul shrugged.

“It’s not that important anyway, I am just glad Dayereh is here to heal us. That stuff is going to be useful if we are doing more of this.” Paul commented. Crimson nodded in agreement. No matter how brutal the training got, Dayereh can always heal someone back from the brink of death. The room had changed slightly since Crimson passed out. For one there were more people in there, particularly more children. The only ones he recognized were the cactus kid, the two younger boys, the Namekian kid who beat Paul, Cabba, who was brooding over her lose to Jason, Bryce, and Derek, who sat next to Jason talking about something Crimson couldn’t quite make out. There were a few alien kids around the room that he saw during the assembly, but they seemed too busy gloating about their victory, or pouting about their lose.

“Alright everyone, I have the test results!” Shouted a man towards the backroom. The kids rushed towards him, and Crimson raised an eyebrow.

“Test results?” Crimson asked, hoping Paul had the answer.

“While you were out they brought in some of the kids who came here earlier for more fights. Ghost said he is separating the training into age groups, with the youngest children taken on a more mild training, the ones just entering their teens taking on a similar training to ours, which is going to be the hardest. Ghost said that to support competition, all of us will be ranked based how we did in our fights.” Paul told Crimson.

“That actually sounds interesting. Where am I on the list?” Crimson asked. Paul shrugged, and answered.

“I don’t know. Go check for yourself.” Paul responded

“In a second, I am going to wait for the crowd to die down.” Crimson responded. He began to scan the room again and noticed that the only adult in the room was the man who had brought in the results. “So…” Crimson began. “Where is Ecanoya?

“I don’t know that either” Paul answered “Everyone who volunteered for the training job or was already working here just went into the back through that wooden door. I honestly have no clue what they are doing.” Crimson sighed and gave up. Paul wasn’t really the quizzical type, and he doubted that he took the time to piece together what might be going on. Crimson stood up and stretched out a bit. He was pretty stiff, but other than that he felt fine. Paul got up and went to go sit by Derek and Jason. The three of them exchanged a few words, and then Jason and Derek started laughing. Paul hung his head in shame. Crimson wanted to go sock the two of them in the head for making fun of Paul.

Crimson decided, however, that he would get to know the people around the room a bit better. The first few he tried to converse with simply ignored him, so he moved on. When he stopped by the cactus kid, he asked. “Hey, what’s your name?”

“Saguaro.” He answered. Under the light in the corner of the room, Crimson could see there will tiny little holes in his pale green skin. He assumed this is where his thorns ‘grew’ from.

“Why are you sitting in the corner by yourself?” Crimson asked.

“Because I don’t know, nor do I want to know anyone here.” Saguaro answered in a serious tone. Crimson sighed, half expecting that this kind of thing would happen.

“I have never seen someone who looks like you before.” Crimson commented, ignoring him.

“That’s because I am the last of my kind.” Saguaro answered. That fact knocked the wind out of Crimson. “Before you ask anything, all you need to know is there were more, and then Sobrium attacked Taton. That is the end of that.” Saguaro said in a stern tone. Crimson could tell there was no point in prodding him for answers, as he would be getting none. After an awkward silence Saguaro stood up and asked. “So, your name is Crimson?”

“How did you know my name?” Crimson asked, stunned.

“Well I paid attention to the cheering during your fight. Plus your tall friend looked like he was going to feint when you passed out.” Saguaro noted. Crimson chuckled lightly at the thought.

“Well I am going to get going now, talk to you later.” Crimson responded. Saguaro said his goodbye and then wandered over to a couple of strangers to try and converse with them. Crimson looked around and it seems like everyone was getting the same idea. People were finally trying to be social. The next two to meet up with Crimson were the two young children from the first fight.

“Hi, my name is Tedeel I am a Gerton!” One boy said in a really excited tone. Tedee seemed like he was about to explode with his amount of energy. It’s probably how he won the fight because he just never seemed to stop bouncing. He was short, even for a young kid, and his shaggy hair was a bright red, both being common traits for Gerton’s. “The person I fought was my brother, Tedum! I think we are the oldest ones here, so I don’t really have anyone to talk to.” Tedee said in a sad tone. Crimson laughed and crouched down.

“Oldest one? I may not know a lot about Grenkons but I know you are definitely not the oldest one here, I mean you look like your seven.” Crimson said in a lighter tone. He was trying not to be rude to the Tedeel, but he seemed aggravated anyway.

“I am twenty years old! I am the oldest one here! I am even older than Tedum by three seconds!” Tedeel yelled before crossing his arms and pouting. Crimson blinked a few times, trying to process what he was told. He gazed over at Tedum, and saw the contrast that he had with his brother. He may still look like a child, but his eyes had a gaze that made him seem far more mature. His hair was a dark brown, and was much more groomed than his brothers. It was cut short, to the point his scalp was almost visible. Crimson wondered how shaggy his hair was going to get. There weren’t exactly any barbers in the rebellion. At the same time though, Ecanoya hadn’t shaved in awhile either, and he was beginning to get a really large beard. Crimson chuckled, remembering how Ecanoya used to shave all the time when Crimson was little, mainly because Crimson loved to pull on Ecanoya’s beard. It hurt to think of the happy memories of Taton. Even if the place wasn’t a paradise, it was still his home, somewhere he enjoyed being.

When Crimson looked back, Tedee had run off to go talk to someone else. Crimson was about to introduce himself to someone else when the back door opened up. Natania walked out, her head hung low. A purple skinned alien girl ran up to her, calling out. “Mom!” before hugging her. Natania returned the hug. Paul looked the most confused out of everyone in the room. He walked over to Derek.

“Why is that little girl calling her ‘mom’?” Paul asked. Derek groaned, he let out a long, slow breath through his nose.

“Paul come on, it is really simple.” Derek whined. He was honestly not in the mood to babysit Paul. Paul pouted and slumped down along the wall next to Bryce.

“Dirty half-breeds…” Bryce said quietly, gradually decreasing in volume until he was simply muttering something unintelligible. Derek stiffened after he heard Bryce and then quickly relaxed again. Paul finally caught on to what was going on, and then turned to ask Bryce.

“Why do you hate Half-Breeds?” Paul questioned.

“None of your business.” Bryce responded in an irritated tone.

“Just answer the question.” Paul demanded. Derek was stunned, Paul usually wasn’t one for confrontation.

“Our race has been all but ruined by Half-Breeds. Anyone who is still a pure blood hates them. Us Saiyan’s used to be proud, an almost unstoppable force. We almost took over all of Soluris. then our ancestors settled down, and agreed to peace. That stupid city domesticated what should be a wild and free animal. And then Saiyans and Human DNA started intermingling. They created little abominations. My sister and I firmly believe that a race’s bloodline should remain pure.” Bryce declared. He was purposefully loud in hopes that all the people in the room could catch onto his little speech.

“Why do you hate them though?” Paul questioned still.

“Because they aren’t pure blooded and that is enough!” Bryce shouted. Paul backed down immediately, sinking against the wall like a turtle retreating to its shell. Jason has remained silent for a while. Bryce was reluctant to to talk to him in the event that his sister would get jealous that he was talking with the human that beat her. She was still pretty sour over that entire thing.

Crimson finnally made his way to the ranking board, as the rest of the kids had cleared the way. He started near the top, and saw Jason as the number one. He felt pride in his friend, and looked through the list of names until he saw Derek’s at number seven. His grin began to fade as he looked furthur and furthur down the list. Once he got to the half of the ranking board that composed of the losers, he saw Paul as number thirty-six, or the ‘tenth place loser’. And all the way at the bottom, for number fifty-two, was Crimson. He couldn’t believe it. He had hit Bryce so hard., and survived a barrge of blows, only to be marked as the weakest fighter in his age group. He turned angrily to Paul, blaming him for not warning that it was going to be such a devastating result. Before he spoke up, however, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He spun around to see Cabba, looking smug and cocky. At least she was in a better mood.

“What’s up?” Crimson asked.

“That was a pretty nasty fight!” Cabba laughed.

“Nasty as in good or bad? I’m feeling a bit of both.” Crimson stated.

“Well obviously the bad kind. You took quite a beating from my brother. I was totally surprised when you got up and kept swinging. Oh and that one punch you did!” Cabba whistled. “Boy did it work. Bryce passed out a couple minutes after you did. From just one punch! If only you gotten that off earlier, you wouldn’t have been put at the bottom for being the only person to be knocked out after you were hit. You just sort of fainted, although you probably should have done that earlier. I was listening to that Namekian dude talk about your injuries. You broke some of the bones in your hand! Man you are a crazy fighter. I think we will get along just fine.” She smiled and stuck her hand out for a handshake. Crimson grabbed it and shook it slightly. When he tried to pull away she squeezed his hand hard. He winced and tried to pull back again. Cabba leant forward and whispered into his ear. “You’re too weak to be in this rebellion. You should just go sign up to be the delivery boy right now. It would save a lot of people some time. I am not saying this to be rude, but from an honest perspective you have no fighting talent, no killer instinct.” She paused and looked at Crimson. She could see he was incredibly hurt, but she didn’t care, and finished. “No motivation. If that were a real fight you would have been dead. Bryce noted this as well, but there were plenty of other things you could have done to get out of being wailed on. You didn’t even try to shield yourself, you just took it like a dumbass. I am saying this because you seem like a nice guy, and nice guys don’t do well in a war.”

Just as she finished the door in the back opened again and all the instructors came pouring out. Ecanoya stood in the back, and Jacob stood in the front. Ghost came out slowly, yawning a slight bit. He pulled up a small clipboard. “All of you are going to be assigned to a basics teacher in the first few months. The three basics teachers we have are Ko…” he stopped and nodded to the woman standing next to Jacob. She had bright yellow skin and dark green hair, and her clothing looked like something a wizard wore. “Zwequo…” Ghost stopped to give a nod in the direction of a purple Zenkon. He was so much smaller than everyone else standing in front, that some of the kids almost laughed, but when Ghost peered above his clipboard at the kids all of them went silent. “and Jacob.” He then gestured to Jacob. Jacob stood up straight and looked on with a serious, yet proud face. “After you master the basics, you will move to learn a style of fighting that suits you best. These include, warrior, spiritualist and mixed. The warriors will perfect their physical fighting, and this will be available to those of you who are excellent at sparring. Spiritualists will be available to those of you who will learn ki faster than the others. Once you master one side, you can work on the other. Our end goal is for everyone to know how to fight both physically and spiritually.”

“Why can’t we learn it all at once?” Saguaro asked.

“It’s too much for you to take in all at once. If we are attacked I want people who are confident in their skill of one category. If we focus on both at first, many of you will be much weaker overall than you would be if all your time and effort went towards one style. This way we can make you much stronger than an average teaching would make you in the short amount of time given. However I am not stupid. I realize that if you and your friends are all physical fighters who encounter a ki master in battle, things will end badly. For this reason, you will be split into teams of four at the end of next month. Two spiritualists, two warriors. This way you can incorporate more strategy in your fighting.” Ghost finished, giving everyone some time to talk it over. After this he told began to list everyone and their teachers. “Saguaro, Jacob. Tedee, Zwequo. Tedum, Zwequo.” He stopped while the kids began to separate into three groups. He continued to list names. “Mur, Ko. Iko, Ko. Paul, Ko. Derek, Ko. Jason, Ko. Crimson, Ko.” Crimson did a small fist bump with Paul and they wandered over to the Ko group. Derek and Jason gave them high fives.

“Two out of four isn’t so bad for our little group, right?” Jason asked in a happy tone.

“What are you-” Paul began before Derek cut him off.

“The win to lose ration. Two of us won, two of us lost.” Derek said with his arms crossed.

“Yeah, but they still kept us all in the same group.” Crimson noted.

“I guess the selection for teachers is random and not skill based. Maybe the ranks board is just to create some rivalry and drive people to be better.” Derek hypothesized. The others thought that sounded rather logical. Crimson for one, hoped this was true.

“Oh and Crimson, I am sorry you got placed at the bottom. I thought you kicked ass, if only that guy fell out of the ring you would have been near the top. Don’t sweat it though, it’s probably just like Derek said. They are trying to push for competition.” Jason reassured. Crimson nodded in understanding, but in his heart he knew that they put an honest ranking board up there. He was the weakest fighter in there because he was too soft. He would rather take a beating than hit back.

After group assignment was finished, Ko called out in a lighthearted voice that almost sounded like she was singing. “Hello my class! If you will please follow me I will show you the training grounds.” Everyone in the group began to follow her out the back wooden door. The stairs were rickety, and the stairwell was dark. Ko held up her hand and the kids stopped. She then held out her hand like she was carrying a plate on top of it. Everyone stopped and looked around in confusion. The stairwell was suddenly as bright as day and the kids looked down to see a small ball of energy floating in Ko’s hand. It looked like the sun in shape, but it didn’t blind them. Crimson had a flashback to Taton, and the mines. Ki was becoming a familiar thing to him, but he always seemed to be on the receiving end. Ko continued down the stairs to a large iron door. “Are you all ready?” She asked in an excited voice. The kids all nodded in anxiousness. Their entire morning was leading up to this point. When the door opened and the kids poured through, Crimson turned to Derek and whispered. “This was not built in one week…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The room was filled with fluorescent lights on the ceiling, much like you would see in a large store. They entered in on a walkway that was attached to the back wall. The walls were all made of a strangely colored metal that Crimson had never seen before. The floor was basic concrete, but all of it was so smooth that if it weren’t for the rocky texture of the ceiling no one could tell this even used to be a mine. On the ground floor below the walkway, there was an assortment of rings, training dummies and chairs that were arranged in a circle. Ko led them all down a flight of stairs and towards a circle of chairs. The entire group sat in a circle and Ko stood in the middle. She hummed to herself for a little bit, and the orb she was carrying shrunk until it disappeared. “So you are all going to learn how to do things like that.” Ko said before sitting down with her legs crossed in the center. Crimson fidgeted a bit, as the silence was getting a bit too awkward for him. He was incredibly anxious to learn ki. After seeing what ko could do, he was so excited he couldn’t keep still. Ko sat in the middle of the room for at least four minutes before someone began to whisper to their friend across the circle. Ko simply put her index finger over her lips and whispered “Quiet.” Everyone was baffled. They came here to learn the most powerful fighting techniques in existence, and yet they were supposed to sit and be quiet like they were in class.

After a few minutes of silence, the next few classes came down and all sat in circles around their teachers. Jason peered over his shoulder to the circle with Jacob in it. It was strange that they let jason be a basics instructor, when he said all he knew were the basics. Looking between Ko and Zwequo, he could clearly tell they knew more about ki than they were going to teach. Jacob left his circle and walked to the middle of the room. Many of the kids that noticed watched him, wondering what he was doing. Derek was able to make out an object dangling around his neck on a thin wire. As soon as Jacob wrapped his fingers around it all four of the kids from the orphanage knew what was going to happen next and hopped to their feet. Jacob blew the whistle he had as hard as he could, and the ringing sound caught the attention of every kid in the room. Ko seemed unphased by it, and while he couldn’t quite make out Zwequo, Derek knew he too, was unphased.

“Everyone take four laps around the room.” Jacob shouted. As soon as he did, Crimson and the others took off running. It was a routine that Jacob practiced often with them. They would go down to the local park and Jacob would tell them to take laps around it, then do sit ups or other basic exercises. He seemed to become a different person when he blew the whistle. He went from passionate and friendly orphanage caretaker to something akin to a stereotypical drill sergeant. Sometimes Crimson wondered which one was the real Jacob. As soon as the kids spotted Crimson and the others running around the huge room, the followed suit. The room was incredibly large, and Jacob would stop anyone who were running in too small of a circle or weren’t going fast enough, then force them to do push ups. Jason was the frontrunner as usual, and by the time Crimson began becoming winded on the third lap, Jason was finished with his fourth and resting at Jacob’s feet. Even though he had a head start, the other kids were slowly passing Crimson. Paul was still lagging behind as usual. When Crimson turned around to try to encourage him, he spotted Ecanoya watching him from the upper catwalk. He gave him a small wave, and Ecanoya smiled. The woman next to him, Natania, began to talk to him. Crimson felt a bit more pressured now that he knew Ecanoya was watching. By the time he came into the final lap, he was already behind half the people in the room. He could see Derek on the other side. Despite his nerdy appearance, Derek was actually rather fit, and could keep up surprisingly well with Jason. Paul began to slow down a lot, and Crimson kept pressuring him to move forward. It was too late however, as Jacob was already on the scene, and he shouted. “Paul! Seven push ups for each second you slowed down!”

When Crimson finished his fourth lap and flopped down next to Jason and Derek, his heart was beating against his ribcage. It felt as though it wanted to burst from his body, and only Crimson’s heavy panting was keeping it inside. When the last of the kids caught up and sat down, the room was filled with the sound of exhaustion. Ecanoya watched from above as Crimson wiped his brow and talked to Paul, who looked like he was about to pass out. Natania continued to talk “That friend of yours is rather harsh on the kids isn’t he?” She asked.

Ecanoya let out a deep sigh and wiped the water from his eyes before sniffling. “Jacob isn’t really a friend, more of an acquaintance. I am guessing they chose him to be the basic fitness instructor for the kids. I mean it makes sense, he used to chase the kids around the orphanage in order to keep them in shape. Still, he is usually nicer than this. Guess he is just trying to scare the kids into respecting him.” Ecanoya guessed. Natania sighed and wondered if he could be right. Her little girl respected everyone however, and she just couldn’t see how fear is a necessary tool to motivate her to work. “I hope you don’t mind me prying, but what race is she? She looks a lot like you-” Ecanoya began.

“But she has purple skin.” Natania finished for him. She chuckled. “Honestly it doesn’t even matter at this point. Her father was a Cotemwall, and he was a very generous person. He passed away peacefully when Mur was just beginning school. It hurt, but as long as I still have her I will keep fighting. So to answer your question, she is half-human, half-Cotemwall.”

Ecanoya offered her a smile, before asking another question. “Hey, sorry for being so curious, but, where did you learn ki? The practice was banned so I didn’t think many people would know even the most basic of things. I mean it makes sense that the old Zenkon and that Ko lady would know.”

“Well.” Natania began with a slight nod, as if digging into the past. “My father was a ring fighter. He taught me how to manipulate the most basic of ki. It was incredibly helpful to my daily life. As soon as you learn ki, things like getting sick or sleepy just disappear. After I learned ki, I was able to do better in all areas of life. It was still banned, but I can’t say I would be who I am now without it.” There was a slight bit of silence between them as they both overlooked the children below them.

“It’s just like a superhero out of a comic book. This rebellion is just offering kids a chance to be their own hero. However, they are leaving out all the nasty details of what a war is really like.” Ecanoya said somberly.

“How would you know what war is like? Aren’t you just a city guard turned district watch? The last major war in Taton was before either of our parents were even born.” Natania questioned. Ecanoya looked down, and Natania could immediately tell that there was something hidden there that he didn’t want to talk about. “Okay then, how about that kid? What was his name… Crimson? Strange name, is he your kid? You seem rather young to have a teenager.” Natania prodded. Ecanoya chuckled.

“The same could be said about you.” He reminded her. They both laughed for a little bit and went back to watching the kids.

“The entire sky was red and green!” Crimson exclaimed. Paul shook his head.

“No way. That’s impossible!” Paul said.

“I saw it with my own eye’s!” Crimson shouted to him. The noise of the other kids conversing seemed to drown out Crimson even at his highest volume. They both heard the whistle blow again and everyone went silent.

“Alright everyone, now that you are all warmed up, go report back to the circles.” Jacob yelled. Crimson wondered what in the world he was doing.

“Why did he have us just run?” Paul wondered allowed. ”Jacob has an entire fitness routine that he skipped over.”

“Probably didn’t want to take too much time away from the other teachers.” Derek said with a hint of fatigue in his voice. They all returned to Ko, with Jason remaining silent the entire time. Many of the kids were envious of Jason. He had a look of solid determination, he had finished a lap ahead of any other kid, even Cabba. There were mumblings of jealousy going about, and Jason could hear it perfectly fine. He was glad to be the top of the mountain at the moment. Even his friends were jealous of him, but he knew they would get over it. Jacob’s look of pride to was enough to fuel him through the week. He wasn’t going to lose his spot so easily. Derek turned to ask him after they sat down. “Were you always that fast?”

“Only when I want to be.” Jason answered.

“Are you saying you held back in all of our races?” Derek questioned.

“Maybe.” Jason said with a coy smile. Derek and Jason laughed lightly, then both turned to Ko, who was still meditating on the floor. Crimson had overheard Jason’s conversation and his heart sunk. Any of the times he had beaten him in a race was really just Jason letting him win. Not once did he ever beat Jason in something that he didn’t want to lose. It explained a lot honestly. He had thought that Jason just had off days like anyone else, but it was just him trying to be nice to the others. It hurt being lied to, and Crimson didn’t know if he prefered learning about it now, or having known it the whole time. He spent a couple minutes thinking about it. He didn’t want to be jealous of his friend, but he just wish that there was something he had that Jason didn’t. Jason was just the star child, and Crimson was really under his shadow. At least it was one of his friends that was number one.

“I want you all to calm your minds. Any doubts, fears, sadnesses that you may have, just drop them for a moment of peace.” Ko spoke lightly. It wasn’t her normal, singing tune, so everyone around her knew she was finally beginning. The kids began to relax, but they found her task to be more difficult than anticipated. With only a couple minutes she was able to decipher, with her eyes closed, that the kids were hiding many of their emotions. Repressing them. Fear, anxiety, depression, hopelessness. All twisted together in the kids, hidden behind blank expressions that feigned ignorance. Paul knew he was scared. Everything scared him nowadays. The way Jason was acting, the fact that Crimson has nearly died more times than he can count. The thought of being alone was what plagued him. The others had something driving them. Though he wasn’t sure what drove Derek most of the time. Derek had always been a mystery to Paul, so he didn’t try to think too hard about his motivations. Jason however, was obviously trying to let go of his sister’s death, even as simple minded as he was, Paul knew that much. Crimson seemed to be driven by Ecanoya, trying to stand up to his ideals, trying to prove himself. Paul didn’t have a reason. Not even a good one anyway. He wanted to stay by his friends because they were all he had left, but he didn’t want to end up dragging them down. He felt a hand on his shoulder and he jumped a bit. He turned around to see Ko, with her hand placed supportively on his shoulder. “It is alright to be afraid Paul.” She said in a soft voice. Paul was stunned; rendered absolutely speechless. First by the fact she knew who he was and what was troubling him, but the second was that this woman, Ko, reminded him so much of Daphne. Daphne was the kindest orphanage caretaker that he had ever known. Even though he spent more time with Jacob, he still liked Daphne more. She was always so supportive of Paul. While the other kids would run and seem carefree, Daphne was always there for Paul. She said the exact same words that Ko did.

Crimson turned to see his best friend crying quietly. It brought tears to his eyes. Paul’s sadness was great, and even kids who didn’t know him began to join in on the tears. They didn’t scream during their crying. They didn’t lash out at the anyone because of their pain. They just sat there and cried. Jason was the only one without a tear in his eye, and Derek was doing his best to keep it together, but even through his tough guy routine, Crimson could see the water in his eyes through his glasses. Derek had always acted so closed off, unaffected by anything. Ever since they were forced out of Taton a week ago, Derek has begun to show more emotion. Jason on the other hand is showing even less emotion than before. He went from the caring older brother to someone closer to a war veteran. Jason almost always had a smile before all of this. Even though Crimson had not known him for even a year yet, he was close enough to know that the Jason he knew would still be stuck in a spiraling world of depression. He wasn’t though. It was like the beating he took in the mines snapped something inside of him. He began to see how cruel the world was, or at least Crimson assumed as much. After a somber couple of minutes a ball of light appeared in the middle of the circle. It wasn’t bright, as the room already had light in it, but Crimson could tell it was there.

Ko smiled at the kids who were looking up. Paul was still crying, but Derek and Jason looked up. There were some other kids in the group that had looked up quickly, one of them being Mur. “All life has energy.” Ko began to explain. At this point all the kids were looking up, but some of them were still wiping the tears from their eyes. “In its purest form energy is free. It flows from one place to another. Even the most basic of actions burn up energy. All of you, for example, expended some energy crying just now. Learning to harness this energy will be the key to this exercise. It will take some time, but I will give you the basic idea of how pulling your energy out for the first time works. You must reach deep inside yourself. To the core of your spirit, you need to find where that is. Sense your inner power and draw it to your hands. After doing so, you should feel heat building up in the air between your hands. You must concentrate that heat into a physical form.” Ko gestured to the floating orb. She then took her hands and held them apart from one another, as if she were holding an invisible ball between her hands. The kids watched intently as another ball of light began to grown between her hands, but this time she increased its size until it pressed up against her skin. This larger version seemed to physically strain her, but she was getting the point across. “One thing that you need to understand.” She said in a strained voice. “Is that the energy you use to create ki attacks is your own. Charging an attack causes fatigue to a new ki user. At your levels, generating one as small as the one I used in the hallway or showed you previously should be your absolute minimum.” Ko finished and the ball in her hands shrunk until it vanished from sight in the matter of a second.

After that, everyone else began trying to pull their ki out. It took a couple hours and a few extra explanations from Ko, but eventually someone started seeing results. To no one’s surprise, it was Jason. Light radiated from in between his hands, and eventually he condensed it to a visible ball. All the kids dropped what they were doing and stared in awe at Jason. A couple hours later, a couple other kids had gotten it. One kid in Ko’s group, two in Zwequo’s and another in Jacob’s. Jacob looked just as surprised as the other two instructors that one of his kids learned ki on the first day. At the end of the day, only six people learned ki, one of them being Jason, and the others being people Crimson didn’t know. After the training was done the kids were brought back up to the catwalk, and led through a new door, that was on the wall next to the stairwell exit. There were a bunch of rooms in this hallway, with numbers on top of each of them. A man came from around a corner at the end of the hallway to greet the kids. He was elderly man, his skin was a dark brown and his hair was as white as the snow outside.

“My name is Jem.” He said before gesturing a bony hand to the rest of the hallway. “I want to welcome you all to our little dorms. They don’t feel the nicest, but I hope you can all make yourselves at home.” Jem slowly turned around to face the back wall. He pointed one hand down the left hallway. “In this direction we have the restroom.” He dropped his hand, and then pointed towards the right hallway. “In this direction we have the cafeteria. Follow me there, I have prepared supper for you all.” Jem hunched over and started towards the cafeteria. The kids all followed him. Crimson was able to meet up with Cabba and Bryce.

“Were either of you able to use ki?” Crimson asked. Cabba sighed, and looked to Bryce who shrugged smugly.

“I wasn’t able to, but this little butt found out! He won’t tell me the secret either!” Cabba yelled, hoping to make her brother feel embarrassed. Bryce shot her an annoyed glance, and Cabba stuck her tongue out at her brother. Crimson still hadn’t forgotten about what Cabba said earlier, but by the way she was acting, it seemed like she did. Bryce was acting in his usual way, quiet, passive, and listening to his sister be rambunctious.

“So Bryce…” Crimson began. “Where did you learn to fight so well. I mean you’re so much skinnier than me, yet it felt like I was being hit by a truck.” Bryce didn’t answer, he simply smiled and kept on. When the group reached the cafeteria it wasn’t exactly what they were expecting. Despite the rest of the training facility looking very orderly and presentable, the cafeteria was a mess. There was on table that stretched across the entire room, and the counter in the wall only had a small oven behind it. There wasn’t even a fridge. The ground was dirt instead of a well cut stone. The walls were like the rest of the facility, incredibly smooth stone, but they were a bit more natural in appearance now. On top of that, there were giant holes in the corner of the room.

Paul went over to investigate one of the holes. He crouched down and spat into the hole. He listened for a bit and then he heard an annoyed growl from the bottom of the hole. Paul jumped up and fell back, scrambling to his feet. By this time all the kids were pressing towards the hole. A man suddenly burst up from the hole, his head covered in a thick spit. “Who spat on me!” He shouted. The kids all jumped back in surprise. He was a bright red color, and his head reminded Crimson of a gecko, with the difference that his eyes were in front and sunken in, instead of on the sides and bulging out. His voice was high in pitch, but sounded gruff.

“Well I guess I was going to pop out anyway.” The man sighed before taking a towel Jem handed to him. He wiped his head and introduced himself. “My name is Yakow. I am one of the big shots here, and also the instructor for hunting and tracking.”

“Hunting?” Saguaro asked from the back of the group.

“Yes, hunting. While the younger kids train in the back, you guys will hunt for your food and their food.” Yakow explained.

“So we have to feed ourselves and two other younger kids?” A tall blond boy asked. The boy was incredibly well toned, and was easily the most fit of the entire group. He had sharp blue eyes that seemed to constantly scan the environment, however he somehow gave off a friendly vibe.

“Technically speaking, yes. You took the words from my mouth on that one.” Yakow laughed. “Now then, I want you all to get near a hole. The fall down is safe, even if you don’t have ki yet. However I am going to let you all know that those of you who unlocked ki will be able to find creatures down there much easier than the rest of you. Once you unlock ki, sensing the energy in other living things is easier. Just don’t wear yourselves out. It’s still your first day, and I am fine of hunting for the food in the first week.” Yakow then walked over to one of the holes. “So I have dug through the entire mountain. These holes lead to different locations. Some of them are caves, others lead outside to hunt down larger creatures. For now I recommend you all start with one of the holes on the left of the entrance. There is nothing too threatening down there, at least not while you stay in groups. Now who wants-” Yakow was cut short by the blond boy’s screams of joy as he jumped into one of the holes. Yakow groaned. One after another kids began to jump into the holes on the left. As Jason tried to pull Derek, Paul and Crimson with him, Crimson stopped.

“What is it?” Jason asked.

“That blond kid jumped down one of the holes on the right…” Crimson started.

“Yup, those holes lead right out to wild okkottesaurs.” Yakow laughed. “That guy is gonna have quite a hard time hunting down some of the fiercest dinos on the planet.

“You guys go ahead, I will go get him.” Crimson told his friends. Jason nodded and dragged Paul and Derek with him.

“What are you-” Paul began.

“You know better than anyone Paul, if Crimson has a chance to be a hero, he will definitely take it.” Jason said before taking Paul to a hole on the left. Crimson stood by the hole the one boy went down and prepared to jump when he was cut short by a voice behind him.

“Wait for me at least.” Someone called out from behind. Crimson whipped around and saw Saguaro standing with his arms crossed. Saguaro walked over to the hole and shrugged to Crimson before jumping in. The sound of his yells disappeared slowly. Crimson turned around to see one girl standing alone, looking rather confused.

“Want to come along?” He asked. The girl looked up and he recognized her as Mur. She shuffled over to him and nodded. “Alright then…” Crimson sighed. “Let’s go.” Mur leapt in and made no noise as she disappeared into the hole. Crimson followed behind quickly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Crimson came whipping around the corner at lightning speed, and was moving so fast he couldn’t even sit up anymore. The hole turned out to be one incredibly long slide. Crimson was being whipped around everywhere. Luckily the slide was wide enough that when he made a turn, he didn’t crack his head on the stone. Eventually he could see light again. He got launched out of the slide and looked around to see nothing but clouds. When he turned his head to see behind him in a flash he saw that he just came out the side of the mountain, right next to a waterfall. Crimson let out a panicked yell as he began to lose his balance and turn to face belly first towards the water below. He flailed his arms and feet, trying to find anything he could catch onto to break his fall. As he fell, something grabbed the collar of his shirt and he snapped back. He swung towards the mountain and cracked into it. He had the wind knocked out of him for a second before looking up. Saguaro was stuck to the side of the mountain using his needles, and he was holding Mur with one hand, who was in turn holding Crimson by the collar of shirt.

Crimson looked down, seeing that the water below him was actually rather deep. It may not have been dangerous for him to fall in afterall, but he was glad he didn’t have to test that theory. “Your thorns are pretty sturdy!” Crimson called out to Saguaro, trying to speak up over the crashing sound of the waterfall.

“They are as hard as iron, so they won’t break anytime soon!” Saguaro responded. It was true, his spikes held strong, but the rock they were stuck in began to crumble. As it crumbled Mur slipped from Saguaro’s grasp, and Crimson and her went plummeting towards the water. It was at least a three story drop. Crimson had time to look up at the clouds, and think about his life up until this point. At least it seemed like that until there was a splash. He was enveloped by the water, and the current of the river began to drag him further downstream. He was inching his way closer and closer to shore when he heard Mur scream from downstream. She was going down the stream faster than Crimson, and heading straight for a second waterfall that was a mile down. Crimson cursed his luck and used the ground of the river to propel himself towards Mur. The current sped him up tremendously when he started working with it, and he was able to catch mur in no time at all. Then another problem arose. Crimson couldn’t slow down. He and Mur approached the edge of waterfall, and Crimson began digging in the sand at his feet to find something to catch on. He barely slowed down in the current and Mur was pulled off the edge first. Crimson had his arms wrapped around her, so he was unable to avoid following her. The drop was about as big as the last one, but there wasn’t nearly enough water to break their fall this time. Crimson stared at his reflection in the crystal clear water, and the last thing he saw before getting knocked out was his own, terrified face.

It only took a couple seconds for Crimson to regain consciousness. He was still holding onto Mur, and was able to get to the bank of the river much easier in the weaker current. As soon as they surfaced the both of them began coughing. Crimson spat up water that he had inhaled, feeling sick. He stood up, his cloths soaked and sagging low. There was another scream coming from the upper river, and Crimson realized that they had left Saguaro up there. Crimson saw a glint of a pale green falling down the second waterfall and he dove into the river again to recover Saguaro. Crimson’s leg hit something sharp at the bottom of the river, and he dove down and grabbed Saguaro. He couldn’t hug him to his chest due to the fact that his spikes were still out, and just holding onto him at the moment was causing him pain. He was having trouble dragging him to shore, and the current began to sweep him away. Mur got up on the bank and tried to outstretch her hand to Crimson. He reached to grab it, barely touching the tips of her fingers before the current picked up. As he was being dragged downstream, his thoughts shifted to Saguaro. He grabbed him and lifted him up, trying to get him to the surface so he could breath.

Crimson had to press Saguaro and his thorns into his chest. Crimson rode down the current for about three minutes before the pain became too much for him. Saguaro was incredibly heavy, which made it difficult to push towards the shore. Crimson’s only hope now was that he would wake up soon and they could work together to get to shore. A hand suddenly grabbed Crimson by the collar of his shirt and before he knew it he could feel the bottom of the river again. He pushed towards the shore and looked back, expecting to see Mur.

It wasn’t Mur that was dragging him however, but the boy from before. Crimson coughed a bit and looked to Saguaro. He couldn’t check if he was alive because of all the thorns, so he just had to hope. After a couple minutes of catching his breath, Mur caught up with them. “That was not a fun ride.” She said.

“Can I get a refund?” Crimson laughed. The others chuckled, appreciating his joke. They sat for a little while, all of them trying to find a way to check out if Saguaro was alive without getting a thorn in the arm. A couple minutes later he began to sputter and cough. Saguaro took a deep breath and sat up quick. His spikes retracted and the others approached him to check on him.

“That was horrible.” Saguaro stated in a shaky voice.

“I thought you were like, part plant. Water shouldn’t bug you right?” The blond boy asked.

“I live off of photosynthesis, but I am part cactus. I only need a little water here and there to survive. That was like drinking in a few gallons. I am glad you got to me when you did.” Saguaro thanked his saviors. Everyone began to relax, that was, until the ground began to quake.

“We got company.” The blond boy noted. Everyone else went silent. The quaking came from upstream and a Okkottesaurs head poke out from the brush. It was the first time Crimson had seen one in person. It had a large forehead, something unusual for dinosaurs. Its snout was incredibly long, to the point that it could drink from a river while still being in the forest on the other side of its bank. Inside its mouth were rows of razor sharp teeth. Its skin was a lighter shade of red, and it’s eyes had a look of ferocity. The rest of it’s body was hidden behind the brush, but Crimson knew from school that an adult Okkottesaur was about thirty feet tall It’s back was lined with spikes that went down its tail and formed into a spiky ball used to ward off attackers from the back. It’s skin was leathery, like any other lizard, but it was very tight on the dinosaurs body, to the point where you could make out the joints moving under it’s skin, see them rotating and moving. It’s long arms were adorned by three fingers, each with a large ball like appendage at the end of the fingertip to trap the prey it grabs. Even the smallest of animals would have trouble escaping its grasp. As the Okketesaur walked out into view, getting closer to the water, the group noted the many scars that adorned it’s muscled body. Okketesaur constantly picked fights with the other dinosaurs in their area, which can include other Okketesaur. Its skin got thicker as it worked its way from the head down to the neck, around the shoulders and down towards its tail. Its tail was thick, making it a great bludgeoning tool. Most hunters have to aim for the head, but even then the first shot won’t kill them, only make them extremely angry. A lot of the stories about failed Okketesaur hunts did not end happily.

The more Crimson thought about this, the less he wanted to stay sitting on the beach. He slowly stood up and began to back away. He did his best not to make a sound. He watched his feet as he moved them into the sand, making sure they didn’t break a stick or kick a pebble into the river. The others followed suit. Except for the blond haired kid. He ran forward and stood maybe a few yards from the dinosaurs head. “Oi!” He screamed at it to get it’s attention. “Just who the hell do you think you are? You are drinking from my river! In my hunting grounds!” He shouted proudly, his chest puffed out. The Okketesaur began to growl, and roared loudly in the boys face.

“This idiot is going to get us all killed.” Saguaro commented as the group began to run downstream. The blond boy caught up to the others quickly.

“Don’t suppose there is another waterfall you guys can leap off of?” He asked smugly.

“Shut up and run!” Mur screamed. Crimson scanned the treeline on the beach to see if there was any path that they could cut through that would only slow the Okketesaur down. Unfortunately, the only paths were all made by other dinosaurs, and he would easily track them into the forest. However, Crimson preferred his chances in the forest. At least the brush could slow it down, even if only a tiny bit. Crimson ran straight into the forest, and the others followed him. Soon after he could see more clearings in the brush. The trees were a beautiful green and the grass was still wet with the morning dew despite having been out in the sun for an entire day. They were clearly at the bottom of WillowPeak, but Crimson didn’t care to peak back up at the mountain. The slide gave him a good guess at how far down they were. The blond boy made a sudden right turn, and Crimson followed suit. He squeezed through a small opening between some trees that had no brush on the path. Crimson pushed Mur through first, then followed behind her. Saguaro was the last person to get there, and as he was squeezing through the Okketesaur bit down hard on his arm. Saguaro let out a shout of pain and tried to wrench his arm from it’s mouth instinctively, to not avail. He then calmed just a little through the pain, and used his spikes. The Okketesaur let out a mighty roar of pain and let go of Saguaro, and Crimson quickly pulled him into the tight space. The two hastily followed the blond boy through the narrow path in between the trees.

When they came to the end of the path, the forest opened up a bit more. The blond boy was sitting down, relaxing against a tree, and Mur was desperately trying to catch her breath. Crimson ran up and almost punched him in the head. He quelled his rage though, and asked in a demanding tone. “Why did you do that? Why did you put all of us at risk? These mountains aren’t even yours! You were just spouting nonsense!”

“It wasn’t nonsense!” The boy spat back. “A true hunter claims the area in which he hunts! That dinosaur will always remember that this isn’t just his turf now!”

“Okketesaurs are proven to be extremely dumb. He will forget you in a few hours.” Saguaro noted while holding his arm. It was an ugly sight. It looked like someone had taken a sledgehammer to, well, a cactus. It was mangled and only holding on by a few threads. From the wound, there was a bunch of water dripping, and it stained his pants and shirt.

“Do you bleed water?” Crimson asked in a sudden change of topic.

“Yes.” Saguaro answered simply.

“Are you going to live?” Mur asked through

“It hurts, but I will survive. Turns out the amount of water I absorbed from the river did come in hand after all.” He answered with a slight smile. The boy raised his hand to silence everyone. Crimson looked at him in confusion, and traced his gaze to the distance. There were some people moving down a path. They were adorned in a military like garb, with a strange blue symbol on their arms. it looked like two triangles meeting at the point, with the letter ‘B’ in each triangle.

“That’s…” Mur began before trailing off.

“The Blue Bowtie Battalion.” Saguaro finished.

“Then they are the ones who attack the locals of willowpeak and its surrounding towns.” Crimson scowled. He wanted to run out and beat the crap out of every man who was standing there, but  newly designed military grade blasters made him think twice. One shot from that and he would have a fist sized hole in his chest.

“Let’s follow them.” The boy suggested.

“I would normally say yes.” Crimson noted, and then turned to Saguaro. “He is too hurt though, I don’t think we can just leave him here.”

“I am fine.” Saguaro stated. Before the others could protest he grabbed hold of his loose appendage and ripped it off. Everyone stared at him in stunned disbelief. “Don’t fret about it. My arm will grow back within twenty minutes. It’s one of the bonuses of being part plant.” Saguaro laughed.

“Don’t you feel pain?” Mur asked.

“Generally, I don’t feel too much pain. Cuts and bites hurt a crap ton though, but there is no pain after that. I only feel a little drained. It takes a lot of energy for my body to regrow a lost limb, so I am going to lag behind a bit if you guys don’t mind.” Saguaro stated. Even with Saguaro’s reassurance, Crimson was still concerned with his well being. While they tracked the soldiers from the brush, they remained absolutely silent. They exchanged no words, made no comments. Mur almost tripped, but luckily Saguaro had caught up enough to catch her with his remaining arm.

After following the soldiers for about ten minutes, Crimson turned around and noticed that Saguaro’s arm was indeed growing back. While he wasn’t paying attention Crimson bumped into the blond boy’s back. “Why did you stop.” He whispered so quietly that it was barely audible. The boy nodded towards the scene in front of them. Crimson looked forward, and saw that they had neared a cliff. The squad was walking towards a set of stairs that led down the cliffside, and once they disappeared from view, the group snuck out towards the cliff. There was a concrete wall surrounding the whole cliffside, except for by the stairs. The small rocky platform that jetted out from the side of the stone only had a small wall, enough to crouch by and remain unnoticed. The four of them snuck up and Crimson slowly peaked his head up over the wall. What he saw almost knocked him over.

Starting from the base of the cliff and heading out to the beach along the Uup sea was a humongous military compound. The place was large enough to register as a small district in Taton. There were giant metal gates on both the sides that the cliff did not cover, with men on heavy mounted machine guns. By the gates there were several tents with soldiers scattered about. Crimson’s eyes began to wander towards the middle of the complex, where the tents started to disappear and fade into proper buildings. Mainly warehouses, and a building that looked like a command center pulled straight out of an action movie. Out near the docks were several large military vessels. They were guarding the perimeter, but some of them seemed to be loaded with cages. The camp was alive with the sounds of shouting and heavy duty vehicles being moved about. I

“This isn’t what I expected to be on the other side of that slide.” The blond boy joked, but his gaze returned to one of astonishment. The four of them all ducked under the concrete wall, hiding from view again.

“We need a plan.” Saguaro stated.

“I think I got one.” Crimson mumbled. The others stared at him in anticipation. “Alright, so it looks like they are definitely preparing for something big. I think we should go back to the others and warn them about this.” Saguaro and Mur nodded in approval and Crimson turned to the boy. “What do you-” Crimson started before realizing he wasn’t there.

“Where did he-” Saguaro began before looking over the edge of the concrete wall. They could all see the boy sliding down the slope of the mountain into the camp.

“Crap. Not this again. Alright, Mur, Saguaro.” Crimson commanded their attention.”Head back to the base. It’s starting to get dark out, and I don’t know how long we have before a patrol spots us.”

“What about you?” Mur worried.

“I am going to go pull that numbskull out of there and meet up with you guys.” Crimson said bravely.

“You don’t have to play the hero you know.” Saguaro reminded him. Crimson chuckled and placed both of his hands on the wall, moving himself into a better position to jump over it as quickly as he could. He could hear Saguaro and Mur leaving behind him, but he didn’t want to turn and say goodbye. He jumped over the wall as quickly as he could and began sliding down the slope. He tried to grab the stone to slow himself down, but it just hurt him. Once he got near the bottom, the slope gradually lost it’s incline and Crimson slowed to a halt. That could have ended very badly, and he spent a few seconds calming his panic. He was at the back of a tent, and he was just about to begin looking for the boy when he heard a struggle going on inside the tent.

Crimson didn’t have enough time to react before a man came tumbling out of the tent, holding onto the boy’s neck and pinning him to the ground. Crimson rushed forward and kicked the man in the side as hard as he possibly could. The man let out a cry of pain, and the boy took his weapon from him. He bashed the man over the head, knocking him out before turning to Crimson and thanking him.

“Can you stop running off all the time? This is the third time today I am in danger because of you!” Crimson whispered in an angry tone. The boy sighed and started towards the stairs up the cliffside. Crimson followed him, both of them trying to be as quiet as possible.

“I was just trying to get a closer look. I found what was on those ships at the docks.” The boy explained.

“How did you get close enough in that short time?” Crimson asked.

“Stole that guys binoculars. Since this place is on a bit of an incline I got a perfect view of the freighter ship. It wasn’t good.” The boy said grimly. Crimson was about to ask what he saw in the cages when the alarm in the camp sounded. Someone must have found the soldier. The boy took off for the stairs and Crimson followed close behind. They were like a fire escape that moved up the cliffside. After a few flights, Crimson began to tire and slow down. They were only halfway there when a searchlight shined on them. The boy kept moving on at a good pace, but Crimson was beginning to tire. There was a flash in front of him that made his heart race. He looked into the stone on the cliff and saw a hole in the stone, smoke pouring out of it like a waterfall. They were beginning to shoot to open fire, and Crimson began pushing himself like never before. His legs ached, begging him to stop running up the flights of stairs, but he denied them and kept running. The soldier’s shots were way off, so Crimson didn’t stop to be cautious. When he was two flights from the top, he looked up to see the boy dive behind cover.

The boy turned around “Come on!” Crimson kept climbing, but his legs were at their limit. He got to the final flight and had to climb up slowly. As he began reaching the top however, the entire stairwell shook. Crimson looked down and saw that there were soldiers pouring up the stairs. So many that the entire structure looked like it was about to collapse. Crimson dove up the stairs and the boy grabbed his hand to pull him to the side. The two sped off back into the woods. Crimson turned around to see the first of the soldiers reach the top and he began to fire in the general direction that they had run. The lasers burnt through the woods next to the both of them, and Crimson was grazed by one, letting out a short cry of pain and holding his shoulder. His legs felt like they were going to simply fall off. Crimson began to slow as they ran, and he turned around to see that the lasers were becoming less and less accurate. The boy had led him down a really good path. Crimson would have just run down the large path that was carved out in the forest, which he had previously thought was made by wild Okketesaur’s. When the shots finally stopped, the boy plopped himself in a small clearing in the thick brush. Crimson sat next to him. The two were out of breath, hungry, thirsty, and both were terrified.

“What was… in those crates…” Crimson began, taking pauses to breathe. “That is so important… they needed to send that many men… after two kids?”

“People.” The boy said before tilting his head back against the tree. Crimson looked up at the sky, gazing at the strange mix of day and night. The stars were beginning to poke out through the orange that blanketed the sky. The clouds were nowhere to be seen. Crimson’s gaze turned to his surroundings. There were several boulders scattered throughout the area, made up of a dirty stone. The brush was thick, with twigs sticking out like thorns and leaves scattered across the ground.

“People…” Crimson trailed off. There were so many questions in his head, but right now he knew the most important thing to do was to get back to the base. “We need to get back, Mur and Saguaro are probably already there.” Crimson coughed a bit, his breathing ragged. He was so incredibly exhausted that he could barely even breath properly. Crimson had been gone for about six hours now. He knew Ecanoya and Paul were probably freaking out.

“Hey…” The boy began. “Are you from Taton?”

“Yeah, why?” Crimson responded confused.

“I have never seen Taton.” The boy shrugged. “Was it really as big as people said it was. Did it really span a hundred miles?’

“It did.” Crimson answered with a grim look in his face. This boy was obviously from one of the surrounding villages. It was rare that the villages came to bother Taton, but Taton would apparently send people to bother them. “Was your dad a hunter?” Crimson asked, curious.

“Yup.” The boy answered. “The best of the best.” His voice contained a hint of pride, but there was a sadness about it.

“Where is he now?” Crimson asked, feeling as though he already knew the answer.

“Gone.” The boy answered. “He was taken to Taton by their soldiers about three months ago once they discovered he had been practicing ki in secret.” Crimson looked down solemnly. All the prisoners who knew how to use ki were put in the basement of the humongous capital tower. That was burned down by Sobrium the day he took over. Crimson didn’t want to say anything though, as the topic seemed to pain the boy.

“Hey, have you ever seen The Adventures of Kintor?” Crimson asked.

“Yeah, it was one of the only television shows I watched as a kid. My dad and I used to sit together on the couch every sunday and watch it.”

“Oh man, do you remember that episode where they had to sneak into that base!” Crimson began. The two of them talked for a couple hours, laughing about their favorite television shows, childhood games, and telling stories of their lives before any of this happened. Without even knowing one another’s names, the two boys had bonded to become very close friends.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ecanoya laid on his bed, reading one of the books Zwequo had lent to him about Ki. There was a look of distaste on his face. These people had the wrong idea about ki, and he wanted to say something, but he knew he would be the odd man out. He was just trying to get his mind off of Crimson. It was already night time and none of the kids who jumped down the other hunting hole had returned. On top of that, the one that the rest of the kids jumped down turned out to be teeming with Kelfire Moles. Dayereh has been working around the clock trying to heal the kids of their burns from the fire breathing creatures. Two of which were Jason and Paul. There was a knock at his door and he sat up gently from his cot to see who was coming in.

Natania stood in the door, her face red and puffed out from her tears. “Can I come in Ecanoya?” She asked through a tearful voice.

“Of course.” Ecanoya responded with confusion in his voice.

“They still haven’t seen any sign of them.” She said with a tired voice while she rubbed her temples. “I am so scared. My daughter went into Okettesaur infested forests. I know it’s silly to worry that she has only been gone a couple hours, I just…” Natania trailed off.

“I know the feeling. I am constantly worrying about Crimson. He’s a brave kid, but that bravery can end very badly sometimes. There was one time,” Ecanoya said with a nostalgic chuckle. “that Crimson jumped out into the middle of the street to save me from getting hit by a car. While that little guy was playing hero for me, there was another car coming down the other side of the street. While he was pulling me back to the sidewalk he nearly got pegged by it. I am just grateful that the driver was attentive. For the next few weeks though I constantly worried about Crimson. I wondered if he was continuing to do reckless things like that, and I tried to dissuade him from trying to do things like that. That’s when I realized.” Ecanoya stopped and tilted his head backwards, staring at the ceiling.

“Realized what?” Natania asked, sitting down on the bed next to Ecanoya.

“That kids have a mind of their own. I was too busy lecturing him on being safe that I didn’t even realize that he already knew. I doubt your daughter is any different. Those kids aren’t going to put themselves in unnecessary danger. They have learned from us all their life, and are reaching a point in their life when they need to start learning a bit more on their own. I trust that Crimson is keeping Mur safe, and she is watching his back while they are out there.” Ecanoya finished.

“What if…” Natania began before choking up. “What if something else happened? That hole was meant to be traversed only by kids who already knew ki at an advanced level. Even if they are trying to avoid danger, it could have found them already.” Natania began to sob. Ecanoya sighed and looked at the floor. He wanted to continue to comfort her, but she just spoke what he has been worrying about this entire time. On one side he wanted Crimson to experience the world on his own, but on the other he still wants to help him. Crimson was still a child in his mind, and although the events that occurred recently have matured him quite a bit, he still worried about him. The Okketesaurs were a dangerous breed. Some of them even had the nerve to attack Taton, which is why Taton had large stone walls set up on the outskirts of certain cities. Those very same walls that were supposed to protect them from the outside world had trapped many of Taton’s residents inside during the carnage. There was no doubt that if they were to return now that it would be a very different city. Ghost said that his reconnaissance specialist Yakow had gone to Taton, and he said he couldn’t see much through the rubble. There were a few soldier patrols, but none of the four governing officers made an appearance. Natania suddenly leaned into Ecanoya’s chest while he was deep in thought, catching him off guard. She sobbed into his shirt and he gave her a look of pity. He gently stroked her hair to comfort her. After a while the two of them laid down together and talked, Ecanoya still trying to comfort her even through his own doubts. A gesture which she truly appreciated.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Oh man and when they finally found out who the bad guy truly was at the top of the colosseum I was totally surprised! I had no clue the mayor had been the bad guy all along!” Crimson exclaimed. The boy laughed in response and then looked up to see the night sky, shining as bright as ever. “I like it out here.” Crimson began, snapping the boys attention back to him. “In the city there not nearly as many stars as there are out here.”

“We should head back.” The boy said in response, realizing how long they had been gone. Crimson nodded, having caught his breath and rested a bit. His shoulder still burned, but it wasn’t too bad. The skin where the laser had glazed had a few blisters on it, but aside from that he would be fine. Especially with Dayereh at the base. The two wandered through the woods for a bit. The boy led him down a path that exited right at the river. The two looked towards the mountain, which looked so close, but at the same time, so far away. They walked upstream until they came to the cliffside where the waterfall was. “Can you climb?” The boy asked.

“Not sure. I haven’t been on many rock-walls.” Crimson shrugged. The boy planted one foot on a rock that jutted out from the mountain. He then pushed himself up and grabbed another rock, and then supported his foot on another. The cliff had many rocks sticking out of it, so it would be very easy to scale, but Crimson was still thankful that he hadn’t struck any of them on his way down. They stuck out far enough and had enough surface area to easily stop his fall and possibly break many of his bones. As soon as the boy was halfway up the cliff, Crimson began to climb, following in the same pattern he took. The boy reached the top by the time Crimson was a quarter of the way there. It was dark out, so he had to rely on the shadow of the rocks he saw. He made it up safely however, and Ryal grabbed his hand and helped him to the top. He was sore again, and just really wanted a good meal and a nice warm bed to sleep in. They walked for about about an hour before they reached the next waterfall. Crimson couldn’t make out the hole that they had come out of.

A voice called out from the darkness. “Took you two long enough!” It was Saguaro. Crimson couldn’t see exactly where he was, but he assumed he was hanging off the side of the mountain.

“Where is Mur?” Crimson called out.

“She went on ahead climbing through the slide, we reached the steepest part of the slide though, and I was waiting for you two to help us get through. Didn’t think it would take until nightfall.” Saguaro laughed.

Crimson and the boy climbed up the mountain, and went through the slide. Saguaro led them through the twists and turns until they all bumped into Mur. “This is the final climb. I can see light.”

“Don’t go towards the light!” Mur said in a sarcastic, joking voice. Everyone laughed as they made the hard trek up, it assisted in alleviating the tension. They had to use Saguaro’s spikes like a ladder. When they got to the top, there was a small crowd gathered around the hole. Mur was the first person out, and there was a lot of chatter up there. Crimson could hear someone running off, probably to alert everyone of their return. Mur turned around and helped the boy out of the hole, who in turn helped Crimson up. Saguaro then grabbed Crimson’s hand and the four had returned.

“We are back!” The boy shouted. “And I am really freaking hungry. Anyone got some food?” Everyone in the room began to laugh. The four of them were sat down at the table and served a Tetradon steak.

“By the way.” Saguaro said before pushing his steak plate to the boy, who greedily accepted the offer. “What’s your name?”

“Wrral.” The boy said, his mouth stuffed with food.

“Wrral?” Mur asked with a giggle. The boy swallowed down the food in his mouth and let huff.

“No, my name is Ryal.” He said with a smirk.

“No way…” Saguaro trailed off. “You are Ryal? The kid who made number four on the board?” Saguaro looked unimpressed, almost agitated. It was easy to tell that Ryal’s recklessness clearly made Saguaro think he deserved a lower spot on the board.

“Why aren’t you eating?” Crimson asked Saguaro in a change of topic.

“Because I am part plant, and plant’s don’t need to eat.” Saguaro reminded him, his arms crossed. “We were outside enough today for me to get all the energy I need from the sun.” After that they all ate in silence. The crowd that had gathered scurried out of the room to go spread the word. Crimson felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around to see Derek, standing there with a slight smile on his face.

“Why do you get the good food?” Derek asked in feigned jealousy.

“Why didn’t you jump down the dinosaur hole after Ryal?” Crimson questioned with a smile on his face.

“Well, mostly because I didn’t know that the adorable moles that lived in the hole we jumped down breathed fire. Guess the Kelfire part should have tipped me off. I would pick dinosaurs over that any day.” Derek said before adjusting his glasses. “So who did you play hero for this time?”

“Ryal.” Saguaro answered. “And me, a little bit for Mur too. In fact I think he saved all of us at a point. He is stubbornly brave.” Crimson’s face flushed red, a little embarrassed. Derek looked like he was about to lecture him about something when Natania came bursting around the corner and hopped over the table to her daughter. She began sobbing and hugging her, much to her discomfort, and the others looked on with a quiet chuckle. Crimson turned and saw a man standing at the end of the hallway. His hair was a short brown, but he was incredibly well built, and he had a shadow of a beard that looked so vaguely familiar. Crimson recognized him instantly and ran up to him as fast as his tired legs could carry him. Ecanoya looked down at him with a smile. He had a new haircut, and his beard was much shorter now. Ecanoya grabbed Crimson’s shoulders and knelt down to be face level with him. He looked into his eyes with relieved gaze, then he shook Crimson by his shoulders.

“Why do you keep running off into danger!” Ecanoya shouted in sync with the shaking. Crimson laughed and when Ecanoya let go, Crimson stumbled around for a bit before Ecanoya grabbed him to prevent him from falling face first on the ground. “Alright Crimson, I got you a room with the other three. It will be a little cramped in there, but it’s somewhere you can rest.” Ecanoya informed him. Crimson nodded and followed Ecanoya as he led him out. He waved goodbye to his new friends, who waved in return.

“Gerbye!” Ryal shouted through the half of a steak that was stuffed into his mouth.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A week later, the new classes began to open up. The kids who had learned ki were being transferred to a new class, while those who were still struggling were left behind. Crimson was one of those who was struggling. He kept trying and trying to summon up his energy but time and time again he failed. “Come now, I know you can all do it.” Ko said to the remaining three of her students. Crimson, Paul, and a saiyan boy who had a lazy attitude were all that remained. Crimson just couldn’t wait til this was over so he could go exploring with Ryal. Mur and Saguaro usually stayed at base now however, as they wanted to practice with ki. Crimson turned to Paul, who was sweating from his struggle. Paul was getting really close, but was just having a hard time. Crimson hadn’t even warmed the air between his hands with his energy yet. Crimson groaned in frustration and sat back. He closed his eyes and looked at the ground. There was a sudden light in his vision, and he turned to see Paul holding a small ki ball in his hand.

“I did it…” Paul said before the ball dissipated. “I did it! I really did it!” Paul shouted. Ko gave him a supportive smile and gestured in the direction of one of the new circles that Zwequo was monitoring to help people further train their ki. After that the saiyan boy finally tried and got the ki on his first attempt. Ko pointed him in the same direction, and then she sat there, staring at Crimson.

“Come on Crimson, put all your power into that space, you have to draw it from deep within yourself.” Ko encouraged. Crimson continued to struggle for hours until training ended, and she sighed. As Crimson went upstairs, he got a gaze from Cabba that had an ‘I told you so’ feel to it. Crimson went back to his small room, and sat on one of the two bunk beds in there. He wanted to go to Ecanoya’s room, but it only had one cot, and he didn’t want to force Ecanoya off his own bed. After a small bit, Crimson shambled down the hallway into the cafeteria with everyone else. Ryal waved him over, and stood next to the Okkotesaur hole.

“Ready to go exploring again?” He asked. Crimson nodded slowly, causing Ryal some confusion. “You are usually so pumped for this? What’s the matter Crimson?” He asked.

“The last kid in my group left basics today. That just leaves me in Ko’s group. No one else is in basics, even the people who I thought were weaker than me.” Crimson complained. Ryal furrowed his brow, trying to understand Crimson’s dilemma.

“I don’t really have much to say, it just sort of came naturally to me on the first day, and I have been getting better in it every day. Sorry man, I can’t help you.” Ryal shrugged. Crimson sighed and jumped into the hole. A long and twisting ride later he came out again, yelling at the top of his lungs. This was always a fun part of his day. He heard Ryal coming out behind him. Crimson braced himself for impact with the water below, knowing if it knocked him out Ryal would drag him to shore. Every muscle in his body tensed in anticipation before he was suddenly grabbed and reeled back. He started moving upward slowly, and he turned to see Ryal carrying him. However he wasn’t on the wall they came out of, he was just floating there. Ryal was floating in air, no, not exactly. He was flying. Crimson’s eyes widened and Ryal laughed. “Pretty Cool right?”

“Yeah…” Crimson frowned. “It really is.” A week. In just a week Ryal had mastered his ki to the point where he can fly. Crimson was just stuck in the background. He didn’t want to drag Ryal down in his self-loathing though, and decided to cheer up for the rest of their exploration. That day they found a hidden spring, were chased by a mother Okketesaur and her children, and teased a couple of Blue Bowtie Battalion soldiers by throwing rocks from the brush. When it became Evening, Ryal carried Crimson over the forests back to base. Crimson looked up at the stars as they began to poke through the evening sky. Up there, in the sky, he was so close to them.

“I feel like I could touch the stars,” Crimson paused. “But no matter how hard I reach they are still so far away.” He expected Ryal to groan, or complain about his philosophical phrase, but his usual smile was instead replaced with a serious face.

“Anyone can touch the stars if they try hard enough Crimson. You keep failing because you aren’t trying hard enough.” Ryal stated.

“I am though!” Crimson shouted. “I am doing everything I possibly can within limits and it just isn’t enough! I am not good enough…” Crimson trailed off.

“Then try harder.” Ryal shrugged. “Stop complaining if you aren’t willing to push yourself to the next level.”

“You don’t understand.” Crimson sighed. “You were born with natural talent, along with every other human, Saiyan, Namekian and whatever else in there. I wasn’t born with even a shred of natural ki talent, everyone has pointed this out already.” Ryal sighed gave up on trying to convince him otherwise, and left the subject alone. After they crawled through the hole and got back home, Paul called Crimson over to come sit by him.

“Oh man, Crimson, today was so cool. Jason walked through a Kelfire Moles fire breath like it was nothing!” Paul exclaimed. Crimson looked to Jason, who was across the table with that same determined look on his face, but a coy smile crawled across his lips upon hearing Paul. Derek was sitting next to him, and before Crimson could ask for any stories on derek, Paul had already begun. “Derek did his first ki blast today in class. It took out a target almost one hundred meters away.”

“Did you do anything cool Paul?” Crimson asked.

“Well not really, I was too scared to get near the fire without learning to use ki to protect myself, and I didn’t want to look silly trying to hit the target like Jason. Eventually though, I will do something cool.” Paul reassured. Crimson smiled and gave him a high five. Jason then raised his fist for a knuckle bump, and Crimson gave him one. Derek of course, didn’t want to do any cool friendly gesture, and instead sat silent, eating his kelfire mole. Paul shared some of his with Crimson.

“Where is Jason’s food?” Crimson asked.

“I scared it off.” Jason laughed. “The moles ran away as soon as they saw their fire didn’t work on me.”

“I would like to note that he also scared away my food.” Derek grumbled. “I was so close to getting the mole when your act scared it back into its home.” Jason looked at Derek for a few seconds, then began laughing hysterically. Derek joined in on the laughter, and soon Paul joined in. Crimson wasn’t laughing however, which stopped the joyous moment short.

“What’s up Crimson? You seem so down.” Jason said.

“Being last place does that to you.” Crimson mumbled. The others shrugged and continued with their merriment. “I am going to call it a day earlier than normal. Is that alright with you guys?” Crimson asked. They barely noticed him through their talking about ki. Crimson sighed and walked off.

The next day, Crimson failed completely yet again, and the next day carried over the same results. His adventures with Ryal remained just as fun, but Ryal was getting stronger every day thanks to the training, and Crimson was having trouble keeping up. Ryal was running, jumping and flying faster with each consecutive day as the training at base pushed him. Eventually Ryal stopped going out in the afternoons, as the training exhausted him every day. Crimson was alone during training now, as Ko had been called over to see if she could help Zwequo in his phase two and three classes. Zwequo had been instated the headmaster of the little school. Crimson made no progress towards learning ki in the two weeks he was there, and once the time rolled over into the third week, he gave up. Crimson stopped going to classes, stopped arriving at the lunch gatherings. He just sat in his room. Alone, isolated. When the others noticed what he was doing, they tried to pull him out of it, but he didn’t even respond. Not even Paul could get through to him.  

There was a knock on the door. Crimson sighed and wondered who came to attempt to snap him out of it this time. Saguaro and Mur were the last people to try, but Saguaro only made him feel worse by getting frustrated with his lack of progress. Crimson opened the old wooden door to see Ecanoya standing there with a soft smile on his face. “May I come in?” He asked in a soft voice.

“Sure.” Crimson said, his voice riddled with his depression. Ecanoya came into the room, closing the door behind him. Ecanoya sat down on the bottom bunk of the beds on the right side of the room. Crimson’s bed. He patted the bed next to him, asking nonverbally for Crimson to sit next to him. He shuffled across the room and sat down next to Ecanoya.

“What’s the problem, bud?” Ecanoya asked, hunched over in a silly looking position because he was a bit too tall to be sitting on the bottom bunk.

“I gave up.” Crimson stated. Ecanoya raised an eyebrow, prompting him to explain. “Since day one, a bunch of the kids were telling me how I had no natural ki talent, how I am never going to succeed.” Ecanoya wrapped his large arm around Crimson, hugging him supportively.

“I should have known this was going to happen.” Ecanoya sighed.

“You knew I was going to fail?” Crimson asked. Ecanoya nodded and looked at his face, a mixture of confusion and betrayal. “Why Ecanoya! Why can’t I be as good as anyone else?”

“Because you were born that way.” Ecanoya said with a shaky voice. It hurt him to say that just as much as it hurt Crimson to hear it. “You just don’t have the natural talent or the drive to fight.”

“I am driven, though!” Crimson began to shout to cover up his teary voice. “I want to be able to keep my friends, and to protect them.” Ecanoya removed his arm from around Crimson and placed his hand on Crimson’s head.

“I am really sorry Crimson. There are some things in life that hurt to learn. Sometimes you would rather live your life in ignorance than having ever learnt about them. However I can’t let you do that. You deserve to know the truth.” Ecanoya said.

“Why?” Crimson asked.

“Because if you know the truth, it will be easier to help you.” Ecanoya said, with a soft smile.

“You mean-” Crimson was cut short.

“Yes. I will help you learn. We are going to do it in secret though, alright? Don’t reveal my training to anyone else.” Ecanoya demanded. Crimson nodded and Ecanoya gave a relieved sigh. He didn’t know if he wanted to teach Crimson out of sympathy or pity, but he feels abandoned, and this will at least help him feel better.

“Now then.” Ecanoya began. “I need to give you a new explanation of ki. The people here just have the incorrect philosophy of it, and I will tell you why. First thing you need to do is stop going to classes altogether. Don’t even spectate them. While the kids are training there, you will come to my room and I will teach you.”

“Didn’t you sign up for instructor?” Crimson asked. “They would probably want you to go out there.”

“That’s fine, I have a plan. For the rest of this week I won’t show up. I will spend all my time teaching you, and if anyone comes looking I am going to stop our training just so they don’t see it. Then I will leave you to training on your own, and I will be coming to check on you every now and then.” Ecanoya explained.

“Am I going to be a warrior or a spiritualist?” Crimson asked.

Ecanoya smiled. “Both. I will explain at my room, come on.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The first thing you need to know about ki is you have been doing it wrong all this time Crimson.” Ecanoya began with his arms crossed.

“What do you mean! You didn’t-” Crimson started before Ecanoya raised a single finger to silence him.

“You just have been, alright? Like I said Crimson, I am willing to help, but only if you are willing to listen.” Ecanoya stopped for a second, yawning and then continued. “So what do you think ki is?”

“A Weapon. A power source that lets you do incredible things.” Crimson explained.

“And that is where you and everyone else around here are wrong. Ki is not a weapon, it is not power. Ki is life.” Ecanoya stopped. “Everything you do takes energy, life energy. That is also a second meaning for Ki. Life energy. You have been taught by these instructors that ki is little more than strength. This kind of vision works for those who see it as power, or something to help them exact revenge. That is why some kids were able to unlock it so fast. They were subconsciously driven by something that helped them learn ki faster, but you Crimson.” Ecanoya placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled. “You are different. You aren’t looking for the power to destroy or defeat. You are looking for the power to protect. You said your drive was to protect your friends, right?” Crimson nodded and Ecanoya continued. “This drive you have, it is putting up a subconscious barrier. The more you try to learn ki just for the power of it like they want to, the more that barrier will fight back to prevent you.” Ecanoya finished, letting Crimson take this all in.

“You are different than the rest of the kids in this compound Crimson. You are gentle, caring, compassionate. Aside from Paul there just aren’t that many people who are even close to being like that. You are trying to live up to my examples of peace, yet at the same time trying to learn something you consider a tool of war because of what you saw at Taton. That Crimson, that is why you fail.” Ecanoya stopped, seeing a flicker of hope returning to Crimson’s eyes. “You failed simply because you were thinking of it in the wrong way. I guarantee by the end of today, you will have learned the basics of ki, and possibly even more.”

“Ecanoya.” Crimson cut in. “How do you know so much about teaching ki?” Ecanoya winced and Crimson noticed his pain. “Is it a painful memory?” He asked quietly.

“Yes.” Ecanoya sighed. “I will share it with you if you can master the basics by the end of the week.”

“What about Jacob, how does he know?” Crimson asked.

“Well Jacob told me that he learned ki from his parents, but he hid the truth from you guys so you wouldn’t ask about it. A move I respect him for. Lately though, he has become far more volatile. I honestly blame his saiyan blood, they just were never a race for peaceful protest. He does have a point though, teaching you kids how to fight and survive will be important for the coming months.” Ecanoya sighed and walked over to the other side of the room, leaning against the wall.

“The way I am going to train you will be far different than how they would train you. I am going to make sure you learn the true basics of Ki, and there is a lot more to it than makes a ball of energy in your hand.” Ecanoya gestured Crimson to walk over in front of him. “Now the best way to do this, is for me to create a ball of energy and hand it off to you for you to maintain it. This way, you will get a feel for exactly how to use ki for specific tasks.” Ecanoya did just as he said, creating a ball of energy and putting it gently in between Crimson’s hand before quickly retracting his hands. Crimson remembered Ecanoya’s explanation, pushing himself to use the power to protect rather than just to be strong. It was working, while the ball shrank in size he was able to keep it steadily maintained for a few minutes. When he dropped his focus it disappeared.

“It worked!” Crimson shouted and Ecanoya patted him on the back. Crimson felt physically exhausted though, and he could see why Ecanoya meant that Ki was his life energy. Ecanoya let him rest for a couple minutes before having him do it again. By the time Crimson had done it ten times, he felt like he had just finished a full day of training in a few minutes.

“So, now that you are beginning to master your ki use, I am also going to go through basic Martial Arts with you. Ki power can only help you so much, if you find yourself up against an opponent of even skill, it comes down to skill, experience and willpower. You have plenty of willpower, but I know you do not have the Martial Art’s skills necessary to fight an even battle. Take an hour to rest up, your body will need to recover the lost energy. Unlike working out where only a certain muscle group feels sore, when you train your ki, your entire body feels weak. Take a bit to rest, you can sleep on my bed or go back to your room, either is fine. When you are ready for Martial Arts, come find me again.” With that Ecanoya walked off, leaving Crimson alone.

Crimson laid down on Ecanoya’s bed, and quickly fell asleep. When he woke up he felt completely fine. Ecanoya’s help was a confidence booster, but he couldn’t help but feel something gnawing at him. He started later than the rest of them. Could he really catch up? Especially when his friends had such a head start. Even Paul was a week ahead of him. Then again, he thought of what Ecanoya said. That ki is not just power. He thought about Dayereh’s healing, and he realized that Ecanoya was right. Dayereh found something much gentler to do with ki. Crimson spent a lot of time pondering things. Ecanoya came back an hour later. “Hey bud, I thought I told you to come get me when you woke up.”

“I forgot.” Crimson lied.

“You are a horrible liar.” Ecanoya lowered his gaze at Crimson. Crimson sighed and got up off the bed. “I bet you are surprised that you recovered so fast.”

“Yeah, I was.” Crimson admitted. There was a sudden sonic boom, and Crimson turned to see Ecanoya’s arm extended past his head. Crimson jumped back in surprise. “What was that?” Crimson screamed.

“Stop eavesdropping please.” Ecanoya warned. Jem stepped out of the shadows, bowing his head. Crimson stared in astonishment. Even he did not notice when Jem entered the room. He spent a couple hours staring at the walls, but he didn’t see anyone enter the room.

“I apologize sir.” Jem said, staring impassively at the fist in front of his face. “I was simply curious as to why the young boy was staying in your room, I wasn’t in here any longer than a few minutes.” Ecanoya sighed and relaxed, pulling his arm back to his side.

“What we are doing here is to be done in the utmost secrecy.” Ecanoya said in a manner similar to how Jem spoke. Well mannered, and passive. “I am going to ask only once that you leave us. Now that I have a sense for your energy signal, I will know if you are hanging around, so do not attempt this again.” Only then did Jem show any emotion. A faint smile crawled across his lips. It honestly worried Crimson. Jem seemed almost sadistic with that smile. The tension was as thick as concrete, and Crimson didn’t know if anything could cut through it. Jem suddenly straightened himself and quickly exited the room. Ecanoya sighed “I scared him pretty bad. He was hiding his presence really well. Don’t feel bad that you didn’t notice him, it takes practice to notice things you can’t see.”

“He didn’t seem that scared. Although you almost took my head off.” Crimson stated with a huff.

“Sorry bud, he was purposely hiding behind you, but he could only suppress his ki so much, and it was still stronger than you should be at this point. That is why I grew suspicious. Once I locked onto him I just launched a strong punch. I am honestly glad he left without a fight.” Ecanoya groaned.

“Why’s that?” Crimson asked.

“That old man is probably the strongest person in this facility next to Ghost. If we came to blows he would have won outright.” Ecanoya grumbled.

“But you can punch so fast!” Crimson exclaimed. “Even I didn’t notice it until it was over.”

“If you were stronger you would have seen the punch. At this point you only have the basics of ki, I will teach you how this all comes naturally, don’t worry.” Ecanoya sighed and pulled out the item he was hiding behind his back. They were two punching mitts. “You know what these are?” Ecanoya asked. Crimson nodded. Ecanoya put the punching mitts on, and held them up. Crimson took a couple swings at them. “Good, keep it up.” Ecanoya encouraged. “Jab! Jab!” He commanded and Crimson followed. He saw this kind of thing on TV, but it was much more difficult than it looked.

“Why do you keep asking me to do jabs?” Crimson asked Ecanoya after a while.

“Well Crimson, that is because jabs are more effective than an instinctive punch. I want you to get used to throwing a jab rather than a hook. Not to say that a hook won’t work, but it is much more efficient to do a jab. As you saw earlier, my jab was incredibly fast. Enough to create a miniature sonic boom. I am barely strong enough to do that, and I was only able to do it because I did it properly.” Ecanoya explained and continued to demand Crimson to practice jabs. After a while, Ecanoya began swinging the mitts at Crimson, trying to teach him to dodge while he hit. Crimson trained for a couple hours until the two of them began to hear chatter in the halls. Ecanoya nodded to Crimson, hiding the training mitts under his mattress.

Crimson ran out to the lunchroom, looking for Ryal for their mid day adventures. “Oi!” Ryal yelled out from the side of the lunchroom. Crimson offered him a huge grin. Ryal smirked in return. “I am free today, let’s head down. Saguaro and Mur are already waiting for us.” Crimson felt like this day couldn’t get better. The entire gang was back together. He followed Ryal down the slide. As they came out, Ryal caught him and flew him upwards towards Saguaro and Mur, who were waiting there in the air for them. Mur seemed to be struggling keep her balance, but Saguaro was completely fine. Crimson looked around a bit, wondering where they were going to go.

“So we have something fun in mind.” Saguaro announced. Crimson cut in.

“You remember the first time we were out here?” Crimson asked warily. “When we saw the people in the cages…” Ryal’s gaze shifted down and he nodded. “What did Ghost do about it? He wouldn’t even talk to me because I ‘have no talent’”

“Harsh.” Mur noted. “He said that he would ‘take care of it’ later.”

“How long is later?” Crimson asked.

“Days, weeks, months? Who knows.” Saguaro sighed.

“I don’t want to think about that” Ryal complained. “Let’s go find an okketesaur and mess with it.”

“You are just full of stupid ideas aren’t you.” Saguaro groaned.

“Come on Saguaro, it sounds fun.” Mur encouraged. Saguaro stiffened and nodded. Ryal and flew over the Okketesaur paths further down the river.

“Found one!” Crimson called out as the giant red head of one of the dinosaurs came into view.

“I have a plan.” Ryal said with a grin.

“Oh wow, is it to use Crimson as bait?” Saguaro guessed sarcastically.

“Yes.” Ryal stated. Saguaro was about to protest, but he stopped himself. He knew better than to try and argue. Crimson was about to protest when Ryal flew him down and dropped him behind the dinosaur. The okketesaur heard air moving like a small breeze, due to Ryal flying away as fast as he could. He got up to the others and they all waited for the dinosaur to completely turn around. “Alright, you two are ki user’s, so I want you both to use ki attacks on it.

“I am not proficient enough in ki to do more than three attacks. Mur can maximize at two, but we are still new to this all.” Saguaro reminded him with a hint of annoyance. “Maybe you should have asked that before you dropped Crimson in front of a dinosaur that snapped my arm off like a twig.”

“Less talk, more kill.” Ryal said in a mock neanderthal voice. He chuckled and flew off to hide in the brush.

“Mur, do you think you are stable enough to use an attack in the air?” Saguaro asked.

“Don’t think I have a choice Saguaro, we aren’t strong enough to take that thing out by ourselves.” Mur noted. “I will fire first, then you hit the soft spot I made.” Saguaro nodded and waited while Mur closed her eyes and meditated. She stuck her palms out in front of her, lowered down. It looked like she was expecting a kid to run up and grab her hands. Slowly she brought them closer together, but kept her arms extended. In an instant there was a pink ball forming at her hands. “Volleyball…” Mur began, throwing the pink ball up into the air. Saguaro was still impressed that she managed to maintain its consistency without actually touching it. “Spike!” She shouted. She quickly slapped the ball down towards the okketesaur. It was struck right in the side, roaring in pain. The ball drove itself into its side, burning it quite a bit before dissipating. It had created a sizeable target for Saguaro’s attack.

Saguaro smiled and raised up both of his hands, putting the palm of his left hand on the back of his right hand, then stick the palm of his right hand outwards toward the okketesaur. “Cactus Cannon!” Saguaro yelled. Crimson looked up in the sky as Saguaro unleashed a powerful ki beam.Something about this one was different though. Instead of having a ball at the end of it like most of them did, Saguaro had sharpened his ki to a point. It looked like he was extending a thorn from his hand. It struck the Okketesaur in its weak spot, piercing right through it. Crimson stared in disbelief as the Okketesaur tumbled over. His friends had gotten really strong. He heard the ground shake behind him. He turned to see an Okketesaur lunging towards him. There was no time to move, the creature was too big. It would either eat him or squash him. He heard Saguaro and Mur call out in panic, but couldn’t make out their words in his fear. As the okketesaur opened its jaws and lowered itself to scoop Crimson up, it was struck on the head by something. Crimson looked up to see Ryal, with his hands clasped together into one large fist, hitting the Okketesaur right on the head. He slammed it down into the ground just inches in front of Crimson’s face, the forceful impact knocking him on his butt. The Okketesaur was definitely dead after that hit.

“Ryal.” Crimson gasped. “You just… punched an Okketesaur to death.”

“Technically I struck it, I didn’t punch it, but yeah. It’s dead.” Ryal smirked with pride. Saguaro and Mur landed next to Crimson, Mur looking very relieved to be on the ground again.

“I heard you guys scream something when you launched your attacks. What was that?” Crimson questioned.

“Well we were explained to that in martial arts, people yell to make their strikes stronger. I knew that was a truthful thing, and so when they told us that yelling an attack name would boost confidence and power I just sort of fell in line.” Saguaro answered. “Although Ryal didn’t even need to shout to kill the okketesaur in one strike. So this is the power of number four huh? I wonder how strong your friend Jason is then.” Crimson wondered as well. Ryal was strong, but if he only placed number four, he wondered what number one was capable of.

“So…” Ryal began. “Who wants to have a cookout?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Sir.” Jem began, standing upright with his hands behind his back. His butler attire had been recently cleaned making himself more presentable. “I was unable to fully spy on Ecanoya and the boy. Despite how weak he is, he still has quite a lot of skill. It takes a keen eye to notice me when I am hiding. I am still curious as to what his training encompasses-”

“Is he a threat though?” A distorted voice cut in.

“No.” Jem answered. “He is the strongest person here that is not involved in the operation, but he is still no threat to us. The distraction will work quite nicely, and I am sure all of our problems will be taken care of.”

“Good.” The voice answered. “You know where they will go after this goes down. We could use them.”

“Yes sir. They will land on the planet soon and attack. That would the best time for a countermanuever.” Jem informed.

“Thank you Jem. I appreciate your assistance. I will contact you after this is done, You are excused.” Jem bowed and left the presence of his master, who began to chuckle. “This is going almost too well.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okketesaur meat was delicious. It was thick like a steak, but not as chewy. It was incredibly juicy as well. Crimson felt refreshed when the cookout was over. Ryal had packed up some slices to share with the others back at the home. He missed his friends up by the cabin. Its peaceful little outlook into the lake, the docks where he would fish, the thick woods where he had learned to hunt, where his mother passed away peacefully, leaving him with his father. He felt homesick, but now that he could fly, he could easily make the journey back home. He planned to sneak off in the night. He didn’t want to tell the others however. A couple more hunts and he will have enough to last them a good long while in the woods without him. Just one more week and then he would go home for a bit. He thought about bringing the others, but shook off the idea after a little bit. They wouldn’t react well to strangers. Ryal yawned and jumped up, walking away from the little cookout to patrol the perimeter. The others were enjoying a moment of peace, but the fire would probably attract the Blue Bowtie Battalion soldiers. Just as that mere thought popped into his head, thundering footsteps started approaching the camp. Men leaped out of the bushes, charging towards the three by the fire. Ryal turned, fear overtaking his features. There was a lot of shouting, time seemed to slow down. Without a second thought, Ryal dove into the fray. The first man who saw him tried to use his gun as a club to hit Ryal. He ducked under it, planted his foot firmly on the ground and launched himself into the man, who toppled over from the force.

The next man to turn to Ryal was met by a swift kick to the head. As that man fell over, Ryal used his head to propel himself towards his next target. These men were slow, and their movements were easily predictable because of that. Ryal attributed this to his training. More footsteps were approaching the camp as Ryal punched the next man right in the gut, sending him into a nearby tree. Ryal had to make a choice. Mur had been grabbed and restrained, Saguaro was still fighting with his thorn attacks, but he was too close to his friends to risk a ki attack. Ryal then saw Crimson, alone, and without any ki training. He dove to Crimson, wrapping his arms around his waist, then flew away. Crimson struggled and protested, but Ryal just kept flying right back to base. He shoved Crimson into the slide, and when he sat up to yell at Ryal, he was already flying away.

Ryal spotted a few men walking below them, blue bowtie battalion soldiers, but they were all surrounding an important looking man. His uniform was different than the common soldier, with more blue on the chestpiece and a hat rather than a helmet. He wore the same symbol on his arm that the rest of them did, but there was a star above it. Ryal flew in fast, kicking one of the soldiers so hard that his head made a small crater in the earth. Before any of them could whip around, Ryal kicked out the back of their knees, causing them to fall forward. This bought him time to hit the remainder of them in the head, knocking them out. The officer held up his gun in a shaky hand. Ryal grabbed the gun and crushed it before the man could even shoot it. After this he grabbed the collar of the man’s shirt, lifting him off the ground with one arm. “Where do you take your prisoners?” Ryal growled.

“Guards! Kill him!” The officer barked in fear at the guards who were obviously not going to move for quite a while. Ryal’s grip on the shirt tightened. He flew up, holding the man at arms length as he flew up. He was wearing out from using so much ki, so he needed to end this interrogation quickly or he was going to be completely out of energy. The man screamed as he saw the ground below him slowly get farther and farther away.

“Where?” Ryal yelled again. The man whimpered and clenched his teeth. Ryal’s grip on his shirt loosened. The man began panicking, kicking his legs wildly like a fussy baby.

“Alright! Alright I will talk, please don’t drop me.” The officer begged. “All slaves are to be put on the transport ships, and they will be taken a few miles out into the Uup sea! After that they will meet the buyers on their space vessels with the merchandise! That’s all I know I swear! There won’t be any buyers for a few days!”

Ryal stopped for a second, trying to calm himself. Things were happening fast. He needed to take a minute to think. He knew there would be consequences if he charged in blindly. He continued with the questioning. “How long has your organization been on Solaris?”

“A few years. We started at least twelve years ago, and have been growing ever since.” The man answered. Ryal tightened his grip on the man’s shirt. The man was weak, in both will and appearance. He was so skinny and afraid. Ryal knew if he let him go from this height there would be no chance he would survive.

“Who are your buyers?” Ryal continued.

“Whoever has the money, an operation like this.” The man grunted and shifted a bit before calming down. “Doesn’t fund itself you know. They usually take an interest in the pretty young girls, but we have a collector or two in our clientele who will take anything for their museum-” The man’s words shifted to a scream as Ryal let go of him. As he made it down to arm’s length, Ryal grabbed him in his left arm this time and lifted him up. His right arm was incredibly tired. The man was still in a fit of panic, and Ryal didn’t have the time to wait for him to calm down.

“Last question.” Ryal shouted, catching the man’s attention. “Who is the strongest in your group?”

“What?” The man asked, obviously confused as to what Ryal was asking. Ryal sighed and was about to let go of the man when he heard a voice from behind.

“That would be me.” It said before a sharp pain rang through Ryal’s entire body, causing him to go limp. Something caught him as he fell from the air. He saw the man that attacked him was tall, wearing a white suit, with white hair, and a bushy white moustache. The man smiled as Ryal slowly slipped into unconsciousness.

“Staff Officer White…” The officer mumbled so quietly it was barely a whisper. “I have never met you in person.”

“You are a disgrace.” White said before dropping the officer he just rescued, listening to a satisfying splat as he hit the ground. “The Blue Bowtie Battalion has no need for those who will betray it on a threat of death.” White saw that one of the soldiers below was starting to get up, as he jumped to his feet he aimed the gun around in a panick. White slowly dropped to the ground next to the soldier. The soldier turned his gun on him, but as soon as he realized who it was, he gave a respectful salute and an apology.

“Congratulations, you have been promoted.” White smirked as he held Ryal up by the back of his neck. “I am taking this little nuisance in. Clean up the mess of your predecessor, don’t make the same mistakes he did, and all will be well. On your way now, captain.” White spun on his heel, and began walking back towards camp with Ryal slung over his shoulder.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Crimson sat disgruntled on his little perch. He wasn’t going to go back inside until the others were back. Ryal left him here. He was useless to his friends. He hated having to be the one that was protected, he wanted to be the protector. Crimson hoped Ecanoya’s training would yield results soon. There was a small thump at his back that almost sent him flying off the edge. He turned back to see a small figure with red hair. “Tedee!” Crimson shouted in excitement. “I haven’t talked to you since the first day! How have you been?” Crimson’s voice shifted from excitement to confusion. “Why are you here?”

“Oh. Hello!” Tedee yelled back. His voice was incredibly loud for such a little guy, and Crimson winced in pain from the loud noise that echoed through the tunnel and into his eardrums. Another head poked out from behind him. It was Tedum. The two of them never seemed to go anywhere without one another. Crimson offered them both a bright smile.

“May we get past?” Teedee asked. “I haven’t explored out here yet, and now that we can fly Tedum and I want to see some dinosaurs!”

“Yeah, I guess…” Tedum sighed. Tedum always spoke in a depressing manner. He and his brother were mirror opposites. Crimson was instinctively concerned about Tedum all the time, but his brother never seemed to notice it. Tedum’s depression always brought Crimson down, but he was happy to see that Tedee was still as cheery as ever. Crimson shifted to the side so the two of them could get out, holding onto the side of the cliff to prevent himself from being pushed over the edge. The two wiggled past him and began flying out. Crimson groaned, watching the two of them leave. Yet another few that have gotten so far ahead of him. He waited on the edge for hours before he began to worry about Ryal. As the sun began to set over the far horizon, Crimson considered heading back inside. They could have just forgotten about him, or possibly they didn’t want him ruining the fun of their ki adventures.

Crimson looked up to see Tedee and Tedum flying back. He gave them a wave, and they waved back as they flew towards the hole.

“What are you still doing out here?” Tedum asked.

“Obviously he is waiting for someone.” Tedee replied with a smile. Tedum bowed his head a little, looking disappointed that he couldn’t figure that out himself. Crimson began to see himself in Tedum. The depression and the desire to be better was written all over his face. He began to realize that his friends probably saw that too. Perhaps that was why Ryal ditched him here and went to go play hero by himself.

“Need help getting back up?” Tedum questioned. Crimson wanted to argue, to say that he could do it himself, but the truth of the matter was: he couldn’t. Ryal always had to help him up.

“Yes.” Crimson admitted solemly. Tedee nodded and started through the tunnel, leading Crimson and Tedum back. The three of them made their way through the winding tunnels of the slide. Crimson found that he was having trouble keeping up with the two of them. When he got to the end of the tunnel, the two of them helped him up by flying him out. “Thank you.” Crimson smiled, and Tedee grinned as wide as he could and started to giggle. He grabbed Tedum and ran off, shouting something incomprehensible. Crimson simply shook his head and chuckled. He jogged back to his room. When he arrived, he heard a few voices on the other side of the door. He pressed his ear close and listened.

“You can’t just do that!” Paul yelled.

“I am the director of this facility and I can. Crimson has no talent, and he hasn’t even bothered to show up to training anymore. I am cutting him off. You guys will continue with your lessons, but Crimson has to move upstairs and live with those who are covering for us starting next week.” Ghost’s voice boomed. “I don’t want to hear another word about this. Those who aren’t here to fight, don’t deserve our time or attention.”

“So you are saying that those upstairs mean nothing to you?” Derek asked in his usual calm voice. Ghost groaned loudly.

“Look, he said he was here to fight, he took the test, but I warned you three and Ecanoya that the boy has no talent. He wouldn’t make it in an actual fight without years of training, and we don’t have that much time.” Ghost took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly. “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to be so rude. Crimson is a great kid, and I know he means well, but ask yourself this: Do you want to see him die in a battle he isn’t prepared to fight?”

“I hate to admit it guys…” Jason began, taking a few seconds to pause. Crimson could visualize all the eyes in the room moving to Jason. “Crimson is weak. He is just a boy pretending to be a soldier.”

“You don’t mean that…” Derek frowned. Jason flashed Derek a gaze that let him know just how serious he is. “He is our friend, we can’t just turn our backs on him if he wants to stay with us.”

“If it means keeping him alive, I will.” Jason sighed. “I can’t… I can’t watch anyone else I care about die. I just can’t go through it again. I barely pulled myself back from that edge thanks to you guys. If I lose you all too?” Jason shook his head. “No. I refuse to let that happen. At least you two have a chance out on the battlefield, but Crimson would be defenseless.”

“Maybe Ecanoya could help him.” Paul muttered. Crimson heard someone leaning against the door stiffening at the mention of the name, their fists clenching hard enough to sound like their skin was being stretched out. Crimson assumed it was Ghost.

“I doubt it.” Derek broke in. “Ecanoya believes in a peaceful solution to almost everything. The only reason we got out of Taton is because he bargained with one of Sobriums soldiers to point us to the safest route.” There was hatred in Derek’s voice. Crimson did his best not to rip open the door and give Derek a piece of his mind, he had to remain calm. He couldn’t let them know the truth. All things aside, Crimson never knew Ecanoya bargained away to get them out of the city. He could only imagine what it was if it made Derek so spiteful.

“So that’s it then.” Paul yelled, startling everyone in, and outside the room. “We are just going to tell Crimson ‘sorry, you are too weak. Go be a cook.’? I can’t stand that. It’s not right.” Crimson began to tear up a bit. This was too much for him. Everyone but Paul and Ecanoya had all but given up on him. He was done listening to them. Before any of them could say another word, Crimson got up, spun on heel, and walked off to Ecanoya’s room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ecanoya sighed, rolling over in bed. Natania was peacefully asleep next to him, he stared at the ceiling for a while, unable to catch any proper sleep. He sat up and propped himself up against the wall. Natania shifted and turned to look up at Ecanoya, her eyes soft and concerned.

“Having nightmares again?” She asked

“Yeah…” Ecanoya huffed and rubbed his eyes. Natania slowly sat up and leaned her head against his.

“Things will get better.” She promised.

“I hope so.” Ecanoya sighed, letting out a slow, drawn out breath.

“You told me Mur would come back, and you were right Ecanoya. You were always right. All you need to have is hope. No good comes from worrying.” Natania grabbed his hand and held it.

“I am scared.” Ecanoya admitted. “Crimson’s all I have left. Mur can fight she has that kind of drive, but Crimson? He is too… gentle. He loves life too much. I am afraid of what this will all do to him.”

“I know the feeling Ecanoya. Mur is the last of my family. Besides, you have me now too.” Natania smiled softly and kissed Ecanoya on the cheek. “Now please lay back down and get some rest.”

“Alright.” Ecanoya replied, grabbing the covers of the bed and sliding back under them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Crimson.” Ecanoya sighed, looking at the lazy figure sprawled out on his bed. “Hey, bud, get up. Time to get to work.” Crimson groaned and Ecanoya sighed. He hoisted Crimson up and placed him with his back propped up against the wall. Crimson tried to lay back down but Ecanoya held him firm.

“What happened?” Ecanoya asked. “Why are you sleeping here instead of in your room?”

“They plan on sending me topside to help disguise this place.” Crimson explained, his voice shaky and riddled with pain and betrayal. “I heard Derek and Jason agreeing with Ghost on the matter when I went back to my room last night.” Ecanoya cursed, something he didn’t do very often.

“We have to speed up training then, I am not very fond of the idea, but you are a quick learner. I am sure you can keep up. Did they say when you were getting sent up?” Ecanoya questioned. Crimson shrugged.

“Could be today, could be a week from now. They didn’t really make mention of any time in particular.” Crimson sighed.

“Great…” Ecanoya groaned. “Well, if it comes to that, start meeting me on the outside of the disguise shack. You and I will train on the side of the mountain, down that path that ends at that cave. Any questions before we begin todays lesson?”

“Are you going to keep your promise? If I master the basics at the end of the week, will you tell me?” Crimson asked, trying not to sound excited.

“Yes.” Ecanoya nodded emotionlessly.

“Oh Also!” Crimson remembered. “I was out with Saguaro and Mur the other day, and they used ki attacks, but they yelled weird things when they used them. Like a name for their attack. Why is that?”

“Well.” Ecanoya began. “In many martial arts, it is widely believed that you can use more spiritual power if you yell while you attack. Shouting the name of your attack may sound silly, but in reality, it is actually quite helpful. By doing this you create a subconscious moral boost, you become confident that the attack will work. Of course it won’t always work, but that little bit of extra confidence can go a long way. If you start doubting yourself, your attacks will get much weaker.” Ecanoya finished, waiting for Crimson to nod to show his understanding. Once he did Ecanoya smiled.

“Let’s begin. Today, I will teach you how to charge and suppress your ki.” Ecanoya smirked. “If you’re ready for that.”

“Of course I am.” Crimson sighed.

“Alright, to paint a picture for you, charging ki is like drawing on more energy within you that stays dormant until you use it. Charging ki can either refer to using a ki attack or building up the amount of ki you are using. Most people charge their ki to allow them to use more at once, which makes them stronger all around. The only downside to this is you wear yourself out faster. It’s a tradeoff. Suppressing your ki allows you to both hide your true strength, and your presence.” Ecanoya paused.

“Like Jem did?” Crimson questioned.

“Exactly.” Ecanoya smiled. “See? You got it. Hiding your strength doesn’t always work though. People with experience in fighting may be able to see through the trick though, so don’t rely on it too often. Also, people who rely on scouters will fall for the trick almost one-hundred percent of the time-”

“What is a scouter?” Crimson cut Ecanoya off.

“I had one when I was city guard. They are a sort of power scanner you wear. They usually have a cushioned inside, like those on a headset. The most distinguishing feature is the piece of colored glass that hangs out in front of one eye. They allow you to sense high concentrations of ki, but they can be tricked if you hide your power, therefore making those who rely on it too much, easy to fool. Plus, I have learned to sense ki naturally, using my own ki.” Ecanoya stated. “That comes later though.”

Ecanoya backed up a few steps and raised his arms at a ninety degree angle, with his palms facing upward. After this, Ecanoya spaced out his feet and lowered himself just a little bit “This is your basic charge stance. You want to raise your arms, with your fists clenched. Lower your stance a bit, don’t be stiff. Be relaxed, and then forceful.” Crimson watched Ecanoya, waiting anxiously for his demonstration. Ecanoya began to yell. It was much louder than a normal yell, and it echoed off the walls of the small room with such force Crimson’s ears began to ring. Crimson covered his ears and stared in amazement at Ecanoya. There was a blue aura surrounding him, like a see-through ki that engulfed his entire body. Ecanoya finished and the ki seemed to rush outward, disappearing into nothingness. Crimson took his hands off his ears slowly.

“This is about three-fourths of my maximum. Didn’t want to draw too much attention now. Now when you do it, I want you to remember what I said. Calm until you start feeling it being drawn out. You will be able to tell when you can’t draw out anymore, it will be like working out, you can tell when your muscles will fail before they actually do. Don’t try to overcharge, all it will do is waste energy. Oh, and don’t worry about the aura. It is normal, for you it is pretty much see-through unless you pay attention to it, or you are emitting so much energy you give it a constant form.” Ecanoya sat on the bed, gesturing Crimson in front of him. “Your turn.”

Crimson took a deep breath, relaxing himself. He was determined to get this on the first try. He thought about creating the ball in his hand, and now visualised the ball was him. He then mimicked the stance that Ecanoya made. He felt the power flowing out gently, and he began to force it out. He shouted as loud as he could as he released his power, and only after forcing his energy out for a small amount of time he felt that he had reached his limit. He stood up straight, looking at his hands. “I feel stronger, but not that much different.”

“That’s because you still don’t have a whole lot of ki, but now that you know the technique, when you start getting stronger, this will come into play a lot.” Ecanoya explained. “Now for suppression. It is like charging in reverse. You want to take all the power you just built up and hide it, lock it away. You are still able to use it quickly in a pinch, but not to its full potential until you charge. Do you understand?” Ecanoya asked. Crimson nodded in assurance. Ecanoya stood up again, repeating the stance from before, but this time only raising his arms. He relaxed immensely, letting out a deep breath before dropping his arms to his side again.

“That’s it?” Crimson asked. “I thought it would be another cool light show. Ecanoya burst out laughing.

“It’s called suppression for a reason, you can’t really hide your power if you look like a candle in a dark room.” Ecanoya chuckled and Crimson smiled back to him. Without another word Crimson began attempting suppression too, determined to learn this one just as quickly as the last. He calmed himself, taking a few deep breaths and exhaling. He visualized locking his power away for another day, and he gradually began to feel his newfound strength hiding away slowly. He didn’t feel weaker exactly, but he didn’t feel like he was at his strongest anymore. It was a strange sensation that radiated throughout his body until he finished suppressing his power.

Ecanoya began to clap and pumped his fist. “Yes!” he shouted. “I knew you could do it.” He celebrated. Crimson felt proud, like he was finally living up to Ecanoya’s example. “In fact you learned that so fast we can run over the last of the basics right now, starting with ki sensing.” Crimson had never felt happier. The amount of praise he was receiving gave him hope that he could still catch up, something he was completely unsure of previously.

“I thought I had no talent for ki.” Crimson said smugly, crossing his arms over his chest.

“You don’t.” Ecanoya stated, making Crimson put his arms down and look at him, his face aflutter with confusion. Ecanoya noticed this and sighed. “I guess talent isn’t the right word. It’s really potential. You are talented at learning, I give you that, but you still don’t have the potential for growth that the others do.” Crimson bowed his head, losing all feeling of accomplishment. Ecanoya patted Crimson on the back. “We can use that to our advantage though.” Crimson looked up, meeting Ecanoya’s patient gaze. “The others all have a lot of potential, this is true, but that means they are growing a lot without adjusting to their new power. It’s a common mistake people make. You on the other hand will grow in power more slowly, but you won’t ever have to stop and become accustomed to your newfound power. Jason is probably as strong as me already, but I could still beat him, do you know why?” Ecanoya questioned.

“Because you have more experience?” Crimson answered.

“Bingo.” Ecanoya snapped his fingers. “He has gained a lot of power, but he is not used to it yet. Think about it like giving a toddler a gun. They can be incredibly dangerous to both themselves and those around them. Without control, ki is a very dangerous thing. That is why I am so uptight about this entire situation. They treat this all like a game, they are making it fun for the kids, which does help with learning, but they keep forgetting to emphasize the danger of ki.” Ecanoya stopped for a minute, sitting on the bed. “Now then, to sense ki, you have to try to feel for living things around you. Ki is energy, and it is always emanating a pulse, even at low levels of power. So you simply have to try to find these pulses. The bigger the energy, the stronger the pulse you will feel. Try to feel for my energy.” Crimson tried to push his energy out, to sense Ecanoya’s power. Just as he described, he felt a pulse back. It was large, and Crimson felt overwhelmed by it.

“Why do you feel so strong.” Crimson asked.

“Because my power dwarfs yours. You don’t even have a quarter of the strength you are sensing, so the pulse feels stronger to you. It works vice versa, if I were to sense your power, there wouldn’t be much there. I could still sense it, but it would feel weak, not because you necessarily are, but just because that’s how much stronger I am than you. Everyone has a different pulse, and you can determine whose it is from a few different factors. It will come naturally though, and I feel it is best for you to practice this on your own.” Ecanoya explained. “The last things to learn is how to shield yourself with your own ki. It is something that happens instinctively, but I want to teach you how to strengthen or weaken that shield manually for better combat techniques.”

“Hey Ecanoya.” Crimson said softly.

“Yeah,” Ecanoya paused. “What’s up?”

“Do the others know any of these techniques? Will I be ahead of them?” Crimson inquired.

“I think there are a few techniques that you just learned that they may or may not know. Obviously you still need to practice them before I can say you mastered them, but still, you are doing fine. Don’t worry about them.” Ecanoya encouraged. Crimson gave him a glare, annoyed that he was changing topic. Ecanoya sighed and explained. “Yes, the techniques of charging, suppressing have been taught to all the others. I know for a fact they plan to give the kids scouters, so that means you are the only one here who can sense energy aside from me. As far as I know at least.”

“Will I be stronger than them? I want to beat Cabba, I want to prove to her that humans aren’t useless.” Crimson stated, determined to follow his words.

“By the end of this training you will have all the proper tools to train yourself quickly. The others are training by practicing one certain way, so in the end, you will be stronger than them. Being able to fight with your martial arts and ki will definitely give you an advantage over the those who specialize in one or the other.” Ecanoya lied. There were more factors that came into fighting, and Saiyan’s were all naturally talented, with a lot of potential in fighting. Crimson kept prodding Ecanoya to give him confidence in himself, but Ecanoya didn’t want to give him false hope. The way Crimson would train would certainly help him keep up with someone on an even level, even if they had more potential than him. However none of the children were on even level with him. Crimson had set his sights incredibly high, a common mistake for new ki users. Ecanoya didn’t know what was worse: to lie to Crimson and see him beaten up yet again with his hope entirely shattered, or to shatter his hope here and now.

“Calm down with the questions now, you still have a lot to learn.” Ecanoya sighed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The light was blinding. Ryal groaned as he tilted his head back, feeling a cold concrete wall behind him. The floor was damp, and his restraints were tight. He pulled on them, feeling the chains slide in and out of a small hoop on the ground. He tried to force himself out of the chains to no avail. He felt weak, so it hadn’t been long since he passed out from the last time he attempted to free himself. He stopped struggling for a second to look back up to the man in a white suit.

“Now my boy.” The man said in his strange accent. “I am going to ask you kindly just who else was snooping around with you aside from that little girl and the cactus.”

“No one.” Ryal growled. The man chuckled and pulled a chair up. He clapped, and the lights in the room all came on at once. Ryal shut his eyes, the bright light burning into his retina, causing him discomfort. When he opened them again, he saw Mur, and Saguaro, both chained to the wall on the opposite side of the room.

“No more games boy. I am gonna ask you one more time before I start beating on y’all like a pinata.” The man walked over next to Mur. “My soldiers said there was one more boy with you. Where is he?”

“What’s it to you…” Ryal choked, fear riddled in his voice. The man hit Mur in the gut. She awoke with a series of coughs, sputtering, dry coughs that vibrated through the room.

“The more you lie to me the more these two get hurt.” Officer White said, straightening his composure to be more professional. “Don’t think you can get away from this boy. Even if you did escape I can catch up to you real quick. It only took me a minute to get to that officer you were beating down. And you were quite a ways away.”

“Fine…” Ryal shut his eyes, muttering. “Forgive me Crimson.” Ryal straightened, his heart heavy from the weight of this choice. Tell him about Crimson, putting him in danger, or lie, and get both Mur and Saguaro hurt. He knew what Crimson would want him to do though, deep down he knew that it was the better of two options. It was likely that he was already back in base, fortified, well hidden, and Ghost was there. This pushover wouldn’t hold a candle to what he saw Ghost do.

“His name is Crimson, he is a member of the Sobrium rebellion based in an old mine on Willowpeak.” Ryal spat.

“Thank you.” White smiled. He knocked on the thick metal door to the room. “We got any buyers yet?” He asked in a shout.

“Yes sir, purple one was just sold to a big wig in the Heat Empire. The cactus looking one has drawn quite a few buyers. Apparently he is the last member of a near extinct race.” A voice responded. Ryal struggled against the chains

“No. You leave them out of this!” Ryal shouted.

“The only thing being left out of anything is you, boy.” White snapped. “Jefferson! Alert Commander Blue. We are attacking Willowpeak.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There was a slight knock at the door. Crimson shifted on his bunk. He knew it was Paul just from how gingerly he was knocking. Crimson knew they most likely sent Paul to break the bad news to him. Crimson sighed and got up, walking over to the door. He opened it slowly, looking at Paul, who shuffled from foot to foot, trying to get comfortable. Crimson left the room and patted Paul on the shoulder, feigning that he was oblivious as to what was about to happen. Paul said exactly what Crimson expected him to, and that morning, Crimson packed up and moved upstairs. Ecanoya told him to act defiant and then depressed, to make it more believable. Crimson was sad that he didn’t get the chance to go say goodbye to Ryal and the others. They were probably going to have all kinds of fun without him there however. He wasn’t ready to continue adventuring with them. When he got to the top, he was given a small tour of the facilities that were topside. He wanted to visit the hospital first, just to meet an old friend.

“Dayereh!” Crimson called out. The namekian turned around and smiled.

“Hey Crimson! How are you?” Dayereh got up from the side of his patient, walking over to Crimson. He almost tripped on the way.

“Is there ever a time when you’re not clumsy?” Crimson laughed.

“When I- no wait I have messed that up too.” Dayereh joked, causing both of them to burst into laughter.

“I was wondering if I could help you in the hospital now that I have been moved up here.” Crimson shrugged.

“Why were you moved up here?” Dayereh asked curiously.

“It’s a long story. So is that a yes or a no?” Crimson asked in return.

“Fine you have a deal.” Dayereh sighed. Crimson explained everything that had happened to Dayereh, leaving out the parts that involved Ecanoya’s training. The story took a while, because Dayereh was able to finish an entire medical examination by the time Crimson finished. He remembered Dayereh explaining that he only uses his powers if he has to. When people aren’t hurt in a severe way, he treats them with normal medicine, much to their annoyance. He does this so people don’t become too reliant on the fact they have a healer around. He assisted Dayereh for a bit, treating people who have come down with a flu.

After a while, Crimson left to go head outside, telling everyone that asked that he was simply, ‘going for a walk’. He opened the door and went outside, the sun was still high in the sky. He gazed around at the beauty of Willowpeak. It was truly a beautiful place. He had never seen it during the day. There were far more buildings than he imagined, and the shack was much closer to town than he thought. He noticed footprints leading down to the side of the mountain from the shack. He knew it had to be Ecanoya. He followed the footprints down the path. When he reached the cave, he looked in, and saw Ecanoya sitting against the back wall of the cave. It wasn’t very deep into the mountain. Crimson walked in, watching his step while he maneuvered his way through the cave. He got down to Ecanoya, who seemed almost asleep. Ecanoya slowly got up, yawning.

“What were you doing last night?” Crimson asked.

“I was with Natania again.” Ecanoya stated with another yawn. Ecanoya then began assisting Crimson in learning ki training techniques. It was rough in the beginning, as Crimson was having trouble keeping up with the training. At every turn, Ecanoya promised that the training techniques would make him far stronger, but he would remind Crimson that his martial arts were just as important. Crimson had never felt more confident in himself once that training was over. He was exhausted, barely able to stand, but he felt alive, excited.

Crimson continued training for a few days, his only concerns being assisting Dayereh and going out to train with Ecanoya. “Today marks the first week since you have begun training. I have taught you pretty much everything I can to help you in bettering yourself.” Ecanoya smiled. “I am very proud of you Crimson. You were patient, you listened well, and you have learned this all faster than any student I have ever had.” Crimson was out of breath, and Ecanoya waited for him to regain enough energy to speak.

“About that…” Crimson began. “Who were these other students?” Ecanoya furrowed his brow and sniffled. Crimson could tell he was trying to find a good place to begin.

“It started before you were born. I was about nineteen at the time. My father just handed down his old dojo to me. I was tasked with training everyone who came there in secret. My brother was amongst these people. He was about as old as you are now at the time. He loved to fight. He was so much like you in many ways. He wanted to be like me, and he wanted to learn how to fight like I could, and I taught him. I felt invincible. That is, until the city guard showed up on my front door.” Ecanoya’s voice became choked. “I of course, wanted to settle things peacefully, but the kids in the dojo… they didn’t want to stop training. They loved the dojo too much. It brought them together. So they attacked the city guard. They overwhelmed the few that were there, and forced them to retreat. They celebrated for a long time, feeling utterly triumphant in their victory over the city. I however, left during the chaos to go plead to the city counsel to spare the kids. I begged them on my hands and knees and they quite literally spat in my face. They were disgusted with me, treated me like I was nothing more than a common criminal. The second time they attacked the dojo, I was forced to watch on the sidelines. They hit hard, and many of the kids were wounded, a few got it even worse.”

“You mean killed…” Crimson’s gaze turned to the floor. The pain in Ecanoya’s eyes was just too much to take in.

“Yes.” Ecanoya cleared his throat, trying to sound less teary. “The last kid standing was my little brother, one of the weakest in the dojo, or so everyone thought. If there has ever been a time when I felt true fear, it was right there. He fought off many of the city guard, more than any of the kids previously. He was eventually captured by one of the higher ups in the Taton guard. As they dragged him past me, taking him to prison, the last thing he ever said to me was: ‘You betrayed us. How could you turn our back on me Ecanoya? Why?’” Ecanoya tilted his head up, trying to avoid the flow of tears. “All prisoners were kept in the capitol building in Taton. All of the kids refused to join the guard, and instead took the life sentence in prison. Sobrium either freed them to join his cause, or just let them die in the fire. Either way, I am never going to see any of those kids again.”

“That night… you didn’t do anything because… your brother was in that tower?” Crimson asked, stunned. The information about Ecanoya’s past made his actions, his life, far clearer than before. Ecanoya didn’t seem like he wanted to talk anymore, so Crimson just returned to training, practicing form and technique for some of the counters Ecanoya taught him. After a few hours, Ecanoya pulled out a scouter, and walked over to Crimson.

“What’s that for?” Crimson asked.

“To see you progress. Charge up your maximum.” Ecanoya replied, putting the scouter on. Crimson saw the display on the scouter, a bunch of yellow lights. He tried to read the numbers backwards, but Ecanoya turned it back off before he could. “You can fight Cabba.” Ecanoya stated so casually Crimson almost didn’t believe him.

“You’re serious, right?” Crimson asked.

“Yes. I scanned her earlier. She is twice as strong as you, but all of that strength is in fighting up close and personal. Plus I doubt she knows any form of martial arts. Basically, don’t let her hit you, and I think you can beat her. This is your chance to prove that you can keep up with the others. While a lot of the stronger kids revel in their power, they have forgotten the basics of fighting. Don’t worry Crimson, I believe you can do this, just keep a clear head no matter what. You have an iron will, but please don’t show it off by getting the crap kicked out of you. Now go prove to your friends that you have what it takes.” Ecanoya smiled to Crimson, who smiled in return.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You? Fight me? Honestly you are out of your mind.” Cabba sighed. “Fine, let’s just get this over with. I can’t promise you will survive this.”

“That’s fine.” Crimson replied. He gazed up at the catwalk, and saw many of the kids who were hanging around in the training area were just staring at him. Jason and Derek seemed stunned that he had returned. “I can’t promise Bryce you won’t get mad at him when you realize you have lost to two humans.” Bryce snickered at this remark, but immediately went silent when Cabba began to glare at him. A couple of the Saiyan kids who hung out with Cabba got up and started clearing the training dummies and chairs away from the main mat. This gave Crimson a lot of space, which was going to help him avoid Cabba. He sensed her energy, and it was definitely a bit bigger, the pulse was strong, but not so strong that it made him feel overwhelmed. Bryce walked into the middle, standing between the two of them.

“Alright, begin in three…” Bryce paused, noticing Cabba and Crimson tensing. “Two…” He stopped again, and every kid in the room now had their eyes on the arena. “One!” Bryce shouted, and Crimson prepared for Cabba’s first move. “Go!” And Bryce dove out of the way as his sister came rocketing towards Crimson. She was very fast, and Crimson just barely moved his head out of the way from the first punch. He spun so that his entire body was facing Cabbas extended arm, and pushed himself back by kicking off the ground. He went flying back towards the corner of the mat, and Cabba came after him again. This time, she tried a hook. Crimson ducked under the hook, just barely avoiding a blow right to the skull. He fired his fist right into her gut, knocking the wind out of her. The force of the punch sent her reeling backwards, but she stamped her feet down and held firm, slowing herself to a halt. She let out a cry of rage as she rushed Crimson, this time she was way too fast to dodge. Crimson ran this time, clearing to the other corner of the arena in no time, but she was close behind. He could see the stunned expressions of the crowd out of the corner of his eye. Jason and Derek were completely stunned, their jaws hung low as they stared in disbelief. Crimson remembered Ecanoya’s warnings regarding focus, and immediately snapped back, but it was too late. While he was busy looking at the spectators, he slowed down enough for Cabba to catch up. She hit him hard in the back of the head. He fell forward, feeling although his skull just connected with a brick. Crimson extended his hand outward as he fell forward. If he fell completely on the ground he would give Cabba a huge advantage. He spun on the palm of his hand so that he faced Cabba again, and then brought his his foot down towards her. She jumped back, and Crimson put his other hand on the ground, bending his elbows and pushing himself up as hard as he could. The hop allowed him to twist enough in the air for him to land on his feet. Cabba came at him again, He dodged her flurry of mad punches, and jabbed quickly, hitting her in the jaw. Cabba didn’t seem to take much damage, because it barely slowed her down. She was swinging more by instinct now, and it was much faster, but more predictable. Crimson was able to dodge all the attacks she tried to hit him in the head with. She grazed his cheek with one, and that was when he knew to strike. He jabbed the inside of her elbow, causing her arm to bend back towards him. He ducked under as her fist curved inward toward her face. All of her effort on that arm went to stopping herself from punching her own face. Crimson planted his backmost foot on the ground, then sprang forward, shoving the back of Cabbas elbow. It crashed into her, knocking her off her feet. She landed flat on her back, and Crimson took a few seconds to breath. He definitely wore himself out, but so far, Ecanoya’s counter maneuvers were working. He was right about how Cabba would fight.

Just as someone was about to come check on Cabba, she began to slowly get up. Crimson was still out of breath. He needed more time to recover or he was going to be slower. Cabba stood up straight, moving hair out of her face. There was a dark bruise on her cheek. She spat blood to the side and smiled. “No more playtime, I guess.” Cabba began to charge her ki, at first the difference wasn’t too much, but then her aura became visible. She let out a fierce yell and Crimson sensed her power rising. The room seemed to shake from the power she was emitting. Ecanoya leaned over catwalk railing, staring at Crimson in despair. He was wrong about how strong she was. He thought that she would be at full power all the time, but she wasn’t. Paul sat next to Ecanoya, watching breathlessly as Cabba reached her full power. The aura around her slowly disappeared, and a coy smile crawled across her lips. There was a flash, and her fist was in Crimson’s stomach. He coughed up blood while she drove her fist deeper into his abdomen, and when she stopped moving, he went flying. It was like he was hit by a car. He looked down to see the mat quickly zooming by. He knew if he flew off the mat it would be game over. Crimson planted his palm down, stopping himself from being launched back, but the force still caused a loud popping sound. Crimson cried out in pain and fell off the palm of his hand and back into the ring. He felt along the shoulder of his injured arm. It was dislocated, definitely not the first time Crimson had dislocated his shoulder, but this one stung quite a bit. He had to go with his last resort, he would never match Cabba up close anymore. He looked up at her, slowly approaching him with a grim look on her face.

“This is getting bad…” Bryce whispered.

“Why?” The lazy saiyan who sat on the sidelines yawned.

“Cabba is getting too angry. She could end up seriously wounding Crimson. Whenever someone hurts Cabba beyond a point she can take, be it physically or emotionally, she just goes absolutely ballistic. I have a feeling that you are all about to see why I fear my sister’s wrath.” Bryce cringed.

Cabba began to get closer to Crimson, who had only one more ace up his sleeve. Without his right arm, he couldn’t use any of the ki blasts Ecanoya taught him. If this move didn’t work it was over. Cabba was now at least four times stronger than him, and if he missed his chance, she wouldn’t give him another. Crimson took a deep breath, and steadied himself. He stuck his left fist high in the air, Holding it like that as Cabba charged towards him. An aura began to surround his fist. Cabba sped up, hoping to reach him before he finished doing what he was doing. She wound her fist back and sent it forward with explosive power. Crimson screamed as he used his dislocated arm to block the attack. His forearm bone shattered under the force. He gritted his teeth and toughed it out, swinging his fully charged fist backwards, in a half circle going downwards to his side and then launching up into Cabbas chin. “Rising Star!” Crimson shouted at the top of his lungs. As he connected with Cabbas chin he shouted as loud as he could, putting more and more force into the attack. In that brief instant the attack used the rest of the ki he had, and it sent Cabba flying high into the sky. She bashed her head into the ceiling of the room, which was several stories high, and gently fell back to the arena, totally unconscious. Bryce rushed to his sister’s side. Crimson smiled, in incredible pain but still elated. “I won…” He whispered. People began to rush the arena, loud conversations began to echo off the walls of the room, and as Jason, Derek and Paul rushed him with looks of surprise and happiness on their faces, Crimson took a deep breath and shouted at the top of his lungs, raising his good arm into the sky and looking upward. “I won!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You are a klutz you know.” Dayereh sighed.

“Not as much as you.” Crimson chuckled as he rolled his shoulder. Dayereh completely healed his arm as a favor.

“Yes, but at least I don’t let people shatter my forearm with the force of a couple semis. You barely used any ki to even shield yourself from that attack! Your arm was so fractured you are lucky pieces didn’t just break through the skin and pelt you like little bone bullets.” Dayereh lectured. Crimson groaned and turned to ignore him, but Ecanoya stood over his shoulder with a disgruntled look on his face. Crimson slowly turned and listened to Dayereh as he complained about how reckless Crimson was in that fight. Still, he took pride that even people topside were brought down to watch the insane fight. Ecanoya had said that it was the first serious fight inside the base since the ranking board was introduced.

Paul, Derek and Jason all sat in the hospital room. Derek still looked like he couldn’t believe what he saw, which was a funny expression for someone who usually tried to show no emotion. Jason and Paul were constantly talking about the fight, despite both of them actually being there. “Oh man, when he let his arm get broken I thought he had given up, but no! He swung his fist backwards in a circle and bam! Cabba goes flying!”

“It was because the entire time she saw Crimson as weaker, so she never expected a secondary strategy. The saiyan fighters can be really simple sometimes. They see fighting as weakness versus strength rather than skill against skill” Ecanoya cut in. The kids all nodded in understanding. Ecanoya turned to Crimson. “That fight would have been easier if you pelted her with ki attacks from a distance. None of you kids aside from Jason and that saiyan boy at number two have built up enough ki to resist a full on blast.” Ecanoya scolded Crimson.

“I wanted it to be fair Ecanoya. Plus, if I beat her in her own specialization, then I proved that I am a great fighter. So with that in mind, do you think I could beat Jason?” Crimson asked excitedly.

“In your dreams!” Jason shouted from the other side of the room. Crimson snickered, and turned to Ecanoya.

“You know the answer to that.” Ecanoya sighed. As they all left to go back downstairs to

try and convince Ghost to let Crimson back into the program, screaming began in the upper areas of the mine. At first, they thought someone might have hurt themselves, but gradually the screaming began to increase, including many of the people upstairs. The group exchanged glances between one another. Jacob came rushing up behind the group.

“What’s going on?” Jacob asked. Jason and Derek ran over to him. “Hey guys long time no see.” Jacob smiled before quickly fading into a worried glance. The screaming began to slowly die out, as though it was being muffled. “Paul…” Jason started. “Paul, go and alert the others.” Paul didn’t argue, and he was bounding down the ramp to the bottom of the mines before another word was spoken. They all ascended the eerily quiet mines to the surface. Ecanoya opened the latch to the shack at the top, allowing everyone to slowly pour into it. Ecanoya had everyone keep low to the ground. Crimson peaked out a window just a tiny bit. There were a bunch of people outside the shack, and Crimson instantly recognized their uniforms.

“Blue Bowtie Battalion members are here.” Crimson whispered to the others.

“Willowpeak rebellion members…” A strange, raspy voice called out. It was a short man, standing at the front of the crowd. He was wearing a completely blue uniform, with a blue bowtie on the front of it. “Leave the safety of your base and come face us. If you do not, we shall kill one of your people for everyone ten minutes you deny us, starting with this boy.” Someone was shoved to the front.

“Here he is, sir.” White spoke with a bow directed to Commander Blue. Crimson watched Ryal get thrown down in the front of the crowd. Two men approached him on either side, carrying large laser rifles, pointed right at his head.

“No!” Crimson shouted, pounding on the wall of the shack. The rickety sheet metal bent outward as Crimson hit it.

“Control yourself!” Ecanoya shouted at Crimson. Crimson cringed and looked back towards Ecanoya. Jacob peered out one of the windows. The soldiers definitely outnumbered them, but none of them looked strong aside from the few men in front. “Crimson.” Ecanoya whispered from behind him, crouched over to avoid being spotted. “Sense their energies. Tell me who is strong. Crimson nodded and began to focus.

“There are so many pulses, but the ones at the front, they are the strongest. One of them feels about the same as Cabba’s max power, but one-” Crimson blinked and turned to everyone else in the room. “One of them is at least three time stronger than Ecanoya, maybe more. It’s the one in the white suit.”

“Good.” Ecanoya smiled. “Get used to doing that before you enter a battle.”

“Eight minutes before we erase this boy’s head from existence!” Blue shouted.

The hatch to the cabin began to open slowly. Everyone in the cabin turned, preparing for a fight. “Get ready!” Derek shouted. Tedee’s little head popped out from the opening.

“Need a hand?” He giggled. Everyone relaxed, then began laughing. Tedee crawled out of the hole, and snuck up to Jacob’s side, followed closely by his brother. After that, Bryce came out of the hole. He took one look at Crimson and turned away immediately, moving over to Jason instead. Cabba came next, and she gave him a smile, catching him off guard. One by one, the kids from the rebellion poured into the shack. Many kids stayed at the bottom of the ladder, giving space for Yakow to climb. After him came Natania, and then Zwequo.

“Where’s Ghost?” A Namekian boy asked.

“He’s not coming, he and Jem are downstairs making sure no one snuck in through any of the back entrances. It will be bad if we have to fight on two fronts. How many of our people do they have?” Zwequo said, his arms held neatly behind his back in a manner similar to Jem’s.

“I am assuming everyone who stayed near the very surface, which totals to thirteen.” Jacob informed Zwequo, who nodded in understanding.

“Alright then, we have to be smart about this. First of all, we must leave the cabin in groups of four. In the event they attack, we can use the fighting strategies we have practiced.” Zwequo said. Immediately after, many kids got into different groups. Three groups were missing a member from down the ladder. Crimson realized immediately that it was Paul, Derek and Jason who abandoned their groups. Crimson stared at them in surprise.

“Come on now, we have been a team much longer than any of these guys.” Jason smirked. “Let’s give them hell.” The door to the shack was suddenly opened, and Crimson looked as Ecanoya walked out into the snow, his hands in his pockets. Crimson began to protest, but Derek slowly raised one finger to his lip, signaling him to be silent. Crimson watched Ecanoya, the sunset shining gently upon his leather jacket.

“What do you want?” Ecanoya asked as he reached the group. White, and all those next to him walked up to Ecanoya, towering over him. White must have been at least seven feet tall, because Ecanoya was six-foot five, and White made him seem short.

“What we want, is your lives!” Shouted the shortest of the bunch, a green skinned man with a fat body and a circular head. His face was lined with bloodlust, yet Ecanoya remained unphased, and completely calm. Crimson forgot that he had dealt with psycho’s and crooks as a profession. He was definitely the best person to send out there first.

“Off the table. Give me a reasonable price for our people.” Ecanoya stated flatly.

“Unreasonable? I would say the lives of the soldiers your children killed in their skirmish are worth far more than any one of your lives.” The orange skinned man next to White huffed. He was the second tallest of the bunch, and the second strongest

“From what I hear it was self defence. Completely justified seeing as the only thing you wanted with them was to sell them off to some far away slave owner.” Ecanoya said, crossing his arms. Ryal stared up at Ecanoya, wondering how he knew about the slave trade. His gaze then shifted to the shack, seeing Crimson hiding around the corner. He smirked in understanding.

“Self defence or not, those men are dead. They aren’t coming back.” The saiyan next to the green skinned man smirked. “Maybe we should take your life as a starting bonus to our vengeance.” The man stepped forward, putting himself in front of Ecanoya. He raised his fist and brought it down towards Ecanoya’s head. Ecanoya stood firm. The man’s fist hit Ecanoya with such force that the snow around Ecanoya’s feet blew in every direction, creating a perfect circle on the ground at his feet. The attack was so fast that no one in the shack aside from the instructors saw what happened. Crimson was about to run out to help Ecanoya, until he saw why everyone else was so calm.

Ecanoya had blocked the attack with his forearm, holding the man’s fist up without much struggle. Derek looked back at the instructors in the room, who were all wearing scouters. Zwequo was explaining to Jacob how the scouters worked, and Yakow was scanning Ecanoya. Yakow blinked in surprise, his large lizard eyes completely out of sync as he did so. “He is stronger…” Yakow began before gulping. “Stronger than me?”

“Impossible.” Zwequo spat in disgust. He turned on his scouter and looked at Ecanoya. “That’s not right, Jem told us he wasn’t that strong. Ghost said that he was a mid level guard at best. Their power levels are only in the singular thousands!”

“He’s on our side you know.” Jacob groaned. He passed it off as jealousy, but their comments seemed strange. Why did they care about how strong someone was? Especially someone on their own side.

“His power level is twenty-seven thousand…” Yakow gulped. Jacob looked outwards to Ecanoya, who was still holding the surprised man’s fist above his head.

“That is top tier guard level there. I wonder why they kept him in the medium levels. He is like three times stronger than any of them, at best.” Jacob muttered to himself. The man lifted his fist off of Ecanoya’s forearm and slammed it down again like a hammer. Ecanoya held firm yet again, and the ground below his feet began to crack, the stone bent under the force of the blow.

“Are you done?” Ecanoya asked in a calm voice, enraging the Saiyan. The man began to unleash a flurry of punches, all of which Ecanoya either dodged or stopped with the palm of his hand. The man’s allies didn’t do anything but watch with curiosity, like the event was some sort of strange, unseen thing they wanted to study.

“That’s smart Ecanoya.” The Namekian boy in the corner smirked.

“What’s smart?” Paul asked.

“He knows the others are standing back so they can measure his strength, he isn’t doing anything but blocking, so they don’t know exactly how strong he is.” The Namekian boy explained. “They only know he is stronger than their comrade, but they don’t know how much stronger. Their caution is only buying us time.” Crimson looked around the shack, noticing that there were far less kids than before, and some of them were climbing up the ladder now. He peered out the window and saw some kids sneaking around. Immediately he realized that Ecanoya was distracting them as well, which should give everyone enough time to surround the opposing forces in the event a fight breaks out. Jason and Derek were sneaking out of the shack next, so Crimson grabbed Paul and dragged him out into the cold behind them. Someone must of been spotted, because one second the only sound outside were those of the Saiyan’s yelling and the concussive force of his fists hitting Ecanoya’s palms, and then everyone was yelling. Lazers began to break through the night time, illuminating the ground all around them.

“This way! Come on!” Jason shouted as he dove behind a small dip down at the back of a small shop. There were all kinds of things flying out into the distance. All four of them stared into the beautiful night sky, illuminated by lasers and ki beams. Many were flying off into the distance, disappearing into the sky. Crimson peaked up of the dip down, and saw a ki ball flying his direction. He immediately ducked, getting out of the way and watching it fly past him. It hit a side of the mountain’s valley. It exploded into a brilliant light, and stayed there for a few seconds, swirling with energy before it died down and revealed the giant hole it created. Not even a pebble was left over, the entire side of the valley that it touched was obliterated in the matter of seconds.

“We have to get out there!” Crimson shouted over the sound of fighting.

“You’re insane! We will be ripped to shreds by the blasts and rifle fire!” Paul shouted back.

“Not if we stick to the four person plan. Jason and I will go in and fight up close and personal, you two cover us with your ki.” Crimson nodded to Derek and Paul. Paul sighed and nodded back. “Plus…” Crimson choked a bit. “Ecanoya and Ryal would have to be in the middle of all the fighting.” Screaming approached their hiding place, and the four hopped up, ready for a fight. Bryce slid up to them and Crimson’s eyes widened. He looked back to where he came from and saw the psychotic green man approaching them. Crimson hid Bryce behind the shop as the man walked up. He rushed back to his friends as fast as he could, turning to face the man. There was something familiar about his smile. Something terrible that reminded him of someone, he just couldn’t put his finger on it.

“His smile is just like Darwin’s.” Jason said. Crimson turned, seeing the bloodlust in Jason’s eyes. It sent a shiver down his spine. He realized immediately that this was not the Jason he knew. This Jason was different. Angry, hateful, out for revenge. Jason let out a shout of rage, charging the man as fast as he could, his arm held behind him. As he reached the man he drove his fist forward at full force. The man’s head tilted backwards a small bit from the impact. He simply tilted his head back into place and gave Jason a sinister smile.

“Not a bad punch. You will have to do for a plaything.” The man said. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Joola-” The man was cut off by another blow to the head. Jason was not in the mood for their games. The man simply continued smiling, a little blood trickling down his cheek.

“Buy me some time, I am going to charge an attack, Paul come with me and prepare yours!” Derek shouted before flying off. Paul turned to Crimson.

“Watch Jason, Crimson, please don’t let him do anything stupid.” Paul begged. Crimson nodded in understand and turned back to Jason’s fight. He saw Paul disappear out of the corner of his eye, and he jumped over the snow bank to assist Jason. Joola noticed Crimson’s approach, and his grin widened.

“More playthings!” He shouted in excitement. A ki blast came ricocheting out of nowhere from the main battlefield. Crimson had lost complete focus on the chaos in the streets of Willowpeak, and narrowly dodged the ki blast. Some laser shots came flying towards Joola. He punched the lasers in a way that made them bounce off the glass panes of the nearby store and start charging towards Crimson. Crimson dove to the ground, one of the lasers flew over his back, pressing close enough to it that Crimson could feel the extreme heat radiating from the ball lash out at his skin. Joola continued to grab and throw any laser or ki that came his way towards Crimson. Crimson couldn’t get any closer because of this, or else he would risk being incinerated. Jason was struggling to fight Joola, even when he was using only one arm. Crimson quickly thought of a solution, raising his fist in the air and charging up a Rising Star attack. When he had enough ki gathered, he swung his fist around and struck a ball of ki that the man had thrown at him, bouncing it right back towards him. It burnt through his uniform, and left a small red mark on his chest.

“You little brat…” Joola growled. In his split second of anger he forgot to deflect the attacks that were coming from behind, and they all began to strike him. The lasers from the guns didn’t seem to bother him much, but the ki attacks that were being fired from the warzone were leaving a mark. Crimson was glad he was on the edge of the warzone. If it was this bad out here, he wondered how bad it would be when they pushed inwards. The lasers were beginning to stop appearing, and the ki attacks were only fired off in the distance. The weaker people on both sides were being taken out. Crimson hoped it was his side that was winning. Jason landed another blow on Joola’s head, but now that he could use both arms, he was able to counter more effectively. He grabbed Jason’s leg, throwing him through the wall of the nearby shop before charging towards Crimson, his face a mess of rage and madness. Crimson got into stance, prepared to fight. He remembered Ecanoya’s words, that he could beat stronger opponents if he just kept his cool.

The hit came in so fast that he couldn’t see it. Crimson rolled over, trying to get to his feet, but the man was already next to him, wailing on his stomach. He coughed hard, spitting up blood. He tried to stop him, to counter his moves, to simply hurt him, but he couldn’t. This man made him feel powerless, not even his martial arts could save him. It was like his fight with Bryce all over again, on the ground, getting beaten senseless, not able to fight back because his opponent was just too strong. In this case however, it was not Bryce, someone who he knew wouldn’t kill him. It was a madman, a psychopath with a bloodlust. His confidence faded with each punch, slowly dwindling until he felt useless again. The man was forced off of him by someone. He blinked, staring upward at the figure above him.

“Ecanoya?” He groaned. Jason smacked him on the cheek, snapping him out of his daze. Crimson got up, shouting in pain.

“Come on Derek, where are you?” Jason complained. This fight was going badly, Crimson was having a hard time standing up, and this guy was definitely way too strong for the four of them. Jason wished he had a scouter, just so he could guess.

“Jason!” Derek shouted from somewhere above. “Move!” And he did. Jason helped Crimson get out of the way of whatever Derek was doing. Derek watched them leave and straightened his glasses. Joola was beginning to leap into pursuit, Derek had seen how fast he was, and he calculated where exactly he would be. He held the ki ball he had charged in one hand, and threw it as hard as he could towards Joola. Joola didn’t notice it in his bloodlust at first, but the ground began to shine brightly, and all three of the fighters looked up. Crimson didn’t sense much power behind it and he was worried their plan had failed. Joola turned to face it, smiling widely.

“This is what you have been preparing for?” He asked before bursting into a fit of laughter. “Another weak ki attack?” Joola turned to take on the ki attack. Derek knew Joola couldn’t see him, but he didn’t want to smirk just yet. Joola raised his arm to smack the ki ball away. As it closed in he swung his arm like a club, and the ki ball exploded right there and then. The explosion was not a normal attack, it was a blinding light that even burned the eyes of people who looked at it with their eyes closed. Jason had pulled Crimson to the side of the shop, not wanting to explain why they had to close their eyes in case the man overheard them. The man screamed in pain, rubbing his eyes.

“Luminescent Bomb.” Derek smiled with pride. Crimson peered around the corner, watching Joola stumble around blindly, crashing through houses, completely destroying them.

“Hey!” Jason shouted from behind Crimson. “Over here!” Joola roared in frustration, charging towards where he heard Jason taunting him. Paul landed next to Crimson.

“My time to shine I guess.” Paul gulped. In his hand he held the ki power of him and Derek combined. If this failed, the two of them couldn’t make another attack like it. The ball was a dark blue. Paul was about to fire as Joola charged in. Crimson could sense that the attack was too weak to leave a mark, it was only a little over half of Joola’s power. Crimson put his hand on the ball and put energy into it. Jason nodded in understanding, and did the same. “All of our powers.” Paul mumbled with a nervous smile. He was excited, but he needed to calm himself. This attack represented their teamwork, their power together as friends. He was just hoping that Joola would be sorry he ever touched them.

“Friendship Cannon!” Paul yelled as he pushed the ball in front of him. Instead of a regular ki ball, it was like Saguaro’s attack Cactus Cannon. It fired out in a long beam, stretching the power out, but also draining more from the user because it required a continuous stream. It struck Joola right in the stomach, piercing straight through him. Joola let out a surprised gasp, before beginning to gurgle on his own blood. He fell over, and lay there, unmoving. Paul panted, raising one fist into the air. “We did it!” He shouted before turning to Crimson and Jason, who were laughing hysterically.

“Friendship Cannon?” Jason broke down into another fit of laughter. “You couldn’t come up with a better name for a team based attack?” Paul blushed in embarrassment as his friends laughed at him. Derek landed next to them, trying to keep his cold, distant expression that he normally has, but failing.

“I yelled it for a reason!” Paul shouted. Derek, thinking they offended him, apologized.

“If you yelled it because we are friends, we already know all that, we didn’t mean to be rude Paul. It just sounded like a funny attack to kill someone with.” Derek chuckled. They all stopped laughing for a minute before the gravity of what they had done just weighed in on them. They killed someone. Sure that someone was a horrible, murderous monster, but he was still a person. None of them regretted it however, his smile had reminded them of the pain they had quickly buried a month ago.

“I yelled it because…” Paul paused, swallowing before continuing. “Well no one expects an attack named ‘Friendship Cannon’ to be a deadly attack, right?” Everyone returned to laughing, but it was more awkward and forced than before.

“Ecanoya!” Crimson shouted, stopping his laughter suddenly. “Come on guys this is still a war!” They all charged towards the center of town, not wanting to make themselves a target by flying over, especially since one of them would have to carry Crimson. They all worked their way towards the center of town. Paul stopped in the middle of a street on the way there. “Paul come on!” Crimson encouraged before spotting it as well.

“This isn’t what I imagined.” Paul began to tear up. “This is hell.” Dead bodies of Blue Bowtie Battalion soldiers lined the street. They all had holes in their bodies, some of them were barely even there anymore. Ki had done this to them. The other kids had taken out all the soldiers on this street, leaving them to rot on the sidewalks and road.

“This is war…” Derek trailed off. “This is why no one in Taton was allowed to learn ki.” Derek swallowed, the scene leaving him breathless. This was too brutal to handle. Jason didn’t seem to be phased in the slightest. He was the only one who stood with a cold gaze. Paul looked like he was about to puke, and Jason looked at him with disappointment. Derek slapped him on the shoulder.

“They are still people, Jason!” Derek exclaimed in awe.

“No they aren’t.” Jason yelled back before returning to his blank expression. “They are just monsters with the faces of people.” The group stood in silence, thinking on this for a bit. Crimson started off, fuming with rage. Paul chased him down.

“Crimson, don’t let what Jason said bug you.” Paul said as he caught up. They were in a narrow alleyway, between two tall stores. The trail of bodies had all but disappeared behind them.

“It’s not that Jason said something as horrible as that. It’s that…” Crimson sighed “I thought that very same way about them. Until he mentioned that. Just monsters with faces. I never thought of them as actual people.” Crimson slumped down along the wall, landing in the cold snow. “I was so caught up in my own little world that I couldn’t see what I was truly doing.” Derek and Jason walked into the alleyway, looking at the two of them with slight curiosity. Crimson waved them off, standing up to wipe the snow off his pants.

“Do you hear that?” Derek said. Everyone look at one another and then all eyes were on Derek.

“I don’t hear anything.” Paul commented. Derek raised a finger, signalling everyone to be silent. In the distance it sounded like someone was beginning a ki attack.

“The fighting isn’t over, it’s just finished round one.” Jason gasped. Just at that moment, a laser from a rifle came rocketing past them. They all turned to follow it as it left, but then they turned back to see even more on their way. The fighting had started up again, and they were all trapped in a narrow alleyway. Not an ideal situation. Crimson grabbed Paul and dove to the ground. As they hit the floor, he looked up to see a laser heading his direction. He grabbed Paul and whipped him to the side, just narrowly getting him out of the way. The lasers were filling the alleyway, trapping them. Derek and Jason began to float upwards, dodging the shots on their way out of the alley. Paul turned to Crimson, grabbing him around the waist. Crimson shook him off.

“Paul, you aren’t strong enough to carry the both of us out of here fast enough to dodge the shots. Just go, I will be fine!” Crimson shouted. Paul was going to argue, but he knew better than to argue with Crimson when his mind was made up. Paul made his ascent, escaping the alley and into the night sky. Crimson wished he knew how to fly. He dodged another few lasers by rolling around on the ground, then thought of how Ecanoya explained that he could bend his ki shield.

“It works like a blocking force, countering oncoming energy with your own energy. The stronger force wins…” Crimson repeated Ecanoya’s words aloud. “However… if I were to change the property of my shield, I don’t need to use my energy to block these shots, I can just direct them somewhere else.” Crimson smirked. It was the best shot he had at getting out of the alleyway. He could take a few of these shots head on if he put all his power behind defending, but there were way more than a few. As soon as he stood up he would be overloaded and his shield would completely drop. Crimson was glad that Ecanoya was there to help him understand his limits. He envisioned his ki sharpening to a point, like the front of a snow-plow that ran through the streets during winter. It simply pushed the snow off of it, plowing entirely through it. He felt his shield change properties, even though he couldn’t see it. He stood up slowly, dodging a few more shots, before preparing to charge through.

“What is he doing!” Paul shouted. Derek tapped him on the shoulder.

“Have more faith in your friend.” He scolded. Paul watched as Crimson charged the barrage of shots head on. The shots seemed to be sliding around him, merely making slight course adjustments as Crimson weaved through them. When Crimson bursted out into the street, he found the source of their problems. He ran over to a dead soldier, standing at his side. The man was holding a humongous laser rifle, easily capable of producing the amount they were dealing with in the alleyway. He died with his finger on the trigger, possibly while they were still in the alley. Crimson wrenched the gun from his grasp, listening to its high speed whirring sound slowly die down. The others landed next to him, all of them seeming genuinely impressed.

“Crimson, where did you learn to do that?” Derek asked. “None of the instructors taught us how to manipulate ki like that.” Crimson shrugged, not wanting to tell them all about Ecanoya’s teachings. They all decided on sneaking up to the main road, where the fighting originally broke out. Paul flew Crimson to the rooftops, with Jason leading the way to scout out the area for danger.

They all arrived safely atop a small store, peering out at the center. Of all the people the Blue Bowtie Battalion brought, there was only a skeleton crew of soldiers, and only the orange skinned man, White, and their leader, Blue, remained on the battlefield. Many bodies lay strewn throughout the snow. Crimson recognized one instantly, and all the color drained from his face. He looked back up, and saw that all the kids were standing with Ecanoya and Yakow by the shack, all of them except for Ryal, who sat at White’s side. Crimson couldn’t make out what they were yelling, as the body in the corner of his eye burned into his mind. He hopped down next to it.

“Crimson!” Derek hissed. He looked up, paying attention to the conversation now, not worried about Crimson. He needed to formulate a plan, not babysit every move his friends made. Crimson slowly trudged up to the body and knelt next to it. He recognized that bright red hair from anywhere.

“Tedee.” Crimson choked and knelt at the bodies side. His small little face was pale, and for once, there was no smile. Crimson picked up the body and cradled it in his arms. The small boy was completely limp. His eyes were closed. Crimson pressed his ear to his chest, expecting the worst. There was a thump, a slow and strained one, but it was still there. Crimson jolted back and stared in awe. Tedee was still alive, just barely, but he was hanging in there. Crimson picked him up, holding his little body tight to his chest. Crimson trudged back towards Ecanoya’s side. Crimson heard Ecanoya and White shouting back and forth to one another, but he wasn’t paying attention. All he cared about at that moment was getting Tedee to safety. He continued to trudge through the snow. A soldier ran from White’s side and pointed a gun at him, shouting something incomprehensible. White and Ecanoya had stopped shouting to one another, and both turned to see Crimson. The soldier ran in front of Crimson, pointing his gun right at Crimson’s head. Crimson looked up at the soldier, an unbridled rage looming just beneath his calm gaze.

The soldier went to fire his gun, and Ecanoya let out a cry of fear. Crimson tightened his grip on Tedee. He slid his foot back and launched it forward, hitting the man’s gun and snapping it in two. It exploded on Crimson’s leg, sending shrapnel in many directions. Crimson used the last of his ki to shield Tedee from the blast. The soldier fell down, holding his hand and screaming. Crimson arrived at Ecanoya’s side. A Namekian boy ran forward, with Dayereh close behind. They took Tedee from Crimson, and his arms dropped to his side.

“That’s another one of my men injured by you insufferable nuisances!” Blue shouted at the top of his lungs.

“You really picked a bad time to do this.” A girl behind Crimson mumbled.

“Just tell us what it will take to make you leave! There has been enough bloodshed for one day!” Ecanoya yelled.

“I am here for a boy named Crimson. He is the last one of your people who was out there on that day. Hand him over now, the fighting stops. Deny us, I will snap this boy’s neck like a twig, and then the fighting will continue until there is only one side left.” White said. With his ultimatum made, he placed his hand along the back of Ryal’s neck, causing him to stiffen. “I will even sweeten the pot and throw you back this little brat. I have had all the fun I can with him. Plus, no one is interested.” Ecanoya was backed into a corner. If another fight broke out, there would be far more bloodshed. Choosing between two lives was something he just couldn’t do, even if Crimson was involved.

Crimson began to slowly shuffle forward. Ecanoya reached his hand out to stop him, but Crimson shook him off. White offered a sinister smile. Crimson kept pressing onward, moving slowly, his gaze turned downward. White released Ryal, who sprinted up towards Crimson and pushed him down. “What are you doing?” He asked, in an angry whisper.

“I am ending this.” Crimson said as he slowly got back up. “Just go back Ryal. No one else needs to get hurt.” Ryal shut his eyes as tight as he could and gritted his teeth. He walked away from Crimson, leaving him alone with White.

“Well now, what do we have here?” The orange skinned man next to White smiled.

“Quiet now Orange, no need to scare the kid too much. He will have plenty to be scared of later.” White smirked. Crimson kept trudging forward, swaying slightly from side to side.

“That’s right.” Ecanoya crouched down in excitement. “That’s smart, Crimson.”

“What is he doing?” A namekian boy asked from behind Ecanoya.

“He is adjusting their eyes to his speed, so he can take advantage of that.” Zwequo noted from aside Ecanoya. He chuckled “Smart kid.”

“Not smart enough though.” Yakow hissed as he slithered into view. “I scouted out the road to Willowpeak. They aren’t sending reinforcements, and those two at the front there, I believe they are more than capable of taking care of us.”

“It isn’t going to happen though. Crimson is giving us a chance to get all of our wounded inside and call back those who are still fighting in the town. It’s a chance to retreat.” Ecanoya explained to Zwequo and Yakow.

“I don’t want to retreat, I want to beat them into submission.” Jacob grumbled from the back of the room.

“What the hell is wrong with you Jacob? This is our chance to save kids who could be out there, dying, right now!” Ecanoya shouted. The kids in the shack sank back in guilt. The idea of the death of the enemy was something that didn’t phase many of them, but losing friends, that idea stung the most.

“Then let’s avenge them while we have the chance!” Jacob snarled. “These people are monsters, they don’t deserve to walk away after all this!”

“Vengeance isn’t your style! Snap out of it Jacob, think about the kids, our kids! Crimson, Derek, Paul, Jason! They need us! One of them could be wounded out there.” Ecanoya snapped. “Stop living up to the ruthlessness of your ancestors Jacob, I thought you were better than that.” Jacob was going to argue, but he calmed himself.

“Yeah, you’re right.” Jacob sighed. “I just want to take action against them. They can’t just walk away! They can’t get away with hurting so many people.”

“I know that’s how you feel Jacob, but we both know that there are times in life where there is nothing you can do to stop the people oppressing you.” Ecanoya sighed and then turned back to Crimson, who was still shuffling his way to White and Orange. White nodded to Orange, who responded with a slight bow. Orange planted his foot firmly in the snow. In a fraction of a second he propelled himself off the ground, a coy smile decorating his lips. He came shooting through the air like torpedo, punching forward to hit Crimson with a killing blow. His fist went right through Crimson.

“No!” Paul shouted, covering his mouth as all his fears came to life. In the next second however, he saw exactly what had happened, possibly before either Jason or Derek even noticed it. Crimson faded into the air like a mirage. Orange stumbled forward, trying to catch his footing. Something tripped him however, and he fell face first toward the snow. As he approached the ground however, a hand caught his shoulder, flipping him over and a foot planted firmly into his chest. Orange blinked in surprise to see Crimson, standing with a look of determination, one foot planted firmly on his chest.

“How did he…?” Jacob asked in astonishment, trailing off into thought.

“Afterimage technique.” Zwequo noted. “That is impressive, to see such a youngster use it like that. He gave that Orange fellow quite the surprise, I suspect this is the first time he has seen the technique. This allows Crimson to give off the illusion that he is much faster than he truly is. Sadly, there are some power gaps that smart fighting just can’t help you bridge.” Everyone turned their attention from Zwequo to Ryal, who had just stumbled back to the group. Jacob grabbed his bindings and ripped them off. Ryal rubbed his wrists and turned back to see Crimson.

“I shouldn’t have doubted him.” Ryal sighed. “Come on, we need to take advantage of this while we can.” Ryal led everyone down into the shack. Zwequo stayed outside however, as did Tedum and Yakow. Ecanoya wanted to stay, but there were just too many wounded to be carried to Dayereh, and not enough hands to help.

“Leave the mountain now!” Crimson shouted at White, his gaze low and hateful. He didn’t know how long he could keep Orange under his foot. He didn’t seem to be struggling, but that could just be a ploy, a trick to make him lose his focus. These two could pick him apart separately, but if they both attacked, there was nowhere he could escape to. White thought for a bit and shrugged. He turned on heel and began to walk away. Crimson took his foot off of Orange, relieved that his trick had worked. As soon as he did, White whirled around.

“Just kidding.” He placed his hands behind his back and started towards Crimson. Crimson went to run, but Orange was behind him, holding him in a full nelson. Crimson tried to struggle free, but he was not even strong enough to budge Orange. “This time.” White smiled and his accent became thicker as he grew more sadistic. “Well y’all are about to have a real bad day.”

Paul clenched his fists, watching the scene. His anger flared, and he placed a foot atop the roof’s edge, preparing to propel himself towards White and Orange. Derek reached out to grab him, to stop him from doing anything foolish, but he wasn’t fast enough. Paul was gone, heading into battle in a fit of rage. Derek didn’t need to say anything, as Jason was already close behind him in their pursuit to stop Paul. They caught up with him quickly, grabbing him mid-flight and holding back.

“What are you two doing?” Paul screamed. “We have to go help him!”

“Not if it gets us all killed!” Derek yelled in response. Paul struggled against the two restraining him. He began to pull Jason and Derek with him towards Crimson, gritting his teeth and pushing forward with nothing but determination and rage. Jason and Derek pulled back harder, slowing Paul, but not by much. Paul broke loose of them and turned around to smack one of them. White prepared to kill Crimson, and Derek thought of how Crimson would do the same for him. He scowled and an charged with Paul towards White.

Before they reached White, they were cut short by a small explosion, followed by a cry of pain. White fell backwards, screaming in pain as he looked to his missing arm and leg. Orange was missing his entire head, and he slumped over, letting go of Crimson. Smoke began to clear from behind, and Crimson turned to see Ghost, standing with one hand extended outward. Ghost lowered his arm and sighed.

“Glad I made it in time.” Ghost smirked

“Yeah, me too.” Crimson smiled. Ghost chuckled at his response. Paul reached Crimson and bear hugged his best friend.

“Stop doing stupid things!” Paul shouted as he crushed Crimson.

“Ok! Ok!” Crimson said as he was being squeezed. Paul dropped Crimson and he began to talk about different events in the battle, as if they were scenes from a comic book. Crimson was astonished that even with all the horror surrounding them Paul still had the energy in him to talk about the battle. Crimson stopped and turned to see White, who was gone.

“He flew off.” Ghost sighed. “Maybe I should have put more power into that blast, that way I could have killed Orange and White in one blow.” Crimson blinked and tried to understand what Ghost just claimed. He could have killed both of those monsters so easily, yet he was the one who got to stay behind in the base while everyone else was out here fighting.

Blue, the leader of the group, was crawling away on his hands and knees. Jacob picked him up by the collar of his shirt, and reeled his fist back in preparation to end his life. “Time to pay for your crimes.”

“Stop Jacob!” Ecanoya shouted as he ran up. Jacob loosened his grip on the man just a small bit. “Don’t, you don’t have to do this.” Jacob threw the man to the ground, looking into his terrified eyes, he wondered just how many people had looked up at him like this when they begged for their lives. Jacob spat in disgust, and then in a swift motion he plunged his fist into the man’s chest, hitting him right through the heart.

“No!” Ecanoya shouted and rushed to the man’s side. It was already too late however. “Why Jacob! Hadn’t there been enough blood spilled already! Did you have to kill him?” Ecanoya growled. Jacob huffed and walked back inside. Ecanoya punched the ground in frustration, forming a small crater in the Earth. Ecanoya stormed off back to the base, leaving behind the body of Commandor Blue, and a large portion of his armies soldiers, in the snow. The sounds of Ecanoya and Jacob arguing became distant to Crimson. He was too fatigued to focus.

Crimson closed his eyes and sighed. Crimson jogged back to the shack, hoping to get back into the warmth of the lower mines. His friends followed close behind. Crimson looked back on the battlefield, just one last time, gazing out at the bodies that lay stiff in the snow, taking the image in for as long as he could so he could remember just exactly how war really felt like, before heading off to safety.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“It wasn’t them.” The voice boomed. “I was prepared to follow through with the plan, but forgot to include the thought that a local group of thugs might attack us as well.”

“Master, it is not your fault. Besides, the Blue Bowtie Battalion did have some advanced weaponry that most likely did not originate from Soluris.” Jem said with a bow.

“Yes, that is an excellent point Jem. Those weapons could have originated from Sobrium, but it is also possible that it originated from that damned Heat .” He pounded his fist down on is able, cracking the wood.

“Sir, can you not just eliminate the both of them?” Jem asked.

“Hmph.” The voice laughed. “I can kill Sobrium, but he is guarded by too many people, he would send his foot soldiers out to wear me down.”

“And Heat, sir?” Jem asked.

“He will get what is coming to him. Don’t you worry Jem. I will need to prepare a bit if I want to take on that monster though. I am tired of waiting, speed up the plan to final phase.” The voice demanded.

“I… but sir, they are still recovering from the battle.” Jem complained before the man behind the voice stood up, towering over Jem, even in the darkness.

“Did I stutter?” The voice asked and Jem looked to the floor, giving a slight bow before leaving the room to carry out his orders. The man sat back down in his chair, and returned to his work. “It is time to usher in a new era for the galaxy.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You’re leaving?” Crimson asked as he took a bite out of some of the Okketesaur meat that Ryal caught while he was resting.

“Yeah, watching my friends get beaten up is not my style.” Ryal sighed. “The real reason however, is that I am going to return home. I want to see them.” Ryal smiled at the thought.

“Who is ‘them’?” Crimson asked.

“A secret.” Ryal sighed. Just then Natania came rushing into the room, grabbing Ryal by the shoulders.

“Where is my daughter?” She asked in a hysteric screech. “Where is Mur?” Ryal looked down at the ground.

“When they captured us… they…” Ryal choked and looked up at Natania. “They sold Mur into the slave trafficking ring.” Natania broke right there and then. She began to whimper and step back a bit, as if fleeing from a monster. She ran away, holding her mouth to muffle her crying. Crimson saw her knocking on the door to Ecanoya’s room, and the door slowly opened, then she just vanished inside. Crimson sighed and got up, pressing his ear to the door and listening to Natania wail.

“My daughter!” she cried, her voice muffled by Ecanoya’s shirt. She kept whimpering the same words over and over, growing more weak and hopeless as time drew onward. Crimson sighed and turned to Ryal.

“What about Saguaro?” He asked.

“Still breathing.” Saguaro chuckled as he limped around the corner. Ryal and Crimson stared at him in surprise.

“Saguaro, you’re alive!” Crimson gasped.

“How did you escape?” Ryal asked, jumping to his feet. Saguaro stuck out his arms, which were nothing but stumps at this point.

“Chewed through my own arms to free myself. I am lucky they will grow back, but it still hurt a lot.” Saguaro noted. Ryal patted Saguaro on the shoulder.

“I am glad you are still with us.” Ryal sighed, trudging down the hallway.

“Why is he so down?” Crimson turned to Saguaro and asked.

“He didn’t tell you? We are the reason that they found out about the rebellion. White threatened to torture us in front of Ryal.” Saguaro’s expression turned grim.

“By us you mean…” Crimson choked up.

“Yes. When Ryal told them about this place, they took Mur to be sold, and kept me locked in a separate room. I just want to spike White right through his arms. Both of them! Then he will know what it feels like to be chained in those cuffs…” Saguaro huffed.

“That’s going to be a little difficult.” Crimson sighed. Saguaro grew to a darker shade of green, which looked to Crimson like it was his version of being red faced.

“Someone got to him first?” Saguaro asked in anger. Crimson could tell that Saguaro really wanted to take a crack at White. While Ryal felt guilty in the presence of the war, Saguaro felt nothing but hatred. He wanted revenge for what they did to Mur, it was written all over his eyes.

“Not just someone.” Crimson gulped, feeling like a cornered animal for a split second due to Saguaro’s ferocious eyes. “Ghost. He blasted through his comrades head and through his right arm and leg. He got away, but I doubt he got too far after he lost so much blood.” Saguaro punched the wall behind him, leaving a hole in the concrete. Crimson jumped back in surprise.

“I wanted to kill him so bad…” Saguaro growled. “What he did, what he caused. I saw all those bodies in the street. Some of them weren’t on either side. I recognized a woman and her child from Willowpeak. She greeted me when I arrived to town.” Saguaro looked to the ground, his rage quickly switching to sadness. “I just hate that he made Ryal feel responsible for this mess. He saved us from torture, I would have done the same in that situation. Any of us four would have.” Saguaro looked around before lowering his voice. “Don’t tell anyone Crimson. I am going to be following Ryal’s home on foot. I want him to know everything is fine. He doesn’t have to be ashamed.”

“You heard him say that?” Crimson guessed. “Well I am going to be staying here and helping Dayereh. We have a lot of wounded now, and he is probably working overtime.” Saguaro nodded and left to prepare for the journey. Crimson walked down the hallway, passing kids who had gone silent. There were no more happy faces lining the halls, no one was talking or discussing anything. It was a complete, eerie silence. There was an occasional glance from one of the kids. There was a kid from the night classes for the younger students who didn’t seem to understand what was happening. He kept prodding his older brother, who just sat with a blank expression. It was looking at a bunch of dolls, slumped over and lifeless. Crimson made it to the end of the hallway, leaving to the catwalk in the training room. As he turned left to head to the upper mines, a hand grasped his shoulder. Crimson turned to see Bryce, with a cast wrapped around his arm.

“Hey.” Bryce said. Even Bryce carried no smile after what had happened yesterday.

“Hey.” Crimson responded before looking over his shoulder. “Where’s Cabba, Bryce?”

“Cabba is fine.” Bryce assured him. “She took quite a beating, but she is strong enough to be able to be shot by a few lasers without getting killed. She kicked some major ass out there!” Bryce laughed.

“Good to know.” Crimson forced a smile. “I am going upstairs to help Dayereh.” Crimson gave Bryce a lazy salute before flinging his hand back down to his side. “See ya’” Crimson made his way upstairs, passing more people who seemed miserable on his way to the top. All of the younger children who took the preperation classes seemed unaware of what was going on. Crimson arrived at the hospital, and it was incredibly packed. Crimson had to literally step over people in order to get to Dayereh. He wondered how many times Dayereh tripped in this mess.

“Crimson!” Dayereh called out. “Everything is fine here, the wounded are all just resting now. You should go and rest too.” Crimson looked at the people in the room and they all did seem to be much better than when Crimson first passed the room on his way down to find Ryal.

“Did you use healing ki?” Crimson asked.

“Not really ki, Crimson, we have been through this.” Dayereh explained as he checked a patient on the ground.

“You told me it was ki the first time we met.” Crimson huffed.

“I lied, healing is a mystic power, a magic.” Dayereh sighed.

“I can believe in intergalactic space men who shoot laser beams out of their hands, but magic is stretching it.” Crimson shrugged. Dayereh sighed, and got back to work. Crimson left the room and went back downstairs to his room for some rest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ryal tied closed the top of the sack containing his provisions and slung it over his shoulder. He took flight the next minute and made his way homeward. He felt a pull, like an ache in his stomach that told him he needed to go home. He spent a while flying until he saw a large gathering of people in the distance. They were all around a spaceship that he didn’t recognize. Ryal knew better than to mess in the affairs of others at this point, and he continued to fly off. He turned around to take one last glimpse at it, and he saw a familiar word decorating the side of the ship: Sobrium. Ryal stopped dead and turned in horror. He had completely forgotten about Sobrium’s promise the months prior. The promise of his return to Soluris. Ryal’s first instinct was to rush back to the base, and he was just about to start heading back when he realized what this could cause. They don’t know about the rebellion, meaning that there was no reason to panic. Still, the very thought that Sobrium may lay within that ship terrified him. Ryal sighed and continued to fly homeward. He hoped none of the men had spotted him and decided to pursue.

It only took a few hours to arrive to his cabin. The little log lodge sat on the edge of a crystal clear lake. Even on it’s deepest parts you could see straight to the bottom. Ryal fished in it from time to time, and he really missed waking up to this view. The view seemed a bit mundane now that he had seen the world from the clouds however. There was nothing quite like flying. Ryal walked towards the door to the cabin and knocked a few times. He waited for a little while, patiently standing with his back leant against one of the supports for the porch of the cabin. He heard someone playing with the locks from the other side of the door. He eagerly counted the latches that were being removed, relishing every second until the door would open and he would see them. Then there was a short pause, and the door slowly creaked open.

“Welcome home Ryal!” She smiled

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Crimson woke up, everything was silent. Not like it was before, where everyone was merely not making any sound, but it was something else. Crimson tried to reach out and sense the energy of anyone in the hallway. He didn’t sense a single person. He extended his search radius to the training room. There was no one there either. Crimson got up out of bed and yawned. Perhaps he just slept in until lunch time, and everyone was out hunting? That sounded like the most reasonable conclusion. Without Ryal around, he had no reason to go out and look for food. Ecanoya’s training was very monklike, but it allowed Crimson to survive off of his own energy. He didn’t need to eat an incredible amount like everyone else. Ecanoya said that this was because the others were using a large amount of energy, and they are simply consuming calories to replace that lost energy. Sustaining himself on his own energy was apparently the best way to get himself accustomed to his own strength. A power increase of this magnitude was dangerous to his health, and Ecanoya said that it would be harder for his friends to sustain an even power usage. That is why they need to refuel so often. Ecanoya said that Crimson’s training may slow down because of this, but in the end he will last much longer in a fight using his maximum power.

Crimson leaned forward and placed one hand on the ground, pushing himself upward so he was balancing on just the one hand. He then started doing handstand push-ups, waiting for his friends to return. When he alternated between hands, he would simply pop himself up in the air until he felt the ceiling at the heel of his feet, then he would place his other hand on the ground and start doing more reps. He ran through his entire physical regime for a few hours until he began to feel like something was wrong. He tried to reach out with his energy again, this time covering every inch of the base. There was not a soul to be found. Crimson was physically exhausted from training, and knew better than to run into danger in his condition. He went back to bed and rested for a while. Just as he was about to drift to sleep, he heard a commotion around the base. There was a mob of people rushing downstairs. Crimson concluded that everyone was out helping Willowpeak clean up and he frowned, feeling guilty that he didn’t help. When he reached out to sense their energy, he realized immediately that those footsteps were not the people he knew, but complete strangers. Crimson jumped up just as they got to the hallway.

“Search every room!” A voice called out. Soon after the door to his room was kicked open, and a woman wearing a familiar uniform pointed a rifle at Crimson.

“Move and I will shoot.” She hissed. These weren’t Blue Bowtie Battalion soldiers or mere bandits. These were Sobrium’s soldiers. He remembered those uniforms from anywhere. He couldn’t think at that moment. There were too many of them to fight. Crimson’s eyes darted around for a way to escape, but he couldn’t find one. White must have told Sobrium, who Crimson concluded to be his weapon supplier, where the rebellion was. That was the only explanation for this. The worst part is that even though he had done his best to train, to work at his very maximum to become the best he could, he still only as strong as these soldiers. The only thing that saved him were the techniques that Ecanoya had taught him. Should he try the latest one he learned? No, he hadn’t practiced enough. And an afterimage only works if you have someplace to disappear to.

As he was thinking the soldiers brought in strange handcuffs. Crimson blinked at them as they were slapped on his wrists. They felt weak, barely restraining him at all. One soldier pushed a button however, and the two metal cuffs began to draw closer together. Crimson tried to resist, but he wasn’t strong enough. He began to panic, trying to stop the handcuffs from closing together. The soldiers held him in place, preventing him from worming his way free. The cuffs met together and their was a metallic click as they locked in place. The soldiers then grabbed Crimson, and shoved him out the door. They led him to the entrance of the mine, where everyone from the rebellion had been captured and was stuck kneeling on the ground. The only person Crimson didn’t see in the group was Jem. The soldiers let go of him. “Find a spot and sit down.” One of them said in a softer tone. Crimson cringed, forgetting the feeling he had upon discovering that most of these soldiers were being forced to do this. He wanted to resist, to fight them and run away, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t stop thinking about how that man in the crowd next to him that night was taken away from his two daughters. The strange display all taking place in the air like some twisted puppet show. This wasn’t like the Blue Bowtie Battalion, an enemy which he could set himself on hating and feel little guilt when it came to hurting, or even killing them.

Crimson trudged his way over to the only person he could think of going to in this situation: Ecanoya. He plopped down next to him, staring at his calm demeanor and seeing, for the first time, a look of overwhelming fear.

“Separate into six groups! One takes the smaller children and adults with no power, one takes the kids who have learned ki, another takes the adults with ki training. I want one group to escort the strongest of the kids alone. Just him, so we can make an example. Oh and the last one searches for kids who may have gotten away.” A voice rang out from the edge of the crowd. Crimson sat up a bit and stretched himself up so he could see who was talking. It was a smaller, light blue skinned man. His hair was pure white and he had an incredibly soft face. He recognized him immediately as one of the governing officers. It was Jervil, the sadist. The first group to get taken was the largest majority. Crimson watched helplessly as they grabbed people and children he knew, dragging them off to what Crimson could only assume to execution. The next group to get grabbed was the adults who knew ki, consisting of Ko, Natania, and a few of the other instructors that had helped out. Crimson noticed that Paul and Jacob were in the group of weaker children and adults. Crimson smiled in relief, happy to see that they slipped away into a group with less security. Ecanoya was already gone by the time Crimson was thrown into a group. He walked alongside Bryce and Tedum, who was carrying his brother on his back. Crimson forgot that there were still many people who were recovering from the battle with the Blue Bowtie Battalion. That may have been the goal of their attack after all.

They trudged through the ground felt hard beneath their feet. Crimson looked up, seeing the stars. He stared at them for a while until he heard a thud next to him. He looked to his side and saw that Tedum had fallen over, exhausted. A soldier ran over to them, pointing their rifle towards the two boys when they arrived. “No!” Crimson shouted, slamming into the man like a rhino smashing through a few cardboard boxes. The man tumbled over, coughing hard. Another man ran up to Crimson, and by this point the entire line had halted.

“I can carry the two of them, just put them on my back!” Crimson pleaded. The soldier eyed him suspiciously. “I am not trying to trick you!” The soldier nodded, but Crimson could sense his tension. The man fired the butt of his gun forward. Crimson ducked under the attack, and stood up in the space created between the man’s arms and the rifle. The man growled and Jervil dropped down quickly. Crimson swallowed hard. He had forgotten that Jervil was with their group. Jervil struck Crimson across the face with the back of his hand faster than Crimson could even see. Crimson spat blood, but persisted. “I can carry-” Jervil struck him again. Crimson fell to his knee this time. He caught a glimpse of Cabba and Bryce looking on impassively at him from the corner of his eye. Crimson stood up, straightening his back this time and looking Jervil right in the eyes. “I will carry them.”

Jervil’s lip curled into an amused smile and he slapped a soldier on the shoulder lightly. “You heard the boy.” He purred. “He will carry them.” The soldiers lifted up an exhausted tedum and Tedee and placed them on Crimson’s back. The two had just enough strength to hold on. Crimson leaned forward so it would put less strain on them to hold on. He pressed forward with the rest of the group until he heard Jervil shout from above.

“All groups are to split completely now, you all know where to meet up, but take the specified route! Do not try to meet up with other groups unless absolutely necessary. We must avoid the risk of Heat taking our prisoners!” Jervil boomed to all of the groups.

“Oh god…” One of the soldiers choked. “Heat’s army is here? I don’t want to die today…” The groups soon split up, and the sound of the other groups walking on paths nearby soon died out altogether.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“This little runt is the strongest of them?” One soldier snorted as he turned his scouter off. “His power level is only around twice of ours.”

“Meaning I could kick your ass twice over.” Jason snapped as he walked along the path. There were way too many soldiers guarding him. He wondered what made him in particular so dangerous. He counted thirteen men in total. Each of them was armed to the teeth with laser weaponry more advanced than anything he had seen before. The man in front of Jason stopped.

“Atruher, why did you stop?” A soldier asked.

“Because this is the end of the road Inj’zo” Atruher said to the lizard like Inj’zo. Jason was about to question the man’s strange actions when suddenly a soldier let out a cry of surprise. Jason turned around to see a small figure standing in the middle of the crowd. He looked exactly like Sobrium, but his domelike parts were a bright red, not green.

“Sobrium!” Jason shouted in anger. The man in front of him grabbed Jason by the soldier and pulled him away quickly.

“That isn’t Sobrium kid.” Atruher smiled. Jason turned and stared at the strange alien man, who stood calmly at the end of the barrels of dozens of laser rifles. The men all began to fire, but as the man was gone as soon as the lasers left the barrels. The men ended up shooting one another. Half of them fell over dead, while the other half looked for the man, who was now right in front of Jason’s face, staring curiously at him. A soldier ran up towards the man, preparing to punch him. The man straightened himself and took the punch. There was a crunching sound as the soldier’s wrist broke upon hitting him. Then there were a dozen snapping sounds in the space of a second, and the man’s arm flopped to his side like jello.

“I just broke every bone in your left arm, including every finger bone, in the space of two seconds. If you wish to try me again, the next thing I will break will be your neck.” The man said, a dangerous smile crossing his face. Jason blinked in astonishment. This man had moved so fast that he couldn’t even see any trace that he had turned around to break that soldier’s arm. “Allow me to introduce myself.” He leaned over to Jason, peering into his eyes. “I am King Heat, leader of the Heat Empire and the strongest fighter on this planet. I watched over your little rebellion for quite some time now, and I found that it would be a waste to let talent such as yours waste away-” Heat was cut off by a man shooting him in the side of the head. The laser struck him and only a little smoke rose from the spot which it connected. Heat raised a finger as if to say ‘Excuse me’ to Jason and turned to the soldier.

The rest of the soldiers had picked up their weapons and were ready to fight. Heat stomped the ground lightly, causing a shockwave of power to fire out, sending dirt and grass flying into the air, creating a natural smoke cloud. The men began to fire blindly into the smoke. Jason heard the man behind him get hit and fall limp, but within the next few seconds, the smoke cleared, and there were nothing but bodies. Heat flicked his wrist, splattering the blood on his hand to the ground.

“Your little lasers can’t burn me. I am simply too hot.” Heat cackled before turning to the man behind Jason “Oh, what a pity. It always hurts to lose a loyal soldier.” Heat said with a genuine look of concern before returning to laughing at his own joke. Jason stared on in fear and confusion. Heat stopped laughing abruptly. “Sorry, how rude of me. I came to ask if you wanted to join me.”

“If I answer no, do I die?” Jason asked, backing up a bit before he felt the heel of his foot touch the dead body behind him. Heat began to burst into a fit of laughter.

“No, no you don’t. Not everyone in the galaxy has that ‘my way or the highway’ mindset kid.” Heat chuckled. “And even from a tactical perspective, you are no threat to me. It was simple notion to let you know I acknowledge your potential.” Heat sighed and began to rise into the air. “Now then, if you excuse me, I must return to my home in this planet to meet up with my sons.”

“You have a home on this planet?” Jason asked

“I didn’t say on, I said in.” Heat noted.

“Whatever. Do you know why Sobrium’s men escorted me alone out here?” Jason asked.

“Obviously because they knew I would be here. Sobrium can be a bit cocky, but he isn’t stupid.” Heat wrinkled his nose. “Although he isn’t too smart or else he wouldn’t have allowed so many rats into his army.” Heat’s eyes turned to the man behind Jason. “He was a loyal soldier, easily able to trick Sobrium in to allowing a separate group to travel out here, just so I could meet the rebellions so called ‘champion’. Alas I was having too much fun toying with the soldiers, and it got him killed.” There was an explosion in the distance and Jason jumped up.

“What was that?” He asked.

“The start of my little surprise. If you will excuse me, I really must go now.” Heat said before vanishing into thin air. Jason blinked, taken aback at how fast Heat was. Jason looked at the dead soldiers around him, and steeled himself. He looked to his right on the path, knowing another group was on top of the cliff a few miles east. That was the road they had taken to get to Willowpeak. There had to be at least one group there. Jason flew up and kicked the air to launch himself forward.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paul trudged alongside Jacob. “When did you learn to hide your power?” Paul asked. “They didn’t notice your strength or mine.”

“I knew their scouters would be overloaded from sensing so many powers at once. I used one of those things, and it can be hard to distinguish who’s who. We are just lucky they didn’t check twice.” Jacob whispered as he eyed one of the soldiers flying above them, who suddenly exploded in the sky like a firework. Jacob and Paul were the first to notice, and the rest of the people in the group began to panic when this happened. Sobrium’s soldiers started firing shots at some unseen foe, and Jacob grabbed Paul and darted into the woods. He watched the cliffside fade from view as he ran on.

“We can’t leave those people Jacob! They have no chance! They can’t fight like us!” Paul started screaming. Jacob stopped for a minute, thinking about the kids from the orphanage that day. Scared and alone until the final moments. He turned, grabbed Paul and started heading back. The screams all suddenly died down and when Jacob reached the edge of the forest, it was already too late. Everyone lay dead, all of Sobrium’s soldiers and the prisoners from the rebellion. Jacob turned and spotted Dayereh and a namekian boy crouched down in the bushes just a couple yards away from them. They must have had the same idea when the fighting started. A man who looked just like Sobrium landed in the field of corpses. His dome parts were a reddish-orange. He stomped on the dead bodies as he made his way around, checking to make sure he had gotten everyone. Paul’s fist clenched and Jacob turned to warn him against doing something stupid a little too late. Paul had launched out of the bushes with a cry of pure rage, striking the man in the face and knocking him over.

“How dare you…” He growled before getting up. “How dare you strike a member of the royal Heat family you worm! I am Inferno! Fourth born to the mighty King Heat!” He boasted. He raised his hand up to Paul’s face, and he froze in fear. Inferno began to charge an attack, one that lashed out with an intense heat. “Nova Shine!” He screamed as he let loose the explosive force of the ki blast. Instead of remaining in ball form the entire time, the ki attack just exploded in his hand and shot the force of the explosion outward. It happened too fast for Paul to react, but Jacob was already in the fray. He dove to Paul, grabbing him and diving over the cliffside facefirst. He held Paul close to his chest, one arm on the back of Paul’s head to keep him close, and the other arm-. Jacob looked to his left arm and saw the bloody trail that was being left behind by the stub that used to be his arm. Jacob’s eyes widened in horror as he plummeted off the mountain. All of his power had gone to shielding Paul from that blast as fast as he could. He didn’t even have the energy to fly. Paul had fallen unconscious as well. Jacob closed his eyes and accepted his fate. With a sad gaze he looked at Paul, wishing he could say his goodbyes. He turned to his back, and began to plummet in the way of a cushion for Paul. The impact will still cause damage, but Paul would survive. He still had his energy, he was strong enough to survive this fall if he had a cushion. Jacob closed his eyes and thought through his life, all of the moments he enjoyed, meeting the four children he had cared for so much. All the pain and lose he shared with them, but there was happiness and joy in that too. He had fought being like his family his whole life, a ruthless, cold hearted saiyan, and he was going to die in that fight. A fight to prove saiyans can be more than just fighters. They can be artists, caretakers, and… friends. He had lost his way for a while, blinded by a cause he truly believed in, but now, at the end of his life he found what mattered most again. He hit the ground hard, coughing blood as he did. The next thing he saw was Paul peacefully unaware of what had happened. Jacob looked at the pond he landed next to and smiled. Even if Paul did manage to get wounded, he had enough here to recover. With peace of mind, Jacob passed away with a smile on his face.

Jason arrived a few seconds too late, and his heart dropped to the lowest point. Jason fell to his knees at Jacob’s side and began to cry. He punched the ground, causing it to quake slightly. His rage consumed him, and he was about to go off and kill as many of Sobrium’s men as possible when he heard Paul groan. He stopped and turned, looking at Paul. He rolled Paul over to see that his back had been burned very badly. If he left him now, Paul might not recover. Jason cursed and picked up Paul, flying away to go find a town to help him. he wanted to turn and see Jacob one last time, but his eyes were too full of tears to make out anything in the distance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Saguaro panted, falling to one knee as he looked back up at the man who reminded him of Sobrium. His colors were different however, as his dome colors were completely orange. “Is that it?” He asked. “Is no one around here a challenge for me?” There was disappointment riddled in his voice. “Looks like everyone gave Pyra the short end of the stick again.” He said, speaking in an obvious third person. Pyra walked over to Saguaro slowly. “I am going to have to reduce myself to such a low power level to get a rush from this fight.” Pyra stopped for a few seconds and took a deep breath. As he exhaled he suppressed his power.

Saguaro had caught his breath again, and was slowly standing back up. He clasped his hands together in front of his face, and then put a little space in between to form a ki ball. A green light poured out of the cracks between his hands. “Cactus… Cannon!” He screamed as he propelled his spiked ki beam towards his opponent. Pyra narrowly dodged it, and he began to giggle.

“Now this is the kind of fight I have been waiting for.” He laughed. “Unfortunately you are so weak that it still isn’t a threat even if I make myself weaker. Can’t just poof my massive power level away after all.” Pyra chuckled as he continued towards Saguaro. Saguaro growled and thought of another strategy. He lunged at Pyra with a cry of anger. Pyra let his guard down, trying to act coy. Saguaro’s thorns grew out, making his arm more like a spiked club. Pyra noticed this and temporarily increased his power just to stop this move from hitting him. He grabbed Saguaro by the shoulder and let out a sigh of relief. Saguaro struggled, but Pyra only tightened his grip. “Thorns?” He questioned as he began running his finger along Saguaro’s thorns.

“Yeah, they can pierce iron like butter!” Saguaro growled. He was trying to push thorns into Pyra’s hand, but he was so strong that it even kept his thorns down.

“Good thing I am harder than iron then!” Pyra smirked. His smile quickly faded as he remembered what he was told. “Damn, I shouldn’t be toying around with you. I need to go meet up with my family.” Pyra dropped Saguaro to the ground, who quickly rushed to his feet, only to get smacked back down by Pyra. “Sorry cactus man, but I can’t let you live any longer. Family policy to finish off those we don’t like.”

“What did I do to you?” Saguaro spat before breaking into a fit of coughing.

“You survived a hit from me before I was even suppressing my power. Someone as weak as you surviving a hit from someone as mighty and great as me? It makes my blood boil.” Pyra growled. He placed one finger on Saguaro’s chest. “Now you are going to know what that feels like. Here is a version of my father’s favorite attack, just for you.” Pyra smiled as he placed his hand on Saguaro’s head to hold him still. “Heat Wave”

Saguaro’s body began to cook from the inside out. He screamed in pain and shook violently, desperately trying to claw his way out. Pyra snapped off one of his thorns and crushed it into a fine dust.

“You never stood a chance to begin with, iron thorns.” Pyra let go and Saguaro fell to the ground, limp. Pyra sighed and began to chuckle. “You weaklings, you are all the same. You win one battle against someone stronger and you get the idea that you will never lose.” Pyra sighed and walked off, leaving Saguaro in the dirt of the clearing. He wasn’t much of a challenge, but at least Pyra felt like he had a good warm up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Crimson was beginning to tire out. He was using all of his energy to carry Tedee and Tedum to what might equate to their deaths. If he could delay it however, he was going to do it as long as possible. He shrugged his shoulders to distribute the weight, and began walking faster. He took an occasional glance at everyone in the group, looking to Bryce and Cabba, but they just stared blankly forward. Derek was way too far back for Crimson to talk to, but he could still see him. His face had returned to that cold, menacing stare that Crimson remembered from the orphanage. The one that kept most people away from him. There was an explosion in the distance and everyone stopped. The soldiers seemed to whisper to one another for a few seconds. One of them called out. “Alright you brats, double time!” The soldiers pushed against the kids, urging the group to move faster, fear lining their tough guy complexion.

Whatever was going on in the distance started making it’s way here, as Crimson could sense an enormous power level that sent a shockwave of fear through his body. He had never sensed an energy so enormous. He almost tripped over himself when he sensed that. His muscles had tensed and he began to sweat.  He began to walk closer to the forest side of the path, getting ready to dart into the woods in the event he had to leave Tedum and Tedee behind. The soldiers eyed him, but their tension was high. It was clear something big was happening, and Crimson wondered if some of the others had gotten away. The massive power level reached the group, and the soldiers started screaming.

“It’s Heat!” One cried.

“The legendary king that rivals Sobrium’s strength?” Another soldiers asked in horror. They all abandoned their posts and began flying away to Sobrium’s ship. The power level that he assumed to be this ‘Heat’ they spoke of zoomed past Crimson at a speed he couldn’t track. One minute it was a couple miles away, and the next it was in front of the fleeing soldiers. None of them even managed to get a scream off before Heat killed them.

Crimson used this time to escape and set Tedee and Tedum down a bit off the path, but hopefully out of the danger of the fight. Crimson broke a branch off the tree and used his ki to split it into tiny sticks that spelt goodbye to the twins, as he doubted he would see them again anytime soon. He took off onto the road again, noticing he was the only person who didn’t flee Heat. He looked down both sides of the empty road, and only saw Heat sitting on one of the soldiers dead bodies, listening to the transmissions on one of their scouters. Crimson took a deep breath and started walking down the road. He could still hear people rustling through the bushes, moving furthur and furthur away. Crimson walked past Heat, who seemed to pay him no mind as he focused on his mission. Cabba and Bryce jumped out of the bushes after Crimson, who didn’t turn to face them, despite knowing they were there

“Where do you think you are going?” Bryce asked like he was questioning Crimson’s sanity.

“I am heading to Sobrium’s ship to find Ecanoya.” Crimson stated as he continued to walk casually.

“And if he captures you both?” Cabba asked.

“Then it was nice knowing you two.” Crimson smiled slightly. He was trying to act tough, but the truth of the matter was that Crimson was terrified. He felt like an ant walking into a herd of elephants. Crimson felt a shift in energy behind them, and he pulled Bryce and Cabba to the side as a rifle shot flew past them. Crimson looked back to see Heat who had a very coy smile on his face. He probably picked up the rifle and put it down at speeds that Crimson couldn’t even trace with his energy sensing.

“How did you know?” Cabba asked.

“I sensed the energy from the rifle. Those things only fire so fast. Plus I doubt he truly doesn’t care about us.” Crimson explained in a hushed whisper. Something about Heat looked familiar. They all hurried their steps, not wanting to be around someone who could kill them without even looking like he got up off of his makeshift seat.

As they made their way down the road, a ship came into view. They all recognized it, because they were all there that night. Crimson remembered their talk out in the snow a few months ago. “Cabba, Bryce.” He began. They both turned to look at him. “Was your dad there? The night Taton was invaded?”

“No. We were alone.” Cabba said coldly. Crimson sighed and sat down on the road. They were on a dirt hill, stripped of his grass to make a nice road. The forest on either side of them had opened up a bit, and there wasn’t much brush in between the trees. Crimson needed to calm his nerves. He wanted to talk to them, just like that one night.

“Ecanoya means a lot to you doesn’t he?” Bryce asked as he sat down next to Crimson. Crimson responded with a nod and then he fell against the side of the hill so he could look at the peaceful afternoon sky. Bryce propped himself up on his elbows and took in the view with Crimson.

“A few weeks ago we wouldn’t have stood a chance walking down this road. I have seen you in action though Crimson. You have seen Cabba and I fight. We aren’t the same kids who sat out in that snow a month ago.” Bryce encouraged.

“Do you think we can actually face Sobrium though?” Crimson asked. “At least one of his governing officers is going to be there, and probably Darwin as well. What if I screw up, and one of you gets killed?” Crimson asked.

“Crimson…” Cabba sighed. “We aren’t coming with you. We have no reason to go other than helping you, and I don’t want to risk my life on that. I am sorry, it’s not that we don’t value you as a friend it’s just-”

“We’re afraid to die.” Bryce admitted bluntly. Cabba looked angry for a second, but she quickly gave in. It was true, they were terrified of Sobrium. They didn’t want to lose their lives. Crimson kept staring forward, his heart crushed, but he understood. Without another word, Crimson stood up and continued down the hill to Sobrium’s ship. He could sense Bryce and Cabba leave, and he was filled with determination. He would arrive at Sobrium’s ship, and he would get everyone out of there. His heart slowed as he became more set on the task at hand.

He arrived at the bottom of the hill, behind a large crowd of people. He recognized some as Blue Bowtie Battalion soldiers due to their uniforms, some were Sobrium’s soldiers without their helmets. Then there were some of the citizens he recognized from Willowpeak when he was out there a while ago. Did they turn to Sobrium’s side because of the war that happened in their town? Crimson shook his head and pushed past the crowd. People gave him an angry gaze as he made his way through. A sobrium soldier grabbed him as he neared the front of the crowd and pushed him out to the front. At the foot of Sobrium’s ship, stood Sobrium himself, with all four of his governing officers standing on his left, and Darwin on his right. There were several people sitting on their knees in a half circle in front of them. He spotted Ecanoya immediately, but he was confused when he saw that Paul, Jason and Jacob were all missing from the group. In fact there were only a handful of the prisoners in the half circle. The explosions in the distance from before, possibly they broke free from their groups? Crimson didn’t have the time to worry.

The soldier shouted something Crimson couldn’t hear, as he was trapped in his own head. The soldier shoved the barrel of his gun to Crimson’s back, and he froze. Crimson huffed a little. “Move to the circle, slowly. The King was just getting started.” Crimson moved without protest, he had frozen in that moment. His rescue plan had sounded good in his head, but now that he was here, facing six true monsters and an army of angry people who wanted to watch the punishment. The soldier shoved Crimson forward with his gun, and Crimson trudged over next to Ecanoya, sitting down between him and Derek, facing towards the crowd like everyone else. Sobrium walked over in front of Crimson and stroked his chin.

“I remember you…” He began, although his voice clearly showed an uninterest in the topic. “You were the one from the orphanage who remained so calm when I prodded you. I saw your face once again when I threw that car over the bridge, and I assume you were in that crowd, as you don’t seem to have died from that. And of all things, you joined a rebellion to bring me down.” Sobrium curled his lip in amusement. “You certainly are a fighter aren’t you?” Sobrium then turned around, and walked to the center of the half circle. Crimson watched his tail flick around with hate and disgust. It was like watching a cat play with it’s toys.

“I want to thank you all for attending this little ceremony to commemorate the downfall of the first rebellion against me on this planet. These brutes are responsible for the war brought on Willowpeak, a once peaceful town that is now empty ruins and a graveyard. There were so many dead bodies from that battle, civilian and soldier, that most are still lying there in the snow right now. All because these children attacked the troops of an ally of mine, and they simply retaliated.” Sobrium started. Sobrium heard a struggle behind him, and turned to see a saiyan boy, who had struggled free of his binds and grabbed a soldier. Crimson recognized him as the one from his beginners class, the one who was incredibly lazy. He never even learned his name.

“That is a blatant lie! Your allies were the one attacking us when we were out in the Okketesaur area! They hunted us and kidnapped some of us, one of which we will never see again!” The boy eyed Natania as he finished, with a lump in his throat. He was about to continue, but faster than anyone could even track, Darwin was holding the boy by the throat. The boy struggled and choked, pounding Darwin’s arm like a fussy child. Darwin looked to Sobrium with a face that begged for approval, his smile spread wide.

“The king isn’t a liar, and you know the punishment for treason? Don’t you? Well do you?” Darwin prodded as his smile grew larger. The boy tried to say something, but he was out of breath, and could only muttered choked gags. “Well?” Darwin asked. “You got anything to say here, or are you just gonna waste my precious little time?” Crimson was going to get up, to shout something, but he was frozen in fear. As the boy turned blue and was just on the verge of passing out, Darwin dropped him. The boy took in a gasp of air and began hacking. Darwin patted the boy on the back as he breathed in and out.

“So bud, I will break it down for you. This, is the punishment for defying your king.” Darwin said just as the boy tried to turn around to fight. Even at full speed the boy barely budged before Darwin shoved his hand straight through his back and out the front of his chest. The boy let out a surprised gurgle, and spat blood on the ground. He immediately went limp after that. Crimson’s eyes widened in terror as Darwin slid his bloody arm out of the boy’s chest, letting him flop to the ground. Darwin gestured to a soldier, who brought him a towel to clean himself with. Darwin smacked the soldier upside the head lightly, knocking him over completely. “I don’t care about the blood on my arm, carry the body onto the ship. I want this one to be added to my collection.” The soldier got up and saluted, dragging the body with him as he returned to the ship. Crimson growled in anger, and Ecanoya nudged him. Ecanoya broke out of his bindings quietly, and whispered into Crimson’s ear.

“Don’t let that hate consume you.” Ecanoya said. “It will eat up everything that you are now until you are an empty shell.” Crimson clenched his teeth and shut his eyes tight, taking some time to calm himself down.

“Now then.” Sobrium continued. “I am growing really tired of people always interrupting my speeches. Next person to speak will die on the spot, no overplayed show.” Sobrium snapped his fingers. “As easy as pressing a button.” A yellow skinned koala like boy began to sob quietly, and Sobrium eyed him. He turned and raised his fingers, like he was about to snap.

“He isn’t speaking! You said that if someone spoke over you, you would kill them!” Ko called out protectively. Sobrium smirked and snapped his fingers. There was a sickening crunch as Ko fell limp on the ground. Derek stared on in absolute terror. The boy had stopped sobbing, in fear for his life.

“Despite how rude, and awful these little rebels are, I will let them live.” Sobrium continued with a hint of annoyance. The crowd gasped in surprise, and everyone in the half circle was taken aback. The only person who didn’t seem to care was Darwin. “However, there will still be a punishment, to remind these children what happens when they step on the toes of giants.” Sobrium turned to Darwin. “McDarloss, if you will please select the three for execution.” Darwin rubbed his hands together excitedly.

“With pleasure.” He chuckled. “I know the most fair way to go about this.” Darwin said before beginning with eenie meenie miney moe. Darwin stopped on the yellow koala like boy. The boy screamed in fear and tried to crawl away. Darwin seemed to teleport in front of the boy, his speed untraceable to anyone in the vicinity. Crimson could sense just how powerful he was, and it overwhelmed him. In any other situation he would rush to the aid of his comrades and friends, but there was an evil to Darwin’s power. An overwhelming sense of pure evil that froze Crimson in his place, and no matter how hard he struggled against it, he couldn’t move. The fear controlled him. He knew in his mind that he could do nothing to stop Darwin, but his heart wanted him to try anyway. When Crimson looked back up the screaming had stopped, and the boy was dead.

Darwin hummed as he searched around for another target. He stopped behind every person that he passed, causing them to wince or cry. Darwin didn’t seem to have any order or sense to his choosings. He stopped walking when he reached Derek, and Crimson finally snapped out of it. He was about to leap and hit Darwin, but Darwin had already hit his target. A boy sitting next to Derek had his entire head lobbed off in the matter of seconds. Derek’s jaw dropped, and he drained of all color. He had never been more afraid for his life, not even when he was being hunted as a child. Derek felt like a kid all over again, stuck on the streets before Jacob found him, living his life in fear of saiyans. He wondered if any of this would have happened if he didn’t let his guard down near his friends.

Darwin walked around the half circle a few times, making everyone tighten and shake in fear. Darwin grabbed a girl, who began to scream and struggle. For a brief second, Crimson was glad it wasn’t him, until a stab of guilt hit him for even thinking something as cruel as that. “Calm down, calm down.” Darwin cooed, but the girl kept struggling. “You are free to go.” The girl stopped struggling and looked at Darwin. Darwin dropped her on her butt and gestured her to the crowd. The girl scurried away, and Darwin went around on another trip. It was even worse this time, as no one knew whether they were the last target for execution or someone being set free. Darwin set a few more kids free, and the group narrowed down to only seven people. The next person he tapped on the shoulder to let go was Natania. Ecanoya seemed to relax, if only by little bit. Darwin tapped a few more instructors Crimson recognized and let them go free, followed by Derek. Ecanoya’s head perked up and he realized what Darwin was really doing.

“His last elimination is the biggest threat.” Ecanoya whispered to Crimson. Crimson turned and looked Ecanoya in the eye with defiance and a twisting feeling in his gut. Ecanoya smiled as Crimson began to tear up.

“No…” Crimson sniffled as he began to cry. Darwin grabbed Crimson and hoisted him to his feet. “No!” Crimson screamed as he looked at Ecanoya. Darwin started carrying Crimson away, and he reached his hand out and screamed. His pain, anger, fears, all were meaningless in the face of this danger. There was something else that started within that, a sort of rage. An anger at the world for doing this, for taking another thing he loved. He wouldn’t let it happen. He went to punch Darwin, who caught his hand and threw him onto the ground. Darwin placed the palm of one hand on Crimson’s right shoulder and gripped his wrist with the other.

“I will rip your arm off right here and now, so the last thing he sees is you writhing in pain.” Darwin smiled. “All he will remember in the afterlife is how hard you screamed.” Crimson stiffened and clenched his teeth. Ecanoya offered him a soft smile. Even though these were his last moments in life, Ecanoya didn’t want Crimson to see him sad, or concerned. Sobrium came up and tapped Darwin on the shoulder.

“Darwin, why don’t you allow the boy a minute to speak with the man. After all, as far as intel concerns, that is the man who tried to solve things through negotiation, not bloodshed. He deserves at least this.” Sobrium shrugged.

“Just a minute to say goodbye?” Crimson choked through his tears before screaming at Sobrium. “You monster!”

“Yes, yes, I know, I have heard this song and dance a hundred times before. As soon as Darwin lets you go your timer starts.” Sobrium sighed and Darwin released Crimson, who went sprinting over to Ecanoya at full speed. He wrapped his arms around him in probably the most sincere hug he had ever given anyone.

“This can’t be happening.” Crimson denied. “This is a bad dream, this is just-” Ecanoya cut Crimson off by giving him a slight bop on the noggin.

“Bud, I know it hurts. I know it hurts so much right now. When I lost my brother I went through what you are going through right now. I blamed myself, I blamed the world, I blamed the guards that took him. However the more you blame yourself for the bad things that happen to you and those you love, the harder it is to let go.” Ecanoya smiled, wiping the tears from Crimson’s eyes. This reminded him of the first time Crimson broke a bone, or got the cut down his leg that required stitches. Crimson always came running to him first. This boy wasn’t completely like a son to him, he was more like a little brother, and he just wanted to spend his last moments holding him in his arms.

“Thirty seconds!” Darwin warned in a singing tone.

“Crimson.” Ecanoya said before quickly pushing him away from his chest. “Hey, alright, listen. I know there are questions you want to ask me, I will answer them as quickly as possible. Go” Crimson didn’t even hesitate.

“Ecanoya.” He began. “What happened to my parents?” Ecanoya stiffened and then whispered to Crimson.

“Jacob can answer that in detail, find him after this is over.” Ecanoya responded, Crimson understood and nodded in appreciation.

“How am I going to train without you Ecanoya?” Crimson asked, for a second feeling like it was a temporary goodbye instead of permanent alternative.

“I taught you all the ways, just make your own path from now on. I believe you can do the right thing.” Ecanoya smiled. Crimson broke down and sobbed in his arms again. His heart was heavy, his world felt like it was over, and his throat burned with the strain of his painful sobs. This hurt more than any beating he received, or any attack he had dealt with. It was possibly the worst pain in the universe. Ecanoya wrapped his arms around Crimson, and he looked up at the crowd to see Natania, staring with a brokenness about her. She was on her knees and couldn’t even muster the strength to scream in agony. Ecanoya closed his eyes and sighed. He was at peace now. He knew Crimson would be hurt for a long time, but this was at least some closure.

Without a word Crimson felt Ecanoya fall limp in his arms. He was too loud to hear exactly how Darwin ended his life, but he heard Ecanoya take his last, ragged breaths in his arms. Ecanoya slumped to the ground and Crimson saw Darwin’s bloody arm. Crimson lost all feeling in his body. In that moment nothing existed but pain, which began to turn to rage. Crimson felt a strike to the back of his head and he became dizzy. He fell to the ground and the world became a blur. Darwin had lied. He felt the power behind that blow, and he knew from how the world was spinning, that he just got hit with a killing blow. He didn’t care however, he didn’t want to live with this pain anyway. As a darkness enveloped him, he slipped into its embrace with a cry.

Darwin picked Crimson up and carried him onto the ship over his shoulder. Sobrium flicked his hand in the air and the soldiers started carrying the kids who were ‘released’ out of the crowd and towards the ship. They started screaming about the fairness of the situation and Sobrium simply shrugged and said to every single one of them. “Life, in and of itself, is not a fair thing.” As all the kids were dragged onto the ship, Sobrium boarded next to Darwin.

“You were pretty soft on this little human.” Darwin laughed. “I didn’t think you would actually stop the execution.

“It was all for show Darwin.” Sobrium smiled. “Besides, I am not as heartless as you.” The two broke into laughter as the ship door closed. Leaving behind the smoldering ruins of many dreams and hopes.

 

Thank you all for such an amazing year! This is my present to you all, I had such fun with everyone and writing this has been quite the journey. I made the deadline though, and it would be the best birthday present (November 1st) in the world if you could all comment on this to let me know what you think. 

Chapter 3 is out now

Read chapter 3 here!

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6 Responses to Dragon Ball: The Third Dimension – Chapter 2

  1. Ryal says:

    Having been a grammar checker for the book, and reading it prior to this post, I must say that the ending to the chapter is very emotion stirring.

    **SPOILER ALERT AHEAD**

    Now seeing as this chapter is very long indeed (I would personally call it part 1 of your story as opposed to a single chapter), a huge array of events have occurred considering that it’s basically the entire beginning of the rebellion. It would take me a while to summarize the whole thing other than, “So everyone started up a rebellion, the kids were going through training until these red ribbon wannabes come into fight. Then a whole clusterfuck happens with the Heat empire and shit until Sobrium decides to kill off Ecanoya and basically separate the entire rebellion altogether.”

    Now one thing I will mention. The entire rebellion was nearly shattered with little hope left, which was what the entire chapter had built up beforehand in the length of a novel. EVEN CONSIDERING THAT, I felt like loads of progress was still made between many of the characters and that hope still exists because of it. It just goes to show that even losing tremendous things that you care about doesn’t necessarily mean that you lose everything. Crimson has obviously grown in strength, as well as discover more about himself in order to become more endowed in utilizing his own energy. He met plenty of friends along the way. Ryal escaped because he was a lucky bastard, but he still remains. (I remember you telling me about the “Ryal saga” as if each chapter contains several sagas LOL)

    Then you have the Heat empire, particularly King Heat (aka Sam) who shows to have a soft spot for those who have massive potential in their fighting. Though the whole rebellion was separated, much of left overs were scattered everywhere, and that still leaves hope for the good guys :D. Turns out Sobrium still has a lot of shit to clean up.

    Well, aside from all of that, lets look at your writing.

    Now, I see some improvements, particularly later on in the chapter. Yes, few of the scenes were a bit rushed. I’m sure that’s a pretty natural thing to do when you write during school hours everyday. It’s still done well I’d say. The flow of your writing also got a little bit better, which I felt was your weakness before. Before it felt somewhat blocky or sticky. Yeah, I’m pretty terrible at describing things xD. But to be more precise, your writing lacked a lot of flow mainly because your way of attempting a third person’s perspective of insight wasn’t fluent. When you’ve done scenes that involved you trying to show the scene being played, it was still sort of a mixture between merely telling and showing. That weakness has improved surprisingly. I wouldn’t say you’ve completely erased that weakness, but it’s certainly getting better. Here, I’ll show ya an example. 🙂

    “Without a word Crimson felt Ecanoya fall limp in his arms. He was too loud to hear exactly how Darwin ended his life, but he heard Ecanoya take his last, ragged breaths in his arms. Ecanoya slumped to the ground and Crimson saw Darwin’s bloody arm. Crimson lost all feeling in his body. In that moment nothing existed but pain, which began to turn to rage. Crimson felt a strike to the back of his head and he became dizzy. He fell to the ground and the world became a blur. Darwin had lied. He felt the power behind that blow, and he knew from how the world was spinning, that he just got hit with a killing blow. He didn’t care however, he didn’t want to live with this pain anyway. As a darkness enveloped him, he slipped into its embrace with a cry.”

    Now lets take examples that I thought were excellent ways of showing what was happening…

    “In that moment nothing existed but pain, which began to turn to rage.” (Still a little blocky, but still pretty good.)

    That was more of a proper insight because it didn’t seem like a narrator was telling you what was going on, but rather just a inward description of what Crimson was feeling within his perspective. Now for an example of when you were telling what was happening instead of showing.

    “Crimson lost all feeling in his body.”

    Now it’s not necessarily terrible to tell what was going on, but it’s clear that this was a mere telling of what was happening. A better way to put this would be something like, “The feeling grew numb, eventually blacking out his nerves to complete nothingness. There was only one thing that ever existed at that point, and it was an absolute, utterly undeniable pain that struck hard like a piercing dagger thrusting its way through every corner of his heart.” (Sorry if this is a bad example, I’m trying my best here)

    It’s fine to reference his name and such, but try to dive into more of a personal feeling that’s descriptive enough to make the user think that he/she could feel what Crimson was feeling, rather than just know. “Crimson lost all feeling in his body.” simply does not accomplish that, thus proving why telling and showing accomplish two completely separate things. Again, telling isn’t necessarily bad, but conveying the right emotion to the reader is vital to making a scene that’s incredibly powerful and delivers the message properly. Don’t take this as bad, because the ending was still done very, very well. I just wanted to help as much as I can to make your story the best possible because after all, the more quality the better! What use would it be if everyone just said “Good job! Well done!”

    Now that’s probably gonna be it for my really, really lengthy review. I’m sure it matches well with the really, really lengthy chapter xD. Seeing as comments always inspires the writer do more (I never get any of course, because I’m sure my writing is terrible at this point), I hope this will give at least a smidgen of inspiration to continue this amazing book. Thank you for taking the time to read this comment. 🙂

     
  2. Sam360 says:

    Fantastically done bby Crim. I really enjoyed how you portrayed me and my sons near the end there l3l. The thing with your story that I find quite smexy is how it just drags you into it. I’m not like feking Supr/Ryal up there who writes an essay review, so I’ll keep it simple. I found not only the skill/strength development to be done at a fine pace but there was loads of character development packed into this as well which was also strewn along. Particularly when there were deaths was when I noticed many noticeable changes to how the characters behaved. Unlike many of the shit fanfics and stories other people put out, the development here felt fairly realistic. I could go on, but you know I don’t got time for that so jj. Keep it up~

     
  3. GoldFreeza says:

    I wanted Crimson to just go purely rage mode and for a few seconds he is beating the shit out of darwin

     
  4. Plagearon says:

    WOW! That was one of the longest and best chapters I’ve ever read! But it was so damn sad… It was great crimson, this whole chapter! You are an amazing writer, and honestly I became quite attached to the characters in your fanfic, making it all the better! I loved this chapter overall, and even though it took some time to read it, I loved it! You are doing an amazing job crimson, can’t wait for the next amazing chapter!

     
  5. dbzfan says:

    First comment of 2016. Just wanted to say thank you crimson for this amazing fan book. It’s actually inspired me to make mine, so thank you for that too

     

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