Orphans of a Dead Nation Chapter 17: The Open Gates
“Move aside!” Serric flashed his badge. He did not keep it up for long, only a second before he brushed the guarding officer with an Undercity Badge on his shoulder aside. He acted as if he was in a hurry, discounting the officer’s movements. Serric had no authority in Undercity, but luckily the badges near this area were similar, allowing it to escape closer scrutiny.
Undercity was not far from the town upside, and so, when there was evidence that the little girl he was put in charge of could have come here when she went missing from the shelter, Serric immediately followed suite. He could not lose the girl. His task was quite simple, ‘take the girl to Volaris City’, the very first his new captain issued, and yet, he was going to fail? Serric had five more years until his retirement. He had no plans of getting fired beforehand.
And with all the changes in his department up top, there was a little suspicion in Serric’s heart. Left and right, everyone was getting replaced, fired, and their household left to ruin. He was not about to give them an escuse to do the same to him. Could they have taken the girl to make me look bad? To have given them reason to get rid of me? To fire a detective or an officer who’s been on the job for years, there would be in need of probable cause. Else, all employers would just fire people a year before their retirement, preventing them from having to pay employee benefits out of their pocket, and thereby, retaining a profit. Of course there would be turmoil if employers really did that for such a purpose. Who would work for a company that was known for firing people to evade providing them their just retirement security. But, then again, there were many.
The population of The Free Cities had a good percentage of desperate people. And these were people with skills.
Serric was not going to let that happen to him, and his search for the girl led him here. Even if this was a plan by the very people who put him on this assignment. He would find the girl, get her to Volaris. It’s just five years. I can last that long, or even ask for a transfer to a better facility. If they really want to get rid of me, they would sign off on it, and I would get better benefits. Of course that was a mere pipe dream. He had it pretty good for someone of his skills and position.
It was daytime in Undercity, but the lighting was like a day out in the open under a grey sky. Hundreds of meters above, they could see the grey stone of the underside of the bridge. There were birds flocking around, and a passing breeze coming from the ocean side. Yes, the ocean side.
Undercity was not closed off on all sides. The bridge had two layers. The top, which was mighty thick and wide, and could hold a large town, and the bottom, which was just as thick, with hundreds of meters gap between the two layers, wide enough to hold a small city.
There were no side walls. No one knows who built the bridge, and for what purpose, but everyone knows what it had been used for, for the past decade. A port.
As a port, and one closest to the mainland, smuggling ran rampant. This was the history of Undercity. Crime ran this place, and before it was what it was today, it was more like a lawless zone. That was until the one that changed all that came.
“Marius Xianty, Governor of Undercity,” Serric whispered. He was staring at the back of a large man. He had wide shoulders, and his skin was tanned. A bit dark for someone who practically lived in a place with barely any sun for a decade, but tanned nonetheless. He was tall, about a head taller than Serric, and there was a crystal dangling from his ears.
Yillis was by Serric’s side when he whispered. He could hear her suck in a cool breath as he said that. Serric just smiled wryly. “You’re first time seeing him?” And here I thought you must have met a lot governors, miss hidden nobility.
“Of course… I did not think he’d be so tall.”
“Many powerful people deeper in The Free Cities try and skew his image because of how much they fear him. A commoner born, upturning all obstacles, and rising to such prominence in these modern times… A businessman, a patriot from his laws and actions, and a now he’s built to look like some mighty commander? Such an image would hurt those parties more than his fame so far has already done. Have commoners supporting him in hoards…”
Yillis was silent, and that put a smile on Serric’s face, though for only a moment. He didn’t approach the man. He walked around, observing the several officers and technicians who were taking care of the crime scene ahead of them until Yillis finally spoke again, “you respect him.”
“Of course I bloody respect him. He’s powerful, and rich. All things he wasn’t born with. Any person who wasn’t born wit a silver spoon in their mouth would respect him. Especially those of The Free Cities, where one wrong move, and you’d end up dead in an alleyway. And yet this man has managed to reach the very pinacle!”
Serric then coughed. “I’m getting sidetracked.”
“What do you think happened?” Yillis looked to Serric and drawing the conversation back to the crime scene.
“Something that’s none of our business. We’re here for the girl,” he said, but he couldn’t help but look at the body. Isn’t it obvious what happened? It’s not the question you want to ask. It’s if this could have any relation to that girl. Could I have been wrong?
Laying strewn in the alleyway, was a large body. A crystal piercing dangled from the ear like it did the Governor of Undercity’s, and it’s skin was pale. Blue and purple veins popped out at the exposed skin of the body’s two upper limbs. The body was entirely devoid of blood.
Serric turned to go. He did not want to stay there any longer. How could he not recognize that piercing? That was the Governor’s man, and if that was the case, this was a high profile case. He needed to leave. And this was not the only crime scene they had passed today. The two of them had snuck on to two others along the way. One, which was far west, had two men whose heads were crushed to a pulp and a third who was rammed through a wall. The second, which was much closer, had three bodies that were cut up; one of which was killed on spot, two who were cut down, bleeding to death quickly from their wounds. It was likely a battle between three factions. In anycase, they had seen enough. More than enough.
“And where are you going, Serric?”
Serric stopped. The voice was like steel, but also felt calming. It was a voice that made his blood freeze, but he did not show fear on his face. He turned around slowly.
“Governor Xianty, funny running into you here.”
“Is it?” The Governor had not turned around. Serric could not see his face. The man seemed to be staring deeply at the body of his man. “How long have we known each other?”
The edge of Serric’s mouth twitched. “Seven years.”
“Seven years. Seven years is a long time. And in those seven years, have you ever been able to escape my sight?” And at that the Governor finally turned around. His eyes made Serric shiver. They were purple, with the pupil being rimmed with a light yellow glow. A rush of fear swarmed him. He felt as if the sky was turning black, and his mind was turning to mush. Beads of sweat came upon his forehead, and his legs became shaky.
Just as Serric felt as if he could not take anymore, the governor turned back around, and that feeling of crisis vanished, leaving his heart beating wildly.
“Do you know who this man was?.. The people out there called him the Dog of Undercity. They called him that because he believed in me. Because he followed my orders. He was a man of true honor and virtue. Now, look at him. He literally died a dog’s death in some nameless alley,” he spoke, the sound of his voice not losing it’s calm and cold pitch, “I know you are working on some case. I’m not going to ask what you know. I know you know nothing. But you will take my man with you, because if it’s you, I know you will find out what I need to know.” And at that, the man went silent.
She was about to say something when Serric put his hand in front of her, shutting her up.
He did not look for the man that was going with them, the man the governor had spoken about. He knew the man would approach them eventually when the time came, and so he turned around and proceeded to leave.
“How do you know know The Governor of Undercity?” Yillis asked. She seemed fine, and Serric knew why. She did not see what he saw. In fact, she, and the others around him, probably never even remembered seeing him turn around or remember him talking. The man was that powerful.
“It’s a long story.”
And as he bypassed the steel globes that issued cautionary lights for sectioning off the alleyway when something caught his eye. He turned, looking at the bloody palm that marked the entrance and traced the few drops that led deeper in.
That ‘dog’… he was led in.
Braen closed his eyes. He took in the bloody, iron air, and steeled himself. He sat on an old, wooden bench. The cell doors, half opened, creaked to his left. There were vines growing on them, reaching ever so deeper inside. The darkness of this place grew further in. It was was like a magnetic pull, drawing his consciousness deeper in. He couldn’t turn away. It was like bait to a starved creature.
Except, Braen did not move. Fear was more prevalent at the moment, and so, there was a deadlock. He could not go farther back, and he could not go further in, and for the first time in his life, Braen was glad that he knew what fear was.
Braen jolted. Large, thick wooden gates reverberated as something slammed into them from behind. He looked to his right. The only place that seemed to lead outside. But… Braen did not dare to go near there either.
“Aaah!” He heard a roar. The sounds quickly turned into a pitiful cry, and then there was silence.
The silence lasted for a moment, and then sounds of a crowd going wild could be heard.
Braen gulped. How did I end up here?
It was at that moment, when the sounds of something being dragged from near the door came and left, the large wooden doors gave a nasty creak, and a bright light spilled through the cracks as the gate-like doors opened inward.
Braen squinted, bringing his hand up to shield the light from his eyes.
And then he heard it.
A voice that was normal in every way, but seemed to resound in his ears, “It’s your turn.”