No one knows what happened to the Old World.
The Cardinals say the Ancients grew too arrogant, and God punished them with a great plague. Others say they flew away in great ships, up into the stars. The only thing that is certain is that they're gone, and we, the people of Barerou, remain.
[center Barerou is built on the ruins of steel towers, bridges and buildings. For centuries, the surviving population has added their own structures to the city with scrap metal, wood, fabrics, or whatever material people could lay their hands on.
Food is scarce, water is seldom clean and everyone knows better than to go outside after dark without arming themselves.
There is a river, the Ouroboros, that slithers through the city centre and creates a mote. Inside the river lives those who have never tasted hunger. It is heavily fortified, not only with high walls but also with robotic soldiers who guard the entrances night and day.
These robots are controlled by the Cardinals, the city rulers. They are not only used as guards but also as distributers of information to the outer city and enforcers of the Cardinal Law.
[i "In Barerou, life is simple.
You work, you eat, you stay alive.
A Diver's life centres around two things; the next dive and the next payment. Both are necessities, neither are certainties.
A Diver's job is to find salvageable tech to sell to the scrappers within the Ourosboros. Trading with tech outside of the river is forbidden and punishable by dismemberment under Cardinal Law.
Divers are a rare breed, since it is dangerous work. Most people don't dare to go outside Barerou's perimeter to begin with, even fewer live long enough to make a profit.
The city's outer perimeter is made up of four blocks; east, west, north and south. Each of these sectors belong to one gang of divers. There are no clear dividing lines between the blocks and there are always disputes about where the borders are, so most sensible people avoid them.
1. Keep to your sector.
2. Finders keepers. You grab it, it's yours.
3. Don't steal from other Divers.
4. If someone needs help, you help them. Always.
22 year old male.
Kain is a quiet and pragmatic guy and seems to be in a permanent state of lost in thought. He keeps to himself, does his job well, and goes to bed early in the evenings. Many dismiss him as a bit slow in the head. Others find him creepy and compares him to the heartless robots guarding the river. In reality, Kain just doesn't like people very much and avoids interacting with them as much as he can.
Kain is secretly fascinated with old tech and usually tinkers with his finds before heading back into Barerou.
Since Kain was a kid he's always had nightmares. He doesn't remember when they started, he sees them as normal now.
Kain guards himself against wanting things, he has seen plenty of people ruining perfectly good lives by pursuing lofty dreams they never reached.
Secretly though, he desperately want to find a place, a situation, or a person that allows him to look forward to waking up in the morning.
Kain can't read.
He is deeply afraid of caring about things, especially people. He has thoroughly convinced himself it is not worth it.
Kain is quite the fighter for his size and has earned a bit of a reputation as someone you don't want to mess with, especially after one fight were he bit off his opponent's finger.
Twenty-three years old. Female.
Natural charisma and an excellent conversation partner. Unless you require lying. Lottie does not do well under extremely stressful situations. She is very honest and openly speaks her opinion on things that she is informed of. Light-hearted, she tends not to fret over the small things and focuses on the big picture. When she isn't pushed into something, she can be somewhat lazy.
Draws all of the old tech remains that she comes across. Has a sketch book attached to her hip 24/7, because one never knows what one will stumble upon.
Bad habit of getting ink spots all over her face.
To find her sister. Once the duo used to explore and plunder together until her Clair went on a run alone and never came back. Lottie holds little hope of finding her alive but wants to find one clue of what happened.
[b Theme song:] [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USfoTGFGARE Black Sheep - Metric]
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Kain felt unease ripple through his bones as he took half a step into the narrow passage of the vault. No, he hadn't been to one of these things before, though he felt reluctant to admit it. By the way Lottie was talking about them, he felt as if he should have encountered them. Kain had always prided himself in his thorough search of the ruined city, how could he have missed whole untouched sections, just waiting to be opened by the flick of some levers?
Maybe because he just never imagined that such expansive sections could be sealed off, untouched. He had usually focused more on the micro level, almost always searching in sections where other divers had already been.
If huge vaults like this could stay unopened for this long, maybe he had overestimated his fellow divers and been wrong to assume that looking for new treasure this close to Barerou would be a waste of time.
The acid was ominous as Kain couldn't think of any obvious function for it. The fact that it appeared to be in motion was also troubling. Something still gave this place power. Had it been on all this time, or had it activated when they opened the door? Probably the latter, since they had seen the lights switch on.
Lottie, who also had seemed to contemplate the presence of the acid, now stood up and faced him with a bright smile. She seemed to do that a lot. Smiling, that is. She also stood quite close and in this light Kain could see the beginnings of a floral tattoo coiling along her neck and down her collarbone. He realized that it probably wasn't polite to stare at a woman's neck and instead looked down at her outstretched hand.
"Um," he began, smooth as ever. "I'm Kain." He took the offered hand and shook it. She then promptly turned and without pause walked into the corridor.
Kain utterly failed at not ogling Lottie's generously proportioned backside, but felt less bad about it since he suspected he was somehow meant to look. Except the light nodes and the disturbingly blue acid lining it, the corridor was quite bare. Kain let his fingers trace the smooth wall as they walked. He looked down and noticed that the floor wasn't as pristine as first imagined. There wasn't any dirt, but there were scuff marks lining the floor in two fairly distinct lines, one to the left and one to the right.
This corridor had once experienced heavy traffic, but by what or how long ago was impossible to tell. Lost in thought, Kain almost missed Lottie's question to him.
"I usually do day to day," he answered. He was just about to ask why Lottie was looking for her sister this close to home if they usually worked long-hauls, but stopped himself as he heard, and felt, a trigger plate being pressed down by his foot.
[i Fuck!] was all Kain's brain had time to think before he was tackled to the ground by his surprisingly solid companion who then ended up on top of him.
[i Fuck?] said his brain, unhelpfully. Lottie's hairdo had partly come undone and a strand of dark hair tickled his cheek before she moved away. She had knocked the air out of him but he felt otherwise unharmed. He managed to wheeze out an affirmative to the question of his well-being. "Just need," he tried. "To get my air back." He tried once again to breathe with his protesting lungs.
After a moment Kain managed to take in a breath, and then another. He stood up slowly, eyeing the retreating piece of wall that had almost crushed them. Why were there traps here in the first place?
[i "We are going to have to go forward a little more lightfooted from here. At least until the first chamber - maybe there won't be as many traps there."]
"Yeah, sounds good," he said. "Thank you for, um, that." he said and gestured vaguely towards the trigger plate. His words sounded lame even to his own ears.
"It was kind of you," which somehow sounded worse. Kain decided to give it up and looked away from Lottie and down the hallway. It kept going straight until a bend that seemed to veer right. He didn't see any trigger plates on the ground but he didn't feel confident in his ability to discern them, or any other traps, from the smooth surfaces that made up the corridor.
"How do you know there'll be a chamber ahead?" Kain asked as he slowly started walking again, his eyes scanning the floor and nearby walls.
/ 9y 306d 15h 57s AGO I AN BIRTHDAY HAD / cleolamora
/ 2y 163d 8h 35m 49s
[center [pic http://i.imgur.com/1E2SGcE.png]]
[i ‘You’re the one with the sister.’] Well, at least people were paying attention to her. A blessing and a curse wrapped in one. A small snake of guilt coiled in the pit of her stomach as she still couldn’t place the owner of the voice. It wasn’t that she was shy, but there were so many faces and voices that most of them just kind of blurred together whenever she was in town. Smiles were easy, people normally didn’t question smiles. Good thing, she had turned into a lunatic tracking down her sister's last known whereabouts - no one liked missing person crazy for very long. Lottie had been so lost in her own thoughts that she had almost missed his question.
“Yep, anything you want it’s yours, guy.” Smooth. Lottie did not miss this shadowy stranger reaching down to pick something that shimmered up off the ground. Those large brown hues narrowed ever so slightly before tearing back to the door in front of her. If it was like the other vaults that she had dove into with Rita, alone she knew it would be a challenge to go all the way through.
“Ah ah ah!” She turned her gaze back towards the man with no name, clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “You do not get two names for none.” Lottie commented with a playful smile as she sauntered over to the lever near her. The small shock that travelled up her arm as she grabbed onto the level released butterflies in her stomach and goosebumps on her skin.
“On three.” She agreed, pleased that this stranger had early taken control of the helm once the offer of whatever treasures were inside was his. Honestly, Lottie doubted that he would be able to know his ass from his elbow when it came to what was really valuable, but she wasn’t about to correct him. Lottie was already making plans within plans to come back later when she was truly alone to pick up a valuable or two for the road. Just because she spent a vast majority of her time looking for Rita, she wasn’t about to start looking like a beggar on the street. There was still some vanity left in her bones.
“In other vaults? Yes. In this one? No.” She answered light-heartedly. “Have you ever been in one?” Those chocolate brown eyes returned to the man that had now walked to her side to the open dimly light hall. “It looks like someone has been in there before us…” None of the other vaults that she had dove into had working lights. Not in the beginning, at least. A few had some lights here and there, mostly dull and stopped working once they ripped the core out. Lottie let out a slow whistle while taking small steps towards the entrance.
Running along each side looked like three-inch rows of bright aqua blue water. Wrinkling her nose, the dark haired vixen took one of her precious pebbles out of the leather pouch and tossed it in. It landed with a hiss and the vicious pebble ceased to exist almost as soon as it touched the surface of the shimmering liquid.
“Acid?” She question aloud, walking up and squatting next to it. It seemed to be coming from where the door had opened, but there was falling liquid and it seemed to be flowing down the hall rather than sitting still. “But how? It isn’t coming from anything...there is no-” Lottie stopped herself. If she was allowed to, she’d be there all night with ‘what if’s’ and ‘what about this’ questions and she doubted that her newly gained companion wanted to stick around for that. “We are just going to avoid that for now.” Unless one of them wanted to lose a toe or part of a face if things between them went south.
“So”, she stood up, wiping her hands on her pants - not that it made much of a difference. “Lottie.” She reintroduced herself now that she could finally see who she had been talking too. “This is the part of the introduction where you go now.” She teased slightly since he hadn’t been very forthcoming with the information. After a brief and slightly forced handshake, Lottie turned her back to the stranger once more, “shall we?” she asked over her shoulder before starting into the large hall. She was fine leading the way - her backside was her best side and in the back of her mind, she hoped it would distract him enough not to just grab everything in sight once they got to a chamber.
The sound of their footsteps was the only thing that radiated the hall -which went on longer than she cared for. After five minutes of silence, Lottie's mind began to wonder. “Are you a local diver? A day to day diver? Or just passing by to bigger and better things?” She asked casually, slowing her steps to make his, letting them walk side by side rather than her lead the way. “I normally go on month-long dives elsewhere. First time diving this close to home.” The small truth wasn’t really a secret. Anyone that had business with the sisters or drank with them knew they never dove in ruins closeby - their theory was that everything that was worth getting was already got by now. “It feels odd being so close to the city.” She admitted while absent-mindedly walking a bit faster. Rita always walked quickly in vaults, leaving Lottie scrambling to keep up with her.
Lottie opened her mouth to ask another round of questions when a loud clicking noise came from underneath her companions foot. A shiver of fear ran down her spine as she froze in place, turning slightly towards Kain. “Shit.” [u THAT] sound was familiar. With a quick glance to ground gave truth the sound. A square fifteen inches by fifteen inches - Lottie knew the exact size since her feet were normally the ones to set off every trap - was pushed in underneath his left foot. Those eyes travelled from his foot to the walls as a clink from above their heads set her heart pounding.
“Time to move” and no time to explain as she tackled him back as a large section of the ceiling came crashing down, narrowly missing them as it smashed into the floor where they had been previously standing. Landing on top of Kain was more painful than it should have been. Both of her hands had splayed out on each side of him as they both tumbled back and down, slapping the ground just above his shoulders. “Well, that was unfortunate.” Lottie had to hold back a nervous chuckle. Something was jabbing her in the abdomen, but she made no move to get off. Sad to say, this was probably the most human interaction she had since Rita’s disappearance.
“Are you alright?” She asked, pushing herself off with her right hand, rolling off to the left of him while keeping a watchful eye for the burning liquid on the side of the hall. “Well, that could have gotten slightly better.” She noted, crossing her legs and giving her right hand a massage to get the stinging pain to disappear while watching the ceiling trap that had almost crushed them being pulled back into its rightful positions by four large chains. "We are going to have to go forward a little more lightfooted from here. At least until the first chamber - maybe there won't be [i as] many traps there."
Kain didn't like meeting other divers outside the walls. Humans were dangerous creatures, especially in an environment where they felt they could get away with anything. And in the wilderness outside of the city , well, the saying 'no one will hear you scream' came to mind.
The girl didn't seem to be very dangerous though. Her face mirrored his own feelings of caution and wariness of strangers.
[i “You still haven’t told me your favourite toe!”] she had replied. Was that some sort of code Kain didn't know about? Or was she just joking, trying to diffuse a, literally, loaded situation?
"The big one, obviously. I mean, the other ones are kinda useless," he said with a weak smile. "I guess the little toe has its moments, but it's usually just in the way. Hurts like a bitch when you hit it with something, so yeah. Ehm. Big toe."
He figured it should be safe to stand up so he did, slowly, careful not to even glance at the dropped knife at his feet. He wanted to grab some cloth to wipe away the blood from his forehead, but reaching into his bag at a time like this might not be the brightest thing. He made due with the sleeve of his jacket. It wasn't a deep wound, he could already feel the blood starting to crust, it would stop bleeding soon.
[i “Do you happen to see that large..ugh..stick about three feet away from you? Sticking out of the ground?”]
Kain looked and saw the stick she referred to. Made of metal and with an identical one just beside the girl. Levers. Kain looked up at the huge door looming over them. If Kain hadn't seen the girl examining it so closely, Kain probably wouldn't have noticed it himself. Now that he saw it, though, it seemed obvious what the levers did, namely working as opening mechanisms. And the girl, being alone, couldn't operate them both at the same time.
[i “Sorry,"] she said. Maybe she thought that Kain's lack of a verbal reply meant a refusal. [i "My name is Lottie Tremaine - I don’t know if we’ve actually met since it is quite dark and voices are like shadows to me.”]
"I have seen you around. You're the one with the sister," he said. He considered giving his own name, but decided against it, for now. Maybe it would have been helpful, extending the proverbial friendly hand as it were. But he hesitated, not sure of why. She continued talking, outlining her plan of opening the door with his help and offering him the loot inside.
"So, in exchange for my help getting you in and out of these doors, I get dibs on any salvage in there?"
It was a crappy trade for her, really. Dipped largely in his favor because of the girl's sentimentality to her sister. She should at least have started with fifty-fifty or something. But hey, he wasn't about to complain.
"Sounds fair," he said.
Of course, she could be tricking him. Maybe she knew there was nothing of value inside. It wasn't a huge problem, he decided. Worst case, he wasted a few hours looking for this girl's sister. Best case, he gained some favor with a fairly attractive diver by saving her sister and walked away with some nice loot to boot. There was clearly more to gain than lose in this scenario. He picked up his knife from the ground and sheathed it in his belt.
"Your sister, what was her name?" he asked as he walked the few steps back to the lever. His hand reached for the it and Kain almost flinched back as he felt a soft tingle from where his fingers touched the metal. It wasn't an electrical shock, he was well versed in those suckers. It was like the quiet hum he could sometimes feel from certain devices when they were connected to a flashbox. A lowkey vibration that made the hairs on his arm stand on end.
"We do this on three, alright?" he said, grasping the lever more tightly and looking back at Lottie to see that she was in position.
"One, two three-"
Kain pulled the lever.
There was a low rumble, starting just underneath their feet. It moved, as if alive, away from them and towards the door. When it seemed to reach it, the door itself started rumbling. It moved like any ancient thing moves, slowly, with dust and debris falling from their previously undisturbed resting places. The doors opened and at first only blackness could be seen within it.
A faint clicking sound, and suddenly a narrow corridor was visible, illuminated with pale electrical lights at both sides. Kain's brow furrowed and he took a step back. He had never seen technology this intact before, least of all still functional. How could this still be working? He took a few steps closer and noticed that the corridor was [i spotless]. Not a single visible speck of dust disturbed the polished steel that lined both the floor, walls and ceiling of the corridor. Even the air felt different, when he got a whiff of it. Clean.
"Have you been inside here before?" he asked, suspicious. Maybe Lottie was like him, a secret tinkerer. Maybe she had fixed the lights.
/ 9y 306d 15h 57s AGO I AN BIRTHDAY HAD / cleolamora
/ 2y 245d 8h 42m 21s
[center [pic http://i.imgur.com/1E2SGcE.png]]
“Oh, bells!” Lottie silently mouthed, eyes widened at the yelp that replied to her single pebble shot. In all her life, Lottie had only managed to hit three things. The first had been a large boars behind, which had landed her in more hot water than she had started in. The second was a bird that she still swore up and down that she had hit mid-air, much the various naysayers at her favoured drinking spot. The last being this poor soul. The dark-haired vixen could help but feel giddy since she had taken an actual shot in the dark at him. Clearing her throat, Lottie carefully picked apart the words that were carelessly thrown at her. The heavy voice lead her to believe that she was talking to a man - through the first yelp had thrown her for a second loop, so she was only half certain on it.
“You still haven’t told me your favourite toe!” Lottie counter to the ‘no hard feelings’ question. If this man was a local diver, there were bound to be some hard feelings once she got out of her. Well, [i if] she got out of here, at this rate it didn’t feel like it. Dirty slim fingers held fast to their weapon, which she was hoping to not actually have to use in a fight. The little cloth pouch that hung on her right hip only held three, maybe four pebbles. Four if she had miscounted - but Lottie never miscounted. Thinking fast, she reached out with the only plan that she could see working in both their favour.
“Do you happen to see that large..ugh..stick about three feet away from you? Sticking out of the ground?” Lottie motioned with the slingshot in the direction of the lever. There was no real way of telling if the old thing would actually work. Half of the time, they snapped off and left one wondering just how one was going to get into the vault. This one was about the width of her leg and if she were to stand next to it, it would stop just under her hip. Personally, she had only come across four of these herself, but those days seemed like centuries ago now. “If you could pull that back towards the direction you came, then we would be square!” [i ‘Because almost making someone blind in one eye and asking them for a favour is ‘square’.] Lottie sighed, backstepping a few paces to stand beside her own lever, never turning her back to her blurry stranger.
Lottie cleared her throat again, talking with a much calmer voice. People were normally easier to deal with when you were slinging pebbles and ordering them around. “Sorry.” She started, her that rested on the top of the lever fidgeting. “My name is Lottie Tremaine - I don’t know if we’ve actually met since it is quite dark and voices are like shadows to me.” [i ‘They both look and sound the same.’] Vaguely, Lottie wondered if she was tone deaf as she continued on.
“If I am right - I am highly certain I am - If we both pull these levers it will open this door.” The slingshot was used to point towards the very plain crumbling looking wall. “You can take whatever you want if..when it opens. I’m not here for that. I’m just looking for my sister.” If the stranger thought about killing her now, they would probably be double thinking it; since two was the magic number needed to open this door and no telling if there was another one inside.
As Kain ventured northwest, down into the hulking mass left by a collapsed highrise, he kept one eye on his feet and one on his surroundings. There weren’t many critters large enough to be a threat to him while he was still this close to the surface, but it would be such a stupid way to die, to get chomped down by some adventurous overgrown rodent just because he figured he was safe. Not that anyone would know of his fate if something like that happened, it wasn’t as if there was anyone at home who would raise a stink if he failed to return.
Maybe Vega would take some slight notice if Kain didn’t show up at his usual time in the mornings. Maybe she would wonder about the absence of the scrawny boy who always pestered her so early in the day. She might even ask about him to some of the other Divers who would come her way. Maybe she would.
Probably not, though. Which was fine, really. Kain would be dead, either way. Wasn’t it better to not leave anyone behind? That way, the sorrow ended with him. No loose ends. It’s not that he was suicidal or anything. On the contrary, Kain had fought tooth and nail to keep himself alive numerous times. Against hunger, cold, animals, sickness and occasionally even against other humans. He had never given up on his life, never given in, even if he couldn’t quite understand why. Every animal had a survival instinct, he supposed. An image flashed in Kain’s mind; his sister’s weak fingers clutching a piece of food. Hazy brown eyes looking up at him, too weary to express anything other than exhaustion.
Kain clenched his jaw and kept walking downwards, careful not to let his clothes catch on the rebars protruding from the broken walls like a split open ribcage. There were downsides to not going on long treks like most of his colleagues did. The foremost being that it was much more difficult to find good scrap. The closer you got to the borders of Barerou, the leaner pickings there were. So Kain had to rely on the fact that he could find things other Divers couldn’t.
Some Divers never bothered with truly understanding just what it was they were searching for. They just kept a lookout for simple things, anything with chords, a screen or even just anything made of metal. The brighter ones knew how to roughly classify different pieces of tech by value. Anything with circuitry inside it was guaranteed to fetch a good price if it wasn’t too damaged, for example.
But even so, almost none of them had ever seen working technology, excepting the Cardinals robotic underlings. They had never seen the white sterile light emitted by a functioning glass bulb, never heard the steady hum as an old piece of technology came to life under their fingers.
Which wasn’t especially odd since these things were strictly forbidden. Tinkering with old tech was a privilege gifted only to the engineers within the Ourosboros, all of them handpicked by the Cardinals themselves. Kain had once asked Vega about this and she had explained to him, as if talking to a dimwitted child, that it was only the engineers who could blow life back into the old world’s technology. Only they had the power to bring dead things to life, a power gifted to them by the Cardinals. That’s how they could create the autonomous robots that prowled the streets of Barerou from the dead pieces of metal the divers brought with them.
But Kain knew that was a lie. He knew, for he could also “bring dead things to life”. It wasn’t even that hard, once you understood how. All you needed was a power source. Kain called them flashboxes, named after the first one he had found. It had been a big plastic box with a symbol on it that looked like a lightning bolt. There were other flashboxes that didn’t have lightning bolts on them, like the small ones shaped like cylinders. But one thing they all had in common was that they all had two nodes, with the ‘+’ symbol on one side, and the ‘-‘ symbol on the other. If you connected these nodes with metal to a functioning piece of technology, you could “blow life into it”.
It was a practical way of testing scraps to see if they were worth hauling back to Barerou. Usually the scrappers tested the tech they received with a sort of device that, Kain suspected, checked if whatever power was in the flashboxes could flow through the device. If the tech tested positive, the price went up.
That was how Kain could get away with not going on long treks. He might find fewer things on his shorter runs, but the things he found he usually sold to a higher price since he could make sure they were working before handing them in.
It was always a bit of a risk, if a scrapper suspected him of tinkering, his life would be forfeit. Yet, he couldn’t help it. He was good at it. He was good at figuring out how to fix these things, how to make them come alive again. It felt worth doing, in a way few things did in his life.
Carefully scrambling down into the depths of a ruin he hadn’t visited before, Kain’s senses were suddenly put on high alert when he heard a sound that most definitely was not the wind, nor falling debris. He immediately hunkered down and moved forward more silently than before, careful not to dislodge any debris that could expose his position. He could hear something shuffling about in the chamber in front of him, but resisted the urge to peek inside. Instead he snuck up behind a concrete pillar, he waited silently for any sounds to give some clue to what it was in there while at the same time slowly unsheathing one of his hunting knives.
Worst case scenario, it was some old rabid robot from the ancient world, set to destroy anything that came close to it. They were more of an urban legend among divers than a real threat to worry about, but Kain was ever the pessimist and it would be just his luck to stumble into one of the fabled killed robots, if they existed. More likely though, it was one of the larger beasts that roamed the ruins.
[I “Lever, lever, who has a lever?”]
Not a beast, a human. A woman, if Kain was any judge of voices. He relaxed a tiny bit and dared to peak out from his hiding spot behind the pillar. He saw the woman stand in front of what seemed to be a pair of gargantuan doors. Long dark hair in a knot and a dirty tank top were all the distinguishing features he could discern from his vantage point, sitting on his haunches and leaning on the pillar. He leaned out closer to get a better look but that proved to be a mistake.
The woman must have seen him in the corner of her eye and she reacted quickly.
“Who is there?” the woman called out. “If you are human, yell out your favorite toe!”
Kain opened his mouth in confusion and before he was given any time to consider this odd question, a small rock hit him squarely between his eyes. A sharp cry escaped his lips and his hands immediately went up to his face, making him lose his balance and tumble out into the light of the chamber.
“Sonovva-, hey, stop, don’t shoot!” he said with one knife-wielding hand raised and the other still stuck to his forehead. As an afterthought, he dropped the knife on the ground.
“I’m sorry I snuck up on you, I thought you were an animal,” he said placatingly. He removed his hand from his forehead, his fingers came away bloody. Kain groaned inwardly, annoyed at this girl’s trigger-happy ways, but made sure his consternation didn’t show on his face. Better to be diplomatic about this lest he risk another pebble to his face. And with this distance, she could probably do some real bit of damage.
“No hard feelings, yeah?”
/ 9y 306d 15h 57s AGO I AN BIRTHDAY HAD / cleolamora
/ 2y 274d 8h 3m 18s
[center [pic http://i.imgur.com/1E2SGcE.png]]
[i On a cold dark night many years ago, two fragments souls clasped hands and stared up at the stars. They laid on their beds, made up of little scraps of boxes and pieces of fabric. No words were spoken, just tightened fingers, whimpers, and stomach growls from hunger were their way of communicating. A thick blanket of smoke normally covered the sky, but tonight like most nights, if you concentrated, one was able to find a star. It was low and dim, but it was there. Trying its best to shine through the muck of smoke and gods know what else. The tiniest broken soul was the first to break their silence on this bleak night.
“Riri, I don’t want to sleep on the ground anymore.”
“I know, Lo... I know.” The older child tightened her fingers, giving her sister's hand a small squeeze. “At least it isn’t raining, right?”
“I guess so….. Do stars sleep on the ground?” The younger girl was no longer looking towards the sky, instead, she had shifted her gaze towards her sister. Large brown eyes that looked ghoulish from lack of sleep and food in the faint glow of the light overhead.
The older sister took a moment to think before answering. “They sleep on clouds.”
“Oh.” The little girl turned her eyes towards the sky one more. “I bet those feel nice.”
“We’ll sleep on clouds too...One day.”
“Can people sleep on clouds?”
“Fake clouds, maybe.” The older sister mused, the corners of her lips twitched upwards. Threatening to smile.
“I don’t think we are meant for star beds.” The young pouted.
“Not right now. But once we change our own stars we will be.”
The silence that had once blanketed the duo returned. It had been quite a long while that the older sister was sure that her younger had fallen asleep.“Do you really think so?”
“We are going to change our stars, Lo.” A fire burned in the older sister's eyes. “I promise you that. Just wait.” The smaller girl smiled at her sister’s tone. However, suddenly the sky turned crimson and the small specks of stars they were looking at were far brighter and closer.
“R-Rita?” Panic began to seep into the young girl's tone, those wide brown eyes turning to her sister only to find her no longer there. Only a large puddle of blood where she once resided. “RITA?!” The younger sister shouted out, her little hand still grasping onto something. Only instead of being the calloused hand of her older sister, it felt gooey and warm. Looking down slowly, the little girl let out a scream when her eyes feasted upon the beating heart in her little hand.
“I promise Lottie.” Rita's voice echoed from the sky. "We will change our stars."
Lottie rocketed out of sleep with a gasp, the start of a fresh scream that was barely swallowed down when her eyes recognized her tents ugly puke green plastic and the small rays of sunlight that slipped through the tiny holes in it. A dream. It had been years since she'd fought off such nightmares and still, her heart thundered against her breastbone as if it would escape. One breath, two, a deeper third and the four turned into a long sigh and her body's shaking subside. Lottie tiredly rubbed her hands over her face roughly.
When the weight on her chest felt off, lighter, her brow pinched in confusion.
Trembling fingers reached to the chain looped around her neck, a forged lion's head with roaring maw open wide and long canines brandished like a promise. The two sisters had found it on a dive a few years ago. Rita had written it off as junk, nothing to get excited over or worth selling. Lottie had fallen in love with it the moment they found it. It wasn’t a necklace when they first came across it. It had been on a door. At least that is what the sisters decided it had been since hanging it on a wall would have looked odd. Now it hung on her neck, a reminder of a sweeter time and of someone that was no longer by her side.
With a sigh, the dark haired female began her morning, repacking what she called a tent and the scattered odds and ends that she had fallen asleep on. Making sure everything was tightly secured before she began marching her way deeper into the ruins. There was some light leaking through the roof of the old thaig. Even so, Lottie was sure she had slept far too long. She lifted a hand to rake back the sweat-dampened hair clinging in uncomfortable ropes to her forehead and neck. Her attire was not in better shape. The almost white tank top that she favorited wasn’t even close to the color white. Now it boldly almost proudly was a murky brown with specks of what Lottie was sure was some poor creatures blood. Her sorry excuse for blue jeans were in almost the same state, just more holes.
“If I say down here any longer someone is going to come looking for my remains in a few hundred years.” Lottie mused to herself darkly, scooping up a pebble on the ground and putting it in her front pocket. She had long run out of ammo and had to fall back on her slingshot for protection. It worked well on creatures, however, she had yet to have to try it out on another human. Lottie prayed that it never came down to that. The last thing she wanted to be was a reason someone didn’t come back home to their family. The people that dove here normally had someone to go back to or at least someone that would miss their presence once and awhile.
Lottie never came here herself. Since she and Rita had started they always did long haul, just the two of them. It was easier when you had someone, Lottie had found out when she had dove into these ruins without a second thought the moment another diver had brought back Rita’s sketchbook. She was sure she had started to foam at the mouth when her brown eyes locked onto its worn black leather cover. The first couple pages she knew by heart, even doodled her name - very poorly - across the bottom on a few. However, the new pages looked like that of a mad woman and had dates on them. Lottie had a sliver of doubt that they might not be her sisters, but once the diver told of his place of discovery, she knew. That was her sister. These old ruins had been the last place she knew her sister to be alive. Since they were so close, Rita had boasted that she didn’t need Lottie with her. Would only be a couple of hours and she would be right back.
“Liar, liar,” Lottie said gruffly, coming to a complete stop in front of a pair of large metal doors. Not large. Not humanly possible to open large doors. Though one wouldn’t know what they were if they weren’t looking for them. They were carved with the same patterns as the walls around her, almost the same rustic brown as well but with a small glimmer of silver underneath. “Lever, lever, who has a lever?” She looked around, her eyes peering into the shaded darkness around her. “Two levers.” Of course, it had two levers. The dark-haired woman groaned, rubbing the back of her neck as her mind began to spin with just how she was going to pull them both at the same time. Given that they still [i worked] properly.
“Who is there?” Lottie called out to a shadow, placing her back against the door while dropping her bags on the ground carefully. “If you are human, yell out your favorite toe!” Lottie paused for a second. “I am armed!” It wasn’t a total lie. Swiftly, Lottie got out her slingshot, loading it up with the pebble she had found earlier and pulled as far back as she could. Having just found the door, she was not about to die in front of it. After a moment of silence and no reply, Lottie let go, shooting out her pebble of mass destruction in the direction of the shadow. Before hearing it land, she already had another ready to fire.
[center In Barerou, two things are known.
One. there will always be hunger.
Two. the hunger will always win.]
When Kain first heard these words, uttered urgently by his mother as she doled out dry pieces of bread to him and his siblings, he did not understand.
One year later, scrambling around on his hands and knees in their hovel of a home, looking for any small piece of scrap to put into his aching stomach, he understood the first bit.
Not soon after, as he looked into the eyes of his younger sister, he finally understood the second part as he pried the last piece of dried plantain from her thin, weak fingers and shoved it into his own mouth.
Fifteen years and three buried siblings later, Kain's life had improved marginally, depending on perspective. He lived alone now, in a new but equally rundown home with sheet metal and thick fabric lining the walls and roof.
The floor was tightly packed dirt with plastic mats laid over it. When it rained, the floor went soft and reeked of things Kain would rather not think about. He shared two of his walls with his neighbors, one of which had a nasty habit of smoking soma indoors. The smoke easily seeped through the permeable wall between their dwellings and sometimes Kain could feel himself going numb in his extremities just by second-hand exposure.
Despite all this, Kain liked his home, his own little kingdom. Here, he ruled. He decided how things looked, who and what could enter and if he ever felt the need, he could knock it all down without anyone having any say in it. Kain treasured his home because it was his, and his alone.
Few things were, after all. His home was his, his clothes and his tools were his. Most were even properly paid for. His time wasn't his, though. Nor his life, after a fashion. Those things belonged to the people within the Ourosboros. To the Scrappers, who demanded tech, to the Interdwellers, who demanded complacency, to the Cardinals, who demanded gratefulness.
Kain understood the necessity of all three, yet he had only ever cared for one of them. Even since Kain could walk, he'd always been an explorer. The fact that he hadn't died or been killed running down the wrong alley or jumping down the wrong hole in his childhood was nothing short of a minor miracle. Discovering new places or items had always filled Kain with a sense of achievement, and wonder. So when he found out you could make a living off of spelunking the dangerous ruined outskirts of Barerou, the choice seemed an obvious one. He applied for an Out-of-City License when he was fourteen years old, the licenser had barked a laugh and told Kain that he seemed a bit young to be suicidal.
The licenser hadn't been completely off, Kain almost died three times the first week, but then he got the hang of it. He made rules for himself, for staying alive.
1. Keep to your pre-set schedule, no exceptions.
2. Double up on provisions, no exceptions.
3. Do not skimp on maintaining your tools, no exceptions.
4. Do not make bets with the other Divers, no exceptions.
5. Never, ever, [i ever] get cocky. No exceptions. Ever.
It seemed like a good set of rules, and Kain followed them religiously. Sure, he got the reputation of being a bit of a deadhead since he never gambled or followed the other Divers when they raced each other to the outer rims. He also refused the offers of longtreks, favored by many Divers. They were treks beyond the outer rims, Divers could be gone for weeks before coming back, usually in greatly diminished numbers but with some very shiny baubles with them. Kain kept to his block, usually went out alone, and generally avoided risk whenever possible.
When Kain woke up that day, that fateful day, he had no idea all those things were about to radically change.
Like the day before, and most days before that, Kain woke up about an hour before dawn. He washed his face with collected rainwater, grabbed his bag of salvaged tech from the day before, and headed out into the stirring city of Barerou. Nothing about the early morning seemed amiss, a chilly wind made the air almost refreshing had it not been for the unfortunate stench from the newly wrecked meat vendor's stall on the corner. Poor guy probably hadn't paid his protection money on time.
Kain walked on at a leisurely pace towards one of the bridges leading into the city center. Crossing the bridge always came with a sweat-inducing adrenaline rush for any sensible person. Kain had heard stories about people trying to cross the bridge too early in the morning or too late at night, and the turrets opening fire on them because the guards operating them couldn't be arsed to get up to open the gates.
Kain was fairly sure the turrets weren't operated by people, that they simply functioned autonomously. Which was so much worse. But today, the turrets seemed to accept his presence and he survived the crossing yet again. After a polite chat with the guards and some spontaneous gift-giving, Kain finally made it into the city center. Or at least, the part of it he was allowed to visit, which was a small square beset with fencing and thick walls adorned with small hatches for shopkeepers to interact with the outer dwellers.
Here, the buildings Kain saw beyond the square were not hobbled together with anything available, but forged out of a smooth and white plastic. Kain had never been inside one of these buildings, but he liked to imagine that the surfaces were very slippery, and that the elites of his world were constantly tripping on their own floors.
Kain quickly walked up to his favored Scrapper, a heavyset woman who called herself Nova, and begun the obligatory round of haggling. It took maybe half an hour to sell off his salvage at a proper price. Afterwards, he thanked Nova and braved the bridge once more.
All this was standard, this was routine. Kain could do all this in his sleep. There were no signs of the calamities ahead. Kain bought breakfast, he catalogued his tools, his provisions and his planned route. Nothing was amiss.
So why then, on this day, did he feel slightly uneasy, trudging towards the North Gate of Barerou? He was flanked by three of his colleagues who also wanted an early start, which wasn't unusual. They joked amongst each other and made bets on who could squeeze the most credits out of the Scrappers that night, which also wasn't unusual.
And yet, Kain felt his stomach turn as he passed the opened gates to the wild wasteland beyond Barerou. In the back of his head, he had the nagging sensation that when he passed these gates again, his world would be different.
He dismissed the thought, blamed it on a dodgy breakfast.
Kain broke off from his colleagues, as he usually did, and headed into the wilderness.
/ 9y 306d 15h 57s AGO I AN BIRTHDAY HAD / cleolamora
/ 2y 299d 7h 13m 25s
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