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Apoc Now – Chapter 34
“Tomorrow night, we escape.”
David looked at the Three-Eyed that spoke dubiously. The Three-Eyed’s name was Kieron Ironwrought, a longtime prisoner of the fourth Heliosphere.
The majority of Three-Eyed’s all held names that some how related to their profession. Kieron was the son of a long line of blacksmiths, all known for their skill and capabilities when it came to melding iron. The plane David was on was technologically on a much more base level then Earth. Electricity was a barely understood concept, medicine was nowhere near as well studied, and running water was a new invention.
In lieu of technological advancement, this plane had a very unique system of magic. It wasn’t the sort of magic that David expected, not one you read about in books or see in movies. Instead of casting specific spells, the gifted on this plane all had a special talent or skill that was unnaturally powerful.
The talent or skill, known as a Gift, was mostly random, but could be affected at birth by a parent’s profession and skill set. For instance, Kieron, the Three-Eyed David was talking to, had a Gift that enabled him to meld metal with his hands. His family had passed this Gift on for years, greatly aiding their craftsmanship.
Three-Eyed’s were the base species on this plane. Their population vastly outnumbered that of the three other races, the Wardens, Kvoth, and Bloiks. Countless millions and billions of Three-Eyeds existed, spread out across enormous tracts of land and sea. There used to be several varying continents and nations, all with different politics and policies.
David had learned from Kieron that only Three-Eyed’s received a Gift. Kvoth and Bloiks had their own natural physical abilities that offset their disadvantage. As for the Wardens, Kieron was unsure.
According to Kieron, the Wardens were an extremely secretive species. They had remained virtually unknown until around fifty years ago. David learned that there were no historical records of their species before then, which bothered him. He felt like something was off with the situation, but couldn’t quite place what.
The Wardens only revealed themselves when the System came into being on the Plane of Va. As every creature in this world was granted random amounts of points, the Wardens rapidly began taking over. Seemingly out of nowhere vast armies of Wardens formed, conquering large tracts of land. When the denizens of these lands objected, they were mercilessly slaughtered.
The Three-Eyeds had fought back, with the aid of the Kvoth and Bloiks. Physcially, they were not a match for the Wardens. Even the base level Wardens were extremely powerful, and the evolved Wardens even stronger. David learned from the Three-Eyed that Wardens could evolve a total of three times, each form stronger and more intelligent than the previous one. Evolved Wardens were rare, and the higher level ones even rarer.
Kieron himself had personally participated in the First of the Great Wars, fighting against the odd creatures. Enormous battles had taken place as one side fought against the other, resulting in the deaths of millions. Three-Eyed Supers fought against Warden Supers, all of them using the powers granted by the System.
The Warden armies were rather small compared to the Three-Eyed Armies. This was balanced by the fact that the lowest level Warden was easily equal to several Three-Eyeds in pure brute strength. The Wardens were also not limited to low level technology. Guns, lasers, energy shields, mechanically weaponry, tanks, bombers, fighter jets, hovertanks and more were all utilized by the Wardens. The Three-Eyed, Bloik, and Kvoth combined armies all had access to the same weaponry through the System, but were unable to use them with the vicious efficiency that the Wardens were capable of.
Thus, the war was almost entirely one sided. Though the Three-Eyeds had their natural Gifts, and the Kvoth and Bloiks had enormous brute strength, they were no match for their enemy’s strategy and skill. The Plane of Va had been a relatively peaceful land, and very few were skilled in the art of war. The only redeeming factor was the Supers on the Three-Eyeds side. A huge variety of Supers joined forces to aid in repelling the Warden armies. Beings of extreme strength and power joined forces in attempts to stop the conquering armies. Three figures headed this army of Supers, calling themselves the Redeemer Generals. These figures were worshiped as gods among men, beings whose powers were so mighty nothing could stand in their way.
The Wardens, however, had a large army of Supers of their own. The two armies clashed and fought for nearly a year, destroying thousands of miles of land. Great swathes of desolation painted areas in the Plane of Va, remnants of the chaotic war.
In the end, the Warden Supers seemed to have much more experience in both their powers and in warfare, leading to the eventual routing of the Combined Supers Army. In particular, the leading council of Wardens was composed of seven Supers of godly strength that greatly impacted the war. It was said that their efforts alone could have won the entire war.
The Supers in the fallen army were enslaved to work in the various Toil Mines scattered around the Plane of Va, mining the Pon rock that could be refined for points. The Redeemer Generals that had carried the hopes and dreams of their respective races were never heard from again. A dark age had descended on the Plane of Va.
The Wardens had emerged victorious, and set themselves as the rulers of the Plane. While their rule was not overly harsh, it was not overly gentle either. Thus, a period of peace had settled on the war strewn plane, a period that was destined to end.
For the leadership of the Wardens consisted of a volatile and powerful group. There were many separate factions and each faction often disagreed with the others. It is unknown what caused the argument, but a fight broke out among the Warden leadership, causing one of the elite leading Wardens to split away from the rest of the group. This Warden’s army and followers quickly left with him. When the first Warden ruler left, the rest quickly followed suit, splitting the Plane into seven large Warden ruled states. The first Warden soon set himself up as an Overlord.
Disagreements formed between each state as the Wardens consolidated their rule. Soon, the Overlords began encroaching upon one another’s territory, and the Second Great Wars broke out as the seven states battled against each other, vying for rule of the great Plane of Va. This battle was currently ongoing, with powerful armies protecting each States border. The work David and his fellow prisoners did in the mine helped fuel the war efforts for the 5th Overlord.
Kieron was well respected in the Heliosphere, with many of the other prisoners giving him face. David had first ran into the Three-Eyed down in the mine. He remembered the moment clearly.
It had been David’s second day as a prisoner. He still wasn’t used to the shock of being a prisoner and was still adapting. He had just been forced to give up his Unbound Life Orbs, spawning them in and seeing them get taken away immediately. He was at least allowed to keep his own Life Orbs. David had been tempted to attempt an escape then, feeling his control of his Orbs stay normal. He had the ability to detonate his Orbs, forming an enormous laser of energy. While the attack might not kill the Wardens, it could probably slow them down. Unfortunately, David had no idea how to get out of the Heliosphere, and when he left the Unlocked Room, his control of his power faded away. When he tried opening his inventory or accessing the System while in the Unlocked Room, or the Underground Toil Mine, David found that he was unable to. He was able to use his powers while here and in the mine, but he wasn’t able to access either the System or his inventory.
The Unlocked Room itself didn’t appear to be anything special. It was a large, white room that split off into several smaller rooms. Several other prisoners had been in the room at the same time as David, sitting in the other smaller sections of the Unlocked Room. There had been maybe 10 prisoners in total in the room, with nearly forty Wardens standing guard. Several of the higher level Controllers, what David learned were the first stage of evolved Wardens, stood guard as well, their fiery armor glowing lightly.
One of the floating Orbs David had first seen appeared then. It had ordered David to produce and give up his Unbound Orbs. David had given them up, noting again the deadly aura the many Wardens and Controllers gave off. It would be suicide to attack here.
David had left the room, pushed rudely by one of the Wardens. The armor-covered creature had guided Dale towards the stairs that led to the mine. The mine itself was located in the center of the 4th Heliosphere. The entrance lay at the center of the sphere, with several large white buildings surrounding it.
That day had been David’s first day in the mines. All Supers were required to work in the mines, and David was no exception. It was sort of a daily mantra for the prisoners, the hours they spent in the mine.
Because of the fact that David had an enhancement power, specifically his Level D Energy Transformation, David’s quota for Pon rock was much higher than his other, non-enhanced humans. He was forced to work as hard as he could the entire time and would still barely manage to meet quota.
The mining itself wasn’t too difficult for David. With his energy transformation, as well as the energy he had stored, he could maintain his transformation for a long while. In his transformed state, even when he was working hard, he didn’t tire easy, and was able to keep mining the rocks, over and over.
In the beginning, however, David had no idea how to properly mine. Using a pickaxe, especially the enormous one provided for him, was a new experience. He often hit the rock at a poor angle or even missed, shattering the ground beneath him. His new surroundings, as well as the exotic creatures all around him, made it difficult for David to concentrate, and made mining the Pon rock that much harder.
After his first five hours of mining, Dale had grasped most of what he needed to. He had figured out how to adeptly use his pickaxe, and was mining at a suitably impressive speed. Unfortunately, he was already several hours behind on his quota. The amount of Pon rock David needed to mine was already at the limits of what he could mine if he went all out over the ten hours they remained down here. His earlier mishaps and mistakes had cost him the ability to meet his first day’s quota. He kept mining, however, determined to get as close as possible to the required amount.
David was standing next to a human and a Three-Eyed. The human was of Asian descent, and looked to be around twice David’s age. When David had tried to talk to the man, the Asian had shaken his head, pointing at the rock and then at the small pile of Pon rock in front of the man. The man had said something in another language, unfortunately one David couldn’t understand. He had ignored David since. The Three-Eyed on David’s other side looked similar to a middle-aged but well muscled human, with greying hair and a lined face. He had two necklaces around his neck, one blue and one red. The only tangible difference from a human was the third eye on the man’s forehead.
As time went on, the piles of the tough to mine Pon Rock started to form next to each of his neighbors, a small pile in front of them. Warden guards walked by frequently, patrolling in large groups of ten and led by a Controller. David redoubled his efforts while mining, determined to reach his quota. He didn’t know what the punishment for failing to meet quota was, and wasn’t willing to find out.
The Three-Eyed to David’s right noticed his frantic swings and efforts at penetrating and mining the durable Pon rock. After watching David for a few minutes, the Three-Eyed spoke to him for the first time.
“Heyo lad. You’ll break yourself trying to mine like that. Tap it down a notch.”
The Three-Eyed nodded at David. The man then turned back to his own work and continued lumbering at the rock before him, smashing down on the rock methodically with an oddly contoured pickaxe. The pick looked as if it was custom made for mining the Pon rock, with a nearly sword edge sharp end.
David stared at the Three-Eyed in astonishment. He had no idea they could speak English, and found it rather improbable that an alien race would speak the same language as humans. He decided to focus on that thought later as he continued mining at the same pace, breathing out harshly.
“I don’t have much choice. It’s that or miss my quota on my first day.” He responded, taking a moment to wipe the sweat from his forehead. The sounds of the other miners flooded the cave air around him. Groans and moans of pain, the smashing of pickaxes and crumbling of the cave wall, the clomping steps the patrolling Wardens gave off. He concentrated on the cacophony for a moment, managing to hear some distinctly English swearing in the background. He went back to work.
David’s arms smashed up and down, cracking small bits of the rock off. He struck the rock in a rhythm, slowly crumbling it down. Small pieces of Pon rock fell from the underground wall in a steady stream. His pitifully small pile continued to grow, albeit not by much.
He noticed out of the corner of his eye the Three-Eyed staring at David’s pile, and then the pile of rocks the man had. The Three-Eyed paused for a few seconds. Then, with a grunt, the man grabbed a few large clumps of the mined Pon rock and tossed it into David’s pile. The size of the Pon rock in David’s pile nearly doubled, nearly maxing out the amount David had to mine for the day.
David stared at the Three-Eyed for a moment in shock.
“I can’t take that.” He began, bending down to pick up the rocks.
“Keep it. I’m already finished for the day.” The Three-Eyed turned back to methodically mining the rock in front of him, his oddly shaped pickaxe slicing into it with ease.
David’s protests fell on deaf ears. After trying for a few minutes, he gave up and decided he might as well keep the Pon rock. There was no point in getting on the Warden’s bad side on his very first day mining.
Thus, the day soon ended and the evening mess gong rang out. David looked around confusedly as everyone stepped back and left the wall, leaving their piles of Pon rock on the ground in front of them. The Three-Eyed had grabbed David and pulled him along, explaining,
“This is your first day eh? I’ll clue you in then. The Wardens check quota when we are resting and out of the mine.” The Three-Eyed had said, waving at the various floating metallic figures. Several of the Wardens were watching the crowd of prisoners as they went up the winding pathway that led out of the mine.
The Three-Eyed continued talking as they walked upward. Several other prisoners nodded at the Three-Eyed as they passed.
“No one steals or messes with other peoples piles of Pon rock. Those caught stealing are sentenced to death, regardless of how useful their power is. They’re very strict on that and they watch everything.”
David and his newfound friend soon walked out of the mine, headed towards the large white mess hall. He talked to the Three-Eyed, explaining where he was from and what had happened to him. The man was sympathetic, and David soon formed his first friendship here in the mine.
David blinked, focusing on the present.
“Really? And how are we going to do that?”
One of the three other humans with them said, speaking in slightly accented English. The man was rather tall, with striking features and bright blonde hair. He, and the two other men with him, was from Russia. He named himself Jaeger, unwilling to give out his actual name. David found out after he met him that Jaeger’s power was something he had accidentally chosen, similar to David’s choice. The man didn’t have a physical modification, but had an ability known as “Temporary Transformation.“ It let Jaeger modify the appearance of himself or another person for 24 hours, in any way he chose.
The two men standing next to Jaeger were both heavily muscles and tattooed, with weathered and grim faces. They were very taciturn and seemed to follow whatever Jaeger said. David had learned that both of the men were former soldiers, operating in some sort of special operation forces. When the System came to Earth, both of them had received enough points to purchase a transformation power, the Steel Clawed Bear transformation. David had mentally named them Soldier 1 and Soldier 2.
David had met them through Kieron, the mastermind of their small group. Over the course of the past weeks, the Three-Eyed had slowly clued them in to an escape plan that he was forming. He hadn’t told them how they were going to escape, but had made it clear that he had a plan.
“By working together.” Kieron continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted.
“The Wardens here and very watchful, but they have a fatal flaw. The non-evolved ones aren’t very intelligent. They can follow orders fine, and move with precision, but their critical thinking skills leave a lot to be wanted.” Kieron suddenly gestured at the Three-Eyed standing next to him.
The other Three-Eyed was a small elderly man, looking as if he might croak at any minute. His face was heavily lined, and his hair pure white in age.
“This is Dorel Stand. He has made it his mission here to research the Wardens and find a way to overthrow their rule. In his studies, he came to the conclusion that, while the Wardens are extremely powerful, they lack the ability to process thoughts like we do. Only the higher level Wardens are able to think on their own.”
Dorrel nodded as Kieron talked, confirming what he said. Kieron continued,
“The Wardens are the perfect soldier. They are hard to kill, will never betray their leader, never complain. They don't question orders.”
“They don’t question orders.” Kieron reached down to the tree they stood next to, pulling something from the ground. As if out of nowhere, a large piece of red armor appeared. The surrounding humans, David included, gaped at the piece, staring in astonishment.
Kieron held a piece of fiery red armor, armor identical to the armor that the Controllers wore. David looked at it closely, unable to fine even a single fault in the large metallic piece.
“How did you get this?!” Jaegar gasped, staring at the piece in disbelief.
“I made it.” Kieron said, still smiling. The man’s hands suddenly blurred as he pressed his palm into the plate of armor, bending it slightly. The metal flowed around his hands like water, his Gift allowing him to mold it.
“Alright.” Jaeger said, nodding. A hint of excitement crept into his voice as he said,
“We have a set of armor they wear, and I will admit that the other Wardens follow the red armored ones around and obey them, but how is that going to help us get out of here. We don’t speak their language-“
“Ah.” Kieron interrupted, “Yes, you don't. But not everyone here doesn’t it” He smiled, turning to look back at Dorrel, the other Three-Eyed.
Dorrel gave a nod. Suddenly his face twitched as he focused and began talking in a perfect impersonation of the Wardens, copying their spoken language.
David looked around despite himself, on his guard. The Wardens seldom spoke, but when they did, it was usually best to not be around them.
“Alright. So we have a way to move about as a Warden. Then what?” Jaegar asked, nodding his head.
“This is where your boys and David come in.” Kieron said, gesturing at them.
“Your two soldiers will transform into their bear transformations and start a fight in the Mine just as evening mess begins. In the course of their brawl, David here will end up dead. David, however, is not going to look like David. You will change his appearance to look like one of us, specifically one of the recently passed Three-Eyeds. When one of us dies, one that isn’t important enough to be actually watched, the Warden’s simply dispose of the bodies outside of the Heliosphere. Where these bodies go, I do not know, but we know that they do not remain here.” Kieron’s voice gained an intense edge.
“You will have to kill David just at the edge of the underground Mine, dragging his body out so that he dies in the Heliosphere. That way, his power to respawn is disengaged till his body is removed from the area.”
David recalled the many questions Kieron has asked him in the past few weeks, all about how his power worked and interacted here in the Heliosphere. He remembered the tests they had tried, noting how he couldn’t respawn when he was injured in the Heliosphere. When they had walked back into the Mine after testing, David had immediately respawned, an Orb disappearing without him ordering anything. David and Kieron had concluded that when he tried to respawn in the Heliosphere, the order went out to his Orbs delayed, and wouldn’t activate till his body left the region. He respawned exactly where he was standing as he entered the Mine, and not where he had been when he tried to respawn in the Heliosphere.
Kieron turned to face David then, a look of anticipation on his face.
“Once David gets on the outside of the Heliosphere, his powers will return to him and he will respawn, alive and well, without his collar. They remove the collars from the dead.” Kieron tugged at the collar surrounding his neck as he spoke.
“Once you get outside David, all you need to do is break this.” The Three-Eyed removed one of the necklaces he wore around his neck, handing it to David.
“This is a Force Teleportation Necklace. It was one of the odds and ends I collected in the war years before this. I never found the use for it and kept it as a keepsake.”
“When you shatter one end of the necklace, the owner of the other necklace, as well as every living creature within 5 meters, will be teleported to the vicinity of the first necklace.”
“And just like that. We’re free.”
(This chapter is very long, so consider it a two part chapter. Part two out tomorrow as a bonus for being gone so long 🙂