Carpathia III: Episode 19 - Ladybug


Jaze rotated between three different jobs during his time at the compound. Some days, he would practice sword skills with Jump. He was getting better at it and even managed to score a hit once in awhile, but Jump was still able to make him his little toy in most match ups. At the end of every session, he went back to his room covered with new bruises. Guard duty was the best job, despite the fact that it always occurred at night, when the air was cool and perfect for sleeping.

There was really nothing to guard. Nobody ever attempted to escape. Nothing ever seemed to try to get in or out. Only once in awhile, a cry of "Open the gate!" would pierce the air when Thirteen returned from wherever he went. There were always very few guards which meant he was able to be alone most of the time. He hadn't been able to make any friends at all at the compound, though Mirage and Jump seemed to be warming ever so slightly to him. Finally, there was the job of maintenance and this was the task he hated most.

Especially when Pestilence was in charge.

There were two areas for maintenance. One was the undersea farm, where they grew food of all kinds. The Arid Sea was light airy and even several dozen feet beneath the surface, enough light was able to reach the plants to help them grow. It was also light enough that it wouldn't crack the glass tops over each mini-farm, though the sound of the Arid Sea shifting over the glass was loud and coarse. The other area in need of maintenance was the main generator room. All seemed to be for the purpose of managing the water deep below the surface. Jaze guessed that the water's purpose was for drinking, watering crops, and running the steam-powered machinery which had been frankensteined into the complex.

Unfortunately, this day, Pestilence was in charge. Though maintaining the functions of all the systems was critical, he seemed to be more interested in terrorizing the workers and loved nothing more than to shoot off his gun at the slightest provocation. So far, he had never killed anyone as far as he knew, but everyone believed that Pestilence was both capable and willing of doing so. He barked orders at everyone with a perverse glee that would have made a drill sargeant proud and if anyone hesitated even for a moment, there could only be one of two results. If he was far away, Pestilence fired his gun. If he was close enough to reach the poor victim, a beating would be most likely.

The maintenance work was also the only time, it seemed, that multiple races would work together. At first, Jaze saw this as an opportunity to meet other people, but the level of rivalry and animosity between each race was permanently stuck at critical. There was almost no speaking while Jaze worked, except from orders barked by Pestilence. On his first shift in maintenance months ago, he tried to talk to the others, but was only met with angry scowls or indifference. There was little time for talking anyway. Both the farms and generator needed constant maintenance and everyone concentrated on their tasks, putting patch after patch on the water and steam pipes that crisscrossed their way throughout the entire area. It was exhausting work, as the entire system seemed that it could collapse at any moment.

Pestilence: CHAOS!

Jaze turned instantly to avoid getting shot at or hit yet again.

Jaze: Yes!

Pestilence: There's a pressure drop in junction 26! Go check!

Jaze: On my way!

Jaze hastily tucked his hammer into his belt and then scooped up a handful of small rivets and put them into his pocket. He searched around a little until he found a small piece of scrap sheetmetal and then ran off.

Early on, he knew that he would have to memorize the locations of all the pipes and their haphazard numbering system if he wanted to avoid any kind of punishment, and learn quickly he did. Junction 26 was in a narrow, isolated area. He ran straight for the closest ladder to the junction that Pestilence called out and climbed up. At the top of the ladder, he pushed open the hatch and climbed into the tunnel and started crawling, ducking and weaving around the haphazardly twisting pipes.

Jaze stopped for a moment and gazed at the cake-like layers of dirt on the wall behind the pipe. He reached out and clawed at the dirt, eventually reaching the metal underneath. The metal was very different from the pipes. It was much more delicately sculpted than the crude pieces of sheetmetal that made up the pipes. The wall seemed to have some sort of writing on it, but it was so worn down that he couldn't read it or even tell if it was a language he could recognize. This was not the first time he scratched untold decades worth of dirt off the walls and again he wondered what sort of place this was. No doubt the building was older but of far higher technology than the pipes and generators. Nothing made sense.

Jaze set off again down the tunnel. Soon, he arrived at the location of the leak. It wasn't major and the water was only streaming out at modest pressure, but it would soon become major if he didn't tend to it. First, however, he cupped his hands and let the water fill them up. After several drinks, he observed the pipe to see how best to apply the patch. It was not a simple task, nearly every inch of pipe was covered with patch on patch. As he thought about it, he suddenly heard Pestilence's voice shout out through he open hatch.

Pestilence: Hey, you! New guy!

For a split second, there was no answer and Jaze cringed. He knew someone was going to have a problem very soon.

Pestilence: I'm talking to you!

Jaze heard a dull thud and cry of pain. It could only mean that Pestilence hit his poor victim with something.

Pestilence: Get up to junction 26 and find out what's taking so damned long!

Jaze was surprised to hear this. Never had anyone been sent to check up on him. He guessed that he must have tarried too long studying the wall. As he heard the sound of footsteps coming up the ladder, he quickly placed the piece of sheetmetal on the catwalk and, using his punch tool and hammer, began driving holes in it for rivets. At least, he thought, whoever came up would catch him working if nothing else. Between swings, he could hear the person on the catwalk coming closer. Then, Jaze heard a familiar voice.

Mitani: Jaze?

Jaze recognized that voice and he turned in shock to see Mitani kneeling on the catwalk behind him.

Jaze: Mitani? What the hell...

Jaze and Mitani stared at each other for several moments, neither believing what they were seeing. Ever since he arrived at the compound, Jaze was conflicted between hoping to see his friends again and feeling that he would never, ever want any of his friends to be subjected to what he'd been through. Now, he was staring at the last person he expected to see. Someone who wasn't even in the truck with them. Mitani, of all people.

Mitani was the first to break the silence.

Mitani: Well, this explains a lot.

Jaze: Explains what?

Mitani: Where you went. The entire planet was in an uproar when the six of you disappeared. Besides your parents, the tokki are involved too. Toma's dad brought in several tokki search and rescue specialists. What I don't understand is why the Queen of Tokkastria has taken a personal interest in this. She keeps mentioning you.

Several months ago, Jaze would have quickly become nervous and fidgety if Queen Maoh II was mentioned, but now, with everything that happened to him, he felt foolish that he was ever embarrassed by it at all. Now, it worried him more that his son would grow up without knowing his father.

Jaze: Queen Maoh is pregnant with my son.

Mitani looked at him in wide-eyed disbelief.

Mitani: Wow... um... I wasn't expecting that. And you should know, she's not pregnant anymore. She's already had the baby. She went back to Tokkastria last month to have it.

Jaze: Already?

Mitani: Seems it doesn't take long with tokki. She never mentioned it was yours in public.

Jaze: What about my parents? Have you seen them?

Mitani: Only on the news. They're worried, of course. They weren't happy when the search was called off two months ago. Everybody still wants answers, but there's nothing at all. No evidence. No suspects. No trace at all. Most people are assuming that there's a crazy serial killer out there somewhere. Hardly any parents let their kids out without supervision anymore. Everyone's paranoid. I guess it's only going to get worse now that I'm here too.

Jaze: So, everyone else in the truck is missing too.

Mitani: Yeah. They're not here?

Jaze: I'm pretty sure they're not. I'm glad of that, at least. Anyplace is better than here. How did you get here?

Mitani: I was sentenced to community service.

Jaze: Sentenced?

Mitani: Yeah, I robbed a convenience store. Don't ask. I don't want to talk about it. Anyway, the judge figured I needed some responsibility in my life, so he sent me to work in a home for troubled children. Two of the kids ran off into the woods and I sent looking for them. I suddenly found myself in a strange, orange mist. Next thing I knew, I was floating in a void and then I landed here. I have no idea what happened to those kids. I haven't seen them since.

Something in Jaze's mind clicked while Mitani was telling the story. Their own group that came through the wormhole was all boys. The compound was all boys. There was only one last thing to confirm.

Jaze: Mitani, the kids you were chasing. Were any of them girls?

Mitani: No. Both were boys. Why?

Jaze: That's what I thought. Obviously, the wormhole isn't something natural and random, but now I'm positive that whoever is controlling it is very close. I've overheard things since I've been here. How they don't have as many people as they used to. How it's unusual that they were ordered not to kill people our age right away and instead recruit us. I mean, kids have disappeared before. Lord Lynx's kids did. Now it seems like it's getting worse.

Jaze paused for a moment as a brand new idea suddenly popped into his head.

Jaze: Wow, you don't think that Lord Lynx's two boys ended up here, do you?

Mitani: Hmmm...

Jaze: I mean, they're using really basic tactics to try and strip away our identities. They even gave me a new name. It's Chaos. I guess they did the same to you. What's yours?

Suddenly, Mitani looked away from Jaze.

Mitani: Oh, right... Um... I don't know if...

Before Mitani could finish, they heard the booming voice of Pestilence from below.

Pestilence: Hey, Ladybug! If Chaos is dead up there or something, then finish the job and get your ass back here! We can clean up the body later!

Jaze was already used to Pestilence's apathy towards the lives of others, so he had no trouble at all getting into a fit of giggles over Mitani's new name.

Jaze: Hee hee hee hee hee hee!

Mitani: Oh shut up. We should get this thing hammered onto the pipe before he comes up here and starts shooting.

Jaze: Hee hee! Okay! *snicker* *snort*

Commissioned art in this episode from:

Nekramentia Compound by Jenova87

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