Carpathia III: Episode 8 - Escape
Jaze's head was still swimming as he slowly awoke. He felt disconcerted, as though he was coming out of an elaborate hallucination. He remembered little of the dreams he had, but he knew they must have been very strange. For a time, he thought he was at home in his own bed at home, but little by little, he realized that certain things didn't fit with that feeling. The bed felt different. He could hear the clanking and whirring of heavy machinery somewhere nearby. Finally, he realized that the sensation that someone was poking him in the ribs was actually real. Soon after, he heard the voice of a child call out as he slowly opened his eyes.
Boy: Mirage! I think he's waking up!
For a moment, there was no reply. The poking, however, intensified until he finally heard someone else speak.
Mirage: I told you to stop poking him like that!
The poking suddenly ceased as Jaze opened his eyes more to find himself in a small, metal room. Pipes, large and small, ran haphazardly along the walls and the the constant noise of heavy machinery continued to permeate the air, as though he was in some sort of factory from a steampunk dystopia. It was surprisingly cold in the room as well, as though he were in some kind of ancient refrigerator.
Jaze: Where am I?
Another boy, the one he took to be Mirage, leaned over him. He seemed to be no older than 16. Nevertheless, they appeared to have been an eventful 16 years. He had several scars on his face, old and new and he was wearing an old, white t-shirt and cargo pants, both of which were covered with many stains and tears.
Mirage: This is the Nekramentia Compound. We found you in the desert and brought you here.
Jaze struggled to think. His mind was still cloudy, but as far as he knew, he'd never heard of anything with a name even remotely similar to "Nekramentia" in Carpathia. As curious as he was about his location, he was more concerned about his friends and if they had been found.
Jaze: My friends... Have you found anyone else besides me?
Jaze braced himself mentally. His worst fear was that any one of them may have been found dead. He couldn't bear to face that, especially if it was Toma.
Mirage: We only found you. You're lucky we did. You'd have been dead soon if we hadn't. We have cool rooms like this one for people who pass out from the heat. It happens a lot here.
Jaze was only somewhat relieved. At least, he thought, nobody he knew was found dead yet. Slowly, he sat up in his bed and looked around more and noticed a small window next to his bed. He looked to see if he could recognize anything. He could see little more than a few battered, green silos rising from the sand, which swirled round the bases of each, lapping at the sides.
Jaze turned back to Mirage, unsure of what to say. Everything was almost too difficult for him to take in at once.
Jaze: Thank you.
It was all he could think of to say. The rest of his mind clashed with the competing desires for rest and to find his friends.
Mirage: Jump, go get some water.
Jump: Yes sir!
The young boy ran immediately to a small cupboard and started rummaging through it.
Jaze: His name is Jump? That seems unusual.
Mirage: Yes, that's Jump and I'm Mirage.
Jaze: I'm Jaze.
Mirage: Yeah, well we'll soon change that.
By the time Jaze overcame his shock at that last statement, Mirage had already turned and walked away from him. He was about to call over to ask him what that meant when Jump returned with a large flask full of water.
Jump: Here, drink this.
Jump thrust the flask into Jaze's hand, sloshing a few drops of water into his bed. He took it and drank. He was more thirsty than he realized and quickly finished all of it.
Boy: So, he's finally awake. Mirage, how long are you going to let him lay here and suck up resources?
Jaze turned and saw another boy standing in the doorway with his arms folded across his chest and a scowl on his face. He looked about the same age as Mirage. One of his ears was missing a sizeable piece and his face was covered with far more scars than Mirage. Jaze also couldn't help but notice his abnormally small tail for a nekohuman.
Mirage: For as long as it takes. He got the Heat pretty bad, so he has to recover for a few days. We're not sending him out now only to have him die on us!
Boy: Pfft. You're still too soft.
Jaze was feeling very nervous about the direction the conversation was taking. First was the cryptic statement about changing his name and then this new tough-talking boy who just barged into the room. His body tensed as appeared more and more that these people weren't quite the saviors they appeared to be at first.
Mirage's eyes narrowed in irritation as he stomped over to the doorway where the other boy was standing. He leaned in within an inch of the other boy's face, who didn't budge or flinch at the invasion of space.
Mirage: Now you listen! I am in charge here, not you! The next time you question me, I'll have you in the oubliette! Now get out! You're letting the cold air out!
Mirage shoved the boy out of the doorway. He stumbled into the room outside and shot a vicious look at Mirage before he finally walked away. Once he was gone, Mirage closed the door and turned to Jaze.
Mirage: Sorry about him. That was Pestilence. He's too hot-headed sometimes.
Jaze: I noticed.
Jaze decided that he should now be very careful about anything he said to anyone he met. Mirage was clearly a leader of some kind, but with others seeming to challenge his authority at will. He also wondered what kind of organization would have a kid in charge of anything and there were also signs that they intended to keep him there. He had no intentions of staying and considered how long he should wait before attempting to run. He felt his pocket to see if his galaphone was still there. He felt nothing.
Jaze: Hey, what did you do with my stuff?
Mirage: All personal possessions are sent up to Maelstrom. That's the way things work here.
Jaze: Maelstrom? Is he in charge here? I want to talk to him.
Mirage: Nobody talks to Maelstrom unless invited.
Mirage returned to the cabinet where he was before Pestilence came into the room. He pulled out a small stack of clothes with a pair of boots on the top. They resembled the cargo pants and t-shirts that everyone else seemed to be wearing.
Mirage: Put these on when you have a chance.
Mirage placed the clothes on Jaze's bed. Jaze only glanced quickly at them before asking a question to which he was fairly sure he already knew the answer.
Jaze: What's this?
Mirage: That's your uniform. You have to wear that at all times.
Jaze: I'm not staying here. I have to find my friends.
Mirage: Sorry, but you don't have a choice.
Jaze hesitated for a moment, staring at Mirage, trying to determine how serious he was. Mirage simply stared back at him, locked into his gaze. Suddenly, Jaze leapt from his bed and bolted to the door, opened it, and ran down the corridor outside.
To be continued...
All city pictures from SimCity 4