The Collectors Club
In a world like this we find things to fight for. In this short story about the journey of one such man and his determination to find one person in particular after making a promise to a dying friend, we try to find some hope.
Kaiden stood on the dusty road, taking in the city of Post from afar.
'The Crossroads' is the nickname it had come to be known by for years now.
No one seemed to remember why it was called Post in the first place.
It is a hub for the Collectors, the slavers responsible for taking the children tributes the government expected. Healthy, with no deformities. Slaves from the age of four when they are "collected", until they reach maturity at eight-teen.
Kaiden had been lucky enough himself to have been born without the use of his left arm so severely malformed his parents couldn't fulfil their duty and were therefore free until they had another child. If they did.
Eventually Kaiden had a cybernetic arm attached, paid for by his father. Gradually it was improved over years as he learned to scavenge and hunt as his father did.
Leading him forward to the present, synthoid- cybernetic arm connected into his spinal column and was the strongest part of his body, it wouldn't fail and decay as the rest would.
Thinking on it, making his way towards the city he was still grateful that he had not been a tributed child. Yes, it had been hard, but he had always been free to create his own life. That was something everyone deserved.
Knowing the name of the place was easy finding it in a city, even a half dilapidated and shabbily rebuilt one as the Crossroads, would still take more time than he wanted.
Kaiden wasn't used to feeling agitated about finding information. Hunting people who didn't want to be found was one thing, finding people who didn't know they were lost was another.
Especially because it had all been legalized so many years ago, there were protocols, regulations, and restrictions to prevent people finding children.
You see if the children didn't know their parents, weren't educated about the outside world or thought they weren't wanted why would they have loyalty to anything other than what they know?
Well, some surprised everyone and upon turning eight-teen, receiving their way out, would eagerly snatch it up, or perhaps parents had managed to tracked them.
Most cared nothing for the outside, no one had come for them. They stayed and continued their
labors, just as the system was secretly designed to do. Lose children. Create hopelessness in one hand, safety, reliability in the other. You'd be a fool to leave. Everything provided for you, as long as you spend your life working their fields in the green houses, warehouses, brothels, recycling plants and more.
Anything a nation could need, power was still only provided in the Government lots, such as cities or anything they owned. They aren’t as generous as they should be. The usual power trip for whoever was running the show at the time was always to blame. The system was broken and Kaiden hated it, but chose to fight it in the only way he knew, one person at a time.
The grime and smells were worse on the outskirts, barely improving as the crumbling buildings rose about him. Rising higher quickly as he moved through streets still strewn with rubbish and rotting things, Kaiden hated it here, and had to ask directions to the 'Collectors Club'.
Disgust always rose in the back of his throat as burning bile when referring to salvers causally.
He wanted to spit, call them what they are, slavers, legal slavers sure, scum all the more.
Rounding the corner onto a cleaner part of this miserable city, where clearly the Collectors prosperity was reason to pretend, this is the old world!
Clean streets and gaudy buildings, with gardens, lavish shop fronts, selling foolish trinkets for the wealthy to waste currency on. All because they can, while a few blocks away people are being eaten by each other, people too far in debt for food or too deformed to work, and whatever creatures still living to savages on dead bodies.
It was really doing nothing for Kaiden's temper.
Signage in huge gilded letters, 'Where did they even find the materials?' disgusted bafflement barely whispered. A well-dressed couple overheard, frowned as they continued walking.
He made his way to the outer gate, just a few steps past and the black doors, paint job, relatively new. He just caught a hint of the smell over the odor from the large man guarding it. He had a cyborg eye and leg.
Kaiden pulled out and handed the guard his credentials from his duster, looking past him through the half open door. The guard wanted nothing to do with a bounty hunter so made only one request gruffly.
"Keep the mess outside, yeah" His deep rumble said his throat had been punched a few times, Kaiden moved past with a sharp acquiescent nod.
The place is gloomier then expected after the ridiculous show outside, but he was hit with the familiar wall of smoke that all cheap bars have in common, with the slight trace of urine and body odor. It was warmer than necessary, meaning no airflow.
Good, no back door.
Making an inquiry of the greasy haired man at the circular bar in the centre of the room, finally, he was moments away from the man he had been searching three years and the entire land settled under government rule for... He approached the table, the man was medium build, clearly, he doing well for himself, dressed in a suit of sorts, his neck pain and badge the only uniform to distinguish him.
Some facial scares, probably from desperate parents, or trades gone wrong, not for him though.
"I'm not to be troubled with your cheap contracts." He said, while aiming his blaster at Kaiden's head with one hand, and waving some old paper contracts sheets without looking up from his virtual game, gambling most likely.
Kaiden sat across from him, paying little attention to these things.
"I am told you keep your trade records and contracts." Kaiden's voice was steady.
The other man looked up now, his expression said he was annoyed, also slightly intrigued.
Placing a small, tight bundle of currency coin out on the table in front of the man, his eyes
flicked from Kaiden's face.
He let his hand rest on the tabletop.
"Now, you can get me what I want for that" he gestured at the bundle, "or I get it from you a
"I don't care for your coin bounty hunter." he snarled.
"I won't ask again, and I won't pay after."
The collector was about to say something he could have regretted had Kaiden let him. He had the man by the scruff of his collar and his own gun aimed at his head.
Kaiden flicked a coin to the bar keep as they passed, dragging the other out the door.
Directed by the coerced man, they travelled a short distance to a still clean, less lavish part of the
city, tall buildings but older here. The man unlocked everything and they entered. His house looked like a clean junk market. Kaiden had been told these things were considered “valuable” they were antique?
The room he was led towards, set off to the right with the low ceilings, filled with standing towers, cabinets and a computer linking them, this is the records room.
"What's the name?" the collector asked, Kaiden moved him out of the way and typed it in to the ancient monitor himself, the name was confirmed, there are hundreds of results, but only twelve match the dates. "I need more" Kaiden paused, he heard the blaster load and charge the collector had moved quickly while Kaiden searched the name, now he was holding the blaster to Kaiden's head.
"I reckon you'll be giving me all the currency you've got and some for the insult! The address you can have and PISS OFF!" he spat a little on the last part, Kaiden's hand shot up throwing the man's arm and blaster high, still holding the other man's wrist Kaiden's booted foot landed squarely in the ribs under his outstretched arm, the man was winded, and now disarmed a second time. Kaiden was not amused.
"How do I search the address?" the collector's knees on the ground, sucking in air and struggling to speak, his arm still above his head, red faced and sweating.
"Oh, take your time, no stress, but the longer you take, I am likely to do it again." the man pushed himself up and moved the chip into a different port.
Kaiden typed again with the rest of the information it refined to three results, only one matched.
'Talisa Brakin; 17: Brunette: Hazel eyes: Id 684 location Greenhouse 1097683.'
The collector slumped onto the floor still clutching at his side, the coin bundle left on the
counter. "Thank you for complying collector" his voice filled with disgust as he said it, "oh and I paid for the data chip as well."
Kaiden walked out, down dark streets to the trader's market where he bartered for aqua and dried foods, leaving this retched city as quickly as he could.
The walk East was long, he had hopped she was in the Greenhouses, it was considered safer.
However, more children stayed in Greenhouses after release than any other labor groups.
A week later the huge glass constructs that ran as far as the eye could see where all around him.
He found the checkpoint where they drove him to the overseer for approval. They sent two officers with him. "Standard regulations for visitation before the maturity age is reached." they said.
They pulled the small three wheeled machine up after about an hour drive.
"684 TALISA BRAKIN!" one of the officers shouted, a few of the white jump-suited figures
looked up and around, half way across the wide space filled with rows of crop bushes, one started walking over.
Kaiden was shocked, he hadn't really thought about it, finally happening. He had always been just searching.
The young women removed her mask and goggles, indents from the pressure still there on her skin.
She looked like her mother.
"Yes sir?" she asked gently querying, the officer nodded towards Kaiden who stepped forward.
"Hello Talisa, my name is Kaiden Fietnah, your mother was a friend." He faltered a little on the
word. Tears had sprung to Talisa's eyes at her mention of her mother, she stood looking at him.
"My mother?" emotion threatening to break through." Yes, she couldn't be here like she had planned." reaching up and pulling out a cord from around his neck, on it was a locket shaped like a heart, darkened by age, the once silver locket he moved forward and placed in Talisa's outstretched hands.
"She asked me to give this to you, and to tell you that she never stopped looking for you. She was shot during a raid on the road three years ago." tears were freely running down Talisa's cheeks now, Kaiden placed his large hand on Talisa's shoulder "Your mother wanted to remind you that you can lead your own life, outside, find freedom for yourself. But if you choose to stay here that is noble also, the choice is yours, all decisions have challenges."
He opened her hands and clicked the locket, there was two small tied locks of hair, one Talisa knew had been hers as a baby, the other had some grey through it and must have been her mother's. etched on the inside read
'Always I'll be with you'
The promise her mother had written in a letter, the only thing from her childhood she had been able to keep for all these years.
Kaiden put his hand on her shoulder again, squeezed it and then turned away.
Kaiden stopped. "Will you take me to her, when I'm of age, if you can?" she looked from the locket, back to him.
"I will be here."
About the author
I am a 27 year old who hasn’t been able to turn off her story creating mind ever. Often forgetting where I am and who I am with due to characters, I’ve been writing since I was a child and never intend to put down the pen.