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Universes of Rebellions

by E.M. Vis 6 months ago in fantasy

Story One: Shiver

My Picture (Cordova, Alaska)

The year is 2175 and I, Alixandra Knowalls, am the last of a dying breed.

I was originally created to serve as a Protector for the World Ruler, Vitoria of Hamburg. My creation was not a peaceful one. At the young age of two hours old I was ripped from my mother’s frozen womb and placed inside an incubator designed by Dr. Knowalls faithful lab underneath Buckingham Palace.

The first surgery at the blooming age of five inserted within my brain a chip, one that could record anything I experienced. The headaches the first months after the procedure left me screaming and tearing out my own hair.

The second and third surgeries occurred when I was ten. The replaced my bones with those of a lightweight steel mesh, but they left my blood and muscles the same.

“No need to waste vital material on a girl who won’t live past twenty-five,” Dr. Knowalls had said, a reassurance to a sneering womanly figure. Her shape accentuated by the wide dress she wore.

“Is that when her software will run down?” Her haughty tone left me with magma in my gut. Could they not see the human lying on the table before them? Could they not hear my sobs as the metal seared its way into my nerves?

I remember…my chip remembers Dr. Knowalls shrugging and guiding the vicious woman away with a hand at her elbow.

~~~~

Somewhere outside the blackhole of my dreams a door slams and voices rise in screams. A hand against my bare shoulder shakes my eyes open, but my consciousness remains buried inside me.

~~~~

It recalls images of me, ages sixteen to twenty, standing in my station watching over the shoulder of the World Ruler. The one the chip in my brain was programed to protect at all costs. The sneer she wore when she would address me in the private hall after a particularly failed diplomatic meeting.

“They are a threat to me, Sentry 1, I need them to be neutralized,” she would hiss as she passed, and my chip would shut off the part of my brain that screamed against the order. I would try to negotiate against the computer in my head. They were human, I was human. I am human. Then the computer would silence me, placing my human conscious into a coma from which only it could wake it. But the recordings would remain long after.

The man with the blue eyes who pleaded. The woman who begged in a foreign tongue I hadn’t had installed yet, but whose tears made my hands tremble. The blood, red and thick as cream that would drench my clothes, staining my hair permanently the color of rust. The tears I cried in the solace of my tiny compartment beneath Her Imperialness’ bedroom.

The chip flashes memories in rapid succession as it senses my body alerting itself to waking troubles. The first glimpse of the shining New York metropolis over the waves. The scent of the bakery just past the docks. The grey eyes of the man labeled a threat, the hand of the small boy with matching eyes. The snap of something in my mind as I threw myself into the harbor.

~~~~

My name is shouted. Once. Twice. On the third time a hand smacks across my cheek and that jumpstarts my thoughts.

“Alixandra!” Lukas shouts as I lurch upward a knife brandished in defense.

“Wha-What’s goin’ on?” My mouth is still getting a sense of how words are formed, and the world is still blurred with sleep.

A hand wraps around my wrist and pries the knife from my grasp. “It’s a raid. Come on.”

Lukas drags me to my feet, the blankets slipping from my body and exposing me to the icy air of our repurposed decrepit apartment. I shiver and stumble over to the closet to pull clothes on. The shirt is worn and covered in so many stains that I wouldn’t remember what the original color was if it weren’t for the chip in my brain flashing images of the same shirt as moss green. The pants are peppered with holes and do little against the biting wind. Lukas whistles from the front door as footsteps pound outside.

“Fire escape?” I ask, wrapping a scarf around my neck and digging through the mess of the closet for the go bag I stashed a couple months back.

Lukas jogs into the room, a panicked look in his eyes. “They’ve blocked the fire escape.”

I glance out the window, the New York skyline ghostly through the chimney smoke. “Roof?”

“We’re not goin’ out the roof, Alix,” Lukas says as he tugs his coat on. “I told you how dangerous that is.”

“You and I could make the jump,” I counter as I cinch a belt around my waist, an assortment of weapons decorating it. An action that draws up unpleasant memories of murders on another continent. I shake my head, turning the thoughts away.

“It’s ten feet.” Lukas buckles on a matching belt, his knives clacking as they bounce together. I try not to glare as snippets of us leaping between buildings rush through my head. All the daring escapes we made on our tours of Baltimore, Savannah, even New Orleans with their French stronghold.

“We’ve made further jumps,” I pause as banging sounds outside our door, “We can make it.”

“What about the Guards?” Lukas demands, his hands are trembling, and I try to push my own panic down, “How are we going to get around them?”

“Sprint?” I reach out to cup his cheek in my hand. His stubble scratches my palm, but he relaxes into my touch. His own hand reaches up to cover mine and the warmth is a gift.

“I love you.” He murmurs as he presses a kiss to my forehead. A movement so familiar the chip doesn’t need to filter in images of it.

“Don’t let go of my hand.” I whisper as I tighten my grip. He squeezes in response and we turn to the front door.

The thud of boots sends adrenaline through my veins and my senses heighten themselves. I listen. I count the seconds between bootsteps. The chip reminds me what the patterns mean, though I don’t need it to.

“Two Guards.” Lukas mutters, his voice barely a breath as I turn the doorknob.

“Go.” I hiss as the door swings inward. We barrel down the hall to the nearest stair way. Our footsteps are not silent, and shouts ring out behind us.

“Stop! In the name of the World Ruler!” The Guard’s voice is familiar and the chip yanks on reins that are no longer attached in an attempt to get me to obey. Lukas tugs my wrist and my focus snaps back to the situation at hand. My eyes looking towards the stairwell door. The one that’s been thrown open by another Guard, his pistol pointed directly at Lukas’ chest. Blood. Screams. Terror. All of them rush through my mind in an intense hurricane that has me balking from the gun, my urge to leap in front of Lukas the remnant of some long ago programming.

“Freeze!” Lukas skids to a halt, dragging me with him. I stumble over a turned up corner of carpet. My free hand goes out to break my fall and something in my wrist snaps. The sound is wrong, there is a piercing chill that races up my arm. I scream, the pain so blinding the hallway goes white. The chip has no previous accident to recall, nothing to calm the nausea that rises to my throat, to silence the screaming of my mind. The message is clear, the metal should not have broken. But it did. I am failing.

“Alix?” Lukas’ voice pierces the thundering pain in my brain. There are other voices. Ones I don’t trust. Ones I don’t know. Someone touches my shoulder and I strike without thinking. My good hand slips free of Lukas’ grip, thumbs free a knife from my belt, and drives it into the nearest lump of flesh I can find through the haze.

Someone barks a curse and Lukas disappears from my side. The pain in my wrist is threatening to drag me from consciousness. My breathing is broken. I can’t feel anything in my right arm.

“Alixandra.” The voice is so commanding it captures what is left of my attention. “Alixandra Knowalls. Can you hear me?”

“Yes.” I swallow the cotton that is coating my tongue. My full name on a strangers lips has sent the chip into a mad frenzy. It is flashing the faces of anyone it can link to my past, but none of them match the voice. In my head it is just a flurry of faces, of eyes, and teeth and I beg whatever power to let me slip beyond consciousness. If only to soothe the chip and protect what’s left of my human brain.

“Do you know what has just occurred?” He demands, and my eyes finally focus on his face. They meet his grey eyes, intense as a roiling storm. The world steadies. I know those eyes. They’re the eyes that broke the chip in the first place, the eyes that sent me into the harbor. The eyes that saved me.

“I…I think I broke something?” There’s a throbbing pain in my thigh and something wet is covering my pants. I glance towards it and the world swims with shadows. The knife I had intended for the hand on my shoulder is protruding from my thigh. Then the pain registers and I collapse into darkness.

~~~~

I wake up with no provocation in the small backroom of a private apothecary shop. There is a throbbing in my head, my wrist, and my thigh. Lukas is asleep in a chair near the door, how he is still free is beyond me.

“Luk?” My voice is hoarse with disuse, and I wonder how long I’ve been asleep. I cough and Lukas jolts awake, his eyes scanning the room for any danger. Some instinct we both picked up throughout the years on high alert. His gaze pauses for a brief second on the picture of Victoria of Hamburg, Exulted Empress of the English Empire. Her caramel hair is bunched into a braided knot at the back of her head, her amber eyes piercing straight through your soul, and her peach lips pulled up in a knowing smirk. Witch.

Even the chip seems to shudder itself away from her gaze.

“Three days,” Lukas says in response to a question I only thought of. “They agreed to let me sit in here with you until you could be moved.”

“Please tell me I didn’ actually stab myself,” I whisper as he walks over to the table and takes my good hand.

“I tried to stop you, but…” He glances at my thigh pointedly and it throbs in response. The bandage is dark with old blood.

“Any escape plan?” I ask, but something in the set of his jaw tells me the news is going to be bad. The chip recovers three similar occurrences, each time his jaw is tightened so much that it seems he is concealing a yawn.

“Leonid Thyro is the Guard outside,” he huffs, anger lacing each word with poison, “And he has no intention of letting Alixandra Knowalls slip through the Empire’s fingers again.”

“Leonid?” It takes me a minute to process his name and when it does it hits me like a steam train, “But he’s the Head Guard in London. Why is he here?”

“You can’t go around breaking laws throughout the World Ruler’s empire without attracting the attention of every Guard, Alix. Your face is plastered in just about every Guard Station.” Lukas rubs a hand across his eyes. Their deep brown swirling with fear and something else, something ugly. This is just as unprecedented as the broken wrist. Lukas is many things, a thief, a lover, but never someone with anything to hide.

“Tell me.” I try to sit up, but something holds me down. I turn my head and see the leather band that has me strapped to the table. I struggle against it, pain flaring through my wrist. The wrist that has been welded back together so poorly I doubt it will ever be fully mobile again.

“When were you going to disappear?” His voice is rough with some horrible emotion. Something I have only ever heard from myself in those dark nights beneath the Empress’ bedroom, “Alix, when were you going to slip into the shadows and forget about me? I know that’s how you work. I saw the metal in your arm same as everyone here. I know what you are. Who you belonged to, and I know that means you can never stop running. I’m not some childish person who wouldn’t understand.”

“I…” My words catch in my throat as he releases my hand. This isn’t Lukas. My mind and chip agree on that much. This isn’t the Lukas I love. This is some scared person who doesn’t know where to run, “I wasn’t…I would have asked you to come with me. I did ask you. I told you not to let go of my hand.”

“That was your plan?!?” He laughs, but nothing about this is funny. “You were going to just keep running? Alix, I have a life here, I have family. I couldn’t just leave.”

Something in my chest tears itself down. A crumbling feeling that leaves me breathless. I fight against the strap, but it requires two hands to undo it and Lukas is pacing away from me. I reach for him desperately. There are tears pooling in my eyes as he glances back, something too close to resentment in his eyes.

“Lukas?” It’s a plea. One he considers with some newfound ice and dismisses.

He huffs, “I told you I loved you. You? How could I have been so foolish? My family was right. You were just going to run at the first sign of trouble.”

“What are you talking about?” I cry out, “You told me your family disowned you. You were ready to see the world. I…I don’t understand…What are you saying?”

He shakes his head, “Nothing you want to hear.” He points vaguely to his temple and scowls, “Nothing you want to remember.”

He turns away and throws open the door. “She’s all yours Leonid.”

Then he leaves. He just walks out and my heart shivers in my chest at the lack of warmth. I cry out at the burst of pain.

“Do you have any idea how long I’ve been looking for you?” Leonid’s voice is rough. His green eyes pinning me to the table.

“I don’t care.” It’s all I can get out with my shortness of breath. My brain can only process the empty hole Lukas created. The chip calculates that the actual answer he wants is four years, three months, seven days, and six hours. I tug against the restraint again, my pain turning to rage. I shriek when it doesn’t loosen.

“Man, Lord Washington really did a number on you, huh?” Leonid’s words hurt more than any smack, any broken wrist, any stab wound. Something in my stomach goes so still the silence roars in my ears. The chip drags the vague facts I have collected regarding the Washington family through my brain. They descend from one of the first Generals of the failed American Revolution four hundred years ago. The General that kept the British in power, that helped them build the empire they have today. The one that covers 67% of the entire world.

They also thrive off murder and other atrocious acts.

“Lord Washington?” My voice has dropped to such a low growl that Leonid stops his examination of my bandages.

“Yes? Lord Wesley Washington the Second,” he says and points to the open door behind him, “The man that just left, that was him.”

“His name is Lukas,” I snarl and bare my teeth when Leonid places a hand too close to my stab wound. The past two and a half years run through my head so fast it makes me dizzy. Meeting Lukas outside the ratty café in the Harbor. That disarming smile. The nice clothes he had; stolen he had assured me. Stealing food to get by. Stealing clothes as the weather turned bitter. Selecting that fifth floor room because it was free of rats. The escapades we went on to build up money for food during the winters, and for access to travel during the summer.

“His name is Wesley Ulrich Washington the Second,” Leonid assures me as his fingers begin working on the strap. The only barrier to my rage.

“Liar,” I spit the word and a dragon rears its head in my heart, fire filling the hell-cold spot. The hate that has been festering since that first surgery all those years ago splitting open and pouring into my blood.

“You were together how long? And you didn’t figure it out? I’m disappointed Alixandra. Truly I am.” Leonid undoes the last latch and I spring upward, my forehead connecting with his nose and cracking something. I swing my legs off the table and stumble out the door, the hound in my chest tugging me after the true criminal.

I burst through the front door of the apothecary shop and glance left then right. A woman sitting in an expensive horse-drawn metal carriage across the street catches my eye and I storm over to her.

“Did you see a man come out of that store?” I point over my shoulder. At her worried glance I repeat myself softer and add, “He stole some of our absinthe and if my father finds out he’ll never let me see him again.”

She purses her lips in sympathy and says, “Yes, he headed towards the harbor. I knew he walked like a rooster. You really should find someone better, dear.”

I nod in solemn agreement, “That’s what everyone keeps saying.”

A commotion behind me grabs both of our attention and when Leonid points an accusatory finger at me, I spring into action. I dash forward my good hand undoing the buckles on the horses harness, my bad arm swiping the reins from the woman’s hands. I leap onto the horse’s back, my leg screaming in agony at the sudden movements. Something tears and blood soaks the bandages, but I focus on kicking the horse into a gallop and not getting left behind.

The hooves thunder on the dirt street as we plow through traffic, people screaming to get out of our way. The horse throws its head as I yank the reins to the left following the streets that lead towards the harbor and the mansions that line it. My leg throbs, warmth soaking through the thin pants the apothecary must have given me. Rage thrums through my mind, keeping my focus off the flares of pain. It sharpens my eyesight enough that I spot Lukas darting into an alley just ahead. His golden hair a beacon. A snarl fixes itself to my lips and I dig my heels into the horse, commanding more speed. It gives.

We barely make the turn into the alley, the hooves skidding on the loose dirt. Lukas is frozen at the other end as we thunder forward. His eyes widen and he starts to run. He gets into the open street, but a human is slower than a horse in any universe and just before we pass him, I launch myself off the horse’s back. My chest collides with his back, and we sprawl in the dirt road. I scream. The rage not enough to block out the pain.

“You bastard!” I shriek as I roll over and pin him beneath me. My tackle must have knocked the air out of him. The horse stands only a few feet away, having stopped when my weight left it. His eyes are flicking around wildly, searching for any sort of help, but these people don’t know who he is, at least not yet.

“Alix,” he begs, his chest heaves beneath me.

“Stop.” My voice is so cold, I shiver as it coats my throat in ice. “You are a liar. A murderer. I do not forgive, and I never forget as you very helpfully pointed out. What did you think was going to happen, Lukas?”

“I thought you would be packed up back to London! You would be out of my hair, and I wouldn’t have to admit that maybe I was in love with an international criminal! With a scientifically modified orphan.”

That word snaps the remainder of emotion in my chest and for the first time in forever I let the chip produce its own threat. I let my humanity recede. I’ll show him how modified I am.

I lean so close I can hear his breath rattling in his lungs, “You don’t know what love is. Coward.” I stand up. The adrenaline slowing to just a trickle, “I am going to leave, but if you ever, ever perform another massacre I will come back. I will hunt you down. And I will kill you. Don’t forget, I now know exactly how you think, how you behave, and what terrifies you the most.”

I march over to the horse. A significant limp slowing me down and my wrist feeling like it’s about to burst open. I clamber onto the sweaty back and turn the horse south.

Lukas stands up, a hand clutching his ribs and I shout over my shoulder, “I’ll see you in Hell, Lord Washington!”

The attitude of the crowd shifts. The temperature heating up with the exposure of so much rage in one area. I hear Lukas raise his voice, his attempts to explain, and when the Guards get called the people don’t back down.

~~~~

It takes me three weeks to cross the border between English land and Native land and when I do the chip slows down enough that it doesn’t bombard me with memories every night.

I try to avoid the tribes out here to the best of my abilities. They have enough problems without having to deal with some modified assassin begging for somewhere to sleep. There are times, when I need supplies that I venture to the nearest village and ask for help. They give it in exchange for the stories I could tell them about their enemies. The weaknesses of the men they are fighting.

I am three thousand miles away, curled up against the warm side of Racer when word reaches me, through one of my friends in the closet village to the English border, that a revolution has begun in New York. And in 2176 Lord Wesley Ulrich Washington flees to London after the rebel forces of America push off the hand of the Empire. World Ruler Victoria of Hamburg is too shocked to respond. A week later, when my name is credited as the spark of the rebellion, Racer huffs in agreement when I ask him if he is ready to return to the crowded New York streets.

fantasy

E.M. Vis

I absolutely love writing. It's my escape from the world and I love to write fantasy stories.

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