Chapter Three (Book One: Dragonfly)

Bitter Tasting Pills
By Anonymous Author

Why do I feel the pain?
Why do I feel the numbness?
Why do I live?

I can't sleep.
I can't breath.
And I can't dream.
With these.

They has no use.
Besides give me,
a never-ending, 
numbness.

But, I take these…
These bitter tasting pills.

ILLUSIONER FILE : DEVIL’S LIGHT

It was early morning as two holoscreens flicked on to my right and a small hologram of a person was on my left as I made my way to Ticking Hour Zone. The bar was built by us gang leaders. Still in the works. Kamryn said that it will be open the day before the Amphitheater Tag Trials and host viewings for Last Hour Rush.

“Scanning for updates.” The AI hologram, who I named, Orchid, spoke, interrupting my thoughts.

“You do that.” I said, taking a turn past Maywood alley café. Waving at the patrons there, I continued my way down the street.

It wasn’t busy since it was still morning. A lot of illusioners choose to start their day during the afternoon which is what I normally do, but stopped. I guess it was around the same time that the AIs were released.

Ashton was the one who created the programs onto the AMP-Tech, we have. He and Kamryn designed the AIs, so there’s always frequent updates and bug fixes.

And of course, Elodia had the bright idea of having the names themed around flowers and plants.

“Scan complete. New update found. Would you like to update, Devil’s Light?” Orchid spoke. Her voice monotonous as usual.

“Details.”

“Update includes the following items. Cleaner layout for customization, new holoscreens, bug fixes, updated holograms, and voice editing options for AIs. Would you like to update?”

Voice editing? About bloody time, we got rid of the monotonous voices.

“When was this sent out? And please give me the estimated update time?” I asked. The updates are typically quick and people are still able to work with the AI and holoscreens as it updates before it finishes which causes a restart, of which it lets the user know.

“Update notification was sent out earlier this morning. Estimated to be ten minutes.”

“Least I’ll be rid of the monotonous voice. Say we’ll update after I give a friend a ring.”

Orchid nodded before tilting her head, “Is my voice really that off-putting to hear?”

Chuckling, I smiled softly, “Not that bad. It’s just getting old.”

“I see…” Orchid replied before sending out a screen, “Who would you like to call?”

“Devil’s Raven.”

Nodding, Orchid waved her hand and soon the screen went into call mode and Corbin’s picture went up.

He had a toothy grin on his face, a tooth missing, but he held up the I.D. tag of the very first guard he took down in the first riot he participated in. There was a figure behind him with a hand on his head, ruffling his hair. That was me. I was pretty beat up, thankfully it wasn’t caught by the camera.

But, chances are Colver has it. He did always enjoy taking photos with Damario’s camera. Or was that Julio’s kid… Echo, was it?

“Devil!” Corbin’s bright smiling face beamed at me from the calling holoscreen.

“Hey there kid. How’s it been with training?”

“Training with Mr. Barracuda is awesome! He taught me so much! Especially about shag-”

“Wait right fucking there Raven! Don’t you fucking tell me that he taught you-”

“Yup! Even how babies are made.”

I was silent, shocked even.

For heaven’s sake, why did Edward teach him that? I specifically asked him to teach the damn sprog on how to shoot a gun and some ability control.

“Why?” And do I really want to know?

“He said it was important no-le-dege,” Knowledge is still a word that he has yet to figure out the correct pronunciation, “for me when I’m your age.”

Shaking my head, I sighed, “Does he really think that all sixteen to eighteen year olds have babies? We have enough orphans as it is.”

Even if a family sounds nice…

“Maybe…”

“Well we don’t… Plus all the medics in the Hour territories don’t have the proper equipment for an abortion if needed. But, off topic.”

“Okay.” The sound of a glass planter breaking, “I have to give Mr. Snowman a bath now. He got into the planter again.”

“Again? Well you get to that. See you at our training, buddy.”

“Bye Devil!” The call screen turned off.

“Would you like to update now or wait?” Orchid spoke.

“Now and pull up my AMP Trials screen. I need to start thinking about that.”

“Of course.”

Soon the update bar loaded onto another holoscreen as I walked and the AMP trials screen to load. It loaded up when I passed the Davenmen’s House. I waved at the woman and the girl, Mrs. Davenmen and Jennifer who were talking by the fountain behind the iron gates.

Just because we live in some run down piece of living Hell, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a form of government… Mob related or not. At least they get the job done.

“Currently only four are eligible to participate on your side.”

Fuck.

“Okay… Let’s see who we got. Mo, Saddy, Paps, and Flint.” Flicking my hand up, I summoned their full profiles, “A tank, another tank, defense, and stealth… Well bloody hell, we aren’t going to win this time in the first round of Last Hour Rush and AMP Trials.”

“Three tanks and only one defense and stealth? The chances of you losing the Hour Hill will be at eighty-two percent.”

“What if we switch with Elodia’s?”

“G.S has yet to send the information.”

“Damn…”

“But, the potential switches are will lower the percentage of you losing by thirty-five percent.”

Sighing, I waved most of the screens away, “Nevermind then. We’ll risk it… Update on the update?”

“Just about done.”

Nodding, I made my way into a back alley and paused to lean against a wall. Reaching into my back pocket, I pulled out a cigarette pack. Taking one out, I lit it with a simple snap of my fingers near the end.

I took a puff of the cigarette as screens popped up. The layouts were a lot more cleaner and the bug with the open files weren’t glitched out.

Tapping the speaker icon, the customization screen for the voice popped up and I started to play around with it.

After a while and with mostly failures, I groaned, letting the lit cigarette roll between my fingers.

“This is hard. It’s either too hoarse, too high, too quiet, or too loud.”

“Will you like me better if my voice sounded like this?” With a surprised look, I watched as the sliders move around and stop, “How about this?”

Her voice was now silky and soft, even held some sweetness to it. Reminded me of my mum.

“That’s great. Thanks Orchid.” With a smile, we continued on our way to the bar, which was about a block down now, “Sleep mode.” Orchid switched off.

As I made my way up the path to the Ticking Hour, it was a bit quiet. Or at least was until I hear some kind of scream followed by, ‘Get it out! Get it out!’ and ‘Sharp, you damn prat!’

Okay… Either an illusioner animal, or just a bloody giant rat.

Slowly, I opened the door partly and peered in before laughing my arse off as I saw Nathaniel standing on top of a table, clutching onto Ashton, while Nigel, Atlas, and Luca chased a tiny rat around.

Looks like Julio, Luis, Kenta, Cyril, and Kamyrn aren’t here yet.

“Still hate rats?” I asked, crouching down and slamming my hand onto the rat’s tail as it ran by, I lifted it up and watched as it tried to nip my arm as it swung back and forth.

“Yes! Now get it ou- Noooo!” Nathaniel whined, hugging Ashton even harder as I walked towards him with the rat, “Don’t bring it closer!”

Laughing, I reeled my arm back and walked towards the front door. Stepping out onto the steps, I set the rat down and watched as it made it’s way far away from me. I also threw out my cigarette, stomping it out.

Shutting the door, I shook my head, “What happened?”

“Nat here was cleaning the back room when he ran out screamin’ as if he was getting chased by a masked murderer.” Atlas explained.

“You sure it wasn’t Luis getting mad at you for ruining his suit?” I teased.

“That’s not even funny, Dev! I could’a died!” Nathaniel hissed as he let Ashton go.

“It’s a rat. You scared it with ya screaming. At most it’ll nip ya.” Atlas sighed.

“It could have rabies!”

“The Honeypots left out the drug in their nests.” Ashton explained.

“It could’a bit out my eye!”

“Highly doubt that.” Nigel piped up.

“What if it had illusioner abilities, huh? It could’a spit acid!”

“It would look mutated.” Luca and I called out.

“But-”

“Enough Nath. Let’s just finish cleaning.”

 ILLUSIONER FILE : ANGEL’S SHADOW

“Hey Baba, Papá.” I greeted as the holoscreen flashed on.

“Morning sweetie. How was the trip back?” Baba asked.

“And that wound!” Papá added.

“Fine and okay. I mean the wound healed over nicely-” I ran some fingers over the back of my neck, tracing the X-shaped wound under the thin bandage, “- and Colver got your package just today. He was patting my thigh non-stop, so he could show me the new fabric patches you sent him.”

“Great! There are some things for you too. Like sewing thread, needles, clothes, make-up, recipes, and some new photos for your album. Oh! And the newest CLOTH-Z chips for your CORE-X smartphones that we also added in this package. Maybe you can share them amongst your mimic illusioner friends.”

Chuckling, I shook my head, “Sí, sí. Thanks for the new gear, it must have been hard to get but, we gotta make a run for it. Or we’re going to be late.”

“Okay okay. We’ll tell the others that you said hi.”

“Te amo, Papá. Seni seviyorum, Baba.”

Creating a heart with our hands, the holoscreen turned off. Walking over to the box, I took out the chips and smartphones and shoved them in my bag.

“G.S have one of the guys from my side of The Vanished send out the gifts that Colver made for my dads. Come on, Colly, let’s make our way to Cravit street. We have a busy busy day today.” I said calmly as we walked out of our place and onto Freo road.

Colver and I made our way to the New Hope orphanage. It didn’t take too long, after all, we had hoverboards and Cravit street was close by our place. The orphanage itself was small, but I helped with taking care of the children there since there’s new ones almost everyday.

‘Beast gone?’ Colver signed.

Smiling, I nodded, “Yes. The beast of blood shadows is gone.”

For now.

Colver nodded as we opened the door and we were swarmed with little children. Some were just no more than two, and some were actually about as old as Colver.

I waved over to the older ones and watched as they ran towards me, hugging me once they reached me.

But, one went towards Colver and started talking to him.

“Hey Colly. How are you feeling?” That was Jordyn. I didn’t need to look over at her to see long wavy white hair to know it was her; she always called Colver, Colly, while her twin, Kyson, calls him Dover.

Shaking my head, the two started to ‘speak’ with each other while I made my way through the mob of children to the classroom.

“Evening Sister Elena.” I greeted as I entered the large room.

Sister Elena smiled towards me, “It’s morning, dear.” She held out a mug of hot chocolate out to me.

“Opps. Now we know what happens when I don’t get my morning hot chocolate.” Chuckling as I took the mug and continued, “How’s Father Reyes and Mother Salem?”

“They’re getting better. The medicine you, ehem, got us is helping.”

“That’s good. What do you want me to teach them?” I asked, sitting down on the stool in front of the blackboard. It was covered in drawings from the kids. The hot chocolate was warm in my hands and the minute I took a sip, it was bliss.

We were unable to get a holoscreen for them, but the Father, Mother, Brothers, and Sisters didn’t want a holoscreen anyways.

“With the Amphitheater Tag Trials coming up, it would be best if you teach them about the inner-selfs.”

Surprisingly, I wasn’t really fazed by this request. Some of these kids might become a zero one day or might have the rare case of an inner-self below a zero rank. And if they decided to become a gang leader or member, despite us not really wishing for that, then they’re going to need this lesson if they’re participating in the trials.

“Sure thing. Ready whenever you are.”

“Of course,” Sister Elena nodded, “but, did you take TAME earlier, so your beast will not interfere with the lesson?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright. Just let me or the other sisters know and we’ll hand some to you if it wears off.” And with that she left to get the waiting children.

I mean, half a pill should be fine. It doesn’t dim my abilities, it just keeps the voice away.

As I waited, Kyson walked in.

“Hi Miss Angel’s Shadow.”

“Father Reyes isn’t here, just call me Angel. Okay, Ky?” Another sip of my hot chocolate.

Kyson smiled brightly and nodded, “What are we learning today?”

“Inner-self’s. Or our beasts.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Who knows when you’re going to be a DP? I mean Ky, you’re a four already.”

Kyson nodded as kids started to file into the room, “True. Hey Jordz!” He turned and went over to Jordyn to talk for a bit while Colver made his way to me.

‘Jordyn is nice.’ Colver signed before frowning, ‘I feel warm.’

Smiling, I nodded. I placed my head on his forehead.

Warm…

“Have G.S check your vitals okay, just to be sure.”

Facing the kids. I stood up, “Kiddies, kiddies, where are they?” Clapping along to the words, I.waited for a response.

“Sitting, sitting, right here!”

“Right. Well, you all know who I am, so let’s start. Raise your hands if you have had a voice talk to you to make you do bad things?”

Eleven hands out of the twenty kids went up.

“Okay…”

More than I expected.

“Keep them up if you had to take half of a pill of TAME.”

The hands stayed up.

Oh joder…

Forcing a smile, I sighed, “Okay. Put them down” The hands went down, “So, there could be the possibility of you being a DP. Keep in mind that it may change, even for someone like me.”

The kids nodded.

“But, inner-selfs is the professional,” air quoting, “term.” end air quoting, “We call it inner-beasts or just The Beast of whatever. Now, we take half a TAME pill to keep the voice away until Vienna and Talin create a new drug for that purpose.”

Kyson’s hand went up.

“Kyson?”

“Can you explain your experience with the voice?”

Oh…

“Uh… Well if you asked a different DP, they might shoo you away, but I’m different.” I started, “My beast is called the Beast of Blood Shadows. She tends to speak to me when I’m having a bad,” Air quoting again, “day or a moment. She likes to drive me insane.”

“Did you ever act upon her talking to you?” Jordyn asked suddenly.

“Sometimes… Just last night, I almost shot Devil’s Light with one of my pistols, Queen.” Dimly, I smiled, “He didn’t say anything about the voice until he left my place.”

“Are you n’ Devil dating?” A kid asked.

Oh god…

“No, we’re not.”

“What about Hatchet and Masque? Are they dating?”

“Sadly… No. But, Selly, Ara and I are working on it.”

“Does C-Sharp have a significant other?”

“We are getting off topic, kids.”

“You and Visage?”

“No!” I whined as they started to giggle and laugh, “All of you, silencio…”

Kids are worse than Selkie… And I’m going to need more hot chocolate.

ILLUSIONER FILE : SUNSHINE

‘So… What’s the plan?’

“I- I don’t know.” I replied quietly as we walked past illusioners left and right down the street. To my surprise, anyone who could have heard me, just ignored me.

They’re ignoring you because this is normal for Risk Zeros. Even more so with Dragonfly potentials.

“I’m not a DP.”

A left on some street.

‘When the inner-’beast’ is able to control you, you’re a dragonfly potential. Stupid.’

“No…”

‘Jeeze, can’t handle the truth?’

“Stop it.”

‘Aww… What’s wrong? Still trying to figure out why your uncle kept you in the dark?’

“Please.” My movements stopped in the middle of an empty road. Crouching down, I covered my head, “Shut up…”

‘Oh? Someone can’t seem to take it. Well too bad, you have to live with the fact of me being here.’

“Stop.”

‘Causing you despair and bringing insanity to your mind. To a point where I can just take over for a little while.’

“I’m going to die…”

‘No, no. We don’t cause deaths… We fear it as much as you. Because if you leave, we leave. We need you.’

“Please…”

‘I can’t leave you alone fully. Since I’m you… So let’s enjoy our time together, shall we?’

“No!” I shouted as I tried to curl further down.

“Take this.”

Flinching, I looked up to see two guys. One wore what looked like a jacket, except for the fact that it was cropped, revealing the stomach with black pants and shoes to match. The same guy wore a gold detailed masquerade mask.

The other wore what looked liked to be dark gray pants with a light brown sleeveless halter-collared top and finger-less gloves. Add on the combat boots and assortment of belts, he looked pretty threatening.

The masked one was the one who spoke and in his held out hand was half of a pill.

“Half a pill of TAME keeps it away. We have some acquaintances that are DP’s.” He explained, “I’m Masque, gang leader of the Masked Undead. And the brute next to me is Hatchet, gang leader of the Ebony Swords.”

Cautiously, I took the half-pill from Masque’s hand and popped into my mouth.

“You must be a new one. Or maybe just a dormant.” Hatchet said as he helped me up.

“Both” I explained, “Joshua.”

“Well Joshua, welcome to Veskia. You’re quite lucky that we found you instead of Dagger.” Masque nodded and turned around, “Come join us in our walk.”

“Dagger?”

“Devil’s brother, triplet.” Hatchet explained, “He’ll be on you in an instant.”

“He has a thing for guys?”

“Bisexual. He’s a bit flirty, even before he figured that out.” Masque answered.

“Least he feels comfortable now.” Hatchet added.

I was rather shocked at myself for following these two, but they seem friendly. Yet, adding on the fact that they’re gang leaders, the friendliness might change.

“Is Angi at New Hope?” Hatchet asked after a period of silence as we passed a group of men at a bar talking about some soccer game.

“Sorry, but who’s Angi and what’s New Hope?”

“Hatchet prefers to call Angel’s Shadow, Angi than Angel. She shares the leader title with Devil’s Light of a gang called, The Vanished. New Hope is one of the orphanages. Angel helps out with the children.” Masque explained, “If I remember correctly, she is teaching them about inner-selfs today. That might be of use to you.”

“Maybe…”

“Just head straight and take a right by the broken fountain. It’s the building with the broken yellow door. Can’t miss it. Also, if you see us out of these outfits,” Hatchet turned to gesture to himself and Masque, “just call us by our real names. Julio and Masky is Luis.”

“Hatchet.” Masque hissed.

“You can be informal for once… We gotta run. Our gangs are meeting for something at the Ticking Hour Zone. See you around!”

“Julio ‘Hatchet’ Bezerral! Put me down this instant!” Luis shouted as Julio lifted him over his shoulder and took off running.

Sighing, I started my way down the street, following Julio’s instructions as I tried to think.

So… Half a pill just keeps the voice away. But, why did I always have to take more than one?

Shaking my head, I turned right by the broken fountain, pausing to look at it.

The statue in the middle looked like a priest, except the head and left arm was missing. A broken stone book laid at it’s feet, in a small puddle of murky water.

Taking a closer look, the book had a detailed spray painting of a child and some parents. They looked happy.

I wonder who made that

Stepping a bit back, I continued down right when I saw the yellow door out of all of the dull cream doors. It had a crack down the middle and various chips through it.

He was right.

I looked up at the building. It definitely looked like it been through some trauma. And the steps didn’t look too great, but I ended up walking up them and made my way inside.

“Hello?”

“Oh? Morning!” A woman ran out into the empty hallway and beamed at me, “I don’t believe that I’ve seen you here before.” She reminded me of the kind old ladies that would visit my school sometimes.

“Uh yeah… I’m kinda new here. I’m Joshua Wenkert.” I introduced myself as she gestured into what looked like a kitchen. It had some old style appliances such as a sink and wood stove. But, the fridge looked fairly new.

I sat myself down at a small table.

“I’m Sister Elena. You aren’t by any chance part of a gang, are you? Would you like something to drink? Tea maybe?” Sister Elena asked as she reached for a kettle.

“Sure and no… I actually met two leaders though.”

“Who?” After filling the kettle with water, she placed it on the stove.

“Hatchet and Masque.”

“Ah. They are kind boys. Know what’s best for their gang members and friends. I bet they sent you here to see Angel.”

I nodded.

“Well, she’s busy teaching the kids about inner-selfs. Kids have been showing signs lately, so Mother Salem and Father Reyes asked Angel to come in since the kids already love her.”

“That’s why I’m here actually.”

The tea kettle started to scream and Sister Elena hurried over to take it off the stove and brought it over to a coaster on the table. She also brought two tea cups.

“Ah. Dragonfly potential.” Sister Elena handed me a small wood box with tea bags as she poured the hot water into the cups, “I’ll let her know in a little bit, but for now I’ll leave you to whatever is in the fridge. You must be hungry.”

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