|WARNING: PROFANITY FOLLOWS|
|The following content contains profanity that may not be suitable for readers of all ages. Please proceed with caution.|
[The sun shines brightly on a warm, spring day. Wispy clouds dot the sky, but the sun pierces through them. Beneath the clouds, Pietro Czeswin continues to ride back towards Ateria on horseback. He approaches the northern part of the wall surrounding the city on the pathway between Ateria and Teviv, but he soon turns off to the side, heading for a secret entrance to the city.]
[At the top of the wall, Connor Yan stands watching him.]
[Connor]: How did no one ever find their secret entrance?
[Pietro continues for the entrance as Connor slowly follows him. The camera cuts to ground level. Pietro rides towards a part of the wall with ivy growing on it. The grass on the ground in front of the wall is especially thick, and there are many bushes clumped right around the wall, with the ivy stretching about thirty feet upwards. Pietro hops off his horse; he reaches underneath his coat and takes out a lantern. He looks around, but doesn't see anyone around. He bends down and moves the bush to the side, revealing a staircase leading to an underground passage way. He grabs his horse by the reins and starts to walk down the staircase. He lets go of the horse for a moment and pulls the bush back into its original position, concealing the entrance.]
[Connor floats out over the top of the wall, having been watching how Pietro used the secret entrance. He looks over across the city and sees several To'kustars at the other end. Small specs, presumably members of the Aterian police, are fighting the To'kustars, holding them off but likely not pushing them back.]
[Connor]: This is turning into one big mess.
[He floats down towards the ground and then lands, running as he slows down and approaches the secret entrance. He draws two swords and then lunges and slices the bush, permanently opening the secret staircase. Without any source of light other than that from the sun, he slowly starts to walk down the staircase.]
[The camera pans a bit later to Connor walking down a long pathway that appears to be part of the sewer system, with pathways on either side and a river of dirty water and sewage in the middle. He comes to an intersection and then looks at the middle; there is a ladder sticking out of the wall with a manhole cover at the top.]
[Connor]: How did Lawrence never find this?
[Footsteps can be heard running. Connor backs up, taking cover behind the corner. He quietly draws his sword and peeks around the corner, but no one is there.]
[Connor]: Must be above ground?
[He puts the sword away and jumps to the ladder.]
[Connor]: If this anything like other cities, it's built with roads at an ever so slight incline such that water drains outwards towards the walls, which means this should take me to a back street somewhere.
[He holds onto the ladder with one hand and one foot, but doesn't climb up the ladder yet.]
[Connor]: Maybe I should look around a bit more? The sewers might connect directly to the Forever Knights' base in this town.
[He jumps back off the ladder and just barely lands at the corner. He immediately starts to run down the path as he draws his swords again. After a few moments, he comes to another intersection, but this one only goes three ways. Another ladder sticks out in the middle of the intersection. He looks to the left and then turns to the right and starts to run off but then he stops and turns around. He sees a ladder a short distance away from him on the left side of the pathway to the left. He jumps across the river of sewage, floating towards the ladder with his Skywings.]
[Connor]: Now this is worth investigating...
[He walks up to the ladder and looks above him. At the wall above the ladder, there is a crawlspace that is pretty forgiving in terms of tightness. Connor puts his swords away and starts climbing the ladder. He gets to the top and then starts to go through the crawlspace, with plenty of leeway between him and the ceiling and to either side. He gets to the end of the crawlspace and stands up. He looks around and finds himself in a well-like structure. There is a ladder on the wall, leading up to a faint source of light. He climbs up the second ladder, eventually reaching the top. He sees a sliding door in front of him, with a very thin crack underneath. Light glows from the room behind the door, and mumbled voices can be heard. Connor draws a sword in his right hand and then quickly slides the door open with his left hand and draws a second sword, pointing them both into the room.]
[Connor]: Everyone freeze!
[He looks around, and sees a room with many wooden tables, as well as a boxed off area on the right side, leading to another room as it were a bar at a restaurant. There are no people standing in the room. Connor slowly moves forwards into the room, holding his swords at either side. He stops in the middle and looks around. Suddenly, Pietro can be heard talking to him from an unknown location.]
[Pietro]: You know, you should really look up, too!
[Connor looks up at a chandelier filled with many lights. The chandelier suddenly drops on its chain, and Connor drops to the ground to avoid it. The chandelier stops above two feet from the ground, giving Connor just barely enough room and time to avoid it. He starts to slide out from underneath the chandelier, but Pietro jumps out from behind the counter and lands on his left hand. With his other hand, he slashes at Pietro's leg and is forced to stop quickly when the surprisingly agile man jumps off his hand and lands on a table in front of Connor and the chandelier.]
[Pietro]: Feel free to just stay underneath the chandelier for as long as you want to?
[Connor]: You were expecting me?
[He pauses briefly in the middle of speaking to wince in pain due to Pietro crushing his hand. He can barely move it, and the sword that he was holding is now lying on the ground.]
[Pietro]: Oh of course! We Knights are always very careful.
[There is a knock on the door at the far side of the room, opposite where Connor entered.]
[Pietro]: Oh, guess I'm done. Come in, Proctor.
[The door slides open as Andrew Knowles walks into the room.]
[Pietro]: Oh yeah, if I didn't tell you before, now that you've found our secret entrance, we're going to half to kill you.
[Connor lies underneath the chandelier. Andrew leans against the wall next to the door as Pietro moves from standing on the table to sitting on it with his feet on a chair.]
[Pietro]: I wonder if you'll die when you get stabbed through the heart.
[Connor, in pain]: What's that supposed to mean?
[Pietro]: Oh, you know...
[Andrew]: I thought you were does, Czes?
[Pietro]: My lord, don't call me that.
[Andrew]: An unusual display of chivalry from you.
[Pietro]: You see, when I really want something...
[Andrew]: I thought I was going to stab him through the heart?
[Pietro]: My lord, perhaps you would consider stabbing him in his already-crippled hand?
[Andrew leans up from the walls and slowly starts to walk towards Connor as he takes a knife out of his pocket.]
[Pietro]: I don't think we've been formally introduced. You can call me Pietro Czeswin, head scientist of all the Forever Knights. This is Proctor Knowles, though when he gets on my nerves I like to call him Andy.
[Pietro]: He's in charge of the southern most part of the region between Walls Sera and Via. I'd compare him to you, but you're just part of the Regional Squad Corps; you don't have any real power!
[Andrew stops just out of reach of Connor's range with the sword still in his right hand.]
[Pietro]: Both of us are men to be feared, so if you want to perhaps make it out of this confrontation alive, I'd suggest answering our questions.
[The camera shows a cluster of nine To'kustars. Nathan Loretta and Tuesday Smith work together to fight the To'kustars as Lawrence and the children fly around, partially helping to distract them. Nathan slashes a To'kustar in the frill, killing it, before moving right to the next To'kustar, killing it, too. Tuesday slices a third To'kustar on the arm with both blades, running up it and then hopping up and striking it in the frill. She backs away with rapidity to go for the next one.]
[Nathan, bantering]: The first kill is always the best.
[Tuesday]: ...Wasn't my first. Second, actually.
[Nathan weaves in between the swings from the arms of a To'kustar. He rushes in, cuts it in both hands, and then zooms in at the face of the alien, stabs it in the eyes, and then jumps up at the frill, delivering the fatal blow.]
[Tuesday]: Oh, are we keeping score?
[Nathan]: You're not even close; I'm just putting you in your place.
[Across from them, Lily flies away from a To'kustar after previously rushing into its face. Michael draws two swords and flies towards the same To'kustar's frill. He spins around with his Skywings, delivering a cycle of slashes to the frill, killing it. As the To'kustar falls to the ground, Teru and Arik can be seen working together to distract a To'kustar. Arik and Teru fly back and forth in a pattern. Teru circles the To'kustar and slashes the lower parts of its legs. Arik spins in the other direction and slices first at the To'kustar's right elbow, second at the lower back, and third at the right elbow. Suddenly, Sven rushes in from behind, flies over the To'kustar's head, and stabs down at the top of the frill, killing it. He pulls his blade out, but it snaps in half as he does so, leaving a chunk of it in the frill. He jumps up and draws another sword from the holder on his right side as he flies away from the center of the fight. Teru and Arik follow him.]
[Teru]: This shouldn't be possible! We're so inexperienced!
[Sven]: Maybe it just exposes the To'kustars as weak sons of bitches!
[Teru]: Well, you're not wrong.
[Arik]: Honestly. It's the teamwork. We would never be able to do this on our own.
[They watch the fight with the remaining three To'kustars on their own. Nathan, Tuesday, Lawrence, and Noelle are off to the side, fighting the To'kustar that survived the previous confrontation. The camera pans over and shows Hadria flying at another To'kustar, slashing it across the chest. It reaches for her, but she throws her sword, hitting it in the hand, injuring the alien. She rushes at the To'kustar's frill and strikes it, killing it. She rushes down, pulls her sword out of the To'kustar's hand before it starts to fall, and then immediately rushes for the other one.]
[Sven]: Unless you're her.
[Teru, arrogant]: Yeah but she has experience!
[Hadria ducks underneath a swing from the To'kustar and holds both of her swords above her head, slitting its wrist. She soars upwards and then pile drives down on the beast's other hand, injuring it. She flies up and then rushes in, striking the beast in its left shoulder. She rushes behind it, spins around the neck, striking it as she goes, and then blasts through the right shoulder, disabling its other arm. She slowly backs away as she puts her swords away and draws a fresh pair. She stares down the To'kustar in the eyes, as it stands across from her, unable to move its arms and fight back.]
[Hadria]: This will be the fate of all To'kustars, and all who oppose humanity.
[She rushes in, stabbing into the frill with both swords. The To'kustar roars in pain as Hadria leaves the sword in and floats back. She draws the two swords she was using before and turns to the last remaining To'kustar, the one that had previously run away. The camera cuts to Sven, Teru, and Arik watching. Michael and Lily float over to join them.]
[Sven]: She's good.
[Michael]: You think?
[The camera cuts to Lawrence, Nathan, Tuesday, and Noelle fighting the To'kustar. Noelle and Lawrence rush in at the To'kustar's face together, before splitting to either side. Each of them rushes for a shoulder of the beast, and they both successfully strike their targets, but not enough to prevent the To'kustar from using its arms. Tuesday and Nathan rush in, both going for the frill.]
[Nathan]: This is gonna be eight.
[He ducks out of the way to avoid a swing from the To'kustar. Tuesday ducks to the other side to avoids the same swing. After the path clears, she bursts forward, but stops as the To'kustar attempts to cover its frill with its arms.]
[Lawrence]: I told you; it's intelligent!
[Tuesday rushes in at the To'kustar, slitting one of its arms at the wrist. It drops the arm, leaving a spot open for the frill. She looks at the To'kustar and she rushes in, but the To'kustar swats her back. She comes to a halt as Nathan, Lawrence, and Noelle regroup with her.]
[Tuesday]: Nathan and I can handle this, you two get to safety.
[Hadria, flying in]: No, I can help, too.
[Hadria]: I killed two on my own, dad.
[Lawrence]: This one's different. It's intelligent.
[Hadria]: I'm not going to be alone; I'll have help.
[Lawrence]: But remember, your life is always a priority.
[He flies away, as does Noelle. Hadria watches and then turns to the To'kustar. Nathan and Tuesday are off to her left.]
[Hadria]: One day, when I've proven myself, he'll stop worrying about me all the time.
[Tuesday]: I understand how you feel, just know that it could be a while before that happens.
[Hadria]: Care to share your experiences?
[Tuesday]: Not really, no.
[Nathan, interjecting]: For the record, Tuesday, I believe Hadria is tied with you.
[Hadria]: Oh, we're keeping score?
[Nathan, teasing]: Yeah, but you're life is a priority, remember?
[Nathan]: Why don't you learn how the pros do it.
[He bursts forward, faster than he ever has before. He feigns an attack from the left side and then bursts to the right, around the one working arm of the To'kustar. He soars upwards and then slams down both swords at the frill, critically wounding the alien. He floats back as the To'kustar falls to the ground. He turns around as Tuesday and Hadria float back to meet up with the rest of the team.]
[Nathan]: Like, I said, that's eight.
[The camera slowly transitions to the team regrouping with their horses as the nine To'kustars lay on the ground dead. Tuesday, Nathan, and Lawrence are standing by their horses as they prepare to once again continue their journey to Ateria.]
[Tuesday]: So do you guys still trust me?
[Lawrence]: I don't think you would have helped us fight those To'kustars if you weren't on our side.
[Tuesday looks behind her briefly. There is no one around.]
[Tuesday]: I've been in a weird position for my entire life. For whatever reason I thought joining the Knights would be a good idea... Turns out it wasn't, but I'm going to try and use them.
[Nathan]: Listen to what you're saying, Tuesday. You obviously don't agree with the Forever Knights, yet you're staying with them? You've been with our team for a couple of hours, and you clearly have a lot of chemistry with us?
[Tuesday]: It's something I have to figure out on my own.
[As she says this, she looks up at the sky and smiles. The clouds begin to darken and take up more of the sky. A large cumulonimbus cloud blocks the sun as rain starts to trickle down.]
[Lawrence]: Come on, if we leave know, we might be able to make it to Teviv but sunset.
[Tuesday turns to Lawrence, continuing her smile.]
[The camera cuts to Connor lying underneath the chandelier as Pietro questions him.]
[Pietro]: Now that we've established the conditions, if you don't mind me asking, why did you choose who you did to leave the city?
[Connor]: It was completely random.
[Pietro]: Oh, I understand.
[He gets off the table and faces Connor.]
[Pietro]: Break his hand.
[Before Connor can react, Andrew slams the knife down into Connor's left hand. He quickly pulls the knife out as Connor pulls his hand in, clearly in a great deal of pain.]
[Pietro]: It's not random when there are at least two specials in the group?
[Pietro]: Do you want us to break your other hand? One of them is a member of your squad?
[Connor, genuine]: I don't know what you're talking about!
[Pietro]: Espers! Haven't you heard of them?
[Pietro]: I really hope you're hiding something, because I'm going to regret doing this if it turns out you didn't know anything... His other hand... Break it...
[Andrew]: I don't think that's necessary. It's clear he doesn't know what you're talking about.
[Pietro]: First of all, nothing is clear yet. Second of all, I don't care; I like torture.
[Andrew]: I don't have to listen to you.
[Pietro]: No, I guess you don't. You're a Proctor, and I'm just the top scientist with the Knights who reports directly to Lord Webster. So, if that's your definition of not having to listen to me, then by all means, don't listen to me.
[Andrew grunts again. He walks behind Pietro on his way to Connor's right side.]
[Pietro, casually]: Watch out for the sword.
[As Andrew continues his way towards Connor's right side, the squad leader jumps out from underneath the chandelier, rolls and turns around, pointing the sword in his one good hand at Andrew as he stands across from his. Connor slowly gets up from his spot on the round as he backs towards the still open door leading to the sewers.]
[Pietro]: Pulled a fast one on us, I see?
[Connor]: Vance is smug, you're a psychopath, what's wrong with you?
[Andrew]: He's not insane, it's just a performance.
[Pietro]: You're ruining the fun.
[Connor breathes heavily as he continues to suffer from the injury. Blood contains to drip from his now definitely broken hand.]
[Connor]: You're not getting anything else out of me.
[Pietro]: Hmmm, maybe not?
[Connor slowly starts to back away, and then quickly rushes back on his Skywings and floats down the well-like structure. Pietro walks to edge of the hole and looks down, but Connor is already starting to crawl through the crawlspace back to the sewers.]
[Andrew]: Do you want me to follow him?
[Pietro]: No, I have a feeling we won't need to...
[He takes a deep breath.]
[Pietro]: I think you were right about him not knowing anything, which only makes me question how two Espers ended up traveling together.
[The camera cuts to Connor getting out of the crawlspace. He falls down the ladder and lands on the platform at the side of the river of sewage. He rests for a moment before examining his left hand. It is still bleeding heavily. He puts his sword away and then looks to his right.]
[Connor]: I should find my way back to the stairs and get outside. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.
[He runs off to the right and quickly turns the corner. As he does so, Vance Grace also arrives at the corner. Vance smacks into him, knocking him backwards. Vance quickly recovers from the collision, and sees Connor teetering over the edge of the platform. He quickly rushes forward and pushes him into the river of sewage. Connor quickly resurfaces and then grabs the ledge with his right hand. Vance takes a step forward, standing over Connor as he looks down at him.]
[Vance]: Having fun down there?
[Connor continues to breath heavily.]
[Vance]: Pietro break your other hand?
[Connor, short of breath]: How... did you--
[Vance]: He has a habit of doing that to his prisoners... I guess his reasoning is that hands are both essential and disposable at the same time; you can function without them, but barely.
[Connor]: So what are you going to do to me?
[Vance]: Well, you see, one thing you can't do without hands is grab a ledge. So I'm just going to break your other hand.
[He takes out a knife, but before he can stab it into Connor's right hand, he lets go of the ledge and slowly floats over to the other side. The current takes him a little bit diagonally, but he manages to grab onto the other ledge and slowly pull himself up. Vance stares at him, amazed at Connor's strength.]
[Vance]: But, of course, I knew you were going to do that.
[Connor, drawing a sword]: I think it's about time I wiped that smug grin off your face, don't you?
[Vance]: You can try all you want.
[Connor points the sword at Vance and then rushes at him with his Skywings.]
[To Be Continued]