Moving right along. For those who have not read Chapter One, it is but a click away. Simply go back to the post before this one.
I’m starting to think that this book might not have a plot. And I’m still unclear on whether the characters have personalities. But I’ll iron out those minor details later.
Here’s Chapter Two:
Paxton hated himself.
It wasn’t unfounded, though. He was planning on becoming an Enforcer. If that wasn’t reason enough for self-loathing, nothing was.
“You’re sure…I mean…you’re okay with me doing this?” he asked his mother the day of his test.
She smiled sadly. “You do what you have to do,” she said. “If you think this is the right step to take, then I trust you.”
“Even though…even after what happened to Da?”
“You promise me you never do to anyone’s Da what they did to yours, and I promise you that I will always support your decision. Now go! You’re going to be late.”
Paxton leaned forward to kiss his mother on the forehead and then he was out the door.
As he walked down his block, he was met with more than a few glares. His neighbors had heard about his intentions, and they were not happy.
An elderly Lepthian grabbed her grandchildren as he walked by and swept them into their house.
Well, “house” was a generous term.
Hovel might have been more accurate.
Paxton shuddered, hating himself even more.
He walked down the dirt road, passing rows and rows of identical hut-like structures. Each one had a domed roof, two small windows, and a door. There were no gardens, no lights, no individual markings of any kind. Of course that made sense considering they had originally been built to accommodate prisoners from all over the galaxy. The current residents weren’t criminals, but were still treated as such, despite the fact that the kings and queens and overlords of the galaxy had long since ceased to ship their prisoners there. A good many citizens were beginning to band together in an attempt to rise up against this injustice. Paxton hated that it would soon be his job to capture or kill any rebels he came across when he secretly felt for their cause.
He turned down Block 319C and headed down to the main road. A few children were playing quietly outside, but they didn’t stray too far from their houses. Any time the distinctive whir of an Enforcer vehicle reached their ears, they ran to get inside until the sound had long since passed.
Eventually Paxton reached the main road where there was a rundown transport station. He climbed up onto the platform and waved his identification card in front of the reader. It beeped twice and then a hover transport dispensed from the platform beneath his feet. Paxton stepped onto it, took hold of the railing for support, and said, “Enforcer HQ.” The transport beeped and began to move along at a steady clip. It was old and desperately in need of repairs, so occasionally it dipped dangerously close to the ground, or swerved to one side, but it always corrected itself eventually.
The trip wasn’t long, but Paxton still managed to work up a good sweat. He had nearly been laughed out of the building when he’d first gone to apply for the Enforcer position.
The Enforcer working the application desk at the time was a Rizzarian. He had two tremendous horns protruding from his skull, and his body was covered in thick, armor-like scales. At least the parts of his body that weren’t covered in very real, very damage-resistant Enforcer armor.
“A human Enforcer!” the Rizzarian crowed. “That is the highlight of my morning.”
“I’m serious,” Paxton said.
“So am I,” the Rizzarian replied, chuckling. “You do realize what would be required of you in order to get this position?”
“I’ve seen the arena.”
“Right. And you are speaking clearly, so I can assume you aren’t drunk off your ass. This means you are either incredibly stupid, or you lost a bet to someone who hates your guts.”
“I want to be an Enforcer. Your arena doesn’t scare me,” Paxton said, hoping the quaver in his voice wasn’t apparent.
The Rizzarian leaned forward in his seat to stare down into Paxton’s eyes. Paxton stared back.
“You’re serious,” the Rizzarian said.
The Enforcer let out a bark of a laugh. “This I gotta see! You know what, kid? This is your lucky day. I’m going to introduce you to the head Enforcer. We’ll see if he thinks you’ve got what it takes to face the arena.”
The head Enforcer had not been as amused by Paxton’s presence as the Rizzarian had been. He was a hulk of a thing, at least seven feet tall, Paxton guessed. Something red and fiery seemed to be glowing underneath his gray skin, and his eyes looked like burning coals.
“Why did you call me here?” the head Enforcer asked, his voice harsh.
“This young human has expressed interest in joining our ranks,” the Rizzarian replied.
The head Enforcer turned his fiery glare on Paxton. Despite being tall for his age and species, Paxton felt like a tiny, frightened child when faced with that gaze.
“Do you have a death wish?” he asked Paxton. “If I weren’t in such a good mood right now, I’d kill you on the spot for pulling such a stupid prank.”
“It’s not a prank,” Paxton said, setting his jaw. “Put me in the arena. I’ll wipe the floor with whatever trink you pit me against.”
The head Enforcer said nothing for a moment. Then half of his mouth turned up in a fearsome grin. His teeth looked like dried lava.
“Give me your ID card.”
Paxton handed it over. The head Enforcer swiped it through the Rizzarian’s terminal.
“No infractions,” he read. “Though there is something to be said for the father. Planning on following in your Da’s footsteps, human?”
“My Da was weak. He left me to care for my mother on my own, and I plan to do just that.”
The head Enforcer let out a grunt of a laugh and gave Paxton his ID card back.
“Return in one week, human. You will face the arena at noon. If you live through your trial in the arena, I might consider having a human-sized set of armor made.” He paused, his smile dissolving as his eyes narrowed. “But you will not live. You will see your error seconds too late. And you will die. Let that be the one and only warning I issue to you. If you do not make an appearance, you will be labeled a coward and a trink, but you will live.”
“I’ll be here,” Paxton said.
The hover transport sputtered to a stop outside the Enforcer HQ and let out a noise almost like a relieved sigh. He stepped off of it and it immediately turned to head back to the station it had come from.
Paxton gazed up at the tremendous building in front of him. It was made entirely of metal, with only narrow slits for windows, and it was completely intimidating to look at. It was much wider than it was tall, and that was saying something since the top of the building wasn’t even visible if you were standing right outside of it. It had to be big, of course, because at the center of it all was the arena. Inside the arena, two things always happened: A young hopeful began his or her life as an Enforcer, and another one died a brutal death.
Paxton swallowed hard and walked up the steps to the entrance of the building.
He waved his ID card at the doors and they slid open.
A different Enforcer was working the front desk that day, but it soon became clear he’d heard all about Paxton.
“You actually came!” he shouted, standing up.
“I said I’d be here.”
“This is too good to be true. I wish I wasn’t on duty today. I wanted to see this fight in person.”
“Sorry to disappoint.”
“Don’t worry. They’re broadcasting the fight all over the building today. I’ll be keeping a close eye on my monitor.”
“Great. Where do I go?”
“Through that door there. They’ll fit you with your armor and give you further instructions.”
Paxton nodded and headed through the door the Enforcer had indicated. It led to a long hallway which ended in another door. He went through that one, too, and ended up in a tiny elevator with no buttons. No controls were needed, though. It began moving the moment the doors closed behind him, descending for several seconds before seamlessly shifting into a horizontal direction.
A moment later, it slid to a stop and doors on the opposite wall opened. Paxton stepped out into a room that was full of shelves. On the shelves sat various pieces of armor. They seemed to be in all different shapes, but the sizes only varied from large to extremely large.
“I’ll be damned, human,” the Enforcer in the room said. “Nobody saw this coming. You’re sure about this? It’s not too late to back out.”
Paxton just glared at him.
“Right. Well…best of luck to you. My name’s Rix. I’ll be fitting you with your loaner armor for the fight today.”
Rix had a number of short, writhing tentacles on the top of his head. He promptly reached up and pulled one off. It grew back instantly.
“Get over here.”
Paxton complied. Rix began stretching the plucked tentacle around Paxton’s chest, up his arms, around his biceps, from his leg to his groin, and more.
“Gotta tell you, kid, we don’t have a single thing in your size.”
“Just give me the next best thing.”
“Hmm…yes…maybe…maybe you’re about the same size as a smaller Hedger?”
He began pulling pieces of armor off the shelves.
“You know how to get these on?” Rix asked.
“I think I can figure it out,” Paxton said, putting on every loose-fitting piece of armor Rix handed him.
It only took a few minutes. The last thing Rix gave him was a pair of standard-issue gauntlets. These were the weapon of choice for most Enforcers. When activated, a pair of bayonet-like weapons would spring out. They had electrical currents running through them, so they were extra deadly and also potentially dangerous to the user. It was a symbol, of sorts. The Enforcers were saying, “We don’t fear the proximity to death, nor the prospect of pain.” It was meant to intimidate.
“Korse requested I give you that specific pair,” Rix said, nodding at the gauntlets as Paxton put them on.
“Oh, the head Enforcer. Our boss. Yours, too, if you miraculously win today.”
Paxton fitted the gauntlets over his forearms and found that they were surprisingly snug, especially compared to everything else he was wearing. Had Korse done him a favor? Built him a special pair of gauntlets? That didn’t seem to be his style.
“Alright. Looks like you’re all set to die,” Rix said. “Uh…any last words?”
“I’m not going to die.”
“Sure. Well, uh…just go stand over by those doors. They should be all ready for you in a few minutes.”
Paxton went over to stand by the door. His heart was pounding so hard he swore he could hear it echoing loudly from within his ill-fitting armor. It was an agonizing minute and a half before the door slid open, the sudden onslaught of sunlight blinding him momentarily. Once his eyes adjusted, he stepped out into the vast arena. The door shut behind him immediately.
The stands were completely full, not even one empty seat to be seen. The roar of the crowd was deafening. The first section was packed with Enforcers and some of the elite who had paid enough money to have the Enforcers turn a blind eye to them. The second section – the balcony – was packed with ordinary, lowly citizens. It was one of the few events they were allowed to go to with little to no fear of being taken by an Enforcer. As long as they didn’t hurt anybody or cause too much of a scene.
Paxton had asked his mother not to come. If things didn’t go the way he hoped, he didn’t want her to be there to witness what would surely be a gruesome death.
He couldn’t tell if anybody in the audience was actually cheering for him, but he doubted it. None of the Enforcers wanted a human in their ranks. None of his fellow citizens wanted to see one of their own become a member of the hated police force. So many had lost friends and family over the years for stupid, often made up infractions. The lucky ones were killed on the spot. The unlucky ones were taken to the tombs. If Paxton did survive his trial in the arena, he’d still be as good as dead to them.
No competitor had entered the arena yet. Paxton stared around at all the onlookers, feeling his stomach clenching into a tight little ball. He had spent the past week putting himself through the workout of his life. Weight-lifting, boxing, weapons training. Anything he could think of for hours on end. His mother would have to fight just to get him to stop long enough to eat a meal.
He was confident he could take on most anything or anyone by this point. He was tall for a human and strong. Young, too, which might give him an advantage over an older opponent. He had turned thirteen only a few months ago. Well, he guessed he was around eighteen or nineteen in human years, but he was not on a human planet. He had hatched his plan to become an enforcer almost a year prior, when he realized he’d soon be required to join the workforce. His mother was already very sick from her long, grueling hours at the factory. Her hair was going prematurely gray, and he knew that if he didn’t do something the Enforcers would work her into an early grave.
The only way to protect her was to join their ranks. He would be able to move her into a better house, and she wouldn’t be required to work as an Enforcer’s family member. On top of that, he would be paid a living wage. This was how the Great Overseer controlled his police force. Though the Enforcers were well equipped to take down the planet’s government, they never rebelled. The Overseer provided them with enough power and benefits to keep them right where he wanted them.
Paxton knew nothing could ever make him transgress. He would accept the protection that his despicable new profession would afford him.
All he had to do was win this fight against the other prospect that had been chosen to compete against him.
After months and months of training, he felt he was ready.
Just as long as they don’t pit me against…
Paxton felt himself go cold. He had just caught the gaze of Korse, the head Enforcer. His expression was malicious, his grin sadistic. That was when the doors at the opposite end of the arena swept open, and out stepped his opponent.
He was a Goliath. Nine feet tall, with skin made of rock, which meant he weighed at least twenty times more than Paxton. This one didn’t even seem to need the armor he wore. Nothing could penetrate a Goliath’s rocky flesh.
Korse had set him up to be slaughtered.
The Goliath gritted his teeth in a fierce grin when he caught sight of Paxton.
Korse rose from his throne-like seat and an instant hush fell over the stadium.
“We are all familiar with how this works, I’m sure. This is a fight to the death. The two competitors have only their own strength and wits to rely on. The winner becomes an Enforcer. The loser dies. There are no rules beyond this. Begin!”
Without a moment’s hesitation, the Goliath charged. Paxton felt himself go cold. He could see the oncoming behemoth, but couldn’t remember any of his training. His extremities had gone numb. It wasn’t until he could see the finer details of his opponent’s eyes – red sclera, yellow veins, black irises – that his reflexes kicked in. He dove out of the way, rolling back to his feet. The Goliath was unable to slow his charge in time to correct for the new target, and ended up several feet away.
Growling, his opponent slammed his massive gauntlets against his sides, activating the spring-loaded, electrified bayonets. They slid out the bottom of the gauntlets in one smooth motion. Paxton recognized the sight of them – the blades were bent at an angle so they were suspended a few inches below the Enforcer’s wrists. That way the bayonets could stick out parallel to the user’s forearms with encumbering them in any way. So long as the Enforcer remembered to keep his hands balled into fists with his arms extended away from his body. One wrong move and he could electrocute himself.
Paxton wondered if Goliaths could even be electrocuted. Wouldn’t they just be able to shake it off? No point in pondering. He quickly imitated the Goliath’s earlier motion and activated his own bayonets.
Something went horribly wrong.
The gauntlet on his left wrist let out a series of sparks and hissing sounds, but no blade extended from it. The gauntlet on his right produced a bayonet that was bent out of alignment. Sparks flew from it as the edge of the blade caught the underside of Paxton’s closed fist. He screamed as electricity shot through him, his arm going numb.
There was supposed to be rubber padding on the inside of the gauntlet to prevent excessive injury. His were apparently missing.
Korse had set him up with faulty weapons and an unbeatable opponent.
The Goliath laughed and charged again, keeping his own fully-functional bayonets extended. Paxton only had a second to shed his useless weapons. He no longer had any feeling in his right arm, but he still had the use of his left. He attempted to dive out of the way again, but the Goliath wasn’t as dumb as he looked. Having anticipated Paxton’s dodge, he threw his arm out at the last second, sweeping it upward into Paxton’s chest and intercepting his dive.
Paxton went flying through the air as more electricity, this time from the Goliath’s gauntlet, sizzled through him. He hit the ground hard, his ill-fitting armor barely protecting him. Something had definitely broken. A couple ribs, he thought.
His mind went hazy as the roar of the crowd filled his ears. This fight would be over soon. The Goliath approached slowly, lazily. A predator stalking its prey.
Gasping for breath, Paxton scrambled backward, supporting himself on his good arm as best as he could. But the Goliath was on him before he’d been able to move more than a couple feet. His opponent retracted his bayonets so that he could wrap one massive hand around Paxton’s throat. He had opted to savor the fight, rather than going in for the quick kill with his weapons.
Oxygen deprived and severely injured, Paxton grappled with the stony fingers to no avail. The Goliath easily lifted him off the ground and flung him another thirty feet. He landed in a heap, gasping for breath. A little feeling was coming back to his right arm, but it was mainly enough to feel an extreme amount of pain and nothing more.
The ground shook as the Goliath approached once more. Paxton pushed himself flat onto his back, and as he did so, his left hand landed on something hard and sharp. He glanced to the side, seeing that it was a fairly large, pointed rock. His fingers closed around it.
The Goliath was upon him. He reared back, raising a rocky fist. In a moment he would bring it down, crushing Paxton’s skull like an egg.
Or so he thought.
With the last of his strength, Paxton leapt to his feet. As the Goliath’s fist came down, Paxton jumped up, landing on top of his opponent’s tremendous arm. The Goliath leaned back in surprise, giving Paxton just the right angle for his attack. Pushing off of the Goliath’s arm, he jumped forward, driving the rock in his left hand directly into his opponent’s bright red eye.
Yellow blood gushed from the wound as the Goliath roared in pain. The fight wasn’t over yet. Paxton jumped to the ground, pulling the rock out with him. The Goliath flailed wildly as the crowd screamed, either in indignation or support. Paxton couldn’t tell.
He kept well out of the way of his opponent’s reach, jumping back any time a swing came close to him. The Goliath recovered ever so slightly, a trail of blood leaking from his right eye. He kept turning, trying to catch sight of the human, but Paxton made sure to keep to the Goliath’s blind spot.
Moving as quietly as possible, he slipped behind his opponent and reached down into the dirt to find something solid he could throw. He found a few pebbles, got a grip on them, aimed, and threw. They landed a few feet to the right of the Goliath, still in his blind spot. Without thinking, he roared and attacked, his blow landing on empty space. But it had caused him to kneel, which gave Paxton the opportunity he needed. He got a running start and leapt onto the Goliath’s back, managing to get a hold of its right shoulder with his barely-functional right hand. In one smooth motion, he used his momentum to swing his left arm around and drive the sharp rock into the Goliath’s remaining good eye.
The bellow of pain was doubly loud this time. Paxton dropped back to the ground and darted away as the Goliath fell to its knees, twin streams of yellow blood pouring down his face and dripping onto the ground. His opponent alternated between screams of fury and sobs of agony.
“Where are you?” he shouted. “Show yourself! Finish me!”
Paxton wasn’t sure he could. Even if he somehow knew how to kill a Goliath with one small rock, he wasn’t confident that he would.
Breathing labored, he dropped his little rock and instead clutched at his throbbing side. With the adrenaline fading, all the aches and pains of the battle were catching up with him.
“You heard him,” Korse’s voice boomed. “Finish this battle, human.”
Paxton turned to face the head Enforcer. He set his jaw and said nothing.
Korse cracked his half smile again.
“If you do not dispatch of this sorry excuse for a Goliath, then you will both die. This might prove inconvenient to you.”
Paxton still didn’t respond as he began to panic. How could he kill a being made entirely of rock? He doubted Korse would allow him to wait for the Goliath to bleed out from his wounded eyes.
“Don’t worry, human. You fought well. We will provide you with a weapon. All you need do is finish what you started.”
With that, Rix entered the arena bearing a large axe. The afternoon sunlight glinted off its freshly-sharpened blade. Rix pushed the weapon into Paxton’s good hand.
He turned to look at the Goliath, who was still kneeling prone on the ground a few feet away. Hefting the axe over his shoulder, Paxton approached.
But still, once he was there, he hesitated.
“Do it, you puny coward,” the Goliath growled. “Do not dishonor me by attempting to save my life now.”
Paxton lifted the blade, ignoring the protests of his broken ribs and his electrocuted right arm.
The Goliath began to scream. “DO IT! KILL M–”
The blade fell.
The Goliath’s head dropped onto the ground and rolled away while the body simply shuddered and collapsed. Yellow blood stained the ground.
Paxton took a shuddering breath and released the handle of the axe.
It was done.
He was an Enforcer.
He hated himself more than ever.
Chapter Three tomorrow! Be there or be labeled a coward and a trink!