Abel and Leil were in the Monopoly car of the Ferris wheel, inside the Toys ‘R Us, having a conversation. Leil was platinum blonde, and had green spiderweb patterns going from her temples to her ears. She looked like one of the haughty, conceited girls from junior high, but Abel knew differently. She had been a reject from the Cyberpunks, tossed out on the street by Krios himself, then hunted. She had made it to the Players’ territory, where after a long argument with Sham, Abel took her in. Abel lived in the Lego Atlantis aisle, not far from Sham’s home itself. It was both convenient and irritating, having to listen to him get into “diplomatic” discussions all the time. But, at the same time, there was an expression: “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.”
Anyway, back to the discussion. The two were sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, and if everyone in the territory didn’t know better, rumors might have started going around that they were dating. Abel muttered something under his breath. “I still don’t get it.” Leil gave an overdramatic sigh. “Abel, we’ve had this conversation a million times before. Krios said I was getting soft. I guess with that little girl and all…” Leil stopped. Her eyes told the whole story-the week before she had been thrown out, the Cyberpunks were hunting a runaway Groundhog girl, probably only seven or eight year old. Krios had tied up the little girl and told Leil to finish her off. But when Leil saw her, those tears staining the traditional Groundhog war stripes under her eyes, she couldn’t do it. She ran off, was quickly recaptured, and then imprisoned. Krios said that she was lucky. Instead of being killed, she would be thrown out onto the streets. Abel was about to say something when the Ferris wheel started up.
Their car landed on the ground. Abel looked up, and saw a trio of giggling little kids. Leil smiled, and laughed. She rumpled the hair of Paco, a nine-year-old from Bushwick. Sham ran up to the car, pushing the kids aside. There was a scared look in his eyes, which you didn’t see very often. “Abel, Leil, I need to talk to you,” he said. “We have a really big problem.” Abel and Leil stepped out of the car and walked over to the doors with Sham. Sham motioned outside. “What do you see here?” Outside, it was even more chaotic than usual. Cars were overturned, fires blazed in trash cans, and enormous wads of newspapers flew around like tumbleweeds. Leil responded.
“It looks like Dante’s Inferno out there. What happened?”
Sham shook his head solemnly.
“The Moles happened. They’re this secret tribe that lives in the subway stations. They’ve even learned to restart the old subway trains. Anyway, turns out they’ve been snatching supplies aboveground for quite some time now, hoarding it until they could launch a full attack on NYC. That would be the end of all of us. I’ve been putting together a militia to stop them, and we’ve got some help from some of the smaller tribes in Central Park. Plus we have guys from the Historians and the Tropics-a virtual army. We need you to help stop them.”
Abel and Leil nodded. They were in. An hour later, they were toting razor-sharp javelins, and were patrolling the edge of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, near Central Park. Two blocks away, there was another group of soldiers, scouting for Moles. Just then, a young teenager burst out of the bushes. He was wearing a red and white jumpsuit, with long dark hair and green face paint that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a Celtics game. It was Wingnut, one of the highest ranking Cyberpunks, other than Krios. Leil and Abel aimed their javelins at him, and a trio of spear snipers on top of the museum did the same. Wingnut raised his arms up in the universal code for “Hold your fire”. “Wait!” he said, anxious not to wind up like shish kebab. “I’m not here for you!” Abel rolled his eyes.
“Like we buy that.”
“I’m serious, guys! I want to make peace with the Moles!”
Then, his face went pale. A look of surprise crossed his face, then his eyes changed from full of life to lifeless. He slumped forward. Then, both Abel and Leil saw the dagger sticking out of his back. Ew. From the bushes came four soldiers-three boys and a girl-dressed all in black, with monochrome makeup that hid their eyes. These, it seemed, were Moles. They weren’t armed, but it was pretty obvious that they could do some serious damage. Abel charged them, javelin raised, followed by Leil. The spear snipers fired their weapons, and the fight was on. Leil and the girl went head-to-head, Leil swinging her javelin at the girl’s head, the girl quickly blocking it. Abel sliced the trio of boys in half, though only figuratively. One retreated into the park, where he was quickly met with a swarm of tree-climbing Bullfrog fighters. The other two pounced on Abel, who swiftly hit the sidewalk and rolled to the side.
The attacking Moles suddenly looked up, their eyes wide. They scrambled back into the park as if they had heard a dog whistle, and the streets were silent, except for the heavy breathing of Abel and Leil. Leil looked at Abel, puzzled. “Where do you suppose they went?” Abel shook his head. The two headed back to the Toys ‘R Us, scraped and bruised all over. Sham’s eyes bulged. “What the heck… what happened to you two?” Leil looked down.
“Wingnut’s dead, and the Moles that killed him got away.”
Sham sighed. “Just another casualty of this war. I wonder what the Cyberpunks are doing about this. Probably just relaxing and walking the show. Chaos, terror-Krios lives for that stuff. If anything, he’ll want to team up with Martina.”
One of Abel’s eyebrows raised slightly. “Martina?”
“Yeah. While you two were gone, I was getting some intel. Apparently, Martina is the leader of the Moles. And from what I’ve heard, she’s ruthless. Krios is the kind of guy who, in a game of chess, would send every piece he has at you. Martina’s the kind of leader who’d set her pieces up for a mass attack. One bad move, and it’s checkmate. And, apparently, it’s checkmate for all of us now.”
Sham shrugged. All of a sudden, from the store’s bicycle section, an unearthly shriek echoed throughout the building. The trio were the first on the scene. A little girl, probably not much older than seven, was hiding behind a BMX rack, and for good reason. Standing in front of a hole in the wall was a Mole, a teenage girl. Instead of dark makeup, she wore what looked like a plague mask, minus the huge beak nose, that was made out of metal. On her wrist was what looked like a digital watch. She brought it to her wrists and talked into it.
“Infester One to Base, Infester One to Base. Invasion has begun. Reinforcements should be sent immediately.”
It hit Abel, Sham, and Leil at the exact same moment. This girl was only the beginning. The Players were under attack.
TO BE CONTINUED