Part 4 – Welcome to the Underworld.
The heavily-armoured Vortixx with the bull-horned helmet walked alone down the dilapidated alleyway.
Above him, crouched in the shadows, was another Vortixx, clad in olive green armour. Her baleful red eyes swept up and down the alley, making sure there was no one else nearby. The alley was clear. It was time to make her move.
She was new to this city, seeking her fame and fortune in the town’s criminal underbelly. Within days, she’d secured a very high-paying contract on this particular Vortixx she was stalking now. His name was Minnorak, some kind of big shot mercenary assassin. He had quite the price on his head, and she couldn’t understand why no one had tried to collect it yet.
She was about to find out.
Minnorak slowed down, stooping to duck under a low-hanging sign. That was when the she-Vortixx attacked, jumping down from the rooftop she’d been perched atop, landing behind him and lashing out with a pair of razor-edged whips. He whirled, as if he’d known she was there the entire time.
The whips cracked harmlessly off his armour; it was thicker than she’d anticipated, made up of solid, overlapping plates. She struck out again, knocking the firearm he’d been drawing out of his hand with one, and aiming for his head with the other. It bounced harmlessly off his faceplate, but with a twirl of her wrist, she dragged the edge across the exposed side of his neck, streaking her weapon with blood.
The injury seemed to annoy him more than injure him, and he grabbed both of her whips as she tried to pull them back. She tried to pull back, assuming that the act would lacerate his hand, forcing him to let go. But his gauntlets were just as tough as the rest of his armour. The razors cut deep gouges in the armour, but didn’t draw blood.
Laughing, Minnorak passed both whips into one hand and yanked hard, pulling her towards him. He snapped out the fist of his free hand, catching her square in the jaw and knocking her clean off her feet. She hit the ground, her world spinning. When her vision cleared she found the business end of a halberd, crackling with blue light, levelled at her throat.
“You must be new in town,” a gravelly voice came out from under Minnorak’s helm.
“How can you tell?” she managed to wheeze, spitting blood.
“Because you were fool enough to take up that contract agaisnt me,” he said disdainfully, “the local scum know better. Therefore, you must be new.”
“I suppose this is the part where I pay for my ignorance with my life?” the she-Vortixx asked, one of her hands inching towards a knife hanging from her belt. Minnorak reacted instantly, driving the thin spiked point of the halberd through her left shoulder. She felt that blue energy seep into her body, disabling her electronic components, paralysing her where she lay.
“Listen,” he growled, placing the halberd across his back and moving to pick up his dropped plasma weapon. “I can see that you have skill, but lack forward-thinking. Didn’t you wonder why I had such a high bounty? You should have stopped to think, to learn about your target before blindly pursuing them. In time, and with the right training, I think you could learn to become something formidable. And I am in need or a protégé.”
She could do nothing but lie there and stare blankly towards him. She could barely breathe, let alone talk.
“Of course, if you do more of that rash thinking and force me to kill you, you won’t be able to learn anything…” he knelt beside her, looking her in the eyes, “…blink once if you want to live.”
Slowly, she forced herself to blink. Feeling was slowly returning to her body, and she managed to nod her head as well as blink. “Good.” Minnorak stepped back, waiting for her to be able to move once more. “Are you ready to begin?” he asked, offering her his hand.
Nodding meekly, Lash reached out and took his hand.