Oliver wasn’t much taller than Ben, yet the way he presented himself could make a giant take a step back. He was intimidating, and he knew it, which came in handy when dealing with rebellious delinquents such as Riot. He stared down at his three suspects, his gaze lingering longest on Ben. As a teenager, a simple glare from Oliver made the seventeen year old almost wet himself, but he wasn’t seventeen anymore. Time had gone on, and with time, Ben had changed. He wasn't the kid Oliver had found eight years ago.
Ben was the kind of person who would forget a dream right when they woke up, pee in the shower, and for some reason never remember a date to save his life. His freshman history report of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1935 would tell you that. The only exception to this was if the memory somehow involved food. He could recount details of the food better than the actual event, but at least he could tell you something. For instance, he could remember having fried chicken the day he broke his arm, popsicle sticks dipped in pop rocks the day he got his license, and heck, the only reason he remembered his birthdays was for the cakes.
May 7th, 2015. Stale candy. Atlas day.
It's a strange sensation to feel like your limbs are being pulled and torn, and your organs compressed to the point of almost bursting.
Ben couldn't see straight; everything whipped passed him in quick, blurry movements, and the ground under him shook so violently he was afraid of being sucked into a fissure.
He could feel something wet soaking his skin clothes, and he was sure that had to be his own blood. What else cold he expect after having body parts torn from their sockets?
One moment, Ben was in Jack's living room, the next, a flash of green light, and finally, solid ground with his Snickers bar making a second appearance.
Ben hurled, in pure agony over whatever had just happened to him. He was also conscious. Why was he conscious?
He could feel the sun on his back. Hadn't it been nighttime at Jack's place?
His ears were adjusting to his new surroundings faster than his eyes. Voices. He could hear millions of voices all at once. Yelling, shouting, crying. Thunderous and booming. Loud. Too loud.
What the hell was happening? Ben turned around, the vision in his right eye slowly coming into focus. Something black was coming his way. Never mind the Giants, he was more concerned about the object getting close and closer...Ben blinked...wait a minute...
“GIAN--” Ben was jerked back suddenly when he felt something tug at his backpack. Large talons pierced into the fabric. Without warning, Ben was lifted into the air by a giant bird! The bird flew low and fast between the bustling crowds, almost hitting the sides of buildings and people several times. Ben's mouth opened, but he was too afraid to make a noise. His stomach dropped out, and he felt bile rising in his throat as he was lifted higher and higher into the air. He felt himself slipping from the straps of his backpack. Ben kicked and swung, trying to grab onto the black bird’s ankles. The bird cawed, releasing Ben from its grasp.
Whatever was stopping him from screaming sure as hell wasn’t in effect now. He shouted and clawed desperately at the air as he plummeted down, down, down.
“CATCH ME YOU STUPID BIR--” His cries were interrupted as he felt the talons pierce skin as they wrapped around and dig into his shoulders. The bird descended down, farther and farther until they came across an abandoned alleyway. The bird let him go when he was no more than two feet from the ground.
To say he landed perfectly on his feet would of been a lie. The sound of the asphalt rang as Ben made a full impact hit on the concrete. He was still conscious. Why the fuck was he still conscious?
Ben lay there a minute, trying to catch his breath. He would have never admitted it, but had he not heard the light footsteps the boy would of broke down in tears. They were smaller, more quiet sounding. Ben lifted his head into the direction of the steps.
He stood just a few inches taller than Ben; Sharp jawline with piercing green eyes. His clothing was like something Ben had never seen before the only way he could describe it was Rock star meets zombie apocalypse. Torn and altered what appeared to be a soaked and dyed blue Burlap shirt. Tough scraps of fabric with various shades of green slabbed and stitched together to make a sort of leather jacked for him. It was impossible to say which fabric was the original and which was added on. Pants were probably the only thing that didn’t look too out of the ordinary. Cargo...shredded in a blender. The homeless man near Liam Town Library dressed like a king compared to this Apocalypse scruff. Yet despite how fragile he looked Ben had a feeling this guy had earned his respect.
“State your sector.” Came a voice, deep and full of authority.
He now hovered over Ben, bending down and clutching him by the shirt with one hand. He lifted the boy to his feet and slammed him against a fallen down soda can. His wrist pinned against the boy’s his other hand pressed against Ben’s neck. ice cold metal against the boy’s neck. Probably a knife. He wasn’t too keen on turning to find out.
“State your sector.” The green eyed man repeated.
Ben blinked in confusion. “Huh?”
“Where is your colony?” He leaned in closer, his breath tickling against Ben’s nose.
“Huh?” The dagger dug into his skin a little bit.
“Wait! Stop. I don’t know what a sector is.” He winced, feeling a trickle of blood begin to slide down his neck.
“If you’re not from a sector, then where did you come from?” The blade released as both turned back to the bird. Perched on its back were a small girl and boy. The boy was Roka, who at the time was no more than 13. His hair was greasy and mucky black, always tangled in front of his eyes.
The girl Riot, had a rebellious sort of look to her - a pierced nose with half-dreads pulled back in a messy bun.
“You...you were controlling that--that--that-- monster?”
“Excuse me, this monster has a name.”
“Her name is Shiloh...or his...we don’t actually know the sex.” Roka’s prepubescent voice squealed from behind.
“He could have killed me!”
“No, standing in the middle of a crowd full of giants, that could have killed you.” Oliver clarified.
“Having a knife to my throat could kill me.”
“Knives make people talk.” Oliver twisted the knife before setting it in his pocket. “Now listen close, kid, because by the looks of your color, you’re about to pass out any minute. So you’re going to answer all of my questions. There is no going back and forth and exchanging if you want our help. You answer our questions, and only ours fail to follow the rules and you’re going to find that knife in your neck.”
“Understood.” Ben said weakly
“To repeat what the boy said: If you’re not from a sector, then where did you come from?”
“I came from--” Ben blinked his vision was starting to go fuzzy again.
“Maybe he hit his head too hard on the concrete and can’t remember where he’s from.”
“No, it’s not that, I know where I’m from--” Ben had been fighting to figure out everything that was going on. He didn’t seem to notice his own physical pain, now suddenly everything was hitting him. Voices began to slur the world was growing dark. He couldn’t see out of his left eye.
“My eye w-what happened to my ey-” The boy collapsed.
“Dammit.” Oliver hoisted him over his shoulder. “Come on you two We don’t have a lot of time--”
“Wait, wait, wait hold on a minute! We’re actually going to save him?” Riot sputtered.
“We’re not monsters, Miss Nobel. He’s too weak to fight off any giants, and as long as he’s out here, we’re all at risk of exposure.”
“But look at him, Oliver. Strange clothes, suddenly appearing, no clue to where he is.”
“Yeah! Maybe he’s from Eden.” Roka squealed
“Don’t be ridiculous, Roka, Everyone knows Eden is a fairytale that parents tell their kids.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Right, so some magical teleportation device took half the humans from this planet and deposited them on a planet with plants, animals, and everything just magically their size.”
“It could’ve happened--”
“Then why didn’t they come back for us? Face it, Roka, they probably got torn apart by the teleporter.”
“Shut up Riot, I was only kidding.”
“Knock it off, you two.” Oliver snapped . “The only way we’re going to find out where this boy came from is if we can keep him alive.”
“And if he doesn’t ?”
“Then we’ll deal with it when that that time comes. Move.”
“Eden.” Riot muttered “He’ll be dead in a week.”
Eight years and one week later, Ben stood across from his now best friend.
“Show a little humility, Riot.” Ben shot the human girl a smirk. Her once wild dreads had now faded into a more grown up curl.
“I’d say it was more fifty-fifty.”
“Z-zero.” Roka shuffled in his spot. “I’ll take zero credit.”
“Three Humans set foot in that toy store, Mr. Yamaguchi.” Oliver shot a warning glare to the youngest party member. “I don’t give a shit who was more involved in the idea. Each of you agreed to equal punishment as soon as you stepped foot into that toy shop." His jaws clenched. “Now I agree that we have a lot of rules, but if they--”
“If they are broken, we risk exposure, blah, blah, blah. Rules, rules, rules. Alive, dead.” Riot adjusted the cuffs of her sleeves. “We’ve heard it all before, Ollie.”
“Hearing implies listening, and seeing as this isn’t the first time you three have gotten into trouble, it tells me you haven’t heard it enough.”
“Listening doesn’t apply obeying.” Riot argued.
Oliver furrowed his brow. He had a sense that Riot was always going to be one to defy the upper hand. The problem with this was how much better she was getting at the negotiating side of things. Being twice the size of someone made it easy for you to block an upper cut. Blocking reasoning wasn’t as easy.
He cleared his throat. “Atkins and Yamaguchi, scout ahead.” Oliver placed a hand on Riot’s shoulder. “Miss Nobel and I will follow behind.”
Roka didn’t need to be told twice as he took the arm of his friends sleeve. “Come on.” He whispered, tugging at him. Ben gave the girl a sympathetic look before turning to leave with the other boy.
Oliver’s hand remained firmly on Riot.
“I’m 25 Ollie, you don’t have to treat me like a child--”
“If you insist on acting like a child, then I will treat you like one.” Oliver held the girl in place. When he deemed the boys were far enough from earshot, he spoke again. “Now, do you mind telling me what the hell you were thinking?”
“Travel routes.” Riot replied
“Faster and shorter ways to get around.”
“I’m fine with that, as long as it’s not under a red sector. You know these areas are off limits for a reason.”
“They’re off limits because they’re unknown--”
“They’re off limits, because they’re giant accessible.” Oliver's voice went lower. “Look at you, Noble, you’re small even for a human--”
“Which makes it easier for me to slip through places and go unnoticed--”
“And it makes it easier for you to get hurt.” Oliver shot back. “Do you even have a weapon on you?”
“What’s a safety pin going to do in a world of giants?” Riot scoffed.
“It’s better than nothing.”
“It is nothing.”
“See, that’s the kind of talk that convinces me you want to get caught.”
“Do you want to be their little pet--”
“NO!” She tried to pull away which only made Oliver grip tighter.
“No weapons, No plan, No sense. You were asking to be caugh--”
“Six months. I scouted this place for six months observing the giant’s patterns, when he left, if he came back, what took place! Every Wednesday, he leaves work at six o’clock comes back at Ten to do paper work. Every two weeks, he has someone come to deep clean the carpet. Every Sunday, he plays poker with his friends. Vent 11 is infested with mice, vent 12 has a blocked passage, and vent 13.” She stomped on the ground. “Is in perfect condition with no reason for the giants to check it anytime soon. I made sure to analyze every single detail before bringing anyone with me. As for weapons,” The small girl pulled back her sleeve to reveal a small metal pipe. She gave the pipe a hard jab, and it extended an arms length. If used correctly, it would send a very large, shocking sensation to whomever touched the other side. For humans, death. For Giants, it was enough to knock them out. Or stun them long enough to escape. “You really think I’d be that stupid?”
“Put that thing away.”
“I had everything figured out--”
“Except the security system.”
“Why do you think I brought Rascal?”
“Even when he told you it wasn’t safe, you ran.”
“It was a risk---”
“It was a risk?” Oliver repeated. “Taking risks is what’s going to get you caught.”
“If we don’t take risks how are we going to know what else is out here or--”
“Who else?” The walls echoed with Oliver's lingering words. Riot shrank back wrapping her arms around her small frame. All was quiet as there steps echoed across the vast air duct.
“He’s out here.” she finally whispered.
Oliver’s voice now matched her whisper. “You don’t even know his name--”
“No but he knows my Mom’s--”
“Your mother didn’t have a last name.”
Last names to the humans of Atlas was something completely different than those on Earth. A last name to an Earth man meant a family. Whereas most humans on Atlas didn’t carry a last name due to most of the humans being separated at birth from their original families. Pets didn’t have names, thus humans didn’t. In only the last few decades most humans where instead classified on the sector they were born. Now, a sector was a pipe line connection to the underground human city known as Icarus.
Last names carried a special meaning to the humans of Atlas.
Roka for example carried the last name Yamaguchi. The Yamaguchi sector was known for the architecture and construction of the city, and were placed in charge of repairs and expansions. Riot was under the Nobel sector, which was in charge of negotiating peace treaties to the surrounding sectors, making sure that no uprisings took place. Humans in different sectors, mixed and mingled in with each other constantly, so it wasn't imperative to have a surname so much as it was special to the individuals. It was a high honor in the humans' eyes to carry the name of their sector, and they announced them proudly. It made them feel like they belonged somewhere they hadn't before.
Each holding a special purpose to humans like Roka, who were born in the Yamaguchi sector. They helped with the architecture and construction of the underground city. Riot herself was under the Nobel sector. The sector that focused on peace treaties and negotiations amongst connecting sectors. Humans in different sectors constantly mixed and mingled together, so it wasn’t so much as an order to carry the duty of the sector you were born to. Rather, it held a special place and a high honor in the humans’ eyes. They belonged somewhere they hadn’t before.
Some humans refused to hold the name of the sectors, Riot’s mother being one of them. She’d never understood her reason the rejection.
Oliver himself, who had not been born in a sector, was not too keen on having a last name. These humans normally just kept to their first name, though some, such as Oliver, had the rarest occasion of being named by Amari, the queen of Icarus. The highest form of honor. He was named Oliver Lionheart. He never spoke about the reasons behind his naming, but it wasn’t much of a mystery to Riot. She guessed it was for his natural leadership. Have it her way, however, and Riot would have prefered Oliver Von Hardass.
“She told me he’d know me by the eyes. She said I had his nose and smile--”
“Why does it matter if you find him or not--
“He’s my blood.”
“Blood and family are two different things.”
“I want a face to go with the ghost--”
“Could you both stop with the melodramatic sitcom talk?.” Ben's voice bounced off the walls of the vents. Riot and Oliver exchanged a confused glance. Sitcom? “Hurry up, I see Kainoa.” Oliver let go of Riot’s shoulder as they both caught up to the two boys, standing just in hindsight. Had he been on earth, Ben would've said his nationality was that of Tongan descent. He wasn’t entirely sure what to call nationalities down here.
“Shortcut?” He took the hands of each of the members, giving a strong shake. He reached for Riot’s hand, and she only glared.
“You promised you wouldn’t tell.”
“Don’t recall saying anything about writing it down.” He took her hand, giving it a shake. “Afraid we’re not really in a position to sit and hold a grudge, though.”
“What’s going on?” Roka asked.
“Humans reported spotting something near the beach.” Kainoa snapped his finger in a gesture to have the group follow him. Oliver walked at his side, leaning into more of a whisper than a discussion.
“Well, you’re not going to believe this, Lionheart.” Kainoa turned back to look at Ben. “It was the same green light that was reported the day you came, kid.”
Ben blinked “you mean--”
“Questions Later, Aitkens.” Ben didn’t argue. Time was limited and they had to get to whatever was at that beach before the Giants could get their hands on it.
“Grab the seagulls.”