I would like to take this chance to welcome you to The Social Potato’s first-ever Interactive Blogfic. Basically, it works like this: we’ll be writing a story in second-person (that means YOU!) and every time the character needs to make an important decision, we will be leaving it to the readers to choose the next action via a poll, and the next blogfic post will be written in accordance to the option the majority had chosen.
In our previous poll, the main character that everyone has chosen was Ynna “Yan” Lessalis. 64 out of 80 voted for her, making her the heroine of this story. You’ve chosen well, my friends! She is definitely an interesting character, and I can’t wait to see her journey alongside her. Without further ado, here is Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: all pictures are for visual purposes only.
#1 – SHOOTOUT
The City of Marqueza. The home of the rich and the powerful; a haven for those who seek thrill and ambition. Floating on a man-made island in the West Philippine Sea, it has illuminated the skies for decades, calling on those who wanted more – who needed to be more. Look at the right place, at the right time, with the right connections, and your dreams could be within your grasp – if you’re willing to pay the price, that is.
Once upon a time, as you gazed at the horizon from your filthy, broken window by the seashore, you had hoped to get out of your miserable life and thought that Marqueza was your answer, the solution to the pathetic existence you were unfortunately born into. You were only eight, or nine, or was it ten? And yet you were already aware that your future would be bleak if you did nothing. Eating radioactive fishes for the rest of your life was hardly an interesting incentive to stay.
And so, with only the clothes on your back, you kissed your sleeping parents goodbye, walked away from the rotting shack you ungrudgingly called “home” and marched towards the capital. You left everything behind. You got lost, you fell down, and you stood up – your dream of reaching Marqueza the only thing sustaining you. You got mixed with the bad crowd, even landed in jail with some delinquents, but it’s no biggie because you came out of it stronger than ever. At age 12, you met someone who changed your life – a mysterious man who taught you how to enter the digital world through your mind.
From then on out, your life took on a different path.
And on the way, you also realized that Marqueza was indeed the home of the rich and the powerful – but it was also the home of the greedy, the desperate, and the conniving. Trust was a luxury. Naively turn your back, and your allies would transform into snakes, ready to pounce when you’re at your most vulnerable. You learned that the hard way. You even have the scars to prove it.
Marqueza was and is and will always be an illusion. It uses your weakness to lure you into its nest, and when you’re in its grasp, it strangles you until you’re a broken and damaged shell of yourself. You were able to evade its tendrils long enough to hide and get off the grid. You were young and immature and eager once.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
The sound snaps you alert from your deep thinking. A knock on the door. How curious. You glance at the clock and see it’s a quarter past midnight – a bit too late already for visitors. Which you shouldn’t have at all, considering you’ve been hiding your butt off here in this small one-bedroom apartment in a run-down building in the dangerous, darker neighborhoods of downtown Marqueza. You know you’ve covered your tracks well, and only went out to get supplies very sporadically to ensure nobody has seen your face.
But now, you have a visitor. How very curious, indeed.
You get up from your bed and take your pistol from beneath your pillow. You check if it’s loaded and see that it has three bullets left. Your expertise lay with the rifle-sword hidden under your bed, but thinking about it, you don’t want to appear immediately as a threat to whoever’s knocking on your door, so the pistol will have to make-do. That’s okay, though – three bullets will suffice. If things turn for the worse, you have three chances to blow their head open.
Three chances should be more than enough.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
Slowly, you walk towards the door. It’s been a while since you’ve felt this much adrenaline in your veins. Heck, it’s been a while since anyone tried to visit you, not since you were betrayed by your so-called allies and deemed Missing-In-Action in the Shadow Mercenary’s roster. This late-night guest could be anyone.
Is it a friend? Or is it a foe? These days, the lines between the two seem to blur.
There’s only one way to find out.
With your free hand, you swing open the door, and immediately jump back with both of your hands on the pistol’s trigger towards the visitor. The door slowly creaks open, and the stench of downtown Marqueza’s dirty streets slither into your room, filling your senses with disease and rot. Seeing that nobody has made any movement, you cautiously lower your gun, finding two people regarding you.
A man and a woman. The man is obviously of Chinese descent, or at least, has Eastern Asian blood running in his veins, as evidenced by his somber, slanted eyes. He is well-built and tall, and with the way he holds his shotgun, you can easily tell he’s an expert with it. He gazes at you with a hard, piercing stare – the kind of look that anyone might feel intimidated by. The kind of look that would have made anyone lesser cower in fright. Unlucky for him, you’re not just “anyone”. You narrow your eyes at him, refusing to be looked down on.
“Ynna,” the woman says with a smile, her voice breaking the silence. “It’s been a while.”
You shift your gaze at the woman. Apparently, she knows your name, which could only been she’s someone you probably crossed in the past, or she’s someone you’ve worked with when you still ran with the Shadow Mercenaries, who could as well be another snake for all you know. She’s smaller than the man, with dyed brown hair and equally brown eyes. She is rather fair-skinned, with paler freckles all over her face. She could pass on as someone from a noble family, if you disregard the stained hood she’s wearing.
“And who are you?” you ask, turning the pistol to her. “I didn’t get the memo that I’d be having visitors tonight.”
The woman chuckles. “Don’t you remember me?”
You raise an eyebrow. Come to think of it, she does look vaguely familiar. Where have you seen those eyes before? Upon closer inspection, you see the little details here and there – her eyes are a little droopy, and she has small scars all over her face, expertly hidden with make-up. Her nose is a bit crooked to the left, and that mole on top of her upper lip…
“Cassandra? Cassandra Atienza?” you gasp, fully lowering the gun. The woman brightens up at the name, and you feel your heartstrings being pulled. She steps forward towards you, and finally seeing the face of an old friend, you put your gun aside and pull her into a tight hug. “Oh my god. It IS you. It’s been so long!”
“Yes, yes,” Cassandra softly says as she hugs you tighter. “It’s truly been so long, hasn’t it?”
You part and you hold her at arm’s length, smiling. Cassandra might as well be the closest thing you could have to a sister, being that she’s the daughter of the man who changed your life and taught you the skills you needed to survive in the streets of Marqueza. All at once, you remember playing with her when you take a break from the sessions with her father, relishing the small and few moments you felt like a child and not someone who has seen too much for her age.
“How did you find me?” you ask, leading your two visitors to your small dining table. “No, scratch that; if there’s anyone better at tracing people, it’s gotta be you. You are the master’s daughter after all. How is he, by the way?”
Cassandra’s face immediately falls at the question. “That’s… one of the things why I tried to locate you, actually.”
You look at her puzzlingly. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s my dad,” she softly mutters, looking at you with weary and sad eyes. “He’s missing.”
“Missing?” you repeat in disbelief. You heard her loud and clear, but it comes as a shock nevertheless to find out that your master, of all people, has gone missing – he who has seemed so invincible and untouchable and immune to any danger.
She nods. “Last week he received a mission in Manila to get something here in Marqueza. It looked like any other mission from the Shadow Mercenaries, you know? Go to Place A, get Object B by any means necessary, and come back.” She fumbles with her fingers. “Except that he never came back… and just yesterday, I received this note anonymously.”
Cassandra opens her purse and hands you a letter. It’s filthy, with brown marks at the edges, and it looks like it has been crumpled over and over again, but the message is loud and clear.
You stare at the letter a while longer and shake your head. It has got to be one of the gangs thriving in the dregs of this god-forsaken city. They’re so common around here that 80% of the people you meet in the streets are a part of one gang or another. Like vultures, they are relentless. They will jump at every opportunity they can to earn a bit more influence and power. Kidnapping someone, especially those noble born, is like breathing to them.
But her master? Cassandra’s dad? Why him? Yes, he is well-known among the Shadow Mercenaries, but in the hierarchy of things, the Shadow Mercenaries are nothing. No one can gain anything from kidnapping or killing a Mercenary, especially since in the eyes of society, they’re only hired bodies.
In short: expendable. Easily thrown away for the next desperate person willing to put his life on the line for cold, hard cash.
“You want me to come with you,” you say, putting the paper on the table and then crossing your arms. “I’m good with a rifle-sword. I can be a back-up mind-hacker.” You lean closer to your friend with a gleam in your eyes. “And I’ve taken myself off the grid. I technically don’t exist – not in any police data, or in the Mercenary’s roster.”
Your friend lets out a heavy sigh and nods. “It may be a trap. I mean, I know it’s a trap. I’m not stupid. But this is my dad, Ynna. I have to go. But I can’t go alone.”
You close your eyes and nod. “I understand. I would have liked to lie low for a while longer, because, well, shit happened and it’s a bad idea for me to be out in the streets right now, but I understand.” You look into her eyes and try to convince and reassure her with your smile. “Of course I’ll come with you. But first,” you stop and glance at the man looming over Cassandra, his gaze still hard as stone as ever. “Who’s this dipshit?”
“Ah, I hired him,” Cassandra says, but quickly adds, “But it’s okay. He’s not a mercenary. He’s actually a friend of mine who, like you, also got himself into loads of trouble and is now off the grid. He’s Echo.”
“Echo,” you say the name, but for some reason, it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. You regard him again with a glare. “Well, Echo, I hope you’re good with a gun because we might be getting into even more trouble later.”
You walk into the docks, your rifle-sword at your shoulder. The streets are quiet at this time of night, with only the sounds of the waves and the squawks of the birds as your companions. You look up at the sky and see dark clouds barring the view, an icy wind alerting your senses. It looks like it’s going to rain sometime soon. Your stomach lurches.
This could get tricky.
Behind you are Cassandra and Echo, silently walking and looking around. The docks are full of cargo – some small and some large, but surely containing resources that could range from weapons, technology, animals, and man. With what you have seen of Marqueza so far, you wouldn’t be surprised if there’s smuggled human goods in one of these shipments. When you finally have your feet fully on the ground, you’ll look into that more and see what you can do. You failed once, but the next time won’t be so unlucky.
For now, however, you have a mission to accomplish. And a friend to protect.
After thirty minutes of searching, you find a post with a red light a hundred paces away. You shoot out your arm to signal your friends to be alert. Like Cassandra, you also think that this is a trap. You’ve been in this place for far too long. Gangs don’t negotiate. They’re not like businessmen who’d talk to you and try to steer you to a compromise that would reap both of you with long-term profits. People here in Marqueza take something from you, and then take more until they’ve drained you dry.
“What’s wrong?” Cassandra asks, worry etched in her voice.
You put a finger to your lips, hushing her to silence. “Trying to see the situation. It’s best to know how many people there are beforehand, and how many are possibly hiding.”
“Would be best to know the exit points, too,” Echo mutters under his breath, his voice having a baritone rasp. “Just in case things go south.”
You can’t help but smile. “Well, won’t you look at that. He speaks! He’s actually pretty smart, too, for a big guy!”
He doesn’t miss the sarcasm in your voice and narrows his eyes at you. You narrow your eyes back at him. You know you’ve only met this man today, and you know he has done nothing to you except throw you daggers with his glares, but you just can’t help but feel distrustful of him. The last time you’ve had a male friend, he stabbed you in the back in the worst way possible – throwing you to the wolves’ just because someone else gave him even more cash. A betrayal like that makes it hard to trust anybody at all. Especially here in Marqueza where people eat people to get to the top.
After making sure everyone on the other side has been accounted for and after repeating your plan B in case things go awry with Cassandra, you and your friends approach the group of four waiting patiently by the post. Two guys, two women. They are silently talking to themselves, but stop when they hear your footsteps. All of them except one are wearing coats and leather pants, holding either a pistol or a shotgun. The other woman, shorter than the rest of them, is wearing a halter top with short shorts. Interestingly, she is unarmed.
Doesn’t mean she isn’t as dangerous, though. She could be well-trained in the martial arts, which are just as deadly.
“Hey, there!” one of them calls out – a bald guy with an easy grin. He waves at you and gives a lazy salute. You immediately put your hand on your rifle. “Whoa, easy there, young lady. We don’t want no violence out here in the hood.” He glances to your right and smiles wider at the sight of Cassandra. “And look at what we have here – Miss Atienza. How lovely to see you. Although, I must admit, was it not specified in the letter that mercenaries aren’t allowed?”
“They’re not mercenaries,” Cassandra responds tightly. She moves closer to Echo and spats out, “They’re my friends. You can check the online roster if you want, you won’t find them there.”
The bald guy holds his hands out like a sign of surrender. “A’ight, a’ight, no need to be so uptight, sheesh.” Then he grin. “So, let’s start the negotiations, shall we? As you know, we —”
BANG! BANG! BANG!
All of a sudden, the man’s head in front of you explodes open, his blood and brain mush on the wall, on the red light, on your clothes. All of a sudden, there is chaos. You feel like someone is screaming your name, but you can’t really hear them because your eyes are ringing. At the corner of your eyes, you see another body fall down to the ground. A woman, with dazzling red hair. You saw her look around and spot someone at a distance, but before she could use her pistol to shoot back, she was already on the ground with five holes on her chest.
“GET DOWN!” you hear Echo shout at you after a moment of stunned silence. You feel him hold your shoulder tightly and pull you to the cement floor. “Fucking hell, what’s going one?!”
The bullets continue to shower around you, and Cassandra whimpers and cries beside you. Gathering your wits, you look up and see the woman with the halter top running away to the other direction. Since this is a fight with no attacker in sight, her close combat skills would be pretty useless. But before she could reach a red crate to hide, a bullet finds its way to her thigh. She falls down with a cry, falling to the ground with a loud thud. She screams as she holds her wounded leg. She tries to crawl to safety, but before she could take three steps forward, her head is cracked open with another bullet.
Like the other two, dead.
Another body falls to the ground. That makes it four.
Only three of them left, and their chances of escaping are getting smaller.
“We need to get out here,” you manage to croak. You look at Cassandra’s tear-stained face, and you are overcome with protectiveness. “We have to go back to where we came from. The snipers are obviously hidden somewhere in that building in front of us.” You take your rifle-sword from your back and make sure it’s loaded. You nod to Echo who holds Cassandra closer to him and nods back. “I’ll cover for you. I’ll try and see where those sons of bitches are hiding and blow their brains out. Don’t wait for me. I’ll catch up.”
But before Echo could carry Cassandra away from the carnage, you hear someone calling for you. You look to your left and see a small woman beckoning you over, her back on the wall of another building some meters away from where you are crouched down. “Over here!” she whispers loudly to you. “I have a way to get out of here.”
You look at her, stunned. Who is this person? Could she possibly be one of the people showering you with bullets? But then again, if she is an enemy, she has a clear sight of you and could already shoot you without any second thoughts. Could she be a friendly, then?
“Come on!” she beckons you again, worry and concern and urgency in her voice. “You’re going to get killed if you stay there!”
But to get to her, you’ll need to cross a rather lengthy distance, and with Cassandra shell-shocked like this, she’ll have to be carried by Echo, and the attackers will get a very clear view of them running to the left. It would be a risk. But then again, running back to where they came from also means showing their enemies their backs.
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