Chapter 1 // Omega
Mocha sat on the mountain with her thighs crossed, warming her bare feet by a stick fire. She gently clutched the black saya of her katana, pushing the guard with her thumb like flicking a lighter in reverse, then let the handle drop back into the sheath. She repeated this action as her purple eyes alternated between the flames and the moon.
She intentionally avoided looking in the skyward direction of the Citadel, a 6-mile-wide breakaway civilization for the elite. It hovered above Earth as a constant reminder of the cruelty of this world. Mocha promised herself that one day she would grasp the opportunity to obliterate the Citadel, but for now it would subsist as an eyesore.
She stood up and dusted the rear of her black kimono. The hemline stopped four inches above her knees and had a slit on the side like a Chinese dress. The attire allowed her legs free range of motion; a non-negotiable for her fighting style. The kimono was stylized with minimal lavender trim and cloud patterns. It was sleeveless, exposing her powerful delts from swordsmanship. Elbow to wrist was covered by hanging diaphanous black sleeves that danced in the wind. Beneath the sleeves she wore fingerless gauntlets made of scales shaped like black pyramids. The beast they were made of was responsible for the scar running vertically across her right eye. Her fingernails were painted purple and matched her toenails.
She approached the edge of the cliff. Her drone companion floated alongside her. She brushed the black hair out her face, grabbed the drone and used it like a pair of binoculars. She focused on Omega, the biggest city in the world, and to its inhabitants, the only city apart from the Citadel. The interior of Omega was concealed by the obsidian walls circling it.
Military encampments were posted up all around the city. Despite the bright neons along the walls that lit up the dilapidated wastelands full of death, Omega itself was hell incarnate. It has been said that one should strive to die free rather than live as a slave. But what if you are unaware of your own imprisonment? What if you lived your whole life unaware of the shackles that bind you?
These philosophical musings were ghosts in the sea; in Mocha’s mind she had a mission to accomplish, people to kill, and leadership to report back to. Nothing else mattered. This was only one of many steps in the redemption arc of humanity. Mocha dedicated her life to this cause. No person, beast or alien would stand in her way.
A roar like a dragon came from the pitch black of the wasteland. The drone activated night vision. There it was, a beast running on all fours while carrying a flesh-sack of living, squirming bodies on its back. Horns on a diamond-shaped skull, red eyes and claws the size of an adult human’s legs. It slid to a halt and dragged up a cloud of dirt.
A cloaked craft one-mile-wide projected a blue beam and carried up the two ton, ten-foot tall monstrosity. It disappeared into the air and Mocha stopped spectating. It was a reminder that she did not have much time left. Who was it that just got collected? Were there any children?...
She looked into the fire once more, then ordered her drone with a wave of her finger to smother it with steam.
Mocha secured the katana to her back and her tanto blade in her sword-belt. She mounted her motorcycle encased in thick armor. These bikes normally left a neon trail behind them, but for covert operations she obviously kept this feature off. She rode down the mountain, utilizing only the moonlight to guide her path.
Onward to Omega.
A mile from the city she diverted into a mountain pass. A wall disguised as part of the rock opened up like an aircraft hangar and descended into a tunnel. Lights activated as the bunker doors shut. She parked the bike near the door and walked down the long tunnel that opened up into a spacious room. It was filthy; nobody had been here for quite some time. Cups and bowls full of gross stuff sat on a crusty wooden table next to a scattered mess of paperwork, MRE packets and bullet casings.
The drone scanned what it could of the papers. Meeting points, radio frequencies, dates and times… Whoever left this stuff out should be put on forced labor. The drone agreed and disposed of it all. Mocha put her satchel on the table while the drone tidied up the place.
The bag contained a sailor suit uniform with a pleated skirt, a dirty pair of black transparent stockings atop a clean pair (she did not care about mixing the scents), sarashi wraps, an empty water bottle and a journal that she rarely wrote in but was full of entries. Mocha never wore shoes; only geta sandals when she was in her village because her comrades forced her to. Feeling the world through the soles of her feet helped her to be perspicacious, acting as a sixth sense in all activities.
She decided to leave all this junk behind as it would only slow her down.
The drone projected a map of Omega. She would be entering through the south entrance at the degenerate red light district which would give her some cover to pretend the kimono-katana combo was a part of her cosplay, including the “purple eye contacts”. She only had a couple more hours until morning twilight.
“Yoshi, let’s go.” The bot tilted its nose down and up, an affirming nod. She smirked and gave it a fist bump. For two minutes she climbed up a metal ladder through a tunnel dug into the mountain.
The hole was covered by a metal latch; on top of that was a slab of metal with crates and trash covering it. She knocked three times on the slab. She heard rummaging above. The sheet was removed and Mocha saw the face of a raggedy looking blonde man with unkempt facial hair that looked like a dehydrated—no, a dead bush that was left in the sun too long, permanently bleached by sunlight.
His name was Ichigo, a newly converted insider who would soon be leaving Omega. Mocha had never met the man before but recognized him from the mission briefing. He reached a hand down to Mocha but she waved it away, climbing out on her own accord. The smuggling hole was inside of an abandoned brick house with a single gardenia flower out front.
Mocha cracked open the door. The drone cloaked itself and flew into the sky. Mocha saw a little boy and girl hiding behind Ichigo’s dirty pants. She asian-squatted and met eyes with the children; they were lost in her dreamy purple hues. Ichigo covered up the hole with all the junk while the children clung to him.
“Hello there,” she tilted her head and smiled at the children. “What are you doing here?” Mocha looked at them but the question was directed at Ichigo. The red light district was no place for children.
“My wife—their mother… She passed,” Ichigo expressed weakly. “I have a pod in the central hub, but I cannot leave them alone in Omega. We are planning on leaving the next exodus.”
“Mm,” Mocha nodded but did not look at Ichigo. She kept her gaze on the children. They hid behind him which demonstrated their trust and the truth of his words. The boy kept staring at the sword on her back.
She reached into her kimono and pulled out two cards in her pocket. The cards were made of a thin metal with a holographic screen reading 1000 CREDITS; a valiant sum for harboring a fugitive. She handed a card to each of the children. They stared at the cards in awe like they had never seen so much money before.
“!!! You are gracious but there was no payment spoken of in—”
Mocha lifted her hand. She stood and met his feeble expression.
“Buy them something nice. When the sun goes down…” Mocha pointed down at the bunker she emerged from.
Ichigo understood and bowed multiple times. “Arigato! Arigato!”
She walked out the door and waved to them with her back turned. The kids jumped up and down and begged their dad to go get some ice cream. He obliged but told them to wait until the sun came up. That was all of Mocha’s spending money, but she did not plan to stay in this pit for long.
“???” Bystanders looked at Mocha like she was an alien. Some paid her no mind. Others wanted to know “how much”. She did not react to anyone, not even the ladies in neon fishnets that praised her beauty or the holograms that urged her to “step inside, embrace eternity”.
Mocha heard moans from the interiors of most buildings and exhaled her annoyance. This was a common soundtrack throughout Omega. She walked the neon streets and passed underneath a red torii gate, leading into the central hub that connected to all the other districts. It was a pitiful replica of the torii gates back in her village. She looked at it with disdain as she disappeared into the shadows.
Yoshi appeared and extended a metal bar. Mocha grabbed it with one hand and was carried up into the sky. She landed atop a black square building overlooking the gritty central hub where most of the residents lived within tiny pods. The west side of Omega was filled with boring box structures, particularly warehouses. The east and north side transitioned into modernistic towers, all in the shape of cubes and monoliths. None of these buildings extended the height of the obsidian walls surrounding the settlement. Colorful lights, electronic signage and holograms covered every square inch of real estate in every district.
The sun was lifting its glorious face. Only 10-20 minutes at most until darkness totally disappeared. Mocha traversed the rooftops on the tips of her toes to conceal her existence from any morning birds. Far descents were made with the assistance of Yoshi. She found one of the topmost pods uninhabited and took position before daybreak.
She leaned against the wall and peeked out the window at the ghetto streets below. The marks apartment was illuminated with a rainbow light that fought against the neighboring neons and the rising sun.
One hour left. She shut her eyes and dreamt of her village.