The Shadow Knight Returns
Chapter 1: Rebecca Adler
Apartment Complex B/ East Lunar City, August 5th, 2063: 5:45 PM
The old world was no more.
The world as everyone currently knew it was a burned-out relic that the current generations born of survivors of the "Great Blackout" of WW III had left behind from their parents for them to inhabit.
A world of ruined cities, no plumbing, no healthcare, no government, not a lot of commodities from the old world survived the "Great Blackout"…and some things that did survive shouldn't have.
One of these things that should never have survived the fall of the old world is where our story begins.
In an apartment complex, one of the ones that were still intact in post-apocalyptic Lunar City, a red-haired woman about 34 years of age with black lipstick was busy putting her clothes back on in front of a makeshift mirror made out of a large piece of window glass erected upon the floor, leaning against the wall.
She could see herself clear enough to put her clothes back on, but what she wished she didn't have to be able to see was the smug grin on that perverted sop she had let do her for 900 pebbles.
It was bad enough she had been forced to look at the creep while he was lodged deep between her legs, thrusting into her while she was lying down on that back-breaking monstrosity he called a bed, it was even worse to know that he was looking at her ass as she changed before the mirror.
"Tell your boss, you were worth the price," he said to her.
"You tell him," the woman said snidely, "I don't broadcast my rounds with anybody… Not even with my pimp."
"Shame." The man said to her, "With a Body and skills like yours, bragging about it would get you more pay."
"I got enough to get me by for the next two weeks, that's all I need," the woman said, still not looking over her shoulder at the man.
He then got up and slowly made an approach towards her, he didn't speak again until he was standing right behind her "well I don't know about you baby doll. But I think the amount I paid you for this session is deserving of a free ride".
He was about to grab her around the waist with his hands when he felt something cold and metallic press against his groin.
He looked down to see that the woman was now holding a small hand-held knife to his private area, her back still turned to him, but looking at him with the mirror before her with a dangerous frown.
"Unless you want to parade your fucking little friends around in a paper cup, I'd back off if I were you." The woman warned, "one flick of my wrist and I won't only neuter you, I'll change your sex. But something tells me you'd probably enjoy being a woman, sicko…."
"Oh…." The man scowled, "your boss is going to hear about this".
The woman then withdrew the knife and grabbed her payment and left, making her way out of the apartment complex and onto the streets.
The woman's name was Rebecca Adler, and she had been a prostitute for a long time…since she was 16 if the truth was ever told.
It was not anything she was proud of doing, being that she had been raised a Christian by her long-dead parents.
But there wasn't much for job opportunities in the world today.
You were only ever a doctor, a farmer, a teacher, a preacher…or part of ALL aspects of the Entertainment industry that had survived the collapse of the old world.
And prostitution was a disgustingly profitable trade in today's world, and she had been forced to endure it because of this fact.
Many people had said to her that there were other options, but Rebecca knew that those claims were said out of ignorance to her current situation in life and why she was a prostitute instead of something else.
She had tried.
She had once considered becoming a nun at the church she visited to pray occasionally with Father Maurice if only to never have to sell her body anymore, but that would mean she'd have to leave Kaylie to someone else, and she just couldn't do that.
Kaylie was a 13-year-old girl that she had been taking care of for the past 10 years since finding her scarred and alone on the city streets as a toddler.
Her parents had been killed by opportunistic creeps during the anarchy years, they wanted her family's house and everything in it, and they had loaded shotguns. Kaylie had managed to escape and had been silent for a long while before she started speaking again.
She was part of the reason for Rebecca's "Extra jobs" as it was very expensive to raise a child in this world, but Rebecca didn't mind taking care of the girl…in fact, in every way, she was like a daughter to her.
That little girl was the best thing that ever happened to her.
She would do anything for her, even something she hated.
It's not like she hadn't tried to work her way out of being a prostitute.
She had tried other options for monetary gain over the years.
Nobody wanted a whore to teach their children anything, and you'd have to be optimistic about the future to teach children who will one day inherit this broken mess they lived in with the hope they will do better than the current generation.
She couldn't be a doctor or a farmer, those took years to learn how to do it right to earn pebbles and during the early years, she couldn't have survived on "apprentice pay" from any of those jobs.
Now…now she was a reluctant whore.
People paid her more to let them fuck her than they did their local apothecary for medicine, it was disgusting and she hated it, but it kept food on her table.
Speaking of which, food was what she had currently on her mind as she walked down the ruined street's sidewalk.
She took a glance at the traffic, which consisted of horse or dog drawn carriages (people used whatever they could to make vehicles go these days) and wistfully thought about the stories her parents had told her about the old world.
Where the vehicles ran on their own through things like gasoline...it was some kind of liquid made from long-dead animals that were more flammable than wood.
She wished that she had a car, and then maybe she could take Kaylee and get away from this city before the two feudal lords fought again, or the blockade wall built around the city during the marauder skirmishes of the early years to defend the city that was now being used solely for keeping people in than just keeping people out.
Twenty feet high, made out of ruined vehicles, trash, and buildings, it was formidable, but not perfect.
There had been rumors about some citizens who had escaped through "holes" in the wall to freedom in search of a better life.
It must have been true because the two feuding lords then had their thugs begin checking the wall and programing their sentry walkers and drones to patrol the wall, that was when the rumors of escaping Lunarians stopped.
They had filled in the holes.
But even if they did escape, there was the problem of where they would go from there…Were there other cities out there that survived the war and the resulting collapse of society, and were they any better than Lunar City?
Rebecca didn't know, but she knew leaving would be better than staying here and safer for Kaylee…so she would find a way to get them both out of here.
It was a hot one this august afternoon.
She had nearly suffocated in that bastard's bedroom, so she was at least grateful he had some water in his buildings open top water tank collected from yesterday's rainstorm to wash and cool herself down with afterward.
If she hurried to the market place she might be able to catch the train back to Lunar City, and hopefully get something to eat and have a bit of sleep before all hell broke loose on the streets again, or Marco called her up to be another damn sex toy to some jerk with money again…on either side of the city's territories.
He was an opportunist if ever there was one; he pimped out the women in his escort business's employ to both sides of the conflict…all for a fistful of pebbles taken from his earnings.
This is why Rebecca and the other girls who worked for Marco always wore these bands around their arms whenever they traveled around and worked within the two territories of Lunar City during the battles.
Either a red armband with a crescent moon on it for Crescent Cove/East Lunar or a Green colored band with a Full moon for West Lunar City depending on where you were…it helped identify you to the gangs and offered you some protection if they knew you were on THEIR side.
In the "downtime" between battles like right now in this gang war, they were unnecessary and you could travel around freely...which was the only reason why she was here working in Crescent Cove when she lived in Ghoul Territory in the west end of the city.
Things had quieted down enough for two weeks that people had gone back to work willingly, or had been forced at crossbow, sword, or spear point by the rulers of the two sides to get back to work to bring money back into their territories to be able to barter for more weapons and hired thugs in order get ready for the next round.
It was a literal cold war, and everyone was taking advantage of the calm before the storm to get provisions and some semblance of normality back before it heated up again and they'd be forced to hunker down again.
Last time the fighting took months, some of her neighbors nearly starved and a few died either by the gangs fighting or being dragged out to be used as runners, gophers, or target practice.
Half of Crescent Cove was an abandoned ruin now, the rest occupied by the Raja's gang….an example of what happened when civilians tried to fight back.
Those who had initially fought back or resisted when the gangs moved in and took over after their leaders had slain the ruling lord, all had ended up dead due to the gangs possessing better firepower like blaster guns, attack walkers, and drones and other recovered relics from the old world from some unit called STRIPE or SLEET…nothing that could be fought against by the average citizen.
So no one fought back.
They just kept their heads down.
It was all they could do.
They were all prisoners in their city.
Job payments were different in the world than in the old world.
All of the jobs that had sustained the old world had died during the "Great Blackout", a lot of them couldn't function without power…and for the longest time during the upheaval of society, there was a big struggle to survive until an economy was re-established… and even then, that wasn't much of an improvement.
They used colored pebbles as a currency, and she found it funny that her folks had told her stories as a child that the old world had used wads of paper as a currency instead of pebbles.
In this world, that kind of money… paper money…it was called toilet paper.
Food was expensive in the past due to it being a bit scarce due to the lack of farmers and farming fields due to raiders and marauders who roamed the country, from state to state attacking and stealing produce for those places, as was medicine.
Farming was now mostly done inner city due to this fact.
In small towns, like Crescent Cove once upon a time, things were okay and you could get what amounted to healthcare.
In the remaining city's, like Lunar City, it was a feudal system.
The doctors were expected to treat the "feudal lord" of the city and his enforcers first.
So the former Feudal Lord of Lunar City, Reynard Loveless, had the best healthcare out of everyone in the city due to this system…with only a few apothecaries' left who served the people first.
Until two murderous marauder clans are known as the Ghouls and the Rajas came in and slaughtered Reynard, taking his city for themselves before fighting one another over it.
Reynard was no saint of course and had acted like a tyrant.
But at least he had been a tough but fair ruler who after taking his fair share ensured the people living under his rule got theirs.
Now…only the two feuding lords and their grunts got the best supplies and medicine.
Only a few underground doctors remained available to the public, those who weren't quacks.
She had gone to her apothecary in Lunar City from time to time, a strangely tattooed man called 'The Maestro' who lived in the abandoned public library, to get meds in case she wasn't ever as quick on the draw dealing with an overeager customer as she had been today, penicillin and bandages mostly were what she bought.
But the most expensive was always fruits and vegetables.
Unless you were lucky enough and it happened to be farmer's market day in East Lunar…which only opened for business during times of calm between the two sides.
She waited for the traffic guard to give her a clear sign that it was safe to cross and she walked across the street to the main town park where the Farmers Market was taking place.
It was busy today.
She quickly made her way over to the fruits section and grabbed some blueberries and strawberries.
They would make a good treat for Kaylie back at her apartment.
She found her mind thinking back to the last time there was a farmers market in Crescent Cove before the city became divided and the town got partially destroyed.
It was two years ago.
She then made her way down to the center of the farmers market, and that's when she caught sight of something that made her stop and do a double-take in disbelief.
There was a booth, with a sign that said "Water Purifiers".
It was being maintained by this scowling, grizzly old man.
A snake oil salesman if she had ever seen one in her life.
Against her better judgment, Rebecca approached the old man and his booth.
She took a glance at the old man and took immediate notice of his snow-white hair.
Sure, a lot of old-timers had white hair…but this was whiter than any she had ever seen before…it almost looked like it had been bleached that color.
She could tell by the wrinkles that he was at least 83 years old.
She picked up one of these pouches that the old man had labeled as "Water Purifiers" and scoffed.
Water couldn't be purified by whatever was in the pouch, you had to boil it.
"You're not the town apothecary, and I've not seen you around here before. Who are you?" Rebecca Adler asked.
"None of your business" the old man with the snow-white hair growled.
"I think it is my business when I find someone trying to scam people out of their pebbles," Rebecca Adler said sternly, "Water Purifying powder? You're trying to sell snake oil to people who don't know better! Have you no shame?"
"I wouldn't talk to me about "Shame" gutter slut" the old man hissed, "I can smell the hypocrisy coming off of you."
"Excuse me?" Rebbecca Adler said in surprise, "I don't know who you think you are old man, but you don't know me…"
"I know you come from the city, east end based on the coloration of mud on your pants legs and knee areas, indicating you tripped somewhere on your journey here from the city. Your attire is typical among two groups, gang members and prostitutes. And the smell I can detect from you confirms you are the other, you have been sweating and I very much doubt it was due to exercise or psychical fitness activity. Plus I can smell from "Down there" the stench of all the overly eager dorks who have….' docked you into port' recently in the current day. Should I go on…?" the old man said with a smug smile.
"It's not any of your business what I do, we all have to do what we have to do to survive…" Rebecca Adler began.
"Flimsy excuse to justify a scandalous affair Harlot" the old man sneered.
"I'm not a whore!" Rebecca snapped.
"You get naked and fuck for money and pleasure, sounds like a whore to me" the old man countered.
Rebecca Adler lost her cool upon hearing this and slammed her fist onto the table.
"You want me to go get the guards?" Rebecca Adler asked, almost getting right up in front of the old man's face as she did, "Because I will…"
Suddenly from behind the curtain, a black-haired woman in her 60's came out and stepped between the two of them.
"Woah, whoa! Easy now, there's no need to get the authorities involved" the woman said apologetically, "you'll have to forgive my father, he's old, and getting SENILE in his old age and doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut."
The old man scowled at his daughter, and then returned to glaring at Rebecca Adler.
"Doesn't excuse him or this scam business of yours…" Rebecca Adler countered.
"It's not a scam. My father and I run a clinic a few blocks away from the apothecary here in this town. We have been giving the town "alternative remedies" if the apothecary can't help them for half a year now. We only just recently begun offering our products on the town's farmers market. We give them products that work. Ask around, everyone in town has tried our Water Purifier powder. It works. Just sprinkle a small pinch into the water, wait five minutes and voila. Safe, clean, drinkable water. You will no longer have to use fire to boil it again. It's made from herbs and plants. It's natural."
Rebecca Adler looked at the pouches and then back at the woman.
"You should keep your father away from the counter, he's not good for your business. Maybe next time I'll consider buying one of these things…so long as he's not here with you." Rebecca said to the woman, and then she turned and walked away down the aisles of the farmers market away from the two of them.
She was almost out of earshot when she heard the conversation ensue between the woman and her father and though she wasn't a snoop, she couldn't help but overhear…if only because the asshole was getting chewed out.
The woman with the black hair had then turned around and faced her father, "Okay dad, I've have HAD it! Do you want us to be pariahs and starving all the time? Is that it?"
Her father then turned around and walked back behind the curtain without saying a word.
She followed angrily after her father behind the booths curtain cover, "Damn it, dad, don't you walk away from me. I'm not a little girl anymore, you talk to me for god's sake! It was bad enough surviving THANATOS and struggling with you to survive from town to town, but it's worse since you and your attitude force me to look after the both of us all by myself. You drive away from the customers that need mom's magical powder remedy just as much as we need the money."
"And you know as well as I do that those murderers don't deserve your mother's remedies for whatever ails them in this world Kairi!" The old man snapped.
"Dad, you can't blame the whole world for what happened" the woman pleaded with her father.
"Like hell, I can't" the old man countered, "As far as I'm concerned, humanity made its bed years ago…it shit the sheets the day society fell…so it can sleep in it and all the unpleasantness that goes with it!"
"Well what about me then?" the woman asked sadly, "I can't get by on scraps as you can, do you want me to starve?"
The old man's voice said sadly "no…no…I don't want that…I'm sorry…"
"Sorry doesn't cut it anymore dad, you need to try as well," the woman said sternly.
Rebecca had left by then, she had heard enough.
It wasn't any of her business, she had her own problems.
In the present time, Rebecca was looking for what she could find, especially the blueberries.
But so far she had found that she had come in during the waning period before closing hour, most of the booths were empty or had been bought out by other customers.
She was halfway down the second aisle when she stopped in her tracks.
There, walking down the street opposite where the farmers market was being held walked a strange-looking masked figure.
He wore a black wide-brimmed hat and an equally black overcoat.
Or at least she assumed it was a man, it could have been either a man or woman wearing that outfit.
The mask the individual wore didn't help distinguish the person's sex or identity either.
It looked like it had been made from metal taking from a scrapyard, there were two eyeholes, and from out of the two glowing red eyes stared out ahead.
People watched the stranger with apprehension and stared at him with reserved curiosity as he walked down the street.
Rebecca had to admit, she had never seen such a strangely dressed individual.
She quickly went back to minding her own business, but not for long.
She soon found she couldn't find anything save for squash and a few vegetables, so she bought a bag of them enough to make vegetable stew for dinner tonight.
After grabbing a bag, she then started to make her way to the train station to catch the subway train back to west Lunar City.
That was when the sound of explosions and gunshots began to sound off in the distance, and she and the people of the city realized that the ceasefire had ended and the fighting had resumed!
That would mean that the borders and the bridges were practically now closed and that means she was currently trapped on the east side of the city while Kaylie was over in west Lunar City, alone!
As everyone around her panicked and ran to get indoors or to get off the streets which would be a battleground soon enough, Rebecca's mind was racing.
She couldn't be trapped here, Kaylie needed her!
She had to think up a way to get back into west Lunar City through the fighting!
The borders would stay closed and guarded until the next ceasefire between the Ghouls and the Rajas.
Deciding she had the best plan her trek to the other end of Lunar City in safety, Rebecca began to head for somewhere safe to hide until she could make her way back.
She left the now abandoned farmers market and headed for the only place she knew was safe, the cathedral where Father Maurice worked.
She didn't realize that she was being followed as she hurried in that direction.