Every city has slums, home to the dispossessed, the downtrodden and the derelict. Makai has several, each built on top of the other. The Underworld is the lowest, a place where despair strips humanity away, where the hunt for food and heat is constant, where eating your neighbour isn’t a crime but just the next meal. This is the place where Makai’s nightmares are born, its people joining experiments for that one chance to escape, be it to the outside or the release of death.
The Underworld gave birth to Psyclones.
Margot rushed past the highway wards, saw them opening before her as the Impala sped through. It was a long drive down to the Underworld. Under the constant roar of her car, she heard the voices of those left behind, smelled the burning flesh that haunted her dreams for so many years, heard herself crying for her parents when she found them, one burnt and the other frozen.
Dammit…it took me so much to leave and now I’m back…I will never again let those gates stop me from going where I want. Margot gripped the wheel tightly and gunned the engine, forcefully opening the remaining gates. She was in a hurry, to get out as fast as possible.
The warded ramp led to the Slush Pile, where Makai’s philanthropists and mad scientists drop supplies for the Underworlders. It’s one giant radioactive swamp, with sickly green ooze for water and with mud that actively runs up your legs and seeks to find shelter inside…through whatever orifice it can find. The Slush Pile is sentient and as much as any of its inhabitants, it wants out. Margot heard it groaning as she sped through the wet outskirts and into the Junction Box, the closest thing to a town in this section of the Underworld. “The Kitchen…” she whispered, gazing on the rusty corrugated metal sheet sign with the word “Food” written on it. “I can sense her, Violet. She’s still here and now working as a Makai informant and supply manager. You’ve come up in the world little girl…”
Margot stopped in front of the tiny food booth. The girl inside had once been pretty, but four arms, eight tentacle appendages, three extra eyes and a couple of mouths later had turned her into something else, another victim of the despair that grips the Underworld. As Vance opened the door, the stench of sewage and misery hit her hard, a smell she thought she’d never forget but eventually did. Life as a Fixer isn’t easy, but I’ll take it over this place any day.
“Looking good, V.” Margot said without any emotion and keeping her face straight despite the stench.
“Just a second honey…” The girl said with her back to the Fixer, busy stacking food boxes. “Now let me take a look at…Margot?” She said, eyes wide in shock, all five of them.
A range of emotions crossed the girl’s face. Rage, sadness and happiness each filled one eye, while confusion took the rest. She leapt gracefully over the counter, showing off her four legs—one goat, one tiger, one Werewolf and the last one a misshapen human one. She bounded for Margot and hugged her painfully tight. “Mar! You’re back!” She cried, and Margot felt her joy, but something else, something she was hiding from her. Let’s see how long it takes you to take a bite, honey. It’s the way of the Underworld, isn’t it? “Tired of the big city?”
“Only popping by…working a case.”
“A case? What are you, a Detective?” She said, pulling back but keeping her arms and other appendages on Vance.
“Fixer.” She said flatly and saw the familiar look of fear in all of Violet’s eyes. “Not here to hurt you, V, or anyone. Just need information.”
“O-ok…” She stepped away and dove back into her booth. Once inside she pressed the emergency button and brought down the protective glass.
“Really?” Margot asked, crossing her arms.
“Sorry, Mar…but you’re a Fixer, and I still remember!” She hugged herself tightly, remembering a past injury.
“Come on, V. It’s me, you know me.”
“Exactly!” She gazed accusingly at her.
“I was a kid back then, V.”
“No one’s just a kid in the Underworld!” She seethed.
I’m sorry you got hurt when I was made what I am…but I’d do it again. “Then why the hugs and happiness?” Vance asked, her gaze turning hard and cold.
Violet shrugged, and Margot felt the emotions in her shifting violently. Bad memories mixed with good ones, pain and suffering fighting joy.
Margot sighed. “Just give me the information and I’ll be out of here.” She leaned in against the protective glass.
“I don’t talk to Fixers, let alone someone who cost me my arm!” She snarled.
“You have more now.” Margot said harshly.
Margot placed a hand on the glass and pushed her TK through it, cracking the nigh-unbreakable glass in a single spot. It wouldn’t hurt Violet and in truth hurt Vance a lot more, the strain giving her a migraine, but she got the desired effect: fear. I’m turning into Weston, using fear to get what I want…but that’s the job. “Talk to me or I come for you.”
“Ok…Ok…Ok!” She said rapidly, panting heavily, fear oozing out of her tentacles.
“I know from a contact that powers have been dying out here.”
“How should I know about that?” She said, gazing around shiftily.
“Because you’re a Makai stooge. I know what the kitchen really is. I bet it paid for most of those!” Margot nodded at her extra features. “And everyone eats, even in the Underworld, so you know everything!”
Violet sighed. She sucked her lips loudly and tried to give Margot a hard glance of her own, but couldn’t match the intensity in the Fixer’s eyes and looked away seconds later. “Yeah…the Hell Knights are dead. Three outta four at least. Last one’s calling himself a Baron now. Melchaia, Baron of Hell!”
“Did they kill each other?”
“No one knows. Only Melchaia and he’s not talking. He’s barricaded himself in his fortress. Rumour has it he’s learnt how to retain and use two powers at once!”
“That’s impossible. Psyclones can only keep one at a time! If we try another our brains fry!” Vance said dismissively.
“That’s why he’s been collecting them for years now, as spares!” Violet smiled smugly. You probably helped him get his hands on a few of them I bet, Margot thought, sensing pride in Violet’s words.
“Where can I find him?”
“You’re not getting into his fortress, the old Power Plant, that easily. You’ll need guides! I can call up a few and…”
“Your guides would eat me for breakfast before ever getting me there. No thanks V, I’m not an idiot.”
“Then you’re fucked.” Violet chuckled. “Get on your rust bucket and go back up top!”
Margot turned her back on Violet and climbed the car to her mocking laughter, but instead of reversing, she gunned the engine and drove on. “Not going away just yet, V. I have royalty to mingle with!
“Time to find some Leftovers!”