Hallam had seen so much in his life from all the travelling, and that travelling never seemed to stop. These people let him feel welcome, but he still was feeling anything but. He had learned so much so fast over the past few days since the first time he was brought to the abandoned estate, learning of the police activity and the criminal activity.
(The day to follow their night robbing the club, Primrose herself explained what the estate once was: “The Saint Jerome Institute For Orphans was once a thriving business. A forgotten wealthy man used most of his fortune to build this place like a prep-school campus and named it after his father. It was more than just a home for children having lost their parents; it was also a school. All these children could feel at home, but there was one thing that they all missed. To make them feel worse, when the children became of age, they had to decide what they wanted. Because several families were poor, there wasn’t enough money to put them through college or give them enough time at an apartment for job experience. The majority of teens in this city having committed suicide lived here.
(“This was still a shelter for decades, until Bleier was in office. News editors and stations were strictly ordered to deny it, but it was known anyway. The institution lost all its funding. Employees here had to be laid off, until there was no way of keeping this place open. It became one of many companies in this city that went down under. Bankrupt from all funding being cut off, the orphanage closed down, permanently. Over two thousand children and teens were forced, penniless, in the street and are now dead for all we know, without a hint of recognition.”
(That was so much for Hallam to take in. What, or whom, he had thought about from hearing the lovely singing voice came back to him. As much as he wished that what the young woman told about the estate or what happened to it were lies, it was still something to make him resent this mayor whose face he didn’t even know.)
Primrose and Filomena each did their sit-ups on their usual benches; Vasco didn’t take his eyes off the bag that he took the pleasure in delivering his flurry of punches; Egon caught the eyes of several passersby as he repeatedly lifted a two-handed bar with ten kilograms of metal; Kenshin and Hallam each worked an elliptical for a change. Having read more of what Primrose kept about the mayor, Hallam wondered what he or any of these young people were fighting for. They all had to be together for a reason, the most likely reason being that they all had something in common.
The meeting came to order after the rebels had their lunch. The room was well-lit with the windows uncovered and the daylight coming in. They were all in their uniforms and sitting in their usual spots. Primrose started it by announcing, “The name Stone Battlefront is the stupidest name we came up with yet. What we need is something meaningful and something that we can all agree on.”
The others looked at each other. It was sudden, but they knew that the group needed a good name. Hallam wondered about it, seeing as joining them was a sudden action. How could he be certain about being among these lawbreakers? For all he knew, they could have been people who got angry at their parents and looking to get even.
Vasco spoke, “How about ‘Bloodthirsty Battlefront’?”
Primrose objected, “Sounds too violent. We have had our fights, but we are not so harsh.”
Thibault suggested, “Young Hand Battlefront.”
Vasco said, “Don’t see that catching on.”
Primrose added, “Neither do I.”
Thibault then quickly asked, “Wolf’s Clothes?” The others stared at him.
Filomena stated, “Too hard to understand.”
Primrose agreed, “And it sounds wrong. Plus, I wanted ‘battlefront’ in the name.”
Egon said, “Big Bad.” Silence. “Just Big Bad.”
Primrose retorted, “I told you, I’m not taking ‘battlefront’ out of the name.” She felt like slapping all over those two young men’s faces.
Hallam interjected, “Why don’t we call ourselves ‘The Resurrection Battlefront’?”
Primrose stared at him, her hazel eyes seeming to gleam like jade. She stated contently, “That’s brilliant.” She paused a beat before adding, “Having such terrible people in power and oppressing us is like killing people, the city like a cemetery. Us fighting back is like restoring life. I can see no reason to not use that name.”
“Much agreed”, Vasco replied.
Kenshin added lowly, “Aye.”
Egon said, “Aye.”
The rest agreed to this. Kenshin then spoke, “Now I can make the symbol and print them for our jackets.”
Primrose then changed the subject, speaking, “We have another topic that I wanted to discuss right away. We have a problem, people.” She paused, so everyone could give her their attention.
She continued, “We received an urgent message from one of our spies. Someone seems to have been discovered. Kenshin?”
The narrow-eyed young man spoke up, “Thirteen minutes ago, we intercepted the message from the dispatcher on the police radio. A unit was sent to investigate our workshop, where our guns are kept, along with the plans for them. Our spy may have intercepted, but we may not have much time.”
Hallam inquired, “What do you build at that ‘workshop’?”
Thibault was the one to answer: “We make explosives. We also build various equipment from various items.”
Kenshin was afraid to say it. So, Primrose said, “To make it worse, Thibault runs the workshop that’s been compromised. We need to gather all the supplies we can and bring them back here. If those working there are seen by the police, teenagers could be given a death sentence.”
Hallam weighed in, “Speaking of police, I want to read what you have on Commissioner Orrenstein.”
“Consider that done, but it will have to wait until after we complete our mission. We need to gather our bags. We also need the cars ready.”
“Cars?” Hallam shouted.
Vasco said through grit teeth, “Yes. We. Have. Cars. Stop. Interrupting.”
“Initiate mission”, Primrose commanded. With that, the others scrambled.
Hallam was willing to be one of those doing the lifting. He could be a carrier, but he wanted to do more than just follow orders. He wanted answers, and he couldn’t wait for it. He had decided long ago, “I’m done being ignored.” He was close to forgetting that, even though he had been a loner. He didn’t want to believe that any of those he now worked with weren’t open. The thinking didn’t last long, seeing that Vasco sped the car they were in.
Primrose was vague on the details, but Hallam still went along with it, wondering if he genuinely cared about her. Kenshin stayed in the car that transported him, keeping his eyes focused squarely on his laptop, open on a split-screen showing images of the city. The ones that did the fighting each carried some kind of bag for the weapons. That would be difficult, given the weight of each firearm.
As the rebels made their way inside the workshop, which was a barn that used to be an antique shop, they were quickly alerted by Kenshin that the police car that was slowed down, along with another were on their way, and getting near. Each of them were to reach the old barn within eight minutes. The few teenagers still there before the gang’s arrival made their way to help the leaders.
They couldn’t afford to be hasty in loading the bags of the weapons or bullets in fear that the guns would go off. However, time was against them. There was no way to get this done on time.
The brunette spoke up, “We better change plans.” This was at the point she eyed the homemade explosives. “We can’t get all these weapons out. Our best hope is to blow this place.”
Vasco hesitated, looking around before he agreed, “She’s right. We have no choice. This place is compromised. Who’s to say that police won’t investigate here again?”
Thibault buried his face, shaking his head, feeling like he was close to crying. His decision was perfectly obvious. Vasco then spoke to him, “Thibault, we have no time to argue. We have a mission that we can’t afford to fail. This is important.” Thibault shook a little more before he wiped under his eyes and got to packing up the first few guns that he saw. The rest started to follow suit. Vasco heard seconds later on his headset Kenshin point out how much time they had left, which was five minutes. After hearing that—Primrose hearing it as well—they gathered blocks of plastic explosive to set against the walls in a line.
Amidst the chaos of gathering and planning, Vasco had filled up the duffel bag that he was given and headed for the backdoor of the barn, and Egon hastily did the same, having cockily filled two shoulder bags with ammunition. The two young men made their ways to the cars. Egon took the bag that Hallam was handling and suggested that Hallam get in the car and wait. “They need more time to set the charges.”
Having heard that, Kenshin spoke, “We now have only three minutes.”
Hallam doubted that he could just wait. So, he hurried back to the barn to see if he could be of anymore help. Egon just passed by at the backdoor, carrying the bags that the rest had loaded. The bricks of plastic explosive needed had almost all been in place. Each of them was given a pin in a wire, to connect to an electronic timer. Hallam could have asked where they obtained the material and the timer if he wanted to, but he wondered if it was a question that Primrose would try to avert. The young woman asked, “Have all the walls been lined?” Everyone affirmed and made their way for the backdoor. Egon and Vasco each pocketed a few grenades before they dashed out the doorway. As he had insisted, Thibault was the last one to leave. He took in as much as he could as the timer ticked before he dashed as well. The two cars were running by the time the rebels were entering, and the two police cars were just pulling up, the sirens blaring and an officer was heard speaking on a megaphone. Someone was already onto them by the time the cars for the rebels started moving. No one dared look back when the large explosion was heard and the barn collapsed. All except one.
Hallam saw someone on a motorcycle, and she looked familiar. He shouted, “Someone’s tailing us!” He looked carefully, trying to make out the face. The motorcycle got closer and closer. Then, Hallam could make out the face. It seemed to be the girl from the night he had arrived in this city. She sped up more and more until something strange happened. The girl was on the hood of the car, having ditched the motorcycle, and used a hammer that seemed to come out of nowhere. However, before she could see if she could break the windshield with it, the car swerved, and the girl was shaken off.
Primrose said, “We have no point in seeing if we can lose her.” She then got out of the car, heading toward the girl, now testing very dangerously how long she would put up a fight. The brunette with purple stripes approached the bride-like girl, who had long blonde hair that she let flow and blue eyes and wore a white blazer and medium skirt over a white shirt and black ribbon-tie. The shirt and blazer had unusually wide sleeves for a reason. Dropping from them came two flat and short swords that the girl held, taking a stance. Primrose saw no point in using a gun, and just managed to pull out her own stiletto to combat with and evade the series of swipes from the girl still having a neutral expression. Vasco cursed under his breath, thinking that it was one of those moments when Filomena would say the word “Fool”. He scrambled out of the car that was pulled over, pulling out a club.
Primrose had observed this girl for so long that she had learned the moves that the girl used most commonly. Vasco swung down his metal club, but it was blocked by the blonde girl’s sword. She scraped the blade against it to push it away. Somehow she knew where Primrose jabbed her knife, for the girl moved out of the way. Furthermore, Primrose had always wondered whether this girl was skilled at combat, for the next few swipes as she spun and then the swipes up and down were very sloppy, and her back flexed as if she was getting in and out of a slouch. Even her bangs were getting in the way, but she didn’t care. She recognized Primrose from somewhere, and whether she was willing to kill was unclear. Primrose kept dodging swipe after swipe, waiting for the right time to exploit an opening.
That opening was when she went down, making the blades swinging down chase her, before the brunette swept with her legs, tripping the blonde, and she fell on the ground. Primrose did not hesitate to swipe her stiletto, tearing the fabric on her and breaking the skin on her right arm and the side of her abdomen. They were both long slits. So, there wasn’t much blood to see. The blonde swung her swords, both of them still in her grip somehow. The clang of the blades against the pavement startled the others that were standing by. Hallam scrambled out now, having a gun at the ready. It was a light revolver and he was going to see now whether he was willing to pull the trigger on someone.
Vasco was still looking for a spot in the fight and doing his best to back up his best friend. No matter what Primrose and Vasco did at the same time, the blonde girl kept parrying the attacks, only to miss as well. Where Hallam stood, he kept trying to aim the revolver, but was hesitating as he was afraid to hit either of his allies. This was the real test for the city’s newcomer. After the tenth time Hallam lowered the gun in his hands, Vasco managed to connect his short baton to the girl’s shoulder, making her lose grip of one sword. She kicked him away before swiping her other sword and managing to draw blood from the brunette’s leg. That was still nothing to make her waver. Primrose performed a feint that was parried, and after making her opponent miss, she swiped down the blonde’s upper arm, and she backed away.
Just when the girl’s guard was down, she was shoved to the ground again, and her head was smacked on the pavement, the sword clattering. After scrambling back up, he looked at her, and she was still breathing but didn’t get back up. Primrose spoke, “We should go. We can let her find us again.” It was with much reluctance, Hallam complied. They all ran back to the car, which didn’t have a logo or a license plate, and which sped back toward the estate of the orphanage.
As promised, after storing the guns and bullets, Primrose granted Hallam access to all notes made about the mayor, the police commissioner, and the mob boss left on the loose. The mob boss with the name Corpus Katona was the one who owned the nightclub that the rebels broke into. He had been wanted years earlier for an old drug operation, but the warrants for his arrest seemed to have been erased. He was still nowhere near honest, being a big client to long-time smugglers bringing in items that had been long since declared illegal, so he could sell them on the black market. Even worse, he had turned to human trafficking, for several young women reported missing, the rebels confirmed were working for him against their will.
The police commissioner Damian Orrenstein was a constable for several years. From the start he had a big ego developed by his arrogance and sense of vanity. He regularly checked in late and reported late, while was known to drink on the job and beat others for no reason. Still, whoever he saw committing a crime, he would open fire without hesitation or even acknowledging his presence. His attack on offenders was only occasional, drunk or sober. Others were forced to keep inside their thoughts of him since the day he was out of the blue promoted to commissioner. The previous commissioner seemed to have disappeared without a trace. This commissioner became known not just to get drunk in the day, but also to not give penalty to other police officers that would abuse their positions. So, because of him all cops could get away with anything and criminals wouldn’t stay in jail for too long.
The mayor Darius Bleier was much more unknown than the others. All that was known about him was that he was a widow and where he claimed to have studied law, it was most probable that no one there had ever even heard of him. He was the previous mayor’s assistant for a few years before that mayor happened to die. The press said that it was a heart attack, but the reporters didn’t want to believe that.
Ever since then, laws were made strict. For starters, the city was given a curfew. The only ones allowed outside past curfew were the police officers on duty and whoever was granted a pass, which was very hard to get. The ones to print the passes were willing to take bribes but that was a high price. Unfortunately, the curfew seemed to be the only enforced law. That was hard to believe as Katona’s clubs were bustling. Since the curfew was brought into effect, all other bars and clubs open only at night had quickly gone out of business. People wanting to party late had turned to a crime boss.
After reading the files, Hallam searched for Primrose, and was right about where she was on his first guess: the east wing. Of course, that didn’t go without him being trained with how to handle a gun. So, he ended up taking part in a course over a few halls. He got in on the action as Primrose tossed a paintball pistol to him and she had the flat wooden targets pop out, these ones having pictures of other people with guns. It seemed that the only way to get rid of a man jumping up out of nowhere with a gun aiming point-blank was to fire a gun at them. Primrose had chosen to never trust anyone older than her, which was sort of ironic for though only around a year Vasco was older than her. She still had her point across from having collected and stored newspaper articles on the people that she easily called the enemies. From what she had seen right there and then on the short course told her easily that Hallam had improved his reflexes and his aim.
After the end of the course and the young brunette caught up with Hallam, she spoke, “I believe you wanted to ask me something.”
Hallam turned to look at her as he adjusted his suit and asked, “Do you keep anything on that girl?” The brunette didn’t need to ask what he meant.
“Only recorded rumours and what I’ve seen her do”, she answered. She gave a signal and Hallam didn’t hesitate to start walking with her the opposite way of the course. She continued, “I haven’t seen or heard, but I wouldn’t be surprised if people mocked her. Teens and kids are cruel to others, you know.” Hallam nodded. “She doesn’t speak at all, and she always walks a regular route. She only breaks that route if she’s alerted about something serious. I now see for myself what she’s like. She’s very fast with fighting, but she kept slouching and waving. Even more peculiar is that she didn’t seem to feel when I gave her those wounds.”
“Let’s back up”, Hallam interrupted. “How much about you and the others do the police and mayor know?”
“Basically where we like to go. Because we all wear the same suit and colours, it was likely the mayor that started the rumour of us being a cult, which made the churches angry. As if the wedge wasn’t driven far enough, the two churches have been in competition to capture us and hope to purify us, however the hell they do that.”
“Do those two churches follow the same religion?” The blond could have guessed that himself, but chose to ask simply for the sake of argument. They had headed downstairs and were approaching the chamber that was their dining room.
“You could say they’re exact opposites”, Primrose answered. “We have to worry about a Catholic church on the west side, which supports a prep school. On the east side is a Jewish church. Each pastor has a short temper and are reckless in any kind of situation, which leads to their collateral damage.”
“Who do their… armies consist of?”
“Their churchgoers. And they’re just as reckless. In fact, they’re all religious nuts. And so is the mayor. Furthermore, he makes sure that no one knows what religion he follows.”
They entered their dining room, headed toward the bookcases that were their pantry, where Primrose and Hallam each took slices of bread from a container and slices of meat and a few vegetables from an icebox. They prepared their sandwiches in silence, over the top of the electric oven. They then proceeded to one of the coffee tables, where they each seated on a lawn chair.
Upon sitting down, Primrose spoke, “There’s a reason I’m the one who leads this group. Vasco was reluctant about it, but he understood.”
“How did the two of you become friends?”
“We’re both runaways. I was a long-time dumpster diver already, and Vasco was a late-night shoplifter. He also had a bad habit of picking on the smaller and younger people. He was apparently brought up to be tough, but there was a reason for that.”
“Are all members of the gang runaways?”
“We all are, yes, and everyone else living here was reluctant to say such, moreso the reason.” Hallam listened very intently as Primrose went on, “Vasco told me that he was raised only by his father, but he thinks both of his parents were selfish. Since Vasco was a kid, his father used him, making him a competitor in an underground fight club, and always bet on him to make a living. It’s why he thinks with his fists and whatever weapons he has. Vasco understood the violence in the world that way, and he told me that he was willing to beat people to get his way. And yet, of all the people that he was forced to beat up, he didn’t stand up to his father for years, even when learning that his father always kept the winnings for himself, never thinking of Vasco.”
“How furious he made me”, the voice of the tough young man interjected. Primrose and Hallam turned their heads to see Vasco approaching, having overheard the statement.
“I assume you did something about it?” Hallam said before taking another bite of his sandwich.
Vasco sat down with them, speaking, “Of course I did. My father always attacked me whenever I wanted any of the money that was rightfully mine. He wasted much of it on drugs and too often he would get stoned. It was a time when his problem got worse I needed to get out, but not without leaving my message. I got home from school one day. My father was in his room, possibly playing with himself and rolling around in the money. Most times, he refused to pay the land rent. I packed up what I could before I would say ‘good-bye’ to my father one last time. He did as I guessed… I took a wrench… I made him bruise everywhere… I grabbed almost all the money that he kept, which was a wonder he kept from the landlady for so long. I took all that and split.
“I got in street fights to get by. I didn’t just take people’s money. I also took interest in weapons. I collected various knives, which I would only use to defend myself and if my opponent was to be a sore loser. As much as I love those… flat and tined metals… my favourite weapon is the set of brass knuckles.” He dug into his jacket’s inner breast pocket, and pulled out a formation of authentic brass, fitting around his four fingers. He added, “I traded at a pawn shop a few good hunting knives for these. I just loved that I could make my punches hurt more.” He turned to Primrose, smirking. “And you hoped that I could put it to use.”
“So, how did you two meet?” Hallam inquired.
Primrose stated, “I happened to be scrambling in the dumpster of the grocery store that he was stealing from. We happened to share our philosophy of how no one can be trusted. So, we wondered how many other people our age was given the worst life and are unforgiving.” And the two founders of the gang were unforgiving of the worst known mayor and other men.
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