Involuntary Arbitration, 1: At the Brink

1: At the Brink

“I have to be careful throughout the process. I can’t afford to ruin this. If I fail, nothing’s going to break the fall. I’ve no family, no home, not that they would let a traitor or failure live.”

Laila nodded. He dipped his rag into the grey sludge and continued greasing the wall of the hideout.

He said, “So, what is this process? What’s your plan? Can I help?”

Alexandre put a hand in her dark hair. It was just long enough to cover her eyes. Occasionally, she would take refuge behind the black mop.

“I don’t think so, but I’ll consider you as a pawn in the future.”

Alexandre’s manner of speech was inherently offensive. She was always like this. Laila wasn’t sure if it was on purpose, but this was the reason that only he had become friends with her. Only he realized that her passive jabs were mostly unintentional. Laila, and their leader Orion, would likely have killed or exiled her by now if he hadn’t known.

Orion wasn’t an inherently evil person, but Alexandre figured that he was so close to it that she wouldn’t mind it if she had to kill him in order to make her plan work.

“So?” Laila prodded.

“Right. The process.” Alexandre nodded, “I’m going to overthrow Orion and take over. Then, we’ll wage war against our ally gang. If all goes well, they’ll kill each other off and I can leave. I can be free once more with my…”

She trailed off.

Laila stopped oiling the wall and watched her. He said, “Your mother?”

She turned to him, her face awash with surprise, and also anger.

“How do you know about my mother?”

“You told me a while back. You said the only reason you joined was because your mother was in an ally gang.” He replied.

Laila hoped that she would remember and calm down. She did not.

Instead, she asked him, “Did you tell anyone?”

He shook his head and raised his left arm. At the wrist it became a stump, capped with metal to keep it clean, and also to weaponize it. They made him do a task that nearly required two hands as a follow-up punishment. Now that he had a fault, he must be tested to ensure he did not become a weak link.

“I’m the outcast here. I have no one I could tell.”

Laila was a lean man of East Metch descent. He had shaggy black hair that attached to an unkempt and full beard. His skin was tanned and brown skin, his large eyes were dark.

“So, how did you lose your hand? I never asked.” She hadn’t.

“Oh, nothing much. I was one of the people who failed Diesel Dirge’s raid on Baracus. We were collectively taken out by a Plainkind girl. A very small Plainkind girl. This,” He raised the shining stump, “was my punishment. Dezallldwinn enjoys torture, and he’s also the one in charge of punishment.”

Alexandre was certain now. She would take these three gangs out one by one, person by person, starting with the leader of her gang, Orion.

“I’ve half a mind to behead this Dezallldwinn. Right after I’m done with Orion.” Said Alexandre, “So, how did they do it? It seems like a fairly neat cut, it doesn’t look like they used an axe or something like that.”

Laila shook his head, “No… The Lussa have discovered something called current energy. Something about subatomic particles that move through wires. I don’t know. But, he has a power saw, a disk of metal with teeth. It spins at high speed.”

He was staring at his stump intently now.

“And they cut it off like that? Clean with a saw?”

“Clean?!” He stared at Alexandre in horror as he remembered, “I told you he likes torture! He cut my hand off bit by bit. He me until he had cut through the wrist bones a few times and hit the arm. My fingers were turned to bloody red coins, that’s how much he cut!”

“Well that settles it,” She hissed, “This month, I will become leader of our gang. The month after, I will assassinate Dezallldwinn. You should come, it’ll be fun.”

She shoved her fist into her other open hand determinately.

Alexandre Dirge was similar to Laila, but she was taller, with pale, moon-coloured skin, and grey eyes. She was not an East Metch, but a Riley. She watched Laila carefully as he finished smearing the grey sludge onto the side of the wall. It was cool outside, the night was falling and the tide was already receding.

Alexandre intended to either kill or overthrow the leader. She had a process, but she now realized that it would take far too long, years most likely. Her mind raced as to condense it.

“I need to get on his good side.” She said.

“Aren’t you already?”

Alexandre shook her head, “Not good enough. I’m a south.”

The three gangs had a fairly straightforward hierarchy, named after the four poles. West was the lowest. Laila and other recruits were wests. South was the second lowest, the standard. An east was someone that Orion liked. Orion Sheer, Hinter Sheer, Diesel Dirge, and even Dezallldwinn were norths. The only thing higher was the Prince, who was called Venus, but they never saw him, not even once.

“I’ll become an east, and then a north soon enough. Just you watch.”

Laila nodded. Any time Alexandre set her mind to something, it became an inevitability. He had no doubt in his mind that she would soon be the new gang leader. And he was almost right, but the it wasn’t just soon. The whole ordeal happened within days.

Daniel Triumph.

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