Take a deep breath...AAAAAAAAAAUGH Sorry for my unexpected hiatus! This has been quite an eventful summer, but I've decided to kickoff my return with a new TLR chapter. I was supposed to post this a week earlier, but post-EVO blues had hit me pretty hard. Also, this chapter was meant to be rather huge, but for the sake of me not losing my mind over the guilt of not posting, I decided to split the chapter in two. Important character reveals here! [Read chapter 1 here!] [Read chapter 2 here!] -Chapter 3: Visitors- June 25, 2250. 7:45 a.m. A cell within the Tivrusky Wood Company facility. It was a peaceful morning until the sudden blaring sound of the wake-up siren startled many of the prisoners out of their sleep. Although newcomers hated the siren, veterans could withstand the din with ease, sometimes to the point at which they wouldn't even notice. In unison, all the cell doors were unlocked automatically, and floods of half-asleep prisoners emerged from them and walked down the halls in the same direction. However, only one particular person was in very high spirits. "Move outta the way, Winston!" Pragma said as he shoved past the snot-nosed man with serious bedhead, who was going at a very slow pace. "I can't have you stalling my breakfast time! They're making bacon omelets!" "Easy for you to say; you don't even need a machina to get the job done quickly," yawned Winston. At the rate he was talking, he didn't need to finish his sentence since Pragma was too far ahead to hear him. The 16-year-old sprinted past the group, eventually leading the entire facility's worth of prisoners over to the immensely-sized area called the "Garage", which was where the prisoners would receive their lumber tools and then be sent to a forest to chop down trees for two hours before they could have breakfast. They were free to use regular axes or pilot machina specifically made for the job; however, nobody wanted to use the former. In the past six years, Pragma had gotten used to life here in the Tivrusky Wood Company, and even made friends with his cellmates, even though he wasn't fully pleased with himself. He had also learned how to smoke at the age of fourteen. "Oh boy, here comes the cavalry," said a hard hat-wearing man in the Garage repairing a broken machina arm, as he noticed the crowd of prisoners approaching. "Pragma's leading the pack, as usual." Due to the popularity of machina use in the facility, the Company has constantly increased their production as well as the size of the Garage itself in order to carry so many units. They were able to use materials shipped directly from the Kingsguard to create them, and some prisoners were assigned to help produce them instead. The hard hat man was one of those prisoners. Inside the Garage, machina were docked on different platform levels above ground, so prisoners were required to use an elevator to reach those levels. Once they were in full control, they would then pilot the machina to jump from the platform onto designated landing spots on the ground to avoid accidentally crushing anyone walking underneath them. There was also a single wall rack for axes at the entrance to the Garage. Once everyone was ready, trucks larger than the ones used to ship recruits waited outside to carry the prisoners to their destination. "Hey, Pragma! You still goin' with axe?" shouted the hard hat man from atop the machina he was repairing at the teen. "You know me too well," Pragma replied with a smile as he took one off the rack. "Just doesn't feel right without it." "Heheh! You're a good kid, y'know?" laughed the man. "Kinda feel bad for ya; I bet you'll be outta here sooner than this filthy lot." "Got nowhere else to go. I might as well stay here for the rest of my life. I honestly don't mind." "Don't be having that attitude, young'un! You're built for them Kingsguard fellers!" "The Kingsguard?" Pragma said, slightly irked, but laughed soon after. "Like I'll ever join those idiots! They're just a bunch of moronic cowards that can't save worth a damn. Anyways, catch you later!" Then he walked away towards the trucks, ending the conversation. "Huh? I don't get it; why's he so angry at 'em?" the man said, confused. * June 25, 2250. 9:10 a.m. A forest. With a single swing of his axe, Pragma chopped down his last tree. Normally it took the machina pilots under twenty seconds to cleanly saw through the bark, but Pragma didn't need to rely on them. Because of his immense strength, he was the only person that deliberately chose axe in the entire facility, while others who couldn't get to a machina in time were forced to use the axe instead. "Come on you guys, I can't be waitin' all day for your slow asses," Pragma said to the rest of his group as he lit up a cigarette. "I'm beginning to feel hungry. I'm blaming it all on you, Winston." "Calm down, ya punk!" Winston said through his machina megaphone as he sawed down a tree with a backhand motion. "I'm just as hungry as you are, so don't get so cocky." "Whatever. I'll be chilling with the others," Pragma said as he walked towards some other men sitting in a circle who had already finished their job. In the center was a radio, playing a news station: "More in on the southwest region: infamous serial killer Cherry Blueford has finally been apprehended after a failed attempt at stabbing a baker in the Hawk Forge district for simply saying that his cinnamon bun was not heated for long enough. Witnesses say that he was knocked unconscious after a customer used his walking cane to hit him in his private parts. Blueford has now been sent to the Tivrusky Wood Company and Detention Center where he will remain for an undisclosed period of time. Meanwhile, the criminal gang known as the Mad Reavers have—" "Looks like we got company when we head back," one man said, smiling. "Cherry Blueford?! That man's the size of a fuckin' bear! I ain't gonna go one mile close to him!" another one said, worried. "Gotta hand it to that geezer with the cane; he's got more balls than the bastard if he can hit 'im in the junk! Haha!" said another. "I know about this Cherry guy," Pragma thought. "Can't believe he's coming to our place...then again, where else should they really take him? Oh well, not gonna ruin my day." * 9:50 a.m. Facility cafeteria. Pragma served himself two bacon omelets on his tray, grabbed a bottle of milk, and looked for a place to sit. Unlike many of the areas in the facility, the cafeteria was rather small, but not by a large margin. Certain groups of prisoners each had a curfew for when they could eat there. As Pragma looked to the left to find available seating, he walked into a man who had blocked his path. "Oi, what's a little boy like you doing in here? And with a bottle of milk of all things?" the man said. Looking up, Pragma saw the face of the large, bearded man he had bumped into. The surrounding people were horrified. "He's dead for sure," whispered Winston, sitting far away. "I'm just trying to find a place to sit. The place can get awfully crowded sometimes. Excuse me," said Pragma, calmly. As he was about to walk around the man, he felt his tray being hit from underneath. The food hit his face before falling to the ground, and the milk was splattered on his clothes. "I don't even get a welcome greetin' from even a kid. Didja mum ever teach ya manners, butt-licker?" the man said as his gigantic foot kicked Pragma to the floor, his family pictures falling out of his pocket. The prisoners didn't dare interfere. "Oi, what's this?" the man said as he eyed the pictures. He bent down to pick them up. "This here your family? Look pretty skinny. Bet they never popped a squat a day in their lives, hahaha!" "Give them back," Pragma said as he got up. "Lookit! It's all taped up. Wouldn't be surprised if the tape eventually came off, eh? What're ya gonna do about it?!" the man said as he began peeling off one tape of the previously-ripped picture. "I said, give them to me!" Pragma said, angrily. "What's happening here, yessir?!" Matthias Muth said as he burst through the doors to the cafeteria. "You want your family back, kid?" the man taunted as he bent down to reach Pragma's eye level. "Pathetic; you probably hate 'em so much that you'd live in here instead! What are they to you, ya ugly sack of roach vomit?! They must've been real shitty parents, huh?!" Pragma threw a left hook at the man, shattering his jaw and knocking him unconscious. Onlookers ran from their table before the man crashed into it. "He...he punched Cherry Blueford..." a prisoner gawked. The entire cafeteria stared in shock. After Pragma paused to catch his breath, he bent down to pick up the pictures that Cherry had dropped. Suddenly, he felt two darts hit him in the back. Matthias had fired his handgun, revealed to have been a tranquilizer. "Wh...what..." Pragma muttered as he stumbled for a few seconds, then fell down, unconscious as well. * 11:04 p.m. Main gate to the facility. "...Although that was wild, seeing Pragma get all tied up with Cherry," a guard said from atop a tall post by one door of the enormously-large main gate to a guard stationed at the other, speaking through headsets. "Yeah, it's not like that kid to get into fights. Wonder what triggered him," said the other guard. "Apparently Cherry found some pictures of Pragma's family and made fun of them. Kid took it hard, huh..." "I don't blame him, I'd be acting the same way...just not with a guy like Cherry. I don't have the strength Pragma does, heh heh. By the way, you know where they took him?" "Oh, Pragma's locked up in one of those cramped punishment cells. He's probably still knocked out after getting hit by Director Muth's darts. Same with Cherry, though he might get the sentence sooner, because, you know..." "Yep, that bastard deserves whatever he's got coming to him. I felt like quitting the moment I saw him earlier this morning, no joke." "Yeah, same." There was an awkward pause. "Say, uh...do you like hot babes?" the left guard asked. "What are you implying?" said the right guard. "After our shift, let's go to a strip club. It'll help get those thoughts of Cherry out of our heads, y'know?" said the left guard, smiling while pointing at his head. "I've never been to one," the right guard said. "But it's on my bucket list." "Brother, you're gonna feel like the richest man in the world! My girl works at this one close by. I'll treat you." "Hmm...I guess it won't be that—WAAAUGH!! Unknown flying vehicle approaching fast at twelve o'clock!!" "What the hell?!" said the left guard, shining his searchlight on the vehicle. "It's...it's a fucking pirate ship!! How?!!" "Hit the red alarm! Shoot it down before it flies over the gate!" yelled the right guard as he prepared his anti-aircraft machine gun. But before he could begin firing, he had been sniped in the forehead by a person aboard the ship. "Hey, why aren't you firi—UNGH!!" were the last words of the left guard. The ship flew over the gate and prepared to make its descent. Guards and prisoners in machina awaited their mysterious guests. Matthias Muth was present as well. "I can't believe they'd come here, yessir," Matthias thought to himself, sweating. "What on earth would they want from us?!" Once the ship landed, a compartment opened from the side facing the wall of guards, and seven individuals walked out from it. "T-tell us what you want, or we will obliterate you, yessir!" Matthias pointed at the group, somewhat frightened. "Hmm...smells like treasure, doesn't it, Viacci?" said the tall man standing in the middle, wearing a pirate captain's outfit, to the person on his right, who wore a fancy suit with a checkered top hat. "Yes, it does indeed, Captain." the other man replied with an accent. "How dare you filthy lot ignore me, yessir?!" Matthias continued to shout. "Very well then! Front squad, take aim!" The group of seven stood unfazed. "FIRE!!" "Hattori," said the captain with a snap of his fingers. At that moment, a cloaked man on the far left quickly sliced through the bullets with a single slash, killing all the guards in the front flank. Matthias began to shiver. "Sorry to intrude on your place, but we were rushing to get over here before you closed up," said the captain with a sinister smile. "We're the Mad Reavers, and you stole something precious from us." To be continued in chapter 4: Assault!