Chapter 1 : Escape
“No… No… No, no, no! Rrrrrrff!”
The white German Shepherd grips the controller bitterly, baring his teeth at the screen illuminating his room. The controller’s buttons clack as it creaks under his frantic paws.
“Aargh! Where are you guys?! I’ve almost got hi- goddamit!”
He growls into his headset as the all-too-familiar World of Titans respawn timer washes over his monitor. With an exasperated sigh the shep leans back in his creaky chair as the tension leaves his body. He rubs his strained eyes as he listens to his headset and a smirk grows on his muzzle.
“Yeah, yeah,” he chuckles. “I guess I ran ahead, but you guys are so slow!” he says with a devilish grin. “Okay, this time we work toge-“. He stops short as a notification pops up.
-Disconnected from World of Titans, trying to reconnect-
“Oh, c’mon…” The pup grumbles at this new annoyance. “Guys, I got disconnected, just give me a second. Hello?” He raises an eyebrow, pushes his chair back and leans down to look at the modem nestled in a tangle of wires under his desk. Deciding to take a closer look, he crawls under his desk. The cord for his earphones proves to be a little too short for this investigation, exposing one of his ears. He freezes when the siren in the distance now catches his attention. He stays hunched under his desk for a few seconds, and pulls off the other half of his headphones, trying to disbelieve what he’s hearing. He crawls out and with ears perked up he rushes over to the window facing the city center. His widened blue eyes dart all over the night sky to no avail. He pulls out his phone to text his mom.
This is a drill right?
The pup holds his phone expectantly, his ears perked up listening for anything out of the ordinary, and once more peers out into the dark skyline. The phone vibrates in his paw.
Can’t send, try again?
The pup promptly scrambles to get dressed while mashing the phone to resend his text. He bursts out his front door and bounds out onto the lawn. The white shepherd stands there in the crisp night air in only jeans and a well-worn “World of Titans” t-shirt. Nervously rubbing his cheek dot, he looks again in the direction of the sirens. He’s so transfixed on the horizon he barely notices the little groups of neighbors out in the street all gazing in the same direction.
“Jack! Is your mother home?” his neighbor, Rose, yells from across the street upon seeing the young shepherd. “Does she know anything about this? This is just a drill, right?”
Just as the shep was about to respond, a distant explosion lights up the sky, catching their attention. Amid the red glow a familiar silhouette looms on the horizon for all to see. Jack’s fur stands up and his eyes widen while he gasps; hushed exclamations of “the monolith” pop up around him from the various clusters of neighbors huddled on the dimly lit street.
Jack distractedly responds, “No, Rose. This is not a drill.”
With that, the determined pup beelines for the backyard fence and fumbles around in the dark for his bike.
Rose yells tensely as Jack disappears, “Wait! You’re not going to the Lance already, are you?”
Jack rushes his bike out from around the house. “Just doing what I’m told, Rose. You should go see what the news has to say.” Jack then mounts his bike and heads off. He doesn’t respond as Rose yells from behind him.
“It’s way too early for a full Evac?! Right?!”
Jack pedals through the dimly lit streets passing groups of onlookers pointing to the horizon. More cars dot the streets than usual for this time of night, all heading toward the blue glow of the Lance. A blue streak on the horizon catches the pup’s eye. He screeches to a halt and notices a few huddled groups within earshot who let out a cheer here and there. A slight smirk grows on Jack’s face, and he mutters to himself, “Get ’em, mom.” He pedals faster with a newfound sense of hope.
As Jack approaches his destination, he sees a familiar-looking figure leaning on his cane looking out into the night sky like everyone else. The large bear’s ear turns, hearing the approaching bicycle. As Jack dismounts the bike and lets it fall on the grass, the bear directs his gaze toward him. The ursine raises an eyebrow, but shows no sign of concern, and in fact has a sliver of a comforting smile on his muzzle upon seeing the young white shep.
“She must already be out there if you’re coming here alone. You make it here without too much trouble, kiddo?”
Jack runs up and hugs the bear around his tummy instead of answering. Only after a good squeeze does a muffled answer emerge from the bear`s fur.
“Yeah, I’m okay.”
Jack turns to regard the now numerous blue streaks in the sky.
“Which one do you think is her?”
The bear scoffs in his low rumbly tone, “The one kicking that Juggernaut’s ass, no doubt.”
They both stand there for a moment, getting lost watching the dancing lights. The bear ruffles the pup’s head fur and turns toward the house, making his way inside. Jack is engrossed in the display, studying every blue streak for signs of victory. His attention is abruptly broken.
“Alright kiddo, I don’t think you, or especially me, want to disobey your mother’s orders now, do we?”
Jack turns to see the bear, his large frame making the doorway look small, his lush white fur accentuated by the dim porch light. He’s got a backpack over one shoulder and a jacket draped over his arm. The shepherd’s ears perk up and his eyes widen.
“Kinda noticed you didn’t bring anything.”
“I-I just high tailed it outta there like I was supposed to. I was in the middle of a game and then I just split…”
A blush comes to Jack’s cheeks as he rubs his cheek dot, being a little embarrassed he left home with nothing but the clothes on his back. The bear steps up and drapes a jacket around the pup. The jacket is ridiculously oversized on Jack; the back has the D.A.V.D. logo beautifully embroidered with the letters LEVI arcing across the top. All the tension leaves Jack’s body. He looks up to meet the bear’s reassuring brown eyes and smiles. Levi smiles back, noting his pup is a bit calmer, and nods toward the car.
“Don’t worry ’bout that, I’m sure we’ll be back in no time. And if not you can get anything you need on Sanctuary.”
The bear gave a comforting smile and ruffles Jack’s head fur again. Jack glances back at the ongoing battle then reluctantly follows Levi to the car.
Throughout the neighborhood, the drive is slow going, definitely busier than what is normal for this time of night but not a complete traffic jam. Jack, restless, his eyes darting to the rearview mirror off and on, turns on the radio and closes his eyes to listen.
“… -ords show that the last category 3 to make landfall was over a year ago, in Neo Tokyo. We’ve yet to obtain any visuals of the new Juggernaut, but reports all seem to indicate this particular beast is black feathered, over 20 stories tall, and has laid waste to a sizable portion of the city already. Our local D.A.V.D. brigade has been dispatched and fully engaged for the past half hour. Casualties are high. The Oren city defense commander recommends everyone should be prepared for a full evacuation tonight. Oh, and looks like we have new details coming in about the Juggern- …”
Levi clicks off the radio and glances over at Jack. “An Evac don’t mean nothing kiddo. All that means is our guys will need help from Sanctuary.”
Jack silently has his gaze fixed on the rearview mirror, clutching the oversized D.A.V.D. jacket closer around him. Levi looks back at the road and scoffs.
“Heck, when your mom and I were on Sanctuary we were unstoppable.” Then wistfully he says, “Her hammer swing is the epitome of precision.”
The drive in silence doesn’t last much longer. The widening roads closer to the Lance accommodate the growing number of cars arriving at the base. Rows of parked cars surround the Lance, all enveloped in its comforting blue glow. Shadows dot the hued landscape making their way to the awe-inspiring tower. Levi lights up a cigarette, craning his neck to see if there are lines yet.
“Looks like it’s smooth sailing Jack; let’s get going while that’s still the case.”
The bear slowly turns after not hearing any response to see Jack looking distractedly up and mouth agape at the Lance. The Lance, as it came to be called, has circular base the size of 5 square football fields with walls that glow bright blue and can be seen for miles around. The building slowly curves inward, getting smaller as it juts up into the sky and pierces the scattered clouds. Awestruck, Jack says, “It looks so different up close.”
“That it does. Quite the marvel, ain’t it?”
“Is sanctuary here yet?”
“Trust me kiddo, you’d be able to see her from here. There is a chapter about it in your social studies class, isn’t there?” the bear says as he arches an eyebrow.
The shep rubs his cheek dot as he stammers “Uh… Well, most of that chapter just covers the Juggernauts actually.”
The pair makes their way to one of the numerous entrances at the base of the spire. Levi flicks his cigarette off into the night and approaches one of the entrance guards. A uniformed Doberman straightens up and salutes as the bear approaches with the shepherd in tow.
“S-sir? Is that…”
The bear nods.
“I didn’t know you were stationed here!” the excited Doberman exclaims.
“I’m not stationed anywhere now; everyone knows that.”
“Err… Of course. Right…” The guard lowers his ears, slightly embarrassed.
Levi places a large paw on the guard’s shoulder. “Eyes on the prize kiddo; this night might get a lot worse.”
The Doberman lowers his ears more, “We haven’t had a full Evac here for over 10 years! Our D.A.V.D.s are some of the best defense on the planet.”
Levi grips his cane, narrows his eyes and leans closer to the guard dog, “Never, ever, underestimate these… monstrosities.”
The Doberman huffs, perks up his ears and regains his vigilant stance. “Of course! Please take any elevator in an orderly manner. None are full as of right now.”
Inside, the staging area floor sprawls out before the pair. The circular space has roughly a 100-yard radius. Large elevators line the perimeter of the massive room with multicolored lines directing people to each one. Informative signs are peppered throughout the space sporting various bits of information:
-Only one bag allowed per civilian before ascending-
-Please allow children and the elderly on the platforms first-
-Please be mindful of not smoking-
With Levi’s paw in the small of Jack’s back he leads the pup onto a quarter-full elevator. The mostly empty platform could hold about 4 large cars, but only has roughly 10-12 other people. The edge of the elevator is lined with thick glass and a brass bar handle. Jack walks over to the edge of the platform and gazes off toward the horizon. He can overhear a couple of riders having an exuberant conversation.
“I heard it was a raven!”
“Has there ever been a raven?”
“Like once? Maybe? But that was ages ago! And it definitely wasn’t a Category 3.”
“Wow! A category 3, here!”
“I can’t wait to see if they get any shots of it!”
“Oh wait! Got a message…”
“Huh! Me too!”
Many different cell phone jingles and tones go off in a jumbled mass of sounds, followed closely by some hushed gasps. Jack feels his father’s paw on his shoulder as his own cell phone goes off in his pocket.
Jack slowly realizes he doesn’t see any more blue streaks off in the distance.