By Emilia Rayén
“Next thing I know, I’m laying down in a hospital. Half my body was covered in skin grafts. I don’t remember how I got there, but I haven’t seen my sister since,” Franklin looked up and waited for their reactions.
“All that because your dad ****** some guys off?” Jasper asked.
“He owed them money. He owed everyone money. They were just the ones who bothered to look for him. I was told my dad came back eventually to what was left of our house but then disappeared. I’ve been on my own ever since. Mostly in and out of foster homes. When I turned eighteen, I got a job fixing houses. Made enough money to get a sad little apartment, and that’s that.”
“And I thought the sound of my eye getting ripped out was the worst thing I’d ever heard. I’m sorry, man,” Josh said.
“What happened to your eye?” Franklin asked, mildly curious. “I didn’t want to ask.”
“It’s fine. I punched one of my dad’s staff members, and it gave him eye damage. Dad thought it would be fair if I got a little of that. And by a little, I mean a lot.” Josh mimicked him, pulling out his eye and blood going everywhere. “I can do it for real if you guys want.”
“No, we’re good,” Jasper said.
“I’m talking about my fake one—I kind of like seeing things. I need to clean it anyway. It sucks I can’t do it properly. Water will be just fine.”
“Wow, aren’t we just the odd bunch. Jasper, you don’t have a tail we should know about, do you?” Franklin laughed.
“Nah, just a few mental scars. Nothing special. I used to be a thief. I’d like to say a good one, but I did get caught. My mom was in the hospital when I was on a job and tried to call me all day. I ignored her and didn’t find out until later. Looks like King of the World found out about that. My last game was trying to get my partner out of a trunk filled with water. He had an oxygen mask on, but it only lasted for ten minutes. The combination was the day my mom died,” Jasper said. Every time he told the story, it got harder and harder not to break down. He didn’t want to forget it, but he didn’t want to be reminded by people who didn’t know the full story or him.
“Is there anything these ******* won’t sink to? I swear. Is your partner okay?” Franklin asked.
“Yeah, he’s fine. I was just hanging out with him after our game. Then the punishment thing happened, and he wanted to be alone.”
“I don’t blame him. Jasmine and I just sat there looking at the screen for five minutes,” Josh said, glancing at the door as Jasmine came out wearing her orange tracksuit. “Hey.”
“Hey, sorry about that. So, what’s up?” Jasmine asked, sitting next to Franklin.
“Just going around sharing our life stories. Wanna share?” Franklin asked.
Jasmine shrugged. “Not much to say. I’m from Zone 7. I had everything I’d ask for when I was a kid. My dad was okay, and my mom was hardly around. Which just left me and…my brother. He was the problem. He’s always been the problem. When my dad was around, he would be an angel. When he wasn’t, my brother would bully me. It was mostly teasing, but it got worse. Physical.”
“You don’t have to say anything else, Jas,” Josh said. Josh moved over and put his arm around her.
“No, it’s okay. To be honest, I don’t want to be King or anything. I just want the power to lock monsters like him away. I don’t want anyone to suffer like I did.”
Everyone sat in silence. Jasper tried to think about something else, but he could probably guess what kinds of things her brother did to her. None of them good. “Okay, so. What now? We all know more about each other, which is cool, but how does that help us to find a way out?” Jasper asked.
“Well, to have a functioning ship, we need to have a good crew. If we know nothing about each other, then we won’t work together well. How many of us are left? Does anyone know?” Franklin asked, looking around.
“I think they said one hundred. Here on out, they said we’re against each other. But I don’t believe that. I think they said that to add more tension. We were always against each other,” Jasmine said.
“Seems like something they would do. Shady ********,” Josh said.
“King has to have some goal, right? If he just wanted to kill us, then he just could’ve when he brought us here. We were all knocked out. Why go through so much trouble? This whole system seems to lead to something,” Jasper said.
“Okay, here’s what I think we should do. After this, we should go to get something to eat. Blend in. I know it’ll look weird if we just start looking around. We need to get as many players on board as possible. Only the ones that we know won’t cause trouble. I can’t promise we can get them all out, but it’s a start. Let’s start small. If they’re making the games solo, then I have a feeling a lot of players are going to die very quickly,” Franklin said, scratching his head, trying to piece it all together.
“I can start looking around. I have some advantages from the last two games. I can use the time tomorrow to start digging,” Jasper said.
“Okay, sounds like a plan. Everyone let’s move out,” Franklin said. “Oh shoot, we need a team name.”
“Why?” Josh asked.
“Because being united under a name makes this more serious,” Franklin said, crossing his arms over his chest. “Hmm.”
“How about Castle Crashers?” Josh laughed.
“Lame,” Jasmine giggled.
“Quiet you,” Josh smiled.
“How about King Slayers?” Jasper asked.
“Oh, that sounds slightly better,” Franklin said.
“What are we a sports team?” Josh asked.
“The False Kings,” Franklin said, snapping his fingers. “None of us cares to be King anymore. So let’s go with that.”
Everyone nodded in agreement.
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