Chapter 1:

Ch.1: It's Not enough to Survive

Neo Discadia: Rise of the Sewer Rats

He stuffed into his pockets the hand full of singles, he could sneak out, off the strip club floor. But when he made it for the exit he could see from across the show floor two bouncers headed his way. he was in the opposite direction towards the girl's locker room. The bouncers then made haste. As he rushed through the half-naked girls some of them yelled but some of the more experienced girls couldn't be bothered to care, numb from having to show their bodies off every day to earn a living wage. “what difference does it make if they see our tities in here or out there?” the boy worked his way to the blind spot around the corner at the end of the hall to the right.

“we’ve got ‘em now. It's a dead-end” but when the bouncers turned the corner the boy was nowhere to be seen. They looked at each other to make sure the drugs didn't get to them causing them to hallucinate where the kid went. They began opening lockers in a haste to find the boy. But it was all in vein. Because while they were checking every locker to see where he was hiding, he was working his way through the central heating. These low-brow places are the only ones that still have a working central heating system. No other business can afford ‘em. It’s mostly so people walk in. they’d absolutely have no problem having the girls strip in the cold.

Eventually, after getting lost in the vents a couple of times, he was able to find the exhaust. He kicked the grate and hopped out landing in the back ally behind the strip joint.

“Welp, can’t show my face there again” he said “bummer too, the girls were just starting to warm up to me.” he pulled out the singles from his jacket pocket. “I made a pretty good haul though. This’ll hold us out for a couple days while I find another spot” he quickly shoved the singles back in his pockets and made sure he wasn't being followed before he went to his hideout. He ran through alleys between the abandoned buildings where all the doors were boarded up by the landlords to prevent the homeless from taking refuge and “vandalizing their private property” if you own a building but can’t afford to maintain It or repair it, it’s not your private property, it's a reminder of your failures. He got to the mountain of trash people would pile up for weeks waiting for the truck drivers to finally pick up. They were on perpetual strike. The city didn't pay them enough despite them being an essential part of the city's infrastructure. So they went on strike. Over and over and over. everytime the city caved, it slowly but surely went back to its old way of exploiting them in some other way. as a result, they went on strike again and again. leading to mountains of trash around each and every corner of the city. But not in the clean parts of town where the wealthy lived. No, they drove down to the poor parts of town to toss their trash as they drove by. But they were so wealthy most times their trash would be chocked full of food they just threw away because they didn't have space in the fridge or something. So in a way, the rich fed the poor, albeit unwittingly.

The boy pushed and shoved the trash bags from around the dumpster giving himself some room. He then pushed the dumpster revealing a draining grate. He lifted the grate and went underground. He crawled through the piping and the draining that eventually led him to a big open space abandoned by the city. An underground housing initiative that went up in flames when it started pouring and everyone living down there drowned In a massive flood. Despite all the reassurances that they redirected the drainage elsewhere. But that was assuredly a lie. It was probably an attempt to get rid of the poor, although they would never admit it.

Down there, was where the sewer rats lived. The boy walked up the stairs leading to the maintenance room. He walked in.

“neo! you’re back! howd it go?” wendy the youngest in the group asked while getting out of bed.

“eh not too shabby” he pulled out the wad of cash and her eyes lit up

“oh wow! Its so much!”

“why don't you take it and put it in your stash?”

“sure thing, daddy oh~”

she gently cradled the money in her hands and placed it on her bed as she pulled out a shoe box from under it. she opened it to reveal an assortment of what seemed like junk. But everything there was in there because of where it came from. Handkerchief, a stuffed bear, a busted wrist watch, a loose bolt, a toy gun, and a jar have empty of change and singles. She eagerly opened the jar and plopped the wad of cash inside. she sealed it up and back in the shoe box it went.

“we can’t keep living like this” a familiar voice echoes from across the room.

A boy who’s almost a man walks towards neo. He pulls out a flyer and shoves it in neo's face.

“I’m telling you, this is our meal ticket.”

“I told you already” he shoves the poster aside “we thrive on the blissfully ignorant. People don't know what were capable of and that's how we survive. We step out there and we’ll be recognized for miles! Even if we win, we can’t survive long with what they give us!”

“so we keep winning!” he said

“I’m not having this conversation, you know where that road leads”

“that was… different”

“oh really? how so?”

the man boy stayed quiet, he knew neo was right. it wasn't any different than before.

“but this time it’ll be us. that's what makes this different.”

“Jonny's right you know” Erika said leaning on the door frame. “he didn't really care about us. that's the truth”

“that's not it! he didn't have a choice!” neo said. Exasperated, he took a deep breath to calm his nerves “once you put yourself in their sights, you’re in it till the end. Even if you wanted out theyd just kill you off for spectacle. That's not the life I want for us.”

“so what do you call this?!” Johnny said extending his arms at their surroundings. Moldy walls, puddles scattered all around, furniture salvaged from the dumpster. “we can’t keep living like sewer rats! Were just one rain storm away from drowning like the rest of them! it's not enough just to survive! Don't think we won’t do it without you!”

neo looked at them both, and saw the determination in their eyes. Then down at wendy, the worry was practically written on her face. “…you guys… you’re making a mistake”

“then I guess this is goodbye” jhonny said. He walked over and extended his hand. But Neo didn't even bother and walked away from them. his hand clenched into a fist. As he squeezed tightly Erika rested her hand on his

“I’ll go talk to him” she said

she knew where he was, he was where he always was when he needed to blow off steam or just be by himself. Past the abandoned houses of the underground neighborhood, there was one house that had a balcony on the roof that overlooked the whole village. Whenever strife or struggle had gotten to him, that's where he would be.

She went up the latter that led up to the balcony and when she opened the hatch, there he was. With legs dangling off the edge and his hands resting on the guard rails, he sat overlooking the city.

She went and sat next to him. and they didn't say anything to each other for quite a while. Just being in each other’s presence was enough to communicate their feelings.

“you guys have already made up your minds, haven’t you?”

“you know Johnny’s never liked it here. hes a brat sure, but he’s not wrong, there are better way than this. There are few worse spots than this…”

“you think I don't know that? options are limited. It’s not like we can move up to the surface, they’d catch us in an instant.”

“that's exactly why we should do this, with the things we can do, we can make a lot of money, they'll protect us”

“yeah, In exchange, they'll own us and our undying loyalty.”

“then we bounce. We’re not tied down. when we have enough, we take what we can and we skip town.”

“yeah, then what? live it up in the desert feeding on lizards and snakes.”

“yeah, why not? sounds a lot better then dumpster diving. Out on the open road, just the four of us”

Neo looked at her and he could read the hope on her face. then he broke eye contact and looked back over the city. She got up and rested her hands on his shoulders.

“at least, I think It would be pretty fun.” They both looked over the city bathed in the green hue of light that bounced off the algae ridden walls of the sewer city.

Then, she left him there to be alone with his thoughts. He took his hands and he rubbed them all over his face and hair frustrated with this turn of events. He let out a frustrated yell and let it all out. Then he relaxed his muscles and lied on his back. He reflected on the circumstances and their options. “there's no right answers… damned if we do… damned if we don't.”

Johnny and Erika already had everything ready. This was just a last ditch effort to get Neo on board. Erika walked back into their hideout.

“so? What did he say?” Johnny asked

Erika silently shook her head with her shoulders raised and her arms to her sides

Johnny let out a deep sigh “dammiiiiiiit” they didn't want to leave, but they felt like they had to. they couldn't keep living in these conditions and under the constant threat of danger. they couldn't keep waking up in the middle of the night scared of not hearing the rushing water drown them out. They've already had a couple of close calls where they didn't know if they would survive the night or not. they once had to run all the way to the very top of the upper staircase that led to the upper maintenance room with the water rising behind them with every step only to stop a few feet shy. They just couldn't keep living this way.

“c’mon wendy, pack your bag” Erika said

“is Neo coming?”

“I don't think so sweetie” she said

“then I’m staying!”

“what!?” Johnny said

“Wendy-” Erika started

“if you two leave, you’ll have each other, but if I leave, Neo will be alone. and Neo can’t be alone.”

Johnny and Erika looked at each other for a moment. Then Erika walked over and squatted down in front of her.

“welp, you're a big girl now, and if that's what you want to do, then this is goodbye”

she placed her hand on her cheek. And that's when Wendy started tearing up. She jumped onto Erika to hug her and started crying. Erika fell on her ass and held Wendy. She then hugged her back. Embracing her tightly she closed her eyes. Johnny couldn't stand it. He started crying too as he joined in on the love. The three of them held each other close knowing full well this could be the last time they ever saw one another. Then, they made for the exit. A large staircase going all the way to the surface. Johnny and Erika stood the top ready to start the next chapter of their lives.

“you ready?” She asked

“do I have a choice?” he said

“where do you think yer’ goin’?”

they both turned to see Neo walking up the stairs with Wendy on his back tuckered out from all the crying and a satchel tied around his waist.

“so you changed your mind after all!” Johnny said

“its like you said, we cant keep living this way. and whos gonna keep you two out of trouble if I'm not around?”

“we can take care of ourselves, you know!” Erika said

"Yeah, sure"

“cmon hurry it up we cant do this without you?” Johnny said

“do what?”

“our first step twards greatness.” 

“what are you talking about?” Neo said

“oh shut up, just line up, line up! Erika you put your arms there and- yeah just like that!” he said

they all stood at the precipice of a new journey, at the gateway between all they knew and all they would know. All that was needed was to take that first step. They stood at the top of the stairs sholder to sholder, arm in arm.

“okay, on three. one… two…”he said

they all extended their right leg and leaned forward taking that first step together.

“this was stupid” Neo said

“wha- no its not!” Johnny said

Erika laughed “yeah Johnny this is pretty stupid”

“you guuuuuys!” Johnny bemoaned

weather they knew it or not, their lives would never be the same. The trials they would face, and the journey they would have, it all started with that first step. Their adventure… had finally begun.

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