Chapter 3:

Guidance

Aftershock


Jax didn’t go to school the next day. He was home, sitting on the small couch in the apartment he and his dad lived in. His dad was asleep in his room, only recently having come home from his shift at work. The duffle bag he’d bought the night before sat open on the ground in front of him, revealing the explosives inside. He stared blankly at the bag, the reality of the situation settling as he seriously thought about what he was planning to do. Bookmark here

“What am I planning to do?” he wondered to himself. Bookmark here

There were enough explosives in front of him to seriously damage the apartment building. He’d already checked over each device several times, modifying the detonators and ensuring that they wouldn’t go off accidentally. They were simple devices, so it hadn’t been difficult, and he finished quickly. Though Now that he didn’t have that to distract him, he was forced to think about the series of events that led him to this point.Bookmark here

He had spent the last few years tagging buildings. It was a way of striking back, Something to channel his anger. Each time he went out his target had been more high profile and more dangerous, and each time he found that it didn’t satisfy him. He wanted more, he wanted to make the city hurt. To break it like it had broken his life. He risked so much for a simple paint job. Eventually that wasn’t enough. So now, here he was. A bag of bombs in front of him.Bookmark here

“What’s all this, Jackson?”Bookmark here

Jax jumped and whipped around, small sparks flaring briefly to his hands as his dad walked sleepily out from his bedroom. “Oh, hey dad.” he said, sparks dissolving as he released the breath he’d taken. “It's nothing, just a project.”Bookmark here

Jax’s father was a well built, broad shouldered man with dark skin and hair. The opposite of his son’s fairer skin and blond hair, features from his mother. His arms were thick and he had the face of someone who had seen hardship and overcame it by being harder. His eyes held you in place, trapping you in their depth. Jax felt the weight of that gaze on him now while they stared at each other. Bookmark here

His father rubbed the sleep from his face, “A project huh? Must be pretty big if you need that whole bag.”Bookmark here

Jax didn’t respond, looking down at his feet.Bookmark here

“Why are you lying?” His father asked calmlyBookmark here

Jax shook his head, “It’s nothing dad, you don’t need to worry about it.”Bookmark here

His father sighed and sat down on the couch, patting the space next to him. Jax sat down, eyes locked downward. His father reached into the bag and pulled out one of the devices, whistling softly. Bookmark here

“I take it these alterations are your handiwork?” he askedBookmark here

Jax nodded.Bookmark here

His father inspected the small bomb, “Looks like you rigged it to go off after channeling a large electric current. I assume that means you’re planning to use these yourself.”Bookmark here

Jax felt sick, “Yeah, I was.”Bookmark here

“Well at least you aren’t selling them.” His father set the device back in the bag, zipped it closed, and stood from the couch. “You want to go for a walk? It's been a while since we’ve done anything together.”Bookmark here

Jax looked up, confused. “You’re not mad?” Bookmark here

His dad shrugged, “Once I saw you standing over a bag in the living room I prepared for the worst, luckily there wasn’t a body. So I’m too relieved to be angry.”Bookmark here

Jax sat stunned for a long moment, “Dad, you’re kinda weird.” Bookmark here

His father grinned, “Well, I did help create a human taser.”Bookmark here

They left the apartment and went out on a walk through the city. They didn’t have a destination in mind, so they just strolled together for a while, neither of them speaking. While they were walking a bus rolled past with an ad on its side. Showing a group of sad looking people looking up at the tower which was surrounded by a halo of light. The tagline read “Tired of life? Come live a new one! Oneiros offers an escape into the world of dreams.”Bookmark here

Jax’s father must have noticed his reaction because he chose that moment to speak.Bookmark here

“So, you planning on blowing down the tower with those things?” he asked.Bookmark here

Jax snorted, “If only, I’m not that crazy.” Bookmark here

“Glad to hear it. So, what are you planning to do?” Bookmark here

Jax didn’t answer, they continued in silence for a few paces until he finally said, “Do you ever think about how mom died?”Bookmark here

His father nodded, “Hardly a day goes by that I don’t miss her.”Bookmark here

“Aren’t you angry?” Jax said, anger building. “Don’t you want to do something about it?”Bookmark here

His father stopped and fixed him with a sharp look. “Yes, I get angry sometimes, but I don’t want to ‘do’ anything, Jackson. All I want is to keep us safe, not start a riot.”Bookmark here

Jax rolled his eyes and waved out at their surroundings, “Protect me? You can’t protect me, dad, we aren’t people to them. They can do whatever they want to us and it doesn’t matter.”Bookmark here

“Son, the law-”Bookmark here

“Doesn’t care either!” Jax shouted, the feelings he’d been dancing around suddenly bursting forward. “The law of limitations is crap dad and you know it! When was the last time you saw one of the founders getting dragged from their homes? Watched them scream and beg as they’re loaded into trucks and taken away to be forced into the dream? The law might say they’re bound by the same rules we are, but they enforce the laws.”Bookmark here

Jax felt warm, his entire body wanted to fight, hit something, hurt someone. He panted, realizing he had stopped breathing. His father looked at him, his eyes seeming like they were holding some magical wisdom. That pissed him off even more, that his father could stand there trying to talk him out of striking back confused him. How could he defend this place? Those people? Bookmark here

“Son, I can’t stop you from whatever it is you’re planning. Even if I could, I know you’d just try something else later, and eventually you’ll succeed.” His father walked over and put a firm hand on his shoulder. “But you need to think this through, Jackson. Whatever you do will have consequences, and you can’t prepare yourself for them all.”Bookmark here

Jax held his gaze for a moment, the words settling on him with an uncomfortable weight. Then he nodded. “Okay,” Bookmark here

His father smiled warmly and let him go. “I’m going to head home. I want you to get rid of that bag, alright? It's dangerous to have that sitting around.Bookmark here

Jax nodded again. “Alright, I'll get rid of it.” Bookmark here

“Good, you coming home with me?”Bookmark here

“No, I think I’ll walk some more, clear my head.”Bookmark here

His dad nodded, “Ok, I understand. Do whatever you need to get your thoughts straight. I’ll see you at home later.” Then he walked away.Bookmark here

Jax watched his dad leave, then turned to go deeper into the city. His head felt like it was full of static, conflicting thoughts and emotions swirled, making him feel almost dizzy. His father didn’t want him to do anything reckless. That was understandable. But why didn’t he want to strike back at the city? Why was he so content to live knowing that he didn’t matter? Why wasn’t he as angry as Jax was, they had killed his wife, Jax’s mother. Why was Jax in the wrong for being angry about that? They had lost their home, their place in the middle class, shunted to the bottom and he was just supposed to accept that was the way things were?Bookmark here

A large black transport rumbled past him and Jax froze in place. It was built like a tank, large and angular with thick plating. Large wheels coupled with anti-grav compensators allowed the massive vehicle to move quickly and nimbly through city streets. But people gave them a wide berth anyway. Seeing the transport sent a sudden wave of cold fear over Jax. It rolled past him and continued down the street, the ominous vibration of its engine shaking the street around it. Bookmark here

They were built like to be scary. They represented the iron grip the city held over its citizens. While Oneiros loomed over the city skyline, the transports prowled the streets, ensuring no one forgot the punishment for displeasing the rulers. It didn’t matter what you did, if the city deemed you in need of punishment, then you were sent to the dream. Your body taken, your mind trapped, never knowing you’ve had everything taken.Bookmark here

Cold fear warmed to anger in Jax’s chest. A familiar electric sensation spread in his chest as he charged energy, the glow hidden beneath his clothes. He arrived at the sentry station. Looking up he saw several dreamers scrubbing at the mark he’d painted on the station. They still looked human, even though they were only puppets now. They were dressed in all black, simple one size fits all workers uniforms. Their heads completely bald, to make room for the black “spiders” on their heads. The machines anchored to their hosts with spindly arms connected directly to the brain and central nervous system. They were a fairly common sight in some parts of the city. Bookmark here

This was what the founders saw them as. Tools, not people. They set themselves up as gods, denying basic rights to the people who lived beneath the,. Why were they allowed to do that? Just because it was “how things were?” Jax couldn't abide that. He spat and turned to walk home. He didn’t care how much danger he put himself in, someone had to do something. He had been born with power, so he was going to use it. He kept charging while he walked. The force of the energy building. He was done posting videos, it was time to do something real, something the founders couldn't ignore. His dad wanted him to get rid of the bag? Sure, he’d get rid of it tonight. It was time for him to take something back from the city. It would only take one night, after that, things would change.Bookmark here

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