Chapter 24:



What was the breaking point?

Sal asked himself this question as a young man, around the influential ages of 13 and 14. By that point, he had already lost both his parents to rogue crime and been shipped off from his home in Yorktown to the fractured and radiation infested Washington. What had once been the capital of the United States was now a slum ridden dumping ground of Nekos and vagabonds, linked precariously to the United Coalition. At 15, he found work in radiation cleanup and toiled away at detoxifying the streets with a wash of equally toxic chemicals. Local wildlife distributed the radiated cells of the pets and animals that survived WWIII, creating a long lineage of mutations. Even after a hundred years, the consequences of mankind’s hubris carried from generation to generation within the animal populace.

Sal shot them down regardless.

It was in those moments, a rabid dog charging at him and a single bullet that separated Sal from the many who died in Washington, that he thought of his childhood. His time playing in the dirt infested streets of Yorktown's District 1 felt like true Elysium compared to these ragged streets. With each pull of the trigger, with each animal disposed of, he pictured his friends, some alive and some dead, splashing in sewage filled rain puddles and laughing. Amber and him would giggle and jeer at the honking vehicles that demanded these kids move. They would take to the streets like these packs of wild, radiated dogs and scour the metallic forests of Yorktown for fun and food and freedom.

What was the breaking point?

At 22, Sal moved from Washington to Richmond Commons, serving as the border between The United Coalition and Eden. He dared not step foot into Eden. The religious zealotry and fanaticism turned that place into a true hell for Nekos, and soon, their extremism would dissolve the entire nation.

Sal would write to Amber about his time at the meat packing plant. Decked head to toe in white and a mask strapped across his face, he worked 12 to 13 hour days with post-slaughtered hunks of cow and pig. He gracefully glided his knife along the bone, severing each muscle fiber. Those pieces would be packaged into metal cans, sealed tightly, and then shipped off. Each can cost more than he made in an hour. The human next to him made twice as much. When Sal brought up his frustrations to the foreman, he found himself unemployed the following week.

What was the breaking point?

Homeless, Sal wandered the streets of Richmond, begging and taking the occasional odd job. Neither proved overly lucrative, and any attempt at “government assistance” was met with red tape, forms that cost money to submit, and an unrealistic timetable. He continued to write to Amber, but soon, her letters grew scarcer. Eventually, they stopped all together. With little more than change in his pocket, he bought a bus ticket back to Yorktown; he would find Amber again.

wHat was the BrEakIng POint?

To pay his way in the Undercity, Sal melded into one of the many gangs, running drugs between Under and Uppercity. He scrounged enough money together to rent a cheap apartment. The gang kept him fed, clothed, sheltered more than the radiation cleanup gig or the meat packing plant. He could afford things again, and the Undercity turned into his umbrella. Still no signs of Amber, no communications, no nothing. Sal could wait though. His connection with the gang made it possible. They assured him all would be well.

Until it wasn’t…

Sal killed a man. It had been a drug deal gone south. A rival gang was set to purchase a large amount of heroin, but the agreed upon price had turned out to be less than “agreeable”. Harsh words were spoken; threats made. As the talks and conversations kicked up and the threats became near unbearable, Sal did the unthinkable.

He shot a Neko. It was a clean shot too, right to the head, the same way he’d killed rabid dogs in Washington. The Nekos partner froze as blood and brain matter painted the wall behind them. Sal turned his gun on him and shot twice. Two dead… Two dead dogs… The runner assigned with Sal was just as shocked. He said something, but Sal couldn’t remember what it was. He could only remember that question.

WHaT wAs tHe BReaKiNG PoInT?

At age 25, Sal was “removed” from the gang. In all accounts, they should have killed him. The heroin deal mishap sent them into a full on blood feud with the rival faction. Soon, the rampant bouts of gang violence and murder would get the Undercity PD involved. Nobody won…

…except for Sal.

Amber reached out after years of silence. She lived in District 4 and wanted to see him. With the threat of violence to him still fresh in the air, Sal fled to District 4 under a pseudonym. He reconnected with Amber, who had been working as a singer in the Undercity. He attended a few of her shows, watched on with pride as made her meager but honest living in a way that he could never dream of. As Amber sat on that bar stool, strumming away on an acoustic guitar, he sat in the back and admired her.

Each word she sang reminded him of a bullet.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

Three dead dogs.

The thing with rabid dogs, suffering heavily from genetic damage, was nobody wanted them. They were a determinant to societal structure. They threatened people and mindlessly hunted and killed. They deserved to die. They had no use to life or society than to cause issues and problems.

But that was not their fault… They were brought into this world by the mistakes of others. WWIII had destroyed the known world, and now, the children of the survivors and their children were left to pick up the pieces. Weren’t Nekos similar? Created sometime after WWIII or the pandemic, they were the dregs of society: unwanted, uncared for, radiated dogs… designed to be put down in time.

No one quite knew what Nekos meant for the greater world. Humans met them with fear, the same fear you’d see in someone’s eyes when confronted by one of those dogs. Bang. This kind of fear drove a level of hate that even Sal could never fully comprehend. No. Bang. He fully understood. Bang. He hated those humans as much as any Neko. Bang.

When they threw him in prison…

wHAT WaS ThE brEAKinG poINt?

When they allowed Coolage to take advantage of every Neko in Yorktown?


When they allowed the Revival to kick around for five years… further harming and subjugating Nekos despite the fucking evidence being right there!

twha swa het earbkngi oinpt?

Rabid dogs would never understand their situations. They were animals with small brains and little reason. Nekos though… They were no different than the humans who treated them so poorly. They could understand the gun and bullet being placed against their forehead, stripping them of their lives and dignity. They were not animals.

And unlike animals, they could grow to despise their situation. It went beyond food and shelter. It was intellectual. It was fucking human rights. They could, would, grow to hate. Even the ones who didn’t, growing up in Uppercity or without the impending face of the “bullet”, would eventually grow to hate. That was why the Revival existed. It would revive that hate.

Yes. This could not end. No matter what the human and his pet said. It could not end. They were there. They were ready. No one could stop this wave: not even Coolage or the police. As Sal pulled himself from the wreckage of the container, washed in flames, it ignited his hatred. The fire was there. It would burn. Yorktown would burn.

He wiped the blood from his face and checked himself. Wounded yes… but alive. He looked back at the container that he had been thrown from. It was cracked open like a can; a cloud of smoke bellowed towards the Uppercity. It signaled the end: the smokescreen that would alert the others to do the same. The wheel turned.

Sal only thought of Amber.