Chapter 12:

The Outer Sect II - "New Digs"

Destiny Marine

Bright lights and waves of continuous, crashing noise greeted Isaac as they arrived on the surface. It was colder here than in Patuxet, making him grip his jacket tightly as a cold gust of wind blew through the city. The trio arrived on a tree-lined avenue filled with people roaming about, on their way to bars or restaurants or back home. The conversations mixed with the noises of vehicles - so many of them! Blocky-looking cars, smoking trailing behind them, drove down the avenue in either direction, seemingly beeping at each other every few moments.

While Mackenzie went one way, Isaac and Reed went the other. This stopped Mackenzie and she glanced back at them.

“Not going back to the base?” Mackenzie asked in confusion.

Reed flashed her a smile. “No sir. We have business to attend to.”


The lights of cars illuminated Mackenzie in the sea of people. She just shook her head. “Have a good night, Reed.”

“Yeah, you too.”

The two girls went off in different directions. As Isaac followed Reed, he wondered how after such a ridiculous fight on the escalators they could leave on what seemed like okay terms. Whatever the case, they marched down the avenue, Reed sifting through the crowded sidewalk like a nimble breeze. Isaac struggled to keep up, but never lost sight of her since he wasn’t trying to get lost on his first night here.

They took a side street off the avenue. Though the road was designed for cars, none could fit down here; stalls and stands lined the avenue on either side. Vendors for fresh fruit, vendors for fresh meat, bakers, fortune tellers, and snake oil salesmen called for Isaac, flashing him inviting grins, beckoning for him to spend the (little) money he had on their products. Green banners and Arcadian flags stretched across the street; laughing children roamed about below. Reed kept moving along, ignoring the organized chaos around them, focused on getting to their business. Isaac was about to ask what ‘business’ they were attending to when a group of children bumped into him.

The bump wasn’t that hard, and these kids were dressed in rags, so Isaac let it slide. He had a soft spot for kids younger than him since they reminded him of his soot-covered juniors in the mines. Reed had a different idea. Right as the children passed her, she turned around and caught the last one, lifting him into the air by his throat.

Nobody paid the altercation any mind. This was apparently a normal situation on this street.

“You got something that doesn’t belong to you, right?” Reed asked the street urchin, already knowing the answer. As the kid struggled, Isaac gasped and checked his pocket - sure enough, his wallet was gone. Reed used her free hand to reach into the thief’s ratty jacket and produced the missing item.

“Rddhi swine,” the child thief choked out. “When the Restoration comes, you cultivators will all be buried-”

Reed kneed him in the groin, then tossed him to the ground. As a parting gift, she gave him a boot to the ass which sent him skidding across the asphalt. The thief scrambled away, joining his friends up ahead who were already fleeing.

“Street urchins,” Reed muttered, shaking her head. She handed the wallet to Isaac, who counted as she spoke. “Ever since the rural migrants started flooding the city, they’ve been appearing everywhere. Talk about varmint.”

“Hey, I’m a dollar short!” Isaac realized.

Gaslamps illuminated the dainty dollar bill held between Reed’s fingers. “Consider it a finder’s fee, Isaac,” she said as she stuffed it into her greatcoat.

Isaac was grateful for all the help Reed gave him these past few days, but he was also starting to wonder if she was sort of an asshole.

Well, whatever. “What’s our destination?”

Reed spread her arms wide. “I told you, Isaac. It’s reuben time.”


Dressed in his shabby miner’s outfit, Isaac felt out of place at the restaurant. Sure, it was a small thing, more similar to a cafe than a full restaurant, but considering his only experience in fine dining was chop suey night at the Patuxet saloon, he felt out of his element. He felt out of his element the entire time in this city so far. The fact that everybody else there wore khakis and blazers didn’t help him feel better, either.

But still - Reed was right. Reubens really were the Skyfather’s gift to the world. Compared to the dingy turkey sandwiches back home, the reuben was an explosion of taste. Isaac finished his in no time at all.

Steam lightly drifted from the bowl of soup next to Reed’s plate. She took her time with the reuben; she still had half left and Isaac felt a little jealous. Reed noticed, but before she could gloat, there was a commotion outside. On the other side of their window, a man dressed in a cloak stepped atop two boxes and gazed out into a growing crowd that stretched into a nearby plaza. Compared to his cloak, the crowd were all dressed in rags.

The cloaked man’s voice shot out into the crowd via a megaphone in his hands. The glass window did little to save Isaac and Reed from the noise.

“Attention, people of Narragansett!” the man proclaimed. “Or, should I stay, the people forced here by our government’s disastrous rural policies! I am here to tell you how to reclaim our former glory!”

The crowd all cheered. Isaac looked at Reed in confusion; she paid the commotion outside no mind as she finished her sandwich.

“I give it three minutes before the State Police breaks this up,” she merely said.

“Who’s that? What’s going on?”

The man answered for him. “You may call me Zola, for I am here to speak the truth!” His voice sounded deep and the crowd seemed mesmerized with every word. “There’s a plague upon our lands - the plague of cultivation! The Rddhi swine have harnessed the power of the supernatural for their own purposes! Though small in number, this demonic power has allowed the cultivators to control our country against the wills of the people!”

Zola used his free hand to give dramatic waves and thrusts to punctuate his words. “Rddhi families control the Army, Navy, and State Police! Rddhi families have bought up the farmlands and forced you all to migrate here! It’s an abomination against the natural order of things! These cultivators - they aren’t human!”

Isaac had only been a cultivator for about a day, but he still felt very much human, thank you very much. Reed dropped oyster crackers into her soup. “We can fling psychic powers around, Isaac. The Three Hurricanes could level mountains and part the seas. Can you call that human?”

New as they may be, superpowered fists weren’t exactly something a normal human could do. Maybe Gregory had a point about wanting to stay normal.

But this was the group Kassandra wanted to join, and Kassandra also considered herself very much a human. "The Restorationists," he asked. "Do they hate cultivators? I thought there were cultivators among their ranks."

Reed just shrugged. "Politics suck, Isaac. But basically, the Restorationists are the only major underground group opposing the government, so they're a big-tent organization. You got cultivator supremacists rubbing elbows with illiterate dockworkers and Arcadian bigots blowing up power stations with the Lawrencite minority. It's a pretty big umbrella."

Still reflecting on his decision to join Reed and the military, Isaac leaned in close to whisper this next question. "So...are the Restorationists still the good guys?"

A chuckle answered him. " isn't a simple story of good versus evil. Everybody's a different shade of gray. Even you and me."

“But, my friends, we still have a chance!” Zola proclaimed to eclectic crowd. “The rise of industry has allowed us humans to narrow the playing field! And we greatly outnumber the cultivators. If we work as one, we can strike a blow against our overlords!”

Cameras flashed; Zola looked like he was enjoying the moment. “But we must act now! The power of cultivators grows in each generation. Soon, humans will be rendered permanently subservient as cultivator cattle. We can’t allow this to happen. We must have a Restoration!”

What are they restoring?

Apparently Zola knew that would answer the question on a lot of people’s mind. “The ancestors of the country we call Atalanta today lived in a utopia called Kallipolis! Freedom could be found here - it is the most perfect form of government for humanity! Quickly, we must strive to establish this-”

Black cars and unmarked white vans came to a screeching halt at the edges of the plaza. Men in black suits and fedoras stepped out, each holding Tommy Guns. The lead officer fired his into the air, creating a roar of panic and fear that cascaded across the plaza. Isaac tensed as the crowd scattered to escape. The officers moved into the fray, beating down anyone they could catch with billy clubs.

“Should we go?” Isaac asked.

“I didn’t finish my soup yet,” Reed answered plainly. She saw the look of concern on his face. “Look, preachy speeches and roundups happen all the time here. This is just another Wednesday. Though, today certainly did not feel like a Wednesday. But fine, if you’re so concerned, you can grab the check while I finish.”

Isaac tilted his head. “I don’t have enough money for this.”

“But…you said you were treating me?”

“You said that!”

Reed neatly folded her hands on the table. “I guess we’re at an impasse-”

A man in rags crashed through the glass window. As blood splattered across Reed, the man’s foot clipped her soup bowl, knocking it into the air where it landed atop her head. She stood there like a stoic statue as pieces of chicken and noodles leaked down her face. With the window broken, the screams outside felt even more real.

Reed produced the finder’s fee from her coat and dropped it on the table. She sighed. “Alright, let’s get out of here.”


Reed was an able navigator, taking Isaac down winding side streets and narrow alleys to escape the chaos. Isaac tried to gather his thoughts as she took them through an underpass below a highway. Atalanta? That’s a country across the ocean. I don’t know who their ancestors were, though. And I’m certainly human; that Zola doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

As the night wore on, Reed slowed down as they reached their destination (and to catch her breath, which came out of her mouth machine-gun style after their long walk). Isaac looked in amazement at the thick brick wall that prevented them from moving forward. It went on in either direction for multiple blocks; armed men patrolled the top.

“Welcome,” Reed proclaimed. “To the Pond.”

Isaac looked at the brick wall again. “Uh…I don’t know what that means.”

“Elizabeth Pond. That’s the name for the Navy's main cultivator base in Narragansett.”

The structure certainly was impressive. Isaac let out a whistle as he smelled a hint of saltiness in the air. Perhaps that came from the ocean he heard so much about. He wasn’t sure if the ocean was as big as they said. Surely they must be exaggerating.

Reed led the way to the main gate of the base - two gigantic metal doors guarded by a booth filled with men wielding rifles. Since they all wore military fatigues, Isaac couldn’t distinguish them at first, but there was an odd man out - a boy their age armed with a large wooden staff. Reed approached him with familiarity.

“Dan Turner,” Reed greeted. Isaac wondered if she blew up any of his cakes, but Dan smiled back at her. He had a mop of black hair and was slightly taller than Isaac.

“Reed, you’re an hour past curfew,” he said, though not unkindly.

“Check it,” she said, pulling out what must’ve been her identification papers and other documents. “I was out on assignment.”

While Dan looked them over, Isaac studied the fort again. The “men” guarding its front looked only a few years older than Isaac. They wielded their rifles tightly, and some of them seemed to be on guard, keeping their distance from the trio of cultivators.

“Well, Reed, I guess no disciplinary action for you this time,” Dan supposed with a grin. He nodded at one of the soldiers in the booth, who pulled a lever. A screeching sound filled with the air as the two metal gates opened, steam hissing from their hinges.

Reed waved farewell and led Isaac inside. “That’s Dan,” she explained. “He’s the Chief Midshipman of Squad 1. You’ll probably meet him again tomorrow at your orientation.”

Though a few words like Midshipman and orientation stuck out to Isaac, he was distracted by the sights of the base. Rows of parked truck filled a huge parking lot, with various buildings scattered about the base, which seemed to go on forever. At the back, a tall, multistory keep dominated the skyline, with probing searchlights stretching upwards. Isaac could make out the green flag of Arcadia, the blue one of the Navy, and the golden-spiral-anchor flag of the Cultivator Marine Corps.

In contrast to Isaac’s wonder, Reed seemed bored by it all. She brought him past patrolling soldiers to a trio of brick buildings two stories high. They ascended an exterior staircase of one, then headed down a metal walkway, passing by closed doors each labeled with numbers.

“Dorm Three, Room 216,” she introduced. “Your new lodgings.” As Isaac reached for the doorknob, Reed waved farewell. “I live in 104 down below, so if you need anything, you know where to find me. I’m a busy, popular girl though, so I might not always be there. But don’t worry, you’ll meet your neighbor tomorrow.”

Isaac eyed the door next to his that said 215. “Orientation starts at seven tomorrow morning,” Reed continued. “Don’t be late. If you’re late, you have to swab poopdecks and all that jazz.”

She sounded like she spoke from experience. Isaac decided not to be late.

“Thanks for today,” he said. “See you tomorrow?”

Reed nodded. “I got something big to show you tomorrow. You better not miss it.”

She descended down the staircase, leaving Isaac alone for the first time since…yesterday night. He had been up, what, thirty-six hours now? Catching some sleep would be great. Too bad it would have to be in an unfamiliar bed.

But he was here now. He opened the door to his new life.