World Gauntlet I wanted money for Power. Now, I got [Power]
Chapter Two - To Die at the Hands of a Baby
Perseus walked out of Monastiraki Station, drenched. Sweat clogged his pores, stuck to his clothes. He had stormed out the train wagon with a crowd of people behind him. His steps brisk, uncomfortable in the fresh dress shoes, light brown leather, polished. He held a hand over the rib area of his suit jacket. There the long bread knife stitched onto the inside felt sore, it prodded him and he felt its presence more by the second. His other hand above his eyes, shielding him from the blistering Mediterranean Sun. It was August 21st, a day to be remembered.
Why did I even bother? He whined, his anxiety had only risen further because of his decision to bring a knife to his big interview. He cursed once more as he shot across the plaza outside the train station. The crowds lessened compared to their usual mass.
How could they not? The Vote was happening any minute now. The Hellenic people did not trust their government as a matter of fact for generations, yet even they had decided to heed their warning and had turned on the News at home.
A weak ago the world over was shocked when politicians, billionaires, scientists, and all the great minds or influencers earth had to offer announced that they would gather together on this day to vote. The War in Ukraine had been stopped, aggressions in the South China Sea had ceased. But to Vote what? They didn specify. Hence many had decided to not go out on this day, to not go to work, to school, for a walk, some still went, but took with them a knife.
Perseus crossed the square, dove into Psiri and marched lateral to Athinas Street, named after the Ancient Greek Goddess of Wisdom, the Olive, and War. He stopped below four marble steps stained yellow, their edges covered with a velcro like material to stop people from slipping and breaking bones. He entered through double glass doors and felt the cool of air-conditioning, despite how old and unclean, wash over his body, refreshing his mood.
With a smile he talked to reception and directions were gladly given. He went up six floors with the elevator.
He stepped out to old cement mosaic flooring, the cheap modern alternative to the glorious byzantine mosaics that once were, to his right was the stairwell, railed with bars of steel, They were large and rectangular, acting not as an emergency exit but rather a feature of the floor. Across from that, the toilets. After a short stop, he walked past them and took a left turn. At the end of the straight he pushed two massive gray plastic double doors open. He walked on the clean, black carpet, and looked around at the room of glass separations.
He walked up to two talkative girls in the reception, a few years younger than him. Kirey and Fiora, hed seen them before. One had hair of caramel blond and the other raven black, one was cut at the shoulders and wavy, the other was styled neatly, a high bun, tied up and without a hair out of place. Both with pearls for smiles. They greeted him, told him to sit and wait, he was early and thus Mister Nicholas was tied up at the moment. They would notify him as he took a seat in a small metallic chair across from their desk. He waited in the near silent room. Perseus could see and hear Mister Nicholas raptly watching the news on his tablet.
The young woman returned, a stack of paper in her hands, along with a pen. She placed them next to Perseus.
”Fill in this questionnaire, tell me once you
e done and you can be off. Well talk with you after we review. ” He was stunned. That wasn the deal, he didn deserve such treatment. Perseus turned around and stared at Nicholas most recent right hand man. His very own sworn brother, tied not by blood but through their souls. It was when he saw Gabriels jaw hit the conference table that he understood theyd been duped.
Perseus let a dark chuckle croak out his throat. He had spent all his time, built his company, his image, his brand. He had ruined his health, destroyed his personal life, discarded it. He had had a deal. They would be hushing things out today, everything would be perfect after that, finally they would become major players. And yet they were shut down, thrown away, mocked and spit on. Perseus could not stop laughing. His Adams apple bobbing up and down his throat.
Perseus got up. He handed the questionnaire back, untouched. ”You should put on some more perfume. You reek of his stench. ” Whether he meant it as an insult to Nicholas or to the Young receptionist Kirey, Perseus did not know. He didn care. He could see how their attitude had shifted while he had been busy loosing his mind.
He turned around and walked up the hall, the two receptionist girls stood to stop him, too late. Perseus pushed the glass double doors open, fire in his eyes. Yet at that moment a message appeared in his vision. Black background, white rigid computer letters. It was floating in space, inside his mind yet in front of him. An impossible occurrence that forced him to stop, and read.
[Earths vote has ended. The Votes are being tallied by the System – Model Prometheus. Please wait…]
The world stopped in shock. Those that could at least. Cars veered out of control, planes fell from the skies, bikes crashed into poles and walls, children were run over and buses toppled on themselves as mass fear spawned in the heart of every human at the same time.
In the office, the news casters voice boomed out of the LG Tablets speakers. ”….Yes, we have just received a missive from the top brass. The System approached 500 humans it thought led our race in some aspect, and gave them a week to vote for the initiation of our Planet to the Systemverse, and the undertaking of the World Gauntlet. They withheld the information so as to not cause panic. The Votes have already been cast. We urge all people listening to this broadcast to hunker down for the next hour. Stay safe, and watch on. Do not panic. Be rational. I repeat. Stay Safe! ”
Perseus reached for his knife, fear forcing his mind to the only thing that could protect him. A grim smile on his face. ”I was in an apocalyptic mood from your dismissal but not to this extent. ”
”No time for your moods, Perseus. Be quiet and let us hear the news. ” Diora, Nicholas secretary, berated. Her eyes of navy blue colder than the frigid waters of the North Sea. Her hair darker than the night sky, a small braid run on one side of her scalp, her head of hair reached her shoulders, freshly washed, smelling of jasmine and pomegranate. He remembered her well. Seen her plenty of times. Never had he talked to her.
e such a bitch. No wonder youve been cold an Ice Queen all your life. ” Perseus said through clenched jaws, righteous anger burning in his chest. It was just a little insult but the man of the hour, Dioras hero and supposedly secret affair rose from his seat to her left, he vaulted over the polished wooden antic desk and came flying with a punch straight for Perseus temple. Perseus ducked and slid back a few steps, back on the glass entrance to the false separated conference room.
”The Frigid Bitchs bodyguard, Bisir. Nice to see you again. Hows the kid? ” Perseus chuckled when he saw the stoic man of dark skin and sheer muscle, no fat, wince at the mention of his daughter. Not even a one year old yet.
Perseus raised his hands, half in surrender, half pointing to Gabriel. Who was standing by now right next to Diora, hands on her shoulders. ”Lets not get our panties in a twist. I can tell I am really unwelcome. Ill be leaving. May the world gauntlet find you horribly and send you and that fat pig over there straight to the depths of hell. Have a nice end of the world. ” He said, and Gabriel moved away. Bisir relaxed his stance, he retreated to the side of the ever so silent, Nicholas. Whod been enjoying the scene play out with a mocking smile, full of lard and sweat. Yet Bisirs raven black eyes shot looks at Perseus, if they could kill Perseus would have been blended to a smoothie long ago.
Gabriel followed Perseus in silence as they left the office space, they headed down the stairs all the way down to the ground floor. Neither speaking a word. Stewing, accepting the complete failure of their plan. Calculating the damage, the costs, the debt. Could they find another opportunity? Tough it out and wait some more? Or call it quits and be normal people? They walked through the stillness, not understanding the true weight of the change that was about to be brought.
The moment they tried to step out of the building the world shook, they stumbled, held onto each other so as not to fall. The lights above their heads flickered to black. Mugs and other little stationery fell to the floor. Perseus stared, eyes popping out of their sockets as he stared over to Monastiraki square. At least that was what he had hoped. Its place was a forest, of trees with dark green leaves sharp like needles, and with jagged rocks like swords jutting out of the earth. The trees were tall and straight, 100 meters at least and their roots came out of the ground in looping, nonsensical ways, interlocking and weaving between each other in a writhing labyrinth. They were large and thick as they moved and crunched down on the cars that bordered them. Alarms blared for but a second and then whined to a stop.
[Congratulations, People of Earth. The Vote has been tallied to a Unanimous agreement. Welcome to the World Gauntlet. Your Planet, Earth, has from this moment been merged with the Planet Garin. May the best Survive!]
”Nice. ” Perseus said as he backtracked right through the glass door and turned around, he raised his hands. ”Everyone. Please, panic quietly. If you don want any trouble, please do everything, quietly. ” He spoke with his most pleasant tone, like the soft cooing of a bird. Someone, wearing a mask still raised their hand to speak, he or she, looked ready to rumble at the presumed threat Perseus had issued, but the mass stares and glares that pierced into his being from the hundred other people on the floor put him back in his place. Perseus then shrugged in satisfaction and surprise, having not expected such easy compliance.
Gabriel took out his phone, no signal. He turned on his camera and recorded. He spoke some words, just a diary recording of sorts. ”Preparing to die already? ” Perseus said. ”Oh, please. This is a record of your last moments, so I can remember you by something. ” Gabriel turned the camera on Perseus and he smiled brightly, hand waving like a child. His auburn locks flopped about on his head.
Diora, disheveled, fearful, desperate rushed down and pushed past Perseus. She burst through the doors and Bisir followed with anxiety behind her. Perseus heard some of the stronger willed individuals of the first floor move to stop them, their voices rising in anger only to falter, knowing full well that if the actions of Diora did not bring them death, they would if they shouted. Perseus knew why Diora was in such a mad rush though and thus did not even attempt to stop her.
Before the doors closed and locked them back in the facsimile of safety a repeating chatter and a whistle in the distance pierced through the quiet of the forest. A deep rumble woke Perseus up, and what seemed to be a cry of pain and anger sent shivers running over him.
Diora had stopped on the marble steps, she stared at the forest expanse, she heard its horrors. Her beauty seemed to wither on the spot. Bisir went to hold her, she pushed him off and descended the marble steps. She walked towards the edge of civilization, people mounted desks and chairs and stared from the windows punched above human height near the ceiling, bubbling with morbid curiosity the watched Diora disappear. Deeper in the jungle of civilization, now bordered by an actual jungle. Tall and menacing.
”Gabri, are we thinking goblins? ” Perseus asked, he palmed his knife, under his heart, atop his ribs. For the first time thankful of his over-thinking mind. He had only ever trained in hand to hand combat, but any type of steel was better than flesh.
”Too typical. You heard the voice, it spoke of a gauntlet in a chirpy little voice, like a fairy from some wonderland trying to sell us coke. Weve had a week to prepare for this, supposedly, its gonna be worse than you imagine, and then worse than that even. Oh~ Our glorious power hungry leaders. The System chose them very well. ” Gabriel Crow first of his name shivered at his own words. If it made any sense to admonish his mouth he would have, for the blasphemy it spewed.
”Then it has to be something big. I mean, big means strong, and I am getting the feeling these won be of the ape genre. Notice how the System is named? ” Perseus continued with his shots in the dark. He tried to keep occupied at least. Others were already dipping their toes into madness.
”I did, I also noticed that we have been given a Personal Status. ”
Perseuss eye twitched with annoyance as the mere thought of the words brought the System, Prometheus popping up in his vision, in that same unnatural yet non obtrusive way.
Name: Perseus Ianos
Race: Human (Basic)
Health Pool: 60/60
Stamina Pool: 725/725
Mana Pool: 8.2/8.2
It was familiar yet foreign and oh~ so not something Perseus could, or wanted to unravel right now. He turned back to Gabriel, his eyes losing the haze they had worn as he had stared at the numerical representation of his being, his lack of training and physical exercise for the sake of his dreams clearly presented as well.
”The Sponsor Category really **ed with my thought process. It either keeps following the theme of Prometheus and I am gonna be sponsored by Zeus, or we
e gonna have an entirely unfamiliar pantheon over our heads, molding our fate, and I don know which is worse.
”I agree with the sentiment. Both are shit. We
e in for a doozy of a life. But I think whining is the least productive thing we could do, so how about we go out there and find out for ourselves? ”
”I like your initiative. Thats why I keep you with me Gabriel. ” Perseus smiled and walked towards the exit. His steps did not falter even as his heart rose with anxiety, and a familiar anticipation.
”Shit, I thought it was because you couldn do without me. We
e Brothers forever!, wasn it? ” His tone morphed into a broken mimicry of Perseus. A younger, less put together version of the wavy, caramel haired, caramel eyed, straight nosed and eyebrow-ed brother of his. In tandem the two loosened their ties and pushed the glass double doors open. Ready to take on the world.
Before they could take another step, they saw Diora rushing back. Her steps much less storm and turbulent, they still shook and jittered as adrenaline course through her veins, but she had succeeded. On her bosom, in a sling marsipo was a baby, one which she had apparently rushed to retrieve. She cradled it and cooed at it as it fell back to sleep in its mothers hug. Bisir was beside her his fingers running through his hair, barely, buzzed short to less than a fingers width from his scalp In relief. He carried with him bags and stuff meant for the baby. They had stood incredibly lucky.
From behind them Nicholas pushed through the double doors, his secretaries did and he stepped through at least. He fanned himself, suit stuck to his body like glue from the sweat his massive body produced in buckets. Kirey and Fiora walked out with him, Kirey with a smile on her face as she stared at Diora for a silent second before beaming at Gabriel.
”So you were a plant? Mister Gabriel? I am too stunned to speak at this treachery. ” She sauntered up to the man and spoke in a girly fashion, yet clearly, she had known it for a long while. No hint of surprise in her mocking.
Gabriel grit his teeth, regret, incompetence, disappointment warred within him. ”Don beat yourself over it. It was probably my fault you got found out anyway. I pushed for a meeting with Diora way too aggressively. ” Perseus consoled. He meant what he said.
He saw Kirey went to respond, her smile never faltering, a beautiful smile, full of youth, naivety. A sheltered girl having fun. Why would she not? She did not understand what her future held in store. No one there did. As they argued, as they laughed, as they were berated by the most abominable of beings, Nicholas, for extramarital affairs.
Perseus actually did not hear what she responded. Because an epiphany had come over him. His vision grew wide, he almost felt like he was out of his body, like a god viewing the world from above. And he heard in his inner ear the domino pieces falling faster and faster, and the Jenga tower crumbling to the ground as he captured the simplicity of this seemingly complex world he used to inhabit. A Last picture, before it was shattered with all its naivety and hopefulness and struggle trampled by the gods above, many of which he would get to know. He knew in that moment he would never see this scene again for as long as he lived. Unless he made it, himself.
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