Chapter 1: Morality
The heat of the day was beginning to fade as the sun reached the horizon. Jade trekked along through the old abandoned city streets, Neo resting comfortably on the saddle atop Jade’s back. Jade could tell she was growing tired of this place, but they had to keep looking for that scrapyard, it may have something valuable in it that could help them earn a bit of extra cash.
The two had been scouring this city for almost three days now, searching every nook and cranny, trash can, abandoned building, and old playground for anything of value that they could take back to Sanctuary and sell off, not that they were super in need of money at the moment, but it’d be handy to have on-hand. Just as long as no one looked into where they got the goods, they’d be fine. They weren’t exactly supposed to be here, but Neo had found a connection that managed to get them access to every part of the city, going under the radar of the administration that owned this abandoned landscape.
A loud rustling sound cut through Jade’s thoughts like a knife through butter. She immediately perked her head up, alerting Neo as well.
Jade could sense Neo’s thoughts, feeling the unnerve as she looked around cautiously. She must’ve heard it too.
Suddenly, a large, fluffy gryph came barreling towards them, accompanied by a smaller, no less fluffy tyto. Jade braced herself for a fight, hoping she could take the gryph and the tyto with little issue.
The gryph stopped just before coming into contact with Jade, a cloud of dust and debris launching at Jade as she skidded to a halt. Jade lifted her wing to shield herself from it, frowning as she lowered it as the dust cleared.
The tyto stood directly at Jade’s feet, eyes wide and tail whipping back and forth excitedly. Jade made note of the deep crimson collar around her neck, and the lighter green one on the gryph. Did these two belong to someone…?
“What do you want?” Jade tried not to sound menacing. The tyto simple continued to stare up at her.
“Food. You have food in those bags. May we have some?” The smaller stryx asked. Jade was baffled as to how she knew that. She couldn’t even smell it herself, all her right saddlebag really contained was a bag of sealed jerky, some bottles of water, and a few miscellaneous snacks for when they got peckish.
Jade turned to Neo, who motioned for Jade to let her down. Jade obliged, lowering herself to the ground for Neo to hop off.
“I’m assuming you guys just want some food, right?” Neo asked. Neo, having a very avian DNA makeup, was able to communicate quite well with other avian species. Therefore, most stryx had a relatively easy time understanding her.
The tyto nodded vigorously, bouncing on her toes a little. Neo reached a hand out to her, to which the tyto raised her head to meet the touch, allowing Neo to stroke her feathers. The gryph also bent her head to receive pets, and Neo was happy to give them. Jade tapped her talons, feeling a bit impatient to keep moving. This scrapyard wasn’t going to find itself, and they were running out of time. The sun had begun to set.
Neo reached into the saddlebag nearest to her and pulled out the bag of jerky, opening it and retrieving two pieces. She tossed one to the gryph, and handed the other to the tyto. The two hungrily devoured the pieces, the tyto whining as Neo replaced the jerky in the saddlebag.
“Oh don’t worry, there’s probably more food around here! Why don’t you guys go search for it?” Neo patted the tyto one last time before climbing into Jade’s sadde, stroking her neck in apology for making her wait. Jade turned away from the pouting stryx and continued on. Except one thing was off. There were two other sets of feet following after them. Looking back confirmed her suspicions. The gryph and tyto were now following them, probably still hoping for more food. Jade rolled her eyes and continued on, simply picking up her pace.
About twenty minutes passed with no sign of a scrapyard, and Jade was growing tired of being followed, as well as having had no success this entire trip. Suddenly, just as she was about to scream in frustration, something caught her eye.
She bolted towards the culprit of her attention, catching Neo off guard and almost launching her off the saddle. When Jade skidded to a stop, she felt a huge sense of accomplishment in her being.
“Woah, Jade, I think this is it!” Neo suddenly exclaimed as she regained her composure.
The pair–group, rather, now that they had two uninvited guests with them–had stumbled across a large, fenced off area, filled to the brim with piles and piles of mechanical parts, scraps, and random pieces. A large sign in a language Jade didn’t understand stood high above them, but it had a big graphic of a robot holding a wrench on it, so Jade could only assume this was it. Her face lit up, immediately grabbing at the locked fence that led to the rest of the scrapyard. It was indeed locked, so she shook it hard, trying to brute force it.
“You’ll never get in that way.”
A voice startled Jade, making her jump slightly. Looking around, she was able to spot a pair of orange eyes peering at her from inside the deteriorating booth that stood next to the entrance. Jade approached it cautiously.
Inside was another tyto, one adorned with a bright red bow around her neck. She seemed very calm, almost unnervingly so.
“Uh, hi, who are you?” Jade wondered. The gryph suddenly pressed her face to the one intact piece of glass, peering in at the tyto. Even that didn’t seem to startle the tyto inside.
“I’m just a resident here. I see you’ve met Vicchan and Makkachin?” The tyto gestured to the two other stryx that had decided to join Jade and Neo.
“Yeah. What do you mean by resident? Isn’t this place abandoned?” Jade asked. She was under the impression that no one had been living here for a long time.
“Oh nothing, I’m just messing with you. It’s a temporary settlement anyway, so I won’t be here for much longer. My name’s Hylia. What’s yours?” The tyto extended a wing towards Jade through the broken window frame on the left side of the booth.
“I’m Jade, and this is Neo.” Jade gestured to the one on her back. Neo waved gently. The gryph, Makkachin, suddenly began pulling at the fence blocking the entrance, seemingly wanting to get in and explore. Vicchan, the fluffy tyto, accompanied her and began clawing at the lock mechanism on the fence. It was a wonder it still worked, especially with something as big as a gryph pulling on it.
“Alright, hold on guys, I’ve got the controls in here, I can let you in.” Hylia rummaged around at the desk inside the booth, eyes scanning the buttons on it. She eventually settled on one that was, again, labeled in a language Jade couldn’t understand, but it seemed to control the fence’s locking mechanism.
Jade turned around just in time to hear the lock click open, watching as Makkachin and Vicchan barged through and began investigating the nearest pile inside the scrapyard.
“Thanks.” Jade gestured to Hylia, who hopped out of the booth’s broken window, surprising Jade.
“No need, I’ve wanted to investigate this place for a while as well, but there’s something… off about it. I didn’t want to go alone.” Hylia explained, still incredibly calm.
Jade and Neo exchanged a glance as they entered the scrapyard, immediately noting Hylia’s change in demeanor. Her feathers began to prickle slightly, head darting around at the slightest of sounds. Jade decided to ignore it.
Looking around, the scrapyard was a lot bigger than she’d thought. It extended back quite a bit, and went very far out to each side. The area was filled with various organized piles of robotic parts, pieces, and even some whole robots. Jade noticed Hylia shiver when her eyes settled on that particular pile.
Makkachin and Vicchan were digging through a heap of greasy nuts and bolts, seeming to enjoy doing so. There didn’t seem to be anything of value hidden inside, but they didn’t care.
Jade snorted, deciding to let Neo down so she could explore on her own. Neo immediately ran over to the pile of electronics, picking up a few and examining the components inside. Jade looked around for Hylia, spotting her standing at the pile of untouched robots. Was she…shivering?
Jade approached the tyto, standing beside her and looking up at the pile.
“I can still see them.”
Jade looked slowly over at Hylia.
Hylia sighed. She looked down at her feet, tapping her talons on the oily dirt.
“The robots. They had souls, too. They’re not just things we build and destroy, they feel.” Hylia muttered, gesturing to the pile. Jade walked up to it, examining one of the robots hanging over the side. The left side of the visor was cracked, and the white plating making up the body was very grungy and stained, but it was otherwise intact. Jade couldn’t imagine a being that was artificially created from metal and electricity having feelings, and she wasn’t entirely sure she even believed Hylia, but the bow-wearing tyto didn’t seem like the type to lie, even though they’d only just met.
Looking at the robot closer, something caught Jade’s eye. She used her beak to pry a strange red crystal from the robot’s chest, but immediately dropped it when she felt it burn her tongue.
“Ow, damn!” She exclaimed. Hylia seemed shocked upon seeing the crystal. Jade bent down to examine it closer. A small, wispy trail of red smoke emanated from it, and it pulsed with a sickly red glow.
“Is that…” Jade squinted at it, but was interrupted by Hylia.
“A corruption shard. Look, it was used to power all these robots. You can see where the insert for the crystal was, and these wires used to draw its power to the rest of the mechanism.” Hylia dragged a robot from the pile, pointing out all the things she mentioned. Jade had no idea what corruption shards and robots had to do with each other, but it couldn’t have been good. Whoever ran this scrapyard either had no idea of what they were taking in, or was associated with some very bad people.
“Hey, Jade! Look at this!” Neo suddenly called from across the scrapyard, grabbing Jade’s attention. She trotted over to Neo, stopping when a strange device was thrust into her face.
“It’s a motherboard to…something important I’d say, look, it’s got the stamp of approval from a big tech company! Maybe we can take this back and sell it to someone who wants to repair it or something!” Neo was beaming at her find, only interrupted when Makkachin and Vicchan knocked over a glass jar, somehow not shattering it. It rolled to a stop at Jade’s feet.
Jade suddenly had an idea…
Picking up the jar, Jade took it back over to Hylia, who was still fixated on the crystal shard on the ground. Jade scooped the shard up into the jar, closing the top and tucking it under her wing.
“There, we can take that too.” She said, earning a look from Hylia.
“You can’t be serious about taking that thing…right?” The tyto asked.
“Uh yeah, why?” Jade questioned.
Hylia shook her head in disapproval before speaking. “It belongs to them. It was a part of them. We have no right to take it for ourselves.”
Jade knew she was referring to the robots, if that was even true, but she didn’t heed Hylia’s suggestion. They were gone, taken apart, decommissioned. They had no use for it now.
“Well, they’re not around to use it, are they? I’ll be able to do something with this, even if it’s just selling it for some extra cash. They’re illegal, you know. Wouldn’t want to be caught with it myself.” Jade cocked her head at Hylia, who was still giving her a disappointed look.
“Jade, it’s not yours to take. Leave it here.” Hylia warned one last time. Jade snorted at her, turning way to see that Makkachin and Vicchan had joined the group to eavesdrop on what was being said. They looked sad.
“Are you taking the robot’s crystal? You can’t, it belongs here!” Makkachin exclaimed. Neo tried to calm her down, but she seemed very upset about the whole ordeal.
“If you won’t put it back, please just leave. And don’t come back. This place doesn’t belong to you, Jade.” Hylia firmly told her.
Jade rolled her eyes, signaling for Neo to get into her saddle so they could go. Neo obeyed, giving the others an apologetic glance as she did so.
Jade lifted off with a grunt, a bit irritated at the others. How could they not take this opportunity? A thing so rare just appearing out of nowhere? Of course Jade’s gonna take it!
“You really sure about taking that thing?” Neo asked Jade as they flew further and further from the others. Jade said nothing. Now that she was thinking it over, she realized how dangerous this was. Corrupted crystals, no matter how big or small, were dangerous, and highly illegal to the public. Any that were found were required to be handed over to officials, but they also fetch a high price with illegal businessmen. Did Jade want to do the right thing and turn it over, or try and sell it to get some money out of it? She wasn’t sure. All she knew was she had to be extremely careful with this thing, no matter what she chose to do with it.
Total= 64 AP
Total= 35 AP
Total= 31 AP
Total= 31 AP