Chapter Two: Starting Off
I blinked and glanced around me. The white had given way to a place full of plants. Grass grew on the ground, everything lived here! Except the thing I sat inside.
I stood up and examined the tall metal thing. It was gold in color, with strange designs carved into it. It clearly wasn't alive, but it swayed back and forth as two connected balls on top orbited around each other. I reached out my hand and touched the structure. It felt cold to the touch. I drew back my hand and stared at the structure in shock. Fire Technology had it's own heat, what sort of device could this be?
I stepped away from the device and turned my attention to the grass beneath by boots. I hadn't seen grass since I was four years old, living in the orphan academy in the big red house. I knelt down and fingered a blade of grass. It was soft to the touch, soft and alive!
I grinned and rolled around in the grass, overjoyed to be here.
Here, not there . . . I'm not trapped in the Fire Tech Factory! This must be Ember City!
I laughed aloud and rolled down the grassy path, away from the strange structure. The structure. I stopped rolling about and sat up to look at it.
It clearly isn't Fire Technology, but they don't use anything else in Ember City . . . Another realization hit me, the weather. Was the air . . . cold? I waved my hand about, feeling the temperature. Yes, the air was definitely cold here.
It's never cold in Ember City . . . I stood up and brushed off my factory overalls, still watching the device as it moved.
If I'm not in Ember City, where am I?
"Well cobble me crack case! Another lassie fresh from the Aetherstep!" called a voice from afar.
I turned around and saw a round old man making his way up the hill. I glanced back at the strange machine, was that the "Aetherstep" he spoke of?
"Where am I?" I asked, when he had at last conquered the hill.
"Why, you're in Aethasia, lassie, where else could you be?" there was a type of fascination in his eyes, something I hadn't seen for years . . .
"Where's Aethasia?" I asked, stepping back from the stranger.
His mouth shifted into a thoughtful frown, by his eyes, I could tell he wondered how exactly to answer this.
He must not be asked that very often. I thought.
"You're not from these parts, are ye?" he asked. Before I had a chance to answer, he extended his large hand to me, "I'm Lukas Cogsworthy, who might you be, lassie?"
I bit my lip, my mind racing for a reply. No one had ever asked me who I was before. I wasn't even sure I knew for myself . . .
"Well?" Lukas asked, watching me curiously.
What do I tell him? What do I say?
I cleared my throat and sighed, "My factory letter is K," I muttered, "I assemble Fire Technology in Ember City, only . . ."
I stared out over the vast view on my left, "Only, I'm not there anymore . . ."
Sympathy crept into Lukas's eyes, it was clear he knew something of the Fire Tech Factory, but not much.
"So, Miss K then?" he replied, once I'd finished.
"They called me that, yes." I muttered, heaving another sigh.
"Well you aren't livin' that life any longer, you can put it behind you now, lassie." he said gently.
It'll always be there, though I thought. My mind wandered back to Miss A, and her Char Pits sentence. The injustice of it burn inside of me, why her? Why now?
She'll go to heaven though, I thought, she'll be with the Great Engineer forever and ever . . .
Tears trickled down my cheeks at the thought, I wiped them away quickly, hoping Lukas wouldn't scold me for it. He had noticed, however, instead of scolding, he patted my head and placed a brown cap over it.
"Something to keep your head warm, lassie." he said, smiling.
I smiled back, touching my new accessory. Then, I remembered something.
"Where is the Resistance?" I asked, thinking back to the man in scarlet.
"Right this way, lassie!" he shouted gleefully, excitement in his eyes.
I kept pace behind him as we walked through a darker, green area. Mechanical creatures marched about it. Lukas explained the creatures were called Automatons, and they would attack us if we came too close.
"I can take care of those metal monsters if they get to close, never fear." he whispered as we walked.
"Who made them?" I asked, watching the Automatons closely. There was something sickeningly familiar about them.
"The Empire made them to keep us in line," Lukas replied, "However, a hammer a day keeps em at bay!"
I had no idea what that could mean, but I wasn't about to ask. I had worse things to think about. I now realized what the Automatons reminded me of. . . the mechanical Taskmasters of the factory.
I shuddered and moved a bit closer to Lukas, hoping we wouldn't have to deal with any Automaton on our way to . . . where were we going?
"Where are we going?" I whispered to Lukas.
"To the Resistance head quarters!" he replied, louder this time.
The dark, living place of plants was behind us. Now, we walked on a stone pavement. There were Automatons here also, but thankfully, we had more room to avoid them.
After a while, we came to a stand with the words "Lukas' Lemonade" painted on a sign across the top. Lukas pulled it aside and revealed a secret door behind it. He turned the wheel attached to it and let it swing open.
Inside, the room glowed purple, exactly like the ribbons of purple light in my dream! There were tables full of things, parts for this and that. The first thing that caught my eye, however, was a clock. All it's gears were spread across the metal table, obviously, someone had tried to repair it.
I walked up to the clock and went to work. A lot of the necessary parts for a sturdy, fire-powered clock were missing. I rummaged through a box of parts and found some heat coils. I couldn't find anything to keep the fire burning, so I used coal instead. It would have to be replaced every once in a while, but it would work for now. I took apart the timing mechanism and set it up to be powered by the heat of the flames. I ran a heat coil around the face of the clock, so it could be easily seen at night.
I smiled and fired up my new creation. The clock ticked merrily for three seconds before bursting into flame. I gasped at the reaction while Lukas laughed. I turned around to face him. By his eyes, I could tell her wasn't laughing at my failure, but at the idea of it.
"Interesting what your tryin out, lassie, but you should first know, wood burns in fire!"
I went through my mental library of the factory's metals, wood didn't check out. Lukas raised an eyebrow, noting the confusion on my face.
"Never heard of wood?" he asked.
I shook my head, feeling foolish. There were so many things I had yet to learn about this strange country.
"What is it?" I asked, hoping to learn more about this strange new metal that burned.
Lukas shook his head, laughter in his eyes, "I have things to do, lassie, but Ava here can help you out!"
He gestured to a black-haired girl around my age at the next table. She turned and smiled in a friendly manner. I couldn't help but notice she wore an eye patch over her left eye, was she missing an eye there?
"Hey," she greeted me, extending her hand the same way Lukas had done. The gesture had to have a meaning, but what?
I reluctantly raised my hand and grabbed hers, only to have my hand shaken violently up and down.
"I'm Ava Tinnight!" she said cheerfully.
I nodded, processing the information. Ava frowned slightly, waiting in her eyes, "What's your name?" she said at last.
Once again, I was faced with the issue of being nameless.
"They call me Miss K," I replied honestly, Miss K was the only name I truly had.
Ava cocked her head, "Why?" she asked, "Is that a code name for something?"
"No . . ." I replied hesitantly, "I've always been called Miss K."
Ava raised an eyebrow, "That's what your parents named you?"
My parents didn't name me . . . I thought irritably, "No," I replied.
"Is your real name a secret? Oh! Are you part of an agency? I promise not to tell anyone! But you should really come up with a fake name, Miss K is too obvious."
I moaned aloud, the irritation was beginning to get to me.
Ava's brow furrowed, "Wait, so you aren't part of an agency? Is your real name embarrassing? Do you just like Miss K better?"
My face reddened, I felt as if I'd explode from pain and irritation. Not at her, but at myself; my nameless self. . .
"Call her Miss Burnclock if you like!" Lukas shouted over his shoulder, "She'll give you a name in time."
I already have . . . I thought miserably.
Lukas tossed me a brown paper envelope with two, roundish objects inside, "You'll be needing those," he called, "I'll tell you more about them when I can!"
Then, Lukas pulled the door to the purple room closed behind him.
"Well, this clears things up! At least I know your last name." Ava smiled and crossed her arms, "Anything you want to know about the Resistance?"
Absolutely anything anyone can tell me! "Uh . . ." I trailed off, not knowing what to ask. I opened the envelope and drew out two devices, they were both the same color as the Aetherstep.
"What are these?" I asked her.
"Your new Communicator and Aethermetor!" Ava replied, glad to be helpful, "We use them a lot in the Resistance!"
The Resistance! A warm feeling glowed inside of me, I'm part of the Resistance!
Miss A woke up in a field of green, the brightest green she'd ever seen in her life! Could this be . . .
She stood up and glanced around her, smiling as much as she could. Several yards away was a place full of colorful things, living colorful things! Miss A approached them slowly, admiring the strange, beautiful things.
Suddenly, she froze, catching sight of a woman in the garden. Her dark red hair was put back in a bun, and her eyes were as green as grass. The lady was pouring water on the lovely growing things.
"Hello there!" the lady called out, noticing Miss A.
Miss A stiffened, her face turning white with panic. The lady stepped away from her living colors and advanced towards her. She looked friendly enough to Miss A, but she could never be sure.
The lady's smile dropped when she caught sight of Miss A deformed lip. Miss A covered her mouth and shrank away, her outer ugliness baring down on her.
"Don't be afraid, I'm not going to urt you, love," the lady said softly, her voice carrying a strange accent.
Miss A sank to the ground and hid her face, unable to look at the lady in front of her. She heard the sound of quick footsteps, and a strange, distant, creaking sound. A door maybe?
When she was certain the lady had left, Miss A rose from the ground and glanced about, looking for a place to hide. In the distance, she could make out another house, similar to the one beyond the living colors.
Before Miss A found a suitable place to hide, the lady emerged from her house and ran towards her, a mint green piece of material in her hand.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of dear," she said, referring to Miss A's twisted lip, "But if it helps you in the long run, put this on and I can see it no longer."
The lady handed Miss A the triangular piece of material. Miss A stared at it in confusion.
How do I use this? she thought.
The lady laughed pleasantly, "Here now, let me elp with that." she can around behind Miss A and tied the material over the lower half of her face.
"Where I come from, they call this a bandanna. Keeps your face hidden well enough, giving the Empire pains to find you!"
"Where . . . Where do you come from?" she asked, What else is there besides Ember City?
"The much colder land of Aethasia, dear!" The lady flashed a lovely smile, "Birth place of the Resistance!"
The Resistance! Miss A gasped aloud.
The lady's smile broadened, "You've heard of it then?"
"Someone told me about it, yes." Miss A replied hesitantly, "A man in a scarlet cloak."
The lady's eyes widened, "He told you of it?"
Miss A nodded, "Are you in the Resistance?" she asked hopefully.
The lady crossed her arms, "In it with all my eart! Meghan Amberstone's the name, what do they call you, love?"
Me she thought, cringing behind her bandanna.
"Miss A," she muttered, her eyes downcast.
Meghan's face fell at the name, obviously, she'd heard of the Fire Tech Factory, the horrible, horrible factory . . .
"Well you can't go about with a name like that, now can you?" Miss Amberstone replied, more to herself then Miss A.
"Very well then!" Meghan clapped her hands, "I hereby dub thee Ana! Ana . . ."
She stroked her chin, considering a last name, "Hopespark! Yes, that's the name for you, love! Miss Ana Hopespark. My assistant, if ya don't mind learning to sculp, dear."
Miss A blinked in astonishment, joy welling up inside her, "Excuse me, did you say I have a . . . name?"
"You do, Ana!" Miss Amberstone cheered, "And now, to make it official!"
Meghan lifted the water jar from the ground and poured a shower over Miss A. Miss A sputtered from the down pour, but at the same time, was overjoyed.
"This way, Ana," said Meghan, taking her gently by the wrist, "Come see your new home!"