Story:The Street Rat
The following story is not part of the established continuity of any of the settings and remains on this website for archival purposes.
|The Street Rat|
The Street Rat is the origin story of Ahrganot Skizgo, involving his personal struggle for the simplistic goal of survival.
Chapter 1: Isolated Cradle
Krar, the world of two layers, so divided that they were worlds of their own. The spectacular city that covered two-thirds of the planet was a symbol of alien diversity among the Karalian Empire, a vast civilization of 40,000 star systems, and Krar itself was home to 16 billion citizens, almost twice as much as the Karalian Empire's homeworld.
While the Upperworld was a glamorous metropolis covering an airless landscape, the lower crust of Krar, the Underworld, was something else. Only connected to its ostentatious counterpart via towering elevator shafts, the Underworld was a subterranean labyrinth of machinery with twisting tunnels and corridors bathed in red light. Conveyor belts and aqueducts stretched for miles all around, and robotic miners and workers would maintain this elaborate system. Yet, as the Upperworld became more and more crowded and the laws got stricter, more and more rogue individuals made rudimentary shelters and homes in the Underworld. Within years after the Underworld’s construction, it became a haven for anarchists and crime syndicates blended with the rest of the galaxy’s worst scum.
In this Underworld was one of many boiler rooms connected to one another in a vast grid, though hardly anyone ever crossed these areas save for the occasional maintenance bot. It was a room bathed in the same red light the entire complex was, and only as large as a small bedroom. Tangling pipes were like snakes and worms slithering all throughout chasing each other’s tails. Arrays of gas containers were arranged against the wall, glowing with colors that clashed with the red. Every boiler room looked just like this, but this one particular boiler room was different. There lay in the corner buried in a pile of soot-covered rags an egg about half as tall as a human child, and inside was a Vaikan, the dominant species of the Karalian Empire. That egg had lay there for months, warmed only by the ambient heat of the tiny chamber. Where did this egg come from? Perhaps left behind by accident. Perhaps abandoned deliberately. These were questions that the Vaikan inside would one day seek out.
Then, the expected yet miraculous happened. The egg shook from side to side, crackling as a tiny blue arm broke through the egg’s outer shell, reaching out into the world outside its old home. The creature emerged onto the metallic ground covered in sticky fluid, then opened its eyes. Slowly, it stood itself up on its two legs, only standing about two feet tall. Its leathery skin was a mixed shade of cyan and aquamarine, while it possessed dark blue, yet short hair.
Confused and disoriented, the creature shivered, clenching its arms together. It was forced into the outside world, never to return to the safety and comfort of its egg. Seeking some warmth, the Vaikan picked up some of the nearby sooty rags, wrapping himself to create rudimentary clothes. His natural survival instincts expected a caretaker to arrive moments later. He patiently waited for one to arrive, but not a soul came. No parents. No guardians. He had to look after himself.
Chapter 2: First Experience
The Vaikan paced, crawling through and around the pipes, searching aimlessly for anything else he could find. His first priority: food. Vaikan did not consume solid food, but instead items such as soup or juice. But this Vaikan thirsted for blood at the moment with no such other food nearby. With no hunting experience yet, he only had his instincts to go by, no different than an animal.
His search around the small room turned up nothing. But as his thirst for blood grew more and more, he knew he had to venture outside the boiler room. He scurried to a wall grating, grasping the metal bars and peeking his head outside. Before him was an array of doors along the walls of a dark corridor that extended to the left and right - to him it seemed almost infinite. He squeezed in between the bars and was introduced to what was outside his own personal world.
All of these doors looked quite similar to one another. Each of them were chrome tinted red with white numerals. The Vaikan could not read them, but he recognized that each of these markings were different. He looked up and behind himself to see a similarly marked door with numerals that looked like “726”.
As he curiously ventured into this unknown world outside of his boiler room, a piercing shriek echoed across the halls, boring into his head like a drill. He was not alone. Something else was nearby. Whatever it was, he could not see it as his eyesight was poor, yet he could hear the sound of flapping wings growing louder and more rapid. Seconds later, he scurried back through the grating and took cover against a plain, metallic wall. He crouched, his eyes widened, his teeth chattering, both his hearts pounded as his blood rushed throughout his own body like gushing rivers, and his own imagination was plagued with the looming thought of death. Moments later, the shrieking and flapping stopped, but the silence along with all other ambient sounds were blocked by a ringing sound in his ears. For the first time, a restless feeling swamped the Vaikan’s mind: fear.
Chapter 3: Fear Monster
Whatever was stalking him probably could not squeeze through the gratings like he could, but he knew himself that he could not stay inside the boiler room forever or he would die of thirst, a slower, far more painful death than whatever this other entity was. The Vaikan had no choice but to try to catch a glimpse of the monster to find out where it was. He dreaded to know what would happen should he run in the wrong direction.
He peered his head out of the grating, frantically scanning his eyes around for whatever made that horrible shrieking noise. Searching and searching. His poor eyesight could only pick out different shades of blue and green, and he couldn’t see anything, yet the presence of this entity was still there. The flapping sound started up again accompanied by another ear piercing shriek. His natural instinct was to retract back past the grating, but he remained with his face tensed up and hearts racing.
As he continued searching, he begun to hear a soft clambering sound of something crawling on the wall right above him. Only moments later, what he saw turned from the dimly lit corridor to a screaming visage of a circular, pink, fleshy maw with jagged white teeth and several tongues slithering out like worms crawling out from the ground. The maw’s teeth folded towards him like flying daggers, while the Vaikan quickly retracted his head, narrowly avoiding the monster’s bite.
The monster stuck its short neck through the grating, biting at the air blindly. Eventually, it dropped down to the floor, and he could finally see its entire body. A creature with demonic wings and two legs, and its skin was pink and fleshy. It had no eyes, yet the creature’s ability to see was no requirement to plant fear into the him. This was a Goraya, a menacing cave creature found virtually everywhere the Karalian Empire had been, hitching rides on travelling starships. It was far more thirsty for blood than he was.
The Vaikan repositioned himself at a mobile stance, ready to run at any moment. The Vaikan, attempting to put aside his own fear, took a single step towards it, hissing at the Goraya, showing off his own row of teeth. The monster backed up to the other side of the wall, crawling on the ground, then taunting him with shrieks at repeated intervals.
The Vaikan waited it out, still too afraid to go outside as he did not know what was out there. He waited, staring the Goraya down. The impatient creature soon enough leaped towards the grating at the Vaikan, proceeding to wriggle its way through the gratings. The Vaikan was not only much thinner than the creature was, but smarter as well. The Goraya failed to realize it would become stuck. At the sight of the vulnerable creature, his mouth bubbled with thirst. The horror that stood before him begun to look just as scrumptious as it was terrifying.
As the Goraya shrieked and waved its head aimlessly, the Vaikan took a daring approach: He scurried to the creature’s side, grasped it with his hands and sunk his own teeth into its neck, the Goraya letting out a shriek of pain rather than a shriek of intimidation. As the creature struggled, the Vaikan planted his teeth harder, pulling back and ripping off a chunk of meat. As the Goraya's crimson blood oozed like a fountain from the wound, the Vaikan bit into the tender spot, extracting the creature’s blood with his teeth like a straw in a drink. As he drank and drank, the Goraya’s squirming grew slower and slower until eventually coming to a stop. The Goraya was dead. The hunter had become the hunted.
Chapter 4: Ascension
The Vaikan stood up, his mouth and clothes stained with crimson blood, satisfied with his first meal ever. As he was still only a newborn, he only operated on instincts. He never bothered to wonder: Where had this Goraya been? Did it have parasites? Was it young like he was? He didn't care at the moment nor did he feel the slightest bit of guilt.
Feeling a boost of confidence, the Vaikan slid through the grating once again, ready to explore the labyrinth that stood before him. Already, he was aware of the dangers of the outside world. He was not welcome, yet he continued to wander the boiler room halls. He killed more Gorayas, learning on his own, but remained indiscriminate. He even went for the defenseless small herbivores especially since they were easier to catch. The only thing he ever knew was that he had to be fit to survive. Had he been weak, the first Goraya he met would have killed him before he ever left the boiler room. For ten years, the only thing he cared about was survival. He was no different than an animal.
Ten years passed, and by then the Vaikan had encountered something among one of his ventures outside his normal territory. By this time, he had grown taller, stronger and smarter. But what he found was a metallic series of rungs towering far above him. Only a series of red lights dimly lit the way up. Feeling curiosity for the first time in a long time, he reached towards the rungs above him and began to climb. He reached above grasping the next rung and continued to ascend, the world below slowly fading into darkness.
As he came to the top, he had emerged from a cylindrical pipe in the ground like a creature from a burrow. From an inlet at the edge of a corridor, he gazed upon a familiar, yet different sight. More of the same tangling pipes painted with red light, and steam sprouting out. More of the same Underworld. However, this new world had different creatures. Unlike the animals that existed below, the creatures that tread before him were giants towering over him passing by in large groups, murmuring to one another with some complex series of vocal sounds, though not taking notice of him. Some of these creatures looked like giant versions of himself, but all of them were different in someway. Some stood on two or more legs. Others slugged across the ground. And some even floated. Whatever these giants were, they were definitely not edible, and he would stand no chance trying to kill one with so many of them around.
The Vaikan was tempted to crawl back down the ladder he came from, but having aged a bit, he begun to understand he could not stay down their forever. Curiosity got the better him, pushing him forward to search for something better. He crept by, sticking to the shadows and remaining out of sight.
Chapter 5: Land of Giants
It was not long until he grew thirsty again. Already, he had begun to regret crawling out from that ladder. In sight, there were no defenseless herbivores to feast on. These powerful giants must have moved them elsewhere. Surely, food had to be around somewhere.
An odd, yet new scent had begun to stand out among the sooty, grimy stench of his environment. It was something sweet, not blood, but still mouthwatering. What was it? This scent? Still trying to keep to the shadows to avoid notice by the giants, he continued down the corridor for what to him seemed like miles. It was then that the corridor transformed into an enormous cavernous chamber. Spiraling metallic columns towered towards the ceiling and flashing neon green and blue holographic lights that clashed with the red tint. Thousands of more giants crowded this chamber, and that sweet scent was nearby. The world was getting bigger and bigger.
Worming his way passed the giants who now seemed to take little notice of him, the Vaikan discovered the source of the scent. A vast array of bulbous, crimson, juicy fruit laid along a stall. He spotted another giant grabbing one of these fruits and giving the other giant behind the stall some shiny material. Most certainly, this was their source of food, at least one of them. But how was he going to get it? He didn't have any of that shiny stuff, and even just staring at the fruit made him thirstier than he was already. With his mouth watering, he could not resist. He had to get some for himself.
Swiftly making his way through the pacing giants, the Vaikan approached the stall directly and gazed at the one who received the shiny objects, the stall owner. It looked quite similar to him, another one of his kind, though twice as tall. Peering out from the darkness, the Vaikan reached out with his hand and swiped one of the smaller fruits, the stall owner not noticing. Biting into it, something far more delicious than anything he had ever tasted overwhelmed his mouth. Voraciously, he sucked the fruit dry into a husk. The scrumptious taste was not enough to satisfy his thirst and he eagerly reached to steal another one. As he reached to swipe another one, the stall owner glared at him, and he glared back.
“Skizgo!” the stall owner shouted at him. “Skizgo!” Sensing a possible danger, he swiped several fruit and dashed into the opposite direction past the crowds of giants who apathetically continued their way as he scurried to a nearby alleyway to enjoy his loot safe from the bustling of the giants. But even before he could bite into the fruit, he soon discovered that he was not alone in the alleyway.
Chapter 6: Other Thieves
A group of four other soot-covered Vaikan children about his age and height emerged from the shadows. Apparently, he was not the only short Vaikan that wandered this great world. There were indeed others like him. But these other children all glared at him, aggressively smirking in the same way as that Goraya all those years ago. The blood in his veins rushed through him as he tensed up, apprehensively staring back. And only moments later, these other children began to enunciate a series of mocking sounds. Some sort of language, but the Vaikan did not understand, yet he recognized what kind of message they were evoking. The children barked at him, threatening and intimidating him, but among the many words they spoke, the Vaikan picked out “Skizgo”, the same thing the stall owner called him. That’s what he was apparently. He didn't know what it meant, but he was a “Skizgo”.
As Skizgo cowered, the gang approached him, cornering him, and outnumbering him. The biggest of the gang plunged its claws into Skizgo’s face, painting three crimson claw marks on his right cheek. The next thing he knew, several blunt forces slammed against his head turning his vision to black, and moments after, his fruit disappeared, left with no loot. He was mugged.
Obviously, he was no longer the most powerful. He had already proven his own superiority to animals, but he was nothing in comparison to the giants. He was nothing to even someone that looked like a fair match. It seemed that there was always someone better so long as he existed in this world. It seemed that as he ventured further and further away from the boiler room, he would encounter more of the same along with far greater forces than the last opponent he faced. Stealing without getting caught. That’s what he needed to do.
Chapter 7: Metamorphosis
Many years would pass. By then, Skizgo had discovered he could pick the pockets of others to steal some shiny objects called coins. Apparently, having a lot of these coins would allow him to trade it for food. Of course, he had to communicate in some way. It seems that sounds formed by the mouth called words were how the giants conversed with one another. It was difficult to remember the complex patterns of these words.
As he reached his late 30s, he had stopped seeing the giants as the towering behemoths he saw several decades ago. Did they shrink? No, Skizgo must have gotten bigger somehow, but how? He stopped in the middle of the street to examine himself. His arms had hardened into heavy mass when they used to be flimsy and bony. He was changing. But as he changed, it was if his brain had tripled many times in processing power. He was far smarter than he was all those years ago in the boiler room.
More exploration revealed another location he had never visited. Something unlike anything he had seen. It was quite similar to that market place he raided when he was younger, but this time, it was far more cramped and crowded. Flashing neon lights brilliantly lit the area up as an array of bottles dominated the walls. The thumping of an electronic synth echoed from another nearby room. By far the liveliest place he had stumbled upon yet. Dozens of strange creatures like those seen outside, but they were consuming whatever contents were inside this bottle. Some of which walked very strangely after consumption accompanied by slurred speech.
With the curiosity getting the better of him, he glanced around, looking for a way to steal one of those bottle. Searching and searching. Glancing and glancing. Too many of these other creatures to spot him. But then there was one who handing these bottles to other creatures from behind a counter. Standing twice as tall as he was, the crimson creature had jointed arms with curls at the tips rather than fingers. Two giant gazing eyes as well as a beak that clicked. The counter must have had water behind it as the creature made sloshy, aquatic sounds as it moved. This creature towered over others and truly was a giant.
There was no way he could sneak past it to obtain a bottle. Perhaps he could try something that he had never done before. Conversing. Perhaps he could use those combinations of complex words to form cohesive phrases and speak to that creature.
Chapter 8: The Garro Guardian
As his hands and feet quaked with apprehensiveness, Skizgo cautiously approached the creature. He enunciated a phrase that he heard a lot when the creatures exchanged with one another.
"Hello?" he spoke. Moments later, the creature's big eyes crinkled up in what can be described as confusion. Then, he proceeded to respond with a series of what sounded like clicks and straws shuffling followed by a mysterious voice which resembled words that he could speak, probably coming from some sort of device.
After a short cycle of different sounding phrases, the creature finally spoke, "Do you understand me now?" Skizgo nodded his head in response. "You are too young to buy a drink. Where are your parents?"
"Yes, your parents. Your guardians. Whoever looks after you....You don't know what I'm saying at all, do you?" As the creature crinkled its eyes, Skizgo backed away. Moments flashed of other Vaikan children thrashing him and stealing his food. What could this monstrous thing do to him? As he turned around, the monster reached with one of its curly arms, grasping him by the chest and arms, then lifting him up until he came eye to eye with it. "You! Your face is like one I've seen before. Why are you so familiar?"
"I don't know what you are!"
"You remind me of a Vaikan boy from the Upperworld. What do you call yourself?"
"Skizgo. I am Skizgo."
That moment, the creature's eyes widened at the name, then crinkled again, "Skizgo? You're a Skizgo? You are one that steals things? Are you to hear to rob me?" That moment, the creature's eyes locked onto his directly, scanning him. Only one of the creature's eyes widened. Had he seen someone like him before? "Hmmmm...yes, you are the one. I am your guardian, Mozor Rotzeko, and you'll be staying here, at my home."
Home. That was a word Skizgo did not know. But whatever it was, it was rather comforting to hear. The creature explained that it was a permanent place to stay, something Skizgo never did. But whatever this was, it was a new experience. Still confused as to why the creature did not eat him, he accepted the offering. But why was this creature taking him? Would he owe him something?
"All your questions will be answered," Mozor said. "Follow me."
After that, Skizgo was led past a short corridor leading down a set of stairs and into a sound proof cellar with several pantries. Although a completely different place, memories of that boiler room flooded his head. This cellar had the same traits. The twisting pipes and that easing red tint. He was home.
Chapter 9: Home
For weeks now, Skizgo was enjoying this "home". He had a readily available supply of food. Finally, that gruesome journey of living on the streets was over. As he sat in the corner, Mozor had crept down once again after the area above had closed to the other creatures. A bar. That's what Mozor told him it was called.
Yet, as he had the home to himself, he was confused. So many questions flooded his head. He could converse with Mozor for hours if only he knew how to phrase each question. Intelligent as he was, his overall lack of vocabulary made him limited to words such as "things" and "stuff" when attempting to describe an idea.
"Why are you giving me free food?" Skizgo said.
"Odd that you never bothered to ask. I was tasked to search for someone that looked like you." Recognizing Skizgo's puzzlement, he replied, "You don't even know what I'm talking about? Do you even know how to read?"
Mozor turned to his side, mumbling something into some device. From that device was another voice, but Ahrganot could not understand it. "Hmmm...well, then, it turns out you will be staying here until you've learned how to read. I suspect that it will not be terribly hard for you, if you really are the one we're looking for."
Skizgo still had trouble understanding such complex arrangement of words, but got the general meaning. Someone could teach him how to understand others better. Thinking of ways to speak and putting his words together. A new experience would await.