It wasn't until around four in the morning that I was able to leave the overpriced café with my drink and most of my money intact. I held the medium cappuccino tightly in my left hand, painfully developing resistance to the searing pain of boiling liquid. I made my way back to Gate 4. The returning walk was dull but quick, with my mind focussed on the caffeine and all. Unlike a few hours ago, I was wide awake now. Unfortunately it appeared that the car, my father's blue hatchback passed down unto my brother and I, was gone. It seems that Josh managed to get into the city faster than I took getting a coffee. Tightening my torn black sneakers, I sprinted up to the city walls. "Sorry civilian, entering the city limits on foot is prohibited by law."
A brutal force swept out both my legs and pushed into my back, sending my body crashing down into the ground. I winced, my chin dug deep into the dirt. There was a heavy boot against my back, but couldn't lift my head high enough to see the culprit. Someone bent down beside me before I could even think of struggling and put my right arm into a neat little arm-lock. I winced once more, possibly even yelping a little. "Please enter your car and wait in line, sir", a masculine voice demanded, loosening up the pressure on my arm.
"I- I have a car!" I desperately whimpered, unable to retaliate against my aggressor.
The man stepped off of my back and pulled me up from the moist dirt. Upon getting up, I finally saw the man clearly in the pre-dawn light. "America City Elite Guard, huh? You live up to your reputation", I chuckled, rotating my right arm at the shoulder.
The armoured man chuckled a little in return, presumably taking it as a compliment. His black-tinted helmet did an excellent job of both protecting his head and concealing his face; I couldn't make out any facial features at all, as much as I tried. "So where's this car of yours?" he inquired, pulling out a small, handheld device from his utility belt.
His voice was actually quite comforting and likeable, despite his rough job and powerful combative skills. "I guess my brother must've driven it in without me. I got off to grab a drink while we were in line, but now... yeah. I don't quite know where he is at the moment", I confessed, feeling a tad awkward with the cappuccino now spilled all over the grass beside us.
"License plate?" he asked without really asking.
"4A8-712" I recited from memory.
He punched the code into his official looking device and waited for the city database to load the results. After a few seconds, his expression changed to one of puzzlement. "It says here that your blue hatchback checked into America City two days ago", he declared, clarifying it by showing me the information on the screen.
True enough; a picture of our car was displayed on the screen, along with the owners' names, license plate number and check-in time. "Wait... does that mean that today is the 17th?" I asked, mind still in a knot.
The officer nodded, shutting off his device and latching it back onto his belt. "I don't know what's going on with you, but I don't think you'll do any harm. If you want, I'll accompany you into America City to find your brother", he offered, hopefully with a smile on his concealed face.
I nodded, perhaps a little too excitedly. "Yeah, that'd be sick, man!" I enthusiastically accepted.
Naturally, being escorted by an armed officer of the law who's been trained in five different martial arts sort of makes you feel invincible. As such, I walked confidently behind the ACE guard, sticking my tongue out at any sketchy types who stared at us as we made our way through America City's "developing" district. The guard followed his GPS, with a marker placed at the last place where the blue hatchback was lasted reported as being sighted by another ACE guard. "Did your brother know that Harlick Street is mainly populated by the Firebrand gang? You really don't want to be around the Firebrand gang if you're new to America City", he warned, a serious tone in his voice.
"I don’t think he knew that… how come I've never heard of the Firebrands before?" I inquired, "I mean, the Murder Men and the Cutthroats are well-known nationwide. If the Firebrands are so dangerous, how come they've never gotten any media attention, as far as I know?"
“The Firebrand leader owns a massive portion of the media,” the ACE guard explained grimly, “He doesn’t like publicity. He does however, love picking on new folks like yourself.”
The sun was beginning to make its daily rounds now, rising sluggishly from the eastern horizon. The first rays of sunlight grazed our bodies, partially blocked by the building beside us. At the other side of the narrow, disgusting street, a familiar figure stalked by. I immediately recognized him as the hillbilly/cowboy from before. “Hey, I met that guy at the café a few hours ago,” I muttered, pointing him out to the ACE guard, “He was asking about the Firebrands.”
The mysterious man turned towards us. Upon recognizing me, he seemed to jolt back a bit, as if startled. A split second later, he was off, sprinting in the other direction. Without warning, the America City Elite guard gave chase, leaving me in the dust and litter. My personal bodyguard gone, all sorts of odd types began to approach me freely, offering the strangest things. After finding a map, I made it my first priority to get out of the developing district.
However, Harlick Street was only a few blocks away… perhaps I would find Josh there. I took a chance and headed back into the scariest part of America City, armed with practically nothing. At the corner of Harlick and Grotto, the blue hatchback with my license plate on it sat inside a bent and broken garage. Being wary of any potential patrol groups, I snuck into the garage and checked the car. There were a few new scratches on the front and the side which left me feeling concerned for my brother’s wellbeing. Several dents indicated a struggle and the rear-left window had been smashed. The car was literally empty, everyoneandeverything taken out of it, including the stereo. “They’re paying for this”, I muttered, grabbing a crowbar from a nearby workbench before heading any deeper into the shady building.