Errand Runners

In Nova City, sixteen-year old Nole does what he has to in order to provide for his brother and sister, but after coming into contact with a mysterious teenager, their stable way of life begins to crumble as Nole is suddenly targeted for a crime he didn't commit. With lethal gangs and brutal city Enforcers, he must navigate his way through the corrupt city system in order to keep him and his siblings alive.

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1. PROLOGUE

Nole Vale examined the lone figures as he sat crouched on some rooftop of a single-story building, overlooking two men standing within a yard of him. From where he was perched, he could easily make out their features. Both of them appeared to be in their mid-twenties, with one being tall and thin, and the other short with a gruff-looking beard. Newbies. As he studied them more closely, he finally saw what he was looking for - an octagon tattoo on the inside of the short man’s forearm. Bingo!

Eavesdropping on their conversation, he heard them discussing a battle they had taken part in a few days ago. They replayed the fight and their excitement danced on their faces as they threw punches into the air, imitating their own actions during the prideful brawl. The short man laughed vivaciously, mimicking the reaction of one of their opponents as he fell to the ground. The irony of the situation made Nole grin.

The plan was set in motion as Nole quietly eased himself down the shabby building, keeping an eye on his targets all the while. His shadow stretched across the expanse of the brick wall as the setting sun peeped through the narrow alley. He got into position and hid behind an overflowing dumpster while the men strutted through the spacious alleyway, excitedly discussing another job they had been assigned.

“I hope there’s another battle,” relished the tall man. When they got within range, Nole stepped in their path. “Look at this guy, Gus,” he sneered, jabbing his friend playfully with his elbow. “This is Octa turf. What gang you in?”

“I’m not part of a gang,” he answered.

“Looks like this clueless kid stumbled into the wrong part of Nova City. You lost?” Nole was silent.

“Hold on there, Mikey,” Gus spoke up. He set his gaze on Nole. “It’s alright. We’ll let you go, seeing as that you’re not part of any gang. You just have to give us all your money first.” He said it as if he were doing him a favor.

“What would either of you want with money?” Nole retorted. “It’s not like you’re going to use it. You just steal whatever you want.”

“Good point.” He chuckled. “No matter, you heard me. Hand it over.” Nole squinted at his foe instead of obeying him, challenging him to escalate the situation. “Do you know who we are?” he asked, narrowing his eyes. “Do you know what this is?” He lifted his shirtsleeve to show Nole the thick-edged octagon tattoo painted his flesh.

“I know,” Nole answered.

“That’s right. Octas are known by everybody!” the tall man - Mikey he remembered him being called – declared. His voice reverberated across the bricks of the surrounding buildings.

“If by that, you mean everyone knows you’re a third-rate gang, then yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“What did you just say?” Gus barked, balling his fists angrily while baring his teeth like a mad dog.

“You guys aren’t even in the top three. All you’re good for is petty crime.” His taunts were working, because, as planned, both men were approaching him now.

“You talk too much, kid,” Gus muttered, cracking his knuckles. His friend diverged from his side and stood at Nole’s back, trapping him from behind. The old divide and conquer, huh? He humored them, looking over his shoulder nervously and putting on a scared expression. The better the act, the better the surprise. “Looks like we’re going to have to shut you up.”

At that instant, Mikey pounced for him. He locked his arms through Nole’s, clenching his hands together behind Nole’s neck. A submissive position, he noted. Not bad. He thrashed around as Mikey grunted from his efforts. When Nole finally ceased his act of desperation, both men laughed hysterically at their victory; they were completely oblivious to the fact that his fighting experience far outweighed their own.

“That’s right,” Gus scoffed, bringing up his right fist as he prepared a blow for Nole’s stomach.

A little closer.

 “Next time…”

A few more steps.

“you should think twice…”

A bit more.

“before messing with-”

Perfect.

A subdued Nole interrupted him mid-rant with a swift kick to the gut. The man doubled over and grasped his stomach as he cursed. Nole then followed through with a kick to the man’s face. He believed his enemy’s nose to be broken by the drops of blood that leaked through Gus’ fingers and the high-pitched shrieks that followed.

Still in submission, Nole smacked the back of his head against Mikey’s chest. It was meant to be a head butt, however the man’s height inadvertently turned it into a chest butt. Nevertheless, he released Nole, who then delivered a sharp elbow to his Mikey’s stomach. He gave Nole time to evaluate the situation when he doubled over grasping his injured torso with a long groan.

Nole was pleased to see Gus still immobilized, his nose bleeding profusely now, and his second opponent standing with some trouble, judging by the way he was wincing. It’s over.

“I knew Octas were weak, but you guys must be the bottom of the barrel,” he mocked. “Tell you what? I’ll leave you alone if you give me all your money.”

The tall man hesitated at the command. “You smug little-” He clenched his fists and his face became red with rage as Nole’s words sunk in. He reached into his pocket, producing a switchblade, but the weapon didn’t surprise Nole.

With a quick spasm of his leg, Nole delivered a second kick to a fallen Gus’s gut. When his victim released another scream, the angry expression on Mikey’s face melted away and was replaced with a mix of astonishment and helplessness.

“Gus, get up you idiot!” he shouted in frustration.

When his friend didn’t respond, Nole raised his leg again in warning, while looking at the tall man expectantly.

“Fine!” The tall man shouted, the fury evident in his voice.

“Drop the blade.” Nole spoke as if he were talking to a child. When the man obeyed, Nole lowered his leg and rubbed his thumb and his index finger together, signaling for his winnings. The tall man wavered but withdrew a small wad of money from his pocket, throwing it at his victor’s feet. The injured man, too, surrendered a small clump of bills from his jacket. Nole recovered his spoils and stepped away from his victims.

“You just messed with the wrong people,” the tall man spat, his fury evident in his voice.

“Yeah, yeah,” Nole replied nonchalantly. Clenching the money in his hand, he quickly left the area. When he was a good distance away, he stopped to separate the crumpled bills in order to get a good count of his prize, unhindered by the fact that most of them were marked with streaks of fresh blood. Nole assumed the stains were from his injured foe, but knowing the Octas, he couldn’t really be sure.

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