Author's Note/Disclaimer: Welcome to this very special revision of my 9 fanfiction, Before the Warrior! I revised this as a contest entry on deviantart and as something I had been meaning to do after completing the original draft about a year ago. With revisions large and small for this piece presented the way it is now, I feel it's only appropriate to infuse this edition with little author's notes at the end of each chapter about what important revisions I made and other things about the writing process. Of course, you guys don't have to read them, but I feel it's interesting commentary all the same.
Thank you to Celestial Rainstorm, Jenny-Jen, and Frosty Starlight for writing 9 fanfictions that inspired me to write this piece. I also thank my sister's support and reviews, which you can find here. As always, this story is dedicated to my father and grandmother, who are probably yucking it up over my original draft's typos in Heaven. I do not own 9 or any of the characters in it. I also do not own any songs or lyrics I've quoted throughout this story.
I wrote this first chapter during one of the first days I spent in my family's new(er) home. We had a friend building onto the place and I had little to do except sit and write, which I did. The whole first chapter in its roughest form was the result of thinking about my own origin story for the character of Seven. This revision changes a bit of dialog from One, who I thought was too extreme. There is also more focus on Seven's point of view than before, where my points of view would change without warning.
And with that, I give you chapter one.
Before the Warrior
Chapter One: The Beast
"I want adventure in the great, wide somewhere.
I want it more than I can tell."
–Beauty and the Beast.
The cathedral walls were illuminated by the bright sunlight that shone through the stained glass at sunset. The colorful beams from the icons of religious figures contrasted beautifully with the shadows leaking in of the destroyed buildings just beyond the great windows. The beauty, however, is what made the cathedral rather hollow and sad, for it had once been a place of comfort in the time of man. Now it was a place of survival for the unusual beings that lived there.
The beings were small rag doll creatures called stitchpunks. They were humanoid and no two looked exactly alike, though all had been born in the same "first room" and were named based on numbers etched into their backs. They lived in the church initially to only wait for the great Machine-Human war to end, but now that the world was silent, they still waited. To one particular stitchpunk, the waiting had become intolerable.
Doll number seven, or simply Seven, sat in the church rafters one fateful evening as she often did. She admired the colors as any creature with an appreciation for beauty would, but they inspired her to do something brave, as lately her coven had been quite shaken up. All she could do was wait for their leader to make a choice on the matter.
"I'm worried about them, One," said one old male voice far below her.
"They were the ones who were reckless, it is their price to pay if they are in danger," said the other (and also older male) voice.
Seven peeked her head over the beam to listen to One and Two talk about what she had been hoping would be discussed. Two members of their coven had disappeared recently and she knew that it would be talked about. It was up to One, as leader, to make the call on whether the coven would go find them or stay inside, but she had a bad feeling in her circuitry on what his answer would be.
"Come now, you know how curious the twins are," Two argued.
One grumbled. "Curiosity killed the cat, and possibly Three and Four. There's nothing we can do about them now, Two."
Two faltered, but stood his ground against the older One. Seven knew that while One took automatic authority in the group, Two had the lion share of wisdom. He would know what to do, and perhaps One would listen this time.
"We could go out there and look for them."
"Who is this we you speak of? I'm not risking my life out there," One said. "Only a fool would risk his entire coven for the few." Then One turned away from Two, leaving him alone in the corridor.
Seeing Two hurt, the female doll climbed down from her perch and quietly walked up to him. "Two?" she asked.
He turned with an old, wrinkled smile despite the clear sadness in his slightly off eyes. His old burlap stretched and the shoelaces that made up his front did likewise. "Seven, nice to see you, dear. How long have you been in here?"
"Long enough to hear that One doesn't want to help the twins," she said, "Three and Four have been gone more than a day now." She paused and looked to the floor. "Why can't One see that we need to watch out for each other to survive?"
Two nodded sympathetically. "He does, but he sees the survival of the many as the best way."
"I want to help you find them out there," she stated, not allowing One's decision to affect her's.
Two smiled. "That's very brave of you, but I couldn't allow myself put both of our lives in danger."
Seven reached her right hand out and placed it on Two's shoulder. "It's not only your decision. Besides, we haven't heard a sound outside in weeks. Five told me everything looks crystal clear from the scope."
Two lightly scratched at the metal plate on his head. With Seven and Five there to help, surely they'd find something out there, hopefully even the twins.
"I guess my mind's made up for me then," said the old stitchpunk and turned around. "Come along. Let's fetch Five from the watchtower."
Seven followed the elder with a smile.
The moonlight just barely peeked through the clouds. These thick clouds showed no sign of rain approaching, but were the ever-present products of poison gas and other pollutants. Though the stitchpunks had no sensitivity to the toxic sky, it was still a depressing night for the three scouts to venture into. Seven took the lead, moving gracefully through the ruins, while Two looked on from afar and Five guarded the rear, trembling slightly.
Five was a young male stitchpunk made from burlap. He was fairly average in appearance this way, with red buttons closing up his torso region, but he did have one peculiarity. In place of his left eye was a patch of leather. Due to a terrible accident in the war, Five had lost that eye. The reminder of what making a mistake could do was forever imprinted on his face and mind, and it made him quite timid.
"The coast seems clear for another fifty feet," Seven announced from a high perch. How the girl had managed to get all the way to the top of what remained of a mailbox, Two and Five could not be sure.
"Any movement?" asked the elder as the female leapt down.
"Not that I can tell," she reported and looked to Five with disappointment. "Come on. We're burning moonlight."
"She's going to get herself killed," Five remarked to Two as they followed her.
After a time, Seven stopped dead in her tracks and looked down at her feet. "Two, Five, come here!" she shouted, pointing to her discovery. The two males soon caught up to her and looked at the ground with astonishment.
"Footprints!" Two remarked. "And they're so small."
"They have to be the twins'," Five added. "It's two sets of tracks right over each other."
Seven's spirit lifted even higher at the thought of finding Three and Four and she took off toward the direction of the footprints. "Come on!" she called.
Two followed her, but a thought occurred to Five and he stayed stuck to the spot. "Did you even check to see if that way was safe?" he asked, but it was too late. She was already far out of earshot. She soon vanished behind the rusted hood of an old automobile, and Five could only follow her and his mentor.
Seven's emotional high was still running strong, and she followed the tracks as precisely as she could, hunting for any sign of the twins. She did not think once about where she was headed. And when she heard a light movement of metal tapping against metal, she stopped altogether.
"Three? Four?" she called softly, hoping they would recognize her voice and come out. When a small, bright light flickered ahead in the darkness, her heart leaped for joy. The twins must have been using their optic lights to see in the dark and were coming for her, she thought. She called their names louder, expecting them to appear any second.
But then the small light began to grow larger, and much brighter, as she waved to it. Seven realized that she was in trouble even before a piercing red light shone on her chest and a great, terrible roar erupted from something in the dark.
The creature was monstrous. It stared her down with one red, laser-like eye while the other white eye near blinded her with flooding light. Its head was made from the skull of a big cat, likely a tiger or lion, and it was placed upon a skeletal body formed from shafts of steel, bone, and wood. She could not help but gawk at the horrible monster as new features–sharp spikes–protruded from its back.
"Seven, get out of there!" came Two's terrified voice.
Seven's senses came back to her and she jumped out of the way. It was good timing too, as the creature swiped a metal paw at her and she narrowly escaped it.
The cat creature growled and leaped toward the spot that it could sense its prey had run to. It snapped at her with its sharp teeth as it gave chase. She could not find anything to hide in and did not want to lead this monster toward Two and Five, so she climbed over a few cinder blocks, having the great cat follow her all the way.
She stopped running when she reached in a jungle of old pipes left from a manor, having to climb up and away from the creature that already was far taller than her. When she finally reached a perch too high for the creature to reach her, she rested, breathing in and out deeply and tried to find a way to escape.
Her thinking was cut short when the pipe that she was standing on began to rock back and forth violently. She had not found a good place to rest. Looking down, she saw the beast prying at the pipe with its paws and making it wrench. This monster was stronger than it looked, and it looked pretty strong to start with. She tried to leap off the pipe, but instead ended up right in the beast's paw, struggling in the middle of four blade-like claws.
The beast seemed to snicker before tossing her into an old can with a sharp 'pong' noise. The pale doll tried to recuperate before she saw Two run into the pipe jungle and distract the beast. His diversion was useless though, as the beast quickly took chase. Then it grabbed him in its mouth and shook him violently in an attempt to kill him.
Seven knew then that she could not run away. She grabbed a rock, charged straight toward the beast, and climbed up its back to the base of the skull, banging at the lower jaw with the rock until it released the elder. Just as quickly as her small victory was assured though, the monster whipped its head and sent her flying again.
Before she could even sit back up, the beast struck her again, mercilessly slicing a large gash in her back with its claws. Trying to get away was futile, and Seven winced as she understood her situation.
At least Two and Five will still be alive, she thought…
At the last possible moment, a rumble sounded before a cascade of rubble came crashing down on the beast. A large chunk of debris crushed its back leg and held it to the spot. Seven might have well been crushed to death before someone dragged her away from the scene. She could just barely make out the silhouette of Two standing over the pile of rubble he had carefully caused to fall through the dust clouds. She struggled in Five's grasp to return to the battlefield.
When they were fifty feet or so from the wreckage, Five carefully sat her up against a plank of wood, knowing that she was badly injured.
"Where's Two?" she croaked weakly.
"Are you okay?" Five asked, ignoring her question.
Seven struggled and attempted to stand up, crawling up to look over at the pipe yard. "I'm fine, but I've got to find Two!"
She stood up feebly and tried to find the elder, ignoring the cries of Five behind her and the bad injury she had sustained. She braced herself when she saw a shadow coming toward her in the dark, but this time it proved to be Two, and she smiled.
"You're okay," she muttered, reaching out to the elder before falling to her knees in exhaustion. Two took her left arm while Five took her right and they propped her back up.
"Yes, dear, I'm fine," Two said quietly, "But I don't think you're in such good shape."
Seven hung her head involuntarily as her two comrades walked her back to the sanctuary. Just as she was about to pass out from sheer fatigue, she heard the roar of the beast in the distance. It was still alive, but it was not satisfied.