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Section 1 MISSING


Section 2

The dorm is dark, and I began to wonder if I have taken a wrong turn. I inch inward, looking for a switch. Suddenly there is a roar, and the lights come up. I see a platoon of wicked faces. Music starts up on the player, and someone yanks my trousers down to the ankles. Hands tear at my top, despite my best efforts to hold on. Then, I am awash with oil, and bundled to the floor. Just as I am about to be crushed by the weight of many muscular bodies, they relent.

"What is this?" I moan with my head still pressed to the soft matting. I feel the heat of an expectant silence. I sit up and wipe lubricant from my eyes. Looming over me is a brute about seven feet tall, and almost as broad. He looks as hard as a bronze statue. I only know he's alive because of his twitching plate-like pectorals.

The crowd form a natural arena, and I watch aghast as the ogre reaches into the bucket for a mighty palmful of the gunk, which he then proceeds to smear liberally over himself. Then with the same crane-like hand, he lilts me up, and throws me back down with a crunch. Through the sickening dizziness, a sense of injustice wells up in me. I'd have to show spirit, or I'd be forever known a coward. I roll through the giant's legs, and from behind, hook a kick up between them. He immediately drops to the floor clutching himself, wheezing.

There is a horrified gasp around the room.

"What's your problem?" says a guy, placing a comforting arm around the oily monster, who has begun to sob.

"You're supposed to just take the hit," a punchy girl says, "everybody knows that."


Section 3

Of course, the incident stuck with me. I quickly discovered that being from Agbana was a disadvantage. I hadn't been primed for service like the Redusans, they seemed to have spent their lives building up to it.

I had few allies in my first week. Strangely though, the giant - whose name was Arnau - became a firm friend. I discovered that he himself, though complicit in my initiation, was roundly regarded as a buffoon. His size belied a gentleness that our first encounter would never have had me believe.

"Shall we eat?" He'd say.

"Sure," I'd say.

When not eating, most of the day was spent in the gym, which suited me well enough. I'd been one of the few to climb the Apotheon in Agbana, and physically, I had a bit of everything. I sometimes heard mutterings that the Redusan Apotheon was harder, but I knew it was the locals dirt-talking me.


Section 4

About halfway through the second week, I underwent an "aptitude interview".
I was shown up to a room in the Stalk. Through the think glass, it was possible to see the wheels of Redusa, the spokes branching out of each sector, without hearing the hum of the machine.

I only saw the thick neck, at first. Then, as the interrogation began, he spun around. His faceguard was a grander version of my own, with jagged black and red blades. When he turned to the side I could see his shaven head, and his flabby shoulders hunched forward like a dog's.

"I am Overseer Bulgus. Five questions, same as the others. Don't answer wrong."

He bounced his fist on the deck, and the five pips of authority rattled on his cuff.

"The first. If I walked you to the rising place right now, a gun against your head, could you ascend?"

I licked my cracked lips.

"I could."

There were scars across his shins and calves. His frame was squat and meaty.

"The second. I was born a Bandinian. How can I be a citizen of Redusa, and a citizen of Sabor?"

I paused. No Bandinian was ever a citizen.

"Because you're lying, Overseer," I said.

The mask turned sharply to face me.

"Third. What assignment do you dream of?"

I had prepared, and knew the only answer I could give, even if I did not entirely believe it.

"All assignments are equal, Overseer."

"So are you saying you won't enjoy it?"

That wasn't one of the official questions I had prepared for.

"I will enjoy it. I enjoy work, wherever I am placed."


Section 5

"Stop toeing the line, and speak your mind man! You will, as a godhand, enjoy it. You will enjoy feeding Bandinian rebels the fingers of Verduban protesters. You will enjoy burning their houses down, and you will enjoy making Sabor great again. It says here you were a soldier-"

He prodded the paper with a fat finger.

"-but I don't see it. You've lived like a dead man, and if you don't start coming to life, I'm going to have to beat you into life. If the gods can't do enough to keep our cities pure, we need citizens on the ground carrying out their will, not shirkers and quitters."

"Yes, Overseer."

Bulgus straightened the toga beneath his blue plate armour.

"Do you accept, that as a godhand, no other assignment will be open to you, until the day of ascension?"

"Yes, Overseer."

"Lastly. Do you agree to serve Sabor, no matter what order you are given?"

"Yes, Overseer."


Section 6 MISSING


Section 7 MISSING


Section 8

l was haunted by the notion that I'd be stuck as a godhand until ascension. My reservations about the assignment grew, and I began to wonder if I'd ever see things the same.

After the sewer episode, we were sent on elevator duty. As the main access points to the city from the ground, it was important experience for us. The elevators took up people, but also food grown outside of the city by the Pilipai. Their blood was as Saborian as ours, and some had even been citizens once, but lately, their lives had changed.

The cities wanted more from farmers every year. If there was a poor harvest, when they'd paid their tithe, there'd be nothing left to feed their families. It was part of our job to ensure that these Pilipai met their quotas, or soon it'd be the citizens who suffered instead.

"Come! Gather round, ask your children to each collect a fruit. It is a reward for all you have done for us," I lied.

The children of the Pilipai rushed from their parents' sides to the table, desperate for the dripping-ripe fruit. As soon as they were close enough, we snatched hem up and held them captive.

"Return in seven days with your tithes, or your children shall be put to work in the mines, and forevermore treated with the disdain afforded a Bandini," I read from memory. I couldn't look them in the eyes. These were good, honest folk, not criminals like the Bandini.


Section 9 MISSING


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