Zar, being the inquisitive hand he was, had asked Defender to elaborate on what Tier C and Tier B referred to. Despite all the discussions between him and Defender, Zar felt as though he only knew half of the tip of the iceberg that was Human culture. Defender had discussed the topic in depth, but from what Zar had been able to gather, the Tiers referred to categories in the hierarchy of Human society back on their home planet: Earth. The population of Earth had grown exponentially to the point of most of Earth’s resources having vanished in the blink of an eye. The first solution to the cataclysm was to eradicate over half of the Earth’s Human population, but such a mass homicide of a scale never even fathomed before despite all the countless deadly wars that surfaced throughout Human history was so gruesome and unethical that nations worldwide attempted their best to figure out a humane way to deal with the excess of residents. After many years of debate, all the countries decided to use an old but never-officially-tested-on-Humans technique that specifically targeted the part of the brain in charge of intelligence. They were able to create three distinct classes, or tiers. Essentially, Tier A was composed of all the smartest, Tier B was composed of all the working class, and Tier C was composed of all the ones that were thrust aside with an insufficient amount of intelligence to survive for long. They were not willing to kill over half of the Earth, but they were willing to incapacitate them to the point of having little to no chance to live.
Now, Zar sat inside the pavilion trying to figure out how the Human psyche functioned and beginning to understand why those dungeon masters had been so skeptical of Humans. There was no telling what those cunning aliens were up to. Intelligence did not seem as much of a blessing as it had before. On another note, the band had been rushing toward Oldtown ever since Defender promised not to take part in any mission, or “Event,” as he liked to call them, until Zar had finished talking to the Hemi leader, if there even was a leader. Zar was grateful for Defender’s support of his plan to assemble the largest legion in all of Texel. Without it, they would just keep fighting Exos at spawn areas or fellow men in dungeons.
Defender’s tablet rung, startling Zar. Defender rushed over to figure out what was going on. “Remember what you said, Defender,” Zar teased.
“I know, I know,” Defender grumbled with a smile. He quickly read over the message he received, set down his tablet, and reposed against the side of the tent that was directly in front of a tree.
“Anything interesting?” asked Zar, crawling closer to Defender.
“It seems that the powers that be are a little angry at us. Go see for yourself; the message is still on the screen.”
Zar noticed one of Iudith’s ears twitch slightly, so he decided to read the message out loud. “Greetings, Defenders. We are aware that the iris, in its distraught state, had not taken the time to strategize its selecting of Humans. Although the blunder is understandable, there is now a major problem. As you all know, over half of the Earth is infested with Tier C, and if the iris has been randomly selecting Humans, then it would be reasonable to expect over half of the Defenders here to be Tier C. I hope I do not need to elucidate why that is such a problem, so I shall cut to the chase. We have captured and eliminated many Tier C already, but there are still plenty left. I would like all of you B4’s and above to test your fellow men. Just as the Texeli in the dungeons tested you, it is time for you to test the others. Go out, challenge your brothers and sisters, and if you are not satisfied with their performance, we will be there to cleanse the warzone. We cannot afford having such dead weight dragging everyone down, understand? Let the War Games begin.”
“You have to be kidding me!” Gulbahar shouted as he rose from the ground. He, too, had heard Defender’s description of the Human world; in fact, nearly everyone had. “Are you telling me you are all planning on ‘eliminating’ half of defenders in Texel just because they are mentally retarded? And whose fault is that!”
“Calm down, sweetie,” commanded Iudith in a condescending voice. She was enjoying the news far too much.
“That is what Humans had always wanted,” stated Ahati, “but war is their device -- their excuse -- for committing the atrocity they were not willing to carry out back in their home.”
“It is not just because they are retarded,” asserted Eku. “Recall how Qavl charged at Defender for seemingly no reason. They are a threat to the competent defenders out there.”
“What does eliminating even mean?” asked Witherclay, looking at Defender, who had remained leaning against the tree with his eyes closed, daring not open his mouth as if in an attempt to phase out of existence. He slowly opened his eyes and made eye contact with everyone.
“I will be participating,” he concluded, “and you all will be helping.” His eyes darted between the three strongest in the band: Iudith, Ahati, and Gulbahar.
“Do we not have a say in the matter?”
“Feel free to leave, Witherclay, but do not come back.” Witherclay was more baffled than angry, and so was everyone else. The entire pavilion seemed to have cooled down by at least twenty degrees, Defender’s heart being the source of the chill spell. Witherclay was, of course, never going to abandon the band –- the family –- that he was part of, but what parent, what guardian, what friend would say such a thing? Defender got on his knees and pressed his forehead against the ground. “I beg of you, help me in this crusade. The massacre of all these Tier C is crucial to the well-being of not only defenders but Texel itself! They cannot be trusted.”
“No Human can be trusted,” Jadewing announced, “but I shall support you. Not like we have another choice.” Everyone else seemed to echo the same sentiment.
Iudith twirled her staff like a cheerleader’s baton and asked “so, when shall we start?”
Since this event did not specify a location, Defender was able to participate while also heading toward Oldtown, so it was a win-win situation. The band finally reached Fall Down, a desert in which no one dwelled. No one except Exos, of course. One by one the band decided to destroy the Exos lurking there, slowly making their way toward the city of Wounding. On their way, Witherclay and Jadewing commented time and time again how Fall Down had not always been a desert, that it had once been a magnificent field green as far as the eye could have seen, that the wind would whistle, bringing forth a cool breeze that would send pleasant goosebumps down anyone’s spine, that the sun would shower down its rays upon the grass, bringing about warmth so cozy even the most irritated of men would lie on the vast carpet and sleep their troubles away –- an oasis. No one believed them.
They met several defenders along the way who were also on the prowl for any pesky Tier C or otherwise unworthy defenders, but Defender proved to be competent every time. Others had similar bands composed of Eku, Jadewing, and Iudith pieces. There were some, however, who had far more Attii’kusu or Ambarender pieces than Iudith pieces. Then there were some who had decided not to fuse their pieces together and would have a band of six Aldwi or six Jadewing. Zar was yet to become proficient in the art of distinguishing Tier C from B, but Defender seemed to have the skill down well enough. He had mentioned at some point that speech patterns were the first dead giveaway but that he would spare them if the defender proved to have a solid strategy and band despite having some speech problems. Zar was not too anxious about finding out what would happen if Defender decided not to show mercy. When they entered Wounding, a decrepit little town with a pub whose entire roof had been blown off and was missing a side, they met a peculiar defender whose band was-
“Nine Ia?” Defender asked, raising an eyebrow at the scrawny defender in front of them.
“Quite so,” the defender responded. He twitched his pupils and began to snicker. “Nice to meet you, Defender.”
“Likewise,” Defender responded. His tone said it all. He was asking himself if this was going to be the first defender he would have to apprehend. “Let us commence.” The fight ended rather quickly with each Ia crumbling instantly against the icy blasts from Iudith’s staff or quick slashes from Gulbahar’s sword. As the defender began picking up his companions’ dots, Defender slowly approached him.
“I liked our first kinda major sorta battle. Did you?” the defender said, looking up at Defender.
“This is no time to be joking around with a purposefully weak band, do you understand? You have to prove to others you are worthy. Do you want to be terminated?” Defender replied.
The defender rose to his feet to look at Defender in the eyes, though he still had to look up slightly. “This is war in a world far removed from our own, and this is my band. I shall do whatever I want however I want, understood?”
Defender smirked. “Understood.”
Their journey continued through the run-down village destroying Exos until they reached the side of a mountain with a long flight of stairs leading all the way up. The stairs were chipped, cracked, and crumbling. “Oldtown is up these precarious steps, Defender. You are not too scared, are you?” Zar asked.
“You tease me far too much, friend. Climb we shall” was his response. About halfway up the steps, a defender who had been scaling the side of the mountain instead of the steps rushed at them, punching Defender on the side of his head. Iudith, who had been riding her horse behind everyone else, hooked Defender’s neck with her staff and smacked him back unto the steps, saving him from a painful death. Defender rose to his feet, massaged his back, nodded at Iudith as a sign of gratitude, and ran up the steps to attack the defender whose eyes were that of a madman desperate to survive.
“You not kill me, shit!” the defender shouted, and if it had not been apparent that this new defender was a Tier C, it definitely was then. Defender got hit several times in the stomach, back, and neck before grabbing the defender around his waist, suplexing him, and causing the both of them to start tumbling down the mountain like a couple sacks of Nux. The defender struggled the best he could, but his scrawny build could not do much against Defender’s weight, which continuously broke the defender's brittle bones after every bounce and covered them both in the blood that sprayed everywhere leaving a red trail down, down, down. Zar looked away, and he bet all his Nux that if he had still had his stomach, it would have been emptied right then and there.