The Street Trash was comfortable. He was sitting in on a first class cabin of a steam-powered train heading for the capital city of Venetizia. He had convinced the conductor, and later the ticket inspector, to allow him, a poor poor boy to ride the train, for free of course, so that he could reconnect back with a family he had been kidnapped from, a couple of years before. His story was so touching they offered him one of the best cabins.
The Street Trash was dressed straight out of the streets of Neyerk, what with the beige coat over the darker beige shirt and wearing mismatched beige shorts. They were all supposed to be white but he had used a trick to cause a discoloration, it simulated the “dirty” look very well. Jamie’s hair was long enough to cover the eyes, done just right so it would look uncut and unattended. It was spiky and messy and usually smothered by the Gatsby hat that could hardly fit his head. The clothes themselves had patches here and there, with missing buttons replaced by shallow strings tying things together.
The Street Trash was all about appearance, and then selling that appearance.
These are the disqualifications, he remembered while looking out the window at the pretty scenery, testing the facts he had committed to memory. The Daredevil, The Carpet Lord, The Mole, The Zookeeper, The Banker, The Architect, The Wallcrawler, the Headmaster, The Shadow Summoner, The Spirit Whisperer, The Grand Cook, The Olympian, The Storyteller, The Sandman, The Lumberjack, The Dark Runner.
The Dark Runner was a surprise. Perhaps the original one’s performance had raised too much hype, but it really was a disappointment for the follow-up to the now legendary Dark Runner to have performed so badly…
But oh well. Jamie turned his thoughts to things that mattered, he knew of at least three more contestants that were still participating.
Four, Jamie corrected in his mind, remembering the jungle woman. The Shadow and the Sorcerer were infamous and for sure taking part. The School Boy, a name as strong in the Scavengers as The Street Trash, was also taking part.
Jamie let a smirk shape his lips.
Scavengers had been good to him, a world-wide organization of urchins, beggars and pickpockets all belonging to a specific age group who were administered by a group of past members grown adult. Every Street Trash before Jamie had grown up to become a part of this circle of leadership they called The Teens, the original being the very one to start it all. Jamie intended to keep that trend.
Winning the Shadow Conclave would make him a dead ringer for the job.
Jamie watched the scenery with ease, he knew no one expected Jamie to win the contest. That was how the Street Trash thrived…underestimated and overlooked. In fact, nobody knew, or would ever know, how the Street Trash was already responsible for three disqualifications.
Well, Jamie had not actually gotten rid of the Banker. He had followed him around for a while, convincing everyone he engaged to give their money to the poor little street urchin other than to invest it with the Banker. Eventually, it was clear the man was about to get violent so Jamie left him be. However, he was pretty sure it was too late by then.
As to the Wallcrawler, Jamie had simply alerted guards to her presence, getting her arrested. He liked to think that those moves had really caused them to lose but he couldn’t be sure. Now the Architect? Him, he did directly beat.
The Street Trash pulled a magical pouch out and held it in front of his eyes. It wasn’t his magical pouch, not by a long shot. He threw it out the window of the train with an amused glimmer across his eyes. The man’s business apparently was all about structures, capable of finding any exploitable secret in any kind of building. How that helped him dealing with being robbed was beyond Jamie’s understanding…a little bump, a sleight of the hand, and minutes later, he was probably wondering what had happened to his pouch.
Of course, according to the rules, that meant disqualification.
Jamie had his well in his hand, he eyed it victoriously as a knock sounded on the door.
“Come in,” Jamie called out while putting the pouch away. He sat straight, put hands on knees and aimed his eyes at the ground, overwhelmed and uncomfortable. As a last movement, Jamie put his hat on and pulled it slightly down over his face, in an attempt to hide embarrassment.
The door opened to show a well-dressed waiter holding a track filled with food trays and dishes.
“Here we are…” he pulled the tray into the cabin, the food and silverware both glowing beneath the candle light. “They let us know about your situation and we thought we might offer you a small feast, you know, for being such a good boy.”
“Oh my…” Jamie’s timid voice sounded out, accompanied by eyes endearingly hungry for everything on the food tray, they had never seen such a thing, “I would never…Ahm lucky enough as it is, suh,-I–”
“Nonsense, boy, eat up to your heart’s content! You deserve it after all you’ve endured.”
“Uhm…well I dunno…” Jamie timidly hesitated, giving uncontrollable glances towards the display, “I guess if yer shuh…I’ll have me a small bite, maybeh?”
“Have a big one,” the waiter gestured while leaving the cabin, “have lots of big ones! Just enjoy yourself, lad.”
“Oh uhm…” the waiter left laughing to himself, pleased with how much of a good person he was. Jamie quickly smirked at the situation.
The hat came off the head, he again turned and leaned on the window sill, pulling a leg onto the couch, bending it so he could rest his arm on the knee. He grabbed one of the chicken and mayonnaise sandwiches.
He took a big bite, alright, and didn’t even chew.
4 of 16 Contestants have arrived.
Countdown to Begin: 954 seconds.
“Wow, everyone’s a real slowpoke, huh? Well, guess I’ll scout around some,” Jamie giggled, standing up to take a walk.
3 of 16 Contestants have arrived.
Countdown to Begin: 945 seconds.
Venetizia was an engineered marvel, a city floating in the sea. The whole thing was sitting on a really big platform that was a few feet under water, its base anchored to the surface, beneath the water level, such that the city moved ever so slightly, floating along with the current as far as the anchoring allowed. The city was so heavy it really took tides well, though for as long as anyone could remember, they had never been particularly rough.
Still, living in this city was not for everyone, and while it was not as bad as being on a boat, it wasn’t too much unlike it either.
The streets were lit by candle-light, the city yet to have found the confidence to install an electric system to power itself. The candle-lights were well placed though, such that there was very little place to hide while on the streets, a fact that would not bother the Street Trash as much, but certainly the vast majority of Jamie’s competition.
Jamie looked up at the roofs, guessing his competitors would be spending most of their time on them. They were very badly lit, if at all. But getting around just across them would be harder than on Japien since the streets went on forever, with the only way across being the small connecting bridges.
The city was made of blocks, each one was connected to the next under the water, but as far as people were concerned, the short bridges joining street to street over the water were the real connections. The Street Trash had, thus, an advantage. Few others would find it as easy to cross them as Jamie would.
People were on the streets still, either walking around or floating about the water canals, mostly couples. It was a very romantic city, though that wasn’t something the Street Trash cared about at all.
After walking around for a few hours, Jamie decided to get an even greater leg-up on his competition. The Street Trash took a seat next to a café, took out his hat to use it to beg for coins, and proceeded to look at passersby in the eye.
That wasn’t all, of course, any puppy-eyed brat could do that. Jamie would engage them, he would make them physically aware of the little poor boy’s presence and desperate appearance by talking to them, individually and specifically.
“Please suh…for muh poo’ tummy, it’s been hurtin’ all day, it has…” a bill fell into his hat, “oh, bless ya, suh, bless ya.”
The Street Trash collected a decent sum in the hour he was there, at which point he was motivated by a particularly sized tip… to leave the scene. He stood up right in front of the man.
“Oh, how great, I have enough now, thank you soo much,” Jamie hugged the kind-hearted man who reacted a bit disgusted, holding his arms up to try and not get too much of his expensive coat dirty.
“Please, boy, this isn’t necessary.”
“Oh bu’ it is, suh, it is. Thank ya so much, so kindly!” Jamie smiled wide and pulled away, turning away and running off, cute and giddy with happiness at how much food he would be able to get. Other passersby complimented the man and his wife gave him a kiss, all in love with his kind-hearted man.
The Street Trash turned a corner, deftly throwing the man’s wallet and pocket-watch into his hat just as he folded it for easier carry. He grinned, feeling legitimate adrenalin coursing through him. It was all so much fun, every single time.
The Street Trash walked for a bit longer, accidentally bumping or falling into even more kind-hearted and polite individuals, robbing them of their more lingering possessions. Eventually though, Jamie’s hat and pockets were full and dusk was hitting too noticeably to ignore. People were heading home to sleep and Jamie was close to being late.
He moved to purpose, returning to his starting place.
Jamie walked on, looking up at the moon. He glanced aside at the diving sun, concerned that the starting hour might have gone by already. Not wanting to stress that thought, Jamie kept it out of his mind and silently marched to his starting point, which was in a center of a bridge.
Once there, Jamie quickly checked his scroll.
16 of 16 Contestants have arrived.
Countdown to Begin: 15 seconds.
“Wow,” Jamie giggled in amusement, “oh my gosh, that was cutting it real close.”
The Competition in Venetizia has now begun.
With an easy smile, the Street Trash leaned against the bridge, arms crossed and hat still firmly grasped and secured. He looked around, counting the time with ease and patience.
Eventually, he grabbed the wallet and the pocket-watch that had first been stolen, and he threw it into the pouch.
He then put his hat back on. He would put the other things into the pouch as the competition developed.
“Let’s go kick some butt,” the Street Trash smirked mischievously, walking off towards the first house he was going to swindle.