Part Seven – Murderous Migraines

BACK

And then.

Kolt felt nothing.

 

Except a roaring pain in his ass!

His eyes were locked in place, wide open yet with no sight, and there was no feeling in any part of his body; he was paralyzed. He couldn’t even feel his own breathing.

Where am I? What am I? What is all this? Why, why, why? His brain fought to make reason of his situation. He tried to feel, focusing on his body parts, or where he suspected them to be, and tried to imagine wiggling his pinky finger on his right hand. He didn’t know if it moved, or if it was just his mental image of his finger moving, but he felt something warm around his right side, nowhere in particular except for that general location.

The warmth began to encircle him, moving around him counterclockwise at a sluggish speed, passing his sightless eyes. Wha- His body convulsed in pain, all of his feeling rushing back to him, overwhelming his senses. He violently twitched, and realized that he was encapsulated in some sort of liquid. His throat, scratchy and sore, had something stuck in it, and with his weakened hand he reached up to his mouth, fingers wrapping around a ribbed tube attached to a mouthpiece strapped to his face. He moved his dainty fingers up the mouthpiece and onto his face, feeling some sort of strap or rubber band going up his head. His digits followed it behind his head, where it split into a Y, going under each of his eyes before connecting back at the mouthpiece again. He had a feeling that if he removed that, he’d drown.

His movements caused bubbles of air trapped under his limbs to float up, and the veil of darkness covering his eyes was pierced due to the bubble’s movement, leading him to guess that he had been staring in that spot for a very, very long time. He raised his hand into view, which was only possible by bringing it almost right up to his face due to how murky the liquid was, and saw that some sort of light was being cast down from above his head, and when he swiveled his neck to look upwards saw some sort of vague brightness through the liquid above his head. The liquid by the way was a light teal, and Kolt swished his unstiffened hand around in it a few times. It was warm, and Kolt hoped that his bladder didn’t just relieve itself.

Sticking out his hand in front of him, his fingers pressed against some sort of surface, which he assumed was glass or something else see-through as light was coating his body, not as intense as the one above his head however. When he slid his hand around on the surface, he felt it curve around him, and he thought, what, am I in a test tube like some sort of guinea pig? No offence to guinea pigs by the way.

He turned a few times, his head limited by the movement of the tube in his mouth that reached down his esophagus, and he decided to follow it with his fingers and find where it went. He leaned over, reaching past his toes as his body rotated slightly in the liquid, and felt that the tube eliminated into some sort of cold flooring, most likely metal. His hand traversed the floor of the cylinder Kolt was trapped in, but he found nothing of interest. He just floated there, trying to figure out what he was supposed to do. Am I trapped? Wait, am I naked? He reached down and sure enough, there was his prized family jewels and, ahem, bayonet. What the hell, I AM naked! He put his hand back on the glass, and began to lightly slam it against it, making a few muffled thumps.

A muffled humming noise soon filled his eardrums, and it felt like the water around him was irritatingly vibrating. Ugh, his skin felt weird. He tried to turn around, as to try and see where the humming was coming from, but he couldn’t; his lower body was stuck in place. He bent over again, reaching towards the floor. Was something wrapped around him?

He found nothing, and reached behind him. He felt some sort of large, thick tube, and didn’t even bother to see where it attached to before sharply yanking on it.

His ass hurt more. A lot more.

Maybe if his butt already hurt, he shouldn’t have pulled on the thing that, wait a second…

Letting out a muffled cry and bringing his hand onto his butt, the tube did indeed violate him, which just soooo greaaaat. As I was saying, he shouldn’t have tugged on it, but this was not a time for thinking. This was a time of doing. Kolt grumbled before trying again, grimacing from the pain, and, well, I won’t go into anymore detail but he got it out. His butt was on fire, but he felt considerably less penetrated, at least through that entrance; The tube down his throat was still agitating.

 

While he was pulling the excrement tube out of his ass, Kolt didn’t notice that the liquid surrounding him was slowly lowering, and after the deed was done he noticed that the top of his head felt quite cold and not as wet. Reaching up, his rubbed the top of his head, and touched the freezing metal on top of the cylinder. The liquid slowly receded below his hand, then his wrist, and then his forearm. It drained past Kolt’s eyes, allowing him to look around.

The cylinder was opaque, yet he could see orbs of light shining through all him, and when he cocked his head to the side, none behind him. Probably a wall, he thought. He kicked the glass and then flinched, pitifully reaching for his now-sore toes.

The glass cylinder around Kolt suddenly split vertically in half, each side popping away from each other before slowly falling to the floor. Kolt covered his crotch with his hand, and squinted at the blurry figure standing in front of him.

A tired female voice spoke up.

“Welcome back to the land of the semi-living, Privateer Saudwell.”

“Ecksss hrivateer.” Kolt growled through the mouthpiece, unable to pronounce P because he still had a tube down his esophagus and a rebreather-like device smashed onto his face. He tried to take a step forward, but his limbs felt like jelly, and he collapsed. Familiar darkness enveloped him.

 

As the cargo ship landed on the soft soil of the clearing, the engines scorching the grass and leaving large black circles under them and filling the air with the smell of smoking vegetation, the rear-mounted ramp, flush with the ship, popped open and began to lower itself onto the ground before the craft had even landed.

Once the landing engines had set themselves on the ground, the ramp smashed down onto the dirt, and reverberated as dozens of pairs of feet stampeded across it and onto the ground. Lagomorphs of various sizes, shapes, and colors crouched around the craft, scanning the treeline with the barrels of their varied rifles. They were all relatively young, maybe at average twenty years old, and every single one of them was too stupid to realize the gravity of their actions.

The LRG was nothing more than an insurgency comprised of dumb Mormon farm boys lead by malicious old farts, but Hoji, the self-titled rabbit samurai hired by  to eliminate their current greatest threat, didn’t care what they did-as long as they didn’t get in his way.

Stepping down the ramp with his hand on the pommel of his uchigatana, a modern reproduction but still sharp enough to slice through unarmored limbs, he looked over the troops.

“They’ll stay here and set up a FOB while you go an’ eliminate your target.” The captain of the ship said as he walked out of the cargo hold and up to Hoji, a short brown rabbit that Hoji dwarfed in comparison. “And I hope you can do it; if he gets up-”

“You’ll have hell to pay, I know, I know. This, Kolt fellow, seems to not have a liking for lagomorphs based on his previous assignments.” Hoji had read up what he could on the Aldearian; he had multiple times single-handedly taken down attempted uprisings in The Gap, and with brutal efficiency. “I’m glad he’s asleep; killing him will be pathetically easy.”

“I just hope that means we don’t have to be here long… We don’t want anything to do with Earth, and to be honest,” The captain looked around at the vegetation surrounding them, “It just feels wrong here. I don’t know why.”

Hoji himself glanced at the tall trees, towering over the small clearing the group had landed in, blotting out the rising sun and casting beams of light onto Hoji and the others. His ears flicked, and with a side-eyed glance at the captain, muttered, “I feel inclined to agree.”

Hoji left the group shortly afterwards, beginning his trek towards Trepin; they had landed in Baden-Württemberg, Germany’s south-western state, and, with a compass in hand, Hoji was out south for Trepin. It was only a few miles out so it wouldn’t take long, and he liked the geography of Germany. Lots of fields, pretty trees, it was even a clear day; in order to stay concealed however, he was forced to stay in the trees, and when he came along a road, watched for a few minutes as cars passed by until he decided that he had a good enough opening.

Hoji was very much wanted by the authorities; he was responsible for quite a large amount of decapitations over the last few years. However he would never admit that, of the people he assassinated, he only accepted contracts on morally weak and nervous people. They would be easier to ambush, or when he was caught, would convince to have a sword fight, letting them borrow his smaller katana. Having his opponent take the katana however was actually a tactic on his part; the katana was ancient, made of fine quality steel and sharpened so it could slice off someone’s finger if they lightly pressed it against the blade. It was used by his ancestors from before the 19th century, so seeing someone not of his bloodline handle it made the mentioned blood boil in his veins, and considering that most of the population of the GSS hasn’t even seen a bladed weapon bigger than a knife, the mass majority of people Hoji ‘dueled’ usually ended up somehow sinking the katana into their own flesh through wild flailing.

After about half an hour of hiking, he began to hear the typical sounds of an Earth city; people talking, cars humming and sputtering, horns honking, bloodcurdling screams, gunfire, the usual. But before he left the treeline and made his way into the city, he had to disguise himself, and as such called his contact in Trepin with his PDA and scheduled a clothing drop outside the city, which would waste another half an hour of his time, but it’d be preferable to wear some comfortable clothing than to be shot on sight by trigger happy keepers of the peace.

He carved twigs into vaguely blade-like shapes with his normal katana, showing a complete disregard for its condition and almost slicing off his fingers a few times. Deciding that was dumb, he sheathed his katana in its holster, which sat directly above the larger holster for his uchigatana, both situated on the left side of his body and attached to his belt. He watched birds tweet and flap around above him, one almost pooping on him but thankfully missing by mere inches, and he cursed at it as it flew away, swinging his now-unsheathed katana in the air like a fool. He had no formal sword training to speak of, and he mostly emulated what he saw samurai doing in old 100+ year old black and white samurai films. But he still had some innate skill.

Wait, does watching movies even count as sword training?

Hoji was fairly certain it did.

He sat back down, and went back to grumbling.

 

Trepin hadn’t changed at all when Winter returned to it by plane in early May. She and Theo ping-ponged between checking up on Kolt, swapping every two weeks. The two didn’t like having to burn away their vacation days, but Theo was permanently worried about Kolt, and Winter was permanently worried about Theo, who she had grown close to in the last six months, him having helped her go sober. She even got a little coin for that feat!

She decided to go down to Reichenau after getting her hotel reservation in, which, unlike the part of the city attached to the peninsula, had a small amount of actual skyscrapers. Her flight had landed at about five, so the sky was already dimming, and as Winter got onto the road leading to one of the bridges over to Reichenau, she noticed as the lights of buildings around her either dimmed or shut off entirely, and strangely, even the street lights shut off for a moment. The line of cars to stalled as people suddenly couldn’t see as well, but Winter had expected this.

And then they turned back on, instead of it casting an orange light on the street, the light was a bright blue, and Winter, having not actually experienced this event first hand as she usually stayed indoors past six, pulled her car to the side of the road before leaning on her steering wheel, leaning forward to look up and around her with widened eyes, watching in amazement as the whole atmosphere around her suddenly shed its clothing faster than a rabbit in heat. The exteriors of buildings previously thought to be abandoned lit up with stealthily-hidden neon signs, sewer grates in alleyways opened up to reveal multicolored lights coming from inside from literal underground casinos, and the doors of strip clubs opened to waiting groups of youths as the curtains in the windows were pulled back to reveal scantily-clad women of various species’ swinging on poles, smiling brightly in the dark as the light from the streetlights illuminated them, and peering into the club Winter noticed that it was almost pitch black inside, and decided that she better head in and see if anything illegal is happening, which totally doesn’t give her an excuse to go look at tits, no sir. She parked her car and hopped out, almost instantly absorbed by the crowd.

She had an almost unnervingly wide grin stuck on her face as she waltzed into the strip club, almost pushed in by the other horny patrons, who were now flooding into the venue around her, her stoic form practically parting the sea of sweaty, horny males (and a few equally sweaty and horny females). The stage that had the strippers (and their poles) had the edges marked by purple fluorescent tubes, an obvious safety hazard, but she chuckled when saw someone put their hand on it, yelp, and then pull away their hand quickly. Maybe a safety measure of some sort? She looked around the establishment as she walked to a booth, noting the lack of security cameras and any sort of guards. She should write them up for that; someone might go after the strippers, even with the burning lights!

And, speak of the devil, someone did. A blabbering raccoon, already drunk out of his mind, tried to clamber onto the stage, completely ignoring the sizzling flesh on his hands as he pulled himself up by the purple lights and mumbling how he was gonna ‘wreck that fockin’ ass’ to a very unamused and very curvy skunk with a brown pompadour who, with a flick of her tail, connected her go go boot-wearing heel with his face in a magnificent roundhouse kick, just barely clearing the stripper pole with her leg and knocking the raccoon off the stage before spitting some sort of curse word in French. So that’s why there’s no security, Winter thought in amusement, noting that HE came after HER, so there was no crime committed except the crime of making a police officer laugh to herself in a booth. She relaxed, watching the raccoon crawl away with burnt hands, and her eyes drifted to the fluorescent lights. Her vision faded, and she felt reality disappear.

 

May, 2073

“Winter.”

“WINTER!”

Winter shook her head, knocked out of her daze by the yelling. Reed took his hand off of her shoulder and sat on his desk. “Almost lost you there, y’alright?”

Winter put a hand on her face and groaned. “Yeah, yeah i’m fine, just dozed off, what is it?”

“I just came back from forensics, got the fingerprint analysis results. Turns out, someone forgot to put on their murder gloves.” He dropped the file on his table as Winter rose from her chair, scratching her stiff behind as she leaned over. “Two fingerprints on the gun, the pinky and ring finger, the ring finger print smudged, as if he wiped it with something before tossing the gun.”

Winter raised an eyebrow. “Fingerprints? The killer was Robert?”

Reed nodded. “Yep, the idiot decided to kill Jane himself. Why do humans always think that we don’t know how to find fingerprints?” Most people assumed that, because no anthromorphs HAD fingerprints, GSS law enforcement wouldn’t try to look for those in crimes, but they still did, mostly out of a fervent desire to jail every human they saw in exchange for the crimes perpetrated by them over one hundred years ago and also because they looked ugly. Winter herself shuddered at the mental images the history books gave; closed-off camps with little to no food and water, summary execution for the littlest things, and the inmates were even TOLD it was best for them to just kill themselves. And also the pictures of humans. Eugh, terrible creatures. She was glad the country those atrocities came from was now a nuclear husk.

Winter ran one of her large hands over her neat haircut. “I dunno Reed, but at least we can make an arrest now. I’ve been waiting to get this case over with for months.”

“Same, i’ll get my armor and we’re outta here.”

Winter left the precinct and stood next to Reed’s cruiser as the other put on their Enforcer gear, taking a few magazines of traumatic rubber slugs for his large paradox-rifled handgun, a special gun that shared the namesake of the Enforcers, not to be confused with the improved model of the Automag, before meeting Winter outside. The foxes got into the cruiser and promptly drove out of the parking lot of the police station. “Got your rubber bullets?” Reed asked Winter, who pulled the heel release of her P220 and revealed that it was indeed loaded with rubber bullets, causing the other fox to smirk. “Good, glad you didn’t forget this time.”

“That was two years ago, Reed, and I got cleared of it. You’re never gonna let me forget, are you?”

“Yep, mainly because I wish I was the one who forgot my rubber bullets that day. And also because it’s funny to see you get flustered.” Winter rolled her eyes as Reed laughed. “We should be there soon though, and I take Robert for a runner, considering that he’s got property out in the Caribbean AND the Bahamas along with three private planes.”

“And four private helicopters.” Added Reed.

“And two gyrocopters.” Replied Winter.

“And seven cars.” Added Reed again.

“And a bicycle.” Winter quipped.

Reed pulled his cruiser in front of the millionaire’s home, pulling out his handgun and sliding the wide magazine into the funneled grip and racking the large bolt mechanism, required for the gun’s special shortened 20 gauge ammunition, while Winter did the same with her P220. The pair opened their doors and stepped out of their car before apprehensively walking up the steps of Robert’s mansion.

Robert Alf was a human American millionaire currently living in rural Germany, where Reed and Winter were assigned, a lucky stock broker who managed to sell most of his stocks before the stock market crash of 2065, and while everyone else floundered, he flourished, and he had recently gotten into the house-selling market as well, making quite the pretty penny. He had recently been under the watchful eye of the public after a feline maid who worked at his mansion, Jane Gerter, was found shot to death in an alleyway only a few miles from his mansion, having been raped by someone wearing a condom before being executed. The gun was found in a nearby storm drain, most of the prints degraded, and what was left took a while to pull from the collected gunk and sludge, but now, they had definitive proof that he raped and killed her.

Winter walked up to the regal-looking wooden front doors of the mansion, unzipping her Marshall jacket and putting her hands on her hips as Reed pushed the button underneath the intercom next to the doors, asking after the buzz, “Mister Alf, we’ve had a breakthrough in the investigation we think you might want to know about, it’s Detective-Inspector Reed and Marshal Winter.” Reed turned to Winter and said, “Let’s see how quickly he catches on.”

“Hopefully quickly, I wanna shoot something.” Answered Winter, adjusting her jacket so she could easily grab her handgun if need be.

A white lagomorph doe answered the door, dressed in the same maid uniform Jane wore when she worked there. “Meester Alf vill be right down in a meeneet,” She said in a strong German accent, “But, he told me to let you two een anyvays, and bring you to ze living room. Please, follow me.” The officers exchanged glances, Reed shrugging his armored shoulders, before they followed the lagomorph inside. The entry hall was quite simple, with red-colored wooden walls and marble floor tiles, a staircase to the pair’s right that led to an indoor balcony. The pair saw Robert peer over the banister of the balcony, before ducking away when he was spotted.

“Robert.” Called Winter.

“J-Just a minute!”

Winter rolled her eyes and turned to her companion, asking, “How much do you bet he’s loading a gun right now?”

“How much do you bet it’s a shotgun?”

“Twelve Forands.”

“Deal.” The pair continued to follow the maid into a spacious living room, Winter sitting on the couch while Reed chose the love seat. Winter sighed and began to twiddle her fingers, listening to the stomping and shuffling above their heads. “So, Reed. You gonna watch the game tonight?”

“Of course, why wouldn’t I?”

“True. Gonna stay home or…”

Reed nodded as a loud thump from above sent vibrations through the furniture. “Don’t like alcohol, and the other guys aren’t heading to the bar anyways. What about you?”

Winter just shrugged. “I THINK i’ll be going to the bar, but,” Another thump, “Okay i’m done waiting, let’s go.” She stood up off the couch at the same time as Reed, and when the pair tried to walk back into the entry hall, the lagomorph maid stopped them.

“No no no,” She shook her head, “You stay he-URGH” Winter shoved her to the side and drew her handgun. The pair walked up the stairs and onto the balcony, towards the door where the loud noises were coming from, and they each stood on either side of the door. Reed counted down from 3 with his fingers, and on 1, he kicked the door open.

“FREE*POW*”! He fell on his ass from the force of the shotgun pellets slamming into his armor, the wind knocked out of him but otherwise okay, and Winter shot Robert thrice in the chest with her handgun. The rubber bullets impacting the human’s dress shirt caused him to yell in pain, his shotgun clattering to the floor as he crumpled to the ground, and Winter walked into the home office and kicked the gun away.

“You okay Reed?” She asked over her shoulder, gun pointed at Robert’s head.

“Guh, never better. N-Not payin’ you twelve Forands though.” The other fox coughed before standing back up, adjusting his armored vest, which was now speckled with a smattering of circular dents. “Thank god my ribs feel fine, but that’s gonna leave a bruise. Oh, and so is this.” He shot Robert in the chest with a beanbag as the man laid sprawled out on the floor, which caused him to yelp and curl into a fetal position. “How’re yah doin’, Robert?”

The human just sniffled. “Oh god, oh god…” He was an older man, easily in his 50s with hair beginning to gray, and the two foxes stared down on him with complete disgust. Rapists are always pathetic, Winter thought, complete cowards who take people by surprise just to get their rocks off. He should be glad we only brought beanbags, Reed mused as he looked around the office. File cabinets were pulled open and the screen of Robert’s personal computer was now jutting a stapler out the front of it. A bunch of papers were jammed into the top of a jammed shredder, Robert having put too many in it at once, and THIS is what caught Reed’s attention.

As Winter cuffed him, the Detective-Inspector walked up to the jammed shredder, holstering his gun and pulling off the top, wrenching free some of the papers Robert had shoved into it, only slightly shredded and still completely legible. He set the papers out on Robert’s desk and read over them: bank transactions to his account, huge ones at that, a few dozen THOUSAND Forands each. “These sure don’t look like legitimate busine-” He spotted a blue piece of paper wedged between two other non-important looking papers and grabbed them, tearing off the staple holding them together and looking over the blue paper. “Jesus, christ…” It was an official INTERPOL report, one that been the victim of a desk officer with a love for stamping things ‘classified’ as it had seven different ‘classified’ stamps on it. It was almost written like a thank-you note, commending Robert for his help in… SOMETHING, and telling him that, if he kept it up, the financial rewards would only increase with time. He turned to Winter and the cuffed human, who Winter had sat up. “The hell is this?” He asked, and Robert’s eyes widened in fear.

“Oh god I can’t tell you, you don’t even know what they’ll do to m-“

“Shut up.” Reed pulled out his gun and shot Robert in the chest with another beanbag, and Winter put a leg behind the human so he wouldn’t topple over again, wishing she could shoot him as well. The INTERPOL Enforcer crouched down, holding the paper up to Robert’s face. “What, the hell, is this.”

“I-It’s, it’s payment okay!”

“For. What.”

“R-Real estate! I gave them houses, they give me money! I I I I d-don’t know why they want the properties but they they they ask for them and I gotta give them the places or else they’ll, they’l-“

“Who is ‘they’?”

Robert stared up at Reed with wide, frightened eyes. “You. INTERPOL.”

Reed rubbed his brow with two fingers after he holstered his gun again. “You’re saying that INTERPOL was asking you to sell them houses in exchange for money, or they’ll…?”

“T-They would’ve, arrested me. For somethin’ I did in the past. The crash of 2065…” The human looked down, ashamed of himself, before asking in a sullen tone. “So they must’ve sent you guys to silence me, huh?”

Reed was completely and utterly confused. “Silence you? No, we’re here to arrest you for the rape and murder of Jane Gerter, your old nurse! Winter, get him on his feet.” Winter helped Robert up while Reed rolled up the paper, feeling his gut sink inwards whenever he looked at that signature blue paper. This didn’t sit right with him, but Winter was too busy focusing on the task at hand to care.

“W-What? Murder, rape!” Robert was at a loss for words. “I, I, WHY would I murder or, eugh, RAPE her?”

“I dunno, creep, guess you’ll have to tell us at the station. Let’s go, Reed.” Winter grabbed Robert by the handcuffs and collar, leading him out of the office. Reed looked down at the discarded shotgun Robert had tried to kill him with. Good guess, Winter.

Winter was about to shove Robert into the back of Reed’s cruiser when Reed put a gloved hand on her shoulder. “Hillary, wait.”

Winter turned her head and raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“Throw Robert on the ground, I need to let off some steam.” Winter knew what he meant and smirked, pulling Robert out of the back seat and flinging him to the floor. The man opened his mouth to ask what the officers were doing, but the pair already had drawn their guns and pointed them at him, Reed’s smoothbore handgun dwarfing Winter’s P220, and the pair unloaded the rest of their magazines of rubber bullets into the man. “That’s how I feel about rapists.” Sighed Reed before blowing away the smoke from the barrel of his gun, and Robert wallowed in a puddle of his own pee as large welts started to grow on his face and the rest of his body underneath his clothing.

When the pair got into the car, Winter noticed that her partner, although seemingly cheered up by their steam-letting, still looked quite out-of-it. “You okay?” She asked after starting the car, nudging Reed with her elbow.

“Fine, fine, just, thinking about things.” He pulled the rolled-up piece of paper out of his pocket, holding it up in front of the windshield. “A lot of things.” {A}

 

Winter blinked, and she remembered where she was. Right, the club, raccoon, skunk stripper. She watched the raccoon roll around on the floor, crying to himself and cradling his blistered hands. Pathetic. I should get a drink. She flagged down a skimpily-dressed ‘waitress’ holding a tray of drinks. “I want half of whatever is on that tray. Yes, half.”

 

Kolt’s eyes fluttered open, and he noticed that he didn’t feel a breeze on his family jewels anymore, in fact, he was fully clothed! He shook his head, and realized he was in fact sitting in a chair, slouched back a little bit from his body slowly sliding off. He blinked a few times, and squinting at the bare metal table in front of him, and then the black window to his right. One-way window, metal table, uncomfortable chair? Kolt knew where he was, but the question was, why? Unknown to him, a man stood on the other side of the glass, writing down notes on a clipboard, but that doesn’t matter currently.

He looked down at his hands, his heavily scarred right one just like how it was when he shot himself, his left one missing entirely, and he cocked his head while looking at the metal ring attached to his stump. He pointed his stump at his face, looking at the circular formation of sharp blades, a portcullis of sorts, behind which was Kolt’s open veins and fresh blood, waiting to pour out and into the synthetic veins of his prosthetic arm. Well, if he had one. If he just opened it now he would start to spray blood all over the damn room, and Kolt was seriously considering doing that.

He laid his arm and stump on the table, looking around. Interrogation room, he internally mused, butt is hurting, arm is missing, neck is irritated, chest feels heavy, that’s just gre-wait, what’s this? He reached up and wrapped his fingers around the metal collar clasped around his hood’s neck (and by extension, his neck), which, while big and heavy, didn’t limit the movement of his head. Oh god, am I in Saw? I shouldn’t have watched those old horror movies with Theo…

“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you.” A female fox with an unamused face said as she walked into the room; she wore a green suit with a long skirt of the same color along with a matching beret, and clutched a clipboard in one hand hand. {A} Kolt looked down at her uncovered legs, fighting back the urge to whistle, and then down at his chest; he wore a bulky jacket, the same color as the clothes the lady had on. Olive drab. The official color of the GSS, but if that didn’t convince him enough that the government was involved, the big ‘GSS’ patch attached to the beret did. He thought for a moment. This didn’t seem very much like Saw to him, but the vixen was kinda cute; maybe it’s the porn parody? Kolt hoped it was the porn parody. He liked po-wait what why was he thinking like this.

He shook his head and grimaced at how much he ached. “What is this?” He asked as he looked back up at the fox, referring to the situation he was in but mostly the big metal thing around his neck.

“A flak jacket, filled with kevlar and anti-shrapnel plates.” Answered the fox very matter-of-factly as she pulled out the chair on the other side of the table and sat down, thumping the clipboard on the table and laying her arms on it.

“No, I mean, why am I here? Is this another dream? A-And what’s this presumably unstylish THING around my neck?”

“It is if you want to believe that. And that’s a bomb collar. Just a precaution.” The fox’s face only moved when she talked or blinked with no visible emotion; Kolt began to unconsciously copy her behaviors, also adorning a poker face. She watched Kolt with squinted eyes as she adjusted her clipboard, and Kolt was a little unnerved, but also slightly aroused, something that surprised himself. Why was he, feeling this way?

“You killed yourself. Or at least, you attempted to. Close your mouth and try to breathe in.”

Kolt gave her a confused look, raising an eyebrow. “Uh, why?” When she didn’t respond, he shrugged and did so. He heard a loud sucking noise come from next to his right eardrum from the top of his head, and something disgusting and acidic dripped onto his tongue. “What in the goddamn..?” He spat out the brain fluid, before reaching up towards where he heard the sucking noise coming from.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” The fox sighed as she watched Kolt grab the top of his head. He brushed his fingers over the spot where he heard the noise coming from, and his hand recoiled and he jumped when he felt one of his fingers suddenly poke into a hole on his head, and the pain from that reverberated through his head, like a wave of fire.

{A}

“WHAT THE FUUUUUUCK!” He screamed through gritted teeth as he kicked his leg from the pain, smashing his hand on the table and denting it.

The fox looked down at her clipboard. “That is a bullet hole, Mister Saudwell. As I said earlier, you tried to kill yourself.”

“Yeah, i’m, guh, aware of that now.” Rubbing his head, he sighed, “Let me guess, you’re with the GSS, as is evident by your lack of style and color variation in your outfit, and yah fixed me up and now want me to suck your naughty bits as compensAAGH!” Kolt’s head exploded in pain and jolted back, another much worse wave of pain ripping through his skull. He convulsed in the seat, pelvis jutting forward and feet slipping on the metal floor as he slid off his chair, hitting his jaw against the table as he fell. It felt like his entire head was melting, and he tried to yell out another expletive but instead let out a few panicked gasps for air as his limbs shook. The fox looked down at him with no pity, checked her watch, and went back to watching Kolt spasm on the floor. And as soon as it had started, the pain was gone. Kolt blinked a few times, and got to his feet. “What the fuck was that.” He asked in a deadpan voice.

“Brain damage. You knocked a pretty good portion of your brain out of your head, but you’re still usable.”

“Usable?” Okay now he was REALLY aroused, the blood rushing from his head dramatically lowering his IQ and making him focus on his horniness, a new way of thinking for him. “Usable for what?”

The woman grumbled and adjusted the papers in her hand. “Mister Saudwell, it took over seven hours to keep you alive. The bullet from your gun caused tremendous damage, and two of those hours were spent trying to put the back of your head together, as it turned into, what would you say, a damn bloody flower.”

Kolt touched the back of his head. It felt more bumpy and misshapen than before. “Okay, I guess it’s fair for me to help you guys in exchange for saving my life, even though, it WAS a suicide attempt. What makes you so sure I won’t just shoot myself again?”

“You had been suffering from clinical depression beforehand, but, the only reason you lept from ‘less cheery than usual’ to ‘thinking that eating a gun would be nice’ is because at the time you had been out drinking and accepting strange pills from strangers like usual. Mister Saudwell, your suicide attempt was the result of a drunken, drug-addled mind. Besides, you seem competent enough.”

Kolt reached into his pants and rubbed his sore balls, head still throbbing. His head-head, not the other one. That throbbed for another reason, and Kolt asked, “Does my penis still work?”

“Yes Kolt, it still works, although i’d suggest you keep it in your pants as i’m trained in Krav Maga, taekwondo, and have a gun currently pointed at your genitals.”

Kolt leaned to the side and looked under the table.“Oh, you do. Allllllroighty then, what’s the job, doll?”

 

“Come on now, on your feet.”

Winter nudged the drunken raccoon with her foot, and after waiting a few seconds, they managed to place a hand on the floor in preparation for pushing themselves up, but they yipped when they realized, hey, my hand is burnt as shit!

“Oh fffockin’ chroist!” They sputtered in English. A New Irishman? They’re a bit far from the Shattered Isles, thought Winter. “Eh, don’t kick me anymore yah fock, oi’m getting up!” Fighting through the pain, they managed to scramble to their feet, dusting off their brown jacket. “Ehh… who’re you?”

“A police officer,” She grabbed him by the arm, “Who’s taking you out to get some fresh air.”

“Oi, get off may!” He tried to weakly struggle, but gave up seconds later. Winter made good on her promise and pulled him outside to the curb, and let go of the raccoon’s arm. He immediately fell to his knees, coughed, and then let out a stream of vomit into a storm drain. Winter let out an ‘ugh’ as she watched, crossing her arms and looking away, mainly at how familiar the sight was; She had been in his position many, many times before.

After wiping spit and vomit off his face with the sleeve of his jacket and standing back up, Winter noticed something about him that she didn’t notice in the dark light nightclub: he was tiny. Maybe four feet nine inches at most, but he was the size of a kid. Come to think of it, he DID appear to be tiny compared to the stripper, but at the time Winter just attributed that to the stripper being tall as heck. “Wot,” He hiccuped, “Wot d’ you want? Am, am oi under arrest?”

“SHOULD you be under arrest? I DID see you harass that stripper.”

“DON’T, *hic*, GIVE ME THAT BOWELSHIT! S-SHE HIT MAY, OI DIDN’T HIT HYER!”

“Calm down, christ… I’m not gonna arrest you, alright, just, pull yourself together. I’m Marshal Winter.”

“Oi don’t fokin’ care ‘hoo you ah.” He gurgled, rubbing the side of his wide face with a blistered palm before grimacing and looking at his hand. “Oh goddamnit, *hic*.” He looked at both of his hands, pieces of his paw pads peeling back, the scent of burnt flesh wafting up to his nose. “Fockin’…”

“Normally i’d tell you to get home on your own,” Interjected Winter, “But considering that you’re obviously intoxicated and unable to use your hands, mind if I give you a ride?”

“Sure, wotever, goddamni-wait why?”

“You’re obviously intoxicated and unable to use your hands.”

“Oh, yeah…”

The raccoon fussed a little about crawling into the passenger seat of a strange lady’s car, pretty sure they were going to be probably sold to slavers or arrested or something else along those lines, but finally managed to pull themselves inside. Winter lowered herself into the driver’s seat and closed the door on her side, reaching over and closing the passenger’s door after the raccoon, who was too busy muttering curses under his breath and mourning his burnt hands, left it wide open. She buckled him in too, and noticing that he absolutely REEKED, both of alcohol and general body odor. She was thankful the car they were in was rented, and not her own. “Where do you live? Can I have an address?” He begrudgingly provided an address, and she nodded before pulling out her PDA and entering the address with one hand and turning ignition with the other. After bringing the car back on the main road and beginning to drive down it towards the bridge in the distance, she asked, “So, why were you heckling the strippers?”

“Oi dunno.”

She turned and looked down at the raccoon. “Gonna need a bit more of an answer than that.”

“Oi was drunk ‘n horny, moi moind get’s a little fuzzy and oi do dumb shit, that good enough for you?”

“Yep.”

The two were silent for about five minutes, Winter listening to the car’s growl and hum as they drove, the raccoon just looking out the passenger’s window with his arms crossed, a pissy look on his face, one of the corners of his mouth stained with fresh vomit.

“What’s your name?” Winter asked when they got to a stop sign, quickly glancing down at the raccoon before focusing on the road again.

“Whoiy should oi tell you?”

“I dunno, just wanted to help ease the tension in here.”

The raccoon kept staring out the window. “Oi’ll tell once you get me home.”

“Alright, grumpy.”

This little event had given Winter a reason to visit more of the city in the night; it was like someone had taken chunks of different cities from different time periods and dropped it on top of Trepin. Women of the night prowled the streets looking for victims to steal money and virginity from, men in black tracksuits were perched in squats on every surface imaginable in wide alleyways, street musicians who had hats brimming with money next to them played saxophones as people feverishly danced around them, completely enveloped by the music; she had never seen a city with such active citizens. Everyone was too busy nowadays sitting at home listening to records or watching television, at least, everyone in SPACE was. On Earth, people actually LIVED. Winter was used to lifeless space stations, occupied by stiff, uncaring inhabitants. She was also used to walking everywhere instead of driving, standing in elevators instead of taking escalators, and getting coffee dispensed from machines instead of from street vendors. More automation and less ‘interactivity’. It felt odd, and sort of nice in its own way, but nothing beats the nightlife.

The car rounded a corner, and she turned to the raccoon again. “I really, really would like to know your name.”

“Too bad.”

“Come on! I’m driving you home, the least you could do is tell me what people call you.”

“…”

The raccoon gave Winter a passing glance. “It’s… Eddy.”

“Eddy? Okay. See, that wasn’t so bad. It’s, just like pulling teeth.” Okay it wasn’t like pulling teeth.

Eddy just gave her a confused look before going back to brooding with his body half-sunken into the seat.

Winter wondered about the stars.

 

The next day, Theo was busy trying to enjoy life after completing his most recent assignment, and also an aerobics class. He had donned his pink arm and leg warmers, tied his hair into a ponytail, and pulled on his green leotard (with white skintight leggings of course), and was busy stretching his legs out when, of course, his bag started to ring across the room. As the other people in the class looked at Theo in annoyance, he quickly unstretched his legs and unstrapped himself from the mat so he could float over to his bag and pull out his PDA.

A missed call from an unknown number with an area code he hadn’t seen before. He excused himself from the class and snuck off to a corner in the health club, calling back the strange number. “Hello? Theo Yanni here, you called my number?”

“Idi…” A weathered feminine voice crowed, “You don’t call anymore!”

Oh god, this bitch again, Theo thought; he instantly hung up and groaned. He quickly got his clothes together and drifted through the fitness club, which encapsulated most of the station. It was a place to stretch out stiff and tired bones and fight the effects of microgravity, quite popular among Privateers as their job usually requires them taking long, arduous trips across the galaxy, sometimes sitting in their ships for weeks on end although that’s not healthy.

Theo shrugged on his black overcoat as he floated out of the fitness club, grabbing onto the bars surrounding the open doorway and maneuvering himself towards the coffee machine outside. He stopped in front of it and stuffed a small blue hand into one of the pockets on his overcoat, pulling out a Forand and sliding it into the slot on the side of the device. A cartoonish fox face was plastered on the yellow-colored front of the machine, which was similar to a vending machine, and the words ‘Fawkses’ Mini Brewery!’ were splattered above the head in curvy red text. The machine buzzed, and a cylinder on the side of it turned around and ejected Theo’s coffee, which was inside a plastic packet with a shiny exterior and that same cartoonish fox’s face plastered on it, which Theo made sure to hold over when he grabbed it so he didn’t have to ever look at it again. He gnawed off the plastic cap sealing the straw, spitting it out and beginning to down the coffee, completely black stuff and still searing hot, but he didn’t really mind it as he had melted away his tastebuds in preparation, and after he finished his drink he stuffed the now-crumpled packet into a suction trash can, which slurped the packet inside and almost took off a few of Theo’s fingers.

“What a safety hazard.” He scoffed as he pushed off the trash can with his foot, sliding his bag onto his left shoulder and grabbing onto one of the padded rungs on the wall, narrowly dodging a brown feline drifting towards the gym carrying their own bag of gym clothes. Theo crawled and floated his way back to the docking bay, a long hallway with a series of crescent-shaped, bench-like objects jutting from the left wall, a small pedestal next to each with a few buttons on top. Theo drifted towards the console he had rented and pulled the lever on it, and the crescent-shaped object split down the middle and slid into the floor, revealing the cockpit of his space craft. He pulled out his PDA and remotely opened the canopy, crawling in and stuffing his bag in the co-pilots seat, where Kolt usually sat, but before Theo cracked open his Privateer helmet and connected the ship’s oxygen supply to it, he glanced back at the empty seat. He was scared that it would never feel Kolt’s warm alien buttcheeks on it again. There were even indents from how many times Kolt had sat in the leather-covered seat!

Theo winced, rubbing his forehead, before hinging open his helmet and putting it on. Nah, don’t think about that. Think about how SHE called you again. “UuuuuuuUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGH.” He was not happy. “How did she find me number AGAIN!” Six number changes later and she still rang his phone every few weeks, ‘she’ being the living incarnation of his past life. Theo started the engine of his ship and detached it from the docking port, gravity disappearing in an instant as his feet started to drift off of the floor. He’d have to change his number again, great. Tightening the straps that held him into the seat, Theo stretched out his neck and yawned inside the helmet. No, I won’t let this ruin my day, he thought as he typed in the coordinates for Home station, which he had memorized from the hundreds of times he had typed them into the console above the ship’s joystick. He looked up from the screen on the dashboard in front of him, and out into the void.

The stars looked lovely today. But when do they ever not look lovely? He went back to putting in the coordinates.

 

 

Well, Theo thought to himself as he straightened out the yellow note in his hands, I should stick to my schedule!

Groceries (junk food): check.

Yoga at noon: check.

Cry in bed: also check, as the tears on his face were still wet.

Wonder about Kolt for a few hours: oh boy, that was next!

Theo set down the note and flopped back onto his bed and began to wonder about Kolt. This was boring. He reached behind him for the pen and note and marked that off. Now what was next?

As he sat up, he read the last task he had planned for himself: sleep.

No.

Theo decided to go harass Winter, a trip that would take a few days of flying, and after donning his overcoat and quickly packing a bag, he trundled off to the primary docking bay of Home station and zoomed back off into the stars.

Meanwhile, Winter was busy chatting with the caprine at the front desk of the Trepin police department when Eddy stumbled in. “Hillary,” He groaned in a strained voice, “I’m, sorreh.”

“About what, Eddy? And how’d you know that I would be here?”

“Oi had a hunch.”

“Well whatever your problem is, it can wait.” She turned back to the caprine desk officer, who had taken Eddy’s interruption to wipe the large sweat beads off of his face. “As I was sayin’, I caught the guy pants down with a-“

“Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

Winter put a hand to her face and sighed. “Eddy, please, go wait outside. As I was sayin-”

But Eddy relented, grabbing onto Winter’s leg and sliding to his knees, continuing to groan loudly. “Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

“D-Does he do this normally?” Asked the caprine, nervously shifting in his seat.

“Apparently! I’ve only known him for a day.”

gggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

“Eddy, please!” Winter begged, “Stop being annoying!”

Eddy seemed to finally give up, stopping his groaning and getting to his feet with a sad look on his face, and Winter sighed again. “ANYWAYS, I had put the guy in a chokehold whe-”

Eddy suddenly smashed his face onto the reception desk, dragging his mostly-flat face across the counter knocking off a bin of pencils and a cup of coffee, which the caprine just narrowly caught. “Hey, my desk!” They yelled, catching the bin of the pencils and holding it in his arm as he also caught a notepad Eddy bashed off.

Winter grabbed Eddy by his greasy fur on the back of his head and pulled his face off the counter. “Is there a reason why you’re being an ass?”

“Oi-”

“That isn’t you being bored out of your mind, so much that you cause destruction and chaos just to make things interesting?”

“O-Oi got a very important question!” Eddy stuttered. “That oi really gotta tell you!” His accent had lightened up, the booze that caused him to slur his words heavily the day before having been mostly drained through is bladder.

“Tell me then.” Winter asked as she shook the back of his head, causing Eddy to grimace in slight pain.

“Not here mizz Wintah!”

“Are you two, like, having a moment?” Asked the caprine, glancing back and forth at the two. “I can uh, l-leave it you want me t-.”

“Stay.”

“Stay.”

“Oh, okay.” The goat awkwardly sat there and twiddled his thumbs as Winter glared at Eddy and Eddy lazily stared back.

Winter broke Eddy’s gaze by looking at the doors of the precinct, groaning, “I think i’m losing my mind just being here, Eddy. And NOT because of you, T, you’re fine.” The caprine shifted uncomfortably once again, and she turned to Theo. “I can’t stand in a police station for too long, bad memories. Let’s go, Eddy.”

She pushed open the doors of the police station and chucked Eddy onto the pavement, crossing her arms as he scrambled to his feet. “So, Eddy, what the hell do you want?”

“You drink too, roight?”

Winter was taken aback. “What? How the hell do you know that?”

“Oi counted th’ empty bottles in the backseat of your cruisah.”

“You can count?”

“Yes, one, two, three, fou-”

“Enough, heh, enough.” A smile began to creep onto her face, but it quickly disippated. “Still, why are you asking me this?”

Eddy put his bandaged hands in his pocket. “I uh…”

Winter shook her head. “Dude, come on, speak up.”

“Oi need a sponsor for Alcoholics Anonymous.”

Winter rolled her eyes. “Whatever man, go find someone else, I actually have a job unlike you.”

She turned to walk back into the police station, but Eddy yelled, “Wait! Wait, oi know how you can stay here!” Winter looked at Eddy over her shoulder and raised an eyebrow, and the raccoon sighed, “Oi… may have some connections to a drug ring.”

“That’s more like it. How big of a drug ring?”

“Pretty big. Like, uh, twenty, thirty people?”

She smirked. “Good enough for me.”

 

Guard duty. They gave Kolt, guard duty. How degrading. The government woman’s reasoning behind it was to give Kolt something to do as he recovered from his coma, even though they ran him through an obstacle course, firing range test, vigorous workout session, and set of puzzles meant for kindergartners (all failed by the way, meaning that his mental faculties were working like normal) before throwing him onto some military base out in the middle of some bumfuck solar system. And his neck itched a lot. At least they gave him back his arm.

“This is truly, truly, a fate worse than death.” He lamented to himself, bouncing the foregrip of his rifle on his robotic hand. “I’m not even allowed to shoot things!”

Kolt had been assigned to a small planet in a solar system in the Gap, the area between the Milky Way and Andromeda. Andromeda was off limits to anyone and everyone, and for unknown reasons, and if you asked a GSS official about it, they would just shrug. The Gap was a shithole anyways, an oddity of a place with weird traditions and weirder societies; Warren worlds speckle the Gap, colonies for lagomorphs, like hares and rabbits. They breed like crazy, so they turned these worlds into massive warrens, hence the name. A lot of them are covered in titanic cities, usually one big one, with skyscrapers hundreds of stories tall and pollution rampant, but it didn’t matter if a few thousand died each day in the awful atmosphere; a few hundred thousand more are born that very same day. Awful places.

The planet Kolt was on wasn’t that interesting, other than the fact that it had been terraformed like many others; green grass, Earth-like trees, and breathable air. The gravity was close to Earth’s, too. The secret behind terraforming planets is a state secret, but rumor has it the Privateers helped, as they do with pretty much everything. Even though Kolt was an ex-Privateer, he still had no clue the extent of their technology; information was limited to the mere footsoldiers.

With the nearby sun, days only lasted a few hours, and the rest of the twenty-four hour period was a state of perpetual twilight but the light reflecting from a nearby moon bounced onto the planet, giving the fields an eery white glow as each blade of grass reflected back. And of course, with serenity came serendipity, as Kolt was able to watch far-off convoys of trucks and armored fighting vehicles drive down freshly-made roads. There were no civilians on this planet: It was all one big base. Kolt, bored, trained his rifle’s sights on another guard who was walking around the compound, and contemplated just pulling the trigger. He bit his tongue.

“Aaaaagh, fuck this.” Kolt slung his rifle over his back and slid down the ladder that led to his little tower, which was less of a tower, more a chair, a small canopy, and a low wall in front of the chair. Pebbles on the ground under the tower jumped when Kolt’s boots hit the ground, and he began to waltz past the interior gate he was supposed to guard, completely disregarding the orders given to him; stay until sunrise. Well the sun had set about two hours ago so sunrise wasn’t coming for a long, long time.

He waltzed around the facility, some warehouse of some sort, and soon was accosted by a few of the other guards.

“Uhhhh, what are you doing?” A wolf asked, scratching the side of his nose with the front sight of his rifle.

“What’re YOU doin’?” Kolt asked back. The wolf thought about what he was doing, and decided to stop doing it, letting his rifle hang by its sling under his arm.

“Uh, nothing.”

Kolt scoffed at him like he had actual authority, cocking his head back and looking down on him. “Yeah, that’s right.” He stomped on, keeping his broad shoulders straight and making sure he looked intimidating. He didn’t want anyone actually stopping him and asking what he was doing, as he really had no idea what he was doing.

He farted around the outside of the warehouse before spotting a slightly-opened door on the backside of it. Glancing around to make sure the other guards weren’t looking his way, he snuck inside. There were no lights on inside, so Kolt used the weak flashlight installed in his robotic arm to find a light switch, which took like ten minutes because the building was massive and at most he could see like ten feet in front of himself. After blindly scratching his way across the outside edge of the building, he found a switch on the wall, and flicked it on.

Almost immediately, the place lit up, and Kolt had to shield his eyes because it was bright as FUCK. After his eyes adjusted, he squinted and glanced around at the tons of crates around him, some stacks reaching all the way up to the tall ceiling. It was like a maze, a maze of potential goodies, because as soon as Kolt saw the boxes, his brain went to full looting mode.

Crates = goodies.

And about five feet to his left, a crowbar was leaning against a crate. Kolt smiled and rubbed his gay little hands together. “Hoooo boy,” He whistled, “Mommy DOES need a new pair of shoes!”

 

Lots of smashing and crashing later, and Kolt was now adorned in about five pairs of sunglasses not meant for his species, about ten Hawaiian shirts were pulled over his flak jacket, and he had found a matching glove for his robotic hand. He whistled as he stuck his crowbar into the lid of another crate and wrenched it down, the top popping off and the nails previously affixing it to the box flying off to who knows where. When Kolt leaned over, he hooted, “Whaaat the heeeeell? Prototypes?”

Kolt went and read the lid of the crate that he wrenched off:

‘ARMALITE AR-10 8MM PROTOTYPES, FOR TEST USE ONLY’

AR10s? Weren’t those guns from, like, the 1950s? Some weird, ‘space-age’ battle rifles that used plastic and new metals? Why are THEY here? Oh wait, ‘for test  use only’. The GSS was probably just experimenting with them for some stupid dumb reason that Kolt didn’t care about because GUN.

Kolt leaned in and pulled out one of the strange-looking guns. The lack of wood and amount of brown plastic slightly scared him, but he liked the weight. The weird carrying handle-sight thing looked odd, but, strangely, he liked it. What he didn’t like was the charging handle, a little piece at the back of the carrying handle that he had to wrap two fingers around to be able to unlock and pull back. Uncomfortable. “The fuck is this?” He asked in a disappointed tone as he repeatedly yanked back on the charging handle. This must be one of the Dutch models, he thought, proud of his extensive knowledge of firearms, something required for being a Privateer and provided to him by the massive amount of firearms-related writing he had read.

He threw that AR10 back into the crate with no regard to it being an antique and pulled out another. This one had a similar charging handle, but in order to use it he had to unfold a tab on the right side, allowing him to be able to pull back on it with his right hand easily when he shouldered it, but it was still stupid. He put that one back slightly gentlier, and pulled out the last visible variation. “Ah, the classic.” This one had the normal ‘trigger in carrying handle’ style of charging handle, which, while tough to charge by normal people, was just fine for an Aldearian with a robotic hand that could hold up to 400 pounds by itself, not counting his arm strength. It was like one of those Sasuke happy meal figures, but about twenty-thousand times more expensive.

The rifle Kolt was issued was leaning against a crate nearby, silently observing as Kolt molested the AR10. It was a Zastava M48/63, a old bolt-action rifle old from same era as the AR10 but still produced to this day for militas, and if a gun could cry, its stock would’ve been waterlogged by tears by now. Kolt pulled a sling out of the crate, pulled it through the loops on the AR10, and hung it under his shoulder. But as he walked off, he realized he forgot something, and turned back towards the Mauser bolt-action. He walked back over to the crate and took four extra empty magazines, leaving the rifle presumably devastated if it had a conscience. “Don’t want to forget you!” The Mauser, an inanimate object, cried cosmoline tears of happiness when Kolt picked it back up, but it actually didn’t as it was an inanimate object. and he slid its sling over his the same arm he had the stolen AR10 slung over. All was well in the galaxy once again.

He continued to pilfer the warehouse for interesting things, finding nothing really worth taking until he came upon a clearing in the crates. On top of a massive pallet, some large shape was adorned in a tarp. Kolt, his interest piqued, clambered on top of a few crates and onto the pallet, loudly announcing to no one, “Thankfully i’m not a cat, so curiosity probably won’t kill me!” He was feeling quite self-talkative tonight. He yanked off the tarp, and squinted.

“The fuck is this?”

{A}

It was a spaceship.

 

An aircraft of some sort punched out of the top of the warehouse, peeling it open, and zoomed off into the sky. The guard who scratched his face with the front sight of his gun just watched in confusion, before sticking the barrel of his gun up his nose in order to itch it. The other guards just watched from their posts in awe as the swept winged aircraft disappeared into the dark blue sky.

Inside said aircraft, Kolt Saudwell was trying to tear off the clothing he had collected, his AR10 and M48/63 velcroed to the floor in a strap specifically for storing firearms. The g-forces all but smashed him against the aged leather seat, so it was a little tough, but he managed to pull off a few shirts and flick off the sunglasses, and both the discarded shirts and the sunglasses plastered themselves to the wall a foot or so behind Kolt. The cockpit was pressurized and had air running through it, but Kolt still held a facemask to his face as he ascended after getting off his extra clothing. His face scrunched up as the craft shook violently, but after a few seconds, the shaking stopped, and the clouds disappeared as stars blinked ahead. He let the facemask go, watching as it float away from his face, and let out a sigh of relief.

The advanced HUD of the aircraft suddenly flickered and all the complex gauges and numbers disappeared, and the screen on the console in front of him changed from opaque green to pitch black. The vixen that talked to him in the interrogation room and through his rehabilitation appeared on the screen, hand on her beret. “Well we WERE going to give you that craft in order to aid you in your mission, but it seems you’ve taken it before we even told you about it.” She groaned, grimacing a little before adding, “And caused, how much was it again?” She looked at an off-screen notepad. “Ah, yes, multiple thousands of forands in damage, my migraine, and the confusion of the guards at that facility as they had no idea a spaceplane was held inside the now-destroyed warehouse. Also you stole a few sets of clothing, some sunglasses, and an AR10 eight millimeter prototype battle rifle. Care to explain?”

“Yep. Me see crates, me see crowbar, brain adds two things together, I go searching for shinies in said crates. I just like looking around, ya know? And seeing a crate labeled ‘for test use only’ on top (albeit I noticed that AFTER I tore the top off), I got just a smidgen interested. And fuck off I look cute in all this clothing.”

The fox pulled off her beret, leaned against her arm, and sighed. Kolt beamed at her through the display, a sharp-toothed grin on his face. {A}

This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, he thought, I just know it.

 

Angry. Annoyed. Chuffed. Scratchy. All these words can describe how Hoji felt after having waited a day for his disguise to be dropped off; it was supposed to just take half an hour! The fake pair of spectacles he wore irritated the bridge of his nose, and every few minutes he’d take them off and rub it. The cap on his head was a bit too big, and it annoying nudged against his ears while they bobbed when walking, and the flannel shirt, ugh, it was flannel. Wearing flannel in 2076 is pretty much painting a target on your back saying ‘Hey, i’m uncool!’, which is, obviously, not cool. Hoji thought he was cool. He was the coolest. Ice cold. Yeah.

He had to walk to the hospital, and thankfully no one annoyed him. He lugged a large violin case along with him, his uchigatana stored inside, along with an actual violin. He did have to borrow it from the person who dropped off his clothes, a local collaborator to the LRG’s cause, whatever it was. Religious freedom? A seperate country? An excuse to have roaring sex with as many women as possible with no restrictions? None of this mattered to Hoji; he was simply a mercenary, a self-proclaimed samurai, doing a simple job: kill a man in a coma.

When he got to the hospital, he had to think up a good excuse to find where Kolt’s room was, and he made one up on the spot: he was a friend of Kolt’s, and he knew how Kolt liked the sound of a violin, so he thought that, maybe, if he played some music for him, Kolt would awaken from his coma.

“Wishful thinking, I know,” He sighed woefully to the nurse, a bovine of some sort, most likely a cow, “But I just want to try.”

“Oh you poor thang! Let me faind his room number!” As the nurse looked through a large book, Hoji fist pumped and silently celebrated, going back to standing there with a sad look on his face whenever the bovine nurse looked up.

“Ohp, ah found it! Lemme just right it down for yah sweet thang.”

“Sweet… thing?” Hoji mumbled. Compliments were rare. The bovine reached over the counter and gave the short rabbit a sticky note, and he nodded.

“Thank you ma’am, you’ve done a great deed.”

“Oh pssssssh,” She waved it off, “I was jus’ doin’ mah job. You have a good day, yah hear? Ah hope yer friend comes outta his coma soon!”

“Thank you. You, have a good day too.” He read the room’s number: 451. He looked at the number of the nearest room: 423. It should be just down this row, he thought to himself, and he began to walk down the long hallway, checking each room’s number as he passed by.

424.

425.

426.

401.

400.

478.

489.

452 (FUCK).

450.

Okay so they weren’t consecutively numbered. Hoji made a mental note to find whoever numbered the rooms and gut them with a butter knife.

After twenty minutes of searching, he finally found it. Room 451. Hoji smirked, and walked in.

So, that’s what he looked like, huh? A bug attached to drains and pipes, like he’s part of the building’s waste system. A head propped up on a thick pillow, and a body covered in thick sheets.

Eye’s half open, but no-one home. It was almost sad.

Hoji set the violin case down on one of the chairs in the room, and with the other chair stuck it up under the handle, so no one could walk in until he was finished. He popped the case open, noise recoiling at the scent of the faux leather (rabbits have very good noses), and he retrieved his sheathed sword from the stinking case. Clicking it closed, he turned to look at Kolt’s limp form again.

Something in him expected the Aldearin to be standing above him, beaming down on Hoji with his bright amber eyes, unmoving, unnerving, unfaltering with his gaze, but he wasn’t. He was still in the bed, where he had been for months, and months, and months. He was probably wearing a diaper or something, Hoji thought. Gross!

He slowly pulled the long blade from the sheath, and it made a soft ‘whish’ as it left the scabbard. He danced the sword around for a moment, hearing it whish and whirr as it chopped through the air, but stopped his hand’s movements moments later. He had no time to waste. If someone tried to open the door and noticed it was locked, there would be trouble. Hoji slowly walked up to Kolt’s side, his head level with all the machines around Kolt’s bed, and he glanced over at the heart-rate monitor.

The white and green dot jumped and left a spikey trail behind it, showing the Aldearian’s heart beat. Another monitor displayed his blood pressure, another the amount of medication was being dripped into him through one of the many IVs he had in him, all obscured by the heavy sheets but known by the large amount of thin tubes snaking under Kolt’s sheets. Hoji gulped, and looked back at Kolt.

Once more he had expected the Aldearian to have moved his head, to be staring at Hoji with his bright, amber eyes, but he wasn’t. He was just staring off into space, but even though his body was staring, Kolt saw nothing.

Hoji lifted the blade, clasping another furry hand around the hilt. He had to bring it up horizontal to his body due to the length, and after clearing the bed, brought his arms out in front of him, and twisted the blade slightly. Light sheened off of the blade, which was now pointed in the direction of the comatose Kolt’s neck. Hoji adjusted his stance and spread his legs out a little, preparing to do a chopping motion, and he glanced over at Kolt’s face one last time. {A}

Bright.

Amber.

Eyes.

 

Hoji dropped the sword on the bed, and fell to his knees. {A}

He couldn’t kill a defenseless man, a man who isn’t even conscious, or able to be made conscious by easy means. For all intents and purposes he was essentially a corpse on life support! He picked back up his blade, and focused on Kolt’s face. Scars ran down his rippled skin, each bump and crevasse like a landscape. Hoji heard rumors of people using Aldearian skin to make things like gun holsters and vests. The thought of someone being skinned alive was sickening to him.

Hoji turned around and looked over all the displays, all the dials and knobs and buttons and blinkers. Dear god, is this what’s keeping him alive? All this machinery? Not his lungs, his brain, and his heart? If he had decapitated him like planned, that would not be an honorable death! That would be like tearing off the head of a baby in a crib! Hoji looked over his shoulder at Kolt. A baby in a crib.

Hoji remembered when his son held his finger with his tiny paws. He remembered the childish babbling that he responded with, and then the laughter. He remembered Hiro, and his fragile little body, turned to embers. A baby in a crib, murdered. He looked over at Kolt. A baby in a crib.

He had to leave. Now. The memories he was being assaulted by were picking his emotions apart, and he couldn’t stand to see his target, or anyone,  like this.

Hoji leaned forward, mouth inches from one of Kolt’s exposed eardrums, and whispered, “When you awaken, you and I will fight evenly on the field of battle. Remember me, Kolt. Remember, Hoji.”

He packed up his sword, pulled the chair out from under the door’s handle, and walked out.

The bovine nurse was waiting outside. “Ah, didn’t hear any music? Ah thought you were gonna play somethin’ fer him?”

Hoji looked at her with weary, tear-stained eyes, and walked away.

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