Part Six – Bright Eyes


“Bright eyes, burning like fire
Bright eyes, how can you close and fail?
How can the light that burned so brightly
Suddenly burn so pale?
Bright eyes
Is it a kind of a shadow
Reaching into the night
Wandering over the hills unseen
Or is it a dream?
There’s a high wind in the trees
A cold sound in the air
And nobody ever knows when you go
And where do you start?
Oh, into the dark
Bright eyes…”

–  Lyrics from Art Garfunkel’s ‘Bright Eyes’



The year was 2075.

The month was December.

The place, a train currently crossing the French-Catalan border.

The person, a man known as ‘Yehudi’.

Now the real story begins.

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Arc One of Three, Episode Two of Five:

Outer Demons

By Red McCloud

Rolling mountains passed as the bullet train zoomed across the landscape of Catalonia. It had crossed the border not even five minutes ago, and was well on it’s way to Barcelona; the city would be visible in the next few minutes. The train weaved between bumpy hills, coasted alongside a small lake for a few seconds, then shot through a tunnel. It would be at its destination soon, but for now, one passenger was keeping himself pre-occupied by staring out the window, looking at the countryside but dissociating from everything. {A} His head slipped forward slightly and his spectacles hit against the window, snapping him out of his trance, and he blinked.

He turned his focus to the guitar case sitting in the seat to his left; he had to buy another ticket just to put his stuff there. Inside was an assortment of gear; weaponry, fake passports, currency from twelve different countries, fruity snacks, quite basic necessities. He checked the zippers on it, touching each one an equal amount of times with both hands, before going back to watching the landscape blur past him through the window. The train wasn’t far from Barcelona now, and he could already see the skyscrapers in the distance, inching closer and closer with each second.

Someone approached the fox’s seat. “This taken?” Asked a female fox wearing a red coat and a headscarf.

The man sitting by the window didn’t turn from the window, but answered in a gruff, moderately high-pitched voice, “Yes. And you need tickets to even get a seat here.” He turned and adjusted his spectacles. “I expected to meet you in Barcelona, not on the train there.”

 The woman stifled a giggle, glad that he had identified her. “Yes, well, there appears to be some problems with that plan.”

“Said problems being?”

“I suspect you are to be ambushed by INTERPOL at the train station.”

The man raised an eyebrow. “Let me guess, one of your sources told you this?” As a precaution, he unzipped his guitar case slightly, still eyeing the lady suspiciously; they had a, less than stellar relationship between themselves to say the least.

“Yes, and a reputable one this time. Remember that I need you alive; INTERPOL doesn’t care if you are sent to jail or the morgue, and considering that you won’t get rid of that bloody trench coat they can probably see you from a mile away.”

The man chuckled, before removing his spectacles and running a hand over his scalp, messing up the fur on his head and sticking out his lower lip slightly in order to give the impression of an under-bite. “Yew sure ’bout dat?” He asked in a much deeper, dopier tone of voice, “Dis kinda treanch cowt is perdy populer in generul.”

The lady rolled her eyes. “Isn’t bringing to light the fact that most foxes look the same slightly racist?”

“How wuld it be racis’. We’re both fawkses.”

“True, true… But you would be surprised. Just, don’t get shot, alright? You can’t get out of your duties THAT easily.”

The man switched back to his normal voice. “I know, Johannes, I know.”

Johannes just shrugged, before walking to the end of the cabin and into the next train car. The man relaxed, resting his spectacles in his lap and leaning into his seat, eyes closed and breathing slowed. He listened to the whining of the train as it began to slow for its stop, and he opened his eyes only when he heard people begin to move around him. He looked out the window again, the view of the beautiful Catalan landscape replaced by a grungy-looking train station; Barcelona was the biggest city on the Iberian Peninsula, and as a result, conditions were less than ideal in some of the exterior areas and neighborhoods.

He watched as uniformed INTERPOL Enforcers, their international police force, began to herd people out of the station. Their blue armor plating was probably visible for miles, and soon they turned their visored eyes to the train car. The man stood up from his chair, maneuvering out into the empty lane between the seats. Silence had begun to set in, and he glanced around, only seeing flitting blue shapes outside the windows. He reached into his coat and held onto the grip of his pistol while maneuvering through the lane, dragging his case with him, which he slid the strap of onto his shoulder once he heard a chorus of thumping noises; they were breaking the windows.

One shattered behind him, then another, and the man pulled his pistol, a 1911-pattern gun with a suppressor screwed on and began to fire at the Enforcers outside, who were throwing in CS gas grenades. Shouldering the connecting door open, the man started to jog through the train cars, windows shattering and CS gas canisters being chucked through all around him; they intended to smoke him out. One landed at his feet, and he kicked it hard into a seat. It reflected off the seat, flying outside the window, and he heard a yelp as it hit flesh. The man darkly chuckled as he made it into the last train car, and, the Enforcers having not caught up to him yet, set his sights on one of the windows, holstering his handgun inside his coat and instead zipping open his guitar case and drawing the integrally suppressed Mini-30 he had hidden inside. He had put a Choate folding stock on it, and got to unfolding it with a swing of his arm, one-handing the rifle and blasting the window into particles. Shimmying through the seats he hopped out of the train car, landing on a knee and letting his guitar case slide off his shoulder as he brought his rifle up, targeting two surprised Enforcers, their polished blue polymer body armor and matching helmets gleaming brightly in the mid-day sun. He fired only four times, two shots each, but the armor was only meant for blunt objects and pistol bullets, so the pair crumpled before they could even put both hands on their carbines.

The man grunted as he got to his feet, pulling the guitar case back onto his shoulder and looking around at the train yard; the train was emptied and filled at the front, which was currently in the station, so he was stuck outside in the maze of train cars. He listened for any sort of vehicles, and sign of somewhere to go; to his west, he heard nothing but wind, to his east, he heard nothing but sirens. He chose the wind. Sprinting, he ran from the train, but more Enforcers had joined the chase, three of which had spotted him down the row of train cars. He ducked behind one, taking cover as the extremely loud gunshots of the Enforcer’s carbines were funneled between the train cars and formed a deafening cacophony of lead, and tried to figure out what the hell to do.

Oh wait.

He heard two of the Enforcers begin to reload, the emptied twenty-round magazines from their rifles falling onto the gravel as if they were almost saying ‘Hey, i’m reloading here!’, and he saw a chance. He spun around the corner, hip firing his Mini-30 and filling the Enforcers with lead, the one who still had ammo being luckily a very bad shot. He stepping over the smoking bodies when a gloved hand grasped his ankle, and he stared down at the bloody Enforcer.

“W-Why?” They whimpered. “Why y-you of all people?”

“I learned to not listen to my superiors.” He pointed the barrel of his Mini-30 at the Enforcer’s snout and fired, before running towards the end of the train yard. He hoped that if any more were around, they were at least some distance away. Running up to a fence, he stared forward… and then down.

A large construction area cast in shadow sat below the bridge the trains screamed over. A slightly slanted white wall reached down to the ground at least 100 feet down. The man just huffed and pushed up the bridge of his spectacles, before hopping over the too-short safety railing and skidding down the angled wall, falling back onto it in order to cause more friction and as a result slow his descent. Near the bottom and suddenly spun out of control, falling off the wall and onto the cement ground of the in-progress foyer, grunting as he laid on the ground for a few seconds, before retrieving his guitar case and standing up, glancing up at where he just leapt from.

Blue helmets stuck over the edge, and the man grunted out a chuckle as he caught his breath, huffing as he turned and ran into the building. He had no idea where he was going, but at this time it didn’t matter. He disappeared into the rebar and concrete forest, INTERPOL Enforcers taking the next few hours to try and find him there. They didn’t succeed. He was long gone only twenty minutes later, having gotten out onto the street and into an empty alleyway. A Beetle caught his eye, parked in the shadow of the alley, and he approached it with his case over his shoulder, glancing around in order to make sure he wasn’t being followed. He grabbed his left arm by the bicep and jerked his wrist to the right, and a long flat metal hook shot out from his sleeve with the associated noise of a spring snapping. He pressed the underside of his palm against the window and snaked the hook through the crack between the window and the car door, and it bent slightly. He slid his hand down the window, and began to move the hook left and right with full arm motions, looking around every few moments to make sure that he wasn’t about to be interrupted. The hook contacted something, and he tugged upwards. The door unlocked with an audible pop, so the man pulled out his hook, pressed it into the mechanism attached to his wrist, and opened the door.

The car smelt of smoke and perfume, cigarette butts scattered over the floorboards, and the man guessed it was probably the car of some yuppie. Snaking his bag into the back seat, he slammed the door closed and kicked the bottom of the steering column, popping it open and exposing the wiring. After about ten minutes of fiddling and almost getting electrocuted, he managed to hotwire the car, and he pulled a multitool out of a back pocket and flipped out the screwdriver attachment so he could break the steering lock. By this time the sirens in the distance were getting more and more audible with each passing minute, so he decided it was time to get the heck out of dodge. Operating the stick shift, he took the car out of park and cruised out of the alleyway.

At least THIS detour only took a few minutes, he thought as he drove off into the heart of Barcelona.

Yehudi plucked a half-smoke cigarette off the dashboard, and took a puff.


Kolt Saudwell awoke in his bed, sweating profusely in the cold room as he laid on top of his sheets. Reaching over to his nightstand in the darkness, his fingers brushed past the ‘on ‘switch of the lamp on top of it, and he flicked it on. Sitting up, he rubbed his palms against his eyes to no effect , and looked at the digital clock under the lamp. Five-thirty A.M., exactly. Turning around and looking above the headboard of his cramped, tiny bed, a wooden plank was hung, with a few select words emblazoned onto it, inlaid with white paint:

“To the world you may be one, but to one person you may be the world.”

For some reason, Kolt always liked that quote, which was from the ancient Dr. Seuss. It just, rang, with him. Speaking of ringing, the door to his room was suddenly rapped upon, and Kolt sluggishly walked up to it, fingers wrapping around the handle.

His left arm was made of flesh, not metal.

As he slowly opened the door, he noticed that he was wearing his most well-known outfit; his now-torn-up vest, his standard-issue hooded shirt and rolled-up pants, et cetera. Pulling the door open, Kolt was slightly confused to find there literally nothing behind it, just a black hole in the doorway. Stepping through the doorway, Kolt just floated there in the darkness for a moment as the door closed behind him. Turning around, he tried to open the door again, but the handle was stuck, but after a few frantic twists, it simply drifted open, and, confusing him even more, he found himself face to face with himself.

“Now this is trippy.” He commented as the two aliens stared at each other, before the original Kolt took the initiative and randomly struck the other Kolt in the face with his robotic fist, his arm having somehow turned back into his prosthetic while he wasn’t looking, causing the doppelganger to explode into glass shards and the sound of a mirror being smashed echoed throughout the void.{A} “What is this David Lynch shit?” He grumbled as he began to fall through the previously-mentioned void, crossing his arms in freefall and frowning hard.“Agh!” He yelped, as either something hit him in the back, or he had landed on something. The sudden collision caused him to blink, and when he did he, of course, was somewhere else.

As he got to his feet and looked out from the gazebo he had apparently landed in, at the decrepit stone ruins of buildings long gone and tall hills of green grass, he mumbled, “Can everything slow down for a flip-fuckity second?” He stretched out his back, grunting when it popped repeatedly. Is this hell? Purgatory maybe? Do they have a salad bar? Guess i’ll just have to find out. Stepping down the steps of the small stone building, sunlight hit him in the eyes, blinding him before he raised his arm. The hills around him seemed to make a path, like a valley, and he felt that he was inclined to follow it. So he did. And after about ten minutes of pure wandering, the adrenaline from adventuring wore off, and he began to fuss and curse again. But the sight of a clearing complete with more ruined arches and collapsed gateways piqued his interest once more.

Crouching down, he ran his gloved fingers over the rubble on the ground, glancing at the grey stain they left on his fingers before picking up a tube-shaped stick of stone, bouncing it off of the palm of his prosthetic as he walked around. He half-expected someone to put a gun up to the side of his head as he passed a corner, like the last time he went through an abandoned stone town, but that never happened. Nevertheless, he kept the piece of rubble at the ready, as something about this place made him… uneasy. The arches were tall, and some of the ruins were just as high, almost like collapsed skyscrapers made of pebbles and dust. He smashed the stone rod against a wall, it shattering into pieces, and he leaned against that wall. His mind was… off. He wasn’t thinking straight.

Kolt suddenly froze up, and he wiped a hand across his sweating forehead as a migraine shot through it. His eyelids scrunched up, and he took a step forward, hand still on his forehead. “Migraines…” Kolt complained through gritted teeth, but a moment later all traces of the searing pain were gone.

Aimlessly wandering, Kolt began to worry if his previous question was correct. Was this really purgatory? Would he be shambling around here for eternity? He pushed these thoughts out of his mind. No, he thought, don’t think like that. I’ll get out of here, i’ll survive, i’ll eat tapioca again! Maybe this is all a dream, or a hallucination? I’ll wake up. As he thought, his headache came back, stronger than ever, and he felt his knees weaken. When he tried to take another step, his leg buckled, and he fell face forward into the ground. His eyelids quivered as his vision blurred, and he felt them seal on their own as all feeling left his body.

He was in total darkness.

His eyes sprung open an undisclosed amount of time later, and his back was stiff. His eyes were staring up into a starry, dark purple sky, and his back was extremely stiff. Did I mention that his back was really, really stiff? Rolling onto his side, he realized that he was uncomfortably laid onto some gigantic, sweeping, marble stairwell in the middle of some sort of desert. His spine felt like a fucking 2×4, and when he leaned forward, it resoundingly CRACKED. For miles around, there was nothing. No mountains on the horizon, no far off oceans, just endless sand. He was sick of sand. It was all flat. Looking up the stairs, he gazed upon what appeared to be a large building of Roman design, which Kolt had seen on postcards, albeit made of bright, shiny bronze that actually seemed to be EMITTING light along with reflecting it. Slowly pushing himself upright, he sluggishly walked up the stairs, eyes glued to the strange architecture, the tall pillars and triangle roof, and the blindingly bright light beaming from it. Pretty.

Getting to the top of the stairs, he stood there, gawking at the magnificence of it all, and didn’t notice the strange person sitting to his right, at the top of a smaller set of stairs that led up to the open building. They clutched a spear with a double-pronged tip, and were clad in round, dull metallic body armor, their shoulder pads and chest piece shiny bronze just like the building behind them. The little bit of exposed skin they had was distinctly Aldearian, dull reflections from the thing of beauty behind them glinting off their neck and hands, and one of their arms was draped over a knee, the other holding onto the spear, whose shaft was made of the same brilliant bronze as everything else around them. Their most defining feature, though, was easily their head shape: X-shaped, but stretched forwards, with four large mandibles and bright, amber eyes. {A}

Like Kolt’s eyes, almost.

“No need to stare,” They sighed in a hushed, masculine voice, “It’s always gonna be there, like me.” Kolt took his eyes off of the structure, and began to examine the individual with animal-like curiosity. “I bet you’re confused, and I wouldn’t blame you.” They took their arm off their knee, and patted a spot next to them. Kolt needed no more words to know what they meant by that, and walked over, sitting down by the strange individual, who turned and looked at him.

“What are you?” Asked Kolt.

“God.” It joked. “I’m just pulling your leg; i’ve forgotten my name long ago. I’ve got a question for you, small fry.”

Kolt listened.

“What would happen if god looked in the mirror, saw himself, and asked himself, ‘What is that’?”

Kolt began to think.


Slapping the magazine into his handgun and using the bottom of his hand to rack the slide by the sights, Theo elegantly twirled his Beretta before sliding it into his thigh-holster. Drawing his ID from his luggage, he glanced at the sullen photograph of himself that was burned onto it. {A} Slipping it into the lanyard he was given and throwing it over his head, he walked into the bathroom of the hotel room and combed his hair, spritzing it with hair product before running a hand through it. He looked like he was going to a funeral, and he felt like it too.

He took a bus to the hospital, sitting in the farthest corner, one of his legs strewn over the other and his unbuttoned suit prominently displaying his waistcoat underneath. He checked in at reception, and took the elevator up to the seventh floor. As he walked out, a familiar face rushed up to greet him.

“Thank god you came.” Winter sighed in relief, “They’re trying to speak medicine to me and I have no idea what they mean.”

“Who’s ‘they’?” Theo asked.

“The doctors with Kolt. They’re saying things about comas and concussions, and I’ve got no idea what to say!” Winter reiterated, raising her arms in an exaggerated shrug. Theo could see the bags under her eyes had doubled in size; he was surprised she didn’t just topple over in an instant.

“Show me the room.”


Theo withstood the barrage of technical speak and information the doctors threw at him, mainly due to his knowledge in medicine and general species biology. After the doctors left, he and Winter stood in front of the hospital bed, staring down at the atrophied figure who laid in it.

“He doesn’t even look alive.” Theo whispered.

“Jesus…” Winter put a hand on her chin. “To be fair, I don’t really know you guys that well, but I feel that this is hard for you. This dude is your best friend, right?”

“For the last seven years.” Theo sighed, before going and sitting on the chair against the back wall of the room.

Kolt was so full of IV’s and tubes that it looked like Cthulu had shat his tentacle feces all over his face. There was a cloth in his mouth, partially to collect drool, but mainly to keep the brain fluid, blood, and pus from dripping down his throat. A single drain tube ran into his mouth and out the top of a bundle of bloody bandages he had wrapped around the right side of his head, and his eyes, although open, were still. Multiple posts covered in bags of liquid surrounded him, along with tons of heavy duty machinery. {A}

They had to secure the large amount of IV’s on his right wrist with duct tape and gauze, and the front of his hospital gown below his jutting collar bones was spattered with faint purple specks. Even though he was about six feet tall, he looked tiny and weak in the hospital bed, even through the thick sheets they had pulled over him.

“That shitty suicide note that he left on his desk didn’t offer me much insight,” Theo cursed, “He’s always been complete ass with words.”

“Yeah, he was quite the jerk when we first met! Actually, he’s been quite a jerk the entire time I’ve known him…” Winter chuckled solemnly, leaning against one of the walls. When she noticed that Theo was not laughing, she felt ashamed.

“He was on edge the last year or two, and I don’t know why. His pay was fine, he was doing good work, but he just… started to slip away.” Theo put his hand in his hair and just sighed.

“Things are getting weirder by the moment.” Winter huffed, putting her hands in the pockets of her jacket. The fingers of her left hand brushed against a cigarette butt hidden inside.

“Yeah, and i’m surprised that things are at peace for now. I just hope it stays that way for a little while longer.”

The edges of Theo’s lips perked up into a slight smile for a moment, and he stared down at the floor.

The good days have past, he thought, and now only the bad ones remain. I must stay hopeful. As he day-dreamed, he thought about the days that are long gone.

And more specifically, boot camp. He used to keep a small notebook detailing his adventures there, but he stopped making entries about halfway through. But in his mind, he remembered every conversation he had with Kolt, word for word, but one thing he’d always remember was what he, Theo, would say to others about Kolt.

“I worry about him.”

Those last words emanated through Theo’s head infinitely like they had came off a tuning fork thrown into a dishwasher, banging around and causing them to pierce his subconscious over and over. The more he thought about it, the more things he realized, and the more he was saddened.

He stood up and walked over to Kolt, and held his remaining hand as the tears began. “M-Merry Christmas, Kolt.”

“Didn’t know you were a religious man.” Commented Winter as she pulled a small flask from the other pocket on her jacket, unscrewing the cap and taking a swig of the metallic-tasting whiskey held inside.

“I’m not, but in times like this, it’s nice to have a little god on your side, and I don’t mean a pocket-sized Jesus.”

Winter nodded, but kept her lips on the flask, and her eyes on Kolt’s face, more precisely his eyes. She felt uneasy looking at them. It was the color, and the way they reflected light.


“So what do you plan on doing now?” Winter asked Theo, who was busy unpacking his larger bags in the hotel room.

“Stay around, make sure things are going fine, check up on Kolt, take nearby jobs so I don’t slaughter all of my vacation days, the usual. I still can’t believe they had to move him here! Earth!”

“The medical equipment here is pretty high-standard, compared to the stuff on most space stations. Cerberus was pretty high-tech, but the stuff there was smaller and weaker due to the confines of the decks. Besides, the treatments he needs, whatever they are, were impossible anywhere else apparently. He’s in good hands. At least the health care here is free, too.”

Theo nodded. “True. And hey, I don’t have to run very far to escape the police if he wakes up and immediately freaks out, which, I do expect him to do. It’s already been almost a month.” He pulled out meticulously folded shirt after meticulously folded shirt from his bag, and Winter watched with arms folded.

Suddenly, she spoke up in a demanding tone. “Take out your gun.”

Stopping what he was doing and looking at Winter with a confused look on his face, Theo hesitantly lifted up the side of his jacket (he swapped between a thigh and shoulder holster to prevent chafing), pulled the ugly handgun from his holster, and handed to to Winter, who studied it in her hands.

“This damn Beretta again. The fact that it’s barely being held together and covered in rust in some areas makes me worry about your sanity.” She weighed it on one hand, before scoffing.

Theo frowned, hurt by the words the fox had said to him. “I’ve had it for close to nine years, and it hasn’t failed me yet. Besides,” He squinted at her with his big ol’ eye, “What gives you the right to judge me for my choice of service handgun?”

“It’s still a piece of trash.” Winter responded. “Hand me your extra magazine.” Theo begrudgingly did so, pissed at himself for listening to her, and Winter walked over to her satchel and shoved both of them into one of the many compartments. “I just don’t want you to get killed, so, I bought you this.” She pulled a wooden box from the satchel, and placed it on the bed in front of Theo.

Opening it, Theo glared at the steel handgun, the exposed barrel dictating its identity as another Beretta. The slide-mounted safety and burr hammer exposed it as a 92, while the smooth trigger guard showed that it was one of the few civilian legal models, the 92SB. The gun had a matte silver finish, and had black plastic grips that felt good in Theo’s hand when he wrapped his palm around them. “You’re gonna be using this for now. It’s a Beretta Ninety-Two SB compact, M model.” Winter continued to talk as Theo inspected the pistol. “I found it when I perused a nearby gun shop and remembered the rusty piece of shit you had. It’s police surplus, too; the dealer said it was one of a kind, made for some botched police order.” She threw the strap of her bag over her shoulder, and had opened the door halfway before turning to Theo one more time. “Get used to it.”

Winter slammed the door behind herself. Theo smiled at his new handgun, even though he still wanted back his old Beretta; he would harass her later for it. He ejected the magazine and brushed his fingers over the witness holes. {A} As Winter said, it was a M model, utilizing an eight-round single-stack magazine and thinner frame. It fit Theo’s dainty hands perfectly. A worthy upgrade from the M1951 indeed.


The country Kolt was brought to to was named Trepin. It was a very small country, sandwiched between  Switzerland and Germany, and was entirely captivated on a peninsula; on one end, there was the city of Konstanz, and the other the border with Germany near the town of Radolfzell.

The city that Theo brought Kolt to was known as Reichenau, formerly an island covered in a tiny bit of farmland, but with the creation of Trepin it was transformed into a small island city, attached to Konstanz and also Radolfzell by a bridge, and the three cities together formed the capital ‘Trepin City’; Trepin was essentially a city state.

The nationalities were diverse, this being a time of political assimilation, with people speaking on the street mostly in German, but sometimes Hungarian and Swiss, and even English in some occasions. A mixture of Aldearian Federal Police, INTERPOL enforcers, and Gilded State Gendarmerie patrolled the streets at night, usually stuck in designated areas in order to give the populace the feeling of not being watched, but with how crowded the city was, most denizens of the country knew otherwise; there were always at least a pair of eyes on you.

One would take note of the seemingly-permanent ‘hazy glow’ the city had later in the day. It sat relatively far down in its little man-made valley, so the ‘mountains’ surrounding it made it quite dark, even during a bright summer day.


About an hour later, in Konstanz District, Hillary Winter was busy getting into a car crash, for noble reasons of course. She had seen someone get hit by a car and, also of course, proceeded to slam the front of her (rented) car into the hit-and-runner’s vehicle. But before she did that, she unbuckled herself and turned her body as she braced for the impact. When her car (which, note, was going at least twenty more miles per hour than the suspect’s) slammed into the offender’s vehicle, gravity threw her harmlessly through the thin windshield and not so harmlessly through the rear window of the car in front of her. Gasping, she looked up at the stunned and amazed driver, and wheezed, “Consider… consider yourself, under arrest.”

When she brought the criminal into the nearest local police station, she got a lot of weird looks, mainly because of all the glass shards sticking out of her and also the fact that, well, she was quite attractive. It helped that she was the living equivalent of leg day at the gym, her tree trunk-like legs being a result of many years of chasing people and thousands of gym visit. In this day and age, female cops who aren’t slobs (like all the other officers) being cops? That’s a rarity.

“W-Wuh?” The desk officer failed to create a word in his confusion at the sight in front of him.

“Book him for hit and run, plus, eh, running from an officer.” She wondered if you could count driving away from her as running…

As a few officers escorted the grumbling suspect to the holding cell, one asked the other, “You can get arrested for running from officers?” The desk officer just continued to stare at Winter with confusion.

“You… do you even have any sort of jurisdiction here?”

Winter laughed before coughing hard, and leaned on the receptionist’s desk, smirking slightly. “Well, if I didn’t, I do now. Unrelated, but I need approximately seven stitches in just my facial region. Oh, and a coffee. A very, very large coffee.” Although she was joking, to her surprise the desk officer actually ran off to what she assumed was the break room, and returned with a big coffee cup in seconds.

“I-I didn’t know what you liked, so I just put one of those little creamer things and filled it to the brim, ma’am.” They squeaked, before holding up the cup.

Astounded, Winter took it from the obvious rookie, who was some sort of short, white and brown spotted caprine, or ‘goat’ to the uninformed. “Thanks…” Her voice trailed off, and her smirk disappeared. She looked down at the coffee; the creamer was still in the process of mixing, and in a few seconds dissipated completely into the dark coffee and turned it a shade of brown. Quick service, she thought.

A few minutes later, and she was in the police chief’s office. The Trepin Police Department’s CO was a graying wolf with a bit of a beer belly that distended his dark blue uniform, and with a sullen look on his face; his ballistic vest and peaked cap were hung on a coat rack jutting from the wall, near the door to the office. The officer rose from his chair as Winter was brought inside by a clone wearing the same gear as all the other police officers, except with their integrated facemask painted a dark blue instead of grey.

“Ah, you must me Marshall Winters. I’m Chief Donnell.” The chief extended a clawed hand to Winter for shaking.

“It’s just Winter, but it’s nice to meet you too, Chief Donnell. Are you going to tell me why everyone is staring at me?” Winter reluctantly shook his hand.

Donnell chuckled. “Well that’s probably because you, uh, are covered in glass shards. And you’re a Marshal. Anyways, it’s nice to meet you too, Ms. Winter, and for such a strange reason too! Please, sit!” Winter did so, sitting in one of the chairs that were placed in front of the chief’s desk. “So, apparently, the first thing you did as you came into town was, correct me if i’m wrong, crash your car into someone else’s and, amazingly enough, use the force of that collision to fling yourself through the window of the other car, just to make an arrest?”

“Well, I live dangerously, Chief Donnell, as that’s how I was trained. I’m supposed to be, quote,” She cleared her throat, and in a deep, false-sounding voice boomed, “‘More elite and quicker to make decisions and deal with situations than the average officer of the law.’ One of the first things they look for is a severe lack of self-conservation, which I seemed to have.” That sounded a lot worse out loud than in her head.

The wolf shrugged. “To be honest, and now that I think about it, I would expect nothing less. As I said before, it’s a pleasure to have you in town, Marshall, and i’m glad you, the suspect, and the victim got out of the situation in one piece.” He nervously licked his lips. “Now, pardon me for asking, but why are you here in this backwater scum cauldron of a city? There’s no sights to see, nothing really to do. Why are you here? I thought Marshals were primarily stationed in space, away from Earth?

Winter sighed, and leaned back in her chair, kicking her left leg over her right knee. “I’m spending my vacation days here because of a, uh, friend. They’re in the hospital.”

“Huh, well, not exactly the best use of vacation days in my opinion. Still, it’s great to have you around, Marshall Winter, wait, aren’t you technically off duty?”

“And it’s great to be around, Donnell.”  She ignored his other question, and gave him a fake smile.

The wolf gave a slight smile back, uneasy. “Well, uh, not much more use keeping you here then!” He sighed, standing up and leaning forward to extend a hand to Winter, presumably for a handshake, and Winter obliged. “Welcome to Trepin, Miss Winter.” After a brief handshake, Winter turned and left the office.

She could feel the eyes on her back as she walked out.


Six Months Later…

May, 2076

On a station far, far away from Earth, in the attached grove.

A white-furred hare laid in a sunchair, wearing only boxers and a pair of sunglasses, with a cigarette holder between his lips. It appeared that he was staring off into the light orange sky, but under those glasses his eyes were closed, but he was not asleep. He was of a stocky build, with hardy muscles visible from the creases in his fur, and a relatively square face stuck in a pronounced semi-scowl. His arms were crossed on his lap, and one leg was strewn over the other. {A} His nostrils flared as he exhaled.

A file was dropped onto his chest.

“What’s…” He groaned, not even opening his eyes.

“It’s an assignment. One you’re obligated to accept.” Said a female’s voice. The lagomorph opened his eyes and glanced over at the person standing next to him.

“Obligated?” The hare leaned forward, peeling the sunglasses from his eyes and blinking a few times as his eyes re-adjusted to the light. He looked at the opened file dropped on him, skimming it over with in a few moments. “What is this nonsense? Business transactions, possible associates, what, why, what is this?” He demanded, looking up at the silhouette of the fox standing over him. “Who are you?”

“I have friends in high places who would like to see this man dead. And by friends in high places, I mean the government, who would rather use you than kill you. And besides, the payment you’ll get is anything but extravagant. Maybe you can use it to fund, say, building a house in the Japanese countryside? I do know how much you like that country.”

The hare glared at the fox; whoever she was, she was well informed. He read the file again, this time more closely. He furrowed his brow when he saw the target’s species.

“Alright, i’ll consider it, miss…”

“Johannes.” The fox adjusted her green beret.


Thousands of astronomical units away, Cordell was helping the Kobolds rebuild on Flagdyn, the forest planet Kolt had visited half a year earlier for unrelated reasons, partially because it was part of his criminal sentence and also because he felt absolutely horrible. His physical wounds had healed, but his mind was broken; the pain he had caused made him suffer in return. The justice system of the GSS was definitely flawed in a few ways, but for once, it had done what it was supposed to; rehabilitate someone. Although he was doing menial labor, like building walls and helping plant crops, he wasn’t seen as a slave, or even hated by the remaining Kobolds. They understood his pain, and even at times took his tasks from him and did them themselves in order to let him rest.

Helmin approached him one day as he was resting in the shade of a tree, hands over his knees. {A} Cordell’s vivid golden clothing was replaced with a long-sleeved green worker’s jumpsuit, and he had a cap of the same color replacing his precious, precious crown. His beak, however, had been replaced by another one made of a gold-coated polymer that was much more durable than the last one but still a little flashy. That was something Winter had happen, as she exhausted her assets in order to help someone else once more. Noticing the armored lizard-man approaching, Cordell groaned and stood up, raising one of his claws to give Helmin a salute, something that had been trained/tortured into him by the GSS, but Helmin stopped his hand by blocking it with the shaft of his spear.

“No need for that, but i’m glad to see you on your toes that quickly, or should I say, claws.” Helmin greeted. “I’ve come to tell you that your service to us is almost up.”

Cordell chuckled. “If that was true i’d be jumping for joy. Actually, even if it were true, i’d still be sitting against this tree. Please, don’t try to get my hopes up.”

“But it IS true!” Helmin swept a hand back towards the rebuilt village. “You’ve helped us massively in rebuilding, and almost everyone has reported to the Gilded States how you’ve changed for the better! They’re deciding whether not to release you early on parole.”

“Really?” If that’s true, Cordell might be able to go back to Centim in order to help dismantle whatever remnants of his miniature dystopia were left. “When will they have a verdict?”

“Within the week. In the meantime, we, the villagers, have decided to give you a pension until then.”

Cordell let out a boisterous laugh. “You’re going to pay me? With what? Crops?”

Helmin frowned, and Cordell stopped laughing. “The GSS gave us some cash as compensation for the almost complete destruction of our society. You’re lucky that they found thirty-eight more of my fellow villagers in your dungeons relatively unharmed. If not, you’d have gotten executed. As for the money, we have no use for it, as we use a bartering system here, which some have started calling ‘porn for corn’ after that incident with the pornography scripture we found in one of the supply crates… Anyways, we will give you all of the money we have left from buying supplies, as we have no more use for it.”

“How much is left?”

“Exactly six-thousand Forands, enough to get you a ticket back to Centim and then some.”

Cordell went silent, before slowly sitting back down against the tree he previously sat against, and asked, “Why?”

Helmin simply stared at him for a moment, before stating, “You’ve changed.” He turned to walk away, but glanced back at the still-dumbfounded crow. “In due time, Cordell. In due time.”

Something about him felt familiar to Cordell. He wished he could tell Helmin his side of the story, but that would lead to death for him AND Helmin. He wished that he could come clean; the GSS had him kidnap his people.

Cordell stopped dwelling on the past, and went back to reasting.

Two weeks after that conversation, Cordell was on a shuttle set for Centim, having replaced his GSS jumpsuit with a pair of trousers and a thick coat. His few belongings were stuffed into a bag that sat in the storage compartment above him. For the five hour flight, he mainly peered out of the UV-resistant window at passing planets, and he vomited twice, a new record. He still wasn’t used to interplanetary travel. The feeling of no gravity is a peculiar one, like swimming in water without the water, but with the feeling that you’re eternally upside down. It was strange. It made him think of his more primitive ancestors, if they even were ancestors, and how they flew in migratory patterns, seeing new places and things.

He wished he could fly.


Polito Velent unscrupulously stirred her coffee with her pencil as she watched people pass the rectangular windows of her office, taking a sip as she watched the people pass by. {A} The lab she was assigned to, or more accurately, confined inside, was located on a small, relatively useless station, which floated around some planet whose name she didn’t have the time or caring to learn. It had one window, which looked out to the ‘commons’ of the station, essentially an intersection for the foot traffic. It was one-sided, so only she could look out while all other people saw was black glass.

She was essentially under house arrest; if she took a step outside the office without being closely monitored by a GSS official, she’d be thrown into jail and her original sentence would be re-instated. But she had no reason to. They would bring her machines and supplies, and her research continued to blossom in the peace and silence of the room. Her hired bodyguard, who went under the alias of Kobold, was essentially her arms and eyes in the outer world, doing errands and odd jobs for her at her bidding. It was almost like having a lackey. Actually, it was EXACTLY like having a lackey, and Kobold was more intelligent than any clone.

All of the counters in the laboratory were covered in papers, test tube holders, various flasks full of varying liquids, and crumpled up brown paper bags that used to hold her lunch, brought to her each day by Kobold (she had to convince her ‘parole’ officer to let him do it instead of them. Kobold actually got what she wanted). And as Velent glanced at one of the pieces of debris, the doors opened, and in walked Kobold, carrying two plastic bags of groceries.

“Ah, excellent. I hope you got the hot plate like I asked. I needed one desperately.” She smirked when Kobold grunted and lifted one of the bags to show her it, and a stout, cylindrical object clearly protruded from the bottom of it. Dumping the contents of both bags onto one of the remaining clear spots on the counters, the mercenary began to calmly and quietly sort the objects; he pushed foodstuffs to the left, and equipment to the right. She had to be at least twenty-five meters away from any sort of weapon, but Kobold had special permissions to carry his MAC with him while around Velent, as long as Velent doesn’t try to touch it. Because asking a killer not to touch a killing device totally works. Just look at all the prevented murders there ar-oh, there are none.

Turning away from Kobold, Velent walked over to a pile of newspapers, stacked from oldest to newest and pulled off the one at the top, taking a peek at the headline. Those old politicians are at it again, she thought, trying to outlaw genetic research. And they’re spouting what I did as proof it’s bad! Hah! What buffoons, using emotion instead of fact as their arguments. Did any news of what she was actually doing get out there? Any at all? Probably not, bah, whatever, they’ll know soon enough. They’ll all know. She put it back into the stack, and placed her coffee mug on the counter. She felt Kobold tap her shoulder, and she turned to him, asking, “Huh? What is it, mercenary?”

Kobold presented her a long, lightly blued handgun, and Velent’s heart sank. “What have you done?” She whispered. “If someone figures out that you’ve brought a gun in here, one that isn’t your own, they’d have my head! Quite literally!” Kobold rolled his eyes before ejecting the magazine of the pistol, and motioning towards Velent’s hand, and she opened her palm. “What are you thinking?” She hissed as he put the magazine into her hand, before presenting the handgun flat on his palm.

“Payment precaution.” Kobold humbly responded in his deep, rough voice. “I want to make sure that you at least have some way of assisting me in a gunfight, or be able to defend yourself while i’m gone. I can’t stay around here babysitting you forever, also be careful, it’s loaded.”

“What? You’re leaving?”

“For a little while. It’s just a few days.” He assured her. “I’ve been your guard for the past six months, Doctor Velent, but I need a vacation. I’m sure you understand. Besides, I know you have some military service, your lack of a tail signifies that.”

After a few moments of awkward silence, Velent sighed, and took the handgun from Kobold’s hand, quickly examining the markings on the slide before swiftly shoving it under her lab coat and into her waistband.

“It’s a Browning 1903,” Kobold explained, “Uses thirty-six Browning long ammunition, but I had a nine millimeter barrel slipped into it. It was the cheapest gun at the nearest pawn shop, but I brought two extra magazines in one of the bags. If you need to use the gun, please, don’t waste the ammo. I’m sure you know how to operate a handgun, right?”

Velent glanced at the window, making sure no one was watching, and then pulled the gun back out from her waistband, feeling it over and letting her fingers trail over the inscribed wording on the left side of the slide. “I still remember how, but it’ll take me some time to learn how to operate this one.”

Kobold nodded. “Good, just fiddle with it somewhere private.” He grunted, before turning to the door and walking up to it, about to open it and leave before Velent suddenly sprinted up in front of him and blocked the door.

“Wait, Kobold, please,” She begged, something that was uncharacteristic of her, “Don’t go. I still need your skills. And your ability to actually leave this godforsaken room. Mostly the second thing!” When Kobold raised an eyebrow in confusion, Velent quickly added, “…and I have to be watched as I go back to my room. Don’t want anyone recognizing me and deciding to pull a fast one on me, and if you leave, they’ll assign me some shifty fellow who probably has it out for me too.”

Thinking for a moment, Kobold closed his eyes and shook his head, muttering, “Goddamnit.” He really, really wanted some ‘alone time’ for once, but Velent felt relieved. “I can postpone my plans for a little while longer,” He sighed, “And what do you mean by, ‘skills’, doctor? I’m just as well trained as any other Privateer. And that paranoia isn’t healthy.”

Velent smirked. “Oh, you know what I mean.”

“No, I really don’t.”

“You can shoot people.”

“And you can’t?”

“Well yes, i’m not even supposed to look at a gun.”

Kobold stared at her, his angry eyebrows furrowed furiously into a furious frown. “Touché.”


Two days passed, and on the eve of the 22nd of May, 2076, Hillary Winter, passed out on the couch of Theo’s hotel, was awoken by the furious buzzing in her pocket. No it wasn’t a travel-sized vibrator, as that was still in her bag, it was her PDA. Her eyes fluttered open and glanced around the room, just barely lit by the orange god rays from the window above her. Bringing out the PDA, Winter squinted as she read the words on the screen. She had a news application, and although most of the news was either extremely biased or just plain incorrect, it was nice to have a general idea of what was happening.

Let’s see; another orphanage has been blown up, more government weapons convoys to outposts have been raided by bandits armed with sharp sticks, buttsex at an all time high due to no birth control, more death than usual to become the usual, politicians losing their minds in public, eh, nothing new, and she was about to close the  But one article caught her eye, almost entirely due to the clickbait title: ‘BUNNY DEATH CULT’ She tapped on the link, and began to read it feverishly, sitting up and swinging her legs over the side of the couch.

“BUNNY DEATH CULT: Reports are coming in that colonies in the outer rim of the universe are going dark, people at first attributing the phenomena to possibly some sort of moving radiation cloud messing with their radios, but the GSS troopers sent to the colonies say otherwise. Most of the colonies had been wiped out, with signs of gunfire and violence all around, along with corpses dotting the towns.

Among those corpses, white, brown, and tan lagomorphs wearing strange white armbands have been found, being the apparent aggressors. After the public started to learn of these attacks, last night, the 21st of May, a chilling message was conveyed to multiple news agencies, including our own humble agency. The link to the video is down below.

In other news, blahblahblahblah…”

Winter stopped reading the article and tapped on the video link. As it buffered, she glanced out the window, at the city below. The hotel was relatively tall at twelve stories, and the orange haze of the street lights blazed into the night below. {A} She looked back down at her PDA.

A lagomorph stood in a featureless room with concrete walls and a naked lightbulb dangling above. It was a white rabbit, and judging by their overall prominently-unfeminine traits like the bags under their eyes and the wide face, they were a male. They wore a solid gray long-sleeved shirt at least two sizes too big, like the formal wear of the GSS but obviously not fitted to his small body, with baggy black pants and a cape of the same color attached to the shirt’s collar. Their face had round cheeks, and the many wrinkles and folds on their face screamed an age of well over forty. He cleared his throat, and began to monologue.

“For too long has co-operation been forced between the species’ of this universe. Rabbits and wolves were not meant to work together, as were cats and dogs. Interspecies relationships have caused a large decline in numbers for many of the species here in the Gap, the outer regions of colonized space, and the oppression by the Gilded States for us to conform to their definition of ‘colonists’, people under constant watch and religious persecution, is too much for our people!” As the lagomorph spoke with a growl, he made a fist with his hand, and swept to the empty room, as if presenting the viewer the bleakness of it. “You put limits on family sizes, yet people still disobey, and will always disobey. We are a species, a genus, of millions, no, BILLIONS; your feeble attempts at curbing our population to keep us under control will never work. We lagomorphs are known for being religious, but you will not allow that. Although declared illegal all those years ago, we still practice our religions, and no matter how many of us you throw in jail, how many of us you execute, you cannot stop an idea.”

The rabbit looked away and sighed before staring back at the camera with renewed vitriol. “But the use of religion fades over time. More and more people have became atheists, estranged from their gods. But we will change that. Our society allows anyone and everyone to be welcomed into our religions, be them rabbit or hare.” Doesn’t sound like ‘everyone’ to me, thought Winter.

They crossed their arms and their stare seemed to grow more intense. “We, the Lagomorph Resistance of the Gap, declare our independence from the GSS as a separate entity, spiritually, religiously and literally, and will at any cost fight to retain it. We are a community by lagomorphs, for lagomorphs, and to the leaders of the GSS, I, High Priest Santan Tectin, challenge you to test our might if you so dare to. As for you, brothers and sisters, we are ready for you.”

Before the video ended, the lagomorph raised his hand and said, “Oh, also, the name is temporary. We made it up right before this speech. Once we are recognized as a separate entity, we shall make a new one.”

The message ended with a disclaimer added by the GSS saying NOT to join the LRG, and to instead announce any LRG-related activity, be it a lagomorph family’s birthday party or a gathering of armed and uniformed individuals, to your nearest Gilded State of the Stars representative or similarly racist law enforcement official.

That was interesting, but worrying. So many separatist movements, so little time and resources to deal with them. The petrol shortage of 2072 was still stinging. Winter shrugged as he put her phone back into her pocket, and laid back down on the couch. Eh, I give them a month, she thought, maybe two.

Her eyes began to flutter, and soon began to close under their own weight.

And then they shot open as her mouth curled into a horrified grimace. She shot up, staring out the window. “T-The fires, the city, the city is on f-fire!” She put her hands on the window, staring out at the warm glow covering the city. She blinked a few times, and what she had interpreted as fire revealed itself just to be the setting sun of the city, but she still remembered the fires; the napalm sticking to buildings and people, the smoke, and the horrendous smell; soot and roasting flesh. It had made her hungry. She was starved, and the smell of people’s burning flesh made her HUNGRY. If ANYTHING stuck with her from that war, it was the FUCKING SMELL

She sighed, and let herself relax. Remembering the past didn’t help her any. Neither did drowning out her sorrows in alcohol but, still.

This counted as a vacation, right?


She awoke again to the sounds of sirens whooping, gunfire, and the room was illuminated in now-bright orange light from the window. No, no no no no. Standing up and putting a knee on the couch, Winter covered her mouth with her sleeve as she stared out into the carnage in front of her.

The beaming light from the streetlights were amplified by burning cars and buildings. People ran through the streets, screaming and hollering as cars careened into sidewalks and flipped themselves. Gunfire rattled off in the distance, and Winter took a step back from the window. Black shapes moved in the dark orange sky, and she saw dots fall from them, which, as soon as they disappeared behind the buildings, shot upwards in a plume of flame.

“No… dear god, no…” She put her hands on her head, eyes wide and mouth agape. Winter let out a horrible scream as she stumbled around, falling to her knees with her hands still on her face, and she began to wretch, gagging on vomit bubbling up into her mouth.

You’ve seen this sight before, haven’t you, wrath? Those poor towns, firebombed by the government you swear allegiance to; do you still follow your leader’s orders? If they order you to die, will you die?

Why do you continue to lie to yourself?


Winter gasped for air as she felt the invisible hands around her esophagus unclench, and she scanned the room. Theo wasn’t there, but the sheets of his bed were in a strewn apart mess. He had left hastily. Winter leaned to the side and practically ripped her jacket open to pull out her handgun, pressing her palm to the top and yanking it back. A long, brass-cased 10mm cartridge glinted back at her. She let go of the slide, which slammed closed on the cartridge, her gun’s matte silver slide still reflecting the same orange haze as the cartridge was, a haze the same as the light outside.

She needed to get out of there. But as she began to walk, and then run towards the door, a loud BANG sounded off above her and the floor shook rapidly, knocking Winter to her knees. She promptly sprang back onto her feet and ran at the door, not even caring that it was a ‘swing inwards’ one as she flicked the ankle of her left foot, launching her into the air with her fantastic leg strength. She pulled her other leg up, towards her chest, and kicked it out. The door received her boot, and promptly shattered into bits at her massive thigh strength. She got strong thighs, yo!

But one thing she didn’t expect was to start… falling. As she went through the space previously occupied by the entire door instead of a few errant pieces of wood attached to the brackets, she didn’t see a hallway on the other side, instead, a familiar darkness wrapped its tendrils around her as she entered it. As her eyes were filled with the colorless air and absorbed the pitch-black void, she felt a sudden sensation of falling, and her gut dropped like a stone.

Tisk tisk, you use violence even when opening the door! Well, I do call you wrath for a reason. You still have lots to learn, little sinner.

Like how you will die.

“What?” Winter had only a moment of clarity before the whistle of wind filled her ears, and promptly stuck said ears to the top of her head as she plummeted feet first towards… something. She stuck out one of her hands, and was surprised to see it there, perfectly illuminated in the lightless void, as if there was an unseen light directly above her head. She stuck out her other hand, and sure enough the metal on her gun glinted off of an unseeable light source. What is this madness, she thought, this is a nightmare!

And it was.

She felt her body collide with something, but before she would’ve exploded into meaty giblets from the ‘gravity’, she bolted upright on the couch, wheezing. She put her hand on her chest and felt her heart try to beat itself out of her chest, before glancing out the window. The sun had arrived, and the city was baked in its glow. Orange reflected off of the waves surrounding 

It was bright amber.

Winter started to cry.


Yehudi pinched his eyes and pulled his fingers towards the bridge of his snout, wiping away the crust from them before maneuvering the bowl-like frame of his glasses back onto his head. He clambered out of his bed, still fully dressed, and groaned while he lumbered off to his kitchen to eat something. He adjusted the sleeves of his turtleneck and stretched out his arms as he went rooting through his fridge, before he had to stop ignoring the presence of the green-wearing fox sitting at his table, shrouded in shadow as Yehudi had all the blinds closed.

“Hello Johannes.” He groaned as he put a pastry into his toaster. “What slave work do you want me to do this time?”

“Nothing much, just be around as I put a few events into motion.” Johannes crossed one of her legs as she watched Yehudi make himself breakfast, and Yehudi purposely averted his eyes from her whenever he was facing her, instead staring at the white bowl in his hand.

“Can you be a little less vague for once in your life?” Yehudi asked as he got himself some generic-branded wheat flakes from the cupboard and poured them into the bowl. “It’s starting to piss me off.”

“Well i’d rather not spill the details of my plan to you.”

Yehudi groaned as loud as he could. “UUUUUUUGGGGH, another one of your ‘plans’? When are you going to let me go?”

“Soon, my friend, soon.”

“We aren’t friends.” Yehudi pulled a spoon out of a drawer and stood there, staring at Johannes with a spoon in his hand and a bowl of cereal in the other. “You’re in my seat. Get off it.”

“Didn’t you forget your milk.”

Yehudi pointed at her with his spoon, before pulling it away. “…youuuuu, are correct. Shit.” He put down his bowl, Got Milk(tm), and poured it into his cereal. Johannes meanwhile got up from Yehudi’s seat and stood on the other side of his circular table.

“I was merely, warming it up for you.” She said as Yehudi sat down and promptly shoved a spoonful of wheat flakes into his mouth, before grimacing.

“Shut up,” He spat with a mouth full of half-chewed cereal, “You made me forget something again.” He reached forward and picked up the small pot of sugar he had on his table, taking off the top and sprinkling some inside before placing it back down. “Why the fuck are you watching me eat?” He swallowed the half-chewed cereal.

“Because we still need to talk.”

“Shut up and go away, i’ll talk to you when i’m ready. Go, stand outside or something.” He waved her off with his spoon. “Go, bitch.”

Johannes raised her hands in a way that said ‘fine, fine’, before turning and walking back to the door of Yehudi’s safehouse. He stared blankly at the covered window in front of him as he ate in the near-darkness.

She waited outside in the hallway of the apartment building, checking her nails and adjusting the cufflinks on her outfit, a thick winter coat, before tightening her head scarf. She had to look as inconspicuous as possible, didn’t want anyone to recognize her.

Yehudi was miffed. For over half a year, he had been working as Johannes little slave, doing what she said under threat of being turned over to the authorities. The REAL authorities that is, INTERPOL, not the GSS, although they would arrest him as well. He still didn’t have an inkling of an idea what the hell this lady was doing, and why she had him do so many esoteric and seemingly-unimportant tasks; kill this drug dealer, slash this person’s tires when their car is parked in this parking lot, seduce this prostitute and steal this object. Now that last thing he enjoyed doing. Now that he thought about it, that prostitute had quite the resemblance to Johannes…

He walked out the front door of his safe house a few minutes after he forced Johannes to leave, wearing a blue jacket and a black beanie covering his ears, horrible-looking but not even close to his normal day clothing, something INTERPOL knew to look for, as that incident back in Spain six months ago proved. “Now,” He sighed, “What the hell do you want this time?”

“I’m going to set off a chain of events, and I want you to be in the middle of those events, making sure one of them happens.”


“I want you to do something, but on MY command. But i’d rather talk about it somewhere more secure.” She adjusted her head scarf.

Yehudi’s eyes widened instantly. “MORE secure? We’re at a safe house, how is anything more secure than this?!?”

Johannes rolled her eyes. “I just want to take a precautio-”

“No, you listen to me.” Yehudi pointed at Johannes’ face as he towered over the smaller woman. “You tell me, right now, right here, what I need to do, or else i’m gonna sit this ‘thing’ of yours out.”

“You can’t do that!”

“Watch me.” He turned and opened his front door, but Johannes pulled a handgun from inside her coat and pressed it up to his side, but Yehudi, having expected this, flicked his right wrist upwards, and a small .25 caliber pistol slid out from his sleeve on a rail, and he promptly stuck that in Johannes’ face. {A}

“Woah, hehe, relationships, am I right?” Chuckled an unfamiliar voice, and a stocky red panda bumbled up the stairs of the apartment block and past the pair, carrying a bunch of plastic bags filled with snack food. He stopped in front of a door down the hall and began to root around in a pocket on his blue vest for his keys, pointing out, “Some days, y’all are just pointing guns at each other, but some days, you just start mackin’ on one another!”

“Wait, what?” Yehudi grimaced at the thought of the two being taken for a couple. “No, no we’re not a couple, of course not!”

“You got guns trained on each other and haven’t shot yet, if that ain’t a sign of you two bein’ a thing, i’d be worried for your health.” The red panda gave a shit-eating grin before stumbling into his apartment, kicking the door closed. Yehudi glared at Johannes, who glared at him back, before they simultaneously put their weapons away. The door to the red panda’s apartment popped open again, and his head leaned out. “Oh, also, keep down on the ruckus will yah, the other wanted criminals in this little GSS-sponsored safehouse can’t nap with all the yellin’ and screamin’, yah know? Good on you.” They closed the door again.

Johannes blinked a few times, before whistling, “Weeeell I guess we’ll discuss this, another time, Mister Yehudi.”

“Good, this beanie is irritating my ears, it’s meant for humans.” Yehudi yanked it off, and Johannes gave a slight bow, before walking down the stairs and out of view. Yehudi looked at the beanie, before flinging it over the rails, and it surprisingly landed on Johannes’ head and almost caused her to fall off the stairs. She grumbled.


The hare shifted uncomfortably as the ancient ship flexed and bounced around him, the floors vibrating with a metallic hum and the already-dim lights flickering. The stale air of the cargo bay choked his lungs with its pungent flavor, but his breathing was slow and deep, his eyes sealed shut. He had meditated under worse conditions, but moving caused his concentration to lapse much to his displeasure. Next to him, on top of a wooden palette and secured by a strap, was his gear; his personally modified set of combat armor and two sheathed swords; an uchigatana and a wakizashi, his daishō.

Both swords were absolutely ancient, with the uchigatana being dated back to the 16th century. He carried the antiques as a way to keep in touch with his culture, as the hare was half-Japanese and proud of it, although his other half was British, something he wasn’t nearly as proud about as that only gave him a good taste for tea and socialist ideals by default.

After a few more minutes of pointless meditation, he opened his eyes, his gaze sweeping his environment before his legs uncurled from under him. Scooting backwards, he pulled his legs from the strap that held him to another palette of wood, and gently floated upwards, until he was able to look down on the entire bay. His large rabbity hands grasped an errant pipe on the ceiling, and he pulled himself along to the catwalk that led to the inside of the ship, grabbing onto the railing and propelling himself towards the door. Hooking the back of his heels through the railing, he grabbed the wheel attached to the door and pushed against it, which in turn made him move back and compress his strong thighs against his calves, giving him some leverage and allowing him to force the door open.

He floated through, before slowly dragging the airlock back into place and sealing the door. He turned to the long hallway in front of him, and pushed off the door. The hare’s ears brushed against the ceiling as he hovered along, and he turned to glance at a passing window. Inside, a few other lagomorphs all wearing the same gray uniforms with white armbands, flew around the room chatting to one another, one reading a book upside down on the ceiling, two even attempting to play ping pong. The only problem is when one hit the ball and it missed the other person, it would ricochet off the wall behind them, and then another wall, and then another, so half the time they were scrambling to grab the ping pong ball or trying to avoid it and not actually playing. They were all young men, around the age of twenty, and the hare could feel the innocence and confusion seeping from the window. He turned away, closed his eyes, and rubbed the bridge of his nose in disappointment. He was only doing this for the money, and because he despised his target, that was it. After this, he’d take the money and go live somewhere obscure and out of the way. That was the plan at least.

As the hare floated into the bridge, the rabbit in the captain’s seat sighed, “As I said two hours ago, it’ll be another week until we get there.”

“Why are there other people on this ship?”

The seat swiveled around, and the rabbit gave him a look of confusion. “What?”

“This is a mission for me and me only, why did you bring those, those KIDS along?”

The rabbit simply sighed.“Look, we didn’t pay you to ask que-” The two large hands wrapped around his neck shut him up real quick.

“YOU didn’t pay me, and now, you will listen to ME.” The hare hissed, “I was hired to kill a single man, by myself. I don’t need help. I don’t want any more deaths on my conscious than necessary! Do you understand?”

The rabbit nodded furiously, coughing as they attempted to breath and slightly struggling. When the large paws left his neck, his horrible wheezing filled the room. “Okay, hhggh, OKAY! Just you! They’ll stay inside!”

The hare exhaled, still quite irate, and he crossed his arms. “I’m glad you understand. Now, how much longer until we get there?”


In the meantime, Kolt was busy being in a coma. Being in a coma entailed: having thoughtful conversations with that weird X-headed person who apparently existed inside some sort of dreamscape inside Kolt’s tiny brain, eating sand, playing drinking games with each individual neuron using cranial fluid as a substitute for alcohol, and crying into the abyss.

As one might imagine, it was dreadfully boring, so during one of his bouts of sudden internal turmoil, Kolt wiped the tears on his mind’s avatar’s face off an-wait, mind’s avatar? You can change that, right? You can change how you imagine yourself?

Kolt summoned a mirror out of the void and looked into it. Scratching his chin with his left arm, he held it out in the air, and it became flesh and bone once again, complete with a matching glove. Then it was the robotic prosthetic. Then his arm again. It began to flash rapidly, from black soft chitin to metal then chitin then metal then chitin, metal, chitin, metal. It became almost epilepsy-inducing after a while, as Kolt kept making it switch faster and faster and faster.











He kept his arm fleshy, and looked at his face.

What if he didn’t have all those stringy scars?

The gray lines all over his body disappeared, leaving him slightly reflective and looking scarily smooth. Huh. He looked like he was sixteen again. He then headbutted the mirror into pieces, because he was now pretty and he no longer wanted the mirror in his face, quite the emotionally instant response, and not very logical as his head now hurt.

Kolt sank to the floor, plopping down on his tush and staring blankly at the dark void he was stuck in. This sucks, he thought. He laid on his back, and began to roll across the ‘ground’ for no discernible reason, this continuing for a few minutes before he got nauseated and projectile vomited his own blood out of his mouth, which promptly disappeared into the void.

WHAT THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO HERE? He tried to scream, but the words stayed in his head, his mouth bolted shut. He raised his arms to the ‘sky’, and in his mind yelled, THIS IS HELL!

Then everything was fire. Kolt was now in his own interpretation of hell, sitting on a red rock surrounded by lava, the heat of which began to slowly peel away his chitin. “Huh,” He said as his skin began to sizzle and crackle like kindling, “Nifty!”

He imagined he was home, and sure enough, he was home, sitting on his couch in his living quarters with semi-peeled chitin. Kolt ripped away a chunk of peeling flesh, leaving a huge gash in his arm which promptly began to bleed everywhere, so he imagined himself all shiny and new again, and sure enough the wound disappeared. He then imagined he was on Centim, and he felt the warm sand of that planet against his skin once again, and began to almost unconsciously shovel sand into his mouth, having spent the last few hours imagining that. When all else fails, eat sand; that was his new motto, having just made it up at that very moment. He thought about Home station again, and was now floating outside of it, in space, completely unaffected by the vacuum, although he imagined himself in his coil suit just for good measure. He ‘swam’ towards the underside of the station, up to the tethered block he lived in, and pressed his hands against the window of his living quarters. {A}

It looked smaller from out here. This felt odd, but, exciting! He could go wherever he remembered! He could eat all the sand that he wanted! The prospect of this excited Kolt, although he just realized that there was no one around; no ships, no fellow spacewalking denizens of the station, no one. He imagined in a clone, floating in the void next to him wearing a space suit with a bubble helmet. The clone blinked, before looking at Kolt. It waved to him, sound unable to be carried in vacuum, and Kolt waved back, before realizing that, in this world, he could do whatever he wanted, so he reached over, put his hand on the bubble helmet, and pushed the clone out towards the void. They flailed as they flew off, and Kolt laughed inside his helmet. Here, he was god.

Two hours later a large theme park had appeared in a grove floating next to the station, having been constructed by a bunch of identical copies of Kolt, which he then kicked off into the void when he lost their usage. At least that’s what he imagined the backstory of the place being, as it had simply just instantly poofed into existence. He floated inside, and began to enjoy life, riding roller coasters he thought up as he imagined them, throwing pins at balloons in the shape of his own face, and eating cotton candy that never stopped appearing. After an indeterminate amount of time, he sat down at a park bench and sighed, “God, this is wonderful. I wish Theo was here.” He tried to imagine Theo into existence, but, he relented. It wouldn’t be Theo. It would be HIS version of Theo. But, he tried anyways.

Theo popped into existence next to Kolt, wearing his coil suit but without the helmet. “Hi, Kolt.”

“Hey Theo.” Kolt stuffed another handful of cotton candy into his mouth. “How are things?”

Theo shrugged. “Things are okay, how about you?”


“Can I have some of that cotton candy?”

“No, get your own.”

Theo looked around. “Uh, where?”

Kolt ‘magically’ popped a clump of cotton candy into existence and on Theo’s lap. Theo, surprised, poked and prodded it. “How the…”

“Magic, Theo, magic.”

Theo raised half of his eyebrow in disbelief, but snootily said, “Magic huh? Sure. Where are we?”

Kolt inhaled another fistful of cotton candy and said, “It doesn’t have a name yet.”

“Doesn’t have a name yet?”

“I made this place up, just for me, and the same goes for you. None of this is real. I’m reading out each of your ‘lines’ in my head before you say them. I’m thinking your thoughts, Theo.”

Theo was now genuinely shocked. What, Kolt thought, preparing the lines for Theo.

“What?” This can’t NOT be real, Kolt thought next. “This can’t NOT be real! I-I mean, look around us! Kolt, you’re stuffing cotton candy into your mouth by the handful, that seems pretty real to me!” Kolt slowly turned towards Theo and caused yet another clump of cotton candy to appear in his hands as he glared at the cylclops. “Oh. Well, still, I feel real!”

“Because that’s what Theo would say if he was really here, and I wasn’t just in a coma, talking to myself through a fucking PUPPET of my BEST FRIEND!” Kolt threw the cotton candy at the ground. “I want to get out of here! I want to go home! I want to see the REAL Theo!” He grabbed his mind’s version of Theo and shook him. “I want to see you! Hell, I want to see Winter too! I want to see anyone that means anything from me! Not, not a FAKE like you!”

Theo blinked, before the sides of his mouth began to quiver. “K-Kolt,” He stuttered, “I, I AM real. You m-made me real, apparently, somehow. I’m here. Whatever is g-going on, we’ll, umm, find an answer for it?”

“I already HAVE an answer Theo.” He leaned forward, pressing his forehead against Theo’s. “I’M IN A FUCKING COMA!”

Theo disappeared, as did the theme park, and Kolt sat in the void by himself.

I’m in a fucking coma, and I have no way out.