I’d had to ditch Nightbinder at the mall after more heroes started showing up, and it’d sucked. I had really felt the lack of goodbye, and what made it worse was that we had forgotten to exchange any sort of contact details. Laithe knew where I lived, but I had no idea about her, other than that she worked at the Sherwood mall Hot Topic. I’d left it a day or two after the robot attack before trying to find her, hoping that she’d appear at my door some time.
She didn’t. When I went to her work on day three of no contact, I found out she had taken the week off with no explanation. This really worried me, and my mind went into anxiety fuelled overdrive. Had she decided she didn’t want me anymore? Was she turning me in to the authorities? Was there a government task force planning and preparing as I played video games in a hopeless attempt to distract myself?
I very quickly began driving Caser crazy with my worrying. An anxious fox tends to wriggle and jump around a lot, twitchy as all hell, and I was no exception. There’s nothing quite like lovesickness to bring out strange aspects of a person’s personality, and that’s what happened with me. One night as Caser was gaming on their new setup in the lounge, I was anxiously writhing on the couch checking Nightbinder’s twitter, which had been silent as well.
The new discovery came when a hero named Piercer tweeted about Nightbinder being held by law enforcement for questioning. In his capacity as a lawyer for the OMR, he was working to get her freed. I didn’t really understand the legality of it, and I didn’t really care. All I cared about was that Laithe was in trouble and I was very worried. I started wriggling around and pawing at the pillows of the couch.
I snapped out of it when I heard a tearing sound, and I looked down to find I had clawed a hole in them. Extending from each finger, my fingernails had become inch long claws.
“Kalia, easy there, no need to get all sharp and dangerous. What’s wrong now?” Caser asked, abandoning their game and approaching me like I was a wild animal.
“The fucking feds have Laithe! They’re interrogating her because she knows me!” I croaked.
“Alright, well I think you should put away the claws, which are cool by the way, but probably best not used against the couch,” they soothed, sitting gingerly next to me and running a hand down my back.
“Okay, uh, I don’t know how to get rid of the claws,” I mumbled.
“Just relax, we can sort everything else out later okay?” they said while rubbing my back some more.
I felt strange, like I was hyper focused and even more twitchy than usual. I tried to let Caser calm me down, but it wasn’t all that effective. With an agitated fox like cry I launched myself off the couch on all fours, running into the kitchen. As soon as I was in there, I turned around and raced back into the living room, leaping onto the back of the couch. I stared at my phone and growled, those damn asshole feds! I’ll go and teach them a lesson for-
My thoughts were cut off when I felt my face suddenly drenched in a spray of water. The unpleasant sensation snapped me out of whatever strange state I had been in, and my claws slowly retracted. Unable to use them to hold onto the back of the couch, I flopped down onto the pillows in a heap.
“Alright, you calm now? No more spazzing about, you crazy fox,” Caser chided merrily.
I let out an embarrassed and disgruntled growl in reply, squirmed into a sitting position, and looked up at my friend. They had an honest to god squirt bottle full of water in their hands!
“I figured this would work, since foxes are like half cat anyway, and it seems to have done the trick quite nicely,” they laughed.
“That was mean!” I mumbled, my cheeks heating at the embarrassment of the whole episode.
“I’d rather be a little bit mean and save the couch, than let you tear the apartment up,” they chuckled without a hint of remorse.
“You.. that was… shut uuup!” I groaned and hid behind my tail to conceal my furiously glowing cheeks.
“You’re so cute,” my friend laughed, ruffling my ears fondly.
“Laithe is in trouble! What do I do Caser?” I whined.
“Tell me the details silly, I can’t help you if I’m in the dark about what’s going on,” they said calmly.
“The tweet!” I said, pointing to my phone.
Picking the phone up, Caser began to read through the relevant tweets. After they’d finished, they stared down at the screen in thought.
“I think your best course of action is to let things play out to be honest. If you go running in there and break her out, you’ll end up doing a ton of damage to her reputation. Best to let the OMR handle this one okay?” they said finally.
“I… guess,” I grumbled, “But this sucks I want to see her! I want her to be safe!”
“I know, separation is hard, but you just have to wait this one out,” they said soothingly.
The OMR lawyer and hero Piercer got Nightbinder out of the clutches of the feds the next day, and I happily bounced around, expecting to see her any moment. I waited, and I waited, but more than a week later, she still hadn’t come to my door. I felt constantly sick and worried as time passed, and my imagination tortured me with a multitude of worst case scenarios.
When Caser finally got sick of it and suggested I focus on something else, like finding Kelly, I lept at the chance to take my mind off Laithe. I realised I hadn’t heard from Redd in quite some time, and decided to go out and find her. Donning my full Vulptrix outfit, I left the apartment and went in search of the bar Limbo. The idea was to pull Redd to the side and explain who I was. I was taking a risk, but fuck it, I was kind of going for shock value simply because I needed the distraction.
The Bar was much as it had been when I’d been here last. Bare brick was still on display, but the furniture seemed to be slowly upgrading in some places. The tables had been upgraded from wooden crates, to wooden crate lids with lengths of wood nailed onto them to serve as legs. As a precaution before I entered, I placed an illusion on my face to shroud the top half in shadow, leaving only my chin and lips visible.
The reactions the denizens of the bar had when I entered this time were noticeably different. Those nearest the door quieted and stared at me guardedly, trying to size me up. They knew who I was, I could tell by the hushed whispers and nudges to friends who hadn’t noticed.
Pretending to be unphased by their stares, I wandered up to the huge concrete bar and leaned against it. Absently tapping the cool concrete with a newly acquired claw, I surveyed the room looking for Redd. I was barely into my search when Barb placed a glass of milk on the bar in front of me.
“Al, the guy in the corner told me to give you this, uh, it’s just milk. Do you want some baileys or something in there?” she asked gruffly.
I stared at the drink, then up at the man who’d sent it. He lounged in an ornate chair like a lord presiding over his court. He was vaguely familiar to me, although I couldn’t pinpoint from where. A black and silver suit of durable looking body armour wrapped his frame, while a helmet protected his head from both harm and identification.
When he noticed me staring, he gave a nod and raised his own drink in greeting. Who the fuck was this dude? I turned back to Barb and shrugged, which she took to be an affirmative because she poured a healthy lug or two of the irish cream liqueur into the milk. Not my usual drink, but fuck whatever. I took the glass and wandered over to him.
On my way over there, I locked eyes with someone I recognised. I didn’t know her personally as I’d never bumped into her, but I knew her from reputation. She was a hero named Flicker, who had some sort of super speed and electricity combo of powers. She was small fry compared to the likes of Bastion and Seraph, but was still a firm believer in the same ideals. I purposefully strode past her as she glared at me, her knuckles white where they gripped her mug.
This encounter was going to get out for sure, I thought with a sigh. More gossip to deal with, yaaaay!
I arrived, hand on hip before the man with the black and silver armour and tilted my head, “Uh, hi?”
“It is a pleasure to finally meet you Vulptrix, I’ve admired your exploits thus far and I’ve been meaning to get in touch,” he said calmly. His voice was the sort of deep cultured type that gathered attention like a star dragged in surrounding matter.
“Thanks, I guess. I haven’t really been operating by any sort of grand plan or whatever. Just stealing shit to live really,” I shrugged.
“I see. Ah but I have not introduced myself, I am Unbowed, but my friends may call me Al. Young lady, please pull up a seat and join me! I’d like to discuss a matter with you,” he said with a graceful gesture to a nearby seat.
I sighed, I should have known I’d be accosted by someone who wanted to talk to Vulptrix. Sighing, I sat down in the chair he’d indicated and took a gulp of the milk and baileys barb had given me.
“Urgh, Baileys is so not my thing,” I grumbled absently.
“Baileys? Ah, that Barb, she should not be slipping alcohol to minors,” he said, reaching to take my glass.
“Oi! Hands off my drink!” I exclaimed, shifting it out of his reach.
“Young lady, you shouldn’t be drinking,” he frowned.
“Like hell I shouldn’t be drinking! I’m having a shit time of it at the moment and I’d like to take the edge off. It’s not like I haven’t drunk myself into a stupor before geez,” I shot back, “Plus, you’re not my dad!”
“Youth these days,” he shook his head with a sigh, “It’s not healthy to drink at your age you know, you’re still developing.”
“I’m twenty three thank you very much,” I pouted.
“I see, my mistake then,” he coughed.
We sat there awkwardly for a moment, then I had inspiration straight from the many trickster foxes of myth. With a practiced motion I downed the rest of my glass, opening my throat and pouring it in with a gurgle. I felt the alcohol burn pleasantly as it ran down, and I was hit rather quickly by that post-chug fuzziness you always get when you down the stuff too fast. Strangely, I felt my ears flush with blood as my body tried to dump heat. My fox ears were like radiators when my body felt like it was too warm.
Unbowed stared at me incredulously, “That was excessive.”
I shrugged and laughed, “You ain’t seen shit til you go to a Dunedin hyde street party dude. This one time my friends got me under a funnel. I think I climbed a tree and passed out after that one. Sucks too, because I missed my mate getting arrested for burning a couch.”
“I… See,” he muttered quizzically, “You’re quite the interesting young woman then aren’t you?”
“I guess,” I giggled, my head beginning to spin slightly, “What’d you want to talk to me about?”
He opened his mouth to speak, when suddenly a blur of reddish grey fur dumped herself in my lap.
“Heyyyy, you were like totally hooking up with that hot as fuck Nightbinder chick! I. Need. Details!” Redd drunkenly slurred.
I heard an indignant Unbowed cough into his drink.
“Redd!” I squealed in surprise and stammered, “Y-you... what are you? You don’t even kn-know me!”
“Yeah but like, I ffffigure all you fox girls are the saame anyway right?” she laughed, lurching to the side and almost falling out of my lap. I had to lunge forward and grab her around the waist to keep her from sprawling on the floor.
“Why the hell are you so drunk?” I asked.
“Well Vulpi-vulpi-tricky-tricks, I don’t need a fuckin’ excuse to get plastered, but I just found out some totally fucked up shit, and I needed to… bluuuurr the memory a bit,” she said in a drunk whisper. For those who aren’t familiar, a drunk whisper is not exactly a quiet thing.
“What information have you discovered then Redd?” Unbowed asked with heroic patience.
“That’s not something I’m gonna tell you Mister Alllll! I respect my client’s con-fee-dent-ialiality… con-sciofi-dence-italy? You know what I mean!” she slurred in a drunken huff, then turned to me with surprise, “Wait a fuckiiin’ minit, you’re not my climbant you hu-hussy!”
“Oh dear,” I groaned, “Sorry sir, Unbowed… I’m going to have to talk about whatever it is later. I have business with this… wolf here, whether she realises it or not.”
Choosing not to comment, Unbowed merely flicked his wrist as if to say ‘If you must...’.
Easing Redd off my lap, and enjoying her protests, I took a firm hold of her and nodded to Unbowed. Closing my eyes I took a moment to do the mental gymnastics necessary to take us to the street outside, then activated my teleport.
Redd swayed alarmingly in my grasp and grumbled, “World spinning way too much, someone ought to give it a talkin’ to.”
“Redd! Oh my god I wish you were even remotely sober,” I exclaimed in exasperation.
“Heyy, I can be sober if ya want me to Vulpi-kins,” she giggled.
I blinked, Redd giggling? Wow she really was drunk as fuck.
“Ah shit,” she said conversationally, “I think I’m gonna barf.”
Oh dear. Looking around, I spotted a building that looked to be in use as some sort of office for a trade business. That’d do for my purposes I guess. I dragged her over to the outside of the place and then teleported us inside. The interior was dark, the lights having been switched off for the night, but my fox eyes were able to pick out the path I needed. Our journey towards the toilets was not a smooth one, and more than once I had to steady Redd as she slumped in my arms or swayed alarmingly in a random direction.
Shouldering the door to the bathrooms open, I dragged her over to a toilet and let her down in front of it. She clutched at it desperately, and began to vomit into the bowl with gusto. I leaned against a wall and settled in to wait.
Some time later, she finally came up for air after dry heaving for the upteenth time. She was a mess, but I could see in her eyes that she was at least moderately more in control now.
“Why the fuck am I in a bathroom with fucking Vulptrix?” she demanded.
“Probs wash your mouth with the sink hey, I can’t imagine you’re feeling pleasant,” I smiled reassuringly.
“Yeah alright, I think that’s a plan I can get behind,” she grumbled, less than gracefully lurching her way from the toilet bowl to the sink.
I waited while she gargled water for a minute or two, clearing her mouth out. When she was done, she turned to me with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah so, I’m here about the Kelly Newhall thing,” I said.
“I don’t talk about my client’s cases sorry, confidentiality and all that shit,” she said sternly.
“How far does that confidentiality go?” I asked quietly.
“To the grave, if it needs to,” she glared.
“Alright then, guess that’s good enough,” I said with an an apprehensive grin.
Reaching up, I first allowed my illusionary mask to drop, then pushed my head back. I saw her eyes widen, then she reached up and cradled her head. No doubt feeling the effects of my rather potent necklace. When her attention was trained on me again, I delicately unclasped the necklace and poured the chain into my hand.
“No shiiiit,” Redd muttered.
“Yeah,” I grinned sheepishly, “No shit.”
“Well now I feel a bit inadequate,” she chuckled.
I shrugged, “People think I’m a lot more than I actually am.”
“You do pull some pretty badass shit girl,” she said with a smile.
I made a vague sound of disagreement and changed the subject, “You got anything for me? I’m pretty anxious to get to the bottom of this.”
“Vulpi, you have no fucking idea…” she grimaced, and began to tell me a truly awful tale.
Kelly was alive. That was essentially what the story boiled down to, or rather, usually alive. Someone was using her as a human guinea pig in some fucked up attempt to understand her abilities. Yeah, that’s right, Kelly was apparently emerged? Some sort of ultra strong healing ability that allowed her to come back from literal death.
Kelly had met a girl in the big emerged prison they had set up soon after the emergence to hold the people who were the most trouble. The girl, Robin was her name, had been in the process of talking to Ms Clark about everything that was happening in that awful place when the case worker had been stabbed. I honestly had trouble imagining the awful shit that both Kelly and Robin had been put through in there. It was torture, plain and simple, be it physical or emotional.
Redd hadn’t been able to pinpoint exactly who was behind all this nasty shit, but many of the signs pointed to those cunts at Yelmorn. I had seriously dodged a bullet when I failed to impress at that interview, what seemed like lifetimes ago. I guess the politics they were looking for had been how willing you were to drown a kitten or something.
This brings me to my current course. I was heading towards one of the larger Yelmorn facilities with a whole lotta rage burning in me. I was going to break some shit and find what I wanted. Yelmorn was almost certainly behind it, they hadn’t exactly been shy about their moral bankruptcy. Not that I was one to talk, but shit, stealing was a damn sight less garbage than experimenting on a fucking minor.
In my hand I held the laser rifle from the fight at the mall a week and a bit ago, and I had every intention of blasting my way inside.
When I arrived, I surveyed the place with a dispassionate eye. It was a walled compound with several external warehouses, as well as a central factory floor. In the center of the large factory was a squat little office building. That was my target.
Guards crawled over almost every surface like ants, and I knew this was going to cause a ruckus no matter what the outcome was. There was no way that stealth was going to serve me all the way to the end goal. Luck just doesn’t work like that. So by that logic… fuck stealth, cue ‘stealth is optional’ meme.
Kneeling to keep my aim steady, I leveled the rifle and aimed at the hinges of the heavy gates. Taking a breath and holding it, I swiftly put a pulse into each hinge as fast as the gun would charge. The gates hung there in time for a moment, and then crashed to the pavement with a huge sheet metal boom.
With the guards cowering in confusion and looking for the attacker, I teleported to a shed that looked like it was empty of people. Kneeling and inspecting the laser rifle, I identified the strange power source that allowed it to function. A few rerouted power feeds later, and I had the gun beginning to charge far past the levels it had been designed to reach. Placing it hastily on the ground, I urgently teleported away. I did not want to hand around when that thing reached critical.
I waited, my heart racing in almost terrified anticipation. No one really had any idea just what those mysterious power cells could achieve, but we were all about to find out a little more. Call it science maybe?
I didn’t have to wait long. The air seemed to become charged and hot, even from the distance I had placed myself, and the sensations were accompanied by a horrific screeching sound that was somehow part mental in nature.
A beam of violent crackling energy that glowed a dull red punched through the shed, then through the upper wall of the factory. Oh shit, I wasn’t expecting that. The screaming screeching urgency in the air kicked up a notch, and suddenly the beam began spinning and lurching wildly. It carved furrows in every building it crossed, started fires and cutting vital supports in a flurry of deadly violence.
As suddenly as the light show had started, it cut off in an eyeblink, leaving dancing afterimages in my eyes that I tried to blink away. My eyes instead bugged out when the gun detonated with a dull thump that I felt in my chest like a kick to the stomach. Instead of the fireball I’d been expecting, I found myself jerked forward for a moment as an ear rending crunch assaulted my sense of hearing.
The shed, and much of the surrounding piping and concrete, was now a perfect sphere about the size of a basketball that hovered in midair. What the fuck had I unleashed?
Whatever it was, it was time to get to work. I placed my earbuds into my ears and queued a fast paced playlist. I needed the music to calm me down and bring me back from the rage, towards the cheeky, cocky mood that allowed me to do my best work as Vulptrix. Smirking as I thought of the chaos I was about to sow, I squared my shoulders and took a step forward. Time to make an entrance.
Walking up to the gate, I raised my hands dramatically and suddenly there was not one fox girl walking towards the Yelmorn facility, but dozens. I was spotted fairly quickly, or rather my horde was, and we began flowing forward in a rush.
“What the fuck!” screamed one guard as he leveled his weapon.
He never got to fire his weapon, because I teleported forward and thrust my sparking stun gauntlet into his stomach. He gurgled quietly and collapsed to the ground in a clatter of heavy gear.
Around me, my illusory selves engaged in teasing mock combat with the other guards. I smirked as I watched one guard smash another in the face after one of my illusions disappeared as he swung. I strolled through and into the main compound, summoning illusion after illusion to saw chaos and confusion among the Yelmorn thugs.
Something I didn’t count on was them having a fucking fifty calibre machine gun of some sort set up in an emplacement facing the gate. I was introduced to its existence when the air tore apart around me, tracers wildly skipping across the ground and pinging into the sky. What the fuck, they had their own people in that line of fire!
The air lurched around me when I teleported towards the emplacement and I lashed out with an armoured foot. I connected with the vulnerable hand of the gunner, breaking his fingers against the grip of gun and swinging the barrel safely into the air.
“Are you really this dense? Your friends were behind me you dumbass!” I shouted angrily.
He gawked in terror, and I casually stunned him with a flick of my forearm. Yelmorn needed better henchmen, that was for sure.
Surveying my Vulptrix clones and eldritch horrors causing fear and pandemonium in the main yard, I decided it was time to head further inside.
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Bio: You may also know me as Rosilys Inknose. I no longer post on this website, if you wish to find the continuation of my stories, or just the ones I haven't posted here, you can find me under Quietvalerie on scribblehub and Rosilys Inknose on tgstorytime.