I was stood in the middle of my bedroom, goosebumps prickling my bare naked skin. I loved to sleep without anything on ever since I’d gotten this bombshell of a body. I loved the way the sheets caressed my smooth flawless skin. I’d honestly grown a bit vain since the emergence, at least within the confines of my own mind. I didn’t let anyone else know of course, I wouldn’t want to seem like I was stuck up.
My habit of sleeping in the nude was proving to be a mistake this morning however. Standing here in the cold I realised just how shit the insulation was on my terrible student apartment. You’d think in Penrith of all places they wouldn’t skimp on heating, but that was how the landlords made their money. I sighed, and looked down at the reason for my frozen skin with a mixture of adoration and exasperation.
Kalia had been wrigging around under my comforter for the past thirty minutes. I had no idea what to do. We'd been cuddling the next morning, her having stayed the night, when all of a sudden she dove further and started writhing around and attacking the comforter. Along with the strange actions, she was making a lot of yipping, growling noises.
I had beat a hasty retreat outside the bed, and now she was staring at me from under the covers, her big golden eyes dilated and the tip of her tail sticking out the other end, twitching madly.
"Kaliaaaa?" I tried tentatively.
The tail disappeared under the covers entirely, but I got another growl and an ear poking out instead. I could work with an ear. Using my super speed, I rushed forward and pinched the protruding ear. Gently of course, my super strength might hurt her.
My surprise lunge caught her by... well, surprise, and in her haste to shuffle backwards she flipped herself onto her back. My adorable girlfriend lay there, blinking owlishly up at me in the too big tshirt I’d given her to sleep in, with her tail twitching madly and her ears pricked attentively forward. Uh oh!
She launched herself at me, far faster than I thought she could move, but still much slower than my modest super speed. As such, I was able to catch the spazzy minx in mid air. She thrashed like a fish in my grasp for a moment before going limp and curling her tail delicately around my forearm. Fuck it was cute.
"Sorry," she said sheepishly.
"And just what was all that now?" I asked with a grin.
"Uhhhh, I gave in to my inner fox for a bit?" she asked, her ears tilting down in a very cute display of submission.
"It’s adorable, but maybe warn me next time huh? It's freezing out of the bed and I'm not wearing anything," I chided gently.
"Yes ma'am," she laughed, raking her eyes up and down my naked body, leaving goosebumps in their wake. No, the goosebumps were from the cold. Definitely.
I’d spent two days at Laithe’s apartment, and it had been an interesting two days. After those two days, where we’d started on the infinite task of properly learning about each other, I’d gone home to my own apartment. I’d originally gone home alone, but my feathered lover had turned up on the doorstep a few hours later claiming she was “bored”. Following that, she’d slept at mine for the past few nights. We both knew she had missed me, but falling in love is more exciting when you don’t try to label everything.
It was early in the morning on the 15th when I woke up, and with a groan I tried to roll over in my bed, but found myself unable to. Right, I was wrapped up in Laithe’s arms. She was so strong and warm. I know people say that you should be a whole stable person when you start dating someone, but the way she made me feel safe was what I needed to really begin that journey. I felt my tail begin to wag as I thought about how amazing she is, but caught as it was by the blankets, it only managed a muffled thumping. Stupid thing was harder to hold back than spontaneous laughter.
“You awake?” I heard Laithe murmur into my ear.
“You can’t tell from the fuzzy worm batting at your leg?” I smiled, shifting to look up at her.
“Figured I’d ask,” she smiled weakly.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, picking up on her concern straight away.
“Ahhh just…” she started, motioning to her phone, “Seems like I’m not on the best terms with a lot of the other heroes right now.”
I wriggled up to get a look at her phone and winced at what I saw. Nothing quite like checking your notifications in the morning to really fuck your day up. I swear I have a near panic attack every time I open my phone when I wake up, hoping against hope that nothing awful has happened during the night.
NightBinder has betrayed everything that a hero is meant to be. I will be treating her as the scum she has shown herself to be.
@PenrithAngel, Totes!! FUcking bitch! Following a vag around like some fuckin dude.Bet you she turns into a dude when she isnt looking all edgy!
@TheHeroNamedFlicker, It would not matter if she was a man or a woman or something else entirely. She has failed in her core principles. Justice and the Law are above such pettiness.
After reading that little exchange, I reached up and gently brushed a finger across her smooth cheek. This shit really got to her, I could see it in her faintly shimmering violet eyes. I could see it in the way they had gathered a little more moisture than normal across their marbled and nebulous depths.
“You know you’re one hundred percent a girl right? You definitely act like a girl… one I really really like,” I told her soothingly.
“Yeah? I act so much like a guy though. I pursued you, I like to hit things with a mace, and I like to act all dominant,” she said, avoiding my eyes.
“You’re the one who was transitioning before I even knew anything about my own gender, and you’re really not versed on lesbian culture?” I said, affection dancing between my words, “It makes sense in retrospect, but I used to lurk super hard in actual lesbian spaces online. Girls like you are totally a thing. Some places call girls like you a Top, but the places I lurked in called it a dom, for Dominant. They’re not exactly the same thing, but close enough.”
“Wait really?” she asked with a little laugh, reaching down and gently ran a finger down my spine, leaving it to rest in the hollow at the top of my butt, “What does that make you then?”
I squeaked and my eyes flew wide, “Uh, Uhm… Ah. I guess I would be a Sub?”
“What does that stand for?” she asked, curiosity overriding that dommy instinct of hers for a second.
“Um, it stands for submissive,” I blushed. Far out, calling myself that was embarrassing in the extreme.
I watched her eyes soften as she took in my blush. She might think she was some assertive dommy girl, but she was a huge bundle of caring mush inside.
“Aaahh you’re so cute!” she exclaimed, and pulled me tight against her.
Wow that felt good. Just being pressed together, body to body. She was so soft, so warm and so very alive. It was wonderful, and in the past few days together I still had not gotten used to it. I hoped I never did.
Laithe had dropped her phone to hug me, and it landed where I could read the screen. It must have scrolled down a bit, because I saw a tweet that I don’t think she’d seen yet. The tweet caused me to audibly grunt in surprise. That was not what I was expecting at all.
@TheHeroNamedFlicker, @PenrithAngel, I feel that Nightbinder might know something about Vulptrix that the rest of us don’t. I will continue to put myself against those that mean to break the law, but I will not be pursuing a vendetta against Nightbinder.
@TheHeroNamedFlicker, @PaladinChaChaSlide, You’re saying that after what that bitch did to you? You’re still injured even after the healers were done with you!
@TheHeroNamedFlicker, @PenrithAngel, She’s the nicest villain I’ve actually spoken to so far. I’ll at least see what comes out of all this. She needs to answer for what she’s done but I’m not going to get all bent out of shape about it.
Holy shit. Bastion wasn’t a complete turd? I didn’t know how I felt about that.
“Lailai, look at this tweet!” I said in amazement.
“Lailai?!” she asked.
“Yeah it’s what I call you when you’re making me come so hard I can’t speak properly,” I said sweetly, “I think I like it as a pet name for you.”
“Ohhh no, you’re not using your orgasm name for me in any other context!” she growled.
“Why not Lailai?” I asked, unable to stop a cheeky grin from sliding onto my face.
“Because it’s…” she trailed off, and this time it was her turn to blush.
Yes! Another point for the cheeky fox!
“Let’s look at this tweet then,” she said, looking down at the phone with just a little too much interest.
I watched her face as she read it, and it was interesting to see her react to it. Her eyes lit up in surprise and she glanced over at me in confusion.
“Did you like, hack his account or something?” she breathed.
“Nope,” I smiled.
“What the fuck Bastion?” she asked to her phone.
“So at least one hero doesn’t outright hate you. Even if he’s a shithead who has no idea what he’s doing and gets people hurt,” I told her.
“Yeah, like fuck I guess that makes sense. He’s honestly just a bit dense, and way too far into his fantasy books to get that you can’t just break everything in a fight and it will magically fix itself the next day,” she said with an exasperated sigh.
“I don’t really know him that well, but if you say so,” I shrugged. Bastion was a sore spot for me.
We lay there in silence for a while before Laithe broke the silence again.
“Hey I just got a DM,” she said and I leaned up to watch her open it.
I have some inside knowledge that DRF is doing business with Vanguard of Purity. Looks like arms and armor. I’m sending this to you because you associate with Vulptrix and might share her views of corporate corruption? I'm trying to figure out what they're up to from the inside but I can't get access to the convoy. It leaves at 3pm on the 15th of Feb.
“DRF? Who’s that?” Laithe asked.
“Competitor of Yelmorn. They’re a tech company but they’re smaller and have less resources in Penrith. I don’t know who the Vanguard of Purity are though,” I explained.
“They’re a bunch of assholes. They’re a coalition of crazy hate groups, neonazis and emerged haters. Really evil types, but they haven’t really gotten any staying power yet because they’re still new. I’ve stopped a few of them from pulling some shit recently,” she told me with a frown.
“Well they sound like people you really don’t want getting their hands on Emergence tech,” I said, matching her frown.
“Definitely, but I can’t hit a convoy like that. My rep wouldn’t be able to handle me hitting a corporate convoy like that,” she sighed, her face clouding with indecision.
I had an idea… Nightbinder couldn’t hit the convoy, but she knew someone who could.
“I could do it?” I offered.
“You?” she asked, her eyes lighting up as she thought about it.
“Yeah! Like, I could hit the convoy as Vulptrix, because no one would bat an eye if I did that, and then whatever I find I can just tell you about it,” I said with a grin.
“That’s not a bad idea!” she grinned back, “But I’ll need an alibi just in case. Maybe I could go down and hang out at Limbo? There’s bound to be heroes there who will see me and corroborate my story.”
“Ooh good plan!” I nodded, “But if I’m going to hit that convoy, I need to get up and shower. It’s already almost noon.”
“But you’re so warm and cuddly!” Laithe laughed, squeezing me tighter, “You can’t go yet.”
“Well, just for you Lailai, I’ll stay and cuddle for a bit,” I giggled.
“Good, because you don’t have a choice,” she chuckled.
The girl who’d met Kelly in the prison wanted to talk to me. That’s what Laithe had told me when I’d arrived back from the raid on the convoy. Was Kelly with her? I was so anxious to know if Kelly was with Robin that I could hardly think about the crazy shit I’d found among the DRF goods. Shit and I’d fought a telekinetic catgirl! She’d been cute too. Good thing my illusions can apparently simulate smells too. I giggled briefly at the memory of the fight. I’d almost been sad to make my escape, she’d been hilarious.
I’d hoped that Kelly might have escaped during that crazy prison breakout that Milk Dad had staged, but she hadn’t turned up at home or anywhere else. Maybe she hadn’t turned up because she was with Robin and Milk Dad. Either way, I was going to find out soon. I’m calling Unbowed, Milk Dad by the way. That’s my name for him. Not changing.
I was meeting them in Limbo pretty much now, and I was more than a little apprehensive about it. I hadn’t even been able to decide if I wanted to go as Vulptrix or Kalia, until Laithe had thrown her hands up in exasperation and told me to go as Kalia. Which now that I had been thrown down that decision, made a lot of sense. Kelly and Robin didn’t know Vulptrix. I still had the necklace, but it was hidden in my pocket. I might need it, I might not.
I breathed in and out, trying to calm myself. I had a lot less confidence when I wasn’t going out as Vulptrix. Something about my villain persona gave me the freedom to unleash my more insolent and cheeky nature.
Alright, time to go in.
Opening the door to Limbo, I carefully eased my way in, trying not to cause a ruckus as I entered the bar. The place was much as it always was, a rundown attic that had been spruced up to meet the needs of the Bar. There was a new piece or two of crazy art hanging here and there on the walls, but that was about it.
I looked around, trying to figure out where Robin was, but I couldn’t figure out which patron she’d be, other than her gender. I was about to walk further into the bar to investigate, when a hand closed around my tail. I jumped and gave a little squeak of protest, turning to see who had me by the tail.
“Got you, you tricky little fox!” Redd grinned wolfishly.
“H-hi? Why are you always here?” I asked, a little sass escaping before I could contain it.
“I’m here because I need to get paid. Rent doesn’t wait for happy little reunions you know. Not that I’m against them mind you, but a girl needs to get paid every now and then,” she said, rambling a bit.
“Uh, oh! Shit! Sorry! Yeah, uh… you got some paper and a pen? I’ll write my address down for you,” I said, genuinely abashed that I hadn’t paid her yet.
“Your address? You sure it’s alright to give a gal like me your actual address?” she asked in surprise.
“Yeah, why?” I asked, why would Redd be a problem? I already trusted her with the truth about who I was.
“Because…” she said, trailing off with a shrug, her ears drooping for a bit.
“Just let me give it to you,” I said, looking up and giving her a warm smile.
“Oh, g-give it to me? But you’ve got a- Right. The address. Here write it into my phone,” Redd said, blushing slightly and handing me her phone.
I typed out my address into a note on her phone and handed it back, “You have a lot of notes in there.”
“Yup,” she nodded, not elaborating further, instead turning and pointing into the bar, “You’re looking for Robin I think? She’s that one with the glass of milk.”
I followed her gaze and saw who she was point at. The girl looked to be around Kelly’s age, maybe seventeen? She had long slightly wavy black hair that shone in the dim mood lighting. I couldn’t tell her height because she was sitting, but she seemed to be rather thin, and definitely underweight. I needed to shove some cookies in that very pale face. She was kind of adorable.
Her grey eyes were peeking up over the rim of her tankard of milk, and I couldn’t help but grin as I realised that Milk Dad had found another victim. Where the emerged strangeness began was at her spikes, which stuck out from her arms, head and other parts of her body that I could see. They looked like exceedingly sharp black obsidian, and were honestly kinda cool, in a goth way.
Her skin was the next thing, black mist roiled beneath the skin, and it vaguely reminded me of Nightbinder’s smoke mascara. Her eyes had the same effect, black mist swirling across the whites of her eyes. She had this pretty badass appearance that was significantly offset by the shy way she was staring at me from the darkest corner of the bar. Cute.
“Thanks Redd,” I said with another warm smile at the wolf girl.
“No problem,” she smiled, finally letting go of my tail and giving me a gentle push towards Robin, “Off you go squirt.”
“I will toss you at her I swear,” she grumbled, flushing again.
“Bark bark bark,” I giggled, skipping out of her reach.
She did the two fingered, I’m watching you motion, but had trouble completely extinguishing the grin behind it.
Schooling my expression, I turned and made my way over to Robin. As I got nearer she hesitantly rose from her seat and backed a little further into the corner. The shadows seemed to wrap around her a little, clinging to her. I stopped a few paces away and opened my mouth to speak, then closed it. I absently brought my tail around and dug my fingers into its thick fur, trying to figure out how to start this conversation.
"So you’re Robin?" I asked finally.
"Um, yeah. You’re Kalia? You look like Kelly said you would..." she murmured, her eyes flicking down to my tail, then up to my ears.
"Yup,” I said, my ears twitching at her gaze.
We both stood there for several moments, and her shadows seemed to almost be laughing at the both of us the way they swirled around our feet.
"Can-can I hug you? Like I don’t know if that's like weird but like you went through some shit and even reading about it was like awful. So I um- I wanna hug you,” I stammered out in a rush.
“Best not… My spikes are really sharp, I don’t want to hurt you…,” she shyly murmured.
“Nah I’ll be fine ay,” I said, mustering a grin.
Robin shrugged slightly and opened her posture a little, which I took as an invitation. Hug time. Walking forward, I carefully put my arms around her, taking extra note of all the spikes. Gosh there were a lot of them! She definitely felt thin as I gathered her up, and she was a little bit taller than me. Despite her shadows and Obsidian Spikes of +5 Stabbery, she was warm and soft. She had stiffened at the start of the hug, and seemed hesitant to actually put her arms around me. I held her gently anyway, and she slowly eased into it, tentatively increasing her pressure from something more than a featherlight hold. She was like a little injured bird in my arms and I wanted to protect her.
“Thanks, by the way,” I murmured, “It sounds like you were a real friend to Kelly when she needed it the most. I wish I was there too.”
“No. No you wouldn’t... “ she quietly replied.
“Yeah, I don’t think… ugh, just I wish I could have helped, I wish I’d even known,” I sighed.
“You couldn’t have known. You think Kelly ever expected to wake up in a morgue or wind up in that place?” she asked soothingly.
“Yeah I guess you’re right,” I grimaced, easing out of the hug. I didn’t step further back though, keeping within a friendly distance, “Uh, speaking of Kelly… please tell me she’s with you?”
If Robin had ears like me, they would have drooped at my question. As it was her expression turned sad and she lowered her gaze to the floor. My stomach dropped through the floor along with her gaze. Fuck, good news wasn’t coming.
“I first noticed she was gone more than a week ago, after she stopped responding. They wanted to study her. He said they transferred her, mentioned putting her through the scientific method. I uh, came here for help finding her. Kelly seemed to think you could do anything,” she told me, her voice trailing off with a hopeful tone.
It felt like a punch to the gut, hearing again that she was being treated like some object with less rights than a lab mouse. It hurts so much to think about her like that, the shit she might be going through right this moment. Unbidden, my mind brought back that memory that continued to haunt me. The memory of the light of life leaving her eyes.
I grimaced, “Fuck that is so awful. Aw Kelly… I will tear down those cunts and burn their… nevermind. What I can do is complicated. It depends how much I can trust you and Milk Dad.”
“What?! You’re not about to tell me that you have a secret identity or something? Something unbelievable, like you’re actually that fox thief , Vulptrix-” she laughed, then winced and reached up to hold her head.
Ah shit. My hand instinctively reached into the pocket of my skirt and clenched around the contents within. This bloody necklace!
Before I could reply, Unbowed arrived, stepping in front of Robin and glaring at me, “What have you done to my-, to Wraith!”
“That’s a long story Milk Dad, we got somewhere private to talk?” I asked, slipping slightly into my Vulptrix persona. I didn’t do it because he intimidated me, not at all.
He stared at me a short while, then nodded. Pulling out a phone from behind one of his armor plates he whipped it up to his ear pressing a speed dial along the way.
“Nel, I need a pick up ASAP! Limbo to the bunker… Yes, I understand. I’ll pay for you to move your current booking! Quick!” he said, polite but curt in his tone.
He hung up, stowing his phone away again, and with an arm around her shoulders he herded Robin towards the cloakroom. He seemed rather protective of Robin. I hoped this was a paternal thing going on, because she was way too young for him. Actually, the milk gave it away now that I thought about it. Definitely treating her like a kid that needed guidance. He seemed way too good to be that dick foster parent Mr Anderson, maybe her birth father?
“Alright then,” I muttered to myself, following along behind them.
When we got into the cloakroom, a redheaded woman was waiting for us. She was… attractive too. Very attractive. Damn gingers are cute, just saying... gingers are like, pretty great. Next to the cute ginger was a weird portal in the air, the edges vibrated and shimmered in a way that defied my mind. I felt drawn to stare, and something within me rose up, like a dragon that had been disturbed from its slumber.
As though I was not totally in control of my own actions, I reached forward before anyone could stop me, and touched the edge of the portal. My mind went blank, and then in an instant I felt the strange beast within me surge, bright light flashing in my mind’s eye.
I was in another place, where I saw a huge building. Ruined and overgrown. I was within it, a spectre with no substance. I saw a woman with hair the colour of a nebula, she raised her hand. It spat a starscape of flame. She grinned.
A girl, looking barely into her teens, wearing an outfit that appeared to be from hundreds of years ago. She cried out in fear as a man with a musket and bayonet charged at her. The man was not able to hit her. He swung this way and that, but she was always just out of reach.
A tower in the mountains, great peaks that rose jagged into the overcast sky. A young woman stood upon a balcony, her arms outstretched as she wove strange lines of energy into the air. The sky shuddered.
A strangely mundane cityscape greeted me, where a young girl, perhaps nineteen years old was in the process of tripping over her own feet. In a display of extreme improbability, she fell into a perfect roll, tumbling like she was a master gymnast back onto her feet. She rolled her eyes with a silly grin and skipped onwards.
Six people, looking for all the world like characters from a video game battled strange writhing horrors, part kaleidoscopic glass, part animal. They looked to be overrun in moments, until the smallest member of their group exploded in a burst of vibrant blue and gold light.
Without warning, the strange ethereal being I had become was arrested from my flight between otherworldly places. A hand grasped me, crushing the fragile essence that I had become. It was huge, and also a normal size at the same time. My mind bent as it tried to make sense of the gut wrenching double perspective I was being shown.
The hand was strange, terrifying and utterly inhuman. The substance the hand was made of reminded me of half mixed black and clear glass, as though smoke had been poured into water and then frozen. The surface was faceted in impossible ways, fractal patterns defying the eye and the three dimensions I was used to at the same time. Every so often the surface would flicker and change its configuration to some new Escher inspired fever dream.
“Hello little facet,” the figure boomed in a quiet voice.
I looked up and was met with more mind wrenching strangeness. A flat face sat on a head of solid black glass, the only features on the pane were two eyes. The eyes were disturbing on a fundamental level. They swirled and spun as though they were a three dimensional representation of fifth dimensional eyes.
I tried to speak, to scream, to escape, but I could not. All I achieved was a small pulse of my strange aetheric form. The pulse connected with the skin of the impossible creature that held me, shimmering and causing a violet reconfiguration of the nearby faceted skin.
“Ahhh, you’re rather rebellious aren’t you my child, even trying to fight back? We can’t have that now can we? I think we’d better... reintegrateyou into the whole now shouldn’t we?” it asked with a malicious giggle that reverberated around the grey space like a haunting melody.
It reached over with it’s other hand, the thirty fingers extending into barbed spikes. I saw them descending and I was filled with a shuddering horror. I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t breath. Nothing but the terror as they descended towar-
As suddenly as it had happened, I was back in the cloakroom, with Robin’s hand pulling me away from the edge of the portal by the arm. My mind froze up in fear, unable to process what I’d just experienced. What in the hell had I just seen? People, fighting and weaving strange power, and then… that thing... I turned to look at Robin, and saw her eyes wide and face even more ashen than before. She gulped, her mouth working slightly but no sound came out. Had she seen it too?
“That was a pretty fuckin’ dumb idea miss,” the ginger lady admonished me, “Coulda’ lost a finger or somethin’ you don’t seem to use, like your mind.”
“Lang- ,” Unbowed started, then paused.
“Nevermind… Please, just carry on. Ladies first,” he instructed with an exasperated tone.
The normalcy of the two older people was jarring, and I felt my mind shudder back into gear like like a car that was being rolled to a start.
We all did as we were bid and hurried through the portal. I briefly wondered if they were going to try something once I was trapped on the other side, but I figured if things got rough I could just teleport away. Holding me prisoner had become something that only Nightbinder could pull off so far. Walls had no power over me!
We arrived in a long hallway, where beautiful hardwood floors made of a rich dark wood extended out from my feet. The walls were a clean cream colour, with muted grey skirting boards. Modern lamps were spaced evenly along the walls, giving off a soft light, and the floor was covered in a long persian rug. It looked really nice. Unbowed must have some serious cash. I wonder… how much cash? Bah, but he seemed to be an okay dude so I couldn’t hit his place. Damn it Laithe!
Unbowed motioned for us to follow him, “If you will…”
Robin gave me a shy smile and stepped through the portal. Okay, she looks okay. I got this. I hopped through and immediately distanced myself from the portal. Reaching a door a ways down the hall, Unbowed opened it and motioned us through while he held it. We stepped into a well furnished office, bookcases all but creaking as they struggled to hold their cargo. Even when he was just showing us into his office he was all polite dad.
“This office is just for entertaining guests of your nature, I don’t keep anything overly important in here. Anyway you wished to speak in private, let’s continue. You have one minute to explain why you were harming someone under my protection,” he said calmly.
Whoa there, damn. What’s with these authority figures and going straight to the blaming?
“Well, like, for starters... I wasn’t really hurting her. At least not intentionally. It’s part of how I protect my identity. Robin, you joked about me being Vulptrix? Well, here goes!” I said, abandoning any pretenses.
I pulled the necklace out of my pocket and clipped it around my neck. Just for added showmanship, I also used my powers of illusion to create my Vulptrix outfit.
“Ta daaa!” I said with a wink, “My necklace is rather protective, but now that I’ve shown you who I am, you don’t have to worry about the head pains anymore.”
“Couldn’t you have done this before I felt psychic nails digging into my mind?” Robin grumbled dramatically.
I winced internally, damn… I was feeling more and more uneasy about this necklace. I didn’t like the way it hurt good people like Laithe and Robin.
“Miss Vulptrix, there are far easier ways of concealing one’s identity than messing with supernatural technology beyond your understanding,” he huffed.
“Yeah but like, none of them let me do this!” I said with a grin I didn’t entirely feel and wiggled my ears, “I like being able to be my foxy self no matter what alter ego I’m using at the time. For real though, I didn’t realise how bad it was until fairly recently. Which is not to say I’m going to stop using it, because a few headaches for intrusive and inquisitive people is better than doing things the way other villains do it. Not many ways to disguise I’m a fox girl. Fancy armour won’t work. Plus, it only really hurts persistent people.”
“Though, for a thief as prolific and successful as yourself, it would be advisable that you pay Tinker Tailor at Custom Fine Tailors a visit. I’m sure you can afford it with your spoils. I guarantee they can find you a more refined and protective look, than a simple old hoodie. Even their more deceptively casual styles pack in a considerable amount of protection. I’m sure we would all rest easier if you had that,” he said, going into dad lecture mode.
“The hoodie is special to me… it’s the only piece of my past life I still have. I like to rock it when I’m out thieving because it keeps me calm. M-maybe you’re right though, I don’t want to lose it after all. How do I find this Custom Fine Tailors? No no, you can tell me later actually, can we please get to the real reason why we’re here? I’m worried about Kelly,” I said, my ears wilting as I realised Milk Dad was right.
Maybe I’d go to this Tinker person tomorrow, get a proper outfit made. One that signified my shift from thief to a more grey vigilante. Yeah. Possibly something that matched Nightbinder’s aesthetic in some subtle way? Oh! Maybe I should pay for her to get one done too.
“Alright, so you’re Vulptrix. No wonder Nightbinder knew where to find you, Redd also knew all along too didn’t she? You have Ms Clark’s case files, you have some great rescue heist planned out? Don’t you?” Robin pleaded, looking confused, “You’re the famous Vulptrix, the thief who can break into anywhere. You run heroes around in circles. I’ve only been out a couple days and I’m aware of your reputation.”
I sighed, and flopped down into a chair. It was a comfy chair. Fuck, looks like my reputation has swollen a bit. What she said was true yeah, but it didn’t account for… my broken mental state. Caser and Laithe had pulled me out of the mire sure, but… shit was still hard.
“I’m not all that. I’m sorry. I… tried you know? That factory hit? That was my reaction to finding out what happened to you and Kelly in that prison. I realise now that it wasn’t constructive, but I just needed to hurt the people responsible! Honestly I’m lost about what to do,” I said sadly, my ears drooping as my vulnerable inner nature was revealed.
Unbowed sighed, and I thought I saw the tension leave him as he realised I wasn’t here to hurt his little Robin. Well, slightly taller Robin. It felt weird to call her little when I was like two inches shorter.
“This is far too heavy to have been left on you girl’s shoulders… I figure it was Redd who retrieved the case files for you. I just wish she had given them to me. I had been tracking Yelmorn’s activities since the first Emergence and was aware of their connections with the Taskforce and the prison. I lost a lead when the OMR caseworker was stabbed, I was only able to ascertain the location of her client Miss Wraith in the prison, prior to my break in. Her office at the OMR was ransacked and I only learnt of her home office, after it was burgled by Miss Redd,” he explained.
I chafed briefly at his assumption that this was too big for me to handle, but then I realised he was right. The stress of my quest to save Kelly had been wearing me down and causing me to make terrible decisions.
I nodded slowly, “Yeah I can get those case files to you. I actually have your papers Robin. The ones that prove your new identity and stuff, I assume you want those too?”
“She had my documentation? I knew she had put in the paperwork to sort it out... I guess I should take it, but it’s funny. She went through all that effort to preserve my identity and now I can’t use any of it… I don’t think she had this in mind when she promised to get me out,” she laughed bitterly, looking crestfallen.
Aw Robin. I could tell her upbringing and the shit in the prison had left lasting scars in that opaque mind of hers. I hoped I could get to know her better. Maybe once Kelly was free and safe I’d try and really befriend her.
“Yes given my research and resources, those case files may allow me to work out where she is and who is responsible,” He looked to Robin.
“Let me handle your documentation, I might be able to do something with it and maybe once we finish this, we can get you exonerated.”
Those government bastards. Seriously. Time and again they fucked up like this, sending an innocent girl to a hellish prison. This shit needed to change. Now her life was one where she was a wanted girl, all because she’d had the audacity to be freed from the place she wasn’t even meant to be in the first place.
“Alright, sure. Should I bring the papers around tomorrow?” I asked, masking my anger at the world behind a smile.
Nodding, Unbowed steepled his fingers and said, “If you are free in daylight hours, there is someone I want to arrange for you to both to visit. If you give me a contact number, I’ll arrange for Nel to call you to arrange pick up when it is time.”
“I’ll try get there as early as possible…” then blushed as I realised something, “But recently the time I get up has depended on Nightbinder’s antics the night before.”