Chapter 1 "The First Day" 11

Unsettled, trying not to look at the creature in front of him, Sky glances over at Gwydion, who is speaking quietly to the first two Bunnies, smiling. The dark one seems to be enjoying his attention – Sky wonders how much of his words she can really understand – but the red-haired one is inspecting the bar intently. Suddenly she springs right over it, landing on the other side. Gwydion laughs in surprise.

Sky looks down at the one in front of him. She is still looking up at him, her hand resting on his badge. She is no longer smiling, but she doesn’t seem afraid, merely curious. He swallows, then clears his throat. He reaches for her hand, taking it gently from his badge. Her fingers close around his. He feels an almost electric charge at the contact.

He tries to speak, then takes a breath, realizing he had stopped breathing for a moment there. “I...I’ll be right back,” he says quietly, hoping she can understand. He is less surprised than he thought he would be when she nods and releases her light grip.

Sky turns and goes out to the breezeway, closing the door behind himself and leaning back against it. He takes several deep breaths of the cool air, the neighborhood smells of old incense and garbage filling his lungs.

What in cursed Hell? he thinks.

He crosses through the other door and re-enters the station, almost immediately spotting one of the newly-minted corporals, the woman. “Cpl. Kaur!” he calls out. She hurries over and salutes, and he returns her salute perfunctorily. “Corporal, do we have extra uniforms somewhere? Or...any kind of clothes, really?”

“Sir!” she says, still standing at attention. “We –”

“At ease, Corporal. And you don’t have to shout.”

She immediately relaxes. “Oh, um, we do have some clothes. They’re in boxes in that storage building you just came out of, sir.”

“Good! Can you tell me which boxes?”

She closes her eyes to visualize it. “Well, sir, I seem to remember that they got stacked in a couple of places in there, under some other boxes...honestly, it would be easier for me to dig them out than for me to tell you.”

Sky hesitates, then decides. “All right. Come with me, then. Just...don’t be shocked at what you see.”

“Umm, sure...?”

As they cross the breezeway, Sky hears the voice of Sgt. Machado, edged with anger. “Inspector! May I speak with you, sir?”

Sky immediately realizes what must be wrong – Machado is the bridge between Guardia Popula and Guardia Dei in this station. By issuing orders to the corporal directly, without going through her Guardia Popula superior, Sky has violated protocol. Twice in one day. He realizes he will have to smooth some feathers. “Corporal, you go ahead in there and help Sergeants Alma and Gwydion. I’ll be with you soon.” As she goes in, he turns to speak to the mortal sergeant. “Sgt. Machado, how can I help you?”

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