Chapter 2 "Snakes" 7

After a night of little sleep, Sky had gone into the station around the start of day watch, only to be told by Sgt. Machado of an incident at a local café involving gods. Glad to have a chance to avoid paperwork as well as to learn the neighborhood better, he immediately took the case for himself. Machado seemed mildly disapproving, though whether it was at the idea of an inspector taking on such a minor case, or the fact that the inspector was dressed in a far less formal manner than the day before – jacket open to reveal a colorful aloha shirt, soft khaki field cap restored to his head – Sky was not sure. Probably both.

Now approaching the Copper Pot, Sky takes note of the smashed windows momentarily before noticing two figures arguing quietly outside the café. One of them is a tall, powerfully built woman, her hair a huge mass of curls blowing everywhere in the morning wind. Looking up at her is a slightly built woman, almost a girl in stature...and then he sees the ears. The bunny ears. He stops dead. It’s the Bunny who had shown such fascination with his badge the day before. She’s dressed in a tunic of Guardia Popula blue, lighter than his own Dei indigo, and a knee-length pleated skirt of nearly the same shade. Her feet are bare. The larger woman...he suddenly recognizes her as well: Corporal Kaur, her hair released from its plait. She is also wearing her uniform, but with no jacket.

Sky strides up to them. The Bunny sees him first, and blanches, seems to shrink in guilt. Kaur looks around and silently mouths, Oh crap.

Sky looks from on to the other, then says in a hard voice, “Corporal...explain.”

“Uhhh, sir –”

The Bunny steps forward, standing at attention, and says, “It’s my fault, sir!”

Sky turns his gaze on her, his face going from stern to shocked. He simply stares at her for a long moment. She can talk? He opens his mouth to say that out loud, then reconsiders, realizing how stupid that would sound, blinks, then asks in a gentle voice, “Could you tell me your name, please?”

Still standing at attention, she replies, “Mayumi, sir.” Her voice is of a lower pitch than he would have expected for her size.

Aliyah breaks in, “Me and Cala call her May, sir. It’s easier to say. And that’s what the others call her.”

Sky shoots Aliyah a glance that clearly says hush, then focuses on the Bunny again. “Mayumi? That sounds Japanese.”

She nods.

“You...know what ‘Japanese’ means.” Sky blinks again. “Nihongo wakarimasuka?

She replies, still standing stiffly, “Hai, Keibu.” Aliyah looks from Mayumi to Sky, looking half confused as they speak in a language she’s never even heard of before.

Sky’s dark face pales slightly. She knows Japanese well enough to call me by my rank. Do we even have any large Japanese communities in the City? And she’s been in stasis for...how many years? All her life. After a moment, still speaking Japanese, he asks, “How?”

Mayumi looks up at him, her stance relaxing slightly, nervous expression fading as she seems to gather her thoughts. Sky is struck once again at her presence, her emotional affect. He realizes that if he had simply met her on the street, he would have assumed she was just some variant on the standard human form. He never would have thought she was an artificial creature.

“I dreamed,” she says, finally. “While I slept in the bubble, I was dreaming. I lived a life, among people who spoke Japanese.”

Sky swallows. Her Japanese is perfect, as far as he can tell. Quite formal as well. Probably better than his. He asks, “How do you write your name?”

Mayumi pulls out a small notebook – a standard Guardia cop notebook that she could have easily picked up off a table in the main office, Sky thinks – and with a pencil quickly writes two characters, then hands it to Sky. He reads, “真弓”. Mayumi...True Bow. Her calligraphy, even with a pencil, is confident and balanced. He nods and hands it back to her, hardly looking at her now, looking inwardly instead, reviewing the previous day’s events, particularly the release of the Bunnies. And how he had acted.

“Corporal,” he says after a time, reverting to Urbia, the common language of the City. Aliyah straightens and leaves off trying to tie back her hair with a leopard-pattern scrunchie. “You said the others call her May. Did you mean the other Bunnies? They can speak as well?”

“Yes, sir. Well, Rosemary and Cherry can...that’s the redhead and the black girl. I’m not sure you can get them to stop speaking, really...kinda like me when I’m nervous, hahahaha! Um, sorry...and the cute guy, Sage? He seemed to be having some trouble, but he could speak. The other three...it sounded like they need a little time. But maybe they’re talking today. I don’t know.”

Sky nods, still looking at nothing. He closes his eyes, lowering his head, takes a deep breath, and lets it out slowly. Then looks at Mayumi again, still speaking Urbia.

“I am sorry I didn’t make your acquaintance properly yesterday, Mayumi. Please forgive my rudeness. My name is Tuma-Sukai.” He bows slightly from the waist.

“I am pleased to meet you. Dōzo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu,” she says, bowing more deeply than he and using just the right level of politeness to say Please give me your favor, a phrase that does not translate well. She smiles at him as she straightens.

He smiles in return, but his smile quickly fades. “But I must ask...What is going on? Why are you here?”

Mayumi’s worried look returns. “I overheard something, back at the station.” One of her bunny ears twitches. “I was concerned. I thought I should follow.”

“Does Alma know you’re out here?”

Mayumi looks at him with guilt. “There was no time to ask. Please...don’t tell her.”

Sky looks at nothing again. Can I keep this from Alma? Should I? He looks back at her. And what does it mean that she is willing to deceive her creator?

“Mayumi,” Sky says, “will you promise me something?” She looks at him steadily, not nodding. “Will you promise me not to do this again? These streets are dangerous, and you’ve just come into this world...” He trails off at the look of resentment that steals over her face. “What?” he asks.

“I overheard something that indicated a crime, sir. Evidence of corruption. Police corruption.”

Though her voice is quiet, Sky is taken aback by the anger in it. “Mayumi...did you have a job in this dream-time, when you were in stasis?”

Formally, she says, “Constable, Guardia Popula. Two years at Oyafukōdōri Station, Third Ring.”

Sky looks at Aliyah, who just shrugs and looks confused. Sky looks back at Mayumi. “All right...I can see we have a lot to talk about, and I truly want to hear all about it. In the meantime, however, you don’t have a badge in this world, and Sgt. Alma is going to be furious if she learns that you left the station. Shall we strike a deal? You promise not to go out without permission – for the moment, until you know this world, and this neighborhood, better – and I won’t tell Sgt. Alma about this. If she’s not already frantic with worry, that is.”

Mayumi still looks resentful, but she nods. Sky looks at Aliyah. “I need to take this report,” he says, cocking his head to indicate the café. “Afterward, I’ll escort her back and...explain things to Alma, if necessary. Now...what are you doing here, Corporal?”

“Well, sir, I was just on my way home from out celebrating with my watch-mates.”

“Oh...your promotion. Of course.”

“Yeah...and I spotted May here! She was listening at the window. So I tried to get her to come back to the station with me. But actually, sir, if it’s OK with you, I’d like to head on home now. I’ve had a few and I’m still feeling the effects, y’know. And my hair...fine for a party, but...I don’t want the guys at the station to see me –”

“It’s all right Corporal. Thank you...for trying to take care of Mayumi. You’ve been awake a full day now. Go home, sleep. I’ll see you when you report in this evening.”

She grins and snaps a salute. “Thanks, sir!” Then she spins on her heel, goes a bit too far around, corrects course, and starts walking down an alley.


Chapter 2 "Snakes" 6

Mayumi enters the office, looking for Cala or Aliyah, but doesn’t spot either of them. Of course, she remembers, they are on the night watch. They’ve gone home hours ago. In fact, she sees officers of the day watch arriving, officers of the graveyard watch greeting them and preparing to leave, some going upstairs to change their clothes, others leaving in uniform to change at home. A pale, slightly balding corporal she hasn’t met salutes his Guardia Popula sergeant as the man enters to relieve him. The sergeant is not tall, but broad-shouldered, muscular under a layer of fat, his skin nearly as dark and glossy as Mayumi’s black hair. She overhears their names: Stathos, Machado. Standing in the corner, hardly noticed, her sensitive ears twitching, she overhears a great deal from around the room.

“Look, Rocco, I’ve had a good relationship with your people for years now. But these Dukaine thugs are scary.”

On the other side of the room, a young woman...no, Mayumi realizes with surprise, a goddess...a goddess is speaking with a constable. She is surprisingly normal-looking, young but almost motherly. Mayumi finds herself drawn to the goddess, who seems so comfortable in herself, unlike the gods she has met so far – Sgt. Gwydion, who seemed to be covering up some secret with his wit and banter; the Inspector, who pulled away as she looked into his eyes, as if afraid of what she would see; and poor Alma, so alone, so isolated, for so long – and though looking annoyed, even angry at the moment, it seems to the Bunny that this emotion is a rare one for this goddess. The constable, however, has worry lines embedded deeply in his face through force of habit. His uniform is well-used – he does not seem to be one of the new recruits recently sent from the Academy.

Mayumi shakes her head. She can hear music, faint music...violins?

The constable looks mortified. “Jeez, Kyri, I’m sorry. Those guys...they don’t listen ta reason. They warned us they was movin’ inta this part of Three Rats –”

“Wait! You knew this would happen? And you didn’t warn me?” The goddess glowers at the cop.

The constable squirms. “Aw Kyri, we thought we could negotiate! But there ain’t no negotiatin’ with them! I’m real sorry...”

“So...it sounds like you’re saying they’re my new ‘protectors.’ Then why am I still paying you off, hm?” The goddess looks around the new station. Just for a moment her eyes connect with Mayumi’s, and the music changes from violins to the plucked tones of a koto, before reverting as the goddess’ gaze passes on. “Seems to me you have a lot more cops here than before. And I hear there’s three new Guardia Dei. Maybe it’s time I stopped relying on thugs and their threats, and started demanding the police do their jobs.”

“Oh Kyri, these guys, they ain’t messin’ around...”

“And maybe it’s time for you to stop being a thug with a badge and start being a real cop, Rocco!”

“Jeez, Kyri, keep it down...”

“Not until I make an official complaint. Sergeant! Oh, Sergeant Machado!” The goddess’ voice goes up in register and almost becomes a song. Mayumi moves a little closer, going to the coffee pot and pouring for some officers, making herself useful and thus offering a reason to be in the room. Some are new and accept her presence without question, just glancing at her ears curiously; others seem rather surprised to see her, one of the Bunnies they’ve heard about, the word probably spread by Aliyah. Perhaps because it is morning, they do not engage her in conversation, but she acknowledges a thank-you absentmindedly as she listens to the goddess Kyri talking with Sgt. Machado while Constable Rocco...no, it’s Zeffretti, that’s what Machado calls him, while Zeffretti looks very uncomfortable in the background. Without even thinking about it, she picks up a Guardia notebook out of an open cardboard box that is full of them, and a short pencil, slipping them into the breast pocket of the Popula tunic that Sage had helped her tailor yesterday.

Machado calls Zeffretti over and orders him to accompany the goddess back to her shop. “I will ask the Guardia Dei to look into this, Dona Kyri,” Machado says, holding one of her hands in both of his. “Your café is an important and valued part of our community, and we will extend every effort to keep it safe.”

As they leave, Mayumi makes a decision. She knows there is something rotten about Zeffretti, and she wants to know more. Corruption, she thinks with disgust, right here in our station. She needs to learn the truth. She can slip out and listen to more of their conversation...but Sgt. Machado or someone else might see her leave. As she sets down the coffee pot, she’s nearly trod on by a huge red-haired constable. As she steps out of his way, he stares at her, so fascinated that he walks right into a wall, hitting his head so hard he collapses in heap.

Mayumi gasps, her hand over her mouth. She’s about to go check on him when she hears Sgt. Machado growl, “Longshot...not again!” Two other Guardia go over to see if he’s badly hurt, and he groans as they check him. Mayumi sees that everyone is looking at him. Without hesitating, she slips out the door and into the streets.


Chapter 2 "Snakes" 5

Kyri arrives at the Three Rats Guardia Station. It’s her first time at the new station, a few blocks from the older, smaller one. It is still early, and the station is abustle with day-watch officers arriving and graveyard-watch going home.  

Kyri’s effort to control her divine talent is visible in the tension of her jaw and the glint in her eye. The only effect of her presence is the sound of a violin drifting through the background noise. Some of the cops know her, and greet her; others, probationary constables fresh from the Academy, look confused at the sound of music. The music attracts Constable Zeffretti’s attention before the small goddess begins to speak.

“Why d’you always have to have the violins?” complains Zeffretti. “Reminds me of Mama,” he adds, crossing himself with a gesture to a god forgotten by most.

“Can you just get over the violins?” retorts Kyri. “Talking with you, it’s taking all my control to stop this room turning into a pasta restaurant. Why do you have to be such a cliché?”

“Fine, what d’ya want?”

“The Dukaine gang – bunch of frog eaters, they seem to think that they are bigger than you can handle. Is it true?”

“Oh...they already come talk to ya, huh?” replies Zeffretti, sweat prickling on his forehead.

“Talked to me? They busted up my shop! There’s glass everywhere! They smashed the chairs, the tables...I didn’t try to stop them because I don’t know how much muscle they have behind them. Look, Rocco, I’ve had a good relationship with your people for years now. But these Dukaine thugs are scary.”

The constable looks decidedly uncomfortable under the goddess’ angry gaze. “Jeez, Kyri, I’m sorry. Those guys...they don’t listen ta reason. They warned us they was movin’ inta this part of Three Rats –”

“Wait! You knew this would happen? And you didn’t warn me?” Kyri glares at Rocco, who shifts in his seat and pulls at his collar.

“Aw Kyri, we thought we could negotiate! But there ain’t no negotiatin’ with them! I’m real sorry...”

“So...it sounds like you’re saying they’re my new ‘protectors.’ Then why am I still paying you off, hm?” Kyri looks around the new station. She spots a small figure, a girl barely more than child-sized, wearing bunny ears. How odd, she thinks, but forgets about her almost immediately as she scans the station’s uncharacteristic bustle. “Seems to me you have a lot more cops here than before. And I hear there’s three new Guardia Dei. Maybe it’s time I stopped relying on thugs and their threats, and started demanding the police do their jobs.”

“Oh Kyri, these guys, they ain’t messin’ around...”

“And maybe it’s time for you to stop being a thug with a badge and start being a real cop, Rocco!”

“Jeez, Kyri, keep it down...”

“Not until I make an official complaint. Sergeant! Oh, Sergeant Machado,” she trills musically, “how delightful to see you again! Congratulations on your promotion!”


Chapter 2 "Snakes" 4

As Dion enters the main doors leading to the Guardia Headquarters, he hears his name being called from the desk. Halting, he sees Corporal Philippus Stathos waving and beckoning him over. With measured, precise strides, the god closes on the desk.  
“Good Morning, Corporal Stathos. How may I be of assistance to you?”
“Sir, a number of boxes arrived from your uncle’s estate for you. I had the courier move the boxes to the bar area in the other building.”
“Ah.  I had expected a delivery,” Dion responds. “Thank you for handling this for me. I shall attend to it immediately.”
As Dion turns to leave, he halts and again addresses the corporal. “Before I leave, Corporal, I wonder if I might trouble you with a question.”
“Of course, sir. What is it?”
“I ran across a small street gang this morning.  I had the opportunity to interact as they were concerning themselves at that point with a rival gang member.  One of the members is a kunoichi.  Fairly young, I would suspect.  Do you know anything of her?”
The corporal’s breathing accelerates upon hearing that a Guardia Dei ran into a street-gang fight. Thus, he is momentarily stunned at the rather benign question. “A kunoichi, sir? Yes, I believe there is a young lady martial artist who recently joined a gang south of the station. But I do not know much of her, sir.”
The god nods, as if considering the answer. “That is fine. I’ve had two encounters with her over the previous twelve hours and was just curious. It is really of no matter.”
“Very well, sir. If I do find out more, I’ll be happy to let you know.”
“Thank you again, Corporal. That is most kind. Now, I will attend to the delivery. Please let the Inspector know of my whereabouts when you see him.” And, taking his leave, Dion passes through the station towards the annex, leaving the corporal staring at his departure and asking a question to the air, “But what about that street-gang fight?”
Arriving in the bar area, Dion sees the not-insubstantial stack of boxes somewhat blocking off the bar. Standing next to the boxes are two Bunnies, Cherry and Rosemary, both with unhappy looks on their faces. On the other side of the room, he sees Shade with the three younger Bunnies. As he approaches the lady bunnies, out of reflex, Dion turns on the charm.
“Ladies, good morning!” He quickly scans their faces in an attempt to read the focus of their concern.
Cherry is first to turn to Dion. “Are these your boxes that are blocking our bar?”
Dion, halting his approach, considers the question. “Your bar? I wasn’t aware that we’ve established this as a working business.”
“Cherry and I have decided t’go into business. That is if that Inspector will agree,” Rosemary adds. “But we can’t get started on cleanin’ up the place with all these bloody boxes here.”
“Ah.  I see your dilemma… Well, I was hoping to establish living quarters at one of the neighborhood businesses. But sadly, I was misinformed as to their intentions. Thus, currently, I have no home to move these into.”
“Why don’t you build a room here, like our Mistress did?” Rosemary inquires. “She just took one of the rooms downstairs, and,” waggling her fingers in mock magic, “turned it into a home for us.”
“Hmm…a pocket universe…maybe. But I would still need a place for the door.”
“Why not here?” Cherry asks. “You wouldn’t have to move the boxes far, and we would love to have your help with the bar. If you’re nearby, that would help.”
Dion stands rubbing his chin as he thinks. “It would be close to work, and avoids that street-gang problem…Very well, ladies, here it is.” Now looking around, he muses, “But where do I create my door?”
“How about in the kitchen?” Cherry suggests, tossing a thumb at the room behind the bar.
“Well, let’s look.” Dion responds, and all three enter the kitchen.
Looking around, Rosemary remarks, “I think this place might be a bit small for you to move into.”
“Oh size, dear bunny, is not a concern,” Dion says as he walks to the pantry door. “This should do,” he notes to himself.
Placing his hands atop the doorway, Dion closes his eyes and slowly lets his fingers follow the framing of the door. As his hands lower to his belt height, each hand lightly touching the framing on both sides, he whispers a well-practiced spell, a spell used when a secret and secure place is needed for a rendezvous with the young lady of choice for that evening.
Both bunnies are startled when the pantry door shimmers and becomes translucent, overlaid by a void. Different from the void barriers hastily erected to trap the demon dogs, this void has light inside it, diffused at its perimeter. Stepping into the room, Dion enhances the spell. Working from his long-etched memory of his home, the light begins to coalesce, taking form in the shapes of walls, floors, and ceilings. Further refinement creates furniture and lighting. As Dion applies the final touches, the walls gain color, fine bedding adorns the bed, sized large enough for a guest or two.
Dion takes a deep breath. Opening his eyes and seeing his pocket universe complete, he makes a mental note to replenish his mana from the Department of Magic, a gift from his wizard friends for their time with the Professional Ladies of the Night Guild.

Returning to the two Bunnies, he takes each in hand and escorts them into his place of residence. Both look in awe over the fine wood furniture, rich sculptures, expensive silk bedding, the diffused lighting and the study area with the quality teak desk and bookshelves. Their view of wonder finally dissolves into squeals of happiness as they check out the room, the adjoining bathroom, and comfort of the bed, bouncing on it and laughing. Dion looks to each bunny and smiles.
“I see you appreciate my new home.”

Rosemary wrinkles her nose at the god and responds. "Heh, ours is prettier, but yours  is OK too!" and then giggles and continues bouncing on the bed.
Cherry is first to break from her frivolity, and she asks Dion. “But what do we do about a pantry?”
“Oh, the pantry is still there,” Dion responds. “I’ve merely overlaid its door with the doorway to my little home here. When you leave, I’ll close my door.  Then, all you will see is the pantry.  I, however, will have access to this home, and you too if accompanied by me,” he completes, considering the opportunities for liaisons between Gods and Bunnies. He sees Rosemary returning his look of interest with a similar one of her own, but as he’s considering how best to handle the possibilities, he sees young Sage poke his head in. The male Bunny looks at Dion as if evaluating him, then at Cherry and Rosemary, making a Come on gesture with his head.

Rosemary sticks her tongue out at him, but says to Dion, “Sorry, but we’ve got the younger ones to take care of. And we do need to get the bar cleaned up...”
“Of course. If you ladies will help me with the boxes, we’ll get them out of your way.”
Over the span of the next half-hour, with the assistance of the three Bunnies, the bar area is cleared and Dion’s belongings are safely put away in his pocket universe.

Sitting back in his desk chair, Dion sips a glass of water, magically purified through a process he developed during his academy training. Impurities in the water are magically separated and disposed of through a small, void-barrier membrane. The pure water is then recycled for use.

The magical purification gained him high marks from an instructor whose daughter was most active in gymnastics and swimming, but as a naiad had an aversion to less-than-clean water. She was most grateful to Dion for providing her a way to swim in only the purest of water, and later showed him that gratification through demonstration of her most limber skills. The reminiscence brings a smile to Dion’s face. Suddenly, his eyebrows knit and the smile fades. Reaching into his bookshelf, he retrieves a black folder, still intact from his conversation with the Commander.
“Hmm...” he muses. “As I feared, she’s a page-seven entry. I’m sure Miss page four, entry eight has gotten to her by now…Most unfortunate.”

Standing up, Dion replaces the folder onto the bookshelf, and steps out of his universe towards the bar to see what assistance he can provide to the Bunnies with their plans.