Chapter 2 "Snakes" 16

Sky holds his office door open for Alma, saying, “Please, sit down, Sergeant. Would you like some tea?”

“Thank you. That... would help, yes,” she says, rubbing her temple. “Is this about Mayumi coming into the station unaccompanied, sir? I apologize for that. It will not happen again.”

“No...no that’s quite all right. She didn’t cause any trouble. In fact...” He pauses, allowing the ritual of making tea to cover for his desire to order his thoughts. “In fact, I’m very glad she did so. It gave me a chance to speak with her, and...well as soon as I did, I realized what an idiot I had been.”

He hands the steaming cup of tea to her – straight, no lemon or sugar or milk – and speaks simply. “Sergeant Alma...yesterday I...I was a fool.”

Alma fixes him with her gaze for a long, uncomfortable moment before she speaks. He wonders if she is going to dash the tea in his face, but she sets it without drinking on his desk beside her and breathes deeply before saying, “You mean when you broke every rule of protocol, when you refused to let me release the Bunnies in private, a moment I have long awaited, or when you dashed out as if they were frightening and terrible creatures...” She tilts her head slightly.  “Sir?”

Sky endures her listing of his sins. Her words are like knives, but he barely manages not to flinch. He speaks quietly but firmly. “All of those. I am sorry. I cannot offer any excuse.” He sits in the chair opposite her, the chair for guests. He looks down for a moment, then looks at her again. “But...you’ve seen the Anubi?” His voice is softer. “Those jackal-headed laborers that are used in some wards around the City?”

“Yes, I have. They were...created by one of my clan members. Before my time. They are the reason the laws restricting the creation of new life forms were introduced.” A barely detectable hint of shame creeps into her voice.

Sky nods. “Yes, I know. Well...then you know what they are like. Not even as self-aware or capable of true thought as an animal. They are essentially living automatons, slaves if such creatures can be called slaves. I...I have met many such creatures. I have arrested, or attempted to have charged, gods who have created them. And...I have seen much worse.” He pauses, intending to say more, but she rises from her chair and cuts him off.

“Amazing how people just assume things...” Alma starts pacing around, not looking at him, her voice rising in volume. “Everything must fall under a label before being judged, as if a name was everything standing between gods and humans, and beasts... and devils.” He feels a flash of dread at that word, but immediately forgets it as he notices how she is becoming more pale, as if she is using up her last reserves of strength in her anger. “Do you think anyone ever bothered to take a single look at the Bunnies? No! As soon as they were found, my little ones were deemed aberrations and I’ve had to keep them hidden and contained since the day they were created, away from everything and everyone in this world.” She sighs and shakes her head slowly, steadying herself with a hand on the back of her chair. “Even me...”

“Sergeant...you’re right. You, and they, were wronged. Terribly wronged.” He shakes his head. “And most recently by me. I don’t blame you a bit for despising me. But please, sit–”

“Look,”she interrupts him again, focusing her ice-cold angry gaze on a point  just beyond his eyes. Her voice is leveled and low, but not any less disturbing for it. “I don’t know who you are trying to be and what you are trying to accomplish with this, but I do know that you must have stepped on some very expensive shoes to get yourself thrown into this rat trap. And if you did so...” She shakes her head slowly. “Then maybe you shouldn’t be throwing accusations at the other prisoners of this... purgatory. At least that much was expected of you.”

He nods, and stands. “You’re right.” She pauses and looks at him, and he shrugs and holds out his hands. “Well, what else can I say? You’re right. Look, I know I was a fool. And I can’t guarantee I won’t be one again. I was blinded by my experiences, yes, but prejudice is no excuse. And I won’t ask for your forgiveness, because I know I haven’t done a single thing to earn it. Not yet...but Alma – I’m sorry, Sergeant – please sit. You look completely worn out. Please...” He gestures toward the chair, his expression full of concern.

She looks at him, as if confused. Then she shakes her head and whispers, “Doesn’t matter.” As she moves to sit, she winces and raises her right hand to her temple again. Her foot catches on the chair leg and she begins to stumble, but Sky grasps her by the left elbow and hand. She reflexively grips his hand. He gently guides her to sit, then lets go. He hands her her nearly forgotten cup of tea, which she takes with subtly shaking hands to drink. Sky steps back and sits.

“Doesn’t matter, anyway,” she says. “We’re all trapped here for the gods know how long! Might as well try to get along.” She drinks her tea, not looking at him until she is finished. When she does, she just studies his face for a time, as if trying to figure him out.

Finally, Sky breaks the silence. “Sergeant, I need to do more than just get along with you. I need your help. As I said before, this is my first time to command a station. But it’s more than that...this is my first time to be assigned to a regular, permanent position at a station, ever. I’ve been in command positions, but not in stations. I’ve been assigned temporarily to stations, as a liaison or advisor for special situations, but always for short durations. All this,” he stands and spreads his hands to take in the entire Guardia station, “is new to me.” He takes her empty cup.

“Why are you telling me this? It doesn’t seem like the thing any intelligent leader would do.”

As he pours her another cup of tea, and one for himself, he half-smiles and says, “I’m telling you because I’m going to need the advice and support of my sergeants. Now I think I’ve managed not to gravely offend two of them, but the one with the most experience in serving in mixed Dei/Popula stations happens to be the one I’ve treated terribly. And...well, I’ve read your record. You’ve had a lot of unflattering reports written about you by your commanding officers. But I know some of those officers you’ve served under – indeed, I’ve served under, or sometimes over, some of them myself, briefly. They’re the kind of deities whose unearned confidence leads them to crush anyone who thinks independently, and certainly anyone who would criticize them.”

He hands her the tea. “I get the feeling I can count on you to tell me when I’m doing something wrong.” He smiles sardonically and sits again. “And as for intelligent leaders...the best ones I’ve worked with haven’t tried to hide their weaknesses from their junior officers. They’ve been willing to listen and to learn, so as to erase those weaknesses.” He holds up his cup and then drinks.

Alma follows his example and drinks too, her hands now appearing a bit steadier than before, even if color hasn’t yet returned to her cheeks. “If you really do want my advice, sir, here it is: an innocent word on your lips may be a terrible one in my ears. Be careful about to whom you reveal information. You do not know me or Gwydion, or Machado, or anyone else in this station for that matter. Trusting us to be loyal to you just because you are our superior officer is not only naïve, it is stupid.”

Sky looks at her sadly. “You’ve really served in some snake pits, haven’t you? Well, you do know better than I...and I know this place is not exactly a utopia.” His voice drops to a dark mutter as he says this, introspectively. Then he looks at her and nods. “Thank you for your advice.”

She pauses before nodding an acknowledgement, then says, “Sir...about schedules and duty assignments...”

“Yes. I’ve put you on the day watch, as I thought that would be the best time for the Bunnies. Um...unless they’re nocturnal...”

The corner of her mouth twitches ever so slightly. “No, they’re not.”

“Oh, good to know. Sergeant, that report I have to write...of course I need to talk with the Bunnies more, get to know them better, see them in action – when they’re ready to assume whatever duties they’re best suited for. I do need something substantive to put in it, but –”

“Ah yes, your report. How could I forget?” Her eyes turn cold once again. “Maybe you should consider including this in it: those Bunnies... they are mine. My children! And all I have.” Her hair begins to ripple from an unseen wind as her divine power rises to the surface. “And if you or anyone lifts a finger against them –”

“Sergeant...calm yourself.” His expression is full of concern, but his voice is implacable. She brings her power back under control, but still looks at him with suspicion. “You have already strained yourself enough. I’ve spoken with Mayumi, and more briefly with the others, and...” he pauses and smiles as his voice fills with warmth, “Well, what you’ve done, Alma, is nothing short of a miracle. They are people. My report, I assure you, will be nothing but glowing. I already know that. But it’s not going to be worth much if all I can write is ‘They are wonderful people. Don’t you dare vote against them, or Alma will kill you.’

“And I appreciate your devotion to them,” he continues. “I am sad to say that they may well need such a fierce protector in the coming weeks.” He pauses, about to reveal his suspicions regarding a conspiracy, then changes his mind. “But while I don’t expect you to trust me yet, I assure you, I am now one of their protectors. I am not going to allow anyone to harm them.”

Alma remains in silence for a while. When she speaks again, her voice denotes nothing but true concern. “Do you really think I need your help, Inspector?”

He looks at her seriously. “I very much hope not, Sergeant.” He sighs. “For now, your primary duty is to give the Council no excuse for finding against the Bunnies. Prepare them, teach them, so they can be seen at their best. The report...as I said, don’t worry about that. But the Council could send someone around for an inspection, for all I know, so they need to be ready as soon as possible. Please let me know if there is anything you need.”

“I understand,” she says. She looks profoundly tired. “All I need right now is peace...and to be with them.”

“Of course, Sergeant.” He studies her face, concerned. “Could you tell me what’s wrong? If there’s anything I can do...”

“Yesterday was a bit of a strain on my reserves, I’m afraid. Complex magic was never something easy for me.”

“Oh, I see,” Sky says. “Yes, I’ve experienced that myself before.”

Alma rubs her eyes and shakes her head slowly. “I must go. The Bunnies are still not ready to be left alone for long without supervision.” She tries to rise, then sits again. Sky stands and moves next to her chair, ready in case she needs help. She steels herself and stands in one smooth movement. Nothing reveals her exhaustion except her paleness and an almost unnoticeable trembling of her hands.

Sky moves to the door, keeping an eye on her in case she stumbles. Before she reaches it, she lowers her head, seeming to remember something. She looks at him, almost apologetically. “This is probably a terrible time to make requests but... it’s not for myself. Cherry and Rosemary... they would like to restore the bar to its former glory...and use. With them as the proprietors. It would mean the world to them.”

Sky takes a moment to absorb this request, then chuckles. He pauses, then laughs more loudly. As his laughter fades, he sees her face. She is smiling, looking as if she might laugh herself, and that sets him off laughing again. He leans against the door, and feels immense pleasure when he hears Alma’s quiet laughter echoing his own. He looks back at her, seeing her smile, some color coming back into her cheeks. So beautiful, he thinks. Like the sun breaking through a storm.

“A bar? Yes...well...I will have to look into the agreement under which we acquired this land and the buildings...not sure if we’re renting or if we own...anyway, you know, it’s actually not such a bad idea. The cops wouldn’t have to walk far, of course, after having a few drinks, to find a safe place to take a nap.”

“Sure,” Alma replies, her smile tinged with sadness and exhaustion. “They also wouldn’t need to walk far to have a few too many...Thank you, sir. I will be with the Bunnies, should you need me.”

He nods, his own smile taking on the hue of sadness in hers. He opens the door for her. “Go rest now, Sergeant.”

She executes a weak salute, which he returns, then turns and walks across the common office to the door that leads to the former bar. Sky watches until she is gone, worried that she might let her control slip, but though she walks slowly, she walks with perfect confidence and poise.

The remains of his smile fade away as he reflects on his fears of the night before. He knows the report will not be enough, that indeed the Council may not even bother reading it. If he is right that there is some conspiracy afoot, perhaps to use the Bunnies to control Alma and gain some power over the Death Clan, he will need her to trust him, especially if it reaches the point where he is ordered to kill the Bunnies. He knows that he will refuse that order...but better to do everything possible to prevent it from ever being issued.

His mouth twitches again as he reflects on her words. Her defiance, partially misplaced as it is, only serves to make him – a god of rebellion – respect her more, and he’d certainly given her more than enough reason for that defiance. That she would lash out at a superior officer – in private, of course – is indicative not only of the long series of terrible commanding officers she’s served under, but of her bravery. Her assumption of his naïveté is also not entirely unfounded, but his ability to sense chains of loyalty, and of subjugation, allows him some sense of who he can trust, and who not. It’s an ability he keeps to himself. He is not as much an open book as he seems. At least he hopes not.

And on the subject of loyalties...he looks into the office, spotting Sgt. Machado and GC Zeffretti at their desks. Zeffretti is looking at him, but as Sky’s gaze falls on him, the man flinches and attends to some paperwork. Sky looks at Machado. “Sergeant,” he says, causing Machado to look up. “Could I have a word with you?”

As Sky holds the door open for the mortal sergeant to enter his office, he glances back at Zeffretti, who is looking at him again. They lock eyes, and Sky holds Zeffretti’s gaze long enough to make the color drain from the constable’s face. Then he closes the door.


Chapter 2 "Snakes" 15

After the gods are gone, Sage looks down at Mayumi’s feet, then back up at her.

“Where did you go, May?” he asks, sternly. “She’s been rushing around, looking for you.”

She looks down at her own feet and sees the dirt of the streets on them. “I had to...follow someone. I had to! Don’t look at me like that, Sage!”

“She’s already worn out from making our home for us,” he says, his voice tight. “All this is new to her too, not just us.” He turns and moves away from her.

“Wait, you went outside?” asks Cherry. “What’s it like? Oh, I wanna go!”

“May! Y’shouldna gone outside! It must be dangerous out there! And Cherry, don’t you dare!” Rosemary gasps.

“Sage...I was investigating a crime...” Mayumi pleads, ignoring Merri and Cherry.

He turns and looks at all three of them, clearly upset, raising his voice. “Yesterday was the first time we’ve truly been together since... ever! We have all been separated for all these years, nothing but thoughts in each other’s heads. This is the first time we could all be together, be family, and you’re wondering off into the streets, and you two,” pointing at Merri and Cherry, “are already talking about moving into your own room and leaving her! And you keep bothering her with questions about the bar! Can you give her one day, one day to just be with us?”

After his words, the silence is absolute. The younger Bunnies look at their older siblings with worry and a lack of comprehension. Rosemary and Cherry hold hands, looking miserable. Mayumi, eyes downcast, looks up at Sage after a moment, then steps to him and embraces him, her face against his shoulder, nodding in unspeaking acceptance of his criticism. He holds her gently in return.


Chapter 2 "Snakes" 14

Raising her eyes from the stairs beneath her feet, Alma sees Mayumi walking towards her as soon as she reaches the top of the stairs.

“Where have you been?” she asks the Bunny in whispered concern, placing both hands on the Bunny’s shoulders. “I have been looking everywhere for you.”

“I was looking for Corporal Aliyah and Constable Cala,” Mayumi replies with apparent innocence. She shrugs as if this were a logical and obvious answer.

“Their shift has ended some time ago and you know all too well that you are not supposed to come into the station,” Alma hisses.

Mayumi’s ears droop for a moment but immediately rise again. “I-I was doing nothing wrong,” she says with absolute conviction and a hint of resentment in her voice. “I merely wanted to be polite to the people who’ve been kind to us.”

Alma breathes deep, mentally cursing herself as the pain hits yet again, and tries to calm down. “There will be time for that,” she states after a moment, in a softer voice. 

“So many years stuck in a bubble... Are we supposed to be confined again, now that you say we are free?” Mayumi asks, each of her words a dagger piercing the goddess’ heart.

“Mayumi...” Alma exhales, kneeling in front of the Bunny to be at eye-level with her. The goddess’ voice sounds strained and weak as she says, “Please, understand this. Although I am sure that all these humans already know of your existence, there is no telling how they will react to you. Some may find you fascinating and some may not even care but others... the world can be a dangerous place, little one, and in spite of my best efforts, I cannot split into seven different pieces and follow each of you around to make sure you stay safe.”

“You don’t have to do that. We can watch over ourselves.”

“I am asking you, Mayumi, do not fight me on this.”

As her headache grows ever stronger, Alma lowers her head, wincing and rubbing her eyes, going silent in her pain. Seeing her now evident suffering, Mayumi quits her rebellious tone and cradles the goddess’ head in her hands, kissing her forehead.

“Very well, I won’t,” the Bunny states. “You look even worse than before. You need to rest,” she adds with obvious concern.

“What I need is to get you back to the other building. Hopefully without running into any more colorful characters,” Alma replies as Mayumi helps her to get back on her feet.

They start walking, slowly, toward the passage that leads into the other building, Alma’s hand resting lightly of Mayumi’s shoulder, more to make sure that the Bunny follows her than to  provide any kind of support to the goddess’ steps. Although she holds her head high, her posture and stance revealing nothing but the utmost composure, Alma’s eyes keep drifting down, to the floor.

“Where were you in the station that your feet are all dirty?” she asks after a while.

“Oh... all around the station, really. Got a little – lost after a while,” Mayumi half stutters in return. “It’s a bigger place than I imagined,” she says, shrugging.

“Yes... Dirtier too,” Alma whispers, attributing the Bunny’s stuttering to a true ignorance of the station’s layout. “Well, we will need to get you and the others some shoes. And I think I know just who to bother with such a request...”

As they enter the room, Alma pauses in surprise at the presence of her commanding officer. “Inspector?” the goddess enquires. Mayumi goes to stand with her siblings. Rosemary whispers, “Where’ve you been, May?”

“Sergeant...good,” he says. “I need to speak with you...in private. Shall we go to my office?”

“As you wish, sir,” Alma says, leadenly, and after a look of tired affection at the Bunnies, turns to go back into the other building.


Chapter 2 "Snakes" 13

Sky opens the door to Three Rats Station and looks around the main room. Not seeing Alma, he signals for Mayumi to enter. Moments after she does, Sgt. Alma comes up the stairs from the basement. Mayumi glances up at Sky, then scampers to Alma, who immediately places both hands on the Bunny’s shoulders, whispering something to her in apparent frustration and concern.

As they speak in a low, serious tone, Sky slips past them and crosses the breezeway to the bar. He opens the door slightly, knocking as he does so.

“Hullo?” he hears. Suddenly a pale, freckled face pops around the edge of the door. The Bunny’s eyes are so brilliantly green, tied-back hair so vibrantly red, he feels almost slapped with the sheer vitality radiating from her. “Oh! Mister Tuma-thingy! To what do we owe the honor of your visit?” She stands back to let him in.

“I wanted to see how you were getting along. And...I wanted to correct an error on my part.” He looks around the room. The boxes have been restacked out of the way and in much better order, and every exposed surface has been cleaned of dust. The six Bunnies are all clothed now, wearing aprons, three of them looking more like what he had expected before – lacking in self-awareness and self-volition – but the other three are like Mayumi: full personalities expressed in their every movement. Yet even in the younger-looking, undeveloped ones, he can see that they are not automatons, but rather more like tame animals. Despite not having awakened to their true selves, they still express more awareness than almost any artificial creation Sky has ever encountered.

The other two “awake” Bunnies whisper to their younger siblings to leave off cleaning. Sky is glad to note that even those younger ones are managing to perform basic chores with little trouble. All of the Bunnies come over toward him, and he looks at them with new eyes. He can see the three older ones are evaluating him as well. The redhead is looking up at him skeptically, as if she’s not sure how to take him. The dark female has her arms crossed, her expression cold. The male alone is smiling slightly, almost as if encouraging the god. Well, he thinks, you did it with Mayumi; you can do it with them.

“Yesterday,” he begins, “I was rude, leaving without speaking to you. Will you please accept my apology?” He bows to them. As he straightens, he sees the redhead is smiling, while her sister looks quite surprised, her arms still crossed, however. The male Bunny looks at him, quietly but clearly pleased.

The flame-haired bunny speaks first. “Of course we do, Mister Tuma...um, sorry, I can’t keep your name straight, can y’remind me of it again?”

He turns to her and holds out his hands. “I am Tuma-Sukai. But I would be pleased if you would call me Sky. And, I’m sorry if I get this wrong, but I believe Corporal Kaur told me your name is Rosemary. Is that right?”

She slips her hands into his and squeezes them. “Ooo, yes, that’s me! But sometimes they call me Merri. Inspector Sky...why that’s much easier to remember, don’t y’think, Cherry?” She looks around him at her sister, and Sky turns to her.

“You must be Cherry, then,” he says. He releases one of Rosemary’s hands and holds his left hand toward her. She looks down at it, her curls falling over one eye, and for a moment he thinks she’s not going to take it, but then with a sigh she does, to his relief. She holds his hand only briefly, but she looks up at him sardonically and says, “Good to meet you, Inspector Sky. Always nice to be treated with a little respect.”

Sky nods and opens his mouth to apologize again, but their brother steps forward and holds out his own hand. Sky takes it. “We are glad to meet you, Inspector,” he says, his voice gentle and warm. “I’m Sage.”

Before Sky can reply, Rosemary, still holding his right hand, now in both of hers, pulls him further into the room. “Look! We’ve got it all clean! And I think we can do some lovely things with it!”

Sky laughs at her exuberance. “Wait, I’m more interested in you than in the room. Rosemary, your accent...is it Scottish?”

“Accent? What accent? You’re the one with the accent,” she replies, then laughs. “Why yes, people do say I talk a bit differently. Honestly, I don’t remember where it came from. Somewhere in the dreams, I suppose.”

How strange, Sky thinks. Japanese, now Scottish. Why the connections with Earth? Did Alma live there for a time, as I did?

“She’s always sounded that way,” Cherry says, coming over and putting an arm around Rosemary’s waist. “I think it’s cute.” She kisses Rosemary on the cheek.

Sky hears the door opening, and turns to see, as he expected, Sgt Alma entering with Mayumi.


Chapter 2 "Snakes" 12

Going downstairs, to the basement, Alma takes a quick look around, looking for signs of Mayumi. She doesn’t see anyone, but she hears voices engaged in idle chatting in the room immediately to her left. Although the door is open, allowing her to see an office equipped with furniture and a number of instruments that quickly reveal this room to be a physician’s office, she still knocks, capturing the attention of the two men sitting within. Ah, yes... the two mortals who always seem to keep away from the other officers...

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” Alma says in a polite tone. “I wonder if you have seen a Bunny walking around these parts?”

"A rabbit walking around?” one of the mortals, a well-built, pale man with hair far too grey for the relatively young age his face indicates, dressed in loose leather overalls partially covered by a heavily stained lab coat, asks. “Has one of my rabbits escaped?"

“No, Syro!” the other mortal replies. This one also appears to be young, his tanned skin covering a friendly face, crowned by short dark hair. He adjusts his pristine white lab coat as he says, “You haven’t had any rabbits since di whole Fifi incident.”

“It was all Machado’s fault!” the man now identified as Syro cries. “Fifi would have never hurt anyone!”

“That’s not what he said when she bit off a piece of his ear, loco!” the darker mortal says, before turning to Alma. “Anyway, I recognize you, señorita. You are one of the new Guardia Dei, yes?”

Her mana headache taking this chance to grab Alma’s attention again, while a small voice in the back of her mind begins to bother her with a real concern that these mortals may not be fully rational, the goddess replies in what she hopes is still a gentle and polite voice. “Yes, I am. My name is Alma.”

The slightly saner mortal is the first to respond. “Well, this is Syron, our genio loco,” he says, pointing at the man in overalls. “And I am Nataniel, di house physician.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” the man in overalls waves at the goddess. “Call me Syro. Everyone else does.”

“And call me Nataniel,” the other mortal says. “Everyone else calls me Nate,” he adds in a slightly resentful tone.

Alma nods slowly, in a subtle bow, all the while wishing she had never stepped into this room. “Very well, Nataniel, Syro, it is a pleasure to meet you. Now, regarding the Bunny...”

“Alma... Alma...” Nataniel mutters as if trying to remember something.  “Hey, aren’t you la señorita they say created bunnies?”

“Bunnies?” Syron’s head shoots up. “You created rabbits? How amazing! What instruments did you use? I've been trying to clone them for years!”

“I did not ‘clone’ anything,” Alma replies, her patience growing thin. “I am not even sure what you mean by cloning.”

“Syro, she is a goddess. She uses magic,” Nate explains to his friend.

“Hmpf... magic...” Syro grunts in clear disapproval of the word. “Tri-modal unstable phase-shifting non-electromagnetic radiation, you mean.”

Como lo quieras. I’ll just call it magic for short.”

“Anyway,” Syro goes on. “I could use your help in creating some rabbits to serve as test subjects. The powers that be have refused to give me a budget to get more. They claim rabbits are expensive,” he says, rolling his eyes.

“If you hadn’t insisted on going forward with that two-headed rabbit you made...brr!” Nate shivers in apparent terror.

“OH, C'MON!! FIFI WAS NEARLY PERFECT!!” Syro shouts at him. After a second thought, he adds in a softer tone, “Sure, she couldn't feed herself and her teeth tended to fall out every now and again... But I was so very close...”

“Gentlemen, please,” Alma intervenes, rubbing her eyes in sheer pain. “All I need to know is if you have seen a young girl with bunny ears walking about.”

“No, señora. No chicas with bunny ears here. Maybe she is upstairs, where all di offices are?”

“Yes, maybe she is there.” Alma immediately takes the opportunity to end the conversation and leave. “Thank you, Doctor Nataniel.”

De nada. Hey, I know I’m not trained to treat gods or anything but you look very pale, señora,” Nate notices.

“Oh, worry not,” the goddess smiles to assure him. “I will be fine. Thank you for your warm reception and for the information, gentlemen. I am sure I will be seeing you around,” she says, turning to leave.

"Can I test some weapons out on you?” Syro suddenly asks, making Alma freeze in her steps and turn to face him. “They are nonlethal, I assure you. At least I think so... And as a goddess, you probably shouldn't mind," he shrugs in almost absolute confidence.

“I –” Alma stutters, not quite processing the request.

“Go, señora,” Nate saves her. “Get out of here before he turns you into one of his bunnies.”

Alma nods in grateful agreement and leaves the basemen. She heads upstairs, her head pounding again. As she climbs the stairs, the small voice in the back of her mind screams at her, What, oh what have you done to get yourself sent to this hell hole?!