Chapter 2 "Snakes" 10

Alma walks into a bustling station, or at least a station trying very hard to look and feel like it is bustling. Having already started their shifts, the day-watch officers move around in honest but undirected eagerness, as they try to adapt to the inner workings of the new station. Walking among them in search for Mayumi, Alma scans the room for bunny ears, ignoring almost everything else. This strategy is quickly proven unwise, when the goddess bumps against what seems to be a moving wall that not only sends her falling on her back but also collapses in a papery heap on top of her.
“Sorry!” a voice cries as a hand is extended to help her up again. “Sorry, sorry! Oh, such a mess!”
As her headache takes the opportunity to remind Alma of its existence, the goddess looks up and takes in the sight before her. A rather tall, rather thin young man stands before her, his stance looking every bit as clumsy and unruly as the fiery-red curly hair on his head. His bright, overactive green eyes gaze at her, his body seeming to curve and bend in far more places than would be expected on a healthy, male human being.
“It is quite alright,” Alma replies, taking the helping hand and silently cursing the nearest god of gravity. “Accidents happen.”
“Yeah, and they keep happening to me, for some reason,” the young man protests as he helps her up. “Here, Miss, let me pick this up,” he says, grabbing the dozens of case files he dropped on top of Alma when they bumped into each other. He tries to grab too many at once, though, and they quickly escape from his clumsy, long-fingered hands. “Aw, DAMN IT!” he cries.

“Let me do it,” Alma says, kneeling to gather the files in a neat pile. She picks up the heavy pile with some effort and offers it to him. “Here, can you carry all this?”

“Yeah, I’m kinda used to it,” the young man replies as he takes the pile of case folders from her. “Seems like it’s all I’m good for around here,” he says in a somewhat resentful tone.

“You look young, little soul,” the goddess notes. “Have you been assigned to this station long?”

“Two weeks today, Miss.”

“And before that?” Alma asks.

“Uhh... the  Academy? I’m Wally, by the way.” The young man tries to extend a friendly hand, making the pile tilt dangerously before realizing that this might not be a smart thing to do.

“Wally?” Alma raises an eyebrow at the name. He has no idea of who he is talking to, she thinks. Do they not teach ranks at the Academy anymore?

“That’s what everyone calls me. ‘Walking-hazard Wally’, ‘Clumsy-is-a-euphemism Wally’, ‘Please-don’t-try-to-help-me Wally’ and, my personal favorite, ‘I-give-him-a-month Wally’.”

“And your actual name is...” the goddess winces in pain as her patience is stretched to its outer limits.

“Wallace, Miss. Wallace Longshot, Probationary Constable, Guardia Popula.”

Alma smiles malevolently at what she is about to do. “Probationary Constable Wallace Longshot, it is a pleasure to meet you,” she states, fixing her gaze on the young man’s expression to catch his reaction as she says, “My name is Alma. Sergeant, Guardia Dei.”

“A Dei Sergeant?!” Wally’s eyes grow wide with panic and once again the pile of folders wobbles with the young man’s clumsy movements. “You mean I just dropped all these case files on a Dei Sergeant? Oh, man, could this get any worse?” his shoulders drop with embarrassment.

“It is quite alright, Wallace,” Alma reassures him, mildly amused by his reaction but beginning to feel somewhat ashamed of her pettiness. “I should have paid more attention to where I was going as well.”

“Naah!” Wally shakes his head, thankfully not waving it off. “I’m sure it was all my fault. It usually is.”

“Very well, then,” Alma winces as another wave of pain crashes ruthlessly against her skull, reminding her of what stands between her and what may very well be some much deserved rest. “Tell me, Wallace, have you seen one of my Bunnies walking around here?”

“A bunny?”

“Yes, by now you have probably heard of them.”

“Oh, yes!” Wally answers eagerly, only to look slightly confused three seconds later. “I mean... not really, no. We were never allowed to have pets in the house. Mom always said that a pet is just a good meal gone to waste.”

“You can’t eat these Bunnies, Wallace,” Alma tells him, her eyes narrowing at the perspective of someone cooking Mayumi.

Wally nods slowly in mock comprehension. “Yeah, that’s what I thought when I got my pet centipede, Stew. Ended up in a kebab, poor guy...”

“Wallace, the Bunny I am asking about looks like a young girl with bunny ears and a tail,” Alma insists in a mildly harsh tone, rubbing her eyes as the pain once again takes over.

“Oh, a Bunny!” Wally cries in sudden enlightenment. “Aliyah and Cala already spread the word on those! I’m looking forward to meeting them.”

“So, you didn’t see her?”

“Oh, I did! Pretty cute, too! Dark hair, dark fur here and there... I just didn’t get to meet her.”

“And do you have any idea as to where she might be?”

“Well...” Wally’s eyes unfocus for a bit as he remembers past events. “She was by the coffee pot and then she moved closer to the stairs and then I hit my head on a wall and fell because I was looking at her and didn’t see where I was going, and then the world went red, and then it went dark –”

“Oh, dear...” Alma mutters in utter frustration, interrupting the young man.

“Oh, it’s OK!” Wally says unabashed, mistaking Alma’s frustration and impatience for shock and concern over his well-being. “I do that all the time. But when I was able to see again,she was nowhere to be found. I figured she’d gone down into the basement, since she was by the stairs before I... uhh... blacked-out.”

“The basement, you say?” the goddess asks, grateful for the excuse to end this crazy conversation. “I shall look for her there, then. Thank you, Wallace.”

“You’re welcome, Miss. Uuhh... Ma’am.”

Alma turns and leaves in the direction of the stairs that go down into the basement.

Glad to have been helpful for a change, Wally looks at the files, trying to remember who it was that asked for them in the first place. Before he remembers that, though, a different thought crosses his mind, long forgotten (if fairly recent) Academy lessons kicking in. He turns back  to look at Alma’s departing figure and salutes her, completely forgetting the pile of files he is supposed to be holding. True to most well-known laws of physics, the whole heap of files falls on the floor once more.

“Oh, man!”

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