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.

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