Sky makes the most of his long legs, loping swiftly through the tangled streets and alleys of Three Rats. The fused nature of the ward – parts of two cities mashed together through some magical catastrophe – turns any attempt to navigate it into a labyrinthine experience, but Sky, having formed an attachment to the Bunnies and having sworn his soul to their protection, can sense them ahead. He knows just where to go, until suddenly...they are gone.
He growls in frustration, hoping that they have simply escaped through the Little Falls portal to safety. Still, he speeds up, flinging himself headlong, ignoring the burning of his muscles until he reaches the square at Little Falls where the portal is located, where he had taken Mayumi so recently.
He skids to a halt, the smell of death filling the square. No no no no no. He draws his sword as a precaution, wishing he had his crossbow with him, but being out of bolts there had been no reason to weigh himself down with it. He steps over a body, its throat slashed open, and sees another and another, burned, torn by monstrous jaws, sliced by blades, penetrated by arrows. He begins to desperately search among them, hoping he will not find a Bunny, or one of his sergeants. Just the thought of that, of finding Alma, or Cherry, or Chime, or...Mayumi.
One of the bodies he rolls over is some kind of wasp woman. He catches a whiff of demon-ichor poison from her death-wound, and bends to look more closely. It is easy to guess who must have killed her, but could the assassin really have been here? He glances back at another body, sees the crossbow bolt in it, and notices the fletching is definitely not Guardia. No, he recognizes it from the bodies in the warehouse, weeks ago.
As if thinking the name causes it to be audible, he hears a familiar voice call, “Saira?” Sky rises and spots Aliyah Kaur, former corporal and now constable on the Guardia Popula.
“Aliyah?” he calls to her, surprise in his voice.
“Inspector! Oh, uh...hi?” Aliyah manages to look simultaneously frightened, embarrassed, and deeply concerned.
Glancing back over the bodies in the square, he realizes he’s checked them all. He turns his attention fully on the living. “Why were you calling Saira’s name?” he asks, resheathing his sword and stepping over bodies to approach her.
The tall woman grimaces. “Sarge is gonna drum me outta the Guardia…” she mutters.
“He has bigger concerns,” Sky says. “He was wounded.”
Aliyah’s hand flies to her mouth. “No! Is he okay? Tell me he’s okay!”
“He’ll be fine,” Sky reassures her. “Now answer my question.”
“Oh...well after the Sarge told me to go home, I went lookin’ for Saira. It took me a little while, but I found her, and told her what was goin’ on.” Aliyah grins. “She said it sounded like a good night out. I tried to follow her, but she was too fast, jumpin’ on rooftops and stuff. I just couldn’t keep up.” She looks around at the bodies, shaken. “Gods. There’s not anybody we know here, is there?”
Sky shakes his head, and almost whispers, “No, thank goodness. They all seem to be Dukaines, or members of gangs that have joined the Dukaines. They must have had several teams out in force. Sergeant Machado and I had some of them pinned down, but...it seems we only helped improve the odds slightly.” He glances over the bodies one more time, just to reassure himself. “Aliyah, I have to go. I won’t mention your part in this to the Sergeant.”
“Thanks, sir! I think I’m gonna head back to the station. Sarge might’ve told me to go home, but if he’s wounded, they’ll need help. I can lead some cops back here to start cleanup. Need to get some priests here too, lay these guys to rest good and proper. Wouldn’t want their ghosts wanderin’ around.”
“I have a feeling Sergeant Alma already took care of that.” Sky reaches out his hand, prompting her to do the same, though her expression as he shakes her hand is one of surprise. “Thank you, Aliyah. What you did most likely saved lives, including those of the Bunnies. I know you’re very close to them…”
Aliyah blushes. “Yeah...are they gonna be okay?”
“They will,” Sky insists. He lets go of her hand and salutes her, and she returns it, her back straight. He finishes the salute, and with a grin, Aliyah heads off in the direction of the Three Rats Station.
“What an interesting little melodrama, Tuma-Sukai!” rings out a voice from behind. Sky turns, whipping his sword free of its scabbard once again. He relaxes only slightly when he recognizes the source leaning casually against the portal: a slender young man in Guardia uniform, his long black hair tied back in a ponytail. In the dim light of the square, Sky cannot see his face, but he knows who it is nonetheless.
“Somrak!” Sky exclaims. He doesn’t put his sword away.
The slender man chuckles and walks over, seeming to ignore the carnage. As he comes into the light, Sky sees the familiar olive-skinned features of his sometime partner in the Commander’s “special squad”. “Late to the party? That’s not like you, Sky.” He glances at the bare weapon. “Don’t kill the messenger, man.”
“Are you here working for the Commander or for the Council, Somrak?” Sky asks softly.
“Supposedly you and I are working for both of them,” Somrak chides, shaking his finger at Sky like a mother scolding a naughty child. Then he laughs loudly, his mouth wide but lopsided due to a scar that runs down the side of his once-beautiful face. “I’m working for the Commander, of course! If he told me to assassinate every Archon on the Council, all I would ask is when he needs it done by! Just like you, my fellow loyal servant!”
Sky relaxes a little more. “Very well. But why are you here?”
“Like I said, I’m a messenger. The Commander wants to see you for a debriefing before you go meet up with your friends again.” He turns and heads toward the portal, every line of his lean, muscular body indicating full expectation that Sky will follow.
“Are they safe?” Sky asks, unmoving.
Somrak pauses in surprise, and looks back at Sky over his shoulder. “As far as I know! Now come on – our master calls.” He snaps his fingers and walks to the portal, stopping beside it.
Fighting the urge to growl, Sky stalks his way to the portal. Just before he goes through, he hears Somrak say, “Now who’s a good boy?”