A Night in the Dark

A Night in the Dark
By: Bastian Hafrey

Hart fought the urge to escape and instead, braced for impact. He had steadied his legs to keep balance from the tremors, while stretching a long metal chain between his hands.

“Get ready!” Ross yelled, he was hiding somewhere, Hart was the bait. “It comes―NOW!”

The ground gave way beneath Hart and two circled layers of spikes rose around him. He let go of the chain in his right hand and swung it outward with his left. The chain latched around one of the spikes, and he soon found himself surrounded by smelly hot darkness. It smelled putrid, which made him gag and almost lose focus. He cleared his thoughts, and used his still free right hand to slap his forehead, activating the head lamp, then reached for the chain to grip it with both hands. Dangling inside the beast, he did a quick assessment of his options: He couldn’t escape through the mouth, as the spikes had covered that exit by compressing together like a tight net. Going down into the stomach wouldn’t be an option either, as it would quickly break down his body in the extremely corrosive acids. Then again, it wasn’t his first time being eaten, and a memory of a previous encounter with a sancro on Tethys flooded his memory. However, unlike a sancro, a blobwurm had near impenetrable skin, so cutting a way out wasn’t exactly a solution either. The only option left would be to trust Ross to cease the opportunity and jag a grenade down the breathing cavity of the surfaced wurm.

“Any time now!” Hart yelled, but he knew his voice would fail to penetrate the fleshy walls.

Vibrations channeled into his hands from the metal chain, making it hard to maintain the grip, but that wouldn’t matter, as the vibrations was hopefully Ross sticking a grenade down the snout of this thing, and said grenade soon exploding. Moments passed, but the only thing changing where the vibrations getting more severe. Did Ross fail? Slipped into his mind. More time passed, and the previous vertical drop into death became horizontal. Hart now stood, staring at the venus flytrap of a fang nest, and tightly holding the chain like a leash. He was now certain that Ross had failed, unless he had, for some reason, decided to put the entire beast on the transport vehicle while Hart was still inside, and the vibrations were merely the bumpy road. Mean joke, he thought, but then reminded himself that Ross wasn’t a flavorous joker, in fact, all he ever did was shitty puns.

“I really gone did it.” Hart said to the wurm while he cracked a grin of hopelessness, then patted the fleshy and redder wall near the fang, which he assumed was the gums.

****

“It comes―NOW!” Ross yelled, and then Hart seemingly vanished into thin air. “What the?”

Normally, a wurm would surface its head as it caught its prey, then submerge after a good few moments. It was the opportunity he had been looking to exploit. This particularly wurm had been troublesome from the start, it had refused to go for the bell bait, and instead focused solely on them. Live bait, Hart had suggested, but they were close to the deadline, and producing a goat quick enough wasn’t going to happen. Then Hart suggested he would be the bait―”Just like on Tethys!”―which had worked out ‘so well’, except the sancro was ‘supposed’ to be alive when they handed it to the office.

After the short moment of shock, Ross leap out from the rockpile he had been hiding behind, grenade in hand, and rushed towards the place where Hart had stood. When he arrived, he peered down the hole but saw nothing, he slapped his forehead, and slid down the opening. The passage was much too wide to press against the walls with hands and feet to slow the descent, but it wasn’t vertical enough to be a freefall either. He spent a few seconds on the bumpy ride which ripped the back of his vest and in turn teared his skin, until he landed on the mouth of the wurm with steady shoes. The pointy spikes were sealed tight, it looked like a flat texture on a wallpaper. The blood from his back dripped, and slowly began to flow along the minuscule gaps between the fang, which in his mind only served to intensify the pain.

He began to look at the edges of the mouth, to try and see if there was any way he could get to the airway cavity before the wurm decided to eat him too, but the only thing he saw was gravel rushing by like the walls of an underground subway. He put the pin back into the grenade and reattached it on his belt.

He knelt down and slammed his hands repeatedly into the fangs. “HEY HART!―Can you hear me?”

There was no response.

The pain from his back caught up with him, and he felt his consciousness slipping. He removed a small vial from his belt, and drank it.  The analgesic drug almost immediately dampened the pain.

“HANG ON HART!” He yelled, hoping that Hart was still alive. “I’LL GET YOU OUT!”

He plucked the knife from his belt, then tried to slip it between the cracks of the fang, no dice. He then started to cut into the small portion of flesh on the edges of the mouth between the fang and the gravel. It didn’t do much either, it was like trying to stab a rock. Frustrated, he sat up, re-latched the knife onto the belt, and started to scratch the back of his head. Shortly after, the wurm stopped.

“What now?” Ross thought out loud, as he looked around, and then saw a horizontal shaft in the gravel wall.

He lept off from the mouth and into the opening, trying to figure out what to do next, only for the wurm to start moving again, and coming towards him. He momentarily put fingers on his nose bridge with a frown, sighed, and then began to run, wurm on heel.

****

Hart was looking up into the air, so that his tears of lost hope wouldn’t slid down his chin. A reaction out of habit rather than to try hide it, seeing as there was no one else there inside the wurm.

“Hey Ross,” He said for himself. “Do you remember that assignment on Europa? With the dame stalking you for our entire stay,” He stroke a hand across his eyes, wiping away the tears. “Heh, she even snuck on the hover and got caught by the Fayfeh upon our arrival. A real damsel in distress, much to your dismay. But hey, it wouldn’t be like you to pass up a chance like that, saving the Princess from the Dragon I mean. Not that the Fayfeh are anywhere near dragons beside their fiery breath, but you know what I mean, right, Ross? So how about you put on that knights armor and get me out of this bind? It would be much appreciated. The beers on my tab next time.”

Hart sunk into himself. “Not happening, eh?” He said. “Well, I guess this is it, then.” He closed his eyes, ready to give in, but then a thought snuck up on him like lightning, the sensation of touching the gums of the wurm.

He inspected it further, it was slightly different from the rest of the mouth flesh. It was actually kind-of soft, that is, if wood could be considered soft. Either way, it was softer than rock, which was otherwise the general consensus of the creatures resilient body structure.

He let go of the chain. The vibrations enhanced by the iron had made his bones feel like they were about ready to spontaneously combust, on the other hand, the feeling of letting go was like masturbation, forcing a shaky exhale in relief.

He grabbed the grenade from his belt, and stuck it inside one of the chain holes, and then he bit into a piece of loose fabric on his coat’s arm, pulling out a string. He used the string to secure the grenade, and then stepped back. Damn blast radius, he thought as he closed his eyes in consideration. He opened his eyes again and then looked around in an attempt to gauge blast distance and stay remotely safe from the explosion. It appeared that the back of the throat had closed off with some kind of contraction mechanism. Hart came to the conclusion that the wurm had decided not to eat him at this very moment, which would had been a good thing, except now he was barred from avoiding the potential carnage of the grenade.

He closed his eyes once more, and put a hand over his face. Think, he thought, then scraped his hand down his face. “Ah,” He said and opened his eyes again as a smile formed on his lips. He began to jump repeatedly in an attempt to convince the wurm that eating him was an excellent idea. After all, it’s not that the blobwurms discriminated on food, having no taste buds what so ever, but it was high time for this wurm to visit their equivalent of a dentist.

“I hope you’re ready to breath fire!” He yelled.

After a few jumps, the wurm opened its throat once more, and once more, began to slowly shift its body in a vertical fashion. Before Hart would lose his balance and plunge into the deadly acid of the stomach, he pulled the pin of the grenade, quickly made his way into the throat, and then sat down on his knees and hands, in an attempt to stay rigid. He had turned his back from the grenade, hoping his cloak would shield him from the blast, even if only marginally so.

The grenade exploded. It pushed Hart deeper into the creature. The wurm began to twist and turn violently from the pain. Hart was flying around like a ragdoll, unable to find balance, but he crawled as best he could, hoping he crawled away from the stomach. After a few moments of desperately trying to get somewhere, anywhere, in the black void of chaos, he glanced a reflection from his headlight. It was only momentarily, but he knew what it was. He stretched his right hand in the location of where something had reflected, and felt it slam hard into his hand, it probably broke some bones, he thought, but he stretched out his right hand once more. His hand took another hit, and then he swiftly swung his left hand to grab it.

****

Ross noticed as the rumble stopped immediately after a low boom, followed by the sound of rock clacking against rock. Confused, he paused his pace and turned around. He was met with a display of the wurm seemingly dancing, or somewhat more likely, writhing in pain. It no longer posed its fangs towards him, and instead revealed the stomach. It wasn’t moving in any specific direction, but sporadically jarred around in its place like a bag of popping popcorn. I hope this is your doing, Hart, he thought.

Rocks and dirt darted from the forming hole in the roof as the wurm continuously made vacant space around itself. The opportunity Ross had been looking for was about to reveal itself, to have the wurm expose its only vulnerability, and then jam a grenade in it. Now if only he could move closer to the wurm, but it was like a death-tornado of several tonnes thrashing around with crazy unpredictability.

“I’m flattered by your mating dance,” He said to the wurm. “But you see,” He raised his left hand. “I’m married.”

He moved a bit closer despite himself, “I know it’s hard to be turned down,” He said. “But we’re not even the same species. You understand, right? So please stop your dance and spit out my associate.”

The wurm didn’t give a shit. Then again, it obviously couldn’t.

“Fine,” He said with a sigh. “I tried―Have it your way.”

He took another vial from his belt, and slurped it down, then he dashed forward with determination, dodging the flying gravel with remarkable nimbleness. His natural agility and dexterity was revered by all the Wardens the worlds over, and enhanced with the stim dope, no human or beast could match his speed. He figured the wurms behavior confirmed that Hart was still alive somewhere inside, and he was going to get him out.

He pounced towards the wall like a spring, and then towards the wurm, and then the wall again, until he reached the mouth of the wurm with a hand, then hung along side it. The wurm was still squirming around erratically, so Ross patiently moved around the body when most space was presented between the wurm and the walls. He finally reached the breathing cavity, which was a gelatinous membrane protecting a hole no larger than a fist on the side of the mouth. He quickly snapped the grenade from his belt, bit down on the pin, and then thrusted the grenade into the hole. He then slid down the wurms body, and squeezed his way back into the opening.

“Boom.” He said, motioning his hand like a gun towards the wurm.

****

Hart heard a boom from the walls, and then the shaking stopped abruptly. A few moments passed, and then the wurm started squiggling even more so than before, this went on for a while, making it hard for Hart to hang onto the chain, until it finally came to a full stop. It was probably dead, he figured.

“Hello?” Hart said, hanging vertically in the chain. The chain had apparently gotten stuck in the contracting throat mechanism. “C’mon!” He bellowed in frustration.

A few moments later, three faint knocks echoed from the contraction. “Ross, that you?” Hart asked.

Hello?!” Ross voice said, quite muffledly.

“I’M HANGING ONTO THE CHAIN!” Hart yelled.

Okay!” Ross voice said, still muffled but clearly shouting.

A minute passed, which to Hart felt like an eternity. He was holding onto the chain with one hand, as the other hand was now broken. “YOU STILL OUT THERE?” He yelled.

Just a bit longer!” Ross yelled back, this time it was even harder to hear.

The contraction started to open up, and a large spike came through, then it bent to the side as another large spike forced its way through, and then a third. The spikes then went back up into the mouth, and Ross appeared on the other end of the hole, gleaming his headlight in Hart’s face.

“Hello you,” Ross said. “How’s it hanging?”

“Shut up,” Hart said. “Pull me up already. I don’t know how much longer I can hold the chain.”

Ross offered him a hand.

“Sorry, hand’s broken,” Hart said. “You’re going to have to pull me up by the wrist.”

Ross grabbed the wrist clinging onto the chain, “Heave ho.” he said as he pulled Hart up.

“I owe you so many beers,” Hart said. “Uh, hold on, why are you naked?”

“Still got my pants on,” Ross said proudly as he nicked his head, and then beamed his light at the chain and then followed a line up to the missing fangs of the mouth. He had knit his trashed vest and shirt to the chain, and looped it to a fang, so it wouldn’t fall into the mouth as he bent it open with the large broken off fangs. “I was going to throw them away anyway,” He said, and then turned his back to Hart. “See?”

“Holy hell,” Hart expressed, then opened a small bag on his belt. He plucked a bandage roll from it. “Give me yours too.”

Ross handed him his personal bandage roll.

“Hold this,” Hart said and handed Ross the end of the roll. He then began rolling the bandage out over Ross body, when the bandage roll was spent, he made a knot with the other roll, and continued to band him up. “That should do for now.” He said, and tucked the end of the roll into a fold.

“My analgesic and stim effects are diminishing,” Ross said. “So we should probably get a move on.”

The thought of having to carry Ross gave Hart a rush of sweat trickling down his face. He didn’t fancy the idea, at all.

They climbed up by the rags, and reached the hole in the fangs the grenade had made. The wurm head was tightly close to the roof, Hart wondered how Ross managed to squeeze through with his wounded back exposed.

They came out into the wurm drilled passage. “It’s going to be hard to drag that thing back to the office,” Hart said. “Ideas?”

“Leave it,” Ross said. “It’s bad as it is. The chaotic behavior of the wurm made quite a quake, and ended up collapsing the tunnel we came from. We have to find another route.”

“That could take days,” Hart said. “We don’t have days. You don’t have hours.”

“It is what it is,” Ross said. “If the only route out is at the other side of the damn world, then so be it.”

****

The headlights gleamed into the darkness of the wurm tunnel, there seemed to be no end to the straight line of nicely packed rock and gravel. After thirty minutes of walking, Ross had collapsed. The effects from the stim had worn off, and his muscles refused to comply with basic motor skills. Hart had put an arm around him, and helped him thread forward. Another thirty minutes passed, and Ross lost consciousness, after all, he had lost a lot of blood and the analgesic was the only thing that kept him on his legs.

With concern, Hart had knelt down and lifted Ross onto his back. He reached for his headlight and turned it off, no point wasting battery when the man’s unconscious. He continued on for a good while, until he reached a split of the tunnel. “Left or right?” He asked, not expecting a response. “Oh―Oh yes―You’re right.”

He put Ross down for a bit, and then stood between the three paths, stretching his arms out. He closed his eyes and focused his thoughts on his fingertips. There was a weak draft coming from the obviously alternative routed passage, which he figured made sense, as the wurms probably stray from their path when they felt the vibrations of prey on the surface.

Hart picked Ross up on his back again, and increased his pace into the drafting tunnel. “Can you smell it? It smells like freedom.” He said to Ross.

A couple of minutes passed. The tunnel came to an abrupt end, there was no opening to the surface, instead, it was the foundation of a building. The wurm must have felt some massive vibrations from the building and greedily tried to but failed to get inside. It had scaled the entire length of the foundation, causing large cracks in the cement. Large enough so that Hart and Ross would be able to squeeze through.

Hart put Ross next to the crack, pushed him through, and then followed. The interior suggested it was part of the underground infrastructure of the towns complex. Large machines blipped and croaked all over the place. Once more, he put Ross on his back, and then started to look for a way out.

He accidentally bumped into one of the machines, and must have hit a button, as the machine went nuts for a while, and then a popping sound followed by the machine going dead. All of the machines in the room soon popped as well, and the room went silent.

“Shit.” Hart blurted.

The entire room then illuminated itself with a red alert light, and it gave Hart enough vision to spot a staircase. He immediately dashed for the staircase with Ross tight on his back, took wide steps to the top, and now stood in front of a door. He held onto Ross with his still whole hand, and reached for the door with the broken and swollen one, a stabbing pain went through his hand and into his entire body like a shock. He muster tremendous discipline as he desperately turned the doorknob. The door swung open, and he ended up in another machine infested room. This one was on the surface, however, as the windows gleamed night light into the room. He immediately saw a door next to a desk, and again went through the pain in his hand as he unlocked the door and turned the knob.

He stepped out into the blue artificial night light, it was a protective barrier which extended across the entire world, he then took one good and long look at Jupiter, which covered most of the night sky. Io and Europa was passing by, and they too gleamed of an artificial blue light. He took a deep breath, savoring the motion of finally being out from the claustrophobic darkness of wurm hell, then hurried on his way towards the local emergency ward.

****

“Excuse me,” Hart said. “Could you maybe get a trolley or a wheelchair?”

“What happened?” The nurse asked.

“I broke my hand.” Hart said.

Okay,” The nurse said with a slightly raised tone and an obviously annoyed twitch of her eyebrows. “…and to the man you’re carrying?”

“His entire back is scraped up good, and he lost a lot of blood. He also used a stim so his muscles are busted,” Hart said. “I patched him up as good as I could but I haven’t cleaned the wound, we didn’t have the resources.”

There was only one in the reception, the nurse, and probably only one doctor on the clock in the dead of night. Border towns like Obenville were always understaffed by human care officials, but had plenty of farmers and veterinarians and agricultural supply stores. The nurse went inside a door behind her, but quickly reappeared from a corridor with a trolley.

“Lay him here, the doctor will be with him in a minute,” The nurse said. “Meanwhile, I’ll see to your hand.”

She lead Hart to an unoccupied examination room and pointed him to a chair, then put his hand through a scanning device.

“Yupp, you broke it alright,” She said. “Gonna have to have to plaster your hand, and it’s going to hurt like hell. So if you’re not allergic to the generic analgesic, I’ll shoot you one.”

“Sounds good,” He said. “I would also like to borrow your landline.”

“Alright,” She said. “Be right back.”

She left the room, but then peeked her head back inside. “Uh, phone’s on the wall over there.”

Hart stood up from the chair and went for the phone, then looked back at the door. The nurse gave him a determined nod, then slipped away. He hit the numbers for the Warden Office and an automated call function responded. “You have reached the Warden. To report an on-going attack on settlement, press 1. To request pre-emptive aid, press 2. For communication with an official, press 3. Our Office hou―”

Hart didn’t wait, nor press any of those, he instead pressed square and star.

“You have made an error in your choice of errand. To start over, press 1. You have made an error in your choice of errand. To start over, press 1.” The automatic voice repeated. Then, after ten seconds, a continuous tone engaged.

“Echo―Tango―Report,” Hart said, he would now have to waited patiently for someone to pick up on the other end.

The nurse came back into the room, she smiled but didn’t say anything, probably out of courtesy for the caller as he held the speaker to his ear. She motioned for him to lend her his hand for plastering. He gave her the hand, and she injected a needle below the swelling, it was the analgesic, and then began the plastering process.

“This is Eleise speaking.” A voice, now Eleise said on the other end of the line.

“We finished the assignment.” Hart said.

“What’s the hold up?” Eleise asked. “Your deadline ended three hours ago, and I’ve been waiting in the office FOR THREE HOURS to see my vehicle back in the garage.”

“We ran into some complications,” Hart said. “I’m at the town’s emergency ward, Ross is probably going to be out of commission for a few days.”

Let me guess,” Eleise said. “You came up with a plan, again, Ross was stupid enough to fall for it, again, and it didn’t quite work out for you boys, again.”

“Something like that.” Hart admitted casually.

“Fuck me,” Eleise said. “We were relying on your deadline wrap up, as we have an emergency in Brooksville and you two are the only agents who were supposed to be free for a new assignment. This means you’re going to have to find a new associate, bring him or her up to speed, and throw him or her out into the field like a newborn baby taking its first steps, except the ground is made out of molten lava, and he or she will most likely burn to death on the first step. Good job, now take responsibility for your continuous carelessness, you idiot.”

“Am I getting a promotion?” Hart asked, hiding his excitement. “I am a Field Warden now?”

“Are you stupid?” Eleise expressed. “This is a temporary promotion. TEM-PO-RA-RY. Got it? When this job is done, you’re back to being someone’s squire, maybe Ross again, if he didn’t finally grow some brains and throw you away like the little shit you are. Then again, the two of you are just dumb enough to fit, no one should have to work with either of you beside yourselves.”

“Thanks Chief,” Hart said. “I’m glad you entrust me with so much responsibility, I will prove myself to you and I swear I will not disappoint you. I’ll take the midnight tram to the office in twenty-five.”

“Midnight what!” Eleise expressed. “What about my vehicle?”

“It’s out on the corn field, near a wurm hole,” Hart said. “It would take me hours to walk back there.”

“You’re a real pain in the ass, you know that?” Eleise said with a sigh. “I’m going to hang up now and prepare for the headache of your arrival.”

She hung up. Hart put the phone back on the wall.

“Um,” The nurse began. “So what were you guys up to anyway?”

“Saving the world,” He said. “The usual.”

“Ah,” She expressed. “I suppose you took out the wurm?”

“It gave us a lot of trouble,” He said. “But yeah, it’s dead now.”

“Considering you’re both here,” She said. “No doubt it kicked both your asses. At least you got away more or less intact, your partner on the other hand, might need some serious patching.”

“It’s not just this one, they’re a always real hassle to deal with,” He said. “Near impenetrable skin, clever, and very dangerous since we can’t fight them face to face. This one was especially smart for a blobwurm.”

“But I wonder,” She said. “Why would a wurm come all the way out here anyway?”

“Good question,” He said. “There’s plenty of food on the farside, and since we especially avoid their nature reserve due to the danger, they shouldn’t have any reason to go through the thick vegetation to get all the way here. I mean, there’s plenty of tree roots blocking their way, so it should be a very hard journey to make. Then again, those who do approach towns seem to be slightly more intelligent than the rest of them. Perhaps there’s some kind of Builders machine interfering with their regular life cycle?”

“Don’t be silly,” She said. “You don’t really believe in the myths do ya?”

“Well,” He said. “Someone had to build the artificial world gravity, and seed the worlds with strange life morphs, and provide us with the radiation barrier. What’s to say they didn’t do more stuff beyond what we’ve been told at the campfires?”

“Hmm.” She expressed, clearly not convinced.

“Well how about this then―What if it’s a kind of death rite,” He said. “You know, since they’re smarter than the average wurms, maybe it’s because they’re more experienced, and leave their herds to die.”

“I dig.” She said. “Kinda beautiful in a terrifying sort-of way, innit?”

She used some kind of instant-dry spray on the plaster, and it solidified immediately. “All fix’t.” She proclaimed with a smile of satisfaction on her face.

“Thank you,” He said. “And thank you for the landline.”

“We’re here to help,” She said. “That is why we call it an emergency ward.”

****

Hart strolled down the sidewalk, the emergency ward was only a hundred meters from the tram station. He snuck another peek at Jupiter, as he had always been awestruck by the massive cataclysmic inferno raging not too far from his home. Just behind Europa, hid the smallest of the Great Twins, two supermassive storms which had been raging for centuries. It was a sign of good fortune to be born a twin on all three human worlds occupying this part of space, well, if you believed that sort of thing.

He paused in his steps and took a more serious look at Io, it was something he didn’t do often, but it was something he had given a lot of thought. The world was called Io, The Forbidden World, no human had set foot there for a thousand years. It was the only terraformed world with zero human presence. No one alive today knew what it was like, well, except for the occasional poacher, but they didn’t know much more than anyone else. Most of their stories of the place were pure fiction, and the only reason they ever pressed the danger of getting by the satellite defense system would be to capture a Tanca. Small, fluffy, cat-like creature with alleged human intelligence. They fetched a good price on the black market as slaves, toys, meat, pets, and so on. Hart had never seen one of them alive, but he had seen pictures. But then again, the Tanca were the reason why the world became forbidden. It was decided that it would be unethical to colonize a world of sophont morphs, considering our ancient track record of old Earth colonization where primitive human tribes were present. The myth says that the Builders made an error in the god machine algorithm, and it accidentally created the sophont beings, then to protect them, they mounted defense satellites, which would dematerialize any approaching entity near the radiation barrier. Hart wasn’t sure he believed all of that, but he would give anything to be a pioneer, exploring and researching the biosphere of The Forbidden World. But that wasn’t going to happen. The Builders were all gone now, and the poachers were said to have a fifty percent mortality rate when trying to launch away from the surface.

While his mind had been occupied by the thoughts surrounding Io, he had entered the tram station. He had however neglected to read the sign which said that there had been a power-outage in the rails operational room. Which had somehow coincided with his apparent mishaps while making his way to the surface through the machine room.

He took a seat at one of the waiting benches, and stared out at the tracks, still oblivious that no trams would come for tonight. Then he saw something in the corner of his eyes. He turned his head and squinted, unsure if he was just imagining it, or if there had been something there. But nothing came of it. He relaxed himself once more and stared out over the tracks. There it was again, something flashing in the corner of his eyes. He stood up, looking in the direction from where he had seen something, but again there was nothing there. He waited long, not looking away or blinking his eyes to the point of feeling silly.

He was almost certain there was something there, on the platform at the other side of the tracks, and slightly to the right, near the last pillar of the structure. He made a quick look for a schedule monitor, but they were all blank. He didn’t consider why for the moment, and instead went down on the tracks, and jumped over to the other platform. Suddenly, and without warning, a girl-like shape phased into existence from thin air, and pounced at him. He flew a good three meters from the impact, but was otherwise unhurt. He got back up on his feets and looked over to the attacker, who laid flat on the ground, bleeding.

After a few long seconds of waiting for the shape to start moving and possibly attack him again, he gave up on the game. He moved  closer to the shape and sat down next to it. “Hey, you okay?” He said.

There was no response.

He flipped her on her back, she was naked, with three gun wounds, one in her leg, one in her arm, and one in the abdomen. Something didn’t sit quite right with how she looked, and he couldn’t help himself but to inspect her further. After all, he was a slayer of strange morphs. Tattoos symmetrically covered her body and part of her face with a black eyeliner pigment or tattoo in the fashion of the ancient pharaohs. Her eyebrow hair was long and sticking out to the sides of her head, it was almost like antennas. She also had long elf-like ears which too stuck out on the side of her head. She had long pristine white hair, and pristine white skin (save for the tattoos). She had no mammaries or belly button. Which peeked his scientific curiosity further, is she a clone of some kind? he thought. He used his non-plastered hand to forced one of her eyes open, with the intent to see if she was concussed, it was faintly glowing blue, but had no visible pupil. Okay, that’s not normal, he thought. he raised one her lips and saw her canine fangs. Not even human, are you, he thought. He raised one of her legs, it was light, and then his eyes went onto something completely different, and he felt blood rush to his cheeks unprofessionally as he let go of her leg. I guess some parts of you are, he thought.

“That’s enough molesting for today,” He said. “I don’t know if you’re some kind of unknown morph, or an alien from interstellar space, but something tells me a lot of people would like to poke needles and other things into you, so I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen. You okay with that?”

She let out a random, quiet, moan. He took it as a yes. He then removed his coat, and covered her body in it, and then lift her in his arms. She was light, incredibly light, even for her small size, it was too light. He figured her skeleton structure was made by something entirely different from humans.

“Quite frankly,” He began. “I don’t know if you were shot because you’re dangerous, or because they wouldn’t let you escape from wherever they were holding you and would have prefered you dead rather than free. But just so we’re clear, I’m a Junio―” He coughed. “I mean, a Field Warden. So if you get any crazy ideas that you can take me on in your current condition, you’re sorely mistaken. Then again, I don’t know if you can understand me, or if you’re even conscious, it’s a bit hard to tell when your eyes are glowing blue. But I do know a way that I can have you fixed up without attracting too much attention, and that is what I will do. You’re going to have to trust me on that.”

She let out another faint moan, and again he took it as acknowledgment. He sprinted with her in his arms out from the tram station and to the emergency ward. He put her down next to a bush where he figured she would be hidden. He then took his knife from the belt, Oh man, this is going to hurt tomorrow, he thought, and jabbed it into the arm that had been plastered. He covered the wound with his hand, and then entered the door of the emergency ward.

“Hi again,” Hart said to the nurse. “I’m going to need some supplies and a room to stay.”

“What?” The nurse said. Her focus was elsewhere.

“Well,” He said. “You see, I kind-of hurt myself again.”

She rolled her eyes with a sigh.

“Fine,” He said. “I fell on my knife.”

“Alright,” She said with an annoyed tone. “But we don’t have any extra rooms here, your friend is occupying the only room we had available. You’re going to have to head for the inn.”

“That’s fine by me,” He said. “I’ll patch myself up as well, but I’m going to need the supplies to wrap it up and something to remove the knife fragments from my arm, since the tip broke off. That okay?”

“That’s fine,” She said while she shook her head and rolled her eyes once more. “I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

She disappeared behind her door again, and came out only half a minute later with the supplies.

“You’re a godsend,” He said and put on a big fat smile. “Thanks.”

“No flirting while I’m on the clock,” She said. “The Inn is just over the street, the sign glows pretty, I’m guessing you saw it earlier.”

“I’ll manage,” He said. “Thanks again.”

Hart left the ward with the supplies, and went straight back to the girl. She hadn’t moved from the bush. He put the supplies on her chest and picked her up in his arms, and then dashed over the street for the Inn.

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