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--- last won the day on February 4 2016

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  1. Monkeys as pets - is it dangerous?

    As someone from Canada I can confirm that it's illegal to own primates in most provinces and also extremely unethical. - anywhere from $1,500 to $50,000 - 99% of the time they would be acquired through illegal animal trafficking - primates are highly intelligent, emotional, and (genetically speaking) almost human - they have very complex care requirements and keeping one as a pet here would almost always result in animal abuse/neglect, even if the owner had their best interests at heart; they'd be a lifetime commitment - also they're dangerous, destructive, become aggressive once they reach sexual maturity, and can transmit diseases (like herpes B) to humans via bite/scratch; conversely, something as simple as a human cold sore can kill them They're beautiful and interesting animals, and I think in light of that they should be left to nature (or at least well-equipped and certified conservation facilities) and enjoyed from a distance. Sources: [x] [x] [x]
  2. Every groan and splinter of the ice underfoot felt like a blade cutting into their escape time. Avira tried to place his feet as carefully and quickly as he could, but there was no compromise. The lake was buried beneath late winter snow that made it impossible to tell where was safe and where wasn't. Halcyon was slipping from his arms, reaching her legs towards the ground. She wasn't wrong. There was no sense in both of them falling through the ice, and if anyone stood a chance against Mei-Yin it was her. Avira gradually slackened his grip. "Be careful," he pleaded before letting go entirely. The Bonebender ran for it. If he'd listened to Halcyon in the first place, they wouldn't have been facing their current predicament. Now he could only hope it would have a favourable outcome. Avira ran until the ground underfoot stopped crackling, whipping around in a flurry of snow to see what had become of his companions and preparing to dive back into the fray if necessary. He could still see Halcyon through the snowfall. Curiously, he did not hear or see Mei-Yin. Or Monique or Jin, for that matter. There was a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Halcyon?" he shouted into the wind. "If it's safe, come this way. Slowly." --- Jin rose along with Monique, peering first around the thicket to make sure the coast was clear. The forest had gone dead silent, which he had learned from experience was always disconcerting. Predators were always quiet when they moved in for a kill. Yeah, except this 'predator' is some shrimpy orphan that you could kick halfway across the woods, he scoffed, creeping back into open view and heading back the way they came. Unease settled over him. As physically nonthreatening as Mei-Yin was, she was still dangerous. "If we run across that girl, keep your distance. I think her Bending only works up close," Jin whispered over his shoulder at Monique. He kept a loose grasp on one of her wrists, grip not intended to hurt but to steady and guide. Blood trailed down his arm onto Monique's, which he didn't seem to notice. A few yards away, sticks cracked. A trio of Mei-Yin's comatose travelers shambled from the trees. They hadn't seemed to notice the fully-awake New Benders nearby, but they were clearly on the lookout.
  3. The further he ran, the less tired he somehow felt. A bracing arctic wind blew away the hideous saccharine of Mei-Yin’s forest; stumbling headlong into the shadows of pines was a welcome change. They’ll be okay, Avira thought in regards to Halcyon’s question. If they don’t come out behind us, I’ll go get them. But he didn’t have enough air in his lungs to tell her this. Mei-Yin’s distant screams drove him forwards, along with the fear that her zombielike dreamers would once again hunt them down. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to hurt them. They were just people. Unlucky people, like them, who had been desperate for help and trusted the wrong person. It wasn’t fair for them to die because of that. “Sorry,” Avira said between breaths, words thin and raspy on the winter air. “I’m sorry, Halc. Should’ve believed you. I’m sorry.” Blood from Halcyon’s wounds left smears on his coat. Avira’s jaw set at how preventable it had all been. He kept running. Eventually the trees thinned the the snow underfoot hardened to crystals. It wasn’t until a cracking noise split the air that everything made a horrible sort of sense. Their maps-- still in Mei-Yin’s tree --had been marked with red lines that none of them had been able to explain. But as the ground groaned beneath them, Avira realized what they’d been marking; a frozen lake beside Mei-Yin’s forest. And they were running straight across it. “Hold on,” he said, tightening his grip on Halcyon. For now the lake would hold. He wasn’t sure for how much longer. --- Jin gave Monique some room as she awoke, sitting back on his legs with a relieved sigh. “We have to be quiet. I’ll explain later. That pink brat- woah.” Jin blinked as Monique flopped forwards and wrapped her arms around him. He gave a half-smile and steadied her. “Easy, Sarge, we’re not out of this yet. But I’m glad you’re okay.” He paused. “I didn’t, uh, mean any of the stuff I said back there, by the way. About traveling to the Water Tribe being a waste of time. I’m-” He went still and silent as Mei-Yin’s wails drew closer. “Wait, wait!” Her soft voice from before had risen to a keen. “I’m scared of being alone! Don’t leave, you can’t leave!” Her footsteps crunched rapidly past them in pursuit of Avira and Halcyon. It wasn’t until they faded that Jin let himself relax. Their plan had worked...for now. Sooner or later Mei-Yin would notice that two out of four of her ‘friends’ were missing. Jin sighed again and swore under his breath. “I just realized, our supplies are still at the tree.” He swiped at the blood oozing from nail marks on his cheek. “Sarge, if we can’t get them back we might as well die here, because we won’t last a night out there. Not unless a fucking miracle happens.” Given that a psychotic little girl had just tried trapping them in her hell-forest, Jin wasn’t inclined to believe in miracles. But doubling back also ran the risk of getting torn to shreds by Mei-Yin’s ‘friends’, or being caught by Mei-Yin herself. Which was probably worse. Jin straightened Monique’s shoulders to make sure she was fully awake and fixed her with a stare. “We need to stick together this time. Whatever you want to do, I’m coming with you. Truth be told, freezing to death sounds nicer than getting stuck here, but…” By that point, Avira and Halcyon were either captured or waiting for them outside the forest. They didn’t have much time to make a decision.
  4. The scene before Avira was difficult to make sense of. When his eyes moved the world blurred into an unfocused pink haze, and it took everything in him to remain standing, albeit swaying from side to side. Information seemed to be entering his ears and brain seconds after it had actually happened. By the time he’d pulled Monique's name from the muddled swamp his mind had become, Monique had already fallen and plant tendrils wrapped around his ankles, creeping upwards. Where the thorns pierced, there was numbness instead of pain. Mei-Yin's voice drifted across the heavy, heady fog. Please stop fighting it. You've fought so much already, right? Sleep. Her suggestion was a command. One of Avira's legs buckled. He was tired. Maybe it would be okay to take a quick rest... No, no, there was something he was supposed to do. Through the strange warmth enveloping him, he thought he heard a different voice. The word it said didn't make sense. Clarity came with repetition. Right-- he was Avira. Or at least he thought so. "Halc..." He tugged weakly against the barbed vines anchoring him, head swiveling in search of the girl. Sleep, already. Mei-Yin's voice returned with growing worry. Why won't you sleep? Aren't you tired? Don't you love this forest? I said you were safe here. Don't you love your friends? Don't you want them to be safe? It felt like invisible hands were trying to correct him by force, cupping his face to keep his eyes away from Halcyon. Avira shook them off the best he could, fighting to make out her form in the haze. The plants were constricting her, too. Safe. Reality and memory overlapped. Underground cells in secret laboratories. Doctors who peeled the flesh away from his bones just to watch how they moved. Huddling alone in the dark. Finding that barefooted girl in the snow; Halcyon, who had known many of the same experiments and treatments as he had, who it seemed was finally free. Avira watched the plants tighten around her. Mei-Yin's forest wasn't safe. It was just a different kind of prison. "...Stop." Avira propped his leg back under himself and stood, thorns dragging like claws down his legs as they tried to hold him still. He turned slowly to Mei-Yin. "Let...them go. Let...all of us go." The pink-haired girl blinked at him. She took a small step back. "H-Hey, how did you...y-you're not supposed to-" Avira strained against Monique’s plants. Although his eyes were still drained and tired, there was a cognizant glint in them that terrified Mei-Yin. She didn’t understand. All her other friends had succumbed so easily. It had to be Halcyon’s fault-- it had to be. Her small hands worked themselves into fists. At this rate, Halcyon was going to ruin everything. Mei-Yin started towards her, eyes narrowed, hair drifting behind her on a slow, invisible wind. “You need to go to sleep.” She lifted her hand. “Now, right n-” A dark figure dropped from an overhanging pine to bar her path. Mei-Yin startled. Even though he was lowered into a crouch, Jin still cut a presence, blood dripping from nail marks and hand-shaped bruises livid against skin. A sweeping kick forced Mei-Yin backwards behind a curtain of obfuscating snow. Her concentration broken, Jin pressed forwards, honing in on Monique’s collapsed figure with practiced efficiency. Her plants momentarily weakened their grip as Mei-Yin’s influence slackened; Avira was able to thrash free of his bindings and wasted no time staggering towards Halcyon. “W-Wait!” Mei-Yin’s focus whipped between the brothers, who scooped up their friends in tandem and broke for the treeline. Her eyes filled with tears. “Wait!” All alone. She was going to be all alone again. Hysteria rising, she chased them. “Please don’t leave me! Please!” --- Mei-Yin’s screams grew distant, but never gone. The brothers hurried. Avira was managing okay carrying Halcyon, but given that Monique was a tall girl and Jin was half asleep, eventually he stumbled and took them both down, turning so that his back got the brunt of the snow. He uprighted himself as quick as he could and glanced at Avira, who had paused. “Go,” Jin hissed, eyes darting about. He spotted a nearby thicket and hooked his arms under Monique’s to drag her towards it. They’d be able to hide for a moment, and with any luck Mei-Yin would run past them. Thankfully, her zombielike white-eyed ‘friends’ had mulched the snow with their roving, so a straying set of tracks wouldn’t be noticeable. Avira caught on to the plan and continued running. Once they were engulfed in the thicket, Jin propped Monique against a pine tree and knelt in front of her, breathing laboured but quiet. “Monique? Hey.” He whispered and gave her shoulders a shake, hands shifting to hold her head. “You’re okay, right? C’mon, Sarge, wake up.”
  5. Flight Rising

    if anyone wants any of the dragons listed on my profile PM me on FR and you can have them
  6. Mei-Yin loved the sounds of people's names. She arranged them like music notes, weaving a song in her pink-lit dreamscape, humming softly as she smiled and stroked Monique's hair. Monique-- it meant alone. Jin, Avira, Halcyon-- gold, spirit, kingfisher. Names were so pretty. Mei-Yin loved names. She loved her friends, and they'd love her forest. "Hey," she cooed quietly, "Miss Monique, I saw your dreams. You Bend plants. Do you think..." The small girl's arms encircled her tighter. "Do you think you could help me hold the little one still? Halcyon doesn't want to sleep. We have to show her." The air was heavy and tired. A scent like nectar filled it. "She'll be here soon, I think, looking for you, and for..." ------ Avira could barely stay upright. His run tottered and swayed from side to side, boots catching on the forest's many exposed roots and rocks. His shoulder clipped tree trunks in passing, though he hardly noticed. His head was hazy, like it was filled with cotton or fog. The Bonebender shook himself to try and clear his vision, doubles swimming in and out of focus. This is a dream. This is real. Find Halcyon. Why didn't I listen to- Branches snapped behind him. White-eyed dreamers-- one of them had left nail marks down his arm, and now they chased. Or herded. Avira couldn't shake the vague feeling that they were driving him somewhere. Of course they were; the whole forest was one big setup. Avira drew a laboured breath and trundled headlong into a thicket, thorns biting his skin. Ahead there was a gap in the trees, seeping the same pink light that now tinted the woods. Was Halcyon there? Was anyone? The air around him suddenly dragged. Overwhelmed by drowsiness, the Bonebender crashed to one knee, giving his head another vigorous shake and forcing himself back up. A soft, faraway voice spoke in his ear. This way, Mei-Yin coaxed. That's right. Just through to this clearing... "Hal..." he trailed off. Names were getting so difficult to remember. Unable to do anything else, Avira staggered through branches and brush into Mei-Yin's clearing. ------ “...-cyon!” Damn, the kid was fast. It took Jin a moment and several shouts of Halcyon’s name to catch up, his sleeve still clenched in the Ghostbender’s fist. She seemed to know exactly where she was going, and since he definitely did not, he let her lead. Pink orbs followed them. They made him numb and tired, so Jin swatted them away whenever they got too close. Weird ‘blind’ people in the forest, Avira and Monique who-knew-where...the whole place was a traveler’s nightmare. Jin’s eyes narrowed. How hadn’t he noticed earlier? All the bags and odds and ends crammed into Mei-Yin’s tree-- of course she’d gotten them from somewhere. As the two of them ran, a figure came rushing from between the trees. Not Avira. Jin scowled when the figure made a clumsy grab. Milky-white eyes glazed passed his own, unseeing yet somehow fixated. He heard more sounds behind him just in time to roll a shoulder back into another ill-looking man who came blundering from the woods. Jin twisted his sleeve free from Halcyon. “Keep going!” he growled. He could buy them a bit more time; if the lost travelers didn’t rip him apart first, that was. The one he’d shrugged off had already latched back on and seemed to be trying to pull his arm from its socket.
  7. :D

  8. Mei-Yin's smiled widened, twisted between genuine, childlike joy and the complacency of someone much older. "Don't worry. They can stay, too, with the others." She drew Monique forwards by the hands and wrapped her small arms around the Flowerbender's midsection in a hug. "You're all safe now." The air was syrupy, sweet, and slow, like honey. Orbs of light washed the forest in a pinkish haze, feathering out the shadows of tall pines until it was all mingled and incomprehensible. They weren't all safe. The guard dog was troublesome, but she liked him anyways. She'd find a way to keep him. The young girl, however...people who didn't want to sleep or dream were too much work to keep in her forest. She'll ruin it. She won't understand, and she'll ruin it. They're all going to leave and I'll be alone again. Unless... Unless Mei-Yin dealt with her first. Still smiling, she expanded her reach, touching the minds of each forest friend. Find her. Out in the woods the dreamers paused and stiffened. Their heads all swung in the same direction. They began a hurried shamble. --- Jin's expression grew perplexed as Halcyon explained herself between sniffles. He couldn't say he shared her unease. The forest was weird, but there was something safe about it. Which is weird, he thought, scars arranging themselves in a secondary look of confusion. Orbs of Mei-Yin's pinkish light came ghosting through the trees, descending from the high tops of pines like they were seeking out her guests. Staring at them was tiring, yet they drew his eye. Irritated, Jin swatted one that floated too close. It both numbed and warmed his hand. Okay, yeah. The forest was definitely strange. "A man?" An ominous, cold sensation leached through his body, driving off the numbness. Jin narrowed his eyes and leaned forwards. "Halcyon, what man?" His thoughts turned to his traveling companions. Regardless of the rift that had suddenly formed between them, the idea of them being who-knew-where with some obscure 'man' running around didn't sit well.
  9. Lunar Flower? As in, the plant from the Paradise legends? Patch tried not to betray her skepticism. Those flowers had existed at one point, like wolves, though whether or not they had any ties to utopia was debatable. Most people thought not. Then again, most people thought wolves were extinct, and she'd seen three of them today. "Could be that the smell came into town with a stranger and left the same way," Patch suggested. She idly combed her fingers through her rain-soaked hair, wringing it out onto the tent floor. Her mouth tilted into a small frown. "Hey, gosse...you're not lookin' for Paradise, are you? Because people've searched the planet top to bottom and never found anything." She was torn between phrasing it gently and sensibly, not wanting to hear that the girl she'd patched up, fed, and shot at the city's most dangerous law-enforcers for was about to embark on...well, a fairytale chase. A story parents told their kids so they could find the motivation to live on their cold, dying planet. Patch couldn't even recall the details of the legend anymore-- just that it was a place too good to possibly exist, or so she'd always believed. But despite all her doubts, memories drew to the front of Patch's mind; her radio. A few weeks past the police channel had been broadcasting some strange things: the dogs are going wild. There's a smell.
  10. ((It's fine! Sorry that this is kind of long, just wanted to get things rolling.)) Gradually, Mei-Yin led Monique and herself further and further away from the main tree. Listening, chatting, laughing. She kept her eyes and shy smile pinned on Monique, like young children often did when admiring someone older than them. "I do get lonely," she nodded, letting her gaze slide away like it wasn't something she cared to admit. "I like the animals...but it's not the same as having human friends..." Mei-Yin came to a standstill in a clearing. Soft, pinkish lights hovered around her. She turned to face Monique, eyes somehow sleepier than before, and took the Flowerbender's hands in her own. "Are you sure you have to leave?" she asked, her tone rhythmic, melding into a hum. She blinked up at Monique and the world around her seemed to slow down. "You can stay in my forest. It's safe. No more running, or nightmares." Mei-Yin smiled. "Just good dreams, forever." Around her, the sounds of the forest had gone silent. It was as if the two of them were standing in a bubble, warm and timeless and removed from everything else. Mei-Yin held. She waited. --- Halcyon's voice breaking would have prompted Avira to stop whatever he was doing at any given time-- but not now. Something was dulling his ability to care. He barely looked back as the girl fled. A strange mantra had started up in the back of his head-- the man, find the man. For some reason he got the sense he shouldn't disobey it. So he continued deeper into the forest, shoulders brushing light motes from their perches on tree branches, eyes increasingly hazy and unfocused. The Bonebender's feet seemed to know exactly where they were headed. Around him, underbrush rustled and shifted. Ponderous walkers waded through them; blank-faced humans stumbling to nowhere. Avira didn't notice them. Phantom hands again, touching his hair and face. He batted at them halfheartedly and eventually gave up. The man. Where was he? He was probably sick, he needed- The man appeared suddenly. Right in front of him, noiseless like a ghost emerging from the trees. Avira caught his reflection staring blankly back at him in the man's glassy eyes, perturbed enough to blink and take a step back from the stranger. "Who are you?" he inquired. The man said nothing and looked through him rather than at him. "I'm...safe..." the man replied after a protracted pause. The gaps between his words broke the forest's rhythm. "Safe...here..." He reached out and grabbed Avira's arm with abnormal strength. --- In Halcyon's general vicinity, the bushes rustled. Instead of a woodland creature or something far worse, Jin appeared, apparently having climbed down from Mei-Yin's tree. He looked lost in thought but gave Halcyon a surprised blink upon noticing her. "...Thought I heard someone I knew," he said in explanation, gaze slowly scanning the clearing. That person was nowhere to be found. Not that he'd expected anything different-- dead people didn't talk. Maybe he was finally losing it. Oh well. With a wry smile and a sigh, he flopped down on the grass in front of Halcyon. "Well, shit. What's wrong?"
  11. Ruminating in her slovenly tent with a wolf wasn't how Patch imagined her day ending. She let the girl eat and talk without interrupting, good eye never wavering from her. She'd been through a lot of cities-- what had happened to those in the far south was now beginning to happen here. Those folks with the military-grade hardware drove in and shook hands with the police. They set up their encampments. They brought out their dogs; or, as she was beginning to suspect, wolves. "Merde," Patch muttered when Sven threw her head back and howled. She flashed her a panicked glance. "Kid-- kid!" Lunging forwards, Patch's calloused hands wrapped around the wolf's muzzle to force it shut. "Shut up! Look, I know it fuckin' sucks when people you trust hurt you, an' yer entitled to your cryin', but not so loud. We're both in shit if anyone even thinks there's a wolf here." She perhaps looked a bit manic, wet, dark hair plastered to her face, sticking up strangely around her eyepatch. Her good eye drifted to the tent door. No sound or movement from outside. It wasn't uncommon to hear the baying of stray dogs, especially in the destitute part of town. Hopefully nobody thought anything of it. With a sigh, Patch sat back, removing her hands from Sven. "Sorry. We could talk about somethin' else? What about that smell you came all the way to this hellhole city for?"
  12. Nodding, the labcoat-lady took Lowell's leash and gave it a rough jerk to bring the wolf attached to it back to alertness. He was looking barely-lucid on his feet, blood spiking his fur in wild directions. Were it not for the Organizations various enhancements, he'd be having a much different reaction. Lowell limped after her. His breath was ragged; the smells still clinging to him were aggravating. The she-wolf. A different she-wolf. Another female, this time human. One who reeked of carcinogens like Daisuke. A cancerous existence. He hated them. Lowell felt the eyes of sentries on his back as the lady led her into the tent. Dull stormlight turned to scalding fluorescents; everything was bright and white, like the she-wolf. A small growl rumbled in his chest. The labcoat-lady tugged sharply on his leash to silence him. She led him to the room of needles and knives. --x-- Patch passed over a can of the aforementioned sardines. She'd only found two, and it wasn't like eating both of them would completely fill her stomach. She peeled the metal tab back for Sven, careful not to drop any ashes into her food. "Shoot ya'?" She leaned back, face scrunching in a scowl. "Ack, why bother. People been sayin' there's a bounty for wolves since they're coming back as of late, but..." The woman paused, inhaled on her cigarette, exhaled. "C'est des conneries." One didn't have to speak French to guess that Patch was commenting on how absolutely bullshit that sounded. To affirm this, she shrugged and continued. "I bet nobody ever sees a cent of it. The city hates losing money. What're you gonna do if they say 'no' to payin' up? Unfind the wolf for them?" She was trying to enjoy her final cigarette-- god knew how long it would be before she could get more --but the ember always seemed to chew away faster when she was worked up about something. Like how stupid people were. Patch scoffed and finished it off, grinding the butt on a broken plate she'd been using as an ashtray. "Anyway. You new to town, gosse?" she asked, swapping her spent smoke for a food can. She took a moment to remove her sopping wet hat, using one hand to rearrange her equally drenched hair around the leather strap of her eyepatch. Thoughtfully, she watched the wolf across from her eat. Sven had a beautiful array of fur colours compared to the monochrome battle they'd just witnessed in the alley.
  13. Curiously, the rabbit did not run when Mei-Yin came charging towards it, arms flapping. It simply sat back on its hind legs and stared at both her and the approaching bear cub like it was in a trance. Mei-Yin's breath came in little puffs by the time she caught up with the bear. "Thank you." She leaned down to pat its head. "It's not nice to eat our friends. Right, rabbit?" The creature's glassy black eyes didn't even blink at her. Finally, its nose twitched. The rabbit dropped back to all fours and sauntered away. Mei-Yin waved it goodbye before lapsing into thought. "Maybe...uhm..." she trailed off, glancing coyly back at Monique. "Maybe when you're done adventuring you can come back here...? All the animals in my forest are nice. You don't have to worry about wolves, or...o-or anything. And it's warm all the time." Withholding her hope, the girl stopped talking. Her gaze was drawn by the sound of bickering across the clearing again-- this time it was Halcyon snapping at Avira about something. Mei-Yin did her best to look surprised. A little longer. Just a little longer to separate them and everything would be okay. She'd have new friends for her forest. Avira was surprised by the bite in Halcyon's tone; he hadn't known her long, but her voice had never sounded like that. Normally he would have been more receptive to it. Just then, however, everything felt hazy. Like he might still be dreaming and none of it really mattered. "I'm not trying to ignore how any of you feel," he replied, "but I've seen a lot of awful things out there. And people. The longer we stay out, the more of them we'll run into. And one day something will go wrong, and neither of us will be able to undo it." Pessimism settled over the Bonebender's mind like a shade. It was odd; he felt as if he couldn't quite control the words coming out of his mouth. They were from a darker place. With an irritable sigh, he stood, brushing plant matter from his hands and leaving Mei-Yin's basket on the ground. "I'm going to go look for the man you saw. He sounds like he really needs help." Avira turned away, deftly fastening the high collar of his jacket like he always did when he was anxious or upset.
  14. Lowell swayed as Daisuke set him down. It hurt to straighten his spine, but what did it matter? Everything always hurt. Pain was almost meaningless by that point. Albeit at a plodding pace, the surly black wolf walked astride his handler. "She'll be discovered again," he growled in response to Daisuke's lie, "and they'll know." He knew the hunter had not lied to protect him, but rather himself. Still, it was precarious. Especially since that white she-wolf had been pursued many times before. It was bound to happen again; and the only thing that displeased the Organization more than failure was being lied to. Huffing, Lowell lowered his eyes to the ground. It was hard for him to tell if his human-speak was even understandable, since Daisuke's response to many things was simply to shrug him off and call him a stupid animal. Their branch of the Organization had set up a temporary camp within the city limits. It was impressive, in a gut-twisting sort of way. Lowell felt the structure's shadow engulf them as they approached-- a huge industrial tent with a caravan of military vehicles parked outside of it. The higher-ups were still scoping out the city. It was looking to be a good location, though, so Lowell expected they would throw their roots down soon. A shout drew his gaze up. Clad in a white lab coat, a woman trotted out from the tent, attracting odd stares from the guards posted at the entrance. "There you two are." She snapped gloves on as she neared them. Her eyes razed over Lowell's back to Daisuke, pretty mouth tilting into a frown. "That shooter again? Here, let me get your dog patched up." She extended a hand for Lowell's leash. --x-- The inside of Patch's tent smelled just as she did-- like an ashtray. The floor was an array of torn and dirty blankets salvaged from city gutters. She flopped down immediately, shelling her gun and rainsoaked coat with a sigh. Leaded by supplies, it thunked to the ground, finally silencing the radio. Patch looked about two sizes smaller without it on, though no less rough. She rummaged in her pants for a carton of cigarettes and removed the final one, along with a lighter that was due to die any day now. "A wolf?" The lighter flicked. "Yeah. Reckon I met one today. Mignonne loup." Patch grinned as she dragged on her cigarette, freckles and tiny scars folding around her good eye. She breathed out and watched Sven evenly through the smoke. "Sorry, gosse. Your illusion's solid, but I felt yer fur when I was fixin' that arm of yours up." Water ran in rivulets from her hat down her face, but the woman seemed nonplussed. "Can't say I've ever had one in my tent, though. Afraid I ain't much of a host." She tapped ash from her cigarette. Her unmarred eyebrow raised. "I found a couple'a sardine cans today, though. Ain't even expired. Can I offer you one of those?"
  15. Pain consumed him. Lowell barely registered the click of approaching nails; his acknowledgement of the she-wolf's teeth clamping around his neck was pleading. Finish me off. Make it end. Lowell couldn't be sure if he said these words or merely thought them. To him it sounded like the only thing leaving his jaws was laboured wheezing, its whining edge catching in his torn-raw throat. His ears rang fiercely. Everything was swimming and distant. Nice. Won't be so nice. What the humans were going to do to him for his most recent failure wouldn't be so nice, either. Then the teeth were gone, replaced by a short howl. Lowell wasn't sure how long he laid there, flank heaving in his own blood. He wanted to get up but couldn't move. Eventually Daisuke's arms slipped under him. Mildly surprised that the hunter hadn't shot him in the head instead, the wolf growled. "Fine. I can- I'm fine," he insisted, paws twitching as they tried to untangle themselves from each other. Even this was met with excruciating pain. He could do it, he told himself. All those things the Organization had injected into his veins hadn't been for nothing. He was strong. He could do it. Lowell squirmed again. "Put me down." "Doscher patrol," the radio hissed again. "Report. What's your status?" --x-- "Status: fucked," Patch murmured, allowing herself a complacent grin. She and Sven had already hopped several roofs away from the site of the scuffle. Even if anyone went looking for their injured hound, the shooter would be nowhere in sight. Not unless those damn hunters starting patrolling the rooftops. Oh, that would be the day. Patch continued in a northeastern direction, only the radio at her hip and the hiss of rain to break the silence. The buildings underfoot grew increasingly derelict. At last the metal sheeting turned to tarps and mildewed fabrics, stretched taut over gaps in the homes of the unfortunate. The inner-city slum, its alleys below alight with mismatched lanterns, milling with drifters from every corner of the land, speaking in languages she didn't understand and some that she did. Consummately navigating it, Patch picked around the least stable structures, guiding Sven and herself to a short ladder missing its bottom rung. She squirreled up. "Well, gosse, looks like we dodged ourselves quite a bullet," she heaved a contented sigh. "Why don't ya' come on in? Nothin' much to do but talk when it's raining like this." Distant thunder rolled in as if on cue. Patch glanced over her shoulder at Sven, one eyebrow raised questioningly. Behind her slumped a hovel of a home-- little more than a patched-together tent, pegged sadly to the rooftop. The entrance flap was half open; not like it could stop any intruders if it tried. Patch motioned with her head for Sven to follow before vanishing inside.