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Honor, Courage And Rectitude

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This was the time she got drunk. Like clockwork - not quite alcoholism, Evelynn reasoned, so much as escapism. With a sleepy grin, she sagged in her chair and tilted the end of the bottle into her mouth, a quarter of it spilling out along the sides of her muzzle and onto the bar. She forced herself to sit upright and poured the contents of the entire bottle down her throat. It was foul, cheap whiskey. Her favorite.

A weavile lounging in a beanbag chair nearby scoffed. "Why do you drink that shit?" needled Chastity.

Evelynn let out a long, hot sigh and pulled wayward strands of hair away from her face. "Burns like wanderlust, Chast. 'N it goes down easy enough. Just like nostalgia," she replied. She glanced at the bottle and with a dismissive tch, tossed it into a nearby pile behind the bar. "And I'm out of it before I really start. Typical." She swung a leg over the other and crossed her arms, pouting. "Say, Chast-"

The weavile took a long drag from the strange device next to her and blew a plume of brilliant green smoke in the direction of the zoroark. "Fuck no."

Evelynn shifted into a weavile herself, the spitting image of Chastity and replied in a mocking tone, "Fuck no. I'm Chastity. I hoard booze and the weird shit I smoke and never ever share-"

"Ladies, please. Now's not the time fer cat-fights." The scrafty grinned in spite of himself and sat down next at the meager bar beside Evelynn. "You alrigh'? Yer lookin' more down each day, Eve."

"It's nothing, Oliver. Nothing you don't already know about," she replied. She shifted back into a zoroark and slumped against the bar.

"Well if that old fire's burnin' again and got yeh wantin' to leave, can't say I'd stop yeh. I like yeh, Eve, but...well, hell, you already know. Never been one for tyin' folks down," supplied Oliver.

"You're not tying her down, Oliver, trust me," sneered Chastity. She sat up in her beanbag chair and swept her arms across the room. She gestured at the tiny bar with precious few bottles stocking the shelves, the dingy tables obscured by a haze of green smoke, and the mounds of litter tucked here and there into rough piles. "We've all got more time than work. Business ain't booming and our shithole-in-the-ground is suffering for it. And so's she. Guess dark and dingy doesn't mash to well with this fairy over here."

Evelynn growled and stood up. "I'm glad we haven't had any fucking work, Chast. I'm sick of it. Have you seen my last "haul"?" She gestured to the cloth bag sitting beside the strange smoking apparatus adorning the table beside the weavile.

"Yeah, I saw your last "haul", as you called it. Enough to get us by for quite some time. Months, at least. A year if we're stingy," she replied. She rummaged in the bag and pulled out a glittering golden watch and wrinkled her nose. "Bit of blood on the face. You do something to the previous owner?"

Evelynn ruffled her mane of hair and let out a howl of frustration. "No, you dense bitch, I didn't fucking hurt anyone. I found a twitching pile of dead gangsters out near where I usually pick up a score. No one had looted them because they'd all shot and stabbed each other."

Chastity frowned and tossed the watch back into the bag. "Guess you'd better arrange a trip out to a nearby town and-"

The zoroark scoffed. "Oh, fuck this. It doesn't bother you in the slightest that I pulled it off a bunch of dead gangsters? At all?"

The weavile took another drag and then blew out a long, thin stream of smoke before finally saying, "Fuck 'em. Their loss, our g-"

"Castelia is burning down all a-fucking-round us, Chastity. And you're content to- forget it. I'm cracking the good shit tonight." At this, Evelynn set off into the corner of their dingy basement-turned apartment. It was owned by a curious woman who didn't talk much, but always seemed to have enough to pay rent. It was enough to keep the proprietors of the complex from asking questions about the random pokemon that would appear at her door, and for that, Evelynn was grateful. She disliked using human speech, good as she was at it.

She rummaged beneath the couch that doubled as her bed in the corner of the room and rummaged beneath it for her bottle of "the good shit." There it is. Dusty, but still good. She popped the cap off and took a swig. After months of cheap whiskey, it was better. Far better. Several swigs later, the room had taken on a spin, and rocked unevenly back and forth, the dim lights now bright blurs that left spots in her eyes. Her sleepy grin did not return, however, and instead her thoughts turned to that hated place of hers, what-if.

What if I'd just left? Struck out. Braved the world. Kinda like how he did. Maybe he didn't have a choice.

What if I just left now? Bit drunk, might end up in a compromising situation, but I'm no stranger to that.

What if...what if anything? Anything good, yeah? Anything that wasn't this. Kind Oliver and bitchy Chastity. Absent, thieving, conniving, gentlemanly Roderick. And quiet Yosef. Where were those two anyway? Off on a score of their own? No one's swung by to ask us for work, I've had to go out- oh. Someone's here. Feh. Chastity'll take care of it.

Evelynn regarded the shadowed figure that had entered the room with mild disinterest and instead poured a drink than swig directly from the bottle, in an effort to look more "presentable". Another pokemon here to lick our boots? She sighed and her thoughts turned to back to himWhere are you? What are you up to? even alive? She took a swig from her glass and winced as the alcohol burned its way down her throat. Thought you had the wrong idea but now-

The smoke around the figure cleared and produced the form of a bisharp. His intense eyes and ramrod gait hadn't changed a bit - but there behind his eyes, Eve saw it. Grief.

Her mouth fell open, and for a moment the misdirection around her snout failed - she rushed to mask it by (only partially) feigning surprise and bringing her hands up to cover it. She stood, knocking her table aside and the expensive liquor upon it to the ground with a crash. The room began to spin very rapidly, and she became painfully aware of just how much whiskey she'd downed. She swayed on the spot and mumbled, awestruck, "Charles?"

The bisharp looked at her - his eyes softened and the ghost of a smile appeared on the corner of his lips. He nodded.

She stumbled her way over to him, stopping now and again to catch herself against the various chairs, makeshift beds and furnishing that peppered the basement, and at last collapsed against Charles' shoulder with a grunt. She composed herself immediately after, and stood up straight, trying with all her might to avoid swaying. "So. You're back. Life in the light not pan out for you?" she asked in what she hoped was a casual tone.

Charles snorted. "Drunk? Odd. Didn't take you for one. Recent?" He caught Oliver's eye and gave him a swift smirk and a nod. Eve noticed that, despite standing next to Chastity, Charles had chosen to ignore her.

Clearly, Chastity had noticed as well, because the weavile cleared her throat loudly and interjected, "Yeah, it's recent. Every night it's the same thing. Now, you gonna tell me what you're doing here? Clearly it's not to chat, way you flat out ignored-"

"Stick your pipe in it, Chast," interrupted Evelynn, putting a hand to one hip and pointing accusingly at the weavile with the other. "We get you're all bent out of shape because he didn't say hi, but you didn't go out on friendly terms last he was here, so what'd you expect? It's Charles."

"Who's to say I'm not ready to forgive and forget?" replied Chastity, looking taken aback.

"Did ol' Arc himself come to you in a dream or somethin'? Tell you it's time fer a new start as a more friendly, less bitchy and cutthroat weavile?" asked Oliver, a smile dancing across his lips and a chuckle in his throat.

"Not a bad idea. Knew a weavile," added Charles, glancing over at Chastity. He flicked up to the plumage on her head and he shook his head. "Evil." He turned back to Evelynn and gave her a smirk. "Here to check in. And ask a favor."

"A favor? You waltz in, don't show me the proper respect and then tell me to fix my attitude? Piss off," hissed Chastity. She stood and stomped over to a large pile of cushions that acted as her bed and threw herself into them. "Show him the fuck out, Oliver. Now."

The scrafty rolled his eyes and hopped off his stool. "She's in one of her moods. Lemme show ya out, Charlie. Best come back later if yer wantin' help." He strode up the stairs that led them out of the basement and into the alleyway access door. "Mmm, she always gets like this whenever someone tells her to stick it. Good on ya, Charlie. Good on ya. Forgets herself sometimes."

Charles nodded and asked, "Need help soon. Not later. Not interested?"

Oliver shook his head. "Aw hell, Charlie, I can't go and leave Chastity behind like that. Goes to pieces alone."

Evelynn squashed a chuckle against her hand and mumbled, "You know, humans call that 'pussy-whipped.'"

The scrafty rolled his eyes, but smiled nevertheless. "Good to see I'm not the only one willin' to make cat puns," he replied, "but it might as well be true, Charlie. No help I can go offerin' right now. Sorry bud."

Charles nodded again and gave Evelynn a swift smile and a nod. "Understood. Have to find other means. Pleasure seeing you both again." He gave them both a quick wave and then turned about to leave.

Oliver sighed. "Pity, eh, Eve?" A loud shout echoed in the alley from out of the basement. "And there she goes, yappin' orders at me. Comin', Eve? Or you gonna air out?"

Evelynn turned back to look at Charles. "Air out," she replied. She heard Oliver trudge down the steps and stumbled after Charles immediately after. "Charles!"

The bisharp turned about and his eyes widened as he saw Evelynn approach. Again, she stumbled her way to him and silently cursed how much whiskey she'd soaked herself in as she nearly tripped into him. "You need help, right?" she asked, no longer attempting to control her swaying.

Charles frowned. "Yes. So do you. Drunk. Not a time to make decisions," he said, his tone blunt. He crossed his arms and tilted his head. "Get some rest. Need it."

Evelynn cross her arms and bared her teeth in a low growl. "'M not always a drunken mess, you know." She sighed and shook her head, then added, "I'm in a bad way, but I'm not that drunk. This whole 'drunken zoroark' thing is a recent change."

The bisharp cocked his head. "Explain."

"Never were one for words, huh?" she asked, a smile curling on the edge of her lips. "Charles, I want to get out of this life. Chast doesn't care, Oliver's basically her handler, and Yosef and Roderick are just content to follow her. Room and board for being hired assholes is a good job for a bunch of ferals." She rolled her eyes at the term. It bothered her, necessary as it was. "But if work dries up in the wake of all this gang fighting then we are going to find ourselves out of food and on the streets and we've gotten a bit...soft. At least as far as street life is concerned. I dunno if-"

Charles took a step forward and grabbed hold of her muzzle to clamp it shut. He tilted her head down and stared her in the eyes with piercing, beady black gaze of his own. "Rambling. Eve doesn't ramble. Truth. Now."

Evelynn's ears drooped and she averted her eyes. She reached up and gently removed his arm from her snout and mumbled, "I'm tired of life in the shadows, Charles." She raised her gaze up to look him in the face. "When you left I thought… I thought you were crazy. It wasn't really your decision I guess, it was your trainer's but, even then, you were so willing to just skip out and-" She quailed under his stern gaze and shook her head to try to clear it.

"I want to be good, Charles. I want to do the right thing." She ran a hand through her long mane of hair, and then reached down towards the curious gold ring she'd threaded the end of her hair through into her hands and looked down at it. "For once. I'm tired of my old life." She stared him in the eyes. "Please let me help."

Charles stared back for a moment then turned around. "Follow."

Daniel flicked his cigarette down toward the other end of the alley and rolled his neck. The soft crick crack of relief sounded in his ears and he sighed. "Taking way fucking longer than he needs to," he grumbled. He turned around and banged on the sturdy metal door behind him thrice. "Locke. Locke, you secretive fuck, hurry your ass up, I haven't got all day."

The peep-slat in the door slid aside and revealed the bloodshot green eyes of Locke. "I was just finishing up, you impatient prick. Come in, come in," he rasped. The sound of several locks clicking open rang out, then a pause, then the loud metallic thunk of what Daniel imagined was some kind of intense magnetic lock rose in the air. The door swung open and admitted the detective into the dingy, poorly lit room.

The squat frame of Locke waddled his way over to behind a counter and he heaved himself into a seat with a series of groans. With an almost disinterested swat of his hand, he slapped a large red button attached to a controller that dangled down from the ceiling, and the metal grating behind him rolled aside and revealed a wall brimming with weapons. Locke pulled a cigarette from the ashtray upon the counter up to his lips and inhaled, a weak red cherry springing to life in the poor light as he did so, and coughed out, "What did you fuckin' want?"

Daniel grinned. "I came by to say hi, Locke. Can't an old friend just swing by and have a chat?" he asked innocently.

Locke waved the smoke from his face and coughed, then chuckled and coughed again. "Your smooth talking ekans-in-the-grass lies won't get you a fuckin' discount, Winters." He studied the man for a moment and pulled on a pair of grimy half-moon spectacles. "Bah, but I guess I'll give you a discount for coming back to me after so much time away. Coulda gone to Geoff's, you know."

The detective pulled up a stool and sat himself at the counter. "Geoff's dead."

The squat man took a long drag from his cigarette and then flicked its tail of ash into the tray and exhaled out of the corner of his mouth. "You called him first?"

"No. I called you first. You didn't answer. Geoff didn't either. Got his son instead. Kid didn't sound old enough to take up his father's, uh, profession, so I gave him my condolences and fucked off right over to here. Glad to see you haven't kicked the bucket yet."

"Cancer sticks'll do me in before any of the fuckin' gangs of this godsforsaken city do. Business is booming and I get a front row seat to watching the fuckin' world come to an end."

Daniel pointed at the wall behind Locke and said, "That one. Folding stock. Short, threaded barrel. A rail to slap an optic on. Looks like all I'll need."

Locke looked taken aback and turned in his stool to glance at the rifle. "Yeah, that's fine. Extra mags?"

"Six. And a carrier. Two cases of ammo."

"Hold on, hotshot, you haven't told me what you're chambering the rifle-"

"Inter-region compact standard. That's the first case of ammo. Second case is for this." He pulled his pistol out from under his jacket and laid it on the table. "Forty cal."

"Mmm. Alright. Rifle. Two cases. Carrier. Plate or-"

"Plate. Dual purpose. Took a nasty stab in the back while I was in Kalos."

"Dual purpose rig? Those don't come cheap, Winters, you sure-"

"I've got the fuckin' scratch for it. Rifle. Two cases. DP Carrier. Six mags. Send it here," he explained, and slid a piece of paper across the counter towards Locke. "Charge this." He pulled a credit chit from his pocket and laid it flat on the table.

Locke rang up the transaction and lowered his spectacles to peer at the screen as it processed. "You weren't fuckin' kiddin' Winters. These chits don't come cheap and the kinda paper you've got on this…where'd you come up on-"

"I don't want to talk about it. Nothing illegal, I can assure you," replied Daniel shortly. "Honestly, the way I got it, wish it had been."

Locke said nothing, and instead dug around in a box behind the counter and pulled a vest up and laid it on the counter before Daniel. "Dual purpose lining. Adds bulk, but you get a nice compromise: bullets and angry pokemon. And you can throw some extra plates here and there for additional protection of your choosing." He watched Daniel put the vest and and tweak and adjust here and there. "Good?"

"What I need. Mag pouches. Rifle and handgun. Toss those in with this," said Daniel. He pulled the vest off and laid it on the counter again.

The arms dealer set the carrier aside and picked the credit chit up, examining it with sharp eyes before laying it flat on the counter. "Winters. What are you doing here?" asked Locke, sliding the chit back across the table along with a small coded print out.

"I don't know yet. I find out tomorrow," he replied. He rose from his stool and picked up the chit and print out, then holstered his pistol.

Locke's eyes widened. "Then why the rifle? The body armor? The ammo? Winters, what the hell are you doing?"

Daniel threw the door open, filling the stuffy room with blazing sunlight. "Checking in on old friends." He slammed the door shut behind him, leaving Locke in the dying light of his shop.

Daniel unlocked the door into his hotel room and was surprised to find Charles sitting cross legged on the floor in the center of the room, his head bowed in meditation. The detective cleared his throat pointedly. "Staring down a long barrel there, are ya, Charles?"

The bisharp opened his eyes and looked up at his friend. He nodded twice and then stood. He raised a gauntleted hand and pointed at Daniel's bedroom door.

Daniel entered his hotel bedroom and looking at the sleeping figure obscured by blankets. He crept closer and saw the telltale red mane of hair and dark fur of a zoroark. "How the fuck do you tell them apart anyway? Chick or a dude?" Charles grunted once to signal the former.

"Charles, we're here to get some dirty shit done, not get you laid," noted Daniel, staring down at the sleeping zoroark in his bed. "Admittedly, still dirty shit I guess but - gods, she stinks. What the fuck is that? Whiskey?"

The bisharp nodded once. He pointed to the zoroark, then to himself, then do Daniel and then finally rapped his knuckles against the palm of his hand three times in quick succession before pointing out the door.

"What?" asked Daniel, his brow furrowed. "We taking her somewhere or…" Charles shook his head and tapped his trainer's pocket insistently. He mimicked opening a booklet and leafing through it. "Oh," said Daniel, pulling the book he kept Tanaka's picture and the instructions he needed to meet with him. "What does Hideo have to do with- you motherfucker. She's coming with us, isn't she?"

Charles nodded.

"No wonder you wanted to head off on your own for a bit. You never ask to do that unless you're brewing some kinda plan in that knife-tipped head of yours." Daniel groaned and sat himself in the chair. "Well, wake her the fuck up so I can-" A knock rang out from the other room. "Fuck, Locke works quickly. Get her up and bring her out." He rose and strode out of his bedroom to the living room and kitchenette of his suite and then made his way to the door that led out to the hallway of the hotel. He peered through the peephole and saw a man wearing a backpack and clutching two black cases - one long and thin, the other squat and fat.

Daniel pulled his pistol from his underarm holster and tucked it and his right hand behind his back, then opened the door. He opened his mouth to greet the man but was cut off.

"Slip," said the man.

Daniel closed his mouth and handed him the coded slip of paper Locke had given him back at his shop. The man pulled a strange scanning device from his pocket, clicked a button on it and ran a thin red light across the paper. A loud beep issued form it. Daniel opened his mouth again. He was cut off again.

"Locke's Hardware Supply. Heard youse needed nails and a hammer," said the man, his tone gruff and deep. He handed Daniel the thin case. "Hammer." He then handed him the fatter case. "Nails. Two kinds. Got yer long nails, yer short nails, nails for every occasion, ya know? Also, 'fore I forget, you'll need yourself your tool belt and the extra loops and pockets that comes with it." He pulled the backpack off and dumped it at his feet. "Keep that backpack, I got tons. Free gift, you know? Alright, I'm outta here." At that, the man turned and left.

Daniel closed the door behind him and bolted it shut, then holstered his pistol. He hauled the cases up onto the counter in the kitchenette and opened the long and thin one first to reveal his rifle, a cleaning kit, CQB optics and a spare magazine; the rest were likely sitting in the bag. He pulled the rifle free and shouldered it. It was comfortable enough, though he realized it would be decidedly awkward to fire with the stock folded. He replaced the rifle and opened the thicker case to reveal two metal cases of ammunition.

"Having fun, Daniel?" asked an accented voice across the room. Daniel pulled his pistol free and aimed it directly at the source of the sound.

An attractive woman with curiously red hair that ran from her in messy waves and bright purple eyes stared back at him. Her fair skin was spotted lightly with freckles and her mouth was curved into a knowing smile. She was buxom. Extremely buxom.

Daniel's gaze hardened. "Fucking zoroarks," he grumbled. "I'm checking my gear. Name." It was a command.

The woman's smile broadened. "That's not how this works," she said, her tone flirtatious. She stood, revealing a thin waist and wide hips. Her legs were unnaturally long and her skirt was nearly too short. She brought her hands up underneath her heavy breasts and lifted them. "You're supposed to be-"

"I'm supposed to be fucking nothing, because I'm taken. Name," spat Daniel, his pistol still trained on the woman.

The woman frowned. A flash of light filled the room, and she now resembled a shorter, notably lacking and frumpier looking version of the previous woman. Her eyes were brown now, the curiously red nature of her hair had given way to plain ginger and her mouth was turned into a pouty frown. "No fun at all. Must be where Charles gets it from," she grumbled.

"I. Said. Name."

She rolled her eyes. "Oh, for the love of the gods themselves, it's Evelynn. Happy?" She shook her head and added, her tone filled with flirtatious lightness again. "But you can just call me Eve." She flashed him a wide grin and revealed canines slightly too long and pointed for a human.

"Nice teeth. Might want to work on that," he replied. "Didn't think you'd still be alive. Charles mentioned you were sad to see him go a couple of years ago."

She averted her eyes and threw a leg over the other. "Charles is one to talk. He was less than happy to see me go as well," she huffed.

Daniel gave her a single, sharp laugh and then called out, "Charles! The fuck is taking you, I nearly blew this fox's head off." His pokemon appeared in the doorway from his bedroom a moment later, his face set in a frown. An inquisitive growl rose in the air. "The hell were you doing?"

"He was meditating some more I think," replied Evelynn, "it's what he said he was going to do before I took a nap. Probably wondering if bringing me was really a good idea." She grinned and flicked her gaze to the bisharp. "I have skills you could make great use of, if what Charles told me is anything to go off of. Big fan of not looking like yourself, aren't you?"

"Feh. Had to keep Kalosian police from finding out what I really look like. Was also trying to duck unwanted attention from some choice folk here in Castelia. Going to meet one of them tomorrow, actually." He stood up and crossed his arms. "The fuck do you want to help for?"

"I've got my reasons and they align just fine with yours, whatever they are, I can assure you."

"Nuh-uh. Not how this works. Why are you doing this?"

Eve's eyes narrowed. "Why are you doing this?"

With a scoff, Daniel waved the question away. "I'm trying to do some good in the world. The fuck would a zoroark know about-"

"That's exactly what I'm trying to do myself, asshole," shrieked Evelynn. The illusion around her body dissipated and she pounced towards Daniel, landing soundlessly on what little space the counter afforded her. Daniel made for his pistol, but she seized his collar and pulled him closer to her face and just out of reach of it. With another flash of light, she took on the appearance of a dark haired woman with bloodshot, baggy eyes and pale skin. "Don't you ever fucking act like I'm not. I can do things you've never dreamed of. Take my help and be appreciative." She let him go and hopped down from the counter. "You, of all people, stereotyping a dark-type." She shook her head and made her way to the bedroom, the illusion dissolving into a zoroark again. A single word met Daniel's ears, but he did not understand it.

Charles watched her stalk past thim then turned back to look at Daniel and shook his head twice.

Daniel strode over to his friend and sighed. "We don't know what we're going to have to do yet, but, well, I can't exactly deny that having someone on our side with her abilities wouldn't be useful as all hell." He tapped his foot. "You think it'll be worth it?" he asked.

The bisharp nodded once.

"She any good in a fight?" asked Daniel. Seeing Charles shake his head, he added, "But she can stay out of a fight easy enough right?" Another nod. "I don't remember ever working with her, only watching you say goodbye. She ever help us out?"

Charles smirked.

"She was just disguised the whole time, wasn't she?"

Charles' smirk widened into a genuine smile.

With a sigh, Daniel strode into the other room, and found Evelynn standing in the center of his bedroom, her hands on her hips and her teeth bared into a grin. Lights danced behind her eyes and a muffled chuckle caught in her throat.

"Was that an act? Are you both just fucking with me?" he asked, his face set in an expression caught somewhere between exasperation and amusement.

With a flash of light, Evelynn was the buxom woman again. She pressed her arms closely to her sides and bent forward, a pout on her lips. "Oh, I'll never tell, Daniel. Maybe you touched a nerve, maybe you didn't," she cooed.

With a roll of his eyes, Daniel turned about and mumbled, "We're meeting our contact tomorrow. Dress down." His eyes stuck for a moment on her chest and he shook his head. "Way down." He strode out of the room, back to the kitchenette and pulled his plate carrier from the backpack he'd been delivered. Magazines were tucked into the holding pouches, with several more pouches still empty, some sized for handgun mags. He flicked his finger against the chestplate.

Hell of a welcome home this is gonna be.

A light blinked on the phone on Morrissey's desk and with a sniff, he wiped his nose. "That'll be Jess. We're done here, Roland. You've got the terms and I've got the manpower. I expect those warehouses torched by nightfall," explained Morrissey. His eyes drifted to the pile of powder on his desk and then flicked back to the pale-faced man sitting across from him.

"D-Dylan, please be reasonable about this, why am I torching my warehouses? I sell you shit from them, this doesn't make any sense," replied Roland. His eyes flicked around the room, to the guards that stood in each corner behind Morrissey's desk, and then back to the red-haired man before him. "What-"

"Listen here, you two-timing son of a bitch," spat Morrissey, "I know exactly what the fuck you've been doing. Double dipping cowardly faggot. No one sells to both sides of the line in my city, burning to the fucking ground or not." He pulled a switchblade from his pocket and piled pillowy white powder onto it and snorted it. "Especially not some two-bit smuggler like you. You're gonna burn those warehouses and operate out of mine or I'll cut your cock off and feed it to you."

With a loud gulp, Roland stuttered, "D-D-Dylan, listen to yourself man, I'm not two-timing you, those deals were before all this shit hap-"

Morrissey slammed his hands on the table and roared, "No, they FUCKING weren't, you slimy little CUNT." He stood and strode around his desk to Roland and put the blade to his throat. A small trickle of blood ran from his nose, and wild rage burned in his bloodshot eyes. "Burn those fucking warehouses, Dylan, or I'll feed you to my fucking haxorus." He pulled a gilded ball from his belt and tossed it into the open space beside them. With a roar that shook the window panes and rattled the desk, chairs and shelves of books around them, a dragon materialized and stared with dripping jaws at Roland. A soft croon issued from its gullet and Dylan gave it a fond pat on the head.

"I implore you to listen, Rol. Hack likes to play with his food." His hand shifted to the blades that jutted from each side of its jaw and ran his thumb across the broad side of one of them. "Do you understand me?" he asked, his voice now a deadly whisper.

"Dylan, please, I can get you whatever you need, but this'll ruin me, man, don't do thi-" With a sound like a dry heave, Roland's eyes widened and he glanced down at his stomach, where Morrissey had buried his switchblade to the hilt.

"Just had to fucking listen, you stupid fuck, just had to FUCKING LISTEN," he said, his tone rising into a manic shout. He stabbed Roland again. Again. Again. Again. He pulled his switchblade loose and tossed it onto the table with a clatter and then wiped his hands on the man's clothing. "Fucking dumbass." He strode back to his seat to the sounds of Roland sobbing. "Hack. Dinner."

As he watched his haxorus bite a considerable portion of the screaming man before him off, Morrissey reached over to his phone and clicked a button, then pulled the receiver to his ear. "Speak."

"We got her," said the voice on the other end. Morrissey's frown transformed slowly into a grin.


"Yes, sir. She's on the reserve. No source of water larger than one foot by one foot by one foot is accessible to her."

Morrissey stood and snapped his fingers, and his guards moved to his side immediately. Hack looked up from the bloody mess of a meal that lay upon the ground in front of him and crooned again. "Hack, finish up. Gentlemen, I want this fuckface's warehouses burned. I want my helo fueled. And I want Agnes and Annabelle. The North Wind awaits."