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Modern Bad Batch stories

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“HUNTER!”

At that sound, he bolted from the couch. He had no clue as to what went on, the world still spinning underneath his feet. With summer temperatures getting higher, and days getting longer and longer, his migraines became way more prominent.

It didn’t help that he was a construction worker, spending all day with heavy and loud machinery. Jack hammers, drills, and saws penetrating his eardrums like nothing else until his brain had finally caved in.

Noticing his empty gaze upon coming home from work, Echo had equipped him with his usual cocktail. Then he had escorted him to the couch, a glass of water and a bucket, should the attack get any worse. Luckily for him, it didn’t.

As the medicine took effect, he slowly felt the pounding in his head lessen, the vision straightening out again and the throbbing pulse in his eardrums fading out to nothing except Omega’s joyful yelps as she played outside with Wrecker.

Experiencing her first summer out of captivity, the brothers had made sure to include every fun activity they could think of, compensating for the lack of unhappy childhood memories. From swimming in lakes, to grilling in their small garden, to water balloon fights. Every possibility they got was put to good use. Well, except for the days Hunter was basically knocked out of consciousness.

He swallowed against a familiar faint taste of bile in his throat. Listening in, he waited. A moment of silence, then another cry. “Hunter?” this time fainter and of less urgent nature.

Omega.

His feet carried him out the front door in the driveway, where he sent her to play. Running into a wall of heat and wincing at the bright summer sun, Hunter immediately closed his eyes. He heard something small approach carefully, gripping his waist tight. Eyes still closed, he cupped her head to his stomach, sensitive sense of smell noticing that someone must have covered her in sunscreen.

Tech.

Another much larger hand gripped his shoulder, putting a pair of sunglasses on his nose, consequently allowing him to open his eyes without passing out or vomiting straight onto Omega’s head, for that matter. The poor kid had gone through enough. No need in traumatizing her further.  

Hunter slowly and very carefully opened his eyes. Biting sunlight, otherwise hitting his retina unhindered, was now pleasantly shielded by the dark lenses of Crosshair's sunglasses. Lungs filling with the 95-degree Fahrenheit air, his body steadily acclimated itself as well as it could.

He first caught sight of Echo, smiling at him from a lawn chair next to Tech. His brother had put up a temporary sunshade, made from an old tablecloth and stretched out by strings and wooden sticks across the small portion of front lawn. 

His gaze fell onto the driveway, tired eyes taken aback at the sight of colorful pictures of sidewalk chalk.

Close to the road was a picture of a devil with a grimace and triangular teeth. Crosshair's work, Hunter estimated. Next to it, in stark contrast, was a picture of a stick figure with prosthetic legs holding the hand of a little girl with yellow hair. Both surrounded by a large heart. All the way around the driveway, multicolored lines sneaked in tandem.

Omega, dressed in her blue and red striped summer dress and sunhat on, lessened her grip around hunter and skipped back to her shirtless big brother. From the chalk on Wreckers' knees, Hunter concluded that his brother couldn’t be stopped from assisting Omega with the drawings.

A ray of sunshine fell onto where Hunter and Crosshair stood, making his skin prickle. “What’s going on?”

Omega, hopping back to where Hunter stood, gripped his wrist, and pulled him over to a bush. “Here look-” she said, crouching down and leaning into the leaves, reaching for something.

What the hell?

Crosshair, coming up from behind him, scoffed. “The child plays with vermin.”

A certain instinct in Hunter told him to pull her hands back out, but Omega seemed determined to grasp whatever it was that lay in the bush. Her tone grew angry. “It’s not vermin Hunter, look.” She pleaded, stating “Vermin doesn’t meow!“ .

Her eyes widened as she finally got a grasp of something. Hunter stumbled backward as she pulled out a small cat, clutching it to her chest immediately.

“Isn’t it cute?” she beamed, putting her other arm around its hind legs so it wouldn’t fall right out of her grasp.

By all means, it wasn’t. Actually, it was the furthest thing from it. The little kitten looked dreadful. Green eyes, crusty and bleary, glanced cluelessly up at Omegas face. Parts of its ragged, grey fur were missing and even the mangled tail didn't proportionally look as long as it should. Hunter wasn't sure if it would even make it through the weekend and the last thing he wanted was to expose Omega to grief.

“Uhhhm Omega-“ Hunter sighed, trailing off and pinching the bridge of his nose where the pressure slowly returned. “Please put it down.”

Omega, stubbornness accommodated by resolve, either didn't appear to hear him or chose to ignore his insistent request. “I guess it’s thirsty- I’ll better give it some water.” Confidently Omega pushed past Hunter, wobbling back inside.

Echo jerked from the chair at the same time Hunter tried to reach Omegas shoulder, both yelling in unison “NO OMEGA NOT IN THE HOUSE-“

Crosshair shook his head, almost falling in some sort of laughing fit, visibly amused at Hunter’s and Echo’s dumbstruck glances. “There she goes-“ He patted Hunter’s shoulder, following Omegas little stature. “Good parenting.” He beckoned from inside.

_______________________

 

Tech had put the kitten on a towel on their kitchen table. After a quick exam, he concluded it to be healthy, except for a little dehydration and possibly malnourishment.

Omega, eyes wide and fists underneath her chin, watched the little kitten in awe. “In movies cats drink milk.“ she said, reaching over the table to pet the head.

Tech pushed his glasses back, holding a shallow water bowl, trying to animate the kitten to drink. “Normal cow’s milk contains a sugar called lactose, which some cats react very allergic to. If a cat has been fed with milk from an early age, then it should have no problem digesting it normally.” He paused to any indication Omega hadn’t understood what he had said. It appeared as though she had. He cleared his throat, moving on. “However, we cannot confirm this in her case.”

His fingers slowly caressed its head, trying to enable some trust. “My quick research estimates she should be able to have some tuna instead.”

Wrecker understanding the request went to open the fridge, pulling out a can and cracking it open. The smell made Hunter nearly gag. He focused on breathing from his mouth instead.

Wrecker gave the can to Tech, tasting the tuna first, of course. “Why’d ya ‘now it’s a she?”

“From the lack of testicles between her legs.” Tech answered unfiltered and probably dryer than the Sahara Desert itself.

Crosshair, slight mischievous grin on his lips, chimed in from behind. “Could be castrated-“

Tech nodded. “My thoughts exactly, but female cats have a slit underneath their rectum indicating a-“

“-Tech, for goodness’ sake, we don’t need an anatomy lesson. We need to find out who this cat belongs to.” Hunter interrupted. Exasperation of the smell and the bright light taking over, he closed his eyes, rubbing at the point between his eyes where the pain originated from.

Eyes turning to him, he shrugged, shuffling a little deeper down the chair. His blurred periphery made it unable to recognize who of his brothers handed him a cold can from the fridge. He pressed it to his head, sharp pain immediately giving in. He sighed blissfully.

Omega lowered her voice a bit, not entirely sure what to make of the matter. “Why can’t we keep it?” Pursed lips fell into a pout. She began playing with the hem of her dress.

Echo, bending down to her level, stroked her saddened face with his thumb. “Maybe she has a family kid-“ Eyes carefully searching her face for any tears or other signs of sadness. “We can’t just keep something that doesn’t belong to us.”

Crosshair gave a small chuckle, gesturing to Omega. “Why not? We did that with her.”

Hunter, nearly losing his patience at the many stimuli, frowned, rolling the can over to a colder spot. “Crosshair-“

At the growl in his voice, Crosshair immediately backtracked, holding his palms up in defense. “Just kidding. Sorry-“

“Can't you reconsider keeping her? She’s so cute.” Omega begged the group.

Hunter still didn’t know what could probably be so endearing about this fur-spitting half-naked rug with a too-short tail. Personally, he had always been more of a dog person.

However, he had to admit that she hardly smelled at all, which was more than pleasant for his sensitive sense of smell. Wait, no. There was no way they could take care of a cat. Omega needed all the attention she could get. Adding a cat into the mix surely wouldn’t be the best idea. Let alone if something went wrong. It would only cause further heartbreak.  

He looked around; all gazes magically drawn to the lump of fur on their kitchen table. As the purring under Tech’s pats got louder and louder, the siblings ended up moving even closer to the table than before, being reeled in by some sort of gravity pull. Dumbstruck smile on each and every single one’s face, they huffed a snorted laugh as it rolled onto its side.

Hunter cleared his throat, trying to take their attention away. He had to be the bad guy. Again.

“We can’t keep a cat in this house-“ Searching for an excuse, his post-migraine-attack mind landed on something.  “Tech.” His brother’s eyes widened comedically from behind the thick glasses. “Tech, you have allergies-” He concluded, uncertainty about what he was trying to do reemphasizing his statement and almost making it sound like a question.

“Against pollen to be factually accurate-“ Tech looked a little miffed, not pleased to be blamed, his tone switched into moralizing territory. “Also, a couple of different sources have brought to my attention that pets can be quite beneficial for both the mental and physical health of a growing child. Which would be more than reasonable in our case.”

Hunter was deeply aware the different sources he referred to where in fact books about parenting, which his brother probably was too shy to admit. Nevertheless Tech’s more or less expert opinion on the subject, eventually it was upon Hunter to make the decision.

He sighed, already biting himself in the ass for their saddened faces in advance. “I don’t know you guys-”

Echo, the only other person with somewhat of common sense in this house, finally bridged himself back in the foreground. “The best thing would be to post flyers just in case someone misses her.”

Hunter almost emitted a snorted ironic laugh at that. He doubted whether anyone would even recognize the animal, let alone want it back.

Wrecker leaned forward; eyebrows knitted in confusion. “Ya mean like a missin’ child?”

Tech nodded approvingly, smartphone drawn and ready to spread knowledge no one asked him for. “Excellent idea- Upon further research, 72 percent of run-away animals get returned within the first week upon disappearing.” Tipping hastily on his screen, scrolling forums, national databases and whatever else Hunter couldn’t exactly catch a glimpse of.

Echo was the only other person to notice Omega’s saddened look on the floor. He bent down, cupping her hand, and mumbling something into her ear Hunter couldn’t catch, but it made her frown twitch. He sincerely hoped Echo hadn’t promised something he couldn’t keep.

In the meantime, Tech wrapped the now fed and rehydrated kitten into the blanket, gesturing for Omega to sit down so he could place her in his sister’s arms. She carefully clasped her palms together, cradling the burrito of fur and towel.

She didn’t take her eyes off her, even pressing a quick kiss onto the head. Much to Hunter’s dismay, he smiled. If cute would be a word, he’d use in his everyday vocabulary repertoire, he’d say it might it would apply to this situation. Wrecker, obviously thinking the same but not sharing Hunter’s sense of word choice, openly “awwww”ed at the sight.

“How should we even name her in the meantime?” Echo leaned in from behind, approvingly nodding at Omega’s soft pets.

Omega broke out into a beam, one hand holding the cat, the other moving in circles, caressing its head. “How about Gonky?”

 

[Quite obviously (and much to Hunter’s dismay), no one ever contacted them for Gonky.]