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P Dot Alex

Dumb jokes

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Posts: 4,507
Joined: 16-August 10
Member No.: 373
Gender: Male

post Jan 1 2014, 03:36 PM
Me and a buddy have been trying to get a comic off the ground for a while now, but because both of us are occupied with university, lazy as fuck or both, combined with several rewrites to fix glaring plotholes and actually have things happen in the process, we've been walking on the spot for a while now. So, to distract ourselves from getting fuckall done, we decided to sidestep the issue by writing a little AU vaguely based on the original idea's setting, which then blew out of proportion so much we're turning that into a comic first instead, given it's shorter and pretty much complete. Some people on Skype seemed to like the original version of the script (among other things, Doc noting the kid character wasn't annoying), so now that the expanded version, I figured I could share it here as well.

Below is the first part out of three. Would've liked to post everything at once, but part two is under construction for having too little content and we can't really choose a better point to balance what happens in the latter two issues. Accompanying that are some of the character designs we're going to use. Might post more of that at a later point when I get him to actually draw and post stuff on his photobucket.

Anyways, here we go:

Kopernika. A city filled to the brim with different cultures from across the galaxy and many people of different kinds traversing the streets, doing window shopping or gazing at the skyscrapers that were under construction, so high that they literally could one day scratch the ceiling that looked remarkably like the sky from the surface. Wherever one looked, they would either see meat sizzling as a bevatigen prepared her local food from across the planet or intariums rushing to work with their suitcases that were about as big as they were. Occasionally, a hovercart would pass by, carrying two sterlars around as they patrolled the town, keeping an eye out for pickpockets and other criminals.
"Do they know this is my area?", Kayt wondered, lingering among the mass of people while trying to avoid grabbing their attention. "As if getting some change isn't difficult enough..." While the hovercart was still visible in the street, her eyes scanned the mass of people through which she was squeezing herself, always on the lookout for some loose hanging wallets or handbags while trying to look as non-suspicious as she could in her relatively new clothes that contrasted with her tired looking face.
"I can't pay for lunch if you keep taking care of yourselves so well!", she thought, her eyes still fixated on the people around her. "Is there not a single gullible tourist around these days?"
The hovercart had then turned to the right, disappearing behind a discount boutique. Most people, had they followed the car with their own eyes, would notice by now that buying three pairs of kneesocks would net you a fourth one for free, colour choice included. Kayt, however, saw the opportunity to more freely roam the pavement. A lot of the passerbys around her seemed busy enough to gawk at the ongoing rise and progress around them for Kayt to rain some money for her, but the problem was finding a victim ideal enough for her to not risk having to go to another spot for her four finger discount to be still applicable.
And there she noticed one, a sterlar woman carrying a wallet plainly visible in her backpocket. She seemed busy talking to a bevatigen man right next to him, though through the sounds of the streets, it was hard to make out what exactly that would be, though judging from their lax hand gestures and their clear awareness of the people around them as he passed right through the two, their eyes lingering on the intarium as he disappeared in the mass of people again. She then shrugged and the two continued to talk.
"What I'd give to be a stubbylegs right now", Kayt sighed to herself as she carefully sneaked up on them. She tried not to actively squeeze herself through the people anymore, instead just trying to slowly close the distance between the three of them without having people actively turn to her. She did so until they reached the cross walk, where they all collected themselves and waited for the barrage of vehicles to die down. "She better have enough in her pocket...", she thought to herself, waiting for the light of the red cross to turn off and the green arrow to illuminate. With a couple of seconds left, she put herself a bit closer to them as she whistles a little tune.
As the hovercarts stopped passing by and a loud buzzing noise indicated that the street was now free, the crosswalk began to clutter with masses of people clashing into each other, more often than not bumping into other people before forgetting about it and keeping to go on their way. Kayt closed her distance to the two, her hand slowly and not visibly reaching out to the wallet. When she was just in reach, she made a quick step forward before bumping into the sterlar's side, swiftly pulling out the wallet and throwing it into her other hand. Kayt quickly apologized, not caring about them, with the two only giving her a weird look as they stepped off the street and moved on straight ahead, with Kayt deciding she'd rather take a turn to the right and stepped into an alleyway. The people around her didn't notice as she slipped into that slim slit leading nowhere, cramming out the wallet and eagerly opening it. To her disappointment, she pulled out a debit card and a couple notes, none of them looking like a big draw.
"Stupid cards", she moaned, stuffing the notes into a pocket inside her coat. "That'll probably be cancelled before I even reach a bank."
"No worries", a voice called her from behind. "We'll get to drive past one when we bring you to the station."
Kayt sighed. "You cops have a sixth sense for inconvenience, do you?" She then ran off through the alleyway, with her pursuer quickly going after her.
"Kirk, I've got her again", he mumbled to himself as he kept chasing her. "Sector B7, approaching upper left cross section. You can't miss her. She's wearing the same stuff as last week."
Taking a sharp turn to the left, Kayt went straight for a fireladder to the left and climbing it up, all the while the cop ran after her, leaping onto the ladder and rushing up on it. She ran up to the roof of the building, as the cop kept talking to himself.
"Change of plans, Kirk. You still in the cart? Good. Get to the crossing I told you about and drive south. She's trying to escape over the roofs." For a moment he paused, focussing on what came to his ears before responding again: "Yes, take the first left turn and then wait for more instructions."
As Kayt reached the roof, she stopped right by the ladder, waiting for her pursuer to show up there as well, readying her fist for a punch. Meanwhile, the cop kept running after her, as the sound of his feet clashing with the metal became louder and louder. Upon getting up there, however, he got greeted by Kayt's fist flying towards his face, only barely blocked by his arm before she jumped downwards, clinging on the fireladder from time to time so she wouldn't just break all her bones upon impact.
When he got up again and looked down the alleyways, he noticed that Kayt was already gone, vanished and no longer locatable. Annoyed with himself, he said: "Kirk, continue your patrol and pick me up when you see me. She slipped me." As he looked on the ground, he noticed a wallet lying on the ground, which he then looked into to notice everything looked like it was in its place, minus the missing paper money. "Well, isn't somebody being considerate..."
Far less energetic than before, he stepped down the ladder and made his way back to the streets, where he noticed a couple standing by the side and looking through every pocket on their bodies like mad.
"I know I put it here somewhere!", the sterlar woman noted, her hands stuck in a pocket each.
"Where did you put it after you paid in the cafè?", her male bevatigen friend asked.
"Well, I gave him my money", she started to reenact what she did earlier, "then I took the change, put it into my wallet and then stuffed it into my back po-"
As she continued, the cop got out the wallet again and looked at the papers, noticing the ID card in it and that the picture on it matched the woman in front of him, so he went to her and asked: "Excuse me, is this yours?"
She stopped in her tracks, tearing the wallet out of his hands and asking: "Just how did you get this?"
"Following your robber, ma'am", he explained himself. "She escaped, but I was able to retrieve this." While she kept looking through its insides, he asked: "Is everything in place?"
"Credit card, ID, work pass, restaurant discounts... everything's here, except my money."
"I'm sorry to hear that", Ray apologized.
"Oh, that's no problem", she clarified. "I don't carry around too much hard cash. That just bloats the wallet unnecessarily."
"Ray!", a voice called from the distance. "Get over here!"
On the other side of the street, he saw a hovercart floating with his colleague waiting for him there, waving him over.
"You must excuse me. Duty calls", Ray told them. "If possible, take your case to the police station. They might be able to give you some of your money back."
"Thanks, but that won't be necessary", she assured him. "It's really not that much. Double digits at most."
"If that's the case... take care of yourselves", he told them before making his way to the hovercart, where Kirk was already getting a bit impatient.
"Just what is she doing that she's always getting away?", Kirk asked as Ray entered the car.
"I was impatient, is all", Ray admitted before Kirk started up the car again. "You'd think there's no escape from those roofs..."
"Don't you think you're putting a bit too much energy into catching a little pickpocket?", Kirk asked while alligning himself into the traffic.
"This isn't just some random pickpocket", Ray tried to make clear. "I've been at her for at least two grand cycles! Thinks she can play by her own rules as if the rest don't matter..."
"You're talking like she's the only pickpocket on the streets..."
"And you're talking like there are more of her caliber on the streets! Most pickpockets don't make it a day before we get them off the street and try to reintegrate them. She, on the other hand... so damn persistent."
"If you say so", Kirk commented as they kept cruising through the streets. "Should we take a lunch break by now? I couldn't properly eat breakfast yet."
Ray sighed. "Fine. But straight to Tankun's Grill Paradise", he commanded. "Milana said she'll do roasted pork the way I like it again."
“With cream and sliced lemons?”
“Don't forget the pepper.”

Tired, Kayt stepped through a door frame without door, her hands still stuck firmly in her pockets as they kept fondling the little money she could get her hands on during the tour: A couple notes and about half a dozen coins. Disappointed with herself, she walked through the barren entry floor into a large, empty room, in which she could see a small kid scribbing on the wall with crayons while standing on a small ladder. Upon hearing somebody enter the room, he turned to her, a smile building up in his face before he jumped off the ladder, yelling: "Sis!"
"Sven!", she said, kneeling down to match their heights as they embraced in a hug. Looking over to the mural he drew on the wall, she asked: "Did Jay allow this?"
"Course he did!", Sven admitted, nodding. "Said it saves paper!"
"Mmmh, can't argue with that", Kayt said as she let go and got up. "Did you sit on this all day?"
"Mhm!", Sven said.
"But you did do your homework, right?", Kayt urged him, getting sterner.
"Yes, sis", he replied, getting a bit annoyed. "Schoolwork's so easy, I can do it in my sleep!"
"Oh, we'll see about that", Kayt said, grinning as they walked to his mural.
"You don't hafta check it again", Sven explained. "Jay already did and he said it's fine!"
"Then checking them again should be a breeze!", Kayt jokingly teased him, hitting his shoulder as they arrived at his mural. She stared at it for a moment, taking in every square inch. What she was sure of was that it was clearly a battle scene, depicting a fight between a single guy in funny looking underwear and hoards of different looking supposedly bad guys. She couldn't quite tell what most of the things fighting the man were, given her little brother wasn't that old yet. It was hard to miss that Sven was just waiting for her response before she turned down to him and asked: "So, who is this supposed to be exactly?"
But Sven only looked like he had question marks in his eyes. "Don't you recognize him? He's all over the place right now!"
"Really?", she asked again, taking a closer look. "Mmmh, I do remember seeing that guy at a toy store once..."
"That's because he's Captain Dazzle, you dummy!", he joked. "Don't you see? He's got the symbol on his chest! And that right there is Wild Fury!"
"Yeah, now I see it. Guess your sis is on the dense side", Kayt commented, taking her eyes off the mural. "Say, is Jay here right now?"
"Why shouldn't I?", a voice said before the one whom it belonged to came out through a nearby door frame. "You expect me to leave your boy alone?"
"No, but I'm testing if you're a good guardian", she joked as they approached each other before engaging in a long and complex handshake, through which they kept talking. "Did you remember to get groceries earlier? Those places are nigh-impossible to invade..."
"It's not a lot, but enough one or two in-between snacks", Jay told her. "Stuff's pretty cheap at the moment."
"At least some good news", she replied. "These people are playing it too safe to make a whole lotta money. I got, like, two wallets before the cops found me."
"Just two?", Jay said in disbelief. "That's a shame. Were they stacked at least?"
"I'll show you, but first..." Their hands then ran upwards alongside each other before they stretched their arms up so far that they couldn't anymore, finishing in a high five so intense that Jay felt it further down his arm.
"Man, you're packing a punch into these", he admitted, shaking it. "Should we sit down first?"
"Sure." She turned to Sven, who had just watched them go through the entire routine, and told him: "You can continue with the wall. We'll have some big people talk for now."
Sven nodded before he climbed back onto the ladder and pulled out his crayons, continuing to depict the struggle of the Captain, as Kayt and Jay entered the kitchen and sat down on the small, round table.
"Why did you let him draw there?", Kayt asked, a bit confused, while taking the cash out of her pockets.
"Cheaper than any interior decorator and it doesn't look as stilted", he admitted while counting the money she got with his eyes. "Twenty, forty, fifty, fifty-five... Man, these people don't know what cash is anymore, do they?"
"They're just running around with their stupid failsafe bits of plastic", Kayt lamented. "I'm actually surprised it's that much, now that I look at it."
"Still, that's maybe enough for a few days", he said, his arms crossed. "Good illumination and heat ain't cheap."
"I know, but what else can I do?", she said, her head sinking down. "The people aren't as dumb as they used to be and the police catches on more quickly than ever before. This would be easier if I had a proper job, but who's gonna take a dropout like me and pay me more than I make by stealing?"
"I don't know. A steady paycheck would be a nice thing to have...", Jay thought. "Or is it just that much fun to poke into other people's pockets?"
"It's not what I'd call fun, but at least we get through with it", she sighed. "Still, I'd love to have a longer break from this. But what can I do?"
"Maybe we should get out of town?", Jay suggested. "Settle in a small village and start new from there? Think about all the possibilities!"
"Think about how we should get there, too", Kayt stopped his daydreams. "We're almost living from one day to the next, so using money to get there is out of the question. And we can hardly carry enough food to get us through by foot, either. And what am I supposed to tell Sven? 'Sorry, but big sis is bored of stealing, so say farewell to your friends'?"
"Kayt, Kayt, Kayt", he said, shaking his head. "This has been a hard day for you. I get that. But you gotta make a step forward at some point. You can't honestly tell me you wanna live this way? Cold nights, long and boring days, always hiding..." He sighed. "We're just stagnating at this point. What we need right now is a new approach, with or without moving away."
"Yeah, probably... but right now, I need a break from thinking about this." She went to the fridge and opened it, pulling out two bottles of ale and putting them on the table. "That's in our budget, isn't it?"
"Two bottles ain't the world", he replied, taking one and opening it with his teeth. "You wanna have me open yours, too?"
"Sure, go ahead", she said, letting the bottle slide over to her friend before he opened it with a loud pop. She then took it back, wiping the opening before taking a sip. "Ah, tha's the spirit..."

At the police station, Ray and Kirk were busy filing data from currently running cases on their tablets, with Ray being far more into it than Kirk as his fingers slided over the glass to move documents into their respective folders with surgical precision while only occasionally looking up when he heard somebody walk by.
"How far are you with your workload?", Kirk wondered, looking over.
"Already done with it. So I took another. It's fifty percent done, too."
"Seriously? I'm still about five folders away from finishing my first one", Kirk replied. "You gotta be cheating."
"No, I just gotta have the cash, and that cash pays a nice little dinner."
"Maybe you should ask for a bonus if you manage to do this blind", Kirk suggested.
"Don't be silly. I'm not that good... yet, at least", Ray answered. "Gotta leave some room for improvement, after all." Returning to his filing, he asked: "You know what time it is?"
"Quarter past 5", Kirk replied, looking at his watch, before realising what he had said. "That late already? Wasn't it, like, 3 just a couple moments ago?"
"Don't be silly. We're almost done, after all", Ray replied. "Any plans for tonight?"
"Eh... there was a movie coming on TV tonight that I wanted see, but it's already running. Maybe I'll order myself some karvor steak to go with it."
"Karvor's too good to buy via delivery", Ray commented. "Go with something else instead. And make that two."

"Now that's a new one", Kayt noted, standing in the kitchen with only underwear and a robe as she noticed Jay sitting on the table with an open book and notes she couldn't even begin to understand. "Starting a bit late, wouldn't you say?"
"Do I have a choice?", Jay asked, looking up with a questioning look on her face. "Your brother kept me busy enough."
"But can you even learn like that?", Kayt asked, confused. "Should I get a blanket?"
"Thanks, but I'll be fine", he assured her before turning back to his book. "I'm already far enough behind as it is, so every little progress I make is welcome."
"Are you going to bed tonight, at least? Not that you'll replace the alarm clock."
"Two hours, at most. I'll be really quiet, I promise."
"Oooh, but I don't want to wait for so long", Kayt told him before putting her head on his level. "Do you think you can cut it down to, say, just an hour? I'll even be waiting for you if you do."
"Mmmh, that sounds neat", Jay pondered, "but I'll have to refuse."
Bummed out, Kayt replied: "Awww, you couldn't even be playful about it..." She then proceeded to look at him with puppydog eyes, trying to convince him otherwise.
"Please no, Kayt", Jay said, annoyed. "Just tonight, I'd rather pull through. I wanna show myself that I can do that, you know?"
"...oh, you're really serious about that", Kayt realised, feeling like a dumbass. "Don't take this personal, okay?" After a peck on the cheek, she got up and said: "I'll still be waiting, okay? But I won't promise I'll still be up!" As she left the kitchen, Jay said
"Not gonna expect it!"
She then laid down and waited with anticipation, but sleep got the better of her while Jay was still gone. When he eventually returned, he noticed her lying on the bed and barely covered with the blanket, so he took it and covered the both of them with it, finishing with a kiss on the forehead.

Later that night, the two were sitting on a couch, watching a football game Kirk was really into, bowing forward as Ray leaned back, fully stretched. Kirk was busy munching on a hamburger while watching, as Ray fumbled around with a half full bottle in his hand, drawing circles into the air.
"Don't you wanna eat yours?", Kirk asked after glancing over for a moment. "It'll get cold if it keeps lying around."
"I'm just taking my time with it", Ray replied before taking his burger and a small bit out of it. "The longer I can enjoy the taste, the better."
"Oh, you're one of those people, I see", Kirk replied while chewing.
"Why, is there something wrong with it?"
"No, 'course not. It's just that cold food isn't as good."
Ray thought about it for a moment before he shrugged and took another bite before turning back to the television screen. It looked like the two parties were wildly clashing with each other while chasing the ball, as two ran into each other's sides so viciously, they got right into a fight with each other as soon as they got back onto their feet, swinging their arms as their team mates dragged them away from each other.
"Yikes, these two", Kirk commented. "Gonna bet you money this ends up on Daily Kop News."
"And then the real news get buried, as usual", Ray commented. "But, you know what this reminds me of?"
"What? The game?", Kirk asked, before taking a glance at the screen, and internally sighed. "That isn't really a challenge."
"Yes, yes, I know", Ray defended himself. "I can't get this case out of my head. It isn't the biggest or the most dangerous or the most prolific... but she's still a little pest roaming through the streets."
"Look, I'll talk about the job as much as you want, but if you can't relax for a bit even when watching a game... Can't help ya, man."
"Okay, I'll keep shut about that", Ray went, slightly annoyed by Kirk's response. "I'm sorry, okay?"
"Hey, you don't have to apologize for that", Kirk told him. "Just relax and enjoy the show for a bit. It can't be healthy if you keep fixating on this job. You'll just hurt yourself in the end."
"Hear, hear, somebody's playing philosopher."
"That's not philosophy. It's common sense."

The loud noise of small stones banging against the window woke Kayt up before she climbed off her mattress, trying to see what was the cause of it. Trying to not wake up Jay or Sven, she stepped to the window and opened it to stick her head out. Promptly, another small stone hit her on the forehead, directing her attention downwards, where two gremlins were standing and confidently looking up to her.
"'scuse me, but your bell is broken", the left one, big and muscular, apologized. "Have you got some time?"
"And why should I give it to you?", Kayt said, sounding annoyed as she leaned her arms on the window frame. "It's barely past sunrise!"
"We'll explain, no worries", he told her. "Now then, yes or no?"
She looked down to them for a moment, verifying to herself that she isn't in danger of being interrogated or charged or whatever else would basically spell doom against her. The two didn't look like they belonged to any authority. They had too much spine for that. And their clothes weren't looking very expensive, either, so for the police to put so much effort into capturing her, they'd have to be even madder than she ever expected.
"Fine. But you better got something to show."
"Excellent", the bulky one replied before turning to his fellow. "You heard her. Follow me."

"The name's Rush", the gremlin from before introduced himself. "The slinky one's Piotr."
"Uh huh", Kayt replied while she was busy preparing breakfast for herself, which consisted of slapping two slices of bread together and filling a glass with water. "If you want to drink something, all I got is this", she continued, raising her glass.
"Oh, no, thanks. We already ate on our way", Rush told her while shaking his hand before looking around in the kitchen. "So this is the place where our infamous pickpocket is residing?"
"Not my fault people get smarter the more often you fool them", she explained it before sitting down at the table with them. "Now why are you here?"
"Well, it looks like you need money", Piotr said, leaning over.
"Piotr, leave the talking to me", Rush told him sternly.
"...you're not one of those guys, are you?", she said, immediately getting sour. "Look, I already told the last guys that I ain't renting my body like that!"
Rush looked at her at first with confusion, but when he noticed, what she meant, he only chuckled. "Oh, I think we got a bit of a misunderstanding here... What we want are your abilities, not your body."
"Can you speak in clear Bevish, too?", she asked him, munching on a dry piece of bread.
"Oh, sure, if you insist", Rush said, keeping his calm demeanor. "Have you heard of the Kopernikan Institute For Archeology?"
"Hard not to", she replied. "My territory is plastered with those posters for some big exhibition about what do I know. What is your point?"
"Well, the exhibition we're talking about displays, among other things, tools that were in the possession of the very first Supervisor", Rush explained to her. "That's some valuable stuff if you haven't noticed. Stuff people are willing to pay a whole lot of corusts for."
"...how much?"
"Depending on how much we can take with us, it can have eight digits attached to it."
"You gotta be kidding me", Kayt said in disbelief. "So much money for a rusty wrench?"
"That's rich people for you", Rush replied. "But the stuff's guarded accordingly, too. It takes some really good people to get in and out without trouble."
"...go on, then."
"Well, aside from you, we're looking into some talents to help us with our cause to make us enormously rich. Most of the positions are covered, but we still need somebody with good observation skills and swift fingers. Like you, for example."
"That sounds pretty damn risky, though."
"Oh, of course it is. For one, we can't exactly offer you an insurance in case something goes haywire and we got about ten minutes before the police would roll around, too. So yeah, not the easiest of jobs."
"Then I hope the payment is up to snuff", she replied. "I like Jay, but I don't think I can permanently leave him with l'il Sven..."
"Nothing to worry about there", Rush replied. "When we get our money, you never have to steal anything ever again! Unless you're stupid enough to gamble it all away, of course."
"Pfff, gambling? That's worse robbery than I've ever done!"
"So you're in?"
She thought about it for a moment, looking over into the bedroom where Sven and Jay were still sleeping and loudly snoring, before turning back and telling him: "You can count on me."
"That's what I wanted to hear!", Rush replied, reaching out to her and waiting for a handshake. Kayt was about to comply, but as she was about to grab his hand, she stopped for a moment.
"What's wrong? Decided against it?", Rush asked her, his hand still out.
"I've got one last question", she said, putting her hand back down. "Why exactly do you come to me?"
"Is that it?", Rush asked, slightly confused. "But sure, you shall have your answer... They say about you the police never got you since you started. Some even believe that the ones you robbed don't notice until days later. And that's why we want you in our team: Because you're evasive and pretty much invisible to most people. Need more details?"
She thought about it for a moment before shaking her head. "No, I think I'm good now." She then grabbed Rush's hand, shaking it as both of them smiled.
"Now better stay alert for any incoming news", Rush warned her. "We'll issue a meeting to talk about it all in detail, but until then, I'd urge you to do some research about the place yourself and not get caught. Or we have to share the cash with somebody else. Now then, Piotr", he said, knocking on his shoulder, "you got all that?"
"Yes, sir."
"We're off for today, then", Rush said as the two got up. "Some more important business to attend to."
She nodded, having finished her breakfast in the process, as the two vanished through the door frame and quietly left, with Jay getting out of bed only after the couple quit the apartment entirely.
"You awake already?", Kayt asked him while taking her dish and putting it into the sink.
"And you're going on a heist?", Jay asked, raising his eyebrow. "Are you sure they weren't talking bollocks?"
"If they did, I didn't lose anything yet. If they didn't... when are you leaving for uni again?"

"Jay, I don't think you understand", she told him as they dressed up to walk down the street. "This is a lifetime opportunity. For me, for Sven, even for you!"
"Yeah, sure, but I didn't think you'd jump on something this big immediately!"
"Didn't you tell me just some hours ago that I gotta make a step forward?"
"I didn't consider you robbing a freaking exhibition!"
"This is the hand life dealt me, and not playing it would be retarded", she said as she stepped to the door frame. "Don't you think so?"
"Uh... argh, fine!", he said, grabbing his bag before they left the door. "But if the police is coming, don't cling to that money, you got me?"
"You're telling me that as if I don't have Sven to take care of."
"What do you wanna do at the library anyways?", he asked.
"Studying the blueprints for the Institute, obviously", she replied as they walked down the stairs. "If this is my last time, I better make it count, wouldn't you say?"
"But that looks fishy, don't it?", he asked her. "Or do you think they just hand them out and don't at least ask some questions?"
"I got me some ideas, so don't worry about that", she brushed it off. "At most, I need you to borrow some stuff for me."
"And what should I tell them?"
"That you study contemporary architecture, of course", she replied and smiled. "Isn't that exactly what you're doing?"
"On paper, maybe..."
"Good enough for me, wouldn't you say?"

Later that day, Kayt sat in their big, barren living room, studying the materials she had brought back home while Sven was busy painting the walls.
"Don't you want to take a break?", she asked him, glancing over from the blueprints while he was busy colouring the beasts. "I haven't seen you do your homework yet."
"I'll do that before I go to sleep", he commented. "So little and so easy... some go into class and do their homework while they're being asked about it."
"That says less about you and more about your teachers", she commented. "Besides, it's not about satisfying your teachers. You're supposed to take something out of it, wouldn't you say?"
"But it's math, sis", he replied. "How many times can I multiply things with each other before I get it? It's just boring!"
"I'd give a lot if I can go to school again", Kayt sighed. "Look at it like this: If you focus more on learning things, one day, we wouldn't have to live like this anymore."
"I like it, though", Sven replied. "You can't draw on other people's walls. Did you see how boring some of these places look? So plain..."
"But like you said, it's – other – people's houses", she told him. "If we get a proper house, you'll get your own room to draw on the walls whatever you like."
"...you'll make that much?" Sven got wide-eyed.
"If you're a good l'il bro and start doing your homework right now, I'll look for a really big room for you. Deal?"
Super excited, he jumped off the ladder, not even replying, as he rushed into their room, leaving Kayt on her own with the blueprints on her hands.

Ray and Kirk were sitting in a restaurant by the street, keeping an eye on trespassers. Kirk seemed to have spent more on his, given that his dish was filled to the brim with food while Ray's, while certainly not empty, couldn't hold up to just how high Kirk's meal got, though it made up for it by being arranged like an open flower. They barely talked to each other and instead indulged in their foods, when suddenly, Ray's phone, lying on the table, vibrated.
"Who is there?", Kirk asked, taking the fork out of his mouth.
"It's... the boss?", Ray was surprised upon seeing this and immediately took the phone, responding to the call. "Yes, Inspector Freiseer? Uh, yeah, I'm at lunch break with Joffdes... Really? For how long? ...does the payment change? Ah, I see, too bad... No, my calender's empty but- yes, yes, but I need to get his opinion, too. I'll call back in a moment." Once off the call, he turned to Kirk and said: "We got a new job."
"He wants us to work overtime again, right?"
"Kinda, sorta, but not really. The plus side is we get less to look over and they pay as usual. They want some people at an exhibition."
"Don't they have guards for that?", Kirk asked, raising his eyebrow. "We should be out keeping an eye on the people, not on some..." After trying to come up with a witty followup, he gave up given he didn't know what he should say and asked: "What's the exhibition about?"
"'The Early History Of Interior Terraforming' or something like that", Ray waved off. "It's something about old plans on how they began hollowing out the planet and what they had as tools and how they used them and whatnot."
"So we're sent to protect somebody's old and broken toolbox?"
"Not even that... we're supposed to drive by a building where others protect somebody's old and broken toolbox every couple minutes", Ray commented. "Still, I can hardly tell him I don't want to. We got enough people at the station to patrol the streets, after all. And it might even be worth a promotion."
"As if Feron values that enough to warrant going up on the ladder", Kirk commented. "The man doesn't see us as people, but as pawns to move around."
"Please, not even I think this badly of him."
"So you'll just say Yes?"
"I'll say Yes for myself", Ray said, busy selecting Feron's number. "What you want is your decision."
"You really have to pull this on me? Seriously?", Kirk asked in disbelief. "No way am I driving round town on my own! Count me in!"
“If you say so”, Ray replied and smiled. “By the way, Milana told me earlier that this is on the house.”
“What, my plate too?”
“She made sure I got that right.”

An old, abandoned warehouse was her destination, coddled up in a thick jacket while her eyes focused on a small piece of paper. Judging by the instructions, this was where she was going to have their meetup. A door then caught her attention as a slim ray of light pierced through a slit, so she approached it, stuffing the paper inside. She then knocked onto the door, but was quickly prompted by a booming voice coming from behind it.
"You got the goods?", it asked.
"No", she replied, "but the list is in my hovercart."
"...good. Come on in." The door opened and a muscley gremlin opened her the door. "Kayt, I assume?"
"Yeah...", she said and nodded. "And you are?"
"Heckler", he replied before closing the door behind him. "We're almost complete, so wait at the table." His finger pointed into the middle of the room, where a table was propped up for Rush, Piotr and two females: A bevatigen like her, busy smoking a cigar while covering her eyes with glasses and a sterlar, impatiently fondling around with a piece of string between her fingers.
"Good to see you here, Kayt", Rush greeted her as he got off the table. "Take a seat."
As she got closer to the table, Rush asked her: "You don't know most people at this table, do you?"
"Nope", she replied as she sat down. "Hell, I still barely know you."
"Very well then", he said, sitting down again as well. "You all wanna introduce yourself or should I do it?", he asked.
"Huh? Why now?", the sterlar asked, raising her head from the string. "We're still not all together!"
"Because it makes a good impression, that's why", he replied. "But fine. Wiska knows the way over here, after all."
As if by command, the sound of knocking halled through the entire room, which prompted the muscly bevatigen to ask: "You got the goods?"
"Heckler, you know it's me. Skip this nonsense and just open the door."
"The others didn't get in without saying their phrases, either", Heckler replied.
"Fine, fine... I'll shove a flamethrower up your tail if you don't step aside right now."
"See? It's that easy", Heckler commented before opening the door and letting a disgruntled, well built gremlin enter the scene.
"Don't push me", she commented. "I'm not in the mood."
"Yeah, I can tell", Heckler replied before closing the door and following her to the table, where they sat down before Rush got up again.
"Ladies, gentlemen, I welcome all of you to this little meeting of ours", he began. "I don't think I need to introduce myself or my little henchman over here."
"I'm still bigger than you!", he protested.
"Shut up, Piotr", Rush replied. "Now, I think for everyone's convenience, I'll just quickly tell you who here does what in our little operation." While walking around the table, he started talking about the person he'd been passing at the moment: "Tayla. She makes things go boom, big and small, loud and quiet, sparkly and nigh-invisible. Greta here knows one thing or two about security systems. Enough at least to turn them off to our benefit. Heckler, a walking ladder. Portable, thinking and doesn't weigh as much. Also, got a good punch in case people are getting too annyoing for their own good. Wiska will help us with her remote controlled selfmade robot spiders in case things get too hairy. And Kayt here has shown how to use the five-finger-discount more often than I dare to count, so her flexibleness will be very valuable." Sitting back down on his chair, he was about to continue, but then noticed that Piotr was raising his arm. “What?”
“Uhm”, he replied. “I'm still here.”
“Oh. Yeah. That's Piotr. He's my secretary and parttime mender. Anything else?”
“...no, I'm good.”
"Now, I hope all of you did their homework on the Institute?"
The group nodded, minus Greta, who just lifted her head for a moment and then went back down again.
"Then you probably know that they guard that place ridiculously well, especially during that exhibition. There's money on display, and they know it." Pulling out a plan from under the table, he spread it and continued: "Now, the only area of interest for us is the exhibition area, which they left confined on the ground floor. Probably so all the peasants don't trample around in their facilities." Pointing at a large room marked on the card, he continued: "The bit that interests us the most is the space here because they got the most valuable items there: The first Supervisor's toolbox and plans of rejected ideas for the interior terraforming. The problem is that this also makes this room the most well guarded one. I have heard of up to three people patrolling the room at the same time, which is difficult to work around."
"Cut to the chase and tell us what to do, then", Heckler told him.
"I'm afraid it's not as easy as that", Rush said and sighed. "There are multiple ways to enter the room: One is the obvious one, through the doors leading to the neighbouring rooms here, here, here and here", Rush said, pointing at a different entrance every time he said "here". "This of course means we'd be in full view of the guards, so that's not an action to take, at least not without some restrictions. Another one are the air vents leading into the room, which have the same issue as the door – and – they amplify whatever sounds you make if you're not careful. So, out of the question for now as well. Last but not least, there's a system of pipes laid out below and above the room, big enough for one of Wiska's spiders to traverse in them, but other than that, they're so slim most any of us can fit in there is their arm... if even that."
"Promises to be interesting", Tayla said, taking her cigar out of her mouth. "So how do we pull this off?"
"Well, we got the guards to deal with first", Rush explained. "Anybody have an idea?"
"We could just knock them out with some sleeping gas", Tayla suggested. "Gotta make sure everybody is being dealt with at once."
"Which includes" – Greta looked up from her strings again – "the guy watching the cameras. So he's the first one to go."
"Do we have a way to get in to the cabinet?", Wiska wondered.
"Your little spiders should be able to do the job", Rush commented before turning to Greta. "You know how to deal with the security system?"
"It's basic, to say the least", Greta told him, not turning to him. "Functional, but basic. Should be easy to turn off if I get my hands on it."
"Is it really such a good idea to break in during the night, though?", Heckler wondered. "That's just what they're waiting for!"
"What else you wanna do?", Wiska asked him. "It's either that or having even more potential witnesses."
"I think he's saying we got the surprise effect on our side if we jump in during opening hours", Kayt explained. "It also gives us a bit more freedom with what we want to do."
"See, she gets it, too!", Heckler said, leaning to Wiska as his arms pointed at Kayt.
"How old are you, fifteen?", Wiska questioned with a growl before Rush slammed his hands on the desk.
"We got no time for your bickering", he told them before turning back to Kayt. "Now, how do you suggest do we pull this off instead then?"
"We still got the cameras against us, so they're our first priority. There's many things we could do: swap out the tape, turn them off, stop them from recording... But I still need Greta to help me with the cabinet. I'm not that good with the technology."
"Don't worry, that won't be an issue", Rush commented. "I'm guessing you still wanna knock out their camera man?"
"No, they might get suspicious", Greta pointed out. "Let's lure him out instead. I only need a couple of minutes to manipulate the cameras and make sure they don't notice it until it's too late."
"Sounds great. That should give them less to work with after we're done", Rush commented. "Can you handle the knockout gas, Tayla?"
"I got plenty of that, complete with masks that fit into a pocket. They won't see it coming either way."
"Heckler, you and me will go in there armed in case the cops will play tricks on us. The rest of you will carry guns, too, but they're for emergencies. We just want those artifacts. No need for bloodshed. Wiska, you'll be in charge for our escape. Make sure you get something big, but fast and maneuverable."
"That's no challenge", she commented. "I got one exactly like that parked in my garage."
"Do you?", Rush asked. "Even better, then!"
"And how much money can we count on now?", Kayt asked impatiently. "You only named rough estimates so far. I'd like a more concise number."
"Does five million corusts sound good enough?", Rush promptly answered. "That's per person, of course. And I take a bigger slice of the pie because I initiated the trade in the first place."
"Wow, look what you did!", Tayla said, smirking, as she looked at Kayt's astounded face. "She's probably not thought of numbers this big in ages!"
"Nah, I think she's just imagining what she's buying with all that money", Rush said, before snapping into Kayt's face. "Hey, wake up! There's still some details left." Turning back to the group, he said: "We'll meet again here three dawns from now. Prepare yourselves with what you got and make sure you can be missing for a couple of cycles. Once I get the money, I'll file it to you. What you do with it is your decision. And, in case one of you gets captured, you'd benefit from not talking about anything you've learned here, or you're preemptively making yourself some enemies in jail. Now, any more questions?"
They either shook their heads or did nothing at all.
"Well then. You can leave."

After a long day at work, Ray stepped into his dark apartment, throwing aside his jacket as he checked the wall for the light switch. As he found it, the first thing he noticed was the watch on his hand, displaying the time. He started to look more concerned as he slammed the door shut and ran into his living room, where a computer was propped up for him to use. He immediately hit the power button before stepping back to turn on the light in his living room. As he turned around again to his computer, he noticed how messy he had been looking in his reflection coming from the window, and immediately began adjusting his hair and clothes to look more proper. To his dismay, he noticed that his eye circles had been bigger than expected, so he decided to not bother with that little detail, hoping the camera would not pick it up, and went back to his couch where the laptop was waiting. After a couple of clicks, a window popped up, with the headliner saying "SpaceLine – NolaF". Only a couple seconds later, a message showed up at the bottom of the window, asking: "there u are. rdy for the conference?"
"yes. just got back from work and i haven't made dinner yet."
"shouldn't it be rlly late for u now? man, make sure you don't starve urself", she replied. "i'll go grab the cam and then u tell me what u'll eat tonite, got me?"
"kk", Ray sent back before his head tilted upwards. "I don't really have that much appetite, so..."
A message popped up. "NolaF requesting conference. Accept?"
Ray clicked on "Yes" without thinking too much about it and another screen showed up of Nola reaching towards the camera and still busy trying to adjust it.
"Wait, I almost got it...", Nola said as Ray looked at her patiently before she showed up properly and removed her hands. "Okay, that should do it." With a smile on her face, she asked: "So, what have you chosen?"
"I guess a salad?", Ray replied. "Still got enough in the kitchen to make one..."
"What kind of salad?", Nola asked him confused. "Just the green stuff?"
"It's just that I'm not really all that hungry, so-"
"Bro, you're almost a sentient twig and that's all you want?"
"Having meat every day isn't healthy, either!"
She sighed. "If you want, I can organise a call with Dad at some point. He might help you to make something decent out of your leftovers that actually puts some weight on your ribs."
"You wanna keep talking about my eating habits or how stuff's going over there?", Ray tried to switch the subject.
"I just... I wanna see you a bit healthier than that, okay", Nola admitted. "Those eye circles don't make you look any better."
Surprised, Ray asked: "You can see them?"
"With your camera? Maybe better than you do", she replied. "But okay, I don't wanna preach all night long. Is your job still doing fine?"
"Occasionally", Ray admitted while pulling out a bottle of water from below the table. "The smalltime criminals can be really annoying sometimes."
"Home's not too different, either", she said, glancing off to the side. "Wikus is telling some really weird stories sometimes..."
"So he did go to public services?", Ray asked, astounded. "He never looked the type."
"Mom was surprised, too, but he made the jump", she said. "Twice the income and he meets all kinds of women. Take a guess why he went for it."
"Man, that stupid casanova", Ray sighed. "Didn't he get in trouble for it yet?"
"Nah. He apparently stopped being so direct since he switched jobs and became very romanticized. Now it's about finding the one."
"So he got bored having another woman in bed every week?"
"Eeeyup", Nola replied and nodded. "But he still does it occasionally."
"You know what they say? Old habits die hard", Ray answered and smiled.
"And, anything else going on outside of your job?", she asked him back. "Still living alone?"
“I'm working on that. Got a nice relationship with a local bevatigen. I'm sure you'd like her, too.”
“I'll believe it when I see it”, Nola said and smiled.
“We're not ready to live together, though. Work's making preparations too difficult, and you see how my house looks when it's for a single guy”, he proclaimed. “Can you imagine how much worse it'd be with another one?”
"You didn't have trouble with that when you lived with five more people”, Nola said, raising her eyebrow.
"Yeah, but back then, I barely had a choice in the matter", Ray said and shook his head. "I'm simply too busy to think of everything. The police job pays the bills, not making my bed."
"A made bed is a nice thing, though", Nola lamented.
"'course, 'course", Ray joked. "Maybe when I come over for vacation. That new hyper tunnel's all but done, after all."
"Is it?", Nola asked. "That'd be great! But... we should talk about this with Mom and Dad first."
"Talk with them about what? If I can nap in my old room?", Ray asked.
"Mmmh, yeah... you know what, I'll just ask them when they got time. Sound like a plan?"
"A good one", Ray answered.

"How about this one?", Jay asked, pointing at the papers. "Big and cheap."
"Nah, I don't like the look of it", Kayt told him while they were sitting at the table. "That one's better... what do you think?"
"The electricity bills would drain our money if we pick it", Jay told her.
"They would either way. Your point?"
"The materials look like heat can escape en masse", he explained to her. "And fixing that wouldn't be cheap, either."
"And that one?", she asked again, pointing at another house.
"Getting there, but it looks unappealing. And the price... I'd stay away", Jay said, symbolically shoving it aside. "Now I get to show off two! Mmmh...", he went, his hand moving over the paper in search for a nice house. "Shouldn't your brother be at home right now?"
"I told him to look for a sleepover so that he's out of the house for a bit", she admitted. "I'll be gone for a while after this heist, so I figured he's better off at somebody else's place."
"But you still got me here!", Jay told her.
She only looked at him for a moment, disapprovingly.
"Oh, right, nevermind then..."

“Girl, you need to go to bed sooner...”, Greta commented as she and Kayt drove to a parking lot, nearby the Institute. “Or is that your default mode?”
“It feels like I'm still in bed, anyways...”
“Don't be silly. The guards will just laugh in your face if you tumble around too much.”
Parking the car and about to leave it, Kayt rubbed her eyes. Slightly annoyed, Greta turned to her and asked:
“Look, if you're not ready yet, I got a flask of coffee ready. All you gotta do is ask.”
“No, you really don't have to... at least not without sugar.”
“Normal sugar or sweetener? Packed both in this baby”, Greta asked her as they closed in on a corner.
“Are you screwing with me?”
“Perhaps... But I'd hurry, our schedule isn't sloppy.”
“...okay, fine. But just a sip.”
Greta smirked, pulling her backpack from the backseat and opening it before throwing a thermo flask into Kayt's hands. “Sugar packs are inside the jug. You can't miss them.”
Mystified, she took the can and filled her jug, trying to figure out how to react. “Uhm, thanks?”
“Don't worry, 's on the house”, Greta waved her off. “But don't drink it all. I want a sip, too.”
Smiling, Kayt went on to hand her the can and drink from her jug before quickly taking her lips away from it. “Woah, tastes freshly brewed!”
“Well, of course”, she replied. “If you had told me, I'd have brought it stale instead.”
Kayt chuckled, finishing her jug while Greta was filling up hers. Putting it aside, she asked: “Should we run a check on our equipment?”, Kayt asked, taking the backpack herself and looking inside. “Wow, so much stuff...”
“That's part of the job description. You can never be prepared enough”, Greta answered. “You ready?”
“Then listen up. Welder?”
Kayt starts digging before pulling out a small rod. “Here. Should I do something with it?”
“No, not now. Just put it back.” While Kayt did so, Greta asked: “Spider hacker?”
“That was in the small, brown box, right?”
Greta reached out her arm towards her and commented: “No, but it's right beneath.”
A moment later, Kayt showed her a red, little cardboard box. “I'd rather not screw that up.”
“It's easy, really. Just open it and press the little button on the bottom.”
The little spider she pulled out fit perfectly on her palm, and upon pressing the button, a small light on top lit up.
“Works just like it should. Now turn it off again.”
For a while, the two went through their entire inventory while having a chuckle at some of the weirder things Greta forgot to leave out of the backpack before they packed the most important things into a small bag and left the car, moving towards the Institute. Sneaking into an alleyway, they went for a back entrance, with Kayt keeping an eye on anybody who could follow them.
“Stop”, Greta told her, with Kayt almost bumping into her from behind. “The guard shouldn't see us yet. You got the mask in your pocket right?”
Kayt nodded and pulled it out before Greta pulled out the spider and a small tablet. A couple taps with her fingertips later, she hit the switch and sent the spider crawling, all the while standing behind the corner and keeping an eye on the guard. He leaned against the wall, turning to each side every couple seconds and completely missing the spider. It soon reached its destination and crawled on top of the camera hanging over the door. Its legs pierced into the metal and the light on top began to blink more rapidly.
“Okay then”, Greta commented. “As soon as the light turns off... got it?”
“Couldn't be easier”, Kayt said and nodded.
The light on the spider then stopped blinking before fading out. Concealed, the two charged at him, and before he could reach out for his walkietalkie, Kayt had struck him with her fist, sending him flying to the ground. He fell unconscious immediately, but Greta pulled out a piece of cloth and put it on his mouth.
“Wow... did you see how close he was? He almost pressed the button.”
“'Almost'”, Greta noted raising a finger. “That's the crucial bit.” She then went on to inspect the sleeping guard, taking the keys out of his pockets and went to the door. “Remember the path to the camera cabinet?”
“Left, right, left, up, third door to the left”, Kayt repeated mindlessly.
“Sounds pretty catchy”, Greta commented. “You could've brought that to the charts.”
But Kayt shook her head. “Too much attention for my taste.”
Greta shrugged. “Your loss.”
Inside, the corridors were empty and barren, but Kayt and Greta continued to walk as quietly as they could, making their way to the security cabinet.
“This is quiet...”, Kayt wondered. “Too quiet.”
“Don't worry about that. According to my info on this place, they're all at the cafeteria for at least another ten minutes. More than enough for us.”
Upon reaching the door, Greta pushed something through the slit beneath the door, with Kayt still watching out for anybody trying to close in.
“Mmmh, he didn't leave the room...” She then pulled out a small pill and pushed a tiny button on it, before throwing it through the slit. They heard a quiet bang, followed by a thump. She then gave Kayt the sign to follow her as they entered the cabinet, with the security man lying on the ground as if he collapsed.
Immediately afterwards, Kayt seemed more fascinated with the many screens all over the room, showing not just the cameras within the exhibition, but the entire building. Greta was still busy getting out all the equipment she needed for their little operation, putting it in place on the table in front of the screens.
“Ready to do your part?”, Greta asked, to which she just nodded.

Around the Institute, the streets were booming with people trying to find a parking space and slowly pass by to see how many people were trying to get inside. Ray and Kirk watched this scene, bewildered by how people seemed to storm inside.
"And they're not paying a fee to get in?", Kirk asked, confused.
"Not that I know of", Ray replied. "It's all paid for by the town. Something to do with motivating people to learn."
"They got that right", Kirk commented. "Or maybe they all just going in because it's free."
"I wouldn't be that pessimistic about it", Ray said. "Even if they just go in for that, I doubt that they just walk a round and forget what they saw."
"Mmmh, maybe", Kirk said, taking a turn as they left the institute behind. "You know, at first I was wondering why we aren't paid extra for this. Given what kind of job I thought it was and all. But after those couple hours we're on duty, I've decided I'm paid almost too well!"
"There's no such thing as being paid too well", Ray said and chuckled.
"Sure, maybe, but this is still pretty damn boring", Kirk replied. "Most pickpockets don't even try to do anything funny with so many policemen around!"
"So... you're not paid too well then?"
"...I'm not in the mood for this..."
Ray then noticed the faint sound of screaming from far away.
"You hear that?"
"Hear what?"
As if by prompt, people came from the corner they just passed, screaming and running away.
"Kirk, stop the car", Ray ordered him as his hand was getting hold of his gun.
He then immediately pressed his foot against the brake, pushing the two forward before Ray jumped out of the hovercart.
"Continue your round and look for anything suspicious. Understood?"
Kirk nodded before driving off again as Ray ran down the street, opposite to where the scared mob was running to while trying to catch a glimpse of where they were coming from. He found his answer quickly as he reached the corner and saw how people were just flooding out of the institute as Ray began to notice the sound of gunfire coming from inside. A couple other policemen were getting in position, hiding by the side of the entrance gate with their gun ready in their hands as civilians kept coming out, covering their faces with the clothes or hands. Charging across the street, he ran to them and asked: "What's going on here?"
"Some bevs just charged and got their guns out!", one of them yelled. "They already shot some of the guards, too."
"And you're not doing anything?", Ray replied.
"There's too many civilians still inside", another one noted. "And we don't know how many there are! They messed up the security system just before they entered! And they spread knockout gas throughout the entire hall!"
"Some sneaky bastards those are", Ray said to himself. "Are reinforcements coming?"
"Already on their way."
"We need to keep them inside, then", Ray said, pouncing closer to the entrance while pulling up his shirt and taking rubber balls out of his jacket, sticking them into the lower barrel of his gun. "Keep me covered, they might show up at any moment."
The two nodded as they started following him inside, also covering their faces. The room was a lot darker, presumably because the burglars had shot the crystal illuminating the ceiling, leaving them on the ground in pieces. A couple of civilians were still stumbling around, making their way outside as they moved closer inside. One of the guards was hiding behind the door to the restroom, spontaneously bandaging himself with toilet paper and stifling his screams by pressing his teeth against an empty roll. Without words, they decided the two guards would stay and help him out before Ray reluctantly went on on his own, taking any opportunity to hide from whoever was going to come his way. Suddenly, a couple of them charged past him, their faces completely covered by masks and wielding large bags on their backs. Waiting for them to gain some distance, he pulled out his gun and fired at one of them. The rubber ball flew and hit the small one, but before he could even hit the ground, the big one to her side grabbed her by the sides and turned around, unleashing a barrage of bullets that Ray could only barely avoid by stepped behind a wall. After he ceased fire and the robbers were on their way outside again, he followed them outside, where one of them covered the area with knockout bombs and the others fired into the air to scare any still remaining civilians off while aiming to reach a large van that came their way, coming to a full stop as they reached it. The group swiftly jumped inside and closed the door before the van got going again, riding on the pavement while the street was still covered in cars and forcing the bystanders to jump aside as the car came their way. The few policemen that hadn't been knocked out tried to shoot the tires, but to no avail as the van escaped.

Meanwhile, Kayt and Greta were leaving the scene, not trying to call attention to themselves as they reached their car on the parking lot. Everything was still in place as they went in and threw their baggage on the backseats and then loosened for a moment.
“So”, Greta asked, reaching for the steering wheel. “Wanna drive home?”
Kayt just sat there for a moment, blankly staring into nothing, before something weird happened. She began to laugh slowly, but not deliberate, not paying attention to Greta as she sat there. Watching her made her feel uneasy at first, but then Kayt managed to get out words.
“A-ahahaha-I can-I can't beli-believe this! Ahaha! It's alr-already over! Ahahaha!”
Greta at first raised her eyebrows in confusion, but getting what she meant, she quickly began to snicker herself, not as vocally as Kayt did, but still audibly so. The two sat there like this for a while until the laughter died down and both of them wiped tears out of their eyes.
After a relieved sigh from Kayt, Greta asked: “You know, it's still a long day. How about we drive a bit through town?”
“Fine by me!”
Greta then set course to the exit of the parking lot as she asked: “Any spot you wanna go to first?”
“The park! I haven't been there in ages.”

"I'll never complain about boring days again", Kirk said as he and Ray were sitting in a small conference room, long after most of the attendees had left.
"I haven't seen Feron this angry in ages", Ray noticed.
"Well, it's justified. You've been inside when it was going on. Looked ugly, didn't it?"
"Only got uglier after I heard just how much damage this attack caused", Ray replied. "With the amount of money they got away with, they only could've played rough."
"At least they didn't kill anybody", Kirk added. "Even if they got pretty damn close."
"Maybe, but it's still one hell of a blunder. They really planned this thing through."
Kirk got off his chair. "I got enough of this for today. Wanna hit up a bar? You look like you need a drink."
"A sip or two, maybe", Ray said. "I get really weird when I drink while I hate myself."
"Just don't order the hard stuff, then", Kirk said before pulling up on Ray's shoulder. "Now come, let's get you some fresh air..."

Night had settled down as Kayt laid in her bed. Her hands were behind her head while her eyes were focused on the ceiling, unable to settle down. Something was bothering her, but she couldn't quite point at it. Her eyes shifted to Jay sleeping beside her, his mouth wide open and spit dripping out of his mouth, enough to be weirded out, but not grossed out. For a moment, she wanted to reach out her hand and wake him up, since she felt like she needed someone to talk to. But just as she was about to touch his head, she went back on it, instead putting it beneath her blanket, together with the other one. Hoping it would help, she pulled it upwards to her face, making her feel more comfortable, but she still didn't manage to fall asleep. Giving up, she flung her blanket aside and stepped out of bed.
“I need a beer...”

Tired, but relieved, Kayt stood in the kitchen, making herself lunch as she heard footsteps closing in on her. Not raising her head, she noticed that it was Sven who entered the kitchen, throwing his bag into the corner.
“And, did you have fun at Vox's place?”, she asked, not looking away.
“Mhm! And Zegora was there, too!”
“You didn't stay up late, did you?”, she continued, giving him a dark glance.
“Oh, yes, sure... we didn't see the sun rise, at least”, Sven sheepishly admitted.
“Well, at least you're honest”, she sighed before caressing his head. “Did somebody ask where I was gone all this time?”
“Yes, his mom did!”, he said and nodded. “And I told him what you said you did:”
“Busy getting college sorted and that's easier when you're not at home”, both of them said at the same time before having a little snicker.”
“I hope she bought that, too?”
“She didn't really care, so yes.”
“That's good news”, she replied while pouring herself a glass of hot water.
“So, while I'm here...”, Sven began. “You see, they got those action figures for Captain Dazzle, like the Captain himself, his companions, his enemies, those sets designed by Mister Rusko himself... And-”
“You want me to buy those, right?”, Kayt said and sighed.
“No, no, not all of it!”, Sven defended himself. “Just... you know... the Captain and Dominus. Oh, and MechAlch.”
“You're stretching it now, buddy”, Kayt replied, leaning on the kitchen sink. “Just because we got all this money doesn't mean we can just throw it at everything.”
“But they don't even cost that much”, Sven said, shrugging.”It's just that we have this big thing planned and we-”
“What, have you told them you'll bring them?”, Kayt asked surprised. “You should've been more patient!”
“You can even cut my allowance if you have to!”
“It doesn't work like this, though”, Kayt said, kneeling down to him. “We have all the money now, but I don't want to spoil you with everything you want. Neither extreme is healthy for you.”
“You say that, looking for a house costing two million corusts.”
Taken aback, she asked: “Wait, how do you know?”
“Sis, we sleep in the same room together. How couldn't I?”
“Mmmh, okay, I'll admit that, but that's for the benefit of all of us! Remember? You're even getting a room just for your drawings!”
“But I don't have much else aside from that! Drawing's fun and all, but sometimes I'd like to re- reen-”
“-reenact that fight between Pyros and Nick with my friends!”
“Uhm... You got me there. But, before we go out to buy it... are you sure you'll really play with them for long enough? Not that I'll catch them lying beneath your bed. Or what if they're poorly made?”
“What are you guys going on about?”, Jay asked, leaving their sleeping room.
“Your dad has seen the toys, right?”, Sven asked, immediately approaching Jay. “Are they good?”
“What, the Dazzle toys?”, Jay asked, scratching his head. “Yeah, I remember him bringing up his visits at that toy company to make sure they're to his liking. He mentioned he had his fun with them.”
“Well?”, Sven asked, victoriously crossing his arms and raising his chest.
Nervously chuckling and admitting defeat, Kayt got off the ground and told him: “Fine, this round goes to you. But let me eat first, then we'll drive in town, okay?”
“Yes!”, Sven energetically proclaimed, dancing back into his room while going “Yoohoo!”
“...seriously”, Jay asked, “what just happened?”


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And this is how the comic might end up looking:

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This post has been edited by P Dot Alex: Jan 14 2014, 02:02 PM

I got one of these. C'mon, don't be shy.

"I am very edgy" - Dakari King Mykan.
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P Dot Alex

Dumb jokes

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post Jan 14 2014, 02:07 PM
Alright, here's the rest. Excuse the length of these, but Issue 2 really got out of control after a certain point.

Speaking of:

The group had hidden on a bridge above a highway, with many hovercarts of different kinds passing by above the street while waiting for a special truck to show up. All of them were concealed with light reflecting clothing so they would be harder to notice as they stood by the side.
"Wiska? How long until they'll show up?", Rush asked, speaking into a headset hidden beneath his suit. "Where are you? Okay, that'd be about... one minute from now? Sounds like our calculations fit so far... Keep following them. Might be that we need an escort. Over." Turning off his earpiece, he told the rest: "Fifty seconds until the jump. We'll go down after three, not at three."
"Did she say anything about the truck being escorted?", Tayla asked him
"No, but we'll have to take in count that they got guards on board."
"Just means there are more guys to punch out", Heckler replied, checking his fists.
"Quiet! They're coming!", Rush noted, bowing forward as everyone else followed suit. "One... two... three!" They leapt off the bridge in unison, making a couple banging noises in the process.
"Now watch out", Rush told them as they stood on the roof, observing everything beneath them. Behind them, a small door opened, with the head of a sterlar poking out for a moment, looking across the roof of the truck and mumbling to himself. "Pesky kids with their stupid stunts..."
Just as they noticed him, Heckler ran at him, with the guard being startled at first before an invisible punch to the face knocked him out, throwing him downwards again before Heckler kicked the door aside so it wouldn't shut down again.
"Now then, we're on a time limit", Rush explained. "Kayt, Greta, the driver's yours. Tayla, Heckler, you'll go down with me. But be careful: they might actually think about putting on heat goggles." Everyone nodded, with one half of the team running to the other end of the truck, as the others descended one by one to ensure they wouldn't immediately collide with the other guards, who have been alarmed by his unconcious body lying at the ground.
"Vox, wake up, dammit!", one of the guards said, busy dragging his colleague's body aside as the other guards drew closer. Heckler didn't waste any time, jumping off the ladder and charging at him, hitting him under the chin and throwing him forward on his back. He slid a couple metres forward to his coworkers, who looked astounded by what was happening, before they jumped behind one of the cars and took cover.
"Just what is going on?", one of them noted commented.
"Hawke, I know you're new at this, but... remember you got those glasses for a reason", the second guy reminded him. "Just pull them down."
"Ye... I'm on it now."
The two then took their heat goggles and put them over their eyes before getting hold of their guns again. "Now then... you ready?", the second guy asked, to which the first guy nodded. "On three-"
Immediately, he got knocked out by a punch, throwing his head against the carosserie before kneeling forward. The second guy then turned forward to notice Heckler's silhouette standing in front of him menacingly. His first instinct was to aim the gun at him, but before he could even shoot a single bullet, the gun was kicked out of his hand and the fist went right to his face, slamming his head to the ground and leaving him without motion.
"Any guys downstairs?", Heckler asked, turning over to Tayla and Rush who had just finished climbing down.
"Probably", Tayla replied. "And they're coming our way."
"How nice of them to make my job easier", Heckler replied, flexing his muscles. "Feel free to help me distract them... they're more fun when they're surprised about getting dunked."
"You just saw them. They're busy distracting themselves", Rush commented. "What do you need us for here?"
"You're already here, so you can at least help... or do you plan jumping off the truck?"
"No, thank you. The jump off the bridge was enough", Tayla commented.
"Hold on a sec", Rush said, activating his earpiece again. "Okay, you can start now. But be gentle about it, if you may. I don't like being shook all over the place."

Back on the roof, Greta and Kayt were getting closer to the cabinet, climbing down onto it.
"Remember, you take him on, I take the wheel and then tell you how to take us off the map", Greta reminded her.
"Of course", Kayt replied and nodded reflexively. She looked down to see the driver sit in front of the wheel, upside down, while seemingly whistling a jolly tune.
"Ready?", Greta asked.
"Whenever you give the sign", Kayt replied.
"Okay then. On three..."
The window immediately broke, startling the driver as an invisible force punched him and then slammed him towards the hole, through which he fell and landed on a car before rolling into the ditch. The truck was quickly taken over by Greta, who jumped onto the seat and got hold off the wheel.
"Just between the two of us..." Greta asked, deactivating the suit. "Have you ever driven in a truck before?"
"Not in the cabinet, at least", she replied. "I think I sat in the back of a truck when my brother wasn't born yet."
"Always been the adventurous type, huh?", she asked while reaching out to the radio. "Man, this guy's taste blows..."
"Driving in a bus was riskier", Kayt said, turning her own suit off as well.
"Tickets must've gotten really expensive while I wasn't looking", Greta said, fumbling around in her suit to search for something. "Now where is the... there we go", she said, taking out a small metal box and saying to Kayt: "Catch!", before she threw it into her hands. "Look under the seat for a bigger metal box. They'll hardly hide it cleverly. Then just put it on there and press the button. It'll screw itself in."
Kayt nodded, getting down from her seat and looking for the box she mentioned. "Have you been in this business for long?", she asked.
"Why you ask?", Greta replied, her eyes fixated on the street.
"You seem to know far more about this than I do", Kayt replied. "I found it!"
"I've been doing it for as long as you do, actually", Greta explained. "I was just sick of my job making me no decent money, so I had to look for other sources."
"What were you working as?"
"Insurance consultant."
"Exactly", Greta remarked.

Far off any paved road, Greta drove towards a small, black car in the middle of a dusty field. Kayt watched her, relaxed, as the truck came to a halt and a skinny bevatigen climbed out of the car, wearing a plain shirt and long pants. The rest of the team also started to show up again, walking by the side of the truck as Rush moved in first on their guest.
“Already here, Mr. Barsch?”, he asked him. “Please you shouldn't have.”
“The name's Roxel, 'kay?”, the man interrupted him. “And of course I should. I – must – even. My clients want good cars for their cash and even little scratches make the price drop by about 50 percent. You know what I'm getting at, right?”
“Yes, of course, and you have the right to examine the goods whenever you like”, Rush said, reaching out his hand. “But first, I'd like to see some insurance.”
“...what, you expect your cash now?”, Roxel asked in disbelief. “I'm not running around with suitcases like any shmuck on the streets who thinks he's into big crime! You get your cash, as promised, but the inspection has priority.”
“...Alright then. I assume you have bodyguards?”
Without a comment, Roxel knocked onto his car and stepped aside, as two burly sterlar men in bulletproof vests and dressed in far more formal clothing than him left the vehicle and moved to Roxel's sides.
“Should've known. Tayla! Heckler!”, Rush yelled. “You come with me.” He then waved Roxel and his guards over before they left the scene to enter the truck. Kayt and Greta silently watched them enter it before they dared to utter words again.
“...fuck, this guy's a mouthful”, Greta commented out of spite. “I'm sure the guy who thought he was an incarnation of the Core had less of an ego issue than him.”
“Don't be crazy. No way he's – that – bad.”
“I don't know. The other guy had a better sense for fashion. And his bodyguards weren't that well prepared, either.”
“So, do you think he's trying to cross us?”
“Nah, he can't be that stupid”, Greta assured her.
A while later, Roxel, Rush and their respective people turned up again from behind the truck, with Kayt and Greta sitting in the dirt next to the driver's cabinet and eating pieces of chocolate. Heckler and Tayla walked up to the two, looking annoyed.
“And, how was it?”, Greta asked.
“Well, he's buying”, Tayla said. “I'm just glad we're finally out of this guy's vocal range.”
“Yeah, especially him gushing over all those Yashets”, Heckler remarked. “Those things are so overrated, it's painful to think people are throwing out so much cash for these things”, Heckler commented. “Too expensive for too little comfort.”
“Doesn't really matter to those people”, Tayla added. “All that does is that it looks pretty.”
“Who knows with clients like these?”, Heckler said and shrugged. “If I'll buy a new car, it's gonna be a Gansora.”
“A Gansora? You kidding me?”, Tayla asked, not sure if she heard something wrong. “That mass-produced everyman garbage? Please, the moment you show up with one of those on the streets and you're the laughing stock of the entire town.”
“...in your dreams, maybe...”, Heckler muttered.
“You got something to tell me?”, Tayla asked.
“Can't care less about car brands”, Greta threw in.
“Shut up, Greta!”, both Heckler and Tayla yelled.
In the meanwhile, Roxel and Rush were still talking about the shipment.
“I was expecting more models by Zank, but oh well, can't complain about the quality at hand”, Roxel commented. “It's definitely worth the sum we decided on.”
“So, I take it you're willing to pay now?”
“Mmmh... Vash, fetch me the box”, Roxel ordered before the guard to his left walked up to the trunk of the car and heaved out a small box, carrying it to Rush.
“Feel free to count if you like”, Roxel said, not taking his eyes away from Rush. “But I don't let mistakes like that happen, so that's a waste.”
Rush then took the box and set it on the ground, lifting the lid. Seeing how there were several wads of cash inside, he took out a couple of them and checked them for validity, throwing some to his companions to let them see them as well. “Okay, the deal's settled”, Roxel said. “Greta, give him the car keys.”
Greta nodded, throwing Roxel the keys, which he then let one of his bodyguards catch.
“And you got a way to drive back home?”
“Don't worry about us”, Rush waved it off.
Shortly afterwards, Roxel and his guards drove off, with Wiska's car turning up in the background.
“Somebody get me a piece of soap”, Rush commented. “I gotta wash the pretense out of my mouth.”

Ray was looking at the morning paper during lunch break while he and Kirk sat in the park, drinking their coffees.
"Truck with twenty high-value vehicles disappeared... guards found two hours away in an abandoned barn, driver brought to the hospital with several dozen bones broken... knocked out by force... experts speak of 'high level heist'."
"You think it's the same group?", Kirk asked before taking a sip.
"I wouldn't doubt it, if only because I don't wanna deal with two independant heist groups operating with this much money", Ray said, throwing the paper aside.
"Probably", Kirk wondered. "They don't seem like the kind of guys who steal some old tools to use them as a trophy or... well... tools."
"And now, Feron will catch all the flak for being incompetent, and he'll consequently let it out on us as well", Ray wondered. "Those coming days are bound to be awful..."
"There's only so much complaining he can do", Kirk said and shrugged. "After a while, it just starts to run together and you can't care about it anymore, whether you want to or not."
"With two robberies like this?", Ray asked him in disbelief. "Did you put drugs into your coffee?"
"No, I just don't see the point in getting worked up about it now instead of later", Kirk said. "Or am I crazy?"
"No, you... I mean, I... sometimes, I want another job", Ray said to himself, but clearly audible, as he took his cup of coffee and chucked it down in one go.

Sneakily, Kayt got out of the car, waving goodbye to those inside and carrying a backpack, as she approached her apartment complex, where Jay was waiting by the doorsteps.
"You knew I was coming?", she asked, confused.
"I got a letter from Rush saying when you'd show up", Jay said and shrugged. "Your vacation sounded fun."
"It sure as hell wasn't a wellness spa", she commented, stepping to the door. "Where's Sven right now?"
"Still at school. He told me they're trying out some new toy a friend of his bought." After opening the door, they went up the staircase as they continued to talk.
"I'll bet ten that he asks for one when he gets back home", Kayt said and smirked.
After Jay had closed the door, he asked: "And, how much did you make?"
"This time? Two millions", she commented, taking off her backpack and opening it to reveal several stacked wads of paper money, leaving him astounded.
"Man", he said after giving it a short glance. "I could drop my studies right here and now."
"Jay, we talked about this", Kayt told him. "We can't just rely on heists. Sure, they make us the cash, but the more backups we got, the better."
"Is that why you went on a second one?", Jay asked in confusion.
"It went well so far, didn't it?", she contested him. "And your parents seem to be happy with this place, too."
"Yeah, but they still were confused about where I got the money from."
"For a couple moments, maybe... I still wish we could have asked them for money in the first place."
"I do, too", Jay admitted, "but we went over this. My dad's not making that much money from the comic, and I respect them too much to treat them like a money dispenser."
"Ye, I know, I know", Kayt admitted.
They reached their apartment, with Kayt not taking off anything as she stepped into the living room, with the first thing coming to her eyes being how big the mural Sven was drawing has become, spreading all across the walls.
"Jay?", she yelled.
He was still busy undressing his shoes before he stuck his head into the living room. "Yes?"
"You remembered to tell Sven to do his homework, right?", she asked.
"Yes, yes, of course. I even watched him so he didn't do anything crummy."
"Then how come he's gotten that far with the wall already?", she asked, her arm reaching towards the other side of the room.
"Well...", Jay replied, stretching the L. "We had a bit of a bet going."
"I'm hearing", Kayt continued, getting slightly impatient.
"We played a small game every time before his bedtime", Jay shamefully admitted. "If he won, he got two more hours."
"You gotta be kidding me", Kayt said, bewildered. "And you went with it?"
"I didn't expect him to be this good at Thousand Rings, okay?", Jay defended himself. "Halfway through, I even put handicaps on him, like giving him less cards and not being allowed to get just one ring at once. Still didn't help."
"Mmmh... I don't like the sound of that", Kayt sighed as she approached the wall. "You don't know if his grades suffered because of it?"
"He didn't really talk that much about school", Jay said, scratching his head. "If anything, he bugged me several times to give him enough money to watch that Dazzle movie that came out a couple cycles ago."
"...and you played cards with him over it?"
"My points were doubled. Still wasn't enough", Joseff replied and shrugged.
"...next time, just say no", Kayt told him as she took the money and went into her room, hiding the wads below her bed. "Did you get the catalogue while I was gone?"
"Yeah, I asked my prof for it", Jay said, his hands sliding into his pockets. "I put it on the table."
"Very good", Kayt replied. "Let's keep looking for a house."

"So, what do you say?", Kayt asked, pushing her hand onto a couch as Jay stood close by. "You gotta press, too."
"Looks fine to me, but bringing that bastard into our home will be a bitch", Jay replied. "And paying people to carry it up that high costs extra."
"And that's an issue how?", Kayt wondered.
"...yes, nevermind." Jay got closer and took a seat, leaning back and closing his eyes. "Mmmh, very good... oh wait."
"I don't wanna get up anymore. It feels – too – good."
"Quit fooling around", Kayt said to keep the joke going. "You'll get bored at some point. Or hungry."
"Uhm, not necessarily", Jay noted, pointing behind her. "See?"
She turned around, only to notice the myriad of TV screens of varying sizes and forms, almost all of them showing a different program.
"I don't even need a remote control. It's amazing!"
"Completely forgot about that", Kayt said, her eyes fixated on one model in particular, spanning as far as her arms in the horizontal. "Do you think what I'm thinking?"
"Screw buying a house and move in here?"
"How about we just take one of these along for the ride, too? Just look at how crisp the image looks! Or the casing! And let's get a surround sound system to go with it! Can you imagine listening to a concert with that setup?"
"Keep going, and maybe they'll hide you without even an interview", Jay said, pushing himself off the couch. "Seriously, if you keep going like that, we'll be lucky if we can keep walking in our home."
"It's just a couch and a TV so far. Geez, Jay", Kayt said annoyed. "We got more than enough to cover this stuff. Do you even remember how empty that big room is? I'm sure you can hear echoes."
"Okay, yes, but Sven made that room a lot friendlier. We don't need that much stuff, remember?"
"Well, I suppose so- Wait, I just remembered."
"We should get a computer, too. For good measure."
"Now you're just trying to burn money."
"Don't you see? You can use it for your studies, Sven can do his homework on it... sometimes, and I... we'll see about that when I get into uni again. Come, we'll look for a good provider!"
And she blasted off, with Jay only having an annoyed expression on his face and running after her immediately afterwards, yelling:
"You're getting five thousand today, and not one corust more!"

Kayt hadn't had a quiet day at home for a while now, as she was busy with the heists and Jay stealing half of her sleep with his snoring, so she enjoyed a lazy afternoon on their couch with a magazine hovering above her head.
"Mmmh, the three steps to avoid an empty stomach from fast food", she read out loud, raising an eyebrow before flipping the page. "Eh, sounds stupid."
Still lying on their couch, the phone started to ring, causing her to get a bit annoyed as she got off the couch.
"This better be important, or else..."
Picking up the phone, she put her annoyed feeling away and asked: "Hello, Seanord speaking? Yes? He... he did what? When was that? What is he doing now? All right, all right... I'll be there as soon as I can. Yes."
Slamming the shell back where it belonged, she hastily dressed herself, almost slipping in the process before picking up the phone again.
"Jay? Yes, I know you're at university, but... look, we're having a bit of a dilemma here. Sven had his moment again and- Oh, you're almost done? Alright, we'll meet up at the psychiatrist. You know the address, right?"

At the school, Kayt almost stormed into the office, with a baffled secretary already waiting for her.
"Where is he?", Kayt asked, slightly out of breath.
"Uhm, he's waiting next door", the secretary explained. "The nurse ran a check up on him, but he hasn't really injured himself."
"Bless the Core", Kayt sighed before entering the nurse's office. Nobody was there other than Sven sitting on the bed, curled up and his head hidden beneath his knees, silently sobbing.
"Sven?", she asked, pulling something out of her jacket. He took a moment to notice her, slowly raising his head to get a peek, but he didn't get out a word. "Look, I got something for you...", she continued, showing him the plush and letting him grab it, which he quickly did. She then put his hands around her and motherly caressed his head with her snout, then making eyecontact with him and saying: "Let's go."

For a while were Kayt and Jay sitting in the waiting room and next to the door, something throwing a glance at the clock to check how late it was. Neither of them bothered saying anything, and neither really wanted to. Their silence was not to last much longer, however, as the door to their side opened, with Sven and his psychiatrist Boris came outside. Sven was still clutching to the plush, though looked less tense than he did earlier.
"And, feeling better?", Kayt asked, getting off the chair and kneeling down to his level.
"...a little", Sven said, carefully making eye contact and nodding.
Looking up to Boris, she said: "Thank you again for that sudden appointment, Doctor Hogart."
"It's just my job, ma'am", he said. "Though I'd keep him out for school for one or two days. Sounded like a really hefty attack."
"Okay then", Kayt said and nodded before taking Sven's hand. "Do you wanna go straight home or have some icecream first?", she asked.
"...can I have three scoops?", Sven quietly asked her.
"With cream and chocolate sauce, if you want", she encouraged him as they left.

Immersed in her new couch, Kayt leaned towards the television to keep watching, zapping across the channels in search for a show she could be interested in. From out of the kitchen door, Sven came with a piece of buttered bread in his hand.
“Sis?”, he asked.
“I'm done with homework now”, he said before taking a bite.
“Oh, that's really nice”, she replied, turning towards him. “Now you got the day for yourself.”
Taking a look at the TV and how the channel seemed to change whenever he blinked, he turned back to her and asked: “Are you passing an ad break?”
“No, just looking for something worthwhile to watch. Success: none.”
“Does that mean I can watch Captain Dazzle then?”, Sven asked, getting excited. “The new episodes are out and I've been sitting on that cliffhanger for weeks now!”
“But I'm too lazy to get up right now, and look!”, she said, pointing to the screen, where the news played at the moment.
“Estimates lie between one thousand and – Those diamonds were meant for me and you – have chosen poorly. It's – Not how you want to spend your holidays!”
“...eh”, Sven said and shrugged. “Can't you do something on the computer?”
“The couch is too comfortable, though, and I'd have to get off the couch to get to the computer. You, on the other hand, are not sitting on the couch, so you're not missing much. Can't you watch your show on the computer?”
“But they don't upload the episodes that early!”, Sven protested. “Why can't you at least sit on the couch? We could watch together.”
“I've seen some episodes”, Kayt admitted. “Not really my thing. And I just found the perfect spot, too, so I won't leave anytime-”
Suddenly, the doorbell rang, catching both of them offguard. Swiftly, Kayt jumped off the couch and threw the remote into Sven's hand, saying: “Was just kidding. Have fun, little bro.”
Eagerly, he caught the remote and swung himself onto the couch as Kayt went to see who it was that came to visit. It turned out to be Rush, walking around in oddly casual clothing.
“Oh, hello there”, Kayt asked, confused. “Got a new job?”
“No, nothing like that”, Rush waved it off. “Still fishing for that. Takes a while to pick out the good one from all the shit floating around.”
“Well, obviously.”
“Anyways, I was just wondering if you wanted to meet up with the other guys. You know, drink, play games, chat about something that isn't work... I hope you're not too busy, say, three days from now?”
“Whenever you like”, Kayt said and shrugged. “If anything, a diversion sounds nice. Where's it gonna be? Better be nearby and easy to reach.”
“You can't miss it. The place sticks out from all the others ones in the area. Just take the bus down to the Merosia District and look for the house with the silver plated door.”
“Wait, you seriously paid for that?”, Kayt asked. “But why?”
“I dunno, seemed like a neat idea at the time. You better be better at spending money than I was back then.”
“Don't worry, I got people to keep me down. The first surge is over... at least I hope so.”
“Well, isn't somebody here confident”, Rush said and laughed. “And, how you're doing otherwise?”
“We're looking for a nice house right now”, Kayt admitted. “Too bad those catalogues don't have shit for taste.”
“I could recommend you some people”, Rush suggested, “but it's gonna cost.”
“Mmmh, I'll think about that.”
“Very good”, Rush said and smirked. “Now then, I gotta go and find the other guys. See ya, then, and greet your family.” He then walked off back to the stairs, with Kayt waving after him.
“See ya, and thanks, I will!”
She then moved back inside, with Sven already taken in entirely by his show, leaning onto his crossed feet and leaning towards the screen.
“Is it that good?”, Kayt asked, throwing a casual glance at the screen.
“Oh, hell, yes”, Sven replied, so amazed he couldn't even take his eyes away from the action.

“Welcome, Kayt, to my little, humble home”, Rush greeted her with open arms at his doorsteps. Upon stepping into the entrance hall, she quickly noticed that it was bigger than her entire apartment, making her feel rather weird about it.
“If this is you being humble, I can't imagine you going all out”, Kayt wondered as she took off her coat. “Are any of the others here yet?”
“Me and Heckler are playing some Uprising right now.”
“That old-people game?”
Rush laughed it off. “Uprising isn't that bad... now, The Last Mender, that's an old-people game.”
“I never even heard of that one.”
He snipped. “Exactly.”
The two then walked off to his living room, on which Heckler was sitting with some cards in his hands, impatiently tapping them on the table.
“What, are you so eager to play your next round?”, Rush asked. “I didn't expect that from you, of all people.”
“You just had to take your time, didn't you?”, Heckler playfully responded as the two sat down. “Oh, hello, Kayt.”
“All I did is go to the door and back. That's not a cruise around the world”, Rush reacted before looking into his hand. “Now where was I... oh right”, he said and put a couple cards in front of him.
Heckler eyed them for a moment and looked into his own hand again, as Kayt just scanned the playing field with all the cards already on the desk before finally collecting the courage to ask: “Who's winning?”
“Me, if he doesn't play five cards at once”, Rush explained. “But then he doesn't have any reinforcements for later.”
“...I don't think I'll need reinforcements anymore”, Heckler commented before he spread his hand on the table. Kayt only watched this scene, confused with what's going on, while Heckler looked more confident and Rush let what happened sink in.
“...you seriously got that hand?”, he eventually asked. “How? Like, talking probability, that's nigh impossible! You couldn't have had any other card in your hand!”
“So?”, Heckler asked and shrugged. “I got this one. Or can you beat that?”
“Not with the luck I'm having!”, Rush said, throwing his remaining cards onto the table. “Now you're just running over all of my dudes, eh?”
“Your choice on how to picture it”, Heckler said. “But I'll be honest, I expected more from you, of all people.”
“Even the best at their jobs can't turn a turd into gold”, Rush said and shrugged, before turning to Kayt. “You want to join in for this round?”
“I've never played it before, to be honest”, she told him. “And I can't even put to words how much I'm not getting this.”
“How about you'll make a team with me?”, Rush suggested. “I don't think Heckler over there needs any support.”
“I'm sure you'll do better next round”, Heckler assured him as he collected the cards off the table. “Your reputation as master planner is at bay.”
“It still is?”, Kayt asked as she moved her chair to get closer to Rush.
“Kayt, you really had to go there, didn't you?”
All of the sudden, the door bell was ringing again, causing Heckler to sigh. “This'll get annoying...”
“I can go, then!”, Kayt said, already getting up.
“No, no, you're my guest tonight”, Rush said, putting his hand on her shoulder. “And as my guest, I insist that you stay here.
“Well, alright then...”
With Rush out of the picture again, Kayt turned to Heckler and asked: “This won't turn into a horror movie, will it?”
“Don't bet on it”, Heckler told her as he shuffled the deck. “Have you got a cigar?”
“Uh, no. I don't smoke.”
“Too bad. Then I'll take one of Rush's.”

Shortly afterwards, they sat together with Tayla at the table, who sat where Kayt sat before while the rest was busy playing cards.
“There, three front liners!”, Heckler said, accompanying his turn.
“Wait, how many cards did you play already?”, Rush asked before glimpsing at the table. “Wait, ten already? That's just your third turn!”
“Luck's on my side today”, Heckler said, knocking his cards on the table. “Or it really hates you right now.”
“Were his turns even legal?”, Rush asked Tayla, who only casually paid attention to the game.
Tayla shook her head. “Unusual, but definitely in the realm of the possible.”
“Dammit, he just really had to-” All of the sudden, the doorbell rang again, leaving Rush annoyed. “Kayt, take that turn for me. You know what to do, right?”
She nodded. “But I'll probably screw up.”
“Definitely not as hard as I would”, Rush waved it off before leaving the room.
“Need someone to look at your cards?”, Tayla suggested.
“No, I'm sure I can do this”, Kayt replied, intensely looking at her cards before carefully picking out a couple and placing them facedown. “I can do that, right?”
“Playing them facedown is damn risky”, Tayla admitted. “Haven't seen people do it in dozens of games. You sure you wanna do it?”
“Might as well run the game into the ground, wouldn't you say?”
“You really don't have to make it easier for me”, Heckler said, looking a bit tired. “But fine, go ahead.”
As she put them on the ground, Rush showed up with Piotr, whom he lead to the table. “Just take a seat. Any seat.” As Piotr quietly sat down, Rush was about to do the same as he asked: “And, what happened so far?”
“It's his turn again”, Kayt informed her.
“How come you're always so quiet?”, Tayla asked as she turned to Piotr. “It's like you're a ghost.”
“I picked that up from school”, he admitted. “Amongst other places.”
“Mmmh, fine, I'll play facedown, too”, Heckler said, picking four cards and placing them on the desk.
“You really need those new cards, don't you?”, Rush asked as he leaned across the table.
“Just riding my luck, buddy”, Heckler admitted. “Okay, your turn again.”
“Now then”, Rush said, leaning over Kayt's cards. “What do we have left?”
Again, the doorbell rang, leaning Rush more disgruntled than last time.
“This'll be a long evening, I can already tell”, he said and got up. “Keep playing for me. I'm pretty much out either way.”
“Why school? Wouldn't this be where you talk the most?”, Tayla wondered.
“Talking too much ended with a bloody snout”, Piotr bluntly admitted. “Every time.”
“Wow, what kind of a shithole was that?”, she asked. “No wonder you're always hiding.”
“Let's say that my family had connections...”
“I'll stick to more facedown cards”, Kayt continued, placing a pair on the field as Heckler oogled the playing field with suspicion.
“You're not just playing random cards, are you?”, he wondered. “Not uniform armies just knock the rating down.”
“Trust me, I know what I'm doing... a bit, at least.”
“Are we just watching them play cards?”, Piotr wondered.
“It's still the same round they played when I arrived, so who knows.”
“Maybe we're going down into his basement later”, he continued. “It's a nice place.”
Again, Rush entered the room, this time with Wiska who took a seat right next to Heckler.
“Looks like somebody fancies himself a tactician”, she told him. “And by that I mean I've seen children at their first go play better than that. I mean, that many cards facedown?”
“How about you complain about her way of playing, too?”, he asked while Kayt and Rush were studying their cards.
“What, Kayt?”, Wiska asked surprised. She looks more like genuine greenhorn; of course she won't make fantastic turns. You, on the other hand, actively look like you're playing your worst possible cards on purpose.”
“Oh, yeah? Just look at this!”, he said, holding his hand of cards into her face. “No matter what I play, I can turn this around whenever I want!”
“You're not just trying to go easy on her, do you?”
“What? Why would I? Technically, I'm still playing against Rush!”
“Sure you are...”
“I was never the fighter”, Piotr admitted to Tayla. “Whenever I tried to fight back, chances were I broke something on me before I even scratched them.”
“And people just let it happen?”, Tayla asked in disbelief. “Our schools have got to be better than that...”
“That was before I really got to meet Rush”, he continued. “I'm still not good at punching anything, but at least I can make myself useful and nobody goes hard on me.”
“You really played that facedown?”, Rush asked Kayt. “Are you actually playing or going for mindgames?”
“Both, I hoped.”
“Okay, maybe we can still turn this around...”, Rush continued, taking a couple cards and placing them open on the table. “That should do the trick. Now-” Again, the door bell rang, causing him to sigh and leave his chair. “At least that's the last one...”
“No, you got that entirely wrong”, Wiska explained to Heckler. “You don't open up with a big army and let that stand there! That beast's nigh-controllable now, just because you had to show off!”
“Gimme a break, Wiska”, Heckler said. “That's just called 'playing the player'. I should've expected that you, of all people, know what I'm talking about.”
“If you want to play her into winning, then yes, you're 'playing' her.”
“You're just screwing with me. Admit it!”
“If that's how you want to rationalize it”, Wiska said and shrugged.
“Isn't that hurting your self confidence?” Tayla asked. “He always looks like he's using you more as a tool than as a companion.”
“Work's easier if you just go with certain things”, Piotr told her. “Outside of work is a different thing, but when you put something together you know works and then keep on questioning everything, you'll never get anything done.”
“But you don't just blindly follow him, do you?”, she wanted to know.
“As long as he doesn't try to detract me.”
“Let me show you how I'll win this round!”, Heckler proclaimed, slamming his entire hand onto the table and looking like he already won. “Now watch this play out...”
“I'm at the edge of my seat”, Wiska said, with her arms crossed and looking over to Kayt, who was once more busy picking the right cards to play. Eventually, she just opted to play her entire hand open as well.
“Okay, seriously, Kayt, do you want me to win?”, Heckler asked, severely confused. “See, this is someone throwing away a win!”, he told Wiska.
“Look closer, idiot”, Wiska urged him. “She's added to all her forces with that one move. And that's not even counting the cards she left facedown!”
“As if that changes much”, Heckler said and waved it off. “I guess we might as well uncover now, right?”
“Let's see how it goes”, Kayt says before she flipped the cards, revealing three cards each, depicting Menders and Crimsons.
“...oh boy”, Heckler got out as it started to dawn on him.
“Wait, three Menders – and – Crimsons?”, Tayla noticed. “Then she's getting the Cover bonus, too!”
“Don't tell me-”
“Unless you got only Pikers in your remaining cards – which you can't either way – this round is hers.”
Tayla's explanation left Heckler speechless and Wiska with a smirk on her face.
“I told you so-”
“Shut up, Wiska.”
At that moment, Rush returned to the room with Greta, but nobody really paid attention to them as Wiska kept teasing Heckler, Tayla and Piotr were still engaged in a conversation and Kayt just kept observing all the ongoings.
“O... kay then. I think that's enough with card games”, Rush admitted as he put himself into the focus of the room. “How about I show you all my little bunker?”
“What, there's even more to your house than this?”, Wiska asked, raising an eyebrow. “Consider me shocked!”
“Trust me, you'll love it”, Rush assured then before making a gesture. “Now please follow me...”
Leading them through the door they came from and then downstairs, they found themselves in front of a massive iron door, locked off until Rush let it scan his hand. Upon entering, the room they were in trumped pretty much everything else they've seen in his house up to this point, providing a bar, a billiard table and even a swimming pool, amongst other things.
“Did nobody ever wonder how you got to build this in the first place?”, Kayt asked as the team started spreading out in the room.
“Of course not. They had better things to do”, Rush explained before moving on to the bar. “Now, how do you guys like your cocktails... at least, how would you if you didn't come here by car?”

Shortly afterwards, the team was sitting together in the lounge nearby the jacuzzi, munching on some pizza and slurping drinks as they tried to have conversations.
“Ah, a house... that's always good”, Tayla commented. “Me and my roommate are looking for something, too, but she would rather have something closer to the city, and even with all the money we have now, that's just silly...”
“Wait... you got enough money for a lifetime”, Greta wonders, “and you still worry about not having enough?”
“Have you seen the prices for what houses cost this convenient?”, Tayla schooled her. “That's worse robbery than anything we've done so far!”
“Then tell your friend we'll still have some missions to look forward to”, Rush told her. “Provided she can keep it to herself.”
Tayla took a bite before replying. “I've seen graveyards make more sounds on their own than her when pressured.”
“Sounds like somebody to trust”, Rush complimented before filling up his glass once more. “Did you consider bringing her along?”
“Nah. She doesn't like the stress.”
“Well then.” He rose his jug towards her. “Margarita?”
“Not done with that one yet”, Tayla pointed out, raising her own glass.
“...and that's how he ended up taking a break for some years”, Piotr told Greta.
“And you can just tell that to somebody he barely knows?”, Greta asked in confusion.
“You haven't seen that video of him lighting the leader on fire, right?”
“What? No! I'm not watching that shit!”
“Good on you. Guy was gruesome as hell. He even left it uncut when-”
“Okay, now you're getting uncomfortable”, Greta told him, subtly backing off.
Piotr was visibly ashamed, but didn't dare speak up to correct his mistake.
“Hey, I got an idea!”, Wiska yelled into the room, startling everyone else. “How about some good ol' fashioned Truth or Dare?”
“Depends”, Heckler asked. “Are you a five year old girl trapped in a grown woman's body or can't you hold your cocktails at all?”
“Killjoy”, Wiska briefly commented as she sheepishly grinned at him, which visibly surprised him.
“Hey, wait a second”, Heckler said out of intrigue. “I never noticed how familiar you look...”
“What are you talking about?”, Wiska asked, having no idea what he was getting at. “We've known each other for years now!”
“Yes, yes, sure, but your face... you know, with that lighting, I'm sure I've seen that somewhere else before.”
“...how about you stop talking in riddles?”, Wiska said, getting visibly annoyed.
“I wish I could, but I'm having issues pinpointing it myself”, Heckler said, annoyed at his own incompetence. “I'm sure it was on TV... or was it the theatre?”
Wiska backed off, but looked like she was under pressure. “So... Truth or Dare? How about it?”
“Fine. Whatever gets you guys moving”, Rush said, leaning back. “Hit me.”
“What, you're volunteering?”, Wiska said surprised, but then considered and told him: “Alright. Truth or dare?”
“Dare, of course.”
“Then I dare you to stuff your shorts with ice cubes.”
“...nothing else?”, Rush asked as he stood up in the jacuzzi and reached for the ice bucket. Grabbing two cubes, he stretched his pants and let them drop inside before his pants snapped back. “Oooh, that's frosty... There, easy.”
“...man, you're no fun”, Wiska said, getting up herself and reaching into the ice bucket, grabbing a fist full of cubes.
“Hey, what are you doing?”, Rush said, backing off from Wiska.
“Oh, nothing, just making sure you actually pull through your dare”, she said, tearing the stretch wide open and letting the cubes drip inside the front, catching Rush offguard as he started to laugh, first out of surprise, then out of desperation.
“Argh! Are you crazy?”
“Nope, I'm just not done yet”, she said, still holding Rush's swimming pants before grabbing another handful of cubes, taking the fingers from his front- to his backside and putting them in there, causing Rush to hold his bottom in agony.
“Aaaah! Y-y-you witch!”
“You're welcome”, Wiska said, saluting him before the two dropped back into the jacuzzi. “Any volunteers for the next round?”
“Ho-how about you?”, Rush said, anxiously moving his legs as the cubes annoyed him.
“I'm better off being last, so you pick someone else in the meantime.”
“God, what have you done?”, Heckler commented.
“F-fine... Piotr!”
“Huh? What?”, he asked, nervously looking over to Rush.
“Truth or dare?”
“U-uhm... I pick dare.”
“Alri-right then”, Rush continued. “Then I daaare yooou tooo... remember that one song you liked so much?”
“Which one?”, Piotr asked, expecting the worst.
“You know, the one from the – agh, right between my thighs – that movie! With the guy who looked like a giant dog licked him from the feet up to the head and they hunted that girl for whatever reason, I don't remember how it went. I probably would've forgotten it entirely if not for that song.”
“...oh no”, Piotr said.
“You still remember the lyrics, right? I dare you to sing that song in front of all of us.”
“Ru-Rush, I can't do that... my-my-my throat is all screwed up and whenever I try to hit the right tone-”
“If I can sit here with a pound's worth of Zero-C up my loins, then you can do a two minutes long musical number.”
“A-all of it?”
“Every. Single. Word.”
Piotr cleared his throat nervously. After glancing over the jacuzzi, thinking he was going to keel face first into the jacuzzi, he raised his voice and started: “Every night I have dreams, I scent you, I feel you, that is how I keep goin' strong.”
Already, the girls in the round started to snicker, with Rush immediately cutting them short with a handwave before losing his cool once more as he moved his hands back into the water. “Bastards all over the place...”
After that, Piotr tried to continue with the balad: “Far across the forest, And bridges between us, I will come for you and go on-”
Now, Heckler started to lose it, stifling his laughter by biting his lips.
“Here... There... You need not despair, I think, deep in your heart, it goes on”
Rush joined in on their quest to resist laughing at the show in front of him, but Heckler now had to resort to biting his lips to keep himself down.
“Once more... I burst through the door-”
Heckler could no longer hold himself, letting out a loud yipping that slowly turned into comprehensible laughter, catching everyone off guard.
“Wow, was that an airplace passing by or your voice?”, Kayt asked, slowly uncovering her ears. “I'm surprised I can still hear.”
“Then while you still can”, Rush said, pointing at Piotr. “You know what to do.”
Piotr gulped before finishing the song. “And you're here in my hearts, and my hearts go on and on~”
Heckler's laughter slowly died down before he wiped the tears out of his eyes, saying: “Wow... that was beautiful. Fucking amazing.”
“I dunno. I found it cute”, Greta, said, patting Piotr on the shoulder. “He was just nervous, that's all.”
“Yeah, I'm sure he can do better on a next try”, Tayla said, looking over to Piotr and smiling.
“Please, no!”
“How come you know that song so well anyways?”, Wiska asked. “Is there something you're hiding from us?”
“Uh, uhm”, Piotr struggled. “You! Tayla! Truth or dare?”
“Mmmh, truth. Because why not.”
“Should I ask a question or-”
“I'll pick one myself. Uhm”, she started thinking. “I got about three cupboards full of these young adult novels. Like, filled to the brim. Don't even know where to put them anymore.”
“...can we call that good enough?”, Piotr asked. “'cause that was a bit of a letdown.”
“Gotta say”, Rush said, “I was expecting a little bit more.” Then one of the ice cubes popped up from beneath the water before he threw it outside again.
“Okay, how embarrassing do you guys want it?”, Tayla asked honestly. “I gotta see how far I have to take this.”
“Just go all out. Have fun!”, Heckler said. “Your fault that you picked “truth”.”
“Fine, fine. I'll tell you something 'fun'”, she said, with air quotes. “Okay, do you know of Raspberry Queen's Magnificent Adventures?”
“That super girly show for little kids?”, Kayt asked. “My little brother told me he watched an episode of that once. I have never seen somebody hammer that desperately on a remote control before.”
“Oooh, this starts getting good”, Wiska said, rubbing her hands. “Okay, dear, what about this show?”
“See, my roommate talked me into watching a couple episodes with her once, and it turned out that I really like it.”
“We're getting there, girl”, Wiska told her. “But it's not quite what I want to hear yet.”
“Hold on, I'm not done yet”, Tayla told her. “Now, a couple months ago, the ComCon was in town and, we wanted to go there, but we decided to go a step further and- you know what, I'll just show you”, she said, turning around to the back of the jacuzzi and pulled out her phone. “Now where I have saved that picture? Ah, here we go”, she said, tapping one last time before turning the phone to the rest of the team. “You see, they offered cosplayers a discount for the tickets and-”
“Holy shit, I didn't expect you to go – this – far”, Wiska said in surprise. “Also, your threading needs some work.”
“How come you can notice that from a picture this small?”, Heckler said, leaning forward. “I'd have figured they bought those, not made them themselves!”
“And nobody minded you two walking around like that?”, Rush asked.
“Nah. If anything, we were fitting in perfectly. Problem was we had to wear those on our way there and back home and... let's say we got some funny looks and keep it at that.”
“...I got nothing to add”, Rush said, raising his arms. “Okay, that's good enough. Your turn to pick someone now.”
“Uhmmm”, Tayla said, looking over to Kayt. “How 'bout you?”
“Sure thing”, Kayt replied. “I'm picking 'truth'.”
“This better be good”, Rush said before another ice cube popped out that he threw out of the jacuzzi.
“Mmmh, what could I tell you...”, Kayt wondered, tapping her cheek. “Oh, I know! You're gonna love this!”
“Does it involve you in a nice costume?”, Heckler asked. “'cause I sure wanna see that.”
“Well”, she said, “it goes there, but it's not what you expect.” She breathed in. “A couple years back when I was still in school, I was a little bit behind on the points to advance to the next grade because geography and maths really hated me that year. But because I wasn't bad enough to repeat a year, they offered me to let me transfer anyways if I did something for the school spirit... so they made me mascot of their bora team.”
“That... is unusual, yes, but embarrassing?”, Tayla noted.
“I forgot to mention how I looked in the costume, didn't I?”, Kayt explained to her. “Because here's where it gets really sad. The costume was a little bit... different from what you expect. First, it wasn't bipedal. Second, our mascot was a chiroprid, of all things.”
“What, those giant bugs living off of garbage?”, Piotr said.
“The headteacher thought it'd help to “stand out”, so to speak. That's not even the best bit, however. Last, but not least... I had to dance in that thing, and it wasn't just sidestepping and flailing my arms around, either.”
“Okay, I gotta see this”, Rush commented, pulling out a small tablet and moving his finger all over the place. “Chiroprid... mascot... dance... ah, here we go!”, Rush said. “Wow, quite some people saw that-” He didn't get further because he was busy stifling his snickering. “Wo-wow, the-they re-re-really-” Holding back a burst of laughter, he continued. “Somebo-body sure loo-ks like he-he needs to get sue- this is the stu-stupidest, fuck-” Further he didn't get, as he put it aside and tried to calm down. “Oh, oh my...”
“Good enough, then?”, Kayt asked.
“Good enough?”, Rush said, exasperated. “Good enough, she asks!” He was flaying backwards, almost getting sucked back into the laughter. “Good enough!” After catching a deep breath, he replied: “But yes. Good enough.”
“Wait, I wanna see it, too!”, Heckler stopped them.
“Fine, here you go”, Rush said and handed him the tablet. “This might take a while if everyone wants a go. Kayt, pick your victim.”
Kayt quickly glanced over who was still left before she decided to pick Greta, who sat to her left. “Truth or dare, Greta?”
“...gimme the dare”, Greta told her, slowly leaning into the water. “Got nothin' to admit.”
“Are you alright?”, Kayt wondered. “You seem a bit... down.”
“No, it's nothing...”, Greta waved it off. “I'm just a bit... tired, that's all.”
“That's a bit too early, don't you think?”, Rush asked. “The night's barely started!”
“Well, you got it easy”, Greta said, pointing at yet another ice cube that popped onto the surface. “Have we got something with coffeine?”
“Right behind you is a bottle of Essenz”, Rush pointed out. “Don't drink too much of it; it's the extra strong version.”
As Greta pulled out the bottle, Kayt wondered if she was ready for something bigger. Concerned, she turned to her and asked: “Do you want me to go easy on you, then I don't want-”
“Hey, don't treat me like I'm your little princess”, Greta stopped her, opening the bottle with her finger and letting its insides run into her mouth. “Dish it out, I can take it.”
“How about... something ballbreakingly hard?”, Kayt suggested.
“I don't see any balls you can break”, Greta joked. “Do you?”
Kayt smirked for a moment before she rose her hands. “Alright, gets yours out, too. It's time for a little challenge.”
“What, you'll play that kid's game?”, Wiska asked. “Gimme a break! What's the fun in that?”
“You'll get to watch us being silly”, Kayt noted. “Though I guess we could have a penalty of sorts if we keep failing-”
“The penalty'll be that we'll have something to laugh at”, Tayla said. “Now get going!”
“Uhm”, Greta wondered, “what exactly am I supposed to do here? We gonna sing a song to this or something?”
“You know 'The Cycle'?”, Kayt asked. “We'll do that.”
“Anybody got earplugs?”, Wiska wondered. “Cause I ain't list'nin to that one.”
“What, you don't like nursery rhymes?”, Rush joked.
“How about you keep fishing out those cubes while I pretend I didn't hear that?”, Wiska asked. “The less I say about it, the better.”
“Okay, here goes... “ Kayt put her right hand in front of her like a plate and rose the other. They then engaged in the clapping, with their hands moving in all sorts of directions until Greta accidently slapped Kayt's forehead, causing them to stop. “No, that's not how it goes! It's left side, right side and then middle, not left side, middle, right side!”
“Oh, sorry”, Greta said. “The song just threw me off, that's all.”
“What, why?”
“...you might wanna get your voice checked, is what I'm saying.”
Kayt ignored that statement before they had another go, with Kayt more concentrated and Greta more nervous. It was only a matter of time until they stopped again.
“We already got that part right earlier!”, Kayt wondered.
“How could we?”, Greta asked. “We're further into it than last time!”
“But it's the same movement as in the second verse!”, Kayt explained.
“You're not as funny when you're bickering with each other”, Rush told them. “Now get it right for once so I can laugh again.”
Determined, Kayt and Greta turned to each other, nodded, and started the routine once more, this time getting through without trouble and finishing with their fists pressing against each other. They then turned to the rest and bowed, each of them looking with varying degrees of interest in the matter.
“Your turn now, Heckler”, Greta said. “Truth or dare?”
“I~'ll tell you somethin'”, Heckler decided. “But it's not pretty. For those with faint hearts, I'd suggest you leave the room or else-”
“Get on with it!”, Rush intervened.
“Fine, fine, just lemme set the stage”, Heckler urged him. “So, a couple years ago, me and some of my buddies went to a Lunarium festival. Really exciting, I tell you. Now, the people organizing that event, for some reason, decided that their Conjora cocktails had to be especially cheap, so we kept buying them.”
“Is that story going to end with “I ran somebody over”?”, Rush asked.
“I don't know... the police didn't say anything specific. But I'm getting ahead of myself. So, we kept buying Conjoras and all of the sudden this tune starts playing in the background and I'm like “Am I that dense already?” but the others assured me they heard it, too. So they sent me out to check what it was and I – think – it was an icecream truck. My memory's already pretty fuzzy, and I thought it was something entirely different back then, so who knows. What exactly, I don't remember, but I did break in and go on a rampage because everything was so super freaky looking.”
“It's worse than “I ran somebody over”, isn't it?”, Wiska wondered.
“Well, when some guys tried to contain me, I thought they were going to drag me to hell, so I fought even harder to get out of their grip. Then I ended up running straight through a metal door and it's about here where I don't remember anything else. I heard I stumbled through the streets some more and mumbling about sticks and chocolate sauce, but nothing else.”
“...I refuse to believe that that's real”, Rush said, reaching out for his tablet. “Lunarium... drunk maniac... I mean, that had to have been in the news at some point?”
“Nope, not a word”, Heckler said and shook his head. “But one of my buds told me recently he might actually have photos of the incident. If you really want...”
“If anything, the story was... something”, Tayla admitted. “Doesn't sound like something one could come up with on the spot and stay straight while telling the story.”
“That's life, dear”, Heckler said and shrugged before turning to Wiska. “One last to go, eh...”
Wiska glanced nervously to him as he was about to ask the final question. But for a moment he stopped and then turned to the round.
“I'm suggesting a little rule change.”
All of them looked surprised as he said it, especially Wiska.
“And what is this little rule change of yours?”, Greta wanted to know.
“Well, given that Wiska started this little game to begin with and got spared for so long... I want to choose myself if she gets a truth or a dare. Skipping a step, if you will.”
“What? No!”, Wiska intervened. “Why do you want to decide that?”
“To keep things fresh, of course”, Heckler said. “Don't worry, it's no biggie for you. I just think there's something interesting about you that I'm sure the others would like to know as well.”
“What are you talking about?”, Piotr asked with a raised eyebrow.
“You'll see. Just give me the time.” Heckler then turned to Wiska and said: “So, I was thinking for a bit about who or what you are for a bit now, and I think I figured out what it is. So, if you please answer a couple questions for me...”
Wiska gulped.
“One: Have you regularly been in front of a camera?”
“...yes”, Wiska admitted. “For multiple years, actually.”
“Two: Were you a celebrity of sorts?”
“Depends on whether or not you'd call that being a celebrity”, Wiska asked and shrugged.
“And now my third, and last, question”, Heckler said, dramatically. “Why did you decide to go with that pseudonym? Did you really expect people wouldn't catch on?”
“Alright! I admit it!”, Wiska said, throwing her arms out of the water. “I've been in porn. Are you happy now?”
Everyone reacted shocked, but most of all Heckler.
“Wait... did you say porn?”, he asked.
“Yes! That just came out of my mouth! Where else could I have been? On TV?”
“...that's why I asked”, Heckler told her, nervously. “Because a couple years back, Borash News had a newscaster who looked almost exactly like you did.”
“You're fucking kidding me, right?”, Wiska asked.
“Rush, search for Goria Zepek”, he asked. “Spelled exactly like you say it.”
“...ria...Ze...pek- ah, here we go!”, Rush said and turned the tablet around. It was a picture of a woman who looked almost exactly like Wiska, though her face was slightly slimmer, as was her entire body build. Seeing that picture, Wiska felt like slowly sinking into the water, out of shame.
“So, porn actress, eh?”, Heckler asked.
“Shut up”, Wiska told him. “I said enough.”
“Awww, don't be so grumpy”, Heckler replied, caressing her head while the rest of her body was fully underwater. “Fine, you got taped screwing guys and paid for it. What do you want me to do?”
“Reverse time and not ask me that question?”, Wiska snappily replied.

A bit later, the group had been sitting on the table, playing cards, as Kayt emerged from the locker room, still drying her head with a towel. As she spotted the rest sitting there, with Piotr sitting there with his coat hanging off the chair and Heckler without pants, she approached them and asked:
“Strip poker?”
“Yup”, Heckler said. “And Tayla keeps getting the good cards.”
“Can't hoard all that luck for yourself, can you?”, she replied, knocking her cards on the table.
“Where are Rush and Greta? I thought they got out of the locker room already?”
“Rush said they had some business on the balcony”, Piotr replied. “Nothing else.”
“Now come, Kayt, join the girls' team!”, Wiska encouraged her. “If you join in, it'll be a piece of cake undressing them all!”
“Nah, not yet”, Kayt replied with a smile. “I'll be back in a moment.”
She then left the table, only to hear Heckler yell: “Jackpot!”, followed by Wiska going: “Oh, come on!” Chuckling, she approached the balcony, where she saw Rush and Greta have a chat, holding drinks in their hands and being illuminated by the town below. She couldn't understand what they were talking about from this far, but she didn't miss Greta embracing Rush, which he willingly joined in on. Rush then told her one last thing while turning to the door back inside, before quietly passing by Kayt. Interested in seeing what happened, she stepped outside as well, with Greta almost bumping into her.
“Kayt?”, Greta wondered, holding her drink with both hands. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing”, Kayt admitted.
“...did you eavesdrop on us?”, Greta interrogated her.
“If 'watching you talk' is the same thing, then yes.” Kayt then proceeded to approach the edge of the balcony, leaning against the railing and watching down town. “So pretty...”
“So, does that mean you saw us... hug?”, Greta continued.
“Mhm. Why, is there something I missed?”
“Well, I don't think I'm ready to tell this to everyone yet-”
“Then just say it to me”, Kayt replied. “I'll keep quiet.”
“...how quiet? I gotta know.”
“'I'd rather sew my mouth shut than say it' shut. How does that sound?”
“Promise?”, Greta asked, raising her little finger.
“Promise.” Kayt took one of her fingers and clinged it into Greta's, making her feel more confident. “Now it's your turn.”
“Where do I start... It began a couple months ago, before I even knew about the heists. That day, I did my job as usual, filing data, improving security measurements, all that stuff. At the end of the day, my boss calls me in, and that already made me wary because he rarely does that. So I sit in his office and he spends ten minutes telling me about my achievements before he says that 'I'm afraid we can't keep you any longer'.”
“I know, but that's far from the lowest point. So, he explains to me that they need me out of there that very day, that they can't pay me for the rest of the month, that I should come back tomorrow to clean my desk... and whenever I asked why all of the sudden, he just evaded the question.”
“Sounds like a peach”, Kayt said. “Why would you work for this dick in the first place?”
“In the end, it was all about the money, but then I didn't even have that anymore. Anyways, that incident caught me so frontally that it left me so stunted that the weirdest thoughts started popping up in my mind, to the point where... I wanted to end it.”
Shocked, Kayt turned over. “You can't be serious.”
“The worst thing about it is that I didn't have that thought for the first time”, Greta admitted. “Years ago, I already got dangerously close to letting myself bleed out, but all that ended up happening was that I fell unconscious. So, this time, I wanted to go further than that. Tied myself a noose, prepared the chair and jumped. And then he came.”
“You mean Rush?”
“He was the first thing I saw when I woke up. Asked if I had lost my mind, but he quickly dialed back and asked how that could've happened. We sat together for a while, drank water and talked, and that's when he suggested I help him go on that heist, together with other people. I thought I turned mental at some point, but... Nope, I'm still here.”
Kayt, for a bit, only stared towards the city, digesting what Greta told her, as the sterlar let her mind wander, still standing there with her drink.
“Guess we can all be lucky to have Rush in our lives”, Kayt eventually said. “But I didn't expect him to actually save lives with this.”
“How come?”, Greta asked.
“Well, with his whole “underground crime boss” shtick... you know what, nevermind”, Kayt cut herself short. “Should we go back inside?”
“Just two more minutes”, Greta suggested. “I didn't look at the skyline yet.”

The next morning, Kayt entered her house, holding her head as she pressed herself through the doorframe. “I'm hooome~”, she yelled as the door went shut right behind her. Jay was on his way from their bedroom, looking surprised.
“Mornin', hunny”, he cheerfully greeted her before walking up to her, helping her to take off her jacket. “And, how was the night?”
“Honest answer?”, Kayt asked, raising an eyebrow.
“What, you got some dark secrets to hide?”, Jay chuckled. “C'mon, hit me.”
“Alright. Because you said Yes”, she mumbled. “T'was a lot of fun, but... you know, some alcohol and half of them were practically naked anyways-”
“Ah, I see”, Jay interrupted her. “You've been trying out some guys.”
“Yyyes, basically”, Kayt admitted.
“And, were they better than me?” Jay went closer to her, taking her into his arms.
“They were... different”, Kayt said with a suggestive undertone. “I'm sure you could learn one or two things from them.”
“And I'm still on top?”, Jay asked and smiled.
“In the long run, I like them more when they're soft”, Kayt replied. “Now can you help me into the bedroom? I wanna take a nap?”
“Hahaha, sure”, Jay said, taking his arm under her shoulder and carrying her through the room.
“Say, did Sven go to bed in time yesterday?”, Kayt wondered.
“Well, about that...”

Ray felt cold as he got out of his car, approaching a small, cozy home lying ahead of him. Small lights were burning in the windows, but few signs that somebody was actually inside. He knew better, though, as he went to the door and knocked. He waited a few moments before somebody opened him. It was Milana, formerly dressed and expecting him.
"Ray! Nice to see you."
"Nice to see you, too", Ray admitted as he walked inside.
"Where have you been all this time?", she asked while closing the door. "We wanted to meet half an hour ago."
"I forgot how nasty traffic can be today", he told her. "Almost wanted to leave my car in the middle of the road and walk all the way over here."
"Why take the car at all?", Milana wondered. "You knew what day it was today."
"Because they took my shortcuts away without telling me about it", Ray said while hanging up his jacket. "How about we do something fun now?"
"Was about to ask that", Milana said, smiling. "Everything's in place in the kitchen. We can start whenever you want."
"Even your spicy cream sauce?", Ray asked with anticipation. "I can already smell..."
"I'd never forget about that, of all things", Milana replied. "You can even help me make it from scratch!"
"And... can I try while we're cooking?", Ray asked, wondering if he went too far.
"If you want to risk not having any for later, sure."
"Not gonna nick that much, I promise", he whispered into her ears.
"You sound sure about that", Milana replied. "Then how about you roll up those sleeves and we get going?"
"Sounds like somebody wants to play rough", Ray commented.
"You're just imagining things", Milana replied, giving him an encouraging look.
"Then don't mind if I do this!" Ray then eagerly put his hands around her waist and started tickling her, much to her amusement while making her want to do the same thing to him.
"Hold on, I'll get you!", she yelled before doing the same to him. Eventually, they fell sideways onto the floor, still laughing as they slowly calmed down.

"Sis, the parade's starting!", Sven yelled from the sofa and turning to the kitchen, with some of his toys lying to his side. "You're missing the Giant Machine!"
"Don't worry, I've already seen it last year", Kayt told him.
"But there's more fun stuff coming up", Sven replied. "Don't you wanna see it?"
"Later, Sven. First we gotta make us some fine grilled meat."
"...okay", he said and turned back to the screen.
"Did he never see that parade before?", Jay asked. "I can't tell them apart..."
"I don't think he remembers seeing another one", Kayt told him. "Man, I just remembered when I saw one of them on TV for the last time. Feels like I've been as old as he was when that happened."
"What about traditional Building Day's steak?", Jay asked.
"Pfff... that brings back memories", Kayt said, supporting herself on the kitchen sink. "I only remember that they didn't make mine very spicy and that they bought those mini thingies for Sven", ending with a finger motion to indicate the size.
"Oh, yeah, I remember those", Jay said, wondering. "Good thing Sven doesn't."
"That's why we'll have real ones this time. I can't wait to bite into it", Kayt said, picking up the hammer. "But first, I'm gonna make it soft so he can chew it."
"I thought he was eleven, not one", Jay jokingly asked.
"Hey, I just don't want him feel like he's chewing on rocks."
"Are you speaking from personal experience?"
"...I guess? My Mom was never all that good at cooking", she replied. "They say the first steak should be the hardest to chew, but some of those were just ridiculous. But once you got past that... man, those were a treat." As she started pounding, she asked: "Still, I don't get how you can have only the really hard steaks. It boggles my mind."
"Maybe they got to brush their teeth more often than you did", Jay suggested. "My dad loves those things fresh from the butcher and right into the pan."
For a moment, Kayt kept beating the steak before stopping and turning to Jay.
"You're fucking with me, right?"
"He'd probably eat it with his hands if it didn't look weird", Jay noted. "Besides, Mom would rather have him be a good example for my little sis."
"And if not, she'd fine with him acting like a runaway wolver?"
"At least not at the table."

"Mmmh, your steak was a delight", Milana commented as they were sitting on the couch. "Are you sure you're not trained?"
"I watched my dad from time to time when he took me to his workplace", Ray told her. "No wonder I picked up a couple of his things."
"It's just surprising to me that a novice like you knows so much about spices", she commented. "Your handling of the steak itself could be better, but still, I'm impressed."
"All that talking about food just makes me hungry again", Ray said, rubbing his stomach. "Sure we don't have anything left?"
"Everything, gone", she said, making a motion with her hand.
"N'awww", Ray resigned before turning to the screen again. "You know what I never get?"
"What is it?"
"Might just be cultural differences, but I don't see how come you're celebrating a party every year for finishing a big construction project."
"Well, it's the biggest this planet will ever see."
"But the parades are were I'm really lost. I just don't know how you can take construction workers and make a parade out of it AND have it be entertaining to the masses every time."
"You haven't seen many parades, have you? They go into vastly different directions every year."
"Not really, but I had to work during two of them", Ray said. "That's when the pickpockets really run wild. You can't imagine how many promotions people get just because of arrests during that night."
"I didn't know crime was that prevelant in Kopernika", Milana wondered, picking up a piece of candy and chewing on it. "Yes, there are the heists, but you don't hear much aside from that."
"That's just PR. But enough of that", Ray said, raising his glass. "I wanna take a break from that for tonight. You don't mind, do you?"
"Oh, how could I?", she replied, raising her glass as well. "I was just wondering, anyways."
"Great! To a wonderful evening!", Ray called out as their glasses hit each other, giving out a high tone that halled through the room. "Oooh, nice."

"Man, I'm so full", Sven whined, holding his stomach.
"Don't worry, that'll fade in a bit", Jay assured him before hitting his belly and burping.
"Jay, not cool", Kayt said before turning to Sven. "I told you to chew more", Kayt scolded him while giving him a soft hit on the back of his head. "You gotta be careful!"
"But I did cheeew, sis..."
"Nothing can change that now, little man", she said before lifting him from the couch and putting him on her lap. "Maybe this'll help..."
"Yup, one, not eleven", Jay noted as he drifted downwards.
"Is the couch not comfortable enough?", Kayt wondered. "I knew we should've gone with that other one..."
"No, no, it's almost too nice", Jay told her. "My body isn't ready."
"I'll help it be ready, then", she commented before pulling on his collar, causing him to move back onto the couch.

The morning sun was already peaking through the windows when Ray found himself lying on the couch, now a bed. He and Milana were covered by blankets, and she was still sleeping, facing towards him. After looking at his phone with an annoyed expression, he leaned towards her head and said:
"Sweetie, wake up."
After blinking for a bit, she turned her eyes to him and asked: "Ray?"
"Look, I gotta go back home. I just didn't want to leave before... well, you know."
"Then come closer", she muttered. "Otherwise, I can't give you my little goodbye present."
"Oh?", he went, moving towards her head before she kissed him on the mouth, putting her hand around his neck.
"...good luck at your job today", she said, smiling. "Don't mind if I lay here for a bit longer."
"I insist that you do", he told her, his hand moving across her cheek as he climbed out of bed. "I'll call you this evening. How about it?"
"Please do. But a bit later today. Got a few bigger clients today. Two birthdays."
"Yeah, I can probably feed an entire family for a week with the leftovers..."

It was a weird feeling for her, coming back to university, no matter how many times she had done it recently. The lane leading to the entrance flourished, with students of many creeds sitting on the ground or benches while discussing various matters, some civil, others as if they were trying to get ratings. She didn't pay much attention to it; those sights weren't out of the ordinary.
Her first stop was the information booth, full with flyers and brochures about the many classes and activities to attend, but other than a secretary behind the booth, the room was practically empty. With little distractions around her, she decided to take a look.
"Mmmh... Prehistory... General Art Examination... Physics For Photographers... Chemistry For Bartenders?"
"Kayt?", she heard a voice call her. Turning around, she noticed a former colleague of hers. "Wow, where have you been?"
"...Heschan?", Kayt asked. "Wow, you... you've changed!"
"Same to you!", her friend pointed out. "But... better keep an eye on your body. You're still eating, I hope?"
"Yes, of course. I just don't find the time to cook something beefier."
"How about we go get something at the cafeteria then?", Heschan suggested. "My next meeting won't start for another hours."
"And you're here already?"
"The early bird catches the worm, right?", Heschan replied, smiling.

A short walk to the cafeteria later and sitting in front of a nice, if weird looking meal, Kayt asked: "Shouldn't you have your diploma by now?"
"Finished it last semester, but there's things I still got to do. They're really stingy about handing in paper A with stamp B at booth C at a time used to solve this quadratic equation..."
"Wow, sounds awful."
"Eh, all you can do is go with the flow", she admitted. "Now back to you. You've been off the radar for years now. What exactly happened?"
"I... had family matters to attend", Kayt admitted, trying to stay as vague as she could. "Long story short, I no longer had funding and my little brother and I had to look elsewhere. So I had no choice but to drop out."
"No choice?", Heschan asked confused. "You were just missing the money, right?"
"Well, money and a place to live in...", Kayt revealed, feeling awkward.
"Why didn't you apply for the social service program, then?"
"Social what now?", Kayt asked, thinking she misheard.
"If you were off this badly, they could've offered you to pay your semesters and a place for you two to live. I've been in one of those ones. They're really cozy, actually."
"And they can afford that? The classes aren't really cheap."
"Not many people apply because they'd rather keep quiet about it. You know, cutting costs short and stuff. But they do have to offer it, and with a case like yours, they'd definitely have to give in."
"That's... news to me", Kayt said, feeling increasingly awkward. "At least I don't have to look into that anymore. If everything goes well, I'll go back into studying again in a couple months."
"Oh? Did your family issues settle down again?"
"Yeah", Kayt said, looking to the side. "It's been a tough time, but I can finally breathe again."
"Any plans where you want to start?", Heschan wondered. "They added a couple new interesting things while you were gone."
"I know... I've seen them", Kayt replied, feeling less and less eager to talk with her.
"And, did any of them interest you?"
"No, they seem too weird for my taste..."
"...are you alright?", Heschan asked.
"I'm just getting this funny feeling...", Kayt replied and got off her chair. "Thanks for the invitation, but I just remembered there was something. I... I'll call you, okay? You got my number."
"O... kay then", Heschan replied befuddled as Kayt left her at the table. "Must be the poverty."

And here be the final part:

Their meet-up spot had changed again, this time leading Kayt down to a basement and having her follow a faint climpse of light at the end of the staircase. She could make out that there were voices, but she didn't understand what they were saying yet. Reaching the door, she quickly knocked a short rhythm on it before hearing Heckler's voice, loud and clear.
“The weather's pretty chill tonight...”
“Yes, and I heard the rain is boiling.”
The door then opened, giving way to a smaller room. The rest of the team was already sitting around the table and talking, aside from Greta, who was busy staring on a phone screen.
“You're late again”, Heckler commented. “Did you get stuck in the traffic?”
“Kind of. I didn't check where the bus was going and had to juggle with the schedules”, she commented while taking off her jacket. “Has he mentioned what we're going after this time?”
“He said it wasn't the time yet. Something about “not bothering to explain it more than once”.”
Confused, Kayt approached the table, where Rush immediately greeted her.
“Ah, there's Miss Four-Finger-Discount”, he jokingly called her. “How's the money?”
“Rotting beneath my mattress, of course”, Kayt replied as she grabbed a seat. “The money's still too hot to touch.”
“Good thinking. I like that”, he commented before turning to Piotr to his side. “You go outside and make sure nobody's eavesdropping. Oh, and close the door behind you.”
Piotr clumsily nodded before getting off his chair, only for Heckler to take his place. After Piotr was gone, Rush pulled out a box and opened it. He pulled out a long, firm cigar before turning to the rest and asking: “Anybody else want some? The tobacco they grow three planets down the line is exquisite... no? Good enough, leaves more for myself.” He lit it by holding it against a crystal for a moment and let it glimmer, before he soaked it in and spewed smoke away from the table. “Ah, that's another good one...”
“Uhm, Heckler?”, Wiska asked, getting impatient. “Don't you forget something?”
“Hmm? Oh, yes, silly me”, he replied before heaving another small box onto the table. “Little hint: We won't steal anything this time around. In fact, we're handing something over.”
“And they hire us for this?”, Tayla asked. “There's really nobody else, is there?”
“To be fair, it's special cargo”, Rush said, opening the lid and putting his hand inside before taking out a tea bag. Shimmering blue, it turned around itself a couple of times while the others were still caught in the surprise. “Behold, Andor's Desire!”
“...you seriously can't find anything better?”, Kayt asked in disbelief. “This – is – tea, isn't it?”
“Oh, yes”, Rush assured her before putting the bag back into the box.
“I've done riskier shit when I was still working honestly!”, Wiska threw into the room. “You're losing your touch with your choice of job, man.”
Rush started to lose his cool. “Wait, you don't know about this, either?”
Wiska shook her head in disapproval.
“And the others?”
No reaction came from them.
“To be honest, I was expecting more here to be into hanging a sack into hot water, but what can I do”, Rush sighed, spewing smoke once more. “Might as well give you a little lesson on this.” Tapping on the box, he continued: “Depending on what planet you're living on, is not any dime-a-dozen tea you can grab at your local supermarket. To most people, this stuff tastes... it varies between profound and unpleasant, depending on who you ask. Not something you brew up for a nice evening. However, because of what this tea contains and how their brain is wired, this is basically a hardcore drug to the Noza. Makes them see funny stuff and whatnot. I heard stories about a couple people going insane from chewing too much of it, but that's their issue, not mine. Still, you can imagine the people on Andor aren't taking this lightly.”
“And they're paying so much for us to get it there?”, Greta asked. “These people don't cut a penny on their security. No way I can hack it quickly enough.”
“No, no, our job is easier than that”, Rush explained. “We're only going to bring it to the Rigudan Orbitport, and the rest is their job. Doesn't pay – as – much, but after those other coups, it's a nice breather.”
“That sounds almost too easy”, Heckler commented. “If carrying Andor's Desire outside of Andor isn't an issue, then why are we just getting paid for bringing them this shit so they get the hard work?”
“That's easy, actually: The only towns on Rigudan that Noza are allowed in are heavily regulated to prevent people from bringing this stuff inside. And trading there is riskier than it's worth. However, they found a loophole – or, rather, made one – to get it off the Orbitport with little hassle. So all they need now is people that bring them this stuff, and they prefer switching their distributors with every deal.”
“And have you checked if they're clean?”, Greta wondered.
“I had Piotr keep an eye on them for a couple days. They prefer paying in money, not bullets.”
“...I've never been in space before”, Kayt whispered, audible enough for the others to hear, but not loud enough for her to register that she actually said it. Upon hearing this, Rush looked at her and had a laughing fit, leaving Kayt surprised and embarrased and the others uncertain about what was happening, with Greta even taking her eyes off her tablet. Abruptly, Rush cut himself off with a cough and a deep breath before turning back to her.
“Excuse me, that was really unprofessional...” He put on a more genuine smile. “And don't worry about that. Space travel is a wonderful thing... provided you're flying with the right people – but it's not like we can't afford that, am I right?”
Hearing this, Kayt nodded confidently before Rush's smile grew into a grin.
“Well then, any other questions?”

The Orbitport had only been built a couple years ago, but one would be forgiven for missing it given how flooded the hall was with people from all creeds, colours and constellations. Even down in Kopernika, Kayt hadn't seen this many so vastly different people even when the town was at it's most lively, and it was easy for her to get absorbed and lost in the scope of this place. The ceiling capped off about two dozen floors full of stores and many different toll booths, so many in fact that even Rush's head started spinning at the thought of it.
“Could you imagine taking this place over?”, Rush suggested. “We'd potentially have the entire planet under our control!”
“Hey, don't bite off more than you can chew”, Heckler reminded him. “I thought you were better than that.”
“Let a man have his dreams”, Rush pondered before turning away. “Maybe in a couple years...”
“Uhm, Rush”, Wiska told him, a lot ruder. “The job.”
“Oh, yes, right”, Rush remembered.
They then followed him through the mass of people to a slightly more quiet part of the port, actually giving them space to move around in while standing as Rush navigated them through the area. Kayt found it hard to not distract herself with all the ongoings around her, ranging from stores she hadn't even heard off, let alone seen, in Kopernika, to an entire amusement park built all across the port.
“If flying up here wasn't so expensive, I'd take my brother up in here”, she thought out loud as her eyes followed a rollercoaster.
“Money should be the least of your problems by now”, Greta reminded her.
“But houses are expensive! Just 'cause I got so much doesn't mean I can throw it everywhere!”
“If you can buy a house, you can spend some 50 corusts to let your brother have a good time”, Greta replied, patting her shoulder before turning to Rush, who alternated between looking up and at a piece of paper. “Are we getting closer?”
“Dangerously so”, Rush commented. “They said something about a confidential entry to the hangar... can only be a matter of minutes.”
“How many, five or fifty?”, Tayla commented as she glanced across the area.
“If you can find the marked toilet door, feel free to tell me.”
“What, did they write “Drug Trafficking” in huge, red letters on there?”, Heckler asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Of course not, don't be silly”, Rush waved it off. “No, I'm talking about a restroom. Hard to miss if you know what you want to find.”
“I didn't know we were on a scavenger hunt...”, Kayt mentioned. “Maybe I should've brought Sven with me.”
“Kayt, no kids on the job. They're just distracting and noisy and need constant attention... No offense to your brother. I'm sure he's a nice one.”
“No offense taken”, Kayt waved it off before running into Greta's arm. “Hey, what are you doing?”
Greta just pointed at the door. “I think I found it...”
Wiska just looked at her and wondered. “What are you talking about?”
Slowly, the rest of the team looked at it as well, standing in front of a door to a women's restroom. The doors were painted in warm, red colours, but the symbol indicating that it was women only, supposedly white, had been scribbled over with a blue permamarker, leaving a couple white spots just to reaffirm that.
“...oh, yes, of course”, Rush said, his hand quietly landing on his forehead. “Makes me wonder why they haven't been caught yet.”
“Maybe they don't care about graffiti on their toilet doors”, Wiska said and shrugged.

Meanwhile, nearby the scene, Ray was spending time in a clothing store with a chubby bevatigen who was busy looking for proper dresses. Ray felt a bit tense while his friend enjoyed herself more.
“What do you think of this one?”, she asked, holding one of them in front of herself.
“Well, it gets my attention, alright”, Ray remarked. “But I'm not sure if it suits you.”
Disappointed, she asked him: “But why not? It's my size and it even fits my eye colour!”
“It's just that you don't look like the kind of person that should give so much attention to her body”, Ray replied. “Haven't you thought about something a bit more subtle?”
Trying to see where he was coming from, she asked him: “Is it even about the dress? You don't even look bored.”
“Why? What should be?”
She sighed. “I'm sure you'll tell me in a moment. Or am I not trustworthy?”
“But I don't wanna ruin our day together”, Ray answered. “It's already hard enough to meet up, and watching you have fun makes it even harder to bring up-”
“Oh, stop being silly and just tell me already!”, she said, pinching his cheek. “You know you wanna!”
Awkwardly and embarrased, Ray backed off from her. “Okay, fine, I'll tell you...” He sacked down. “The job's really taking a toll on me recently...”
“Are you talking about those heists?”, she wondered.
“The heists, some pickpocket I failed at catching, my boss being a twat... I don't know for how much longer I can take this!”
For a moment, she just looked at him with no idea what to tell him before swiftly taking a cloth hanger, putting it in front of Ray and turning him to the mirror behind him. She then waited for a second for the reaction on his face. “I'm sure this really suits you. Wouldn't you agree?”
Nervously, Ray began laughing, though she could tell it was because of him cracking open rather than him just trying to please her.
“See, that's what you need: a little change of perspective!”
His laughter grew more genuine before he finally got out some words. “No way, I'll look really fat in this one...”

A few minutes later, the group stumbled through a tight, hidden corridor leading seemingly nowhere, only for them to occasionally be reminded with some smaller signals that they were, indeed, about to engage in drug trafficking, be it through a tea bag or some lonely corust coins.
“I've seen weirder things lost in secret corridors”, Rush mentioned.
Eventually, a smaller hole in the wall lead them to the hangar, with all kinds of ships waiting to be flown and nobody else there to do so.
“Keep your eyes open”, Rush told them. “Not that we run straight into their security.” With no objection, they all watched the area as he went back to navigating them to the drug dealer. Despite how big the hall was, there was plenty opportunities to sneak through the area to avoid potential whistle blowers. Their way to the dealer's place went down quicker than expected, however, and so they eventually found themselves in a small plane, where one of the Noza had been lying on a mattress inbetween several boxes.
“Took you long enough”, the Noza remarked snarkily as he got up. “Two hundred fifty, right?”
“More than your planet could ever use up”, Rush remarked as everyone took their backpacks and put them on the ground. “It's even more potent than the usual stuff.”
“Eh, I'll test it later”, the Noza commented, waving it off before he got off his mattress. “Still got a flight to get on.”
“And now your side of the deal”, Rush said, leaning forward. “You did remember that, right?”
“Please, it's that or lead for lunch”, the Noza noted before pulling out a suitcase. “How you get this out of here is your business.”
Rush just took the suitcase and opened it, checking the inside. “Yes, that looks like what we came down to.”
“The boss threw you a little bonus for good measure”, the Noza added.
“How much?”
“Twenty percent, give or take a few.”
“And are there any reasons in particular?”
“Leaves more for us”, they heard a voice from outside, followed by the clicking of a gun and footsteps on metal.
Disapprovingly, Rush turned to the Noza, who seemed just as surprised as they were.
“Don't worry, we'll play nice”, the voice continued as a couple people of varying species entered the place, armed and ready to fire. “Drop your cash and you can leave.”
The only response he got, however, was a gunshot coming from Rush, who fired through his jacket. “How about you drop first?”
Immediately afterwards, Tayla fired a gas grenade into the round, obscuring the view for their attackers and allowing them to escape the ship, taking the Noza with them in the process. As they got outside, Rush told them:
“Kayt, go look for an exit. Greta, keep an eye on the Noza. Heckler, Tayla, Wiska, you're staying with me.”
Everyone caught on relatively quickly, though Kayt was the last one who actually went out as the sound of gunfire irritated her. Her confusion didn't help as she only went past a couple corners, always thinking the intruders were going to catch up with her, she already lost the track and ended up at a spot she didn't recognize. It didn't help that she did inhale some of the gas, making her vision blurry and her legs jittery.
And as if it couldn't get any worse, a gunshot came through from the side, penetrating her right ear and leaving a sizable hole. Her hand instinctively moved up to cover the shot, only for her to notice one of the mercenaries standing about hundred metres away from her, carrying a sniper rifle. Even with the throbbing sound of blood going through her ear, she could still hear her opponent curse to himself.
“Dammit, just a couple centimetres off...”
She quickly sought cover, clumsily pulling out a gun and leaning against one of the space crafts. Frozen from her fear, she did not dare looking around the corner to see him and fire back, only slowly approaching the corner while turning around to all the other spots she could be shot from. Slowly, she got on her knees, trying to get a better shot at him from there, but just as her head peeked in from the side, a bullet strafed the side of her head, leaving a long cut of sorts.
Trying to keep herself in place, she pulled out her gun and tried to fire back at him as he, like her, hid behind one of the ships. With him busy reloading, she figured that she would have to get closer to get a better shot at him, but just as she got past a single ship, the sniper turned around again and fired quicker than she could, penetrating her right arm. She tried to get some shots off, but with her arm not doing what it was supposed to and the sniper's reflexes, she didn't get a hit. She switched her arms around while getting closer, hoping that this would help her accuracy, but with the sniper popping up again and her having a chance, she missed him once more, this time left with a bullet in her left leg. Frustrated, she tried to get at him as quickly as she still kept the gun out, waiting for any piece of her opponent to show up. He did turn around again with another weapon, but before he could fire it, Kayt obstructed the gun's angle with her arm, making it fire upwards before shooting into the man's feet and delivering a fist to his lower jaw, making him fall to the ground. Still shaken up, she attempted to flee from the scene, but the wound in her leg came back with a vengeance, paralysing her before she fell to the ground and passed out from the blood loss.

“Two dead, four wounded, one knocked out”, an inspector told Ray as he reached the scene. “Judging from what we found at the scene, we assume it has to do with drug trafficking. But the details beyond that are hazy.”
“It's like those bastards know where I am”, Ray said annoyed. “Am I wearing a crime magnet or something?”
“Probably just coincidences”, the inspector remarked as they observed the scene.
“They're really shoddy coincidences, then”, Ray answered before going back to business. “Do we know anything else in particular?”
“Well, around the time the fight took place, a smaller ship presumed to be the center of the shootout managed to escape the hangar. We've contacted nearby planets to watch out for this particular model, but aside from that, we can hardly say anything specific.” Turning to the chained up criminals, he continued: “And those guys don't have much info, either. They can't say much about their opponents and whatever blood trails we could find have been preperated to desintegrate and make whatever we could have read out of them completely useless.”
“Sounds like some real professionals”, Ray remarked. “Any idea on who could be behind all this? Because I sure got my guesses...”
“Those heist robbers? It's quite a stretch, wouldn't you say? But even if they were: These people got the expertise, but a mission like this seems severely out of character... we don't know with how many people we have to deal here, let alone who.”
With Ray throwing a glance at the people that had been caught, one in particular stuck out to him. “You'd think humans would know better at this point... but I didn't expect them to get out of their little dome yet.”
“Basket cases can be deceitful”, the inspector urged him. “They've definitely fished out the cream of the crop. It just happens that you'll catch parasites, too.”

Kayt found herself gasping as Piotr hovered over her, calmly examining her body as she could only lie there and watch.
“Don't move”, he explained to her. “Your ear hole hasn't closed up yet.”
“What, is she awake?”, she heard Rush call before she heard footsteps get closer.
“A couple seconds ago”, Piotr replied. “The shock is still paralysing her.”
“Kayt, do you hear me?”, he asked her, moving his hand over her face.
“Y-Yeah, I think I'm fine... I guess”, she told him, stuttering and feeling like she'd sink into the ground.
“At least we haven't lost you...”, he continued before roughly pinching her feet. “Can you feel that?”
She just before trying to move her arms in an attempt to get up.
“Nonono, keep down”, Piotr urged her. “I've yet to properly bandage your bullet wounds... At least that was a really awful sniper...”
“So, how long until we can get out of here?”, Rush asked him urgently.
“We can carry her out in a couple minutes, but she won't be good for heists for at least a week”, Piotr explained.
“Well, that's to be expected.”
“And... where are the others?”, Kayt asked concerned. “They made it out, right?”
“More or less”, Rush told her. “We didn't lose anybody, but all of them caught a couple bullets somewhere. It's a good thing we got bulletproof vests, eh?”
Kayt sighed before she let herself drift back to the ground.
“Okay, almost got this”, Piotr told her.

Kayt and Jay were embracing each other in bed, clinging to their significant other as their mouths connected in unison. But while Jay seemed to cherish every moment of it, Kayt looked like something was pulling her out of it and only going in halfheartedly. After a while, Jay backed off and wondered if he should bring it up.
“Is something wrong?”, Kayt asked and felt weird about being the one asking.
“You're holding back right now”, he commented. “We can stop if you want.”
“No, that's not it at all”, she told him, looking into his eyes. “I'm just a bit tired tonight. It's the job, you know? Just the job...”
“But... you didn't act like that after those other jobs”, Jay asked, showing open concern. “Is there really nothing else?”
“I'm fine, Jay. Really. I'm all fine. Look, can't we just go on?”
Kayt wanted to continue with the kiss, but Jay backed off instead.
“You don't have to lie me”, Jay sternly told her. “You – shouldn't – have to lie to me. Now, please, tell me what happened.”
“Jay, listen, I'm just not really in the mood for this”, Kayt slowly approached the topic. “Today's job's been rougher than the others, yes, but what else do you want me to tell you?”
“We've been through rough times before, haven't we?”, Jay told her, carefully getting hold of her hand. “If you really don't want to tell me, I'm not going to pull it out of you. I just want you to know that I'm willing to listen.”
“...but under one condition.”
“And that would be?”
“Don't let Sven hear about this. At least not yet.”
He thought about it for a moment and then nodded. “Okay. I'll keep my mouth shut.”
Kayt then waved him over, indicating she wanted to whisper it into his ear. He leaned over before she began talking about the happenings of her day, with Jay making some appropriate expressions as she did so. Eventually, as she stopped, he backed off again, looking at her wide eyed.
“But... why didn't you want to tell me?”
“Because- because I made some dumb mistakes, and I thought it didn't bother me as much as it did and that I can do better next time, and now you look at me like you're staring at some zombie!”
“Oh, uhm, I'm sorry, I just-”
“I get why you're doing it!”, she stopped him right there. “You asked, and now you heard it.”
“...well”, Jay continued. “And what will you do about it now?”
“There won't be any jobs for a while, so I can relax for a bit. But I'll probably have to expect that there'll be at least one more.”
“And you want to take it?”
“Why shouldn't I? I have to get the money as long as I can, don't I?”
“...I hope you know what you're doing.”
And so he pulled forward and kissed her on the forehead before pulling up the blanket.
“Now come, we should go and sleep.”

"Did you hear it yet?", Kirk asked as he approached Ray's cubicle.
"Heard what?", Ray said, moving backwards on his rotating chair.
"They found what has been stolen during that first heist", Kirk told him. "The toolbox, the concepts, everything. The guy didn't even really hide them."
"Woah, back off for a moment", Ray stopped him. "From the beginning. What happened?"
"Okay, okay", Kirk went, taking a deep breath before he continued. "So, a couple cities over, in New Galeery, the local police force was investigating some minor incident. Some kids were beating each other up in the streets. So they went around the houses and asked the people in the neighbourhood if they saw anything.
Now, here it gets funny. See, while they were interrogating one of these guys, one of the policemen noticed that he had a funny looking wrench lying on a cupboard at the other end of the room. When he told his colleague about it, who was a history major, he noticed it was one of the tools that had been part of the first Supervisor's kit. They had him draw up how the thing looked that he saw, and it matched almost perfectly.
So they sent a team over to check the house and lo and behold, they found more of the pieces. He then later admitted that he hired those guys to steal them because he wanted to feel like an authentic old-times engineer. He also sold some of the pieces further because they were too broken-"
"And what about the guys that staged the heist?", Ray interruped him. "Was he able to give away data on them?"
Kirk stopped for a moment, having been thrown out of his routine, and thought about the question. "They didn't mention much about that. Only something about how they cut ties almost immediately after their deal was over and that he only ever met one of them, and he was concealed and giving a fake name."
Ray leaned back on his chair as his tense posture quickly loosened up. "Goddammit, Kirk..."
"What? The most important thing is that they can get all those pieces back and now they're charging the guy for motivating the heist and getting several dozen people endangered."
"Yes, but the heist group is still roaming free and there's no end in sight for that yet", Ray replied. "Those cars are still missing, they haven't caught the guy carrying Andor's Desire and I doubt anyone involved with that tomfoolery will be this shortsighted as this rich dude with his weird ideas." He became more frustrated as he continued. "Are they at least still looking for hints?"
"Apparently, yes, but they haven't been successful yet."
"Mmmh... I'll keep an eye on it. But you better keep me updated if anything new shows up, got me?"
Kirk just nodded.

When Jay got back home, he found an empty living room and no signs of anybody there. Looking bored, he quickly hung up his jacket and went straight to the toilet, which, to his dismay, he found to be locked. Surprised, he asked: “Who's in there?”
“Not now”, he heard Kayt say, sounding like she cried. “Go away.”
“Dear, I haven't been on the pot since this morning!”, Jay pleaded. “What's the matter?”
“Didn't you hear me?”, Kayt asked, getting angrier. “Not now!”
“Can we talk about it without the door between us?”, he asked.
“...you just won't let go, will you?”
“My bladder has its limits, too”, Jay clarified. “And I sure as hell ain't pissing into the kitchen sink or down the balcony.”
He heard Kayt sigh from outside before he heard the door unlock. Upon opening it, he saw Kayt looking away from him, her fur drenched with tears and her clothes lying on the ground as she leaned over the bathtub, silently sobbing. Shocked, he knelt down and turned her to him. “Dammit, what happened? Is it the police?”
“No”, she said quietly, followed by a painful gulp. “Worse.”
“Okay. We gotta talk”, Jay explained. “But not in here.”
He helped her to get up and walk out of the toilet to the couch, where he put her down and then sat down beside her. “Back in a sec”, he said, rushed to the bathroom and came back moments later, with Kayt looking as distraught as before.
“Alright, I'm ready. Now, what's going on?”
“...before I start, not a single word to Sven”, Kayt urged him. “You got me?”
“Again?”, Joseff wondered.
“Just do it!”
“Uhm, sure”, Jay said, and shrugged.
Kayt then proceeded to tell him about what she heard from Heschan, and as she finished, Jay seemed to understand it better, but something still bugged him.
“...and then I avoided having anybody see my face”, she finished.
After a moment of consideration, Jay asked: “Okay, I get that it sucks that you could've had it far easier in those years... but, why don't you want Sven to know?”
“Don't you get it?”, she said, trying to be outraged, but not coming through. “If I had known earlier, Sven... Sven wouldn't have-”
It was then that Jay realized what she meant, stepping back from the door. His hand reached his face as he clumsily took a seat, his back arching forward. “Shit, that slipped my mind.”
“Can you imagine what happens if he finds out?”, Kayt said. “I'd be lucky if he'd ever look at me again! Or, even worse, what if he runs away from home because of this?”
“Kayt, Kayt!”, Jay stopped her. “You're starting to imagine things! It'll be fine. I'll keep shut, you'll keep shut and he won't have to know! At least... until he goes to uni himself.”
“I can only hope he'll forgive me when he's old enough to understand... but, given what happened that day-”
“You're starting again”, Jay told her. “Don't do that!”
“I know, I know, but... it's so nerve wrenching!”
Suddenly, they heard a key being inserted into the door before it flung open, revealing Sven who entered the room.
“Hey guys, I'm home!”, Sven declared, energetically. “Did I miss something?”
With Kayt under shock, Jay took over: “Everything's alright. It's just” - he patted Kayt's shoulder – “she has it with the nerves right now. Give her a breather, and she'll be fine again.”
“Okay!”, Sven said and nodded.
A growling stomach later, Jay turned to Sven and asked: “Can you bring her a glass of water in the meantime?”, Jay asked him. “My stomach's upset by something...” He then ran into the toilet, leaving Sven to pour water from the kitchen sink as Kayt slowly recollected herself.
“Here you go, sis!”, Sven said, the glass slamming onto the surface of the table before Kayt reached out for it.
“Th-thanks, bro”, she said, slowly lifting it to her mouth. “I owe you one.”
“Don't be silly”, Sven replied. “T's just a glass of water.”
“No, it's not just about the glass”, Kayt continued. “You've been such a great bro in the last couple weeks, I figured, you know, let's get you a reward!”
“A reward?”, Sven parroted. “What kind of reward?”
“I don't know – it's your choice!”
“Really?”, Sven asked. “No tricks?”
“No tricks, I promise!”
“Mmmh”, Sven thought. “I couldn't really think about that, but they released the new set of action figures for Captain Dazzle, including the Masked Vi- Vitch- Vigilants-”
“Yes, that's the one! Complete with their combined form! But they really jacked up the price and after you talked about not spoiling me too much-”
“Doesn't matter now. I'll get you the whole set.”
“Wha?”, Sven shouted in surprise. “You're kidding me, right?”
“Well, what's a couple figurines compared to all the money we got?”, Kayt said and smiled. “And given how you look like you're actually playing with them, I don't even feel bad about spoiling you just a bit more!”
“Whoa, sis”, Sven said, still shocked. “I don't know what to think of that.”
“How about we'll discuss that on our way to the mall?”, Kayt said, energetically getting off her chair. “We can even get something from Voga's, if you like.”
“...but you said you don't like it if I eat there!”
“Yes, if you do it constantly, but I don't mind doing it once in a crimson moon”, Kayt said, swinging to the door to grab her jacket. Sven became rather weirded out by her behavior as he watched her getting more upbeat by the moment.
“Sis... are you dying?”
“Huh?”, Kayt said. “Oh, no, you silly!” She walked up to him and pinched his chin. “I'm just in the mood to spend an afternoon with my bro! Don't you like that?”
“...sorry”, Sven said, putting his hand behind his head. “I'm just having weird thoughts.”
“Then time to stop having them!”, she said, lifting him out of his chair. “But get ready quickly so we catch the bus!”
Finally getting infected with her enthusiasm, Sven nodded and rushed to their bedroom. Just as he was out of sight, Kayt felt compelled to sag down and let out a sigh.

"You probably already heard about this", Rush said, pushing himself against the table. "Our first client was caught and the only reason why we're still in business is because I'm hoping that our clients are as smart as we are, not the other way around." He sighed. "Still, this next one is pretty much guaranteed to be our last."
"What?", Wiska cried out. "It just started getting fun. Why should we stop if that guy is stupid enough to keep this shit lying on his freaking shoe cabinet?"
"Because even I know when to stop", Rush replied sternly. "That doesn't mean we won't go out on a bang, though. If we only pull his one last time, we better make it count. And I found a great mission for that." He uncovered a plan with a corresponding picture of a bank. "Guys, this is the Central Bank of the Rakann Sector. Has been rumored for a while to be impenetrable thanks to multiple layers of security and encrytions so intricate it takes two minutes even if you have the right key to unlock it."
"No way in hell we'll get through his alive, unless with chains around the ankles", Heckler asked, raising an eyebrow. "You better have a good informant on this."
"Even better: It's our client", Rush replied before putting another paper on the table. "She's a high-ranked employee who, let's say, wants a bigger slice and us to stage a robbery so people won't immediately suspect her. Those codes won't last forever, though, but for long enough for us to properly plan this through. She needs whatever she can use to deter the blame from herself, you see."
"So, what's your plan?", Greta asked. "Charge in, guns blazing?"
"Not quite; they got far better guards in this bank, especially after we robbed the exhibition", Rush told them. "Might even be that they got gas masks at hand... So we might just go into this at night, even if we have to deal with stricter security", he continued. "It's what they'll expect the least."
"Did she just give you the codes or more info on their security?", Greta asked her. "If they put so much importance on being secure, they might even hide where they have their security from."
"All in her papers", Rush demonstrated. "She even gave us a list of how many guards we have to deal with at any given time. I didn't even ask her for it."
"This feels iffy", Kayt said. "If this gets too risky, I'm sorry, but I'm out. Do we even know if the codes are to be trusted and not some trap?”
"Good that you mention that, Kayt", Rush pointed out. "That's of course something to consider, and that's why we'll be ready to double cross them if necessary. After all, they still don't know who specifically is involved in this mission or when we'll get around to do it. She's given us a lot of freedom to pull off this mission, and the bank is still a good chunk away from the police station. If they hide them anywhere nearby, they'll definitely be noticed, and they can't stay hidden for too long at a time because the codes are going to change in a month from now. The amount of people to cover this building is too high for them to focus on that and the town as a whole. There's no way they'll think they're this important, and that's if she's in on the whole thing, too. Therefore, we'll be checking the nearby area to ensure this operation is safe. If not, oh well, we still cashed in more than we'd make in a lifetime. Kayt, Greta", he said, as he pulled out a map of the area around the bank, "you'll take this block from tomorrow onwards. Feel free to enjoy the day while you're at it, but remember – the cops. Heckler, Wiska”, Rush said, pointing at another spot. “This one's yours. You don't mind working together, don't you?”
"Not anymore", she replied. “That was a night, alright.”
“I see”, Rush noted. “I'll keep my snout out of this, then.”
“You're the one to say that”, Heckler intervened. “How many of them did you bone?”
“I dunno, two?”, Rush shrugged. “I dunno, the details, are fuzzy. Anyways, this block. Same deal. Me, Piotr and Tayla are in charge of this block. Same rules for everybody. And just to make sure we won't miss anything, we'll rotate who checks what place on a daily basis. Now, are there any more questions?" No reactions from anybody else. "No? Good, because I don't like wasting too much time on this operation. We'll wait with the actual robbery for a week, because that should give us enough time to get rid of our suspicions. Anyways, you're dismissed for tonight. Have a nice way back home."

Kayt and Greta were sitting in a nearby cafe, looking at the bank while they were busy slurping their coffees. Kayt was a lot tenser than Greta, moving up her arm almost robotically and very quickly up and down compared, as Great took her time taking only small sips as her eyes were fixated at the building. They hadn't spoken a lot since they sat down to observe, but eventually, Greta gave in, putting down her cup and asked: "How come you're being so nervous?"
"How come you act like nothing's happening?"
"The coffee helps. But I don't think it helps you", Greta concluded, raising her arm to attract a waitress.
"Yes?", she asked.
"One big cuppa chocolate for my friend, please", Greta told her.
"Okay then. Should take just a minute", the waitress replied, bowed down and walked off.
"You don't have to be like that to me", Kayt defended herself.
"But I want to, and I think we need to talk about something", Greta replied. "You weren't this nervous before. And trust me: that's not just the coffee."
"Well, don't you think this one is a lot more dangerous than the other two? This is big even compared to the other ones, and I can't stop thinking about the outcome!"
"But that's been the case with the first two as well", Greta assured her. "There's gotta be more to it, wouldn't you say?"
"What if I told you that I didn't know?", Kayt said, trying to steer the conversation elsewhere.
"Great, then we can talk about how you don't know until you do know. Sounds like a plan to me!"
"Ma'am", the waitress said, approaching the two from behind, "your chocolate." She then put it on the table, smiled and walked off again.
"Uhm, thank you", Kayt replied, even though the waitress could no longer hear her. She then tried to get hold of the cup, but her hands moved away from it quickly. "Ow!"
"That's gotta be the coffee", Greta said and smiled. "Now, should we talk about our thing or would you rather forget about that and do something fun?"
"I dunno", Kayt said, struggling with holding the chocolate for long enough to drink it since it kept emitting intense heat. "We can't just abandon our job only because I had a little bitchfit."
"We won't do anything big, just, y'know... check out the streets while we're looking for the men in blue. A little distraction won't hurt us." While Kayt took in a couple sips, she asked: "Were you ever in any of those stores before?"
"The ones around those blocks?", Kayt asked back. "I... walked past them? Looked at the windows? I think I stepped into one once, but even then I didn't think about seriously buying anything. Back then I was so little I probably couldn't even carry that much money at my age... And my Dad had to drag me out again and almost got in trouble with the security."
"What, for looking after his kid?"
"No, because I thought I didn't have to pay for a candy bar and he argued forever with them about who should pay and how silly it is to charge a little kid and eventually they just let us off with a warning... He wasn't very nice once we got out again, though. But a father can only be angry at his own daughter who was barely there to attend grade school", Kayt pondered. "Must be the eyes. Especially when it's sincere."
"So the gaze got you, too?", Greta questioned.
"That's what's going on if you got a little brother to look after", Kayt commented, now more capable of drinking her chocolate. "If anything, he's mostly the reason why I'm doing all of this."
"And you haven't stopped with your job yet?", Greta asked, slightly astounded.
"Well, it's never bad to have too much money", Kayt commented.
"...hey, look!", Greta noticed, looking at Kayt, rather impressed. "You're looking almost normal now! The cocoa's working!"
"You think so?", Kayt said, surprised by her reaction. "I barely noticed anything..."
"Even better!", Greta commented. "Now let's finish up, we got some stores to raid..."

"Screws, screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, welder... yes, that's everything", the counselor announced as he looked at the toolbox spread in front of him with all of its insides. "That was incredible of all of you."
"Mister, the courtesies don't belong to us", Feron said, with his hat in his hands and a couple of the other policemen surrounding him. "I'm just here because the Institute lies in our district and hence, handing over these pieces ends up being my job."
"You shouldn't underplay your achievements", the counselor urged him and smiled. "This isn't just about those artifacts. Your men helped protecting this building and the people in it, after all. I honestly wasn't even expecting everything to show up again for months or years or even ever. It's just icing on the cake for me, you know?"
"Now, now, no need to be this pessimistic", Feron replied, smiling and laughing as the rest watched, including Ray and Kirk, standing in the backrows.
"You think he practiced this at home in front of his mirror?", Ray asked, leaning over to Kirk.
"Cut him some slack; it looks far more natural than usual."
"Still, nothing I'd pay for at the local theatre", Ray told him.
"It's a publicity act. You can't just expect them to play after your rules, after all."
"He just annoys me with him being like he is is what I'm saying. Him being so nice and humble makes his actual behavior that much more worse for me. We could keep on investigating the highway heist and make advances there, or even look for clues as to where those heist guys will show up next, but he'd rather have us in the background as he smiles for the camera."
"But it's just a couple hours", Kirk replied. "We're not losing that much time. Because, a good public image is always nice to have, and we can't have all civilians show up during an incident for us to demonstrate that we're doing our job. And here we are, reassuring the rest of Kopernika's population that it's in good hands."
"Instead of actually making sure it's in good hands", Ray said, his hands sliding into his pockets.
"Okay, now you're just splitting hairs", Kirk critized. "There are still other people on duty, there are still people researching those incidents and there are still people that need to be assured that they don't have to worry about anything. Really, what is the issue here? Feron?"
"Well", Ray said, becoming ashamed of himself, "yeah. He makes a good figure, the people respect him and what exactly does he do to get there? Yell at us occasionally?"
"I'm sure he's got more things to do than just shake hands and sit in his office. Something you should know better than me."
"Yeah, I know, but... he just makes me so irrational. So hard to think clearly when you got so many people putting everything into their work and then you got him, not breaking a sweat, and he might still make as much in a month as we do in a year! It's just silly!"
"And you wanna get up there?" Kirk asked, raising an eyebrow. "Just to have people to talk about you like this behind their backs?"
"It probably wouldn't bother me anymore... just like it wouldn't bother him."
"See?", Kirk said, pointing at Ray's chest.
"...see what? You didn't really make a point", Ray pointed out. "It's not like he's just getting shoved off his position by force, nobody's being considered to replace him, he ain't going to leave on his own for a while... he's got a safe position, right? I might not get there anytime soon, if at all, but it's still something to aim for. And maybe, just maybe, I'll keep my anger to myself if I get there."
"And we'll all be grateful if you do", Kirk said, patting Ray's shoulder.

Kayt's balcony wasn't the greatest, only granting them a view of the patio of the complex, which was barely lit enough to see that there was a ground in feasible distance. She and Jay were sitting outside, leaning against the wall while drinking beer and staring into the light polluted sky.
"Tonight's your last one, huh?", Jay asked, drawing circles into the air with the bottom of his bottle.
"Yeah, they're kinda getting too risky...", she admitted, looking over.
"You mean like the last one where you jumped at a driving truck?", Jay muttered, looking sternly over to her.
"Don't give me that look", Kayt defended herself. "I'm doing this for us, remember?"
"I know that. Maybe even better than you do." He slammed his bottle on the ground. "But are you sure you're doing this for the money anymore?"
"Mmmh?", Kayt wondered.
"Five millions for the first heist, remember? That's probably already more than we can ever spend in our lives! I can't even think of enough things that I want that even make it to a million!"
"Are you seriously complaining that we're making loads of money?", Kayt asked him, bewildered. "I got the opportunity, it's unlikely I'll ever get such a chance again, so why throw out a perfectly good hand? Because it isn't easy? After this is done, we can live however we want! Never worry about anything! And here you are, whining about how it's too much?"
"Look, I don't care how much you're making with this", Jay retorted. "I'm glad that you got this chance and that it's finally moving upwards for us. But... you gotta admit, your job is incredibly fucking risky. The first three were already crazy enough, but this?" He took in a deep breath. "How can I be sure you'll be making it?"
Kayt wanted to immediately respond, opening her mouth, but she stopped for a moment since she had nothing to reply. For a moment, she thought about it, taking her glance away from Jay again, who got more worried the more he looked at her. Eventually she turned back to him and said:
"I... don't know."
Jay sighed, sliding down the wall a bit to adjust his position. "That won't be stopping you, will it?"
"No." Her head sank down. "I've gotten too far to just drop the ball now."
"And have you ever thought of what would happen if you got caught?" The tone in his voice grew more concerned as he continued. "Me, your brother, everyone you know... the money..."
"I'd rather not", she admitted. "Just thinking about how I can fail this... brrr." She trembled. "Know what I mean?"
"I do, but I can't say I agree", Jay replied, shaking his bottle."Would you mind giving me another one?"
"Let's see...", she said before looking to her side and noticing there were no more bottles standing on the ground. "Gotta grab some from the fridge. Back in a sec", she told him and got up before walking into the kitchen. As she opened the fridge and pulled out a couple more bottles, she saw a small light coming from their room, specifically Sven's bed. Putting the bottles on the sink, she walked inside and went to his bed before putting aside the blanket. Sven had been lying there with a crystal in his hand and a plush beneath his head as he read a comic book, looking flabbergasted at his sister as he hastily hid his crystal in his pocket.
"Sven, it's way past your bedtime", Kayt told him. "You can read your comics tomorrow."
"But it's getting exciting right now!", Sven defended himself, backing off from his sister. "I can't wait until tomorrow! If I don't know how Dazzle makes it out of Dominus' clutches while the Puppeteer tries to short circuit his brain!"
"...how many pages do you have left?", she asked him, bowing down.
"Uhm", he said, checking the end of the comic before looking up again. "Twenty."
"Can you promise me to be done in fifteen minutes, then?", she asked.
"I think I can do that."
"You better", she jokingly threatened him. "Or else I'll be cutting your comic budget by a hundred percent!"
With a shocked expression on his face, he went right back into the comic, speed reading it as if his life depended on it, but Kayt just noticed this might be the last time she would be talking to him, so she gently rubbed his head while cautiously smiling. "Good night, l'il bro", she told him, moving back into the kitchen and grabbing the bottles. As she got outside again, Jay asked her:
"Busy parenting again?"
"I'm not his parent", she said, handing him his bottle and opening her own. "I'm his big sis, and I'll always be."
They sat there for a while, quietly drinking beer while listening to the silence before Kayt got off the ground.
"Is it time?", Jay asked, not getting up yet.
She just quietly nodded and left the balcony, to which Jay responded by immediately following her to the door. She pulled down her jacker from the coathanger and put it on, all the while the two remained quiet and waited for the other one to speak up.
"Then... see ya later", Jay said, not knowing how to properly tell her what he wanted.
"...goodbye", Kayt told him as if she couldn't say it to his face. "And... thanks for everything."
"Don't talk like that. You're such a bummer", Jay said, his ears sinking down. "It'll be fine, trust me."
Kayt just smiled as she walked downstairs, making almost no noise at all.

"The day has finally come", Rush commented, with the rest standing around Wiska's car in a little garage. The gate has been made sound proof to ensure nobody would hear about the happenings inside. "Let's go over this one last time, shall we?"
All of them nodded in agreement.
"Kayt, you got the transmitter for Greta?"
"Right here", she replied, pointing at her side pocket.
"You know how to apply it?"
"She showed me last time. Don't think I need any more instructions."
"Greta, is everything laid out?", Rush asked.
"Everything I need is in position", Greta said, pointing at Wiska's van. "I don't need to show you, do I?"
"I'll just take your word for it", Rush replied. "How long you'll take?"
"As soon as she's in, it'll take about five minutes."
"Heckler, Tayla, you decked?"
"At full ammo and freshly oiled", Heckler replied.
"I restocked as well", Tayla commented.
"Wiska, did you remember to fuel?"
"You can check all those empty canisters", Wiska pointed out, directing him to the other side of the garage. "Proof enough?"
"It's more than I wanted", Rush gleefully proclaimed. "Kayt, you'll go in first and on your own. We'll be lurking somewhere on the block, but don't waste any time. Every minute you didn't finish your assignment is another minute for the cops, gotcha?"
"Crystal clear", Kayt nodded.
"Good. We'll be counting on you."

Lurking through the darkness, Kayt had made her way to the bank, making sure nobody would follow her as she wandered through the alleyways and went to her next destination, waiting for her at the backside of the building. An unseeming door, meant for the garbage disposal, sat there almost unattended, with only a panel seperating her from the inside. Pulling out a sheet of paper, she punched in the required numbers with ease until the panel lit up, turning green and unlocking the door. She then tore the paper into pieces and stuffed them into her mouth, chewing them as she stepped inside.
The halls felt empty and looked nothing like what she would expect from a bank building, with unseeming doors wherever she looked and little to no light, resulting in her putting on night goggles to see where she was going. She knew that she was going to come across the guards at some point, so she slowed down her pace, looking past every corner she walked into to ensure she wasn't going to be caught. Getting closer to her destination hidden within this maze of hallways and doors, she turned her head to the side, only to notice a cone of light peeking ahead from one of the other hallways. Immediately, she turned back, her head pounding as she slowly stepped away from the corner and into a doorframe, ensuring the guard wouldn't notice her. But when he came around it, he only turned down her hallway once, shining his flashlight into it for a moment before turning back and continuing his routine of controlling the hallways.
With the way cleared, she sneaked past him and began checking what the doors were saying, with what was being inside indicated with headings written in both sterlan and bevatigen.
"Security, security", she thought to herself. "Where is that fricking room?" While walking down the lane, she noticed another beam of light poking out from a door and thought that this might be where she was heading. But the door opened as a bevatigen stepped out, letting himself hang as he slogged into the hallway.
Startled, she jumped into another door frame, hoping he wouldn't notice her once more. But the closer he got to her, the slower he seemed to become, eventually stopping in front of her and putting his hand on the handle. With Kayt getting more and more nervous, he then looked up from the handle and at her before asking: "Excuse me, but this is the men's room-"
Out of reflex, she pulled a knife out of her pocket and slammed it into his side, causing him to yell in pain as he sunk to the ground. "Security!", she heard him yell, accompanied by short, bursty cries as he tried pulling out the knife from his side, but she couldn't think about that. Hastily, she ran to the light, where the security room was. At least it seemed to be, with all the screens and panels in place. She rushed inside, locking the door behind her, and pulled out the transmitter, nervously sticking it to the box saying "Central Control" and pushing the button.
"Box applied!", Kayt nervously stuttered.
"Are you alri-", Greta asked her.
"Hurry! They know of me!"
"Open this door right now!", a voice yelled, interrupting her thought process as the door visibly rumbled. "You're just making it worse!"
Starting to ventilate, she looked at the door as the desperation grew in her with nothing to lose.
"Kayt, don't worry!", she heard Greta tell her. "We'll be with you in a moment!"
"Stop resisting!", another voice yelled from outside.
"Do you think she's deaf?", the first one asked him, leaning to one side of the door.
"Might be", the second one wondered, standing to the other side. "Or just really stubborn. Either way", he continued, "time to break in." He went up to the door, holding himself against it with his shoulder before taking a couple steps back. Just before he could charge at it, however, the door flew out of its hinges, flying directly at him and leaving the other one startled as Kayt ran off into the darkness, only barely avoiding getting shot by the other guard.

"They bit off more than they can chew", Ray said, frantically driving through the streets together with Kirk on their way to the bank. "Sending in only one guy, into a bank this secure? Those heists must've clouded their senses."
"There's no way it's just him", Kirk said, his arms crossed as he looked forward.
"Maybe, but they're taking their sweet time-"
"To all police cars approaching the Central Bank", a distorted voice called, coming from a speaker. "A car with five people has stopped in front of the bank and are now going in. They're armed and armoured, so prepare for a shootout. Don't let them escape."
"This just keeps getting better and better", Ray muttered. "Kirk, do we still have full magazines?"
"Refilled them right after the exhibition", he said, pulling them out from the side. "Oiled and ready to fire. After you unlock them, of course."
"Good enough for me", Ray said to him as he continued to approach the scene.

Kayt felt completely lost, stumbling through the dark corridors in an attempt to make her way outside, but she felt like she was running in circles, running past many rooms that seemed to look the same. Cones of light showed up wherever she went, forcing her to run into directions where she had no longer an idea as to where to go next, eventually trapping her from all side and little means of escape. Swiftly, she knocked a door open and went inside, quietly closing it – or, at least as quietly as she could with her shaking hands. She sat down on the ground in what looked like it was the janitor closet, filled to the brim with polish and mops as well as other utensils, with so little room left even minor movements would spell the end. Eventually, a voice called her through the earpiece.
"Kayt, what are you doing?", Rush yelled at her. "Where are you?"
"I... I don't know", she shamefully admitted. "They caught me offguard and now I'm lost in this closet! I can't escape like this!"
"Heyheyhey, calm down, we'll help you distract them", Rush replied, with the sound of gunfire and occasional screams in the background. "They can't keep looking after you will all this business going down there – Yikes, Heckler, that's madness – so just hold out until they're gone, got me? Did they see where you hid?"
"Pro-probably not", she quietly stuttered.
"Good. And stay away from the main entrance. They'll just litter you with bullets."
"How am I supposed to get out again?", Kayt asked him, helplessly.
The sound of footsteps closed in on her, making her think they were going to come for her, as she could follow the light approaching her through the slits on the door.
"Didn't she come this way?", a voice asked.
"Don't ask me", another voice objected. "I just walked this way because you told me to."
"Yes, because she came down here!"
"Calm down, I believe you", she replied. "We should check if she went into one of the doors first." What followed was the sound of a door being kicked open, causing Kayt to flinch as she heard it. A couple of footsteps could be heard, all the while a cone of light could still be seen from inside. Eventually, more footsteps followed with a short remark. "Mmmh, nothing in there."
"Okay, my turn", the first voice said, and once more, the kicking startled her.
"Hold it", the second voice urged him. "There's scratches at this door right here." Kayt could hear the footsteps closing in. "They're fresh, too."
"You mean she's in there?", the first voice asked.
"We gotta check it either way, wouldn't you say?"
Out of desperation, Kayt grabbed one of the broomsticks and aimed it at the door, waiting for her pursuers to open it. She was shaking and struggling with keeping it alligned properly, but she could hold it for just long enough as the door abruptly opened.
"Now, what-"
Immediately, a broomstick went right to her eye, causing the female guard to cover her face with her hands as she sank to the ground. As the other guy got into range, Kayt smit him with the broom, slamming his head against the wall before hitting him another time to ensure they wouldn't go after her, breaking the stick in the process. She only got more nervous after doing it before grabbing the gun the male guard was carrying and running off, with tears in her eyes.

By then, the rest of her group was fighting their way outside again, firing at the cops who barricaded themselves behind their cars, getting littered more and more with bullets. No matter how much they shot back, however, the burglars shrugged it off thanks to their thickly layered armor.
"These guys... simply impenetrable", Ray pointed out, keeping low as he fired at them.
"How come they're not done yet?", Kirk asked. "They got their cash! They can leave whenever they want!"
"Waiting for their escort, maybe?", Ray wondered as he went below the car, reloading his gun. "But even then, you'd think they planned that beforehand!" All of the sudden, a thought hit him. He rose his head, checking the opposing force before ducking down again. "Kirk, hold your position!"
"Huh?", Kirk asked, but Ray had already stormed off from the scene, rushing off from the scene. "H-hey, what are you doing?"

Tired out and panting, Kayt slogged out through the backdoor, leaning against the wall as she dropped the gun and the door closed behind her. At the end of her power, she pushed herself alongside the wall to her left, with only a single thought circulating in her head. "I gotta get out." She thought it again and again, still dizzy from the chase as she kept going, only trying to gain more and more distance. But, as she made her way step by step, she heard somebody running towards her.
"Oh, please no."
She turned back around again, trying to avoid whoever it was who tried to get her, but as she turned back around again, she heard the sound of a gun unlocking from behind.
"Now raise your hands", the voice commanded. "And do it slowly."
It seemed clear to her that it was Ray she heard talk, but she could not react to that. Cornered, she saw no other way than to obey, as she lifted her arms over her head and trembled with fear.
"Very good", he told her, slowly approaching her. "Stay good and we might cut down on your jail time-"
The word "jail" immediately set her off as she flung her arm into Ray's face and attempted to escape once more. But the punch did not take him out, as he immediately aimed his gun and tried to get back at her as she ran off, immediately cutting a corner. Determined to catch her, he kept his gun in front of him, charging forward and following the faint noise of her feet hitting the ground. He could make out little else aside from the fact that she was slim, bordering on dangerously skinny, and her being covered in black didn't help matters either since she seemed to merge with her surroundings. Left to follow her trail with his ears, he chased her through the dark streets, catching a shadow of her from time to time. He wanted to go for a straight shot, but it didn't help that there might be others nearby he might accidently hit.
“Come on now, show yourself”, he silently begged her, almost running like he was in trance. “Why did I forget that fucking flashlight?” However, the longer he ran, the more his eyes got used to the darkness, allowing him to see shapes more clearly, up to the point where she stood out from everything else. Taking the opportunity, he steadied his gun and fired a shot, going right through eer chest and making her tumble. With her still standing, he fired again and again, finally showing success with the third shot.
Desperately, she tried to keep on going, making a couple helpless steps forward to escape, but the strength slowly left her body as she loosened up and fell to the ground. She then tried to drag herself forward, but her grip got weaker and her legs felt heavier with every pull, until they became too much to handle as she fell to the ground, slowly realising how awful her situation has become.
"You're not good at this 'playing along' thing, are you?", Ray remarked, as he approached her, his gun still aimed at her head. "Now hold still, because I won't be as nice once more."
She didn't react to him, quietly lying on the ground.
"Just what are you doing right now?"
Then, he heard it build up: a quiet sobbing, coming from her, as she pulled her arms back towards each other to lift her head and tear the mask off her face, revealing herself to him. He did not know what to think of it as he looked down at her.
"You... you won, okay?", she cried out, tears rolling off her face as she tried to look at him while struggling to keep her upper body up. "You fucking won!"
Ray was stunned by how different she was. Gone was her cold, calculating demeanor, only thing left was a cry for help that got hoarser the longer she kept going.
“I give up! I'm done! I surrender! I don't...”- she spit blood - “fucking... care anymore! You got me, and I can't turn back! And you know... agh!... you know the absolute worst thing about this, all this, all that's happened? I fucking deserved all of this, and so did you! So... do whatever the fuck you wanna do!"
The sound of a gun firing halled through the alley, and she collapsed to the ground as her conciousness slipped away.

She had no idea how long she had stared at the white wall of her room, unaware she'd been awake this whole time, but being alive at all was enough of a surprise to her. Still feeling dizzy, she turned all over the room to notice she's found herself in a hospital bed with nobody else inside. The pain in her leg reminded her that this was still the same world she collapsed in, so she didn't start any funny things and directed her attention instead to the nighttable, where a cup of water was waiting for her. She carefully reached out her arm for it and brought it over to her head, where she downed it in one go without even lifting her head. Somebody then knocked at the door, and before she could even say as much as a word, she saw Ray enter the room in normal street clothes rather than his police attire.
"Good that you're still kicking", Ray complemented her as her took a chair and dragged it to her bed. "Wouldn't like to see my work go to waste from a shot to the thigh."
She got a lot more angry at him, slamming her cup back on her table. "What the hell you want here?", she asked him, glaring right into his eyes. "You've ruined my life already. Now get out of my face!"
"Woah, who's talking about ruining your life?", Ray defended himself. "If it wasn't for me, you'd have it far worse by now."
"What, am I going for just one life time?", she remarked. "Woo, now I only need to die once to get out of this.”
"I just don't want you be all confused when you leave this place", Ray countered. "What good would be my efforts if you're still expecting to be carried off?"
"How...", she said as she got more and more confused. "Speak clearly, dammit!"
"Well, if you insist... I ensured you're not going to jail. Nobody knows you were involved besides me and your buddies. All evidence of your connection to this heist has been completely removed, and the official report states you were just a random mugger who just happened to be there and got confused with the real girl breaking into the bank. An unlikely coincidence, yes, and it wasn't easy to convince them of that. But seeing your condition and appearance seemed to have changed their position."
"Wait", she said again, taking another moment to take in what he had said. "You're serious?"
"As serious as I can be without it looking funny", he said with a smirk on his face. "But don't you think I just let you off the hook because you're a stupid, scared, desperate little girl looking for a quick fix. It might have been part of it, but let's be honest: You royally screwed yourself over with this, and I hope you know that."
"...but...", Kayt pondered, feeling that something was off about his story. "If you didn't save me for that reason, why did you-"
"Well, it's a weird thing to admit, really, but... your triade about how I won put the whole thing in your favor."
For a moment she looked at him in disbelief, trying to raise her body so that her back was lying on her pillow, and seeing how he still looked serious, she said: "You've got to be kidding me."
"Kayt, I've tried to catch you for a couple years now and never got you, but seeing you lie on the ground, not begging for forgiveness, but just... screaming at me for having lost. I didn't even know it was you, let alone that you were involved in these heists in the first place. But, what can I say, it was really cathartic to hear that, and your freedom is my payment for that."
Slowly, reality seemed to sink in as she noticed just what he had been doing for her, slowly sliding off her pillow and back into her blanket again. "This seems so surreal..."
"If it makes you feel better, I wouldn't have liked seperating you from your brother, given all he seems to do is bawling his eyes out whenever I see him", Ray replied leaning back. "But the job stands over your satisfaction... and my satisfactions stands over the job."
"And that's it?", Kayt asked as if she were to pinch herself. "What about the money? The damage I caused? The other guys from the heist?"
"Still below my satisfaction", Ray remarked. "But let me give you a warning, and make sure you'll remember it: You were lucky. Really fucking lucky. But you can't catch lightning in the bottle twice. Next time I see you pull a silly stunt like this, I will make sure you end behind closed bars. I won't think of you as a person, but as a pest to be stomped out and eradicated. So you'd do better on taking the money you earned and putting it to good use. And I'd rather not see your little brother turn into something like you, either, or else-"
"He won't. I can tell you that right away", she immediately replied. "I knew he won't even before I went on these heists. You needn't worry about him."
"I'd rather not, but with a legacy like his...", he sighed. "Well then, hopefully, this'll be the last time I have to deal with you. Your boyfriend and the little twerp have been waiting for hours to get up here, so I'll hand you over to them now. You better not disappoint them – or worse, me."
He then got off his chair and walked to the door, with Kayt slowly following his figure before he left, only hearing him tell the sister: "I'm done here. Please call in the visitors."
“...'bawling his eyes out whenever I see him'? What is he-”
As the realisation hit her, Jay and Sven entered the room, holding hands and with Sven clinging to his wolver plush. Despite the off start, their reunion was a lively one, with Sven still crying whenever he only looked at his sister as Jay tried to calm him down as best as he could, only for Kayt to give her brother a headknuckle and Jay a halfhearted punch to the lower arm before waving Sven over to sit on her bed with her. After a bit, Sven grew, showing off a couple of pictures he drew as well as photos of the room he got to paint, while Jay sat down beside him, holding her hand in his lap as they watched Sven proudly show off his school project.

A couple weeks had passed since Kayt could leave the hospital, and everything went its way again in Ray's world. The heists turned up in the news again, if only because crackpot conspiracists tried their hardest to explain why they know the one way to the burglars, but he couldn't care less about such sensationalism. He would have liked more work, he thought to himself as he was on his way back home, but on the other hand, a break from all the constant stress was a nice balance. Reaching his complex, he went to his mailbox, anticipating more junk mail about how he can grow his manhood or send the true king of Rigudan outrageous sums of money to finance his uprising and be showered with praise for his blind faith, but what he found instead was a small package, heavy and bendable and no address indicating where it came from. Growing suspicious, he carried it, together with the rest of the mail he just wanted to stuff into the bin, up to his apartment, dropping it all in the living room on his table. Quickly tearing it open, he found several wads of paper money on the brown paper, each of them worth about two hundred thousand corusts and as thick as a deck of cards. Bewildered by his sight, he lifted them and checked if the notes were authentic, only to notice a small piece of paper lying beneath them. His curiosity peaked as he took it, revealing a handwritten message.
"i dont know how else to thank you", it read, all in small print and tear stains all over it. "but at the very least i can share some money from my last payment. thank you, kayt (turn around for surprise by sven)"
"Hmm?", he went before looking at the other side. It was a photo of a drawing, depicting him and Captain Dazzle fighting all kinds of nasty dudes, causing him to crack a smile. "You're children through and through...", he said to himself, leaning back on his couch as he let the paper slip out of his hand.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang, catching Ray by surprise before he quickly approached it. Behind the door, he found Milana, dressed up and seemingly ready to go out.
“Oh, uhm”, she said, noticing how Ray wasn't as far as she was. “Am I too early?”
“No, is not that”, Ray assured her. “I just... got distracted.”
“Why, what happened?”
For a moment Ray considered telling her, but he quickly brushed that off. “Oh, it's nothing serious. My sister sent me a link to a video and I got so immersed I forgot the time.”
“Is that it?”, she asked.
“Mhm. I show you later. You got a couple more minutes, right?”
“Well, how long will you take?”
“Oh, I'll just throw on a decent suit and pair of pants. Ten minutes tops.”
“Don't you want to shower?”
“I was already out once today. A couple hours without a shower won't kill me.”
After snickering at that, Ray then invited her inside for a moment to get ready. When he reentered the living room, he found her sitting on the couch, looking a bit alienated.
“Sorry about that”, he apologized.
“Don't worry about it”, Milana waved it off. “It does look a bit small for somebody like you, doesn't it?”
“Yeah. That's why I look forward to selling it.” He bows down to her. “Like, right after I move in at your place.”
“If you remember to keep it in good shape, I'll let you”, Milana replied with a sheepish smile on her face before Ray jokingly poked her cheek. “Ready?”
“Always have been”, Milana replied before she got off the couch. As the two leave through the door, Milana asked: “So, what about your job?”
“You know, I've been thinking about that...”

Feel free to chew me out regarding this mass of words, any plot holes or errors of technical nature you can find and whatnot. Other than that, have fun.

I got one of these. C'mon, don't be shy.

"I am very edgy" - Dakari King Mykan.
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Post #3
P Dot Alex

Dumb jokes

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post May 10 2014, 07:35 AM
Gonna bump the thread with something completely different!

I wrote the first draft for that Two Page Tabletop thing that I mentioned in the RPG thread, so I might as well post it and use it as an excuse to give this thread a little bit more attention and see what you guys think of the concept. Link here.

EDIT: Updated the file so it actually fit the two page criteria and added some numbers that might be prone to change. Also touched up the rules slightly.

EDIT2: Final version for now.

This post has been edited by P Dot Alex: May 10 2014, 10:25 AM

I got one of these. C'mon, don't be shy.

"I am very edgy" - Dakari King Mykan.
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P Dot Alex

Dumb jokes

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post Jul 20 2014, 08:01 AM
Time to actually use this thread again. What follows is what's essentially another story set in the same universe as the first one, though not connected to the events happening in it aside from some of the characters reappearing at a later point. Enjoy.

Sometimes, Torjal thought about if he still remembered what it was like to sleep. It's not like he ever stopped; whenever he had a break, he'd lock himself in his "office" – just thinking about it made him use airquotes with his fingers – sit down on his chair and fall asleep on the spot. And like an alarm clock, he'd miraculously awake five minutes before his next shift began, just enough time to tidy his looks and get going to park more cars. Nevermind when he actually went back home and had a proper bed, complete with pillow and blanket.

And yet, despite getting just enough sleep to not risk driving face first into a school bus or off the street and down into the lake, it felt like he never actually slept. It was more like somebody hit a switch on him every time his battery was running low, and he felt so adapted to that cycle that it doesn't raise an eyebrow to him.

Most of the time, anyways. For once, he sat there in his closet, balancing on the only piece of furniture in there that wasn't a cupboard – a discontinued chair they couldn't use anywhere near the public areas because somebody had carved offensive language all over it without getting caught – and stared up to the ceiling, where an old lightbulb would create just enough light to not burn his retina when he looked anywhere close to it. And when boredom struck, it was usually time for his brain to start running.

"This is weird", was the first thing that came to his mind. "Am I dreaming right now? If so, this is a lame ass dream... But what else could it be?" He sighed. "It's not like it could be anything else... Maybe I shouldn't have had that new ham in my breakfast? But on the other hand, I was too hungry to notice that smell... Are those all the sideeffects, though? Either not being able to take a nap or having a dream so boring I'm about to have a dream in a dream?" He put his hand up to his head, massaging his palm. "God, all that thinking hurts..."

At that moment, he had another realisation. Since his sleep cycle used to be so on point, he didn't bother bringing a clock just in case. But now, given he couldn't tell real life and a dream apart, he wasn't so sure anymore. He didn't remember how he got in here at all, so that was a good start? Then again, did it matter that he didn't remember? All it would've been was opening a door, going inside, and locking it again. Hardly anything you'd keep track of to put into your memoirs.

"Ow!" This was already too much for him. Just to be sure, he leaned out of the chair and went to open the door, where a ray of light would hit him straight in the face, much stronger than what he expected. But once he actually stuck his head out of the door, it was like that never happened.

Bless the Core that the corridor that was connected to the closet was never that eventful, and why should it? This was a personnel only area. He vaguely remembered a clock was hanging somewhere nearby, but rarely did he actively check for it – for obvious reasons. And there it hung, at the very end of the corridor, and it turned out he was only halfway through his break. Sighing again, this time out of relief, he moved his head back inside and threw himself on the chair, his arms hanging downwards as if he was dead and showing a relaxed smile on his face.

Though it didn't take long for his mind to think of the implications. What if he were to fall asleep now? Would he still wake up as he usually would, or later? If he didn't sleep at all, would that mean his body would wait until later to strike back? What if he actually was sleeping right now, and earlier, it just took him longer to actually fall asleep? Would it make him ask the previous questions all over again?

"Shut up, shut up, shut up!" He pressed his hands against his head, covering his ears, as if that helped, before he pushed himself out of his chair again to leave the room. "I need a drink..."

Back in the corridor, he looked at the clock again. Twenty five minutes left. Should be more than enough to go to the bar, have some caffeine and still attend his job in time. To keep his mind occupied while was walking down the stairs to the lobby, he started whistling a tune he probably picked up from one of the many car radios over the last couple days. If chauffeuring cars around all day had one benefit, aside from getting paid and indulging in luxury for just a couple minutes at a time, it's getting a good grip at the Top 50.

Around noon, the hotel was comparatively empty. All the bigwigs that came for conferences usually were gone around this time, people that just came to visit Kopernika were too busy checking out the restaurants in the town and the rest was either taking a nap or otherwise busy. But that wouldn't last for much longer.

This post has been edited by P Dot Alex: Jul 20 2014, 08:02 AM

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post Jul 20 2014, 04:38 PM
I like it so far. Kinda reminds me of Ratchet and Clank. You have a good way of describing the setting.

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post Jun 13 2015, 08:18 AM
Gonna resurrect this thread from the bowels of the internet because there's a change of plans, so to speak. Nothing that I couldn't have seen coming, but hasn't been confirmed, either.

Basically, my artist buddy now has confirmed that he doesn't want to work on the comic anymore for personal reasons (mostly lack of motivation and his depression doesn't seem to get much better, either). Now, since I don't want the work to go to waste, I figured that I'm going to basically rework most of the story - since whatever's been posted in the thread is, for the most part, out of date, and since I neither have the drawing skills to draw the comic myself nor the money to pay somebody else, I figured that I should turn it into a fully written thing. Since the one person I worked with on this for literally years is now so detached from it that I likely can't even get him to proofread, I figured that I should ask here if I can get anybody on here to help me at least do that now that I have to make it appealing to read for anybody who doesn't already have it in their head how everything's going to look.

I got one of these. C'mon, don't be shy.

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post Jun 13 2015, 09:15 PM

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post Jun 14 2015, 01:18 PM
Well, I guess I might put this in here for a start. It's basically a slightly edited version of the very beginning, mostly trying to figure out how to not have to turn everybody into humans. Not sure if it worked - since I don't want to spend too much time just describing characters...

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post Jun 15 2015, 02:40 PM
How do you want my comments on this? Can I download the text to a Word file and add notes, or just PM you?

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post Jun 15 2015, 09:55 PM
Feel free to do either. See what you're most comfortable with.

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post Jun 15 2015, 10:07 PM
One thing that I think could be better is that I think the first paragraph can be axed, and the misc. details can be filled in at later points down the line. Maybe a couple more paragraphs into it. It's not "bad", but the initial opening lines usually need to indicate some sort of conflict and/or change occurring in the story. It doesn't need to be over the top dramatic all the time (as this article shows), but just setting up the story from the get-go can work wonders to pull readers in. The beginning is very valuable real estate story-wise, so it's best not to waste it on setting. Unless the setting is the one introducing the conflict or change, that is. =P

The pickpocket's accent was also slightly jarring to read at times. Toning it down a bit while still giving it a little flair every now and again can probably give it the same effect without slowing the reader down.

I think that Ray probably could've been slightly more than a "suddenly appearing disembodied voice" from the get-go too, especially since Kayt clearly knows him. Their interactions could probably also be slightly more detailed.

Thought it was a nice touch introducing the different races of sterlar and bevatigen (I'm guessing the latter is what Kayt is from her little monologue?) with a mixed race couple to have a more grounded social perspective given instead of gawking at them like creatures in a zoo or something, but I still don't actually know what they are, ha ha. No need to go over the top with descriptions, but maybe giving little descriptions here and there might enhance the reader's understanding of what it is they're "seeing" here.

This post has been edited by TigerEyes: Jun 29 2015, 05:40 PM

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible.”

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post Jun 15 2015, 10:13 PM
Mmmh, I figured that the sterlar/bevatigen thing would probably be the toughest to implement, given that so far, I didn't have to bother with properly describing. And like you said, I'd rather not overburden the reader with descriptions. Gotta see how to weave at least enough of a differentiation between bevs and sters somewhere early on, but at least I have an idea how to do it with a subspecies of bevs a bit furthr down the line without making it too jarring...

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post Jun 17 2015, 08:55 AM
If you haven't checked your PM already, I sent you a PDF of my comments. Hope they help.

This post has been edited by Xoanon: Jun 17 2015, 08:57 AM

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post Jun 18 2015, 12:20 AM
Meanwhile, here be the next three sections. And as an extra thing, a new intro as well to at least attempt to clarify what bevs and sters actually are.

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