Lettuce Manchot, P.I. (Penguin Investigator)
It was a rather stormy day in Coastal Falls, the clouds rolling in rather early in the morning and drenching the city in shades of black and grey. From the water-stained windows of the Manchots’ penthouse apartment, it looked as if God were taking one huge piss down onto Core Earth. For Lettuce, however, this day had set the mood for what he had planned. Though his bedroom was absolutely freezing, he had hot coffee and cider set out onto the table, freshly-baked cupcakes on a plate in the center, and several DVD cases strewn out onto the floor, all of them relating to classic detective films in some form. As Lettuce was preparing for a day of sitting back and watching cynical monologues backed by shootouts and sexy dames, there was a knock at the apartment door.. His butler Giles answered it to reveal Pinkie, her mane and tail drenched in a torrent of rain. “Ah. Miss Pie. Master Retthi has been expecting you for some time. Won’t you come in? Let me fetch you a towel.”
“Thank you, Giles.” She said, stepping inside. The old penguin gave her a towel a moment later. Once she was dry, Pinkie headed to Lettuce’s bedroom.
“Hey, Pinkie.” the penguin greeted, sipping his coffee.
“Hi, Lettuce.” She said, smiling a bit. “What did you think of the wedding the other day?”
“Honestly? I’m really happy for Usagi and Kras’hir. It’s making me anxious for when we’re married.”
Pinkie giggled. “I'm looking forward to that day.” She said. “Anyway, what do you have planned for us this rainy morning?”
“Two words. Film. Noir.” Lettuce said with a grin before launching into his best Humphrey Bogart impression. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Pinkie giggled again. “Well, let's get to it, then.” Lettuce put the Casablanca DVD into the player, before nuzzling up to Pinkie as the film began. By the end, Lettuce and Pinkie were miming Rick and his lover Ilsa’s dialogue and trying to hold back tears.
They weren't the only ones having a movie marathon. Kras’hir, Usagi, and the rest of the senshi were having one as well. In this case, however, they were not watching film noir. They were instead watching war and horror films. Currently, they were watching Saving Private Ryan. Rei had suggested it. Usagi had jokingly called it Shaving Ryan’s Privates, much to Rei’s unamusement. “Come on, it’s funny.”
Kras’hir ended up enjoying the film. Unsurprisingly, the beach landing scene was the most memorable part for her. They then moved onto The Omen, followed by a few anthology films. Kras’hir held Usagi’s hand the whole time, keeping her new wife close. Usagi smiled. Though she was still scared of horror films much to her embarrassment, she didn’t want to admit it to Kras’hir. The Daemoness stroked her hair as the films went on, sensing Usagi’s nervousness and trying to alleviate it. Eventually things died down, and Ami suggested they add some horror-comedies to the mix. Kras’hir and Rei liked this idea. They soon went through Gremlins, the final Chucky films, and the Nightmare of Elm Street films.
After a little while, there was a knock at the door. Kras’hir went to answer it. She and Usagi had decided to move into their own place after the wedding, bringing Sally Anne along with them. She wondered who would be coming to visit on a day like this. Starhawk was standing there with a smile.
“Hello, Star.” Kras’hir said, smiling.
“Hello, Kras’hir.” Starhawk said. “Oh, do I hear the films of horror?” She clapped her hands together. “How wonderful!”
“Indeed.” The Daemoness replied, chuckling. “Come in.” She did so, hugging Usagi and kissing her.
“Hey, Starhawk. Decided if you wanna move in yet?” Usagi asked with a grin.
“Not yet, given I am living with Firehawk. And I don’t think she could bear if I was away.” Starhawk said. “We are living in vice and sin, you know.”
“Firehawk never struck me as a paragon of virtue.” Kras’hir said flatly.
“They joke like this all the time.” Usagi informed her friends. “It gets hard to tell when they’re being serious sometimes.”
“Did you tell Starhawk about the after-reception you, Usagi, and all of us had?” Makoto fired at Kras’hir just as flatly. Usagi’s eyes widened; all she remembered of the ‘after-reception’ was waking up with an intense hangover and herself as well as Kras’hir and the other senshi all nude. They had promised to never speak of it again.
“Lavabo inter manus illius. Ego autem ebrius est.” Kras’hir said in Latin. “I wash my hands of that. I was drunk.”
“We were all drunk.” Usagi said.
“Can we drop this?” Ami pleaded.
“Yes, let’s.” Minako agreed. They went back to watching movies, Starhawk joining them. Sally-Anne soon walked in, teddy bear dragging across the floor.
“Sally, I advise you leave.” Starhawk said. “These are ‘grown-up’ movies.”
“But I’m grown-up!” Sally insisted. “I’ve heard Mommy’s bedtime stories!”
Usagi looked at Kras’hir flatly. “What.”
Kras’hir coughed awkwardly. “Um…”
“Come on, spill it.”
“I may have told her a few of my war stories.” Kras’hir said. “She was unimpressed by all the kiddie stories I tried telling her, so I improvised.”
“You’re the coolest mom ever.” Makoto complimented.
“I wasn’t scared!” Sally bragged. “Karanak protected me!” At the sound of his name, the German Shepherd puppy poked his head out from under a chair, only to scamper and whimper in fright at the sound of thunder.
“A fearsome guard dog, he is not.” Kras’hir snarked, walking over to Karanak and picking him up. The dog blinked before trying to wriggle from her grip. She snorted, handing him off to Sally. Sally nuzzled into the puppy’s fur.
“You gotta go, boy?”
“BORK!” came the response. Sally then retrieved Karanak’s leash.
“So, who’s turn is it to go with Sally this time?” Minako asked.
Ami raised a hand. “Come on, Sally.”
Usagi snorted. Rei did, too.
“What?” Minako said. “I think it’s cute!”
“You would.” Rei said, smiling a bit. Minako got up and kissed Rei on the cheek. Rei’s smile widened. Minako then kissed her on the lips, before breaking it and smiling just as widely. Rei held her close as they went back to watching movies. Soon, day progressed to night, and all five senshi had fallen asleep on the couch, holding each other in a large embrace. Kras’hir had settled on the far end of the couch, pressing Usagi against her. Starhawk had gone home earlier in the evening.
Pinkie, meanwhile, was still awake. Lettuce was half-asleep, leaning against her.
“I've got an idea, Lettuce.” She whispered to him. “A fun one.”
“Tomorrow, how about you and I do a bit of private investigating?”
“As in fucking?”
“No.” Pinkie said, giggling. “I mean dressing up like detectives and role-playing as PIs.”
“Lettuce Manchot, PI...has a nice ring to it. I’ll have to get up super early and make some business cards.”
Pinkie nodded, hearing him start to snore a second later. She fell asleep next to him a few minutes after that.
Meanwhile, there was a sudden knock at Starhawk and Firehawk’s door. Firehawk stirred, rubbing sleep from her eyes and getting up to answer it. After throwing on a robe, she opened the door. Emma stood at the door, sopping wet from the rain.
“Emma?” Firehawk whispered. “Is that you?”
“Ja, Frau.” Emma replied. “May I come in?”
“Of course.” Firehawk said, taking Emma’s wet coat as she entered and hanging it on a hook. “What brings you here?”
Emma, now dressed in a black undershirt and the rest of her uniform, sat in a chair by the fireplace, using the flames to light a cigarette. “My father is going to be here on classified business.”
“Ah.” Firehawk replied, sitting down in a chair across from Emma. “I assume this business involves me?”
“Ja. We have been watching your team secretly for some time, and this is one of the few times we are directly involving ourselves with you lot.” Emma said, offering her a cigarette. “Congratulations on taking over the position of Black Ranger, by the way.”
“Thank you.” Firehawk responded, taking the cigarette and lighting it. “So, what does Herr Heydrich need from me?”
“We have allied ourselves with Fuhrer Saturn of the Black Magma Empire.” Emma informed her. “Reinhard wishes to discuss what services you can provide for him.”
“A few months ago, your father described Fuhrer Saturn as a delusional madman.” Firehawk said. “What changed his mind?”
“We have a mutual goal: to destroy the Power Rangers. You will act as our double agent.” Emma replied.
“Are you certain that is wise?” Firehawk asked. “I've worked for Saturn before. He will stab you in the back at the first opportunity, once he smells weakness.”
“Oh, do not worry. We are providing subjects for him to create monsters from.” Emma said. “Mostly those in the camps as well as those who have fallen out of favor with the Party.”
“And then?” Firehawk responded. “After the Rangers are dead, what happens next?”
“We move on to conquering the Federation.”
“You have some competition there.” Firehawk said. “The Stormlord plans to conquer it first.”
“....Ah, yes. Normally I might suggest that we eliminate the competition, but I’m afraid that is off the table.”
Firehawk nodded, exhaling smoke. “Indeed, it is. When will Reinhard get here?”
“In about a day’s time or so.”
“What will you do in the meantime?” Firehawk asked. “Read magazines and get your nails done?”
“Perhaps.” said Emma. “Would you care to join me?”
“You know, I just might.” Firehawk replied. She sensed Emma was holding something back, but chose not to say anything for the time being. “Do you have a place to stay?”
“You do now.” Firehawk said. “Our guest bedroom is yours.”
“Danke.” Emma said, before she got up from her chair and hugged Firehawk. Firehawk hugged her back. Emma rubbed Firehawk’s back deeply, massaging any knots out of her. After a few minutes, Firehawk showed Emma where the guest bedroom was, before heading back to her sister. Just as she was heading out, however, Emma kissed her. Firehawk pushed Emma back.
“Let us keep things professional, Fraulein.” She said, echoing words Emma had said to her years earlier, before heading to bed. Emma nodded as she left, before heading to bed herself.
Firehawk was awake early the next morning. She stretched, yawning, noticing that Starhawk had already gotten up. She was in the kitchen, completely in the nude and cooking breakfast. Firehawk walked up behind her, wrapping her arms around her sister’s waist. Starhawk grinned, purring as Firehawk pressed herself against her.
“What are you making, sister dear?” She purred, stroking Starhawk’s feathers and nuzzling her neck.
“Waffles, sister dear.” she replied, letting out a soft gasp.
“That sounds delicious.” Firehawk replied. “I should tell you that we have a guest.”
“Oh?” Starhawk said. “Should I put something on, then?”
“Probably.” Firehawk responded. “There are only four people who get to see you naked, and she isn't one of them.”
“But my only outfit is...that one.”
“That's why I went shopping yesterday.” Firehawk said. “When you were watching movies with Kras’hir, Usagi and her group of friends, I went and bought clothes for you. A lot of clothes.”
“Oh, thank you, sister-love.” Starhawk said.
“You're welcome.” She replied, smiling. Starhawk, after cooking a pair of waffles for her sister, went to dress, putting on a low-cut tank top and jeans. Firehawk took over cooking as Starhawk dressed herself, whistling a tune as she did so. Emma soon came downstairs, recognizing the Party’s anthem anywhere.
“Good morning, Emma.” Firehawk said.
“Good morning, Firehawk.” Emma said. “Are those waffles I am smelling?”
“Ja.” Firehawk replied, putting two waffles on a plate and handing it to her.
“Thank you.” Emma said as Starhawk returned.
“Ah, hello.” Starhawk said.
“Hallo, Starhawk.” Emma greeted. “My, you are looking…”
“...very nice.” Emma finished.
“Starhawk, this is Emma Heydrich.” Firehawk said. “She is a good friend of mine.”
“It is very nice to meet you, miss Heydrich.” Starhawk replied, shaking her hand.
“My pleasure.” Emma replied. Firehawk had refrained from telling her sister about the atrocities the Reich had committed against various ‘undesirables.’ As she watched Starhawk and Emma get acquainted, she thought, a bit amused, that this meeting wouldn't be nearly as civil if she had told the former about what the Party had done. After introductions were finished, they sat down to eat. Emma brought up what she was going to do with Firehawk for the day, which caused Starhawk to ask if she could join them.
“I see no problem with that.” Firehawk said.
“Neither do I. I enjoy speaking with you, Starhawk.”
“Oh, glorious!” the female Hawkian said excitedly. This caused Firehawk to giggle.
“Oh, how I love you, sister dear.” She said.
“I love you too.” Starhawk said, leaning over and kissing her cheek. Firehawk could tell that Emma, a diehard Nazi, wasn't exactly enthusiastic about being around a pair of aliens involved in a same-sex relationship, but she hid her disgust well. When they were finished eating, they headed out.
“This city is paradise on earth, if you can get past the fact that the most villainous and wretched of scum dwell here, even in the law enforcement. For the problems that the cops can’t or won’t handle, that’s where I come in. Lettuce Manchot, PI is the name. The P would normally stand for private, but not in my case. See, I ain’t like ordinary dicks. I’m a penguin; short, squat with a few layers of blubber, and packin’ two guns: one for killin’, and one for lovin’. I got 99 problems, and a case ain’t one...unless your case is a case of hooch.” Lettuce narrated as he and Pinkie walked through the streets of Coastal Falls. He was dressed in typical noir garb: a brown trenchcoat and a grey fedora, with the neck obscuring most of his face. Pinkie was dressed in a somewhat similar fashion, the hat in her case having a feather sticking out of it. They were making their way towards the bar where Lettuce hung out with Undyne sometimes, hoping to find a ‘case’ they could solve. Upon entering the bar, Pinkie saw Undyne, along with someone unexpected: Vesha. “Entering the bar, you swear, you could smell the corruption and booze seeping out of every person there. But Pinkie and I weren’t here for drinks. We were here lookin’ at two of the strangest dames this side of the tracks. One was a fish-lookin’ lady with fiery locks wrapped in a ponytail; now, I won’t lie when I say that redheads are every man’s weakness. But this dame, I could tell she wasn’t into guys at all. Besides, I was already spoken for. The other doll...well, there weren’t no easy way I could describe her. She looked like Ol’ Scratch’s daughter had decided to crawl out of the deepest depths of Hades and tempt whatever men or women caught her eye.”
Pinkie had ignored his narration, though it had attracted several dirty looks from various denizens of the bar when he mentioned being able to smell corruption. Vesha, for her part, ignored him as well. This was mostly due to the fact she was focused on drinking, sobbing as she did so. She had been one of the few crewmembers of the Killfrenzy to survive Malir’s ‘game’, which amounted to picking off the Khornates one by one from the shadows. Undyne glared at Lettuce, mostly because of the implied attraction of his narration. She had recently met Vesha, and was currently trying to console her.
“They were all my friends...my family.” Vesha said, her voice slurred. “I dunno how many times I flew that lot through dangerous skies...an’ now they're all gone…”
“From the way she was talkin’, Scratchette was literally cryin’ in her beer. I couldn’t blame her - that’s what this city does to ya. It can take away your friends and family at any time, and prove that life ain’t fair.”
“The fuck do you know about losing friends?” The bartender spat. “Or family?”
“Buddy…” Lettuce began. “You don’t know the shit I’ve been through, the things I’ve seen. I’m dead inside, the only things keepin’ me together are the bottle and my girl over here.”
“Shove it up your ass.” The bartender replied. “I'm sure life was real difficult for you, Manchot, with that silver spoon lodged in your cheek. You wouldn't know suffering if it bit you on the balls.”
“Is...is this a bad time?” Pinkie questioned, briefly breaking character. “We can come back later, if you want.”
“Sufferin’? You wanna know somethin’ about me, barkeep?” Lettuce said, not heeding Pinkie’s warning to break character. “I lost my entire platoon when we were storming the beaches of Normandy, liberating France from those Nazi fucks! YOU WANNA KNOW SUFFERIN’?! I HAVE A FUCKIN’ LIMP FROM WHEN THOSE BASTARDS IN THE CAMP NEARLY SHOT ME FROM THE GUARDTOWERS WHEN I TRIED TO SKEDADDLE! YOU JUST SIT BEHIND THAT COUNTER, SERVIN’ DRINKS AND ACTING LIKE YOU GIVE A SHIT ABOUT OTHER FOLKS PROBLEMS! SO DON’T YOU FUCKIN’ DARE LECTURE ME ABOUT SUFFERING!”
The bartender stared at him for a moment, not saying a word, before drawing a knife and stabbing it into the counter. “Manchot, I grew up in this part of town. I know what things are like here. I saw my father shot in the head over a gambling debt when I was six. I saw my sister get raped by ten men when I was nine because she broke things off with one of them. I saw my mother beaten to death by a drunk cop when I was thirteen because she was hooking to pay the bills and accidentally pissed him off. I lost my wife three years ago to a hit-and-run, my niece two years ago to a stabbing, and my daughter six months ago to a stray bullet. Don't you dare go off into some childish war hero fantasy and accuse me of not understanding your pain. Now, get. The fuck. Out.” Lettuce was snapped out of his fantasy, no longer a hardboiled former veteran of the late 1940s, but just a simple member of the Nouveau Riche. He didn’t even react as Pinkie nervously giggled and assured the patrons she would throw an apology party for them later before dragging him out angrily. Once they were a good distance away from the bar, she let Lettuce go, before hitting him hard on the back of the head.
“What were you thinking?” She snapped at him. “Do you have any idea how stupid what you just did was?”
“I was just acting the part, Pinkie…” Lettuce said softly after a while. “I was just doing what you suggested…”
“Lettuce, I meant for this to be a fun thing.” She replied, sighing. “I didn't want you to stay in character no matter what, even if it could get you in serious trouble.”
“Well, why didn’t you say something?” Lettuce said.
“I didn't think I'd have to.” Pinkie responded. “I thought it'd be common sense not to do something that could get you beaten up, stabbed or shot.”
“What could've gotten you beaten up, stabbed or shot?” Kras’hir asked, having been walking by them to meet Undyne. Pinkie explained the whole thing, causing the Daemoness to sigh, shaking her head before continuing on her way. She entered the bar, looking for Undyne. The fish-woman looked at her and gestured for her to come over. Kras’hir did so, sitting down at the counter next to her.
“I’m kinda pissed off right now.” Undyne grumbled, pushing some stray hairs out of her face.
“You're always kinda pissed off, Undyne.” Kras’hir said dryly.
“Yeah, but this one’s a special case. Care to guess why?”
“Lettuce decided to insult Frank here by getting lost in some detective fantasy and ranting about getting shot at by Nazis?”
“Exactamundo.” Undyne said. “Wanna know what’s worse?”
“I was planning to talk with Lettuce and Pinkie later about...well, Lettuce being my ‘exception’.” This caught Kras’hir by surprise. She didn’t expect Undyne to have an exception just as she once had with Angron.
“By the Gods…” she said, shock evident in her tone. “You mean…?”
“Yeah, I’ve fallen for the little green turd.” Undyne said. Frank poured her another drink without a word. Kras’hir then looked at him and nodded once. He nodded back before beginning to make her usual drink. The Daemoness cracked her knuckles after a moment.
“I guess I can't really say too much.” She said. “My ‘exception’ was the Red Angel.”
“Really? That badass? Lucky.” Undyne said with a toothy grin. “And before you ask, I’ve discussed this in-depth with Alphys. She likes him too.”
Kras’hir nodded, Frank setting her drink in front of her.
“With that stunt Lettuce pulled, though…” Undyne began. “I’m seriously considering not going through with it. I’ve already texted Alphys.” Her phone suddenly buzzed. “Aaaand there’s her answer.” Undyne read the message. ‘He isn't worth your time.’ Alphys had said.
‘You got that right. He’s cute, but he seems like he’s on another world sometimes.’
‘If we are confessing who we think is cute, I think Kras’hir is cute, in a rough sort of way.’
‘Oh yeah, we both agree on that, babe. Talk to you later? I’m kinda busy right now.’
‘Definitely. Don't get home too late. I'm making a nice dinner tonight.’
‘You'll have to wait and see :). Have fun at the bar.’
Undyne put her phone away. “Where were we, Kras’hir?”
“I'm flattered you both think I'm cute.” The Daemoness said. Undyne blushed immensely, staring at Kras’hir with a morified expression.
“I was reading my texts out loud, wasn’t I?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Kras’hir said, downing her drink before ordering another one. Frank obliged, putting another one in front of her. Noticing the obvious discomfort on Undyne’s face, the Daemoness put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Don’t get so worked up. Like I said, the fact you and Alphys respect me enough to actually call me ‘cute’ is pretty ballsy, I gotta admit.”
“But you’re married to Usagi, Kras’hir.” Undyne pointed out.
“That’s true. But neither you or Alphys have feelings for me, right?”
“Right.” Undyne replied. “What’s your point here?”
“My point here is that just because you think of me as ‘cute’ doesn’t mean you’re committing adultery. If I’m honest, I think you’re ‘cute’ in the platonic sense as well.”
“T-thanks.” Undyne said, finishing her drink, paying Frank and sitting in silence.
Meanwhile, Lettuce sat at the bar of his father’s restaurant, downing shots of root beer schnapps with a groan. No one expected him to arrive, especially as it was his day off. The current lounge singer turned out to be Sans, who Lettuce noted could reach tones and octaves even he couldn’t, which was especially impressive given the impressive vocal range of his species. Currently, the skeleton was performing a tune Lettuce had only recently added to the house band’s setlist: Pink Cigarette by Mr. Bungle. As he watched Sans perform, he noticed Pinkie had appeared on stage, having discarded her PI costume for something a bit more fitting of a chanteuse: a slinky red dress, that while not showing much of anything due to Pinkie’s equine physique, accentuated her hips and flank in order to make her look more seductive. Lettuce might’ve questioned such an action, until he realized that the mare was most likely doing this to cheer him up. And this was something he most desperately needed at the moment. Clearing her throat, the pink pony began to sing, her voice smooth like butter.
“In my eyes, indisposed
In disguises no one knows
Hides the face, lies the snake
The sun in my disgrace
Boiling heat, summer stench
'Neath the black the sky looks dead
Call my name through the cream
And I'll hear you scream again
Black hole sun
Won't you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won't you come
Won't you come (won't you come)
Stuttering, cold and damp
Steal the warm wind tired friend
Times are gone for honest men
And sometimes far too long for snakes
In my shoes, a walking sleep
And my youth I pray to keep
Heaven sent hell away
No one sings like you anymore
Black hole sun
Won't you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won't you come
Won't you come
Black hole sun
Won't you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won't you come
Won't you come (black hole sun, black hole sun)
Won't you come (black hole sun, black hole sun)
Won't you come (black hole sun, black hole sun)
Won't you come (black hole sun, black hole sun)
Hang my head, drown my fear
Till you all just disappear
Black hole sun
Won't you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won't you come
Won't you come
Black hole sun
Won't you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won't you come
Won't you come (black hole sun, black hole sun)
Won't you come (black hole sun, black hole sun)
Won't you come (black hole sun, black hole sun)
Won't you come (black hole sun, black hole sun)
Won't you come (black hole sun, black hole sun)
Won't you come (black hole sun, black hole sun)
Won't you come
Won't you come…”
Lettuce began clapping, drowned out by all the cheers and wolf whistles Pinkie was getting. Sans, as always, seemed to appear from nowhere right next to him, dressed in a rather nice-looking tuxedo and drinking ketchup straight from a martini glass. “ain’t she great?” the skeleton asked, staring at Lettuce with his pinprick eyes.
“Yeah. That really cheered me up, given what I’ve been through today.”
“yeah, lookin’ pretty buzzed there, saladleaf. lemme ask you a question: why did the detective fail his case?”
“...Do I really have to answer?” Lettuce replied dryly.
“because he was a dick.” Sans replied just as dryly.
“Lemme guess, Pinkie told you about the incident at the bar.”
“yep. gotta say, i’m pretty disappointed in ya, kid. i thought you’d have a bit of a better understanding on how to play pretend.”
Lettuce groaned, slamming his head against the bar. “Sans, do me a favor. Never refer to it as ‘playing pretend’ ever again.”
“well, that’s what it is, ain’t it? no matter what ya call it or how old ya are, it’s still playin’ pretend. but ya have to be careful with what ya do next time. i don’t think pinks needs the stress and heartbreak about trying to explain how her boyfriend got beat up, stabbed, and then shot for added measure when he attempted to bust some crime lord, talkin’ like he was some private eye from a potboiler novel.”
Lettuce considered Sans’ point for several minutes, then nodded. “What do you suggest I do, Sans?”
“kid, do i look like a miracle worker to you?” Sans replied, pouring himself some more ketchup. “you’re a young adult here, figure it out on your own.” The skeleton got up from the bar stool he was sitting on...and going to the other end. With a sigh, Lettuce stared morosely at his reflection in the glossy wood, pondering his next course of action. Apologizing to the patrons of Frank’s bar was out of the question for the time being; he needed to let things simmer down first before ever stepping foot in that place again. His thoughts began wandering before eventually slipping into 1940s detective fantasy once more, if only briefly.
“Life’s like an infinite 12-pack of cards, I’ve always heard. You’ll be dealt a bad hand sooner or later, but you gotta take it and play the cards right if you wanna be considered a man. And I’ve been dealt many bad hands, both in the war and here at home. Even as I watch my doll, my darling Pinkie, strut and sing on stage like the wondrous performer she is, the scars still cut pretty deep. And this incident down at Franky’s could be considered the mother of all bad deals, at least to me.” Lettuce narrated to himself. He was then snapped out of it by Pinkie, who was now sitting next to him at the bar. He noted that with mascara, lipstick, and hoop earrings, she looked even more beautiful, though he much preferred her without all that. “Oh, hey.”
“Hey.” She said, before turning towards the door, watching as two people entered. “Lettuce...I think Firehawk just showed up. What's she doing here?”
As it turned out, Firehawk had indeed shown up. She wasn't alone. A man was with her, dressed in a black suit with a bright red tie. Firehawk herself was wearing a red dress, similar to Pinkie, though hers left much less to the imagination. They were both soon seated at one of the tables, both of them ordering wine and beginning to chat.
“I am impressed.” The man said, Pinkie only faintly able to hear what he was saying. He had a very thick German accent, she noticed. “You actually managed to help establish a friendship between my daughter and that whirlwind of a sister of yours.”
Firehawk chuckled, pouring wine into a glass once their bottle arrived. “What can I say?” She asked, smirking a bit. “I'm a people person. My sister loves making friends, and Emma...well, she does too, despite her professional exterior.”
“That is true.” her companion said, chuckling as well. Pinkie tried to get a good look at him. He had blonde hair, piercing grey eyes, and tanned skin. His features looked very aristocratic, highborn, like he came from centuries of nobility. Neither of them noticed her glancing their way, so she kept sneaking in furtive looks whenever she could, continuing to listen in on their conversation. After a little while, Firehawk went onto the stage, and began to sing. Her voice was light and easy on the ears.
“I've heard people say that
Too much of anything is not good for you, baby
(Oh no) but I don't know about that
There's many times that we've loved
We've shared love and made love
It doesn't seem to me like it's enough
There's just not enough of it
There's just not enough
Oh oh, babe
My darling I, can't get enough of your love babe
Girl, I don't know, I don't know why
I can't get enough of your love babe
Oh, some things I can't get used to
No matter how I try
Just like the more you give, the more I want
And baby, that's no lie
Oh no, babe
Tell me, what can I say?
What am I gonna do?
How should I feel when everything is you?
What kind of love is this that you're givin' me?
Is it in your kiss or just because you're sweet?
Girl, all I know is every time you're here
I feel the change
I scream your name
Do what you got to do
Darling, I, can't get enough of your love babe
Girl, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know why
I can't get enough of your love babe
Oh no, babe
Girl, if only I could make you see
And make you understand
Girl, your love for me is all I need
And more than I can stand
Oh well, babe
How can I explain all the things I feel?
You've given me so much
Girl, you're so unreal
Still I keep loving you
More and more each time
Girl, what am I gonna do
Because you blow my mind
I get the same old feeling every time you're here
I feel the change
I scream your name
Do what you got to do
Darling, I, can't get enough of your love babe
Oh no, babe
Baby, it didn't take all of my life to find you
But you can believe it's gonna take the rest of my life to keep you
Oh no, babe
I can't get enough of your love babe
Yeah, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know why
Can't get enough of your love babe
Oh my darling I, can't get enough of your love babe
Girl, I don't know, I don't know why
I can't get enough of your love babe
Oh darling I can't get enough of your love babe.”
“Wow.” Lettuce said, having gotten lost into Firehawk’s singing. “Didn’t know she could sing like that.”
“Neither did I.” Pinkie replied, smiling and clapping as Firehawk stepped off the stage. “She has a lovely voice.”
“But there’s one thing she doesn’t have.” Lettuce said.
“How beautiful you look right now.”
Pinkie giggled. “I wonder who that man is who came in with her?”
“Hm, dunno. Though I don’t like him one bit. He gives me some bad vibes.”
Pinkie nodded, watching as Firehawk returned to her table and began chatting with her companion again.
“Can you pick up anything else they’re saying?”
“They just seem like two friends catching up.” She replied. “Hmmm, he just mentioned a city. Berlin, it sounded like.”
“Isn’t that the capital of Germany?” Lettuce asked. Pinkie nodded again, continuing to listen. She could pick up some more details, namely involving Fuhrer Saturn...wait, did the Zero Girls have something to do with this? She told Lettuce what she had heard.
“...The Zero Girls…” Lettuce muttered. “They were affiliated with Fuhrer Saturn once, right?”
“So what does this guy want with Fuhrer Saturn?”
“I don't know.” Pinkie replied. “But I think it's our job to find out.”
“We need to follow them.” She said. “No narration, no detective fantasy. Just the two of us trying to see what Firehawk and her mysterious friend are up to.”
“But we just can’t follow them into the open like that.”
“Who said we’d be following them in the open?” Pinkie said.
Firehawk and her companion left soon after. Pinkie and Lettuce followed them, the former having changed into more subtle clothes.
As for the Zero Girls themselves, they were with Kras’hir, the Daemoness having invited them to join her and Undyne at the bar. Undyne refrained from telling them what had happened earlier, mostly because she wanted to forget it. Eva and her sisters were downing shots of whiskey and trying their hand at karaoke. Eva was the most sober among them, Thea and Nena were slightly buzzed, and Hedy...poor Hedy was blitzed. Kras’hir couldn't blame her. The Brides had left her with some nasty scars, both mental and physical. Hedy climbed onto the counter, drunkenly flirting with Frank.
That was, if you could call incomprehensible slurring “flirting”. Frank had no idea what she was trying to say, but the ‘subtle’ glimpses he got of her cleavage spoke much louder than words. He coughed awkwardly, doing his best to ignore Hedy. “Oh, come on, honey…” she slurred. “You know you want...me…”
“Lady, I just serve the drinks.” Frank said dryly. “You're far from the first girl who's gotten hammered and tried to seduce me.” Hedy didn’t respond, passing out and falling onto the floor. He sighed, before stepping out from behind the bar, picking her up, and carrying her into a room in the back, which had several chairs and couches. He laid her down on one of the couches before returning to the bar.
Vesha was still with Undyne and Kras’hir. However, she had downed so many drinks that nothing she said was even remotely coherent anymore. “I...think you’ve had a bit too much.” Undyne advised. Vesha muttered something under her breath, before standing up. She took one step before staggering forward and faceplanting, knocking herself out cold. “Yeah...you might wanna take her back to your place, Kras’hir. I don’t think she’s in any condition to go anyplace, to put it lightly.” Undyne said. Kras’hir nodded, gently picking up Vesha and leaving the bar. Soon after, she reached the apartment, letting herself inside with the key she kept on her.
“Babe, you home?” She called.
“Yeah.” Usagi replied. “Have a good time at Frank’s-whoa, what happened here?”
“Vesha drank a bit too much.” Kras’hir said, laying her down on the couch. “She isn't taking what happened on the Killfrenzy very well.”
“I don’t blame her at all.” Usagi replied, briefly interrupted by Sally Anne coming out of the bathroom, a newspaper in her hand. “...Seriously, that kid’s way too smart for her age.”
“You sure you're going to be the Regina of the Neo-Imperium, and not her?”
Usagi immediately laughed, Sally staring at her weirdly. “...You’re weird, Usagi.” the toddler replied. “Mommy, is that a friend of yours?”
“Yeah.” Kras’hir said.
“...She drank too much funny soda.”
“How would you know-” Usagi began.
“Usagi, I’ve seen Mommy asleep from drinking lots of funny soda.”
Kras’hir raised her hands defensively when Usagi glared at her. “Hey, in my defense, I don't hit her or anything when I'm drunk.”
“Why would you hit me?” Sally replied, confused. “You don’t believe in hitting.”
“You're right.” Kras’hir said. “But some people become very mean when they drink a lot of funny soda, Sally. They scream at and hit the ones they are supposed to love.”
“Why would they do that? If they hit them, then that means they don’t love them anymore.”
“I asked myself that same question once.” Kras’hir said softly.
“Everytime my father hit me.” The Daemoness responded. “He drank a lot of funny soda. Too much.”
“I’m sorry Grandpa was mean to you, even though I’ve never ever met him…”
Kras’hir was silent for a moment, before she perked up, looked at Sally Anne, and said, “Oh, I almost forgot! I've got a surprise for you, kiddo.”
“What kind of surprise?”
“You'll just have to wait and see, won't you?” Kras’hir replied, grinning. “Now, I want you to close your eyes, little one. No peeking!” Sally closed her eyes tightly, pressing her tiny hands against them. A moment later, Kras’hir walked behind her, before clasping something around Sally’s neck.
“Okay, open.” She said after doing this. She did.
“What is it, mommy?” She then looked down. “It’s a necklace!”
“A locket, actually.” Kras’hir informed her. “You can open it, see?” Sally opened it to reveal a picture from the day Usagi and Kras’hir adopted her. In it, Kras’hir had Sally on her shoulders, with Usagi having wrapped her arm around the former’s waist. Sally looked Kras’hir in the eyes and hugged her. Kras’hir smiled, hugging her back.
“I love you, kiddo.” She said softly.
“I love you too, Mommy.”
Kras’hir held her close, humming softly. Soon after, she could hear Sally snoring. Kras’hir walked to the toddler’s bedroom, tucked her in, then went back to Usagi. As she was leaving, however, she heard faint growling coming from Sally’s closet. She walked over to the closet door, opening it slowly. She could see Karanak-the Flesh Hound and not the neurotic puppy he shared his name with-staring at her respectfully. Kras’hir stared back at him for a moment before shutting the door without a word and exiting the room.
“Did you know Karanak the Flesh Hound is in Sally’s closet?” She asked Usagi once she returned to the living room.
“Yes, Angron told me.”
“There are few who would be better at keeping watch over her.” Kras’hir said, sitting down in one of the chairs.
“I guess Uncle Carl has a soft spot after all.” Usagi said with a laugh. Kras’hir stared for a moment before remembering her “uncles” cover story. This made her crack up.
“Yes, I suppose He does.” She said, chuckling. From His Fortress in the Warp, Khorne watched His, for lack of a better term, adopted granddaughter (possibly grandniece, if you went by the cover story) sleep. She would grow up to be a mighty warrior with a fiery personality, He knew. And though He felt no sense of familial love towards the girl and by extension Usagi, Khorne knew they were the people Kras’hir cared most about. All three of them had futures steeped in war and blood, so the Lord of Battle would watch them with great interest.
Emma, meanwhile, was with Starhawk, Firehawk having left them earlier that day to meet with her father, who had arrived earlier than expected. The two of them were getting their nails done. “This is very nice.” Emma commented.
“It is.” Starhawk agreed. “I could get my nails trimmed and polished on Hawkia, but nothing like this.”
“You look attractive with your nails like that.” Emma observed. Firehawk might have silently noted the hypocrisy of this statement if she were there, given Emma’s associations. Starhawk, who had very little knowledge about the Nazi Party, simply smiled and thanked her for the compliment, unaware of the irony of it. Once they were finished, Emma observed her nails, which were painted red, black, and white. Starhawk’s were all bright red, matching her feathers. Once they left the salon, she suggested they go get lunch. Emma nodded, wrapping an arm around Starhawk and pulling her towards her as they walked. Starhawk giggled a bit as she did this. Soon after, the two of them arrived at a cafe, and had a very nice lunch together.
Blackhawk, meanwhile, was at home with his family. He sat on his couch, boredly watching television when he got a message from Lettuce:
‘Blackhawk, what do you know about a...Reinhard Heydrich?’
Blackhawk raised a brow, before replying, ‘Why are you asking?’
‘Firehawk’s currently talking business with a guy by that name. Look, it’ll take longer if I explain it and that involves talking about something that happened earlier that I don’t wanna remember. What do you know?’
‘In this universe’s history, Heydrich was an important member of the Nazi Party. He orchestrated the Holocaust and was assassinated by partisans in 1942. As for the Heydrich Firehawk is speaking with...I know very little about him, aside from the fact that he and Firehawk have a very long history.’
‘No problem.’ He texted back, before going back to watching TV. He couldn't help but laugh when The Good, The Bad & The Ugly started playing a few minutes later. Granted, Ennio Morricone was one of his favorite composers, but it was still rather humorous. He hummed along with the main theme as the film began, grinning widely. Though he had experienced the actual life of a romanticized cowboy in his gunslinger days, this was not the reason he enjoyed spaghetti westerns. It was the acting that kept him entertained. He and Lettuce, though fans of the genre, disagreed on whether it was the heroes or villains who were better. Even though the morality was very grey.
As the film went on, Blackhawk began cleaning his guns idly, not putting much thought into the action. He noted the resemblance between Clint Eastwood and Roland, which caused his mind to wander. He didn't notice his mother enter until she sat down next to him. “Hello, Blackhawk.”
“Hey.” He replied.
“Oh, my, so casual!” Abby joked, snorting.
“I've never been one for formal greetings.” He said dryly. “Cort can attest to that.”
“So can your father.” she said just as dryly. “You know, I’ve always rooted for the villains in these movies.”
“I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that.” Blackhawk responded.
“Yeah, I guess. What can I say? Women love bad boys.” Abby replied with a shrug.
“Is that why you fell for dad?” He asked, grinning. “Did the big, bad gunslinger steal your heart away?”
“He wasn’t always the big strong man you knew him as.” she said. “Remember, we didn’t arrive in All-World until...oh, I’d say our teen or adult years. Back when we were kids living in that sleepy little suburb Oakey Oaks, your father was small, scrawny, and pretty geeky.”
“Why did you travel to All-World, anyway?”
“Because I couldn’t bear to be away from your father.”
“Cort certainly had a hand in changing the way he looked.” Blackhawk said. “No scrawny boys ever made it through training with him. They either bulked up or died.”
“He still needs his glasses, you know.” she said after a few minutes. “You can probably guess why he uses contacts.”
“I can.” Blackhawk replied, nodding.
Before Abby could speak, a baseball flew through the window. “OH, GOD DAMMIT, ACE!” From outside, Blackhawk could hear his father and brother laughing and shouting ‘Home run!’.
“And that right there proves why I could never quite get along with your husband.” Cort said, briefly taking over. “He always had a knack for smashing things.”
“Really? I always thought you just hated his love of baseball.”
“You would too if one smashed into your skull at high speed.” Cort replied flatly. “Knocked me out cold for several hours. Ace had enough sense to make himself scarce by the time I woke up.”
“Oh, that’s right! I remember telling him off for that.”
“I think me beating him bloody helped hammer the point home.” Cort said. “Having him go without food for two days afterwards was just a bonus.”
“At the time, I was kinda pissed that you’d go that far.”
“In hindsight, it was rather effective.”
“A pity that the old laws prevented women from becoming gunslingers.” Cort responded. “It would have been a pleasure seeing what you could do with a pair of guns.”
“I was absolutely ugly back then, Cort. Buck teeth, oversized beak, the whole shebang.” Abby said. “I probably could have killed someone with my looks alone.”
“Didn't stop you from tearing out a man’s throat with your teeth, did it?”
“What happened?” Coop questioned, having come back inside.
“Your mother ripped out a man’s throat with her teeth at one point, boy.” Cort informed him.
“Do I want to know what happened, Mom?”
“No, you really don’t. All you need to know is I was starting to develop into womanhood and some creeper attempted to grope me.”
“That about sums it up.” Cort agreed, before letting Blackhawk take over again.
Abby hugged her eldest son tightly. “You’re just like your father, you know.”
“So I've been told.” He said, hugging her back. “Now, I don't think I've told you about the...unique relationship developments that occurred when the rest of the team and I went into the Warp.”
“Alright, so…” Blackhawk took a deep breath. “I'm dating Starhawk, who's married to her sister, Firehawk. Starhawk is also dating Usagi and Kras'hir, Krystal, whatever you want to call her, who are also married to one another.”
Abby immediately gripped her forehead. “Wow, that honestly sounds like something out of a soap opera.”
“It does, doesn't it?” Blackhawk replied, sighing.
“Honestly, polyamory is all well and good, hell, your father had a few jillies. But I’d rather you stick to one woman or man.” Abby said. “But what do I know? I’m just a crazy woman who constantly gets stared at, and people are shocked when I say I have two wonderful boys. ‘Oh, you can’t have! You look so young!’ And...and...am I rambling?”
“Yes.” Blackhawk replied. “As for the first point you made, I am sticking with one woman. Starhawk is the only person I want to be with.”
“You know, it still disturbs me sometimes to know that Starhawk and her sister are wed. For a while, I was honestly afraid that you might go after me.” she said with a laugh.
“Ewwww…” Blackhawk replied, the thought making him feel ill. “Incest is not something I ever plan to dabble in, thank you very much.”
“THE LOOK ON YOUR FACE!” Abby shouted, laughing harder. “BY GOD, THAT’S PRICELESS!”
“Haha. Very funny.” He snarked, taking out a cigarette and lighting it. “Is that talking sword still out in the street? Or did someone pick it up after I pissed on it and tossed it away?”
“That’s a waste of a good weapon, especially one from the Guardians. I may give it to someone else.”
“I like my guns better.” Blackhawk said. “Mostly because they don't quote dead philosophers and try to convince me I'm heading down a dark path.”
“That thrice-damned sword gave me the ‘he who fights monsters should be careful he does not become a monster’ lecture not long after I got it.” He informed her. “I don't need a sharpened piece of fucking metal to try and act as my conscience, and if the Guardians don't like it, they can kiss my feathered ass.”
“Starhawk should be the only one doing that, I think.”
This caused Blackhawk to laugh hard for a few minutes before composing himself. “Indeed.” He said. “Though she tends to be into more...kinky things than that.”
“...Moving on, I think Usagi might enjoy that sword a bit more.” Abby said, her eyes widening seconds later at the unintended double entendre.
“I think she is into sheaths at the moment, if you catch my meaning.”
Firehawk, meanwhile, was still talking with Heydrich, the two of them walking through the streets of Coastal Falls. Lettuce and Pinkie followed them, Lettuce keeping his monologues to himself. Pinkie couldn't quite make out what they were saying.
Firehawk, meanwhile, said to Heydrich, “You know we are being followed, I presume?”
“Ja. By two of your fellow Rangers.”
“They aren't exactly subtle.” She said. “Lettuce reeks of fish, and Pinkie smells of birthday cake. In addition to that, they stick out like sore thumbs.”
“Should we do something about them?”
“No.” Firehawk replied. “After all, everything we've discussed that they could have overheard has been lies, half-truths and inane nonsense. Our real discussions will come later, when they run off to ‘report’ what they've heard.”
Lettuce, meanwhile, looked at Pinkie. “Think we’ve heard enough to report to Omnus?”
“Yeah.” She said. “Let's go.” Lettuce nodded, hopping onto Pinkie’s back.
Omnus, upon hearing what they had to say, stood still, deep in thought. “Fuhrer Saturn...” He murmured. “That is not good. Not good at all.”
“Nope. Fuhrer Saturn’s this big, scary, Darth Vader-looking guy.” Lettuce said. “And you can never trust guys who look like the Dark Lord of the Sith.” Alpha, Omnus, Hedrian, and Pinkie all stared blankly at him. “...Did I get off track?”
“Yes.” Omnus said flatly. “If what you say is true, then the Reich and Fuhrer Saturn are collaborating to build a powerful machine of war that will allow them to conquer Core Earth. This machine, you said, will brainwash the masses into turning on one another, causing a bloodbath that will bring down the Federation government here.”
“Which will then start a chain reaction.” Hedrian continued. “First it’ll start on Core Earth. Then move onto the next world. And the next, and the next.”
“The Reich won't need to wipe out ‘undesirables.’” Omnus responded. “The masses will do it for them.”
“I always knew Firehawk couldn’t be trusted!” Alpha replied.
“Don’t jump to conclusions there, little buddy.” Lettuce said. “We don’t know how involved Firehawk is in this plan.”
“Oh, yes...I apologize.” the little robot said.
“I find it almost impossible to read Firehawk’s motives.” Omnus said after a moment. “On one hand, she seems selfish, only doing something heroic if it benefits her. On the other hand, she has done things that are completely selfless, like sacrificing her own life.”
“That’s true.” Hedrian replied. “Perhaps I will consult my own sister on this matter.”
“Why?” Lettuce asked.
“Because siblings are a...rather tricky matter.”
“Are you certain she will speak to you?” Omnus asked. “If memory serves, you two aren't exactly on good terms.”
“We aren’t. Even though she has been, for lack of a better term, ‘good’ now for years upon years, it’s only been rather recent since you turned me away from villainy.”
“It’s been months.” Lettuce pointed out.
“Yes, rather recent.” Hedrian repeated.
“If you wish to speak with your sister, go.” Omnus said, before turning to Lettuce and Pinkie. “I need you two to go find the Zero Girls for me.”
“Right away.” Lettuce said, saluting. “The old-timer told us to go find the dames-” Lettuce then felt another smack on the back of his head. “...Oh, right. No more narrating.”
Pinkie had no idea where to start looking, so she went to see if Kras’hir knew where they were. The Daemoness, upon answering the door when she knocked, directed them to Frank’s bar. “No.” Lettuce refused. “There is no way I’m going back in there.”
Pinkie stared at him flatly. “You’re gonna have to sooner or later.”
“...Do you honestly think I’d be let back in there anyway after the shit I pulled?” Lettuce asked dryly.
“Maybe, maybe not.” Pinkie said. “But we need to find the Zero Girls.”
So, they returned to the bar. Frank glared at Lettuce as they entered, but didn't say anything. Lettuce noticed Kira sitting on the stage where whatever bands played for booze usually did, her acoustic guitar wrapped around her body and her blonde hair falling on her face. Lettuce silently directed Pinkie to go look for the Zero Girls; he was looking for an excuse to catch up with the Yellow Dino Thunder Ranger. Sitting near the stage, he ordered a glass of hard root beer. Frank made sure to spit in the drink before giving it to him. Lettuce noticed Kira giving Frank a dirty look, but he whispered, “Hey, don’t let it be your problem, Kira. He’s got every right to be pissed at me.”
“Damn straight.” Frank grunted, walking over to serve another one of the bar’s patrons. Kira shrugged before beginning to idly strum her guitar.
“So, how’ve things been for ya, Kira?” Lettuce asked.
“Alright.” she said. “I mean, I got evicted from my apartment, I lost my job, and I'm coming down with a nasty case of the flu, but aside from that, I'm fine.”
“Wait, what?!” Lettuce said. “What were you doing for a living?!”
“As much I like music, I don't get paid very much for my gigs.” Kira replied. “The job I had was dull, but it paid well. Now? I'm SOL.”
“...I can offer you a place to stay, you know.”
“Kra-Krystal actually made me that same offer earlier.” She said. “I accepted it. According to her, the apartment she and Usagi share is quite spacious, so they have room for me to move in with them.” Lettuce didn’t realize it, but he looked dejected. Kira snorted.
“Jesus, Lettuce, you look like I just shot your dog or something.”
“What? It’s not like we see each other very often.”
“Well, I'm sorry.” She said sarcastically. “I didn't realize I was supposed to reject the offer Kras’hir made so I could accept yours.”
“You’re in a bad mood already, so I’m not gonna make it worse by arguing.” Lettuce said. “Frank, get me another hard root beer, will ya?”
Kira snorted again, putting her guitar in its case and heading towards the door. “Fine, act like a jilted lover, Lettuce.” She said to him. “Have fun drinking. I'll see you around.”
With that, she left. “God fucking dammit…” Lettuce swore under his breath. “How come I can never talk to Kira the way I’m able to with Pinkie?”
“Because she's not me, Lettuce.” Pinkie said, sitting next to him. “Kira and I are almost nothing alike.”
“Pinkie...let me ask you something. How would you describe me around Kira?”
“I would describe you as awkward. Uncertain. There's so much you want to say, but you're not sure how.”
“A-are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“I can tell you're attracted to her.” Pinkie said. Lettuce went pale, his pupils shrinking into nothing. Pinkie sipped the drink she had ordered, waiting for him to speak. When he didn't, she sighed.
“I'm not mad, Lettuce.”
Lettuce didn’t speak for a few minutes, before asking, “You’re not?”
“No.” She said. “Kira is a beautiful woman. I don't blame you for having some feelings for her. Just as long as you don't act on them, I won't get angry with you.”
“...Now you’re making me feel worse.”
“That wasn't my intention.” Pinkie replied. “Lettuce, I love you. It will take more than a bit of infatuation for me to break things off.”
Lettuce sighed. “Do you know where the Zero Girls are?”
“Yes.” She said, gesturing to a table on the other side of the bar. “They're over there.”
Eva stared and gestured them to come over. Once they did, she said, “We have heard of Heydrich’s alliance with Fuhrer Saturn.”
“And…?” Lettuce asked.
“What can you four tell us about Fuhrer Saturn?” Pinkie prompted. “You served under him, after all.”
“He is a clone of Adolf Hitler, created by an alternate Reich that, while not having conquered the world like Heydrich’s, eventually reached the stars. They were also responsible for creating, or rather, summoning the creature that would become the enemy of the first Power Rangers team.”
“No...Dark Kaiser. I don’t speak of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, but the very first team from 1975.”
“What was he?”
“A Greater Daemon of Slaanesh.”
“A Keeper of Secrets?” Pinkie asked. “How did they kill it?”
“They didn’t. At least not fully.” Eva answered.
“Even then, half of them died.” came the voice of Omnus, who had just entered the bar and walked over to their table.
“What do you mean?” Lettuce asked.
“They were able to temporarily banish Dark Kaiser back into the Warp.” Thea answered. “At least, until very recently.”
Hedrian soon entered the bar, her eyes wide and face sweaty. “...Fuhrer Saturn has allowed Dark Kaiser to possess him.”
“What?!” Eva nearly shouted, but kept her voice low. “Is that why I was able to sense his escape?”
“Yes.” Hedrian answered. “The fact this Keeper of Secrets was able to tempt Fuhrer Saturn into letting him take control is very concerning. Granted, I don’t think Saturn will progress beyond the monsters that Rangers are so used to fighting. After all, the Kaiser was the first to do so.”
“And the Kaiser killed half of my team.” Omnus reminded her. “I am more concerned about what Heydrich is planning. What does he have to gain from this development? He must have a hand in this, and I intend to find out what his goal is.”
“Be careful, Omnus.” Pinkie said. “I know you're old and wise, but Heydrich is dangerous. You don't know him anymore than we do.”
“You are right.” Omnus responded. “I don't know him. No more than he knows me.”
With that, he walked over to the bar, grabbed Frank by the hair, and slammed his head into the counter. “You won't be running off to tell Fraulein Emma about this discussion, spy.”
“What the hell are you-” Frank began, before Omnus twisted his ear roughly. He screamed in pain, before saying, “Alright, alright, I admit it! I've been spying for the Party! Please don't hurt me!”
“Buddy,” Lettuce said, briefly slipping into the 1940s fantasy once more, “I make no promises.”
“Are you four skilled at interrogation?” Omnus asked the Zero Girls.
“Are we?” Nena asked, cracking her knuckles.
“Find out what he knows.” Omnus said, pulling Frank over the counter and shoving him towards the Zero Girls. “Use any means necessary.”
Lettuce got all the other patrons out so they wouldn’t witness any of this, and all they could hear from outside was screaming. Lots and lots of screaming.
Inside, Frank was bound to a chair. He was weeping, continually shouting that he knew nothing about what Emma and Heydrich had planned. “He wasn’t talkin’, the poor schmuck. He was nothin’ but a patsy to the damned bratwursts.” Lettuce narrated to himself. “If we couldn’t get any info from him, then maybe he could...he could…” He couldn’t think of anything creative.
“I swear to God, I don't know anything else!” Frank shouted at Eva. “She didn't tell me anything besides what my job was!”
“If he wasn’t gonna talk, then I knew a guy who could.” Lettuce narrated. “Mr. Tommy Gunn.” He noticed Frank’s eyes widen and his struggling grow fiercer.
“Lettuce…” Omnus, who was sitting on the far side of the room, began. “Either be silent, or get out.”
“The old-timer was gettin’ antsy. He didn’t want me gettin’ involved in the law. But I ain’t outside of the law, I’m-” He was then interrupted with a glare from Omnus, and the penguin shut up.
“Continue.” Omnus said to the Zero Girls. After a little while longer, Frank stopped screaming, and finally cracked.
“I'll talk, I'll talk.” He said. “Just stop. Please.”
He was finally gonna tell us what we needed to hear, Lettuce narrated in his head. He had cracked like an egg on a sidewalk during a hot July Tuesday, I thought.
“What time is it?” Frank asked Eva after a moment.
“Around 3 or so.”
“Oh.” Frank said. “I am afraid you are too late, then.”
It was just then that, in every important Federation government building on Core Earth, that the Reich agents who had effortlessly integrated into every branch and organization revealed themselves. Dozens of officials, politicians, bureaucrats and military personnel were murdered within minutes. Hedrian’s eyes shrunk into pinpricks.
Alpha 8 had relayed the news to them. Omnus sat in stunned silence, his head in his hands.
“What are we gonna do, Omnus?” Lettuce asked. “We’re too late.”
“First, I am going to go find Firehawk.” Omnus said. “I am going to seize her, take her back to the Command Center, and beat her until she tells me everything she knows. Then, I'm going to kill Reinhard Heydrich, Emma Heydrich, Fuhrer Saturn, and every Reich agent I can get my hands on.”
“What you’re about to do is monumentally stupid, you know that?” Lettuce said. “You could get yourself killed.”
Omnus looked at him then. Gone was the friendly, warm gaze of his mentor. Staring at him were cold, dangerous eyes. These were the eyes of Omnus the Inquisitor, warrior of old and woe of the enemies of the Imperium and Federation. It was evident that Omnus was angry beyond belief, but his rage was tempered by careful control. That rage, as Kras’hir knew well, had destroyed armies, annihilated countless worlds, and caused many powerful beings to turn tail and flee when Omnus took to the battlefield.
“Lettuce, you think it stupid because you have never seen me fight.” He said in a low, dangerous tone. “You will today. Now, you can either fight beside me, or stay out of combat altogether. The choice is yours, but you will not get in my way. Understand?”
Lettuce discarded his trenchcoat and fedora, pulling out his morpher, and becoming the Green Ranger. “Understood.”
“Good.” Omnus said.
For most in Coastal Falls, it was still a normal afternoon. Blackhawk, enjoying the warmth of the day, had met the senshi, with the exception of Usagi, in a park. He hadn't had much opportunity to speak with them, and he wanted to get to know Usagi’s friends better. That was when he received yet another text from Lettuce, informing him of Firehawk’s betrayal. Blackhawk cursed under his breath in High Speech, making sure his guns were locked and loaded before leaving the park, gesturing for the senshi to follow him.
Omnus, meanwhile, knocked on the door of the apartment Starhawk and Firehawk shared. No answer. He nodded to himself, before kicking it down and walking inside. He then saw a sight highly unexpected by himself, Hedrian, Lettuce or Pinkie. Emma and Starhawk on the couch, in the buff. Emma, certainly surprised, covered herself.
“Hello, Fraulein Heydrich.” Omnus said pleasantly.
“Hallo, have we met?” she asked. “This is a very inopportune time, please come back later-”
“Emma, if you go for the Luger in your uniform, I'll kill you.” He interrupted, his tone still polite and civil. “I can see you looking towards it.”
“Omnus, with all due respect, what has gotten into you?!” Starhawk asked, not even bothering with modesty.
“Your friend here is Emma Heydrich, daughter of Reinhard Heydrich.” Omnus replied. “Her father is the leader of the Third Reich in another universe, a totalitarian government ruling an entire planet, and looking to expand beyond that. The Reich has a long history of genocide, repression, murder and conquest, and Emma here was a key player in much of it. Don't believe me? Turn on the news. Look at what just happened.” Starhawk did as he asked, and upon seeing proof of this, she turned to Emma.
“Is this true? Were you planning all of this, while trying to seduce me so you could have a cover?” She sounded genuinely hurt.
“You were a means to an end.” Emma said coldly. “Nothing more, you alien parasite.” Starhawk blasted her through a wall, causing Emma to slam into the refrigerator. She then made her way to the unconscious Aryan, before continuing to beat her senseless.
“Starhawk.” Omnus said. No response. “Starhawk! Stop hitting her. I need her alive!”
“Why, Omnus? She deserves a slow and painful death for all the suffering she has been causing.”
“I agree, but she is her father’s second in command.” Omnus replied. “There is so much we can learn from her.”
“Like what?” Starhawk replied.
“The location of Heydrich.” Hedrian interrupted.
“And your sister.” Lettuce finished.
“My sister has nothing to...oh…” Starhawk said before she began tearing up. “Firehawk...how could you…”
A little while later, Emma came to in a dimly-lit room. She looked around, blinking, noting that she was bound to a chair. Lettuce stood in front of her, wielding his Thunder Hammer. Emma snorted, spitting blood onto the floor.
“Are you my interrogator?” She asked.
“I’m not.” he replied, revealing Starhawk, now in her Blue Ranger form and wielding her chain-axe. “She is.”
“Look, Schweinekinder, if you wish to intimidate me, you are doing a poor job.” Emma said, chuckling a bit. “Those weapons, while effective on the battlefield, are rather poor choices if you want to extract information.”
Starhawk revved the axe up. “These weapons are for intimidation, you disgusting pile of shit.”
“Then they, like whatever blind, stupid God created your species, have failed, you filthy, queer, incestuous whore.” Emma said, contempt in her tone.
“What. Did. You. Call. Me?”
“A filthy. Queer. Incestuous. Whore.” Emma replied slowly, as if speaking to a child. “Do you know what those words mean? Or do you need me to define them for you?” Starhawk grabbed her by the neck and started choking her. Emma struggled against her bonds, gasping for air as Starhawk strangled her. Omnus eventually had to enter the room and drag the Hawkian out before she killed Emma. Starhawk didn’t move, not even resisting when Omnus removed her. Emma laughed as the two of them left, hurling insults at Starhawk without fear of consequences for it.
“Do you want me to interrogate her, Omnus?” Lettuce asked.
“Can you do it without letting what she says get to you?” Omnus responded.
“I can’t guarantee that. But I’ll certainly try.”
Omnus grudgingly gave him permission to interrogate Emma. Lettuce entered, Thunder Hammer dragging across the floor. “Alrighty, you Nazi scum. Talk.”
“Do you have a specific subject you want more information on?” Emma asked. “Or do you want me to just speak to you about inane nonsense? Commanding me to talk won't get you the answers you seek. You'll have to be more precise.”
“Where are Firehawk and Reinhard?”
“Somewhere on Core Earth.”
“You’ll have to be more specific.”
Emma didn't reply. Instead, she simply grinned at him. “Tell me.” Lettuce repeated.
“Ten.” Lettuce snarked.
“You are pathetic.” Emma said flatly. “If anyone on your team is going to make a stupid, childish joke, it's you. There are many words I would use to describe you, Lettuce Manchot: Ignorant. Weak. Naive. Spoiled. Stupid. Boring. That's the worst part, isn't it? You try your best to play the role of the team comedian, but you and I know better, don't we? You tell bad jokes to deflect people away from seeing how you really feel.”
“And how do I really feel, Emma?” the penguin asked flatly. “If you’re as smart as you’re implying yourself to be, then tell me something about myself that I don’t know.”
“You're lusting after Kira Ford, but won't admit it to anyone, even yourself.” Emma said, examining her nails and not bothering to look at him. “These feelings go much deeper than simple attraction, don't they? I know about the little shrine you have devoted to her, Lettuce. I know of the things you do in your bedroom in the dead of night, in order to vent your sexual frustrations. On another note, it seems to me that you are attracted to not one, not two, but three women, and you are unsure what to do about it. So, you keep your thoughts and emotions to yourself, and act like you are content and happy with Pinkie Pie. Am I close?”
“I am content and happy with my fiance, yes.” Lettuce replied, visibly unreacting. Inwardly, however, he was panicking. She knew about his shrine...his commitment issues...and the fact he was attracted to Undyne. “I am happy with her and her alone.”
“Take it from someone who has perfected the art of lying: You aren't very good at it.”
“I’m not lying. I’m attracted to Pinkamena and her alone.” Lettuce said. “There are no two or three women.”
“Kira Ford, Undyne, Pinkie Pie.” Emma said boredly. “You are attracted to these three women. As for how I can tell you're lying...everyone has a tell, Lettuce Manchot. Yours is that you avoid the gaze of whoever you're lying to.”
“...I do.” Lettuce admitted. “What is your point here, aside from dodging my questions?”
“My point is that you are a pathetic, lustful bore, one that I won't waste my time with.” Emma replied. “If your goal is to get me to talk, you are doing an abysmal job.”
Lettuce nodded, leaving the room. Once he had gotten a considerable distance away, he snapped. When Omnus came to check on him, he found Lettuce punching the wall.
“She got to you that badly, huh?” He said flatly.
“Oh, yeah...like you wouldn’t believe.” Lettuce said, grinding his teeth as he hit the wall again. “She knows about how I’m attracted to Kira and Undyne.”
“Emma is a master spy with many agents under her.” Omnus replied. “She knows many things about you and the other Rangers that all of you would rather keep to yourselves.”
“Like the fact I find brides attractive?” Lettuce replied. Omnus stared at him flatly. “I was just joking.”
“You are hardly the first to have her get under your skin.” Omnus said after a moment. “She once drove a man to suicide after three interrogation sessions.”
“So, we’re not getting anything out of her?”
“I think it is time I tried my hand at getting our guest to talk.” Omnus responded, before walking back to Emma’s cell and entering it. All Lettuce could hear was shouting and screaming. Omnus came back out soon after, frustrated.
“She is stubborn, I'll give her that.” He said. “Once I started trying to...persuade her to talk, and began singing an SS marching song, and wouldn't stop no matter what methods I tried.”
Lettuce sighed. “I’m not one to give orders, but keep trying. I’m just...gonna go think.”
While this was happening, Kras’hir had taken Sally Anne to visit her ‘aunts’, in order to help keep the toddler distracted from everything that was going on. She had asked the senshi to meet her in a park that was near the apartment. The other senshi were sitting on a bench, feeding birds. Kras’hir, who had Sally on her shoulders, waved to them. They waved back.
“Go on, Sally.” Kras’hir said, setting her down. “I'll be along in a minute.” Sally walked over to the senshi, who were still cooing at her adorableness. Kras’hir walked over to them a moment later.
“Hey.” She said to the group. “Thanks for coming.”
“No problem.” Makoto said.
“Yeah, anytime.” Minako replied.
“You're our friend, Kras’hir.” Rei added. “And besides, how could we refuse to see little Sally?”
“Hi, Auntie Rei!” Sally said. Rei smiled, ruffling her hair.
“Hello, Sally!” she responded cheerfully.
“Are we gonna have fun?”
“Yes, little one.” Ami answered, scooping her up.
Kras’hir was about to speak, before her phone, which Usagi had bought for her a few weeks earlier, buzzed. She excused herself, walking a good distance away before answering the call.
“We’ve found Firehawk.” Omnus informed her.
“Where is she?”
“At the capital of Core Earth.”
That was, indeed, where Firehawk was. She was walking through the halls of the building where the Federation’s President and his cabinet did their business. Heydrich, Göth and Ilsa were with her, the latter two having traveled to Core Earth a few hours earlier. The President, being a minion of Tzeentch, had anticipated their arrival. He was one of the few government officials to survive the massacre, having fortified himself in his office before it happened.
Göth, for his part, was giggling like a madman, randomly shooting the bodies of those the agents of the Reich had murdered earlier. The President was desperately trying to contact Magnus, insisting that the Primarch needed to take over his position. Magnus eventually responded, his words making it clear how screwed the President was: “You have played your part, minion. The Changer of Ways thanks you for your service.”
“...But without me, the Federation will fall.”
“Perhaps, perhaps not...but you won't be alive to find out.” Magnus said simply, finishing his sentence at the exact moment Firehawk kicked open the door and slashed open the President’s throat with her claws. He fell onto the floor, his blood spilling out onto the Federation’s seal. She cocked her head after he stopped moving, listening.
“The Rangers are here.” She informed the others. Heydrich nodded, while Göth simply grinned. Usagi, followed by Starhawk, Blackhawk, Lettuce, and Pinkie as well as Omnus, entered the capital staring at them.
“Traitor.” Usagi growled.
“Sister...I thought I could trust you.”
Firehawk didn't reply. Göth ran into a nearby room, while Heydrich took cover, calmly loading his sidearm. He noted that Ilsa was still standing in the open next to Firehawk. Ilsa stared Usagi down.
“You are too late.” she informed. “We are seizing control of this world.”
Usagi said nothing, drawing the Full Moon Blade and muttering. Instead of praying to her Father, however, she was reciting a modified version of the Gunslingers’ Creed. Before she could finish, Göth returned. He was now in what could only be described as power armor. It was outfitted with various weapons, and was built like a tank. Göth wasn't very mobile, but the firepower he had access to more than made up for it. The man known as the Mad Dog of the Reich laughed uproariously as he opened fire with a massive chaingun, spraying the room with bullets. Usagi noted he was firing at Starhawk, pushing her girlfriend out of the way and taking the shots for her. She was left a bleeding, bullet-filled mess. Göth continued to laugh as he fired at the rest of the Rangers and Omnus, forcing them all into cover. Usagi continued to lay there, Starhawk hearing her dying gasps. Something broke within the female Hawkian, and with tears in her eyes, she turned to Blackhawk. “Give me that damned talking sword.” she said, her voice breaking. Blackhawk did as she said without question. Saba did not needlessly chatter for once, staying silent as Starhawk walked over to Usagi’s bleeding corpse and picking up the Full Moon Blade, muttering the Gunslingers’ Creed in unison with Saba.
This time however, she finished. And then she slowly turned to Amon. Göth paused just then, the gunfire and laughter going silent. Screaming the most vulgar curses she could think of, Starhawk turned Heydrich’s second in command into a fine red mist, then turned her attentions to Ilsa and her sister. “S-sister…” Firehawk pleaded. “What has gotten into you…”
Starhawk didn't respond. Instead, she walked up the stairs that led to Firehawk and Ilsa, shaking with rage. Ilsa tried to run. Tried, being the key word. Starhawk cut her in half without effort, her torso rolling down to the floor below. Firehawk didn't bother trying to run. Instead, she closed her eyes, waiting for Starhawk to kill her as well. However, Starhawk couldn't do it. So, she hit her sister over the head with the the flat edge of Saba, knocking Firehawk out cold. Lettuce picked up Usagi’s body, handing her to Omnus. “Get her back.” he said, his anger and sadness barely restrained.
“What am I supposed to say to her parents?” Omnus whispered. “How am I supposed to justify their child being killed in a war she should never have been involved in?”
“How is he supposed to answer that?” Starhawk interrupted. “Tell me, Omnus.”
“He's not.” Omnus said simply. “This is my cross to bear, and mine alone.”
“Then what will you do, Omnus?”
“The same thing I have done for every Ranger that has died under my command.” Omnus responded. “I'm going to tell her family what happened.”
The group returned to Coastal Falls in silence. Firehawk was brought along as a prisoner, bound in chains and heavily sedated. Heydrich was long gone. Omnus sat in his seat on the transport, cradling Usagi’s body and softly weeping. The Federation’s continuity of government plans would soon go into effect by the few surviving officials. The Federation would endure, with the men and women who had been near the bottom of the chain of command taking over the vacant positions.
For now, however, that was irrelevant to Omnus and the Rangers who had gone with him to the capital. Usagi was dead, and none of them knew how to process that fact. Not to mention how Kras’hir would react.
The Daemoness, Usagi’s friends, and Sally Anne were still in the park when the transport returned to Coastal Falls. They went to meet Omnus and the Rangers as they stepped off it. Kras'hir, upon seeing the doors open, began walking over to greet her wife and girlfriend. Whatever affectionate thing she had planned to say was forgotten when she saw Usagi, dead, in Omnus’ arms. The other senshi went silent, too stunned for words.
“No…” Kras’hir muttered to herself. “No, this is...it can't be...this is a nightmare. Yes, that's it. It has to be. I'm going to wake up in a moment, and Usagi will be next to me, all warm and beautiful and full of life, not...not…”
“I’m sorry.” Lettuce informed her. “She’s gone.”
Kras’hir stared at the ground for a few minutes, not saying anything else. That was when Sally Anne made it past the senshi, and what she said upon seeing Usagi nearly made the Daemoness break down.
“Mommy...are you sleeping…?” the toddler asked, tearing up. Normally, she never called Usagi ‘mommy’. Rei, who was holding herself together until that moment, began to cry after hearing this. Blackhawk did, too, though he did his best to hide it. The other senshi broke down into tears, having lost composure.
“Come on.” Omnus said. “Let's go somewhere more private, shall we?” The other senshi nodded, the Rangers, Sally Anne, and Kras’hir following. As soon as they were inside, having gone to the apartment Kras’hir lived in, and Omnus had set Usagi down on the couch, the Daemoness punched him in the face.
“Mommy! It wasn’t Grandpomnus’ fault!” Sally cried.
“It was.” She growled. “If he hadn't insisted she come along to the capital, she'd still be alive.”
Sally then screamed, falling onto the floor and throwing a tantrum. Kras’hir immediately went to her, gently picking the toddler up in her arms and beginning to comfort her. Sally soon calmed down, softly crying. After Sally fell asleep, Kras’hir laid her down in her bed, covering her up with a blanket before returned to the others.
“I still can’t believe Usagi’s…” Ami began.
“D-dead…” Makoto and Minako finished simultaneously. Usagi’s wounds had been cleaned before the group began making the return journey to Coastal Falls. Her clothes had also been washed. All of this made Usagi look very peaceful, as if she was simply taking an afternoon nap on the couch.
“What are we going to do now?” Lettuce asked.
“We must prepare for Usagi’s funeral.” Starhawk said solemnly.
“I need to be alone.” Kras’hir said, leaving the apartment. She eventually ended up in a church down the street, staring at the cross on the altar.
“You're a bastard, You know that?” She said softly. “Usagi and I get married, and You kill her less than a week later. What was that, huh? A sick joke? A warning shot? Some twisted message? Bene, gratias ago tibi, Domine. Thank you, Lord, for Your love and mercy. Tell me: How much more are You going to use me as a punching bag? Was being born into slavery not enough? Was being beaten and raped by my own father not enough? Is this punishment for turning to a God who isn't You? "You can't conceive, nor can I, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God," said Graham Greene. I don't know what sorts of drugs he was on when he said that, because, as far as I am concerned, You’re just vindictive. You hate sin, right? I've sinned numerous times, I'll admit. You could float countless ships on the blood I've spilt. But Usagi was a hero, You feckless thug. Why kill her? Why take her away from people who love her, when she is so young and so full of life? Haec credam a deo pio? A deo iusto? A deo scito? Cruciatus in crucem! Eas in crucem!”
She heard a sigh from behind her. A deep, hollow sigh. Kras’hir turned to find Sans, dressed in Imperial Ecclastarical robes, sitting behind her. His voice took on a serious tone, rather than the usual laidback one.
“I’m sorry to hear about Usagi, Kras’hir. I ain’t one to make promises, but I can tell you that she’s gonna come back.”
Kras’hir stared at him for several minutes. “What do you know, Sans? All you do is laze about and make horrible fucking puns.”
“You and I both know why I tell bad jokes. I’ve experienced loss. I’ve experienced pain. Do you know what it’s like...to experience a time bubble? Where your entire home has no chance of salvation until a small hawk comes and singlehandedly saves your friends and what remains of your family from that endless fate? I respect you, Kras’hir, I really do. I’ve experienced many losses, time and time again. But right now? You need to open up and talk.”
“What do you know about loss?” Kras’hir asked softly. “What do you know about pain? Don't act like you and I are similar, Sans. I was born a slave. I grew up knowing nothing but the bite of shackles and the stinging of the lash. I lost my virginity to my own father when I was nine. No savior came to free me. No savior stepped in when my father was fucking me in a dark barn, stuffing cotton in my mouth to muffle my screams. No savior stopped him from doing whatever he liked to whomever he liked, including my mother. I freed myself, Sans, when Lord Khorne came to me in the dead of night and offered to give me the strength to never be a slave again. Even then, I got screwed. I killed my father when I freed myself, but I killed my mother and siblings, too, having lost myself to rage and bloodlust. Since then, almost everyone I have gotten somewhat close to has either died, gone insane, or simply disappeared from my life. The man I once loved turned from a noble, strong warrior into a rabid, drooling berserker, and never fully came back, even after his mind was fixed. You speak of time, Sans, yes? I don't know how old you are, but I am nearly 80,000 years old...and I feel every second of my age. I can remember everyone I've lost, every person I've killed, every city and town and house I've put to the torch. They haunt my dreams everytime I sleep. So don't you dare stand there and claim that you understand loss and pain in the same way I do.”
“You’re right, I don’t understand loss and pain the same way you do. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced it.” Sans replied. “Look, I’m just tryin’ to help, and it’s obvious your grief is...well, it’s makin’ ya think less clearly.”
“My wife is dead.” Kras’hir said bitterly. “And no comforting words or gestures of goodwill can fill the hole she left behind.”
With that, she got up and left the church. Omnus, meanwhile, knocked on the door of the apartment where Usagi’s parents and brother lived. Ikuko opened the door.
“Oh, Omnus! I didn’t expect you at all! Come in!”
“Thank you, Ikuko.” He said, stepping inside.
“Is something the matter?”
“It's about Usagi.” He replied. “Can you go get your husband and son, please?” She nodded. Kenji and Shingo were absolutely bewildered at Ikuko’s worry. Once they were all seated, Omnus cleared his throat.
“Now, there's no easy way to say this.” He said, not able to bring himself to meet any of their gazes. “Usagi is dead.” Ikuko dropped the teacup she was holding, which shattered onto the floor.
“S-she’s what?” Kenji asked.
“She's dead.” Omnus whispered.
“No…” Shingo replied. “She can’t be…”
“I'm sorry.” Omnus said. “I'm so very sorry.”
“My little girl...gone just when she was becoming a woman…” Ikuko said, sobbing softly. Omnus opened and closed his mouth repeatedly, trying to think of something comforting to say, and coming up with nothing that sounded right. Kenji and Shingo joined Ikuko in mourning. Omnus left them to their grief, not wanting to intrude.
The news of Usagi’s passing soon spread beyond Coastal Falls. Queen Beryl and her advisors were among the first to learn of it. Ahriman noted, with some surprise, how Beryl seemed upset upon hearing what had happened. “What is the point in conquering this world for our Great Ruler,” Beryl said. “If I do not have an enemy who will oppose me and make things difficult?”
“Will you attend the funeral, Your Grace?” Ahriman asked. “Perhaps not to mourn Usagi Tsukino herself, but to formalize the end of your rivalry with her, and pay your respects to a worthy foe?”
“SHE WAS NOT JUST A ‘WORTHY FOE’, SORCERER! SHE WAS...dare I say it….I LOVED HER!”
Ahriman stared at her in silence, before asking, his voice soft, “What sort of love, Your Grace? Familial love? Or romantic love?”
“Romantic.” This made Kunzite spit out his wine.
“What, Your Grace?”
“Romantic love. It started out so simple...admiration at such a worthy foe. And then it progressed into something more.”
Ahriman, who had been halfway through a spell to create a new youma when the news arrived, abandoned the ritual, allowing the partially formed creature to fade away. It didn't feel right to send it to attack Coastal Falls after everything that had happened. Beryl stared at her lover, tears in her eyes now. “If she were alive, I would treat her with the respect a princess truly deserves.”
“Come here.” He said, opening his arms. Beryl ran into them, holding him close as she cried. He stroked her hair gently, doing his best to soothe her.
“I loved her, and I didn’t realize it…”
“It's alright.” He said. “Remember that I love you, Beryl. I'm always here if you need me.”
“...Thank you, Ahriman…”
“Ahzek.” He said. “Please, call me Ahzek.”
He smiled a bit, continuing to hold her. Once Beryl’s tears subsided, she sat back on her throne, silently pondering. Ahriman stood by her side, waiting for her to speak. “I…” she began, then stopped.
“Yes, Your Grace?” Zoicite asked. “What is it?”
“Nothing.” Beryl said. “It is not important right now.”
“You might as well say it.” Ahriman responded.
“I...I love Usagi Tsukino. It still feels strange saying it.”
“It is strange to hear it.” The sorcerer replied. Beryl sighed again.
“Kunzite, please fetch me my finest wine. I need it right now.”
“Yes, Your Grace.” he said before returning with a bottle of finely-aged wine. Beryl uncorked it before downing the alcohol straight from the bottle. Ahriman raised a brow, but didn't comment on it. Soon, Beryl was very, very drunk. Ahriman stood by her side, listening in silence to her drunken rambling.
“I will bring you back, Sailor Moon...and I will make you mine…”
“Are you certain of that, Your Grace?” Ahriman asked her. “Truly?”
“Do not question my judgement.” Beryl replied, her voice slurring.
“Or what?” Ahriman asked. “What will you do?”
“I will...turn you into a frog! A singing frog that only sings classic showtunes!” Beryl laughed at her own joke. Ahzek wasn’t very amused. Nor were Kunzite and Zoicite; they were just confused.
“Try.” Ahriman said dryly. Beryl tried incanting a transformation spell, but her slurring made it incomprehensible. Ahriman stared at her, still very much a man. Beryl pouted like a child, before bursting into tears. Zoicite noted that mood swings seemed to be tied to drunkeness as a rule.
“Are you alright?” Ahriman asked after a few minutes.
“No...no I’m not!” Beryl wailed.
“Here is the great Queen Beryl.” Ahriman said dryly. “Look upon her, ye mighty, and despair.” As if to illustrate his point, Beryl promptly vomited, falling into Kunzite’s arms. With a sigh, he carried the unconscious queen to her chambers.
Abaddon, meanwhile, had also received the news. A wide grin spread across his face, before the Warmaster began to laugh. The news soon spread to Vipera, and she began to laugh as well. Toby and Ebony, who had recently joined her, had differing reactions: Ebony was elated to hear that “the blonde prep” was dead. Toby...wasn’t amused. At all.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” he growled at Ebony. “I may not have liked Usagi sometimes, but show some respect!” Ebony flipped him off as she made her way to Vipera’s throne. Soon after, Abaddon arrived, entering the throne room with a wide grin on his face. Persephone was with him, Abaddon having appointed her as one of his closest advisors after learning she had a keen mind for politics and warfare. Ebony was currently making out with Vipera, who was...somewhat enjoying it. Persephone coughed awkwardly.
“Hmmm?” Vipera asked, shoving Ebony off of her. “What do you want, Abaddon?”
“I take it you heard the news.”
“About the White Ranger? Yes, isn’t it glorious?!”
“Indeed.” Abaddon said, chuckling.
“What will we do about this ‘Core Earth’ that the Rangers protect, my Lord?” Persephone asked. “I would advise you not attack it.”
“I do not plan to.” Abaddon replied. “At least, not yet.”
“Good.” Persephone replied.
“Ah, love.” Drako said. “Isn’t it grand?”
“Yes.” Vipera agreed. Persephone blushed, burying her face into Abaddon’s armor. The Warmaster glared at them both, unamused. Drako stared back at him.
“My apologies, Abaddon, I was just observing how enamored Persephone is with you.” the reptilian alien chuckled nervously.
“Of course she is.” Abaddon said. “I treat her well.”
“Well is an understatement, my lord.” Persephone said.
“I'm sure you say that about every man who owns you.” Abaddon said with a smirk. Persephone giggled.
“I love you, my lord.”
“And I love you, Persephone.” He said.
“Now, other than the news of the White Ranger’s death, why are you here?” Vipera interrupted.
“I came here to inquire about your next move.”
“What else? Send down monsters.” Vipera said.
“Good.” Abaddon responded. “This will draw attention away from what I am planning.”
Abaddon nodded, before asking, “Have there been any...complications since last we met? Health complications, I mean.”
“Other than the usual things associated with pregnancy? Not really...though I’m currently craving hot dogs topped with strawberries, kiwis, and whipped cream, drenched in red cake frosting, served on layered buns - the top consisting of a regular bun, the bottom being one of those sponge snack cakes.” Kraky immediately ran to the kitchens, ordering the Imps to make the bizarre meal-confection. Once that was finished, Vipera began eating ravenously. Abaddon noted how fast the pregnancy was progressing, the Empress already looking quite bloated. Circe attempted to serve wine, which understandably angered Vipera.
“Remind me, my lord...how long is gestation for Taurans?” Persephone asked.
“Three weeks to a month.” Abaddon responded. “However, even by the standards of her species, Vipera’s pregnancy is progressing remarkably fast. This is because of the...uniqueness of my seed.” He was interrupted by Vipera demanding more food. The Warmaster watched, amused, as her Imp servants continued to bring in the bizarre meals she wanted.
“Why did you two defect?” Abaddon asked Toby and Ebony after several minutes.
“Fuck the preps.” Ebony said bluntly. Toby’s reasons, Abaddon found out, were less petty and more out of self-loathing and guilt. He felt he wasn’t exactly making much of a contribution to the team, and his already low reputation tanked after Firehawk had died.
“I see.” The Warmaster said, not even bothering to try and sound sympathetic.
“You view me as scum, don’t you? Like some cosmic plaything that just exists to be tossed around.” Toby said bluntly. “What have I even done wrong in the first place? My mistakes involving Ebony here and the whole ‘making fun of Firehawk’ thing I understand. But why must I be punished by the universe this severely?”
“Maybe it’s because the universe hates you.” Baphomet answered.
“Or maybe the universe doesn't care about you at all, and your own stupidity is what continues to punish you.” Abaddon added.
“If you wish to improve in life, Tobias, then stop acting like a complete twit.” Drako finished. “Honestly, the green penguin displays more common sense than you.” This angered Toby, and he stormed off.
“And your point still stands.” Baphomet informed.
“If he proves useless, send him to me.” Abaddon said. “I could always use another slave.”
“I’ll be sure to send him to you when I have no use for him.” Vipera said. “...Or when he can no longer satisfy me. Whichever comes first.”
Abaddon nodded. “Very good, then.” He said, before saying his farewells and departing.
Kras’hir, meanwhile, was snuggling with Starhawk. They both needed comfort after everything that had happened. Starhawk quietly wept, snuggling deep into the Daemoness. Kras’hir stroked her feathers, barely being able to avoid weeping herself. “I love you both...I miss Usagi…” Starhawk said.
“I know, Star. I miss her, too.”
“Fuck my sister. Fuck the Nazis.” Starhawk said, barely holding back tears.
“Omnus plans to put her on trial.” Kras’hir replied. “Her and Emma both.”
“I hope they get death.”
“No, you don't.” Kras’hir said. “At least, you don't want death for Firehawk. Omnus told me how you restrained yourself from killing her.”
“...She will not be expecting me to renew her vows with her anytime soon, either.” Starhawk noted.
“If you want to talk to her before the trial, I won't stop you. You might learn something important.”
“Like what? The fact I wish to marry you?” Starhawk said before covering her mouth. Kras’hir stared at her, blinking.
“W-what?” The Daemoness stammered.
“Ummm...never mind! I said nothing!”
“You want to...oh, Gods…”
“I..I am so sorry, Kras’hir!”
Kras’hir was silent for a few minutes, not sure what to say. Starhawk stared at her, hiding behind her hands.
“Why would you mention that now, of all times?” Kras’hir whispered.
“I-I don’t know, I’m sorry…” Starhawk replied, whispering back.
“Leave, Star.” Kras’hir replied, turning away from her. “Please.”
“...” Starhawk nodded, leaving. “If you don’t wish to speak to me for a while, if ever, I am completely understanding.”
No response. Kras’hir was ignoring her, it seemed. With a sigh, Starhawk left to go talk to her sister. Firehawk was in a cell in the basement of the Command Center, her hands cuffed behind her back. She stared at Starhawk when she entered, not saying a word. “Hello, Firehawk.” Starhawk greeted coldly.
“Hello, sister dear. Are you here to kill me?”
“No. I just wish to talk.”
“About what?” Firehawk asked.
“Do you have any last words for me?”
“When you were an infant, you were quite a handful, did you know that?” Firehawk asked. “You screamed, and cried, and threw things. One day, I had had enough, and went into your room with the intention of strangling you in your crib. But then, just when I was about to do it...you looked up at me, and smiled. I couldn't bring myself to harm you, sister. Even when our rivalry was at its worst, I never wanted to cripple or kill you. I couldn't do it, not after the way we laughed and sang and played together as children.”
“Noble words for someone who aided Nazis in an attempted coup of this world.” Starhawk said dryly. “Very hypocritical, but noble.”
“I played no part in the coup.” Firehawk replied. “If you believe nothing else I have to say, believe that. Heydrich and his daughter planned it, not me. I'm not stupid enough to think that slaughtering the Federation’s most powerful leaders is a good idea.”
“A fair point, but you still participated.”
“The only reason that Heydrich acts polite towards me is because I am very good at espionage. He is the most fanatical Nazi you could hope to encounter, and, going by the racial ideology that Nazis follow, aliens are little better than rats. Once I am no longer useful, he fully intends to have me killed, so I intend to remain useful.”
“I don’t wish to see you die, Firehawk…”
“I don't intend to die.” Firehawk said. “The only reason I have stuck with the Reich for this long is because it allows me to keep them from going after you.”
“I love you, sister dear.”
“I love you, too.” She replied, before snapping her cuffs off with ease. “I'm not going on trial, Star. You can tell Omnus that. You can also tell him that, if he wants Emma to talk, he'll need my help.”
Starhawk stared at her before pulling her into a passionate kiss. Firehawk kissed her back, before pulling away after a few minutes, grinning widely. Starhawk grinned back, holding her close.
“Still mad at me?” Firehawk asked her after a moment.
“Good.” Firehawk replied, kissing her again. Starhawk pushed her against the wall, massaging the inside of her sister’s mouth with her tongue. She pressed their bodies together, closing her eyes as they kissed. Firehawk purred, before beginning to remove her sister’s clothing. This led to several rounds of passionate lovemaking. Starhawk held Firehawk close, kissing and gently nipping at her neck. They were now laying together on the cot in Firehawk’s cell. It wasn't very comfortable, but it was good enough.
“I will try and convince Omnus to drop all charges and expunge your record in exchange for your help.”
“Thank you, sister dear.”
Starhawk nodded, getting up and redressing herself. “And one more thing: will you renew your vows with me?”
“I will.” Firehawk promised. Starhawk hugged her again. She then left Firehawk’s cell and went to Omnus. Upon hearing what she had to say, Omnus paced, deep in thought as to what he should do. Starhawk watched him.
“Much of the intel gathered by the Reich’s spies has been handed over to me.” Omnus said after a few minutes. “Some of what they uncovered is...ugly.”
“Is my sister involved?”
“She served as a spy, but none of this intel concerns her. Rather, it concerns the Federation.”
“What about the Federation?”
“The Reich uncovered a multitude of secret dealings, highly classified operations, and unethical actions that the Federation’s government would have preferred to remain secret. For example, they were involved in Project Origin.”
“The one that killed Alma?”
“Indeed. Firehawk provided a large amount of the funding for the project, as she mentioned before, but most of it was provided by the Federation. They were interested in the work Armacham was doing with creating powerful psychic commanders, and saw the potential in using the Replica soldiers. So, they funded Project Origin, and cared about Alma about as much as Armacham did.”
“Bastards.” Starhawk said. “...Is the corruption, secret dealings, and the other things the reason why they choose to rely on the Rangers?”
“...What do they see us as?”
“‘Expendable’ and ‘cannon fodder.’”
“...In other words, nothing.”
“Exactly.” Omnus said, his tone making it clear he was not amused by this knowledge.
“What will we do, then?”
“If your sister says she can help us…” he began, before picking up a document listing the charges against Firehawk and burning it with a lighter. “...then the trial is off.”
Starhawk hugged him. “Thank you, Omnus.”
“You're welcome.” he said, hugging her back. “Go inform Firehawk that she will not be tried for any wrongdoings.” Starhawk nodded, and went back to her sister’s cell. She informed Firehawk of the news, embracing her tightly.
“I am happy for you, but I am not sure how the others will feel about this.” Starhawk said after a moment.
“To be honest, I don't much care how they feel about it.” Firehawk replied bluntly.“Whether they like me or not, your team needs my help.”
“You’re very uncaring about what anyone thinks.” Starhawk said, snuggling up to her, placing her head on Firehawk’s shoulder. “I like that.”
“I don't completely disregard the opinion of everyone I meet.” Firehawk responded. “For example, I care quite a lot about what you think, sister.”
“You do?” Starhawk asked, feeling her sister run a hand through her hair. This caused her to emit a low purr of approval.
“I do.” Firehawk confirmed.
“And do you know what I think?” Starhawk responded rhetorically.
“You think I'm the best wife you could ask for.” Firehawk said, grinning. “Am I close?”
“You are exactly right.” Starhawk said, grinning back.
“Good.” Firehawk replied, kissing the top of her head. “I love you, sister dear.”
“Truly. Now and forever.”
“And a day.” Starhawk whispered. Firehawk nodded, still smiling.
“And a day.” She echoed. Starhawk closed her eyes, eventually Firehawk could hear soft snores. Firehawk held her sister close, letting her nap for a little while.
Omnus, meanwhile, worked at his console. After a few minutes passed, the lights flickered, and he heard footsteps behind him. Upon turning around, he saw a very familiar figure. A girl in a red dress, to be more precise.
“A-Alma?” He whispered. “Is that you?”
“Yes.” she whispered, walking over and hugging him. He hugged her back, too stunned for words. “I missed you so much...daddy.” Alma said, crying softly. This made Omnus cry, too. She had never called him that before.
“I missed you too, little one.” He said softly. Alma held the man she considered her adopted father for a time, staring up at Omnus as she broke the hug. He stared back at her, holding Alma’s hands in his as he did so and smiling.
“I wanted to thank you, Omnus. For seeing me as your own blood.”
“No thanks is needed.” Omnus replied. “I'm sorry I couldn't stop what they did to you.”
“Don’t be. They’re all dead.”
“I think I'd go mad trying to count the number of people you want to kill.” He said. “I've never seen someone as angry as you, Alma.”
“Oh, please.” Alma giggled. “I’m not that angry.”
“No?” Omnus asked. “Your ‘Almaverse’ isn't exactly sunshine and rainbows, little one.”
“Touche...big one.” Alma said, playfully flipping him off.
“Ah, I see.” He replied, snorting. “You've gone from the ‘creepy little girl’ phase to the ‘homicidal, bratty teenager’ phase.” Alma frowned slightly, looking at Omnus as she turned into an older form; a teenage girl of about 17 or 18.
“How did you guess?”
“The fact that you flipped me off, for starters.” He said dryly.
“Pouting isn’t going to work anymore, you know.” Alma said with a coy smirk.
“It didn't work when you were actually...well, alive, either.” Omnus responded, smirking back. “It didn't get you out of all those tests they did that you loved so very much.”
“Oh, right. Because the tests were my faaavorite thing about being incarcerated, weren’t they, old man?”
“Old man?” Omnus asked, putting on a mock-hurt tone. “That stings a bit, Alma.”
“It should. Looking like you’re eternally in your 20’s is soooooo old!” she replied, nearly laughing.
“You little brat.” He said, chuckling and ruffling her hair. Alma hugged him again, though they were interrupted by Hedrian, who walked in with a magazine in hand.
“This had better not be what I think it is…”
“Why would my own adopted father cheat on you with me?” Alma said. “He’s certainly handsome, but not like that.”
“This, Hedrian, is Alma.” Omnus explained.
“Uh huh.” Hedrian said dryly. “And I’m the Queen of the Hedrian Clan.”
“Very...charmed to meet you.” Alma said bluntly.
“Why would you assume I'm cheating?” Omnus asked Hedrian. “I thought you knew me well enough to know that's something I would never do.”
“...Because you’re hugging a younger woman?” Hedrian asked. Alma glared.
“I. Am his. Adopted. Daughter.” she repeated.
Hedrian stared at Omnus. “Is this true?”
“Yes.” Omnus replied. “Come on, Hedrian. When have I ever lied to you?”
“...Fair point. I’m sorry I assumed.”
“You are forgiven.” He said, letting Alma go. She turned back into a little girl, if only to make Hedrian feel more awkward. A moment later, Firehawk entered the room, nodding at Alma. Alma refused to acknowledge her.
“Isn’t she supposed to be on trial?” Hedrian asked.
“Aren't you?” Firehawk asked coldly. “You're hardly in any place to judge me, you smug bitch.”
Firehawk snorted, turning to Omnus. “I am going to go interrogate Emma.”
“I can help you with that.” Alma said. “If the methods you try don't get her to crack, I will get the information you need.”
Firehawk nodded, leaving the room. She walked to Emma’s cell, unlocked the door, and sat down across from her.
“Hallo, Verräter.” Emma spat. “What brings you here?”
“Where is your father, Emma?”
“I do not know. He ran off as your sister killed Ilsa.”
“Yes, yes, I already know that. But where would he go?”
“Possibly back home.”
“Possibly, possibly, possibly.” Firehawk said. “That does not help me, Emma.”
“I know nothing of his whereabouts.”
“I am starting to believe that, but I cannot ignore the possibility that you're lying to me.” Firehawk said. “Now, I've tried to play the part of the good cop here. I'll let the bad cop take over now.”
“Hello, Emma.” Alma said calmly, taking on her ‘teenage’ form again. This time, however, she looked far less human. Her hair was long and matted, her eyes seemed to glow a dull yellow, and her skin and dress were covered in blood. “You are dealing with me now. And I am not going to be nice. At all.”
“Have fun, you two.” Firehawk said, leaving the room and locking the door. Alma sat across from Emma.
“I am going to ask you once nicely, and then I'm going to get mean.” She said. “Where. Is. Your. Father?”
“Do you believe I’m scared?” Emma replied flatly. “No, you do not scare me one bit. As for where my father is, I don’t know.”
Alma grinned. “I was hoping we could do this the hard way.” She said, before putting her hand on Emma’s face. In an instant, the room disappeared, replaced by Emma’s home in Berlin. They were inside her mind.
“...Why are we in my home?” Emma asked, her voice still neutral.
“Your mind is trying to cope with my presence by providing you with a comforting vision of your dwelling.” Alma said. “This is your mind, Emma. You must feel safer here, yes?”
“Ja. I am still not talking.”
“You will, in time.” Alma replied. “Your mind is almost like a nut. The outer layer is tough, but once you crack it open…”
“Yes, yes, I have heard it before.” Emma replied dismissively.
“Unlike your other interrogators, I have access to your memories, your desires, your darkness secrets.” Alma said. “Would you care to tell me about Isaac, your first boyfriend? He was Jewish, wasn't he?”
“...How did you…” Emma said, a lump in her throat preventing her from finishing the sentence. Alma didn't reply. Instead, a memory began to manifest. Heydrich stood over Emma, who looked to be about 15.
“Why were you frolicking with that Jewish rat, Emma?” He asked her.
“F-father, please...I love him…” she cried.
“I thought I taught you better, child.” He said before backhanding her. “Or did you not hear a fucking word I said?” Emma watched her teenage self collapse to the floor, crying softly.
“I did…” the older Emma whispered. Alma looked at her, not being able to watch Heydrich beat his own daughter. Emma looked at Alma, tears in her eyes. “P-please, I can no longer bear it…”
“I pity you.” Alma said. “Really, I do. We are both what our fathers made us.”
“Yes. Deep down...I hate the Nazi ideology.” Emma admitted. “The Reich will not last a thousand years. I’m surprised it hasn’t collapsed sooner.”
“It will fall, soon enough.” Alma said. “You can be certain of that.”
“...My father is still hiding in the Federation’s capital. I do not know exactly where he is, or what he plans to do.”
Alma nodded, before reaching out, offering Emma her hand. Emma blinked at her.
“B-but I have committed untold atrocities...why are you acting as if I’m deserving of forgiveness?”
“Because I know well what it is like to be made into a monster because of my father’s work.”
“...Are you saying that I deserve a second chance after all this?”
“Yes.” Alma said. “Now, take my hand.”
Emma nodded, taking Alma’s hand in hers with a small smile. In an instant, they returned to her cell. “What will happen to me?” Emma asked. “I have given you what you wanted, now what?”
“Do you want my honest opinion, Emma?”
“On one hand, I feel that you should be brought to justice. On the other, however? I can see you are not a bad person. A lot of people seem to see all Nazis as horrid monsters; while that isn’t too far off, it is inaccurate. It is the leaders who are the true monsters. Most others are just ordinary people like yourself. You were conditioned into loving Adolf Hitler without question.”
Alma then got up to leave, but before she did, she turned back to look at Emma. “Remember, I was merciful this time. Do not squander this second chance. If you do...I'll end you.”
Emma nodded simply, watching Alma leave. Once she left, Emma lay on her cot, thinking deeply.
Across the city, meanwhile, Blackhawk was still trying to process his grief. He was doing this the only way he knew how: Shooting. His mother looked at him from afar, sighing. Blackhawk ignored her, continuing to shoot. Usagi was another addition to the long list of friends he had lost. He was used to grief. “Don’t worry, Blackhawk.” Usagi said. “I’m gonna come back.”
“I'll believe it when it happens.” He said, bitterness in his tone.
“...Have you ever noticed I seem to attract a lot of attention?” Usagi asked.
“Yes.” Blackhawk replied, snorting. “Most of that attention comes from women.”
“Oh, come on, sweetheart, don’t act like you didn’t enjoy that one kiss.” she said mock-flirtatiously.
“The world will never understand our forbidden love.” he said, his tone similar to hers.
“They won’t.” Usagi said. There was a certain grain of truth to this sort of talk between them, even if they didn’t feel that way entirely towards each other.
“Kras’hir isn’t taking your passing very well.” Blackhawk said after a few minutes.
“I know...fuck, I miss her, I miss Starhawk, Rei, Makoto, Ami...all of you.”
“Ah, chin up, girl.” Cort said. “Being dead ain’t so bad.”
“Speak for yourself, old man.” Susan said. “Some of us like being able to walk and talk.”
“Got that right.” Usagi said. “I like you, Susan. You’re the only one who gets me.”
“I like you, Usagi.” Susan replied. “You don’t take shit from anyone.”
“Awwww, thanks.” Usagi said. “...Like Roland? Is that who I’m like?”
“...” Usagi said nothing for several minutes. Within Blackhawk’s subconscious the voices took on the same appearances they had in life. Cort, Cuthbert, Alain, Susan, and Margarita all sat with Usagi, the place they were in resembling a tavern. Usagi took a seat next to Susan, admiring the blonde Mid-Worlder’s beauty. Susan grinned at this.
“Enjoying the view?” she asked. Usagi blushed heavily. Margarita laughed, putting a hand around her friend’s shoulder.
“Susan, don’t tease her like that! She’s married!” the tan-skinned girl said between laughs.
“Is she, now?” Susan responded, chuckling. “Interesting.”
“Y-yes, I’m married!” Usagi said. “What’s it to you?”
“Oh, nothing.” Cuthbert said. “Susan here just wants a jilly to keep her company.” This caused Alain to spit out the drink in his hand.
“Bert! That’s very uncalled for!”
“Oh, come on. I’m just pulling her leg.” Cuthbert assured. Cort swatted them both on the back of the head. This caused them both to wince and Usagi to stifle a laugh.
“You're talking to a lady, maggot.” Cort said to Cuthbert. “Show some respect.”
“I cry your pardon, Usagi-sai.” Cuthbert said sheepishly.
“It’s alright. I really don’t mind if Susan’s attracted to me.” Usagi said. “She just needs to understand I’m married.”
“And you all need to understand that I'm hearing every word you're saying.” Blackhawk interjected, appearing in the room with them. “You're all in my head, remember?”
“Oh...right.” Usagi said.
Cort snorted. “I don't give a fuck, boy. I'll say whatever I like.”
“I know, you old bastard.” Blackhawk said dryly.
“How are you ‘here?’” Susan asked.
“I'm actually taking a nap.” Blackhawk explained. “I can come here when I dream.”
“Why haven’t you said this before?” Margarita said, kissing him. Blackhawk kissed her back for a moment, before pulling back.
“No.” He said, turning away from her. “I can't do this. I'm sorry.”
“Kiss you.” He said. “Even in a dream, or my own mind, or whatever you wish to call it. I can't. I care about Starhawk too much.” Margarita stared at him for several minutes.
“I understand, my love.”
“Good.” He said, before sitting down in one of the chairs. After that, he spent a while-or perhaps a very short time, as things like that were funny in dreams-laughing and making conversation with the ghosts in his head.
Kras’hir, meanwhile, was exemplifying what Blackhawk meant when he said she wasn't taking Usagi’s death very well. The Daemoness was very drunk, holding a glass in one hand and a picture of her and Usagi on their wedding day in the other, quietly crying to herself as she sat in her favorite chair. There came a knock at the door. Kras’hir opened it to reveal Lettuce and Pinkie standing there. “Hey, Kras’hir.”
“Hey.” She said, staggering a bit. “What can I do for you two?”
“We’re just checking on you to see how you’re doing.” Lettuce said. “It’s the least we can do at a time like this.”
“Come in.” Kras’hir said, stepping aside. Lettuce took Pinkie’s hoof as they entered, the penguin deciding to grab himself a drink. Opening the fridge, he grabbed two bottles of hard apple cider. It seemed appropriate that they needed something alcoholic. Handing a bottle to Pinkie, Lettuce cracked open his own and drank. Pinkie did the same, taking a long gulp from her cider.
“Beer is actually healthy for equines, you know.” Kras’hir informed. “You should drink more.”
“...Trust me, Pinkie doesn’t need getting drunk.” Lettuce said.
“At a time like this, getting drunk sounds better and better by the minute.” Pinkie responded. “I still can't believe she's gone.”
“I have never wanted to die more than I do right now.” Kras’hir muttered to herself. Pinkie stared at her, an expression of shock and horror crossing her face.
“You want to die?” She asked Kras’hir. The Daemoness nodded, not saying a word.
“Honestly? As much as I’m horrified by that revelation, can I really blame you?” Lettuce asked. “You and Usagi were the closest out of everyone.”
“I know you're hurting right now.” Pinkie said to Kras’hir, her voice very gentle. “But you have lots of friends here. Friends who love you, and who would be very sad to see you go.”
“Well, there's me and Lettuce, to start.” Pinkie replied. “There's also Starhawk, Blackhawk, Rei, Minako, Ami, Makoto, Undyne, Alphys, Omnus...do I need to go on?”
“No.” Kras’hir said, feeling a bit better. “Thanks, Pinkie.”
“Point is, we’re all here for you, Kras’hir. You’re not alone, remember that.”
“I will.” She said, getting up. “Now, if you two will excuse me, I'm going to go check on Sally.”
With that, Kras’hir left them, walking to the toddler’s room and slowly opening the door. Sally lay in her bed, softly crying in her sleep, clutching her teddy bear tightly. Kras’hir laid down next to her, the bed creaking under her weight. The little girl stirred slightly, before waking up. “Hmmm...what is it, mommy…”
“Just wanted to make sure you were alright, kiddo.”
“Thank you…” Sally said, turning over and hugging her.
“You're welcome.” Kras’hir replied, hugging her back.
“You can sleep in my bed if you want…” Sally mumbled as she drifted back into slumber. Kras’hir smiled, deciding to take her up on that offer.
Rei, meanwhile, was with the other senshi, Usagi’s family, and Mamoru, who had traveled to Coastal Falls as soon as he heard the news. “...Usagi’s gone…” the latter muttered, having repeated the statement to himself many times. Rei eventually couldn't take hearing it anymore. She stepped into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. The next thirty seconds were punctuated by loud curses and the sound of breaking glass. Ami rushed to the bathroom, rapidly knocking on the door. “Rei? REI?! WHAT’S GOING ON?!”
After a moment, Rei opened the door.
“Are you alright?!”
“No.” Rei replied. She had put her fist through the mirror, and her hand was bleeding. Ami immediately began to sterilize and bandage it. Rei was silent as she did this. Once Ami was finished, they went back to the living room. No one spoke for a long time.
“Fine, I guess I'll talk first.” Rei said after a while. “God, I hate awkward silences.”
“So do I.” Minako said, cuddling up to her.
“...I still can’t believe Usagi was taken from us so soon…” Ami said.
Makoto tried to restrain her anger. Rei noticed this.
“You look like you're about to explode.” She said. “I don't blame you.”
“Are you trying to push me?” the brunette asked through gritted teeth.
“No.” Rei replied. “I don't like seeing you angry, Makoto. However, I understand why you are right now.”
“No shit.” Makoto said. “Our best friend is dead.”
“I am aware. In fact, all I want to do right now is find that bastard Heydrich and crush his damn skull.” Rei responded, her tone still calm.
“...But we fucking can’t.”
“Why not?” Rei asked. “I want him to burn.”
“Because we don’t know where he is.”
Rei snapped a moment later, her fist slamming into Makoto’s cheek. Makoto hit her back, Minako and Ami trying to defuse the situation. This proved ineffective, as Rei and Makoto shoved them both away before beginning to brawl.
“I HAVE MORE TALENT THAN YOU!” Makoto shouted, swiping at Rei. Rei avoided the swipes, spitting blood in her face before hitting Makoto in the stomach with both fists. Before things could go any further, the door to the apartment slammed open, and Kras’hir entered.
“ENOUGH!” She bellowed, pulling Makoto and Rei apart and shoving them away from each other.
“At least I didn’t hesitate to tell Usagi how I felt before she left.” Makoto spat.
“You fucking bitch…” Rei spat back at her.
“It’s true, am I right?” she said. “You just like Minako since she looks so much like Usagi.”
“Go to Hell.”
“I’m already there.”
“You think this is Hell for you?” Kras’hir asked her. “How do you think I feel? Or do you not care?”
“Believe me, I know how you feel.” Makoto said.
Kras’hir stared at her for a moment, before replying, her tone bitter, “I don't think you do. Almost everyone I've loved has either died or gone mad, and I was foolish to think the universe would cut me some slack and allow Usagi and I to be happy together.”
“...Tough shit. She was one of my best friends. Who are you to talk? You didn’t know her as long as I did.”
“Great Mako-chan,” Ami said bitterly. “Keep digging yourself deeper, by all means.”
“You're right.” Kras’hir said. “I didn't know Usagi as long as you. However, I think it's accurate to say I know more about her than you do. There were no secrets kept between us.”
“Are you accusing me of not being open about myself?”
“No. I'm accusing you of being such an abrasive cunt that Usagi didn't want to confide in you.”
“Make me.” Kras’hir said. “Really, try, Makoto. I dare you.”
Makoto charged at Kras’hir using all her strength. The Daemoness didn't expect Makoto to actually push her back. Even so, it wasn't very far, and it didn't take much effort for Kras’hir to keep Makoto from pushing her any further. Makoto glared at her.
“I don't want to fight you.” Kras’hir said. “Truly, I don't. I like you a lot, Makoto. So, please, don't push me into actually wanting to fight you.”
“...You’re right.” Makoto said, breaking down into a blubbering mess. “You’re absolutely right…”
Kras’hir hugged her. Makoto hugged her back, crying softly. Kras’hir tried to sooth her, gently stroking her hair. Eventually, the green-eyed brunette quieted herself. Once Kras’hir let Makoto go, Rei pulled the latter into a hug of her own. Makoto stared at her, tears drying.
“I'm sorry I hit you.” Rei whispered.
“I’m sorry I hit you...and said all that shit.” Makoto whispered back.
“I forgive you.” Rei replied, smiling at her. Makoto then pulled Rei into a gentle yet powerful and passionate kiss. Rei kissed her back, purring softly. They held the kiss for a time before pulling away, a small trail of saliva between them. Makoto grinned slightly. Rei did, too.
“That was…” she began.
Makoto looked into Rei’s eyes. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Makoto kissed her again.
Meanwhile, Naruto was meditating. He was the only Ranger who hadn't yet learned of Usagi’s death. Lettuce debated with Omnus on the consequences of him doing so. If Naruto learned of Usagi’s death, it would theoretically allow Kurama to permanently take hold of him. Therefore, Lettuce had suggested they keep him in the dark, as dishonorable as that might have been. Omnus argued that keeping Naruto in the dark would only make things worse, because the anger and despair he felt would only be more severe if he found out that the news of her passing was kept secret from him. “Good point.” Lettuce said.
Omnus nodded before contacting Naruto, asking him to come to the Command Center. Naruto, broken out of his meditation, noted that Omnus sounded like he was about to cry. He teleported to the Command Center, looking at Omnus.
“I don't know of any easy way to say this.” Omnus said after a moment. “Usagi’s gone.” Naruto stared silently, first at Omnus, then at Lettuce. Oh, God...he’s staring right at me...ohgodohgodohgod…, the penguin thought, breaking into a sweat and making what Omnus could only describe as ‘nervous penguin noises’. Omnus himself was unfazed by the stare.
“Naruto, you are a valued member of this team, but if Kurama takes over, and you attack either myself or anyone else, I'll put you down like a rabid dog. Understand?”
“Understood.” Naruto muttered. Lettuce looked at him.
“Good.” Omnus said. “I do not blame you for taking the news badly. None of Usagi’s friends and family are taking it well.”
“Listen, Naruto, if you need someone to talk to…” the penguin began.
“Yeah...I get it, you’ll be here to listen…” Naruto said. “I...I just need some time to process this.”
“Understood.” Omnus replied. “If I may make a suggestion, perhaps you should talk to one of your friends from your old home? They might be able to help you in ways your teammates can't.” Naruto nodded, deciding he needed to talk to Sasuke and Sakura. Going back home, he booted up his laptop’s webcam.
Hours later, he had broken down sobbing. That was when Hinata contacted him, Sasuke having asked her to try and calm Naruto down.
“I heard about Usagi.” She said. “I'm sorry, Naruto.”
“I couldn’t save her, Hinata…”
“You weren't even there, Naruto. And even if you were, what could you have done?”
“I could have tried…”
“Usagi died saving someone she cared about.” Hinata replied. “If you could ask her, I'm sure she'd say that she'd do it again. It was a split-second decision, and I doubt there's anything you could have done even if you were right there with her.” Naruto didn’t speak for a long time.
“...You’re right, Hinata…”
“Of course I am.” She said jokingly, trying to lighten the mood a bit. After another silence, she said, “Look, I have to go for now, but if you need to chat again, feel free to contact me. Okay?”
“Okay. ...I still love you, you know.”
“Honestly? I still love you, too.” Hinata replied. “What happened with Usagi made something I've been considering lately even easier. I'm going to be moving to Coastal Falls in a few days.”
“...What?” came the response.
“I'm going to be moving to Coastal Falls in a few days.” She repeated. “I've already made the arrangements.”
“...So we can get back together?”
“Yes.” Hinata replied, smiling. “Yes, we can.”
Naruto’s tears turned from sadness to joy. Hinata ended the call soon after, reassuring him she would get to Coastal Falls as soon as she could.
Alma, meanwhile, moved through the Warp, unfazed by the horrors surrounding her. She was looking for someone in particular, namely, Usagi, and soon found her on a small Daemon World. The blonde was unconscious, or as close to that state as a dead soul could be. Alma walked over to Usagi, gently nudging her. “Five more minutes, mom…” she mumbled.
“I'm not your mother.” Alma said, amused. “And you are not in your bed, Sailor Moon.” Usagi jolted awake, screaming upon seeing Alma. Alma was still in the form she had used to interrogate Emma. In the dim light that was found on the Daemon World, she looked almost demonic in appearance.
“Come on.” She said after a minute, offering Usagi her hand. “Get up.”
“W-where are we going?”
Alma sighed, before her form changed, making her look more like a normal teenage girl. After doing this, she replied, “I plan to help you get out of the Warp, and return to your body.”
“You're dead, remember?” Alma said. “And every person who dies ends up in the Warp.”
“...Oh, right.” Usagi deadpanned. “Let’s just go.”
Alma helped her to her feet, before asking, “Can you call upon your powers? It will make things much easier if you can.”
She nodded, saying several words she hadn’t said in years:
“Moon prism power...Make...UP!” Transforming into Sailor Moon once again, Usagi gripped Alma’s hand. Alma grinned at her.
“Shall we show these Daemons what we can do?” She asked.
“You know that as well as me.” Usagi said, grinning back.
Alma turned towards the advancing hordes of Daemons, before beginning to cleave them apart with precise blasts of psychic energy. Usagi began using similar blasts, cleaving through horde after horde of Warpspawn. Heads, severed limbs and blood littered the ground as Alma and Usagi walked forward, killing every Daemon in their way. This took the both of them quite a while, each Daemon fiercer than the last. The hordes seemed to never end, but neither girl cared. Standing back to back, they slaughtered every Daemon that came their way, and the mounds of mutilated corpses grew higher and higher. Through this ritual of killing, the two also bonded.
“I knew there was a savage side to you.” Alma said after a while. Usagi smirked.
“Like it wasn’t obvious?”
This made Alma laugh. “I suppose it was.” She replied.
“I think we’re going to be great friends.” Usagi said, before ripping a Daemon’s torso open and eating its entrails. This was done entirely to inspire terror in the other Daemons, and it worked. They all began to run as fast as they could in the other direction. Usagi smiled widely, her lips and teeth stained with blood. Alma smiled too, the expression eerie and dangerous. Soon after, the Daemons returned, and the killing began again.
Kras’hir, meanwhile, was doing some killing of her own. She had donned the ‘Lady in Black’ persona again, and was hunting down and brutally murdering every criminal she could find. One unlucky man, whom she had caught trying to rape his own daughter, was impaled, the metal pole she had stuck him on going into his anus and out his mouth. A nurse that had been smothering her patients was strangled to death by Kras’hir, the Daemoness then hanging her corpse from a lamppost. A group of armed men who had shot an old couple for no reason at all were picked off one at a time, Kras’hir skinning each of them alive and nailing their bodies to trees. On and on she went, the killings getting more and more brutal. Eventually, she was confronted with a familiar face: Starhawk. When the Hawkian found her, Kras’hir was in the middle of covering a crazed arsonist in gasoline. “Stop.” Starhawk ordered.
Kras’hir ignored her, striking a match and tossing it on the arsonist. The gasoline ignited, and he burst into flames. Starhawk gripped Kras’hir’s hand and twisted it downward. Kras’hir didn't react to this. “You will listen to me now, Daemoness of Khorne.” the Hawkian growled. “This is not how to handle grief.”
“You think this is grief?” Kras’hir asked softly. “This is my attempt to rid the city of corruption. I know what Omnus told you about the Federation.”
“They are corrupt bureaucrats who see us as cannon fodder.”
“Indeed.” Kras’hir said, watching the arsonist burn. “This is far from the first time I've gone out hunting criminals.”
“I know.” Starhawk whispered. “Are you still angry about what I said earlier? I would be angry too.”
“I wanted to kill you.” Kras’hir said bluntly. “If I am being honest, I wanted to kill you.”
“I don’t blame you. I was foolish.” Starhawk said, looking away from Kras’hir. Kras’hir placed a hand on her shoulder. “I was stupid for trying to propose to you so shortly after Usagi’s death, not to mention I am betrothed to both Blackhawk and my sister…”
“This is a truly messed up situation, isn't it?” Kras’hir said.
Kras’hir pulled her into a hug. Starhawk gasped softly, but hugged her back. Kras’hir smiled, kissing Starhawk’s head. Starhawk sighed with a content purr. Kras’hir continued to hold her close, humming softly. They held each other like this for a time before Starhawk whispered, “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Meanwhile, Lettuce had arrived back home where a very angry Pinkie was awaiting him. “...Babe?” he asked, understandably confused. “What’s wrong?”
“I found your shrine.”
Lettuce’s eyes widened and he broke out into a nervous sweat. “...My...shrine?”
“Shit.” Lettuce muttered. “How’d you find it?”
“Does it matter?” She asked angrily.
“Yes. How. Did. You. Find it?”
“I went into your closet to get something. Then I found your fucking shrine.”
“Geez, you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Lettuce said. “Or discounting her, your sisters?” Lettuce then felt himself knocked down onto the floor from Pinkie punching him. “...I deserved that.” After a few more pained winces, he spoke again. “OK, so I have a shrine to Kira. I thought you’d be OK with that.”
“Finding her attractive is one thing. Setting up a shrine devoted to her is another.” Pinkie spat.
“...And that means what now?” Lettuce asked. “Listen, Pinkie. You need to understand something. My species is...polyamorous, for lack of a better term. We don’t believe in monogamy, at least willing monogamy.”
“Then take this…” she said, tossing the necklace he had used to propose back at him. “...and shove it up your ass. Enjoy your polygamy, Lettuce.”
As she walked away, Lettuce shouted, “BUT YOU DIDN’T LET ME FINISH! THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS! LIKE MY PARENTS! AND I WAS HOPING THAT YOU AND I COULD DO THE SAME! WELL, SCREW YOU, PINKAMENA DIANE PIE! I DON’T NEED YOU!”
Pinkie ignored him. She kept walking, and didn't look back. Lettuce looked at her slowly disappear from his sight, then at her necklace. “...I’m not gonna wallow in a pit of misery like Toby has. I’m gonna find a way to fix this.” He then went to his closet and stared at the shrine. He then retrieved his thunder hammer and proceeded to destroy it. Every single piece.
Kira herself, meanwhile, was playing her guitar in a public park. She was strumming random chords, not even making a cohesive tune. Even so, it didn't sound bad, and people stopped to listen as they walked by. She continued this for a while, before improvising a silly little love song on top of her strumming. It wasn't dedicated to anyone in particular, as Kira wasn't in love at that moment. Still, it was a nice tune, and couples danced to it. She was interrupted, however, when she saw what looked like Lettuce running up to her as fast as his tiny feet could carry him. “Kira…” he said between deep breaths. “We need to talk. Like, right now.”
“About what?” She asked, continuing to play. Lettuce explained, rather hesitantly, about what had just happened between himself and Pinkie. And that meant talking about his shrine to her; the penguin did not sugarcoat how creepy this was. He sounded genuinely remorseful, however. By the time he finished, Lettuce was silently crying.
“Kira...I don’t want to end up as the new Toby.” he whispered, his voice nearly breaking. Kira stared at him for a few minutes, before she finally spoke.
“Setting up a shrine to me is creepy, yes. It's also kind of pointless.” She said. “I'll tell you what I have told many men: You're barking up the wrong tree.”
“So, you don’t like me back? I suspected as much.”
“I'm just not into men.”
“Are...are you coming out to me?” Lettuce asked.
“To you?” she repeated. “It's not common knowledge, but you're hardly the first who I've told about my sexuality, Lettuce.”
“I’d say ‘you should have said something’, but I never asked in the first place.” Lettuce said. “So, what am I gonna do? Pinkie wants jack shit to do with me right now.”
“Don't know, don't care.”
“Gee, thanks.” Lettuce said dryly. “...Well, you listened, at least.”
“Let me say this, Lettuce: We aren't best friends right now.” Kira replied coldly. “Had I known you had a goddamned shrine devoted to me, I would have been a lot less nice the last few times we've chatted.”
“Listen, I’m sorry, OK?”
“Good. You should be.” Kira said. “This isn't something I can forgive easily, Lettuce. For all I know, you might have been planning to kidnap and torture me. Setting up a shrine isn't exactly normal.”
“You know, if my mother knew all about this, she would have a field day trying to examine my psychological issues.”
“Now, isn't that the understatement of the century?” his mother asked, standing right behind him. Lettuce turned to see a rose-colored penguin, dressed in an overcoat and with a clipboard and notepad.
“...Hi, mom.” he said sheepishly.
“Hello, Retthi.” She replied curtly.
“...What brings you here?” Lettuce said, trying not to freak out and run for it. “I thought you’d be consulting someone on their animus or something.”
“I was, until Pinkie Pie got in touch with me.” She responded.
“Oh...oh, God...what’d she tell you?”
Lettuce sighed. “Did she mention the part where I implied she did things with her sisters?”
“Yep.” his mother said flatly.
“Am I in trouble?”
“Come now, Retthi. You are a young adult, not a child. ...But yes, you’re in trouble.” his mother said. “Come with me. I think it's about time you and I spoke about your mental state.” With a sigh, Lettuce followed his mother back home, and into her office. Sitting on the couch across from his mother, he stared at her; he was now not her son, but her patient. He might have cracked a ‘so tell me about your mother’ joke, had the situation been different, his psychologist not his own mother, and the fact that the female bird in question hated Freud with a passion.
“Tell me about the shrine.” She said after a few minutes. “Why did you set it up?”
“Because I have a thing for Kira.” he said bluntly. “Mom, what does this have to do with Jungian psychology?”
“It has nothing to do with Jungian psychology.” She said. “I'm quite knowledgeable about many forms of psychology. Freud, as much as I don't like his work, would have a bloody field day with you, Retthi. Care to guess why?”
“Because my issues somehow relate to sex?”
“Indeed, they do.” She responded. “So, again I'll say it: Tell me about the shrine. Give me more details than that you simply have a thing for Kira.”
“I...I really can’t, because I have an attachment to her. I love her.”
“Retthi, you lust for her. That is the more fitting term.” his mother replied. “Kira has sat on that couch many times. The things she's seen have done quite a lot of damage to her mind. This revelation, knowing that someone she trusted is so lustful that he would set up a shrine, will likely make things worse.”
“...So I’ve done more damage than I care to admit?”
“Well, don’t I feel like a ray of sunshine.” Lettuce muttered. “Great. Just great. First my fiance breaks off my engagement with her, then I find out I might’ve damaged someone who trusted in me.”
“You should feel bad.” his mother said bluntly. “To put it in frank terms, you fucked up, and Kira and Pinkie are right for being angry with you for it.”
“I fully deserve it.” Lettuce said. “I don’t blame them if they never speak to me again.”
“If they do, you had best pray to whatever gods exist, thanking them for their mercy.” She said. “I think that's all I need to hear from you today, Retthi. You can go.”
Lettuce nodded and left, deciding he needed to clear his head. Soon after he left, Kras’hir entered, having set up an appointment with his mother the day before. “Hello, Kras’hir.” Marore greeted.
“Hey, doc.” She said, sitting down on the couch.
“How are things?”
“As good as they can, considering.” Kras’hir replied. “The pain of losing Usagi hasn't really gone away, but it's dulled a bit.”
“But you set up this appointment so we could talk about it, yes?”
“...I lied.” Kras’hir said softly. “The pain hasn't subsided at all. If anything, it's gotten worse. Everytime I go into that apartment and I don't hear Usagi welcoming me home, or I walk into our bedroom and see the things she left behind, or I faintly smell her perfume, still lingering in the air...it feels like I'm being stabbed.”
Marore sighed. “Tell me more about how you’re feeling.”
“Angry. Sad. Lost. Hurt. Broken.” Kras’hir responded. “Take your pick. All of them are true.”
“I see. Can you give me some more detail?”
“I've been contemplating death.” The Daemoness said. “More specifically, I've considered killing myself, in order to join Usagi. The only thing that's stopped me is the fact I’d be leaving a lot of people I care about behind in the process.” Marore pondered this statement, her face turned into one of concern. Severe concern.
“You would be leaving a lot of people behind. I think you may be suffering from depression, Kras’hir. Usagi’s death is the straw that has broken the camel's back in regards to it.”
Kras’hir chuckled humorlessly. “After the life I've lived, depression seems almost inevitable. Do you think you can help me, doc?”
“I believe I can.” Marore replied. “I would normally prescribe medication, but I can sense you would not be the sort who’d need it.”
“I don't even know if it would work.” Kras’hir said. “Aside from alcohol, most drugs don't affect Khornates like me. My physiology is too resilient for them.”
“I see. In that case, I will try and help any way I can.”
“Thanks.” Kras’hir replied sincerely. “I appreciate it.”
Alma, meanwhile, was arguing with Omnus. She was trying to convince him to give Emma a chance to redeem herself. She was still in the Warp with Usagi, so she had to communicate with him via telepathy. “I have seen the kind of person Emma truly is. A victim of her environment.”
“She isn't like you, Alma.” Omnus responded. “You were never given a choice about what you would become. She was, and she chose wrong.”
“She chose wrong, yes, but she had to make it to avoid her father’s abuse!” Alma shouted.
“You are biased, Alma. Your own experiences are clouding your judgement.”
“You and I both know that you would have done everything in your power to help Emma when she was a child if you could.” Alma retorted. “Let me help her now.”
Omnus sighed, before going to Emma’s cell and opening the door. She glared at him. “What do you want?”
“I want to give you a second chance.” He said.
“I want to give you a second chance.” Omnus repeated.
“I do not understand. Why would you of all people want to give me a second chance?”
“For the same reason I haven't turned my back on Alma, or Firehawk, or Kras’hir.” He replied. “You are not what your past has made you, Emma. You can be better.”
“I cannot.” she insisted. “I have done many heinous things.”
“That does not mean the road to redemption is closed, Emma. The path of atonement will be long and hard, but you will eventually reach the end of it.” Emma stared at him for several minutes before getting up and taking Omnus’ hand. Omnus smiled at her.
“Alma believes in you.” He said. “And I do, too. You are much better than you think you are, Emma.”
“No one has ever said these things to me before…”
Omnus, seeing her eyes tearing up, pulled Emma into a hug. She cried softly into his chest. When she was finished, Emma looked at Omnus with a smile. He smiled back at her, before he asked, “Do you feel better now?”
This made his smile widen. “I will be a better father than...him. On that, you have my word.” This caused Emma to cry again. Omnus continued to hold her close, gently stroking her hair. Emma stopped crying, drying her eyes as she broke the hug.
“What will you do now?” He asked her.
“I...do not know, honestly. I wish to wait until Reinhard goes on trial to make that decision.”
“I understand.” Omnus replied. “For now, go outside. It is a nice, warm day, and there is much to see in the city. Just make sure to get rid of the swastika armband on your uniform.”
She nodded, tearing the armband off and stuffing it into a pocket. Emma then stepped out into the sunshine and began to take a walk. A little while later, she encountered Kira.
“Hello, stranger.” She said, falling into step beside Emma. “Haven't seen you around here before.”
“I am new here, fraulein.” Emma replied, deciding to be polite and kissing Kira’s hand; it was a custom she’d picked up in Britain once. This made Kira giggle.
“I love your accent.” She said.
“You enjoy my accent? It’s German, you know.” Emma said, giggling as well.
“Oh, I know.” Kira responded. “I knew a girl once who was German. She was a redhead with a fiery temper.”
“You did, hmmm?” Emma replied, her mouth turning up into a coy grin. “Tell me more.”
“Well, her name was Asuka.” Kira said. “She told me she used to pilot a mech, known as an ‘Eva’ to fight creatures she called Angels. From what little she was willing to recount of her time fighting them, these Angels make the enemies Power Rangers face look like kittens in comparison.”
“And how would you know as to what Power Rangers fight?” Emma said, before realizing she had revealed a bit too much. Kira stared at her for a moment.
“You speak as if you know what Rangers deal with.” She responded.
“I do.” Emma confessed, explaining who she really was.
“...The old man is sometimes too forgiving for his own good.” Kira said under her breath when Emma finished.
“I have tried making a new friend, and I’ve already fucked it up.” Emma muttered under her breath. “I do not blame you if you want to get as far away from me as possible.”
Kira sighed, before she said, “No, I don't. It's just that...well, I know what Nazis tend to do to people like me. I'm a lesbian, you see.”
“...I am bisexual, and yet I was loyal to the Party until some hours ago.” Emma replied. “I will not lie, I find you attractive, miss…?”
“Kira. Kira Ford.”
“Kira.” Emma repeated, savoring the name as if it were a sweet-tasting pastry. “I am Emma Heydrich, as I’ve said before.”
Kira nodded. “Honestly? I think you and I are going to be good friends.”
Emma nodded. “...Were you attracted to this ‘Asuka’, Kira?”
“We dated for nearly two years. Does that answer your question?”
“Yes. If I may ask, what caused you two to…”
“Asuka had a lot of trauma to deal with.” Kira said, sighing. “She wasn't in the best mental state while we were together, and she attacked me more than once because of panic attacks and the like. After this went on for a while, we decided it would be better for us both to end our relationship.”
“I can tell you still miss her.” Emma whispered, pulling Kira into a hug. “Do not worry. I am here if you need someone to talk to.”
“I've made my peace with what happened, Emma.” Kira replied. “Asuka is happy with someone else now, someone who can help her heal. I'm happy that she's happy.”
“In any case, I am here to listen.” Emma said. “Would you like to join me on my walk?”
“Certainly.” Kira responded, smiling. Emma took her hand, and they began walking.
Kras’hir, meanwhile, was going to see two people who had yet to hear the news of Usagi’s passing: Undyne and Alphys. She knocked on their apartment door, waiting for one of them to open it. Undyne slammed the door off its hinges, staring at Kras’hir.
“Can I come in?” The Daemoness asked, noting that Undyne appeared to have hastily thrown on the clothes she was wearing. It seemed that Kras’hir had interrupted intimacy between her and Alphys.
“Of course.” Undyne said, she noticed Kras’hir’s mournful tone. “...Geez, Kras’hir. Who died?”
“Usagi.” Immediately, Undyne’s face went blank.
“...You’re kidding. Please tell me you’re kidding. It’d be a really fucked up joke, but please…”
“Why would I joke about my own wife being dead?” Kras’hir responded, her voice nearly breaking.
Undyne immediately dragged Kras’hir inside, sitting her down onto the couch and fetching her some tea spiked with rum. “Tell me everything.” the fish-woman growled. “Who killed her?”
“A man who is already dead.” Kras’hir responded. “Starhawk saw to that.”
“Shit. I was hoping whoever killed her would be brought to justice.” Undyne said.
“Death is the best form of justice, and a good way to solve a problem.” Kras’hir replied. “No man, no problem.”
“...In any case, I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you.” Kras’hir said as Alphys entered the room.
“What's going on?” She asked.
“Usagi’s dead, Alphys.” Undyne replied. Alphys stared at her for a moment, eyes wide and mouth hanging open.
“No…” she whispered. “No...tell me it's not...that she's not…”
“I’m sorry, but she is.” Undyne said. “Do you honestly expect me to lie about that kinda thing, Alphys?”
“No. No, I don't.” Alphys responded. Undyne walked over to her girlfriend and hugged her. Alphys hugged her back, softly sobbing.
“Shhhh…” Undyne assured, running her fingers through Alphys’ scales. “It’s gonna be OK, babe...you and I both know Usagi can’t be kept down.”
“Are you sure about that?” Alphys whispered.
“Have you ever doubted me?”
“On most things, no. When it comes to this...yes.”
Undyne frowned slightly. “Not the answer I was expecting, but…”
“If she does come back, I will be happy.” Alphys said. “But, right now, the grief I feel makes it hard to hope for that.”
“We don’t give up, Alphys. We have to stay determined.”
Alphys said nothing in response. Instead, she continued hugging Undyne. Kras’hir sat on the couch, sipping her tea. Undyne kept holding Alphys, saying nothing either.
Firehawk, meanwhile, was with her sister. They were in an ice cream parlor, deciding to fulfill their sweet tooths. Firehawk watched, amused, as Starhawk dug into an absolutely massive sundae. Starhawk’s pregnancy was progressing rather fast, Firehawk noting that her sister would be laying her egg rather soon.
“How are you feeling, sister?” Firehawk asked after a few minutes.
“Hungry!” Starhawk said, before devouring the sundae whole. Firehawk chuckled, lighting a cigarette.
“I can tell.” She said, exhaling smoke. “I still remember how often mother ate when she was pregnant with you. Gods, the poor cooks had to work day and night.”
“Please do not smoke around me.” Starhawk said, covering her beak. “I don’t wish to risk Blackhawk’s child’s health.”
“Oh, right.” Firehawk replied, putting it out. “Sorry. I should quit, but my cybernetics sometimes hurt like a motherfucker, and it throws me off when I need to fight. The cigarettes help keep me steady.”
“It’s alright.” Starhawk said. “I will ask Omnus to build an incubator for my egg.”
Firehawk nodded. “Have I ever told you what a Deathmark is, sister?” She asked after a moment.
“Yes. You put one onto me.” she said.
“Indeed, I did.” Firehawk replied. “It is watching us right now.”
“...Can you take it off?” Starhawk whispered.
“Oh, it isn't going to kill you.” Firehawk said, just as a woman sitting at the next table over collapsed in her chair, the Deathmark’s rifle frying her brain. “It's going to kill anyone who tries to harm you. Like that Nazi spy who just keeled over.”
“...That woman was a Nazi spy?”
“Yes.” Firehawk replied, nodding. “I've passed on my knowledge of the various spies in Coastal Falls to Imotekh, who, in turn, passed it onto the Necron who leads the Deathmark assassins. The Stormlord finds these spies...inconvenient, so they'll all be meeting unfortunate ends over the next few hours. The Deathmarks never miss.”
“I love you, Firehawk.”
“I love you too, sister.” She replied, leaning across the table and gently kissing Starhawk. Starhawk kissed her back. After a few minutes, Firehawk broke it, before getting up.
“I'll be back in a few minutes, sister dear.” She said. “I am just stepping outside to smoke.”
With that said, Firehawk went outside the ice cream parlor, lighting a cigarette and taking a deep drag. Starhawk waited, ordering an even larger sundae. Firehawk returned soon after, sitting back down and watching her sister devour the sundae she had ordered. Starhawk grinned at her, chocolate and caramel staining her teeth.
“Enjoying yourself?” Firehawk asked, grinning back at her.
“Oh, I'm having a grand time.” Starhawk then rushed to the bathroom, having eaten a biiit too much. Firehawk followed her in, hearing her sister vomiting in one of the stalls.
“Eat too much, did we?” She asked after the sound of retching quieted down.
Firehawk chuckled. “Always so feisty, dear sister.” She said. “Even when you're throwing up in a dirty bathroom.”
“For a good time, call Firehawk.” Starhawk joked. Firehawk snorted.
“The only person who gets to have a good time with me is you.” She said.
“...Ravish me! Ravish me in this bathroom!” Starhawk said, her laughter echoing in the stall.
“Don't tempt me, Star.” Firehawk replied, laughing as well. “I won't be able to resist doing all sorts of nasty things to you.”
“Much less catch some disease.”
Firehawk snorted again, waiting for Starhawk to come out of the stall. She did so, but not before scrawling a crude doodle in the stall. It depicted her and Firehawk in a very...intimate position, the latter noted upon seeing it. For added humor, Starhawk had written ‘For a good time, call us’. She was honestly contemplating writing their number as well, just to see if anyone would call. Firehawk, with a shrug, scrawled their number onto the wall. They soon left the ice cream parlor, heading back home. On the way there, Firehawk saw a group of children playing in the street. She watched them for a moment, smiling a bit, before her expression darkened, and she looked down at her feet. “Whatever is the matter, dear sister?” Starhawk asked.
“Do you see the little girl in the grey dress?” Firehawk asked. “Black hair, brown eyes, dark skin?”
“Yes.” Starhawk replied. “What about her?”
“She reminds me of a girl I met once, in the Reich.” Firehawk said. “Leah, her name was. You would have loved her, sister. She was always so curious and adventurous. She would call me Vogeldame. Bird lady.”
Starhawk snorted lightly. “Bird lady?”
“That is adorable.” Starhawk said. “Whatever happened to her?”
“Leah was a Jew.” Firehawk replied. “As I'm sure you've been told, Jews sit squarely at the top of the Reich’s list of ‘undesirables.’ Leah was rounded up by the SS, along with her friends and siblings. These people were forced to dig their own graves at gunpoint. Heydrich was there, watching this happen. I was with him. He knew how much I had grown to care for Leah, so he insisted I see her die.”
“That bastard…” Starhawk said, holding her sister close to her. “I hope that when Heydrich is tracked down, you will personally kill him.”
“Leah looked at me once she and her fellow Jews were lined up in the trenches. I could see the fear and sadness on her face. Her plea was silent, but I heard it, all the same: ‘Save me. Save us. Please.’ I should have acted. I should have attacked the guards, thrown myself in front of the children, done something, anything, to save those innocent people. Instead, I stood there, watching as Heydrich ordered the soldiers there to raise their rifles. ‘Fire!’ he shouted. Screams, wailing, sobbing as the first line of victims fall. Leah was among them, a bullet tearing through her skull. ‘Fire!’ Heydrich calls again. Another line falls, too many of them children...I can still hear them crying, praying for someone to save them…” Firehawk was crying herself now, all Starhawk could do was stroke her feathers, trying to comfort her.
“Shhh...shhh…” Starhawk whispered. Firehawk hugged her tightly, her tears soaking Starhawk’s own feathers. “I am here, sister dear.”
“I should have died that day.” Firehawk said. “I would have gladly faced a hail of bullets if it meant those children would have lived.”
“Do not say that.” Starhawk replied. “If you had died that day, we would have never reunited, and you would not have friends among you.”
“I still believe I am going to Hell when I die. I did nothing to save Leah and those other innocents, and I don't know if anything I ever say or do can make it right.”
“...Do you honestly wish to know how you can make it right?”
“No, but I have a feeling you are going to tell me.” Firehawk replied.
“Kill Heydrich.” Starhawk said.
“I will, in time.” Firehawk responded, pulling away and wiping her eyes. They continued walking home, eventually passing an orphanage on their way. Firehawk, without a word, went inside.
“Sister, where are you going?”
“I want to do something for a child here that I could never do for Leah: Give them a home.” Starhawk nearly fainted. Firehawk snorted before making her way inside.
“I'd like to speak with the director.” She said to the receptionist just inside the entrance.
“Do you have an appointment?” the receptionist asked.
“Yes, in fact, I do.” Firehawk replied, giving her name. “I set it up a little while ago.”
“I’ll ring you in.” the receptionist replied.
“Thank you.” Firehawk said, sitting down in a nearby chair and waiting. Eventually, the director called her into his office.
“Hello.” She said, taking a seat. “Thank you for meeting with me.”
“My pleasure. So, you wish to adopt?”
“Yes.” Firehawk replied.
“Excellent. Do you have a particular child in mind?”
“I do.” She said. “The little Russian girl. Anna, I think her name is.”
“Excellent. I will get things in order.”
“Thank you, director.” Firehawk replied, shaking his hand before exiting his office. Anna, who was 12 years old, was playing by herself outside, sitting on a swing and softly singing. Starhawk walked up to her, smiling.
“Hello.” Anna replied.
“Are you here all by yourself?” Starhawk asked.
“I am.” Anna said, her accent noticeable, but not so much so she couldn't be understood. “The other children don't like me.”
“Why not?” Starhawk asked.
“They think I am creepy.”
“Creepy how?” Starhawk inquired. “I do not find you creepy at all.”
“They find me creepy because I am quite fond of knives.” Anna said. “I've gutted quite a few stuffed animals...and actual animals.”
“Actual animals?” Starhawk inquired. “Are they...alive?”
“Nyet.” Anna replied. “I am not that cruel.”
“B-but you still kill them…”
“Da.” Anna said, shrugging. “It is the circle of life. Everything dies. These animals are given a chance to escape me when I hunt them, and they always fail, and die.” Starhawk, without a word, ran to find her sister. She found Anna to be a very disturbing child. Firehawk was exiting the orphanage with the director at the same time Starhawk was going inside, causing the latter to run into her and knock her off her feet.
“By the Gods, sister, where are you running off to so fast?” Firehawk inquired once she got back up.
“Do not adopt Anna.” Starhawk said. “She kills animals!”
The director closed his eyes, sighing. “I had hoped this wouldn't come up…” he said quietly.
“Yes, well, watching your mother die will do that to you.”
Starhawk stared at the orphanage director blankly. “Her...mother died?”
“Why else would she be in an orphanage?” He asked her. Starhawk truly, desperately wanted to slap him.
The director stared at her for a moment, before he began to speak, “As soon as Anna was able to walk, her mother started teaching her how to survive a harsh, solitary life in the northern woods. Living in such an extremely remote and dangerous area required skill and resilience. When sunlight became too dim for productive activities, they would take refuge in their house, a sturdy old cabin constructed to resist the toughest winters. Close to the hearth’s warmth, Anna would rest in her mother's arms, surrounded by the few wooden toys and masks she had crafted for her. Drifting off to sleep with stories and lullabies, she dreamt happy dreams, ignorant of the events that would soon change everything.
One day, Anna and her mother were stalking a great elk through the woods. They knew it was dangerous prey, but it had been a particularly difficult winter and they were almost out of food. The specter of starvation frightened them more than any forest creature. Without warning, the elk reared, bellowed and charged at Anna. She was paralyzed with fear as the whole world seemed to shake under the immense beast’s pounding hooves. The elk was close enough for Anna to see the murderous fury in its eyes when her mother threw herself in its path, axe in hand. A bloodcurdling scream escaped from her lips as the elk impaled her upon its antlers and hoisted her into the air. With all her strength, she brought her axe down on its head again and again while it tried to shake her loose. With a sickening crack, the antlers snapped and Anna’s mother was free. The beast collapsed.
Anna was too small to move her mother’s broken body, so she sat with her in the clearing where she had fallen. To distract her from the dying elk’s cries, Anna’s mother held her and hummed her favorite lullaby. They stayed like that, the huntress and the elk getting quieter and colder, until Anna was alone in the silent forest. Eventually she stood up and started the long walk back home.”
“I...I had no idea.” Starhawk whispered. “Firehawk, my sincerest apologies…”
“Hunting is all she knows.” The director said, his tone much gentler. “The fact she stalks and kills animals isn't normal for a child, but it's what Anna is familiar with. There's no real malice there.”
“Then my sister and I will give her a warm, loving home.”
“Very good.” He said, turning towards Anna, who was still sitting on the swing. “Anna, dear, come get your things!”
She nodded, getting off the swing and walking inside. Starhawk smiled at her new daughter.
“Welcome to your new family.”
Anna nodded a second time, heading to where she had been sleeping. She had very few possessions: Several knives, a few hatchets, a tattered teddy bear, a handful of wooden toys, and her clothes. Starhawk stared at Firehawk, hugging her.
“She's not the most normal child, but we will make this work.” Firehawk said. “That's what families do.”
“Yes. And the three of us are family.”
Anna hummed to herself as she retrieved her belongings, putting the knives in various pockets and hanging the hatchets off the belt she wore. The toys were put into a bag, which she slung over her shoulder. Once this was done, she walked over to Firehawk and Starhawk. Starhawk hugged her. Firehawk then filled out the necessary paperwork, and they took Anna home. Starhawk decided to stay with Anna so she could get used to her new home.
Alma, meanwhile, decided to pay a visit to Ebony and Toby, and, by extension, Vipera. Despite still fighting alongside Usagi in the Warp, she was able to do this quite easily, due to being dead and able to manifest herself in multiple locations. Her arrival on Vipera’s flagship was heralded by every light going out. “Hey!” Toby protested. “Who turned out the lights! I’m missing my soccer game!”
“Power’s probably out.” Ebony complained. “You! Pig chick! Go see what’s up!”
Circe sighed. “Do I have to?”
“Yes.” Vipera said, her tone promising pain if Circe refused. “You do.” Circe nodded, going down to the engine room.
“Hello, little pig.” A voice whispered in the shadows. A moment later, Paxton Fettel stepped into the light, a wide grin on his face. His lips and teeth were covered in blood. Circe squealed and ran for a hiding spot. Breathing heavily, she could hear Paxton searching for her. “Little pig, little pig, let me in…” Silence. “It has been years since I've eaten pork. I wonder if you'll taste the same as a normal pig? I bet you'll squeal like one.”
“N-NOT BY THE HAIR ON MY CHINNY CHIN-CHIN!” Circe squealed, then covered her mouth. Oh, shit. She had just given her location away. Fettel giggled madly, his footsteps growing closer.
“And I’ll huff...and I’ll puff…” he taunted, growing closer. After a few moments of silence, a hand shot out, grabbing Circe by the throat and lifting her into the air. “...and I'll blow your house down. Hello, little pig.”
“LET ME GO, YOU BASTARD!” Circe shouted, struggling. Fettel laughed again, raising his free hand.
“Hold still.” He said, his palm beginning to glow. “You and I are going for a ride…”
Several minutes later, the throne room doors opened, and Circe returned. Immediately, everyone knew something was off. For one thing, her gait was slow, uncertain, like she was unsure how to walk. For another, her eyes were a dull red. “Circe?” Kraky asked. “You OK?”
“Circe isn't here right now.” came the reply, followed by a chuckle. “Paxton Fettel is.”
“She’s possessed.” Drako said. “We need to excise her.”
“Oh, by all means, go right ahead.” Fettel replied. “She's dead anyway, so why prolong her torment? That's a side effect of me taking over someone's body. Once my time expires, and they regain control…”
He mimed an explosion around Circe’s head.
“...Why are you here?” Toby asked.
“Mother is unhappy with you two.” Fettel replied, gesturing to Toby and Ebony. He then left Circe’s body, watching her run around in a panic until the realization set in that her head was not, in fact, going to explode...until it did. He then turned back to Toby, continuing with his thought, “Very, very unhappy.”
“The hell does the ghost bitch want with us?” Ebony inquired, ignoring the gory mess that became Circe’s head.
“You must have a death wish.” Fettel said, chuckling. “Mother has killed people for much less than being called a ‘ghost bitch.’”
“What does Alma want? What’d we do?” Toby asked.
“You betrayed Omnus.”
“She betrayed Omnus.” Toby said, pointing to Ebony. “I left willingly.”
“You are serving under an enemy of Omnus and the Power Rangers.” Fettel retorted. “Former Ranger or not, that's treason, and since this treason was against the man who raised mother…”
Fettel was about to reply, before the doors opened again, and Alma walked in. Her pace was slow, leisurely, like she was simply taking an evening stroll. Everyone was struck with fear and horror.
Everyone except for Ebony and Toby. Alma raised her hand, and Vipera’s guards all died, their skin and muscle peeling off their bones. Once this was done, Alma looked at each person the room in turn, her eyes burning with anger and hatred.
“You bitch.” Vipera said.
“They had it coming.” Alma replied, her voice a low hiss. “Death claimed them, just like it will claim you, and that abomination in your womb.”
Vipera merely glared. Alma glared right back at her, before turning to Toby and Ebony. “You two have thirty seconds to run. After that...I start chasing you.” Toby grabbed Ebony’s hand and ran as fast as he could. Fettel watched them flee, before turning to his mother.
“What are you going to do?” He asked. “We both know you'll catch them, but once you do, what is your plan? Death? Or mental torture?”
“Good.” Fettel said, cackling as Alma disappeared. She pursued Toby and Ebony through the ship, appearing in their peripheral vision and disappearing when they turned towards her. Toby seemed uneasy, Ebony just didn’t care. Eventually, Alma cornered them, and placed her hands on Ebony’s face. Instantly, she entered the latter’s mind. Ebony stared at her, her mind taking the form of a cross between Hogwarts, a German Expressionist film, and a BDSM dungeon.
“Your parents always hated you.” Alma said. “Did you know that?”
“Yep.” Ebony responded casually. Alma nodded.
“I'm sure you remember the things they did to you when you were much younger.” She said. “The dirty, sinful things that go a long way towards explaining why you are so obsessed with sex. You know the things I speak of, Ebony, no matter how hard you try to bury them.”
“A-are you saying they touched me?! THAT’S FUCKING GROSS!”
“They did.” Alma replied. “Over and over again. You've repressed those memories, but they're still there, hidden under the surface.”
“No.” Alma said, amused. “You know I'm right.”
“That’s a Nirvana song.”
“What your parents did is hardly the only horrific memory inside your mind.” Alma continued. “However, I won't be digging those out today. At least, not in as gentle a manner as I just dug out terrible memories of your childhood.”
With that, Alma began going through Ebony’s memories at a rapid pace, forcing the latter to relive every terrible thing she had experienced. Ebony, however, was not reacting. Not one bit. To show cowardice was against Slaanesh. There was one memory, however, that finally broke her resolve. A memory she didn’t want anyone else to know.
“What are you seeing, Ebony?” Alma asked. She knew the answer, but wanted to hear it said aloud.
“...I don’t want to say it.”
“NO!” Ebony shouted.”I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU THAT BREAKING UP WITH BLACKHAWK HURT ME THE MOST!”
Alma’s work was done. She pulled out of Ebony’s mind, leaving her a sobbing, broken mess.
Toby meanwhile ran like the wind. He kept running, hoping to get back to his room within the ship. He did make it to his room...only to find Alma sitting on his bed, grinning at him.
“I’LL GIVE YOU ANYTHING! JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!”
Alma entered his mind, and began looking through his memories, digging out his worst ones and forcing him to relive them. Toby was soon just as broken as Ebony. Fettel dragged them to the throne room, leaving them both in front of Vipera. After that, he and Alma both vanished.
Anna, meanwhile, was getting settled into her new home. She liked Starhawk and Firehawk well enough. Her bedroom wasn't overly large, but it was comfortable enough. She was sharpening one of her hatchets with a whetstone, humming to herself. Starhawk listened, happy that she and Firehawk were now a whole family. After a few more minutes, Anna began to sing.
Ne lozhisya na krayu.
Pridyot serenkiy volchok,
On ukhvatit za bochok
On ukhvatit za bochok
I utashchit vo lesok
Pod rakitovy kustok…”
“What is she singing?” Starhawk wondered. Anna heard her, and called for Starhawk to come in. “Yes, Anna?”
“You asked what I am singing, da?”
“It is an old Russian lullaby. My mother used to sing it to me.”
“What is it about?”
“A wolf that drags little children into the woods if they put their feet too close to the edge of the bed.” Anna said simply.
“...I sleep with my feet off of the bed all the time.”
“Then the wolf must be lazy.” Anna replied, her lips quirking into a small smile. Starhawk smiled back and hugged her new daughter. Anna set the hatchet she had been sharpening aside before hugging Starhawk back. Starhawk grabbed it when she wasn’t looking. She planned to take all of Anna’s weapons when the opportunity arose. She would then hide them, and most likely keep them for herself. She knew this would be difficult; after all, Anna was twelve, about 10 years older than Sally Anne. She would be much harder to fool.
Within an hour, she had managed to steal all of Anna’s weapons. Anna was fully aware of this. Starhawk wasn't nearly as subtle as she thought she was. She chose not to comment on it, however. She simply stole the knives and hatchets back once Starhawk sat with Firehawk to discuss her ‘victory.’ They discussed it in-depth. Anna, once she held the last weapon, a hatchet, walked over to them, casually twirling it. “...Anna.” Starhawk said sternly.
“These are mine.” Anna said curtly. “They were handed down to me by my mother, who had them handed down to her by her mother, and so on and so forth since the time of the first Russian kings. They were crafted with great care and skill by my ancestors, and I plan to pass them down to my own children. You will not take them.”
“Anna. I am your mother now, and I say you cannot have those wea-” She was interrupted by Firehawk. Anna glared at Starhawk.
“You're not my mother.” She spat. “Glupaya suka. Idi k chertu.”
“Language, young lady.” Firehawk chided.
“...What. Did you. Just say?” Starhawk asked, tears in her eyes.
“‘Stupid bitch. Go to Hell.’” Firehawk translated when Anna refused to. Starhawk then ran off crying her eyes out. This left Firehawk and Anna alone.
“You've had a shitty life.” Firehawk said to her. “I get it. Really, I do. But you're not the only one who's lost family. My sister is doing her best to act as a second mother to you. Please give her a chance.”
Anna was silent for a moment before leaving the room. She approached the bedroom where Starhawk had gone, knocking twice on the door. “Fuck off.” came the response.
“Please, open the door.” Anna replied.
“...Go to Hell, bitch.”
“If you wish to trade insults, we Russians are unmatched at it.” Anna said. “But that's not why I'm here. I want to apologize.”
“I do not wish to talk to you right now. Go away.”
“Nyet.” Anna said, sitting down and leaning against the door.
“I said go away.”
Starhawk fired a hole through the door, just above Anna’s head.
“Nice, clean shot.” Anna said. “I'm still not leaving.”
A brief silence, then Anna began sharpening one of her knives. “So, you wish to apologize?” Starhawk asked.
“Well...I should not have taken away your weapons. For that, I should be apologizing to you.”
“We both fucked up.” Anna replied. “I should have been less...unpleasant with you.”
“It is alright.”
“Can I come in?”
Anna opened the door, walked over to the bed, got into it, and hugged Starhawk tightly. Starhawk hugged her back. Anna snuggled against her, closing her eyes. Soon, they fell asleep.
Kira, meanwhile, was still with Emma. They were having a late lunch at a small diner. They had gotten to know each other better, and liked each others’ company.
“I could get used to having you around.” Kira said, smiling.
“I am glad you say that. I like you too, Kira.”
“You can stay at my place, if you want.”
“Where do you live?”
“I'll bring you there once we finish eating.” Kira replied. Emma nodded. Once they finished, Kira brought Emma to Kras’hir’s apartment, which certainly surprised the former Nazi. Kras’hir, who had returned to the apartment not long ago, was certainly surprised to see Emma enter her home. She stared blankly at Emma, her expression unreadable.
“Ah. I did not know you lived with...her.”
“I didn't know you two were acquainted.” Kira said.
“Ah.” Kira responded, coughing awkwardly. “I'm sorry.”
“It is fine. Now, shall you give me a tour?”
Kira nodded, showing her around. When they got to her bedroom, Emma gave a small smirk before laughing.
“What?” Kira asked.
“You’re trying to bed me.” Emma joked.
Kira snorted, before pulling her into a gentle kiss. Emma was certainly surprised, but kissed back. After a few minutes, Kira pulled away, grinning at her. Emma grinned back. “My my…” she purred.
“I take it you enjoyed that?”
“Oh, the things that accent does to me…” Kira purred.
“I would like to see you in my-our-quarters.” Emma said, putting on her best ‘authoritative’ voice. Kira giggled. “I would like words with you.”
“Oh, you and I will have time for words later.” Kira replied before kissing Emma again. Emma did not object to this at all, and soon she and Kira began making out. Kira pulled her close, purring softly. Soon after, their clothes were off, and things escalated from there.
Omnus, meanwhile, was in his quarters in the Command Center. Several objects were laid out on his bed: A suit of light, high-tech armor, several firearms of various sizes and calibers, and a pair of long, sharp swords. These were relics from his time as an Inquisitor, kept in immaculate condition. He didn't often have to use them, but when he did, the slaughter that commenced proved why the enemies of both the Imperium and the Federation feared him so much. Once he had finished putting on the armor, he slid the blades into sheaths, which he attached to his legs, and put the guns into various holsters. After this, he went back out into the Command Center proper. Alpha watched him silently before asking, “Where are you going?”
Hedrian, however, recognized his wardrobe. “...You’re gonna go kill someone, right?”
“Why? Did he have something to do with Usagi’s death?”
“No, but the men responsible for that are outside of my reach right now.” Omnus said. “Saturn is a threat that needs to be dealt with, and I need someone to kill.”
“You know that you killing him will have large consequences, right?”
“I am aware, but he needs to die.”
“HE’S POSSESSED BY A DAEMON!” Hedrian shouted. “I DON’T WANT TO LOSE YOU LIKE YOU LOST HER!”
“Her?” Alpha asked. “As in Amberley Vail?”
“...Yes.” Omnus replied, his tone pained. Hedrian embraced him, crying her eyes out. He hugged her back.
“I love you, Omnus.” Hedrian whispered. “I always have and I always will.”
“I love you, too.” Hedrian then pulled him into a passionate kiss. He kissed her back, pulling Hedrian close. Hedrian just snuggled against her lover, content to be in his arms. When Omnus felt that was enough, he pulled away. Before he could leave, footsteps came from behind him.
“I'm glad to know you've missed me, Omnus.” a female voice said once they stopped.
“A-Amberley?” Omnus whispered, turning around.
“In the flesh.” Amberley Vail replied.
“...How?!” Hedrian asked.
“The Emperor.” Amberley said simply. “He sent me back.”
“B-but the Emperor's been dead for millennia…” Alpha stammered.
“That's what I thought, too.” Came another voice. A man stepped into the room, wearing the uniform of an Imperial Commissar. “It turns out He isn't as dead as you would think.”
“C-ciaphas Cain?!” Alpha said. “Ay yi yi! What a world we live in!”
Ciaphas chuckled sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. “I'm flattered that the tales of my dumb luck survived this long.”
“Dumb luck wouldn't have kept you alive for very long.” Amberley said. “For the love of all things holy, you're a hero, Ciaphas, no matter how much you try to deny it.”
“I'm just happy I won't be getting letters from my many, many admirers anymore.” Ciaphas replied. “Not all of them were written by women.”
“...If I had a mouth and some beer…” muttered Alpha.
“I, um...what...erm...I don't know how to reply to that.” Ciaphas said, coughing awkwardly and hiding behind Amberley, who snorted.
“Anyways, what are you doing here? Hoping to steal Omnus from me?” Hedrian asked curtly.
“I actually miss the Imperium right now.” Amberley said, smiling sweetly. “If I were still an Inquisitor, you and I wouldn't be talking right now. You'd be hanging from a noose.”
“Go fuck yourself.”
“Omnus is much more forgiving than me.” Amberley replied. “So, if he's willing to let what you've done go, fine. But one slip-up, one hint that you may turn on us...and you won't live to make the mistake of treason twice. Do we have an understanding?”
“I guess.” Hedrian grumbled before walking away. “I’m gonna go have a chat with my dear sister. At least she isn’t plotting to steal my lover.”
“What’s her problem?” Alpha asked Omnus.
“I don't have a damn clue.” Omnus replied, following Hedrian out of the room. The latter glared at him.
“Where is this paranoid anger coming from?” He asked.
“I’M JEALOUS, OK?!”
“I can tell.” Omnus said dryly. “Why?”
“ISN’T IT OBVIOUS?!”
“No, it's not, considering I have no intention of leaving you for Amberley.”
“When I said I love you, I meant it.” Omnus responded, taking her hands in his.
“...I’m sorry, Omnus.”
“It's okay.” He said, kissing her cheek. “Now, I'm going to go pay Fuhrer Saturn a visit.”
“Good luck, Omnus. And as your old family saying goes, may the power protect you.”
He nodded, leaving the Command Center a few moments later. Not long after, inside the dwelling place of Fuhrer Saturn, a guard rushed into his personal chambers, gunfire echoing in the distance.
“Mein Fuhrer, he is here.”
“Who is?” Fuhrer Saturn asked, his voice deep, ominous and with an electronic filter to it on account of his cybernetics.
“I see.” Saturn said, arising from his throne. “Leave him to me.”
The guard nodded, turning to leave. Just as he exited the room, a shot echoed, blowing his brains out the back of his skull. Omnus walked in a moment later.
“Hello, Saturn.” He said. “Or should I call you Dark Kaiser?”
“...Call me Dark Fuhrer Saturn.” the leader of the Black Magma Empire replied. “To what do I owe you, O esteemed visitor to Castle Eisenkralle?”
“I'm here to avenge the Rangers you killed.”
“Ah yes. Them.” Fuhrer Saturn replied. “I enjoyed their screams of terror.”
“We had to clean up their remains with a shovel.” Omnus said angrily, drawing his blades. “Their families buried empty caskets because they didn't even look human anymore when you were done.”
“Oh, you’re too kind.” Saturn said. “Please tell me more about how excellent my execution methods are.”
“I'm going to end you, Kaiser.” Omnus spat. “I'll send Slaanesh your head. I'm sure She will enjoy the gift.”
“Oh, please do. It’s not like I’m a Greater Daemon or anything.”
Omnus was done talking. He got into a fighting stance, waiting for Fuhrer Saturn to make his first move. The black clad cyborg pulled out a plasma sword, attempting to strike Omnus down. Omnus blocked every attack, his countless millennia of skill and experience guiding his movements. Fuhrer Saturn’s attacks became faster and more violent, his anger evident. Omnus continued blocking or dodging his swings, not attacking just yet.
“You're getting slow, Kaiser.” He taunted.
“Silence!” the Daemon-possessed Saturn shouted, thrusting his sword at Omnus. Omnus dodged the attack, before knocking the blade out of Saturn’s hand. He then stabbed the crazed dictator in the stomach. Saturn keeled over, bleeding through his armor. From within, Omnus could hear choking gasps, Saturn’s cybernetics slowly shutting down. “...Please…” he gasped, breaking free of the Daemon’s grip if only for a moment. “...End me...please…”
“May you find peace in death.” Omnus whispered, pulling Saturn’s head back and cutting his throat. Saturn fell dead, the Keeper of Secrets known as Dark Kaiser manifesting from his body.
“Hello, Kaiser.” Omnus said, flicking Saturn’s blood from his blade.
“Greetings fool.” he said. “Sealing me back into the Warp will do you no good. Why not seal me into the blade you’re holding?”
“Why? So you can try to corrupt me and gain strength from my kills?”
“My, my. Perceptive, aren’t we?”
“Go to Hell.” Omnus spat.
“Where do you think I came from, you worm?”
Omnus was about to kill him, but before he did so, he thought of a better fate for Dark Kaiser. After a brief, ferocious battle, the Daemon was left a broken, bleeding mess, and
Omnus brought him back to the Command Center. Kaiser paled when he saw the face of Amberley Vail.
“Hello, Zanesh.” She said, using his real name. It amused her to see him twitch.
“Do not call me that. I AM DARK KAISER, LEADER OF THE BLACK CROSS ARMY!”
“I will call you whatever I like.” Amberley replied. “You are in no position to make demands.”
“I'm sure you want us to kill you, but you've failed, Kaiser.” Omnus added. “Your Mistress doesn't tolerate failure, does She?”
“No She does not.”
“Hmmm...what to do with you?” Omnus pondered, before turning to Alpha. “Is that sensory deprivation tank still functional?”
“Yes, it is. What are you-ohhhh, Omnus, you are one magnificent mind.” Alpha said, rubbing his hands together.
“That's about the worst torture imaginable for a Slaaneshi.” Ciaphas said as Omnus dragged the kicking and screaming Dark Kaiser out of the room. “The ones I've met get off on pain, so taking all sensation away from them…”
“...is a fate worse than death.” Amberley finished.
“We must keep him in there permanently then.” Alpha concluded.
“Indeed.” Ciaphas responded. Alpha watched as Omnus returned.
“I don’t think Dark Kaiser will give us any more trouble.”
“Good.” Amberley replied.
Meanwhile, in the capital of the Federation, Reinhard Heydrich was still in hiding. After making sure his call couldn't be traced, he contacted Emma. It rang twice before she picked up.
“Ja?” She said.
“Emma?” he said. “This is your father.”
“Ah, hello, father.” Emma replied. “I take it you are still in hiding?”
“Ja.” he confirmed. “Where are you?”
“Coastal Falls. I was actually a prisoner until a little while ago.” Emma said. “However, I convinced my captors I was a helpless victim of your abuse and indoctrination, and they let me go. Your lessons in deception and acting really paid off, father.” Though Emma could not see it, Reinhard was grinning from ear to ear.
“Good, good. Ensure that your facade does not break.”
“It will not, father.” She replied. “On that, you have my word. I'll be in touch.”
Anna, meanwhile, had left her new home, as Starhawk had fallen asleep, and Firehawk had gone out. Anna ventured into the woods outside the city, her weapons with her, and went hunting. A little while later, she returned, and more than a few people glimpsed the rather comical sight of a young Russian girl dragging a large deer behind her, with three rabbits tied to her waist. One of these folks happened to be Lettuce, who had (finally) managed to work up enough courage to at least attempt to make up with Pinkie. “...I have now seen everything.” the bird muttered, nearly busting a gut at the sight of Anna. She paused, staring at him.
“Who are you?” She asked, raising a brow.
“My name’s Retthi Manchot, but you can call me Lettuce. Where’re your parents, kid?”
“I never knew my father.” Anna said. “My birth mother is dead. As for my adopted mothers, one of them is taking a nap, and the other is out on an errand.”
“So you’re out here all alone?” Lettuce responded, concerned.
“Da.” Anna said, idly twirling one of her hatchets.
“Hmmm…” Lettuce pondered. “Are you sure you can take care of yourself?”
“I am.” Anna replied. “Though you may walk with me if it will make you feel better.”
Lettuce considered it. “If you want me to. I’m just...oh God, how do I explain this...well, I did something to a friend, well two rather, and I’m on my way to apologize.”
“You may do what you like.” Anna said, beginning to drag the deer again. “If you wish to go see your friends, fine.”
“Well, see you around, then.” Lettuce said, but before he went on his way, he turned to face Anna again. “By the way, what’s your name? And who are your mothers? I want to thank them for raising a polite little girl like you.”
“My name is Anna.” She replied. “As for my mothers, they are Starhawk and Firehawk. They adopted me not too long ago.”
“Well, fancy that. It’s nice to meet you, Anna.”
“Likewise.” Anna replied. “I hope things go well with your friends.”
“I sure hope so, Anna.” Lettuce said, walking away. “..I sure hope so.”
Upon arriving at Kras’hir’s apartment a little while later in hopes of making amends with Kira, it wasn't the Daemoness who answered when he knocked. Rather, it was Emma who opened the door. She was fully nude, her hair flowing free and her skin drenched in sweat. There was a tattoo of the Reich eagle just below her breasts. Lettuce stared blankly at her, a far cry from his expected reaction. “...Is Kira home?”
“Ja.” Emma confirmed. “What is it you need?”
“I wanna apologize to her for...earlier.”
“Ah, yes, that. You expect forgiveness for what you did, yes?”
“No.” Lettuce said. “I don’t want forgiveness. I just want Kira to know that I regret making that shrine immensely, and that I destroyed it earlier today.”
Emma didn't reply, deciding instead to light a cigarette that she had been holding when Lettuce knocked. After taking a long drag, she said, “Perhaps I was wrong about you, Lettuce Manchot.”
“Perhaps? No, you weren’t, Emma. You’re absolutely right, I’m nothing but a sheltered idiot who tries his best to be ‘funny’ and fails.”
“But you're here trying to make amends.” She pointed out, offering him her cigarette.
“No thanks, I don’t smoke.”
“Suit yourself.” Emma replied, shrugging and walking back inside.
“Wait.” Lettuce said. “Make sure Kira knows about this, OK?”
“Make sure I know about what?” Kira asked, walking out into the living room of the apartment. She was wearing a robe, her hair tied back and recently washed. Emma kissed her cheek before explaining what Lettuce had said. Kira turned and stared at the penguin, her face neutral.
“...Kira…” Lettuce began. “I don’t expect you to forgive me. At all. You really shouldn’t.”
“You're right.” Kira said. “I shouldn't. So I won't.”
“...I expected as much.”
“At least, not yet.” Kira replied. “I still care about you, Lettuce. I just can't move past this yet.”
“I understand completely. Have a good day, Kira.”
Once he had left, Kira shut the door behind him, sighing and putting her head in her hands.
“What am I going to do, Emma?” She whispered. “What should I do?”
Emma looked at her. “What do you want to do, Kira?”
“Honestly? I just want to spend the rest of the day with you and forget about this.”
“Good.” Emma said.
They went back to bed. As they snuggled together, Emma told Kira about Berlin. It was a glamorous city, she said, with an air of danger to it. The Gestapo had agents everywhere, and you never knew if what you said would be reported to the authorities. As such, people tended to be distrustful towards one another. Children, in particular, were feared, even by their own parents, as they tended to be the most fanatical patriots. Organizations like the Hitler Youth and League of German Girls helped with that, drilling the ideals of the Reich into children at a very young age. To Kira, this sounded like a dystopian nightmare.
“Now, as for the men who run the Reich, they are a diverse bunch.” Emma said. “Hermann Göring, the commander of the Luftwaffe, is...well, flamboyant is a good word for it. He enjoys wine, women, flashy clothes, and expensive sports cars. He is a frequent visitor to the various brothels of Berlin, and he pays very well for the company of his escorts.”
“Doesn’t sound too different from modern politicians.”
Emma laughed before continuing. “Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister, seems very polite and charming on first meeting him, but there is a sinister air about him. It's rumored that he has murdered several women over the last decade or so, though, of course, almost nobody is willing to look too deep into it. The few who have looked into it disappeared not long after beginning to investigate. Rumor or not, my father made it clear more than once that he didn't want me alone with Goebbels.”
“Sex seems very liberal in the Reich, then? How ironic.”
“Like you wouldn't believe.” Emma said. “Officially, homosexuality and bisexuality are illegal. Unofficially...”
Kira grinned, salaciously licking her lips and purring, snuggling into Emma’s chest. Emma smiled, stroking Kira’s hair.
“You haven't asked about the tattoo yet.” She said after a few minutes. “I'm surprised.”
“I know what it is. It’s the Reich’s symbol.”
“Ja, but do you want to know why I got it?” Emma asked. “It's a rather embarrassing story.”
“When I was 17, three of my friends and I got a bit drunk.” Emma began. “We decided, since we were bored and had nothing else to do, that we would play a little game. We would all get tattoos, but we wouldn't choose what we got, or where. Rather, the tattoo, along with where it was, would be decided by one of the other girls.”
“...Oh my.” Kira giggled.
“The tattoo I got was chosen by my friend Mia.” Emma continued. “I chose the tattoo that my friend Emilia got. Poor Emilia had the name of the Führer tattooed above her ass.” Kira could no longer control herself, and faceplanted into Emma’s bosom, laughing hysterically. Emma laughed too, the memories coming back to her. Once it died down, Kira grinned at her.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Emma said. Kira then kissed her, and they continued to snuggle.
Lettuce, meanwhile, was at Pinkie’s door, incredibly nervous. She opened the door a moment after he knocked.
“...Hey. Listen, Pinkie, I know things have been difficult between us.”
“Understatement of the century.” Pinkie said flatly. “Why are you here?”
“I want to...apologize.”
“Oh, please do.” Pinkie replied. “I can't wait to hear this.”
Lettuce proceeded to explain the same thing he did to Kira, emphasizing that he did not want forgiveness. Pinkie stared at him once he finished, silent. Lettuce fully expected this, and stared back.
“Get your money back for that necklace.” She said after a moment, slamming the door in his face. Lettuce sighed loudly, making sure Pinkie could hear before walking away. He had no idea on what to do, so he went to Undyne and Alphys’ apartment. Undyne stared at him when she opened the door, and allowed him to come in. Once the penguin explained the entire situation, the fish woman frowned slightly.
“OK...Lettuce, do you honestly want my opinion on this?”
“Sure, fire away.”
“I want to be mad at you. Believe me, what you did was easily the most moronic thing you could do in a relationship.”
“But at the same time, I’m proud of you. No one, and I mean no one in that situation would go as far as to destroy a shrine dedicated to someone they were obsessed with out of guilt. That takes courage, and shows that you’re truly sorry and want to make it up to both Kira and Pinkie.”
“Really.” Undyne said. “You know what I’m gonna do?”
“What?” Lettuce inquired.
“I am gonna help you improve yourself.” Undyne said. “It’s not gonna be easy, but you’re gonna come out a new bird by the time I’m done.”
“I'd run while you still can, Lettuce.” Alphys said half-jokingly. “Undyne can be very...intense.”
“FUCK YEAH, I CAN!” Undyne shouted enthusiastically, nearly suplexing the couch.
“Ye gods…” Alphys muttered, leaving the room. “You two have fun.”
“W-where are you going?” Lettuce asked. “TAKE ME WITH YOOOOU!” He was then crushed by Undyne tackling him.
Anna, meanwhile, was in the middle of skinning and preparing the deer she had killed and brought home. Her arms were covered in blood, her skin sheened with sweat. Starhawk had woken up a bit before, and was looking for recipes using bear meat. The three rabbits Anna had caught had already been skinned, the meat currently cooking in a stew pot. Starhawk was chopping carrots at the same time, and had nearly cut herself a few times.
“Catching this deer was not easy.” Anna said once she finished preparing it, wiping her knife clean. “I didn't have a gun, so I had to kill it using one of my hatchets. Fucker tore open my arm with one of his antlers before he went down.”
“Thankfully you got it stitched up in time.” Starhawk reminded her.
“Da.” Anna replied. “My mother taught me to always have basic medical tools at hand when hunting.”
“Good. I promise to be as good of a mother as her.”
Anna gave her a pained smile, before she dropped the knife and began crying. Starhawk realized that she made a grave error, stopped chopping carrots, and hugged her newly adopted daughter. Anna hugged her back, muttering something to herself in Russian, continuing to cry as she did so. “I am sorry…” Starhawk whispered.
“I miss her…” Anna whispered back. “So, so much…”
“I can and never will replace her, I promise that.”
Firehawk entered the apartment a moment later, carrying several heavy bags. Seeing the two of them embracing, she decided not to say anything. Instead, she slipped past while Starhawk and Anna were distracted, entering Anna’s room and gently shutting the door. After a few minutes, Anna calmed down, pulling back and wiping her eyes.
“Thank you.” She said.
“I am here when you need me.” Starhawk said.
A little while later, Firehawk came back out, and asked Anna to go to her room for a moment. Anna, thinking she was being punished for something, went with her head down, staring at her feet as she walked. It took her a moment to notice her bedroom was now filled with toys and books. She broke down crying again, running out and hugging Firehawk. Firehawk, noticing how confused Starhawk looked, told her sister to go see what Anna saw. She did, and was certainly surprised; it explained why her sister was gone so long. Returning to the kitchen, Starhawk asked, “You did all this for her?”
“I did.” Firehawk confirmed. Starhawk hugged her. Firehawk hugged her back, holding both of them close.
“We are going to be a big happy family.” Starhawk said. “I promise that.”
Firehawk nodded, smiling and placing her hand on her sister’s swollen stomach. Starhawk smiled back.
“I love you, sister dear.” Firehawk said after a moment.
“I love you too.”
Anna pulled away after a few minutes, checking on the stew. Once she was satisfied with it, she got out three bowls, filled them with stew, and set them on the table. Starhawk and Firehawk broke the hug and sat down. The three of them ate together in comfortable silence. Once they finished, Firehawk washed the bowls. As she did so, there was a knock at the door. Starhawk answered it. It was Kras’hir. She had Sally-Anne with her.
“I heard through the grapevine that you and Firehawk had adopted a kid.” Kras’hir said. “I thought Sally might want to meet her.” Said toddler looked from behind Kras’hir, noting that Anna was ‘bigger’ than her. Anna waved to Sally, smiling a bit.
“Mommy, that girl’s scary…” Sally whispered. Anna heard her, noticed that she was still covered in blood, and went to change her clothes. A few minutes later, she came back out, cleaned up and wearing fresh clothing. She walked over to Sally, kneeling down next to the toddler. The three year old looked at the twelve year old, and introduced herself. “Hi.”
“Greetings.” Anna said, smiling at her. “My God, you are cute.”
“Thanks…” Sally said. “My name’s Sally. What’s yours?”
“My name is Anna.”
“That’s a pretty name.” She replied.
“Thank you.” Anna said. “Would you like to go play?”
“Yes!” Sally replied happily. Anna giggled, taking her hand, and the two of them ran off together.
“They’re going to be great friends, I just know it.” Starhawk said.
“That girl has a darkness inside her.” Kras’hir commented. “Anna, I mean.”
“I know. She’s a survivalist, you see.”
“Many serial killers start off hunting and murdering animals.” The Daemoness said. “They get such a rush from it, they eventually begin to think, “Wow, I wonder what it would be like to pursue, corner, and butcher a person?’”
“Anna is not like that, Kras’hir.” Starhawk replied defensively. “She is a sweet girl who wouldn’t hurt another human.”
“Yeah? You think seeing her mother getting gored by a fucking elk right in front of her had no impact on her mind?” Kras’hir retorted.
“Look at how she and Sally are playing.” Starhawk said. “Do you see any malice?”
“Look, I'm not saying Anna is going to suddenly start cutting people up out of the blue.” Kras’hir replied. “She's a sweet kid. I can see that. I'm just saying that the potential for her to lose her shit and start hunting and killing people is there. I see the same darkness within Anna that I saw within myself when I was her age, and I don't want to see her turn into the monster I did.”
“I will promise you she won’t.” Starhawk whispered.
“I hope not.” Kras’hir said, listening to Sally and Anna as they laughed and played a few rooms away. “I really hope not.”
“If anything, Sally will keep her anchored.”
“That is true.” Kras’hir said. A little while later, Anna came back out, beginning to cook some of the deer meat for everyone. Once it was finished, they sat down to eat. Anna didn't start eating right away, though. Instead, she clasped her hands together, closed her eyes, and whispered a prayer. Everyone watched her in silence. Once she finished, Anna opened her eyes, noticed all of them staring, and blinked.
“I didn't know you were religious.” Firehawk said.
“Oh, my mother was a practicing Jew.” Anna replied. “She raised me in the faith the best she could, and I have known God my entire life.”
“Well, that’s good.” Starhawk said.
“Hawkians don't have one God.” Firehawk replied. “The pantheon of gods and goddesses our species reveres is quite extensive.”
“When I’m grown up, I’m gonna marry Anna.” Sally said innocently. Starhawk nearly choked on her food. Kras’hir, who had been taking a sip of her drink, spat it directly into Firehawk’s face. As for Anna, she swallowed the meat she had just put in her mouth abruptly out of surprise, and promptly began choking. Starhawk promptly Heimliched her. The half-chewed chunk of meat shot out of Anna’s mouth and onto the table. The young Russian girl panted for a moment before staring at Sally.
“Nyet, little one.” She said. “You and I will not be getting married.”
“We...we won’t?” Sally looked heartbroken. Anna sighed.
“I am not saying the thought of marrying you disgusts me.” She said. “It is just a little strange to think of marrying you, as young as you are, Sally.”
“I said ‘when I’m grown up’.” Sally repeated.
“I am perfectly aware of that.” Anna replied dryly. “And when you are actually grown up, perhaps I will give the matter a bit more thought.”
“I promise.” The meal continued, the awkwardness over.
Blackhawk, meanwhile, was also eating, having dinner with his family. There was no speaking, just sounds of eating. Blackhawk took his time eating, deep in his own thoughts. “Something wrong?” his mother asked.
“Hmmm?” Blackhawk replied. “No, nothing's wrong. I'm just thinking.”
“Roland.” Blackhawk said. “I hope he's alive.”
“You can’t keep him down.” she laughed. “I’m sure he’s out there somewhere.”
“I wonder if he's caught the Man in Black yet.” Blackhawk responded. “That's who he was hunting the last time I saw him.”
“Ah, yes, old Broadcloak...what a bastard.” Ace interrupted. “I once considered getting a bat and striking his baseballs, if you’ll pardon the euphemism.”
“Roland was always the calm, patient sort, but I pity anyone who truly angers him.” Blackhawk said. “The fury of a man like that is terrible to behold.”
“Hell hath no fury like a gunslinger scorned.” his mother replied.
“Indeed, not.” Blackhawk agreed. Once he finished eating, he stepped outside to smoke, sitting on the front lawn in a chair. He soon received a text from Starhawk, informing him that she would be laying his egg in a matter of days. He sent her back a text, telling her how happy this news made him.
As for Starhawk herself, she was sitting with Firehawk, Kras’hir, Anna and Sally in the living room of their apartment. Anna and Kras’hir were discussing religion, with the former quietly and firmly defending her faith in God while the latter expressed her disdain for Him. Sally sat in Firehawk’s lap, watching the debate silently. She, being so young, didn’t fully grasp the concept of religion.
“Alright!” Firehawk said loudly after several minutes as the debate got more heated, clapping her hands together and getting up. “I'm going to go outside for some air. Would you care to join me, sister dear?”
“Y-yes.” Starhawk replied, getting up and scooping Sally into her arms. “Let’s.”
Sally, for her part, grew even more confused. Once they were outside, Firehawk breathed a sigh of relief. “Those two were getting quite nasty.” She said. “I wanted to get as far away from it as possible.”
“...Apple juice?” Sally replied, the first thing coming to mind. Starhawk hugged the toddler with a sigh; Sally had started calling her and Firehawk ‘aunties’, a title they were happy to accept.
“I'm sorry you had to hear that argument, little one.” Firehawk said, stepping away from Starhawk and Sally and lighting a cigarette. “I didn't know Anna had such an...extensive vocabulary.”
“It’s very...colorful.” Starhawk observed.
“Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple…” Sally sang softly.
“No, no, not that kind of colorful.” Starhawk giggled.
“It must have been quite a surprise when Anna dragged a deer into the apartment.” Firehawk said after a moment. “How did she get it through the door?”
“Do you honestly wish to know?” Starhawk asked.
“Yes.” Firehawk replied.
“I do not know myself. Brute strength, I suppose.”
“That kid is going to be a force to be reckoned with when she gets older.” Firehawk said. “I mean, dragging a deer from the forest to our apartment is no small feat for someone her size.”
Firehawk put out her cigarette before walking back over to Starhawk and hugging her. “I love you.” She said. “I'm so very glad we made amends.”
“I am too, sister dear.”
The door suddenly slammed open, and Kras’hir stormed past them, muttering angry curses to herself. Firehawk looked at Starhawk.
“Should we follow her?” She asked. “To make sure she doesn't kill anyone?”
“That would be best.”
By the time the two Hawkians returned home, about an hour had passed. Firehawk entered the apartment, sat down on the couch, and sighed. After a moment, she noticed something.
“...Oh, shit.” Starhawk muttered, facepalming.
“We left her here alone…” Firehawk whispered. “We left our daughter here alone…”
“...We’re terrible parents…”
Firehawk promptly looked through the entire apartment, trying to find any clues as to who had taken Anna. She found several things: One of Anna’s hatchets, stained with blood, was outside her bedroom. Two human fingers lay next to it. Inside the bedroom, destruction. Nearly all of the furniture had been overturned, every light and mirror smashed. Another hatchet was found here, embedded in the skull of a dead soldier. A dead Nazi soldier, to be more precise.
“Son of a bitch…” she muttered upon seeing the body.
“W-what happened?” Starhawk began to ask, but stopped short when she saw the wreckage before her.
“Looks like the Reich took our daughter.” Firehawk said. “One of their damned spies must have found out we adopted her.”
“Why…” Starhawk growled, crying loudly and blowing a large hole into the roof. “WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS?!” She then proceeded to trash the entire apartment further, nearly destroying it completely.
“She's a Russian Jew.” Firehawk said, cracking her knuckles. “Few could possibly be lower on the food chain of Nazi ideology. The fact that she is a child means nothing to them.”
“BUT WE DO NOT LIVE IN THEIR IDIOTIC, RACIST EMPIRE! WHAT AUTHORITY DO THEY HAVE?!”
“You assume, Starhawk, that these bastards follow basic laws, whether it comes to legality or morality. They do not.” Firehawk replied, still sounding remarkably calm.
“We are rescuing our daughter.” Starhawk growled. “...Even if it kills us.”
“Yes.” Firehawk said. “Let's go visit our favorite German Fraulein. If anyone knows where Anna is, it's Emma.” Starhawk nodded, grabbing whatever weapons she could, as well as the Blue Ranger morpher in case she needed it.
A little while later, after being informed Emma had been released, the two of them went over to Kras’hir’s apartment. Firehawk knocked, knowing that it likely wouldn't be the Daemoness herself who answered. After a moment of silence, she let herself in, as the door was unlocked. She then walked over to the bedroom where Emma and Kira were. After listening to the two of them giggle for a moment, she kicked the door down. Emma, who had been naked, covered herself quickly. “GOTT IM HIMMEL!”
“Hello, Fraulein!” Firehawk said cheerfully. “I apologize for interrupting your private time.”
“What's going on?” Kira asked, covering herself as well. “Why are you two here?”
“Perhaps Emma can answer that.” Starhawk answered faux-sweetly. Emma blinked.
“Nein, I cannot.”
“Earlier this evening, our young daughter Anna was kidnapped. We found a dead Nazi soldier in her bedroom.” Firehawk said. “One of your little spies undoubtedly told the Reich about her. We are here to find out which spy did the talking.”
“...I know nothing.” Emma said bluntly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must return to cuddling naked with my lover.” Starhawk responded to this by attempting to chokeslam her. Firehawk restrained her sister, all while staring at Emma.
“If you do not cooperate, I will hand you over to Illuminor Szeras.” She said flatly. “The experiments he will conduct with you as his subject will make everything Dr. Mengele has ever done look childish in comparison.”
“I am telling you, I know nothing.” Emma replied. “In any case, I am sorry to hear about your loss.”
“Cut the shit, Emma.” Firehawk spat. “You may have fooled everyone else with your little redemption spiel, but I know you.”
“No, you don't.” Kira said. “You don't know her like I do. Now, leave. Please.”
“Fine.” Firehawk replied. “Come on, Starhawk.” Starhawk glared at them both before following her sister. Emma snuggled into Kira with a sigh.
“I love you. You’re the only one who understands me.”
“You're right about that.” Kira said, stroking Emma’s hair. Soon after, the two of them fell asleep.
Firehawk, meanwhile, had figured out who the spy likely was: The orphanage director. She and Starhawk traveled to the orphanage, and found the man asleep at his desk. Starhawk woke him up by slamming his head onto the desk hard enough to likely cause some brain damage. He let out a brief scream, jolting awake and leaping backwards.
“What are you two doing here?” He asked, groaning. “And why did you attack me?”
“We know who you really are, Reich spy.” Starhawk said.
“...What the fuck are you talking about?”
“My sister knows you are a spy for the Reich.”
“I don't even know what the Reich is, lady.” He replied, rubbing his head. “Why do you think I'm a spy?”
“Because Anna got taken earlier this evening, and you're one of the few people who knows we adopted her.” Firehawk said.
“Anna was taken?” He asked, eyes widening. “Oh, God…”
Starhawk might have accused him further, but she could see something in his eyes that no Reich member could have: the fear and worry of a child’s safety.
“Now, I would be concerned about Anna regardless of my personal relationship with her, but…” The man said, reaching into his desk and taking out a picture. He looked at it for a moment, then handed it to Starhawk. It showed the orphanage director, along with Anna and a woman who had to be her mother. They were standing close together, Anna in front and the two adults behind her. Starhawk immediately burst into tears.
“She is...your daughter?” Firehawk said upon seeing the picture.
“No. She's my niece.” He replied. “I only met her father a few times. Never liked him. I helped Sofia raise Anna the best I could, but she eventually stopped sending messages, and my letters went ignored. I didn't find out until nearly three years later, when Anna ended up here, that my sister was dead.”
“...Why didn’t you adopt her yourself?” Starhawk whispered.
“Anna deserves better than I.” He said simply. “I have a bit of a drinking problem, and my temper flares in a nasty way sometimes. I don't want Anna to go through anymore pain...though it looks like she just might anyway.”
“...Please, for your sake and hers. Help us.”
“I will do everything I can.” He said reassuringly. “I think we should start by questioning my staff. They all know that you adopted Anna, so any of them could be a spy.”
That was exactly what they did. Eventually, the receptionist cracked, revealed herself as a Reich agent, and said that she'd told the Nazis where to find Anna. She also informed Starhawk and Firehawk who Anna was being taken to: Dr. Mengele.
Anna, meanwhile, woke up. She was on a metal gurney, surrounded by scientists in lab coats. She immediately began to scream, thrashing around in a wild frenzy. One of them put his hand over her mouth. “Silence.”
Anna promptly bit down, jerking her head away just as suddenly. This action tore a strip off his glove, as well as a rather sizable chunk of flesh off his hand. “You little bitch…” another scientist growled. “I have half a mind to defy orders and drag you to the showers.”
“Why don't you then, you spineless cocksucker?” Anna spat.
“Because then I would be executed by the good doctor himself.”
“Stupid Slavic Jew.” one of the others muttered, getting his tools ready. “I don't know why Mengele wants this one alive. She killed four men while they were capturing her, and maimed two more when they got her here. Hans Spiegelman lost three of his fingers to her teeth, and Erich Manheim had his eyes gouged out by her nails.”
“The Angel of Death wishes to see what she can do for his experiments.”
“Fine, fine.” The second scientist muttered. “Let's get her ready.”
They got to work. Anna, who had been gagged and sedated, could do nothing but weakly resist and let out muffled screams. She hoped her mothers could save her quickly.
Firehawk, meanwhile, traveled to the Reich-dominated Earth with her sister. It took several hours to activate the device that would take them there. Eventually, they stepped through the portal and ended up on the outskirts of Berlin. It was morning, and the city was just beginning to wake up. Men and women in uniforms headed to work, while their children went to school. Periodically, announcements were broadcasted over loudspeakers. To Starhawk, it felt like the Federation...only much more honest.
As the two of them walked through the streets, they didn't go unnoticed. Many of the people walking by them turned and stared, their gazes cold and hateful. The children were bolder than their parents, with some of them spitting at the Hawkians or making threatening gestures. Had Starhawk been less moralistic and careful, she might have blasted the children to ashes.
“Ich arbeite mit Reinhard Heydrich zusammen. Er wird unzufrieden sein zu hören, dass du mich belästigt, Kinder.” Firehawk said to the children in German. All of their eyes widened, before they left the Hawkians alone.
“What did you say to them?”
“I work with Reinhard Heydrich. He will be displeased to learn you are pestering me, children.” Firehawk translated.
“Hm. I suppose your connections have benefits.”
“That they do.” Firehawk agreed. “Come. We should head to the Reichstag. The various leaders of the Reich undoubtedly know we are here by now, and it would be rude to keep them waiting.”
“We will ask where Anna is, and if they do not answer?”
“We will cross that bridge if and when we come to it.” Firehawk answered. “Let's go.”
When they entered the Reichstag, they were greeted by several security officers, who scanned the two Hawkians to make sure they weren't carrying anything illegal or dangerous. Once the scans came back clean, Firehawk and Starhawk were led to a large conference room. Inside sat Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Albert Speer, and two military commanders, Heinz Guderian and Karl Dönitz, who commanded the army and navy, respectively.
“Hello.” Starhawk greeted them.
“Hallo.” Goring and Goebbels greeted. “Heil Hitler.”
“H-heil Hitler.” Starhawk said. She noted how the Reich seemed to worship Adolf as a god, even though he was long dead. It was eerily similar to the Federation.
“What brings you two here?” Himmler asked, adjusting his glasses. Guderian lit a cigarette, staring at the two Hawkians with an impassive expression.
“We are here for our daughter Anna.” Starhawk said firmly. “We know you have her. We don’t want any trouble, we just want her back.”
“I don't know how much help we can give, even if any of us are inclined to assist you.” Himmler replied. “You must understand, if your daughter is in one of the many, many camps scattered across Europe and beyond, finding her will be no easy task.”
“...Bureaucracy, of course.” Starhawk muttered. “Why am I not surprised.”
“Mengele has her.” Firehawk said.
“I almost pity the girl, then.” Himmler replied. “Josef isn't exactly kind to his patients.”
“...You are callous, you know that?” Starhawk asked, anger in her tone. “You can’t even feel sympathy for a little Russian girl whose only family was taken from her.”
“Our line of work is no place for men who are soft or merciful.” Himmler said simply. “I have sent millions upon millions of children to their deaths, madam, so do not expect me to care about this one.”
Had Firehawk not restrained her when she did, Starhawk would have torn Himmler’s intestines out, sodomized him with them, then eaten his heart and lungs. Firehawk, however, could not restrain Starhawk from shrieking a long chain of venomous curses at everyone in the room. She ended up having to drag her sister out of the room before security forces got involved. Starhawk grumbled something in the Hawkian tongue about ‘no-good racist bastards’ kidnapping her child.
“You need to calm down, Starhawk.” Firehawk said, putting a hand on her sister’s stomach. “It's not just yourself that's in danger now.”
“...Oh, right. The child I bear is in danger as well.”
“Indeed.” Firehawk replied. A moment later, Guderian exited the conference room, walking over to the two Hawkians.
“I can help you.” He said quietly.
“How do I know you don’t have some ulterior motive?” Starhawk hissed.
“A fair point.” Guderian admitted. “However, I can assure you that I do not have any ulterior motive. I have no love at all for the Party. Believe me when I say I want nothing more than to help you save your daughter.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Guderian leaned in very close, and said four words to her: “I killed Adolf Hitler.”
Starhawk stared at the decorated German officer blankly, as if she had heard the secret to life, the universe, and everything. “...Y-you what?”
“I killed Adolf Hitler.” Guderian repeated, looking around to make sure nobody was listening in. “That madman would have destroyed Germany if he had remained in power. So, I slipped a subtle, slow-acting poison into his drink one evening. The symptoms of this poison resemble the symptoms caused by syphilis, and it is undetectable by any medical examination. The Führer spent the last weeks of his life in an asylum, ranting and raving about Jewish conspiracies, until he died in the dead of night.”
“...You pulled a magnificent gambit. A magnificently audacious gambit.” Starhawk complimented.
“Danke schön.” Guderian replied. “Heydrich is not a good man by any stretch of the imagination, but he is much more pragmatic than Hitler ever was. He keeps the Reich stable. Now, as for your daughter, I can help you rescue her.”
“That would be excellent. However, I will do something for you in exchange.” Starhawk replied.
“Oh?” Guderian replied, raising a brow.
“I will help you escape the Reich.” Starhawk continued. “We could use your expertise.”
“That is very kind of you.” Guderian said. “As much as I love my homeland, I can no longer stomach the atrocities being committed by the men in charge of it. I will gladly leave it behind and travel to the world you hail from.”
“We will discuss a plan for your escape later. For now, let us go rescue Anna.”
Their plan proved to be very simple: Guderian and Firehawk would travel to the facility where Mengele did his work, bringing Starhawk along as a ‘prisoner.’ The story they would use to get in was that she had been captured by the army, and Guderian wanted to make sure she didn't escape from her sister’s clutches. Firehawk hit her sister in the face a few times to make it look like she had been wounded during capture.
The plan went well, and they were let into the facility without any troubles. Once they were inside, Starhawk split off from them once they were a good distance away from anyone else, and she began to search for Anna. Firehawk did the same. Guderian left, the plan being to meet up with them later.
Eventually, Firehawk found Anna, and what she saw made the Hawkian nearly break down. Her adopted daughter had been heavily tortured. Her right hand was gone. As was her left eye. Her jaw, cheeks and legs were covered in acid burns, and her arms were covered in deep cuts. It was also evident that she had several broken bones, including several of her fingers and toes, her left wrist, her right ankle, and a few of her ribs. Anna was breathing, but only barely.
“What did you do?” Firehawk hissed at the nearest doctor, not even bothering to conceal her rage. “What. Did. You. Do?”
“We’ve been experimenting on this little Slavic subhuman.” the doctor chuckled, as if he thought calling Anna such degrading names was the most hilarious joke in the world. “Why do you of all people care?”
Firehawk lunged at him, gripping his testicles and squeezing. “Because that ‘little Slavic subhuman’ is my fucking daughter.”
After that was said, Firehawk tore off his balls, shoved them down his throat, and left him to choke. She then lunged at another doctor, ripping out his throat with her teeth before he could run. The others ran, calling for security. As all this was going on, Starhawk removed Anna’s restraints and ran for the door, tears streaming down her face as she did.
Firehawk spent the next hour slaughtering every soldier and scientist in the facility. All of them died nasty deaths, especially the ones who had been experimenting on children. The security forces tried fighting back at first, but eventually decided it wasn't worth it and tried to flee. This decision didn't save them. As for Mengele himself, he was attempting to escape before Firehawk found him.
“Get me out of here!” he screamed at one of the soldiers close to him. “Now!”
“...Nein.” the soldier said before shooting himself in the head.
Mengele stepped over the corpse as he tried to flee. Moments later, the wall near him exploded. Firehawk had thrown a tank through it. Several more soldiers had died in the explosion, leaving Mengele defenseless. Firehawk caught the Angel of Death before he could flee. Before she could kill him, however, Anna’s voice echoed. “Nyet.” The girl said, her voice quiet but firm. She was awake, and standing up, though her gait was wobbly and uncertain.
“Why don't you want me to kill him?” Firehawk asked.
“Because I want to kill him.” Anna replied. She had one of her hatchets. Mengele desperately tried backing away, but Anna was faster. She straddled the Nazi doctor, before beginning to strike him with her axe. By the time she finished, she was drenched in blood, and Mengele’s head no longer resembled its original shape. Starhawk was behind her, and had been shocked when Anna had managed to kill Mengele in her state. Once Anna finally calmed down, and the adrenaline wore off, she passed out, collapsing on top of Mengele’s corpse.
When she awoke, she found herself back in Coastal Falls, specifically in a hospital room. Several days had passed, with Anna having undergone extensive surgery. She looked around, noting that she still couldn't see out of her left eye. “Hello, Anna.” Starhawk whispered, sitting by her bed.
“Hello.” Anna replied.
“How are you feeling?”
“I feel like death.” Anna responded. “How long have I been asleep?”
“Days. How many, I do not know, but it has been at the very most a week or two.”
“They replaced my hand.” Anna noted after a moment of silence.
“And your left eye, though that hasn’t, well...what’s the word…”
“Whatever the word is, I wish the damned thing would work.” Anna grumbled.
“I have some good news, if you’d like to hear it.” Starhawk said.
“I’ve decided on the name of your soon-to-be-born sister.”
“What name did you choose?” Anna asked.
“Why did you choose that name?” Anna replied, raising a brow.
“I like the name, and I wish to keep tradition and yet subvert it.”
Anna nodded, before having a brief coughing fit. “Where is Firehawk?” She asked after it stopped. “I thought she'd be here.”
“She is with Guderian.” Starhawk answered. “He is getting settled into the city.”
“The ex-Nazi commander who helped us save you.”
Anna nodded. Soon after, she fell asleep. Starhawk leaned over, kissed her on the cheek, then left.
In the interim, many things had happened. Usagi’s funeral had come and gone, and Lettuce had moved into Undyne and Alphys’ apartment. Pinkie and Kira still refused to speak to him. Kras’hir was still very broken over Usagi’s death, having nearly slaughtered everyone at the funeral in a fit of rage. It had taken the senshi to calm her down. She and Sally Anne, it turned out, had visited Anna in the hospital quite often. The Daemoness had grown quite fond of the young Russian girl in that time, and would often gently stroke Anna’s hair and hum to her. Sally would often tell Anna about whatever she did, and that the latter was her “bestest” friend.
A day after she woke up, Anna told Starhawk, who was visiting her again, about a dream she had after passing out from her torture. In this dream, she was standing in a clearing in the middle of a snowy forest. Across from her, she saw a burning bush, on fire, and yet, unharmed by the flames. A voice whispered to her from this bush, telling Anna that she would live, and not to be afraid. Anna felt a profound sense of peace after hearing those words, and was convinced that it was God who had spoken to her. Starhawk wasn’t surprised. Later that day, Anna was released from the hospital, and taken home.
Heinz Guderian, meanwhile, was exploring the city. He had taken a liking to his new home, and wanted to see as much of it as he could. He decided to stop at a rather fancy restaurant for a bite to eat, one that just so happened to be Chez Manchot. From inside, the chatter and laughter of the clientele immediately stopped when Heinz walked in, everyone giving him dirty looks. “...A Nazi.” Lettuce muttered. “Jooooy.”
“I can assure you that I am not a Nazi.” Heinz said. “After all, I did kill Hitler.”
“...Really?” Lettuce replied, understandably skeptical.
“Ja.” Heinz replied. “He was a delusional madman.”
“And you killed him.” Lettuce said. “May I ask how?”
“...You magnificent bastard.” Lettuce said, impressed. “I apologize for my previous behavior, sir.”
Heinz waved it off. “You are forgiven.” He said. After that, the former general proved to be a big hit, especially with the ladies. His uniform, grizzled look, accent and charisma made him irresistible. Lettuce, on his break, introduced himself.
“My name’s Retthi Manchot, but nearly everyone calls me Lettuce. My dad owns this restaurant. It’s very nice to meet you, Herr.”
“Call me Heinz.” He replied. “I insist.”
“Alright, Heinz. It’s nice to meet you. I’ve been going through a tough time, so it’s nice that I can talk to someone. One of my closest friends is dead, my fiance broke up with me a few weeks ago...granted, that was my own fault…”
“I will tell you what my father used to tell me.” Heinz said. “Roll with life’s punches. Don't let what's happened destroy you. The rest will follow.”
“...You’re certain of that? I mean, I’m really unsure if my fiance and I will ever get back together.” Lettuce replied bluntly. “Because what I did was really fucked up.”
“Perhaps you will. Perhaps you won't.” Heinz replied. “Who can say? It is not good for us to dwell on what ifs and what we could have done instead. Rather, we must move forward, and do everything in our power to make things right.”
“Right. You know, you remind me of my grandfather, God rest his soul.” Lettuce replied.
“I would have liked to have met him.” Heinz said, looking over at the stage. “Mein Gott, is that a piano? I had one like that at home. I used to entertain guests with songs all the time. May I play something?”
“Mmm...well, normally I’m not allowed to have guests join me on stage, but alright.” Lettuce replied.
Heinz walked onto the stage, cracked his knuckles, and began to play the piano. After a moment, he began to sing.
“I blew the dust out of the corners
Threw some dead wood on the fire
Tuned the radio to silence
Watched the evening sun expire
Should have called you up this morning
But I'm such a fool at times
I still search my shaving mirror
Looking for your face with mine
And I can't stay alone tonight
Can't let another day go by
Why is it always this way?
Time never seems to really fly
And time is never really on my side
And I can't stay alone tonight
Things have to change and they might
But I can't stay alone tonight
Chalk up one more crazy notion
Imagination running wild
But if I needed confirmation
I would have gone that extra mile
You're the last chance on the highway
I'm that open stretch of road
You're the diner in my rear-view
A cup of coffee getting cold
And I can't stay alone tonight
Can't let another day go by
Why is it always this way?
Time never seems to really fly
And time is never really on my side
And I can't stay alone tonight
Things have to change and they might
But I can't stay alone tonight
Bruised in this cold war of words
We've come undone two loose ends alone
Possessed by that curse you've endured
The spell that I cast couldn't make you come home
And I can't stay alone tonight
Can't let another day go by
Why is it always this way?
Time never seems to really fly
And time is never really on my side
And I can't stay alone tonight
Things have to change and they might
But I can't stay alone tonight
Things have to change and they might
But I can't stay alone tonight.”
“Elton John.” Lettuce guessed. “You know, I never thought a Nazi, even a former one, would be into his music, given his, erm...preferences.”
“You mean his homosexuality?” Heinz said. “The Party decided to look the other way. His music was beloved by so many that there likely would have been riots if he was arrested.”
“Hm, that’s...interesting. You know, one of my friends is an Elton John fan himself. Perhaps you two might get along.”
“Perhaps.” Heinz said, getting off the stage. “Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to buy drinks for the group of ladies near the bar. Until we meet again.”
With that, the former Nazi general walked over to the bar, bought drinks for the women he had mentioned, and had a grand time with them. Just as Lettuce was about to start up the band again, he got a text from Undyne.
‘Hey, Lettuce. I know you’re busy with work right now, but I need to talk to you.’
‘Why? Did I do something wrong?’
‘No, I just need to tell you something.’
‘What is it? Make it quick, my audience is waiting.’
‘...I love you.’
Lettuce almost dropped his phone, his face going blank. “...Folks, we’ll be back with some more tunes, I just...need to get some air.” He then dashed out of the resturaunt, much to the confusion of everyone present. Upon taking a deep breath or two, he immediately dialed Alphys.
“Hello, Lettuce.” She said after answering his call.
“...Alphys, I need to talk to you. It’s kinda important.” Lettuce said. He didn’t sound angry or upset, just rather shocked.
“Undyne loves you, right?” She asked. “I already know.”
“...And you’re OK with this?” Lettuce replied. “Lemme guess, you’re in love with me too.”
“I'm not okay with it.” Alphys said. “Not one bit. Especially not after I found her...touching herself while looking at a picture of you.”
“I found her masturbating while looking at a picture of you, Lettuce.”
“So that explains all the arguing last night. And one of the walls nearly getting a hole blown into it.”
“I don't like getting angry like that, but for her to do something so...disgusting, after how long we've been together…”
“Yeah, I get it. I...don’t know what to say. I just hope you aren’t blaming me for this.” Lettuce said. “W-wait, that’s not what I meant.”
“It's alright.” Alphys replied. “I know what you meant, Lettuce. Rest assured that I'm not angry with you.”
“You’re angry with Undyne. What are you planning to do about it?” he questioned.
“Honestly? I don't know.” Alphys said. “Truly, I don't know what I'm going to do.”
“Whatever happens, I don’t wanna get involved. I’m not saying this isn’t my problem, but…”
“I understand.” Alphys replied. “Goodbye, Lettuce.”
With that, she hung up. Lettuce would have to see what would happen once he got home; whatever it was, it would be nothing good. He went back inside the restaurant, and the band played on. Heinz noted the repertoire seemed to consist of rather sad love songs. The former general was rather drunk by this point, the alcohol making his head tingle pleasantly. He was singing along with the songs that played, his voice slightly slurred.
When Lettuce returned to Undyne and Alphys’ apartment, it was...not a pretty sight. The former was throwing objects, the latter trying to avoid them. “...Yeah, this is not gonna be pretty.” Lettuce muttered irritably.
“YOU KNOW WHAT, ALPHYS, FUCK YOU! I THOUGHT YOU’D BE OKAY WITH LETTUCE BEING MY EXCEPTION!” Undyne screamed, picking up a chair and throwing it hard at a wall.
“I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST A LITTLE CRUSH! I DIDN'T THINK I'D FIND YOU FINGERING YOURSELF IN OUR BED WHILE LOOKING AT A PICTURE OF HIM, UNDYNE!” Alphys shouted back at her.
“SO WHAT IF I WAS?!” Undyne replied. “HE’S MY EXCEPTION, I SHOULD BE ABLE TO FANTASIZE HOWEVER I WANT!”
“Fine!” Alphys said. “Do whatever you want. I'm done fighting.”
With that said, she tore off the necklace that Undyne had given her the previous month as an anniversary gift, tossed it at the latter’s feet, and stormed out of the apartment, slamming the door behind her. Lettuce soon entered, glaring daggers at Undyne.
“You know what I find hilarious? The fact that you were willing to cheat on Alphys, Undyne. Because what you did...you violated something sacred between you two. Now, I’m guilty of doing that with the whole ‘shrine to Kira’ thing. But at least I’m admitting my mistakes and trying to fix them. You’re a good person, Undyne. But you fucked up big time. And you only have yourself to blame.” He then left the apartment to follow Alphys, leaving Undyne all alone.
Kras’hir, meanwhile, was at Usagi’s grave. The Daemoness had laid flowers next to the headstone, which read: “Here lies Usagi Tsukino. Hero, Mother, Wife and Friend. May she rest in peace.” The Daemoness quietly wept as she stood by the grave, unable to even form words. There was a stirring coming from the grave, unbeknownst to her. As if something alive was trying to escape. A moment later, Alma appeared next to Kras’hir, knelt next to the grave, and whispered, “Rise.”
Usagi slowly rose from the grave, grumbling and growling. “Brains...BRAAAAAAAAIIIIINNNNS!” She immediately burst into laughter, unable to keep a straight face. Kras’hir stared at her, eyes wide.
“You were expecting, maybe, Emily from Corpse Bride?” Usagi responded, giving the largest and smarmiest grin she could muster before she hugged her wife. Kras’hir hugged her back, still stunned. “Hi, Kras’hir.” Usagi said. “Yes, it’s me. In the flesh.”
“I can't believe that you're back…” The Daemoness whispered.
“I can.” Usagi replied with a giggle. “Did ya miss me?”
“Of course I did.” Kras’hir said. “Losing you...well, it hurt in a way I can't even describe.”
“But I’m here now, so you don’t have to hurt anymore.”
“I love you.” Kras’hir replied. “Now, and forever.”
“And a day.” Usagi purred. “You know what I really wanna do right now?”
“Me?” Kras’hir guessed, smirking.
“Yes, but also wanting to kill the bastards who shot me full of holes.”
“Starhawk already took care of Göth. She reduced him to a fine red mist.” Kras’hir said.
“Are you referencing that one video game?” Usagi questioned playfully. “Anyways, what about Emma and her father? Are they dead?”
“We haven't caught Heydrich. As for Emma...well…”
“...She's free. Apparently, Alma read her mind, saw that she's had a pretty shitty life, and convinced Omnus to give her a second chance.”
Usagi turned to Alma, her expression indicating one of serious doubt. “Is this true?”
“It is.” Alma said.
“I highly doubt that, considering she was an accomplice to my murder and all, but I’ll scope things out.”
Soon after, Kras’hir and Usagi went to their apartment. The Daemoness went to wake Sally Anne, who had been taking a nap. “M-mommy?” the toddler replied sleepily. “What’s going on?”
Kras’hir turned back to the door before saying, “Come in. She's awake.” Usagi entered, and Sally immediately jumped from the bed, hugging her.
“W-we’re a family again?” the toddler asked.
“Yes, little one.” Usagi whispered.
“Neither of us will ever leave you, Sally.” Kras’hir said. “I promise.”
“With cherries on top?”
“With lots of cherries on top.” Usagi laughed. “And they’ll be covered in chocolate.”
Kras’hir and Usagi stayed with Sally until she fell asleep. After this happened, they left her room, gently closing the door.
“Who do you want to see next?” Kras’hir asked once they were back in the living room. “Your parents and brother, I'm guessing?”
“Obviously.” Usagi replied.
“Let's go, then.” Kras’hir said. They headed over to the apartment Usagi’s family lived in. Once they got there, Kras’hir knocked. Kenji opened the door, and nearly fainted upon seeing his daughter.
“Who is it?” Ikuko asked, walking up behind her husband. “What's going-oh, my God. U-Usagi? Is that you?”
“If it wasn’t me, I probably wouldn’t ask if you had any pork buns.” Usagi replied, hugging her mother. Ikuko hugged Usagi back tightly. “I missed you, Mom.”
“I missed you too, Usagi.” Ikuko said. “I missed you so very much.”
“It was an adventure just to get back here.” Usagi said.
“I'm sure it was.” Ikuko replied. “Come inside. I want to hear all about it.” Usagi nodded, Shingo having the same reaction as his father upon seeing his sister again. Kras’hir, meanwhile, called the rest of the senshi, asking them to come over to the apartment. When they arrived, they all broke down sobbing. It was a very emotional reunion, all in all.
Anna, meanwhile, was sharpening one of her hatchets. She had gotten used to her new hand, but her prosthetic eye still wasn't working right, so she had simply removed it after getting home from the hospital. Starhawk was happy that she was alright, and had brought her home as soon as she could. She was also aware that she would give birth rather soon, and had prepared accordingly.
“It will be nice to have a sister.” Anna said idly after a few minutes. “Growing up with only my mother around was rather lonely, I will admit.”
“But you will have us and Aquila now.”
“Da, I will.” Anna replied, smiling a bit. “I am glad to finally have a real family...mother.”
Starhawk teared up at that, and hugged Anna. Anna hugged her back, tearing up as well. They eventually broke the hug. Anna smiled again, kissing her adopted mother’s cheek. Soon after, Starhawk’s phone rang. “Hello?” Starhawk asked.
“Hey.” Kras’hir said.
“Oh, hello, Kras’hir. You sound elated.”
“I am.” Kras’hir said. “Do you mind if I come over?”
A little while later, Kras’hir knocked on her door. Starhawk answered, only to find Usagi was with her. The Hawkian screamed excitedly, hugging her girlfriends. Kras’hir laughed, embracing Starhawk tightly.
“Hey, Star.” She said. “Surprised?”
“Very much.” Starhawk giggled. “It’s so good to see you, Usagi!”
“I missed you too, Star.” Usagi said.
Anna had gone back to sharpening her hatchet. She didn't notice Usagi until the three of them walked in. “Anna, I would like you to meet someone.”
“Hmmm?” Anna replied, looking up. “Who?”
Usagi then walked in, and squealed. “Oh my God, she’s adorable!”
Anna set her hatchet down, fully expecting the hug she got a moment later. She wasn't sure how to feel about Usagi, so she didn't hug the blonde back. Starhawk noted this, and made sure to tell Anna she understood where the latter was coming from.
“I still don't know who you are.” Anna said after Usagi let her go.
“I’m Usagi Tsukino. I’m...how do I put this...your mother’s girlfriend.”
“Ah.” She replied. “Well, it is nice to meet you. I am Anna.”
“It is nice to meet you, Anna.”
“You are probably wondering why I'm missing an eye, da?” Anna asked. “I can see you looking at the empty socket.”
“I really wasn’t.” Usagi said honestly.
“It is actually remarkably easy to pop out someone's eye.” Anna said. “You just have to dig under it with a sharp thumb nail, then pull your thumb back. Pop!”
“Ewwww…” Usagi said, turning green much to Starhawk’s amusement.
“Would any of you like a drink?” Starhawk asked.
“Water.” Anna said.
“Soda, if you please.” Usagi said.
“I'll have a soda, too.” Kras’hir said.
Starhawk nodded, but before she could get the drinks, she began panting, breathing heavily, and having contractions. Usagi immediately bolted. “Oh...shit.” she muttered. “She’s going into labor.”
“Well, shit.” Kras’hir said. “I'm not sure how Hawkians give birth, but I helped a few women through their labor back when I was a slave. I'll do my best here.”
Starhawk then started cursing in the Hawkian tongue, while Usagi dialed Firehawk and Blackhawk. Kras’hir laid Starhawk down, undressed her, and spread her legs. Firehawk and Blackhawk arrived soon after, hurrying into the room and beginning to assist Kras’hir. Starhawk started screaming louder, tears in her eyes. Firehawk held her sister’s hand as she gave birth. This proved to be a mistake, as Starhawk’s grip tightened enough to fracture Firehawk’s fingers. Even so, Firehawk hoped it would help her sister out. Eventually, the ordeal was over. Kras’hir breathed a sigh of relief, gently setting the egg down on a blanket. Within some minutes, it hatched, revealing an ash-grey baby Hawkian with swirling red patterns on her feathers, as orange as flames, and eyes as grey as steel.
“Oh, my God…” Anna said, nearly squealing. “She is precious.” Starhawk panted, smiling at her newborn.
“Yes she is. Anna, meet Aquila.”
Anna gently picked up the baby Hawkian, holding her close and cradling her. Aquila began letting out small screeching cries. Anna rocked her, softly singing in Russian to Aquila in an attempt to calm her. “I think she’s hungry.” Usagi said.
“Da.” Anna said, handing the shrieking newborn to Starhawk. The latter began to feed her, and soon the chick was calmed.
“I never did tell you how I lost my eye.” Anna said to Usagi. “A nice doctor removed it with a powered drill. I still hear the sound that drill made in my nightmares.”
“Mein Gott.” Usagi muttered.
“Do you know what acid does to skin, Usagi Tsukino?” Anna asked, beginning to giggle a bit, her eye twitching. “I can tell you. At first, I didn't feel anything, save for the fact my skin was wet. Then, pain. Unending, unbearable pain. I wanted to die. Doesn't that sound fun?”
“Jesus flapjack-flipping Christ, kid…” Usagi gasped. “You’re suffering from PTSD.”
“Why weren't you here?” Anna asked Firehawk and Starhawk. “Tell me: WHY WEREN'T YOU TWO HERE?! ANSWER ME! WHY WEREN'T YOU TWO HERE TO STOP THEM FROM TAKING ME?!”
“I'm sorry, Anna. It was our fault.” Firehawk said. “We stepped outside to get away from that argument you and Kras’hir were having, and then we followed her to make sure she was alright. We didn't expect you to get kidnapped.”
“I am truly sorry, Anna.” Starhawk said, handing the fed and burped Aquila to Blackhawk. “This was my first major mistake as a mother…”
Anna picked up her hatchet, left the room, and locked herself in her bedroom. For the next several minutes, all everyone heard was things being smashed and Anna screaming curses in English and Russian. Starhawk and Firehawk’s names came up many times, usually in connection with the words ‘bitch’, ‘cunt’ and ‘harlot.’
“...She must really hate us…” Starhawk whispered.
“No.” Firehawk said, rubbing her sister’s back. “Anna’s just hurt and traumatized. She's still very young, and she doesn't know how to cope with what's happened. She doesn't hate us, I don't think. She's just angry and lashing out.”
“That makes me feel somewhat better.”
“Good.” Firehawk said, kissing her. Starhawk kissed back. Aquila, meanwhile, looked up at her father, drooling slightly. Blackhawk smiled at her, ruffling Aquila’s feathers. The newborn cooed at him happily.
“Hello, little one.” he said, kissing her head, before turning to Starhawk. “I still can't believe we're parents…”
“I cannot believe it myself.” Starhawk said, smiling. After a few more minutes, Anna came back out, panting. Her hatchet was nowhere in sight. Blackhawk handed Aquila over to her a moment later. Anna began humming to the newborn. Aquila soon fell asleep, and was put into her new crib. Blackhawk stepped outside to smoke, gesturing for Starhawk to follow him. He could tell she needed some fresh air. Starhawk nodded, following him.
Once they were outside, he lit a cigarette, before offering Starhawk one. “Here.” he said. “It'll calm your nerves.” Starhawk hesitated, but took the cigarette and started to smoke it.
“How do you feel?” He asked her. “You can be honest, Star. No need to act happy or optimistic if you don't feel that way.”
“I am very, very nervous.” Starhawk admitted. “I can’t believe I’m a mother now.”
“I never thought I'd be a father.” Blackhawk said. “This is all new to me.”
“Agreed. I will try and be the best mother I can to Aquila.”
Before Blackhawk could reply, a bright light appeared down the street from them. Once it faded, a figure became visible. A female Hawkian, to be more precise. She began walking toward them, and once she got close, Blackhawk’s eyes widened upon seeing the color of her feathers.
“A-Aquila?” He whispered.
Aquila smiled. “Hello, father.” She said. “We need to talk.”