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Pup
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The Story by Lynn Stewart (Rynoah)

This is the first part of the story I call Pup.  It's about a girl used as a government guinea pig who escaped and is taken in by a street urchin named Neas.  She is found out by the government and is chased across the galaxy, found by a man named Dresh, also used as a guinea pig, and... so on.  I haven't quite thought of an ending for this story yet, but it's one I've wanted to write for a long time.  Be warned, this is not the final copy, this is the early stages of the story.
 

The Slums: a filthy slime pit infested with mankind's darkest and most unwanted secrets. Any man, woman or child that can survive here is untrusting and cunning; deadly yet misunderstood. They have to be: it is imperative to their survival. These are the Forgotten, society's outcasts and rejects.

She was numbered as one of these unfortunate misfits. Her clothes were tattered and soiled with substances long unidentifiable, her hair a greasy mop of dark brown strings and eyes as dark as an alley at midnight. She was a rare one to sight if one didnt know where to look. Stealth was her ally and it was as loyal to her as her own shadow. It was surprising to one who didn't know her for she looked rather young, around seventeen years old; too proud to take the path many women of her age did and sell herself to the pleasures of men. Her spirit was too strong for such a pitiable occupation as a Child of the Night. She was content to battle for survival against diseases, filth and other of the Forgotten on the streets of the Great City, like all of her kind.

However, she was different from the rest of the Forgotten. It was not easily noticed at a glance, but if one observed her for a long time, it was obvious, though not easy to place. She carried a dark, frightening air about her as though her past was truly an evil one. This could explain why, unlike the others, she roamed solo. Indeed, none of the others would look at her directly during the rare encounter. She was almost cat-like in her solitude, but it was no bother to her. She cared for no one and no one cared for her.

And so life was in the Slums when the police made a sweep. Business had been slowing down for them and to keep themselves busy and the jails full, they would wade into the rotting alleyways of the Great City and arrest several bums there. Some of the poor homeless souls would actually throw themselves in front of the officers and beg to be taken in, so horrible were their situations.

She was awakened late that afternoon when the police came roaring into the cluttered alley she and others called their home. Officers were shouting orders and clubbing the ones that resisted. Caught off-guard--but not completely, for she never really slept--she grabbed her backpack and scrambled out of the crawl-space that was worn into the wall and began to slink away, for the most part avoiding the police expertly. However, she was not good enough this time.

An officer sighted her just as she was at the bend at the back of the alley.

"Hey, you!" he shouted, running toward her, club raised. She fled without turning around to face him. "Freeze!" he bellowed, following in hot pursuit. She didn't seem to hear as she disappeared around the corner. The officer wasn't far behind, but when he turned the corner he slid to a stop, his face betraying his utter surprise.

The narrow alley was devoid of all living creatures save the large black Slum-mutt nosing about the garbage cans. The wind ruffled the mutt's black fur and stirred some papers but little else moved. The officer stared around in amazement, trying to contemplate how the dirty rag-child could have pulled off such a trick. Then a shout from a comrade beckoned him away and he turned back, not seeing when the scavenging mongrel rustled about in a pile of garbage bags and came up with a tattered, worn backpack.

****

"Pick a card."

The unoriginal command sounded like an utterance from a wizard as it floated effortlessly from Neas's lips. The scoundrel held up a fan of playing cards to one of the bystanders that made up the small crowd surrounding him, his sea-green eyes sparkling with mystery: the eyes of a true magician. The onlooker examined the worn cards a moment and then slipped one from the pack. The fan of cards was quickly snapped closed and Neas was smoothly shuffling them before his victim could look at her choice.

"Good," the corner magician said without looking at the cards in his hands as they leaped and switched. "Now don't let me see it. That would ruin this trick," he added, cutting the deck. His deep voice was enriched by a soft accent that was so faint it seemed almost undetectable. He held out the bottom half of the deck. "Place that one right here nice 'n' easy," he said, an impish smirk on his well-lined face. The onlooker obliged and Neas shuffled the deck a few more times. The crowd began to murmur softly as the nineteen-year-old played with the cards. So smooth were his actions that none of them had a chance to spot the quick switch he made. His grin widened as he once again cut the deck and held out each half.

"Now," he stated, grabbing their attention, "if you'll take off the top card of each half..." The bystander did so and looked at both cards. Neas expertly hid the sneer that was creeping up on him when he saw the triumphant gleam in his victim's eye. "Are any of them your card?" he asked, knowing full well what the answer was.

"No," the girl crowed. "You must've screwed up!" Neas masked his face in his usual confused look.

"Are you sure?" he asked in a mock flustered manner.

"Yeah," she replied. A few chuckles floated from the crowd as the Trickster played defeat. He put the deck back together and held it out for her to replace the card.

"Perhaps you didn't do it right," he muttered. "Let me try." He reached for the deck and flawlessly slipped the real card from the sleeve of his long dark-gray trenchcoat into his hand, pretending to draw it from the top of the deck. He showed it to the stranger.

"This yo' card?" he asked with a mischievous smile. The woman could only gape and nod, dumbfounded. The crowd murmured in wonder--he heard a few of them say, "I know how he did that!"--and Neas replaced the card on the deck, satisfied with another successfully-completed illusion.

 

With his street-corner act completed--and the money from the awed crowd collected--Neas pocketed his faithful deck of cards and packed up the rest of his tricks into the well-used camouflage duffel bag he always carried around. It was then that he saw her.

It didn't amaze him that he hadn't noticed her earlier for it was obvious she was not one to be easily seen. She sat in an alley opening shadowed by a market booth that had been abandoned in a tatter by its unfortunate owner. Her knees were drawn up to her chin and at her feet was a worn backpack with a broken strap. Her clothes looked ready to disintegrate around her shoulders at any given moment and her hair was a mess. She watched him intently with her deep brown eyes and with his usual impish smile, he approached her, taking in her untrusting glare. She didn't move as he stood looking down at her with a winning half-smile.

"You watched my show?" he asked after a long pause. She said nothing, continuing to glare at him warily. He raised his hands peaceably with a grin. "Hey, I ain't gonna hurt you, 'kay?" She still didnt move, nor did her face waver. But something in her eyes shimmered: a curiosity. She'd never been approached like this before. However, she still didn't trust him. He was a Trickster after all; one of the few that made a decent enough living to buy food and did so by deceiving others. She looked him up and down.

He was the perfect picture of a street-corner entertainer. His sea-green eyes sparkled from his rather handsome face, set under dark eyebrows. A crop of dark reddish-brown hair topped his head and there was evidence of a one-day-old beard on his chin. He was dressed in a dark gray trenchcoat over a tighter white shirt and faded blue jeans. On his feet, he wore a pair of very used sneakers and his hands were covered in finger-less gloves.

"Doesn't look like Fates been too kind to you, little one," he stated shortly. He was smiling slightly, obviously aware of her staring. Then he stuck out a hand. "The name's Neas," he introduced with a grin that only accented his handsome features. He flicked his wrist and almost magically a card appeared in his palm. "Cards're the game. But I do other tricks. Yanno, the whole 'rabbit-in-the-hat' bit an stuff. When I can get a rabbit, that is." He showed the card's face; it was a laughing picture of the classic Joker. She didn't appeared too impressed but her caution was slowly beginning to edge away, replaced by curiosity and a voice that spoke to her about the hardships of not trusting anyone. This Trickster didn't seem all bad. Neas pocketed the card and indicated her with a wave of his hand.

"Have yo' got a name?" he asked. She again said nothing, just regarded him blankly. He crooked a finger over his chin absently. "If you're goin' to go into business with me, little one, yo' gotta have a name." He took a step back and examined her thoughtfully a moment. "I s'pose youll be followin' me around like a little lost pup. You sure seem like one." He grinned. "C'mon then, Pup." She didn't react with a grimace, as he had expected, so he went on after a short pause: "I've got other places to play." He grabbed up her backpack by the one strap and slung it over his free shoulder. Then, he took her by the wrist and hauled her to her feet. She was rather light and he made a note to get her something to eat later. "We'll pay a visit to a friend and get you some better to suit up in. Maybe get you a bath too, hmm?" She still said nothing but the wary look in her eye almost completely vanished. He had almost all her trust now. He smiled, adjusted her backpack on his shoulder and motioned for her to follow as he strode out into the smoggy city day.

****

Alex waited.  A small manilla folder entitled Operation: Hellhound and stamped with a glaring "Top Secret" sign was tucked under his arm and he slowly paced the floor.  He was in a plainly-decorated office with a file cabinet off to one side.  His young face was pinched with anxiety and impatience and his cold blue eyes shimmered in the artificial light.  He ran a hand through his short-cut black hair in an aggravated way.  The situation was getting worse.

The door opened and in walked Cal Richmond, blonde hair combed back to show his receding hairline and silver eyes glittering.  Alex had heard several rumors that Richmond had gotten his strange-colored eyes as the result of an early experiment regarding the Soldier project that he had performed on himself.  They were disturbing either way and gave him an eerie pale look.

"What've you got, Jenkins?" he demanded in his deep voice.  His square chin and broad shoulders were enough to make any green horn shiver in their boxers but Alex was used to it by now.  The only thing he found intimidating about his superior was the color of his eyes.  He ignored that this time.

"We found another one," he replied.  Cal's eyes flared dangerously and he looked ready to pop out of his black suit.

"Where?" was his only response but it sounded like a bomb dropping.  Alex thrust the folder at him and he snatched it up, glancing through it.

"She's one of ours," he explained.  "She escaped two years ago."

"I thought we got all those taken care of," he snarled.  Alex felt his heart skip a beat.

"Looks like you thought wrong," he muttered.  Cal's eyes burned a hole right through him.

"Then why are you standing here?" he bellowed.  "Get someone out there to pick her up!  Now!"  Alex retreated from the office, glad to be away from the sickening eyes of his superior.

****

Characters, story and places Rynoah.  All violators will be beaten.