The Moonlit Path: A Glimpse Beyond the Illusion Part 3
Part 1 Part 2
Summary: Mortus faces increasing challenges as he grows older as a Liberated within the Hirudian Empire and under Warlord Gresham’s oppressive thumb. A mission doesn’t go as planned and Mortus is startled to find his Liberation suddenly absent.
Content Warning: Violence, gore, some graphic depictions of horrible acts.
Mortus stared down at the field kit upon the table as the sergeant droned through the mission briefing.
Several other pilots had the same kits on their tables in front of them, each sized for their class and roles. It was like the field kits provided for his several previous excursions, an assortment of meager survival tools. Despite the years and his internal insistence that they were in the right, the memories of the carnage dulled any excitement for leaving Hirud again. Many sleepless cycles weighed on his mind. Rest betrayed him in its absence.
As the sergeant continued to fail to engage his captive audience, the odd orb drew Mortus’s attention. He murmured a frustrated growl because he automatically understood what it was designed to do. A constant stream of unwelcomed information left little to daydream about. Strange objects held little mystery to entertain him.
A dark plastic band wrapped around the clear semi-permeable casing. Buttons were positioned so his thumb would rest naturally on it when he would pull it out from its holster. Once a button was pressed, a mechanism engaged that rapidly voided the air inside through hidden vents around the edge of the band to suck in ████████ through the filtered ports. A weak plastic tag that triggered the mechanism seemed designed to break upon its first use to prevent the orb from being broken open. But it could fail, allowing for the ████████ to be released with another push of the buttons.
Specialized gas masks were included in the kit, designed to cover a Vactyr’s nose, mouth, and cheek openings. The filters were designed to block toxic gasses, including ████████.
No weapons beyond a simple survival knife and horn caps were included in the kit. Mortus noted that the smallest pilots were outfitted with light guns or medic packs on their tables. However, the largest Liberated were left with only the essentials. Perhaps their opponents lacked heavy weapons technology, perfect for the titanic war machines to tear apart with their bare hands.
Mortus grumbled despite the encouraging prods from under his crest. The bug wanted him to take pride in his off-world feats of strength, but he could only muster exhausted acceptance of the violence. He knew that if he were permitted to admit it, the constant conquest made him sick.
He wondered what the masters wanted this mission, as even his bug nor augment were privy to its information. Mortus stared as the Sergeant struggled to strap the mask onto an uncooperative Lost's face to show how the newly assigned pack leaders and potentially future adopted pack leaders should pin them down in the proper pose to get the strings around their horns without hurting them too much. ████████ was dangerous and valuable.
After hours of trudging through the dirt and mud, Mortus always found the squishy sensation under his hooves unpleasant, yet somehow comforting. Taking point, he glared ahead for their targets while keeping his ears pinned to his squadmates ambling hoofbeats behind him. An overcast sky dimmed the starlight, a welcome blessing despite his prickling skin. His breath stuck inside of his gas mask, leaving his face unbearably moist and filling his sinuses with the stink of the morning’s gruel.
But he knew better than to remove it.
The base of his skull throbbed with the knowledge of small concentrations of ████████ all around. None were distinct enough to warrant capture – the sergeant was clear that ████████ could only be captured near the planet’s citizenry, the Rabbits.
Glint had not shut his jaws since the Gaboon breached Hirud’s atmosphere to join the mobilization cloud in its orbit. Since landing, his jaws continued to test the strength of the straps around his horns.
Despite Mortus’s explicit orders, Glint dug his claw into the rim of his mask and pulled it away from his face so the others could hear him better. “Didja’ hear that we get permits if we make it home?” He tucked the mask under his chin. “What’re ya gonna do with your female?”
A muffled murmur answered him from a disinterested gunner.
Mortus did not blink at the question, instead lifting his lip in distaste.
“We ain’t gonna get permits if we don’t fill our traps,” another brother chirped, also pulling his mask away from his face. “The rabbits can hear us for miles.”
With a snarled grunt, Mortus agreed. He huffed as he peeled back the trees to peek behind their leafy branches. It bothered him that they were flexible and springy, unlike the stiff copper-trunked and silicon-leafed plants of Hirud. If he pushed too hard, the trunks snapped to reveal the splintering insides.
Intel handed to him back at the base indicated a village nestled deep into this forest, enough ████████ to for several squads to fill their traps. Once found, the rest of the camp could follow their trail to get their fill. The weight of the mission’s potential failure weighed on Mortus’s shoulders: several weeks of missed rations, back-breaking labour around the clock and nights strapped to a chair hooked up to blood-sucking tubing.
Yet the thought of succeeding left a stiff lump lodged in his hearts. It was familiar, a left-over feeling that appeared on during his first battle. It had grown over the years, a constant, mysterious friend. But he could not analyze it- the bug in his mind refused to allow that.
“Well, all of this shit’s got to be worth it eventually,” Glint remarked with a snide tilt of his horns. He adjusted his oversized pack with a hop as he explained, “Ex won’t let me anywhere near him anymore and the other bitch turned out to be a leechfucker.” He puffed out his chest and held up his head. He looked down his nose as he added, “I deserve a permit.”
The small gunner shifted his pack until he found a good balance on his thin shoulders. “Sounds like what you really need is some time in the storage closet, mate.” He made a stroking motion with his fist to drive home his point, complete with opening his hand to “The girls would turn you to mince if you talked ‘bout them like that.”
Glint coughed, scoffing at the assumption.
Broken branches and crunched leaves exposed fresh turned dirt at Mortus’s hooves. Toing a strange lump of vines and fungus that resembled a thick arm, he recoiled once he realized it was warm. It lacked flesh and no blood soaked the earth around it. As Mortus turned to motion Glint to take the rear so their gunners could have ample access to cover their flanks--A bark cracked the rustled silence. A single sizzle of a laser bullet buried itself into a wet tree trunk just past Mortus’s hand. Sunk into the leaf litter, the gun’s liquid light faded from its tubing as the Glint clawed at his throat. Glint choked and peeled his gasmask from under his chin, struggling to free his breath from his rapidly expanding chest.
The rest of the squad shuffled away from him, some whining amongst themselves in helpless concern. No sound pierced Glint’s throat, despite his claws raking through his flesh. His light skin violently flushed dark that meshed with long glowing streaks bursting into spreading inkblots. Bubbling blood beaded from his pores before bursting outward onto the unprepared onlookers. Mortus stared in slack-jawed disbelief as Glint’s dis-torso’d legs wobbled on their hooves before collapsing on the edge of the entrail sundae.
A lithe fleshy being grappled the runt gunner, its long, wrinkled fingers wrapped around a horn as the other hand grasped for muzzle of the gun. Mortus shoved the rest of the squad back with a swing of his arm. The Rabbit clung to the runt; their mouth contorted into an ugly hiss to show their knife-like incisors. Its wild eye glanced to Mortus, the spines down either side of his back shivered. As Mortus approached the runt to slap away the vicious being, the ground rumbled under his hooves.
Turning earth flavoured the air as a mass of roots wriggled through the stones and dirt. Creaking wood jerked and jittered as it split the ground. The thickest sprout reared up like a serpent readying its strike. It shot forward with a crackle and whipped itself around Mortus’s cannon. Thick ropes of branches pulsed as it constricted around the large limb, rocks wriggled up with the slithering wood to strengthen its grip—the stone stretched into a broad palm and gangly fingers that dug into his leg.
With a hiss like an avalanche, Mortus struggled to kick free of the living rock. As the forest litter coalesced at the base of the limb, a faceless stony head and tangled thorny torso grew from the sinking ground. It let go of Mortus’s leg as it pulled itself onto its feet and stood “eye” to eye with him. Mortus managed to steady himself before the beast sent him scrambling by backhanding him out of it’s path.
On his knees, Mortus placed a hand on his ringing horn to try to steady the vibrations rolling through his head and crest. Behind the stone beast, the squad had ripped the Rabbit from the runt’s back and piled over its chest and limbs to fail to keep it pinned. Gunners fired at the stone beast, but their laser bullets left shallow dents in its stony carapace. Any splintered holes ripped through the wood rapidly reformed with a shake of his arm.
Mortus tackled the monster from behind, trapping its limbs under his. The cloves of his hoof cut into the roots acting like its Achilles tendon. Information filtered through his mind: cellulose, organic matter, silica, iron, water and other things composed a shell encapsulating a hollow filled with ████████. It flowed with the beast’s movements, the gas currently pulsing into its arms to resist Mortus’s vice-like grasp.
Intent on tearing it open like a cursed ration packet, Mortus leaned back and twisted to bisect it. The beast’s wooden torso stretched against Mortus’s stomach. Its arms sprouted new branches that slithered across Mortus’s forearms for his fingers that dug into the cavities of its chest. Its hands clawed into his, the thorns splintering into his flesh. Straining to keep his grip, Mortus could not stop the monster from prying his hands free of its chest. It heaved Mortus off with its full weight and knocked him onto his back.
Grievous gashes across his knuckles made his hand shake. With little hesitation, Mortus rolled over to shove himself up onto his elbows. With a snarl, Mortus pounced on the monster again. His palm smeared across its impassive face, the dark blood collected in the crags and crevices of the stone. Fingers dug against the rough surface, but his claws were unable to penetrate the stony flesh.
Stray laser fire bit his shoulder. The yelps and hisses of his squad scrambling to capture the Rabbit again distracted him long enough for the monster to wiggle free. Stone rang against Mortus's chest plate; the fresh dent pinched the zipper of his under-armour into the soft flesh.
Roots contorted across his chest, branching and tangling into a net and tightening around his biceps. It constricted, squeezing the breath from Mortus’s lungs. His ribs creaked and his shoulders popped under the rising pressure. Unable to draw enough air to stop the tightening living ropes, he grit his jaw. Thinking of Glint, he prayed that the flexed muscles of his neck would maintain the mask’s seal.
Rubber started to peel from his face, Mortus's groped at the tools along his belt. Once he brushed the plastic orb, yanked it free. As he allowed the last of his breath to escape his nostrils, he leaned his head back in preparation for the horrible idea that took root into his frantic mind. The bug could not stop him.
Stars gushed and thunder cracked as he smashed his face into the rock. In his smeared vision, Mortus beheld the dark void that yawned from the cracks in the beast’s lack of a face before shoving the trap inside with a sloppy slap. Sweat slurped and bubbled as the mechanism went to work sucking every iota of ████████.
Roots fell slack and splintered into a pile of useless bits at Mortus’s hooves. He could not gulp down the air he desperately needed; shards floated in the coppery ocean of his mouth and dug into his gums and throat. Staring at the filled trap through the dim portholes left over of his blackened vision, he was mesmerized by the thin wisps of ████████ that floated in silent circles.
Shouts and barks echoed from nearby; their whispered urgency muffled in his throbbing ears. Mortus could not care about the tickle that climbed his chest. The small being eventually slapped his neck for attention; its small voice could not twitch his ear.
Until it tugged on his horn. Pain rang in Mortus’s crest as his head tilted, something rattled inside of his head. With a bubbled huff, Mortus plucked the Rabbit from his face. He started to swing his arm to toss it away until he realized its whole body quivered in his grip. His darkened gaze fell onto its face. Despite the pulsing beat between his horns, he could see the creature’s tears. Ferocity had drained from its face. For a moment, it seemed pathetic. It pointed shakily at the trap in Mortus's other hand. “No, nono- don’t leave me behind. Take me.”
Their common was broken, but the stuttered panic left little to misinterpret. “It won’t work. Take me, you want me.” The thin claws of its feet dug into Mortus’s palm as it stretched itself over his thumb to reach up to the trap. Small spines along either side of its back prickled in Mortus’s palm. With a whispered wheeze, it breathed, “Please.”
With a slow, dim look from the trap to the creature, Mortus his head ached. A small worry nipped at the back of his mind—a hot dribble down his face had seeped under the mask and dripped darkness down his cheek.
Aware of the squad’s eyes upon him and the strain of the rabbit in his grip, all Mortus could do was set the rabbit down and hand the trap to it.
It wrapped its arms around the clear exterior and pressed its wrinkled face against the clear plastic. Snot and grease blurred its surface, happy sobs shook the Rabbit’s frail shoulders. The mission seemed unimportant—why did they need the rabbit or ████████ anyways?
One of the smaller gunners shoved the barrel of his rifle into the rabbit’s face, a muffled hiss baring his teeth. Another followed suit and signalled to the others to apprehend the Rabbit. Yet another rounded up a few mates to continue the search: the Rabbit’s warren would be close by.
A soft hand brushing his thumb broke Mortus’s forlorn stare at the cuffs snapped to the Rabbit’s wrists. It did not seem right. Couldn’t they leave it?
“Hey brother, you don’t look okay.” Mortus winced as he pressed his free hand to his right horn. The squadmate grabbed Mortus’s free wrist and tossed his arm over his shoulder. Their great difference in size made it difficult for the squadmate to prop Mortus up, but he could lead the blood-blinded titan towards a shaded flat rock. “Just a few feet and get you some rest.”
Eyes closed, Mortus laid still in the cot while his consciousness slowly crept in. He could tell that something was different; he was no longer in the forest. His ear flicked at the undue silence of the immediate space. Somewhere in some adjacent room, hoofsteps clicked through the halls and guards gossiped in low murmurs. He knew the blanket that draped over him was made of wool, the fibres much like the manes of the Lost, but much coarser. His mind's eye could see the general scope of the room he was in, from the low cabinets stocked with syringes, pills, horn sealant and bandages to the crowded rack of surgical implements against the far wall.
As Mortus shifted his head, his right horn was much lighter than the left. His tongue tip probed his missing teeth. The gaps were soft, painful pillows of inflamed tissue. Between the odour of sealant and sweet copper, his stomach turned at the stench of sick. Nausea dropped his chin against the pillow again; the right half of his face and crest shifted unnaturally. Something rattled inside, much too loose for his comfort.
Broken, his face was broken.
He lowed under his breath, lavishing in lament before the bug nagged him into placid acceptance. No shifting under his sweat-soaked skin, no pressure in his crumbled crest, no gentle jab to keep his thoughts in line with the glory of the great Hirudian Empire.
One eye opened, the opposite one had swollen shut. Silver light shone from his eye on the scratchy pillowcase. He dimly marvelled at the emptiness of his consciousness was with only his thoughts to occupy them. With no quiet nudges to keep his mind inside the dotted line, a vast ocean of opportunities yawned before him. Instead of awe or terror, Mortus could only accept the expanse that laid before him. For the first time since his Liberation, his thoughts were free.
Mortus assumed that the masters would assign him to re-Liberation the minute his hoofpads touched the ground. But the masters seemed to not notice.
If the masters chose to look the other way, then it was not Mortus’s job to remind them.
Alone with his thoughts, his mind could truly wander. He dreamed of knights and dragons toppling wicked kings. His dreams brought a soft joy. The tiny warmth was fragile, a mere candle’s flame against a blizzard. Precious.
His back strained as he scrubbed the stubborn mud from the underside of the Gaboon, taking great care to free the filth from its crevices. Warm water poured down his arms to soak his uniform and drip into a huge puddle at his hooves. Some flowed down his face and neck, bringing attention to the clipped forest of black hair that had grown in since he shaved that morning.
Water dripped down his back, tracing the edges of his augment. His mind circled, draining his vigour. Mortus understood that Liberation had stolen his will—the bug had kept him cornered, far away from rebellious rhetoric. Hesitation, they never wanted him to pause in carrying out an order. Fly here, march there, kill the invaluables and capture the valuables. Very few joined their ranks, the others—some remainder of them soaked his flight suit, mixed in with the distilled blood of his people. Other parts were melded with the fine copper branches of the trees outside, and others lubricated the machinations all around.
All distilled to its most useful, pure state.
He struggled to make peace with his guilt. He played no small part in the destruction of the galaxy for the glory of the great Hirudian Empire. Some part of him wished for the bug’s consistent platitudes, it salved the raw horror and despair of his grisly work. Yet, he knew he could never go back. All he could do was make the most of the present and look to the future.
And he dreamed that the future could be free.
Mortus would never have to hurt anything again, he could save the baby dragons—he wondered how big they were now, after all these years. It seemed so far away, with hordes of loyal Liberated and the insane powers of the Elite in his way.
Even if he snuck past those, he doubted Warlord Gresham would let him go.
His back strained as he scrubbed stubborn mud from the underside of the Gaboon, taking great care to free the filth from its crevices. Warm water poured down his arms and the hem of his shorts to drip into a huge puddle at his hooves. Some flowed down his face and neck, bringing attention to the clipped forest of black hair that had grown in since he shaved that morning.
A swarm of robotic bugs sipped at the edge of the puddle and scurried away to dispose of the soapy contents- every precious drop carried to its next step in its eternal cycle.
Ripples danced along the water’s surface, the low rumble of Gresham’s hoof and knuckle steps reverberated up Mortus’s legs as he prowled the next aisle. Mortus scrubbed his ship harder to cover whatever curt conversation Gresham growled to each of the other pilots. Small flashes of white pieces of paper exchanged hands from the Warlord to his fleet.
It seemed odd for the Warlord to personally handle such a menial task.
Yet, the Lost had proven their inability to keep themselves from stuffing their faces with the permits. Mortus supposed the tiny current flowing through the circuit paper made their tongues tingle. It was a fatal snack—Mortus whinged as he remembered the Warlord freeing the permits from the last Lost with a swipe of his survival knife. The cleaning bugs still had not scrubbed the dark stain from the ground.
Despite his intent and focused scrubbing, a shadow darkened his back and shoulders. Gresham's ivory horns lowered on either side of Mortus, the hollow ring of his trapped breath huffed against his ears. The inward pointed horn tips pulled Mortus away from the ship, closer to the Warlord. Mortus stole a glance at Gresham’s face as he lowered the mop’s handle across his long horns. With a steady push, he escaped the temporary prison.
“What is it?” he asked bluntly, stealing another step away from Gresham’s heated breath.
Gresham pulled a card from his bracer and jabbed it into Mortus’s soaked chest. It fell into Mortus’s palms with a wet slap.
“You’ve been picked,” Gresham grunted, his unseen snarl in his voice.
Mortus pinched the card between his thumb and forefinger and squinted his eyes at the print.
“Breeding permit granted to stud Q.45-c.131. Show this card to the information desk for Brooding Hall 37B-2 by the start of the night cycle to receive access to your assigned female and a copy of your breeding schedule.”
The fine print was indiscernible, but from the small button and speaker embedded in the circuit paper, he could listen to it later. From the other permits his brothers had proudly forced him to listen to, he knew that it would blandly drone the details of the potential punishment should he fail to deliver. He almost had it memorized.
“I’m a stud?” Mortus asked, his disapproval stitched in his brows. He had started to hand the card back to Gresham but stopped himself before it became too obvious. “What happened to gettin’ extra rations?”
“Adults get better rewards,” Gresham stated. “Besides, this isn’t a reward. Mum wants more like you.”
The scrubber wilted as Mortus’s grip went limp, his hearts sunk to his stomach. He caught it in his fingertips before it collapsed to the floor. Not a reward, it was an obligation. Swallowing his discomfort, he grunted his agreement. “Right. Best finish up here and prepare for it then.”
Gresham huffed his approval before ambling to inform the next stud.
Pocketing the card, Mortus went back to work. His thoughts raced through his head. The females were locked away in those halls, entirely separate from the males. Even brothers that turned out to be sisters were shuffled into that complex eventually. It never seemed fair.
And stories floated through the ranks of females that lashed out at the males assigned to them. Some refused to talk of their experiences yet did little to hide their scars.
Even given the opportunity, Mortus never developed a keen interest in “morale” like most of his brothers. There had to be some females who lacked an interest like him. Perhaps more, considering their confined situation.
His stomach flipped with every scrub of the brush against the hull of the ship.
Brooding Hall 37B-2 towered into the darkening sky. Its bright metal warmed by the setting star, white against the deepening firmament and wrapped in near-black garlands of plant life and tubing. Mortus clasped the permit in his fist, hooves stuck in place on the pathway to the door.
He had to go.
It was difficult to stop himself from crushing the small box he kept clasped to his chest. Ten tiny paper dragons that had taken him hours to fold and position. They seemed a fitting gift, and one he hoped would delight the female enough to realize he meant no harm. Or be enough to keep her from attacking him.
Not that it would matter if she did; she was in a far worse position than him.
Streetlights around him lit and yet he could not take those last few steps towards his supposed reward. He could not describe the tension in his hearts as nervousness or fear, those he had long learned to conquer. A nascent sense of wrongness kept his hooves planted where he stood.
Mortus dropped the permit and it fluttered to the ground. He turned his back on Brooding Hall 37B-2. He had inflicted enough suffering for a lifetime. A few missed meals and some extra work posed little concern for him. His cot was calling.
“I thought you’d chicken out,” Gresham hummed from the hanger bay doorway as Mortus approached. His toothsome expression left little flexibility to emote, yet his cheer was unmistakable in his voice.
The titan’s hunched frame blocked the hanger’s door and he stayed put. Mortus scoffed and dared a step towards the Warlord. “Lady at the desk said there must’ve been a printin’ mistake. That one wasn’t meant for me.”
Gresham chuffed as he leaned to get in the other’s way, the hollow sound nearly resembling a laugh. “You know better.”
“Yeah, but what’s it to you?” Mortus asked with an incredulous shrug. “A little extra work ain’t nothin’ to be giddy about.”
That hollow chuckle rang again as Gresham shook his head. “You should’ve listened to the permit, mate.” He pulled another card from his bracer and clicked the tiny button.
“Breeding permit granted to stud F69-c.026. Show this card to the information desk for Brooding Hall 34C-1 by the start of the night cycle to receive access to your assigned female and a copy of your breeding schedule.”
The calm voice from the card sped up as it continued.
“Failure to perform this duty entitles Warlord W.03-c.017 to stud F69-c.026 for no fewer than 10 day-cycles until Warlord W.03-c.017 concludes his activities. Elite Adelie grants Warlord W.03-c.017 any imagined liberty to stud F69-c.026. Warlord W.03-c.017 is not entitled to cull stud F69-c.026.”
Mortus stepped back, his fingers crushing the box against his chest. Gresham’s pack of Lost crawled out from the shadows from every direction. He recoiled his leg from the snap of teeth next to his cannon.
He leapt from the trap, crashing into the lawn. Silicon leaves crunched under his weight and scratched up his arms. His crest rang from the shock, but he scrambled to get back onto his hooves to bolt into the night.
Fangs clamped down onto his left cannon, pinching the tender tendons. His hoof went limp. The rest pounced onto Mortus’s neck and back to weigh him down, one managing to kick the back of his cracked crest. Lightning struck from inside is brain, blinding him and escaping in a pained moan.
A guttural cough stopped the assault. Gresham stood over Mortus and tilted his head to regard the fallen titan. Through the fuzz, Mortus thought the Warlord’s lipless grimace resembled a rictal grin. “Cute,” he laughed, flicking off the last Lost from Mortus’s back. He hooked the end of his inwardly curved horns under Mortus’s armpits. “You’re lucky I want ya alive.” With a flick of his head, Gresham bounced Mortus up onto his useless legs. One refused to move and Mortus’s head swam too much to find the ground under the other. “10 extra days is fair.”
Deep gashes crossed his shoulders, arms, and thighs, yet they avoided the Elite’s intricate handiwork of cables and tubing still embedded into his back. The Warlord’s rare joy engraved into Mortus’s skin. That breathy hollow laugh echoed through his thoughts. He ambled down the hallway; unable to keep himself from stumbling from one wall to the other. He forced his focus on the floor just past his hooves. Unsure if he were anywhere close to the hangar, he hoped his hooves would find the Gaboon and then his bed. Bugs skittered along the edges where the floor and walls met. They carried bits of hair, skin, and trash in their vice-like mandibles, collecting the detritus from the sleeping quarters on either side of the hall.
His soul shivered. Gresham watched as he poured a swarm of the cleaning fleet over Mortus’s back soon after he grew bored of etching designs with his knives. He could hear Gresham’s shallow breath as their metal jaws tore away chunks of his fatty flesh. Once the merciful darkness started to numb the treatment, Gresham revealed his jar from below the table.
The massive glass jar was half-full of glowing blue fluid. As it poured over him, it was thick and smelled sickly sweet. How would he forget the horrible warmth of it as it spread across his skin? Or the way it stitched him back together with wretched precision? It left no scars in its wake. It regrew the missing flesh just so the Warlord could continue to play and inevitably feed?
The smell of his own cooked meat served to the Warlord had crawled into his sinuses, with no lit match to pull it out.
Once the jar grew empty, Gresham snagged a Lost into his fist. Even now, the strained whine of a choked Lost still rang beneath his crest. Its pitiful struggles as Gresham pinched the horn between his thumb and forefinger and peeled it back until it snapped. The sharp yelp melded into pitiful sobs as the bright horn core poured the precious stream into the jar. He refused to waste any drop. Blood swirled into the mystery fluid, Mortus was mesmerized by the dark streaks disappearing into the brightness.
As he watched Mortus pondered on Bucky’s fate. He hoped that he never suffered Gresham’s fun.
Bugs suddenly scattered past Mortus’s hooves in the hallway; a shadow darkened the space just ahead of him.
A tiny pilot, his flight suit zipped down to his narrow waist, stared up to Mortus. He was the same pilot that replaced Bucky: Ex. He was a renowned pilot, quick-witted and fierce in battle. However, he was better known for his position in the squad as a source of “morale.” Usually, a small favour would earn a brother some hours in the supply closet.
He reached out to touch the back of Mortus’s hand. “Oi, mate. You doin’ okay?”
Mortus huffed, recoiling his hand from the touch. He lifted his lip, baring what few teeth he had left in a defensive growl.
The pilot hopped back, raising both hands up. “Just tryin’ to help. Looks like you had a visit with Twinhorn.”
Silvery eyes averted from the pilot. “Guess you could say it like that,” he muttered, staggering in place. He winced as he leaned his shoulder against the wall. “What’s it to you?”
With a swipe of his palm against his throat, the pilot drew Mortus’s attention to the matted mane that had sprouted in the last month. “You got a target on your back, mate. You gotta deal with that before the master’s see ya.”
Combing his fingers through the tangled dark fur, Mortus nodded. “Maybe you got a point.”
“I got a razer, a steady hand and some free time.”
The pilot’s fang-filled smile comforted Mortus, but he knew few things were free. And Mortus had little to give in his current state. “What do you want outta me?”
He got a shrug. “Nothin’.” Ex cocked his head to one side. “Maybe sneak a ride or two out-of-system eventually if you really wanted to pay me back, but you really don’t gotta.”
“Guess I can do that sometime.” Mortus could not raise an eyebrow at the request. The Gaboon could pass through the Dark much easier than the other ships. Ex reeked of contraband, soft florals danced between leather and spices. He stared down at Ex, checking for some shadow of a mane. No matter how much his vision strained, he could not see one. His shoulders dropped and his head drooped as he stole a glance up and down the hallway. “So, I guess I should ask: your room or mine?”
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Hurt. An Aizawa x OC Story
I think this will be pt 1 out of.. who knows how many based on the reception it gets. Likes, reposts and follows are always appreciated ❤️
The main character, Ena Kazama, is my BNHA OC who, I have a set character design for so if y’all want to see her, I’ll post something. She has the quirk of water manipulation but that’s all I’ll share for now ;)
The strong, familiar scent of hand sanitizer and other sanitization products wafted into her nose as she felt herself regain her consciousness. Her eyes remained shut tight as light tried to pour through the space between the top and bottom of her eyelids. To her left, the loud beeping of a heart monitor rang through the air. On her ring finger she felt a familiar plastic device holding onto it, clamped down. Further up her left arm, she felt the subtle sting of a needle in her arm, poking into her vein being held down by the pinching of tape.
After a few seconds of just lying on the bed, she finally peels back her eyelids to be exposed to the light of the setting sun seeping into the room. She turned her head to the window, watching the orange and yellow light lower itself beyond the horizon of tall buildings and thousands of people making their way home from another busy day. It felt as if she spent hours laying on the bed watching the warm light fade into darkness.
Her attention was suddenly captured by the sound of the door opening. The sound of the door handle being grabbed was loud compared to the silence she was sitting in. The rustle of the door sliding open sounded as a warm yellow light flooded in from the hallway, creating a shadow over the person’s face as they entered the room.
While it was too dark to see him, she knew exactly who it was.
“Aizawa,” she greeted, a wide smile pulling at her lips. A smile that failed to reach her eyes. Her voice came out raspy and dry. It suddenly occurred to her that she had not consumed anything since she was admitted. It also occurred to her that she didn’t know how long she had been laying in bed. She cleared her throat.
“Kazama.” The man, shrouded in black made his way over to a chair on the other side of the bed, in front of the window, to sit next to her. “How are you feeling?” He asked once he was comfortable in his seat. His voice was as dull as she remembered it being, but nevertheless just as relaxing.
She didn’t register the pain searing through her left shoulder and back until he had asked. She felt it pulse uncomfortably, causing a wave of pain to flood through her from her shoulder to her hips. Her eyes clutched as she attempted to hide the urge to wince. A numbness ran through her and the smile on her lips faltered slightly, but still remained.
Aizawa’s pointed gaze never left her body, she noticed, meaning, he picked up on her movements of pain.
“As okay as I can be,” she answered. Her green eyes moved away from the man and to her lap as she tried to pick herself up to sit up. On shaky arms, she managed to pick her body up off the uncomfortable hospital mattress only to have her bandaged arms give out on her. She fell back with a soft grunt of pained effort.
“Need help?” Aizawa asked, already standing up and walking over to the edge of the bed. He towered over her. To anyone else, his presence looming over them would be frightening, but to her, it was oddly comforting.
Letting out a sigh of defeat, she raised her arms up and looked to the side, away from his gaze bashfully. A sharp pain shot through her back from the action, causing her to squint through the pain. A small frown replaced her smile as her cheeks flushed a light pink.
“Yes, please,” she muttered, earning an amused chuckle from Aizawa.
She felt his large hands on her lower waist, heat seeping through the hospital gown she was wearing. Her hands placed themselves on his shoulders to make the adjustment easier for both of them. The two counted down from three together so she could brace herself against the wave of pain about to shoot down her back. Her legs bent and pushed her to the back of the bed as Aizawa picked her up. She was sitting up on her own as Aizawa fixed the pillows behind her so she could lean back against the headboard.
“Are Yamada and Kayama gonna come by for a visit?” She asked as Aizawa placed his hands on her shoulders to guide her to lean back. “Fuck.” A gasp escaped through clenched teeth at the feeling of pain going through her back when she put her full weight on the pillow and headboard. It didn’t take long for the pain to subside to a more bearable sting.
“He said he’d drop by in a few for a quick visit. He’s pretty busy grading papers.” Aizawa made his way back to his chair and sat down on the edge of it. He leaned his elbows on his knees to lean forward, closer to the woman in the bed.
The three don’t meet up very often, with Aizawa and Yamada both working at the most elite school in the country and Kazama working full time as a hero, it’s kind of hard to make time for each other. Lately, Kayama has been coming along as well. They make a point of showing up when one of them gets hurt, which, for Kazama, is more often than not. She’s the root cause for their quick hangouts when she gets injured to the point of hospitalization almost monthly.
Their joint visits help to get the already quick process over even faster. With the top of the line care that Kazama receives as a pro hero, she is able to get in and back out into the streets to help those in need quickly. However, this most recent visit is going to take a lot more than a quick kiss from U.A. 's Recovery Girl, who Aizawa, Yamada and Kayama often beg to make the trip to the hospital to heal Kazama’s injuries.
“Oh yeah, how’s the whole teacher thing going?” Kazama asked, a soft smile stayed plastered to her lips. With a quick flick of her wrist, she pushed her bangs out of her eyes only for the strands of hair to cover them again. A frustrated sigh escaped her lips as her eyebrows furrowed to emphasize it.
“I just expelled another class of students,” Aizwa answered with a sigh. He placed his forehead in his hands, bending over his knees. His long hair blocked any way for Kazama to see his face. The disappointment in his voice was evident to the blonde.
“Sounds like you’re just getting out of doing work.” Kazama let out a small laugh, earning an eye roll from the man as he sat up and leaned back in his chair. He ran a hand through his hair.
“They aren’t ready to be heroes yet. I’ll readmit them when they’re ready,” he tried to justify, which he knew he didn’t have to do. It’s not like Kazama was a teacher at U.A. She’s just a close friend and a judgemental pro hero.
“Nezu gave you too much power.” Kazama let out a loud laugh earning an amused glare from Aizawa. She immediately shut her mouth at the sound of rustling on the other side of the door. The two eyed the door in anticipation, waiting for something to happen.
The door slid open, the bright yellow light flooded into the room again, casting a shadow over the face of who she could tell to be a doctor based on the coat he was wearing. He turned on the light for the room, causing Aizawa and Kazama to squint at the sudden brightness in the room.
“I’m glad to see you sitting up, Ms. Kazama. Next time, please let us know when you wake up. You have a button there for a reason,” the doctor said, pointing to the side of Kazama’s bed, to a red button to call a nurse.
“Right, sorry.” Kazama smiled softly to the doctor as he walked further into the room. He opened up the manila folder he was holding and walked over to the heart monitor to check Kazama’s vitals. The room was silent besides the beeping of the monitor.
“Okay, good news is, you’ll be okay, bad news is, it’ll take some time to recover.” The doctor looked over to Kazama. “I know you’re usually able to get out of here within 72 hours of getting hurt, and while you’ve only been in here for about twenty hours, that’s not going to be the case this time around. You’ve been reckless and we need to keep you in here to make sure you heal up,” he explained. He jotted something down on a paper in the folder once he finished speaking.
The world felt like it had been set on pause for a second, like a scratched DVD pausing on a part of the movie it was playing. Like it struggled to continue playing. Kazama struggled for her words.
“What?” Kazama asked, her eyebrows furrowed with disbelief. “I- I’m fine. I’m sitting up-”
“You needed help to sit up, Kazama,” Aizawa cut her off, earning a harsh glare from her green eyes.
“And you are not helping,” she shot back. Kazama ran a hand through her long hair, shoving her bangs out of her face only to have them fall back to cover her eyes again. “I’ll be more careful-”
“You’ve said that last month, and the month prior,” the doctor shot her down. “On top of that, you’ve been overusing your quirk. There is a strain on your arm muscles from how much power you’ve been putting into your strong defences and attacks.” He closed the folder and stepped up to the foot of the bed. “We need to be sure that you won’t overdo it. The country needs you, Kazama,” he paused to think over his words, “Water Lily.”
Kazama felt like shrinking in on herself in an attempt to hide away from the world. Or at least to just think of her options. What the doctor was saying, he had a point. She felt the soreness that ran through her arms from her use of large and ultimate moves. Some of those moves she uses as both offense and defense, which made them even harder to use at times when she reaches her limit. On the other hand, she can’t just take a break for who knows how long. Villains could take advantage of her weakened state to stir up more trouble than they already do.
A frustrated sigh left her lips.
But if she overdid it now, there would be no chance to stop those villains in the future. She had to think of the future, what would be best for the country, not just herself and her own image. Taking a break could do her some good mentally, too.
“So, it’s time for a hiatus?”
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