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Close to the Sun

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Chapter 6


"Rise and shine, Stray," A low voice that was foreign to me floated over me, "Rise and shine. Wake up and smell the ashes."

I jolted awake trying to sit up but was held down on all my extremities, panic struck my brain instantly. I furiously blinked to clear my blurry vision nearly hyperventilating, turning my head away from the beam of sunlight shining harshly on my face. I let my head lay flat while I recovered, the longer I was awake the more of a pounding headache I felt. I forced out slow breaths. I let my head hang back as I ran a mental checklist.

Where the hell is my helmet? Okay, I'm not dead. That could be good, maybe someone picked me up and... Patched up my injuries. No, no way. My armor's still on.

I turned my head to the side able to now make out where my hand was restrained on the top railing of the bed I was laying on, the handcuffs that kept me bound didn't look like regular cuffs. They were thicker than any I'd seen before, I pulled against it, and it seemed to get tighter. The ceiling paint was all but torn away leaving the bare skeleton of the building visible.

Okay. Definitely not a rescue.

I lifted my head and saw him. The demon. Up close now I could see the vibrant yellow of his eyes, the royal purple of his shoulder pads, and the cyan of his hairband as well as the stripe of fur on his tail. He was far taller than I had thought he was, he glanced up into my eyes and I looked away. If this was how I was going to die, I wouldn't give him the luxury of eye contact.

I could hear the soft pats of his feet against the floor on my left side as he approached slowly like he was stalking prey, "What is your name?"

There was a sudden bravado that built in me that I never knew I had, "Fuck. You."

"Where were you born?"

"Kiss my ass."

There was instant stinging pain on my face and my head whipped to the right, I snarled hoping I didn't sound like I was hurting. He'd slapped me, hard.

"Your name... Is Icarus Willar. You were born in Sampi. Parents Bruce and Justice Willar. Is that correct?"

I felt my breath catch in my throat, there was no way he could know that.

How could he know who my parents are, or where I was born? I've never told anybody that, let alone my name. What else does he know about me?

I was struck again, this time with a closed fist.

"Is that correct?" "Yes," I finally hissed.

I turned my head to face him, for someone I called a demon he didn't look like- Well, a demon. At least until he briefly smiled, there was this creeping horror that forced its way into my head the longer I looked at it, and was thankful when he fell back to his resting scowl. He leaned back and sat on the bed grabbing my muzzle roughly.

"See? Don't be insubordinate and I won't have to hurt you. You don't want me to hurt you, I don't want to hurt you. But I will."

He released my face just as roughly and rose back to his feet, pacing around back to the front of the bed.

"Who are you? What do you want from me," I barked still lost on where this rebellion was coming from.

"Me," He mused for a moment removing the pistol from his chest holster and the short sword from his waist before aiming them both at my head. He eyed me hungrily, "There are more than a few things you could do for me. But I want, is for you to join the cause. You have a very useful and unique skillset, there aren't many who could sneak into one of my fortresses and make it out alive."

"You want me to be your sharpshooter?"

"What I need from you would entail much more than that- but to put it simply, yes. I want you to, as you say, be my sharpshooter."

"You're out of your fucking mind if you think I'd ever help you-"

The black chupa calmly put the sword back in its sheath, then blasted a round at me. I felt my mane part like something had pushed it aside, there was a new ringing in my head but it subsided instantly as adrenaline filled my veins. He had just shot at me while I was chained up.

"Are you insane?!"

"I don't think you understand just who the fuck you think you're talking to! Do you think this is a game? You would rather die laying down for a government that shot you out of the fucking sky on their errand mission? If it wasn't for me saving your ass, you'd still be in that pelican with a bullet in your skull. Your life belongs to me! Stray, get with the times. Either you're part of the solution or the fucking problem. Join or die."

"What?"

"Choose!"

I felt my heart in my throat as I watched his hand tighten on the gun, "W-wait, what-"

"CHOOSE!"

"You can't do this!"

"Make me repeat myself one more motherfuckin' time, I dare you-!"

"Fuck it! Kill me! You bitch!"

He squeezed the trigger and I screamed forcing my eyes shut, flinching in expectation of being filled with bullets but it never came. Only the sound of the loud telltale click of an empty magazine, I opened my eyes and he stood there with a devious grin. The slide of his pistol was locked back, a clear sign of it being out of bullets and a sign I must have missed in the heat of the moment. I took labored breaths trying to calm my nerves, I couldn't understand.

Why did he-

"Glad to see you'll stick to your guns when faced with death, you'll do, Stray."

"What," I stammered still trying to wrap my head around what just happened.

"I was testing you. I wanted to see if it was all talk, I'd heard you were resilient, but I needed to make sure you wouldn't crack under pressure. Dallas! Hox! Get in here and release the newbie."

What kind of sick test is that?

Two burly chupas in riot gear entered through the doors behind my tormentor, rushing in wordlessly and administering a key to the cuffs. The first to release was my right hand, I balled up my fist slightly sitting up as I looked down at the armored chupa on my left.

"Behave."

The word was so sudden and hostile, that I let my hand fall back down to the bed as I waited for the two to undo the other three cuffs. Once completely freed I slid off the bed and stood up, my vision swam for a moment before clearing. I could only wonder how long I had been out since I had been shot down.

"Dismissed, Hox. Dallas, go check with the sentries," The two chupas nodded and vanished from the room as quickly as they had arrived, "Now, let's break you in. Follow me, Stray."

The black chupa swished his poofy tail and I followed, not like I had much choice. I had already involuntarily pledged to his cause, and he held no qualms about killing me. We stepped out of the door of the room and into a square walkway that surrounded an atrium overlooked by a skylight that somehow held to the test of time, unlike the rest of the building seemed in disrepair.

Even if I could knock him out or even kill him, this place is crawling with his goons. What the fuck would I do after that?

We descended three flights of stairs until we hit the ground floor and I instantly knew what this was, I didn't know where, but we were in an abandoned hospital. Not very abandoned anymore as guns toting chupas milled around with some purpose unknown to me, I could only wonder how they could take orders from this guy. I still hadn't forgotten about the diner or Ryder. I felt eyes on me all across the room but none of them made a move, it seemed not one of them would dare get close as they gave the two of us a wide berth. I was only thankful that it wasn't silent, everyone seemed partially engrossed in a conversation of their own but I couldn't shake the watched feeling. I took a step and felt my feet hit-

Sand?

I looked down; I was standing in an artificial sandpit in the shape of a ring. I looked up at my new dictator and he was facing away still on the opposite side of the sandpit with at least a few meters of space between us, we were standing right under the skylight and the sun shone down on us like a spotlight. I stole a glance over my shoulder, a crowd was forming around the ring.

"Stray," The black chupa started removing his holster and taking off the harness that secured his dual blades, tossing them aside. "Your skill with a rifle is remarkable, but you're still undisciplined. Insubordinate and poorly trained. You'll learn by my hand, and this is your first lesson."

He turned around, eyes closed, and hands raised.

"Come on. Show me what you've got."

"With your eyes closed," I asked mystified at what this was set to accomplish.

"If you don't strike first, I will."

Fuck it, he's giving me a free ticket to kick his ass.

I circled around him as he blindly moved to the center of the circle. I darted forward, dipping down low and swung upward at his unguarded chin- And connected with open-air, he had dodged my swing and smiled eyes still closed. The moment I landed my feet shifted, I raised my hands and began to throw a flurry of jabs, straights, and crosses. All were dodged, blocked, or slapped away. The smile never left his muzzle and his eyes stayed shut. I grit my teeth and twirled, throwing a hard roundhouse kick that stopped dead in its tracks. My leg felt stiff. I stared in abject horror as he stood there, holding my foot in the air with one hand. His eyes were still closed, and the smile seemed wider than it had ever been.

"You telegraph every single move," He muttered in irritation, throwing my leg back the way it came before advancing toward me. "Now learn."

I regained my footing and threw a right cross, he ducked under it rolling off the inside of my arm and I was knocked backward to my knees as something hit my chest hard. I looked up and instantly dove through his legs, dodging an ax kick. I rolled to my feet, I threw my hands up and an uppercut broke my block.

How is he so damn fast?

I stumbled back waving my arms to get my balance, I was grabbed by my chest plate and thrown across the sandy ground. I scowled and forced myself back to my feet, trying a different approach. I dropped low and swept his feet out from below him, to my shock he actually went down. Then sprung back up to his feet like a ninja out of an action movie.

"Creative," He easily dodged my combo of punches at an unnatural speed as he approached once more before hitting me with the same punch he had slipped, "You're not bad! But..."

He kneed me in the stomach, and I doubled over, I watched helplessly as he planted his foot on my chest, slamming me to the sand. I felt all my strength leave me, the yellow-eyed chupa lowered himself so that his muzzle was close to mine.

"You lack forethought, you focused on brute strength rather than maintaining your energy. You're not invincible. I want soldiers that fight to live, not suicidal gunmen. You need to preserve your life and focus. Call me Aries. That's your lesson for today. Samson, take him to his quarters."

He stepped away from me and the pressure lifted off my chest Samson, a short chupa wearing welding goggles and a belt of tools helped me to my feet. I watched him secure his gear to his body as I was led away, the smile he shared with me was gone now as he faced his grunts.

How did he do that? He fought with his eyes closed and predicted my every move. What the hell is he?


Red vs Blue © Rooster Teeth. Halo © 343 Industries. Concept by Myshu, assisted by The Department of Chupapology.

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