Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 | Chapter 21
Chapter 2: Perfect Strangers
"...did you hear that? Sounded like shots..."
"You're the one with the scope, dumbass. Why don't you look?"
A light-blue chupadore glanced down at his weapon before wrinkling his muzzle in distaste. "Fuck that, they're probably just trying to get our attention. And I have enough of a headache without having to hear the nerd's voice."
A few moments of silence passed between them before: "So...you're pretty sure she's dead?"
"Goddammit, Tucker, of course she's dead, she got blown up." The taller of the two males made a face as he fidgeted with the enormous sniper rifle in his lap before rubbing self-consciously at the white bandaging beneath his shirt.
His companion, a scrawnier turquoise-coated chupadore currently sprawled out on his back, shrugged and raised a hand as if to make a point. "But we didn't check. We dragged your fat ass back here after you tried to eat me 'n Caboose. Again. Maybe she's still alive."
Private Leo Church scowled and poked once at his wrapped wound again. "You forgot the part where she shot me. With a shotgun. And I'm pretty sure no one wants to eat either of you. You're a skinny bitch, and Caboose is probably...contagious." He grumbled before glancing over his shoulder. His fellow Blue soldier was lounging behind him, idly scratching himself while staring up listlessly into the sky. Their third compatriot was somewhere downstairs, likely playing childish games with the feral rabbit-like creature he'd befriended.
"Yeah, well, you're stupid," retorted Private First Class Lavernius Tucker as he lifted a middle finger, waving the clawed digit blindly at the other chupadore. "Anyway, maybe it's worth going back to check out. What if she like...crawls away and gets another shotgun? You'll feel stupider than you already are if you get shot again."
"Why the hell are you so determined to go back there?" Church mumbled, lifting the sniper rifle to peer through the scope. "What, you think you're actually gonna get some if she's still alive?"
"Hell no! That bitch was crazy. You don't dip into crazy."
Church snorted amusedly. "Bullshit, Tucker. Bull. Shit. If went went back there and you found her crazy ass even lukewarm, I bet you'd at least cop a feel."
"You sayin' you wouldn't?" Tucker shot back, lacing his fingers behind his head.
"Hey, man, dead ain't the same as crazy."
Church climbed to his paws, using the long rifle to push himself up with a grimace. "No, you're right. Dead is dead. That's even worrrr--" He trailed off as a crackle of electricity disrupted the air a few feet in front of him, blinking stupidly at the sudden appearance of the sparking substance. "Uhhh..."
"Yo, are you stroking out, dude? Because, bow-chicka-bow-wow aside, my medical knowledge ends at taping up fucking shotgun holes."
Before Church could reply, the small arc of white energy expanded rapidly to form a tall arch that appeared to be the entrance to some sort of...tunnel? Church stared at what he could only mentally describe as a portal, his jaw slack as a shiver of nausea raced down to his stomach at the incomprehensible sight. From the side, there was nothing behind the crackling electricity, but looking directly into the archway revealed a passage lined with twisting colors and impossible shapes, and he was so nearly overwhelmed by the unnatural phenomenon that he almost didn't hear the sound of voices trailing out from the rift in reality.
"...tell you this thing would work? Ha! You owe me dinner, sweetie."
Church watched numbly as a white-furred paw was shoved out into the open air as if testing it. Behind him, Tucker called out to him in a lazy drawl that he barely registered. "Dude? Did you just call me 'sweetie'? The fuck?!"
Church's eyes widened as the owner of the paw appeared at the entrance a moment later, the slender figure holding a glowing chunk of rock with a pleased expression. A second voice drifted out from behind the furry male's face, lower in pitch and decidedly grumpier. "I don't owe you shit. You still don't know where the fuck we are. And what about that goddamn horse that fell through the goddamn...magical tunnel, huh? The fuck was THAT?"
As his eyes slowly traced the canine-like creature, Church realized that whatever it was suddenly locking eyes with him from the strange, floating portal...it wasn't a chupadore. "I'm sure he'll be fine," the creature responded to his still-unrevealed partner, while keeping a curious eye on the wide-eyed soldier. "Well. I can say for certain, wherever we are, we ain't alone."
With that, the short-statured alien hopped down to the surface of the roof and gave a friendly wave as he pocketed the gleaming object. "Hi, there!" Church worked his jaw stupidly, clutching tightly into his sniper rifle as his instincts screamed at him to react.
Behind him, Tucker finally glanced over his own body at the sounds of the strange voices before he gave a yell of surprise. "What the fuck?!"
"What do you mean, 'ain't alone'? Did we...oh." The second voice belonged to a larger, more-masculine variation of the first creature as his taller frame crowded the portal next, squinting down at the confused chupadores. "Uh..." He hesitantly lowered a paw to the roof from the portal even as he nervously moved one hand to his side, reaching behind him to produce a sawn-off shotgun. "Mahihko..."
"Gun!" Church yelled out of impulse more than anything else as the smaller wolf-like creature cocked his head before glancing over his shoulder at his partner and then rolling his eyes. But the chupadore had already jerked his sniper rifle up to a ready position as he leveled it at the two. "Die, you...monsters!" He winced when the butt of the enormous gun shoved into his injured shoulder, but grit his teeth and pulled the trigger regardless.
The two alien creatures both flinched as the smaller one in front bent his knees slightly as if attempting to react in time. The tremendous report from the rifle shook the air around them as the massive round blasted out of the over-sized barrel only a meter or so from the creature's face. A moment passed as both strangers wrinkled their muzzles before the shorter one of the two blinked and poked the vapor trail left by the stray round, several inches to the side of their bodies. "Um..." But before he could speak, Church yelled incoherently and pulled the trigger three more times.
All three rounds went wide, leaving the two canine-like creatures awkwardly surrounded by thin vapor trails. With a bemused expression, the one in front cleared his throat and leaned forward to offer politely: "Maybe the scope needs to be adjusted? Also, uh...did you actually say 'die, you monsters'?"
Tucker groaned and stepped forward while unholstering his pistol. "Holy fuck, dude, you SUCK. I got this!" In response, the shotgun-wielding alien growled and lunged past his companion, raising the shortened weapon as the turquoise soldier took aim at the charging stranger with his magnum. But before any more shots could be fired, the feminine lupine hopped quickly to the side before leaping with surprising speed toward his partner's back.
"Look out, hot potato!" he yelled cheerfully, shoving his paws firmly into the larger creature's back before kicking off his muscular frame to neatly somersault through the air. The unexpected maneuver shoved his companion forward, causing him to stumble and consequently tackle Tucker to the ground, both of them shouting in surprise as their guns clattered away from them. They were left in an awkward tangle on the hard surface of the roof as the grinning, turtleneck-sporting creature landed neatly in front of Church, looking exceptionally pleased with himself at preventing any gunshot wounds.
Church stared down at him speechlessly, and then finally attempted to reload his rifle as the feminine male groaned and rolled his eyes again. "Seriously?" He slid forward and simply reached up to slap the clip out of Church's grip, leaving the soldier stupefied. "No. Bad...blue...thingy. We're not bad guys!" He glanced past the gaping soldier to see Tucker wrestling uselessly with his partner, the much-heavier alien pinning Tucker with only a mild amount of effort. "Lone! Don't hurt the little guy, he was just...trying to shoot you."
"Yes! He was just TRYING TO SHOOT ME!" he yelled back in a strangled tone, but he eventually scowled and released Tucker's wrists, raising his arms up in a peaceful gesture and sitting up on the armored soldier's waist. "Okay, okay. Fine."
"Good. Now, let's try this--"
"Church! Tucker! Are you having tea without me again?!?" The voice belonged to a third chupadore soldier, deep blue in color and sporting a tuft of brown fur on his head as his head poked up from the stairs leading to the roof. He had a pout etched on his features, which became a gasp when he jabbed a clawed finger at Tucker, and the strange creature straddling his torso. "Tucker! You never want to wrestle with me and now I find you wrestling with a doggy! Why do you hate me so much, Tucker!"
"Goddammit, Caboose! Get back inside!" Tucker yelled back before shoving at the grumbling male still sitting on his waist. "And you, get off my junk!"
"Well, I think introductions are in order, now that no one's trying to kill anyone else," the slender alien interjected with a bright, toothy smile. "I'm Mahihko! The big guy over there is Lone!" As Church stared down at the canine-like male with a still very-much-confused expression, a faint scream became audible from the crackling portal that had yet to close. The one named Mahihko twisted his head to look over his shoulder before side-stepping smoothly as the screaming grew louder before the creature it belonged to was ejected forcefully from the archway.
Its body shot through the air where Mahihko's head was a moment ago, crashing into the roof past Church and rolling a few times before unceremoniously skidding to a stop just in front of Caboose's muzzle. The portal snapped shut with a final burst of electricity, making Mahihko wince slightly before he cleared his throat awkwardly. "And uh. That guy is um. Er...man, the hell is your name again?"
"Horsey!" Caboose interrupted delightedly, hopping back and forth on the stairs as he reached out to pet the dazed creature's face. The third alien did indeed look decidedly...equine, from his long snout to the hooves at the ends of his powerful legs. He lifted his head groggily to look around before collapsing with a groan as he rubbed slowly at his features.
"Uh, yes. Yes, that is Horsey," Mahihko concluded with a sage nod. "And we...have no idea where the fuck we are."
"You're still on my junk!" Tucker shouted indignantly with a furious gesture to the lupine straddling him. "Church, who the fuck are these guys?"
"How the fuck should I know?" Church shot back, rubbing at his shoulder with a grimace.
As Lone awkwardly climbed to his paws and stepped over Tucker to retrieve his scattered weapon, the prone chupadore slowly sat up and then shrugged. "Because you're a goddamn werewolf? I dunno, I figured maybe you'd know more about weird shit than we do."
"Hey! I know lots of weird things!" Caboose interrupted. "I know that Tucker likes to talk to his invisible friends in the shower, and he tells them to talk about his--"
Tucker's eyes widened and he waved his arms frantically. "Caboose! Shut the fuck up!"
Caboose promptly pouted again while the dazed equine sprawled in front of him slowly pushed himself to his knees, looking around with visible confusion. "Who...where...are we? What are you?" Caboose instantly perked up, saluting sharply as the horse leaned back slightly with a frown.
"My name is Michael J. Caboose!" declared the soldier as the bell around his neck jingled once with his sudden jerk to attention. "And I. Hate. Babies!"
The equine blinked up at Caboose, rendered speechless as the other two soldiers sighed and shook their heads slowly. "Uh. Hi, Michael J. Caboose. Can...I call you Michael?"
"No, because that would be confusing as fuck," Tucker replied sourly, rolling over once and snagging his pistol. He gave Lone a distrustful expression before hesitantly holstering his weapon. "You point that thing at me again and I'll shoot you in the face. I'm really tired of having guns pointed at me."
"You're in the fucking army, Tucker. You can't NOT have guns pointed at you," Church grumbled before he rolled his eyes and leaned on the heavy sniper rifle. "The short, stupid one is Tucker. The...special one is Caboose, and I'm Church." He drew his eyes over the three strangers, settling first on the smallest of the trio. Mahihko noticed his scrutinizing expression almost immediately and he quickly spun around to face Church with a provocative grin.
Mahihko stood somewhere around five feet tall and was covered in mostly white fur, except for the tips of his ears, his neck and his upper chest. He had every appearance of a feral wolf made bipedal, from his pointed muzzle to his thick fur to the bushy tail that flicked behind him. Several silver rings and studs laced through his ears and his lower jaw was dotted with a melange of the same silver piercings, alternating between studs and rings. His feminine frame was covered with a slim-fitting turtleneck, sleeves rolled up to his elbows. An exceptionally snug pair of pants hugged his legs, though they were dotted with several pockets and pouches, and Church could just make out a black bandolier stretched across the fabric of the ebony top. "So...Mahihko, right? Where...are you from?"
"And why shouldn't we shoot you ALL in the face?" added Tucker with a scowl, standing up and brushing his leg armor off. "Are you...some kind of experimental Freelancers or some shit?"
Lone finally slid his short shotgun into the holster on his back as he turned around to first shrug apologetically at Tucker, then looked to Church. "Whatever Mahihko would reply with is probably gonna make shit even more confusing, so let's start with the most obvious thing. I got a feeling this...isn't just a different planet, but...likely a whole different...universe or dimension or something, because...no offense, but I've seen most of the remote corners of my planet, and I ain't never seen somethin' like...well, like you three."
"Church says I am very special, so there is only one Caboose, and it is me," Caboose replied firmly.
Church sighed and rubbed slowly at his muzzle before nodding once and looking the larger wolf over. Lone was about a foot and a half taller than the other lupine, and had a more masculine frame in general. He wore a simple t-shirt with two leather shoulder holsters crisscrossing his chest; the handles of twin handguns jutting out from either one. His third holster was apparently attached to his belt, as the sawn-off shotgun was no longer visible to Church from the front. His worn blue jeans were simple and a single utility pack was cinched around one thigh. Compared to the other wolf, Lone's body seemed mostly unadorned, with only a single silver ring visible in one ear. His grey eyes locked with Church's after a moment and the two looked awkwardly away from each other as they realized they'd been sizing each other up silently. "Uh...okay...so, then I guess it's safe to say you're not from...here."
"Can someone please tell us where here actually is?" the third stranger complained as he sat up, apparently too dazed to attempt standing. "Also, how the hell did I end up coming through the hole YOU two made? Where's Graceful and Amdusias?"
"Oh, fuckin' great, there's MORE of you assholes?" Tucker exclaimed, dropping his face into a clawed hand and groaning into his palm. "Fuck!"
"Chill, Tucker. We really don't need to get into any more goddamn fights right now..." Church sighed again before glancing toward the seated horse. "Uh...Horsey, was it? That's...that's a...strange..."
"That's not my name," the equine stranger grumbled, shooting a poisonous glare toward an innocently-whistling Mahihko. "It's...Riffraff."
Tucker burst out laughing before Church could reply, pointing at the embarrassed horse. "Dude, SERIOUSLY? What, are you guys from the land of fuckin' magical friendship or some shit? Are you one of those thirty-year-old virgins? Riffraff...how much of your childhood was spent in lockers, man?"
Riffraff pursed his lips, cheeks flushed deeply as he curled his fingers into fists but remained seated with a sour expression. Church again attempted to speak up, but this time was cut off by Caboose exclaiming: "Hey, that is not fair, Tucker! My name is also dumb! It rhymes with moose! And your name sounds like you are tucking a girl into bed!--"
"Bow chicka bow wow!"
"--and a church is a place that is full of old men, which is also a strange thing to have as a name! So leave Horsey alone!"
"Wow, Church, how often do you get full of old men? I mean, not that I'm surprised, I guess you gotta get action wherever you can," Tucker quickly interjected again, flashing a shit-eating grin toward the other chupadore.
"Caboose, Tucker, both of you just shut the fuck up before I...make you shut the fuck up!" Church growled, throwing his arms up in the air as his rifle clattered to the roof surface.
Tucker rolled his eyes and crossed his arms grumpily. "Nice comeback, asshole."
Mahihko and Lone traded glances, the former looking far more amused and at ease than the latter as Lone rubbed at his chest nervously. Behind them, Riffraff made a face and rolled his head back with a mumble. He pinched the bridge of his muzzle slowly and then dropped his hand...only to widen his eyes in shock. His jaw slowly gaped as he struggled to understand what he saw above them in the distance. Is that...the...world? Are we...INSIDE a planet? No, that's... He began to pale as nausea crept into his gut and made him almost immediately dizzy.
Church was about to yell at Tucker again when he noticed Riffraff's sickened expression. "Uh...dude, are you okay?"
The wolves glanced simultaneously at the horse as Lone's brow furrowed in concern, while Mahihko shifted his gaze upward. He let out a surprised gasp, but seemed far more intrigued than nauseated as he studied the arcing strip of land that curved far past the point of visibility in the horizon. "Huh. This isn't...a planet, is it?"
"No," Church replied slowly, stunned by their confusion. "Sirca is a ring-world. Didn't you know that before you...beamed down, or whatever the fuck you did?"
"We did not beam down," Lone responded delicately, approaching Riffraff and carefully poking his face to force the equine to focus on him instead of the dizzying implications of the world beneath and around them. "I'm just gonna go ahead and amend my earlier statement. We are definitely not in the same solar system. We don't have...ring-worlds. In fact, I'm not even pretending to know how the fuck a ring-world works."
"Fuck that, how about pretending to know how the fuck we can understand each other if you're goddamn ALIENS?" Tucker half-shouted. "Anyone wanna answer that gem?"
Church, Lone and Riffraff all traded glances as Mahihko continued to slowly gaze around, more interested now in their surroundings than the conversation at hand. It was Caboose who first responded, stating very matter-of-factly, "Tucker, that's easy, they must have gone to the same school that we did." Everyone save Mahihko slowly turned their heads toward Caboose. He blinked and gazed owlishly back between them all. "What?"
"Caboose...shut up," Church finally said with a sigh. "I...don't know, Tucker. Would you prefer we didn't understand them?"
"Yeah, because my fucking head hurts trying to figure out all the shit going on," Tucker complained, crossing his arms again and showing a rare moment of actual, unmasked emotion. "We're already trying to figure out why some crazy bitch shot you and tried to drag you away, and we were on the verge of abandoning our post and trying to track down whoever was with the crazy bitch. Who is, probably, also crazy, too. This is...a fucking LOT of shit to comprehend, okay? So...fuck, man, give me a goddamn break..."
Church looked uncomfortable as he watched Tucker turn around and stare into the distance, slowly rubbing along the armor covering his arms. It was strange having his vulgar companion be anything less than...
"Uh, not to interrupt, but..."
Church shook his head briefly to clear his thoughts, glancing at Riffraff as the still-pale horse finally, slowly, stood up. "Can we...try to get everyone on the same page?"
Church could at last appraise the full appearance of the massive equine, noting that he was even taller than Lone, likely somewhere around seven feet in height. His body was also more muscular than Lone's, less toned and thicker in definition. His short hide was a deep, blood-red hue that made Church realize Riffraff was lucky he wasn't immediately shot for looking like a Red Army soldier. The horse's mane was a lighter shade of red, essentially pink, and was quite long. Several messy bangs half-covered his features, while the excess was pulled into a braided ponytail behind him. His long tail was the same color, hanging down only a half-foot or so from the ground. A battered semi-formal outfit covered his bulky frame, consisting of a snug dress shirt that was a deep cerulean blue, a black vest that appeared more ornamental than functional, and black dress pants complete with pleats, although the bottoms had long since been tattered and showed obvious signs of non-formal wear.
"Uh...sure, I guess," Church responded slowly. "Should...we go inside?"
"Dude, I'm still not convinced they aren't gonna try and shoot us after we drop our guard," Tucker grumbled, turning back around to glare at the two armed wolves. "Still don't know they aren't...some kinda spy or some shit..."
"Use your brain, Tucker. Just seeing the shape of Sirca almost made them hurl. I'm pretty goddamn sure they're not even from our world."
"You say that like it's a positive attribute," Tucker shot back before shrugging. "But whatever, man. I'm hungry, anyway."
"When are we going to do the horsey-rides?" Caboose demanded, earning a horrified look from Riffraff. "I call firsts! And also seconds!"
"We're...not going to do horsey-rides, Caboose," Church replied through clenched teeth, visibly choking back his frustration. "We're going to figure out what the fuck is going on."
"Riffraff wouldn't mind, though," Mahihko added with a wink. "I've known him long enough to know what he likes!"
"You've...known me for maybe two days," the horse grumbled, looking embarrassed nonetheless. "I still don't understand how you two managed to intercept us, anyway. Neither one of you are demons like Amdusias..."
"Mahihko might be part-demon," Lone mumbled as Mahihko only looked pleased at the designation. "Yeah, let's. Let's go inside. I've seen some weird shit but this shit takes the goddamn weird cake..."
Caboose whooped, oblivious to any of the danger that concerned Tucker as he spun around and bolted back down the ramp from the roof while calling out: "Mr. Bunnylops! Put away the cards! We have visitors! Get the sliced cheese!! But stay on your guard, I think one of them wants to take the weird cake!"
The three strangers shared an awkward glance between themselves while Tucker shook his head slowly but then looked pointedly at the trio. "Well go on, follow Short-Bus. I sure as hell ain't ready to let you walk behind me..." He continued to mutter as Church sighed loudly. "No way am I getting shot in my ass today, nope. I ain't a moron."
"Pff, I can't blame you! The view is nice from back there!" Mahihko replied brightly, slapping his own rump before trotting after Caboose. Lone and Riffraff gave similar, sheepish expressions before following Mahihko down the ramp. The two remaining chupadores gave each other a mutual look that all but screamed "what the fuck?!" as Tucker shook his head and stomped after the foreign creatures with a hand on the butt of his holstered pistol.
Church hesitated, kicking at his dropped sniper rifle childishly. We've had way more than our fair share of what-the-fuck moments lately... He wondered if bringing the enormous weapon inside would really help the situation, considering how tense Tucker already seemed. He realized that, in the first moments of their mind-boggling collision with these strangers, either side could have suffered a fatal blow. It had seemed childish at the time, but if the one named Mahihko hadn't sent Lone flying into Tucker... The tall soldier grimaced and finally decided against bringing yet another gun into the picture. His less-than-perfect aim aside, his instincts told him they had no real desire to hurt any of them. At least not yet...
Things were not all that less awkward in the mess, despite Lone's best attempts at normalizing the situation. Church and Tucker sat next to each other across from the two wolves as Tucker leaned back slightly with a frown. Mahihko was practically laying on the table with how far he was bent forward, grinning enormously at Tucker as if his visible discomfort was encouraging. In a nearby corner of the room, Riffraff was leaning awkwardly against the wall while Caboose babbled away to him cheerfully about the collection of snack wrappers he was keeping to bury behind the base, where they'd grow into "snack bushes", apparently.
Lone cleared his throat and then carefully pushed Mahihko back into a seated position in an attempt to calm Tucker, though the soldier looked far from placated. "Uh...so. I don't really know the best way to start, but I guess I should ask how much you guys know about things...er...outside your world?" He gestured with his hands in an attempt to make his words easier to understand, but it didn't seem to make a difference as both chupas across the table gave him blank stares. "Well...I mean, you know about...aliens, it sounds like?" he asked hopefully.
"You said you weren't aliens," Tucker responded dryly before shoving a prepackaged muffin into his muzzle, blatantly refusing to offer the strangers any of the food stacked on the counter behind them.
"Well, I guess in a way we are," Lone replied slowly. "We're...not from this world, so. Yeah, literally, I suppose we're aliens. But we didn't get here on a space ship or anything. I don't even honestly know if this is the same...uh. Galaxy. Or universe. Or...dimension."
"Yeah, 'sfar as we know, ain't got no ring-planets around us!" Mahihko chimed in, propping his pierced muzzle up on a hand, his tail swinging idly behind him. "But goddamn, I wish there were. I bet there are all kinds of neat places and people to explore in a place like this..." His periwinkle eyes slid back to Tucker, making the chupadore recoil in horror again.
Lone sighed and rubbed at his muzzle slowly. "Seriously, ignore him. He does his best work when he realizes someone's uncomfortable around him." Church gave the wolf a pointed look and Lone shrugged, continuing slowly. "Anyway. The reason I ask is because, as you have guessed, we're from somewhere either very far, or...fuck, I dunno, maybe not that far, but on another plane of existence."
"Whoa, whoa, we don't know for sure we're on a new plane of existence," Mahihko interrupted.
"I do not like planes!" Caboose half-shouted from behind the wolves, making Riffraff wince back against the wall. "They are full of babies."
Mahihko couldn't resist a slight smile even as he turned back to the others and raised a finger. "Not to be a dick, Lone, but it's a fair point, even if ya hate when I got a fair point. Hell, you barely know what this thing is, and you're the one who actually researches this shit."
Church frowned and leaned forward slightly, looking between the two wolves. "Yeah, what was that thing you were holding? Was that how you...made that...uh..."
"I swear to Omega if you call it a wormhole, you will be a nerd in my eyes forever," Tucker threatened, jabbing a claw into his chest before Church scowled and slapped it away.
"Well then what the fuck would you call it, asshole?" Church snarled, leaning toward Tucker and earning a rude gesture in return.
"How 'bout we just call it a doorway?" Lone offered awkwardly. The two chupadores glared at him and he shrunk back slightly before shrugging. "Well it is, in the most basic sense," he grumbled, nudging Mahihko in the side lightly. "It's...some kind of artifact. I'd call it 'ancient', but fuck if I know how old it actually is." On cue, Mahihko reached into one of his many pockets to produce what now looked like a simple cluster of crystals growing from a lump of limestone. Lone pointed to it as the two chupas leaned in despite themselves to stare at it curiously.
"Why isn't it glowing anymore?" queried Tucker, shifting to the side to study the strange object in Mahihko's open palm. "And fuck that, why aren't you three using it to go back the fuck to wherever you came from?"
"Because where we came from is in a bit of a fucked situation right now," Mahihko replied bluntly, tossing the crystal formation lightly upward as Lone's eyes widened in horror. But he easily caught it without so much as a glance, offering a half-grin as he placed it gently on the table so Lone could snatch it up with a huff. "Someone may or may not have intercepted my call for assistance and someone may or may not have shown up at what I was very positive was my dig site, and then someone may or may not have tried to kill us."
"I was there first," Lone grumbled as he idly brushed some invisible dust from the crystals. "Also, you called one of your many old boyfriends to see if he'd come get us in a helicopter. He was the probably the one who called that bastard and his goddamn mercenary army out there."
"He was hardly a 'boyfriend', more like a walking source of dick that also happened to have a helicopter," Mahihko retorted dismissively, waving a hand before perking up as Tucker gave them both an incredulous look.
"Wait, so...what the fuck are you two, like...tomb raiders or some shit?"
Mahihko looked positively tickled at this, propping his muzzle up with both hands. "Oh yes! Absolutely, that is one-hundred-percent the best term to use an' you should refer to us as such forever after this point!"
But Lone scowled darkly and quickly wrapped the so-called artifact in a dusty cloth before tucking it into one of his thigh pockets. "No. No, no, we are not. I'm...uh. An...explorer. Who...recovers old stuff. And such."
"--sounds like a tomb raider," Tucker interrupted mildly.
"No, not...a tomb raider. Explorer. And...he is..." Lone's muzzle formed a pinched expression as Mahihko batted his eyes at him. "He's a goddamn thief."
A dramatic gasp flew from Mahihko's maw as he put a hand mockingly against his own chest. "Sir! Bite your tongue." He earned two very skeptical looks from the chupadores across the table and gave a loud sigh in response. "I hate 'thief', it's so...bland. So crude. I am so much more than a petty thief." He underscored his next phrase with a poke to Lone's cheek. "An' you know it."
Lone rolled his eyes and attempted to respond, but Church interrupted bluntly: "Okay, fine, you two come across some ancient...thingy, and it transports you...here, and that all makes sense if we pretend this is some goddamn video game, but what about him?" Church gestured wildly at Riffraff as the equine looked back at the table blankly. "It sounds like he's not...even with you two?"
"Uh. Remember what I said about alternate dimensions?" Lone replied lamely. "I wasn't just talking out of my ass. And since we've already gone far past the point of no return in regards to crazy-shit-that-shouldn't-be-possible, I'm sure you'll have no trouble believing that he's from an alternate version of the same world we're from." Once more, he was met with two confused stares of disbelief. "It's...look, you're already talking to three people who just came through a literal tear in reality. So just. Bear with me. But in the world where Mahihko and I come from, it's uh...I dunno. Normal, I guess."
"Normal is relative," Riffraff intoned sourly. "Maybe you're the freaks and I'm the regular joe."
"I thought your name was Horsey!" Riffraff shifted his gaze awkwardly back to Caboose to find the chupadore glaring up at him suspiciously.
"Um, it...is actually R--"
"Anyway," Lone continued, leaving Riffraff to uselessly attempt an explanation to his 'new friend'. "What I mean is that our world is...without magic, I guess is the easiest way to say it. We have science, we have technology, we have religion, but there's no...supernatural elements." He paused, his expression torn between amused and anxious. "Well. Not regularly, anyway. Between the slippery thief and I, we've...come across some weird shit that's beyond most normal explanation, at least in our reality. But he," Lone gestured to Riffraff once more. "He comes from a different version of our world. Same world, in a strictly geographical sense, and I guess a physical sense...but completely different in a metaphysical sense. They lack a lot of the scientific and technological advances we have, but in return, a good percentage of their population can harness magical elements." At this point, both Tucker and Church had gone from wary and somewhat disbelieving to showing outright incredulity. "I...I know how it sounds. And to top it all off, the uh...er. How to put it...'protective layer' that separates their world from the supernatural world is also exceptionally thinner. So things like angels and demons are kind of a thing, too. Y'know, just to add to the entire goddamn impossibility of what I'm saying."
"These two boneheads ended up here because they were chasing a demon," Riffraff added helpfully. "He's sort of my friend. I...guess. Or a friend of a friend. He's...it's...complicated."
Church slowly lowered his head into his hands, groaning into the table as Tucker made a disgusted face. "That's putting it fuckin' mildly, don't you think?" Tucker asked ironically. He seemed to take a moment to watch Church for a reaction, apparently hoping for some cue from the other soldier. But when his companion appeared more content to simply keep his face buried in his fingers, Tucker shrugged and continued, "Okay, so I'm not even gonna try to make sense of this. All I know is you don't belong here, but you're here now, and you don't know how to get back, right?"
Lone nodded slowly while Mahihko only shrugged cheerfully, leaning back slightly as he produced a slender handgun from some unseen holster in his turtleneck. Tucker tensed up immediately, but before he could draw his own magnum in response, Mahihko had already neatly removed the slide from the weapon and was calmly dissembling it on the table as his eyes shifted back to the rigid soldier with a playful expression. "Go on?"
Tucker narrowed his eyes but slowly relaxed and tapped a claw purposefully on the surface of the table. "Anyway. What I wanna know is, if you three weren't originally together, and the two of you," he pointed two fingers at the wolves, "were just...'following a demon'...then where the fuck is THAT guy?"
"That's...actually a good question," Church said, lifting his head and giving Tucker a genuinely surprised glance. Tucker looked less than thrilled at the insinuation, but remained silent as Church continued. "Are there...uh...other...travelers here somewhere? Because I sure as shit can guarantee that we won't be the only ones to open fire. And the last thing we goddamn need are more goddamn dead bodies."
"You forgot the more important question." All eyes shifted to Tucker and he leaned forward with a serious frown. "Where the fuck are all the chicks?"
Red vs Blue © Rooster Teeth. Halo © 343 Industries. Concept by Myshu, assisted by The Department of Chupapology.
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