(Part 1 here)
(Part 2 here)
Signals pinged from surface to surface. Data, visible in strings, lights bouncing from one building to another. Imperceptible to most, but alight in a cascade of movement to her. She slunk her svelte, smooth form through alleyways and over fences, nimbly coursing over every obstacle designed to keep civilians out. Not exactly defences. But a hindrance to the unequipped. And this otter was far from inexperienced.
Radiatrix scanned the area. Something had scrambled a radio signal she happened to be monitoring, in a way she had not recognised. Like shooting a pin through a cloud of dust. If she hadn’t caught it, anyone else would have dismissed it as interference or a packet error. Tracking it was ephemeral. Her pursuit began randomly. It had no fixed location nor source, manifesting from random locations like the centre of buildings, or from directly upwards from open sky. But it wasn’t just random noise. It was tangible, directed. A transmission.
It had latched onto something now. The data points seemed to change focus, honing in on a specific area out towards the bay. She could feel them passing by, like raindrops shooting towards a singular focal point. She vaulted a sheet metal fence and rolled across the concrete, ending in a poised crouch to survey the waterfront.
Whatever the signals were amassing to lay beneath. She felt the waves and signals converging, spiralling, swirling, into something… almost physical. A bulk of writhing, pulsing signals all entwined around something hidden by the noise. Her RCGs flicked and buzzed trying to read scans of the messages, but these were enigmatic even for her. It was like trying to read through something’s skin. Not nonsense, but complex and veiled.
“That’s worrying,” she muttered.
She flicked a webbed claw over the holster at her left thigh and spun her hunting knife into her palm. There weren’t many things that could elicit that kind of non-physical control, and in her experience, fewer were friendly. For what she knew of radio waves and her own ability to direct and contain them, this was something more organic and about their behaviour, an unpredictability to their aim.
She circled the bay for a minute, trying to ascertain the best point of entry. As she was about to take a step forwards, she hesitated.
“Radiatrix checking in,” she said furtively to her dispatch team, keeping her eyes on the bay. Her RCGs had painted it with a faint reticule that shimmered in time with its frequency undulation. “Something in the bay. Strange. Psychic, maybe. Or interference. May require assistance.”
“Confirmed. We have your position and pinged nearby assets for potential backup. Be careful, okay?”
Just as she neared the edge of the quay to dive in, a purple light erupted from under the surface, pushing the water up and outwards like an explosion that disappeared into the night like dust. The radio signals she’d scanned splintered and dispersed, and she watched the water froth and flow back to relative stillness.
She played her claws over her knife, calculating her approach.
A rippling dart of blue thundered through the water, splitting the waves and careening into the distance. Gritting her teeth, she leapt into the inky depths.
Navigating the bay was easy for her. She cut through the water like a blade, her RCGs scanning for any shapes in the water that could lead to the disruption’s source.
Ahead, a limp form, reaching upwards. They were muscular, but no taller than her, with a long and half-scaled tail drifting in the currents. She could see their RCGs flashing danger icons and immediately braced herself under their arms, beginning a powerful ascent to the bay. She breached the water, landing the unconscious newcomer’s form on top of her, and, wresting an arm over their chest to keep them from slipping back under, she jabbed a claw to her goggles once again.
“Need medevac, immediate. Co-ordinates on encrypted burst. Please acknowledge.”
“Acknowledged, medevac scrambled and en route.”
She kicked back and dragged their body to the bay’s edge, then hauled them onto the concrete boat launch. She laid her ear to their mouth to check for breathing, then, flicking an electronic needle from her utility pouch, sammed it into their chest. Their body convulsed, they vomited murky water a second later, ejecting it from their lungs. Removing the needle quickly, she rolled them onto their side, where they laid, unconscious, as the whining jets of a light VTOL aircraft roared into proximity.
A hard surface. Distal warmth. The cold that pressed into them had faded, but their body felt infinitely heavy and their consciousness slow. They felt like being in a shall both tight to their entire body but massively vast, reaching to the furthest horizon they could feel. Their proprioceptors were probably broken. If, by some miracle, they were alive, they may have sunk to the bottom of the bay.
They tried to move their right hand. They knew it was still there, but it refused their command.
I know. Too dangerous. My bad.
“Aweh, they speak,” came a resonant, slightly cold voice, with a strong South African accent. “You hear us admonishing you for getting moer-toe like this?”
They paused. Errrm, no?
“You broke them again, Sophie,” spoke a second, lighter voice.
“I only break people intentionally, Viddy” the first voice scorned, somewhat playfully. “They’re fine.”
Didn’t realise I was in company, I’m sorry. Guess I’m… not underwater?
“You’re out,” came Viddy’s voice.
I, um… still can’t see, though.
“Just a precaution,” the first voice, Sophie, said again, amongst some clicks and clanks of metal and the light whirring of a CPU fan, or something similar. “We paralyzed you for analysis anyway, but also to safeguard us in case you weren’t Korps.”
I’m… prospective. I feel like I’ve done a lot wrong so far.
“Well, to start, your RCGs are terrible. Almost worse than fake.”
They’re a homebrew from unlocked civilian ones. I’m not a hacker, or coder so I piecemealed together code from whatever I could manage.
They heard Viddy audibly grimace. “Civvies aren’t powerful enough. Like a pushbike to a motorcycle.”
“Look, it’s not that I don’t appreciate good boererate, but you’d have had better luck walking to our door and asking directly,” Sophie admonished. “We could have shot you and done less damage to you than these.”
They sighed. I figured. Sorry. I don’t know how any of this works. But I think I need to be here. For me, as much as for anyone else.
Something touched their arm, possibly Viddy? They felt like webbed paws. “You know, you’re speaking through your collar, right?”
Y… yes. Just a habit. I can actually talk though.
They switched from logged speech to vocal, and let their breath humm from their throat for a second, before finally speaking.
“Could I see?” They croaked. Their voice was soft, with a slight deepness to it, and the unmistakable accent of a Brit, or at least one who spent the majority of their life there.
“One second,” Sophie cautioned. “Your new RCGs are formatting. Your oxygen injector failed because your OS was a fokken mess and registered all available commands as one execution, so it infused and purged simultaneously.”
They gave a short, defeated sigh. “Right.”
“You also broke it.”
“That… may not have been me, but I’ll take responsibility for it.”
There was the sound of something moving, and the soft tapping of a keyboard. “These RCGs are faster, more secure, more functional, and I’ve already transferred what little secure data there was from your old ones onto them. You’re lucky you weren’t in sy moer-in with a vulnerability like that plugged into your face.”
They didn’t respond, their mind still in the black depths in which they’d been almost crushed. This was not how they intended their introduction to go.
Something touched their right shoulder. “It’s okay,” Viddy whispered. “Some come in a lot worse.”
They were tempted to respond with the sentiment that they doubted many had damaged themselves this much on ignorant abandon, but held themself back for not wanting to inflict their embarrassment as unwarranted insult, against them or their current carers.
Something pressed into the side of their head. Slowly, filtering into focus by layers of brightness and colour, they came to view themselves in a very clean room, with muted white lights and a fairly high ceiling. It would have looked like a hospital, were it not for the numerous cameras and very conspicuous turret mounted into the ceiling.
They blinked, and looked around.
“This place has a very, uh… ‘We’ll help you but won’t take any shit’ vibe.”
“Welcome to my triage.”
Were Archantael not paralyzed, they would have jumped at the figure towering over them, an already formidable-looking maned wolf in a powerful exoskeleton of sleek gunmetal, neon claws gleaming in the operating theatre’s sterile lights. Her neckline and chest were adorned with the Korps insignia, and atop her head was a blaze of red hair, as fierce as the eyes she regarded the newcomer with behind curved, svelte RCGs.
“To you I’m Professor Carmine, or Nosferatu, whichever you like. Just never in vain, or you get poesklapped.”
“Noted,” Arch replied, before glancing to the figure on the other side, a much less imposing but still sleek, elegant and powerful frame of an otter. She gave a polite wave.
“Viddy. Callsign Radiatrix. Yeh.”
Sophie flicked something on the gurney and Arch felt sensation returning to their body. They let out a deep sigh, feeling their chest rise and fall under their own volition again, and blearily slid round, gently manoeuvering their tail, to hang their legs off the gurney. The metal guards over their hindpaws glinted in the light, still bearing the residue from the bay. They’d need to wash their combat gear too, as with the returning sensation in their legs came the realisation of still being very damp, and increasingly cold.
They looked to them both and bowed their head. “Thank you, and sorry for being an inconvenience.”
Sophie frowned. “The only inconvenience is not talking to us first. We’re not blaming you for… wherever happened down there.” She looked to Viddy. “It sounded very odd.”
Arch glanced to Viddy, who was skimming through something on her tablet. “I logged frequencies, it’s not usual.”
“You pulled me out, didn’t you?” they said quietly. Viddy nodded.
“Thank you. I’ll owe you… anything, literally.”
The otter gave a warm, kind smile, then turned the tablet round to them. “This is what got you, right?”
The image was a strange, disjointed array of data points, but seemed to coalesce to a hydra-like spiral of tentacles.
“I… I didn’t see it. I know who it was, just not… what.”
Sophie gave a snort of contempt at the scattered shape on screen. “That’s some vrot energy there. Friend of yours?”
“Once. We have… somewhat of a history.”
Viddy nodded understandingly, and pulled the tablet back round, before handing it to Sophie, a little shyly, the fur on her cheeks bristling as the large, pink-clawed exo skeleton arms brushed against her paws at the hand-off. “I logged these. Hopefully it’s an early warning next time.”
Arch dug their claws into their paws. “Next time, I hope it’ll be the last.”
Sophie clicked her tongue. “I get you. But build yourself up here as you need first. No point making out soos Siebies se gat and ending up worse than tonight for poor planning.”
She walked round to face them, standing next to Viddy, leaning towards them with a stern countenance. “And don’t do it alone, did you cav that?”
Arch nodded, sheepishly. “I won’t. Thank you.”
Satisfied, Sophie glanced down at the tablet and flicked her claw a few times. “Now, what do we call you?”
The pangolinfox rose to their feet, briefly flipping open WHISPERSHOT’s canister to ensure it was safe, and attached their quiver back onto their belt.
“My name’s Archantael Clow. Callsign: Aegis.”
Viddy smiled at them again, and extended her paw to shake. They took it firmly, gratefully, and returned her smile with one of their own.
Sophie laid the tablet back on the gurney. A split second later, a message appeared on Arch’s RCGs:
WELCOME TO THE KORPS, AEGIS.
Sophie shot them a smile too. “Take some time to learn the base layout. If you need lodging here there are people to help you, but you can get most of your combat supplies here. And Ask. For. Help.” She cast a threatening claw to them.
They raised their paws up with a nervous grin. “Yes. Very much. First thing I need is a good tattoo artist.” They gestured to their insignia. “I need one of those on my chest.”
Viddy grinned. “Good choice. I know one-”
The sliding door opened suddenly, and a figure even taller than Sophie loomed through, curled horns and long tan hair drifting close to the hanging lights, their grey and brown frame completely obscuring the door. The feathered cloak that hung from their high shoulders billowed out behind them, displaying their four powerful arms adorned with thick leather straps. Aside from the cloak they wore nothing on their top half except for a pentacle harness; around their waist was a long split robe draping down to their feet, and several surgical-looking knives on belts hung at angles. Their four eyes, black with golden pupils, took in all details of the room at once.
“We have some targets to shred,” xey announced, xyr voice resonant with multiple tones, a mix of the powerful and soothing, overall deep but with a rich, otherworldly dimensionality to it. “Will anyone accompany a demon on xyr midnight run?”
Immediately they honed in on Archantael, bewildered, by the gurney. “You’re new,” xey said, slight with intrigue.
“They are,” Viddy chirruped, beaming widely.
The demon lent out a large, clawed hand to the hybrid. “We are Sentari.”
“I’m Archantael,” they replied, taking the Sen’s claw as firmly as they could. Their body was all at once hot and cold, like a wind on a dark summer night. “I’m an archer, and shield-summoner, if they’re of use to you.”
A grin split Sentari’s face. “We always have use for ones such as yourself. Are you in?”
Arch looked down at their gear. “I’m a little wet.”
“We have that effect on people,” xey replied with a wry smile, a long tongue flicking between xyr teeth. Arch felt a rush of blood to their cheeks and swallowed. Viddy was looking coyly away, but also smiling. “But we can get to that later. Are you with us?”
A flick of their synth claw, and WHISPERSHOT sprung into life.
Art by Necrotext
The Korps is a fictional furry queer cyberpunk universe created by KorpsPropaganda
Viddy/Radiatrix is a character owned by Viddy / Dipika
Professor Carmine is a character owned by Jay
Sentari is a character owned by Sentvri
All characters were used with permission and owners were sent this before posting for approval ❤
Thank you all.