Purple discs flashed into view a few steps before them, each one cushioning their bounds, then springing them back into the air again. The wind rushed through their fur, rippled their ears, and whistled across their scales as they flew. The city curved before them in a mountain of technicolour and staccato towers, lights flashing atop rooftop beacons invisible against the coursing sky.
Archantael wasn’t far now, about halfway across the water. They knew other Korps members were nearby; if they could observe an operation they could introduce themselves with support, if the team seemed desperate or amicable enough. Some worked strictly alone, or in tight teams not fond of intervention. The last thing they wanted to do was scupper their chances by lieu of an intrusive offer to assist. It was easy to assume they would be more powerful than them from the onset, but… Pôl would not allow them that mindset.
“You’re more than enough, matey,” they could already hear him echoing.
Easy to say, harder to believe.
Two more bounds and they were halfway across the bay, about as far away as you could get from any structure. It wasn’t smart to be so exposed, but this was a dark run. They needed to be aloof, for now. Just till they had a few successful support raids under their belt.
The wind stopped. A coldness grew.
Arch kept their stride.
A sudden high frequency whine split the air, shooting through their head. They stumbled, the disc beneath them evaporated to glowing dust, and they fell.
A voice, everywhere.
THERE YOU ARE
They plummeted into the bay’s dark, yawing mouth, swallowed by thick, inky waves.
They struggled, wrestled upwards, slashing at the water with desperate claws to break the surface. Whispershot constricted back into the canister on their wrist and snapped closed. With more quick, frenzied movements they flipped open the shield plate on their right thigh and twisted a small plug inwards, activating an emergency blood oxygenator.
CLEVER TRICK. MORE PREPARED THAN I EXPECTED, BUT YOU ARE STILL SO ALONE FOR ONE AS SENSITIVE ABOUT THEIR FEARS AS YOU.
They wrested around, trying to find the source of the voice. Law, you sick fuck.
Something curled around their waist, pulling them further into the blackness. The water trapped them with crushing cold, flooded their ears with swamping, swollen silence.
TEMPER, TEMPER. LOOK WHAT YOU’VE REDUCED ME TO. YOU WOULD NEVER GRANT ME EGRESS TO YOUR THOUGHTS OTHERWISE. IS THIS REALLY HOW YOU WANT TO TREAT YOUR OLDEST FRIEND?
They wrenched at the force that circled around them, trying to break it. Their claws passed right through. Their legs and tail thrashed vainly at the empty deep.
Get out of my head. You left me long before I left you.
LIAR. YOU ABANDONED ME. YOU SOLD YOURSELF TO A CULT OF SELF-RIGHTEOUS TERRORISTS. DESTROYED EVERYTHING YOU WERE. ALL TO FALL VICTIM TO A CONVENT OF IDENTITY MARTYRS. IT’S PATHETIC. I TRIED TO SAVE YOU. YOU BETRAYED ME.
You never knew me. I was terrified of you, and you proved me right. The moment I was out of sight, you unleashed your fears and let idiots and despots take you over, make you believe they fight for your cause when all they’ll do is harvest you and leave you for dead. I never believed it was too late for you, till-
Another force slithered around their neck, snapping their body taut, pulling on their head to raise it away from their body. Their vision flickered, the RCGs glitched and shimmered, warning statuses blinking fervently at their periphery
YOU KNOW NOTHING! The voice came from all directions at once, even from within them. It was deep, ferocious, vehement, as dark as the shroud of the water that engulfed them. YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT HOW THEY’LL DRIVE THIS WORLD TO RUIN. YOU CALL YOURSELF A HERO, BUT YOU ARE DELUDED. IDEALISTIC. WRONG. A SHEEP. PREY. FODDER FOR INSIPID, MILITANT ‘FRIENDS’ WHO TRICK YOU INTO SULLYING YOURSELF WITH TRANSFORMATIVE NONSENSE.
The water bindings tightened, choing their neck. They would have died already if not for the oxygen supply in his leg.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? YOU SEE HOW TRANSIENT THEY ARE? UNRELIABLE. INCONSISTENT. SELFISH. YOU DEVOTED YOURSELF TO THEIR CAUSE AND THEY HAVE LEFT YOU TO DIE.
You’re the one killing me, Law. I took myself alone tonight, this has nothing to do with them.
SO YOU TRUST THEM THAT LITTLE ALREADY? YOU LIE TO YOURSELF TO PROTECT THEIR HONOUR. PATHETIC.
What of our friends, the ones you exiled to torture? Or your father. Did he beg when you killed him? Did you feel anything after dragging his name through the mud for political clout?
HE DIED A HERO! I ENSURED IT! The spiralling water around the pangolin-fox’s waist clenched, forcing the remaining air from their lungs. They writhed in pain, tugging in a frenzy at the intangible snake entity slowly crushing them to death.
More warnings. The display fizzed and flickered. The speech synthesis collar around their neck buckled. Their voice glitched and stammered, struggling to find a connection to their constricted throat, overwhelmed by interference at the crushing sensory overload.
You hijacked his death as ‘a promise kept’ to the state of this world. You FORCED him to die at your hand so you could martyr both him and yourself as his keeper. And your PHL benefactors lapped it up.
AND YOU BELIEVE YOUR ‘KORPS’ IS MORE MAGNANIMOUS? THEY ARE NOTHING BUT CONFUSED, VAGABOND TERRORISTS. IF YOU EVER WANTED TO BE A HERO, NOW YOU NEVER WILL BE.
Archantael closed their eyes; the frigid, salty water burned, and with the tightness around their neck it felt like they would burst if they tried to see their assailant.
You’re wrong. I never called myself a hero. You were the one naming me ‘evil’. Just for being who I needed. Who I thought YOU needed.
The weight around them constricted once more. They were close to snapping in half. They clenched their fists. A purple light shone within them.
Then YOU started telling me how wrong I was, how people I never mentioned were destroying your world, tearing apart ‘individual justice’. You were falling away from me long before I left.
The glow spread along their arms.
You threw edicts, desperate demands at me to conform. You insisted I was ‘safe’ but tore down what I stood for at every chance you got.
The glow reached their shoulders.
I TRIED TO PROTECT YOU. I WANTED YOU WITH ME. YOU WOULD NOT LISTEN.
Why should I listen to someone bent on delusions, making themselves fat on self-indulgent propaganda? They KNEW you were vulnerable, and you let them walk into your mind.
The glimmering purple ran in waves along their arms, then up their neck, passing under the swirling tightness of the water.
THEY UNDERSTOOD ME. THEY FOUND ME WHEN YOU TURNED AWAY. THEY SAVED ME.
They brainwashed you. Fed you false promises and petty scapegoats. Made the world your enemy instead of your place to belong. And now you’ve pledged your name to destroying it alongside them.
WHAT OF YOU? DEFILING YOUR BODY WITH DISGRACEFUL TRANSFORMATIONS FOR SOMEONE ELSE’S AGENDA. KOWTOWING TO DANGEROUS, FRIVOLOUS LIABILITIES WHO REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE WORLD AS IT IS. WE ARE THE SAME.
Their light began to form patterns, forming sharp, filigree scales, as it spread under their waist and down their tail.
The world as it is deserves to be torn apart. It’s built on oppression, injustice, death, subjugation. Your vision of the world panders to those who want to control it; mine gives it to those who want to be free. We…
The shimmering purple strengthened, shone, coursing around their entire body, then burst outwards, sending a massive spherical shockwave erupting through the water. The force around them dissipated and for a moment they were left in a silent, cold vacuum as the water pushed away from their shield.
…are nothing alike.
YOU ARE ALONE, ARCHANTAEL.
No. You are, Law. You live in your own darkness.
They looked up, as the water sank back down and enveloped them.
I will find the light. And either you’ll see it, or be destroyed by it.
Silence. The pressing whine faded, and the ambient movement of water swallowed their hearing once more.
Their RCGs hummed back into view. Things seemed nominal, but-
A desperate alarm pinged.
They scrambled upwards; or what they thought was up, but their vision began to blur. Their muscles, weakened and numbed by Law’s crushing containment, gave little motion. The world began to spin. They tried summoning a shield beneath them to raise themself up, but the circle was dim, broken, and dissipated like smoke after a second. As a last effort, they wrenched open the casing on their wrist. Whispershot jerked into life, this time as a wrist-mounted crossbow.
They raised their arm and a bolt of blue careened into the distal darkness.
I hope that’s the surface…
Just before they passed out, something wrapped under their shoulders.
The Korps is a fictional furry queer cyberpunk universe created by KorpsPropaganda