A muddy night sky. It would be clear, if the lights from the city weren’t so pollutive. Stars were barely visible beyond the glare, the tiniest pinpricks to remind you this wasn’t a dome or skybox with finite borders you could slam into if you tried hard enough. Although somehow, somewhere, a corporation would try to sell that as the next greatest luxury. Custom skylines, tailored to your neighbourhood.
As if the current corporate mindset didn’t already do that. Lie to you about the stars and tell you it’s your fault you can’t see them.
All the more reason to enjoy the sky now, what little was left of it.
The figure perched on the high building’s parapet, overlooking the bay, pressed a claw to their temple, and the small disc that lay embedded in their red-brown fur. A small, deft flick brought up a menu on their HUD, and a sleek pink visor beamed into place around their eyes. They craned their head back and the display brought the whole sky into view, mapping every known star, and even a few that had no designations yet, assumed likely calculations based on observed interstellar activity. At least some people were still paying attention to what was over their heads.
Their long tail curled on the ledge beneath them, the roughness of the scales running along it and up their back highlighted by the ambient glow from the building’s outward-facing sign, while the long fur beneath it blended into the darkness. The pangolin-fox hybrid bore a muscular frame, something of which they seemed proud, to the extent of foregoing anything covering their upper half most of the time aside from the usual equipment of their quiver. Of course, with scales over their shoulders, head, and back, wearing anything that wouldn’t immediately be shredded was a challenge. For now they were comfortable in flowing pants that sinched at the knee, shin guards, and a large open-fronted collar which beamed soft blue light to the underside of their vulpine muzzle.
A small bell icon appeared in their lower right view, and jiggled silently. The name next to it brought a gentle smile to their face.
It’s been a while. Their voice was soft, and unspoken, transmitted directly into the screen. How are you?
“All the better for seeing you, matey!” the older, silver and black fox said warmly. He was wearing one of his ancient, well-worn polar fleeces, branded with a logo from a long-since-defunct company. “I hope it’s not a bad time.”
They smiled. It’s never a bad time for you, Pôl. I’m about to start an assignment, though.
“Oh, well, I won’t keep you! Did you decide on your callsign yet?”
They paused. Maybe. I don’t know if that’s how it works. I haven’t done anything significant yet, or researched anyone else’s…
“Oh, so what you MEAN is you have something you want but are embarrassed about how corny it sounds.”
They ran their hand over their ears and gave an embarrassed grin. Look, just because you’re allowed under my firewall doesn’t mean you can attack me like that.
Pôl flicked his ears and sat back, forgetting his holographic camera had a fixed focus range, turning into just a muzzle and teeth for a few moments. It almost made his guidance more effective. “I’ll attack you however I want, you know it’s good for you. Besides, you went through all this to be there. If you know what your purpose is and where you’re supposed to be, then be there, without apology.”
The hybrid cocked their head, a little consternative. It’s not that I don’t have purpose. Probably. It’s about… definition. How do you sum up everything you want to be in a single word and make it formidable, without it being reductive or overblown?
The fox gave them an admonishing look. “To me, your own name would suffice. You’ve always been impressive. But you, Archantael” a shaky, demonstrative claw came into view, “you don’t acknowledge yourself as much as you should. Modesty is creditable, but not to the point of self-burden. Do you really think you have to earn your right to live, or help others? I know exactly what you’re there for, Arch, and in a world like ours don’t ever pretend any act of kindness isn’t significant enough to be given credence. I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, you’re worth your own time. Especially if you’re already giving it away to so many.”
Archantael closed their eyes and sighed, a release of tension more than a sense of frustration. There were few people who reached them so deeply, but friend and mentor Pôl was one of them.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. They glanced at their left forearm, and played the glinting metal against the reflections of the blue-green city bloom. I don’t know if I’m ready. But I know where I’m supposed to be. For now, at least.
Pôl gave an approving nod, then his face shifted out of focus and his ears loomed into view as he scrabbled amongst some papers out of view. They watched with a bemused comfort at the amenability of his disorganisation, despite being one of the most resourceful creatures they knew. Eventually, and after some whispered threats to nondescript entities, the black and grey muzzle drifted back to the centre screen
“So, about your request.” he sighed, raking a claw under his chin in a reticent scratch. “You, I think, deserve better than to be held ransom to his hate. But I did find him. I’m just… worried about you, matey.”
They nodded. I know. It’s the first step. He won’t change if he won’t know what he threw away. And if I can’t make him see… then I’ll stop him outright. I’ll take whatever you have, if you could send it to my ghost server. Thank you.
“No probs, matey. We need to get you back here for a spell, we’ve missed you.”
Arch smiled again, a little wistfully. I’ve missed you too. I’ll get back when I can. Give my love to Dorin and Brew.
“I know how it goes. Just… be safe, all right? I won’t be round forever.”
That’s a lie and you know it; you’re as immortal as they come.
The fox laughed, a lyrical rhythm that soon turned to a withering rasp. “You know that’s not how it works.”
Yeah. Yeah, I know. Be safe, Pôl.
“YOU be safe, matey. Talk soon.”
The cityscape took over the sound of the terminated stream, and once more they were alone. They stood to their full height, and from their metal plated left forearm section withdrew a slender, angular device that unfurled into a longbow, with code WHISPERSHOT embossed on its inner surfaces. Their custom-designed modular bow engine. It thrummed into life, while the cover plate on their arm flared open to form a small, sharp shield.
I could just name myself after you, they thought. But the idea of being defined by use of a weapon and nothing more, even one they designed themselves, was… uncomfortable. The choices and dramatic portmanteaus flowed through their mind again. Nothing felt succinct enough.
Giving a momentary frown, they pulled out a few of the metal shards that made up the structure of the bow, angling them for weight distribution and aerodynamics, then glanced at the ammo count on the right of their HUD.
If I can’t be creative right now, I’ll at least be productive.
A brief second of focus and the inventory blipped out with a detailed menu:
-Six palisade arrows, for long-distance shield deployment
-Eight electro-restraints, lasting at least six minutes apiece
-Eleven quick-release concrete foam shots, with an impact spread of eight feet
-Five interference beacons, ranging 150 metres
-Seven spacial disorientators, when work meets play
It wasn’t a full complement. Something about this city interfered with the effectiveness of their hacking beacons and immobilisers, so they were completely out of service for now. They still did physical damage, but relying on blind luck while still facing the brunt of a drone controller barrelling towards you was not a good time. Well, not under the circumstances, anyway. They would need to see a hacking expert for some upgrades, or advice on frequency hopping.
At least their battery still worked. Its status in their lower wrist glowed at a satisfying 98%. Plenty of shots to be taken even if they ran out of strategic ammunition.
They hooked two clawed fingers around the cable that ran from wing to wing, just behind the centre of the bow where the arrow crook lay. Two generators above and below it whirred into action, and as they drew back, a bright fizzling cyan bolt formed along the length of their arm. They glared down its length, crosshair appearing in their vision, with twisting indicators changing by the distance and height of the surfaces and objects before them. Satisfied all was well, they drew forward their arm and the cyan energy bolt faded back into the generators.
Time to move.
Archantael took a step forwards, and in the air under their footpaw appeared a glowing purple sigil, in the shape of a curled up pangolin. It took their weight; another step and a second appeared under their other footpad. The sigils shimmered; underneath them appeared smaller ones that rotated and drew away, then slammed upwards into the first set, sending the archer rocketing into the sky. They began a long, leaping bound, each step anchored and boosted by the shield sigils summoned beneath their feet, as they began a wide circle around the bay, beginning their patrol.
The Korps is a fictional furry queer cyberpunk universe created by KorpsPropaganda