Kokoso looked around the cramped room in the city's ship factory, it was always quiet and otherwise uneventful, until a splashing sound echoed from one of halls, he only knew one hall with a leak, it wasn't a major threat, cold water was brought in from old pipes in the ceiling, the building itself used rather ancient technologies, but it could still serve it's purpose.
He heard footsteps and after taking a few calming breathes, he made his was to the intersection in the room, the footsteps had faded to his left, where the hall was narrow and dark. He waited silently for a few seconds before running for the communication panel, "We have an intruder in sector four...heading to hatch seven, I think...y-yes, I'll pursue the subject." Kokoso winced, he'd rather not chase someone who he couldn't see, but he was faced with little choice, so, going forward, he found an unused pipe in a corner and took it into his grip, and muttered fearfully to himself, "Here goes nothing."
Kokoso found the intruder shutting off valves, letting the steam fill the room, silhouette highlighted by the harsh glow of the near-obsolete bulbs that had their own factory next door to the ship facility. Under the light and through the white, thin veil he saw the lavender hair first, then noticed her hand hovering over the panels, drifting slowly, thoughtfully before she found and pressed what buttons she sought.
"Do you even know what that does?" he asked calmly, trying to be more curious than confrontational.
She straightened and snapped around, hands raised in self-defense, fingers unwisely tucked into her fists as her furious blue eyes met his startled green eyes, "You people stand for nothing but pure evil...now if you keep me here, you'll want to put up your dukes, unless you'd prefer to let me get out now!"
"Whoa, whoa, you put down your dukes!" Kokoso jumped back, dropping the pipe.
"I prefer to call them duchesses," she took a step forward, instilling fear within his veins, "if you stall me," she stepped to the side and gestured for him to enter the room, "we could arrange a royal exchange, I'll introduce you to them both, now, to the other side of the room with you!"
He nodded and danced around her, then she swooped down, grabbed the pipe and lunged at him, "You said-" he was interrupted by a solid blow to the shoulder that sent him spiraling to the ground, she dragged him outside and smacked a button on the control panel, then brought the bottom end of the pipe down on the frame, stepping on it after it fell to the ground.
"You'll thank me later!" she whispered before fleeing the scene.
"Worker two-three-one green, where is the intruder?" Kokoso turned to the soldier and let out a sigh.
"She was pressing a bunch of buttons in there and said something about me being evil and then she hit me!" he rolled up his sleeve and frowned at the mark.
"Good work, son, I'll take it from here." the man walked past him and looked at the mechanism, "Why did you break the controls...wait, I hear something in there! Ah, you trapped her, how very resource-"
A sudden explosion shook the room and sent both men to the ground, "I didn't trap her...she used her pipe on it...was that supposed to be a bomb or a steam room?" Kokoso muttered, rising slowly and bending over to help the other man up.
"I don't know her intentions, but she was probably a dirty Animen, only they would call our nation-city evil."
"B-but, there was no tail...or ears." Kokoso squinted and shook his head, "It doesn't make sense-"
"Don't worry about it, she's a monster, like all the other monsters...we have a cell in our prisons for her."
"So, the rumors about the city's involvement with Animen-"
"All true, we cannot have monsters harming good citizens like you, now, I'll be off, go get some rest, I'll explain to your overseer after informing tech of a...malfunction." the soldier turned him by the shoulder and stared meaningfully into his eyes, "What happened today...was a malfunction, caused by the aged infrastructure, not an elaborate Animen attack, something like that, you understand, is cause for panic...we have things well under control here."
Kokoso nodded understandingly and turned away, "I'm not even going to talk about it, trust me! I don't even know that she was an Animan."
"She wasn't...she was never here...neither were you."
The next day before going home he visited the barracks below the floor where the incident occurred, there were only a few men there, and an order for more soldiers in the sector, "An unexpected influx of work." he gritted his teeth as he stared at the report, "Why is she fighting these people, she can't win alone...she's not even an Animan! Why can't she just...let them hide, let them run...what chance do flitting shadows stand against the approaching afternoon sun?"
He turned away and left the room, the sector, the facility behind, and after handing his pass to the district guard and getting permission to continue on, he made the long walk back to his home, "I still can't figure it out, sure, the city's not exactly tolerant, but...aren't Animen monsters, created by one of the King's enemies to infiltrate and destroy our society from the inside? Science experiments, they said."
"Hey, you." he whipped around to find the girl from the other day, a straw hat on her head, tipped over her eyes, but her hair fell over her shoulders, he knew who she was, "Why did you freeze up back there? It's been bothering me, you work for one of the most important people in the ranks of the King's court, yet...when I saw you, I didn't see anger...you had to know what I was there for, right?"
"I-it's been bothering you?" Kokoso stepped back, sure it was some trick, she was trying to confuse him, "You...you're helping monsters, though, they were made in a lab by-"
She lifted her head up and glared at him, then tapped her shoulder, about where she struck him the other day, "I like those monsters, thank you very much! How about your imprint of a pipe, still a little sore?"
"Just a bit...why?"
She chuckled and turned away, "I was going to say something about giving you a fresh reminder, but I was wrong about you, you're not evil, just naive...if it wasn't so late in the day, I'd be gone by now, but fortunately I may get a chance to explain myself to you."
"Are you an Animen?"
"No, but I know some, they're very human, very alive, they weren't named by a scientist or created in labs, you could be an Animen and you don't know it...before I wouldn't dare risk it, because of my friend, but now he's suddenly what you'd call a monster...I was fighting the urge to stay out of the fight for his sake, I'm going to enter the fight his sake."
"You sound dangerously loyal."
"I am, but it's only dangerous if it's with the wrong people...all this time I've wanted hit people like you with pipes like that," she tossed her head to the side to indicate the direction of the factory where they met, "but only because I know the people who'd hold you accountable for letting me go wouldn't be as forgiving as me." she turned away from him and stared at the sky, "It's dangerous to be loyal, if you're loyal to the wrong people...I'm not loyal to the wrong people, and now I've educated you...if I were to sprout wings now, could you clip them, for the sake of your people, or do you see how misguided you are?"
"I see...you're not a sword to the king or shield to the outcasts, you're a stray arrow, bolted to the heavens, never to find your intended target, maybe a tree or something." she turned and walked away, holding her hand up as she distanced herself, lowering it after a few steps, rounded a corner, and vanished.
Kokoso didn't know what he was doing, the girl confused him, but the next thing he knew he was in the market pitying her and the bird man behind her, shielding herself with a the lid of a trash can, impact of the insults and detritus hurled at her--while not cutting her--still hurt.
"Why'd you have to make me pity you? Why stay in the same place...unless your pass was revoked. That's it, you can't go between districts, can you?" Kokoso sighed, it was a lost battle, he could only watch in silence as the authorities broke through and apprehended the girl and her friend. He met her eyes and she frowned at him, but remained silent, "You can't win a fight against gates that you must regularly pass through, they'll always know where you are unless you run, but then you're out of money...I wish there was something I could do. Ugh, heretical thoughts...fine...let's see what we can do here." Kokoso traipsed up to the head of the guards walking the two prisoners away and pointed at her, "She's the one that struck me the other day, we've got words, we do!"
"Very well, make it quick." Kokoso nodded and walked up to her, then held up his fists, he glanced at his thumbs and her eyes followed them.
"If you're here to hit me, then go ahead." she chuckled before kicking at him, "It's your own fault if you break your wrist on my face."
"I just wanted to get a good look at you two before they drag you to your new home." he stepped back and nodded to the captain, "I'm done here, monsters aren't worth my time."
"Hey, we're not monsters," he turned to see the bird Animen spoke up, "we're humans, we deserve as much respect as you!"
What was darkness? She remembered seeing it, in a passing moment, now nothing but pure white flooded her vision. Her eyes tried to adjust, but just as quick as it appeared it was gone. The room was hot, she felt like she'd overheat, maybe that was the plan.
Voices spoke of an end, and they went on again and again, that same word, it became something of a lullaby as she cried herself to sleep. This was the end, hers, she was sure, that was what they meant, it had to be. She didn't know how long she'd been alive, she could only remember darkness, mumbled reports, and the end. It rung in her head without end, and would have no end.
"This time when I close my eyes...I'll try to remember what I see." she didn't know if she spoke the words or thought them, but as she tried to move she found, to her alarm, that she couldn't. She struggled to escape her confines, but nothing gave, she tried to scream, but her voice was muffled. A soft hiss steadied her and she crumpled--or she would have, if there was a surface. There was nothing, nothing to fall against, she could only remain slightly hunched over and breath calmly, her light, raspy breath whispering to her, "I'll try...to remember...what I see."ns 188.8.131.52da2