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    Sheer Cold

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    Zev the Reveler
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    Sheer Cold

    Post by Zev the Reveler on Sun Jul 15, 2012 11:10 am

    Chap. 1

    ~ ~ ~

    My name is "Hot Ice" Hilda, and you could call me a cold weather person. Mostly because it gives me an excuse to stay inside and get all my affairs in order, or just curl up with a book I've been meaning to read. I do not, however, like feeling cold. When it's the middle of winter, I crank up the heat, swaddle myself in blankets, and cease giving a damn for as long as humanly possible.

    It was when I was forced to work with Aisha Clanclan, Zev Raregroove, Namah Calah, Spike Spiegel, and Ed on the former penal colony of Hei Fon 10 that my relationship with cold weather forever gained a new level of respect and understanding; with a bit of fear, I'll admit. It's rather akin to Manchuria, China, on Earth, in the dead of winter - And I do put a lot of emphasis on dead. As soon as I stepped off of the ferry craft, even with a furlined hood up and every buckle, button, zipper, and fastener done up tightly, I was steeped in numbing cold down to my bones. A thin layer of densely-packed snow covered the paved streets, and all around, towering metal buildings in the eternal night, below a tiny, wan moon, stood as a claustrophobic reminder of the prisoners who used to spend their sentences here.

    To explain why the prisoners don't live there anymore, you have to know what Hei Fon 10's main business was, and still is, even after the survivors were relocated: refining draconite for its use in an armada of Munchausen drives, which fuel the Hei Fon System's business ventures into areas beyond their own ten planets. Before they perfected the process, a certain accident took place that resulted in 90% of the prisoners and guards losing their lives. No one knows what the exact cause was, but it sure caused one hell of a backlash from citizens of Hei Fon 1. Once the inspectors determined that the amounts of Ether couldn't hurt anyone, and all the technicians had gotten the refineries into proper working order, they just didn't feel like uprooting their families again after having to spend years studying and working on Hei Fon 10. So, they brought their culture with them, and stayed on the frozen mudball.

    All around us were little street stands, hissing with grilled goodness; deepfriers bubbled away in almost as many places. They were sat in front of various well-lit restaurants, and if you looked down at the west side of the city, you could just barely see cranes, a ton of humongous industrial cranes, silhouetted against the pale purple light of the draconite refineries. That part of town hadn't just been wrecked like the rest of the buildings; it had been slagged down to ground level, and work was presently underway making it into a government-military docking and refuelling station. What mattered to me, however, was trying to keep Aisha from stripping down as naked as the day she was born and skinnydipping in the outdoor deepfriers - Because I know that once she had gotten comfortable in there, getting her to go back in the cold would be like prizing a giant clam out of its shell.

    I was currently in a mild state of feeling pissed off due to the smug look she had for thinking of those bizarre little Ctarl-Ctarl earsleeves. When she heard we were all heading to Hei Fon 10, she sent an order to the Ctarl Embassy on Hei Fon 4 for them as soon as possible. She was practically dancing by the time they arrived for her. As for Spike, he had grown up on a colony on Temperance 5 - If you don't know, that place essentially encountered an Ice Age with no thaw at the end. That's because it's still frozen solid today. The man didn't even have any gloves on the entire time we were on the planet, and from the way his hands never even took on an unhealthy shade of pale, I am led to believe that Spike's people are a deviated kind of human race that adapted to the cold of their world over time, thus becoming supremely resistant to the cold. Or, he was just used to it. I prefer not to dwell on memories of how cold that place was.

    Plus, it was dark. It always was and always is dark on Hei Fon 10 - The planet's so far from the star of the Hei Fon System, Hei Fon Majoris (a beautiful merger of languages, rolls right off the tongue) that the closest it ever comes to day is the Summer Solstice. That only comes once every couple of decades, because of the vastly expanded orbital distance, and for a brief moment, you can see Hei Fon Majoris in the center of the night sky - So bright by comparison that you can only see the moon to accompany it, absolutely no other stars. The only appreciable light you get on the planet comes from their menagerie of paper lanterns, gas lamps, and electric lights - As well as a few starsquid jugs, which put a tiny smile on Namah's face. You also always had the smell the draconite being refined as a tinge on the air - It was the smell of ozone and incense. They actually had to build huge, humming Ether processing units on top of every building, about the size of air conditioning units. Without them, life on the planet would...Well, talking about what concentrated Ether does to life forms will put a damper on your spirits, and I am all about sunshine and rainbows, as every jackass in the Galaxy knows.

    So, as we moved into a restaurant, I praised whatever merciful deities created such a warm respite from the cold. I noted that the beer was kept lukewarm - An instant plus for this place, because I did not want ice cold beer right then. This place simply wrapped the group in joy - Five layers of it, really. Yes, you read me right: This place served the five layers of happiness. That perfectly-balanced stack of pork and fat, cooked until it becomes a transcendent kind of wonder that some will know as pork belly. Aisha would not stay her ass put until it was on the table, with an entire slab all to herself that we didn't even have to specifically order. These people had apparently served Ctarl-Ctarl in their day, because compared to every course Aisha got, the rest of us looked like we were sampling children's portions.

    At long last, once even Aisha had gotten her fill, we began going over our objective quietly. We had been collectively hired by a Hei Fon 1 merchant to protect some draconite for him until he could send for it to be picked up. Normally, I would be perfectly capable of a watchdog job with the demented flock of buzzards I call my crew, save for an unprecedented variable. Namely, another girl had been hired to come with us. The only woman more devious, unhinged, casually manipulative, and outright monstrous than Ron MacDougall.

    From a few tables over, I could see her. Short, messy black hair, ghostly pale skin, glowing crimson eyes, and the grin of a shark. She was garbed in a gothic lolita dress, and seemed to be deeply enjoying the sweet and sour pork - In the way that she was shovelling it hand over fist into her waiting jaws, somehow managing not to shred her fingers into ribbons on that cutlery crammed into her gums. And oh joy of joys - She had brought along members of her crew.

    Facing towards us was an anthropomorphic sealion, with long, jagged whiskers that matched his narrow, braided beard. Over his eyes were vermillion goggles, while he wore full samurai armor; complete with a plumed kabuto helm and a massive nodachi held loosely in the crook of his arm. Meanwhile, the others resembled a walrus and a leopard seal; male and female, respectively. The walrus wore a furlined green outfit, dull purple goggles on a helmet, and carried a huge cannon on his back. As for that leopard seal, she wore blue jeans, a bikini top, and she had that kind of grin on her face like she was looking for someone to pick a fight with her. Probably so that she could kill them with those huge mechanical fists of hers.

    Deciding there was nothing else for it, I called over, "Hail, Peeply Lulu! Have you been waiting long?" Downing the last bite, she wiped her face and fingers off before giving me a quizzical look. Zev and Namah seemed very uneasy, and Spike had just lit up. "Spike," I said in a warning tone, "This is a very nice and very warm restaurant, and you are not going to get us kicked out for smoking in here." As Peeply got up and flounced over, Spike sighed and flicked the cigarette into a trashcan.

    Peeply chirped, "Hail yourself, Hilda! Looks like you've got quite an entourage here!" The trio with her had begun to stir - The samurai sea lion went straight to Zev, and they dived into a conversation about sword crafting. Meanwhile, the walrus was having a quiet conversation with Spike, and the leopard seal now had Ed perched atop her head; the little giggling maniac didn't see any danger with this woman, and for now, the leopard seal was just standing there silently with the bronzeskinned, fiery-haired girl swinging her legs around her neck. That grin didn't make me feel any safer for Ed.

    As we all talked, I noticed something. We were the only ones in this restaurant. The staff were all gone. The kitchens were empty and silent. As if picking up the same thing I was, the leopard seal looked up, gently placed Ed down, and scooted her away with the back of one massive hand. She then calmly, without a care in the world, flipped a table over to face the kitchens and braced herself behind it. Peeply went to chide her.

    Then, there was a loud beep. The entire restaurant was engulfed in flames and smoke. If that extra-wide table hadn't been there, we would have all been incinerated in an instant. It still went up in cinders, and the leopard seal woman was covered in soot.

    Bombed within an hour of landing. This was going to be interesting.
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    Srgt. Master
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    Re: Sheer Cold

    Post by Srgt. Master on Sun Jul 15, 2012 12:29 pm

    I like how you did Hilda's voice. Also very well written!

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