It was to Filth's surprise, through the sputtering and protesting of the remaining life in the ship that they had managed to dock the ship at the port of Platinum Star. While the rumors Filth spewed about how wretched the place might be during their ride towards the artificial satellite were true, from a distance it was quite beautiful against the backdrop of the titanous yellow and orange striped marble that floated behind it. The name "Platinum Star" seemed fitting as a name that instilled the idea of prestige through careful, and rigorous practice of perfection to achieve what was once hailed as a pinnacle of engineering success - that is, until the Lotus was launched. Even yet, this massive artificial satellite successfully grew a Terran colony with modest success through the countless years of its existence orbiting the massive gaseous planet.
However, once docked, and the awoken star, the obnoxious bounty hunter, and the frustrated rabbit left the boarding station, suddenly those rumors the bounty hunter spoke of suddenly made sense; the place is kind of a shit hole.
After the brief discussion about repairs with the dock service model, it was only a short walk until Filth was berated by a homeless man with a greased beard who swore on his own life that he knew Filth was a rich and well accomplished man and due to Filth's supposed "success" he should give the man a lot of money. A shady, young woman with pale lips and dark eyes tried to frame Quil for sexual assault so that hopefully Quil could settle on giving her something of value so she wouldn't call the authorities (who probably wouldn't care much anyways). A hoodlum 'accidentally' chucked an empty paint can towards the awakened star in hopes of getting her attention so that he could talk to her. And all of this took place just inside of the star port terminals. The crew had yet to of stepped onto the streets of Platinum Star.
The streets were a far different matter. While the satellite definitely seemed to be maintained, one would hesitate to say that it was "well maintained" as various display screens on the buildings were cracked, had obvious chunks of stuck pixels, or just outright didn't work. Many of the nearby terminals had been closed for "renovations" but judging by how faded a lot of the tapes and hazard signs were that surrounded the entrance to the "under construction" terminals, it seemed like these closed terminals were simply forgotten projects. The trash-lined streets typically outlined what buildings were still frequented by the residence of the colony, and the buildings that had long since been forgotten. The cargo transit rails that hung above the crumbling buildings were rusted and appeared to be moments away from collapsing.
Filth took in a deep breath, "Yep," he exhaled, "smells like smut, criminal activity, and some of the wenchiest prostitutes this side of the Origin System."
Lilli found it difficult to stand still as she took in all of the activity of the rotting satellite. If it wasn't for the fact she had locked herself tightly to Quil's cowlicks she would have already ran off to inspect everything.
"You're not helping," Quil looked towards Filth. The frustration wasn't necessarily aimed at Filth, but rather, it was simply present due to his loss of patience as the star held on tightly to his cowlicks like reins.
Filth shrugged. "You'd figure it out for yourself eventually," he took a brief second to consider the words he just said. "Well, hopefully you'd only figure out the smut and criminal activity part. Unless you planned on getting frisky 'Mister Rabbit'," Filth mocked, "I'm not sure how you would know about the women here."
Lilli leaned forward to examine Quil's eyes (but she kept her grip locked to his cowlicks).
"I can show you some of these wenchy women, if you'd lik-"
"Pass." Quil's eyes went flat.
Lilli unlocked one of her hands from Quil's cowlicks so she could let the long red sleeve of Filth's jacket dance in front of her eyes, "When can I look like Little Rabbit?" Her eyes followed the pendulous swing of the extra long sleeve.
"Quil -" interjected.
"You can look like him as soon as you find a clothing store."
Quil cocked an eyebrow as he looked at Filth. "And how are we supposed to find one? We've never been here before. Not to mention," he paused briefly as he tapped his watch a couple times to check how many credits he had, "how am I supposed to pay for the clothes?"
Filth scratched the back of his head before peeling his coat open (on Lilli) to reach in - Not to cop a feel - but to pull his watch out of the pocket. "I'll tell ya what, Kid," he held the watch in front of his face as he tapped it a couple times. "I'll trade you a waypoint and some cash for your signature."
Quil nodded, holding his wrist out so that Filth could bump his own watch into Quil's. Quil watched his account credit rise, shaking his head in surprise at the rather large number. "A bounty hunter is not prosperous enough to throw that kind of money away."
Filth swatted at the air - and subsequently, Quil's comment. "You don't know how much a successful bounty hunter such as myself can actually make. The secret isn't about the quality of the employer; it's all about the quantity of employers."
"And yet that hasn't gotten you killed." Quil moved his miffed gaze to where the waypoint was leading him.
"Look, Kid," Filth wrapped an arm around Quil's shoulder (and since Lilli was still locked to Quil, Filth also had his arm wrapped around her). "Go hang around town! Go see the sights! You'll be safe so long as you keep in the district around the docking terminals. Inner Platinum Star is where things get a little dicey."
Quil felt the weight of the awakened star and the obnoxious bounty hunter weighing on him.
"When I'm done with my business I'll just come find you, so keep that watch on for me, okay?" Filth smiled, letting go of Quil (and the star). He gave Quil a firm pat on the chest (since his back was being guarded by Lilli) as he stepped away from the group. Filth didn't look back as to not break his cool demeanor as he waved 'bye' to Quil and Lilli in a single hand gesture.
It was an unmistakable place. The bar was lit with neon monitor displays of dancing girls being showered by various fine beverages. It was quite the eye-catching banner to try to entice the filth of Platinum Star to come in and enjoy the merriment. Of course, no banner would be complete without as flashy of a logo as it possibly could display at the end of the banner loop: "RED GRAVE'S".
Filth smirked to himself as the banner loop started back at the beginning of women being showered in alcohol. He stepped through the door, stepping into the heavy beat of the music which was complimented by the finest women Platinum Star could offer.
A not-so-impressively professional looking man finished yelling at one of his bartenders before noticing his first customer of the bright hours of the day. The not-so-professional man tapped his watch a couple times, lowering the volume of the music so that his shout towards Filth could be heard more clearly across the floor of the bar, "Filth!" The bald figure walked towards Filth with embracing arms. "It's good to see you back here!"
Filth smiled, taking one of the embracing arms into his hand to give it a friendly shake, "It's been quite the journey."
The bald man motioned Filth towards one of the booths while also motioning towards his bartender to bring the table something. "You will have to tell me about it. It's taken you longer than I expected for you to return."
Filth shook his head as he pulled himself into the seat of the booth. "Well, your contract target wasn't exactly a small time businessman." The bartender set a bottle, a bucket of rocks, and a couple rocks glasses on the table. "It's not like your contract could be done in a handful of hours."
"Right, right," the man nodded as he opened the bottle and poured the crystal liquid over the cold rocks in the glass handing it to Filth.
"What are you serving me today? You aren't drawing from the well are you?"
The man laughed. "The well for my favorite 'ten-ninety-nine'? No, I pulled a bottle of Devilian Cry -"
Filth had to interject with an enamored "Ooo," as he hastily pulled out his canteen, dumping its remaining contents into his mouth. "Do you mind? One for the road later."
The man shrugged. "Take it, friend," waving Filth on.
Filth kept his focus on watching the crystal liquid roll into his flask. "How's business going for you?"
The man leaned back, "Well," he grimaced. "This location here still seems to be doing well, but I'm lucky to break even between both the Solar-side District and the Planet-side District."
"Rough," Filth screwed the cap back onto the flask. "Is it the wenches?"
The man laughed, "It's always the wenches. This one thinks the poles aren't greased enough, that one thinks it's okay to get extra hands-on with her private dances, this one thinks the people she has private dances with get too hands-on with her. Yet, every night I see them walk out of the bar with more tips than I made in sales. Somehow they are still not happy."
Filth took a sip of his drink, as he looked around the room at the practicing dancers. "Wench quality seems to be improving here."
"That's because I'm paying for some of the inner-city girls to move to the Terminals District to improve the quality of my best location." He took a sip off of his drink before crossing his arms. "Forget my business. I need to know how that fine looking Lopp is doing."
Filth burst into a brief fit of laughter before capping it with a sip of his drink. "Well, your memory serves you pretty well."
He took a sip of his drink, nodding the glass towards Filth in agreeance. "Only when it comes to women."
Filth nodded his drink towards his friend to show his agreement with his friend's statement, "You speak the truth." He leaned in, "I ended my time with her a while back; before I even became a bounty hunter. It's funny though, she still sends her boys after me pretty frequently. She makes completing my employers' tasks that much more of a headache because they're like a swarm of moths drawn to the light." (And probably the most relaxing period he has had since their persistent pursuit was during his time locked in the G.I.E. cell.)
Filth's friend smiled. "Sounds like she's still longing for a piece of you."
"I know!" He lit up with surprise, "Moral of the story is that Telkian women just aren't worth it."
Filth didn't look back as to not break his cool demeanor as he waved 'bye' to Quil and Lilli in a single hand gesture.
"Rabbit?" Lilli leaned around Quil's shoulder (still locked tight to his cowlicks).
"What?" Quil spoke flatly.
"Are you strong?" Lilli's deep blue eyes stared into Quil with a quizzical innocence.
"What?" Quil cocked an eyebrow.
"Rabbits are kind of shy, right? Rabbits like to hide instead of fight."
"I'm not a rabbit," Quil tried moving away from Lilli, only to find he was anchored to her as she firmly kept her grip on Quil's cowlicks.
"Filth said -"
"Why can you get his name correct?"
"- this place is dangerous." She pulled Quil's cowlicks (and subsequently, Quil, himself) closer to her.
Quil grimaced. "You'll be fine."
Lilli leaned around Quil's shoulder again to inspect his face. He kept his eyes away from her. Instead, he checked the waypoint location on his watch, wishing the distance counter would count down, rather than him being locked in place.
"Is that because I am with you, Rabbit?" She leaned in closer.
Quil could feel her gentle warm breath on him. He swallowed the knot in his throat before taking a step forward away from her. "The second option is to wait with Filth. Which would you prefer?"
She stepped around Quil, unlocking herself from his cowlicks, "I want to go wherever Rabbit goes!" She smiled taking his right hand.
Quil was a little distracted by keeping his distance he didn't see her grab his right hand, and he definitely couldn't feel her hand grab his hand. This resulted in him getting dragged to the ground as Lilli yanked him across the street and into the city. She didn't know where she was going. She definitely didn't know where the waypoint was trying to lead them. She just picked a direction and dragged Quil that way.
Quil picked himself up off of the trash-lined streets, coughing up a pile of dust. "I'm pretty sure this isn't the direction I would have gone."
One could almost hear the 'click' like two well-molded model pieces snapping together as Lilli went right back to latching to Quil's cowlicks, "Rabbit?"
Quil walked through the narrow street. It was busy for a side street as it followed just a block away from the main road, but it was far quieter than the rush of transport vehicles, boisterous salesmen, and laughing friends that walked tightly packed on the main street.
"What?" He spoke in a monotone voice as he concentrated on keeping his distance from the crowds of people that also walked on the street.
"What is your dream - " she leaned in " - now?"
This made Quil halt his pace. Here he was, exploring the universe. Now what?
Lilli leaned around Quil's shoulder staring with bright curiosity into his dim eyes as she waited for his answer.
His eyes briefly scanned over her face. "Answers beget questions," his eyes quickly darted away from her.
Lilli twirled in a dance to stand in front of Quil before taking on a triumphant pose. "I want to save the universe," she spoke with triumph equal to her pose.
Quil shook his head with a roll of his eyes.
Her eyes lit up (metaphorically). "Or I could be lawyer! Or maybe a barista!"
"That's quite a jump -"
"Wah!" She knocked Quil over as she excitedly leapt towards a display window of one of the shops.
There was a small blue haired girl dancing and presumably singing, though, from behind the glass nothing but the sounds of the people on the street could be heard.
"Who is this!?!" She exclaimed, intently watching every dance move the small hologram girl made.
Quil lifted himself up, grabbing his head as he winced in pain. "I don't know. Some virtual pop-idol."
"She also has blue hair," Lilli examined a handful of her own hair, "does that mean I was designed to be a pop-idol?"
"Can you sing?" Quil cocked one judgmental eyebrow.
Lilli took a breath to prepare to sing only to be cut off by Quil. "I don't really want to hear it. I can promise you, the G.I.E. wasn't looking to have their own personal pop-idol aboard their ship and INTAL is too busy designing weapons to build a pop-idol."
Lilli gave a rather disappointed grimace as she turned her eyes back to the dancing pop star. She watched each movement the small virtual idol made before taking her own shot at performing alongside the small idol.
She jumped and waved her hands through off-rhythm and very stilted movements. Though it wasn't graceful, there was still her innocent energy that radiated with each fumbled step she made as she kept her eyes locked on the dancing pop star.
"Come on." Quil groaned, grabbing her arm and dragging her away.
She did her best to resist, showing her protest by locking her heels into the ground to push back against Quil's impatience, "Why are you in a hurry? Do you want me to get back to saving the universe?"
Quil broke his stride just for a second to let out two brief staccato laughs to himself before shaking it off and continuing his way towards the waypoint.
"One day I'll make a universe where rabbits can live happily!"
Filth slammed his glass down on the table making the rocks of ice jump, ready to try and escape the next round of alcohol - the last round of alcohol. The last drop of the bottle clung to the lip for as long as it could before finally losing its grip and landing snug into the shallow pool of the last glass of Devilian Cry.
His friend leaned in. "I see you enjoyed your drink," he smiled.
"Ain't nothin' like the tip of the top shelf," he smiled back at his friend.
"Well, now that you've had a little chance to unwind," he unclipped a tablet from his watch.
His friend used the folded tablet as a pointing device to hammer his sincerity into Filth. "I know you didn't complete the task I hired you for."
Filth gave a half-cocked eyebrow that he managed to slowly raise. "Whaddyou mean?"
"You know exactly what I mean," he jabbed the folded tablet right into Filth's face. "You failed to complete the task I hired you for."
Filth gave a limp shrug, "Well-er," a pause, "you can't win'em all."
"Let's get serious here." The man's face darkened as relaxed the folded tablet before him. "This place is a shithole."
"Noooo," Filth empathetically cooed through a hiccup. "You have some beautiful ladies here. It's not all ba-"
"Shut up. I should have you kicked out of my bar." The man grumbled.
Filth cocked an eyebrow. He took a hurried sip from his glass before any potential bouncer came.
The man leaned forward. "Forget that job I hired you for. There's a bigger prize on the line and you seemed to have stumbled into the golden ticket."
Filth matched the man, leaning equally forward over the table. "Do go on."
The man gave a single gruff cackle as he fell back into his seat. He unfolded his tablet, shoving its luminous screen into Filth's face.
There was a sobering rush that settled across Filth as his eyes scanned over the contract. A contract straight from the G.I.E. A contract requesting the retrieval of a blue-haired girl. And at the bottom of the all of those terms and clauses was a price tag. A price tag that possibly contained more zeroes than there are stars in the universe (It was hard to tell through Filth's crossed eyes).
Filth lowered the tablet. "I don't get you."
The man crossed his arms with a cock of his eyebrow.
"First you hire me as your proxy to deal in the G.I.E. and now you want to take a contract that benefits the G.I.E. Where exactly does you allegiance lye?"
"Allegiance?" The man scoffed. "That paltry subsidy the Federation grants this colony barely even amounts to half of what this business earns in blue-collars drowning their poverty-ridden woes away. We're a forgotten relic here, doomed to be consumed by the silence of space. You think the people here have time to care about allegiance?"
Filth shook his head as he looked over the contract once more. Really, he wasn't so much focused on the words of the contract. The images of the blue-haired anomaly blurred as Filth became lost in thought. Finally a remark came to him. "Man, the G.I.E. sure do work quick."
"They informed me you might have come across this asset of theirs and presented me with this contract."
Filth's eyes quickly darted to the man. "Wait, they contacted you directly about this?" Filth sank into his seat a little. "That's probably not good."
"This is what I am talking about. You already know about this 'asset', right? You have the golden ticket." The man leaned back into his chair. "You give me the asset or whatever it is they want, I'll take it to them, they give me the payout, and I'll go fifty-fifty. No fuss."
Filth leaned forward to scrutinize the man. "Fifty-fifty?"
"I'll forget all about your blunder, and you get half of that payout." He jabbed a finger towards the tablet. "Pretty good deal, huh?" The man closed the tablet to get Filth's attention. "More money than you have ever seen in your life, right?"
Filth leaned back into his seat, jabbing a pinky in his ear. He took a moment of consideration. A moment to consider if he should see a professional about cleaning his ears or if maybe his own digging tools were good enough to clear them out. "I've seen more."
The man laughed with a shake of his head. "It would be a nice addition to your wallet, wouldn't it?" the bald man gave a devious smile.
"What?" His friend launched back into his seat.
"Yeah," Filth plucked some wax (or something) from his ear, "here's the deal. I already made a promise to a kid I'd take that G.I.E. girl to INTAL -"
"You made a promise to me you'd -"
"No," Filth interjected, "I made a promise to you about taking care of a job. I still intend to do that, but the kid has priority since he's the one who saved my life."
The bald man set a gun on the table. "I think your priority should be to return her to the G.I.E."
Filth gave a halfhearted shake of his head, unconvinced by his bald friend. "Nah, I can't do that. I don't like having a long queue of owed favors. If I return her now, then I'd have to get her back later to keep the promise to the kid, and then I could finally get around to taking care of your job contract."
Filth got up out of the seat, the gun still aimed at him. "Now, on that note; I should probably go round up the kid." Filth glanced at the door, muttering under his breath, "little worried about the G.I.E. knowing how to contact you."
The bald man lifted himself from the seat, gun still pointed at Filth. "You don't seem to be taking this very seriously. I have a gun aimed at you, perhaps you should recognize the gravity of the situation."
Filth extended a hand to his friend. "Maybe some other time, pal," he smiled, unshaken by the cold metal aimed at him.
He waited for his friend to end their meeting with that handshake, but his friend didn't budge. Instead he stood there; first with stern eyes, but it seemed they were growing in surprise.
Perhaps it was the pounding dance music that masked whatever bang of the door there should have been, but something was clear to Filth; someone had entered the bar. Whoever had entered certainly wasn't just waltzing in, but more likely barreling in, especially considering the bald business owner's widened, confused eyes. Filth took the brief moment of shock and confusion of the old man to duck out of the way, just in time to avoid the tackle of one well-armed soldier. The soldier rolled over Filth, colliding headlong into the man, causing the man to collapse with a tightened finger around the trigger.
The explosive burst from the gun sent a shot of adrenaline through Filth. "Oh wow, it was actually loaded." He remarked before turning toward the exit.
He waved to his friend and the soldier who was trying to untangle himself from the collision. Filth rushed his words, "Oh, well would you look at the time, guess it's time I should be going. Bye-bye!" He hastily dashed out of the bar, knocking the door open with all his force, sending it smashing into the face of another soldier standing just outside of the building.
"Stop him!" He heard the man shout behind him as he faded into the distance.
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