Chapter 15:



    Lilli sat in the rather stiff and uncomfortable chair waiting for her rabbit to leave Medical. Through her boredom she couldn't help but fiddle about. She drummed in poor rhythm on her lap until the entertainment of that activity ended. She practiced being a rabbit before that swiftly became practicing for her grand debut as the universe-saving pop-idol, but the entertainment of that faded when she noticed something. No, it wasn't the stares from the receptionist that ended the entertainment. It was the mirror. Her reflection. She looked at the crooked, limp ribbon in her hair. It sagged low and looked ready to fall out.
   She pulled at one of tails, allowing the loose knot to become even more loose, letting the ribbon fall from her hair.
   She threaded the ribbon gently between her lips to free her hands as she parted her hair, pulling a small chunk of it back tightly. She examined herself from the front, cocking her head as the ribbon itself danced between her lips with each tilt of her head. She turned and examined herself from the side, and turned again to examine from the other side.
   No, no. It didn't have enough 'universe saving' personality to it. She let her hair drop. She parted her hair again, this time pulling two long pigtails. She stared at herself in the mirror, taking in the length of her hair as the tails draped over her shoulder and wrapped playfully with the ribbon that hung from her mouth. She rotated her head around, taking in the details of the hairstyle.
   No, no. That idol on Platinum Star already has that style. She needs to find her own style.
   She pulled her hair back again, wrapping the ribbon around a few times, then a few loops, maybe thread it through this loop, and a few wraps this way, then a loop and another thread. There!
   She looked in the mirror at the disaster that framed her head.
   She sighed. She pulled an end of the ribbon, undoing her disaster knot.
   She pulled her hair back again, and this time she tried a single wrap, then a loop, and a thread.
   The ribbon lost its grip on her hair as it dropped to the floor, wrinkled with its failure.
   Her eyebrows narrowed, she pulled her hair back with determination. Okay. This time two wraps, a loop, then thread, a loop, and thread. Pull tight, and finished!
   She checked in the mirror. It seemed good at first, but the bow of the ribbon began to sag further and further, seemingly to drag with it Lilli's eyebrows as they parted with the ribbons descent from her hair.
   She turned around to see if Quil had left yet, but she could only see the receptionist who seemed to be rather entertained yet also baffled with Lilli.
   Lilli blew raspberries at her before turning back around in a pout. Her pout mostly came from her defeat from her battle with the ribbon. She held the ribbon in front of herself, examining it. Perhaps hoping the ribbon would acknowledge her struggle and aid her. But, it only remained limp and cold in her hands. It didn't support her. It didn't want to help her.
   She clenched the ribbon tightly in her hands. She looked at herself. Her hair draped loosely over her. It hung straight. It hung without character. The only character that separated her was the sleeping masking that lied on the top of her head. She pulled it off of her head and clenched it tightly along with the ribbon. She now had a naked view of her hair. She stared at her naked hair. She stood alone. Nothing came to her, that is, until something pulled her hair tightly. The ribbon streamed out of her hand swiftly before she even had a chance to react. She could feel the loop, then a pull. Then a loop, a second loop, then the loops wrapped together and were pulled tightly.
   The ribbon hung tight to her, framing her face with the same radiance as before.
   "I have a friend who didn't know how to tie ribbons either," Quil's voice came softly from behind Lilli. "Though, she doesn't care anymore. Now she's interested in boy things instead."
   "Rabbit!" Lilli swiftly turned around, prepared to pounce onto Quil, but quickly froze just moments before her collision.
   She looked at his arm, her eyebrows parting. "Are you alright?"
   Quil nodded, "My arm is numb agai-"
   Lilli couldn't wait for him to finish his sentence before unfreezing and colliding full force into him, wrapping her arms around him, squeezing him tightly into her.
   A muffled voice came from between Lilli's breasts.
   "Oh!" Lilli let go of Quil and stood awkwardly next to him. She did her best to remain attentive, though she - of course - had a hard time as she fidgeted in place.
   Quil shook his head, attempting to leave Medical before finding that he had been anchored in place by Lilli's tight grip on his cowlicks. "Lilli," Quil's eyebrows went flat.
   "Yes, Rabbit?" She leaned over his shoulder.
   "Why?" Quil acknowledged Lilli's tight grasp around Quil's hair.
   "I..." She paused as she slowly rose to look at her own hands gripping Quil's hair. "I wanted to make sure they didn't take Rabbit's brain while they fixed you."
   Quil let out a small groan with a grimace. He could still feel Lilli's tight grip as she clung to him. "Well..." there was a miffed rhetoric to his tone, though he mused Lilli's curiosity, "is it still there?"
   She parted Quil's cowlicks, "Hmm..." her eyes scanned over his head, "I think so. But I need to inspect closer. A good rabbit owner should check their rabbit for ticks and other pests daily."
   "I'm not a rabbit. I'm Quil."
   "You're correct," she gave her innocent smile. "You're not Rabbit. You are Little Rabbit!"
   Quil rolled his eyes, walking away from Lilli (this time making sure to push Lilli's hands away from his cowlicks).
   "Wait, Rabbit!" She jogged a few paces to catch up to Quil's hastened separation from the annoyance.
   She grabbed his left arm trying to get him to slow down. "You didn't tell me how your arm is doing." She grimaced.
   "I told you, it's fine." Quil kept his pace.
   "Well, it's numb. But that doesn't mean there isn't a problem."
   Quil's eyes quickly darted to Lilli before darting back to the halls in front of him. "Where are we?"
   "Rabbit!" She whined.
   Quil shook his head. "Do you really care about a stupid arm?"
   She gave one grandiose, exaggerated nod, "Yes. A good rabbit-"
   Quil pushed away from Lilli. "Stop."
   Lilli felt the cold draft fill the gap between them as he stepped away from her, leaving her alone. She still walked, slowly - though her pace couldn't keep up with Quil's own haste.
   "I do," she spoke in a solemn tone, catching Quil in his stride. He slowed down until eventually stopping as he listened to the soft tones of her voice. "I care about your arm because," there was a pause as the solemn air filled the gap, "it's your arm."
   Quil turned around to look at Lilli who stood a few paces behind him. "It doesn't matter. I don't feel anything."
   "Aren't you scared?" Lilli stepped forward.
   "No. If it's that bad I can just get a prosthetic."
   "But," a desperate pause as Lilli searched for a pitch to convince him. "How can you focus on your dreams when you are in pain?" She shook her head, "I mean, you're not in pain now but you need to be fixed so you can keep dreaming - so you can keep your purpose, Rabbit! You'll lose your dream if you are in pain."
   Quil shook his head, gripping his right arm tight as he looked away before ultimately deciding he couldn't face towards Lilli. "My focus is your purpose."
   The words sunk into Lilli. Her eyebrows parted as Quil moved further away from her. He was so close to her, yet, it almost seemed like it was she who was moving away from him. He walked further down the corridor. To Lilli's eyes, it seemed like the further he stepped away, the darker and more cold it became. She didn't like it. She didn't like the feeling. It lingered around her chest and her mind, constricting her thoughts, sending everything in to an overdrive of anxiety that crippled her. She didn't like it. She shook her head as she shook loose the constricting cold before running to catch back up to Quil again.
   "Well, can you at least tell me what the doctors said?" One of Lilli's hands loosely gripped one of Quil's cowlicks.
   Quil remained neutral as he looked at his right arm. He paused for a minute as he looked over the bandages. "They aren't sure. It seems the tissue is crystalizing in the arm. Apparently it's a phenomenon common in those who construct Jumpers. The medical bay here cannot extract the crystals and recover the damaged tissue."
   Lilli's already loose grip loosened further as his cowlick slid out of her palm.
   Quil shook his head and rolled his eyes. He grabbed her arms, moving them to his cowlicks for her, where she immediately latched on tightly with only mild hesitation. "I know what you are thinking," Quil commented. "But my focus is on your purpose first. After we get you checked out, I can go to the proper facilities to recover the damages done to my arm then."
   That cold wrapped around Lilli again.
   "Can you tell me where we are?" Quil looked at the architecture of the corridors as he walked down them.
   There was a brief moment while Lilli tried to shake free the lingering cold that attempted to constrict her mind. She gave a short shrug as the warm thoughts returned. "I forgot. I think we are on The Soup, the boiling bowl of nutrition."
   Quil sighed, rubbing his head. "I'm pretty sure that's not where we are. This looks like the Imperial's architecture, but considering I am still alive and you are with me, I'm guessing we have not been captured by the G.I.E."
   "But Filth might be dead," Lilli commented, "his girlfriend is really angry."
   One of Quil's cowlicks would have cocked had it not been in Lilli's grasp.
   Lilli halted Quil. There was a faint sound. An aggressive sound. Subtle as it reverberated down the halls that Quil and Lilli walked, though the frightening harsh tones still carried through the long echoes from its source. "Rabbit," Lilli spoke soft as to not mask the sound. "Do you hear that?"
   "It sounds like shouting." Quil matched Lilli's volume.
   Lilli nodded. "Filth changed his name to Dirty-Stupid-Idiot-Jerk-Jackass-Cheating-Ungrateful-Bastard."
   Quil raised an eyebrow. "What?"
   The shouts became more audible and discernable as Quil neared the end of the corridor, "-nothing but a selfish ass." A foreign woman shoved Filth through a rage that boiled over with a ferocious anger and a desperate pain. "First you came here and took the job I had been chasing for years, then you come back here and take the job you forced me into."
   "I'm sure being a pencil pusher isn't worth keeping." Filth commented just before a strike across his face made the existing red mark even more red.
   "You-" she jabbed a finger into Filth, "You think you can go do whatever the hell you want as your drunken ass stumbles into every disaster, just to stir the dust some more. It's all you know how to do; take, take, take, take.
   "I wasn't even asking a lot out of you; just return the stupid source code of Diva to us and I can keep my job and you can go back to being the galactic imperial asshole."
   Quil's cowlicks drooped as he tried to pretend he wasn't there.
   The foreign woman's breaths came loud and quick, stepping forward leaning the weight of her frightful anger into Filth.
   Filth pushed back against her, only to have her swat his arms off of her. "Listen," Filth leaned in, "I take because sometimes you need to stop worrying about other's problem and focus on yourself. I got where I am because I took what I needed and more so I could reach my own dreams. What about you? What happened to your dream of actually being an engineer instead of the bureaucratic pencil pusher for an engineering department of some ill-funded, forgotten private military?"
   She pushed him back with greater force, nearly making him trip to the ground. "You took that from me. I went through years of school, only to have to get recertified again under Terran standards before I could even apply to work in this field. And just when I found the job, you showed up and instead made Corp-Two realize they'd rather have a Terran-blood, Terran-trained engineer rather than a 'Lopp' with Terran-training."
   "So you're blaming me? Last I checked there are numerous other similar positions offered by other factions."
   Another aggressive shove. "No. Because that's something you don't get as the selfish ass that you are. I actually liked my job. So what if it's not what I had dreamed of doing initial-"
   "So you settled for second best? This is why I could never share the same feelings for you. You let" emphasis on 'let', "me walk over you and take this job. You were content with settling for your second best dream instead of trying to rise further."
   "I never had feelings for-"
   "You're a liar!" Filth laughed up until the point another hand struck him across the face.
   "Don't interrupt me! I was happy being able to find a group that accepted me. Something you will never have any sort of idea understanding what it's like trying to integrate with a different culture. You think differently -" She hit his chest, "You see things differently -" She struck Filth again, "You feel things differently -" Another strike. "Even your water is different. Do you know what it's like?"
   "I don't see how-" He was cut off again.
   "And that's your problem. Because you are selfish." Yet another strike. "You are belligerent."
   "That's ironic." Filth remarked before the next strike hit him.
   "You took my job." Another strike. "You took my home." Another strike. "You took my dream." And one final reel of her arm before colliding her fist full-force into his chest knocking him backwards.
   A solemn moment of silence settled. All that could be heard was the heavy breathing of the foreign woman as the weight of her pain slouched her back. Her ears hung low as did her eyebrows. She tried to catch her breath through the tears but struggled to. Her eyes glanced from the glistening pools on the floor to Filth who remained tall and unwavering.
   "Are you finished?" He spoke calmly, sending a ripple through the still of solemn air.
   She tried to stand up straight to face Filth, but found that the weight was still too heavy for her. She coughed through the tears that were still caught in her throat.
   Filth shrugged, turning away down the hall, his coat flowed behind him.
   The woman stumbled back as the drafts of Filth's departure toppled the weight she carried. She collapsed into the external displays that lined the hall. Her figure sank from the image of the blackness of space to the floor of the ship where she clutched at her eyes, masking the flow of tears, perhaps even trying to dam the flow so that she could recover. She could perhaps recover the limpness that over took her body. Each muscle shook under her own body's weight. Each tear that drained from her brought with it an anemia that left her in her state of distress as the anxiety filled in the void of emptiness she was left with.
   Lilli reached a hand down to her. "Uhm..." her voice cracked under the uncomfortable atmosphere.
   The woman retaliated, swatting Lilli's hand away from her. "Go away." The words cut through her somber state.
   Lilli stepped back from the hurt woman. Lilli looked towards Quil, and Quil looked back at her.
   "Filth!" the soft voice broke Filth's concentration, though; mostly his concentration was broken by the small pale hand that grabbed his shoulder to get him to stop.
   Filth instinctively flinched at the tone of the soft voice. He shielded himself with Quil, "This is a familiar scene," he spoke as he peered out from behind his Quil shield, "I think I've taken enough abuse from women for one day."
   "I'm not going to hit you," Lilli's eyebrows parted in empathy.
   Quil's cowlicks cocked. "You hit him?"
   Filth faced his shield, "she should be in the ring with the other heavy weights - I think she might have a chance at winning," Filth's bruised cheek was turned towards Quil.
   "I promise." Lilli stepped forward, crossing her heart.
   Filth sighed as he plopped Quil back to the ground. "Look, I'm not leaving. You made your point clear enough. And apparently, as 'terrible' of a person as I am, breaking a promise is well below my morals."
   Lilli bowed, "I would hope so. Thank you. I'm not worried about you leaving me and Rabbit, though."
   Filth turned his head, looking away from the group that confronted him. "Then I presume the next topic for you to chase me down for would be about what happened with me and Silje. Am I right?"
   "She's devastated." Quil commented solemnly.
   "Why are my problems your concern?" Filth crossed his arms with a shrug.
   "Because you are our guide and we should know if there are any personal disputes that may inhibit your job." Quil stated plainly.
   Lilli jumped as she raised her hand. "And I am just curious."
   "I think it was curiosity that killed the rabbit." Filth raised an eyebrow.
   Lilli grimaced as she cocked her head, looking at Quil. She reached over, gripping his cowlicks and pulling him in front of her.
   Quil stared into Filth. Their gaze seemed to fight each other, though ultimately Quil's gaze gave way as Filth suddenly softened. Perhaps it was Quil's own gaze that penetrated deeply, or perhaps there was a voice that convinced him to lower his guard.
   "It's simple, really." Filth swatted the problem away from himself. "Core-Two had their software engineers working on a new kernel for A.I. and android operations. I was the head developer on the project. We had developed one of the most stable and efficient kernels; able to handle high workload data processing while maintaining system stability under heavy multi-processes while also utilizing minimal system resources to allow headroom to attach multiple networked units to a single processing head.
   "The key was the stability that began to pique the interest of both INTAL and the G.I.E. But they became far more involved with attempting acquisition when we had implemented the kernel into a model to run real world tests. The kernel allowed the operating system to thrive greatly with a single attached model. When we linked the model to the ship as a VSTi plugin we saw no diminished results, allowing the exceeding growth of the model while she not only learned to maintain the ship, but also maintain herself and her given functions. The final test was to see how the operating system could handle maintaining the unit, the ship, and the entire fleet of Core-Two. While the deeper learning curve did see minor diminished results, they were still within exceeding ranges - all without a single system hiccup, with all the learning and maintaining being handled by a single model."
   "And the model?" Lilli's eyebrows parted as she leaned forward (over Quil). "Was that Diva?"
   Filth's shoulders tensed as he looked away from the group. "Yeah." He stepped to the external displays, looking at the vast ocean of stars that glimmered with dim reflections in his eyes. "That was the point many companies became interested in our project. It almost put Corp-Two on the map instead of being the forgotten scraps of the G.I.E.
   "INTAL simply was trying to buy us out. It was easy for us to turn down the offers. Their offers were just showing us what the minimum price tag was for our kernel. The problem was the G.I.E.
   "Under recent years they had shifted their more diplomatic approach to a more aggressive approach, and their first target was realizing that, while Corp-Two might have seceded from their dominion, Corp-Two was in no position to raise aggressions with the G.I.E.
   "They took this opportunity to try and seize our product from us by force, stating it was owed reprimands for the cost of seceding Fleet Core Zero-Two from the G.I.E. dominion. They threatened force if Corp-Two didn't relinquish the beta model, the data gathered from its tests, as well as the source code and all the legacy builds of the code to them."
   Filth turned away from the monitors to look at Quil and Lilli. "With Silje being the project overseer, managing the bureaucratic side, she was the representative to deal with the 'diplomatic' diffusal of the situation, and thus, she felt relinquishing the project to the G.I.E. was the only way."
   Quil stepped forward. "So that's when you ran? You took Diva with you."
   Filth shook his head. "Not quite. I pulled the trigger on her."
   Lilli cocked her head. "I'm not sure I understand."
   Filth gave a short laugh. "It's not a metaphor. I mean I literally pulled the trigger. Just before the deal was closed, I ended Diva personally. I destroyed all of our data, destroyed the drives containing the kernel and any legacy builds and finally I destroyed Diva. And then I ran."
   Lilli leaned over Quil inspecting Filth. "If it's destroyed, then why does Miss Lop – "
   "You probably shouldn't call her that."
   " – want you to return it to her?"
   Filth shrugged. "After I ran, they noticed one of the backup drives containing an early alpha of the kernel had gone missing. It only took a short amount of time before the G.I.E. caught wind of this and went right back to threatening Corp-Two for the product once again." Filth burst out into a short fit of laughter. "They even destroyed a docked cruiser. Funnily enough no one was aboard. All they did was cost Corp-Two one very expensive ship - which I think is pretty funny."
   Quil pushed Lilli off of him, "So you stole the dri-"
   Lilli threw Quil to the side. "But what about Diva!?! How could you do that to her? Wasn't she important to you? You get angry when Miss Lop talks about her. You obviously blame her for her death. It wouldn't affect you so greatly if Diva wasn't important to you."
   Filth's eyebrows sank. "Yeah," a single solemn word bled from his mouth before the silence of the halls filled in. He took in a short breath, "I loved her."
   Lilli kept her eyes focused on Filth, though Filth could not match her gaze. "Are you alright?"
   Filth shoved his palm against Lilli's forehead making her retract as her nose wrinkled. "I'm fine. There's nothing to worry about."
   "There is." Quil looked upon Filth with sincerity, "If you are the one who stole the drive, then you are only giving the G.I.E. another excuse to target us."
   Filth shrugged as he turned away, preparing to exit. "No one knows who took it."
   "I could bet money it was you." Quil remarked watching Filth step away.
   "You could, and you might even win that bet. But there is no way to prove it. So maybe you should just save the money."
   Lilli watched as Filth walked away. "You promised, Filth!" Lilli leaned into her shout.
   Filth didn't turn around; he simply gave a single nonchalant salute as he stepped away.
   Lilli grimaced as her innocent eyes looked at Quil. Quil moved his head to look back at Lilli. There was a brief moment between them. Perhaps a silent understanding. Or, so Quil thought that was the point they had reached, but, not to his surprise that was not the point they had reached. She gripped his cowlicks and pulled him close to her.

    "I think they care about you," the soft voice came from the woman who only stood as a reflection to Filth.
   "Is it your turn to chime in?" Filth leaned his head back into the chair in the dark room. The only light inside was what the floor-to-ceiling external display monitors showed of the stars outside of the Seraph. Filth had wanted to find a private place. A place away from Silje. A place away from Quil and Lilli. A place that felt far away from Corp-Two. Unfortunately, there is a rabidly abusive, rabbit-loving android he now owes a favor to, so running away wasn't an option.
   Well, it was technically an option. He had even thought about it. He had gone to the hangar and stared at the tiny little ship they had escaped in. The tiny ship that, even through its short space faring life, it had already seen plenty of battle wounds. With scuffs across the paint, scorch marks across the wings which already featured prominent holes from Silje's own way of welcoming Filth back.
   "Well," the voice chimed back to Filth, "it was about time you found some friends to keep your ego in line."
   "Yeah, I guess." He picked up his head to look at the reflection of the girl in the gloss of the eternal displays. "Though, I don't think a kid that is at least half my age - maybe more - and an android who acts even younger are the most ideal friends."
   "You've always been good at attracting likeminded individuals," the voice laughed.
   Filth's eyebrows sank. "Are you calling me a child?"
   "I didn't say anything. You're the one drawing the connections."
   "I already get enough flack for my actions from my own conscience, I really don't need a second conscience to remind me that I should behave better."
   The voice laughed again as her reflection paced between the displays, taking slow steps like the steps to a dance, "Every man has his secrets, right?" she rolled her eyes playfully toward Filth as she waltzed across the stars.
   "Except from you," he lowered his head into his hands.
   She twirled between the galaxies before stopping in place, to look at Filth. And no matter how much Filth hid his face, he always knew she was looking at him. "I don't think it's every man with a secret. I think it's everyone. Every Quil. Every Lilli. Every Silje. There is a secret. The question is, how will you respect this secret? Or will you undermine it?"
   The woman leapt over the moons before grabbing ahold of the belt of dust to wrap her body around. Filth looked at her. He looked at how she smiled as she danced through the infinite ocean of stars. "And what of you?"
   "Your secret has always been safe with me." She cocked her head as she took a bow, "Not that I have much of a choice."
   Filth watched as she stood straight in the center of a spiral galaxy. "You make it sound like I am holding you prisoner."
   She twirled on the rotational axis of the galaxy before her foot slowed her spin, making her come to a stop on her stage. "You're a good man." The reflection smiled.
   The door slid open, casting a harsh glare across the display monitors that masked the reflection of the woman in Filth's eye.
   "I thought I might find you in here," Silje remarked softly from the door before stepping in.
   "Yes. How observant." Filth sank into the seat he sat in. "I went to a relaxation room to relax. Who would have ever thought?"
   The floor lit with each soft - yet determined - step Silje took to help guide her through the dim room.
   "Relaxation room, Silje." Filth spoke harsh as he heard her steps approach closer.
   "As in a place to relax." He spoke again as her footsteps grew closer.
   "As in a place away from stress." And again with her nearing him.
   "I'm saying I'm stressed." She approached the seat.
   "What I mean is that you are my stress." He opened an eye looking at her as she hovered just a meter away from him. Her hands were folded in front of her to remove any notion of aggression that Filth may think Silje brought with her.
   She gave a respectful bow before plopping her whole weight into the seat next to Filth, his personal space now invaded.
   "Go away." Filth lifted his head from the back of the seat.
   Silje shook her head, her hair swaying with each gentle shake of her head. "Here," she placed Filth's flask into his hand, "I brought this for you."
   Filth watched as Silje's hand departed from his, the flask being the barrier between each other. He examined the space where Silje's hand had been before changing his focus to the flask.
   "Friends don't enable friends' vices." Filth remarked as he unscrewed the cap to the flask. "I would prefer to have all of my stuff back. Particularly my gun."
   "All confiscated goods have been placed aboard your ship." She spoke soft as she watched Filth lift the flask to his lips, tipping the liquid into his mouth.
   She used an index finger, placing it gently on the bottom of the flask to help push the liquid into Filth's mouth.
   Her eyes were like glass as they reflected every ray from every star in every galaxy (at least, the galaxies viewable from the displays). Filth could see how the ridge of her brow parted, making way for the sympathy she felt. She breathed in inconsistent patterns. A short quick inhale just in time to make her speech, only to let out a long exhale. She breathed regularly for a few bars before the rhythm broke again with a similar pattern of the quick inhale followed by the extended exhale - this time, Filth could even hear her lips part, yet again an attempt to ready herself for the words she was going to say, only to find that she could no longer say it.
   Filth pushed Silje's hand off of the flask so that he could take a moment to breathe in air instead of the alcohol that Silje was drowning him in. "You're really not doing yourself any favors by breathing so loudly." Filth remarked after he caught his breath.
   Silje shook her head, hushing Filth as she pushed the flask back to his lips. "I-" her breathing stopped for a minute to organize her thoughts. "I hope you understand that I never wanted to hurt you." She spoke soft, the reflections shimmered dimly in her eyes.
   Filth pushed Silje's hand away from him again so he could speak. "I never understood why that is supposed to console me. Yeah, and I never meant to run over the neighbor's dog; that didn't stop him from being pissed at m-"
   Silje let her hair sway again as she denied his rebuttal, yet again pushing the flask to his lips. "I don't know if you understand that I was just Solar Corp-Two's proxy. I was never given an option to find alternatives to diffusing the situation. You understand that, right, Jack?"
   Filth attempted to move Silje's hand again but she fought back. Resisting his attempt to argue with her. Instead, he only made a handful of aggressive grunts towards her.
   "I didn't think it would hurt you as much as it did. I didn't think you would personally destroy Diva."
   Filth rolled his eyes, jerking his head away from the flask (even if a little spilled on him), "Then why -"
   "Shhh," she hushed, pushing the flask to his mouth yet again.
   "But you know what?"
   "Hmm..." Filth's voice came annoyed through the rolling liquid.
   "I did love you."
   Filth managed to push Silje's hand away just long enough to insert a "duh," before the flask was smashed against his teeth.
   "When you first pulled the trigger on Diva, there was..." she paused, her eyes sank. "There was a part of me that was happy you did it. There was part of me glad that Diva was gone from you and gone from me." Her shoulders sagged, the glistening reflections dimmed even more as her heavy brow cast shadows over her. "I was jealous. I was jealous that you loved our creation more than me."
   Filth gagged on the drink, spewing liquid across the floor. "You make me sound incestu-"
   She silenced Filth again by tipping the flask into him. Silencing him with the continued stream of alcohol. "But I've moved on, Jack. I'm better. I know now I made a mistake. And now you're here. And I'm just so glad you are back."
   Filth rolled his eyes.
   "And now, I want us to make things right. Please, Jack, will you let me make this right again?" She lowered the flask from Filth to allow him to speak.
   Almost immediately he responded, "No." He attempted to raise the flask back to his mouth, but almost as immediate as his response to her, she responded by slapping the flask out of his hand, sending the liquid across the floor. "Why the fuck not, Jack!?! Just let me make this right, dammit."
   Filth rubbed a finger in the stain of liquid that had spilled into his lap. "I know what you are trying to do. If you were actually being honest about this, then I might. But I know you just want me to give you the asset files." He placed the finger on his tongue before sucking whatever liquid he had managed to sop up with his finger.
   "Don't you feel any remorse for the pain you have caused me?"
   "Relaxation room, Silje."
   "Don't you care about anyone besides yourself?"
   "Relaxation, Silje."
   "Why can't you stop being a self-centered prick, stop being a child, and just return the files."
   "RE-LAX-A-TION, Silje."
   "You took my job away from me. Twice."
   "Then find a new job."
   "It's not that simple. I can't just pick up a flask of whatever back-alley booze I find and suddenly become rich."
   "You'd be surprised, actually," Filth muttered to himself.
   Silje stepped away. "I'll be waiting in your hunk-of-junk, can-of-a-ship."
   Filth's eyebrows narrowed, "Hey, no one insults my ship except for me."
   Silje turned around sticking her tongue out; blowing her most insulting raspberry that she could muster before turning back towards her dramatic exit in quickened strides.
   Once the door closed completely and the harsh highlights of the hallways outside of the room disappeared from the external displays, the dim reflection of the seat Filth sat on returned, along with the woman of Filth's eye who sat next to his own reflection.
   She leaned her chin into her hands as her elbows were supported by her knees. She looked to her right, towards the reflected Filth. Her large eyes seemingly looked neutral, but there was something about her gaze that was accusing. "I told you that you are good at attracting likeminded individuals."

   Quil wandered from the vending machine to the bench that stood before the glistening central display of the heart of the ship. A place designed for residents and crew to feel like they live in some sort of community - along with shopping centers that, albeit, may not be necessities, can give a little extra profit to the outstandingly expensive capitol ship.
   The area was bright, yet comfortable. Wide open - especially when compared to the claustrophobic halls they had spent a good portion of their time in already. The center was decorated with sparse greens and other bright colours to help welcome the two young guests who sat at the bench now as they opened the containers they had received from the vending machine.
   Inside the plastic cup was a jiggly treat. Quil's was brown and smelled sweet of chocolate. Lilli's was green and smelled rich of tea.
   Lilli inspected the strange green and jiggly substance in her cup. First she passed every corner of the cup around her eyes; checking the bottom, the sides, and the walls of the cup. She gently shook the cup of substance to watch its odd viscosity. Neither did it slosh like a liquid, nor did it remain still like a solid. Always it could find its way to return back to its original shape after the waves of Lilli's assault on the cup diminished.
   She stuck her nose close to the cup as she sniffed the solid-liquid/liquid-solid (thing). It smelled yummy. It probably was. But what if she ate it and the gluey, jiggly substance solidified in her throat!?! What if it was some sort of secret poison, or toxin? It was designed to look and smell innocently delicious to attract any unsuspecting rabbits, just to kill them with its jiggly yumminess.
   "Rabbit, look out!" Lilli dived towards the cup Quil held. "It wants to kill you."
   Quil managed to lift his arm out of the way of Lilli's assault just in time, making her flop across his lap. "It's a snack. You eat it."
   Lilli puffed her cheeks in a pout. "I need to take care of Rabbit. I don't want him to die from Rabbit poison."
   Quil pushed Lilli off of him. "Look," he dug the small plastic spoon into the cup, scooping a small amount of the jiggly snack out and into his mouth.
   Lilli waited, poised to catch him if he collapsed. She waited and waited. She kept waiting. "It could have a delayed effect, Rabbit!"
   Quil rolled his eyes as he shoveled another (larger) scoop into his mouth. And as the continued-nothing happened to Quil, he motioned towards Lilli to eat her cup.
   With uncertainty Lilli pulled the little plastic spoon off the side of the cup and unwrapped it. With continued uncertainty she lowered her spoon. Gently, ever so gently she sank the spoon into the snack, observing the solid-liquid as it parted between the plastic utensil, clinging like a sticky liquid-solid to the sides of the spoon.
   A small green drop clung to her spoon as the glistening lights reflected off of it. Lilli slowly brought the substance to her nose giving it a sniff. It still smelled of a richly sweet tea. It seemed that by penetrating the snack with her spoon it didn't trigger any sort of reaction. The substance remained docile.
   Lilli checked Quil to ensure he was still alive. He didn't seem to be puking the poison up. In fact, he just looked miffed, as he impatiently tapped his fingers on the side of his cup while he sat bored, leaning his head into his hand.
, Lilli nodded. She lowered the green whatsit snack onto her tongue.
   A sensation flowed across her. Wave after wave. This sensation that astounded her. It floored her. It was gentle. It was warm. It was exciting! It was happy! It was joyous! As the choir of the stars triumphantly blared their fanfare to greet the sensation. The air hugged Lilli tight in celebration of the sensation. The room brightened and saturated in applause to this sensation. The scent kissed her nose to show it's appreciation of this sensation. And her mouth. Oh, her mouth. The parade of sugar and empty calories was the ignition of all of her senses that celebrated this moment.
   Lilli looked at Quil with bright eyes (literally and metaphorically). Her voice escaped her uncontrollably, "kore wa nani?" Her eyes dimmed (literally, but not metaphorically).
   Quil inspected his cup rather confused if (other than the flavor) he had gotten something different. "Uhm..." he couldn't find anything. "What?"
   Before Lilli tackled Quil with her ferocious joy she took another spoonful of the snack just to experience those waves of sensation overload. "What is this-what is this?"
   One of Quil's cowlicks cocked in confusion. "Did you speak a different language a second ago?"
   She let go of Quil for a brief moment to let the rush of flavor overtake her again before turning back to Quil. "What is this, Rabbit?"
   "Pudding." Quil's eyebrows parted inspecting his cup. Maybe he grabbed the wrong flavor.
   She let go of Quil, taking one large scoop of pudding and placing it inside her mouth. She smiled greatly, her eyes lit up briefly before dimming again. Once she had swallowed the scoop of the jiggly snack she returned her eyes to Quil. "Is 'pudding' a specialty on this ship?"
   Quil tilted his head, still unsure if he had the same thing as her. "Uh, no. It's a common snack. All the convenient stores on the Lotus had it."
   Lilli tilted her own head, surprised at how such an extraordinary 'snack' could even be defined so simply as a 'snack'. To her it certainly was anything but 'just a snack'. She dipped her spoon in for another round of pure ecstasy. Her eyes lighting up as she smiled greatly, unable to hold back her voice filled with satisfaction.
   Quil looked at his cup again, then to hers. He reached out towards Lilli's cup with his own spoon preparing to take a small sample of hers, but she quickly broke from her ecstasy reeling away from Quil, hiding her cup from his greedy hand. She quickly began shoveling scoop after scoop after scoop of the yummy, jiggly snack into her mouth. Each bite of that glorious sugar lit her eyes brightly.
   Quil stared at the rather horrific display. Though, it wasn't her pudding cup assault that caught his attention. It was the red streak that crossed her shoulder. It peered out ever so slightly from under her sleeve.
   Lilli noticed Quil's attention. He was locked to that one spot on her arm. She looked at her empty pudding cup. The delicious treat was gone.
   She grimaced as she set the cup down beside her (though she held on to the spoon). "Are you curious about this, Rabbit?" She lifted her sleeve revealing the entire cut.
   "You have blood that can clot. I am more worried than curious." He looked over Lilli.
   "You don't want to know why?" Lilli cocked her head.
   "I just want to make sure you are safe." Quil's eyes darted back to his snack momentarily before returning to the damage on Lilli's arm. "Why? Do you want to know?"
   Lilli gave an exaggerated nod. "Of course! I want to make sure Rabbit reaches his dream! I am certain that if Rabbit can reach his dream, I can save the universe!"
   "And the Universe will have you, Miss Rabbit-lover." Filth spoke as he plopped down with a loud rattle as the bag he held crackled and folded with his sudden drop onto the bench.
   "You're alive?" Lilli reeled back in shock. "I thought Miss Lop -"
   "derogatory -" Filth interjected.
   " - was going to eat you! After all, we are all ingredients in this bowl of Soup."
   Filth raised a confused eyebrow as he looked at Quil.
   "She thinks that's the name of the ship. She's been eating a lot of sugar."
   Lilli snatched the barely touched pudding cup out of Quil's hand, shoving the cup right before Filth's eyes. "It's not just sugar! It's pudding. Poo-ding!" She began shoveling the rest of Quil's pudding contents into her mouth.
   Filth backed away from the violent pudding massacre. "She really likes pudding, huh?"
   "I think it makes her speak a different language." Quil looked at the bag Filth was carrying. "What's that?"
   "This?" Filth raised the bag into view, "Oh. I just call it 'Escape Plan H'."
   "And what are we escaping from?" Quil's eyebrows flattened, assuming he had yet another group of people pissed off at him.
   "Well," Filth relaxed back into the bench. "Right now we need to escape this ship. We aren't exactly welcomed here anymore."
   "We? You mean you." Quil jabbed.
   "Semantics." Filth waved his remark away. "Departure time is coming up. Boarding time is now."
   "And where are we going?"
   "Well, INTAL at some point. But considering we would need to make a jump to get there from here, I guess we should sneak back onto Platinum Star and pick up a ship that is actually intended for making cross-universe voyages."
   Quil sighed leaning back into the bench. "Okay."
   Regardless, we should depart in our existing P-O-S ship right now."
   Lilli wiped the smear of pudding off of her lips before grabbing her rabbit reins. "Okay, I'm ready."