By Kinto Mythostian
Daisy hummed quietly to herself as she lay on her stomach on the lawn in her pastel yellow sundress. The small young vixen wiggled her bare furry footpaws back-and-forth aimlessly and swished her scarlet tail idly as she wove several of her namesake blooms into a little circle. Another delicate white blossom taken from her family's garden was already tucked into the scarlet fur beside one of her pointed ears.
Daisy was utterly absorbed in her task, and thus she did not notice the tall, dark figure slowly creeping up behind her. His name was Prandergon, a towering tod just over six feet tall with lusterless rust-colored fur. There was a devious glint in his brown eyes as he snuck closer to the oblivious little vixen, his large feet falling soundlessly on the emerald turf and his clutching fingers clawing ominously at the air. Abruptly, Prandergon pounced.
"Eek!" Daisy shrieked in delight and laughed as her father grabbed her from behind and playfully tickled her stomach. Prandergon hoisted his daughter into the warm springtime air and spun her around before drawing her into a tender embrace. He nuzzled her soft forehead with his pointed nose and lovingly kissed her petite ears.
"What're you up to, my little blossom?" Prandergon asked as he set Daisy back down on the lawn.
"I'm making a crown." Daisy proffered her handiwork for inspection.
"That's beautiful, Daisy." Prandergon took the floral coronet from his daughter and examined it critically. "I don't think I've ever seen a more exquisite crown. But where, oh where could we find a vixen pretty enough to wear it?"
Daisy laughed. "Daddy!"
"Hmm..." Prandergon shaded his eyes with his hand and scanned the skyscraper-studded horizon. He swept his gaze back and forth, aiming lower with each pass until his sight fell on his smiling daughter. "Ah! I have never seen such a beauty! Truly, you are the loveliest vixen in the city." Prandergon knelt on the grass so that he was looking into Daisy's shining sapphire eyes. "May I ask your name, my lady?"
"Daisy," she said with a giggle.
"Then I hereby crown thee Queen Daisy, Sovereign of the Flower Garden." Prandergon gently set the circlet of woven daisies on his daughter's head and kissed her on each cheek.
"Thank you, Daddy." Daisy smiled and wrapped her small arms around her father in a loving hug for a brief moment. Then she stepped back and twirled, her yellow dress swishing around her. She reached up to adjust her crown when a sudden gust blew across the lawn, ruffling Daisy's scarlet fur and whisking away the single white daisy tucked beside her ear. She shrieked with laughter and chased after it until she reached the parapet that marked the edge of her family's yard.
Prandergon joined his daughter at the parapet and together they watched the fragile white flower as it spiraled downward until it faded from view against the backdrop of the city far below. They both looked on in silence for a moment at the dense urban landscape below them, swarming with life.
A propos of nothing, Daisy spoke up. "Daddy, do the slaves like being slaves?"
"Of course they do, Daisy."
Daisy nodded satisfied. If Daddy said it, it must be true.
"Master Prandergon?" Thighbone, the family's house slave, an elderly silver tod, called from the doorway.
"If you don't leave soon, you'll miss the shaft train."
"Yes, of course. Thank you." Prandergon turned back to his daughter. "Daddy has to go to work now, Daisy."
Daisy nodded understandingly. "Good-bye, Daddy. I love you."
"Love you, too, Daisy." Prandergon walked back through his home and out the front door to his job in the Depths.
A private terrace with a lawn and a flower garden were extravagant rare amenities in this towering city, where space was at a premium and most citizen vulpines resided in interminable stacks of bleak unadorned tenements. His family's spacious home in the Heights was expensive, but to Prandergon it was a luxury worth every penny when he saw how happy it made his beloved mate and daughters.
As Prandergon's commute took him down into the massive urban conglomeration, Daisy's flower likewise drifted down from the dizzying Heights the family called home, sinking past the strata of the city. As they descended through the Blocks, the city became denser, the residents poorer.
Eventually, the daisy was drawn into the yawning intake of an air circulator that pumped relatively fresh air deep into the dim slums of the Depths. The fragile bloom passed unharmed through the lazily spinning blades of the intake fan and slipped through a gap in the metal screen that was meant to sieve out large debris. By luck and by random chance, Daisy's flower bypassed several more filters and was carried deeper and deeper into the darkest districts of the city, buffeted to-and-fro by the eddies of the perpetual breeze.
Mistletoe had been born a slave, her entire life spent in the endless maze of sunless rooms that sprawled beneath the towering city. Even though the young scarlet vixen had never been taught how to read, she knew what the words on the tag affixed to her uncomfortable collar said; the slavewranglers had made a cruel point of telling her when the small clip of metal had been permanently fixed in place: "Surplus to Requirements."
It was a designation that Mason Acquisitions, the city's largest slave trading firm, applied only to the most hopeless of slaves. Mistletoe wasn't hardy enough to be of any use for breeding. She wasn't attractive enough to be a sex slave. She didn't have any talent for household tasks. She didn't even have any interesting defects that might endear her to a buyer with a soft spot. She was absolutely average in every respect and therefore of no value to Mason Acquisitions.
Immediately after the "Surplus" label had been applied, Mistletoe had been led to this small room, chained to the wall, and left to wait. A single lamp hung from the ceiling, illuminating the chipped concrete walls that were her prison. A duct near the ceiling blew a merciful cool breeze into the room; its grated cover hung askew from a single remaining screw that squeaked and rattled endlessly.
The lamp never flickered, and the clattering breeze never stopped. Mistletoe had no way to gauge how long she had been in here. She sat against the wall, occasionally picking at a frayed seam on her grimy blue standard-issue dress. Her stomach ached with hunger, but she was used to that.
Abruptly, Mistletoe started in fright. A strange white object, like nothing she had ever seen, blew swiftly out of the vent past the crooked grate and wafted gently down to the gritty floor. The terrified young slave immediately drew her knees close to her body, wrapped her scrawny tail around herself, and hugged the wall, trying to make her already small form even smaller. She stared wide-eyed over her knobby knees at the alien invader, trying to fathom what it could possibly be.
When, after several tense moments the object remained immobile, Mistletoe cautiously unfolded herself from her protective huddle. Hesitantly, she crept on hands and knees across the rough floor towards the bizarre anomaly until she had gone as far as the short chain linking her collar to the wall would allow.
The object was round and quite small, barely more than an inch in diameter. A series of rounded white protrusions were ringed around a central yellow area, and there was a hint of green just visible underneath. It shone like an angel in the dimness of her prison, its purity standing out in stark contrast to the pestilent surroundings. Mistletoe had never seen anything so graceful, so delicate. Clearly it had come from the Surface, where the Masters lived. Was everything up there so wonderful?
It looked so soft. Mistletoe reached out with one skinny arm to touch the mesmerizing object, but it lay just beyond the tips of her fingers. Her collar dug into her neck as she strained against her chain, desperate to know what the object felt like. She grasped for it, her tiny fingers leaving faint furrows in the dust, but the beauty remained stubbornly just out of reach.
There had never been a shortage of reasons for misery in Mistletoe's life, but she had not cried in years; slaves learned quickly to endure pain silently. However, lying there in the dust of her cell with the mysterious object only millimeters away from her questing touch, Mistletoe began to cry. She had always been vaguely aware that there was a world beyond the repressive warren of rooms she knew, but had never given it much thought. Now she had been provided the smallest of peeks into that world and it was more beautiful than she had ever imagined. Mistletoe knew that this little glimpse was as close as she would ever come to being a part of that world, and the pain was too much to bear.
The metal door to Mistletoe's cell swung open with a shrill squeal of unoiled hinges. An overseer entered and took one step into the room, planting his unheeding foot down heavily on Daisy's flower, grinding it into the grit. The door swung shut with a foreboding slam.
Tearfully, Mistletoe looked up into the face of Mr. Towers, an overseer known and feared by every slave at Mason Acquisitions.
Mr. Towers looked down his pointed nose at the filthy whelp cowering in the dust before him and sneered. Slaves this worthless were a waste of Mason Acquisitions' time and money. Wordlessly, he drew his gun from its holster and pointed it at a spot directly between the young vixen's blue eyes.
Mistletoe whimpered, her quivering eyes silently pleading for mercy. Her life wasn't much, but it was all she had.
Without a moment's hesitation, Prandergon Towers pulled the trigger.
First draft began April 25, 2011. First draft completed April 27, 2011. Editing completed May 6, 2011.