The weeks and months after losing his job and home where some of the worst of his life. He’d been alright for the first week or so, but after that the odd jobs dried up, and what little money he’d saved had evaporated on daily life costs. Without so much as a change of clothing to his name, he’d taken to zipping down the overalls and letting them hang around his waist during the warmer days and nights, while still using it as intended otherwise.
It seems whatever that dragon had done was a black mark on his name everywhere that reported to the central government. The only thing that ever came back is the status “Unhireable”. And just like that, he had become an undesirable. Someone unemployable, unable to work or function in spite of his obvious skill or talent in the mechanical and information technical fields. His name now but a stain, his life seemingly made worthless.
He wandered a time or two to the neighboring towns in search of work there, but it was always the same. And with the nature of the smaller towns he found it harder to find places to sleep that didn't see him chased off or beaten in some cases. Where as the larger city he came from had dark alleys to hide in, and an abundance of thrown away food.
He always came back to the city. A parasite now. Living off the bloated body that was society in general. Feeding off of its leftovers, hiding in the unpatrolled areas of its extensive framework. And yet be it out of pride or fear he could not sell himself even as a common whore. The offer had come a few times, and more than once had been very tempting. But all the same, what if it was a trap. What if he ended up with some disease. The risks too great, the rewards too small.
And so it was he went on existing. Not living, but merely consuming resources, producing nothing of value, and growing weaker and more desperate day by day. But all hope was not lost. He’d made friends with a small group of others in his situation. Most of them had been at this far longer than he even.
Ott; the otter was the leader of this small group that he now called his own. He was a lively spirited man in his mid 40s. He loved going on about how he hated his name and never went by it. He laughed long and hard at it “Sir Oswald III”. He found it overtly pompous and simply chose to go by Otto, or just Ott.
Ott kept them all safe during the several police raids to attempt to capture them. He had connections still, and unlike the others seemed to live this life more from choice than from need. The fucked up thing was, that if he, or any of the group where ever caught, it could be bad. And not the ‘spend the night in jail’ kind of bad. But being forced into slavery, as a slave to the government, or in some cases even sold at auction for either exported slavery or possibly even as foodstock. Carnivores have to eat after all. And sure; the feral cattle where a thing but meat was meat.
The police raids were infrequent, though, and often more a show of force than anything else. A publicity stunt to say “hey, we did a thing. Give us more funding if you want us to succeed next time.” Those in charge often would aim for a measly 25% capture rate. Showing they were capable but ‘understaffed’ or ‘mal provisioned’. Hell sometimes, they’d capture some, beat them, then drop them off a few miles away.
But... it didn't last. Like all things in this world it came to a screeching halt one day when one such group of ‘malcontent undesirables’ rebelled against the central government and threw molotovs into one of their head branches. A riot miles away, from people Jin never even met, nor want to meet. But it was all the same... he was one of them by labeling not by choice.
There was a media frenzy, stirring the normal citizens to action, calling the police to action, and even some limited military response was used to ensure higher up officials where safe. From where he stood it looked like the north side of the city was burning. The riot lasted long into the night and even the next morning.
The central government officially called for a city wide sweep. A clean up of the undesirables. Taking out the trash as it where. “These bloodless, jobless refugees wish to destroy all we have worked hard for. To muddy our leniages, to fill the bellies of your daughters with impure seed and take the jobs from those who are born to do their duty!” Cried one of the city officials.
This was it. This was the end of his life as a vagabond... and what now, Fugitive? Slave? Food Stock? Sad truth was a deer was good meat. Even one as malnourished and thoroughly battered as he was. It was only a day or two that another raid happened on his camp... but now... now they had their funding and were on the hunt for real.
The police surrounded the camp, and when Otto went to speak peace,... they shot him right there. They executed him and rounded up the rest. But Jin, he had managed to escape the raid. Be it luck or some form of foresight he’d been out gathering supplies and raiding dumpsters coming back in time to see only the corpse of Otto left there to rot, the tents and makeshift homes smashed and leveled.
Otto’s death hit him hard. He’d known him for only a few weeks but it had been through hard times and he was his only true ally in all of this. He went on for another week or two but, in time it became clear to him that, it would be better to die a quick death than to slowly starve on the outskirts of town, or worse to be made a slave to the government.
He decided that a bridge on the outskirts of town would do the job. The river below had long been dry now. A drought taking place in a geological sense much like it was in the moral sense, and civil sense as well. This road was well traveled was his only risk. So he’d have to do it quick. Any lingering would get the police called. And failure to go through with it would lead to that which he was running from.
“Might as well jump. At least it will be my choice how high, not the governments this time.” He said to himself that gave him a smirk at first, along with a teary eyed chuckle. Dark humor had its place he supposed. After all; it was kind of nice to smile again. Even if it was a joke about his own death.
He decided to wait till dusk. The traffic from the airport just down the road was still going to be heavy, but it would let up after dark hit. And after dark there where less trucks and transports as the facilities where shutting down about this time.
He casually walked along the bridge to the midpoint. Simply standing there with his paws on the railing as he overlooked the empty, dusty, and rocky river bed below. He stopped first to ponder on something odd that had come across his mind. It was a bed. And not just for him but for many before, a death bed. He smirked again and shook his head. “Who’d have thunk’ to call it a crackin’ bed. Not necessarily thinking about people like me who would like to lay on it forever.”
He chuckled once more casting his gaze to the horizon. Seeing the setting sun out on the bay not too far away. He swallowed hard, looking out to the bay and the setting sun as he put his first hoof up on the lower section of railing and then his other hoof before letting go with his paws and standing up straight. Taller now, able to better see the beach that had been occluded by the nearby hills.
Just then he heard something that broke his fixation. Breaks, then an engine shutting off and a door opening. It was not done in a hurried manner, but in slow paced methodical manner. As he turned back he saw the last thing he ever wanted to see. Worse than the police, worse than a ‘meat waggon’. It was that same black SUV he worked on. The one that had lead him to all of this. And there beside it stood him... the dragon. The nobleman who had destroyed his life, who had condemned him.
The dragon stood there smoking his pipe and just looking at him in that same suit. Hands in his pockets he simply spoke with that deep raspy voice that one would expect of a dragon. “Its time.”
Jin spun around and hopped off all in one motion balling up his fists “I decide when it's my time.... Not you. NOT ANY NOBLEMAN! ME! MY TIME, IS MY TIME!” He shouted as loudly as he could, his voice cracking a bit near the end. The dragon shook his head and walked forward now moving a finger to point at the tires of his SUV. “No. It is time again, I need your services.”
Jin was confused to say the least, but he was pissed all the same. “No, go fix it yourself. I don't work there anymore. YOU should know that.” he snapped as he trembled with rage. His rage was a seething hellfire that filled him from base to brim, a spark in his eyes like never before.
The dragon toke from his pipe once more before nodding a bit in acknowledgement. “I have an appointment with Nile. If you are incapable of doing the work I will use her services like I used yours.” This made Jin’s world go colourless. To say he had a crush on the girl wouldn't be far out of order, but even then, he knew on top of it all, she could never survive as he had. She was already fragile. Already frequently late due to depression and anxiety. It took him over half a year to get to killing himself... she wouldn't last the week.
The dragon took slow measured strides and simply open the passenger door to his SUV before pointing to it. “Come with me. Let's send her home together, and you will do your job. If you do it well, I will reward you as I did last time.” Jin snapped “Reward me?! Reward!? You call this a reward? Being homeless, watching everything I care about being ripped from my hands and thrown away? You destroyed my life! You destroyed me!”
It was no longer a measure stride, it was a quick motion from the dragon now. He’d taken hold of one of those antlers attop the young buck’s head and with a deft grace shoved him head first into the SUV without so much as a moment’s hesitation. Once in, and the door shut Jin tried helplessly to open the door but it would not respond. The locks had been hidden away and were remote controlled. Now, he was locked inside.
As the dragon opened his door he held up a single hand as if telling a car to stop. “Let’s go see Nile. Then I will feed you after she goes and you do your work. Where would you like to go for food, Jin?” Jin’s eyes went wide. Something was much more wrong than he’d first realized. His overalls never bore his name. And not once had he had the chance to tell his name to him. Yet he knew him, even half a year later by name... Something didn't add up. Jin stopped struggling lost in thought before he responded simply “Pete’s, on west 31st. They have the best poboy in town.”
It was a short drive and they arrived at the shop, in Jin’s old bay, at almost the exact same time as he’d shown up the first time. Once inside, the dragon turned to Jin and said “Shall we send her on her way?” where Jin shook his head, knowing he had not been seen in the blacked out windows of the car. “No.... I don't want her seeing me like this. Please, tell her on your own.”
Jin watched the dragon pulled out his wallet, hand Nile $1000 cash and then point her out of the shop with very clear orders. Once she’d left, and the bay door had closed, he stepped out and silently got to work as he had the first night. It took him record time to do all 4 tires and have the case filled, all the while the dragon smoked his pipe and watched.
Once done, he silently set the case in the backseat, opened the bay, pressed the remote inside to auto close the bay, and then slipped back into the passenger seat of the SUV. Eyes on the floor and nothing else,... he was just happy Nile got to go home. “Jin, I will soon give you your payment as promised. Once we eat, you will have a choice. Just know, I won’t wait around after i finish my food. If you don't make your choice by the time I am done, I will drive away and leave you forever. If that happens, Nile will be next.”
They soon pulled into “Pete & Otts grub hut”, the sign featuring 2 otters, one of which being his now deceased friend. They went inside and found the place empty aside from the hostess and the kitchen staff. They set down and soon got to ordering. Jin spoke softly asking “Is... Pete around?” The hostess giving a small shake of her head stating “Sorry hon, he’s been called away on a family emergency.”
Jin nodded and sighed “I’d figured as much Ella. Ott sent me.” The older golden furred female canine was taken aback by this as she started to ask “Hon, you know...” Jin nodded and sighed. “I know... I know very well.”
Ella placed a paw on his shoulder patting it lightly. “You’re both on the house. I'm sorry for your loss.” And with that she went away after getting their orders. They sat in silence until their food came, only then the dragon pulling out his wallet and sliding a crisp new $1000 bill towards Jin. That was more money than he’d seen in 2 weeks of solid working at his old job. Yet he seemed unphased by it, picking up his plate and scooting the bill under it for a tip.
“I don't want your money. I want you gone.” He said to the dragon who simply smiled and chuckled. “Tonight one way or another I will be. What happens to you is the question.” Jin still seemed depressed and unmoved by the dragon’s words. The dragon emptied his pipe into the ashtray before repacking it and then lighting it with his own fire before he spoke. “You have until my meal is done to decide. Once it is done, I walk out that door, and drive away forever. If you’re not in the seat behind me when I do, you will be left here as you are.”
The dragon pulled out another $1000 and slid it under his own plate, hidden from Ella for now. “I can make every day of your life, just like Ella’s night tonight.” Jin interrupted “Stella. Her name is Stella. You are not her friend. You are not Petes’ friend.... And you’re definitely not Ott’s friend. Call her Stella.” The dragon nodded and smirked at this. “Well; Stella is going to have a wonderful night tonight. And you could have your everyday just like that. But you’d have to trust me.” “Go eat glass...” said Jin with a sigh picking up his food and starting to eat now.
The dragon closed his eyes and chuckled at the deer’s remark. But he didn't start eating yet. “The job is simple. I have a lot of mechanical work that needs doing, and your file also said you’re a decently skilled coder. Which means I can assume means you know computers. Possibly even how to hack some. To this end I need all of your skills. You will be my slave. I will treat you well, and I will train you how to do so much more than you already know. You were going to kill yourself anyway, your life was forfeit. So understand, you must be my slave. That is non-negotiable. Your life is mine the second you follow my order.”
Jin growl deeply, looking up at him grabbing the dull steak knife tight in one hand now. The dragon went on though as if nothing was at all out of the ordinary. “You will be paid. You will be mostly free to do as you wish. But when I call you, I expect nothing but the best service. And on paper, you will be my slave with a predefined contract length. You will work with me on my shipping and transport ventures. You will travel on my ships, airlines, and cargo trucks with me. And when need be, attend meetings as my personal servant. After 15 years of service you will have enough money to buy yourself a writ of nobility, and retire anywhere you wish as the contract will have ended with you a free, notably wealthy man.”
The dragon started eating now. Not giving much more than that in details. Jin on the other hand started laying down the law. “If I agree to this, I need provisions in my contract.” To which the dragon gave a half nod. Jin going on from here; “I will never hurt anyone. I will not steal for you. I will not break any laws.” He said going on and on about this and that line of morality, most of which are basic things one would imagine.
But the dragon didn't stop eating, nor once acknowledge any request. It took no time at all for him to annihilate the food on his plate leaving Jin’s food less than half done. The dragon simply stood up, and said “Come along boy. Your master has need of you.” And started to walk out the door.
Jin was left with no time at all to think. He didn't know if his provisions were agreed on or not. But... what choice did he have? If he didn't go now, he knew that Nile would be next. So he stood up and as soon as he caught up to the dragon in the doorway, he took this last chance to grab the dragon’s shoulder stand in front of him and lay one solid slug across the dragon’s cheek. Growling deeply before taking a few deep breaths and then standing back with a bow, speaking through gritted teeth. “By your lead... Master...”
The dragon was unphased by the small deer’s punch, really. But it had made him smile. His last act as a free man was to punch a nobleman. And now that he was a slave, it instantly legally transferred blame back to the dragon. The fact he’d legally punched the dragon in his own face was not lost on either of them. And while it made the dragon laugh uproariously, Jin could do little more than smile a bit as he followed along. Jin was in the seat behind the dragon within seconds.
But it soon became clear why the dragon had asked him to sit behind him. The dragon’s tail already now teasing the buck’s thighs, a sign of much more to come they where both sure. It was worth noting that it took all of Jin’s willpower not to swat it away, but in the end, he knew he had no choice. And honestly, it was better than lying in that bed beneath the bridge.