Skylines: Chapter 1
Sector 3 wasn’t exactly the highest class living, but it was hardly a slum. The houses were cookie cutter, seeming as if they were a tangled web growing into each other, with small alleyways connected by roofs that touched. It was tightly packed, with brown and white being the dominant color of walls and roof. From the rail line above, it looked like closely packed warehouse containers absorbing the sun, but yet the insides were nicer than the outside. Each resident enjoyed at least 2 stories and all the amenities that came with modern living.
Climate control, ultra violet lighting for plants if the occupant wanted, refrigeration so quiet it was easy to forget it was there, lighting that didn’t make your eyes feel like they were burning when you were up late at night, and best of all, a private garden with a white picket fence behind each house. Each house, inside and out looked the same, until someone moved in and decorated. Some houses had flags in the yard, others had ornate knockers on the doors, but even in this, one home stood out, a house that looked like all of the others, with the exception of a large carrot embossed into the side next to the door shaped like a carrot, complete with detailed ridges. It almost seemed as if the carrot grew out of the house! A soft turquoise glow behind a large button at the head marked it as a Magitek device. 57912 Floral Way could not be mistaken for any other building!
Because it had been so unique, it was being watched. Blue eyes peered from a rooftop as a tawny furred rabbit walked inside, the click and thunk of a lock latching behind him. Clever eyes watching, waiting, and a mind thinking diligently how to get inside. Scratch tapped her chin as she looked on, walking calmly along the rooftop she had commandeered across the street, just out of sight as she gazed at all of the windows. Along the side alleyway, she noticed that one of the windows of the house had been left open. That’s a start..all she has to do now is wait!
Wait she did too, never glancing away from the house for more than a moment. At least it wasn’t so hot today, but it was hard to keep focus. Her ears stood at attention, ready to duck down at the slightest noise that sounded as if someone may call her out, after all, perching on the roof of some stranger’s house wasn’t always greeted favorably. She glanced down at a small bundle, while she had followed Maniko, Scratch had picked up some bread, and with her stomach rumbling, now seemed to be the time to partake.
She carefully unwrapped the bread, eating it plain wasn’t always the best tasting option, but she hadn’t picked enough to make a sandwich or afford a spread, so it was what she had. The wheat gummed up in her mouth as she chewed, threatening to suck all of the moisture out, but still, each swallow calmed her stomach’s unrest. Soon, all that were left were crumbs, and it couldn’t be better timing. She watched as Maniko stepped back out, shouldering a backpack. He seemed to mull things over in his mind for a bit, counting on his finger as he looked into the bag before turning the key in the lock and heading towards Sector 2. With a bag in tow, Scratch may have just hit the jackpot, it looked like that bunny was going to be gone for quite some time!
She watched, and quietly crawled along the roof to keep Maniko in sight, waiting to make sure he doesn’t look back before she slipped into the alleyway. She looked both ways, paranoid before jogging across the street. She slipped up to the window, pausing as she heard the click of boots on the cobble. She shrank against the house, waiting, holding her breath, her ears at sharp attention as she hoped not to be seen. When the sound finally fades, the steady clicks falling into the distance, she let out that breath, glad for the rush of fresh clean air before turning her attention back to the window.
It wasn’t open much, but at least it wouldn’t be latched; likely having been left open to let a breeze blow through the house, and lucky for Scratch, the screen had already been removed. She was glad that she didn’t need to find a way to do it herself. She took a moment, thinking through her plan as she looked into the window, hoping that she didn’t climb in, just to get herself stuck! It’s not a far drop, leading into what seemed to be a bathroom. One cleaner than she has seen at that!
Most of the furnishings were made out of marble, a solid white single sink and commode with a matching white tub and shower all with embossed carrots plated in copper with thin lines. Scratch knew the guy was a rabbit, but this had to be taking it a bit far! The bathroom was simple and organized, with a medicine cabinet hidden in the mirror. Scratch noticed in the shower hung a single sponge, in the shape of a carrot and a bar of soap, along with some fairly popular fur care products. She wasn’t here for the bathroom though, and tried the door. Thankfully, the brass knob turned in her hand and the door swung open, a blast of cooled air hitting her as she looked into the hallway.
The bathroom had one final touch, a thick green carpet that made it look like a grassy field. Scratch stopped as she looked into the hallway, where the soft, glistening light bounced off of the floor showed off the grain of the wood flooring with a deep, dark chestnut brown in the hallway, lighter with a small brass kick divider for the kitchen. The hallway was rather unimpressive, with what looked like two other doors that Scratch assumed lead to his bedroom and maybe a guest room. The walls were mostly bare, with the exception of a single large picture in a frame with brass carrot etchings containing...the largest most bright orange carrot Scratch had ever seen. “Seriously?” she asked, staring at the picture, “Does he worship these things or something?” she asks as she stepped out into the hall.
The second her claws and feet hit the ground she realized how unused to such a surface she is! The polished wood was as slick as ice to her hardened feet and she wasn’t prepared for it. She grasped at the door jam of the bathroom, letting out a startled mrawer as she crashed hard onto her rump, “Woa..woahwoah!” she cried out, glad she missed hitting her head.
Scratch just groaned for a moment, glad no one was there to see the master thief make a total fool of herself. She climbed up to her feet, dusting herself off in annoyance..granted, she had caused more grime on the ground than she gained by falling, but it was the thought that mattered as her hands patted at her clothing! She took a deep breath, steadying herself as she stepped out into the hallway, bracing herself with her hands so that she doesn’t slide again and break something. She knew there are two places that he may hide something valuable: his bedroom, or the basement. She thought for a moment, and decided. She was closer to the bedroom anyway!
She made her way, hoping the door is unlocked and, just like the bathroom, the brass handle turned easily enough, and opened inwards to...the most disappointing thing Scratch had seen yet. The room had a single dresser with a picture atop. She could only imagine the rabbits in the picture were the man she had picked out and his family. A double bed in the middle with...of all things, pillows in the shape of carrots gracing the otherwise spartan sheets, a lamp on the side table with a carrot design etched into the fabric and a single closet with a mirror, still opened and filled with well pressed clothing. Even when she looked through the drawers, just clothes, nothing else. No safe, no knickknacks, other than a small statue of..what else, a carrot on the dresser, no jewelry...maybe she had picked the wrong place to rob!
She sighed, “You have got to be kidding me…” she mumbled as she made her way towards the door, catching herself as her claws caused her to skid again. She had to be careful with that floor! Still her trip to the kitchen isn’t accompanied by her skidding any more than a few inches. Again, the kitchen proved like the rest of the house, it was like he didn’t really live here. Clean counter tops, an empty dish rack, lights above a central counter with the soft hum of Magitek and the gentle turquoise glow illuminating the kitchen in bluish green. She paused, curiously as she noticed the refrigerator. Surely...he wouldn’t have JUST carrots in there...would he?
She walked up, grasping the handle and pulling the door open. The dull bluish glow that marked magitek appliances lit up the kitchen as she glanced in. Inside, the first thing her eyes landed on was exactly what she expected, a bag of fresh cut carrot slices. She was about to just slam the door shut when she noticed containers with salads. Granted, they still weren’t very surprising, but...at least they weren’t carrots! She looked over the containers for a moment, before her eyes lit up. She noticed something she never got to try and in the span of a heartbeat she had pulled out a container holding what could only be cooked chicken breast! Getting meat was such a rarity when you lived on the street; it got dirty so fast, it’s greasy and most stalls that sold it were so expensive! She wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity as she popped open the container, her tail twitching with excitement as she took in the smell of well cooked poultry!
Even as Scratch’s teeth sunk in, her eyes were already rolling back. Juicy, succulent chicken, the flavor washed over her as so very intense after months of nothing but bread and the occasional cheeses, this was like a slice of heaven, but it was over far too fast. She looked to her empty hands, licking them clean, glad for a lack of bones, but still...the joy had been so swift and intense that at least for this...she would be happy. Even if nothing else were here, she would be satisfied! She collected herself, placing the lid back on the container and putting it back in the refrigerator, granted...behind several containers of salad.
Scratch closed the fridge, turning to look at the rest of the kitchen. The marble theme was still in effect here, though here, the counter tops had veins of blue and green running through it, breaking up the stark white. The floor was a white birch wood, polished to a shine so intense she could see herself in it and the cabinets were made of the same. Over the sink hung a single strip of turquoise lighting, with a soft hum permeating the entire area.
It was so spartan, but at least it was clean and orderly, it made finding things easy. Granted there wasn’t much she found here that was valuable, so she made her way into the dining room, looking over the oak wood table with four lonely chairs of white birch illuminated by the pale glow of Magitek lighting. But in the corner was a staircase, leading down into the basement. Given there just wasn’t anything up here, this guy HAD to have something downstairs!
The door to the basement was the first time Scratch heard a low groaning creak as she opened it, sending a slight chill down her spine that wasn’t from the blast of colder air that hit her with the air venting out. To be honest, it wasn’t just a little cold, Scratch almost wished she had her winter fur as she starts walking down the stairs into the dark, feeling for a light switch.
The lights flickered as she clicked the switch, the glow of the Magitek lights beginning to illuminate the dark basement even before the hum reached her ears. The basement was more cluttered, boxes and materials laid out, some with their contents half unpacked. The walls were solid concrete, contrasting the marble decorum from upstairs with a stark grey carved straight into the block. It was cold and still the light hardly made it bright enough to be easy to see. Still, the dim light didn’t keep her from looking through boxes.
Blankets, pillows, more carrot nicknacks...nothing...nothing of value met her eyes as she pulled objects from the boxes, looking at each and every one, “Oh come on!” she cries out in annoyance as she tossed one of the boxes aside as she started opening ones that were taped shut instead! And...her hopes were immediately shattered, each box, one after the other contained food packed away. Magitek sealed carrots, with containers that hummed gently, boxes of cereal, dehydrated milk, and just one...and only one redeeming thing that she snagged at least one bag of. Dried meat jerky. She didn’t know what type, and to be honest, she didn’t care!
She headed further into the chilly basement, past boxes. More lights humming to life as she passed, illuminating more of the room for her. She noticed a washer and dryer, letting out that telltale hum of Magitek, with a basket of laundry sitting atop of the dryer and a bottle of some generic detergent. She didn’t even know how to do laundry, but she was sure that, despite how expensive those machines were, they weren’t what she was after. In the end, she couldn’t exactly just pick those up and walk out could she?
She scratched her head, what kind of person didn’t keep...SOMETHING valuable she could take? She knew that she needed to find something, or this would have been a waste of her time that could have been spent finding a better target. She frantically began to look around the room, moving further into the basement, watching as more lights clicked on. More boxes...a multi-tiered shelf with dried foods and cans of vegetables and soups packed to the brim, a few barrels containing spices, and water preserved...at least he kept himself stocked and wouldn’t mind a bit of his food missing but where were the valuables?!
Scratch grumbled to herself, continuing looking around. Finally something different, something unusual caught her eye. She saw a small table with several things on top of them. The very first thing was one of those perpetual motion toys, with all the balls that line up and clack, transferring the force from one side to the other while the ones in the middle stay still. The balls were gleaming chrome and the rack seemed to slightly glow in the dark. She groaned immediately, seeing the engraved carrot design on the side, “Really?” she mutters, “That’s just...tacky.” she says as she shook her head as she looked over what else in on the table.
What was left was equally groan worthy, a small collection of time wasting devices. One of those drinking birds, that dipped forward, dipping its beak into a glass of water and then standing back up again..with a carrot picture on the side of the cup, an orange fidget spinning device, and a small carrot pen. “Oh..my..goddess, really? Is this like your life? I swear..if I see one more carrot thing I’m going to burn your house down.” she growls out in annoyance, actually knocking the devices to the ground as she stormed towards the last remaining corner. It was there, her hopes were finally raised. She noticed a safe! People put valuable things in safes right? This HAD to be something...it just HAD to be!
Scratch looked over the safe, it didn’t seem that difficult. There wasn’t even a combination, just a simple tumbler lock. A lock style that she was familiar with. She places her hand on the cold steel door, feeling the thick metal, the scratches from age, the ruts and imperfections, all while slipping her finger towards the lock. Her claw would be just thin enough, simple enough to work on those locks. She carefully slipped the tip of her claw in the lock.
She felt the tumblers, long rods that worked with with the ridges of a key, it felt like there were four of them. A simple lock really. She carefully tapped each of the tumblers, listening with her keen ears as the springs compress. Slowly, one by one, she taps the tumblers, listening to them click into place. One...two...three, then finally the fourth clicked into place with a satisfying snap as the gear moved that let the lock open. She pulled out her claw and turned the handle, smiling as she heard the louder click as the handle turns and the safe pops open. Surely...surely now she must find something valuable!
The door creaked open and Scratch’s heart started to beat faster, wondering what treasure could be hidden! She looked away for only a moment, looking back to see..vials..vials and vials carefully stacked in containers, each etched with some lettering that Scratch had never seen before. She looked through these, frowning, wondering if any of these things were worth money. It wasn’t unusual for high grade magic enhanced medical supplies to cost thousands of credits, to the point where only the rich could afford them. Selling something like that on the black market...she may be able to afford a house in sector 1, a place to actually live and call home!
She looked through the labels, trying hard to find something, anything that would be of use, anything she could sell! She discarded container after container, setting them aside, trying to find some symbol, or writing that might tell her what these things were. So many of them were useless, with colors and labels that she just couldn’t figure them out, though suddenly she started finding some that may be worth taking.
Some had medical seals on them denoting certain illnesses, from colds, the flu, mange for those with fur..even some frivolous ones like fur dyes and more that had strange claims like letting the drinker see in the dark or whiten teeth. Outrageous though they were, the medical ones could have her set for life! She carefully begins to pull out some of them, looking around to wrap the glass in to keep them safe.
She found a small blanket nearby and laid it out. She started stacking some of the vials carefully, wincing as the glass clinked against one another as she carefully laid out ten of the medical supplies. She looked them over, thinking about who to sell them to before she turned back to the safe. One of the remaining containers caught her attention, she couldn’t read what it was, because it was marked only with a number, but the liquid inside glowed a bright orange. The label on it read #167, and though she didn’t know what it was, she carefully took it out, looking at it in the dull turquoise lighting.
The fact that it glowed held her attention as she just stared through it, as if begging the vial to reveal its secrets to her! Her blue eyes looked through it curiously, and for several minutes, she just gazed through the vial, rotating it in her fingers, seeing if she can’t find anything about it that might tell her just what this thing did! Finally, out of curiosity, she pinched the cork, carefully wiggling it free with a pop. She brought the vial up to her nose, sniffing at the florescent orange liquid inside!
She didn’t know what she had expected, and she certainly could have thought that this was what she would find, but the strong smell of carrot greeted her curious sniff. Disgust rushed through her as she entertained the desire to smash the foul thing on the floor, but she stopped herself, grumbling as she started to put the cork back on the tube. Though as she started, she heard the door open upstairs, “What? He shouldn’t be home!” she whispered to herself, frantically looking around to find something she can hide in! She finally settled for trying to squeeze behind the safe, leaving the room obviously in the process of being robbed!
Scratch held her breath, hearing the soft padding of feet upstairs. She didn’t know what to do, her heart pounding in her chest as she heard a muffled sound of alarm and the creaking of the basement door. Her keen ears picked up each padded thump as someone’s feet walked down, step by step, as if in time with her heart! She bit her lip, wracking her brain...what should she do?
The sounds stopped as a surprised gasp comes from the room near the stairs, followed by a firm male voice, “Whose down here?!” Despite knowing someone would call out, it still made her jump. She felt the tube slip in her hand and gripped it tighter, not noticing as the cork fell to the ground. She hadn’t closed it in her panic, but she was finally able to see the silhouette of who was coming in. Tall ears, and a lithe frame...even before he became illuminated in the lighting, she knew that the rabbit she followed home had come back! But...he had a backpack and everything! She cringed behind the safe, shuffling her feet to try and get further behind the metal box. She doesn’t even notice as her foot hit the cork, which rolls out from behind the safe, actually bumped Maniko’s foot.
Maniko paused, looking down as he felt the rough material against his foot. He could only smile, knowing whoever had broken in was still in here, “Look, I know you’re still here, come out, let’s talk!” he said.
Scratch tensed up, knowing she’d been caught, but she just couldn’t connect that cork to it. She tried to slink further back, but the sweat on her palms caused the vial to actually slip from her hands! She erked in surprise, trying desperately to catch it, it slips once! Twice! She had no choice as she dove after it, last thing she needed was to break something right here, she could talk her way out of this! But she missed, the vial falling atop of her head, shattering and splashing the nauseating carrot smelling liquid all over her right in plain sight of Maniko! She glanced over, looking nervously towards the rabbit she had just tried to rob, “Um….hi?” she said with a nervous smile.
Maniko scratched his head and sighs, “So...you’re robbing me.” he stated, “So...I take it,” he says as he looked over her tattered and torn clothing, the matted fur and the dirt caked into it, “That you’re from Sector 2?”
Scratch couldn’t really deny it, she had been caught red handed, and now she was covered in the liquid from the odd container she had picked up. She slowly stood up, her hair stained with the orange liquid. This was something that immediately caused Maniko concern, she had spilled #167? He wasn’t entirely sure what would happen now to her! Still, she HAD tried to rob him...even as Scratch stood up, her spunky attitude caught Maniko off guard, “Well, I WAS robbing you, I’m not anymore, because you’re here. Besides, seriously? What’s with the carrots?” she asked crossing her arms and looking annoyed.
Maniko sighed, was...this kid for real? Well, being raised in the streets was a rough thing for anyone, he couldn’t fault her the attitude, but still, the fact remained, not only had she tried to rob him, but she was wearing a Magitek fueled concoction that he wasn’t sure of the effects just yet, “Well, I happen to LIKE carrots. But that’s not the question, you came in here, what were you hoping to find? If you want some of those vials, it’s alright, I know how hard things are on the streets and I’m not blind to it, but you spilled an experiment, you can’t go anywhere now, I don’t know what it’ll do.” he said.
“Wait, what do you mean I can’t leave? I’m not your lab rat! It’s not my fault you can’t keep proper seals on these things!” she complained.
Maniko rubbed his nose for a moment, feeling a headache coming on, “Look, I’m not trying to kidnap you or anything. In fact, let’s make a deal, I want to see what will happen, and more, I want to show you not everyone in this city is a moron. You look like you need a place to stay, a clean place, and a new chance to start your life. I’d be glad to provide that for you, what do you say?” he said as he held out his hand, “I’m Maniko by the way.”
Scratch looked at the outstretched hand suspiciously. This was a trap...it had to be...right? Those city dwellers, the ones who had opportunity, they didn’t care, they couldn’t….or else there wouldn’t be a slum...right? She started to reach out..a new life, a new chance at things, it sounded so nice, and yet part of her recoiled almost immediately as she paused, “Wait, why...why would you do that? It’s just to keep an eye on me isn’t it? For your stupid potion thingy, you just want me to be a willing lab rat!” she wailed in paranoia.
Maniko sighed again, “I’m not going to lie and say that’s not a part of it, you know it is, but if I can help one life...then maybe, just maybe there really is hope for the city. That’s my whole goal, I try to make life better for everyone, not just the rich. I try to make things feasible, and I donate most of my money to food kitchens and job placement programs just so people like you can get the help you need, but it’s obviously not enough. I see the people, every day, with little food, no clean clothes, and well...I’m going to fix it okay? So let me start with you!”
Scratch looked around, and finally, she took his hand, “I’m Scratch,” she says, “And I’ll give this a shot, but if you do anything stupid I’m leaving, got it?” she said.
“Scratch...that’s your name?”
“Yeah, got a problem with it?”
“No, just...you jump on me about carrots, and yet you’re a cat with the name Scratch, it’s funny.”
The two pause, and the tension lifted as they both laughed, “Well, this will be interesting, welcome to my home and my life Scratch. I hope I can give you the start you need!” Maniko says, “But yeah, first, you need a shower..badly.” he says motioning for her to go upstairs.
Scratch looked at the vials she had started to wrap up, then to Maniko...maybe...just maybe, this would be alright. She headed for the stairs, “Alright, but I’m not using that stupid carrot!”
“It is not stupid! It’s...fashionable!”
The two walked up the stairs, closing the door to the basement. It would be a new chapter, for both of them, and a new day. If they could stand each other that was!