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GM

 

Thursday 5th June

 

Late...

 

Sidewinder Tattoo Parlor

 

It was hard to say when custom grew short in a Tattoo palor in Riverside. The place kind of buzzed along until the earlier hours of the morning, along with all the other new age shops, bookstores, gay and lesbian bars, and every other kind of new millenia bohemian and hippy who wandered the streets. 

 

It was, overall, a pretty friendly atmosphere, but, like all of Freedom City, pass midnight and dark, things sometimes got unfriendly. Drink had been drunk, and, given the bohemian artistry of the place, drugs had been smoked. And nasty things did happen. 

 

It was happening to one man right now, Vince Cotton. He had had a few many to drink, and was stumbling out of a gay bar worse for the wear, badly singing some club tune. 

 

Vince was a regular guy, but dressed up too well for a night in an alley. Gold watch, diamond cuff links, and a wallet stuffed with cash that nearly fell out of his pocket. He happened to be a literary agent for one of the biggest book publishers in Freedom, or indeed the states. And his job paid very well, including a rather vague notion of expenses that allowed him to party hard, and free, most nights. 

 

Drunk as he was, he barely felt the kick that took him tumbling into some trash cans and cut his head open on the metal edge of the can. He sobered up as best he could, but his legs had gone from under him. 

 

The two guys who approached him could have easily just picked up his wallet and left it at that. They didn't look like those kind of guys. The shaved heads, leather jackets, and nazi tattoos gave one the impression that it was about cutting a hole in some homosexuals heart first, and the money was just the bonus prize. If only it had been the other way round...

 

Snickt! was the sound of a flickknife opening...

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It wasn't often that Charlie was still downtown this late. Sidewinder, when she works till close, is only open till eleven. That night however, was a little different. She went into work at noon, was scheduled and pretty booked until eight. When she was supposed to leave, suddenly her boss called a meeting, everyone who wasn't there started coming in. They closed up shop early and the place became ground zero for one very surprise birthday party.

Happy 25th birthday Charlie.

Just some music and pizza and drinks. Zombie movies on a projector cast on the wall and Cards Against Humanity were the nights attractions. She got a few presents: a zombie Stormtrooper bobble head for her station, some sweet buckled knee high boots (which must have cost a pretty penny), body jewellery and a bottle of Master Hunter from those who know her best. It wasn't a wild night, everyone had a drink or shot or three, but no one got crazy. Everyone knew that she had mellowed out and respected that. So after lots of talking, a mini marathon of movies and lots of crazy laughs, everyone went home in good shape.

She didn't feel like taking a cab, so Charlie opted to leave most of her presents there and take them home another time. No one would let her stay to clean up, so Charlie was among the first to leave, saying her goodbyes and leaving with a wide smile on her face.

It was a good day and a good night. Much better than what she had plan-

She was less than a block from Sidewinder when something caught her attention. It wasn't much. Just a noise. Something out of the range of normal hearing. Like metal grinding on metal only more faint. She turned , following it.

Something else catches her attention. A heartbeat. Fast and frantic. Fear.

Normally she doesn't go looking for crime in downtown. Too close to her work. She always makes sure to stay away from her house or even the area between them. Tonight it seemed, some trouble has made it's way to her. She saw them before they even had a chance to see her. Two broad-shouldered backs clad in leather and standing over a man who had a personal meeting with the jagged metal of the trash cans he was crumpled amongst.

She saw the flash of metal as the taller of the two stepped forward with the blade.

Charlie was only grateful she hadn't put on her new boots. As she ducked back around the corner she shucks off her bag she sets it against the wall. As she came back around she's already shifting. Her eyes glowed an eerie green as fur sprouts and her bones elongate and shift. Clothes shred. Her muscled grew more powerful and expanded to fit her new form as she rushed forward. She barely gave the two men time to react.

Though one of them did turn, the one with tattoos on his face and without the knife. He managed to step back, cursing loudly as Skaere's clawed hand came down at his companion. Her claws cut through the leather and flesh like paper. The knife clattered from that hand as the man cried out. The cuts weren't deep, but she'd felt the crunch of bone from the impact. She came around with her other arm, backhanding the guy before he can even recover. He collapsed to the ground still clutching the wounded limb to his chest.

By now the man with the tattooed face had produced his own knife. The blade unsheathing with a faint scraping of metal. She hadn't had time to turn just yet when it slashed her skin, pulling a deep growl from her throat. Even as she stepped toward him the wound stitched together, not even having time enough to bleed.

It was only then that goon had the good sense to run, but by then it was too late and Skaere was far too fast. She body checked him into the wall hard enough to knock the man out cold.

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GM

 

The first man, clutching his arm, threw any thought of brotherly loyalty straight out the window, and ran, screaming. 

 

Vince looked up at Skaere and shook his head. He looked dazed, and the blood seeping down from the gash in his forehead did not make him look any clearer. 

 

"Thanyou, whoever you are! Damn bashers, I..."

 

His eye swam into focus and onto Skaeres form. 

 

"What the hell? Out of the frying pan into the fire..." he gulped, dry mouthed but with wit nonetheless. He scrabbled to put his back against the wall, treading on overturned trash. 

 

"What are you? Don't eat me! Please! I'm not tasty...I...please...I don't want to be eaten!" he moaned, clammy hands pressed against the wall behind him, as if he could somehow absorb the rigid structure of the masonry into his body, thus protecting him from tooth and fang. 

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Skaere made a sound, some sort of approving grunt/growl when the stop conscious thug took it upon himself to get the heck out of dodge. Saved her the trouble of getting a second thug to the cops. With any luck she had scared the criminal out of him.

But any thought of that runaway criminal was chased from her mind by the voice nearby. She straightens, becoming taller but her posture is much less aggressive now. Bright green eyes widen and then soften with understanding. "Hard as it may be to believe I am not going to eat you. Matter of fact, I just saved you. If I was going to eat anyone it would be a someone no one would miss." The tone of her voice is strange. Almost like two layers. One human, and the other something growled. She nudges at the unconscious thug with a pawed foot as she speaks. Out cold.

She takes two small steps toward the cowering man. "Now, are we going to add a heart attack to your injuries? Or are you going to calm down?"

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"Oh sweet fates, thankyou, thankyou!" Said Vince standing up straight. Blood was trickling down his face and into bis eyes from his forehead gash, but he was fully conscious and lucid. Like many head injuries, it looked a lot worse than it was. The scalp is very well perfused, so even small cuts bleed profusely.

"I mean, thanks for saving me, as well as not eating me" he added. "Who...and, errr, what are you anyway. I get this is Freedom city, capital of weird, but you are a whole new story! Say, if you ever want an agent to sell it, come to me!" He added. He was full of gratitude and friendship, but his professional reflex chipped in nonetheless.

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She wouldn't deny that the thanks felt good. She was glad to help. To do something good. Skaere gave a big nod in return, big wolfy ears going down as she did in a sign of respect. It wasn't often that a human actually calmed down long enough to speak. Even bleeding as he was this man was more calm than 90% of the people she has helped.

"You are welcome."

At the mention of weird she actually laughs. Though the sounds is mostly like a hiccupped and playful growl. "I get it. Still adjusting to this myself." She gestures to her... well, everything. "Sell it?" Her wolfy face scrunches. "I'm a friggin werewolf. Most people run screaming the moment I'm done helping." She shrugs.

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"A werewolf? I mean...yeah, I would have guessed, but whaddyaknow, a real life werewolf! Hey, am I hallucinating or something? Did I knock myself out?"

 

He wiped, rather inefectively, the blood from his brow. At least the bleeding was slowed now. He shook his head to clear it, then pinched himself. 

 

"No! Holy Hellberries! this is real! You saved my damn life, and you are a werewolf!"

 

He held out his hand...in it, a personal card. 

 

"Vince Vines. Literary agent. I hang around this part of time, 'where I work, and...well play..." he said, nodding his head back at the gay bar he had stumbled out of. 

 

"If you ever need anything, gimme a call!" he said, gathering courage to shake Skaeres claw with both hands, eagerly. 

 

"Til then, I best get this sutured up..." he muttered, starting to walk off to try and hail a taxi to take him to hospital. 

 

"Oh yeah, what was your name? You hang out around here?" he asked, turning back with a slight wobble. 

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Skaere laughed again. "No. Not hallucinating." She replied after watching him pinch himself. She had a similar moment herself. Actually.... less of a moment and more of an entire week. It took time for her to really wrap her head around it.

Her head tilts to the side when Vince produces the card. If she had eyebrows one of them would definitely be raised. Still, she brings up one rather large and clawed hand to take the card and bring it up to her snout. At the same time she finds her other hand taken and given a firm shake.

Skaere barely had time to register the fact that he had stumbled out of a gay bar. It's probably why the two neo-nazi looking fellows went after him.

"Alright. Yes. Go. Get to the hospital. I'll call if I need an agent." She laughs. "Not really. I was just passing through. But you can call me Skaere.... now go. Sit down before you fall down."

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GM

 

The next day...afternoon...

 

Sidewinder Tattoo shop...

 

The guy was a biker, no question about it. Big set, sunglasses, denim and leather, hair tied back in a ponytail, and a faint smell of fuel and grease that Charlie could pick up in even human form. 

 

He was getting a moderately obnoxious tattoo of a lady wearing not much on top of a bike with more exhaust pipes than Charlie had fingers. It was finishing up work. Charlie thought she could recognise him from previous visits. 

 

"Hurry it up, ya bozo" he grunted. "I got work to do today. Crowbar Frank wants to know what happened last night. And you don't wait around for Crowbar Frank, man..." he whistled. 

 

"Word is, some kind of wolfman prowling the streets yesterday. City ain't safe, is it. Least, not with Crowbar Frank around hawhawhaw..." he laughed. 

 

"Hey, as it happens, any of you bozos hear anything?" he asked around the Tattoo shop. "Frank will make it worth yer while. As in, he won't kick yer asses...." he grinned, full of confidence. 

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A low wall separated the tattoo stations. Each had plenty of room for a customer to lay down and the tattooer to have wiggle room to work. It was a good setup most days. Only it meant the biker's voice reached everyone in the front half of the shop.

She just took a breath and kept working on the tattoo. She didn't want to do it for a number of reasons. It wasn't her type of tattoo for starters. On top of that she recognized the man from being in the shop before. She knew he was in a gang and knew they were trouble, but what kind she wasn't sure. From the sounds of it though, he wouldn't be adverse to beating someone up for information.

Unfortunately she had been the only one with time enough to do it. So Charlie begrudgingly begane to work.

As much as she wanted to say something, as much as she wanted to tell him to shut up, she didn't. She couldn't afford to draw attention to herself, but as he kept going on her irritation grew. So purposefully she dug the needle in over a sensitive spot. It needed more ink on the needle so it wouldn't jack the tattoo, but it would hurt.

Edited by GooseInduced

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"Godamn it..." said the biker through gritted teeth. He put on a brave face though. A macho bravado that slammed down on his face in response to his "weakness". He pretended that nothing had happened, and that tattoos were easy. 

 

He was sweating however, and the foulness of his temper escalated. 

 

"You sure do pretty tattoos, darlin'" he growled at Charlie. "And you sure are pretty yourself!" he grinned, showing a gold tooth. 

 

"Hows about you come back to my joint and do some real personal tattoo..." he started. 

 

"Yeah, I heard something..." interrupted another man, sitting up from his just completed tattoo of some mythological beast. The man was casually dressed, with long hair and spectacles. 

 

"I was hanging around Woods and Woods publishing yesterday. Trying to get to see them. Some joker there, face with two black eyes, saying how some werewolf saved him yesterday..." he said, trying to placate the biker. 

 

"I don't want Crowbar Frank getting angry...yeah?" he muttered, looking rather scared. 

 

"Sure thing, bozo!" laughed the biker. "You have been most helpful!"

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It was a good thing her head was down and only one inches from the tattoo she was working on. Even though Charlie muttered a quick "Sorry." her expression turned up in a little satisfied grin at the bikers curse. Serves him right for being an a-

If she had hackles they would have been on end when he started to talk to her directly. Her jaw was clenched and it took everything she had not to dig her nails into his arm. His voice made her skin crawl.

She did, however, look up when her coworker's voice fills her ears. Green eyes narrow, not necessarily mad but.... dammit. That sounds like Vince. They are probably gonna go after him again. All she can do is stall as long as possible. Give time to think.

So she gets meticulous where once she was hurrying to get him out of there. "We're about half done." She says, flashing an all too fake smile.

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One painful tattoo and a few hours later...

 

The Biker had left fighting tears from the tattoo. He could hardly complain, for his macho pride. Instead, he thanked Cassie for a wonderful tattoo and said to the entire shop how awesome she was, but that only bad ass tough guys could take her. 

 

Cassie's hunch was not wrong. As the shop came about to close, with the normal ritual and locking up, the end of days gossip and laughs, a police officer came in. A regular guy, looked more experienced than the rookies, a bit of a mish mash of heritage, and a goatee. He was slightly short but in good shape. Officer Estrada, said his badge. 

 

"Hey folks, any of you heard of a guy called Vince Vines? Guy got mugged last night, and looks like someone kidnapped him today....has he been in here, anybody know him?"

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Was wrong of her to not really feel bad for the biker? Probably. But he wasn't exactly a good guy and part of her was just waiting until she could leave. They were going to find him again. Maybe they were going to finish the job. Maybe.... maybe they were looking for whoever beat up their guys. Regardless. She had to try. She could leave in not too long. Maybe she could find Vince, get to him before the bikers did.

Turned out she was wrong on that part. When that cop came in Charlie's heart sank. They got to him already. It hadn't been long. Just a few hours.

Charlie curses under her breath, putting away her station as she works out what to do. She needs to speak up, see what info she can get out of the cop. "I did a tattoo on a guy earlier. He was asking about the mugging last night, if anybody knew anything. Big guy, long hair, ponytail and a gold tooth. Biker gang type. Just put a topless chick and a motorcycle on his arm. He mentioned a place..... uhm... Anyone know where him and his crew hang out?" Charlie asked the room. If the cop didn't know maybe someone else would

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Officer Estrada raised his eyebrows at that. 

 

"Biker gang? a topless chick on a bike? with big t...err....yeah..." he said stumbling over his words slightly before recovering. 

 

"Sounds like the gaschuggers to me. Bunch of southern thugs, been driving into Freedom City lately. Mean ass gang. That means trouble..." he scratched his head. 

 

"Police keeping tabs on them, don't you worry miss. If you see them again, give us a call. And, for now, don't go near Wharton Forest. They have been driving and camping out there, illegally. Protected area and all that. Not that those scum give a second thought to that. They just want to burn oil and take cash" he said, resisting the urge to spit, although in the Sidewinder tattoo parlour such behaviour was not unknown. 

 

He patted his notebook down and shoved in his jacket. 

 

"Thank's Ma'am, you have been very helpful!" he smiled, before saying his goodbyes and turning to leave. 

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Charlie nodded in response, she even smiled a bit when the cop mentioned the size of well.... her proportions. He was right on. The guy wanted her with a crazy exaggerated hour glass figure, so that was exactly what she gave him.

Good, the cop had taken her bait. She already knew the man was a member of the gaschuggers. She'd heard of them, knew they were bad news and now, thanks to the cop, she knew exactly where they were. I mean really. Who was he kidding? Didn't he know that the best way to get a person to do a thing is by telling them not to do it or to stay away?

These bikers seemed dead set on either killing Vince or getting the Werewolf that beat up their guys or both. She just hoped that they wouldn't expect her to show up on their doorstep.

"Wharton? Yeah. Sure. Will do. I'll pass it on.... and you're welcome." She nodded at the cop, waving him off as he walks out the door.

Looked like that was her destination. It only took her ten more minutes to finish cleaning up her station before Charlie ducked outta there like a bat on fire. After stopping by her home to drop things off, Charlie set out in her Werewolf form. All teeth and claws, crossing rooftops as she ran across town. She couldn't rush right in there, she would have to be smart. Tactical. But all that planning would have to wait till she knew what she was up against.

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The trees, moss, rocks and roots passed underfoot. 

 

Then, a smell hit Charlies nose - oil. Engine oil. More particularly, the same gritty diesel smell that the Gaschugger had on him, and his boots. 

 

Creeping more slowly, carefully, and quietly, Charlie caught sight of the band. Six of them, she reckoned, at least by the number of bikes. The Gaschugger she had tattood was there, and the poor Vince Cotton. He looked even more beaten up than before, and was scared witless. 

 

The Chuggers were armed, with shotguns and pistols. Old, crunchy weapons that looked mean rather than modern. Still, they would suffice in a fight. 

 

"Shut your trap, dumbass, or I'll shut it fer yer!" shouted 'her' Chugger, pointing his gun at Vince. 

 

"Not a peep, see? Just wait, nice and quiet like. We getting paid to keep you alive, but that don't mean we can't beat the hell out of ya!"

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Skaere’s padded feet crunched lightly in the underbrush on the forest floor. Her hulking form pressed close to a tree, oblivious to the camera’s strung above her. She swallowed a growl when the guy was pointed at Vince, clawed hands forming a fist as she struggled to keep herself silent, undetected.

As much as she wanted to just blow her cover and draw their attention away, she had to keep quiet. She wasn’t the sneakiest of creatures so she needed to not waste the opportunity. There was only one option, take out as many as she could, as fast as she could. Otherwise they might try and do something to Vince. She was a little iffy on the details of her plan. ‘knock them out’ was the extent of her planning, but there wasn’t a whole lot else she could do.

She’d have to wing it.

Two of the bikers had stepped near her tree, laughing at Vince as he cowered from the gun. That was when she lost it. She didn’t just step out, no, for lack of a better word she pounced. Jumped, flying up and over their heads before landing on the closer of the two bikers. The man collapsed unconscious beneath her before his buddy even knew what was happening. By then it was too late. Skaere had already turned, brining a strong arm up and around and backhanding the poor guy so hard his vision instantly faded to black. To the rest of them Skaere could only growl, eyes glowing green and menacing with her long fangs bared. “Pick on someone your own size.â€

Edited by GooseInduced

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"Jesus H....what the hell is that?"

 

Panic hit the four bikers. Even the poor bruised Vince yelped in fear. 

 

These weren't your average mooks. But neither where the disciplined. Guns for hire, courtesy of the Gaschuggers gang. 

 

On instinct, wired up on fear, they reacted as best they could. A stream of bullets. Gunfire rang through the forest, sending wild animals jumping from the undergrowth in terror. 

 

"Holy Mary! He didn't say.....How could.....What the?" screamed one as he blindly let out a full six rounds from his revolver. 

 

"We didn't sign up for this!"

 

"I don't believe it!"

 

"He ain't ever gonna hunt her!"

 

"Shoot it! Shoot it! Before it eats us all!" finished the last one between gunfires, emptying his gun as fast as he could at Skaere. 

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The next thing Skaere knew there were bullets raining down on her. She brought those strong furred arms up and shielded her face as best she could. She felt them hit her, pelting her fur like hail and bouncing off all the same. All it did was make her more angry. Her eyes glowed even brighter and a deep snarl escaped her throat as she closed the distance between them. The closest of the men received her fury first. A blow so hard that it sent the man back into a nearby tree. Another had kept firing at her flank, causing her to bare her teeth as she whipped around. Her claws slashing into the man's arm and disarming him as he crumpled to the ground. She looked to the others, barely pausing as she closed the gap between them. It was if she were daring them to keep fighting. 

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The fight was over in seconds. Around Skaere, the six bikers lay, bruised, battered, and unconscious. It was hardly that pretty, either, her claws and talons ripping leather, denim and even flesh.

 

The Gaschuggers were broken and defeated.

 

Vince was crying with both fear and relief.

 

"I can't believe it! They...they wanted to find you...through me...I was their bait!" he explained, collapsing into Skaers arms in relief, and bending knee in exhaustion. He had been battered quite badly. One massive black eye, the other not far off. He was in bad shape, probably a few bruised ribs thrown in. He could walk, but not run.

 

"Excellent! Excellent! What sport! what prey! What powerful spirit in your blood! I have not had so magnificent a quarry in years!"

 

 The sound came from the trees. Above them. Now, Skaere could see one, no two..no three small cameras in the higher branches, and from all three came the slightly tinny sound of a man. He spoke in English, perhaps with an accent, and in drawn out, upper class voice. He sounded like an aristocrat of a century ago. 

 

"Run, if you wish, you magnificent beast! There is no quarry I cannot track!"

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Skaere’s chest was still heaving from great breaths. The adrenaline of the fight, more than anything, had pumped her up. The men who were using Vince as their punching bag were on the ground then, bloody and beaten themselves. It felt good to give them a taste of their own medicine.

She found herself kneeling with Vince, a hand gently grabbed his shoulder as if the man were going to suddenly fall over. He certainly looked like it. “You are alright.†But no sooner than she spoke did the tiny voice echo from the trees. Her snout lifted quickly to the sky. Her nostrils flared as she sniffed the air, as if to find the source. “What is this, some sort of sick reality TV show?†She growled, standing slowly as her eyes glowed green. “Vince.†Skaere’s voice has dropped low, almost a whisper. She lowered herself into a crouch, looking ready to pounce as she glared at the cameras. “Climb on my back. We need to get out of here. Fast.â€

Edited by GooseInduced

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Vince got up, stumbled, and fell to his knees again. Gritting his bloodied teeth, he sort of crawled up Skaeres back, clinging on to her fur, climbing up. 

 

"Who would have thought I would end up mounting a girl? First time for everything..." he joked as he wrapped his arms around her. 

 

"Lady, I love you, even if you are the wrong species and the wrong gender. I'll buy you fries and a shake for this" he joked, wincing in pain from his bruised and stiff body. 

 

"But, if someone is out for you, just drop me, huh? Looks like they want me to be your dead weight..." he said bravely. 

 

Ominously, the forest rustled. Surely just a gust of wind, but it was dense here, with trees, roots, and leaves everywhere. Easy to hide in. Skaere had managed to sneak up on the bikers, but somebody could now be sneaking up on her...

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"Deal. Let's call it a not-date yeah?... Now, you can do this. Just hold on." She said softly and crouched as deeply as she could. "You won't slow me down Vince. Trust me."

 

It was when the brush rustled that Skaere's ears perked up, shoulder's tensing as a deep growl rumbled in her throat. When she felt Vince was safely on her back, she stood up some, staying in a ready crouch as her strong arms reached to tuck under his legs and hold him up. She could smell him from here. A man, the same sort of engine smell as the other bikers mixed with gunpowder. “I’m starting to really hate guns.†She growls, darting off to the side. Her hope is to break his line of sight with the trees to protect Vince, heading just a few feet before bolting toward the road. At the very least, she just wants to get her charge to safety.

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"I admire your loyalty, prey!" squarked the camera's overhead, distorted with a tinny sound from the small speakers. 

 

"You have taken the bait, this is good! And now, I come to reel you in! Your death shall be most invigorating, yes! A beast like yourself is worth a thousand noble tigers, or a thousand ferocious lions!"

 

The man stepped out of the greenery for a second. He was tall, blonde, wearing a safari suit and what looked like an elephant gun. There was something antiquated about him - he looked like one of the great white hunters of Africa. A carefully waxed blonde moustache, tidy cravatte, and monocle on a chain. 

 

Bammm!

 

A tree exploded by the side of Skaere, almost ripped in half. It creaked ominiously, and started to fall. For all Skaere's speed, the man had come close. He was an excellent shot. 

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