Kittens Playing God

Chapter 8: Surface

It’s been a while since Lasha had seen the surface. The most outside she’d been in years was at the bottom of the gulch and even there sunlight barely reached. She felt like a vampire. One of those fictional ones that are just miserable to be.

“Are you okay?” Algasath asked.
“I don’t know why I’m scared. Like, worst case, I’m behaving kind of odd.” Lasha reasoned. She couldn’t discern whether she was worried about her physical well-being or emotional. The latter would make a little more sense. But it’s not like she would be sent to her little village. She stood in the magical court, where a bunch of magic users worked to open a portal between Amieredetta and Hotecia, an Asterian settlement closest to the human capital with the dull name of Red City. If Lasha was to capture the human zeitgeist, that seemed like the ideal place.

Marvie finally made it to the court as well. Lasha wasn’t so sure she could do this alone but with Marvie, this might even be fun.

Eventually, the air tore open to reveal another place behind it. Sunlight shone into the cave, blinding Lasha. There was a town on the surface, a blue sky and clouds. It’s been a while since Lasha had seen anything this far away. In Amieredetta, the greatest distance you could see was one you could walk in ten minutes. The world behind this portal was vast and overwhelming, but also inviting. Lasha took Marvie’s hand and pulled her through to the other side. The warmth under the sun was almost uncomfortable on her face. She could see the other end of the portal was opened on a town square out in the open. This village likely didn’t have a large enough room to open a portal safely inside.

“Have fun, Lasha!” Algasath wished her. He almost gave the mages a nod to close the portal, but he was interrupted.
“Wait! I’m coming too!” Milala rushed past Algasath and circled around Lasha and Marvie as if she expected them to break out into a run right away as well. She finally stopped when she realized that wasn’t happening.
“As an Earth deity, I think I should make some human contact finally. Will you have me?” She said with all eyes on her.
“Sure, but won’t you stand out?” Lasha said.
Milala pulled out a beanie with fake cat ears that fitted nicely over her real ones.
“And the tail?”
“I got pants with long sleeves, so I’ll just stuff it in here.” Milala stuffed her tail down her pants and curled it around a leg.
“Maybe you should go for a long skirt instead.” Lasha mentioned.
“Oh?” Milala tried to pat down the outline. “No, this isn’t my tail. Just kidding, it is. I’ll go get one and meet you later, okay?” Milala dashed off, eventually just lowering on all fours and doubling in speed, then vanishing around a corner. Lasha wasn’t sure if that was an Asterian thing.

“So only full gods can shapeshift?” Lasha asked, looking at Algasath.
“You look perfect as you are, sweetie.” he explained.
“Just catching up. I’ve only been a demigod for a couple days and you’ve not really given me all the details.”
“You’re the first darkness demigod ever, so I’m actually not sure what you get. I’m sure you’ll intuit it alright.”
Lasha spotted Red City on the horizon. She imagined it made a lot of light at night. “Okay. Anything I should know about going in there?”
“Let Milala fill you in. See if you can bring a few movies. Nelub asked.”
“Will do. See you!” Lasha waved goodbye and the portal closed. No going back anymore. When she turned around, Marvie had already changed into her human form. “Look at us.” she said. “Bunch of humans.”
The mages didn’t seem concerned with giving them any further directions, so Lasha decided to lead the way. As much as she’d like to explore this village a bit more, they had quite a lot of walking to do. This settlement was located far to the west of the world, and human civilization had begun in the center of the landmass and spread southwards. Due to this, Hotecia had not been discovered by humans yet, but this also meant there were no roads they could hitch a ride on or anything. Just a vast valley between them.

“Alright, I’m back!” Milala joined them at the edge of Hotecia. She got baggier pants somewhere that concealed her tail. She inspected the city in the distance. “Looks very different from our architecture.”
“Are we ready to go?” Lasha asked.
“No, I haven’t explained how we’ll get there yet.” Milala began.
“I thought we’ll just run it. We don’t get tired as demigods anymore, right?”
“Well, that’d still take you ages. Unless darkness demigods get a speed upgrade like air ones do. Do you?”
“I get these shadow balls.” Lasha placed one in the air. “They can freeze things, so maybe I can ice skate like in…” Lasha struggled to think of a reference to a video game or movie a non-human would get, finding there are none. Milala patiently waited for her to finish. “Nevermind.”
“Anyway, you’ve seen me run just now, right? Since Marvyad is a shapeshifter and can make herself small, I only need to carry you on my back.”
“You aren’t exactly a horse though. How would I hold onto you without scraping my legs off against the ground?”
“It’ll be fine, as a demigod, you’ll regenerate.”
“I’m not walking around the city in shorts and barefoot though.”
“We can buy spare-”
“Just kidding. You’ll just have to tuck them in. My tail is also really long, so maybe you just make yourself small and I’ll tie you fast with it.”
“Is this really how we plan to do this?”
“You haven’t explained why you can run that fast yet.” Marvie interrupted. “I thought only air demigods get to go fast.”
“They do, this is nothing against an air demi. But I’m also a little something they call a Hackestüpp. That’s a mutation named after a ‘german’ fantasy creature, whatever the fuck that means. It’s even got a fake letter in it. They’re the smell mutation but they’re also known for their strong bones and muscles. And we’re real flexible, so I can run comfortably on all fours, despite my skeleton not really being built for that.”
“Being a shapeshifter, I don’t really have bones or muscles. I’m just a blob of volatile organic matter in the shape of me.” Marvyad explained.
“That’s so cool about you. How do you know what you look like though, if you aren’t stuck one way?”
Marvyad’s expression was struck blank.
“So… the smelling mutation makes you run fast?” Lasha asked.
“Yep. Here’s a trick to help remember what mutations do: Each gives you five new abilities. The first one is easy, it improves one of your senses. Then, the sensory organ itself, or something close by in my case. Then there are often some unrelated improvements as well, but you’ll know how many more by then.”
“And for a Stüpp, those would be…?”
“1: Smelling, scent-tracking. 2: Better lung capacity and stronger breathing. 3: Can reshape hands into claws. 4: Precise and fast muscle movement. 5: Extreme flexibility.”
“Neat. And who designed this?”
“No one knows. These things have been around for a long time. Probably some witch somewhere.”

Lasha shook her head to get back to the matter at hand. “Okay, enough, let’s just do this.”
Milala turned to let Lasha climb on her back. Lasha tucked her knees against Milala’s shoulders like some kind of bug and Marvyad helped secure her there with Milala’s tail.
She felt extremely awkward just letting this happen in silence, so she continued the conversation: “Algasath didn’t give me any tasks as a demigod. What do you do for Apolomyem?”
“He lets me handle the animals. He’s got enough on his hands with intelligent species. The earth element has the most out of all of them. Land is a popular place to live.” Milala secured her tail with a knot.
“That won’t cut off circulation?”
“Nope. Alright, Marvyad, just get small and pick a pocket to crawl into.”

Marvie stuck her hand in Lasha’s hoodie pocket, then shrunk into it.
“If there is someone you always wanted to kick the ass of, let’s put that towards the end of the mission, okay?” Milala said.
“Why do you assume that’s how I want to use my superpowers?” Lasha said. But then a name popped into her head she had almost forgotten.

Milala dashed off like a cheetah on the hunt and the thought was shaken out of her head. The ride was bumpy and the speed tickled in her stomach. She cringed together as much as she still could. As she waited for it to be over, her thoughts found their way back into her consciousness. She had room to think of that name again. In fact, there were two. Benjamin. Solomon. She never thought of hunting them down before Milala said that. Not that she could ever find them. But what if? What would she do with them? Beat them to death? Should she want that? She didn’t want to think about it. She liked when she didn’t think about their role in this. When it was just her and her grief. No rage. No vengeance. But as much as she wanted to return to that state of mind, the thought kept pushing itself back in. Wanted to justify itself. Sure, it would be better if they were stopped than to let them hurt others. But it’s not like she was in a unique position to make that happen. She didn’t have to derail her life to track them down. She could just live her life with her friends. That would be okay. Right?

“Okay, okay, I’m slowing down!” Milala warned. Lasha’s surroundings faded back into her awareness. How long did that up and down go? She felt a little sick. Tall buildings stood huddled together where humans first landed on this planet. The city was made of the remains of the space ship they came on, after it inserted itself into the earth and removed the dome that had protected it from the vacuum along its travels. As a child, Lasha thought of these as stories and embellished truths. She had never been to Red City before. Always remained in her humble little village until today. She felt worse. She really needed to get a grip on her emotions. Push them away, at least for a few more days.

Marvie jumped out of her pocket and grew to regular size, still wearing her human appearance. “That was more boring than I expected.” her gaze found the skyline. “Holy shit though. It’s huge! What are those?”
“Skyscrapers.” Lasha answered.
“What are they for?”
“Offices, apartments, that sort of stuff.”
“Let’s get going. I want to try human food!” Milala said and marched onwards. Lasha took a deep breath. If she didn’t linger on upsetting thoughts, sometimes she could avoid spiraling. Just focus on having fun with her pals. She was in control.

“Everything alright, Lasha? You look a bit glum.” Milala noted as she stuffed her tail into her pants.
“No… Nevermind. Let’s go.”

There was a street reaching out to a single house built farthest to the west of the city, then it abruptly stopped, as if waiting for more civilization to appear further west. Humanity was more interested in growing towards the lush green valleys in the south than more barren lands in the west, so it may have to wait a while longer. They followed the street until they were in the city proper. Cars began to cross their path and Lasha’s friends finally understood why she insisted on walking on the outer edge of the road.

“Remember, this is meant to be normal for you.”
“So, what do we actually do here now?” Marvie asked.
“We should research the leading political party, probably. That’s who we would make contact with.”
“And where can we find them?”
“It’d be easiest to look all of that up online. I didn’t bring my laptop though… I got an idea.”

Lasha didn’t know this city, but knew how to follow road signs to find the pedestrian area. Once there, Lasha stopped someone to ask: “Hello, can you point me to an electronics store?”
“Uh, yeah, sure. Hang on, let me map this out in my head. Just, uh, follow this road. Go right at the crossroads, then the first left, then look to your left.”
“Thank you.” Lasha said and went on her way. Somehow, talking to a fellow human felt weird. Like there should be a language barrier by now.
“Electronics?” Milala asked. “That are those contraptions you got, right?”
“Right. We’re going to steal a phone. Hopefully it’ll come with a charged battery.”
“Hang on, steal?”
“I don’t have any money and I’m not going to get a job and wait until the end of the month for a paycheck. It’s fine, these are multi-million companies probably.”
“I’m more concerned about the not-getting-caught part.”
“Marvie, could you store things in your body? Like, make a cavity in your chest to place a little box in?”
“They have these beepy things at the store’s exit, but even if they go off, they won’t find anything on us. These things go off for wrong reasons. We should just make sure we aren’t seen suspiciously hanging around the item before it vanishes.”
“Oh, say no more! I know exactly what to do!” Marvie said with a mischievous grin.

Next Part: Chapter 9: Coincidence