“Derek, why is that cage big enough to hold a dog?”
I looked at Adam quizzically. I had mostly gotten over my little angst-fest over explaining the cultures; rat-hunting has always calmed me down. Silver and gold, I hadn’t done this in years. “Because we’re going to catch a rat, obviously. What’d you expect?”
He opened his mouth to speak, then paused for a moment, choosing his words carefully. “How big…exactly, are these rats you’re talking about?”
“Slightly smaller than this cage. That’s what…” I looked at the trap, gauging it. “…three feet long? Yeah, not including the tail.”
He stared at me. “Derek, rats aren’t supposed to be three feet long.”
“Hm? Oh yeah…” I knew that, of course. It was just hard to remember, like how you don’t always think about the fact that electricity is a relatively new invention. “Normal-size rats are extinct in Domina. Some fey gene tweaked a few, increased the size of whatever gland it is that controls size, and…voila.” I pointed to the creature that had just come sniffing around the corner. “A rat.”
It was actually a bit small for a rat, but Adam still jumped back a few feet. As expected, it was about the size of a small dog, but fat and well-fed. That was what startled him, I think. The smelly, dirty little thing probably weighed forty pounds or so. I set the cage carefully on the ground, door open.
“Now here’s what we’re going to do,” I whispered, careful not to startle the rodent. Adam seemed to have recovered from his initial shock, and was listening intently. “You pick up the trap and follow behind me. When I say so, set it on the ground—quietly. I’ll grab the rat and try and throw it in. Make sure it doesn’t escape.”
“I could grab it.”
“No, no, I have experience here. You just back me up; if we do this again, we can switch. Alright?” He nodded. “Good. Let’s go.”
We stalked forward as stealthily as possible. Having Adam carry the cage turned out to be a good move; he was much quieter than I would have been. My usual tactic had always been to get as close as I can before the rat noticed me, then run after it when it flees. This way, we might actually be able to catch it before it bolted.
While we weren’t quite that lucky, we did manage to get within about five feet before it noticed us. It glanced up from the pile of trash it was nosing through, locking my gaze with those beady little eyes.
Before it could flee, I leaped forward, tackling it with both arms. It squealed, hurting my eardrums, and thrashed violently. I barely managed to hold on to it; I wouldn’t be able to keep it up for long. It wasn’t that it was strong so much as the fact that it was small enough to wriggle out of my arms.
But Adam quickly took his cue, coming forward with the open cage. I threw the rodent in headfirst. It didn’t work the first time, but with a few hard shoves we managed to get it inside and shut the door. The trap shook violently as it tried to escape.
“Well,” I said, smiling. “That was fun.” I offered my hand to my companion, panting on the ground. “Wanna try again?”
He laughed. “Maybe another time. I think this was enough for today.” He grasped my hand and pulled himself up. “We do still need to turn this in, however that works. And we should probably look at those scratches.”
I glanced at my arms. There were a few scratches from the rat that were starting to sting, but none were deep enough to bleed. “Nah, I’ll be fine. I’ve got a decent immune system buff for just this situation.” I pulled out my phone. “MC? We got the rat. Call our employer.”
“One moment,” she replied pleasantly. I hung up while I waited; it wouldn’t be an issue.
“So…you use the toy maker?” Adam asked nonchalantly. Or he tried, anyway. He was clearly interested in the whole thing.
I shrugged. “Just a couple buffs. The Immune+ one is probably the most common, everyone has some kind. Then I have the AT Tattoo, a muscle boost, and my eyes got fixed. I had an astigmatism.”
“Wait, back up. You said something about a tattoo?”
“Hm? Oh yeah.” I held up my palm so he could see it and concentrated. After a moment, the words ‘Hello Adam’ resolved themselves in shaky black font on my skin. I erased it with another thought. “It’s a cheap one, good for taking notes. Not much else.”
Adam, however, was mesmerized. “That’s really cool.”
I grinned. I didn’t say anything, but I had an idea. As expected, however, before I had a chance to do anything about it, my phone rang. Five simple beeps, nothing more. I flipped it open.
“MC? What’s the word?”
“Mister Ratko will meet you at the intersection of Abigail and Mechanus. Is that fine with you?”
I thought for a moment. “That’s…only five minutes from here.” And five minutes from there to where I wanted to go next. “That’s perfect. Tell him we’ll be there shortly.”
“Where are we off to?” Adam asked as I hung up. He had his foot planted firmly on the cage, where the rat still thrashed loudly inside.
“To meet our employer. It won’t take long.” I headed towards the rendezvous point. “C’mon, and be careful with that cage.”
Behind the Scenes (scene 4)
Sorry for the short scene. Nothing much going on here, but this really is something that people in the city do often. It’s an easy way to make money.