Chapter 9:

Morning in the Village

Badass (8-4D-455)

Location: Wild woods
Health: 100%
Energy reserves: 3%

In the morning, Badass awoke with a nasty itch all over his body. He swept his hand groggily over his face and jumped up with a horrified scream. Warm, sticky red liquid dripped from his hand and cheek. His body was covered in tiny insects who had sucked themselves full of blood. Disgusted, Badass brushed them off and the tiny suckers exploded with a pop, splattering blood. Badass's loud cursing prompted Naiscy to emerge sleepily from her tiny hut. She observed Badass's struggle and clicked her tongue remorsefully.

“Welcome to Mortalis, a planet that reminds you every day of your mortality. Sorry, we've been here so long that we forgot to warn you about the bloodsuckers. You can't doze off outside for long, they will show up in no time. Then again, we did tell you about the spider-rats.” She pointed a bit further away. Badass, who was still wiping off insects, followed her hand and saw a tiny spider-rat, about the size of a human head, who had dragged away the bone club Badass had won from the wolverine and was gnawing at it with abandon.

“Get off, you!“ shouted Badass, running to the rodent and kicking it, sending the tiny bundle flying off the tree in a wide arc. But somehow the creature found time to shoot a long string in flight and ended up swinging from a nearby branch. Badass picked up the club and found that the tiny beast's fangs hadn't damaged it much. He swung it angrily at the spider-rat, hitting it; the creature dropped with a squeak and lay twitching on the ground, half-dead.

“Ohoh, you have a hunter's talent,” Naiscy observed approvingly. “I think we'll send you to cull the spider-rats and look for eggs, for a start.”

“I'll do what I want,” bristled Badass. He was angry that no one had warned him about the insects or taken him in for the night. Naiscy turned to him and fixed him with a long look.

“You must earn your place in society,” she said. “If you want to live with us, you must work with us. If you want to be on your own, be my guest, go back to the forest and do what takes your fancy. But if you stay here, you must do your part for the good of all.”

Badass was still angry. He sat sullenly next to the fire pit and sifted coals from the ashes to prod the fire.

“And who are you to assign me tasks?” he grumbled. He threw some branches on the coals and merry flames sprung up immediately. Naiscy stood on the other side of the fire and looked down at Badass, her brow furrowed.

“I was the first to find this relatively safe place and build a hut here. I found others wandering in the forest and brought them here. We decided in a village meeting that I would become the settlement's elder, to decide and assign everyone's contribution.”

While Naiscy was talking, the villagers appeared from their huts.

“That is true,” said Badger-Bart and the others nodded.

“Alright, I'm sorry,” conceded Badass. “But you could have offered me shelter for the night.”

Naiscy sat down across from him and set a tiny pot on the fire.

“None of us has enough space in our huts for multiple people. Those who do are already full. You must build your own house if you want to escape the bloodsuckers and keep your gear intact. Here, drink this, it will cheer you up.” Naiscy poured a hot drink from the bubbling pot into the shell of a large acorn. Badass blew on it slightly and tried. It tasted unexpectedly pleasant, energising him and lifting his spirits.

“Fair's fair, I'll hunt for spiders and build a house today,” he decided. Naiscy smiled and the others patted Badass on the back as they dispersed to tend to their chores.

“Welcome to Mortalis. You won't run out of work here,” said Badger-Bart.

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