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December 05, 2022

Twins! Part Two

By Mel Trent

II.

The sun is going down, and the air is getting cold when Kumiko walks out of the sheriff's office with a credit for ten billion stars in her pocket. She's pleased with her work, despite the fact that she did nothing. The twins have already spread the story of Kumiko's heroic battle with the Trinity Gang and keep insisting that they had nothing to do with it. She doesn't think anyone really believes them. She doesn't think anyone will argue with them either. She wonders why they don't want any of the credit. Maybe the Trinity Gang has ties to some horrible, evil person who will hunt her down for turning them in. Maybe this is some way of making fun of her. When she leaves the sheriff's office, she decides to track them down and find out. She doesn't have to go very far.

She finds them standing outside the little white stone building, leaning casually against the wall.

"Oh, hey, there, Miss Kumiko," Kaine says.

"Congratulations again," Jynx says. "You really impressed us back there at Rollie's."

"All right, you bastards," Kumiko says. She stalks over to them. "What are you up to?"

"Up to?" Jynx asks.

"Six feet, two inches," Kaine says. "That's barefoot."

"Yeah, and we might grow a little more, too."

"Maybe a whole inch."

"Then we'd be up to six-three."

"No, you morons," Kumiko says. "Why aren't you taking credit for capturing the Trinity Gang? Are there more of them? Is someone gonna come after me? What's the deal?"

They shrug.

"You wanted the catch," Kaine says.

"So you got it," Jynx says.

"We're not here for that."

"Then why are you here?" Kumiko asks.

They look at each other. "I dunno," Jynx says.

"Was it about the mayflies?" Kaine asks.

"Or the plants?"

"No, no. I know! It was the wind."

"So you're not gonna tell me," Kumiko says.

"Nope," they say together.

"You guys are a real pain in the ass, you know that?"

"We just got back from visiting Rollie," Jynx says. "We had a little money, so we took him some food so he could feed his family."

"Yeah," Kaine says. "Six kids, and Miss Aurora's pregnant again."

"And he's taking care of his sick grandmother."

"No, that's just his dog."

"Oh."

"But without that bar, he's got no money coming in, so he can't feed his family or get medicine for his dog."

"And little Tommy ... they think he's got a broken leg, but they can't call for the doctor because the doctor won't come if he doesn't get paid."

"You see, he was trying to catch a wild desert chicken for dinner, but those chickens ... they're crafty. So Tommy tripped."

"And the other kids are all deaf and blind, so they can't chase food. And the dog, he's too sick to hunt any more. It's so sad."

"It's very sad."

"It's just heartbreaking."

"All right! That's enough!" Kumiko says. "You want me to give my hard-earned ten billion stars to Rollie, is that it?"

"Hard-earned?" Kaine asks. "Hmm. Let me see. Last time I checked, that meant you actually had to do something."

"So you're blackmailing me into giving Rollie the money?"

"Is that what this is called?" Jynx asks. "It sounds mean. Are we sure we wanna do that? She seems nice and all. And she gave you that collar."

"Yes, this is exactly what we want to do," Kaine says.

"Okay. I'll go along with that."

Kumiko thinks about it for a while. She wonders how much of what they told her about Rollie is true. Probably none of it, except maybe the part about the bar being Rollie's only source of income. But she doesn't owe them anything. They're the ones who started the fight. They're the ones who provoked Little Sister into firing her rocket. However, if the word gets out that she actually didn't catch the Trinity Gang, her reputation could be shot. She shrugs that off. They're the ones who started the lies in the first place. Besides, she's only sixteen. She's got more than enough time to rebuild her career. "I don't think so," she says. She turns around and starts to walk away.

"Well, now what, genius?" Jynx asks. "That didn't work."

"We could mug her," Kaine says.

"That's meaner than blackmail."

"We could rape her and kill her."

"That's just being sick. I have a better idea. We'll follow her around and pester her until she at least goes to see Rollie. Then when she sees it all for herself, she'll give him the stars."

Kumiko stops. The idea of those two following her around isn't very appealing. Neither is the thought of being pestered. "Okay, all right," she says. "I'll go see Rollie."

She's shocked to find that the only thing that wasn't entirely true was about the children being deaf and blind. One of them is partially deaf. Two of them, like their mother, are wearing glasses with uncomfortably thick lenses. Other than Tommy and his broken leg, they're all perfectly healthy. Still, she feels bad and gives Rollie the credit.

"Bastards," she mumbles as she and the twins leave.

III. When they get back into town, it's late. The sky is black. Only a few lights shine through the windows of the buildings. There are no lights outside of the buildings, and Kumiko feels a little freaked out by the darkness and the silence. Kaine and Jynx are some distance behind her, and she can't quite hear the conversation they're having. She gets the terrible feeling they're making fun of her.

Then they're silent for a second. She hears the bell on Kaine's collar jingle and the sound of a body hitting the ground. She turns around, thinking that there's a sniper on top of one of the buildings. Kaine's face is pale. Kumiko doesn't see any wounds or smell gunpowder. Jynx drops to his knees and pulls something out of his pocket.

"What happened?" she asks.

"His heart stopped," Jynx says. He doesn't sound panicked at all. He rips open Kaine's shirt. "Do me a favor. Make sure we've got a room. The Tarragon Inn should be open."

"Uh ... "

"Go!"

Kumiko hesitates. She watches in horror as Jynx unscrews the silver tube in his hand, pulls out a thin needle and sticks it into Kaine's chest. She turns away and runs for the inn. Fortunately, the proprietor of the inn had been expecting the twins and had been waiting up for them. When Kumiko has the key, she runs upstairs and makes sure the door is unlocked and open. She throws her stuff in a corner and runs back out to the street.

When she gets back to the twins, she's shocked to see Kaine on his feet. She doesn't think it's a good time to start asking questions, so she helps Jynx get Kaine up to the room, and then she sits in a corner and stays out of the way while Jynx tends to his brother. Kaine doesn't seem to be in pain, but his skin remains pale and slick with cold sweat. His breathing is shallow, but at least he's breathing. Jynx never leaves his side.

Kumiko doesn't realize she's fallen asleep until she wakes up to find Jynx pulling a blanket over her shoulders. She sits up a little.

"Sorry," Jynx says. "Didn't mean to wake you up. You looked cold."

"Thanks. Is he okay?"

"Yeah. He ... this happens a lot."

"His heart just stops for no reason?"

"There's a reason. It's always been like this."

"That can't be good for him."

"It's not. Doctors took his heart out when he was younger and this first started. They thought it had some kind of defect, so they grew a synthetic one. Same thing kept happening. They tried cybernetics. That one just shattered. I wanted to give him my heart, and then he told me that meant I wouldn't have one. They had his original heart frozen, and they studied it and tried to figure out a way to keep it from stopping, but it's not because of the heart. It's the visions. They finally put his heart back in five years ago. It holds up a little better. But the strain weakens it every time. He won't live much longer."

"Visions?"

"He didn't want to tell you about that part. But Firefly told me you'd have to know because you're sticking with us. We'll need your help."

"Firefly? Those feathers ... "

"Yeah, it's kinda weird. I cough up feathers when Firefly talks to me, and Kaine has a heart attack every time he has a vision."

"You're ... you're star angels? You're Firefly? He's Shaman?"

"Yeah."

"I knew something wasn't right about you two."

"Well, it's why we're here."

"You're looking for Hara Michiyo, aren't you?"

"She might be the last chance we have to save Kaine."

"So the rumor about her is true. She's Yuusei?"

"Yeah, but the problem is ... well, we think the problem is she's corrupt. Whatever being a Conductor did to her, it messed her up. Getting her to help us will be harder than finding her."

"Do you have any idea where she is?"

"Not a clue. But we figure if we make our way towards Angel City, she'll come to us eventually."

"That's not very much of a plan."

Jynx shrugs. "It doesn't have to be."

"I don't know what I can do to help, but I guess I'm kinda stuck with you two."

"Yeah, kinda. Thanks for getting the room. Get some sleep. He'll be really grumpy in the morning, so you'll need plenty of energy to deal with him."

"What about you?"

"I'll sleep when he's better again."

Kumiko curls up under the blanket and closes her eyes. She can't fall asleep for a while, though. She worries about Kaine. She worries about what will happen to Jynx if they can't save Kaine. No matter what happens, she's going to be the most famous bounty hunter in the universe.

Article © Mel Trent. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-08-27
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