Which was more disgusting; the presence of utter slimeball and Spozi operative Josef Copithorne, or the stuffed animal he was waving around with evident pride? Bromley had spotted the odious sight on his return to the bar, and couldn’t hide his disdain. Keeler was about to ask him what was the matter, or make a typically blundering attempt to raise his spirits, when Copithorne made eye contact with Bromley. The face of the Secretariat of Public Order’s most zealous official lit up, and he strode over. Oblivious to the looks of utter hatred being directed at him by barflies and bar staff alike.
“Here, gitfeatures! Check this sonovabitch out – confiscated in the last house raid today. It’s a beaut, ain’t it?!”
He waved the lifeless creature under Bromley’s nose. Unpleasant was not the word. It was valuable though, that much was undeniable. This nauseating beast had its roots in the genetic engineering craze of the mid 22nd century; in 2142, the Design of Intelligent Living Organic Material Experimentation – Dilomex – had embarked upon a programme aimed at creating more amenable, controllable forms of wildlife. At least, that was the public relations spiel. In reality, their prime directive had been the production of weaponised pests.
Bromley couldn’t argue with that – you have to look after your best customers after all, and the best customers of Dilomex by many a mile were the military. Of course, this quest for such an application suffered disaster; a particularly virulent modified rodent escaped the confines of the Dilomex laboratories, and rapidly became the Number 1 pest afflicting crop and animal farming across the land.
Copithorne paused from waggling the revolting form at Bromley, and gave it a theatrical kiss.
“Can you believe it? A perfectly preserved MadRab!”
This artifact had once been a vicious, disease-ridden, voracious omnivore and enthusiastic breeder. Now it was merely a puppet to be manipulated by a sadistic, uncaring state entity… Just like the rest of the plebs, thought Bromley bitterly.
How had such a vile thing been able to even move anyway? It possessed just two limbs, albeit muscular ones – powerful hindlegs with razor-like claws on the end. No forelegs whatsoever. Tougher, denser and thicker than that of a normal bunny’s, its was a hide that made for a formidable shield against all but the highest calibre of ammunition. The face…dead God, what had they been thinking? Bulging, cat-like eyes, a hooked sharp nose more reminiscent of an eagle’s than a cute, furry pet, and a scaley, rubbery, portruding bit of spiked flesh akin to the comb of a rooster. All in all, a fearsome, nauseating sight.
Bromley had to swallow back his own bile. How typical of a rat like Copithorne to find such a sickening creation so entertaining, so enthralling. Probably down to the fact that they had a lot in common, these two monsters. Well, predators, to be precise. The MadRabs were not the most mobile of hunters, but against cattle, pigs and sheep they swarmed in numbers and overwhelmed their prey. Only in the early part of the 23rd century, more than 75 years after their emergence, had their numbers been brought to more containable levels.
Eventually, Copithorne grew weary of cavorting with his prize, and planted the glorified carcass unceremoniously in front of the F&P’s head barman.
“Whiskey sour for me, Frank, and a double of whatever these two fucknuts are downing these days!”
Frank paused, just long enough to communicate an abject loathing which was utterly lost on the blissful smarm of Copithorne, before acquiesing. Keeler, for his part, blanched but said nothing – he had an early start in the morning, but knew better than to risk Josef’s ire. Meanwhile, Bromley was privately indugling in his oft-enjoyed fantasy of flinging a drink right in the bastard’s stupid, smug, sneering face. But he too remained silent.
Presently, an acquaintence of Bromley’s slipped quietly into the pub and, seeing who was with him at the bar, strategically situated herself in a corner of the lounge. Melissa Myung-Bo removed her Aeronautica® and leather jacket, and delicately descended onto a wonky chair, at an even wonkier table. Bromley had only met her twice, both times when she was scrabbling around for a story, but clearly his monosyllabic, non-commital responses had not deterred her from following him for leads. Bromley’s face clouded; bloody journalists. These days, with the monopoly of NewsMeal© supplying the main source of 24-hour breaking news – available absolutely fucking everywhere – there was simply no living in the career of investigative reporting. Yet still, the tenacious bloggereporters proliferated. Baffling.
Bromley gave Melissa a curt nod of acknowledgement before turning to Keeler.
“So how’s Sunny these days?”
Keeler Martroy made a face.
“Oh come on Keels, it’s not like he’s here is it? As long as ya don’t actually call him that to his face you’re alright.”
Sunday Dewford had landed with this nickname while in his early years, and the innocuous-sounding monikor had quickly become the bane of his existence. What’s in a name? Sunday could give you a pretty forceful answer to that one. Nervy and grave on his first day at Grammar School, he had immediately been picked on for lacking the sunny disposition implied by his name. Poking his stomach, tickling him mercilessly, pulling at his cheeks… It was relentless. In trying to physically twist his face into a grotesque parody of a smile, the bullies had torn his flesh and, more permanently, scarred his soul. To overcome his tormentors he had buffed up – now he was built like a Wreckwest® tank. And he never smiled. Never.
“That misanthropic cunt? That fucker needs to lighten the fuck up and take some pleasure in his work!”
Copithorne roared with hilarity at his own words, for no apparent reason.
“What a moany prat! We’re here for a good time not a long time, am I right?!”
More cackling followed.
“Quite”, said Bromley.
“Bang on Joe, hit the nail on the head there!” gushed Martroy. Bromley rolled his eyes.
“Shut the fuck up, City stooge.”
At this interjection, all sound in the Frog & Peach died. Even Josef Copithorne momentarily froze in place, before swivelling to face the source of those brave – foolishly, suicidally brave- words. A grizzled, steely figure of indeterminate age calmly stepped forward from the throng. He flicked his black and white mane of hair for effect, absent-mindedly scratched his beard with his left hand, and with the other melodramatically dusted off the shoulders of the green farmer’s coat which hung around him like a cape. Copithorne grinned evilly.
“Do you know who I am?”
The bearded individual shrugged.
“Couldn’t give a toss, mate. But you should know who I am. My brothers and sisters call me Mossie. But you, you steaming mound of reeking Mammoth-crap, can call me Barnes.
Bromley managed to catch the faintest glimpse of Melissa’s eyes widening in recognition, and then the world faded into the ether…
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…�