Rimas, oblivious as ever to her surroundings, rushed into her bookstore.
Her bookstore was the definition of a failing business.
If you had been thinking "now how could someone like Rimas run a store?"
Well, the answer is "badly".
But today, she had reason to rejoice, for a customer was buying a book!
Real, honest cashflow! The lifeblood of any independent storefront!
Or, it would be, if the owner were not rushing in with the blinders on.
Lorraine was right in the middle of making pleasant conversation.

Rimas rushes in from the left of the frame as Lorraine, a red squirrel woman at the cash register, scans in a book.
LORRAINE: Right? I love his work, especially the way he writes dialogues!
You're in for a real treat with that one if you liked his other work!

Hold down the fort a little longer, Lorraine!!
Ikal did a Mctwist but I've gotta shower!
Also I made a groundbreaking achievement but I'll tell you later.

What's that about calling a McTwist?
Rimas, I'm with a customer, this can't-

Too much to explain. Cae let loose!

...What does that even mean?

Rimas continues walking away from the viewer, with the bookstore visible before her.
He used the whole fire extinguisher!

Why did he use a fire extinguisher on you?


Uh... Miss? Who is that woman?

No one, terribly sorry sir.

Lorraine cleared her throat and whisper-yelled to Rimas.

Did you set a fire? Was something set on fire by you??

The customer next to her, of course, could hear everything she said.
He just wanted his books, though, so he didn't make a big deal of it.
Cae had let loose, after all, so if there was a fire, it must be gone.

Rimas walks by in the foreground as Marble and Jacks (twin brothers) sit at a table reading a book. Jacks is blind and has a white cane and dark glasses. Marble's hair is shaped like a round marble. Jacks has hair that is shaped like a jack, like from the children's game. Marble is wearing a shirt showing two figures being abducted by an alien mothership, captioned 'Could be us'.
Marble and Jacks were regulars at the bookstore.
Of course, they never bought anything.
They just hung out in the window seating area treating the bookstore like a library.

Bro. Rimas is coming this way.
She looks pleased with herself but also kind of pissed off.
She's really booking it, jeez.

No kidding, I could feel the wind off her!
Hey Reem, what did you light on fire?

All these questions! Gah!!!

Damn, okay. I asked you literally one question.
But whatever, be weird with yourself.

I have recorded the following block of narration.
If you would rather listen to it than read it, please use this play button.

Rimas was of a single mind, though.
The wind had knocked most of the foam off of her by this point.
But the faint smell still clung to her.
The stereotype about skunks smelling bad had been ingrained in her mind.
It consumed her childhood. It colored her every romantic relationship.
It influenced how she was treated professionally.
It influenced how she was treated socially.
She was mocked, cast out, fetishized, and bullied over her species.
She, almost obsessively, could not stand smelling bad.
If she so much as caught a whiff of someone else's body odor, she would shower.
Nothing else mattered.
Not the fact that she had achieved a life-long goal of using magic correctly.
Nor the fact that she only got to see her brother once a week.
Nor seeing Frost's recording of Ikal achieving the unthinkable.
Nor her store making an honest sale.
Nor her friends showing an interest in her life and immediately noticing her.
No one had even commented on her smell. But she was convinced everyone was thinking it.
"There goes a skunk who smells bad."
She showered twice a day and washed her hands obsessively.
Before and after eating. Before and after using the rest room. When she exercised.
When she felt she hadn't washed her hands well enough just then.
When she noticed there was a little bit of gunk under her nail.
Whenever she felt bad about herself.
She turned off the TV whenever an advertisement showing something that stunk came on.
A part of her brain had become so obsessed with this idea that she might smell bad,
that she was convinced even seeing a depiction of something that stank
might rub off on her, and make her stink too.
She actually used to smoke, you know. When her girlfriend fell into a coma.
She needed it to take the edge off her nerves.
But eventually her reality, her situation, caught back up to her.
Smoking made her smell bad. And she couldn't have that.
She gave it up because it turned her into the stereotype. A skunk who smells bad.
She brushed her teeth four times a day and flossed twice a day.
She gargled with mouthwash and avoided eating foods that would give her bad breath.
She used scented shampoo, floral deodorants, body washes and lotions.
Because smelling good, in her mind, was the most important thing to a skunk.
It was the only way anyone would ever want to be around her.
It was the only thing that mattered when people were near her.
A tiny 4'10" woman who was lucky enough to be born with built in pepper spray.
But she had her scent glands removed when she was 21.
Right now, she was a skunk who smelled bad.
And Rimas would rather die than be a skunk who smelled bad.

Rimas climbs the stairs to her apartment. A large skylight dominates the stairwell, and visible outside of it, a small glint on a distand rooftop.
It's funny that she would rather die than smell bad.
Not like, in a comedic way. No.
Funny in an ironic way, at this point in the story.
Because off in the distance was someone who very much wanted to make her dead.

Happy birthday to me...
Happy birthday to me...

Eddie, a dingo, holding a Barrett M82A1 sniper rifle aimed through the skylight above the stairs that Rimas is climbing, with a huge grin on his face.
Gonna kill a magic user...
And collect a big fee!

Remember when I said you could get a license to fly, in Aden?
That was true. But it isn't the only unorthodox thing you can be licensed in.
Eddie, for example, was a licensed sniper whose job was to kill criminals.
Getting a sniper license requires a brutally difficult exam.
The final part of the exam is killing your first target.
The exam has a 99% failure rate.
There are very few crimes considered severe enough to warrant a sniper.
These are reserved for crimes such as rape, cannibalism, or torture.
But it so happens that using magic, let alone in public, was one among those.
And, in fact, carried the highest bounty of all crimes in Aden.
One hundred million kredit... That is to say, about a million bucks.

What a beautiful skylight...
Must be a recent addition to the building.
Glass is cleaner than any of the other windows.
Truly, my lucky day.

Eddie kills at least one person a day.
He has done this consistently for his fifteen-year career as a civilian sniper.
Most civilian snipers make one kill per year, if that.
Eddie is a different beast entirely.
He specializes in hunting fledgling mages.
He has a magic flux detector device which goes off when the legal threshold for magic is breached.
Her death warrant was signed the moment she cast the spell.
Had this been even ten years ago, Cae's quick intervention might've saved her life.
Rimas Nolie, aged 30, single, blood type B-, owner of Atticleaves Used Bookstore...
She is about to die. I hope you enjoyed her.

Vincent cups his radio to his face in the backseat of a car, with the glint of Eddie's rifle visible above him.

Eddie. Do not fire.

Well, if Vincent hadn't been in town, that is.

Why? I'm a civilian, Vinny, I don't take orders from you.
Maybe try sweetening the pot a little bit for an old chum, eh?

I will pay double the bounty for magic users if you swear not to kill her, ever.

The reason magic’s illegal is because a little magic can kill a lot of people.
Doesn’t take much to incinerate the inside of someone’s lungs,
or sever the right blood vessels under the skin.
You and I are both magic users, so we know,
and we’ve got the sense not to use it within Aden’s borders.
You expect me to disregard my duty to the public for money? I’m insulted. INSULTED.


My finger’s slipping... There might be an accident...

Five times! Five times the bounty!

I’m on the right side of the law here. I’m taking the shot.

Ten! Ten times!

Throw in one of your infamous favors.

Those are special, Eddie, don’t get ahead-

So your daughter’s childhood best friend isn’t special? Shame... Here I gooooo-

Fine! Fine! Ten times the bounty and a favor!

Eddie set down his rifle and peeked over the edge of the building's wall.
He wagged his tail and grinned ear to ear.

Dumb bloke really has gone soft in the head with age.
I'll be down in two shakes of a lamb's tail!

Eddie looks down the wall at Vincent, who is on the ground.
Vincent looks up at Eddie from the ground.
Just meet me at the bank and I'll pay you... And get a contract notarized.

I walked here, Vinny. I'm not bringing my gun into a bank, be reasonable.
Hey, here's an idea! Why don't we take your fancy armored limo to the bank!
Oh, we could use the drive-through teller! How convenient!
And just think, you can show me the minibar you've got in that sweet ride!

This is an official government vehicle, Eddie!
Besides that, I'm incensed that you're trying to act buddy buddy after bleeding me dry.
You're pure evil!

Awww, you love meee....

Oh there's a lot of words for what I feel towards you right now.
And you'd best believe me when I say love ain't among those words.

With the immediate threat to Rimas's life dealt with,
it looks like she'll probably survive for at least a few more days.
But there's someone to whom the threat to life is far more immediate.
Do you remember who it is?
That's right. Me. Now, where did I leave off... Ah, yes.
So there I was, two broken ribs and a concussion, laying on the asphalt...