The sky of Diabolus was dark and foreboding: just as it was every day. The dark gray clouds rolled across the sky, coating every inch. Not a single beam of sunlight pierced through them. Streams of electrical currents flashed through the fluffy coverings, lighting the sky up a bright blue. Every now and again a streak of lightning would fly across, followed by a rumbling of thunder.
"I really wish Martykins would stop making the days so dark and dreary," said Linda, tilting her head up to the sky.
She strode across a sandy beach, the tiny particles varying in shades of blue, causing the shoreline to be a pale azure tone. She was accompanied by a shorter woman, her stripes a soft lavender. A blue and gray scarf wrapped snuggly around her neck. She walked beside the albino silently, her gaze wandering around at her surroundings.
Linda carried a small bundle over her shoulder, her white hand stroking it along its back. It rustled slightly at her touch and a small face peered out from under the woman's curly sensors. It's skin was white, splashed with patches of black along its body. Several clusters of sensors grew out along its arms, legs, and tail. It emitted a low whimper as its fearful eyes looked around, its pale orange stripes glowing brightly.
"Don't be so scared, Harlin," the woman said softly, petting the small child, "Mommy won't let anything hurt you."
The shorter woman glanced up at them, her expression curious, "Maybe the waves are scaring him? They are pretty loud this far down."
"Maybe. That or it's the lightning. I told Martykins he should calm it down some but you know that silly goose!" she giggled, her pink smile widening.
She readjusted her arms and pulled the small blacorite off her shoulder, much to his dismay. He grabbed at the air, his little legs kicking about. His eyes widened and he cooed in distress.
"It's okay, sweetie! I got you," the white woman whispered as she got a better grip on him. She held him against her chest but he still wiggled around nervously. Linda looked at her companion and asked, "You wanna hold him, Charlie?"
"N-No that's alright," she replied, waving a hand, "Last time I held him he started crying. I-I don't think he likes me that much."
"Nonsense!" Linda exclaimed. She reached out her free arm and grabbed at the young woman's shoulder, pulling her in closely. The albino did not seem to notice the girl's awkward expression as she continued, "You just have to get to know him better! I'm sure he'll warm right up to you."
"I g-guess," she replied, her face pressing into the taller woman's side.
The three walked farther along the beach, listening to the sounds of the nearby touring crowds and the slapping of the waves along the shore. Few other people were enjoying the view of the ocean. Only small families or couples, almost all of them of organic race, were sitting in the sand or playing in the water. Several of them glanced at the robotic trio strangely, especially as the tall white figure gripped the other two.
They finally stopped in a pleasantly secluded spot where the sandy beach leveled out. Linda released her female friend, who immediately stepped backward to readjust her scarf. The pink striped woman bent down and held the small blacorite child in her arms. The young toddler's orangey-peach lights fluctuated timidly as he looked around.
"Okay sweetie-pie, play time now!" she said and set the child down.
The second his feet touched the sandy floor he let out a short cry and reached back up for his mother, "NO!"
"Come on, Harcub, it's alright," she pet his head, messing up his wildly displayed sensors, "Nothing's gonna hurt you."
"NO!" he cried back and attempted at climbing up the woman's arms.
Charlie watched the two uneasily, rubbing her arms and wrapping her tail around her legs. "I think he's scared," she said in a quiet tone.
Linda ignored her and set the kid back down in the sand. Her tone became agitated, "Come on now, don't be a stinker-butt. Go and have some fun! Stop being like Harbear!"
"Want go home!" the child pouted and tried to return to his mother's arms.
Linda stood back up before he could reach her and his pale eyes went wide. He clung tightly to her hock, stepping his tiny feet onto her toes to get out of the dampened sand. His little sensors twitched as he looked around, frightened.
"You did good last time when you came with Leo! What's your problem this time?" She looked down at him and curled the end of her tail around his small frame for comfort.
"Maybe he wants another little kid with him?" Charlie suggested, trying her best to help.
Linda thought for a moment, setting a white finger under her chin. Her sensors perked up as an idea struck her. "Haaaarliiiin?" she called him sweetly. She bent down and ran a hand through his sensors, "If you go play for awhile I'll let you go visit Jeevesy and sit at your favorite table!"
The young child's pink pupils went wide and a small smile pulled itself across his snout. His tail tip wagged happily and he replied in a cheery little voice, "Okie!"
He then set off across the beach, his little feet kicking up sand along the way. He stumbled several times, his sense of balance still not completely set in. Linda watched him go proudly, her stripes beaming. "That's my baby!"
As the two women stood beside one another, observing the small blacorite play around in the sand, a silence spread between them. The sounds of amusement park rides and happy screaming tourists echoed in the background, the parks not being too far off. The crashing waves and relaxing sound of the wind drowned most of the noise out, giving a slight sense of peace.
Charlie enjoyed the tranquility around her. She had desperately needed a break after being stuck in the coffee shop she worked at day in and day out. Sometimes the rush of customers was more than the girl could bear. Inside she knew it would be worth it in the end, even if she ached from head to tail in the process.
However, the silence made the tall albino feel uncomfortable. She looked to either side of her, observing the few visitors who were also enjoying the peace. She returned to watching Harlin, who was sitting in the sand, staring strangely at his tail. Her gaze then fell down to the girl beside her.
"Sooo Charlie-girl," she said in an amused tone, "You thought about when you're gonna ask Harbear out?"
The question sent a shock through the young woman and she whipped her head up to her companion, "Wh-what?! N-No, I
I don't-- I-I mean
Linda giggled and placed an arm on the girl's shoulder, "You're so silly, Charlotte! How long has it been since you started working here? I would have snagged him up way before now if I were you. What's the hold up?"
The shorter woman's eyes fell away. She shrugged and stroked the end of her scarf anxiously. "I-I don't have your confidence, Linda
" her gaze then shifted to the small child who sat by the water, looking at the incoming waves curiously, "A-And he has you and Harlin now anyway."
"Pssh, so what?" Linda's eyes narrowed at the young female, "We've been over this already, Charlotte. I don't like Harbear like that! We're close, but not in that sort of way. And his relationship with Harlin is fine as is. That doesn't mean he can't have, you know, someone special in his life. And you just might be the right type of special!"
" she tried to find the words she was searching for but was unable to grasp them. Instead she simply fell silent, peering down at her sand-covered feet.
"It's really not that big of a deal," Linda said, putting her arm back around the girl and giving her a smile, "Honestly, you should just suck it up and go for it. What's it gonna hurt?"
The young blacorite glanced up at her friend, her expression saddened, "I-I don't want to get in the way is all I guess. He is really busy, and probably more-so with the baby."
Linda let out an annoyed huff, "Please, girl, I watch Harcub most of the time anyway. Sure Harliebear's busy, but I can pull a few strings with Martytart to give him a little time off. I've done it before. Just get the nerve to at least ask him. If you keep it up I'll have to do it for you. And you know I will."
"I d-dunno," Charlie averted her gaze, her purple stripes dimming. She seemed about to say something else when a child's voice called out to them.
"Mommy! Mommy, found stuff!" called little Harlin, who looked over his shoulder at them. He pointed at something at the line of the water with his tiny claws.
The two women exchanged a confused glance and set off in his direction. The soft, dry sand turned wet and muddied as they reached him; the edges of the waves nipped at their feet. Harlin was knelt down, examining something half-emerged in the dirt.
Linda got to her knees beside him and tilted her head, trying to make out what it was. "Gross! Charlie, what the heck is that?"
The girl peered down at it, squinting her eyes. The object was a dark color, covered in tiny specks. Despite the accumulation of wet sand on top of it, it had a shiny, slick surface. "I'm not sure. A jellyfish maybe?"
A large wave crashed a few yards out, sending a rush of water flying up to the three. Harlin squealed when the cold liquid washed over his feet and Linda quickly snatched him up before it toppled him over. The water dislodged the creature from its muddy burrow, sending it smacking into Charlie's legs. She let out a startled scream and jumped back, only to have a long appendage remain attached to her skin. She kicked it off, shuddering at its touch.
Linda, not bothered at all by the sudden surge, held onto Harlin's wet form as he shivered from fright. She stroked his face in an attempt to calm him, wiping off droplets of water and sand from his cheeks.
Charlie looked back down to the creature now splayed out on the sand, eight long arms sticking out to and fro. "O-oh, it's an, um, octopus."
"Huh, I didn't even know those were native here," Linda set the toddler back onto the wet ground. He looked around, bewildered, until his eyes fell onto the dark creature again.
He tentatively stepped away from his mother's hold and kneeled down into the sand. After a moment of nervously observing the creature, a smile formed on his bi-colored face.
"Sqwuirwel!" he said excitedly, pointing a black hand at the wet creature.
The two women giggled at the child. Charlie leaned down and corrected him, "No, Harlin, that's not a squirrel. It's an octopus."
The toddler shook his head, "No. Sqwuirwel!"
Before either female could stop him, the child reached out and grabbed onto one of the sea creature's long tentacles. The animal, half the size of the young boy, was then quickly picked up and held in his arms.
"I like sqwuirwel!"
"Aww, that's so cute!" Linda smiled and watched him snuggle the soaked creature.
Charlie gave her a startled glance, "L-Linda I think it's, um
It took the mother a minute to realize the significance of her words. Her smile then vanished and she looked at her son with a wide eyes, "Eww, Harlin no! Put that down! It has germs!"
She reached out to snatch the creature away, but Harlin turned his back to her, gripping the animal tighter. "No! My sqwuirwel!"
Linda gave a hesitant laugh and reached out for him again, "That's cute, Harcub, but we need to put the
'squirrel' down. Uh, tell him, Charlie!"
"Oh, uh," the woman gently pushed her sensors out of her face before bending down to meet the child. "Yeah, the octo-- I-I mean squirrel, has to go back home to the ocean now."
"No!" Harlin shook his head, squeezing the small, dark creature. Its long tentacles hung down limply as he held onto its sand-coated body. Streams of sticky goo dripped down from it.
Linda put a hand around the boy and prepared to make a grab for it, "Now, now, Harlin, it's not nice to disobey Mommy. Now let me see the--"
"NO!" Harlin yelled at his mother, eyes fixed angrily. When the woman reached for him once more, he took off down the line of the beach, tentacle-creature in tow.
"Harlin! HARLIN GET BACK HERE!" the albino immediately got to her feet and took chase, leaving the scarf-wearing woman behind.
The young female looked on as the mother ran in pursuit of her child, who was making great pace for such a small toddler. His short legs carried him past a sitting humanoid couple, who stared at him strangely.
Linda continued the chase, sensors folded back in anger. She gave the couple a hostile glare and yelled, "What are you looking at?!"
Charlie remained where she was, rubbing her arm in embarrassment. She wondered whether or not she should take chase as well, but instead remained where she was, watching as mother and son ran around the beach. She felt best to not get in their way. Especially not in Linda's way.
She let out a sigh. She then looked up at the sky, still full of heavy gray clouds. The blue static charges remained there, bouncing from one cloud to the next. A streak of spider lightning struck out across the heavens, followed by a low rumbling of thunder that was nearly drowned out by the waves of the ocean. The day was coming to a close once more and not even Charlie was looking forward to it.
* * *
The main building of the Diabolus headquarters had closed down for the day, the employees getting off of their shifts and returning to their rooms to relax. The guests had all left and were either enjoying the night parks or were back in their hotels.
An elevator buzzed when it reached its floor and the two women and child stepped out. All three smelled of sea water and their feet and tails were sprinkled with remnants of sand. Harlin held onto his mother's neck as she carried him in, a tired look upon her face.
"You sure you're alright?" Charlie asked the woman apprehensively, her expression worried, "I-I can try to take the baby off your hands if you want."
"No, I'm fine," Linda replied, her tone exhausted. She rubbed the young child's back as he snuggled up to her head sensors, a smile on his face.
Just as they headed to the entrance of the employee lounge, the door parted open and a tall, blue-striped man walked out. He stopped when he met them, pausing to take in what he was seeing.
He let out an amused chuckle as he greeted, "Heh, well hey ladies. Don't you just look so--"
"So what, Martykins?" Linda interrupted him, eyes narrowed.
The boss flinched at her sharp words. His laugh turned nervous and he replied, "Uh, so
lovely! Y-Yes, of course."
Linda smiled happily and replied, "Why, thank you! You're so sweet!"
Not bothering to comment on her statement, the man stepped up to the two, watching Harlin look at him with rounded eyes. Marty squinted at the child, who appeared to be covered in dried sand.
"So what's up with your little deformed kid today?"
"W-We went to the beach, sir," Charlie replied, trying to put on a smile, "Harlin was p-playing in the sand
The man gave an annoyed huff and leaned against his striped staff, "I thought babies were supposed to sleep all day. I think Enrik sleeps more than him now."
"He's just grown out of that stage I guess," Linda replied, stroking the boy's sensors from his face.
Something about the woman's voice sounded off. So much so even her employer noticed. Though he feared the result, he couldn't help but ask, "Aaand what's your problem?"
"Huh? Oh, nothing Martykins," the albino responded, "I just had a little mishap and fell in the water is all."
"And you didn't get electrocuted? How disappointing--UH I MEAN, wonderful!" he swiftly corrected, giving the woman another fake smile. She was much too tired to notice or care about his mistake.
She rubbed a hand across her paneled mouth, tilting her head slightly. "I think I might have some water in my vents or something. It's giving me a headache."
When she turned her head, the small child was revealed to be holding something against his chest. Marty noticed it and questioned in an irritated tone, "The hell is that thing?"
It took the mother a moment to understand what he was talking about. She glanced down at the boy and, with a smile, told him, "Oh
just something he picked up on the beach. Go on, Harcub, show Mr. Marty what you got!"
With a cutesy little grin, the toddler turned and showed off his hidden treasure, "Sqwuirwel!"
The boy held out the dead creature, its dark complexion now having faded a good deal. Marty simply stared at it. He glanced up at the woman, his expression clearly unimpressed. "That's an octopus."
Charlie gave a nervous little laugh and tried to explain, "Yeah, w-we tried to get it away from him b-but he liked it too much. He wouldn't go home without it."
A smile crept upon the man's face, his brows raising as he observed the dangling tentacles from the creature. "Well, guess it's just as they say: like father like son."
The violet-striped woman peered up at him curiously but didn't question the statement. Linda let out an amused chuckle. Harlin brought the dead animal back towards him, petting its slimy surface.
"Sqwuirwel my fwiend!"
"Yes, we know it's your friend," Linda simply agreed with the child as she lifted one of the appendages from her chest. She and the younger woman then continued on their way to the lounge. The boss stood where he was for a moment before turning back and following after them, curious on their intentions.
Once the door opened and everyone entered, they spotted Harlie sitting on one of the couches across the way, his computer belt turned on and his fingers tapping away at it. He did not even bother to look up at the group after they entered, his attention too focused on the screen.
Charlie's lavender stripes blushed as she saw him and she unconsciously hid herself behind the tall white woman. Linda did not notice her actions and bent down, setting her son on the carpeted floor. He continued to cling onto the creature, fiddling with one of its long arms.
Linda smiled and quietly asked him, "Okay little Harcub, why don't you go show daddy what you got at the beach today?"
Marty tried to suppress his laughter as he added, "Yeah, go show your pops what you got. I'm sure he'll be so proud."
The child looked down at his prize and gave a little smile as he sweetly replied, "Okie!"
The young child carefully made his way across the floor and up to the working blacorite, who still had paid him no mind.
"Daddy!" Harlin addressed him in his innocent little voice.
"What is it Harlin?" the orange striped man replied, his voice sounding incredibly tired. He kept his eyes on the screen, appearing to be finishing up a task.
"Daddy, I found a sqwuirwel!" the young one said proudly. He held the animal close to him, his smile even more blissful than before.
Still the man did not notice, his eyes beginning to droop, along with his sensors. "That's nice."
The child stroked the creature once more before taking a step closer to the man and asking, "Want pet him?"
Lifting the animal up above his head, he set it down on his father's leg. The cold, wet, sticky creature sent a chill up his skin. Immediately the blacorite's eyes flew wide and his head flicked downward. When he saw the unidentifiable mob of flesh on his leg he flinched and let out a short yelp.
"What the hell is that?!"
Marty could not contain his laughter. He leaned against the back of the couch to taunt his assistant. "Didn't you hear, Harlie? It's a 'sqwuirwel'. Your favorite of the animal kingdom!"
Not understanding what he meant, Harlie switched off his belt and carefully reached down to touch the object. He picked up an appendage, lifting the rest of the creatures body along with it. His expression shifted from shock to relief as he then realized what it was. "
"Daddy like?" Harlin asked, reaching up to pet its slick surface again.
"Uh," the man looked down nervously, not sure what to say but trying to chose his words carefully, "Yes, I
love the, uh, squirrel. Thank you, Harlin."
Marty snickered, "I knew you'd love it too."
The assistant gave him a hard glare and his orange lights flushed brightly. He then turned his attention to the boy's mother, "Linda, why does Harlin have
Linda's smile stretched across her face. "We went to the beach and he found it. Don't worry, it's dead!"
Harlie did not know what to do with the creature, so he reluctantly let the boy take it back. He watched as the lad cuddled and petted the creature like a doll.
The father then looked up at the albino woman once more, his tone questioning, "Okay, but does he know that it's dead?"
"From what I can tell
Little Harlin paid no attention to them. His focus remained on the item in his arms. Harlie looked down at him once more and a worried expression fell across his face. "As fascinating as it is, that thing needs to go."
Linda shook her head, "No use. I keep trying and he keeps getting upset. He got attached to it rather quickly."
"Well, he can't keep a dead octopus around. That's
"Oh yes, they definitely can be quite dirty," Marty said, brows raising. He then elbowed the man and added, "Aren't they, Harlie? You know all about that."
"No. No I don't know what you mean at all," Harlie ignored him and pushed himself out of the seat. It was then that he realized the other young woman had entered with them as well.
Embarrassed, he quickly greeted, "Hello, Charlotte."
The girl's own stripes glowing brightly, she smiled nervously and replied, "H-Hi, Harlie."
Linda resisted the urge to let out a girlish giggle. Instead she reached for the girl's arm and pulled her closer. She did not resist, but looked up at the tall woman curiously.
Linda gestured between the young woman and toddler before asking, "Say, Charlie-girl, you're pretty good at talking to little Harlin, why don't you explain it to him?"
"E-Explain what? You m-mean death?" she looked up at her surprised, "I-I don't think I could do that."
"Well you don't have to go in detail about it, just
enough so he'll understand that he needs to let it go," she then added quietly, "Cause it's kinda starting to stink."
Harlie interjected, a serious expression on his face, "We shouldn't force her to do it. That's our job."
"Shut up, Harliebear," the woman shot him an angry glare, "We can do that when he asks how babies are made."
Charlie, still not sure why the mother would ask such a thing from her, nervously played with her scarf. She glanced up at the woman once again and Linda gave her a wink. It was only then that Charlie understood where she was coming from. Would something like this really impress Harlie? Charlie had her doubts.
Despite her initial unwillingness, she let out a sigh and gave a small nod, "Okay, I c-can try at least."
Unsure of herself, the woman knelt down to the floor in front of the child, resting her hands on her knees. She put out a hand and tapped on the young one's shoulder. He jolted at her touch, turning around and staring at her strangely, still holding the animal.
"L-Listen Harlin, you need to
put the squirrel down now. You can't k-keep it anymore."
The boy lowered his brows and held on even more tightly to it, "NO!"
Charlie looked off to the side, trying to think of what to say next. "I know you want to keep it, b-but see, it's
sorta dead. Do you know what being dead means?"
Harlin looked at her curiously, his large eyes growing wider, "No
"Well, uh, being dead means
that you are asleep. Cept instead of w-waking up you just stay asleep. Forever."
Appearing confused, the boy looked down, his head tilting to the side. "Sqwuirwel sleepy?"
The woman nodded, letting a smile cross her face, "Yes, cept you can't wake him up. So we n-need to take him and, uh
put him to bed."
Harlin stared at his eight legged pet, his pupils twitching as he tried to understand what the elder woman had said. He fidgeted his hands, toying with one of the long tentacles. He ignored the long streams of slime that stretched between it and his chubby fingers.
When at last he looked back up, he replied in a calm, somewhat disappointed voice, "Okie."
A collective sigh of relief spread between the three adults, save for Marty, who simply watched half-bored from the back of the couch.
Charlie smiled at the child and said, "O-okay! Good, Harlin."
"You put sqwuirwel to bed?" the toddler asked, stepping in her direction, arms outstretched.
She sat back, holding her arms away from it. Thankfully, before she could reply, Linda jumped in and suggested to her son, "How about you give Mr. Squirrel to daddy? He'll put him to bed!"
Ignoring the cackles from his boss, Harlie bent down, holding out his hands. "Yeah, give daddy the
Though reluctantly at first, Harlin stepped up to his father and plopped the damp creature in the man's hands. Giving it one last pet on the head, he gave it a loving farewell, "Bye bye, sqwuirwel! Have good sleeps!"
Having finally released his hold on the beast, Linda quickly grabbed up the child and happily put him up to her shoulder. She pinched the sensors on his forehead and proudly said, "That's such a good little Harcub!"
Charlie returned to her feet, giving a pleasant smile to the mother and son. Linda gave her a quick hug. "Thanks Charlie-girl! You're a sweetheart." She then turned to Harlie and added, "And you be a good daddy and put little squirrely to bed!"
As she walked off to the exit she spoke in the same cheery, though somewhat tired voice, "Come on now, you need a bath to get all those icky squirrel cooties off!"
"Mommy?" Harlin asked in a curious tone, "Mr. Enny sleepy all time. Is he dead?"
Laughing, the woman replied, "Of course not you little silly cubby you!"
The remainder of their conversation was unknown as the door closed behind them. In the new silence of the room, Harlie stared at the carcass in his hands uncertainly. He then glanced up at Charlie, who's lights flushed when he made eye contact.
"Thanks for that," the orange striped man said, a smile edging its way across his mouth, "I wouldn't have known how to explain it to him nearly that well."
"I-It's no problem," she replied, tentatively stroking the end of her scarf.
The room fell back into an awkward silence and the girl did not know what to do. She couldn't help but think back to Linda's words on the beach. Did she really have a chase with someone like Harlie? Would he even consider the offer, should she ask him? Most importantly, did she have the strength to stand up and say it?
"H-Harlie?" the words escaped her vents before she had the chance to think them over.
"Yeah?" he answered, staring at her curiously. As the young woman looked into his dark orange eyes, she knew he didn't feel the same as she did just then. If anything, he didn't appear to have a clue at all. Perhaps the time was just not right
n-never mind," she hesitantly replied, her gaze falling away. After rubbing an arm again, she turned back towards the door and quietly uttered, "W-Well I better go. It's g-getting late. I'll see you guys later."
"Okay, see ya," Harlie called after her and gave a wary smile.
"Yeah, bye," Marty lazily waved at her with his staff.
The girl passed through the exit, letting the automatic door close behind her. She let out a sigh of relief. Maybe it wasn't the right time today, but she'd get her chance eventually. She just needed to work up the courage to do so. For the mean time, she just wanted to go home and sleep.
As soon as she left the lounge, Marty stood up straight and outstretched his back with a groan. He then put a hand to his hip and looked over at his secretary. "So
whatcha gonna do with your new friend there?"
Harlie observed the dead sea creature, his hands beginning to feel gross under its cold, slimy surface. He did not seem entirely disgusted at the animal, but nor did he seem thrilled, "I
have no idea."
"Well, good luck with that then!" Marty gave him a confident nod. He then strode across the lounge, exiting through the front entrance as he had earlier.
Alone in the room, Harlie simply stood there. He looked to either side, then back down to the beast. He was unsure what to think of what just happened. It was unlike Harlin to be so enthused about something as he had been, but he chalked it up to his son just being a curious child. Linda did not seem to think it was a big deal, so he shouldn't either. Charlotte
was she acting strangely? No, she was probably just tired. That was all. Right?
He looked away from the dead animal and gave a disheartened sigh. He also made for one of the opposite exits, thinking of the different possibilities to dispose of Harlin's new friend.
"Where's a shoebox when you need one?"