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Metro: Beyond
Kaella Corvus

Cat Eat Dog World

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If she had yanked it off of something important, at least nobody had seen her do it. The smallest ones were always the fastest, even if their technique was lacking.

"Yes!" the young boy fist-pumped the air, clearly delighted at the idea of bread. Which, nicely, tasted far less fungal than most of the other things you could make with the subterranean mushrooms that made up the bulk of their Metro-centric diet.

The two were easy to shoo, and went to fetch wood, while the youngest kept on playing with the little metal thing.

Meanwhile, Vanja and the older ones were just about done with their quick fry, and scrambling for makeshift plates.

"Hope you're hungry, we got more here than I figured we would," said Vanja.

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The distraction of bringing fuel in kept the pair of middle aged brats out of the way long enough for Vanja and the older ones to get most of their task done. In the mean time Kaella helped with minor tasks in the background, lending a hand where asked, and keeping an eye on the little one. Fortunately the shiny new metal thing was keeping the youngest distracted for the time being. 

When it came time to set their makeshift table, Kae drifted to help, "No sparse potions tonight," she grinned, "we all get to eat good." 

Really, it only would have been better if they'd had a few sausages. But meat was a commodity, and even as good as their score had been, they'd both decided that three bullets a link just wasn't worth it. 

The two that had been sent out for more stove-fuel came spilling back through the door, each holding small armfuls of old wood. They dumped it off in the basket and then came trotting to the table. 

"You lot be sure to thank Vanja," Kae said once they were all gathered about the small space, "foraging and  cooking all in the same day is a lot of work." 

@WisePenny

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Each one of the members of their little family was a kid picked up off the street, and they were a diverse bunch. Teenagers who'd run away from home. Kids who'd lost their parents to violence or disease. Babies found abandoned, who didn't know any family but this one. All still hungry, all still barely surviving. But every one better off here than where they'd been before.

Of course, there were more street kids than these ones. You saw them damn near every day. But Vanja had learned it, hard and early: you can't save them all, no matter how badly you might want to.

She and Kae did their best, though. And tonight they wouldn't be so hungry, at least.

Vanja dished out the food - spicy, oily, earthy, salty - to each plate before sitting down to eat herself. Nobody waited before digging into it, but that wasn't expected. The table manners were lacking, and nobody cared.

"Hey," Vanja said, waving off the thanks, "Thank Kae. She scored big today!" She looked up at Kae with a glint in her eye. "Our Kae fought off a whole swarm of Nosalias single handedly!" Of course she wasn't going to tell them the real story. The older ones rolled their eyes, but the small ones stared at Kae with big eyes. "G'on," said Vanja, "Tell them how you punched one right in the snout!"

@Dragon

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Even Kae almost rolled her eyes at the tale Vanja concocted on the spot. They both knew that she'd never done anything but either hide, or haul ass at the glimpse of a Nosali - let alone a pack of them. Now, Lurkers she could handle; but they were small and easy to give a solid boot to. Anything bigger than that, and the slight girl was out. 

"Oh, well that part wasn't that impressive," Kae laughed and shook her head to delay a few moments long enough to come up with a tale to keep the little ones entertained, "that one was just trying to follow us through a narrow passage, so I whopped it a couple times while it was struggling to get through."

That was impressive enough for the small ones, who hadn't been out of their home station much. They mostly had embellished hero stories to rely on. So unlike the older members of the group, they had no idea how ridiculous the idea really was. 

"And Van helped a little. You know what a dead eye she is with a rock." 

@WisePenny

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It was funny, the little things you did to keep yourself going. The little white lies that kept a family together. The bigger lies that made life feel a little lighter, that kept up morale for the kids.

The story was so patently fake that it was useless to pretend otherwise to anyone over the age of seven. But the story was, if nothing else, fun.

It was what they'd always done. Enough so that even the teenagers, surly as they could be, got into it.

"Yeah," one said reluctantly, giving Kae a look of I know what you're up to, "I bet you never missed a shot, right? And it was probably the biggest one you'd ever seen?"

"YES!" Vanja jumped right in, gesturing with her fork. "Fuckin' HUGE! Massive thing, barely fit through the passage as it chased after us. We'd ducked around a corner to hide but we could still hear it..." she made a spiderlike movement with her hand across the table, approaching the nearest little one. "...Stalking us... looking for us... coming in for the kill!" She reached out and grabbed at the kid's tummy, tickling it as she shrieked.

"I was just lucky Kae was there to save the day!"

@Dragon

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"Of course I never missed a shot," Kae answered, giving her chin an upward, haughty tilt in the moment, "I can throw a rock straighter than anyone in the metro." 

That much was maybe sort of accurate, at least. Kae did have a good aim when it came to throwing various objects - she'd hit what she was throwing at far more often than she'd ever missed. If cans and pebbles were as effective as bullets, they'd all be safe. 

"Next time we'll have to stop long enough to pry out a couple teeth or something. Bring you lot back a souvenir," she grinned, "I tried to make Vanja wait but the nerves got to her," Kae gave her sister-friend a smirk across the table. 

@WisePenny 

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Vanja cracked, only for a second, barely stifling the snort of laughter that came with remembering the various things that Kae had actually thrown rocks at, the many times this fake gambit had been employed in real life... often to great effect.

She took another bite of her dinner and shrugged.

"What can I say," she said through a full mouth, "They just smell so bad I can't stand to be near 'em."

@Dragon

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"They do smell pretty awful," Kae wrinkled her nose at the thought. The ring line was fairly secure, so they didn't have run ins with the mutants often. But the smell of their droppings was familiar all the same; and in close quarters the creatures had a strange stench of their own, "We might have regretted bringing teeth home without any way to bleach them out." 

@WisePenny

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The description of their scent wasn't a lie. At best they smelled like rotten meat. At worst, it was indescribable, an instant gagging sensation of horror. Vanja hadn't spent much time around them, thankfully, but her two brushes with the monsters had left quite the impression.

Still, one of the clueless kids looked up in wonder. "I want a tooth!" she said.

Vanja ruffled her hair with a grubby hand. "Maybe next time, lil bit."

@Dragon

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"We'll remember you in the next monster fight," Kae nodded to the child. Getting a hold of a tooth wouldn't be that difficult, really. There were vendors about that sold them as novelty trinket sorts of items. It probably wouldn't be difficult to swipe one in passing, next time one or both of them were out in the further stations. 

Bringing one back would double to make the child happy, and provide more fodder for Vanja's extravagant stories. 

It had the intended effect of making the small girl beam at the prospect. 

And then the unintended effect of causing the two small boys they looked after to hop in place.

"I want one too!" 

"Yeah!" 

@WisePenny

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Vanja couldn't help but laugh. "Alright, alright. Next time Kae beans one in the head with a rock, it'll be teeth all around, ok?" She scraped the rest of the food off the plate and directly into her mouth as the kids broke out into excited murmurs. Even some of the older teenagers shared glances, wondering how they might pull off the promised gift giving.

Vanja was, of course, on the exact same page as Kaella about how they'd manage it.

"Alright, clean up dishes, then it's getting late. I wanna sleep and if I'm tired, then you must be tired, too."

@Dragon

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