by Anthony Lee
The sun is beginning to set. A wave of darkness reaches out across the barren wasteland. This wasteland was once a beautiful grass field, surrounded by flowers, rivers, and mountains; however, it has lost all that beauty and luster thanks to the countless wars mankind has brought upon it. The planet Earth itself now a shell of its former self. Yet even in a world like this there still exists life. Not far off from where the sun is setting stands a town.
This town is built from the remains of the old world. A town created out of scraps and justly known as “Scrap Metal”. It is a town known for traders, people brave enough to travel the vast wasteland in search to find anything valuable to sell. Yes, Scrap Metal truly is a city for those who wish to live a peaceful life of trading and selling.
Arriving at the large twin steel doors of Scrap Metal were two travelers. They wore cloaks covering their bodies to protect them from the harsh weather of the wasteland. The gears squeaked and moaned as it work to open the doors. After waiting patiently for the doors the two travelers made their way inside. The smallest of the travelers looked in awe at the amount of the people who lived in the town. Without even noticing the taller traveler had already went ahead of the smallest who quickly released and chased after.
They came to a local tavern, once inside they removed their cloaks. The taller one had a muscular build with short blonde hair. He wore only a jacket that exposed his muscular arms and chest. He wore ragged blue jeans with boots. The only feature of his that stood out was the metal covering that covered his entire bottom jaw. He glanced down to see his companion having trouble with its cloak.
The man pulled off the smaller traveler’s cloak. When he did it revealed a small little girl with short amber hair. She wore a red button up jacket, red skirt with black frill, and red black lace boots. In her hands was a large bowl filled with water with a single goldfish inside. “Thank you, Steve!” the girl said.
The man nodded his head. The two of them walk toward the bar. The girl put the bowl on the bar before she stumbled into the seat. The man sat next to her. The bartender, a rugged man, came to serve them. “So what can I get you two?” he asked looking at the man.
“I’ll like some water and whatever food you got!” the girl shouted.
The bartender laughed at the girl order. “What about you big guy?” He stood glancing at the man. The man didn’t answer him back. “Um do you want anything?” The bartender asked again.
“Oh Mister Steve doesn’t talk and also he can’t eat.” The girl tapped his metal covering his jaw. “See? He lost the lower part of his jaw.”
“Oh I’m sorry to hear that.” The bartender started to pour a glass of water for the girl. He put it in front of her on a coaster. “So what are you two doing here in Scrap Metal?” he asked.
“We’re looking for someone.” said the girl. She gulped down the water.
“Looking for someone here? Well that’s the first I heard of someone saying that.” said the bartender.
“Why?” the girl asked.
“I’m Sonya. Sonya Reed!” said the little girl.
“Well Sonya Reed you see this is a town full of nothing but traders. So people only come here if they are looking to buy or trade.” The bartender said as he leaned against the bar counter.
“Buy or trade?”
“Yep.” The bartender eyed the fish the girl had on the counter. “So if the big man is Steve and you’re Sonya. Who is this little fella?”
“This is Mister Fish!” she said.
“Mister Fish! Well, nice to meet you!” The bartender flashed a big grin. “Well, sit right there and I’ll bring you back something good to eat.” He said.
“Ah thank you mister!” Sonya shouted. The bartender waved goodbye as he walked into the back.
Steve slowly turn around in his seat. He noticed all the traders and travelers in the tavern. Many who were strangers sat with one another and shared stories they had. Others showing off items they discovered or trying to make some wiry traveler buy something. When Steve turned back, the bartender emerged from the back with a large steak. “Alright here we go!” He put down the piece of steak in front of the girl. Sonya couldn’t believe how big the steak was.
“This is for me?” She asked.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure you eat lot of stuff like this once in a while.” He winked at Steve who replied with a nodded.
Sonya started to munch down on her steak. The bartender chuckled at the sight. “Easy now eat slow or you’ll choke.” He refilled her water. He noticed Steve staring off into space. “So he doesn’t really talk?”
“Nope.” said Sonya with a mouthful of steak. She swallowed it down with a help of water. “Ever since I met him he hasn’t talked.”
“Met him? Oh, so you two aren’t related in anyway?” the bartender asked.
“Uh huh., Mister Steve saved my life one day ’long with Mister Fish life.” Sonya look up at Steve and smiled. “So I’ve been traveling with him ever since.”
The bartender poured her some more water. “Is that so?” He turned to Steve. “So buddy why are you traveling for?”
Steve pointed to his right shoulder which had a tattoo. The bartender shook with an inner struggle to contain a laugh. He couldn’t believe the tattoo on Steve’s shoulder. It was a cat. A smiling cat. Why would someone like Steve have a tattoo like that?
“Is that a cat!?” The bartender said without laughing. Steve eyes glared at the bartender. It was the kind of glare that meant, “Laugh and I will kill you.”
“Do you like it, Mister?” Sonya asked. “I thought of the idea of Mister Steve getting that since he can’t talk.”
“Why would he need that?” The bartender asked.
“Well, he can’t really talk so he needs a way to tell people about the man he’s searching for.” She answered.
“A man is connected to that?” The bartender stared at Steve bizarre tattoo. “Who could be connected to that?” He wondered.
“A man with cat ears.” said Sonya.
“Cat ears?” The bartender gave a dumbfounded look.
“Yeah I know what you mean I was confused at first, but Mister Steve said the man he’s looking for has cat ears.”
“A man with cats ears, uh? I wonder why you would be searching for a man like that?” The bartender said as he stared at Steve.
After Sonya finished her meal, the two went to their room on the upper floor of the tavern. Sonya placed Mister Fish on the night stand near the closet bed. She jumped onto the bed. “Mister Steve the bed is comfy!” She said. Steve walked over to the window and watched the sun vanish away. When he turned back to Sonya he saw she was fast asleep. He placed her under the covers. She mumbled in her sleep mentioning the huge steak she had just had. Steve patted her head. He went back over to the window and sat down in the chair near it. As he continued to stare out he felt his eyes get heavy and it wasn’t long before he himself; fell asleep.
In the morning Steve and Sonya left the tavern. “Alright time to gather some information on the cat ear man!” Steve began to walk off. “Ah Mister Steve wait for me!” she hurried after him carrying the fish bowl on top of her head. The two walked and stopped at every trader in the town. Some didn’t even know of a man connected to a cat tattoo. Most laughed it off as some joke. Others didn’t bother to help them unless that bought something. One even tried to buy Mister Fish as food.
After countless tries at information the two eventually stop at a small café for lunch. Sonya had place Mister Fish on the table. She sulked in her seat. Her head bow downwards. “We didn’t get anything.” Steve shook both hands in the air as a sign saying no, “To worried”. Sonya nodded her head. She sip the ice tea she order. “Still I wonder why no one has even heard about that man?” She tilted her head to the bright blue sky. Steve felt bad for dragging Sonya throughout the whole day. Suddenly he remember eda small shop they passed where she wanted something. He stood up and pointed to her seat. This was signal Sonya knew that meant stay in your seat. She said ok without asking why. Steve went off into the busy street.
“I wonder where he’s going?” She said staring at her fish whose only reply was to blow out bubbles.
“Hey it’s almost time right?”
“Yeah, he said to be at the warehouse around five.”
Sitting in the far back of the café were three men. They had drinks on their table scattered about. One of them was a heavy smoker; finishing one then starting another.
“So are you sure this guy is good?”
“What do you mean? This guy is freaking tough and can kick anyone’s ass!”
“Yeah, but I just heard the rumors about his ears.”
“Oh that. Yeah, during the war they were removed, because of some accident. He ended up getting some cybernetic ones built into his head.”
“Yeah I hear they are…. Well…. Cat ears.”
Sonya flinched where she heard cat ears. Was this a lead to the man Steve was searching for? She titled her head in a way that didn’t look suspicious. The three men were very tough looking.
“Oh yeah he had those put in, but it doesn’t change the fact that this man will cut you like a fish.”
“Yeah I’ve heard rumors during the war that he wiped out his own comrades in a single night.”
“Wait? Why would he do that?”
“I heard it was for money.”
“Dang, that’s brutal.”
“Look it doesn’t matter about his damn past! What matters is this guy’s plan.” The man smoking flicked his cigarette on the floor and smashed it. “It’s time.”
“Right.” The other two men followed his lead. Sonya turn away as they came past her table. Once they left she quickly followed in pursuit. It wasn’t long until Steve returned to the café. A bag in hand containing the item he bought to surprise Sonya. Yet to his dismay she was gone. He look around wildly. Even approaching a young waiter and holding him by his collar. In haste he pointed to the table he and Sonya had sat at.
‘What the girl? I think she left a few minutes ago.” The waiter saw the anger in Steve eyes. “Look I don’t know where she went.” The waiter struggled the best he could, but couldn’t escape Steve’s grasp. “Please don’t hurt me!”
Steve released the waiter; dropping him to the floor. He hurried out of the café in hopes of finding Sonya. Elsewhere Sonya had successfully followed the three men to a large warehouse on the edge of town.
“We made it to their hideout, Mister Fish.” She said softly.
The fish swam around in the bowl. She gently squeezed the bowl in her arms. Her eyes locked on the door the men just entered. “Let’s try to get a closer peek.” She quietly snuck to the right side of the warehouse. She placed Mister Fish on a box crate and jumped onto one near a large broken glass window. She peered inside to see what was about to go down.
“So where is this guy at?” one of the men asked.
“Don’t worry he’s coming.”
Suddenly the tapping of feet against metal stairs echoed. The three men look up at the long staircase in front of them to see a man clad in a black cloak. The hood covered his face from the three men. “Welcome, gentlemen. Shall we get down to business?”
Sonya stood on her tippy toes to get a good look. “Is that the guy?” she wondered. She wished that he would remove the cloak. “Come on remove it, please?”
A large shadow loomed over Sonya. Before she could react a large man captured her along with Mister Fish. The doors to the warehouse slammed open and the man came in carrying Sonya and the fish. The three men were shocked to see her. The man in the cloak tilted his head in curiosity. “Oh who do we have here?”
“Found her outside boss.” The man threw Sonya to the ground. He held Mister Fish bowl in his right hand. “She had this fish with her too.”
“What the hell? Where did she come from?” one of the man asked.
“Like I said I found her outside.” The big man said.
The cloaked man knelt down to face Sonya. “Tell me little lady what are you doing here?” Sonya turned away from him, not wanting to answer. The cloaked man held out his hand. The big man put the fish down in his hand. “So mind me asking me what you were doing here or I might just smash this little fish bowl.”
“No! Don’t hurt Mister Fish!” Sonya cried. The cloaked man stood up with the fish bowl in hand.
“Mister Fish?” He look at the fish inside the bowl. “That’s a strange man.” He set his eyes on Sonya. “So tell me why you are here.”
Sonya was afraid to say anything. Usually in these situations Steve would be behind her and beat the crap out of them, but this time Steve didn’t even know where she was. Her eyes lit up with she saw the cloaked man tilt the bowl enough for a small amount of water to pour out. She ran to him and tugged at his cloak. “Please don’t hurt him!”
The cloaked man slowly lowered his hand. As he did Sonya watched as Mister Fish bowl slowly left his palm. She watched as Mister Fish bowl came falling down. She reached out to grab the bowl only catching it in time by a few seconds. She held the bowl tight pressing her cheek up against the glass.
“Thank goodness.” She said softly. Then without warning the cloaked man slammed his foot against Sonya’s back. She cried out in pain. The cloaked man’s icy eyes glared down at her.
“Silly girl, was a fish more than your life?”
“Wow. This guy is crazy.” One of the three men said.
“That’s just brutal,”said another.
The big man stood watching his boss repeatedly stomp on the girl. The three men couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The cloaked man stopped after ten or twelve stomps. Sonya was badly injury. Mister Fish swarm in a craze inside his bowl. Sonya looked up at Mister Fish. Her forehead was bleeding, but she smiled at Mister Fish. “At least you’re ok Mister Fish.” She fainted from the blood lost and injuries. “I got to respect that girl. She did everything to protect that fish.” said the cloaked man. He stared at Mister Fish. “Well, Mister Fish you owe this girl a lot.” He let out a roar of laughter.
“Man, I’m thinking this wasn’t a good idea now.”
“Hush! Just keep your mouth shut and we’ll get it,” said the chain smoker.
“Screw breaking into a bank! This guy is nuts!”
“Nuts? No I’m not nuts.” The cloaked man faced the three men. “I’m just being myself.”
Elsewhere, Steve drastically searched up and down the town for Sonya. Everywhere he stopped and asked if anyone had seen Sonya. In his effort he couldn’t find a single lead. He ran throughout the entire town, until he came upon the same warehouse Sonya followed the three men. He stared at the building for a while. “Could she be in there?” He wondered. As he came to the door he heard the voices of men talking.
“Alright that’s the plan.”
“Just wait until midnight and we’ll start.”
“Yes! I can’t wait we’re gonna be filthy rich!”
“Sir what shall we do with the girl’s body?” the big man asked.
The cloaked man began to walk back up the stairs he came down. “Just dump her body somewhere.”
“Poor girl, I still feel about this.”
“What can you do, curiosity kills the cat right?”
“You three can leave for now, just remember my boss details.” said the big man.
“Right,” said the chain smoker.
The big man was about to grab Sonya’s body, when the doors of the warehouse swung open. Steve stood there in a silent rage. The three men, big man, and cloaked man stood surprised by his entrance. Steve eyes went past the three men and saw Sonya. He silently walked past them to reach her. As he did the big man grasped his shoulder.
“Excuse me, just what exactly do you think you’re doing?”
Steve grabbed the big man’s hand and with quick ease. He flipped the big man over on his back. He slammed his fist straight into the big man’s face dealing a finishing blow. The three men jumped back in fright.
“What the hell!? He just took him out!”
“Who is this man?”
Steve picked up Sonya and checked his pulse. It was faint, but she was alive. He gave a cold sinister glare at the three men.
“Hey if you’re looking for whoever messed up that girl that would be that man over there!” said one of the men.
Steve fixed his gaze on the cloaked man. The image of Steve holding the injured Sonya in his arms made the man smile. “Well, if it isn’t Steve Ripper.” Steve jerked when the man mentioned his full name. The cloaked man slowly made his way back down the stairs.
“Are you still following me around all these years?” The man removed his cloak; revealing his true self. He wore no shirt, black karate pants and sandals. Yet the one thing that stood out from him was the two cybernetic cat ears on his head. The spot where his former ear had been were stitched up.
Steve glared at the man. The three men were shocked by his appearance too. “So he does have robotic cat ears!” one of them shouted.
“Shut up.” one whispered.
Sonya finally had enough strength to open her eyes. She saw she was in Steve’s arms. “Mister Steve.” She said. He turned his attention to her. “I knew you’d come, mister. I’m happy.” She titled her head down. “Is Mister Fish okay?” Steve nodded his head. He placed Sonya near the fish bowl. He patted her head. “Mister?” When she took time to look behind Steve she saw the man with the cat ears. She knew they had found the man.
Steve turned to face his foe. The three men left the warehouse not wanting to be part of the fight. “Ah, you made my clients run away. Now they might not want to make business with me.” The man started to close the gap between him and Steve. “Well, Steve how have you been?”
“So this is him.” Sonya thought. “What’s Mister Steve going to do?”
Steve readied his fist. The man smirked. “What no hello or how you been?” He asked.
Steve charged at him and swung. The man dodged Steve fists with ease. “Mind taking the first swing? Well you’ve always been like that Steve.” Cat Ears kicked Steve in the gut; knocking him back. Steve took the hit and got back into a fighting stance. Cat Ears brushed back his short brown hair. “You know I could have sworn you died that day, but I guess not. I’m pretty bad at that right?” Cat Ears ran up on Steve and proceeded to deliver blow after blow. Steve blocked each hit by using his forearms as shields. “When was our second meeting? Oh right! It was at the old man lab.”
Steve glare enough could you enough he thought of Cat Ears as a bastard. Cat Ears noticed Steve glare and smile. “That old man fixed you up and gave you a second chance at life.” Cat Ears punched Steve in the gut. He then grabbed him; lifting him over his head in which he threw Steve to the ground. He began to stomp Steve in the chest. “It wasn’t until I had my ears replaced by him that I found you. And even then you wanted to kill me!” Cat Ears gut punched Steve. “So of course my reaction was to fight back and kill you!”
“So Mister Steve knew this man?” Sonya gripped the fish bowl tight. “And this man try to kill Mister Steve? Why?”
Steve grasped Cat Ears foot and twist him. This made Cat Ears twirl and fall to the ground. Steve jumped up, but so did Cat Ears. The two of them went at it, sending and receiving blow after blow from each other. Sonya couldn’t believe how well matched they were. She knew Steve was excellent, but this fight was just pure amazement.
“How did you survive that second time? I thought I made sure to burn you and that old man alive!” Cat Ears shouted.
Steve gave a hard punch into Cat Ears side, but Cat Ears counter by giving a swift kick in his side. The two fighters stood a few feet apart from each other. They were huffing and puffing from all the fighting. The two were both evenly matched. Both trained together during the war and were always constant rivals. Cat Ears popped his neck. “Now here you are alive again and traveling with some stupid girl and her pet fish. Ha! It’s so stupid, it’s funny!”
Steve stared at Cat Ears. He didn’t want to hear anymore of his nonsense. Sonya and Mister Fish watched to see who would make the first move. As a small draft nudged a small pebble against the ground the two went back at it. Blood and sweat covered them.
“Just die already!” Cat Ears screamed. He slammed his right fist hard into Steve’s face. Steve brushed off the attack and smashed his right fist straight into Cat Ears’ chest. Blood splattered onto the floor. Steve stood still, his fist in Cat Ears chest. As Cat Ears pulled himself off Steve’s fist, he fell on his back. A puddle of blood began to emerge. “This can’t be!” His eyes gazed up at Steve who stood over him victorious.
“Is this what it’s called to receive punishment for past sins?” He lifted his gaze upward at the ceiling. “Damn you Steve. Why couldn’t you die that day?” Steve watched his former friend suffer in pain. “Why couldn’t you have died? I did what I had to for the war. If only……” When Cat Ears gazed his eyes at Steve he saw the tattoo on Steve arm. “What the hell is that? Is that supposed to be me?” He chuckled at the sight and left the world with a smile on his face. Steve kept his eyes on Cat Ears’ body, before shifting them to Sonya.
Steve lifted her up along with Mister Fish. She leaned over Steve shoulder to look at Cat Ears body. “Steve was he a friend of yours?” she asked. He nodded. He stood still for a minute, before leaving the warehouse.
Ten days passed. Inside the small tavern, the bartender chuckled at the sight of Sonya devouring her food. “Hey slow down or you’ll choke!”
“I can’t Mister Steve and I are about to leave!” she said.
“Already what about you’re injuries? You were hurt pretty badly .” He said.
“I’m fine.” Sonya threw down her fork and knife. “Delicious! Thanks for the meal!” She jumped out of her seat and grabbed Mister Fish bowl. “Alright, Steve I’m ready,” she yelled from bottom of the staircase. Steve came down from hearing her voice and nodded.
“Alright, Mister Bartender we’re off!” she said.
The bartender leaned over his counter. “So, where you two headed?” he asked.
“Simple, we’re going to travel the world!” she said. “Mister Steve promised me that after we found that man, then he’d take me everywhere I wanted to go!”
“Anywhere? Wow, such a gentlemen Mister Steve.” Steve scratched the back of his head. “Well you two have a safe trip out there!” The bartender waved goodbye to his patrons. Steve, Sonya, and Mister Fish left the town of Scrap Metal behind. It wasn’t long after that day that the stories of a powerful wanderer with a cat tattoo was soon spread throughout the wasteland.