I’m not 100% sure this even belongs here and I’ve posted this story elsewhere so some of you might have read it already.
Some background: I work in a rather specialized area of Forensics. Officially I’m employed by Police Scotland but they tend to let other law enforcement agencies, universities, etc borrow us from time to time. A lot of the time it’s for consulting work or guest lecturing but sometimes we’re sent to teach training courses.
About 18 months ago I was asked to lecture at a training course for some of the CID higher-ups in an English Police force. It was the first time I’d done anything like it and I was crapping myself.
I met with the conveners and other officials for dinner the night before my first day, and after dinner and drinks, I was dropped back at my hotel.
So to set the scene; it’s about 10pm, I’m all dressed up in my evening wear and I’m sitting at the bar in the hotel lounge. The place is dead, it’s just me and the barman so I’ve taken off my heels and am unraveling my hair having just ordered a hot chocolate. The barman asks if I want mini marshmallows on my hot chocolate. Yes, of course I want mini marshmallows on my hot chocolate. No I don’t mind waiting while you run to the kitchen.
So I’m sit there trying to trick my phone into connecting to the hotels WiFi when Angry Man walks in.
He stomped into the room and slammed his fist down on the bar about 3 ft from me and barked out one word:
I didn’t know it but apparently that attempt at communication was aimed at me; a fact I learned a moment later when Angry Man moved right up next to me, bent over me so his face was practically in mine and barked out again;
In an attempt to get away from the screaming coffee man I slipped off the bar stool, putting it between the two of us. Extremely confused and more than a little terrified, it didn’t immediately occur to me that he thought I worked there, hell it wasn’t even registering that he wanted a coffee. He was just repeating it the same way a toddler does when they learn a new word but don’t entirely know what it means.
I’m going to blame the confusion, fear and tiredness for my completely moronic response, which was to parrot the word back at him.
Angry Man: “COFFEE”
Then he slammed his fist down on the bar again. This time I noticed that he was actually throwing down money.
My brain suddenly came back online.
Me: “Oh. Eh, the barman should be back in a sec. H-”
Angry Man: “Get me a coffee. Now.”
Ooooh four new words. Progress.
Me: “I’m sorry, mate, I don’t work here.”
Angry man (shouting now) “You fucking lazy liar!! Do you think I’m fucking stupid?”
Yes, actually, but I’ll be keeping that to myself.
Angry Man: “Get off your fucking phone and get me a shitting coffee”
Me: “I really don’t-”
Cue rant about me being the only person in the lounge so of course I must work there and I was just being lazy and did I take him for an idiot. All while I’m slowly backing away from the bar so he can’t pin me between it and the bar stools. Then he throws in this:
Angry Man: “Do you have any idea who I am? Do you have any idea how important I am?”
I never got to find out how important this guy thought he was. Instead Angry Man’s Friend came wandering in.
He took one look at me; pretty much cornered by Angry Man who is now screaming about how he’ll make sure I never work again while I’m trying to calmly tell him to back off and he tries to intervene.
He took Angry Man by the shoulders and moved him back away from me while asking him what was going on.
Angry Man: “This stupid little whore is refusing to serve me”
Me: “I really don’t work here”
Angry Man’s Friend: “She doesn’t work here. Let’s just all try to calm down”
There was a few moments of Angry Man’s Friend trying to calm Angry Man while he ranted about getting me fired until two barman arrived, one of them with my hot chocolate. The presence of the three men distracted Angry Man enough for me to grab my shoes and escape with my chocolatey goodness.
As I left I could hear him demanding to speak to a manager.
The next day, after being introduced to a lecture theater full of high ranking CID Officers, I stood and walked to the podium only to be greeted by one guy in the audience laughing hysterically.
I just sort of froze trying to figure out the joke. Did I have food on my face? Was my shirt on inside out?
A quick check confirmed that, no. I’d managed to adult that morning.
A few other people began to chuckle as this guy struggled to get a hold of himself. As he regained control he pointed to his left.
Where a very red looking Angry Man was sitting.
I think it was the sheer relief that he wasn’t actually laughing at me that caused me to open my mouth and say to Angry Man;
“Oh did you get your coffee in the end?”
He walked out and I didn’t see him for the rest of the course.
One Pieceワンピース [Thriller Bark Saga] : Shichibukai Bartholomew “Tyrant” Kuma vs Roronoa “Pirate Hunter” Zoro
“Just stay back, all of you!! He challenged ME didn’t you hear?! I’ve accepted the challenge I don’t need help. So don’t humiliate me by butting in! When disaster looms, you’ve got to step up or shove off. Making excuses isn’t going to change anything. If I die here…then I wasn’t worth much to begin with!!”
This is my favorite moment in One Piece. When Kuma came to annihilate all witnesses to Gecko Moria’s defeat and challenged Zoro, the hype! Just the fact that they just defeated a Shichibukai and it took all they had and then another one shows up and Zoro stands his ground even though he’s clearly outclassed was like, “wow, what a badass”. But of course, what sealed the deal for me was when Zoro threw down his swords and offered his head, the head of the future “Worlds Greatest Swordsman”, in exchange for Luffy & his crewmates’ lives and then took in all of Luffy’s battle damage. Magnifique. Truly, Oda molded the perfect right hand for the future Pirate King!
Above them, Cabal ships drag thick black smoke across the flickering twilight, and flames rise from the Tower. Legionnaires scour the streets, seeking out the cries of the wounded and afraid.
“Hush,” he says again, as the child starts to sniffle, and he pulls her into the shadows cast by an apartment block as a patrol makes its laborious way past. He was made to protect, made to serve, but he feels clumsy now; the hand on her shoulder is almost larger than her head and she has no armor to protect her bruised and burned skin from his rough gauntlets. When he tries to wipe the tears from her face he worries that he will be the one to break her.
He followed her screams, just as the Cabal did. He had no rifle to kill the Legionnaires that would have silenced her; dispatched the first one with his boot-knife but was not quick enough to catch the second unaware. It is dead, but his chest-plate is cracked and burned and the thing that eats the Traveler has also eaten his Light.
She is wearing yellow. A summer dress, for a celebration. When he offered her his gore-spattered hand she took it at once, and did not look back at the splayed and broken limbs visible beneath the rubble around her as though she knew there was no one left to wait for. He brushed dust and chips of concrete from the tight black curls on her head, and when she tried to smile her gap-toothed smile at him despite it all he knew that he would die the second death to save her.
They pick their way through dust-covered streets and alleys, one grimy hand holding his armored fingers, the other wrapped around the silent shell of his Ghost. He told her to keep it safe, and she clutches it to her chest with an intensity that would do any Titan proud.
To those behind the Wall, love and service. To those outside it, fury and fire. He is young: the Order’s maxim has never meant much to him, but here at the end of an Age he feels each word burning in his chest and he wraps his Mark around her shoulders like a cloak, like a little Hunter, to keep the nearness of the night from her as best he can.
When they hear the distant bursts of gunfire he waits until the chatter fades, then leads them in a different direction even though it gives him hope to know the City is still fighting. Perhaps if he ran to the violence he would find weapons or more Guardians, but he will not risk it. And so hours pass as they slink across the city, and as slowly as his wounds force him to move she still takes ten strides for every one of his. She has only one sandal, silver leather wrapped around a tiny leg, but he thinks that a single piece of armor is better than no armor at all.
He finds a battered pulse rifle in a street that leads to a square, tries not to wonder where its owner went. The magazine is full, but it is all he has and there is no Ghost at his shoulder to synthesize ammo. He bends to pick it up, never letting go of the hand that holds his own, just as a troop of Legionnaires turn the corner in front of them.
He pulls the child behind a crumbled wall. Waits one heartbeat, two; no slug throwers roar in response. Even so, they are between him and the direction he has lead, and he doubts he has the strength to cross the City again.
Love and service to those within. Fire and fury to those without.
The Legionnaires do not notice, but neither do they move on. More join them, and they begin to spiral out in all directions, continuing their search. It will not be long before they find him and the child. A narrow street, once hung with banners but now collapsing from the rooftops down, will lead her west, to the walls, away from Cabal patrols - as long as there is a distraction.
He lifts her chin as gently as he can.
“You have to run,” he whispers. He is bad at whispering. “I’ll keep you safe.”
“That way,” he says when she stares at him in silence, pointing with his outsized hand down the shadowed street.
He gives her a delicate push, points again. She blinks, once, then toddles into the dark, Ghost held close as though it will protect her. Perhaps, if there is a way to undo this disaster, it someday will.
He props the rifle atop the ledge, lifts his visor and sights with naked eye. There are so many, he thinks, and then bites back a laugh - there are only eight.
Love within. Fury without.
The rifle barks. One Legionnaire dies and the others spin in confusion, firing in the direction of his cover. He ignores them, squeezes the trigger again. And again. And again.
Love within. Fury without. Love within. Fury without. Love within. Fury without. Love within -
Something tugs his arm. He looks down into the eyes of the little girl, and pure terror finds him.
“I said run,” he growls, but she does not, her face set in a scowl. He shakes his arm and she does not let go.
A micro-rocket bursts against the barricade and he ducks, throws his body over her, sprays the rest of his bullets in response. The child buries her head in his cracked armor, her frail body shaking.
Never has he been so afraid to die.
He feels a fool. He tosses the rifle down, wraps one arm around the child and pulls her close. With the other he slams his visor shut. He takes a deep breath, and then another, and when at last there is a break in the constant fire he lurches to his feet, lifts the child to his chest, and runs.
It is hard, so hard, to move full Titan-plate without his Light to drive it. His body aches. Something inside is probably broken, and he does not know how long it takes a body to heal without a Ghost.
A slug hits him in the back and he stumbles but his armor holds, and he sprints down the street where he tried to send the child, the sound of jump-packs following behind. He ducks his head and cups himself around his charge, makes himself as big as he can, plows across the debris-choked pavement. The girl begins to cry again, though to his ears it is not the sound of fear but of fury, and before long he is roaring with it, and the two of them roar together down the long, narrow street as explosions scatter bits of ruins that once were homes. He does not know where he is going, knows only that he must go somewhere, that he will not stop until the child is safe or his legs no longer work; that when he has nothing left he will throw her from him and tear the Cabal apart with fists alone, Light or no.
He has stopped counting the impacts. Every step is a knife in his chest. The Legionnaires must be close but he does not turn, lest the shield that is his body fail. He can feel himself slowing, a sensation that fills him both with wonder and despair, but he cannot force himself to let her go despite his promise. Something cracks against the back of his leg, and he is too tired and too hurt to correct. He lands heavily on one shoulder, slides ten grinding yards, arms still wrapped around the child. At the very least, they will have to rip him apart to get to her. Maybe, if he dies quickly, they will not notice her at all.
Gunfire interrupts his thoughts, along with the sound of footsteps and the roar of Cabal. Hands grab him, drag him out of the street, but still he does not uncurl. He sees Hunter cloaks, Warlock robes, a Titan mark.
“Hush,” he tells the child, head still tucked close, while they cower in a doorway and around them Guardians fight.
“Hush,” he tells her, over their surprised cries of pain.
“Hush,” he tells her, over and over, until at last all is silent and he dares to lift his head and stand.
He helps the child to her feet, and though he leans against the doorway it is her tiny hand in his that keeps him upright. He looks around at their saviors: most are near as bruised as he is. They nod their heads, pat him on the back, and he opens his mouth to ask for forgiveness, for leading the Legionnaires here, but a Hunter shakes her head as though she knows what he will say.
Two Guardians lie dead. Truly dead. One Hunter, one Titan wearing the Mark of the Gatewatch. He waits the half-second for their Ghosts to revive them, feels sick when they do not rise. He swears that he will learn their names and add them to the Order of the Pilgrim Guard.
Someone makes cooing sounds and tries to take the child, tries to give her water, but she refuses to let go of his hand, refuses to surrender his Ghost. For a moment they stand there, all seven of them in a circle around her, and it is as though a different light has risen to bond them all.
They need ships. Weapons. Food, maybe. The child, at least, must eat. The Hunter offers water again, and he wonders how many new scraps of fabric she has taken for her cloak. A different Titan, this one wearing the Mark of the Six Fronts, hands him the dead Hunter’s rifle - then looks down at the child, still clinging to his hand, and passes him a sidearm instead.
They turn their backs to the Tower, and continue their slow march to the western wall. Perhaps they will find supplies along the way. If not, so be it - they are still Guardians, and they will save what light they can.
Love within. Fury without.
The Cabal have no word for ‘retreat.’ Soon, they will learn that the Guardians have none for ‘mercy.’
tigerstar: listen old dude, i think u need my help-
brokenstar: i dont need help from someone who was killed by a cat half his size and doesnt even understand that he’s the most hypocritical tyrant ever. how the fuck r u gonna make ur whole evil thing ‘i dont like half clan cats’ but fuck a kittypet. ur like half my age so get ur shit together.