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A Stray, Ch. 1, Pg. 1 by Wackyjax
A Stray, Ch. 1, Pg. 1
FINALLY!  After all these years of hemming and hawing, I decided to say the hell with it and dive in head first, mistakes, missteps and whatever other Misses that come! I've had this story in my head since 2003-2004 or so.  It looks weird, but that should explain itself in the next few pages or so.  This is going to be my graphic novel, in all its imperfect ugly beautiful glory.  This took forever to upload, even after I shrank it down.  :P Please be patient with me, as I'll try to upload a page per week or more often if possible.  My crazy work schedule changed (yet again) but hopefully I will continue it while learning and growing at the same time.  As always, thank you for looking.  I'll appreciate any and all feedback, so long as it's constructive. I know I have a LOT to learn! ^^;

Traditional media: legal pad paper, ballpoint pen, HB pencil, black charcoal, white charcoal, light gray marker
Slightly enhanced by PS CS6.

Pose based on photo found here: www.kickstandfit.com/and-the-w…
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Ch.  5 War Chest

Captain Hunks took a single puff on his pipe, though he knew it cost him.  Lately he’d developed a cough from deep within his chest that refused to leave.  He’d known for a long time that smoking was unhealthy, but after the war tobacco was considered a luxury as rare as caviar.

Worse, the tobacco industry was also a big lobby in the government.  Money talks.  His now ex-wife begged him to give it up, but he couldn’t, at least not back then.  He’d tried to explain to her his suspicions of the drug effects of tobacco, which he thought were much like the effects of alcohol. He tried to tell her that he couldn’t just quit, but his words fell on deaf ears.  Well, by then they’d both stopped listening.

It could be worse, he supposed, at least it’s not Himmel.  It really was terrible, the weapons invented purely for war.  Not all weapons were so blatantly obvious, like tanks and guns.  He thought about chemical warfare, like Grau Wulf’s insidious K-3, designed specifically to harm the weak and helpless.  At the time the Empire was so paranoid it considered every Republican to be hostile.  Hunks hated to admit it, but the Empire’s fears were not unfounded at all. He had lost count how many times they had come across Republican civvies only to find that their homes, vehicles and ordinary household items were wired.  Many of his comrades died that way.

Psychological warfare was by far the most dangerous.  Leaving bodies strung up in trees, ears and thumbs taken as trophies…shit.  Anything to intimidate or demoralize the enemy could be used.  And Hunks did.  Major Connery used to throw it in his face whenever he could, using it as leverage until it no longer worked.  Hunks wanted nothing more than to wash his hands clean of it all, but he knew he couldn’t.  Hunks was no angel in the war.  There were none.

His thoughts touched upon Cpl. Oland.  That poor young man…well, younger than Hunks anyway.  He knew Oland’s scars ran far deeper than skin.  He’d always hoped Oland would turn to him for counsel, but the stubborn ox never did.  Perhaps Hunks only served to remind him of the past.  Oh, the Corporal was always respectful…but he could never quite meet the Captain’s eyes.  Probably didn’t like what he saw.  His other subordinates didn’t know, and were too smart to ask.  Even Lt. Malvin had left it alone.

He then thought about the coded messages in letters and how newspapers were instructed to exaggerate, even lie outright, to fool the enemy.  Hunks knew that even though the war had been over for years, the newspaper hadn’t changed back at all.  The truth is never safe…but then, it didn’t have to be.  It might take another decade or two, but it wouldn’t be suppressed forever.

Hunks was so tired.  He was tired of all of it.  The lies, the twisted politics, the paranoia that cloaked everything and everyone in the Empire…he was sick of all of it.  He stretched his shoulders and stood up, looking out the window as he often did.  He knew his retirement was quickly approaching, but he couldn’t give up yet.  His Imperial Majesty’s subjects were still suffering.  If he was tired, imagine how they felt!  Not only that, but his subordinates, especially the rookies, still needed guidance.

Besides, he knew he had one last mission to fulfill.  It wasn’t tracking down Professor Carlton, even if he was still alive, which Hunks doubted.  It was helping Alice, now Contessa Malvin, to find Cpl. Oland.  Fortunately, finding Carlton worked well with that because Alice told him Carlton apparently had worked with the Mad Minstrel’s spy network.  It was he who sent the men who destroyed the Duke’s special tank so it could never be reproduced. The Mad Minstrel was originally a Republican noble, and though she had been cast out of her homeland, Hunks figured she’d return in one of her many guises.  It would be just like to be under the Republic’s very nose...

Unless that’s what she wants everyone to think, he chuckled to himself.  One never knew with Lady Kavi.  

Lily could feel his eyes on her again.  Ever since their adventures in Rodelia, she began noticing Oreldo’s attitude toward her and change.  Almost overnight he’d matured and become reliable, even punctual most days.  Of course, he’d still tease her and coat his words with sarcasm, but his actions were sincere.  His actions were also largely underhanded, but because of that, he avoided a lot of red tape as well.  He studied Hunks’ tactics as well as employed his own street smarts.

Alice’s methods were honest, but they were also much slower.  Well, to each his own, she supposed.
Lately, Oreldo’s teasing had become less annoying and more…what?  He still called her Airhead every so often, but an affectionate tone had crept in his voice.  She’d caught him watching her, even sneaking a look when she practiced piano in the rehearsal room.  He’d pretended to be drunk and claimed to have gotten lost on his way to the barracks, but Lily had known better.  She’d seen the look on his face when she’d played Mozart.  He’d been blushing, but she knew it wasn’t because of alcohol.

Lily had mourned the loss of Alan for a long time.  She even traveled back to Rodelia once to lay flowers on his grave as a last goodbye.  Every time she found herself grieving, there was Oreldo, handing her a box of tissues, giving her privacy, or even just a small hug, before hurrying away to do paperwork.  Martis, Hunks, and even Conrad had comforted her also, but it seemed to Lily that Oreldo went a little further than necessary.

Sometimes she wondered if it was all in her head.  After all, this was Oreldo, the ladykiller, the one who flirted with nearly anyone who was female.  Many girls would swoon in his presence, though occasionally there would be one or two who slapped him instead.  However, he never flirted with Lily.  His teasing never stepped over the line.  She wondered why.  He went to the local pub less frequently, but that could just be because of the extra responsibilities he’d taken on after Alice had left to join the Imperial Council.

Alice…Lily missed her and Oland terribly.  After hearing Alice had finally found a way to venture into the Republic of Frost, Lily debated joining her on the excursion.  However, Hunks asked her to stay, citing he needed an extra pair of hands to help out with the rookies, and Private Conrad, in particular.  Poor Conrad would resent being left behind.  So far, Lily had done a fair job of reining him in, teaching him that not all fights were won with fists.  Training him and Figaro had proved to be challenging but rewarding.

Also, Hunks had wanted her to continue investigating Marquis Hoost, linking him with embezzling, bribery, prostitution and extortion.  Everything was circumstantial so far, but since he’d been there at the ball when Lord Taylor was, Lily figured the two were linked via the Silver Wheel.
 
Her research into the legend of the Silver Wheel was frustrating, to say the least.  She was as cautious as she knew how to be, careful not to disturb the waters any more than necessary.  When Conrad found out what she was doing, she had to grab him before he charged to the Hoost manor.  Lily winced.  Another mistake like that could cost lives.  She brought Conrad in only so he wouldn’t look into it for himself and possibly get killed for his efforts.

She felt a cold nose touch her hand.  She looked at the time and realized she was late for taking both Mercury and Figaro out on their daily walk.  She called to Conrad, and together they went to face another adventure.  Figaro’s youthful energy often rubbed off on Mercury and Conrad.  Lily knew that for this mission, she would need every ounce of her wits!
Ch. 5 War Chest
:salute: :pumpkin:

EDIT: Hey, peeps! I hope I can get this caught up soon so I can start adding new stuff! My work schedule's changing (yet again) but I'll do the best I can in the coming weeks! :ninja:
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(Contains: sexual themes and violence/gore)
Ch. 4 Blood Cell

Randel looked up.  A soft glow illuminated his tiny square of a cell.  The moon was in its full glory tonight and brought with it a small measure of rare comfort.  He stood in the corner, stretching to his full height, just to try to see it.  He could smell the salty sea air.  Even rotting seaweed smelled much better than the prison.  He could almost reach the window, but even if he could, it was far too small for him to fit through.

The Lieutenant could fit through, came the unbidden thought.  He shook his head.  He shouldn’t be thinking of her, not now.  The company he kept these days was always on the lookout for potential weakness.  If they knew he was more like Ferdinand the Bull rather than the proclaimed warmonger, and now, pit fighter, it would be a feeding frenzy worse than sharks feasting on chum.  He had to keep a menacing exterior at all times.  It was a matter of survival.

The reason Randel became a pit fighter was purely for survival, too.  It really was that simple.  Ice Cliff Penitentiary, nicknamed the Ice Box, was the oldest and largest prison in the Republic.  It was run by an old-fashioned warden whose ideas about how a prison should be run were primeval.  After a long day of back-breaking manual labor, Randel was forced along with everyone else to watch the horrific displays, which hearkened back to the days of the Roman gladiators.

Randel hadn’t even been in the prison for a week when without warning, someone pushed him in.
 
Later on he learned that it happened often, especially to new meat.  Someone gets shoved into the pit and suddenly had to prove he wasn’t a coward.  Most of the time, the fighter had to face another fellow inmate, or the toughest set of guards, while at other times they brought out the dogs. Randel thought that whoever had pushed him was probably one of the guards, and was either just curious or figured Randel was too big to waste so much of their food provisions on.

Randel’s first fight involved the dogs.  It all happened so fast.  One minute he was looking at the dogs from above, noting how riled they were. He counted their ribs and pitied them.  The next minute he had fallen in and the dogs were instantly tearing into him.
 
Everyone who watched never forgot that fight.  They all thought it was over…until the dogs started yelping.  Randel counted himself lucky that there were only three of them.  He was biting them back, grasping handfuls of sand and gravel and rubbing it in their eyes.  He eventually found a rock and used it on their poor skulls.
 
It took several long moments before he was free enough to scramble for the nearest real weapon he could find, which happened to be an old and rusted fire axe.  With his bicep mangled almost beyond repair, he could only use one arm.  Still, he tried to kill them as fast as possible, and it wasn’t just to save his own life; he just didn’t want them to suffer needlessly.  

His tough visage slipped only once at the end when, unable to stop himself, he stroked the last dead dog’s scrawny body.  He forced himself back, dropping the axe as he was subdued by the collar that now resided on his and every inmate’s neck.  It was only when he was alone in the infirmary that he allowed himself to cry quietly and mourn what he had done.

One might assume committing such deeds would be horrible because of the violence-their being on the outside of normal human behavior.  However, this is why Randel was a good soldier: the fury, the frenzy, the sheer chaos that is the heat of battling for one’s life hour by hour, and sometimes minute by minute; this is Randel’s version of ‘normal.’  It was when he had to face civilians and live a civilian life that he was very much afraid.  

Normal?  What was a normal life supposed to look like?  He had no idea.  It had been such a long, and terrible war.  He grew up within the war.  The prospect of fitting back into a society that feared him, gawked at him and didn’t really want him seemed insurmountable.  He wasn’t afraid to try, but he honestly didn’t always know what the correct response was.  He tried different tactics.  He softened his voice, hunched over to make himself smaller, treated everyone gently and mostly made himself watch and listen to the people around him.  It hadn’t helped much.  All a person had to do was look at Randel’s face to decide he was probably trouble.  It didn’t matter if it were true or not.  The truth seemed irrelevant in the war as well.  Another year or two like that would have driven him insane.

Yet then…then he met Alice.

The solitude of having a cell all to himself was both a blessing and a curse.  Without any bunkmates, he could drop his mask of intimidation and let himself breathe, if only for a little while.  He didn’t have to worry about keeping one eye open while he slept, although he did so anyway out of habit.  However, it was also torture to be alone with only one’s thoughts for company.

Sometimes his memories of Alice and his beloved Pumpkin Scissors cheered him, but at other times, like tonight, it made him painfully aware of how alone and vulnerable he was.
It had to have been about two years since he was kidnapped and brought here, by his reckoning.   He knew they would search for him.  After all, when he left for Rodelia, they came looking for him.  Were they still searching now?  Did they have any clue where he was?  Were they all right?  Was Alice safe and alive? Had they given him up for dead?

Of course, he knew he wasn’t alone in his thoughts, in a sense.  Indeed, almost every man in there was tortured by lost or unfulfilled love or desire.  Often the only cure was a quickie with a mag.  A skin mag was often the most prized possession, if anyone was allowed to have anything at all.  There were punishments and rewards, the favored and the bullied.  It was an archaic system.
If Randel was lucky enough, if he was extra impressive in the pit and the head guard was feeling unusually generous, he was allowed to have a visitor-a prostitute.  He pitied them even more than the dogs.  They were pathetic creatures, aged well beyond their actual years, with garish makeup and equally garish costumes.  Randel was as accommodating as he knew how to be.  He never forced them to do anything, even allowing them to sleep in his own bed.  Many were often confused-why look a gift horse in the mouth?  Some wondered if he was secretly a dandy, but the older ones understood, and appreciated his kindness, although they had to take pains to pretend he was like any other inmate.  In return, they brought him news about the outside world.  Unfortunately, they didn’t know much about what was happening in enemy territory, that is, the Empire.  Still, a Republican newspaper was better than nothing.

Now, it wasn’t that some of them didn’t at least try to seduce Randel into sleeping with them. The Big Guy Upstairs knew they tried.  Randel even heard that there was a betting pool among them to see just who would get him to crack.  He’d have found the whole thing hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetic.  Imagine what Sub-Lieutenant Oreldo would think!  Randel remembered how his suave superior would sometimes ask him if he wanted to go to places like the Windmuhle for fun.  Randel always turned him down, often stating he had his cats to care for.
 
It was an excuse, of course.  Randel just couldn’t do it, not then, and especially not now.  Even though he knew they would never have to worry about certain issues like having his child, he knew he couldn’t allow that part of himself to awaken.  He knew that if he did, he ran the risk of hurting them.  Once fed, that hunger would never abate.  He knew it to his bones.  Randel just assumed that physical intimacy wasn’t in the cards for him.  He was just too…large.  He thought of Sister Rosetta’s insistence and it still made him blush all these years later.  After the war, women and young girls desperate for money practically threw themselves at him, even though his mere visage had them shaking in their shoes.  He didn’t touch them, not once.  After Galiena, he thought he’d never find anyone who wouldn’t find him at least a little frightening.

But Alice…his Valkyrie, his guardian angel …was almost fearless.  Randel leaned against the wall and sighed, sliding to the floor. While their first meeting was a little intimidating for her, especially when she saw him use his lantern, she treated him as a comrade, as one of the guys, working with him.  Later on, even though she was royal nobility, she had allowed him to get close to her, to watch over her after she had collapsed in the train tunnel, touching his face in Essen while chiding him, sitting with him as he held little Dieter in his arms.

Those memories were safe, but then the unsafe ones would crawl in.  Lifting her up after she had passed out at the ball, grabbing her from behind to save her from falling, feeling her writhe underneath him when the cave collapsed, seeing her again as though for the first time in that shimmering, gauzy Dove costume, holding her little body in the hospital, and at last, kissing her…it was all he could do not to groan aloud.  He couldn’t ever trade that kiss, not for anything.  He hugged his arms, reliving the feel of her small, lithe frame against his.

Randel was so torn.  He wanted to forget what had happened between them.  He knew it wasn’t right, with her being a noble, and him a…well, nobody.  He also wanted to remember every last detail. He couldn’t help it.  The more he fought against them, the more intense his feelings for her grew.  Some time ago, just seeing her again would have been enough.  Now he wasn’t so sure.

He chuckled to himself, trying to stop again.  If she had any idea what he wanted to with her right then, he’d get much more than a slap!
Ch. 4 Blood Cell
Note: rewrite.  Just fleshing out this chapter a bit more, also adding a much more mature tone. Remember, Randel is a grown man, and quite a manly man at that, imho. Imagine what it must be like to be in a world where everyone and everything is so much smaller than you. It has to be quite frustrating, and I think I'll be able to explore that much more later on.
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Wackyjax
JackieH
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
United States
Christian, artist, poet, writer, storyteller. Old enough to know better, young enough not to care. ^^ Oh, and I'm a bonefide Cheesehead. Currently working 2 jobs, trying to find my way in the world.

Current Residence: Wisconsin, USA
Favourite genre of music: Hard Rock, Christian, Pop, Nature, Classical
Favourite photographer: Everybody in National Geographic
Favourite cartoon character: Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Bugs Bunny, Ebenezer & Snooch <-(www.twolumps.net)
Personal Quote: Just do what you can with what you have.
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:iconyoungartt:
youngartt Featured By Owner 10 hours ago  Hobbyist General Artist

Thank you for the :+devwatch: :love: :hug:

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:iconmuffinsarah:
MuffinSarah Featured By Owner 4 days ago  Student Artisan Crafter
Thank you for the fav :hug:
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:iconwackyjax:
Wackyjax Featured By Owner 4 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome! :aww: I liked that you drew it in a date book or planner with just pens. I thought that was unique. I hope that you continue to play around with that idea. :) Keep up the good work!
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:iconmuffinsarah:
MuffinSarah Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Student Artisan Crafter
Oh my God! Thank you!Huggle! Huggle! Huggle!  I'm looking for another old diaries, so I could make more " diary stuff " soon. :D
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:iconwackyjax:
Wackyjax Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Great! I hope you have a blast making them. Happy hunting! ;P :giggle:
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:iconyuuike:
yuuike Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much for the watch bby:iconbrohugplz:
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:iconwackyjax:
Wackyjax Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
YW! :aww:
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cehavard90 Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2015  Professional General Artist
Thanks for the fav!!:D
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:iconwackyjax:
Wackyjax Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
YW!:aww:
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DracowormArt Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2014  Hobbyist Filmographer
Thanks for jackie! :)
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