Ansyl stood in line at the drugstore, a bottle of Pixy Brew’s Angelic Blue hair dye in hand. He nervously checked his watch as the elderly lady in front of him emptied her basket onto the counter. He itched to push his hood back and run a hand through his hair, but forced down the urge, opting to fiddle with the half credit in his hand instead.
After what seemed like an eternity, the woman paid for her things, and Ansyl stepped forward, sliding the hair dye and half credit across the counter to the tired cashier. She fed the credit into her till and placed the hair dye in a small plastic bag along with a receipt and handed it back to Ansyl. He gave her a subtle nod before heading out the door.
Once outside he walked to his racer, his father’s old PrideNav Renegade, and tucked the dye into his saddlebag next to the groceries he had bought earlier that day. Straddling the racer, Ansyl pinned his scarf up to cover his face and pulled his goggles down over his eyes before speeding off through the city.
When he felt his bike kick into gear for the desert he slowed down, his body relaxing. He drove on for another few hundred miles, passing standalone houses and a small village until he finally reached his own home. Stopping next to the rover already parked outside, Ansyl dismounted and grabbed the saddlebag off his racer, slinging it over his shoulder. He knelt down next to the vehicles, brushing the layer of sand that had settled over the trapdoor away and pulling it open. Swinging himself onto the rope ladder that hung from the lip of the doorframe, Ansyl pulled the door shut above him and climbed down.
“Bazil! ‘M home!”
Another man stepped out from one of the rooms to Ansyl’s left, toweling grease off his hands. “Go to the store?”
“Yeah, got more meal packs, some scrap from the boneyard, new filter, and-“ Ansyl paused, rooting around in the bag he held before pulling out the hair dye and holding it up for Bazil to see. “This.”
He nodded, speaking up after a few beats of silence. “Couple-a Bloodhounds came lookin’ for ya today. Told ‘em you’d been gone for months, didn’t know where. Shoulda given ya enough time to go offline for a bit.”
Ansyl froze in his tracks and sunk against the nearest wall. “I hate doing this to you.”
“It’s a price I’m willing to pay.”
“But it’s not a price you have to pay, Baz, it’s not a price you should be paying.”
“It’s not a price you should be paying either.”
“I don’t have a ch-”
“Dammit, Ansyl! It’s not-” Bazil cut himself off, taking a deep breath and stepping close to Ansyl, cupping his face in his hands. “It doesn’t matter if you didn’t have a choice, this isn’t something you should be dealing with. Don’t you get that? You don’t deserve this bullshit, no matter how much the world tells you you do. And I am not about to let you face it alone. So I’m gonna finish fixin’ up this bike then I’ll help you with your hair, I know the dye messes with your circuits.”
Ansyl sighed and gave Bazil a small, sad smile. “Thank you.”
Bazil moved one hand to push Ansyl’s hood down and pressed a kiss to his dark brown hair. “Anytime, my love.”
Ansyl stood in front of the mirror, Bazil’s arms looped around his shoulders from behind, and squinted at his reflection. “I thought it would be darker than this. It’s kind of weird having hair this pale.”
Bazil brushed a lock of the light blue hair away from Ansyl’s face. “I think it’s nice. Frames your face well.”
“It’s still weird.”
Bazil shrugged. “If it helps I don’t think there are many mirrors in the middle of the Deadzone.”
Ansyl chuckled and turned to face Bazil, slipping his arms around his waist. “I’m gonna miss you.”
“I’m gonna miss you too. I’ll find you when the heat dies down, okay?”
Ansyl had been busy preparing, when he heard his own name spoken on the news. He dropped what he’d been holding immediately, transfixed with the screen in the corner across from him. A blurry picture of him from a few years ago was displayed next to a general info drone speaking with the head of the governmental intelligence unit’s voice.
“…again, that is Ansyl Watt, 150 credit reward for finding him. This man and those like him are a danger to society as we know it, please report any information you may have on the suspect. For your safety and the safety of those around you, do not approach the suspect on your own, he is an augmented human and a government trained soldier. Please leave the handling of this man to those capable. And remember to inform your local Bloodhound Division if you know anyone else with brown hair, these days you never know who you can trust. As was said by ancient American leader Joseph McCarthy, our job is to dislodge the traitors from every place they’ve been sent to do their traitorous work. Thank you, and have a good night.”
Adding impact to his words, Ansyl heard a loud crash from the front of the house, followed by Bazil shouting, “Ansyl, go! Now! Get out of here!”
Ansyl jumped into action, snapping his bag shut and slinging it over his shoulder with his rifle and buckling his thigh holster on before lunging at the window. After scrambling up the wall Ansyl dragged himself over the ledge and onto the desert sand. Outside he saw Bazil fighting a Bloodhound who was trying to push him against the wall, a dark grey armoured vehicle and three other Bloodhounds between him and his bike. All were heavily armed and Ansyl realized, defeat weighing on his shoulders, that there was no way he’d make it out alive if he didn’t surrender. Letting his supplies fall onto the ground, Ansyl called out, “Hey! I’m over here!”
The Bloodhounds turned on him, a feral kind of triumph in their eyes. A broad man stepped forward. “Ansyl Watt, by order of the GIU you are under arrest under clause 14 of the-”
“Yeah, yeah we get it, just take me. And don’t fucking touch Bazil again.”
The man who’d been struggling with Bazil spoke, harsh mirth in his voice. “Bazil Callahan is in violation of several laws, including harboring a fugitive and interfering with a government sanctioned investigation.”
Upon seeing Ansyl tense in anger, the Bloodhound laughed. “Don’t worry boys, where you’re going, the last thing you’ll be thinking of is whether the other is safe. You’ll know he isn’t.”
Leering in a way that was likely meant to emulate a friendly smile, the Bloodhound who’d spoken first stepped forward again. “Come on, Ansyl. Go peacefully, and we’ll make both your experiences less torturous. What do you say?”
Ansyl swallowed hard, eyes flicking between the Bloodhound and Bazil, who was still pinned down before finally settling on his lover. “I’m so sorry I dragged you into this.”
Bazil gave him a small, sad smile. “I went willingly, my love.”
With that, both men found themselves being yanked toward the armored vehicle and shoved roughly in the back where a waiting Bloodhound shackled them in.