Battle Athletes Fan Fiction ❯ Pariah ❯ One Day in Boulogne ( Chapter 4 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

by Vosburg

Part Four: One Day in Boulogne

Disclaimer: No, still don't own Battle Athletes.

Idly, I look at my plate. I've been so distracted this morning that it just occurred to me that I haven't the foggiest what I had for breakfast. I vaguely recall speaking to the person on the other side of the counter, but between trying to remain unrecognized and my depression as of late, I cannot remember what it was that I asked for.

I see the remnants of waffles and eggs, or at least what passes for them in this diner. As for what it tasted like, perhaps it's better that I don't remember clearly.

The regular patrons are beginning to file in. Time to leave.

Right now, being on the street is safer. The wind is hurling leaves and detritus about, stinging everyone's eyes, so they are too occupied with shielding their faces to look too closely at mine.

I have a method for finding residences, one that has evolved from painful experience. First, I try to make sure that I reach any potential target during the change of shift, preferably just before the new shift arrives. By then, the managers and attendants are generally anticipating being able to go home, and hopefully won't pay too much attention to a somewhat disheveled woman asking for a room. If I'm lucky, they'll try to get me checked in fast, so they can prepare to leave. Second, I have to make sure I pay for the room in cash - I made the mistake of using a charge card the first couple of days after leaving the family home, and I remember well the uproar that followed whenever they saw my name. Since then, I have never shown any identification if I can avoid it. Third, I make certain that my dagger is within reach; one of the consequences of having to stay at the less reputable hotels is the clientele. More than once I've blocked my door with furniture, for greater security.

My dagger was a gift, for winning my first national competition. I remember its craftsmanship fascinated me when I first saw it - and I've never been that generous with compliments. The blade is nine inches of steel, forged by a master.

It's been my last line of defense against any potential attackers. The second has been my reputation. As a famous (or infamous) athlete, my skills are widely known - specifically, I own belts in three styles of martial arts. My first line of defense is my gaze; dispassionate and cold, it generally keeps any would-be instigators at a distance. In the past months there have been many who have thrown insults; some have tried to express their displeasure with me more directly. Still, I have been fortunate not to have occasion to use the dagger.


I discreetly ask about hotels in the area. I keep my cloak drawn tightly about my face and body, under pretext of warmth. In truth, it helps me to conceal myself from those I speak to. For the most part, it seems to work. I get two or three suspicious glances, nothing more.

The first two candidates fall through, as there are no vacancies. At the third, someone looks close to identifying me and calling the manager, so I retreat. Another three I dismiss because of several unsavory types in the near vicinity. Not that I can't defend myself; I'd just like a place where I can sleep without having to keep one eye on the door.

About all my efforts have come to so far is sight-seeing. I head for my next prospects, a pair of motels close to each other. After that, I suppose I ought to have lunch.

As I continue to head for the pair of motels that was my target, my thoughts return to those who have insulted and rejected me. The truth is that they know only of that one incident. I cannot help but wonder what everyone would think if they knew the whole story. All the derision and abuse I've suffered was because of the one action that I was *caught* at, namely, rigging the 100-meter dash so that Lahrri would not lose. No one has yet found out about my resetting the controls in the training room when Kanzaki was using it (which would have resulted in her being maimed), or my reprogramming of the controls on the ARMS satellite when Kanzaki and her team were on their midterms (*that* would have been three counts of homicide). Putting it into perspective, I ought to have been in prison for at least two decades, if I had been accused - and convicted - of everything I had really done. I wonder, at times, if what I have gone through recently is some kind of justice by the Fates, a sentence from them to substitute for the one that an unknowing human court could not give me. At one time I would have scoffed at such a concept, and the Fates for that matter, but in light of all that's happened, it's oddly...logical.

It wasn't until my return that I really began to think of what I'd done on the Satellite. What the results would have been if any of my plans worked. At minimum, Kanzaki would have been injured for life. While I was there, such thoughts never occurred to me. She was an irritant, and merely required removal. In retrospect, that time was like a fever dream - my obsession with Lahrri and my disrespect for Kanzaki driving me to actions which make me wonder at times what drove me. To say that my mother would have done it much the same way is no longer sufficient; I know (or rather knew) that there were other ways to do what I wanted.

Yet, I doubt that I'd even be considering my actions in the past at this point if I *hadn't* been sent home in disgrace. Even with all that happened since then, this has been the first time I've thought of anyone outside my family as having feelings, hopes, sorrows. Having seen the 'public' firsthand (during those times that I've managed to remain unidentified), I've come to understand them somewhat, what drives those people that I never paid attention to before.

Conversely, for all the acrimony that has descended on me, I've always found it darkly humorous that many of those who abhor me (not all, or even most, but a significant percentage) do so on grounds that are nothing less than hypocritical. When they speak of how I 'revealed' my treachery, or were shocked to 'discover' my real nature, I almost laugh, in spite of myself.

I've never hidden what I was from anyone.

After I won my first national competition, I had many charitable groups ask me to endorse them. I turned most of them down, and it was only because of my mother that I *did* agree to speak for any of them (about three, if I recall). Soon after I was accepted as a Battle Athlete, I attended a public reception for those going to the Satellite. On the way, there were crowds lining the streets, cheering us on. I remember one woman shouting for an autograph, for her daughter. She said that her daughter had always tried to imitate me, and that it would make her day if I could just sign some sort of book for her (I didn't hear exactly what type of book, as the crowd's noise blotted out her words, and I wasn't paying that much attention anyway).

I went past her without even slowing.

The press, and our coaches, put the best face on my actions. I was 'focused on the upcoming trials', they said. 'She's tired', they said. And the woman believed them, and the public believed them. Later the coaches would reprimand me for not being more civil to the fans, and ask that I work on my public image. I would always reply that I was not interested in an image, I was there to win the Trophy.

And they would sigh, and scowl, but they did no more than that.

Because I was winning.

That was my great lesson before I reached the Satellite. As long as you are victorious, others will put up with nearly anything from you. The coaches, the press, the public. I was intolerant, uncivil, and unfriendly to most everyone I met. Yet no one confronted me, demanded that I apologize for my actions and words - I was winning, and by association so were they, so everything was all right.

It wasn't until after my expulsion that they 'realized' who I was, at least according to them. They were 'surprised by my sudden change of personality', 'stunned when I revealed my true nature'. I did not 'reveal' or 'change' any aspect of my personality; the only change after my expulsion was that they no longer turned a blind eye.

Now it is nearly midday. The two motels I sought would have been quite useful; unfortunately, I was pointed out at both of them. After that, events went as they usually do.

Even though I ought to keep searching, despondency begins to overcome me. I meander aimlessly, and eventually find myself wandering near the harbor. A row of storefronts stretches in front of me. Idly, I glance at an electronics store, with dozens of vidscreens in the window; next to it is some sort of nautical store, selling rope of various thickness for use on the ships in the harbor. An elderly woman with an insulated cape (which is showing a few loose threads - she's had it for a while) meanders among the shops, gazing at them with varying degrees of interest. She seems to know the area, but rarely speaks to anyone in the shops. I see a distant expression on her face, and wonder if she is really aware of what's going on around her.

A flash from the vidscreens of the electronics store catches my eye. I turn to see several identical images of the gymnasium of the Satellite Academy. Someone is apparently doing a newscast, but since there is no sound, I don't know what it is about.

The scene switches again.

And my breath stops.

The image is now of *her*. I see her face, on dozens of screens, looking at the camera. At me. There is a caption below the image. "New Record - 500m".

The caption, however, is of little interest to me. I gaze at that face, unable to see anyone else. My hands press against the glass of the shop. For a second, I have the insane feeling that if I could go through the glass, I could jump through one of the screens and find myself in front of her.

My hands push more vigorously against the glass now. Wait for me, Lahrri. Please wait.

Even as my rational side says that what I'm doing is nonsense, my arms push with more and more energy. I hear the glass begin to shift in its mounting, but I cannot seem to stop myself.

Suddenly, the image shifts again. Now the camera is on the anchorman, back at the station.

My heart shatters.

No. Come back, Lahrri. I have to see you, speak to you again.

The energy fades from my hands. My head slumps against the glass. I remain there for what seems like months.


The voice is to my back. I do not know if they are talking to me, and I'm not really in a mood to converse, so I don't reply.

"You are Mylandah Walder, aren't you?"

I raise my head and face the person demanding my attention.

There is a man in his thirties there, a corporate type by his clothing. Neither is he alone; in all, there are ten people watching me, and none of them seem happy.

I've had several confrontations since I returned to Earth, but most of them were in the first two months. As the police were keeping an eye on me for the purpose of preventing any 'incidents', none of them became outright attacks, although a few came close (the inevitable result, though, was that I was ordered to leave the area). As more time elapsed, there were fewer confrontations - the memory of my 'disgraceful conduct' began to become more remote as they found other events to focus on - and most settled for mere snubs or insults made in passing.

"What do you want", I reply, tiredly.

"It is past time for you to account for what you've done", the man says. Everyone else nods their assent.

No use pointing out that any accounting I do should be determined by the courts. This group is clearly not interested in a trial, but.what is it they want?

Public humiliation?


They aren't really intimidating, even if they think themselves so. Their stances are unsure, inept. In the shape I'm in now, I could still send half of them in the hospital within minutes, and the rest running in fear.

I think of the image of Lahrri that I saw minutes ago. I remember being sent from the Satellite.

I'll never run against her again.

I'll never run with her again.

Anything this lot can do is insignificant by comparison.

So this group wants my...execution, perhaps? Sorry, but you are too late. I realize now that the order for my execution was given by Headmaster Oldman, when he said "you are hereby expelled".

I stand facing them for a second, then turn and head for the nautical shop. The leader of the group objects. I pay him no attention. I pick up a coil of rope and throw some money on the counter - more than the rope costs, from what I saw - and head to face the crowd.

"So you're going to bring me to account for my crimes? Is that what you're here for?"

My voice carries over the group, over the entire area. I round on the self-appointed 'leader' and put the rope in his hand. With a wave of my hand, I indicate a nearby flagpole.

"Do as you want."

My statement confuses him. Perhaps he is still off-balance from my taking the initiative as well.

The man stammers, "What...are you saying?"

I look straight at him, my voice full of rage.

"You want retribution? In that case, I now give you, all of you, your chance at greatness. Just as you dearly longed for, you can now be remembered as the brave citizens who put an end to the scourge of Mylandah Walder. You have the rope, there is the flagpole, and here." I pull my collar open, "is my neck. All you need do now is make the noose. You want me to suffer for my crimes? End my life. I assure you, I won't try to stop you."

The man's eyes widen in shock. I find myself surprised as well, because as I spoke the words, I realized that I meant them, that I really don't plan to defend myself.

My execution? Oldman saw to that. The would-be vigilantes here can't do anything more to me. The thought crystallizes in my head, as a sense of calm slowly comes over me. I brace myself for their rush.

They do not come. When I look at them, their faces have the same expression as the man who led them. Shock, confusion, uncertainty. I begin to understand. They did not expect it to come to this; now they are at a loss as to what to do. Still, it only requires one spark to get them going again. I wait, unflinching, still making no effort to run or protect myself.

The leader looks at the rope in his hand almost fearfully, aware of the decision he must make. The rest look at him, at each other, at the passerby who have gathered. They then look at me.

They *still* do not act.

Instead, they gaze at me; not a contemptuous gaze, but pitying and mournful. Gradually they begin to back away, then turn and disperse. The man who was leading them now begins to follow the rest, pausing only to drop the rope. With a last glance in my direction, he shakes his head and leaves.

I continue to stand there for a full minute. My life no longer in peril, my only thought is not that I'm safe, but that I have been in some way...cheated.

I shamble over to a nearby bench and slump onto it, drained entirely of energy and will.

Two hours later, I haven't left the bench. I ought to get back to the hotel, as it'll be nearly time to sign out when I arrive. I cannot seem to push myself off the bench. I merely sit, vaguely aware of my surroundings. I see an elderly woman several meters away looking out at the harbor, making her way along the shops.

"And how are you doing on this wonderful day?"

The voice is to my back; it surprises me - this is what I get for not being aware of what's going on around me.

I whirl around to see a pair of young men looking at me. One of them, slight of build with average height, is studying me nonchalantly. He might be considered attractive by some, if his visage were not so smug - I can feel a sudden and irrational urge to get up and knock his teeth in wash over me, despite my mood.

His compatriot is even less attractive. A bit wider than Smug, but not much, he is also shorter. At least, I think he is, as he is half crouching at the back of his friend, so I'm not sure of his height. His head emerges periodically from over his companion's shoulder to glance at me, smiling - like a jackal watching its prey for any sign of distraction - and an opportunity to strike.

I'm not impressed with either of them, and have no desire to converse with them at all.

"What is it you want," I say, with not even the pretense of civility.

"Us? Why, nothing more than to assist you. You are Mylandah Walder, yes? No, foolish of me to ask. Of course you are. Such a unique face. Such a pleasure to meet you."

I've never liked those who natter on endlessly, and Smug is no exception. Moreover, my suspicions are raised by the phrase 'pleasure to meet you', which I've not heard used in reference to me for months.

Smug seems undeterred by my lack of interest. "I appear to have wandered off the subject", he says, apologetically. "You see, we've come to offer our assistance with one of your current problems."

"What 'problem' might you be referring to?" My reply is only half sarcastic. At present, I have so many problems that I cannot single out any one as first. Except perhaps...

Smug turns to face Jackal, who peeks out at me and smiles before returning to his crouch. "We've heard of your plight in recent months as to finding...residences. And you've also had troubles with the locals, yes?"

With a wave of his hand, he indicates Jackal, who again flashes that same unpleasant smile.

"My companion and I find it intolerable that an athlete of your status has had to suffer so. Therefore, we would like to make an offer that will be mutually beneficial."

I inhale sharply, almost a hiss of air. My eyes narrow. As much as my depression has made me oblivious to most of the outside world, the implication of his statement is not lost on me. I do not speak, however; I wait for him to verify my suspicions.

"You see, we are in possession of a house, a modest one, yes, but well insulated and reasonably provisioned - just the sort a woman of your athletic prowess could use to keep yourself fit...unlike that place you are staying at now."

I keep my voice even and restrained, with effort. "And just how would you know where I'm staying?"

Smug waves his hand dismissively. "Some of the customers of that hotel have been commenting on you as they go about their rounds. Open air talk, really. But I know of this hotel. A contemptible, wretched business. Nothing that is suitable for one of your stature."

Privately, I agree with him. I don't really think that hotel was suitable for *anyone*, but it was at least livable. The realization strikes me that I have to hurry back there for the rest of my possessions.

I stand up and face the two. "Sorry, but I don't have much money at present, so I'm sure I couldn't afford whatever you want for a room." A blatant untruth. It's likely that I could afford a place far more luxurious than they have for years on end, if money was all it took for me to rent one. However, I'm hoping the statement will cause them to lose interest - unless, that is...

Smug talks casually, as if about a deal already concluded. "Money is not necessary. I'll be concise, Ms. Walder. You are in need of a semi- permanent residence, if I'm not mistaken, and we could use a...might I say, companion. I believe we can assist each other here. Now, we've offered our spare room to others who have fallen on misfortune, without asking for any monetary recompense. We ask merely that you would be...available on occasion to perform certain duties."

I fight to keep the astonishment from my face. Even though I was nearly certain of what his offer would be, I doubted he would actually say it. At his back, Jackal pokes his head out to look at me again, his smile now an outright leer. I shake my head in disbelief at their brashness.

"And what makes you think I would in any way *consider* such an offer? If you want some concubine or escort, I'm sure there are many around for the asking. Now leave - you have overstayed your welcome."

Smug seems neither offended or dissuaded in the slightest. "I'd think on the offer a second time if I were you. It is not difficult to see that you are having trouble both finding and keeping a room, Ms. Walder, and with more and more people aware that you are currently in town, there will be less chance than ever of you finding accommodation. As you must also recognize, the period of fair weather is nearly over. Exposure is not a pleasant experience, especially on the Channel coast; someone of your stature should not have to go through such suffering."

My eyes go cold, my jaw tight. Not from anger, but fear of the words he has just spoken; being out in the cold nights has been increasingly worrying me, a growing shadow at the back of my thoughts. I attempt to keep my emotions from showing on my face.

"I think I would be able to find a place to stay without having to pay such a price as you ask. Now if you'll excuse me-" I give them my iciest tone, in the hope that it will deflate them.

Smug isn't even mildly offended. "If that is your response, then we'll be on our way - for now. Come, my friend, this woman does not seem to appreciate our offer. Perhaps a few days in the open will change her view on matters." He turns to leave, his associate bounding ahead of him.

Then he stops, briefly, to look over his shoulder. "You ought to have accepted. You do not have a great many options. And, when you come to us for assistance, we will be nothing like this generous."

They disappear into the distance, as I stare after them. I find myself shaking, as his words play again and again in my head. For all his unrivalled cheek, for all the determination with which I refused him, a dark thought keeps pushing into my consciousness.

What if he's right? What if I cannot face the thought of exposure, of cold and rain? I've gone through athletic camp, learned to live in hostile conditions, but I've never experienced anything like this - being ignored and rejected by so many for so long - and the strain is more than I'm able to tolerate. I tell myself that no matter what, I'll never agree to terms like those Smug gave me, but my inner voice carries a conviction less than complete, like a small crevice in a foundation that eventually causes the building to collapse.

The wind whips around me, stinging my face with razors of cold.

I won't give in to that kind.

I won't.

Please let me not give in to them.

I arrive barely in time to get my effects from the hotel. The manager is once again apologetic about the circumstances. I actually thank him for his trouble; most of those I have come in contact with haven't worried themselves a great deal on my account, if at all. As I leave, he mentions that there are a number of boarding houses near the harbor, in the area I recently searched. While I'm not enthused about returning there, the only other choice is to leave the city by an off hours plane or bus to another (city? country?) with no assured room *there*.

In spite of my misgivings, I hurry back to the harbor. It's getting dark, and I'd like to get a room (if I *can* get a room) before night has completely fallen. I finger my cloak tentatively; it can fold out to make an insulated cocoon, enough to sleep in; I wonder if I'll have to make use of it.

I search the area for boarding houses. The first two have 'No Vacancy' signs up. With my fortunes, the first available one will be owned by a member of that group that nearly attacked me earlier.

There are lights coming from the ships in the Channel. Another time I might have stopped to look at them. Now I've not the leisure. Perhaps if I'm discreet, I can get the location of a boarding house from a local. Not many about, though. Most are no doubt home by now.

For the second time today, someone has surprised me. "You are lost, yes?"

I whirl around to face the speaker, even as it occurs that the voice is not that of Smug - to my relief. I find instead a matronly woman with a wistful expression; slowly I remember seeing her earlier in this area when I was confronted with the group of outraged citizens. I recall vaguely that this woman did not join them, that she merely watched from a distance.

Not that I'm not still suspicious; I've had enough incidents today that I'm not turning my back on *anyone*.

"You ought to get inside," she says, "weather around this time of year gets rather wild."

As if I haven't been trying to get 'inside' for three days now.

"Yes," I reply, keeping any sarcasm from my voice, "I'll do that. You wouldn't know of any boarding houses in the area, would you?"

"Yes, there are several, most of them are full, however. If someone did want a room, though, I've a spare - a loft, really. Might you be inclined to rent it for awhile?"

All at once, I'm confused, relieved, and suspicious. While any offer of a room is appreciated, she must know that housing me could be the cause of many problems. And she is offering it openly, without hostility? This is too convenient.

My reservations must be written on my face. "You are wondering why I would offer a room to you, given your reputation. You are obviously leery of my generosity. That is understandable, and quite wise," she says, not looking remotely irritated at my wary stance. "However, I ought to make clear that I'm assuming that you can pay for it - at about three times its regular cost."

She pauses briefly. "If that sounds unreasonable to you, I'll explain. You are from a relatively wealthy family. When they...evicted you, I saw a few news items about you being refused entry at some of the wealthier hotels in Paris. That inclines me to think that you have financial stability - even if no one is disposed to accept your money at present."

She looks off to the harbor. "I, conversely, have not the finances for some expansions to my home I was planning on. The rate I'm giving you - if you accept - is enough for me to get those expansions, with some cash remaining. You will forgive me for being blunt, but I want you to know the reasons I'm making you this offer. At the least, you could come and look the place over before you make a decision."

As much as I'd like to investigate this thoroughly, this is the closest I've come to a respectable offer today. I have to prevent myself from physically jumping at the prospect. I'm not completely sure of her reasons; it's just that my remaining options are neither pleasant nor promising. But first, I must make one inquiry.

"Aren't you worried? About renting to me?"

"Slightly concerned, which is why I asked you now. Most everyone's inside, or heading inside. I think you've learned discretion by now. So, if you'll draw your cloak tight, we can get on our way."

Following her suggestion, I cover as much of my face as I can. She goes to a street that runs roughly along the harbor, and I keep pace. Our path changes two or three times. I nervously map the area in my head. The wind intermittently strikes me in the face. At length, we come to a drab series of houses. She looks around, to see if anyone seems to have too much interest in us, but the streets here are empty. I find myself standing at an unassuming house not far from a street corner. She opens the door almost soundlessly, and enters. I warily watch the entrance for a few seconds, senses alert for any sign of ambush. As I can find none, I go in after her.

The inside of the woman's home is sparsely furnished, clean, unremarkable. I accustom myself to the view. She waits only a minute before indicating the way to the loft. We climb a ladder that hasn't been dusted in a while. The loft itself is cramped, musty, with straw covering sections of the floor.

It is also heated, which renders any other flaw irrelevant. The room could be considered.cozy, really. The woman points out a mattress; I resist my inclination to fall on it and sleep at once. Instead, I ask what she wants for the loft. She names a price that is absurdly expensive for this kind of accommodation. I agree to it.

Not as if I feel I'm being gouged. If the amount she is asking is far too much for such average quarters, it is still much less than I was ready to pay for a room in the more wealthy hotels I originally wanted. With my financial assets, I could remain here for decades, if it was feasible. Inflated prices are nothing new to me, either. Most of the rooms I've been in have cost me much more than the price displayed. I suppose it was, in some cases, their way of expressing their distaste for me, to compel me to pay more than I ought to. Most likely, it was a mere case of profiteering - they saw a way to get extra cash, knowing that I had no choice but to pay it.

I'm not complaining, as it's been of assistance in getting me the few rooms I've stayed in. The affluent places have unanimously refused my money; so the only areas I've gotten accepted at are those either indifferent to the Great Competition, or those too impoverished to worry where their money comes from.

I set my duffel bag on the floor. She tells me that she can make dinner if I want, and that's she has some cheesecake available. Much as I'd like dinner, I *really* want to sleep, and I say as much. She offers to bring some anyway, and leaves.

I place my cloak next to the bed. I still don't want my dagger too far away. With everything that's happened during the day now catching up to me, I'm only able to keep my eyes open with effort. As I'm still unsure about her, I make a note to sleep lightly.

I shake myself alert as she enters with a dish, upon which is a metal cover. She sets it on a crate near me, tells me where the washroom is, and asks if I require anything else. I nod my head, and she leaves.

I gaze at the dish, and remove the cover. A wonderful aroma wafts up from the plate. Not that I've much experience with desserts - I did not allow myself such during training - but this seems a delight. Then again, considering the kinds of food I've been subsisting on as of late, that may not be saying much.

My fingers grasp the fork sitting next to the cheesecake. I gouge a generous piece from it, as if I hadn't eaten in days, and bring the fork up -

And the fork halts short of my mouth. A suspicion enters my thoughts. Poison? I might have considered such an idea paranoid months ago, but now.I sniff at the cheesecake again, trying to detect anything odd, and find no indication that there is.

Not that I'd really know what to check for. With my stomach protesting the denial of the food which is so close, a conflict between safety and hunger arises.

For all I'm able to tell, there could be poison in it.

I decide shortly that I don't care. If this is a final dinner, one could do worse. I try the section already on the fork. This is.even better than I thought. My remaining reservations are shunted aside as I attack the rest of dessert.

Some time after, there is only a sliver of the cheesecake remaining. I rest against the wall, eyes half-closed in ecstasy, breathing heavily. I see my reflection in a mirror, half concealed by the boxes. I smile; my face looks as if I've just been on my honeymoon. I don't believe that I've eaten nearly an entire cheesecake. More, I've never done anything so uninhibited, so spontaneous in my life.

I cover the dish and stand to do my exercises. I look at the bed, and reconsider. My exercises can wait. I crawl onto the blanket, a heavy one, precisely what I need. I just manage to pull it over myself as I'm nodding off.

For the first time in what seems like years, I sleep soundly and well.

Notes: This is a 'retrospective in miniature', basically to give some concept of what Mylandah's first weeks on Earth were like when she returned from the Satellite. While the amount of confrontations with hostile citizens has dropped to almost none over time, there is the sporadic incident. As for 'Smug' and 'Jackal', they are representative of what are known as 'chickenhawks'. As I understand it, they linger around train or bus terminals, waiting for naïve, lost, or desperate girls (generally), who they offer a food and a place to stay. At a later time, they begin to ask 'payment'. Since these girls have little in the way of money, they are faced with prostitution or being thrown out. Smug and Jackal do not wait around train station or bus depots, they just walk around the city, looking for prospects; in most other respects, they're identical.