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Chapter 3

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 Kenny slept until roughly a little before daybreak. He began to wake up, eyes blinking groggily. He felt exhausted like he had gotten no sleep the night before. Why was he so tired? He then remembered the night before, and his heart sank. 'Oh, right,' he thought to himself. To his surprise, Dusty was sitting and looking out the window besides him. "Dusty?" he mumbled. The badger looked down at him and smiled. He looked awful and exhausted. "Oh, Morning Ken... You hungry?" he asked. Kenny wasn't very hungry, but he knew Dusty wanted to eat. "Uh, sure..." He said, stretching. That answer seemed to satisfy Dusty since he stood up, eyes glowing despite the exhaustion that otherwise showed in them. "Awesome! Let's go then!" He shoved the trunk door open practically and hopped out, waiting for the tom to follow. As soon as he caught up, they made their way to the car with the food. "What sounds good?" he poked his head into the car. "Nothing, honestly." Kenny responded. Dusty didn't respond for a moment. "Kenny, you can't just stop eating forever because you're stressed out about everything. You know that as well as I do." He said in an annoyed tone. Kenny's ears flattened slightly. "It's not just about being stressed, Dusty." Dusty responded by chittering. He dragged out a crow and sat down at a spot, dropping the bird. "Then what is it, Ken? The only thing you told me was what went down last night. You've been acting off for days, so something else is bothering you." Dusty said. "I can't help if you don't say anything, and you know that." Kenny sat down besides him and didn't respond, taking a bite from the bird. He wasn't sure if he wanted to tell him about the dream that had been recurring occasionally, and had happened again about two nights ago. The last thing that he wanted was to have Dusty get more stressed than he already was over him. He would have to get Eclipse, the faction healer and plant specialist, to potentially intervene if he either continued to have these dreams, or Dusty got more stressed, and even then, Kenny didn't want to talk to Eclipse- "Kenny!" Dusty's eyes were dark as Kenny snapped his attention back to him. "Did you even hear anything I just told you?" He sounded annoyed. "Not a damn thing." Kenny responded, pausing to look at him. Dusty sighed, clearly annoyed and growing increasingly frustrated, but he kept his temper under control. "Look, you're going to have to tell someone whatever the fuck the issue is. You aren't eating as much as you should, you're always stressed, and don't tell me your sleep schedule is under control because that's a lie, too. I'm surprised at myself for not going to Eclipse for this issue yet. Only reason I didn't was because I know you'd play it off and ignore whatever he would try to tell you." When he was finished speaking, Dusty bit hard into one of the bird's wings with a loud crunch. Kenny wanted to speak, but he couldn't since he knew he was right. The two continued to eat in silence before Kenny stood up. "I'm going with the morning patrol." He said, walking away with Dusty staying behind and not saying anything.

    The patrol had already been set up by Jethro, and he was now in front of the group, giving instructions on where to go. The group consisted of Tonks, Stella, and Fern. "Jethro!" Kenny approached the group and they turned to look at him. "Would it be fine if I joined the patrol?" He asked. Jethro flicked his tail towards Tonks. "That's up to Tonks. He's leading the patrol today." He responded. Tonks nodded. "No trouble bringing another one along," He responded. He fell in with the group and listened. Before long, they left the junkyard. Their goal was to patrol from the Junkyard to the small stream that divided them from their neighboring faction. As they traveled along the stream, they heard talking from nearby. Tonks motioned for the group to stop and wait. "Someone is here."

    The sounds grew stronger and so did their scent. They were obviously scents of other animals, but the scent was mixed of a tree native to their territory as well. This was the Maple faction. The Maple faction was mainly an ally to those in Biohazard, though they occasionally had their spats. The group was a slightly larger group consisting of a deer, a wolf, a dog, a cat and a crow with a broken wing. One animal in the group stood out, however. It was a skinny raccoon with a nasty limp. Kenny stared at her. Why was she over there? "Come on." The deer bent down and nudged her along rather strongly. She grunted slightly and kept in front of the group. The group stopped just at the border, and the leader of the patrol picked his head up enough to make eye contact with Tonks, who stood on his side of the river. "Hello, Tonks. We were going to send one of ours to make contact with your group. We found this... Trespasser... and wondering if she belonged to your group." the deer flicked his ear. Kenny flashed a look at the raccoon. She saw his look and thrashed her tail, terrified. "She is not one of ours, but she does smell familiar..." Tonks narrowed his eyes. "She is not ours, however. Let's go." He waved off the group to follow. Kenny made a split-second decision. "We'll take her back with us!" he said quickly. The rest of the group turned to face him. The deer eyed him suspiciously. "And Jethro will be fine with this sudden choice, small one? The original plan was to be rid of her ourselves so she will neither be a problem to our faction, yours, or any other faction." He glanced briefly at the raccoon. The raccoon cowered slightly. From behind him, he saw Tonks with a look of disbelief in his eyes. Stella whispered, "What the hell are you doing?", and Fern just watched in anxiousness. There was a look in her eyes that told Kenny he should at least try to save the raccoon. "He'll be fine with it." He replied. "Very well. Be on your way, and just know she is your responsibility now." The deer and his patrol walked back towards their territory. Lavender, the dog, whispered something disapprovingly to the deer. Kenny just watched them walk away, not immediately realizing Tonks was now towering in front of him. "I'm taking you and that raccoon back to camp. Let's go." He snarled. It caused the tom to shrink down slightly.

    He and the raccoon were herded by Tonks into the junkyard. "Stay here." Tonks growled and he went over, talking to Jethro. While they spoke, the raccoon looked over at Kenny. "I thought you said you were going to stop stealing until you decided." He whispered to her. She looked back at him. "no, I said I would stop bothering and stealing from your territory until I decided. I said nothing about the other camp." Kenny scoffed. "And that almost got you killed." he mumbled. They sat in silence for several minutes before the raccoon spoke. "...Thanks for saving me, Kenny" She mumbled quietly. Kenny acknowledged her with a flick of his tail. Tonks returned with Jethro with Tonks still angry and Jethro with a more stoic appearance, though Kenny sensed the angry aura around the leader. "What is your name, raccoon?" Jethro asked in a cool tone. "Dutch..." She responded, fur beginning to prickle in fear. "Well, Dutch, We've had a bit of a raccoon problem lately. For our security, We're locking you up here until the faction decides what to do with you. And you-" He turned to Kenny. "Since you were so keen on bringing her into the camp without mine and Tonks' permission, you can stand guard with her until we decide. The only times you will be allowed relief of your duty is when it is something that you need to do, like get sleep. Someone will bring food and water to both of you. Got it?" Jethro's tail swished across the ground. Kenny only nodded slightly. "Good. Let me show you to where you'll both be for the moment." The wolf led them both into a corner of the yard where the top half of a car remained. it was large and contained on all sides save for a partially busted side window. A large and heavy rock blocked the entrance. Jethro moved the rock aside and picked Dutch up, setting her inside. He then pushed the rock back. He turned to Kenny. "You are to guard this raccoon until I say otherwise. We will decide what to do next." With that, he left the two of them with nobody but the company of one another.

    For the rest of the day, he sat guard and occasionally made small talk with Dutch, the two learning quite a bit about one another. Dutch was from another part of the forest, but had been chased out of her old home by humans tearing through. When she returned to her old home, she had been captured. Dutch managed to escape and wandered these territories trying to find a permanent place to live. Jethro soon approached them. "Ive decided that tomorrow you two can make your case. You can thank Fern and Dusty for that. They talked me down from placing a harsher punishment without listening. Kenny, you are relieved of duty for now. Gray will take your place." He left just as soon as he had appeared. He could understand Fern wanting to help talk Jethro and his rage down, but Dusty? After he was doing nothing but just arguing with him this entire time? He wasn't totally sure why he was helping him now. "Dusty and Fern sound lovely. What's there to know about them?" Dutch asked. His attention was brought back to Dutch. "Oh, uh, Fern is the possum that was part of the patrol earlier. She's young and has a lot to learn about, but she's nice. She'll bug you about things she's interested, and she likes collecting rocks and all that. Dusty is a badger. He's my carmate and he and I have been friends ever since before I joined the faction. He and I get into arguments, but honestly it's whatever. We usually work our shit out. He worries about me too damn much, I think." Dutch raised an eyebrow. "How do you think so?" He looked at her curiously. "Well, he's always getting on me for not eating when I should. He gets on me about having a better sleep schedule and just better self-care, I guess. I know he's right about it, but sometimes I wish he wasn't." He sighed and flicked his tail. "He's always there when things go to shit, though, which is great. I don't ever feel like i'm there when he needs it. He always seems fine until I'm not." For several moments, both sat in silence. "Interesting..." He heard her mumble to herself. "What?" He turned to look at her with a confused look. Dutch just shook her head. "Nothing. It's best you go do whatever you need to do. It was nice to talk to you, Kenny." She smiled slightly. "Yeah, it was nice to talk to you, too." He smiled and trotted off with Gray taking his spot shortly after. As he walked off, though, he couldn't help but think about what Dutch had said. Interesting? Has she never had a friend before? Or was there something he had been missing with his friend's interactions with him this entire time? He didn't really consider the second option, though. He knew Dusty pretty well and he thought if there was anything he was possibly missing, he would've picked up on it by now. Plus, Dutch was a wanderer from other lands. It was possible that, besides him, she was lonely. It was entirely possible that she could've been just an outcast her whole life with no friends.

    As he walked, something caught his eye- it was a canadian goose feather. 'Dusty likes these feathers...' he thought as he gently picked the feather up. He then wandered over to the food pile, since he hadn't seen Dusty there all day, and grabbed a squirrel for him. Carrying the food and the feather, he made his way to his car. He nudged his way in and found Dusty laying down in his spot, back to him. He acknowledged he was there with a flick of an ear. "Still mad at me?" Kenny asked, setting his food down. Dusty huffed slightly before speaking. "Yeah, I am..." He sighed. "I figured you would be. I brought you stuff." Dusty turned to look at what he brought him. Dusty only smiled a little bit. He still seemed very much out of it. "Thanks, Ken... I appreciate it." Kenny nudged the food to Dusty and the badger began eating. "I'm sorry for getting crabby with you earlier. I've just been worried about you lately." Dusty said, pausing from his meal. Kenny shook his head. "Don't worry about me. I'm sorry for being a thorny ass with you lately." Dusty looked at him. "Well, someone has to worry about you." Kenny sat down and began to wash his face which had become messy. "And someone has to worry about you as well. Can't always be worrying about other people and not expect someone here to do the same." He stopped when he noticed Dusty had been caught a little off guard by the response. "Well, don't worry about me. I'm not important enough-" Dusty was abruptly cut off as Kenny whacked him hard in the back of the head with his paw. "Ow! What was that for?!" Dusty rubbed his head. "Tell me you aren't important again, I dare you. Ill knock some sense into you." Kenny growled softly. Dusty opened his mouth but no words came out. He was a little rattled from what he could tell. Maybe he hit him too hard... "Uh, I'll try not to do that." Dusty responded. "Better..." Kenny responded and laid besides him. "Why do you feel like you aren't important, anyway?" he asked. Dusty shook his head slightly. "I dunno. I guess since others of the faction just usually ignore me and leave me out of things. Sometimes it feels like it's on purpose." He made a sour expression as he said that. Kenny sighed and rested his head against his shoulder in comfort. "They don't mean to, Dusty. I promise." Kenny wasn't sure how else to help him and how to do it without upsetting him further somehow. Dusty finished eating and rested his head on his paws."I know." Dusty yawned slightly. "Hey Dusty, did you even sleep at all last night?" Kenny asked. "Nope." "Why not?" Dusty seemed a little embarrassed. "I was worried- you kept crying in your sleep and I wanted to make sure you were fine." Kenny felt his face heat up slightly. "You're a hypocrite." "I know I am." Dusty closed his eyes. It didn't take long before the badger fell asleep. Kenny fell asleep shortly after he did.

    Here he was again. This was the forest he had become familiar with, though he wished he hadn't. He followed the same path he always did, and as he looked down, he noticed something strange. Not only were his pawprints there from all the previous nights he had visited, but his own paws were faintly illuminated in a light glow. He stopped for a moment, wondering if he could somehow harness that glow into a light for him to see his surroundings. He focused his attention onto his paws, and they began to glow brighter and brighter until he was surrounded by a small aura of light. Well, he decided, it was better than nothing. He continued along the path into the clearing. Immediately, the scent of death once again began to surround and choke him. This time, though, he decided to stand his ground. As the two figures once again slunk forward, fear crept into his body. What was he getting himself into by doing this? The two approached him, but stood just outside of the small aura of light. "Kennedy... you and your faction are in grave danger..." The she-cat whispered hoarsely to him. "The plague and nature is all against us. Of course we're in danger." He responded, but the she-cat slowly swished her tail against the ground. "There is more than just a plague and a force of nature against you and your faction." Her voice echoed slightly as she spoke. "There is a force of mistrust, treason, and a hunger for power that threatens you all. While you are all fighting among and trying to protect yourselves, the treasonist plots for a takeover, using a horrid weapon against the place they call home, and the ones they call their family..." Kenny felt a fear creep into his heart. "You think there's a traitor within our faction?" The tom had a scratchy and drawn out laugh. "We don't think, Kenny. We know. Heed our warnings, or face the consequences..." The two vanished back into the shadows where they came from, and Kenny was left alone in the center of the clearing. He closed his eyes briefly, and upon opening them, he found he was in a new location. This location was like paradise in comparison to where he was previously, and no longer smelled of death.

    He observed this new location. The area smelled strongly of flowers, and the water, a lake, reflected the sunset, which was painted in all reds, oranges, yellows, purples and pinks. surrounding him was the trees of the forests and a mountain range he easily recognized from his waking life. He heard faint voices and decided to walk in that direction. As Kenny got closer, he stopped as he saw several figures talking in two groups. The only one he could make out from either of the crowds was him. Someone in his group had moved to the other side, but despite trying his best, he could neither make out the voices nor the figures of those he had seen. As he watched everything going on, something had nudged him.

    "Ken, wake up..." Dusty nudged him awake but this time with his nose instead of his paw. He blinked awake, yawning and stretching. "Is it already morning?" Dusty nodded. "Yeah... Jethro is going to want us there soon". Honestly, Kenny didn't want to move from where he laid. He was comfortable and had slept very well, plus Dusty has kept him warm. "You're going to have to move so I can." Dusty rolled his eyes and stood up. "Whatever, drama queen." Kenny stood up as well and followed Dusty out of the car. He thought about the dreams- the fact a traitor lingering in the camp was unsettling to him, but the two left no hints as to who it could be. As for the lake, he wasn't all sure about why he dreamed about that location. Maybe it was just one of those weird dreams, he decided. There was no point in thinking about it now, though, as he approached the place where Dutch was being held. Those who were on the patrol and Jethro were there.

    "Kenny, welcome. You may sit besides Dutch." Jethro motioned to the space besides the raccoon. Dusty and Kenny sat besides Dutch. "Now, you were on patrol with the others when you decided to bring back Dutch, yes?" Jethro asked Kenny. "I was. We were patrolling along the stream that separates us from the Maple faction. We heard them talking, and pretty soon they approached us with Dutch. They asked if she was ours and if we wanted to do anything with her, and Tonks said she wasn't our problem." Tonks looked slightly annoyed at Kenny, but he continued to talk. "I said it would possibly be fine if we took her with us and brought her here since they said they might've killed her otherwise... I know this raccoon, and yes she may have caused problems, but she's like the rest of us, Jethro. She's trying to survive just like the rest of us. She's more at a disadvantage since she can't hunt or fight and defend herself like other raccoons. She needs help." Kenny finished speaking. Tonks stood up. "We're all struggling as it is, Kenny! By bringing a wanderer into our camp, you've done nothing but expose us to danger. She could be a spy for a hostile faction or group for all we know! She could be carrying the disease!" Tonks and Kenny stared one another down. "One less life is one less danger to us and one less mouth to feed. You should've let them keep her." Dusty stood up. "Kenny thought he did what was best! He didn't feel the need to let another creature die!" He looked to Kenny for a response, and he nodded. "He's right, Tonks. I wouldn't have done it if I didn't think it to be the right thing to do. We all have to stick together to survive all of this, not kill one another. She hasn't shown signs of disease, and she could be useful, anyway." Tonks scoffed. "How? it's not like she'd be able to do much." Kenny narrowed his eyes. "She could be like Rudy and help repair dens and patrol the territory for danger, like a scout." Jethro, who had been listening to the arguing, held his tail up to stop them. "She has shown no symptoms of disease, and repairs to dens and inner junkyard patrolling is always work that needs to be done. Kenny, however, did risk danger by bringing in an outsider without my knowledge." He thought for several moments. "I will allow her to stay... for now. She must be monitored closely, however, until she has our trust. If Dutch is to stay here for now, she is to follow our rules and help our faction in whatever way she can." Kenny smiled and Dutch's face glowed with excitement. Tonks, however, growled and stalked off. Even if Tonks hated him for this, it gave him a sense of satisfaction knowing what he did was right and it saved a life.

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