Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 1, Arc 3

MyNameMeansBentNose

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Hello! How is it going everyone! How about a chapter? Also... have you read... Strider?

While the parkour expert known as Chase is currently unrelated to the main crew, that will not remain true. And honestly, I'm really proud of that side story. If you can't remember Chase or don't know who he is, then Strider is strongly recommended. When I build an epub, or if this whole thing becomes a book, Strider will also become the opening chapter.





***
Arc 3, Chapter 1
***​

The sudden smashing of the Tree obliterated Tsury’s consciousness.

As the tree split, so did her concentration. She had been in early stages of tuning. Having that interrupted wasn’t necessarily fatal, but it did complicate matters a great deal. She spent the next couple days drifting in and out of awareness as the royal sap drained from the ruptured chamber. She could occasionally marshal her strength and move… barely. Just enough for her to draw close to awareness and know that nothing catastrophic had occurred to her. Only the Mother Willow.

Eventually she felt the light. Dust choked and wreckage obstructed, still it fell upon her. Then the sensation of air on her flesh accompanying the dust and fragments of something falling upon her. Still her consciousness was anywhere but close. It was a difficult task to keep herself together as she drifted in and out of wakefulness.

Finally, the sound of voices provided a beacon that brought her close to the edge of true awareness. She found herself reaching, only to feel something in her way. She pushed, and it fell. And that was all the strength she had. Her hand rested on what she distantly realized to be the doorway of the seed chamber. She couldn’t move any further.

Then the voices arrived.

“Didja’ hear… Whoa! The tree split!” said one voice.

“Aw shit. Ya see anythin’ Otto?” spoke the youngest.

“I see… She’s here, she’s alive! Give me a hand!” spoke the one she recognized.

A rough but strong hand slid under her armpit and gently rolled her over. He supported her head gently as she was flipped onto her back.

She opened her eyes and tightly shut them again as the light entered her vision. On her first look she could see only the silhouette of the figure holding her. It had been so long since she had last used her eyes, the light hit her like a physical impact.

Her Human body couldn’t handle the light? Did it need to adjust? Her previous Ushen body didn’t have that problem.

He had picked her up and cradled her within his arms. He stumbled, taking one precarious step after another. More hands caught them as he stumbled. A couple more supported steps and he was walking on solid ground.

Again she opened her eyes, but more carefully this time. His face was blurry at first, but came slowly into focus. She didn’t know how to judge the looks of Humans, but the lines of his face were clear and strong, and he had a mop of brown fur on his head. His eyes were a deep brown and drew her attention and held it without remorse. She was quite happy to just stare at him.

He was looking down on her with a smile. Not unlike what he had shown her in the dataspace messages. Before it had been… simply an image. Something she wanted to know about, but on a clinical level.

“Hey there,” Otto said to her softly as he smiled.

This time it settled her. She barely registered surprise as the tension she hadn’t realized was there left her body.

Once again her consciousness drifted away.

***
Stacey
***​

Stacey sighed in frustration as she worked with the designer. She hadn’t realized just how much SPIRE was helping with this stuff until the SI was no longer there. At least there were some other designs she could compare against. It was just getting everything linked together and working that was the problem.

She was designing a sort of construction drone. She had settled on a four legged design, and there were plenty of options to pick from there. It needed a strong core body and manipulators to move the debris of the mangled ship. She had also found some Gravity projectors that could push or pull a straight direction. The most powerful item had been a sling that could multiply the effect of the gravity projector on anything it had been wrapped around.

She had finished a simpler design the previous day. An expanding support pole. A simple self ratcheting thing Otto had asked for. One of the drone makers was churning away building the things now. They’d dug up a couple of the numerous flatbed hovers in the ship to carry them. It was a real relief that the South block had made it through the crash mostly intact. Without it, they wouldn’t have the makers working. They’d had to set up their makers right next to the one surviving recycling center to have a supply of materials.

Her attention drifted. The guys had gone to see if they could find that Hyowean. They didn’t know if it had survived the crash. That decision had won out only slightly ahead of the desire to inspect the tertiary generator supplying this ‘small’ portion of the ship they had since nicknamed ‘Fated’. After that they would go around to actually inspect the conditions of the shuttle. One was still in parts when they had crashed. Now the parts were almost certainly all over the damn place. But there had been another shuttle in that bay.

As for the Gerlen. They were out and about as well. They were delving into different parts of the ship looking for materials and supplies. Mapping out what parts of the ship could be safely traversed was important as well. If they found something simple enough to retrieve, they took it apart with the Gerlen Engineer’s guidance and a group of them split off to bring stuff back. There was a second party with Mason’s guidance doing the same thing.

Each party had taken a flatbed hover with the support poles to shore up any areas they wanted to explore and work in. It had been impressive to watch them work when the Shadow or the Engineer were around. The two ‘superior’ Gerlen could run a shared mental space that helped the Gerlen work together like a well oiled machine.

As for Matchka, she was doing a slow, close inspection of the South block to make sure they would really be okay. The Bellani was being cagey about her findings so far.

Stacey concentrated on the model in front of her in dataspace, rotating it around to inspect the details of the various connections. It was… coming along. It might have been frustrating to find herself using an inferior system, but it was still a whole new world compared to her old laptop and school PCs.

She loaded up into the simulator. The six legged drone went from resting to lifting it’s core body higher off the ground. The central body turned towards her, and the head tracked her as she moved her hand back and forth. Start-up was still functioning properly. She pulsed a command and a pile of debris, girders, stones and panels, materialized off to her left.

She pulsed a set of commands and the droned attempted to turn. It lifted a couple of legs and went to lift another. Sparks flew out of the base of its torso, followed by a small detonation of electricity. The body lost all power and the legs gave out. It dropped to the floor.

She ended the simulation with a sigh of disgust. Stacey had made a lot of progress that morning, but she needed a break. She stepped out of the Silianiscan building into the courtyard of an estate identical to the one they’d made their own over the last month.

Not even a full month. It felt like a long drawn out marathon, but it hadn’t taken them even a whole month to turn this ship into a giant mess.

Stacey looked up and realized that she had been distracted much longer than she had though. Midday had come and gone. Probably the nicest thing about the false ceiling of the estate was that it could project the actual sky outside the ship. If she went outside of the Fated then the sky or stars would match what she had seen inside.

She looked over to where Rob and Cynthia were talking to a group of injured Gerlen and considered joining them. That was when the guys arrived.

“Stacey!” Mike called to her. She felt her mood lift. Perfect, she needed a recharge. He had walked ahead of the other two. Daniel was next and Otto was in the rear, holding a bundle. They’d found the Hyowean.

She trotted up to Mike and he held his arms wide. He knew very well what she wanted. She wrapped her arms around him as she arrived.

“Heya, we’re back,” He said lifting her up and spinning her around before settling her back onto the ground.

“Welcome back,” she replied with a laugh, voice muffled as she buried her face in his chest.

She held him for several more moments, but he didn’t rush her. After recharging she let him go. Stacey stepped back and Mike did the same. He then stepped aside and she got her first clear look at the Hyowean… woman, nearly buck naked but for the jacket they’d wrapped around her torso. Daniel's jacket just barely covered the important bits.

Otto and Mike were only wearing coveralls. It was either they go naked or Daniel gave up the jacket. Although… she could do with some naked Mike. Her face heated up slightly. There hadn’t been much for private space the last couple days.

Tsury very closely resembled a Human. The differences were obvious, but just made her look exotic. She had pale green skin and her abundant deep green ‘hair’ looked more like vines growing with fuzz. They looked a lot like cattails actually. The effect was similar to dreadlocks, but not as bulky or dirty looking. Her eyebrows were the same sort of fuzz, but were so similar to regular eyebrows Stacey only noticed it by comparison. More importantly, she was physically attractive. A perky chest, slim legs and midriff and a healthy muscle tone would gather anyone’s attention.

The only thing out of place was the grey nodule of the translator sticking out the left side of her forehead. Unlike the Humans who had that nodule stuck onto them, Tsury’s looked partially grown over.

In the next moment Aurula arrived with a blanket, Otto had probably called ahead as soon as possible. They had Tsury wrapped up without hesitation. The damage was done though.

Tsury looked young, fit and exotic. To Stacey, she looked exactly like trouble.

***
He was once called Shadow
***​

Umbra considered the mess in front of them. He was with Tinker, the Gerlen engineer renamed by the Human named Daniel. He himself had been renamed by Otto.

“You shot at me twice!” Otto had complained. “So I get to name you.”

He could have shot the Human a third time. And it would have worked on the third attempt. He conceded the point nonetheless.The identifying markers connected to the translators did make names somewhat unnecessary…

But having a name that was his really was something worth enjoying. As for the rest of it… well it was nice enough he supposed.

“There… there, and there… and… there,” Tinker said as he gestured at various points along the walls, additional information flowed into the shared space to refine the commands further. He was wearing a simple grey long sleeve shirt, pants and boots. He’d also been equipped with a limbed harness, set with scanners to help him navigate. The Humans weren’t against equipping the Gerlen, to Umbra’s surprise. They just insisted the Gerlen wear clothes.

He couldn’t argue. The atmosphere aboard a space faring ship was carefully regulated, no need for clothes there. It was quite different on the surface of the planet.

The other Gerlen set the poles and swiped the control switches. The inner gear spun and the unit extended, the bottom and top pads bracing against the roof.

There were minor points of damage where this would work. Where it seemed like a panel or section might start to collapse. If it could be judged as ‘lesser’ damage, they would move in to shore up the area. If they actually needed to get in of course. And right now they were looking at the entrance to one of the storage rooms. They had already marked several areas as ‘unsafe’. Occasionally they would hear the groaning and crunching of a section collapsing. A good reminder that they needed to be careful. It didn’t help that it wasn’t always obvious which section was going to go next.

But they still had to explore and scavenge.

The recycling bay was hugely invaluable to retain any gathered supplies. But it didn’t actually increase what they had on hand by itself. The ship drones had gone inactive when the vessel crashed. They needed to personally map safe zones and retrieve materials.

He still remembered the expressions on the face of the Humans when they realized they would need to secure the ship all over again. It made sense when he thought about it. They had worked hard to secure their place. Now they had to ‘start from scratch’. The thought amused him to no end.

Each of the poles locked into place with distinct ‘ka-chunks’ as they hit the tension limit.

Tinker nodded. “That should do it. Let’s get in there and see what we can find,” he said with a steady voice. Before there had been no reason to speak, but they were making efforts to align themselves with Human habits. The birthing process had given Tinker a healthy voice and throat. Considering the translator made an effort to duplicate the tone and quality of a Sapient’s voice, Umbra couldn’t help but be just a bit jealous. Still, there were worse problems to have than being envious of a… of a friend.

***
Tinker
***​

He sat on the hover, watching the progress of construction. Over the past two weeks he’d found he quite liked his current vantage point. It had been good from the first time Tinker had tried it. He’d jumped on one of the simple flat hovers and piloted it higher into the air. Gave him a nice perch to watch. It only got better when the Human, Daniel, had suggested chairs. Not the pilot seat, but just to put a couple chairs on the deck of the hover.

Brilliant.

Umbra sat next to him, but he was watching the antics out on the water. Daniel had already lost control and skipped, no bounced off the surface of the water. Umbra had actually chuckled in his scratchy voice. The man didn’t like to talk if he didn’t have to, felt bad about his voice. Hearing Umbra laugh was how Tinker knew he’d missed a good one.

Construction was going nice and fast. Robbing the maintenance drones from the estate was working well for them. It also helped that the South Block construction bay seemed to be functioning fine. The only annoying part was running a reasonable power supply to the outer settlement. The fourth ‘brick’, as the brothers like to call the buildings, was almost complete.

On the sixth day after the crash the ceiling of the estate had shifted. When a whole corner dropped several lengths they had built a more powerful scanner to inspect the area closer. The decision to move out had come soon after.

Umbra nudged him with an elbow and he turned around. Just in time to see Daniel lose it again.

Tinker enjoyed the spectacle. “I must appreciate his willingness to fully apply himself.”

“Yes, it makes for a good show.”

Mike was sitting on a chair at the beach. They could hear him laughing from their vantage. Earlier they had been in opposite positions. The older brother out on the water wiping out with Daniel laughing at Mike’s misfortune from the beach. Then Stacey walked out to the edge to put her hands on her hips.

“Seems the show may be over.”

“A shame,” Tinker replied. He looked back at the buildings. A simple square grid had been chosen for the layout of the settlement. Three gray bricks finished, several more to go. A large communal tent where meals were prepared and served. And a bunch of smaller tents for the Gerlen, although only temporarily. It could certainly have been worse.

Mason and Matchka were pulling in with their own hover. He wondered how the shuttle inspection was going.

“Time to go down,” Tinker noted cheerfully.

“Mm,” was the only reply. It was still more than most anyone else usually received.

Tinker brought the hover down.

***
Aurula
***​

She was idly playing with Otto’s left arm. She had discovered the thing called ‘goosebumps’ a couple of days ago. With the lightest possible touch she ran a blue feather over his skin. The roots at the base of the little hairs on his arm would all stand to attention if she did it right. He seemed to like it too! He’d tolerate any amount of this attention she would give him. Right now she was… ‘attacking’ his hand, the one he hadn’t lost.

Amusingly, he could only handle it to a point. If she found a sensitive spot or kept at it long enough he’d shudder and shake, then wipe the area furiously to eliminate the itch. Then, more than a couple times, he had distinctly *waited* for her to resume. Aurula had inadvertently chirped with amusement the first time.

She’d tried a few spots. His back, his stomach, the pits under his arms. He wouldn’t take off his pants though. ‘Tickling’ his neck worked exceptionally well! He couldn’t handle the feathers on his face for more than an instant. She wondered if he had a clue what that final one hinted at.

Minmint came out the front door of one of the buildings. She swept her eye along the communal area, currently full of Gerlen. A few of them spent their time in the ‘kitchen’ learning different recipes under the guidance of Tanktantun’s mother. But most of them had settled down to chat about whatever they could think of while playing ‘dice’ or ‘cards’.

Minmint stopped for a moment to look around the sky. Aurula could see the moment the Kraltnin female spotted Tinker and Umbra. The two Gerlen had begun their descent.

She walked through the small crowd to find the center table where Otto, Tanktantun and Aurula were seated. They made efforts to remain ‘accessible’ to the Gerlen whenever they could. Even now Aurula wasn’t entirely certain about the Gerlen, but the grey aliens had responded well to the Humans thus far. Eating and talking amidst the grey Xenos seemed to be a large part of that. Mason and Matchka arrived from behind Aurula just as Minmint did and they all made themselves comfortable.

Minmint stepped around the stool and settled right up in Tanktantun’s side. Without a second thought he placed his arm around her neck. The female Kraltnin was on the opposite side of the table but Aurula imagined Minmint’s tail was in that tight little curl again. Min reached down to the plate in front of Tank and picked up one of the little snack balls and fed it to him.

He accepted it gratefully. ‘Mmm! Tastes better that way,’ he told her. Aurula wondered if she dared play that game.

Ignoring their show of affection, Otto started the conversation. “Did you get in?” he said to Matchka.

“Yes,” Matchka replied in her usual terse manner. She’d taken the spot to Otto’s right, the left being occupied to Aurula. There was no flick of irritation in her tail today. He gave her a solid scratch between her two right ears and she closed her eyes with pleasure.

“Yeah, finally got one of the hangar doors open,” Mason filled in. “Still took awhile, but we were able to get in and check the state of things… and it’s about what we thought.”

“The one we took apart is all over the place and the other is damaged too?”

“Yes,” Matchka answered, “And... yes. Superficial.” Otto moved to scratching between her left ears and she leaned into it. Aurula considered the attention he was giving the Bellani.

“Okay, but if we couldn’t deal with it you’d have said so,” Otto said with a nod. “How is the area around it?”

“Mmm… fine…” Matchka said as she moved her head around. Otto had found a good spot. “Safe… can work. Oh. Around implant… yes.”

Aurula decided she could be patient. Matchka didn’t have any ulterior motives and she would have Otto to herself later.

The arrival of food interrupted them. A couple Gerlen pushing carts arrived to drop plates of food on the table for everyone. Another arrived with cups, distributing water for everyone to drink.

“Well, we know what we must do,” noted Tank. “For now, let’s eat!”

***
Stacey
***​

She found Otto and Aurula some distance from the bricks in a small half circle of trees. They had brought over a small bundle of cushions and a blanket for the Leralin and a couple chairs and stools for Otto and other visitors.

Aurula herself was sitting sideways on the ground with Otto working through her right wing. Where they were sitting this meant that Aurula was facing the direction Stacey arrived from. “Mmmm… Hello Stacey…”

“Hello Aurula, hello magic hands,” Stacey said with a half-smile.

“Yes... “ Aurula replied first, “His hands are very good…”

Otto broke that conversation with a cough. Stacey grinned at his mild discomfort as she took a seat across from the pair.

He looked at her as she got comfortable. “What’s up?”

“The slave package,” She started. His mouth twisted slightly with displeasure. She knew it wasn’t directed at her. “Any progress?” she asked him.

“Well, yeah. I think I’ve found an intermediate solution for now, but it’s an ugly work-around,” Otto ventured. “No matter how much I tried to take it apart, I’m just not good enough to decipher how the package shunts away natural responses.”

“So you can’t stop it from dulling our normal impressions and feelings,” Stacey stated for clarity. “Keeping me away from being able to kill someone and not really feel it.”

“No, I can’t stop it from removing our inhibitions... “ Otto said with a grimace. “What I *can* do is put in warnings that let us know when we’re being manipulated. It’s a lot easier for me to build a trigger than it is to disable a function.”

“You took apart the important ones easily enough.” Stacey wondered out loud.

“Yeah well, Clouds gave me the tools to do so though,” Otto noted. “All I have to do is watch the state of the recipient and implement the steps as they come. Clouds also made a couple variants for how much time I have to spare,” He paused for a moment as he thought about it. “I mean, if I’m stupid about it, I can still do some real damage. I think all of us are only okay because Humans are just resilient against that sort of stuff.”

“And you went and did that to me?” Aurula asked in mock outrage.

“Well I caught you by surprise for a reason!” Otto replied with a tinge of amusement.

She warbled a soft laugh.

Otto resumed brushing through Aurula’s feathers. She sighed and his expression returned to a more serious set. “Yeah, for now all I can do is put in some warnings when the implant is playing with us. After that I’ll only have to keep learning and researching. But I’ll need a couple days to build the… the trigger I guess I should call it.”

Stacey nodded. “Okay, I can live with that.”

***
Tsury
***​

Slowly, heavily, as if swimming through mud, she woke up. The light pouring into the window had drawn her attention.

Not for the first time, she vaguely felt. She was sure there had been previous moments when the waking world had drawn her out. But they were just that, moments. She looked to the side out the large window next to her, and then shut her eyes. The light was too much for her. Tsury found herself looking away as quickly as she had looked out.

The room was as simple as it could be. A rectangular space with a window on one side, a door on the other and some limited furniture scattered around. The bed she was laying on. A stand at the head of the bed and a shelf and bench near the foot of the bed. There was a thin blanket laying on top of her. It was all plain grey.

It was all obviously maker-made. The things were incredibly flexible, but when one wanted quick and cheap, it always came out grey. Someone had managed to put some texture into the walls at least. Instead of a smooth, blank surface it had subtle indented rectangles giving it a sort of reverse brick appearance.

She closed her eyes for a long moment, then looked outside again. She still had to squint. Maybe the Ushen eyes were too much after all. The building was… outside the ship. To the left she could see the Manifestation of Fate in all its lost glory. The blue-grey hull was cracked and dented and she could see past the outer hull into the ship in some spots. But it wasn’t a direct view. The ship was just so big that she could see it winding into the distance. The window was actually facing a body of water. Big enough that she couldn’t see the other side. Tsury could also see scattered red foliage and orange plant life along the ground. That plant life grew up to the gravel and sand marking the border between land and water.

She realized there was a small breeze coming through the open window. It was split into two halves and one of those halves had been pushed aside.

Her eyes focused as something moved on the water. There was an odd ‘strain as her vision focused in further. It was a… strange hovercraft with a Gerlen Pilot. She blinked as she realized it was pulling a Human after it with a rope. And the Human was on a board?

The sound of a voice rising in exhilaration arrived after a short delay. “Yee-haw!” Then the Human lost control and fell into the water with a great splash.

As she watched another figure approached the shore, its cadence stiff. A smaller Human. Somehow it looked unhappy to Tsury. It stood at the shore with hands on its hips.

The noise was subtle, but she still heard the door swing open. Its was more the guest of air that gave it away. Tsury looked over to see a beige Kraltnin with black stripes on her arms, legs and abdomen. The big eye started at Tsury, drawing her attention. This female was a typical young female. Wide set legs with long feet suitable for standing or jumping. A torso that was wide at the hips and narrowed towards the females head. A long tail that swished lightly with what Tsury assumed was curiosity.

The light scales along the Females arms legs and shoulders had come in heavy black. This was a firmly dedicated female.

“Oh! You have awoken!” the young Kraltnin said to her. “I am Minmint. How are you feeling?”

“Tired,” Tsury sent back.

Minmint blinked at her with the great big brown eye. She then approached to tuck in the blanket unnecessarily. “That would make sense. Otto doesn't believe you had a chance to finish your gestation.”

“I… I didn't did I?” she sent. Tsury was surprised to find herself thinking out loud. It was true though. She was in the early stages of hormone calibration when the Mother Tree… broke.

“Will you be awake long?” the young female asked.

“Yes… no,” Tsury debated with herself. She had thought she was fine but the fatigue was creeping back up on her. “No, I'm… I'll…” Suddenly she found her eyes inexplicably heavy.

“Don’t worry,” Minmint said brightly. “In the drawer of the stand here,” she gestured at the stand at the head of the bed. “You will find a wireless band. You can use that to contact us if you wake up with no one present.”

“Oh… thanks.” Tsury replied feebly.

She was asleep before Minmint had left the room.

***
Planet Karkantantar: The Peak
Chase

***​

A couple of the Vep stopped and stared as Chase dropped from the high wall. But only a couple.

The Human called 'Strider’ was well known in this district.

Chase landed like a spring, nearly squatting to absorb the impact. He bounced back to his feet, shaking out the aftershocks of his landing.

It was late morning. After the morning rush and before the midday scramble. There was still a bunch of foot traffic, but primarily only Veprutasians with a scattering of Kashto and Ushen. A Vep he knew in passing nodded at him and Chase nodded back at the tall biped crow.

He walked for some distance, passing multiple identically bland concrete buildings. Almost by reflex he started to pull down the shades strapped to his forehead. His hand stopped just short, he didn't need to see the overabundance of bright signs, ads and billboards. He'd worn the shades over his eyes for one solid day when Piderly had first gifted them to Chase. Now they rested firmly on his forehead outside of the occasional use where the visual pollution wouldn't give him a headache.

Convincing Piderby not to make them purple and green had been a trial.

He approached the one building with a legit neon style sign. A white bowl full of randomly coloured lines of light. Piderby’s club, 'Melting Pot’.

There was no line this early, but the alien Ox-minotaur, the Ytheon was there as always

Chase offered the doorman the usual greeting. “My respects, Crawk.”

With a heavy nod from the bouncer the door slid open. Chase headed in.

Past the second door the club still had activity. Flashing lights from the ceiling. Thumping music from instruments he didn't recognize. A respectable press of Sapients drinking and having a good time.

He pushed through to Piderby's office, pulling the shades down in advance. Palming the control on one airlock door, he passed the short hallway for the second airlock.

Piderly had installed one function in the shades. When Chase touched the second control pad the door opened to reveal an office full of bland dull greys. He had a grin waiting for this moment.

The grey Gerlen Piderby swiveled around in his luxurious leather chair. “Hello Chase,” he paused for a moment. “Oh very well. Say it before you 'literally explode’.”

“You should get some colour in here. Your office is really drab.”

The Gerlen put an elbow on the desk and rested his forehead on his fingertips with a sigh. “Anything unusual today friend Chase?”

“Naw,” Chase replied, lifting the shades back to his forehead. With that he could once again appreciate the nearly fluorescent office in all its colorblind owner's glory. “Just the usual Pid.” Chase dropped into a pink leather chair and fished a small memory chit from under the pressure band on his left wrist. He placed it on the desk and pushed it forward.

“Always dependable,” the Gerlen said with contentment, reaching forward to pick up the chit. “I appreciate that about you.”

“Aw shyucks Pid. Anything you need from me today?”

“Not… precisely," He placed it into a receptacle on the left side of the desk. Chase could see his eyes twitch reflexively as he checked the contents. "It has been quiet lately…” his tone was uncertain.

“What. Like the calm before the storm?”

“Before the… is that a planet-bound figure of speech?”

“It's a Human saying! In the moment before a really nasty storm the wind will settle and the air goes quiet. But things stay tense right up until the tornado touches down or the rain begins to fall.”

“That sounds horrifying and accurate.” Piderby paused to think, leaning back in his chair with his fingertips together. “I have… 'put out some feelers’ but all I have is a hunch.”

Chase stood up. “Your hunch is a good warning, I'll keep an eye out and pass on anything I hear.” He suddenly didn't want to tell Piderby about the equally unnerving 'eye of the storm'.

Piderby sighed at the mismatched description of Chase’s senses. “Thank you Chase, and please remain cautious.”

“Will do man, will do!” Chase replied as he walked out with a wave.

He didn’t even make it out of the club before someone caught Chase’s arm. He blinked as he looked at the Vep who’d grabbed on to him.

“A… moment of your time?” The crow asked.

Chase stopped moving and faced the bird. “What do you need?”

A small memory chit was placed into his palm. “If you’re interested in new work with better pay, follow the instructions. We’ve got some real interesting… perks too.”

Chance looked at the chit and quietly stuffed it into the band on his wrist. With a small smile he answered. “Interesting. I’ll consider it,” he quietly replied.

The crow tapped his beak a couple times with pleasure and nodded before heading for the bar.

Chase didn’t blink as he resumed heading for the exit.

That was… very bad. Someone was recruiting in Piderby’s own club? That bird was probably gonna get wrecked, but Chase knew the Veps liked scarecrow tactics. Throw up a decoy in the open and see how everything nearby reacts. There was a watcher in here checking to see who was interested.

He exited the main door to the street, patting Crawk on the shoulder on the way out. “Have a good day good man.”

He could feel the nod.

Chase couldn’t just walk back into Piderby’s office. He’d be seen. But there were other ways to get in contact with his boss.

Chase didn’t like obstacle courses that weren’t physical in nature.

***
End Chapter
***

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