Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 21, Arc 3

MyNameMeansBentNose

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Again and again I keep forgetting to put this little comment in, or something to this effect. It's been driving me nuts every time I remember, but I couldn't remember any time convenient for the life of me. I consider the gravity of Karkantantar to be about 15-20% lighter than earth. Part of why Chase is so easily able to leap from point to point. He was already an athlete, here it's so much more. This section is has been added to chapter 20 as they are exiting the shuttle.

Tsury wandered in a small circle for a moment, testing her steps. "Lighter gravity here?"

"Yeah, it is," Otto noted. "Hmm, guess about three quarters earth Gravity? No, probably not that much lighter..." he mused to himself. "I'm all curious now."

"Gravity maintained, planetary standard," Matchka explained to them all.
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Previous | Beginning | Technology | Wiki | Next
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Chapter 21
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“Hrng-! Geh,” Rob grunted as he finally got himself comfortable and settled. He’d left Mason’s suit overnight. Now it was the next day and it was time to see whether it fit. He’d done as suggested, pulling a cable from the collar of the suit and plugging in. Then he’d used the suit to push his chair over to flat ground, if only to give himself a sense of how it felt to move the thing. And the crater wasn’t exactly stable.

Rick was still polite and chatty, and not at all interested in rocking the boat. Now he was simply staying nearby while Rob manhandled himself into place.

Rob had some practice piloting the drones, although he was still nowhere near as good as Cynthia was. Rob did find that he could handle a single drone pretty well however, so this meshed nicely with managing the suit. Alternating between getting the suit stable and climbing into the suit he managed to get himself situated. Rob had considered making it sit down, but he didn’t think he could get his legs properly set without the aid of gravity.

Finally he’d lifted himself high on the arms of the suit and the suit had lifted Rob up to where he could slide himself into the suit with ease. He was happy Mason had managed to have the suit open up at the thighs as well as the chest and arms. The first time he got himself settled it beeped some feedback on his left foot not being quite straight, and he’d lifted himself halfway back out, had the suit adjust the leg and dropped himself back in.

It was an extremely odd experience.

Finally settled, the suit closed the open panels on the upper arms, chest and thighs once it detected that he was inside and ready.

“Yes, that does indeed look much better,” Rick exclaimed as Rob brought one of his arms up and flexed his right hand. “Now that you are suited, you should be able to walk as if your legs weren’t damaged at all!”

Rob looked at Rick. “Like I wasn’t injured?” The Ooze nodded at Rob. He looked down at his armored legs. Carefully, he took one tentative step forward. Then another. On the third step he wobbled and almost fell. After the fifth Rob found himself gaining confidence as he continued to walk.

He was starting to feel pretty good about himself, right until he found Cynthia at the door of their house with her arms crossed.

The look on her face was murder.

Rob froze in place as he saw her. Rick also froze.

“Maybe… maybe I should return to my hole,” Rick quietly suggested.

“The shuttle,” Cynthia stated, cutting Rick off. “Umbra took the shuttle and left.”

The suit emulated Rob’s natural posture and motions pretty well. It had enough flexibility for Cynthia to see Rob’s shoulders drop.

“Did you ask Tinker?”

“Yeah, I did,” she said, cutting every word short in her anger. “When were you going to tell me?”

“Was there a good time to tell you?” Rob asked simply.

That stopped her in her tracks. She also shrunk slightly. “No… I guess not.”

“Either way they are gone, and if they knocked the hangar over, I’m betting they know something happened,” Rob felt his expression harden. “I’m not sure I could handle Umbra being right in front of me right now.”

Rick was hunched, attempting to avoid notice. That served the opposite purpose of drawing Cynthia’s attention to him. Rob could see the cracks starting to show in her composure. Rob gave the Ooze a look and Rick pointed at himself and then the crater. Rob gave him a tight nod. Rick nodded back and headed off.

For all that Rick was excited for his own sake at Mason’s… ‘gift’, the Ooze was surprisingly understanding of the whole situation.

“Have you had lunch yet?” Rob asked.

“...” She had leaned against the doorjam and rested her face in her palm. Her shoulders shook slightly.

“Cynthia?” Rob opened the sealing plate on the right arm of his suit and extricated his hand so he could place it on her shoulder. “Have you had any food yet?”

She looked up at him with red eyes. “... no, I haven’t eaten anything yet.”

“Then let’s get a bite to eat, can’t be going on empty.”

She gave him a look, Rob could tell Cynthia wanted to tell him she wasn’t hungry. She didn’t argue his point however. With a nod she squeezed past the suit to head for the damaged eating hall.

He pulled his arm back in and joined her.

As they walked side by side she turned to watch him for a moment.

“It’s…” she took a breath. “It’s good to walk with you again.”

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Umbra
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“Denied, find berth elsewhere.”

The communication shut closed. Umbra flinched as it did so. This was the second outpost to refuse them entry.

“Cooperation space isn’t going to work out at this rate,” Patches mused.

“We should try Kraltnin space,” Yang replied. “There’s even a recorded entry in the shuttle records!”

Umbra’s head snapped over to look at Yang. “Just because the Humans came from Hrossincru doesn’t mean we should go there! I’m betting they made a mess when they were there too.”

Yang cringed slightly. “Yeah… you’re right boss! Don’t know what I was thinking.”

Umbra forced his face to relax. “Kraltin space might be on the right track Yang. They are looser with their security if I remember the records correctly.”

“You looked at the Kraltnin records?” Patches asked.

“When the Manifestation was still spaceborn and I saw what we were facing, yes,” Umbra explained.

Patches nodded, imitating the habits of the Humans.

“Do we have any good routes through Kralt space?” Umbra asked.

“Give me a moment,” Patches replied. “Pockets has a better idea of space routes than me.”

Umbra looked at the Veprutasian station hanging in space before them. A large grey spike with a nearly flat top hanging in space. As he watched a Kashto ship that had arrived after them proceeded to land on the flat top of the station.

Umbra glared at the twisted cargo ship typical of the agile tunnelers, a convoluted ship with a single large cylindrical fuselage and a secondary parallel section of hull suspended above. Four tubes flared out and connected the main bodies, forming a ring around the cargo pods it was carrying.

He sighed and turned to face Patches. “A moment is fine, we aren’t going anywhere for the moment...”

The shuttle floated in space for several more moments, outside the zone of control around the inverted mountain of a station. Finally a route was found and the shuttle disappeared out of the system.

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Tsury
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Tsury had spent so much time locked in virtual and actual imprisonment. Most of her life was spent in a select few rooms and courtyards. Then after a great deal of time she’d been moved to a single room cell. Finally she gained her freedom on the surface of what was apparently a sparsely populated planet with a small handful of Humans and Gerlen.

Her first walk through The Peaks was a shock.

It was a big enough shock that she hadn’t even realized something was wrong when they arrived at Denmenson’s ravaged shop. After the first couple of crowds she’d actually shut down, quietly settling into a place at Otto’s side… opposite Aurula where the bird couldn’t see her of course.

On the second walk she was doing a little better. But only a little bit.

“The signs are oppressive,” Tank noted as they walked.

“Are they a dataspace construct?” Minmint asked.

“Yes, I had turned it on for a moment to look,” The ‘Black’ Kraltnin replied.

“Oh,” Tsury realized, “I forgot.” She toggled the control in her head Otto had loaded into her add-on memory. Otto’s ‘adblock’ disabled the swath of adds crowding her vision. She didn’t need a whole bunch of adds for implants when she already had one.

“You forgot?” Minmint asked with surprise.

“I’ve never seen so many people!” Tsury defended herself. “I was distracted.”

And she meant it, the moment they’d stepped out the doors of the small hotel she’d been shocked anew by just how, many, people there were. Veprutasians, Kashto and Ytheon aplenty lined the streets, but there were so many more. White Kraltin with the odd Grey could be seen. Gerlen were a bit less common than she expected, but they did appear here and there. She had seen all the other regulars of the region as well, Monos, Tak’tin workers, the odd Leralin, Treidikx and Bellani being carried by their servant Prason.

All of those had wandered through her clinic in her old life, but now she was seeing new races she had read about in old reports and didn’t show up in common systems.

As for Bellani and their Prason, Matchka led the group in the arms of Daniel. Otto and Aurula we're doing… things back at the hotel. Things in dataspace, Tsury wasn't sure what. Mike and Stacey were staying put and keeping Eeksh out of trouble. Not that this would be all that hard with the despondent Bellani now lacking a patron.

They turned a corner and finally left the press of countless Sapients travelling the main thoroughfare. This lesser street still had plenty of foot traffic but it was far less… stifling.

A Kashto wandered close and Tsury saw a reaction she had been seeing far too often. As he passed by the Kashto put his stubby snout in the air and started sniffing. The race as a whole was drawn to strong smells, she hadn't seen one come close to her and not react even once. It worried her.

The sounds of activity reached them long before they arrived. The distant murmuring of many loud voices yelling in unison carried down the street. Finally the way eventually opened up into a narrow plaza.

“Kinda like a farmer's market,” Daniel mused. “Feels kinda like ho-ahh!” He jumped when Matchka poked him in the ribs. He wasn't supposed to speak more than two words at a time. At least not with so many people in close proximity. “Sorry.” He told her, clearly pouting.

The long plaza was filled with vendors hawking wares to pedestrians. Tsury could see piles of trinkets and gadgets of dubious use and origin. More common were clothes and sparkly jewelry, all of it illuminated by thin compact lights to better draw attention. The most common were the array of foods on display. Combinations of vegetables and meats, breads and bugs, drinks and dairy all had their own vendors and many different methods of preparation. The smell was wonderful. Tsury giggled when she heard Daniel stifle a tortured groan.

“The clothes vendors seem to each pick a race to service,” Minmint noted. “I'm surprised they don't have a maker and wait for a customer.”

“Maker, expensive,” Matchka explained. “Factory stock, cheap.”

“Hmm, father did speak on this,” Tank said, joining the conversation. “When dealing with high quantities, the makers are more expensive to obtain, not to mention licensing fees for designer programs and patterns. In large population centers, factories are still much more energy efficient as well.”

“Was Hrossincru not large enough?” Minmint asked. “I worked at a clothier, we used makers for so much.”

“Hrossincru’s a boom town, everyone had lotsa money to throw at-ow!” Daniel yelped a Matchka poked him again.

Tank nodded as they walked through the plaza. “Yes, as a thriving and relatively new resource settlement, Hrossincru was flush with wealth. It was easier to simply throw credits at makers rather than get deep into sifting for the best deals.”

Tsury only paid the conversation half a mind. Spotting some sparkling, intricate jewelry she drifted to the vendor in question. She halted upon feeling a solid tug on her arm. Tsury turned her head to see the tip of a black tail wrapped around her elbow. Looking up, Tank was gazing back with his own large eye.

“What? Tsury asked, annoyed that he'd grabbed her like that.

Tank let go of her arm and turned to face her. “Where were you going?” the big Kraltnin asked.

“Just over there to look,” Tsury told him.

“Without saying anything?”

“I was gonna come right back!”

“Is that so,” Tank replied, tilting his head to the side. “Unfortunately for you, we are not to split up.”

“I was only gonna be a moment!” Tsury complained, puffing up her cheeks in irritation. Then Daniel snickered quietly. Just what was so funny anyways?

“MmmmMMMM,” she hoped Tank understood how unreasonable he was being.Tsury marched briskly past Tank to catch up with Daniel and Matchka.

They walked in silence for the next moment, not that Tsury cared. They could talk all they wanted.

Minmint broke the silence. “I am uncertain, what are we looking for?”

“Kraltnin contact,” Matchka answered, “Grey Kraltnin, hidden.”

“Oh, okay then.”

Matchka and Tank seemed to know what they were looking for. Minmint followed without further question. Tsury didn't feel like talking anymore either.

They walked up one side of the plaza, past yelling vendors shaking and showing off products. Tsury had to admit the Veprutasians seemed quite easily drawn in by the spectacles. It was pretty easy to give the different races a loose profile. The birds liked shiny. The Kashto liked smelly. The Ytheon moved slowly, but with a mission.

For just a little while she was able to distract herself by watching all the people interact. Tsury amused herself by trying to guess what all the shoppers were looking for.

When they began their second lap of the plaza Tsury abruptly discovered she wasn't interested in that game anymore.

A quarter of the way around, Daniel spoke up.

“I betcha it's him,” Daniel said while pointing at a White Kraltnin running a beaten down shop with a bunch of simple wrist gadgets. His big meaty Prason paw made it clear who Daniel was talking about.

Having spoken and acted out of character, Daniel flinched, expecting another jab.

It never arrived, instead Matchka asked her own question. “Why him?” she enquired looking at his head.

Daniel continued speaking, but in a much quieter voice. Tsury wouldn't have heard him if she wasn't next to the pair.

“Seen a few whites around these parts in the first lap,” Daniel explained. “They all cringe and beg, but he don't give a shit. He's too confident.”

“Worth trying,” Matchka conceded. She flicked her upper ears towards the relaxing 'White’. That was his cue and Daniel didn't miss it, moving forward as soon as her ears twitched.

A sound behind her caused Tsury to look behind. Tank had stopped in place, held back by Minmint. Tsury kinda wanted to see if Daniel was right though, so she hurried after the leading pair.

“Interested in a navigator?” The Kraltnin began. “They are old, but still update with regular maps of the districts.”

“Atlatal?” Matchka asked.

The Kraltnin twitched, his extra membrane dropping slightly. “Why?” He asked.

“Seeking contact,” Matchka explained tersely. “Wanted Denmensen, now gone. Need boss.”

“Yes, he certainly is gone,” Atlatal agreed, waving around his right hand, still holding one of his devices. “And I will be gone as well! If I get involved.”

“Involved?” Matchka asked, tilting her head to the left and flicking her lower right ear.

“You want with Red Tail’s crew? They are being hunted by some Vep outsider named Hatherkey. Consider that a free tip, I don't wanna get drawn into that fight,” Atlatal’s voice had dropped to a whisper. His third eyelid had completely dropped as he spoke too. Tsury hadn't seen them do that often. It was weird to look at the thin, translucent layer of flesh over his eye. Then his head shifted. That eye focusing on something new.

“There is no way you can be convinced?” Tank asked, moving in close.

The disguised Kraltnin didn't flinch. “I might have, until a Black asked!” Atlatal almost spit as he talked. “You Blacks might be the true power back home but here-!” He cut off as Tank held up a hand.

“I told you-” Minmint started speaking, but the tip of a black tail gently wrapping itself around her own hand stopped her short.

“I see,” Tank murmured before looking back at Minmint, he then turned back to the Grey. “I am familiar with the quirks and weaknesses of a second skin,” Tank said to the smaller Kraltnin. Atlatal's face shifted away from aggression to what Tsury was pretty sure was suspicion. Tank reached up with his hand and slid the stubby claw on his thumb underneath his ‘eyelid’. He then blinked once, deliberately displaying his true emerald green skin, the black second skin clearly being held away.

When Tank’s eye was fully open the Kraltnin had frozen in place. He didn't start to move until the gadget fell from his nerveless fingers.

Tsury couldn't help but giggle as the Grey jumped upon hearing the thing land with a noisy clatter.

“A Gr-,” he started to speak, but then thought better of it.

“Well! Jump the rainbow and paint me tan,” Atlatal said with a huge toothy grin. “I might be convinced after all, let's find a quiet spot and we can talk details!”

-----
Otto
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This was an experience, to say it simply.

Otto delved deep into the public city dataspace. There really wasn’t much for hidden fun as far as he could tell. No deeply buried message boards or free public uploading sites. Nothing a surface check could reveal. Everything was strictly controlled. He found the ‘video site’, a collection of super realistic ‘movies’ you could watch from within the set, a real be experience. Seeing one that piqued his interest he’d opened up a demo. A little ‘teaser’ video let him watch the story of a Black Kraltnin defending his people against the evil Red Primary, literally from the shoulder of the Black. Or at least the beginning of the story.

He could find communication boards, although none of them utilized simple text. It was all avatars speaking to avatars, their conversations saved for later viewing. Those inexperienced with the space used simple black spheres to interact, the true sign of a newbie. Those with just a touch more familiarity inevitably picked up an avatar most likely identical to themselves, judging by what he saw. And then advanced users would begin to dress themselves up like historical figures or celebrities.

Otto had taken a moment to think about it, then decided to stick with the black sphere. He actually had to force himself to downgrade from the projection of his true self.

There were no Humans in dataspace.

Not that he’d passed up the chance to give the simple avatar his own spin.

Sifting through communication boards was one thing. Most of them were for the sake of their own specific industries, Aurula had taken time to browse the Navigators Forum for instance. A good way to keep herself busy since she really wasn't in the mood to talk. There were boards for technicians, artists, shopkeepers and every other industry he could think of. And more. But what he couldn’t find were the random little time waster spots a person would find all over the damn place on the internet. Personal spaces for people to show off their amateur art, or talk about the stories they made, or even just hobby spots to show off what they were doing with their time. Certainly no little gaming related sites.

This dataspace was incredibly deep and complex, and so painfully bland.

Curious, Otto cast around, looking for site creation services. He found them, and learned what he expected. Those services were tailored to larger companies and priced to match. He was able to find a few different places one could build a dataspace presence, but it was all the same. There was nothing to support a small time user. Felt like an opportunity to Otto, but now wasn’t the time for something like that.

He had paid half a mind to Aurula, physically curled up with him in the common room of the hotel they’d found. Bowl shaped beds were pretty common, but in return he didn’t really see any couches. Still, it was comfortable having her nestled in right next to him. There was some tension there however. The changes in her body were leading to some very abrupt mood swings.

Needing a break from what he’d been diving into, Otto decided to join Aurula for a bit.

Aurula too was in the dataspace, but she was doing something she hadn’t been able to do properly in quite awhile. Giving her a little pulse to know he was present, Otto arrived next to her where she was sifting through massive collection of travel records. An avatar of her self stood within a field of stars, looking out from their position to the greater galaxy. As she waved her hand it would spin. She could grab points of space and pull apart to zoom in, or drag herself around the space.

He could feel a hint of the massive backlog of information Aurula had filtered out. Right now she was searching for sightings of the red Monos ship Otto had mentioned, the ‘Blood Feeder’. She was currently zoomed in on a relatively small region of space, a field of stars dotted with markers. From white to vivid orange, the markers indicated how long ago the ship had last been seen.

“Able to make sense of it?” Otto asked her in the space.

Her avatar turned to look at Otto. “Oh, I didn’t expect you to be wearing the proto-form,” she replied, her tone carefully neutral.

Otto chuckled, “No Humans in dataspace after all,” as he did so the black sphere rippled with colours and light in response to his mood.

“Oh!” Aurula sighed, placing her hands over her beak. “You surprise me, that is very clever.”

Otto was happy to see her mood lighten. “I was hoping you’d like it, but how goes the search?”

“Oh,” Aurula responded, turning back to face the web of data points and travel routes. “I’ve been able to narrow it down some, and I can save this search method for later when it is time to go as well. When it comes time to go there should be no problems.”

“Hmm, that sounds promising,” Otto agreed.

“How do your own explorations go?”

“Somewhat intimidating, I have to admit,” Otto replied. “There is so many more layers to this onion, but I sort of expected that.”

She blinked at him with a single eye. “Onion?”

“Ah, earth vegetable,” Otto began explaining, as he did so he attempted to form an image of the thing before him. “It has a pretty strong taste and odour, and has multiple layers when you begin to open it up,” he wasn’t able to built a photo-realistic version, but he made a close imitation he was happy with, then split it in half to reveal the layers within.

“Layers within layers,” Aurula noted, giving him her impression.

“Yeah, there’s a lot to the dataspace here, but I sort of expected it.”

“Hey!” a voice called his attention back to the real world, accompanied by a poke in the arm.

Otto opened his eyes to see Stacey leaning over the bowl he and Aurula had curled up in. Aurula cracked an eye open as well.

“Hey Stacey, what’s up?”

“I’m just… you sure Tsury is going to be okay?” she asked.

Otto smiled, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure…” He looked up and to the side, checking the little map calculation the city guide had given them. “They should be at the plaza now.”

“I told you it’s fine!” Mike called from the other room. “What’s got you so wound up?”

“Well,” Stacey said with a frown, speaking loud enough for Mike to hear. “She looks like an adult, talks like an adult and I guess… smells like an adult. But she acts like a kid!”

“It’s fine, I made sure she can’t wander off like a kid might,” Otto reassured.

“Oh, and how did you do that?” Stacey asked with an arched eyebrow.

“I was able to put a little proximity alarm on her. If she wanders too far from the group Tank and Matchka will each receive a little warning alarm. She also has a short range beacon so they know which direction she went.”

Stacey had put her hands on her hips as Otto spoke. “You put a leash on her.”

“Damn right I did, but I’ll happily argue that an alarm and beacon is far more dignified than an actual leash.”

Stacey cracked a smile. “Okay, I can see why you’re so confident. We think we found a decent spot to eat, they do take out so we can make an order and bring it back, are you both interested in checking it out?

Otto shifted to look into Aurula’s eye. “You interested?” he asked simply.

“Hmm, I don't think I could handle going out right now,”Aurula mused, trying to give an honest assessment.

“May I go?” Eeksh asked from his own seat, eager to go just about anywhere.

“Sure, I'll get my monkey suit on,” Mike agreed. “You two lovebirds get along!”

Aurula's silence afterwards made the rest of the evening awkward.

-----
Tanktantun
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He’d expected a change in attitude, but not such an extreme swing between defensive anger and thrilled excitement. Atlatal lead the way with a literal bounce in his step, tail happily swinging back and forth.

The disguised Grey had almost forgotten to close down his booth. When Tsury had asked him if he was leaving it all out the Grey had paused in shock, then returned to pack everything away. When all the devices were packed into an alcove within the booth, the whole thing had sunk into the ground.

Tsury had giggled the whole time.

Then Atlatal led them away, flush with excitement.

So, Tanktantun had expected a change, but this?

Atlatal led them to a small restaurant that served as a quiet rest spot. The only offerings on the menu were snacks and drinks.

“Welcome to Murmuring Den,” Atlatal said with a restrained smile. He’d managed to pull his tail in on the way over. The Kraltnin waved at a black Bellani with bright blue marks sitting behind the counter. The Bellani tapped on his counter and an orb rose up. It approached the group.

The voice was distinctly neutral, Tank couldn’t pin down if it was meant to be male or female. “For six? This way please,” It turned and floated to a larger table in the back of the small business. Tanktantun was reminded a bit of SPIRE, although they didn’t sound the same.

They took their spots on the stools, Tsury against the wall on one side with Minmint then Tank at the outside. Opposite them Atlatal took the wall seat with Matchka in the middle and Daniel uncomfortably sitting next to her.

Opposite sides of the orb opened up. It then projected a holographic menu on the table in front of each of the visitors.

“Before you get into that, I don’t have enough to pay for everyone,” Atlatal warned.

“Can pay, is fine,” Matchka responded with a flick of her ear.

Tsury went looking around the menu with bright curiosity. Daniel sighed and waved it away, he couldn’t eat in the disguise. Tank made his selection and Minmint didn’t hesitate either. The drone received their orders, disabled the holographic display and floated away.

“So, you want to meet up with Red Tail?” Atlatal asked.

“Uncertain,” Matchka admitted. “Wanted Denmenson, Patron for Bellani Kit.”

“Yes, we have a young Bellani with our group who was supposed to go work for the Kraltnin,” Tanktantun filled in. “From there we intended to ask Denmenson for help. What we actually need is a doctor.”

“A doctor, but not a public one,” Atlatal nodded. “Any specific requirements?”

“The ability to make advanced nanofix would do, but preferably someone we could take with us,” Tanktantun explained. “We have injured locked in stasis, safe, but problematic to move around.”

“You didn’t bring them with you?” Atlatal asked.

“We judged it to be too dangerous.”

Atlatal’s head bounced, a sort of shrug. “Well if that’s what you need, then yes, you will want Red Tail after all, or at least Crawk,” he mused. “The Ytheon has a good doctor in his employ.”

“Do you know where they are?” Tank asked.

“No, due to the territory war, Red Tail’s lieutenants have gone into hiding,” Atlatal paused as the drinks arrived, the drone arriving with a basket tray hanging from a hook extending from underneath. It set the basket down and it released the bottom panel, The drone floated up leaving only the bottom of the tray behind with everyone’s drinks. It floated back to the counter, its owner, the Bellani not seeming to pay attention to much of anything.

“I didn’t want to be a part of that fight, but for a… for one such as you I’m willing to undertake a little risk. I’m going to need some help though.”

“Help? What help?” Matchka asked, rejoining the conversation.

“Well, I’m just a single Grey, and not someone with much influence. My talent is really knowing where not to go,” he lifted a hand, displaying one of his wrist gadgets. “These act as a sort of hot spot map. They track public security reports and inform the wearer what areas are noted as safe and where they should avoid.”

“Clever,” Matchka noted.

“Thanks, it’s my own design!” Atlatal said with a happy twitch of his tail. “But what I need from you is some help and some insurance.”

“What insurance?” Matchka asked with a flick of her burnt right ear.

“I need protection. Some muscle to help keep my hide intact,” Atlatal dropped his head low. “If I am to stick my tail into that battle, I will likely become a target. Do you have anyone mean enough to keep me safe?”

Matchka had remained someone stoic through the conversation, interested, but not animated. Hearing the question of the Kraltnin though, she cracked a wide smile.

“Yes, we do.”

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End Chapter
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Previous | Beginning | Technology | Wiki | Next
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