Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 29, Arc 3

MyNameMeansBentNose

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Hey guys, I'm back! Basically two weeks, minus a couple days. The time off has served me well for getting story on a solid foundation.

As I said before, I'm moving my schedule to Wednesday and Saturday. This opens up blocks of time in my schedule that are really much more appropriate for when I write and when I post.

Also, the next commissioned pieces are coming along, I hope to share them soon. But for now, Chapter 29,

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Previous | Beginning | Technology | Wiki | Next
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Chapter 29
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It would be hard to blame Latte for being in a daze. Her whole world had been very quietly flipped upside down just a little while ago.

That big dark haired man with deep brown eyes had stepped quietly out of the shadows and changed everything without appearing to change anything. And he did it completely out of nowhere! Latte was still reeling from the experience. She rode the rest of the way home on autopilot. Only everyday practice kept her from running into any pedestrians as she skateboarded back home. She wouldn't even consciously remember the trip between meeting Otto and arriving at her home apartment.

After riding the lift up to her home level, Latte stepped through the front door to see Nitita working on something.

Nitita was at his console, plugged into the datascape. She could see the tip of his short tail twitching back and forth. Latte didn’t bother trying to be quiet. Sometimes she would sneak in the door when he was occupied, looking to do homework or chat with friends in peace. Today she was far too distracted.

It was hard to sneak in without him noticing anyways. Today was another such day. An errant gust of exhaust driven air through the door behind Latte announced her presence. With a twitch of his nose, Nitita slowly pulled himself out of dataspace.

His head leaned backwards, his flexible neck letting him look at her upside down without issue. “How was school?”

“It was…” Latte had almost entirely forgotten about her day before meeting Otto. “...okay”

“Okay? Only okay?” Nitita asked. “You are usually thrilled about going to school, which is good because it was expensive!”

That brought a wry smile to her face. “It was good! I like school. That reminds me, I’m not going to have to stop am I?” she asked after shedding her shoes and walking to the kitchen to get a glass of water.

“Why would you have to stop?” Nitita asked.

“Because you aren’t working,” Latte answered as if it was obvious. She took a big drink of water as he explained.

“Oh, that. I can still do on call work, so we’re getting by fine.”

Latte left out a long sigh as she put the cup down. “Then what was all that whining for, why is it suddenly all okay?”

“Well, sympathy obviously isn’t working, so I decided to give up on that angle.”

A raised eyebrow replaced the smile. “Oh? Sympathy isn’t working for what?”

“Getting you in bed of course, I’m told I’m very good you know.”

“You know what?” Latte replied, exasperated that he was still on that, “You couldn’t order me to sleep with you.”

“Well of course I wouldn’t order you to sleep with me,” Nitita replied.

“No I mean you can’t order me to.”

The Kashto pulled his head upright and turned around on the stool. Kashto typically held their eyes relaxed, and narrow eyes were generally signs of pleasure. His were currently opened wide, a sign of suspicion.

“You couldn’t possibly be encouraging me to-”

“I dare you,” Latte said with a grin. It was risky. Just because that man had told her he'd broken the slave package didn’t mean it actually was. It certainly felt completely different. But…

“Fine, Latte, I order you to go to bed with me!” Nitita said, the tone of his voice betraying his confusion and annoyance.

“No,” Latte replied. She felt the pulse, that implied question of whether she wanted to let the implant attack her like it was supposed to. But the punishment never arrived. She crossed her arms and stared at him with a triumphant grin.

He stared at her, waiting for the reaction. His normally slim and inactive tail slowly puffed up in alarm. Kashto didn’t do much with their tails, so it was easy to forget the guys had them. But those tails could give away strong emotions.

He jumped up from his stool, startling her by rushing over and putting his hands on her shoulders. “How!? Who did you meet?” the second stool he’d run over to get to her hit the ground with a clatter.

This was more than she expected. “A- a human- his name was Otto!” Latte replied in sudden fear and startlement.

“Can we contact him!?” he stopped, held her still and looked straight at her. “A Human cracker you said! I’ve never heard of one!” He turned and rushed back to the console. His head turned sideways to look at her, “come here, come here!” he said, waving at the second stool he had knocked to the ground.

“I gotta get a hold of Red Tail!”

He froze in place as an errant thought hit him. “Can you get a hold of him?”

“Uhh… he gave me a message node that i can leave a request at…” Latte said, gingerly righting the stool and taking a seat next to him.

“So no direct connection… is he from off planet?” Nitita questioned, holding a cable from the console out to her.

“I… I think so?” Latte ventured, taking the cable and replacing the cable from the wireless band around her neck. “He was an Earther for sure.”

“Leave a message for me Latte, it’s really im- an Earther?” the thought knocked the Kashto right off track for another solid moment. He shook his head to pull himself back together. “Yeah, leave him a message please. Red Tail is gonna want this Human before Hatherkey gets involved.

“O-Okay.”

Somehow, suddenly, this was much bigger than she expected.

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Matchka
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“This, here,” Eeksh noted, talking to himself as he worked away.

He and Matchka had spread out the multiple parts of the harnesses they’d smuggled in across the table. After lowering the adjustable table closer to the ground the two of them had begun reassembling all the parts. It was much easier to smuggle this sort of stuff into The Peaks when it was in parts.

“No, like this,” Matchka told him, turning the module in his hands and gesturing accordingly.

“Oh,” Eeksh replied, socketing the power module onto the harness.

She kept an eye on the young Bellani while letting him do the work. This was the happiest she had seen the poor red male since they’d arrived on planet and discovered his destination gone. To support that impression, his tail rhythmically twitched left and right as he installed the defensive modules onto the harness piece by piece.

Matchka continued to sort the pieces. The Harness arms she wasn’t sure about. They definitely wouldn’t work for entering Sapient resources. Maybe they could get away with it in the industrial sectors…

“This, here?” Eeksh asked as he picked up the deviation field focus.

“Yes-”

The door to the main room opened and Aurula stalked in.

“Hello Aurula,” Matchka greeted, hesitating before she continued. “All well?”

“Yes,” Aurula replied. “I’m finding it difficult to… sit still.”

“Ah,” Matchka answered. The conversation halted and the silence hung in the air.

Eeksh carefully continued his work, putting the harnesses of the Humans back together. He and Matchka were both worried Aurula would grab them for another round of redundant cleaning. They’d learned very clearly that brooding Leralin females took great interest in their ‘nest’. Matchka had never lived somewhere so clean.

“I apologize, I need a distraction,” Aurula explained as sat down at the opposite side of the table to watch the work. “I will try to be quiet.”

Eeksh moved on to the collar of Otto’s harness, making sure all the information modules were lined up. Each piece had to be socketed in to each other before attaching to the strap of the harness itself.

A very light scratching was heard as Aurula put a hand on the table and started idly running her talon in a small circle. The two Bellani tried to unpuff their tails at the errant noise and continue their work.

Back on Oolseck they’d made the decision to double up on harnesses. There were the ‘public’ versions with very few modules, mostly information based. The Humans had those on now as they went on their visit to Sapient Resources. Then there were the combat versions with heightened dataspace additions as well as d-field modules, sensor packages and harness limbs.

The scratching continued. Eeksh seemed on the edge of saying something, but stopped when Matchka placed a paw on his shoulder. If he let it get to him, it was his loss.

Aurula was looking at the harness Eeksh worked on, but didn’t seem to be present in the moment. She’d likely remain that way until Otto came back.

The door opened again and Tsury walked in. She’d become bored of the simulations Otto had made available. She could possibly work on some of the dataspace competency packages the man had put together, but Tsury had an adolescent’s impatience.

Tsury did pause upon seeing Aurula however. Then she sat down at the opposite end of the table to watch as well. The relationship between Otto and Aurula was nothing new, but the greater tension between the two seemed to bother the little Hyowean the most. Otto almost certainly hadn’t noticed as distracted as he was, but Matchka had seen the growing distance between the little Hyowean and the big Human.

Matchka refocused on the work in front of them. If she let it bother her, it was her loss.

The group was going to be away for awhile, but Matchka already couldn’t wait for them to get back.

The sound of the scratching got a little louder.

-----
Otto
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The group of them looked up at the walls of Sapient Resources here in the District. This was the primary slave auction center in the fifth of six districts. Atlatal’s danger map suggested risk around every auction house and secondary contact center within Peaks. But this one was Hatherkey’s preferred outlet and the brightest point of danger of all the auction houses.

This was the only place Otto had seen with something like a courtyard within the walls that flanked most upper district streets. There were lots of spots where the walls gave way to strips of shops and services, but this was the first time he’d seen a whole singular entity behind one of those walls. It was the length and about half the width of a football field, giving them lots of time to stare and the stark grey walls and the guards waiting before the doors.

It wasn't the friendliest looking of places.

Daniel had been the first to ask an interesting question.

Why was Atlatal’s danger guide, made for general residents, signalling so strongly to stay away?

It hadn't taken Otto long to figure out the answer to that question.

Because not all slaves were from off planet. A portion of the slaves being sold and repurposed were debtor slaves. Those who had run out of funds and found themselves taken. Repomen and debt collectors in Veprutasian society were so much worse than on Earth.

Tank led the way, Otto, Mike, Daniel, Stacey and Minmint followed. Minmint was at the end, with Otto next to her. Mike and Daniel in the middle. Tank led at the front with Stacey next to him. The implied threat was there. If the others misbehaved, he had the vulnerable female at hand. The ordering had been Tank’s suggestion.

Tank approached the very large double doors, walking up to the first of three large augmented Ytheon standing guard. The big mammalian sapients wore heavy harnesses with more than a few blinking lights. The two lesser guards both had visible modification in the modules installed directly into their arms. One of them had one very obviously artificial leg. The leader’s eyes were also replaced with round red lenses that reflected the light. They didn’t glow, but an errant light made them seem to flash as the male turned his head to look at the group.

“Purpose?” the Ytheon asked without hesitation or elaboration.

“Immunizer shots,” Tank replied, “Then browsing for the next auction.”

“Hmph, very well,” the Ytheon replied, looking away for a moment. “... I’ve called attendants, please wait.”

Otto had a good view from where he was standing. Tank hand a tendency to stand relaxed, simply watching what was happening around him. Here and now, he was looking a little taller, and little stiffer. He had also lifted his snout slightly, giving him the near universal appearance of looking down on the Ytheon guards. He’d settled into his ‘disguise’ with ease.

Minmint watched steadily, reminding Otto more than a little bit of Seramana back at their crash camp. That was probably her role model in fact, for putting on a show of ‘managing these slaves’.

He himself wore a neutral expression, and while he couldn’t see the faces of Stacey, Mike and Daniel, their poses were that of waiting.

But having four Humans was worth remarking on.

“You’ve got a mess of Humans,” the head guard noted.

“Yes, very useful,” Tank replied. “Not to be underestimated of course, but as long they understand where they stand in relationship to you…” He placed a hand on Stacey’s shoulder. Otto could see Mike and Daniel’s heads shift slightly to stare at that hand. An agreed upon play. Stacey’s flinch was probably pretty honest however. He hoped she wasn’t dwelling on her time with Krang too much.

“Well, that is your burden,” The head guard responded. “And you are looking for more Humans?”

“Ha ha,” Tank laughed, seemingly relaxed. “I’m not that great a fool. They eat quite a bit! No, I’m curious to see what is offered for technical knowledge, mostly ship management.”

“Ah, there are often cheap engineers on hand, although many are debtors. It is difficult to say what deficiency resulted in their current state, do take a careful look when browsing.”

“Of course.”

While the two talked, Otto carefully probed the public access nodes for the building. The past day had helped Otto figure some things out now that the Helix had offered some advice. Advice such as the typical access points for the darkspace as it was sometimes called. All Otto really needed it turned out, was to know where to look. Still, that wasn't the only thing he'd gained from his visit with Stoyaf.

A minute later and a pair of saucer shaped drones flew out an opening above the doors.

One dropped next to Tank and the other approached Minmint. Three tiny projectors rose from the edges of the saucers and the center of the saucer lit up with a monochrome hologram of a Veprutasian.

The one next to Tank waved its wing. “Hello and welcome, if you would accompany me inside we can look after your needs from there.”

“Of course,” Tank replied, stepping forward and taking the lead, if only slightly.

Only one of the double doors opened up to allow the group inside. The brothers turned their heads, likely to stare at the guards who were staring at the Humans in return. Otto simply relaxed his pose and expression as he remained slightly ahead of Minmint.

The first room was a lobby with a large desk manned by a pair of Veprutasians off to the left side. Directly ahead was another large pair of double desks and across from them the wall flashed with pictures of people slated for the next auction. One of the two birds nodded and the projections nodded in time. When he spoke, the projections spoke. Welcome to Sapient Resources. My name is Krassoty, and I will be your guide. May I have your name?

“Thank you,” Tank replied. He didn't sound like he meant it, and while he did incline his head, it was near imperceptible. “I am Nukrunluk. This is my first visit to this establishment. As expected it is much more impressive than previous such establishments.”

“Of course, I understand you were looking to have full immunization for your…” the attendant’s eyes swept across the Humans “... Servants? And then it will be a look at our current offerings?”

“If you would,” Tank confirmed.

The two disks rose up to flank Tank. A third popped out if the desk in front of Krassoty. “As this area is full of... 'stimulating' sights, I will have you submit your humans to an additional layer of control. In return you can leave them out of sight without worry while we inspect the merchandise on hand. I'm sure you can see the advantage in this?”

Tank swept a glance across the group of them. Otto met Tanks eye and lowered his face slightly.

Tank turned to look at Krassoty. “Acceptable, although I will leave my mate, Suulushu to oversee them?”

“Of course! Of course!” The bird replied cheerfully.

A tilt of Otto’s head was an agreed upon sign. If Otto had tilted his head upwards, it would have meant 'no’. Extra security had been expected.

“Are you taking all of your humans however?” Krassoty tilted his head as he asked. “The door scanners picked up the identifying mark for full immunization on the female.”

Otto couldn't have missed Mike's flinch from 50 meters away. Tank didn't seem to be paying attention. None of them had ever had reason to think about them being chipped.

“Yes, indeed… I will keep her with me, of course.” Tank was going off script now. “They will likely remain docile as long as I keep her close,” Tank replied.

“Good, good,” the Vep answered. Otto felt a command pulse from the third saucer drone. It was overlaying an additional set of command routines. Cursory inspection suggested straight restrictions. The new commands limited them from travelling outside the permitted areas. No effort was made to explain what the supplementary package would do.

“Now then, if you would follow the first drone Lukrunluk and Suulushu, please follow the second.”

Tank nodded and followed the first drone as if it was only natural. Minmint hesitated a moment, then took the lead as she followed the second. The security drone took up position at the rear.

But not everyone was willing to just go with the flow. Mike hesitated, watching Stacey walk away in the company of Tank. Otto’s mouth twisted with worry as he tried to figure out the best way to handle the oncoming problem. But the problem was well in hand.

Almost casually, Daniel’s hand came up and slapped the back of Mike’s head. Mike turned and glared at Daniel, but the younger brother wasn’t having none of it, giving Mike a solid glare in return. A heartbeat later, Mike looked away and followed Minmint. Daniel kept pace and Otto followed behind, breathing a sigh of relief.

The leading drone didn’t speak, almost seeming to be inactive. Otto could only assume Krassoty was merely keeping an eye on the terminal while talking to the obviously more important Tank. That was okay, the less attention they had, the happier Otto was.

In between managing Aurula’s moods of clingy demand, needy food cravings and her dangerous stalking game, he’d been working on learning one of Dresk Stoyaf’s tools. More specifically, Stoyaf had a program tailored for worming into typical Veprutasian security protocols.

He’d taken a few hours to delve into how the program worked, then made his way into three separate systems. The Virtual experience hub where people could live the movie. They now had free movies, as long as they didn’t abuse it. He’d gone into the base level security hub, essentially giving him access to the same sources Atlatal used to build his danger map, just without the sorting algorithm. And finally the apartment security system. Anyone in the apartment could watch the feeds to make sure no one suspicious was sniffing about.

He didn’t have the time to test out more sources. But one of his goals here was to worm into the security system of this place. Taking an imprint of the active datastreams Otto had been watching the moment they were in range, he finished building the camouflage he needed. With the direct connection already established, Otto made his first move on the security drone floating just behind him.

[Command, infiltration, Creeping Root]

Otto kept a close virtual eye open as the tendril of data accessed the drone. It was a slow process, opening a hole in the security routines, but as Otto watched, Stoyaf’s skill was proven. Trickles of information started coming in.

Otto almost jumped when a new voice spoke up.

“I will take over from here!” The projection on the leading saucer drone had changed to another bird. Similar enough in form that the Humans still wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference, except for the golden ring adhered to her pointed beak. The ring was two separate parts, a half ring for the upper beak, and one for the lower, forming a full circle when she wasn’t speaking. They were attached up close to the base of her beak. “Hello, I am Hulali, and I will guide you to the Hyowean specialist.”

“Hyowean?” Minmint asked in surprise.

“Of course! This is a high end establishment, we wouldn’t be satisfied with any crude injection tables!”

To her credit, Minmint didn’t look back at the Humans, or Otto in particular. She continued walking as if all was normal. Otto couldn’t remember if the Hyowean had been mentioned before, but hoped he could work past the problem. The fact that Stacey had a marker was a surprise, but was essentially a trivial problem. This problem might be more awkward…

They continued down the blank hallways, passing several monitors and several minor side doors until arriving at a set of more important looking double doors. The doors slid sideways and they found themselves in a wide room, A very large room.

The Mother Willow here was by no means as large as the one they’d left behind at the crash site, more resembling the size of an old fruit tree. In front of a bulge at the base of the tree, a smaller ‘seed chamber,’ sat the resident Hyowean.

She had the same body as Tsury had worn. A small four legged Ushen with solid blue eyes. Her skin glowed green and vines and leaves decorated her body. She didn’t have the fur that typical Ushen wore. Upon seeing them the Hyowean lifted herself from her cushion with practice grace and ease. She approached them and Otto was struck with the impression of this Hyowean being exceptionally old.

“Welcome, I am Tsalay. You are here for immunizers I have been told?”

Minmint remained at the front, Otto stepped up next to Daniel as the brothers stopped just behind the Kraltnin lady.

“Yes,” Minmint replied, “These three have been far too useful to risk their health without further reason.”

“Come this way please,” Hulali said to Minmint, waving to a terminal near the entrance.

The Hyowean pulled out three small needles and approached the men. “As soon as master Hulali receives payment I can process your samples,” Tsalay explained. “Fortunately, we see enough Humans that immunizers made for you will take a short period of time.” Her button nose began to twitch as she finished speaking.

Otto almost missed it. He didn’t realize what was happening until he looked at Daniel and the younger brother tapped on his own nose. ‘Tsalay could smell something’ Daniel was saying. They could all guess what that might be.

Otto nodded to let Daniel know he understood.

Moments later they could hear Hulali’s voice. “Excellent! Servant Tsalay, you may take samples of these Humans.

“Hulali,” Minmint spoke up, “While I am somewhat out of your normal service range, I was considering the application of implants to my own self. The translator is certainly useful, but the limitations are beginning to irritate…”

Otto sighed with relief as Minmint took it upon herself to keep the Veprutasian representative distracted. Meanwhile he began to manipulate the routines of the surveillance drone floating behind them.

Tsalay poked Mike with the applicator. It hissed but Otto could see Mike’s shoulders drop ever so slightly. It seemed the thing did not hurt. A second applicator applied to the soft inner vein at Daniels’ elbow failed to make the younger brother flinch as well.

When Tsalay approached Otto her nose twitched once again. She held up the applicator and paused. He could hear her take a single concentrated sniff. She looked up into Otto’s eyes.

“I may have picked something up,” Otto volunteered. “I’m sure whatever it is [it isn’t worth mentioning].”

Tsalay didn’t even react. She smoothly resumed taking a sample of Otto’s blood. “Indeed, it must have been nothing,” she agreed. The Hyowean clearly recognized the application of a security command from Otto and realized the implications. She seemed happy to leave those implications unsaid.

The surveillance drone recorded nothing but silence. Otto listened to the nattering Hulali selling Minmint on a related implantation business and spared a fragment of his attention for the movements of the Hyowean Ushen. But his real attention was on the drone as he slowly wormed his way through the connected security system.

The first area he opened up was the auction hall surveillance. It looked much like an auditorium or opera hall with rows of seats looking down upon a stage in a half circle hall. It really didn't seem necessary to have a physical auction, but Otto supposed the spectacle of it all was an attraction.

More delving opened up the stock rooms. He was even able to track active datapoints to pay Tank and Stacey a visit. Stacey’s right hand was clenched over her left elbow. A classic sign of distress. He couldn't do anything for her right now, but…

Otto set a reminder for himself to keep an eye out for a way to make this up to her. Perhaps it wasn't necessary for Stacey to be here after all.

Keeping a careful virtual eye on the activity and ‘attention’ of the security system as he dug in, Otto began taking notes.

-----
Tsalay
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For the most part, today had been just a day like any other. Hyowean were essentially immortal barring unfortunate circumstances. As long as they were well fed and cared for, they could live forever. The memory started to go after several hundred years though. Tsalay couldn’t remember how long she had tended to the Mother Willow of the 5th district Sapient Resources here in The Peaks. It didn’t take all that much time for every day to blend together in the first place. She didn’t have the attention for keeping track of that much time. But the controls embedded in her mind didn’t weaken with age. The implants worked the other way in fact. Having a poor memory did at least serve to weaken the controls.

But she did know unaccounted for Hyoweans were extremely rare. This turned today into a very unusual day all of a sudden. She had detected Hyowean pheromones before. She had also tasted the pheromones of a cracked Hyowean… at least once. The difference between an enslaved Hyowean and a cracked one was like the difference between stale trapped air and a fresh breeze.

The pheromones attached to the Human who had given her the order and the leverage she needed to be silent had smelt of a freed Hyowean. It had been a totally new and unique scent, carrying tones of the Humans themselves. The Hyowean friend of theirs had used their own genetics to make herself a body.

When the day came to an end and she was required to report on any unusual traits of the days visitors she had to force herself to be silent. She was expected to communicate points of risk or interest with any customers she saw.

“I do not believe I witnessed anything worth mentioning,” worked just fine for that days report.

-----
Umbra
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The flesh around the plates in his stomach was worn raw by the full body inspection. They had opened him up and removed his communication node, stealth field generator and backup power cell. Now he felt even more frail than before. Gerlen in general were lanky at best. He'd managed to almost forget about the device casings installed in his abdomen. Today hadn't been pleasant.

So once again Umbra lay upon the cot of his own prison, his mind running in guilty circles.
It was only a handful of days since he and his subordinates had been caught, but it was already starting to feel like forever.

It was in the midst of his thoughts looping around that Umbra heard an explosion. At the same time the lighting of his prison and the hallway flickered at some unknown power fluctuation.

Umbra swung his feet to the floor and then stood up. As he approached the force fielded door he could hear distant shouting. The forcefield would give the impression of sound being further away, but he could clearly hear shouting.

A squad of well armed Kraltnin soldiers wielding rifles and coil spears marched past Umbra's cell. They came spilling back moments later. Rounds of plasma lanced out, but splashed off the hard armor of the Kraltnin those Monos were carrying.

There were three of those black furred Monos, one short, one… universally ugly, and a third moments behind with a coil spear in each hand.

An opposing Kraltnin grey began issuing orders and the Whites underneath him charged forward, spears at the ready.

With precise timing the two lead Monos swung the bodies they’d been carrying. They swept the spears away, striking a couple Kraltnin who’d pulled a little further ahead. Having fouled the charge, the three Monos waded into the group and started lashing out with fists and stolen spears. The lead Grey leveled his plasma rifle on the group, clearly intending to cut his losses and cut loose on allies and enemies alike.

Suddenly a grey blur flew past, attached to a cable line. The object struck the neck of the grey Kraltnin and as Umbra got a good look he could see it was a hand acting as a grapple line. The Grey was yanked forward as the cable reeled back in. The shouting Human from a couple days before struck the unwillingly approaching Kraltnin across the face with his other hand, knocking the Grey out cold with contemptuous ease.

The body of the Grey landed in a unconscious pile, bleeding from nasty new punctures on his neck.

“Ah, better,” the man said with a… jovial tone to his voice as he picked up the plasma rifle the Grey had been carrying. He took a moment to wipe the bloodied points of his prosthetic hand on the body of the Grey.

While Umbra had been distracted, the Monos had finished the group of whites and moved on out of sight.

Then the two familiar faces stepped into view. Patches and Trips were with the Human.

“You’re safe!” Umbra shouted, speaking the first thing that came to mind.

“Umbra!” Trips replied, running up to the locked cell door.

Patches was moments after and turned to the dangerous human with the three pointed hat and red jacket. “Can you free him?” Patches asked.

“Nope, Grey is busy some-fuckin’-where else. I can't get him out,” the Human replied, turning a single cold eye on Umbra.

Umbra pulled his bandana off and placed it loosely over his clenched fist. “Don't worry about me Trips, go have that adventure.”

“But-” Trips faltered as Umbra threw his fist through the gap between the bars of his cell door. The forcefield reacted to the presence of his hand and delivered a powerful shock to his arm.

“Ur-Argh!” Umbra shouted in pain as the electric shock threw him backwards.

“Sir!” Trips called out, still conflicted.

The three Monos had moved on, but the Human remained silent. He was letting Umbra have his moment. The Gerlen was grateful, he had one last thing to say.

He stumbled back to the door. “Trips!” Umbra shouted and the common soldier Gerlen froze with Umbra's dark grey bandana in hand.

“It was never your fault Trips,” Umbra told him. “You were the least willing to go with us, look after yourself and go live.”

“But-”

“Sounds good!” The Human interrupted. “Gotta go! Let's move, move, move!”

Umbra and the Human exchanged nods and Trips was dragged away. Patches stopped and gave Umbra one last nod of respect before following after the Human and Trips.

The Gerlen shadow found himself breathing a sigh of relief. At least those two might have a chance to find what the seven of them had been looking for…

He stared down the hallways for awhile, but saw no further activity. Alarms continued to blare in the background, but he would not be given the satisfaction of knowing how everything played out.

When the noise of combat had long faded away and the alarms were shut down, Umbra returned to the cot and closed his eyes.

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End Chapter
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