Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 30, Arc 3

MyNameMeansBentNose

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It took me... a long time, to get to this point...
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Previous | Beginning | Technology | Wiki | Next
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Chapter 30
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Rob stood, looming over the crouching Ooze, his arms crossed, one finger tapping on the bicep of the opposite arm. Rix had advanced far enough that he felt confident in beginning to tap his innate abilities. At this point, Rob had been watching for a while and if he had to be honest, it was looking good.

Currently Rob, Tinker and a squad of ten armed Gerlen stood and observed as a moving blob of grey liquid digested the piled up scrap where the hangar had been. It was possible to transport this scrap to the one functioning recycling center, but there had been no rush to do so.

Rix wasn’t making any noise. The posture of his kneeling Human body gave the impression of intense concentration. The Ooze wanted to master himself more than it wanted anything else. Rob had come to realize that’s what it was all about for Rix. The Ooze as a whole had no proper control over its designed functions. Only desperate and temporary hacks.

The blob moved slowly and carefully, transforming the mangled material stored at the site of the hangar into separate powdered compounds as it went.

After talking with the Gerlen and with Rob about what he wanted to do, Rix had gained permission to attempt this, as long as he was under guard. The Ooze didn’t hesitate to accept that condition. Tinker stood just behind Rob, and of course the ten other Gerlen all with plasma weapons. Unlike before, those Gerlen were fully decked out in the composite armors and limbed harnesses they’d used when the ship was working. Each Gerlen carried three plasma weapons each, determined to melt Rix into nothing if this went sideways.Tinker was watching closely with augmented vision to watch the mass and motion of the blob Rix was controlling. If it got dangerous…

The blob moved through the bin Tinker had finished building just the day before. It had been filled with the crumpled structure of one half devoured building as well as mixed materials from Rix’s own rampage. The blob Rix was controlling wasn’t much bigger than a single person, although Rix suggested he was taking it easy and could possibly handle more. The Ooze himself expressed his desire to move slowly despite this.

The work seemed to be going well and as the blob moved it was leaving behind multiple sorted piles of materials. A far cry from the hill of material left behind after Rix’s initial rampage.

Rob was feeling rather optimistic he’d realized this morning. The loss of Mason still hurt. Cynthia still stopped occasionally and sunk into melancholy. But Rix was never anything but apologetic… and determined. That determination went pretty far in terms of settling out the loss. It was clear to them all that Rix’s biggest fear was seeing what he’d gained from Mason going to waste.

The Ooze was many things, but by all appearances, he wasn’t a liar.

The last of the scrap was cleaned up. A portion of the blob split off from the mass and returned to Rix, entering through gaps the Ooze had opened up in his arms to start the whole process. The remaining portion of the blob solidified and crumbled, turning into its own pile of material.

Rix stood up and turned to Rob and Tinker. “A successful test!” he said with a wide smile, “But I think that’s enough for today.”

“Not going to keep going?” Rob asked.

The smile went away, although his expression was still bright. “No,” Rix replied. “I’m going to take some time and process how that all went.”

“Yes,” Tinker said, joining the conversation. “The pair of us are going to study the results. Then we can see how Rix can contribute best while setting some limits.”

Rob nodded in acknowledgement. “I’ll let you two get to it then,” he said to them. Rix and Tinker nodded in return and Rob turned to walk away.

The Gerlen was the most strict with Rix and insisted on being involved with everything the Ooze did. Tinker was more strict on everyone really, especially himself, but this little settlement was looking all the better for it.

Mason’s Landing was looking better every day.

As Rob walked he considered whether he wanted to get out of the suit now or later. Walking on his own power was fantastic, but hygiene was a bit of a problem. The suit didn’t breathe very well, and being moved was much different from moving himself. It also chafed in spots. Rix picked at the design, but didn’t seem all that optimistic about his progress. The integration with Mason was incomplete, which meant further modifying the design found on Mason’s console was a difficult proposition.

Some of the Gerlen were playing with the design and attempting to catch up with the knowledge required. They seemed optimistic about their progress at least.

One thing that had come out is that when Rix had absorbed Mason, the adaptation process had consumed a great deal of energy while Rix tried to bring everything under control. Tinker had confirmed this, noting a big energy spike when the Ooze had stopped spreading and again when it had surrendered most of its mass.

It was a brute force method that allowed Rix to increase his processing power, but it wasn’t something the Ooze wanted to repeat. “I can’t control it well enough,” was a common refrain from Rix at this point.

There was an itch Rob realized. Right under his left shoulder blade. He groaned as he walked, shifting around in his suit in a vain attempt to get rid of the sensation. By the time he arrived at the brick house he was grumbling in irritation. When he walked into the living room with a distracted Cynthia on the couch, Rob had transitions to swearing.

“Oh dear lord!” Rob said to her, “Cynthia! Save me!”

Cynthia looked at him, her focus pulled to the real world. “Where does it itch?” she asked, a smile lighting up her face.

The chest of the suit popped open and Rob pulled his arms out to lean forward. “Under my right shoulder blade!” He was able to reach around and sort of get it, but Cynthia didn’t hesitate to push herself out of the seat and come over to help him out.

Rob crossed his arms and rested on the lowered chest plate of the suit while Cynthia reached over and searched for the itch. “Ahhhhhhh,” Rob breathed in relief as she found it. “It would be nice if the suit didn’t encourage itches like this,” Rob complained.

“I dunno,” Cynthia replied with a little giggle as Rob happily groaned. “This is kinda like a perk to me!” she argued as Rob relaxed.

He turned his head and reached out to caress her growing belly. With only a couple months to go Rob was afraid the others wouldn’t get back in time to bring a doctor, if they had a doctor at all. But that was always a strong possibility.

“I hope they make it back safe,” Rob mused.

“Me too,” Cynthia agreed.

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Mike
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He sat down on the bed and put a hand on Stacey’s shoulder.

“Mmm,” she responded lazily from under the blanket.

“How ya feelin’?” Mike asked softly.

He didn’t actually need to ask. He’d tapped into that dedicated connection they’d made as soon as he entered the room. Tired, uncertain, afraid and angry. But now, just waking up, it was all subdued by that morning fog.

The difference was whether she’d be willing to talk about it after having a good rest.

And while the psychic link was amazing in its own ways, talking was still fundamentally so important for crystalizing those feelings they shared.

“They were like toy prizes,” Stacey mumbled, facing away from him.

“Toy prizes?”

“Like the mall capsule dispensers, where you put in coins, turn the knob and get a prize.”

“... The people?” Mike asked.

“Yeah…” Stacey rolled around in bed, the blanket falling away slightly to reveal her arm and shoulder. For a moment he was distracted just looking at her. Detecting where his thoughts were going, Stacey’s mood softened just a bit.

“Is that all you saw with Tank?”

She laid her head down on the pillow and looked at the wall past him. “Yeah, all those people were lined up, embedded in the wall. Toy boxes on display,” she sighed before continuing. “They are stored until it comes auction time, then the pod is moved to the stage and they are woken up… Just like we were on Hrossincru.”

Mike frowned reflexively. He could still remember waking up to that strange crowd, not having a damn clue what was going on. The trip in the van to meet their new, but temporary, owner wasn’t much better. Only Otto seemed to have it together, which was annoying at the time. The guy had treated it like he was meeting a scary new boss, but never gave the impression of being confused. That impression is probably what had started them off on the wrong foot.

Made sense now though.

“It’s just…” Stacey continued. “It was so normal to Tank and the crow. There was one of those weasels visiting with a… a Ytheon bodygaurd and he was going and inspecting the slaves like livestock. And then he leered at me too, the bastard was looking for a toy to play with.”

Mike started feeling pissed when her feeling of disgust leaked across the connection “That-”

“Tank gave the weasel a flick of his tail though,” Stacey laughed, a bitter amusement colouring her response. “He was all like ‘Not for you,’ letting himself act disgusted.” The link ramped up and Mike was treated to the image of a orange and white coloured weasel holding his forehead and glaring at Tank.

Mike chuckled, but she was still covering her anger. “Are you okay though?”

Her feelings mellowed out as he asked. “Yeah… I’m better, I just needed a good sleep.... After seeing that, I want to smash that place too,” she sighed again. “I just wish we could do more.”

“Well, we’ll do what we can, it’s probably time to get up though.”

“Okay, I’ll be up in a minute.

Mike leaned over and kissed her on the forehead, and receiving a feeling of warm affection in return. He patted her on the shoulder. “I’ll let you get up then,” he said softly.

“Mmhmm,” Stacey mumbled in reply as Mike stood up and left the room.

Down the hallway and in the main room he found Tank fiddling with his harness, the thing half draped over his body. It was still a couple days until they attacked the place in the middle of an actual auction. That event was guaranteed to make Hatherkey look bad and get Red Tail’s attention. Supposedly that was Hatherkey’s favoured auction house and the bird supposedly loved using people who had no choice but to be used. Mike could feel his blood rising in anticipation, the thought of making that sort of mess brought a smile to his face.

“Hey Tank, good to see ya,” Mike greeted. The big Kraltnin had come out while Mike was checking on Stacey.

Tank tilted his head, unsure of why Mike was in a good mood. He accepted the warm greetings and returned his own without hesitation. “And you as well. Stacey was… upset after our return yesterday, is she well?”

“Glad ya noticed,” Mike replied. “Yeah, she’ll be okay, thanks for asking though. You know if Otto is up?”

“He is on the balcony, deep in another world.”

“Heh, I guess he’s got a lot to do, thanks Tank.”

“It is… no problem.”

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Otto
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Otto had been up for a couple hours, sorting through everything he’d been able to put together in their visit. He lifted the steaming cup in front of him and took a sip. The product Daniel had found thanks to his Inhabitor friend, the ‘Zip’, was fruity, but it had kick.

The crash was less intense than the mental switches Otto had developed as well. He didn’t look forward to the day when he wouldn’t have a chance to rest after needing to use those. It hadn’t gone over his head that he hadn’t really been punished for it yet.

But that time might come soon if what he was learning was accurate.

He’d kept a portion of his attention on the real world, so he didn’t miss the sudden sound of steps as someone exited the apartment onto the balcony. The door didn’t make a damn sound when it slid open though.

“Hey Otto, how’s it coming?” Mike asked. Otto was expecting someone else of course, but the footsteps made it pretty clear who the visitor likely was.

“Mmm, coming along. I think I’ve got a map of the auction house mostly built.”

“Oh yeah? ‘Mostly’? Whatcha missing?”

“What you would expect really. I couldn’t get into a couple high security sections of the place.”

“That gonna mess with us?” Mike asked sitting down across from Otto. “You got into the loading dock right?”

The balcony on this apartment was surprisingly normal. Just a rectangular platform just outside a set of transparent doors. Outside there was enough room for a pair of adjustable chairs with a large gap for potential tails and a changeable back for different body forms. It was very spacious for its simple design.

Mike was able to lean back with his hands behind his head.

“Yes I did, I’m just locked out from knowing exactly how the guards are equipped or what zones they can get into the fastest,” Otto explained. “Oh and wherever their safe or high end goods are held, if any.”

“Do we need to know that?”

“Only that it would be nice to know, not that we have to know. I might have another way to find out though…” Otto waited for a moment, but decided it was probably fine to ask. “Is Stacey okay? She wasn’t feeling good about that visit at all when we were done.”

“Yeah, she just remembered Hrossincru,” Mike explained. “I think she’s all for the raid now.”

Otto nodded in affirmation. His attention wasn’t fully in the moment, he’d left half his mind in the dataspace as he waited on some reports. The latency from the apartment to the auction was somewhat high when he was bouncing across so many nodes. That and simultaneously working slow to keep his footprint small.

“I hope we’re all ready,” Otto replied, if a bit slowly.

“What do you mean?” Mike asked.

Otto gave Mike his full attention for the moment. “If what I’m seeing right from some of the forums and reports that Stoyaf pointed me at, once we make ourselves known it’s not a matter of ‘if’ we get found.”

Mike’s eyes narrowed. “So it’s ‘when’ we get caught? What’s the plan then?”

“I think the plan…” Otto started slowly, “Is to keep moving.”

“Keep moving?” Mike said, dropping his hands and leaning forward in the chair.

“Yeah, we forget it because Humans are lazy whenever we can be, but we can outwork just about anyone out there.”

“So? How does that help us?”

“I’m betting even if Hatherkey figures out who really hit him, the guy won’t expect us to act again right away.”

“You think we’ll get away with that?”

“Sure,” Otto answered quickly, “But only because Hatherkey is watching for Red Tail, he has no fuckin’ clue who we are.”

Mike found himself nodding to that. “True, but it won’t last.”

“Sure won’t, so we’ll have to keep all eyes peeled as we go.”

“...” Mike’s hesitation and silence was a statement of its own.

“You’re worried,” Otto filled in.

“Yeah, course I am, are we gonna be fine doin’ this by ourselves?”

Otto smiled. “We aren’t doing it by ourselves, I’ve had some good talks this morning,” Otto linked his fingers and stretched his arms above his head. It was odd to Mike, seeing the natural left hand, intertwined with the three fingers artificial arm. “So,” Otto continued, “let me tell you about Stoyaf and Leroy.”

Mike settled in and Otto explained the parts of the plan he’d managed to fill in that morning. Tank was already informed as well, the Kraltnin had visited before Mike. Tank was a bit more worried, and rightfully so. Kraltnin didn’t have the general endurance that Humans possessed.

Not that Otto had made solid exact decisions. He had possibilities lined up, not ultimatums. When they started depended on a couple things, Otto had spoken to Daniel earlier about a difficult errand for instance, but whether it was a few days from now or ten days again from then, there was a plan. He and Mike talked about how some of it would play out based on what they knew and when Mike finally got up to leave, the guy was clearly feeling better about how it would play out.

Once he was alone again, Otto took a large sip of the energy drink and delved back into the dataspace.

The direct conversation with Stoyaf that led to him contacting Leroy had been a windfall. Part of the conversation had involved someone going to meet the Human down in the industrial levels. Which first required finding Leroy. Part of this did hinge on just how trustworthy Stoyaf was, but the Helix seemed very intent on building a friendship with Otto. Not just a one way friendship either, the root side of the Helix wanted information scraped from any resources belonging to Hatherkey that Otto could get into.

Mastery of some of the tricks Otto had shared was also a thing the Helix was interested in. Otto found it somewhat disconcerting, this side of the agreement. Dresk was passable in dataspace thanks to Stoyaf’s tutelage, but Stoyaf himself was… rigid. Otto was almost certain Stoyaf trusted Otto in general before ever meeting him. It was pretty odd, but if one guessed Stoyaf had maybe had a Human friend, perhaps it made sense. But Stoyaf actually did need help fully parsing the dataspace techniques Otto had inherited from Clouds and Spire, then mastered himself.

An updated map of the auction house resolved itself and Otto went back to his infiltration of the building. The personal visit was required to earn an immediate ‘in’ with the security system. That was now done. With the hole made, this let Otto tug at many of the strings that made up that ball of yarn from outside.

Several minutes had Otto on his feet with sudden satisfaction. Another cracked info package had yielded a guard manifest. The auction house had a small contingent of slave guards. A closer look showed two ‘sladiers’ on hand as well. That made Otto frown. The term was specifically mentioned. Another variant of slave? Had he heard that one before? He felt like he had, but it must have been awhile ago.

If he made a guess, then it was variant of slave, a prospect that made him a bit nervous. Would his stuff work on those two? The cracking package or the slave command? Otto wondered if asking Stoyaf about this might be best.

Shifting his attention he stretched himself out to interface with the remote message node he’d set up. The message from Latte blinked at him. Otto felt a little bad, but he was literally spending every waking moment getting all this ducks in a row. The teenage girl would have to wait.

He leaned on the balcony rail as he started composing his message, which was the very worst thing to do.

After all, that hunting game went both ways.

He didn’t know how she kept her talons from tapping on the hard floor, but the sharp points at his neck made Otto stiffen up.

“Uuh, you caught me,” Otto acknowledged. He very quickly began the process of putting away the packages he’d had open in his head.

“I did, but I’m still behind,” Aurula crooned softly into his ear. She was so close he could clearly hear the almost singsong quality of her own language warbling in his ear. Her hands let go of his neck and moved to wrap around his chest. Given the opening, Otto spun around and gathered her in his arms.

Aurula squawked in surprise, then chittered with amusement when he pulled her close.

“How are you feeling blue bird?”

She sighed, “I want nothing more than for you to fly with me, or barring that, help me fly. This stifling city has few Leralin for a good reason, despite home being so close.”

He felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise at that comment. He still hadn’t talked to her about the idea of going home.

“But right now…” Aurula drifted off.

“Right now?” Otto said his head next to hers. Speaking next to that black spot that covered her ear made the feathered woman shiver.

“Right now…” she still couldn’t say it, but he didn’t blame her.

“Shall we go?” Otto asked, moving his hands to her sides and picking Aurula up high by her hips. Her wings fluttered outwards as he lifted her up. The Balcony was wide and tall, They’d been able to pick a building made to accommodate larger Ytheon and similar races after all.

Aurula threw her wings out wide with a single heavy flap and Otto found himself momentarily caught by the sight. Her full white crest of feathers had risen and spread out, treating him with her full display, a feathered tiara. The spread of her wings impressed and delighted. From within there were subtled bars of darker and lighter blue feathers as well a dappling of white spots. Otto was shaken out of it when she draped her wings about him and he pulled her in close. “I did a little research, just a bit,” Otto said close to her.

“You did?” she asked softly. “What did you find out.”

“A dancing flight is the last moment before a Leralin pair steps behind closed doors,” He said putting his head just below hers, still speaking to one side. “Isn’t that right?” he asked in the deepest voice he could muster. It had the effect he was looking for when she shivered again.

“You’re doing that on purpose,” she rewarding him with a soft punch on the shoulder for his efforts.

“Sure am, are you complaining?”

“No,” she whispered back, “no I am not.”

Her waist was thin and she herself was light. Otto shifted Aurula around slightly, earning himself an awkward squawk. Moments later however she was sitting on Otto’s right arm with her wings about him. He had to support his right arm with his left, she wasn’t so light he could carry Aurula with only one arm like Matchka. Her wing feathers tended towards a stiff hardness, but her body was soft, and along where she rested was exceptionally warm.

But when Aurula leaned in and rested her feathered head on the top of his own head, he figured it was about right.

“So if we can’t do the lover’s dance…” Aurula said, letting the statement fall off slowly.

“Then we’ll just have to move on to something else?” Otto suggested.

He felt bad saying it. There were methods where one could experience a simulation so precise, it was every bit as good as real life, but the simulations Otto was capable of running unassisted could never compare. The appearance was easy enough to simulate well enough, but there was no sensation, no heat or cold, no feeling of movement or environment. Anything he created would be an image they could move around within. SPIRE could have run such a simulation, and there were devices Otto had seen, but cost was an issue. And they had to avoid public options such as simulation theatres and the like.

Aurula knew all this, they’d talked about it in an indirect manner. This time she made her opinion on this known very clearly.

“Indeed, it is unfortunate, but you will just have to…” her head slid down next to Otto’s as she shifted in his arms, “... find a way…” her voice dropped very low “... to make it up to me.”

Still, being able to simulate sight was still very important. Especially at this moment. Otto couldn’t see very well with her wings wrapped around the pair of them, but he could cheat. With a mental command, he opened up the floor plan of the apartment in his head. Taking stock of the 3d mental map and taking a few steps he responded to Aurula with an equally low voice. “I might just have something in mind…”

“Oh, well then, do show me…”

The door slid open at his command and he stepped through. The signal of Tank and Minmint standing at the table let him know they were both watching when Otto entered the room with Aurula in his arms. They’d only see her back and wings wrapped his upper torso. The room was silent.

He was suddenly reminded of those hunting videos where the predator bird would shroud their meal with their wings. Was he Aurula’s meal today?

“What are you laughing at?” Aurula whispered as he walked through the room without paying the two Kraltnin any mind.

“Nothing important,” Otto replied as he walked without hesitation towards their shared bedroom. He didn’t miss the icon of Daniel entering the room, nor did he miss the knowing snicker. Otto refused to dignify the laughing with a response.

Moving through the hallway and having Aurula shift around reminded Otto of just how fluffy she could be up close. The feathers on her chest tickled at the sides of his face. Her wing feathers were much stiffer, but they needed to deflect air, not hold heat.

“I’ll make it up to you of course,” Otto told her suddenly.

“Hmm?”

“Not being able to enjoy that flight, I’ll find a-”

“Hush,” Aurula replied, a talon on his upper lip and one under his chin. She was ‘holding his beak shut’ Otto realized. “I did a little research too, just a little bit…”

“Oh? I didn’t know there was that much information about Humans,” he said, amused at her turning that around on him.

“Perhaps, but I also have a Human women to ask about things,” Aurula whispered in his ear. When she was so close that he could feel her beak moving and hear her actual speaking voice, the sensation of it ran up his spine.

“What did you find out?” Otto asked as the door to their shared room opened and he stepped through.

“Well, the news in public is that Humans have legendary stamina,” she continued to whisper in his ear.

It was becoming rather warm underneath the umbrella of her wings.

“What else did you learn?”

“Only that a good Human man is a wonderful lover,” Aurula answered, retracting her wings. She shifted slightly and Otto let her down onto the floor.

“That’s what you heard?” He asked as she turned to face him, resting up close.

“Yes,” now standing on the floor, she to put a hand on his shoulder to pull herself upwards in order to speak in his ear. He naturally found himself leaning forward so she could do so comfortably, “that’s what I’ve heard, but I think I need some proof.”

Otto smiled for a moment, but that smile dropped off as he spoke. He traced a finger along the black line across her chest that signified her receptive state. “Then I’ll just have to show you.”

-----
Daniel
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He returned to the table from the balcony, carrying the unfinished cup of zip Otto had left out. Daniel covered the drink and stuck it in the fridge. Certain things seemed to have remained useful and it could be interesting to see what remained the same between earth and space.

He grabbed himself a cup of water and moved back to the main room and sat down. Tank and Minmint had moved off, and if Daniel didn’t know better, he’d expect that show had inspired the pair. Which would make two couples enjoying themselves.

Stacey wandered into the main room and moved past and into the kitchen. There was a little clattering as she grabbed herself a bowl of what sounded like crunchies and a cup of water. She came back to the main room and sat down next to Daniel. She picked up one of the crunchies and tossed it into her mouth. Crunching on the food ball she looked out the currently transparent window. “No Otto?”

“He’s busy,” Daniel smiled.

“He’s always busy,” Stacey replied then yawned.

“Nah, he’s busy with Aurula,” his grin widened.

“Oh god finally!” Stacey sighed.

“What am I missing?” Mike asked, re-entering the room.

“Aurula’s finally…” Daniel hesitated for a moment, “... getting laid.”

“I heard that,” Stacey said with a long sigh.

“It’s about time!” Mike replied.

“Ya,” Daniel agreed, “was gettin’ tired of walking on eggshells.”

“Oh god, stop it!” Stacey complained, slapping Daniel on the shoulder.

“Aw come on, ain’t no reason to be in a fowl mood.”

-----
Aurula
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Otto’s breathing let her know he was awake. Aurula wasn’t in any rush to bug him though. She was in the midst of a very comfortable resting cycle. Otto had done as he promised.

And he was probably doing something important in dataspace. He was always doing something important in dataspace…

Except earlier. There was no faking that level of involvement. The rising and shrinking of her feathers made Otto shift.

“You awake bluebird?” he whispered to her.

Aurula, bundled in between his body and left arm, tilted her head and gently nibbled on his chest with her beak.

“Yah!” he softly exclaimed. “Okay, you’re awake!” he chuckled. “How are you feeling?”

“Hmmm, very good,” Aurula replied. Then she chittered softly before continuing. “Do you know why we play the hunting game?”

Her wings were back slightly, and his left arm cradled her body from within the embrace of her own wings. She could feel his hand move around directly on her flesh. It was a comforting feeling she realized. Knowing he didn’t have sharp talons to risk scratching her back changed the feeling entirely. A human’s caresse was a different thing from that of another Leralin.

“No, I didn’t find that out,” he admitted. “why do you play the hunting game?” he asked.

She chittered again, but her laughter drifted off. “So we can scare him into performing.”

He laughed out loud at that one. “Keep him moving on adrenaline? Haha!”

“Something like it,” she replied softly, she ran the talons of her own left hand softly across his chest. She could see the ‘goosebumps’ rise on his skin as she did so. This never got old. “We have a sort of fear adrenaline, a variant of our own.”

“Makes sense, I’m sure it’s not strange for lots of races to have something like it.”

“Yes… but it takes a certain… intimacy away from it all… We females get angry and scare him back into action. The hunting game itself primes Leralin males for mating season.”

“Well, you did start off... very demanding,” Otto admitted. The hand softly stroking her back stilled for a moment. “You’ve had partners before?”

“One,” she admitted warily. The hand resumed stroking her back, fingers wide and running between her feathers. Taking a little courage from the comfort he was providing, she continued. “He was… very nervous, and a friend aboard our ship, the ‘Cosmos Kite’.

“Part of your old crew,” Otto said softly.

“Yes, I only had one season with him. He too couldn’t provide me with a lover’s flight, just a lover’s night, but I didn’t mind then either.”

“Those rhyme,” Otto interrupted.

“Hmm?” she was surprised by the comment. “It does? What does?”

“Just listen,” Otto replied. “After the Lover’s Flight comes the Lover’s Night.”

“Oh, it does…” the similar sounds clearly came across with her concentrating. Aurula dropped her beak and nuzzled in closer to his side.

“I was afraid to ask,” Otto admitted suddenly.

“About my old crew?”

“Yes.”

They remained in silence for a little while.

“Your home world is very close,” Otto acknowledged something he was clearly afraid to mention.

“It is,” she replied. “I know it well.”

A clear answer to an unspoken question.

The hand clutched her close. “If you ever want to go, I won’t stop you,” his voice was low, carrying an intensity she had seen and felt many times earlier that day… or was it yesterday?

“But for now…” Otto continued. He gathered her close once again.

Aurula felt herself drifting back to sleep in his embrace. “Mmm… thank you Otto.”

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End Chapter
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