Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 35, Arc 3


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Chapter 35

“So we have lost track of them?” Hatherkey asked to verify.

“Yes,” his operator Kashto, Wastad, replied clearly. “The Humans were able to slip away from the pursuing enforcement transport after inflicting damage.”

“Anything worth noting?”

“About the transport, no. Our… the stolen transport was merely used as a battering ram. The reinforcement did as advertised, allowing them to smash enforcement into the walls of the transport tubes.”

Hatherkey’s head tipped back once he understood his own requested upgrades had made the escape feasible. He looked back down, clicking his beak once. “Speaking of upgrades, I assume our tracking was disabled?”

“...Yes,” Wastad replied after taking a breath. “Whoever their operator is, they are not to be underestimated. One corpse recovered from Sapient Resources... well, from below the loading ramp, was a low skilled operator. While the operator seems to have been killed by his own ship commander, his temporary memory buffer has given some insights into the level of the troublemaker in question.”

Hatherkey had to take a deep breath to settle his ruffled feathers. While the attack on his preferred slave dealership wasn't crippling, it was very inconvenient. That had been his primary source of inexpensive thugs. The attack had also cost him several recruiters who'd decided to shoot instead of escaping. “Anything else of value from the memory?”

“No, the operator remained hidden from combat and offered little valuable information. In addition the other bodies were low tech with scrambled implants. I suspect the dead operator introduced an exploit, leading to his end… There was one thing however.”

“One thing?”

“The bodies retrieved by enforcement were not all slain by plasma and pulse weaponry,” Wastad brought up the image of a simulated pellet on screen. A smashed ball of material that morphed into an oddly shaped thing with a softly pointed end, a finned back and a narrow rod of material joining them. It was barely longer than a finger joint.

“Kinetics,” Hatherkey confirmed.

“Yes, they have weaponry that disregards d-fields,” Wastad agreed. “The bullet doesn’t match any known designs either, this is self made.”

“So, unique weapons and a dangerous unidentified operator.” Hatherkey clicked his beak in thought. “That will draw attention from enforcement, kinetics are much easier to trace and use as evidence. The bigger danger is the operator though, isn’t it?”

Wastad turned to look up to Hatherkey from his seat. “Yes, although the operator clearly has no support beyond his own skillset. The AI supported attack from the armored personnel hover was only canceled out by damage to the hovers receiver.”

Hatherkey tapped his fingers on his synthetic wings. “Do you need further support?”

Wastad looked away for a moment in thought. “Considering the breadth of damage, it is unwise of me to promise absolute success. I would need to see more of his or her capabilities before making a true estimate…”

Hatherkey employed this particular Kashto for a reason, Wastad could promise much. So when he refused to promise at all, that required paying attention. “So that is a very possible ‘yes’ as you understand it.”

Once again, Wastad looked up to him. “Yes, it is.”

AI cores were one of the few items of contraband enforcement really cared about. A proper bribe could see many things ignored as a matter of course, especially under a certain size threshold. Work to obtain a low imprint AI core was ongoing. It was difficult to get a core that would provide a suitable boost without giving itself away via heat or power draw. Not a process they could just ‘make go faster’. A rare case where extra money didn’t provide a suitable advantage for him. Unless they determined it would be fine to have a one shot use…

“Look into obtaining a common AI core in case of an emergency,” Hatherkey ordered. An expensive contingency, but skilled and unknown operators could be more expensive yet. “If it comes to it, you’ll have a hidden bomb to unleash on this enemy.”

“I will make that a priority.”


“He broke his promise!” Aurula whined. She had left Otto to rest after returning to the apartment. He was in no proper condition for much of anything after the scrambling he'd received. They’d spent some time in the room alone together, so Tsury suspected he’d tried. The thought of it made her vines puff up with static. She took a deep breath to settle her nerves and lower the charge.

“Well, I don’t think he did it on purpose,” Stacey reasoned, but she had to ask again. “What did he say I smelled like?”

“Like… um, 'The crunching of tires on gravel,’ and you Tsury… you were 'crayons rubbing on paper... I think?”

“That's so weird!” Stacey followed. She seemed less than thrilled by the comparison.

“Strange,” Tsury mused, although it was a little gratifying Otto had noticed and Aurula had actually passed it on.

Especially gratifying since the Leralin made it dangerous to cling onto Otto. Her mood had shifted upon landing on Karkantantar's orbital ring.

Having Otto fend Tsury off because touching ‘was too bright’ felt a bit better when Tsury discovered it really applied to Aurula.

Aurula leaned forward on the table, her wings hanging open slightly as the bird woman slumped forward.

“Oh my god,” Stacey gushed. “Can I look at the whole thing?”

“My wing? Aurula asked, “but you've already seen it.” Even so, Aurula extended her left wing towards Stacey.

“I know but it's so pretty,” Stacey replied in a big rush.

“I have to…” Tsury started as she stood up, “I have to go to the elimination room.”

“Pfft, heehee,” Stacey giggled as Tsury headed out of the room.

“What is so funny?” Aurula asked.

“It's just, your name for the washroom is so badass for no good reason…”

The door slid closed behind Tsury and she beelined right for the bedroom. The next door slid open and Tsury stepped through to see Otto lying on his back. He was undressed and under the thin blanket.

The room smelled of both Otto and Aurula, with an underlying scent of… something more that made her gut twinge oddly. It was a day old, but her sense of smell was stronger than a baseline Human.

“Otto?” Tsury called softly as she crept closer. He didn't respond. She kneeled on the floor next to the bed, resting her arms and chest next to Otto’s left hand. She rested her head on her arms, the vines from her head rustling as she got semi comfortable.

She'd fallen back into old habits, she'd realized earlier. When she heard her older sister laying into Otto because he wasn't there soon enough, Tsury had been angry. But it wasn't Tsalay she'd been angry at. It was herself to for also letting her old training take over. Letting her old self make decisions.

When they'd landed Aurula was already into her brooding season which made the Leralin cantankerous, defensive. Dangerous. Tsury had retreated from Otto and into her own self to avoid angering the cranky bird. Tsury had told herself to she just needed to be patient, but it was so hard to stay distant like that.

She took a deep breath, which was probably a mistake. The smell of them went straight to her gut, maybe a bit lower.

Tsury rolled her head to the right to free up her left hand. Watching Otto closely, she placed that hand on his thigh.

He didn't react. Straining to control her breath, her heart suddenly thumping, she leaned back to slip her hand under the blanket.

“Tsury,” Otto mumbled, catching her hand underneath his. “It’s still too ‘bright’.”

Tsury jumped and squeaked. She yanked her hand away and could feel her face glow with sudden heat.

Otto's eyes were open and he was looking at her. He put his elbows underneath himself and shimmied backwards so that he was half sitting. “What were you doing?” he asked softly.

“Nuh- nothing,” she whispered faintly.

His eyes bored into hers and Tsury broke contact, looking away with her face still burning.

“What were you doing?” He asked again, still gently.

“I, uh, I heard them talking…”

“Them?” Otto asked when she trailed off.

She couldn't answer.

“Give me your hand,” Otto said gently.

She reached out with her right hand and he held that hand with his left. Otto flinched, but didn’t let go. He didn't seem angry at least… she screwed up her courage and continued.

“Ah… Aurula was talking to Stacey…”


The words started spilling out of her, “Aurula was asking about ways to, uh, please a partner and I was thinking that since she has a beak and since I don't and Stacey was saying that Mike liked it then maybe I could-”


She froze as he said her name. Tsury looked at Otto to see him looking at her patiently, but maybe a little disappointed.

“I've been neglecting you, Tsury.”

She didn't know how to respond to that.

“Tell me about a memory.”

She blinked, needing a moment to reboot. “A memory? What kind of memory.”

“Hmm, there was probably someone from before everything went bad that was a friend,” he suggested. “When you worked with deciphering genetics and making immunizers. Someone who you always enjoyed seeing visit…”

Tsury closed her mouth, looking up and right as she thought about it. Her jaw dropped open slightly as one thought came to her.

“There was this Useaset temporary employment trainer,” Tsury started slowly. “She was always coming in to replace temps who had obtained a permanent placement,” it started to come back to her as she spoke. “The thing about the Useaset people is that the have unique, uhhh, tunnel lungs? Anyways,their lungs worked to constantly draw air through vents on the side of their torso and expel it from their back. And the vents connected to their mouths too for when the weather was really bad or they were deep in muck. Because they don't draw and expel air like most everyone else, they can just keep talking until they run out of thoughts…”


She kept a solid grip on Aurula's shoulder as the pair of them peeked through the door.

Otto’s shoulders were bare, Stacey would prefer it if he'd been wearing shirt. Anything to calm the angry bird with all her feathers puffed right up. But Tsury wasn't doing anything wrong. Not right now anyways, and if Otto was awake, the teenager likely wouldn’t have the chance.

“And the new Gerlen stumbled away, I think he'd heard more words in that minute than he had for his whole life so far!”

“Hm hm hm,” Otto laughed softly, almost under his breath. Just loud enough to encourage Tsury. The sound of it struck Stacey right in the heart. Her hand squeezed harder, making Aurula look at Stacey's face to try and determine the reason for the sudden pressure.

The look on Stacey's face must have calmed Aurula slightly. The Leralin’s feathers shrunk just a bit and Aurula let herself be pulled away. Stacey wasn’t going to let her grip slip though. She didn’t let go until she had pulled Aurula back to the main room.

Once the pair of them were in the main room Aurula turned to Stacey. “Why!?” She squawked.

Stacey dropped into one of the chairs at the table. “Because it's good for them.”

“Good? I don't understand.”

“The last person to laugh like that and look at me… like that…” Stacey had to take a breath.

“Like that?” Aurula asked.

“The last time I saw something like that, I was Tsury, and the person laughing and smiling softly like with kind eyes like Otto, was my Dad. The last time I heard someone laugh like that, I was a little girl telling my dad about my day at school.”

That brought Aurula the rest of the way back to earth. “You did say… Tsury was like a young sibling to him.”

“Yup, constantly in the way, always a problem, making things complicated... but you still love them anyways.”

Aurula thought about that for a couple moments. Finally she replied, although it seemed to hurt her to say, “... I suppose some time for bonding wouldn't hurt.”

A ping arrived in their heads. It was pretty simple, but Otto had recovered that much of his suite. It was an invitation for observation. He’d sent it to the pair of them, although Stacey knew it was really for Aurula’s benefit.

“Tsury needs some bonding time,” Otto’s message explained, “if it makes you feel better, you can join the shared space to observe.”

Stacey looked at Aurula, “Don’t do it.”

“What?” Aurula asked, her feathers puffing up again.

“If you trust him, then this is when you tell him so,” Stacey explained.

Aurula’s head flipped back and forth between looking at Stacey and looking towards the room Otto was currently sharing with Tsury. The crest on Aurula’s head was flattened as tight as it could go. Eventually though, Aurula’s wings slumped, hanging a little loose.

“I have told him… I trust him,” Aurula admitted.

“That can’t have been easy for you,” Stacey sympathized.

Eventually Tsury left the room and headed for her own little bedroom and Aurula went off to rejoin Otto.

Stacey found herself wondering if Otto would get himself into more trouble tomorrow when he went to meet Latte.


It had felt good to give him a solid slap across the cheek. She wanted to punch him, but it felt like that might have been a bit much.

The meeting had come as something of a surprise. It was not one Prason and a single Bellani but three Prason and two Bellani that found her. One of the 'Prason’ had called out, “Oh, that's the skatergirl!”

She'd picked up her skateboard and turned to see the five of them approaching. Of course, she recognized the two tone brown Prason with the green and brown Bellani in her grey jumpsuit in his arms.

She hadn't slapped him then of course, he was wearing the mask!

Even if he had failed to get a hold of her for several days. Who left people hanging like that when it was so easy to communicate?

“Hello,” she said simply, specifically talking to the Bellani in Otto's arms. They were in public, she didn't have to break cover like whoever had called out. “Want me to lead the way?”

“Yes,” the Bellani replied. Her name was Matchka, if Latte remembered correctly.

So Latte picked up her skateboard and led them to her home on foot. A couple heads turned to watch, Latte was a normal fixture in this area. But she was always alone. For that reason the Prason and Bellani following her were unusual. Still, no one had any reason to interrupt Latte.

They passed the next several minutes in silence. It wasn’t until they had arrived at the complex in which Latte and Nitita lived that they started to break cover. In the building and heading up the lift to the level she lived on, Otto removed his mask.

“Otto,” Latte said, waving at him to come closer. He'd leaned down without hesitation.


His head turned sideways with the impact and she laid into him. He remained that way for a long moment. The look on his face wasn't quite one of surprise, more like... resignation? She'd thought he would be angry at getting slapped, the reaction only made her more annoyed.

“I tried to get a hold of you!” She shouted, “you left me hanging, letting my message sit! Or did you open the message and just decide to wait this long?!”

“Hoo hoo, she's pissed at ya dude!” said the Prason with alternating splotches of white and brown.

The other Prason, the brown and green one, spoke up next. “Ah, been awhile since I saw him get a little comeuppance, but that’s probably enough of that.”

She crossed her arms and glared at Otto.

He rubbed the bright mark on his cheek, a bemused expression on his face. “Well, you’re right, I could have and should have gotten back to you sooner. In my defense though, we were planning a rather dangerous event at the time.”

“A dangerous…” only one thing came up in Latte’s mind. Nitita had been all over the news when it had come up. “Was it you? Did you attack the slave auction?!” she hissed.

“Yawp, fucked ‘em up real go-oof!” the white and green Prason grunted as the brown and green one slapped him in the back of the head.

“Language man!”


The lift arrived on Latte’s floor.


Nitita didn't have much room to get comfortable. That left Otto and the brothers standing while the weasel, the cats and Latte occupied their own seats around a smallish table in The small living room.

At least they had been able to shed the bulky disguises in the entryway. After a quick round of introductions, the initial conversation was between Nitita and the red Bellani.

“Eeksh you say! You’re the son of Juin on Oolseck 7.”

“Yes,” replied the red Bellani with the black swirls. “Sent for apprenticeship.”

“Hmm,” Nitita mumbled with a paw on his jaw. “ Well, having a Bellani helper should be ideal for mobile work, although it won't pay as well for you since we don't have a base shop.”

“Am I burden?”

“A little bit, but nothing I'm unwilling to deal with!” The Kashto said, his voice bright and positive. “You can stay with us starting today in fact, although the spare room is really quite small.”

“Can handle,” Eeksh said with calm acceptance. “Room, always small.”

“Excellent, but further talk will have to wait,” Nitita explained to his new apprentice. The Kashto turned to Otto.

“So you want to meet Red Tail. What for?”

“We need the help of a reasonably strong crew and ship,” Otto explained, “as well as the help of a doctor willing to travel, who we will happily bring back after they have helped look after our friends.”

“And just what can you offer?”

“They're the ones who attacked the auction,” Latte explained, saying it before Otto could.

Nitita froze in place for a moment.

“I broke into their security, our group neutralized Hatherkey's thugs,” Otto narrated as if it was no matter. “We then made off with a bunch of stasis pods and a couple slave servants of the auction. We dropped all those individuals off at the underground railroad.”

“You found Leroy!” Nitita remarked.

“Yes, we had no idea where you were until he mentioned a Human friend and his little girl, then the Kashto who’d stepped in when it was needed.”

“You wanted to find me so you could meet Nitita!?” Latte accused.

“Nah,” Daniel interrupted. “Otto got a verbal smackdown from a freed Hyowean first. That's when he figgered it was time ta find ya.”

The casual description settled Latte down. Otto felt his face cramp a little. If Tsalay hadn't said anything, it would probably have gone just as Latte described. A knowing look from Mike showed that Otto wasn't the only one to realize that.

“Wait, you broke a Hyowean slave implant too?” Nitita shook his head. “You are trouble aren't you… how are you at signal guarding? Could you monitor a communication line?”

“I've had some practice,” Otto replied.

Nitita’s eyes opened wide, Otto could only wonder if the Kashto was surprised or if that meant something else.

“Well, I have a contact, but it's one I'm only supposed to call in an emergency,” Nitita sighed. “If I do get through, there isn't a promise of help either, truthfully I'm not that important, just a common point of reference from certain off planet sectors.”

“Well, can't hurt to try,” Otto encouraged. “I’m sure Red Tail will be at least a little interested in us after the attack on Sapient Resources.”

“More than true,” Nitita muttered, rising to his feet in one smooth motion and heading straight for his console. “You'll likely want to work through the console for authentication,” Nitita explained.

Otto stepped up next to the Kashto. Nitita pulled one cable from his monitor and held it out to Otto. He grabbed the cable and plugged it in. Meanwhile, Nitita pulled a second cable from the monitor and plugged it into his own neck as well.

Otto could hear the people behind him chatting, but paid it no mind as Nitita initialized the message to Red Tail's contact.

“White feathered?” Otto asked.

“Yes. Her name is Oriashka.”

Something about the translator marker inherent to the name clued Otto in. He’d started getting a feel for those since stealing the hijack program from the pirates. “A Leralin?”

“Yes, Red Tail has a pair of skilled Leralin subordinates,” Nitita explained.

Otto started his autoscan routine, attempting to watch for unusual traffic as Nitita sent out the connection. He personally redirected the message a couple times as it bounced across nodes.

It arrived at the destination point without trouble that could be easily seen. Otto could probably pinpoint the building if he needed to, but something told him that would only get him partway to the actual location.

“Kashto Nitita, you were supposed to lay low,” a feminine voice complained moments after the connection was made. She was similar to Aurula in tone and language imprint, but she was a little stiffer with a higher pitch.

“I know, but I've got someone interesting for you!” Nitita gloated. Otto found himself smiling in real life.

“Someone important, please do surprise me Nitita,” her voice sounded suddenly weary. Otto suspected Nitita might be a little bit annoying with his contacts.

“Hello Oriashka,” Otto spoke, he then pulsed a small info dump packaged within an explanatory message. There was a delay, enough time passed for her to run a quick scan on the package. [It was myself and my companions that attacked Sapient Resources, we want to meet Red Tail.]

“You. what,” Oriashka was clearly surprised. “It was you? What proof do you have?”

“What proof do you want?”

There was a long hesitation. Oriashka was debating with herself.

[Requesting info share]

A risky request for either side, to engage in that share was to partially open yourself to attack. Otto was confident in himself.

[I accept, requesting connection?]

[I accept.]

The pair of them meshed dataspace and Otto could see whispers of cliffsides, water below and sunlight above. It had an uncertain quality, as if she wasn't quite sure of her environment. Otto's castle formed up across from the cliffs, partially settling into the water. He stood outside the front gate and Oriashka's form glided over to land in front of him.

Where Aurula was bright blue with some slight dappling of darker and brighter blues with a white crest, Oriashka was all white. All but the same black spots on her ear sockets. Otto had to suppress the urge to call her ‘snowbird’. It would probably make Aurula jealous if she heard the nickname.

For Oriashka’s sake, and because he was the one asking, he left open the full series of events, although he blurred the faces of his companions. He felt her attention linger on that point, but only for a moment. He could feel her respect for the progression of the fight in the main hall. It was the freeing of Hulalin that surprised Oriashka first.

“You're a cracker!”


“That's… hmm,” Oriashka was clearly thinking of something, but Otto didn't feel the need to press yet. She would tell Otto who they wanted freed soon enough.

“So there was a third party involved,” Oriashka noted as she witnessed the pirate attack.

“I must confess to being surprised about that one,” Otto admitted. “Their Operator was not an opponent to worry about however.”

“Enforcement shows up only now,” Oriashka remarked as she slipped forward in the timeline. “It took Hatherkey that long to determine he couldn't catch you.”

“That response time was abnormal?”

“Yes, enforcement is much quicker when Hatherkey isn't involved.”

“Hunh, good to know.”


Otto waited for her to process her response.

A new mind joined the link. “Hello, Otto? My name is Piderby.”

“Hello Piderby?”

A positively gaudy Gerlen in a glittering purple suit and electric green boots appeared in the dataspace next to Otto and Oriashka. His green gloved hands rested on a bright blue gemstone topped cane.

“Red Tail is not in at the moment,” Piderby noted, lifting his right hand, palm facing upwards, “but I do have the authority to make some decisions.”

“...Is it possible to meet Red Tail?” Otto asked after collecting himself.

“We are out of touch for a short period of time, but as I said I can make decisions,” the Gerlen hesitated for a moment, but Otto could tell the man had a request. “You have Oriashka's belief in your capabilities… would it be possible to ask for your help?”

“I assumed we would need to help out when we heard of Hatherkey's ongoing offensive.”

“Hmm, yes…” Piderby waved at the space next to him and a translucent hologram of a warehouse building appeared. A giant brick of a building, but a quick glance showed it to be a reasonably large five story building. “Red Tail is currently infiltrating a high security location with a group of skilled members while another group strikes a second target. This third target is one we desperately wish to see hit and laid open as well, but we lack the manpower.”

“So, now that we've presented ourselves, you want to put us to work right away. A surprise for Hatherkey?”

Piderby hesitated again. “Unfortunately, no. Although that's not quite true either.” Otto grabbed the projection as Piderby talked. “We have been running a small campaign of obfuscation. We have drawn attention to multiple likely targets of which this is one.”

It was a five story warehouse, with a large gap between multiple floors to allow hover traffic between levels. Otto read the data of likely guards and expected response times for reinforcement. He smiled when he saw how many reinforcements were likely to arrive. Then he frowned on seeing the expected attack date.

“Tomorrow evening? That's cutting it close.”

“Yes, however, if you are willing to trust the data here, we have provided multiple paths of… entry…!”

Mike and Daniel stepped into coherence next to Otto.

“Whatcha thinkin’ Otto?” Daniel asked.

“Got something to ask us?” Mike followed up.

Turning sideways and looking at the brothers, Otto introduced everyone. “Mike, Daniel, this… handsome Gerlen is Piderby, and this snow-white Leralin is Oriashka.” Otto then turned his head to Piderby and Oriashka. “These brothers are Mike and Daniel, I trust them with my life.”

“Aw shucks,” Daniel replied bashfully.

“Piderby is one of Red Tails lieutenants, he wants us to attack this place tomorrow night.”

“An actual Mess, that makes sense…” Piderby said mostly to himself. “Indeed, we have several attacks planned at the same time, and several more distractions. Your aid would be invaluable.”

“So you're asking us?” Mike said to Otto.

“Yes, I wouldn't jump into this without your input.”

“Hmm,” Mike responded. He picked his way through the plans along with Daniel.

Piderby and Oriashka waited patiently.

“Yeah… you guys were pretty thorough, weren't you?” Mike asked.

“Of course,” Piderby responded.

“I do have one question,” Otto ventured. “Does Hatherkey have an AI core? I don't want to run into a second one so soon.”

“An AI…? You managed to escape from enforcement... “ The Gerlen shook his head with disbelief. He then sighed and continued, “No, he hasn't had the time to source something enforcement would allow,” Piderby explained. “We did have one early in the conflict, but Hatherkey didn't start acting openly until he had sabotaged it.”

“Good to know,” Otto replied with a nod.

“Is all this stuff actually here?” Daniel asked, highlighting a waypoint set up with supplies.

“Yes, we lost a crew recently… it was in the time we and Hatherkey were resting that you hit the Auction. So, our preparations were thought to have gone to waste.”

“Cool, I'm fer it,” Daniel gave his support.

Mike looked at Otto and then the Gerlen. “You make me think of a gaudy Tinker. You guys got the same… smell. I'm for it.”

“Gaudy? Smell? Tinker?” Piderby complained.

“We made some Gerlen friends from a downed ship,” Otto explained. “Tinker is an engineer type, smart guy, although really young.”

“Oh, interesting. If this attack goes well, Red Tail will meet with you. If you could tell me more then, I would be pleased.”

“Well, we will have to see how it goes,” Otto mused. “How should I contact you?”

Oriashka held out a small twinkling crystal. “This node is difficult to access, but with your skill it shouldn't be a problem.”

Otto reached out and accepted the sparkling data construct, “until next time.”

“Wait,” Piderby interrupted, “There is one more thing…” He waved his own hand and the three men took a small step backwards as the image of a fourth human appeared. A lanky asian man with padded, close-fitting clothes. The man looked almost normal with pants, shoes and hoodie. He had the straight black hair typical of his apparent heritage and extremely dark eyes as well. The image shifted again to show him wearing a slick streamlined harness and some silver wraparound shades.

“Who is this?” Mike asked.

“Most know him as Strider,” Piderby explained. “His friends call him Chase.”

“He is in trouble?” Otto asked, “I’ve heard of Strider, what happened to him?”

“He was captured by enforcement, if you meet him the cracking of his implant would be a substantial favour.”

“How did that happen?” Otto probed.

“Hatherkey launched an attack on one of our safehouses, enforcement caught wind earlier than Hatherkey expected,” Oriashka explained. “Chase drew attention to allow others to escape.”

“Chase is a good friend to many of us, it was fortunate that commissioner Kruent got his talons on Chase instead of Hatherkey,” Piderby noted, “Seeing him return to us would be a priceless favour.”

“I think we can keep an eye out for sure,” Mike answered for them.

“Yup,” Daniel supported without hesitation.

“No arguments from me,” Otto agreed, “But if we are to go into action tomorrow night, then we should really get going.”

Oriashka tilted her head. “Until next time,” she replied. With that she and Piderby faded from existence.

Otto retracted his consciousness and opened his eyes to see everyone watching him.

“So, what next?” Mike asked.

“What's next is Aurula is probably gonna be pissed at me,” Otto admitted.

“We can cover for ya tonight if ya want us to check shit out,” Daniel offered.

“What happened?” Matchka asked.

Otto took a breath and started explaining.


The safe house was stocked with some plasma weaponry and a few combat harnesses for Gerlen, Ytheon and a couple Kraltnin. There were parts that they could see the chance to use, so Matchka had arrived early with everyone to swap components and modules.

Otto was sitting in a corner with his eyes closed. The man was doing his best to dig into the warehouse security. More than a few times his face twitched as he worked. Mike had watched Otto work a few times, it seemed this one wasn’t quite so easy to slip into. Either that or he was still dealing with fallout from the AI core attack. It was probably the fallout Mike figured.

The room itself was cramped, a small office buried in a corner of a barely used complex. Stacey and Tsury had accompanied them to a lesser room near the entrance of the building, an inactive office that hadn’t seen use for probably years. They had brought a rental luggage hover with them. In the secondary office the men had stripped their disguises and Tanktantun had done so as well. They did have a couple spare skinsuits… Mike had to suppress a shudder everytime the word came up. But still, Tank had a couple spare black suits in the case of the current one being damaged. The man had decided this was a good time to make himself known however.

He had to admit, the big Kraltnin was damn impressive without the disguise. He’d thought the same thing the first time Tank had peeled his grey skin after leaving Hrossincru, but it was easy to forget when Tank had been wearing the black skin when they departed for Karkantantar.

But this plan depended on being impressive, so impressive is what Tank had decided to be.

“Don’t move!” Matchka said, poking Daniel in the ribs. She was trying to install a secondary deviation field pack on the left strap of his harness. Daniel had been sitting cross legged, but couldn’t stay still any longer.

“Sorry, legs goin’ numb,” Daniel apologized as he shifted around. He settled with his legs straight out, leaning back on his arms. Matchka returned to fiddling with the module mostly attached to Daniel’s harness.

Mike was already equipped, his harness had both limbs installed. One with his normal rifle and the other with a plasma rifle. They’d been able to smuggle in his blast spear as well. The belt of his harness was not just straps, but a reinforced armored belt that allowed the limbs to hang more securely off his back. Those limbs were currently folded like a backpack behind him.

Daniel only had one harness limb, he wasn’t able to keep track of more than one extra arm at a time. He also had a drone he could handle, but they’d decided against trying to bring that device into this fight. Daniel was holding his plasma rifle and the limb held his kinetic rifle.

Tank was also set with only one harness limb and a spear. He was peeking out the window at the warehouse across from and below their own location.

Otto was equipped with a bulky harness that gave him a little extra processing power. His own harness limb carried a d-plate shield and he held a rifle in his hands. Otto’s eyes snapped open.

“You in big guy?” Mike asked with a grin.

“Yeah, although just barely,” Otto admitted. “Time’s about up though, if we want to synchronize with the other attacks, we have to go now.”

“Done,” Matchka announced, patting Daniel’s new D-field emitter. “Be safe.”

“Welp,” Daniel said as he stood up. “Hope this goes as well as I believed it would yesterday.”

“How does surveillance look?” Tank asked, looking to Otto.

Otto brought up his three dimensional minimap, populating it with enemy positions as he did so.

“A few patrolling drones. A flock of Veprutasians playing dice, a pair of Kraltnin, probably whites, a sleeping Ytheon and his annoyed buddy…” Otto shook his head. “A pair of Kashto watching porn… there are a few more, but I don’t think they have any idea we’re coming. There’s a bunch of drones on standby though.”

“Cool,” Mike laughed as he pulled a grey cloak around his shoulders. “Lets go make a mess.”

End Chapter
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