Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 39, Arc 3

MyNameMeansBentNose

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Most of the things they lifted from the crates were easy to use and identy stuff like power cells and hand held weapons like osknives and pistols. The group didn't have the knowledge to really dig in and get the best stuff I'm afraid.

But Otto knew exactly what he was grabbing, he'd been looking into that piece of tech earlier.

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Previous | Beginning | Technology | Wiki | Next
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Chapter 39
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“You could have asked,” Chase complained.

The Veprutasian looked at him in surprise. As if the simple idea of asking was foreign.

Chase looked at the Helix, Brunin Ruus of flickering Green. The orange-furred mammalian with brown bark was sitting at the monitor in the little interrogation room. Brunin had the decency to share a look that smacked of understanding.

“Why would I ask you to submit your memory for review?” Kruent asked, “I can compel you with an order.”

“And you did,” Chase replied as he sat on the chair while Brunin plugged the cable into the jack under his right ear. “But y’know,” he continued, “I think I might even like you if you let me have a choice.”

Kruent looked at his Code Setter. Brunin looked at her boss, unsure of how to answer that. Chase didn’t miss the interaction.

As far as Chase understood it, Code setters were like the non-combatants of dataspace. They could use tools and read information. They could make new programs and alter other stuff, but start a fight and they would crumble really easily.

Chase felt the recording package almost… click as it hooked into his memory. “Why do you even have to look?” he had to ask.

“For the same reason that I diverted you here before any other further possible interactions,” Kruent replied.

That didn’t really answer Chase’s question.

Brunin settled down across from him, the taller bear-like creature looming just slightly. Her eyes drifted as she worked, losing focus. Chase found himself looking at the strange bulb sitting on her forehead, surrounded by protective bark. It reminded him a lot of a lotus bud. It was almost cartoonish the way it glowed and flickered with light. But it was pretty.

“Was there anything in particular that caught your attention Chase?” Kruent asked.

The bird asked, but he still felt the compulsion from the implant. “Let me think about it for a moment,” Chase replied. There was something that caught his attention, what was- “Oh yeah, the Operator said something interesting. What was it... ” he was having a hard time putting the events back into order.

“As expected, there are signs of interference,” Brunin said out loud. “The recent implant recordings show signs of tampering.”

Kruent nodded as if it was obvious.

“Wait, what does that mean?” Chase asked.

“Active memory encoding has been disrupted,” Brunin explained happily. She was clearly an egghead of some sort. She continued to explain “The process is difficult and the results vague in the majority of cases. For the most part, it just makes it a little harder to recall recent events. It is usually overcome by simply mentioning the problem.”

“Who would do something like that? Who would double- oh.”

“You have remembered something?” Kruent asked.

“The warehouse we were heading to was pegged as Hatherkey’s right?” Chase asked.

“Yes.”

“The operator saw a drone just like Bob- er, my chaperone. Hatherkey had a shipment of a military drone on the way and that guy was surprised enough to call it out loud.”

Kruent didn’t react, but that in itself gave the birds reaction away.

“That is… disconcerting, but that does provide an angle of investigation.” Kruent turned away from Chase. “Thank you, you may return to your room Chase.”

“Okay thanks, I need a nap.”

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Nualula Telesis - Red Tail
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Oh, this was cute. Nualula had to contain a laugh as she led the group to their quarters. She suspected her twitching tail was giving away her amusement. Tanktantun was young, but he was already an impressive Kraltnin to look at. Nualula was rather interested in what kind of person this young Green was and who he could be. But that little female who’d taken up a defensive position in front of Tanktantun was ready to fight.

The female, Minmint, had the black lines across her hide that showed her sexual orientation. She was dedicated to one male, and that was clearly Tanktantun. She’d attached to him like he was her own Grey, but he wasn’t a Grey at all. To be fair, the social rules around Primaries were blurry at best.

She also hadn’t missed Lopulm’s focus on the blue Leralin hanging from the arm of the Cracker, the Human named Otto. She wanted Lopulm healthy of course, but if that bird felt the need to challenge Otto, she might have to accept him being out on injury for a period of time.

She might have to lay down an order for the male Leralin to keep him out of trouble, but mating issues were deeply distracting to some Leralin. She would need to talk to Lopulm after showing these people to their rooms. They were clearly tired. It was well hidden, but Minmint had been holding Tanktantun up, carefully hiding his sleep deprivement. So while Minmint’s aggression was cute, Nualula had to give the little female at least a modicum of respect for knowing her place in supporting Tanktantun.

The Humans were doing well but were having a hard time keeping their own eyes open. Moments after they arrived the strange smelling young Human with the giant puff of... Hair? The smaller female Human had accepted the tired Bellani into her arms as she walked. The adolescent Kraltnin hadn’t been reported on, but Lopulm vouched for the male.

Nualula wasn’t surprised Tanktantun had picked up an unexpected follower. It was quite common for this to happen to her as well. Nualula considered herself quite lucky to meet another Primary Kraltnin. The chances of two Primaries meeting was very rare!

She tried to still the bounce of her tail at least a little. Defensive female Kraltnin were rare but could be quite troublesome.

If it wasn’t for the chance to greet this young Green Primary she would have left Piderby to show these people to their rooms to get some rest.

“This is yours, Tanktantun,” she said to the Green, indicated the doorway she had stopped next to. Kraltnin preferred the bowl style of furniture moreso than the rest here, which made this room Tanktantun’s.

“Thank you,” he replied, heading past her without hesitation. The little female glared at Nualula carefully as they passed by. Nualula’s tail tapped the floor in barely repressed amusement. The door closed behind the female.

She turned around to see the slightly taller and skinnier Human’s face wide open, displaying all of his teeth. The Humans fist rose up to almost stuff itself in the creature’s own mouth.

“Are you well?” Nualula asked. An answer from a different direction pulled her attention.

“He’s just tired,” Otto replied. The Human’s jaw then flexed, cutting off anything he’d been about to say. “It’s a yawn, a fatigue reflex. It also spreads between Humans.”

“Interesting,” She replied and meant it. She had heard of Chase from her lieutenant, Crawk, but hadn’t had the chance to meet the runner. Human slaves on Karkantantar were less common after all, so she hadn’t had any chances to interact. “Now that Tanktantun and his mate have taken their room, Each room is large enough for two, you all may take your pick.

One Human female dragged the medium sized human male off their own room.

“We’re buds now!” the other brother said as he grabbed the mildly confused Tik and dragged the young Kraltnin away. The second Human female picked a room and looked relieved when the door opened automatically. Nualula couldn’t blame the Human whose arms were full of sleeping Bellani.

Otto had waited, although his lust bird was hanging off his arm. Nualula didn’t miss the fact that Lopulm was hanging back and watching very closely. The male believed very strongly in the maintaining of Leralin bonds in the face of Veprutasian inflicted diaspora. This Aurula didn’t seem like she’d be easily convinced otherwise in her condition. Oriashka wasn’t exactly open to conversation either when she’d been in season.

“What’s the plan?” Otto asked, “talk first thing in the morning?”

“I am still waiting for the list of goods you discovered in the warehouse,” Nualula explained, holding a dataslate out for him. “The timing of your attack was excellent, pulling reinforcements that likely would have come my way, but I need to confirm something.”

“I have already given it to Oriashka, but sure,” Otto explained, his expression shifting slightly. “That reminds me, you led the way, I didn’t see a jack on the back of your neck.

“That is correct, I am un-implanted.”

“Seems inconvenient, why not?”

“It is inconvenient. It is because Silianiscans have methods to circumvent dataspace defences,” she explained to the Human. “Not that surprising when you consider the history.”

“Yeah… that does make sense, is it electrically?” Otto replied without surprise, he accepted the slate from her hand and plugged a cable from his collar into the dataslate. “Yeah, why else work so hard to make sure that you are the ones doing the development of implants for every single race.”

“Oh, you knew that?” Nualula asked. Now she was really curious. She would have to see what she could dig out of him later.

The Human sighed when he realized he’d given up the secret of his knowledge. “It’s too late in the night for this,” he complained with no real heat. After a moment he pulled the plug and handed the dataslate back. “Probably the most interesting was the drone,” Otto noted. “We saw the same drone in the company of Chase.”

“So Hatherkey has military links like I thought.”

One of the furred lines above the Human’s eye rose. “Now who’s giving up secrets?”

“It seems fair,” Nualula replied with a bob of her head and a swish of her tail. “I look forward to speaking to you tomorrow, for now, even I need rest.”

He nodded and let the blue Leralin drag him away.

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Aurula
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“Are you… are you falling asleep right away?” she asked him, sidling right up close to Otto as he hung the cloak upon a peg near the door.

He reached down and popped the harness buckles holding it to his legs. As he reached up to unlatch the link on his chest she also reached up to help slip the heavy harness off. The whole contraption was quite bulky and she could only help carry a portion of the weight while he got a better grip on the heavy thing. It was a much heavier unit than his civilian model harness.

She… wasn’t that tired. She was badly wound up in fact. He’d neglected her for the past couple days and she wanted to know what that cylinder was for. “Are you sleepy?” Aurula asked, her motives clear to them both.

“No,” Otto replied with a friendly smile as he turned around to hang the harness on a heavier set of pegs. “Daniel might be used to that zip, but I’m certainly not. I’ll be awake for a bit I think.”

“Oh well then-”

“Give me a minute to set this up,” Otto interrupted her. “I think you’ll like it.”

Aurula’s crest dropped as Otto crouched next to the cylinder. Well, she did want to know why he was so cheerfully confident. She lifted her tailfeathers and sat on the bed in the corner of the room.

The room was modest enough. They had already bounced through several different sleeping arrangements in the past several weeks and this was relatively well equipped. She could see the universal elimination room in one corner and a sonic shower on the opposite corner. Along the wall between the two was a simple food replicator and water dispenser.

The bed occupied a second of the wall on one side of the room and across from the bed was a large video monitor.

Her attention was drawn back to the Human crouching over the cylinder. Then it hummed. The top spun and rose up and the lid separated into eight petals and opened up like a flower.

Otto mumbled out loud, “battery life is… okay, let's see if I can… that looks good.”

Then the invitation arrived.

“You have been invited to join a full resolution simulation. If you accept, please connect to the Proxlife terminal.”

As it spoke, Otto picked up the cylinder with the flowery top and set it down next to the bed. He reached into the top and pulled out a pair of cables. “True to life simulation,” Otto said with a smile. “There's a setting I think you'll like.”

With equal parts nervousness and excitement she accepted the cable from Otto's hand. She pulled it around and plugged it into the back of her head.

“This unit is calibrated for semi dangerous recreational use! Do you submit yourself for physical evaluation?”

Semi dangerous. High simulation could inflict mental confusion by convincing a body it was heavily damaged. This one would cut out if the accrued damage was considered grievous. If she hurt herself badly, she’d get booted, and probably end up with ghost pains.

On the upside…

“Yes,” Aurula agreed with little hesitation.

She watched as a slot opened up on the side with a little sensor poking out. A scanner lit up and a band of light ran across her body. She imagined a tingle where the light touched, but knew it was her imagination and that it was harmless. She’d experience this before after all, that was why she was suddenly so excited when she realized what Otto had found.

“Oop.” Otto mumbled. He stood up after unplugging his own cable and wandered over to where his harness was hanging. “It wants a bit more processing power for the settings I chose,” Otto explained, pulling the harness down and carrying the bulky thing over to where the simulator was sitting. He pulled a cable from the heavy collar on his harness and plugged it into the base of the simulator. He then plugged himself back in.

Aurula felt the last confirmation request click in. “Set-up complete, would you like to enter the simulation?”

Aurula had spent some time playing with a simulator like this. It was a common feature of Leralin dominant ships. She accepted the final confirmation and felt as if gravity was dropping away. She ‘blinked’ and was greeted with new scenery and gravity reasserted itself.

She stood on a grey stone cliff overlooking a sea blooming with red and orange algae. Rising from the sea were stacks of narrow brown and grey spires, studded with white quartz. The base of many of those spires were wreathed in banks of fog doing their insufficient best to obscure the bright algae bloom underneath.

She looked up to see a bright and large sun in a crystal blue sky with strings of soft, fluffy clouds slowly rolling overhead.

A gust of wind kicked up from behind her, ruffling her wings and crest. A hand placed itself on her head and her eyes closed in pleasure as Otto gently combed her crest out.

“The crystal spires of Verle, lost planet of the Histen home system,” Otto explained.

Aurula was aware of that name. She was up on her history and the Histen home system was famous for spawning the Ooze. Seeing the scenery, she found herself subdued. “Then this world is gone?”

“Yes, It doesn’t exist anymore,” Otto agreed. “But is still remembered in places like this, a memory for all to discover and enjoy. Someone has managed to keep it alive in this small way.”

A pair of heavy hands set themselves on her hips. She leaned back against his solid form and turned her head to look at him. Otto was wearing a strange armor like chest piece with a familiar set of straight wings studded with control jets. The harness would negate gravity on his person to some small extent and the jets would drive him and allow him to adjust course in flight. It was a complex piece of gear and would give him the means to join her in the air. She was hoping that was the plan. “What are you planning?” Aurula asked rhetorically as he spun her around.

Otto lowered his hands and picked her up with ease, his hands on her thighs. With a grin on his face he asked a question. “Do you mind if I toss you?” he asked as he spun around slowly with her feet dangling.

Aurula’s wings half opened reflexively as she was swung around. She could feel her heartbeat pick up. Aurula leaned forward, her beak nuzzling against his cheek. “I don’t think I mind at all.”

His smile widened and the white teeth tweaked something in her primal mind, “I’ve got a marker up so you know where I am,” he shared through that smile. He didn’t give her any time to dwell on that. “I’ve never tossed a Leralin before, but here we go!” He spun her around in a full rotation before launching her off the cliff.

Aurula cried out in amusement and enjoyment as she flew off the cliff like a spear. She spiralled downwards quick enough, but had plenty of cliff to correct herself. Her wings snapped open, allowing her to catch the air and regain altitude. The water looked cold and misty, but the warmth rising from below helped push her upwards. Otto must have played with the settings for the sake of atmosphere. She certainly didn’t mind.

Aurula was thrilled to feel the wind running along her feathers.

Otto caught up to her, exhaust venting from ports along the wings mounted to his back. His flying was much less agile than her own, but that almost didn’t even matter at this point. Otto held his position next to her and Aurula pulled one wing and extended another, she felt her tail tilt and she spiraled around Otto, chittering as she went. She thrilled even further as he laughed with joy.

She arrived underneath him facing upwards. A difficult flying position, one couldn’t stay upside down for very long at all, but she extended her hands from where she’d kept them tight at her sides. He didn’t hesitate to accept her grasp and then throttled up his jetwing.

Otto might not be able to match her agility in the air, but with his gear he could move faster. He pulled her along, laughing while looking forward. She could see a pair of spires coming up quick, the rough and jagged walls looking more than just threatening as Otto pulled her along.

They burst through the two pillars and Otto heaved upwards, throwing Aurula forwards with great momentum. She left him behind, crying out with jubilation as she went.

The area ahead became dense with spires and outcrops pushing up through the water. She watched as Otto picked the open path. That was fine, that he could fly at all was far and away a much better event than him not even trying. She endeavored to have her fun with him. She pulled away and lost sight of him as he went straight and she banked sideways to head through another opening.

Thanks to the limited share, she had a subtle understanding of his location. He wasn’t sharing his sensory experience, but she did know roughly where he was as he was out of sight. She knew just enough to know that signal was only going one way. He was giving her a way to play a game!

She continued on her way, allowing the multiple spires to continue to separate Otto from herself as they flew. He was dodging around some of the spires, clearly taking it easy as he got used to actually banking and dodging instead of quickly flying in a line. He also didn’t have the same dynamic vision after all. Aurula dodged around a fourth spire and banked sharply.

She screamed out a hunting cry as she zipped past his back and Otto laughed in surprise as he spiraled in place to try and catch sight of her. She had picked her timing well and quickly disappeared out of sight around another spire while he was stuck heading straight.

She zipped him twice before Otto was able to twist around and meet her eyes with his own, a wonderful, honest smile on his face.

He was getting better!

-----
Otto
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He woke up slowly, partially buried in the warmth of Aurula’s wings and feathers. He had never slept with something so cozy in his life. But it was true that when she was in the bed, Otto couldn’t handle sleeping under a blanket.

Sleeping with a Leralin was exactly like sleeping with a leg sticking out from the blanket because it was just, too, warm.

They had flown for roughly an hour. It had taken him some time to get accustomed to the experience enough that he could actually dodge around a spire instead of just flying straight and maybe spin in place. Even at his best she had flown circles around him though.

Sure the jetwing could fly faster, but that wasn’t him. The skill was in any motion that wasn’t a straight line. Her favorite trick had been when Otto grabbed her hands and pulled her along. Aurula enjoyed being boosted.

When they had come out of the simulation the batteries on the harness and the simulator were nearly bone dry and Aurula was absolutely ready to go. In hindsight, he was really happy the thing hadn’t run outta power. Next time he’d make sure it was plugged in.

Otto groaned and stretched, then hissed as multiple marks across his back complained. She’d dug right in almost from the start, then they’d both fallen unconscious almost the moment they were done. She didn’t even react as he started moving around. She probably wouldn’t wake up for another hour or two in fact. Otto crawled out of bed leaned over to pick up his harness. He almost lost his balance picking up the heavy and cumbersome thing.

Otto let go and had to place a hand on the floor to prevent himself from pitching over. After he caught his balance he carefully hung the harness up and plugged a cable hanging off the back like a tail into a charging port. He plugged in the simulator to another port after spending a couple minutes actually looking for that port and finding it near the food dispenser. He pulled his pants half on, regretted that decision, dropped the pants and found the small tin of nanofix in a pouch on his harness. After some application he pulled the pants on all the way, slowly, and found his shirt before hesitating a moment. Otto pulled a band from the same pouch he’d kept the nanofix tin inside. He plugged it in and wrapped it around his neck, giving him access to the local dataspace. After noting the message from Matchka he picked the harness back off the charger and carried it with him as headed out.

Red Tail hadn’t had much to show them. She had Oriashka share a general dataspace map of the hideout and shown them a couple rooms. The common room with a bunch of tables and those wide bowl chairs as well as food and water dispensaries and a few dataspace connections and monitors. Another room had been shown as a sort of briefing room. A third shop had been shown off as well, a sort of tech or machine shop. That’s where he headed first.

And he found some of the gear laid out with Matchka, Daniel and Tsury standing over it. And Red Tail herself, looming over Matchka’s side as the Bellani worked. She’d acquired the harness sets of Tank and Daniel for sure. Otto couldn’t see the dual limb harness that belonged to Mike. There were also the two heads of the blast spears. They had discarded the handles since it was harder to hide a long spear than anything else, much like Otto’s discarded shield.

“Pardon me,” Otto warned as he approached the table, carefully laying out his own harness.

Red Tail poked Otto’s harness with the heavy collar. “Do you Humans carry such heavy loads regularly?”

“This?” Otto asked, “This doesn’t compare to the bullshit human soldiers are expected to carry.”

That got him looks from everyone around the table. He just shrugged. “It’s sort of what we do. We’re made to build up endurance.”

“Build up endurance?” Red Tail asked. “You do not use support suits?”

“We’re working on it, but not quite past the experimental stage,” Otto found himself laughing, “but that’ll just end up making Humans carry like, twice as much.”

“That seems odd,” Red Tail, Nualula noted. Otto had to correct his thinking as she spoke, she’d given him her name after all.

“Seen it, Humans exercise, then improve,” Matchka affirmed. “Rapid improvement under stress.”

Otto glanced across the table, his eyes met Nualula’s single large eye. Most of the Kraltnin had a brown eye, but hers was closer to orange with yellow right around the edges of her iris. Her tail curled up along her back.

“So you knew the Silianisca can control electricity through physiological means,” She asked.

“Yes, we encountered some Silianiscan control systems and accidentally discovered that one only needed to provide electricity to activate simple controls,” Otto replied. “I’m curious about why that’s important here.”

Her head bobbed sideways and her tail stilled. The question hung in the air but he refused to elaborate further . Otto had come to completely internalize Minmint and Tank’s body language. Seeing this rather friendly Primary was bringing it back into a new light. “Can you guess why I would be worried about Silianiscans?”

Otto hesitated as he thought about that, but there was only one real answer to that question that made sense to him. “Because Hatherkey.”

Her tail slapped the floor, “Exactly! You were quick to that answer, you were already wondering about it, weren’t you.” Otto realized then what had drawn his attention with Nualula. Tank and Minmint were had both adopted some of the body language of the Humans. Red Tail’s physical tics were still wholly Kraltnin.

“Hatherkey?” A familiar voice asked. Otto turned his head to see Tank entering the room. Minmint accompanied him of course. “Because Hatherkey in what way?” Tank asked while Minmint carefully stationed herself between Tank and Nualula. The twitching of the Red Kraltnin’s tail suggested she knew exactly what Minmint was up to.

“Red Tail suspects Hatherkey is Silianiscan,” Otto answered Tank’s question.

“Do you believe her?” Tank asked honestly. The Green stepped up to the table across from the Red. Otto found himself comparing the two now that they were relatively close together.

Female Kraltnin didn’t differ substantially in build and size from Greys, although they were perhaps a little smaller. The most significant difference was in colour really. Nualula was a different story. She was over a head taller than Tank, and when she moved there was strength and weight behind it that Tanktantun didn’t quite have. Tank appeared slightly more muscular, but compared to Nualula, he lacked definition. Poor Minmint looked tiny next to the pair of them… and yet she didn’t feel like it the way she was holding onto Tank’s arm and glaring.

“I think I do,” Otto admitted. Tank nodded to signal understanding.

“Did the manifest show you anything interesting?” Tank asked, turning to Nualula.

“A few things of note. I have taken steps to ensure Kruent receives the list,” she replied as she picked up one of the blast spear heads and inspecting it. “If you saw a military drone then it may be reasonable to assume Kruent’s problem is in the tech he has been provided. He may already suspect this, knowing that old soldier.”

“Kruent is who?” Tank asked.

“The commander of city enforcement,” Red Tail explained. “Commissioner Kruent runs the system for the most part and has managed to dance around the rules quite well thus far.”

“Sounds like you were getting along before things went sideways,” Otto mused, which earned a surprised look from Tank.

“Indeed! He kept the sunny side orderly and I kept the dark side in line!” Nualula replied, her head bobbing in place. “I must admit I became complacent due to our orderly arrangement.” She hesitated for a moment. “A regret.”

“So what do you have planned next?” Tank asked.

“Yes, as we hoped, Otto was sophisticated enough to lift the source meta tags despite the attempt to scrub the information,” Nualula dipped her head towards Otto to show respect. “We know the location to be on the upper ring, although we still need some time to inspect the surrounding area. When we determine the best angle of entry, that is our next target.”

“Won’t Hatherkey guess that is our next target?” Tank asked.

“He likely will! But last I checked, his influence didn’t extend nearly so far into the ring. A Black furred Monos named Chack is still in control up there.” Her tail started twitching with amusement. “Monos are often less than capable, and he is anything but, that makes watching Chack quite amusing since I have no stake in his territory. Unlike the relationship he shares with Hatherkey, Chack and I are friends.”

“None?” Otto asked. “Are you limited to this city?”

She looked at him then, her head bobbing sideways slightly. Otto was reminded of Tingtantun’s appraising looks.

No answer was an answer of its own.

Daniel had remained quiet up until now, but knowing what they were doing he came around to Otto’s side of the table and slapped him on the back. “Well, now we know what’s happenin’ next, haha!”

“Grck!” Otto grunted, flinching away from the slap.

“What? Thought you were fine!”

“I was until last night,” Otto sighed as he leaned on the table.

“Last night-” comprehension dawned on his face. “oh yeah, shit, sorry man.”

A tug on his shirt brought Otto’s attention around. Tsury was standing there with a tin of nanofix. He wasn’t even sure where she’d had that tucked away. “I can help,” she offered brightly.

He took a deep breath and looked around. The shop had a few tables, but there was a little work station near the wall with a stool he could sit on.

He glanced at the group, but while Red Tail had at first had herself a friendly chuckle at Otto’s misfortune, she was now on to chatting with Tank and pointing at the harness Tank had clearly been wearing.

Otto let Tsury drag him over to the stool. He leaned on the desk of the workstation and let her pull up the back of his shirt.

“That looks painful!” Tsury complained. “How did you let that happen?” She didn’t hesitate to dab some of the nanofix on his pack and he felt it tugging and tingling on his back.

“That cylinder I found was a high grade simulator,” Otto explained. “I used it to simulate being able to fly with Aurula. When we came out she was very excited.”

He had expected Tsury to say something conflicted. She was reserved, but still jealous of the relationship. She never had the chance to utter a word.

“You flew with her?!” a new voice squawked. Otto turned to see a pair of white birds. The larger Oriashka, who was probably as tall as Otto at least, not including her crest. And Lopulm who was noticeably shorter. But his feathers were fully puffed up in righteous indignation. Otto felt himself sigh again. He was worried this would happen, expected it in fact.

Aurula had even warned him of this possibility before they’d even met any other Leralin.

Otto turned around and stood up while pulling his shirt down. Tsury put away the tin and moved sideways. Lopulm was totally focused on Otto and everyone else was looking at the white male Leralin, and he was looking like quite the spectacle with his crest up, wings raised out and feathers puffed.

Otto knew a thing or two about being sneaky, he used to be able to take a step backwards and just disappear from the group. He lost most of that when he arrived in space, everyone was watching him much closer. But perhaps thanks to his own habits, he didn’t miss Tsury walking along the side of the room and heading for the exit they’d all had to come in.

“Yes I did,” Otto said to the cantankerous bird. If his crest was about three times as wide, he’d almost look like a cockatoo being overly dramatic, not that those parrots had another setting. The errant thought made Otto realize Lopulm didn’t have the secondary crest over his ear spots. He just had the center piece that Aurula displayed in polite company.

“You admit it so easily!” Lopulm exclaimed, marching towards Otto and drawing the Human’s attention back to the real world. “How dare you!”

“How dare I?” Otto responded casually. “How dare you? What say do you have?”

That tripped the white bird up. Otto could see the pupil of Lopulm’s eye contract. “What do you think you know?” he asked threateningly.

“I dared to ask what was appropriate to know,” Otto explained with a shrug. “So from what I understand, your opinion is of no matter at this point.”

“You-”

“Lopulm.”

The room froze. Otto hadn’t heard that kind of voice in awhile. The sort of voice that sounded reasonable. Conversational. Friendly. The kind of voice that sounded like all of those things and none of those things. He looked over to see Red Tail casually leaning on the work table. The only sound was that of her tail slowly tapping on the floor. The only other person in the room who didn’t appear frozen was Tanktantun.

Otto had to admit, It was much more powerful hearing it from someone in control of their faculties.

That was when Tsury entered the room.

Aurula arrived, only a step behind.

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End Chapter
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