Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 46, Arc 3

MyNameMeansBentNose

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Well, Thanks for being patient everyone.

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Previous | Beginning | Technology | Wiki | Next
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Chapter 46
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“You told him I like him?” Harley asked, her voice mortified.

Issisalla quietly hissed her laughter as the face of her Human Captain flushed red.

“Oh god I barely know them, you're not supposed to just say that!” Harley complained. A hand came up and pointed at Issisalla. “And don't think I didn't hear that Issi!”

“I am sorry my Queen, I was not aware,” the Tak’tin on the monitor responded.

Harley flopped forward on the table, he arms stretched out, “I’m not a Queen,” she mumbled weakly from the table.

It wasn't a problem that was going away of course. The title that is. Tak’tin groups designated themselves according to the situation and those groups also decided their names, such as they were.

Their ship, ‘The Last Tear’ had about forty Tak'tin crew now, seventeen of whom were soldiers. Tak'tin soldiers organized themselves into squads and unless they really trusted you, they wouldn't give out their individual names. Harley had made the mistake of letting the Tak'tin organize a squad of 'Royal Guards’. From that point on Issi’s Captain and best friend was Queen Harley.

Harley sighed then lifted her head to look at the monitor on the other side of the table. “Okay, please continue to support them. It would be good if they could find Chase.”

The Tak'tin squad helping the guys weren't her royal guard, but that didn't mean they were pushovers.

The brown Tak’tin inclined his head. “Of course my Qu- Captain.” The screen blinked off. Moments later they could hear the scuttling of little feet and a small four-limbed Mote jumped up onto the table. Her helmet, with its legs out, trotted over to Harley and gave her arm a nudge.

“Pfft! Heehee, not you Chaser! Someone else!” The front of the little Mote drooped, looking as sad as could be. “Oh don't be like that,” Harley laughed, pulling the little robot into her chest for a hug. It wouldn’t leave that spot for a little while, she was sure.

The monitor on the tables swivelled upwards, revealing the blocky four-legged Mote that had carried the screen into the room. “Thanks!” Harley said, tapping the little robot on its head with the red light. It beeped back, then turned to jump off the table and scuttle away.

Issi reached to the side to drag their plates back so they could finish their meal.

Harley picked at the salad and simulated steak with the fork in her right hand. Her left hand held the spoiled helmet in a comfortable hug.

“He's younger than me though,” Harley suddenly complained.

“I'm surprised you still like Human males,” Issi replied. “You were quite hostile to the last Human you met.”

“Okay, first, that creep Rodgers doesn't count!” Harley replied, pointing the fork, along with the green leafy salad on the points, at Issi. “Second, most of the men I've met have been born slaves like people on Oolseck stations. They don't have any hope in them, any life.”

“Well, Daniel did seem full of life,” Issi noted with a toothy smile. Harley’s cheeks flushed slightly.

Mother decided to join the conversation, [estimates suggest an approximate lifespan difference of twenty-five percent].

“What? That’s like seven-”

[Five].

“Five years? I guess that's not so bad.” Harley forked the food into her mouth and chewed as she thought.

Issisalla considered the other Humans as she chewed on her own mouthful of food.

Free Humans were rare things. Issi didn’t think any of the bipeds remained free and alive for any extended period of time unless they were exceptional in some way. Harley had managed to gain the allegiance of a Mother Mote and worked hard to keep the true nature of her ship obscured from outsiders.

Rodgers was a rolling disaster, evidenced by the way he managed to absolutely screw up everything for everyone. When he and Harley first met during the Filmath slave ring purge, his only redemption had been that while he was annoying for Harley he actually managed to hold more hate for the Filmath than Harley could manage. He was the premier example of a free Human, and screw anyone who wanted to stop him.

There were others on the planet, Issi had encountered Leroy of the ‘Railroad’ for instance, but such individuals were careful about where they let their tail sit. She couldn’t blame them, you couldn’t always know quite who was going to step where.

Otto and his crew had arrived on the ship to little fanfare, but Harley was immediately thrilled to meet them. Issi hadn’t missed the way Harley had acted. She had looked up to Otto as the first Human Cracker they had ever heard of, let alone meeting. Harley had talked to Otto about Earth and expressed concerned for the scars on his cheek and the artificial hand. Harley had gasped to find out the scars had come from his current girlfriend, a freed Leralin.

Harley had asked Mother if a new hand could be made. Mother had agreed.

“You are able to make new Motes as you need?” Otto had asked.

That’s when Daniel had introduced himself.

“Handy bein’ able to make new friends like that.” Daniel had joked. Harley had giggled. Giggled!

Issi found she was looking forward to them coming back, including the somewhat distant Kraltnin and even the suspicious Bellani. Motes had a relatively easy time getting into Bellani technology due to their habit of shortcuts, so Issi could understand the attitude.

To his credit, Otto had adapted to the mote without any sort of trouble. He accepted the link and they were one. The Tak’tin soldiers had taken months to get used to handling their Mote armour. They couldn’t handle suddenly having a second mind accompanying their own.

“So you activated the Mote Network on The Peaks then Mother?” Harley asked after swallowing another mouthful. “I thought we were going to hold back?”

[I have activated as far as surveillance and lesser obstruction in the vicinity of the Humans,] Mother replied. [I have held back from infiltration and combat preparations.]

“So you’re mostly just watching for now?”

[Correct, but I am carefully prodding deeper elements into preparation. I suspect your… our new friends will need help if we are to see them again in person.]

“Do we think they can do it?”

Mother’s silences were as telling as her explanations.

Harley ceased eating as the silence expanded.

“How far along are the Motes in the city? They can reproduce easily?”

[Yes.]

“I would like to see them make it through all this after our Tak’tin are equipped again, perhaps we can help out?”

[It will require care, but I will organize the work]

Harley nodded. “Okay, keep me updated Mom.”

[Of course,] Mother’s voice held a note of warmth.

That element of the SI’s speech had been a long time in coming, but even years later, it made her a far more ‘alive’ person than Issi ever expected when she was young. She was happy the SI was their friend.

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Lopulm
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The very air around Aurula vibrated with the threat of what she would do given a chance. Lopulm wasn’t a fool who thought she wouldn’t be willing to show him how she felt about all this. And she was a brooding female, there was no more dangerous Leralin than that.

They were riding the Tcap back to Hatherkey’s prime base. It was a larger capsule which gave them the room to hold onto the few prisoners they’d taken. The two humans and the Leralin of course, Then Nualula herself and his own sister Oriashka.

A faint high pitched warble reached Lopulm’s ear, he sidled over to Oriashka where she sat hunched over on her bench. Lopulm reached to his sister from where he was standing, but with the barest hint a touch she flinched away. After a moment of hesitation, Lopulm withdrew his hand.

The sladier package was much more robust in terms of emotional control than the base slave package. Right now it was on overdrive as it suppressed his natural emotions, but he was by no means ignorant of what it was doing to him. Awareness made a difference. As long as he remained aware, he was able to hold onto at least a part of himself. But ever since Hatherkey had personally stolen his ownership, Lopulm no longer had a choice.

“Oh,” said the younger human with the oddly large… hair? Lopulm was distracted looking at her and the strange long vines of hair. She lifted her hands and looked at her palms in what seemed to be confusion.

She wasn’t the only one confused. The control wasn’t supposed to let go already.

It wasn’t Tsury who moved next.

Stacey jumped up and physically smashed her shoulder into the chest of the Kashto guard, ripping the pulse rifle from his hand before turning it on the unexpecting male. She shot him a couple times and turned her gun on the next closest guard, a Veprutasian fumbling with his own weapon. He was mentally quick enough to activate the deviation field. It was a display of good training, but the butt of the rifle landing on his head made that training useless.

Then Lopulm realized he was in danger. He turned in time to see Aurula leaping from her seat, wings outstretched, hands reaching for his head. He recoiled, attempting to fend off the sharp black talons. She’d caught him with his wings folded!

Lopulm grabbed her wrists and he bent backwards as she pushed forward. He wasn’t a match for the hormones and emotion coursing through her body. The bodies of mating Leralin females was at its peak of core body strength, and he was a male that strength was made to subdue. His wings struck the air as they half extended in response to his alarm.

He could hear the chaos of the Human fighting for her freedom.

The hand reached, the talon approaching his head sharp and menacing and he pulled his face backwards. Aurula had bent him over backwards, but he was able to stop the hand.

Aurula had an idea before he did. He squawked in pain as Aurula clamped onto his other hand with her beak. That arm spasmed, releasing Aurula’s right hand.

Suddenly free, she reached again.

Time slowed. His breath thundered. His heart pumped.

The talon kissed his eye and Lopulm snapped awake.

His heart was pumping, his wings outstretched as he lay on the floor. He’d fallen out of his nest in the throes of the memory. It was common for Leralin to relive informative memories as the mind helped analyze and learn all the lessons inherent to the experience. His left eye blinked on, coming into focus faster than his natural eye could.

Lopulm lifted his left arm, now replaced as well. It was an accurate reproduction of a Leralin arm. He understood the bone still existed underneath the sleek lines of the metal up to the wrist. The hand was identical in form but made of circuits, synthetic muscles and a flexible metallic shell.

Her beak had chopped right through flesh and down to the bone. The bite had severed muscles and opened veins. It was cheaper to have his arm augmented instead of having a specialized nanofix treatment commissioned.

That dream had drawn out the experience to agonizing slowness, but it had all truly happened in moments. Lopulm covered his artificial eye with his artificial hand. It had taken the Ytheon and Monos aboard the Tcap to subdue the women. Without Hatherkey’s standing orders to bring them in, they would have been killed right there.

Upon arrival, Hatherkey laughed.

Laughed.

Lopulm pulled in his wings and rolled over to stand up.

Wastad had mused that the breaking of their slave packages had also weakened the fundamental control of Hatherkey’s override. The BIPU was supposed to borrow aspects of the slave control, and their controls were almost completely subverted.

Lopulm went to the wall of his room to slowly pull on the basic harness.

Lopulm’s sladier control suppressed so much, but it couldn’t quite repress his regret at not pushing Otto to try breaking his sladier package. Otto had been afraid of killing them after all.

Lopulm wasn’t quite certain that would have been a worse outcome.

He headed through the door of his tiny room.

Lopulm bumped into a white Kraltnin the moment he left his room. The Kraltnin bobbed his head and apologized before escaping, continuing to keep his head low. Lopulm watched him go. He wasn’t familiar with Hatherkey’s base, but considering what he knew, it probably wasn’t so odd for the Kraltnin to be nervous.

Lopulm shook his wings and moved on, he had his duties after all.

It wasn’t far until he was at the reassignment center. Hatherkey had his own tech bay for the installation of augments and implants. He’d been here earlier. The person sitting in the back on the central chair was Red Tail. Nualula herself sat with her tail poking through the gap of the back of the chair, her head leaned back against the rest. He couldn’t see where they’d installed her implant and then plugged it in. Kraltnin usually had the jack in the rear center of their skull after all. Each race had its own considerations for where best to implant.

She was wearing a simple combat harness and her right hand was also replaced. The implant revealed another aspect of the cruelty of Lopulm’s master. Hatherkey had found a clever way to insult her. That hand wasn’t red, but a deep purple instead. It marked her for a colour that had significant social weight. She was more Purple than Red in terms of Kraltnin society, being as she had run her own little criminal underground in the city. But he had personally witnessed her strive to be more than a colour.

So Hatherkey had found a way to place a label on her.

Lopulm didn’t dare approach Red Tail right now. She might still be able to kill him despite the slave control, there was always a learning period where the punishment could be too strong or too weak for the given stimulus. She might collapse in an instant, or poke out his other eye. Or worse.

But she wasn’t why he was here.

Lopulm went to one of the side rooms dealing only with implantation and data package management.

The door hissed open to reveal Oriashka.

Lopulm stood for a moment, watching Oriaskha as she worked whatever task she’d been assigned from dataspace. He had heard murmurings that something odd was happening, and she’d been put on trying to sort it out. As little more than a common soldier, he hadn’t been told anything further.

He hesitated for a moment. If he was honest with himself he was ashamed. He’d never wanted to give everyone up. He didn’t even want to try and force a relationship on Aurula, despite how lovingly her feathers were cared for. And he never wanted Oriashka to have her freedom of will so forcibly taken from her.

He started to turn away.

“Don’t go,” her feeble voice carried just far enough.

She had actually raised her wings over her head, such was her distress. Lopulm rushed over to her, his hand instinctively going up to run through the feathers of her wings. Attempting to soothe her by grooming, he pulled the fingers of his natural hand gently down her wing. “I’m sorry, I never wanted to.”

The wing shifted aside and she grabbed Lopulm to pull him close. “I know. He did it to me too, I know”

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Chase
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“You still okay Trent?”

“Yes, I am in the position, what is your state?”

His state was being watched by a trio of Motes. That’s what it was. Chase could see one above him watching from a balcony. Another was peeking at him through a vent. And one was following him slowly from behind.

If it wasn't for all the good they were doing right now Chase would have reported it. He made sure to look at each Mote as closely as he could for later review. Kruent might not want to think about a Mote problem right now, but Chase was starting to like the old bird a bit. But something kept him from saying anything about the little robots. They were kinda cute.

Except for the creepy red lights watching him at this particular moment.

The most obvious had popped up right in front of him, coming up from a stairwell further down into the district. It had frozen upon spotting Chase, but it hadn’t run away. The others Chase couldn’t clearly see, but this one was something like a cross between a beetle and a spider. Six long legs allowed it to climb about from whichever orientation the Mote liked, but the central body was a simple pod with a camera and a light facing him. Still, while many Motes had stopped to look at Chase in all his time wandering the city, they all eventually ran away. None of them had ever followed him before.

“Hey Trent, seeing anything unusual today?”

“No, but the marked Veprutasian has come into sight.”

Chase had looked away for a moment, gazing down the opposite corridor when Trent mentioned the Vep. When he looked back the spider-shaped Mote had moved up to join the second peeking over the balcony above him.

Putting the little robots out of his mind, Chase reviewed the local map.

This low into the district, there was no sightline to the sky, such as it was. Turn around though and he’d get to see one of the exceptions. The pillar he’d come past when planning the route had been cleared out for the sake of new construction. When an area was deemed old enough, the giant construction spiders would climb down and clear out everything that happened to be in the way.

If a business was up on their insurance or their bribes, they would be allowed a chance to move to a nearby area. Anyone without insurance was given a timer. They only had so much time to reestablish themselves.

As for the zone they were watching, it was another tangle of walkways, buildings and utilities. The path ahead snaked back and forth like a road up a steep mountain, but this one had plenty of branches. As soon as the Vep and his friends were in, it was going to be an interesting chase.

But it had to be through the corridors, if the area opened up, the Veprutasian would fly away.

Chase was waiting on one of the side roads from the expected route and liked the idea of catching his Vep. He’d been spotted earlier and traced with surveillance. This bird had already made one attack earlier with no care for collateral, so they knew who he was.

It wasn’t just Red Tail’s own holdings that were under attack like the initial tip-off had warned. That was just the beginning. Hatherkey’s thugs weren’t just after everyone who had sided with Red Tail. In fact, most of those holdings were now down with any loyal to Red Tail in hiding. That meant it was now the normal residents who were under attack. This Vep had attacked a little eatery with a couple friends and now they were coming back from a second attack on a little makers shop.

The report for the attack on that eatery had already trickled in. Those Ushen hadn't deserved that, but there was no one smaller than Ushen for the most part. The Ushen had servants of course, but it wasn’t just the one Veprutasian they were chasing.

The real problem was that there were four of them.

Chase watched the icons as they moved along the map. As he did so he pulled a couple objects from his pockets. These things were meaner than he liked. Stick on tasers that would zap once really hard when first applied, but wouldn't stop until disabled. On the technical side battery life was a problem, but they had a Veprutasian officer named Fedely who would come in after Chase to bind the criminals.

On that thought. “You ready Fedely?”

“Of course,” the voice of the female responded. Judging by what Chase could see, She was watching them walk by in person right now, having used her privilege of free flight to hide above.

“Okay, going!” Chase reported, then began moving.

He was only two corners away, after the first he was almost able to get up to speed. This deep into the tunnels of the district the environmental steam vents that kept the odours to the minimum and the general refuse collected in the alleys made running dangerous. He ended up running past at least one Sapient muttering and grunting from a drug-addled stupor on the ground.

Then he was around the second corner. The Vep target, another Vep friend and a couple bodyguards as muscle. A red and brown Monos and a similarly coloured Ytheon with a brown antler plate. Those were the suckers the taserpods were for.

Chase came bolting around the corner behind the group, but they didn’t miss the noise coming their way. They turned around in time for the Red and brown Ytheon to get a pod slapped to his chest.

“Herkugugu!” the Ytheon grunted as it shuddered and fell to the ground shaking. The two Veprutasians didn’t hesitate to run. The Monos was split. He defaulted to trying to grab Chase.

Chase jumped backwards away from the first arm, missing his chance to stick the pod. Monos were trouble in a grapple and he didn’t want that trouble. Four arms were very much better than two, there was just no comparison. Unfortunately for Chase, the second arm came in and grabbed the wrist of Chase’s left arm. The arm holding the pod. With a rough squeeze Chase cried out and the pod dropped from his nerveless fingers. He tried to kick the Monos as hard as he could, but another hand caught the leg and the Monos had two hands on him, then three as Chase found his right arm captured.

“Haha, I got him!” the Monos yelled to his companions, “You can come back it’s sa-ACK!”

Chase lunged forward to headbutt the Monos right in the side of the face. This released Chase’s left hand, and he didn’t hesitate to drop to grab the pod. But it remained just out of reach.

Instead, he found himself hanging upside down. He was lifted higher by the recoiling Monos and the thug grabbed Chase’s other leg. “Close. You almost got me, Human,” The Monos replied with a chuckle. “Close yes, but now I’ve got you.”

Chase didn’t let himself panic. He’d already been in trouble a couple times, but Trent had gotten him out of a sticky situation before. So had Bob, but apparently, that didn’t count. Instead of letting himself get upset, Chase gave the Monos an offer “Surrender now and we’ll go easy on ya,” Chase replied from where he hung.

“You want us to surrender?” The Monos asked with another laugh.

“Nah, just you,” Chase replied while signalling for help frantically over dataspace. “Your Veprutasian friends are killers though, they deserve justice.”

“Hah! They will just bribe their way out,” The Monos replied, looking down on Chase. “You ain’t got nothing!”

“You have him?” The black bird asked, returning to the Monos.

And then something unexpected happened. Chase got a small jolt before the hands holding his limbs let go. The Monos before him shuddered and wobbled backwards.

“Lept! What happened!?” The approaching bird asked.

Chase had managed to tuck his head in and fall on his shoulders instead of his crown. He rolled to his feet and looked down to the see the pod attached to the Monos’ leg. The spider Mote sat there looking up at him, its two front limbs waved before it scuttled off sideways into the steam blanketing the ground near a vent.

Chase stood up and the two Veprutasians flinched away. Next, he pulled the batons from the sheaths on his legs.

“Trent? Fedely?” Chase sent but received no answer. Then he realized they were heading away. He had their signals, they were healthy, but chasing… something and it was going in the wrong direction.

The Vep in front of Chase pulled a pistol from a belt hidden under his feathers. That didn’t necessarily bother Chase, he had a good deviation field. But the second Vep pulling an osknife did. Deviation fields do not help against handheld weapons.

Veprutasians were weaker and less durable for sure. But they were naturally quicker. Chase was probably at peak health, at least for a civilian, but he didn’t like fighting. Pulling a knife made it likely that this one was comfortable in melee combat. He only ever saw a Veprutasian use such a weapon when they knew they could do some real damage with it.

The first shots of the pulse pistol did exactly as expected, splashing off the deviation field Chase was wearing. The second bird approached deceptively slowly, the edge of his knife shifting around smoothly to draw Chase’s eyes. The next shot from the pulse pistol led into the Veprutasian leaping for Chase. The flash of light from the deviation field made Chase flinch, obscuring the initial movement of the attack. He struck out with a baton, aiming for the arm of the attacker.

The Veprutasian ducked, and must have shifted the angle of his knife. The next thing Chase knew the blade had cut through his stun baton like it was made of butter and kept coming. That knife came far too close for comfort. Chase jumped back several steps and moved sideways to use the melee attacker to block further pulse pistol shots. He could hear the gun-toting bird swear when the Vep realized he didn’t have a shot.

Chase looked at the sliced baton in his right hand, then whipped it at the Veprutasian with all his strength. As expected, the knife-wielding black bird dodged the projectile. The second one didn’t see it coming and was spun around as the chunk of material struck him in the shoulder. Chase had to dive to the left as the bird followed up on the opportunity. He heard the whistle as the knife whizzed past his ear.

Realization arrived for Chase. He’d been in a little trouble once or twice, but he’d been depending perhaps too much on the element of surprise. Monos, Kashto, Veprutasian and Kraltnin all responded well to surprise, at least for Chase’s purposes. Ytheon didn’t, that’s why he downed them first.

But now he’d lost the element of surprise and startlement.

Chase rolled to his feet and transferred the second baton to his right hand. The knife-wielding Veprutasian faced him again, and then the Ytheon got up. The second bird held his left wingarm, giving a couple of test flaps to see if it still worked. Chase had hoped to break something with that throw, but the bird had the presence of mind to remove the taserpod and bring the Ytheon back into the fight when given the chance. A quick glance showed the Monos had stopped twitching as well.

The Ytheon rubbed the patch on his stomach where Chase had attached the device. It probably hurt. Chase turned and ran. It would be dumb to stay.

He didn’t miss the sound of flapping wings moments later. “Well shit,” Chase swore under his breath. He lengthened his stride as the sound of pursuit picked up. The Monos and the Ytheon were joining in. Far too quick he passed one corner, then another.

What happened to Trent and Fedely? He couldn’t even see their signal after they headed in the wrong direction, what happened to the dataspace share? Chase rounded the third corner, coming to the wide construction zone. The gaping hole extended from the ceiling of the district nearly to the floor. The massive spider was on the move, slowly descending further to the next stage of demolition. The orange atmospheric field around the spider did it’s work, keeping errant dust, pollution and noise within the work zone. By stopping easy transmission of air, it did much to deaden the sound of the demolition machine.

He couldn’t see any of the silver observation drones around either. He tried to ring up enforcement, hoping to get one of the usual contacts, Kruent, something automated, anything.

He ducked as the birds flew past. A line of heat burned across his shoulder. Chase put a hand up from where he lay on the ground and that hand came away with blood. And here was his other problem. Chase considered his route around the opened shaft. There were three ways that he could go, and every one of them could get him dive bombed by the two birds floating out in the open. They didn’t even have to knife him. He had seen videos of how eagles would hunt by dragging a goat off a cliff.

The black birds seemed to know this too, coming about and waiting for him to choose his path.

The thumping of multiple feet announced the arrival of the Monos. Chase turned sideways, backing against the wall behind him.

“I hate fighting,” Chase sighed out loud.

“Then we’ll take over from here,” a wonderfully familiar voice responded. A crack sounded and one of the birds fell from the air.

That was something Chase never expected to hear again.

The other Veprutasian spotted his friend drop, then tried to duck away himself. A second shot sounded and the other fell from sight. Chase turned around to face the Monos. The Monos who had suddenly frozen in place.

That Monos turned around to run, then stopped when the silhouette of a Ytheon appeared from the shadows. “Wearch!” the Monos said, calling the Ytheon’s name with relief. But it wasn’t the right name to call out.

Instead, Chase’s day got even better.

“No, I am not your Wearch” responded Crawk as he came out of the darkness. “I understand you have blood on your hands, your options here are limited.”

The Monos dropped to his belly, his arms and legs losing all strength.

Crawk stepped past the Monos, but a large Grey Kraltnin had followed close behind. That Kraltnin now stood over the Monos.

Crawk walked up to Chase.

“It is good to see you safe, friend Chase.”

Chase smiled up at the big black guy. “My respects Crawk, also, I got a question for ya!”

“What is that?”

“I just found out Ytheon have huge names, I know you were bein’ polite, but I’d kinda like to know yours!”

“Well,” Crawk said with a chuckle, “I’ll be thrilled to tell you, but you should brace yourself first.”

Chase blinked. “What for?”

“Otto needs to have a word with you.”

Chase opened his mouth to ask the obvious question, but never had the chance to speak a word.

He didn’t have to ask who Otto was, the answer hit him like a truck.

-----
Cliffside port
-----​

“Cliffdive spece dock, pier 3127, thanks fer’ comin’ beck.”

“Yes yes, thanks for having me,” Kukrit responded as he transferred a heavy fee for the express service. Of course the contact would say thanks. But time had passed and it had become clear that things were happening while he was out of the loop.

The Silianiscan Newt finished the landing procedure of his jumper shuttle. With his skills and contacts he had routes to allow him a great deal of wealth comparable to most Sapients. He’d used a large portion of that to give himself a shuttle with an inordinately fast drive as well as a drop skip beacon. He had used a drop skip to return to Karkantantar and now he needed to secure new fuel, but that was unimportant and wait for later. The important thing would be to see just what had changed.

His tail lashed with impatience and his whiskers sparked with the tension. He was zapping with the urge to catch up. And yet he was tired. It hadn’t been a short day.

The slight thunk of the landing shuttle carried through the vehicle and the two occupants.

As soon as they were settled, Kukrit went about shutting down the shuttle. His new companion remained still, not having anything to do. In fact, the less he did the better.

Kukrit hadn’t picked up anything beyond the person in the second seat, as soon as the shuttle was in sleep, he was up and moving. “Let’s go.”

“Yes, Superior,” he responded.

Kukrit was up and moving, the impatience from his discovery unabated by time. He was out the door without delay. He had to stop himself for a moment, it would be no use to leave the Gerlen behind. He wobbled slightly with the sudden stop. So much to do and he was probably going to start with sleep! It was infuriating.

The grey figure of the Gerlen stepped through the door. A Gerlen unlike any Kukrit Palreon had met before. A shadow variant wearing boots, pants and a small vest. To his credit, the Gerlen didn’t disobey despite the strangeness of his implant. That at least promised to be a fun puzzle to sort out.

The Gerlen stepped out, blinking at the bright lights of the hangar.

“Umbra, do not delay, we have much to do.”

“Yes, Superior.”

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End Chapter
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