Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 53, Arc 3


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Hmm, when I come back around, I need to give a moment of the Motes in action to show just why they are so maligned... Anyways, you know how rats can kinda chew through anything on their way to food or freedom, often messing up important utilities?

Mote can disassemble just about anything they run into, they know how to take things apart... although putting it back together can be problematic.

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Chapter 53

Whether they had surrendered, fled, or fought until they died, Hatherkey's thugs on this level were done for.

The vehicles piled up in the entrance and the scattering of blown beacons and discarded weapons, not even to mention the bodies scattered around…

It wasn't a fun battle.

"How many of these bastards even had a choice," Mike complained harshly, looking at the mess of corpses.

"Not many," Tank said simply, marching at the forefront as they arrived. They had already moved past several Kraltnin who couldn't help but stop and touch Tank or bow their heads and close their single eye. Otto remembered, with the second protective membrane, they didn't really need to close that eye. They only did that out of extreme flinch reflex… or as a sign of submission or respect.

But there was a tower to capture. And the Kraltnin were dispersing. Most of them had headed straight through the center intersection to the central lift. Opposite them was the other tower entrance where another fight should be going on.

Quick, breathless words had already explained how Chase had helped here, now the battle on the opposite side was getting help.

Daniel's attention was drawn by the pile-ups of hovercars at the entrance. He could see something sticking out from one pile that didn't look like more vehicles. Walking right up to the mound let him see a mangled cannon, apparently disabled by someone smashing their hovercar right into the thing.

He jogged closer to the open entrance to look into the transport tube. The tube had connected right to the building, unlike the emergency entrance they'd asked for from Kruent. More crashed vehicles could be seen scattered around in the tube, and he could even see some Kraltnin picking through vehicles, looking for survivors.

"Tanktantun Mentatin," Tank replied to a question Daniel couldn't hear. He turned around to see Tank talking to one of the Greys. "No, I do not intend to stay on the planet at this time, I have a person to save, but I intend to return your own Primary to you."

The grey Kraltnin inclined his head and stepped back. "I understand, but please allow some of us to accompany you for now."

Daniel could hear the last bit as he approached.

"You can follow, but we cannot afford to move slowly, there is too much at stake."

"I understand."

Otto had picked up a functioning beacon, Matchka another. After a quick dive and hack, they handed the converted defences to another Grey and a White companion.

Having done so, Otto turned to look at Tank. "Okay, let's go," and go they did. Around the bend of the round hallway, they went until the next set of stairs up. They stepped through into the stairwell one by one, heading around the corners and up to the higher levels, Daniel took up the rear.

He almost got wrecked.

The pounding on his d-field popped the emitter and heatsink right away, and he was only just able to throw himself into the corner of the next landing to avoid being pulped by the turret that had popped out by the entrance behind them.

His Mote was positively groaning. It had taken a few shots along the spine and shoulder.

"Daniel, you okay?"

"Yeah, just gettin' comfy y'know," From his position, laying on the at the edge of the platform against the wall, if he stood up the turret was going to unload on him.

Otto and Mike were on the level above the turret, he could see them aim their plasma rifles at the floor and start firing. After a couple shots the plasma hit the deviation field of the turret. The gun emplacement shifted slightly, looking for the source of the attack, but wasn't smart enough to figure out where the shots were coming from. Mike stuck his rifle through the hole and took some careful shots. A couple shots into one barrel, the turret moved again to try and find the offender. A couple more bullets into the other barrel.

Tank stepped back around the corner, and the gun aimed at the new target and fired. One of the gun barrels exploded, the damage from Mike's gun rendering it useless. The other barrel started to shoot at Tank, but the big Green guy leaped down. A foot landed on the offending barrel and forced it down. He fired into the top of the gun with the small wrist-mounted plasma gauntlet, destroying the turret.

Daniel stood up. "Sorry fer the hold-up, let's go y'all."


Years ago, in a lifetime worlds away, she argued with him.

"You won't even give him a chance!"

And he argued back, angrier than he had been for a while.

"I've given him all the chances in the world!" he shouted back, he could feel his face hot with anger, "And all I got for it is hit!"

This made her hesitate, of all of them, he was the one who took the abuse for the rest, including her, and she knew it. But she was stubborn and didn't want to give up. It didn't help that she had spent much of their time as the baby.

"I just want my Dad!" she screamed back at him.

"Fine then! Fuckin' go with him and don't come back!"

"Otto, wake up!" Daniel said, slapping Otto on the back of his head.

He shook his head, now was not the time to be distracted.


The last door finally open, they stepped through into the loading bay. There were only a couple of vehicles still present. One van half loaded with stasis pods, waiting to go. Except for another set of closed doors of course. All the bay doors were dropped and sealed.

The wide bay made for a good garage and warehouse combination, with easily enough room to fit several shuttles if he wanted. There were four specific landing platforms before each of the doors. Three of them were occupied by vehicles, two smaller hover vans and then his personal transport, a sleek dart of a shuttle, just small enough to qualify for city use, but advanced enough to take off from the planet if he so wished.

A trio of workers were still running around securing items, his preferred transport shuttle was loaded up with goods of actual worth, weapons, complex and limited assets and some rare resources. Certain types of woods and stone had gained notable prices for their ‘genuine natural value.'

The next trip had been planned for two days from now, it was a scramble to get everything ready all at once.

It wasn't until everyone flinched back that he realized he was rumbling his annoyance in the back of his throat. Everyone but the red Kraltnin female. He had been using the bird for years, but even Wastad had never become accustomed to Hather's temper.

"The doors," Hather commanded the Leralin operator. "Open the way out. Wastad, secure the shuttle."

"Yes Superior," the Leralin answered, heading straight to the loading bay door with her brother following close behind.

"Yes Superior," Wastad answered as well, disappearing into the large hover to clean out any problems.

A fourth worker popped into sight driving one of the hover forks, carrying another box of goods. A Kraltnin. "You," Hather ordered. The Kraltnin flinched and turned his eye. "[Come here]," Hather demanded.

The Kraltnin disconnected from the lift and walked his way, flinching and naturally fearful, but given no choice by his implant.

He waited, enjoying the moment. The Kraltnin arrived before him. Hather placed his hands on the sides of the inferior Sapient, his armoured hands digging points into the White's head. The Kraltnin's protective eye membrane dropped. Hather bared his jagged teeth and squeezed.

The deep crunch of a crushed skull did much to restore his mood. He would never tolerate a Kraltnin again. When he was done with this place, Red Tail would be dealt with as well. He looked at her now, she had her appraising eye on him, and the tip of her tail twitched with annoyance. He shook the gore off his hands as she watched.

He smiled at her, daring her to retaliate, knowing full well that even if she did, she wouldn't last long enough to do lasting harm.

The other workers had paused to look, but as Hather swept his eyes across the bay, they went back to moving goods. They had just loaded up the first couple stasis pods, and his Ytheon follower was busy stuffing the Hyowean in another when the interruptions arrived.


Up the third untouched stairwell, after destroying two more turrets, at the very top, they arrived at Hatherkey's loading bay.

Before the last stairwell, someone had punched a hole into the wall, which was an impressive feat. It couldn't have been the ally that was hiding somewhere about the place, because the stairwell was still defended.

The turrets were much easier to deal with once everyone knew where they were. The one at the bottom stairs was easy enough to have someone go ahead, and then the rest pounce on when it came out. The upper-level turret was overcome by Tank, Mike and Matchka pushing forward as a group to spread the burden on their d-fields and get into proper damaging range.

The uppermost level was just a little bit past the level with the AI core and was mostly concerned with utilities, storage and transportation. It was also about three floors combined in height.

It didn't take them long at all to arrive at the loading bay, but they did take a moment to collect themselves.

"Mike and I will go first," Tank declared simply, "With his field down, Daniel should go last."

"Ain't gonna argue," Daniel agreed.

"Next should be Crawk, Otto and Matchka."

"Matchka, see if you can't find and steal some heavy guns," Otto suggested, "a hover or something, there are a couple vehicles in there if I got my readings correctly.

"Mmm," she answered non-committal. Her Mote did provide some quick moving fire support, so even if she didn't manage to hijack a vehicle, she could be quite some help.

"You going for Red-Tail?" Mike asked of Tank.


Mike punched his palm. "Sounds good, let's mess ‘em up."

"Noise cancelling on," Otto ordered.

Tank was the first through, as planned. Mike followed and didn't hesitate to fire on the first and most significant thing he saw with his rifle. Otto was next in, followed by Crawk then Matchka, and finally, Daniel came out to hide in Otto's d-field.

The first thing they saw was a Ytheon drop Tsury into a stasis pod.

"Tsury!" Otto called out, for just a moment he saw the blue of her eyes as she turned to look at him, then she was sealed away.

Tank was sprinting for Red Tail the moment he was inside. Mike had absolutely no problem picking out Hatherkey. His obsidian coloured form stuck out like a sore thumb in the large grey warehouse and loading bay.

Hatherkey's body was almost cartoonish, but it was certainly both brutal and unmistakably draconian. His head was covered by a smooth metallic plate that was made all in one piece. Down his neck, body and across his arms and legs were large, thick plates where flexibility wasn't needed, and large overlapping sections otherwise.

He was hulking and naturally physically powerful with a monstrous forward-leaning posture, balanced by the massive and also armoured tail sticking out behind him. He lacked the spikes or spines that Otto might have expected on a dragon, with only a heavy spade on his tail. Hatherkey seemed all brutal business and the red slitted eyes peering out at them backed that impression up.

The bullets of Mike's rifle bounced off Hatherkey's armoured back. Not without damage, there were dents. But dents were all Mike had earned.

"Fucker's gonna make life harder for us," Mike complained, running off to the side still squeezing off shots.

"I can also make things difficult," Crawk said with a note of amusement as he stepped through the doorway. He levelled the weapon he'd picked up on a couple of workers grabbing guns and fired the concusser looted from the fight they'd left behind.

The shared space expanded as everyone stepped through. Otto had managed to run things stable enough to keep them connected, but even as everyone was in the room, the test began.

A blitzing information attack was unleashed on the space, and he quickly found himself attempting to shut down the autonomous attacks before they could build up. A few reactive barriers later and that problem had been mostly dealt with. The attacker was close enough for Otto to track, his vision shifted, and he found himself looking once again at the white Leralin Oriashka, but now they were no longer friends.

Otto fired off some return pulses of fragmentation in an attempt to scramble her own space while also setting about seeing if there were any resources he could hijack. He was feeling a little panicky, there must be another operator here, he knew Oriashka wasn't the only one. If that operator joined this fight...

Crawk's concusser flattened a Kashto. The remaining workers, a pair of Veprutasians, dived behind hard cover to avoid being next. A second shot at Hatherkey revealed a surprise. The air around the Silianiscan rippled. Hatherkey still flinched, but he hardly went down like everyone might have hoped.

The very plating on his body lit up in sections as his defences became active. Otto tried firing at Hatherkey with his own plasma rifle, earning more lights from what had appeared to be his natural armour. His enhancements were grown into him.

Hatherkey yelled something at them that they couldn't hear.

Hatherkey opened his mouth and unleashed a stream of actual fire from his mouth. Mike was the closest target, so he was the one forced to dodge. The fire didn't care about d-fields either, and the blaze singed his legs as he jumped behind scattered crates. Otto watched as Mike was forced to pat out the fire that had stuck to his ankle.

"So dragon's breathe fire an' everything, an' it turns out to be useful," Daniel complained over the connection as he zipped away from Otto.

"Don't bunch up!" Mike sent over the shared space.

Hatherkey lifted his head and yelled again. They didn't know what he was screaming until Daniel saw something out of the corner of his vision. It was just enough for Crawk to step back and avoid the direct strike of a Veprutasian above him, but his concusser still suffered fatal damage when the osclaws dug right into it.

Hatherkey breathed another gout of flame when Mike stood up, forcing the man to duck back down behind his cover.

Once again Hatherkey shouted.

The unarmed Ytheon who had ducked down after stuffing Tsury into the stasis pod stood up and picked up the pod.

"NO!" Otto shouted. He activated the switch, then the Leralin hit him hard.


His back hit the corner hard as a series of plasma shots sunk into the floor next to him. Chase poked his head around the corner to look at the thing in the roof. Not much bigger than the security cameras he remembered on Earth, the square box that hung from the ceiling had a single barrel mounted on the bottom of it.

He was only able to look for a moment before pulling his head back. He also slid to the floor just in case. The turrets had a dedicated power line so they could repeatedly fire with only short pauses. This one didn't shoot a hole through the wall at least. He didn't have a d-field or a weapon to deal with the problem.

"How you feeling Booster?" Chase asked. A somewhat positive chirp answered that question. Chase had shed parts of the Mote, something he wasn't aware he could do at first. It existed now as just the helmet and chest piece, the arms and legs had been dropped to reduce weight.

It was able to regenerate energy, albeit slowly, but that was really only useful over the course of hours rather than minutes. Booster could regenerate energy more quickly through something similar to dynamic braking more easily with the limbs still attached, but Chase couldn't afford the slowdown.

"We're gonna have to do this like the last one," Chase half explained to himself and to Booster. Another chirp answered his statement.

Chase retreated down the hallway and borrowed the mental space the Mote afforded him once again. In his mind, he built up speed, ran up the wall and jumped off.

Then he mirrored the action in real life. Chase took off, quickly getting up to speed, he was up against the wall quick enough the turret couldn't quite react in time and bounced off the surface. He grabbed the gun hanging off the sensor box, and it broke away, unable to handle Chase's weight.

Booster's suggestion. It turned out Motes were good at disassembly.

As soon as that problem was done for he sprinted down the last hallway. A note of warning carried over from Booster. He could see the bird behind them. Chase opened up his stride. The door once again was open before him, and this one too slammed shut behind him.

It was a server room, a large box that was unmistakably the AI core sitting in the middle. Cords connected haphazardly to the core ran to all sides of the room, each side held several racks of what must have been secondary servers and computers for general use stuff. That was his best guess.

He walked up to the big thing and looked it over. It almost looked duct taped together, although it wasn't. It was just an impression he got with how sparingly certain parts had been put together. It must have been brought into the room in separate sections and put together where it stood. A few of the racks around the periphery of the room appeared to have been roughly shoved out of the way too.

He looked around for an obvious switch or button but couldn't find it, although there was one heavy cable running along the floor that was almost certainly the power source. Still…

"Hey Booster-"

There was an alert from the Mote as the door was attacked. A small blast of plasma cut through the door, sparks scattering into the room. Chase frowned but didn't let that distract him.

"Booster, is there a way to disable this that'll make everyone hate us?"

The answer was questioning, but affirmative.

"Do it, I'll deal with the bird."

With an answering beep, the Mote asked to be let down. Chase knelt on the ground, and he felt his chest plate detach. The Mote disconnected from his neck, and for the first time, Chase felt like he had become less without the connection of something more.

The Mote still had partial connectors for what had been the arm and leg extensions for Chase, but those parts were quite stubby. An annoyed shake of the Mote's head suggested the Mote was much less agile than it preferred.

A couple more shots passed through the door but failed to hit Chase.

Chase moved to the side of the door where the bird couldn't hit him and waited. With no weapon and no field, this was going to be dangerous. He still couldn't hear a thing. He glanced at the AI core to see the awkward turtle shape of the Mote disappear somewhere into the van sized mess of components. The bird must have been aware of the AI core at least, none of the plasma shots had struck the thing.

Making sight holes maybe?

The door suddenly slid open. It got hung up on some slag hanging off one of the plasma holes, fouling the bird up as Hatherkey tried to step into the room. The bird had lead with the limb mounted rifle and placed a hand on the doorjamb.

Chase didn't hesitate. He launched forward and grabbed the rifle, then wrenched on it with all the strength he could muster. The downside of the noise cancellers on his ears. He couldn't hear the indignant squawk he knew the bird was making. For all that his talons and wings made him hard to escape and dangerous to fight, the bird was still noticeably lighter than Chase, and Chase had literal years of constant exercise.

The necessarily light construct of the limb caused it to distort and bend as Chase yanked on the bird.

There was a massive fluttering of wings and flailing of claws, but Chase wasn't just yanking on the bird. He was running as hard as he could at the same time. He yanked the Leralin around to smack into one of the server towers. A flailing limb brushed against Chase's head and picked the headband with the noise cancelling earmuffs off, throwing the thing away into the middle of the room.

At least the squawking was everything Chase had hoped for. Especially when Chase stopped running to swing the bird around into one of the server racks. Hatherkey's body ended up in a tangle of components and wires, and the limb was ripped from its mount.

Chase was forced to step away with a taloned foot attempted to grab at him.

"Damn primitive! I will tear you apart until your bones have nothing but scraps on them!"

Chase wanted to say something back, but then the bird would realize he could hear again. Instead, he held the floppy limb with the rifle on it like a bat and waited for a good target to present itself. He swung hard and whacked an arm, earning him some very loud cussing.

He swung again and struck the bird's leg just as he pushed himself back out of the rack.

The Leralin landed on his feet, but the leg Chase had struck buckled slightly. Even so, he held his taloned hands and his wings wide. The bird was making himself look enormous. Chase retreated, He didn't know if he could take the bird in a direct fight. He had strength and weight, but he suspected the Leralin to have an advantage in speed.

A quick lunge and swipe confirmed the fear. Only a reflexive swing of the ripped off limb fended off the bird. On Hatherkey's second lunge he pulled the rifle from Chase's grip.

So Chase did the smartest thing he could think of, he retreated in between some racks where the movement of the bird would be restricted. Hatherkey folded his wings, but his forward lunge came up short. Chase was barely able to slip to the side. He felt a slight tug at his cheek as the talons just nicked his face.

He retreated further. The bird lunged again, Chase ducked and then drove a fist into the belly of the bird. A strangled grunt rewarded the effort, but he had to dive back to avoid the follow-up swing.

He landed on his back and started scrambling backwards as a taloned foot, then another hit the ground he was vacating. The bird got a little too close though, and a rising foot into the crotch of the Leralin proved every bit as effective on the alien bird. He groaned and fell to a knee as Chase retreated further back. He bumped up against the wall and stood up to run sideways.

"I'll kill you-!" Hatherkey squawked out. "I'll rip you apart!"

Chase heard the shift in tone. From one moment pained, the next moment, as if he'd never been kicked. The bird was also moving.

Chase arrived at the corner at the same moment as Hatherkey, the bird was moving as if he'd never been hit. He could deaden his senses? He recalled the fight with Tanktantun, the Monos could do that too, couldn't it.

A twitch from him and a swipe from Hatherkey convinced Chase he might be in trouble. He tried to lunge the other way but didn't get away. The only luck was that Hatherkey grabbed his arm rather than slicing through it.

"I've got you!" Hatherkey crowed.


Watching them make their way through the building had been impressive enough. The stairwell turrets a bit more trouble maybe than he expected, but nothing terribly severe for either Strider or Otto's crew.

The more exciting thing was watching Strider scale that lift shaft on foot. By running. It had never occurred to him that such a thing might even be possible, but he had watched it happen. Kukrit had thought the Human would head up one of the stairwells, but no, around the shaft as if it was made of steep stairs.

Seeing the Human frustrate Hather was a good show at least.

And the other crew wasn't so far behind Strider in their own way. The lone Human had needed some time to dodge through a couple hallways to where Hatherkey's AI core was being kept, but by the time he arrived, the other crew had found Hatherkey.

But Kukrit, he was working on his own thing. He was picking Wastad apart.

And doing rather well. The sudden string of events had rattled the bird.

It was easy for those in power to forget that if enough people got upset with you in the right circumstance, everything you'd built could come tumbling down. If Hather were trying to lord his might over some primitive planet, he'd be immovable, but here in the reasonably advanced city of Karkantantar, there were more than enough individuals that could throw their feeble power together and bring a petty tyrant down.

All they needed was a catalyst of some sort.

Wastad's fragmented state of mind was just perfect for him. All those civilians and then Otto's crew had been a great set-up. When Otto arrived, Wastad put what attention he wasn't giving the shuttle into watching the Human. That's when Kukrit pinged the shuttle with an add-on for the worm.

A trojan program designed to latch into available hooks the worm inevitably sunk into anyone without the appropriate defences. Chances were Otto was perfectly clean, but the Trojan locked into Wastad without trouble. That was step one.

The second part was peeling away the auto defences without Wastad noticing. A somewhat troublesome endeavour, but progress was good. When Kukrit was forced to pause, he glanced at what was going on around the AI core. Chase had just entered with Hatherkey just behind.

Then Hather gave Kukrit a nice surge of power in dealing with Wastad. The idiot called Wastad to open the door. He gained even more headway digging into the overextended operator. Now if Chase did what he was supposed to and cut that AI core power cable, he'd have run of the place.

Wastad opened the door and pulled himself back, and Kukrit moved to finish the process. On pulling back, Wastad realized he was in serious trouble.

"WHO?!" He cast into the data space in fear and surprise, but it was really too late.

The defences Wastad threw up were useless, Kukrit was so deep it was like Wastad was defending the both of them. With the knowledge he had and the permissions intrinsic to all late-stage newts and older, Kukrit was already in the midst of Wastad's slave package.

"Hello Wastad, I have good news, you don't have to work for Hather Key Nerom anymore."

The bird's mood fluctuated wildly. Wastad started off with intense confusion over how he had been bested without even noticing. The next thing to register was elation. It took only a nano-second for that to give way to fear and uncertainty.

Well, of course, Wastad had no idea if he would be better off in someone else's control.

Satisfied with a job well done, Kukrit reached to imprint his own ownership on Wastad.

Then it hit him.


"I've got you!" Hatherkey crowed.

Then the bird twitched. And Chase did so as well. They had both heard what was unmistakably a triumphant ‘beep.'

"Oh," Chase remarked, "Looks like Booster found what he was looking for."

Hatherkey's head had tilted to try and locate the source of the sound, now he turned a baleful eye on Chase. "What do you mean?"

Then it hit him. "Ker-RAWK!" Hatherkey screamed, then whipped back away from Chase, his eyes screwed shut.

Whatever Booster had done, it had worked.

He released Chase and flailed with his hands on his head, his wings beating erratically. Chase lunged forward, smacking his shoulder into Hatherkey's chest and running. He struck the corner of a rack behind them and felt a distinct crunch as a couple of bones broke under the abuse.

Hatherkey's body fell and spasmed like crazy, but Chase wasn't going to test it. Screwing up all his anger and guts, he lined up a foot and stomped on the bird's neck.

He wouldn't forget that crunch.

End Chapter
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