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  1. Jeremy

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    Kindar
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          Jeremy sat down and leaned against the large tree, someone had told him what it was called, but he'd forgotten. It's bark was rough, and almost gold in color, it was at least twenty feet high and the 'leaves' were thin lines that shimmered, and made rainbows when the sun hit them at the right angle.

          It was his first time on Kelser, nine years after he'd found Gralgiranselhelrarvir.

          He'd been surprised when he found out they were coming here, and then he'd wondered why they hadn't they hadn't come sooner. He knew it wasn't because Gral wanted to keep him hidden, he was quite proud of their relationship, and had introduced him to his parents over vid.

          "I'm a hunter," Gral had said, "I keep my people safe, by being out here, hunting those who would hurt them."

          Jeremy had found it strange, considering how much Gral loved his family, and his world. Jeremy couldn't stand being on Earth, although he hadn't realized why, at the time, that was why he'd never done more than call his family.

          "Come on," one of the females said running toward him. "We're not done dancing!"

          "I am!" he replied. He tried to remember her name, but he had been introduced to so many of Gral's large family, that he couldn't.

          "I thought you hunters were suppose to be full of energy!"

          "We are! But no one trained me for *that*!" He pointed to the crowed dancing to the sound of the band.

          She nodded and ran back to the dance.

          Jeremy had danced with Gral's mother, his father, all of his siblings, of which one brother caught him in one of the slow dances, and made sure Jeremy could tell he was interested in having sex with him. Jeremy probably would, at some time while they stayed here. He was as tall as Gral, a little leaner, and could rival him in nibbling his ears.

          "You should have warned me about this," he told Gral, when he joined him, carrying a tall glass of the alcoholic beverage his father had made, with the fruits he grew on his land. It reminded Jeremy of the fruit punches his grand mother would make for summer activities, but the taste was much more bright, and the slight alcohol in it just enhanced it.

          "I didn't want to give you a chance to plan your escape."

          "Do you guys do this often?"

          "This large of a gathering? No, only when all the space faring members manage to make it back at the same time. Otherwise, it's just a small affair."

          "It can't have been easy to arranged."

          "It wasn't. We've been working on this since our trip to Earth.

          "A year? And you never told me?"

          "I wanted to surprise you." Gral said smiling.

          "Well, as you saw when we got here, you managed it." When they had arrived on the property Jeremy had been smothered by the crowd of family members wanting to hug him, lick him, nibble on him.

          "Well, all of this, is because of you. Everyone has been wanting to meet you."

          "I have to say, your family is very welcoming."

          "No more than any other."

          "What's your brother's name? The one that looks a lot like you, just leaner." Jeremy pointed him out of the crowd.

          "That's Roumalger, you want his full name?" Gral asked mischievously."

          "No," Jeremy answered with a laugh, "I'd have forgotten that by the time I have sex with him. But I have to tell you. You're going to have to work on your ear nibbling, I think he might just manage to steal me away from you with his."

          "Oh really?" Gral pulled Jeremy against him, and closed his muzzle on his ear, licking along the edge, sending a shiver of pleasure down his spine. When Jeremy was panting and moaning, Gral started nibbling.

          When he finally stopped, Jeremy had to catch his breath, then look at his chrono, to find out twenty minute had passed. He leaned back against his Heart, and looked at Thuruk, Asarin, and their new cub, sitting at a table, and feeding her.

          "You forgot to mention that yours and Thuruk's family were close." A third of the people were Thuruk's family.

          "All the families in the valley are close, but we're the only two with spacefarers. Everyone else just works groundside."

          Jeremy nodded, and was silent, watching Thuruk and his family. "Have you ever though about having a family?" he asked.

          "I have a family," Gral replied, muzzling the top of his head.

          "I mean starting your own, having cubs."

          Gral didn't reply immediately "I did, but I never really found the time to look for a female."

          "Found the time?" Jeremy asked, turning and looking at him, disbelieving. "Gralgiranselhelrarvnir. You don't *find* the time to look for someone, you *make* the time. I swear, you're lucky I walked onto your ship, I don't think you'd have found me otherwise."

          Gral pulled him against him and ruffled Jeremy's hair. "I would have hunted you on that station of yours. Actually, if I remember correctly, I did just that."

          Jeremy smiled, and relaxed against him, watching the family in the distance.

          "Do you want a family?" Gral asked cautiously, after a long silence.

          This time it was Jeremy who took his time responding. "Yes, I do. I look at them, I see how happy they are, and I think that we have so much happiness, that we should be sharing it with a cub."

          "Tomorrow, we can start looking for a female we both like. We'll have to stay closer to Kelser until the birth, but That wouldn't be a problem."

          "I was thinking of a lost cub."

          "A lost cub?'

          "Yeah, I've been reading about them, there's a lot of them, who lost their families in accidents, we could save one of them, bring him, or her, in our family." Jeremy's voice became soft. "I want to give one of them, what you gave me, a chance to be happy again."

          "I never thought about that," Gral said, "but you're right, it would be appropriate." They were pensive for some time after that, until three of Gral's siblings came to pull them back in to the dance.

          * * * * *

          Jeremy enjoyed the quiet house. After the hustle of the previous night, with all the guest, some peace was appreciated. He made his way to the kitchen, and put the case on the counter. He started water boiling, and took out the tools from the case.

          He could get all of this done in a machine, and back on the ship, it was often how he did it, but for the first one of the day, he enjoyed the ritual. He activated the gravitic anchor at the base of the mortal so it wouldn't move, placed the pestle next to it, and then measured enough beans for two cups. Grounding the beans by hand and releasing the aromas was how he liked to start his day.

          He was engrossed in the process, taking his time, and watching to make sure he didn't grind them too fine, when arms wrapped around his waist.

          "I knew I felt you leave the bed," was whispered in his ear, before it was gently nibbled on.

          Jeremy shivered. "Sorry if I woke you."

          "Don't be sorry for waking me, be sorry for leaving me alone." The hands rubs his chest, and his neck was licked.

          "I thought you'd want to sleep longer, we were up fairly late."

          "I don't recall either one of us being up. We were in bed, if my memory serves me." He paused and sniffed the air. "What are you doing?"

          "I grinding coffee beans."

          "That smells very nice."

          "Roumalgergravnilamir," a female said sharply, "go put some pants on, we have guests."

          "Yes mom," Roumalger replied, and then licked the back of Jeremy's neck, making him shiver. "I'll be right back," he whispered, and then left.

          "Good morning, Parkiler," Jeremy said, and Gral and Roumalger's mother joined him at the counter.

          "And a good morning to you, Jeremy. What are you doing?" she bent down to breath in the aroma.

          "I'm preparing coffee." He took out two cups, placed a dripper on each of them. He divided the ground coffee evenly, and put that in the bottom part.

          "I've never heard of it."

          "It's a human drink. Coffee is a plant grown on earth and most of their colonies." The water was boiling, so he poured it in the top part of the drippers.

          "I did you get a human product? I thought we weren't trading with them until they stopped persecuting some of their people."

          "I know someone," Jeremy replied with a smile. The water as done dripping to he took off the dripper some a cup, and picked up to inhale the aroma.

          "You know someone who can get you an illegal product. Maybe I should inform your captain of that."

          "And lose my only supplier?" Gral said, as he entered, "I don't think so." He nuzzled his mother, and then kissed Jeremy.

          "What did you just do?" Parkiler asked, head tilted.

          Gral took the other cup. "We kissed." He took a sip of his coffee.

          "Kissed?"

          "It's a human custom that we've adopted, took some trial and error, but we found a way to make it work," Gral said.

          Jeremy was starting to turn red.

          "Really?" she said, "you're going to have to show me how it's done."

          "I don't think so," Gral replied, "it's ours, and ours alone." He grinned at his mother.

          "Is it true that you only have sex with males?" she asked Jeremy.

          He stopped moving, cup to his lips, and looked at her over it. "Yes, it is."

          "Is that a common behavior among humans?"

          "I'm not sure I'm the right person to ask," he replied, "why are you even asking about that?" He paused. "Right, you do socio-psychological research. If you want to answer that question, you should speak to one of them, instead of me. I don't know if you could trust their answers, considering they still don't acknowledge that they have males who have sex with males."

          "Maybe I can get one of the ambassadors to do some research on this for me."

          Gral's father entered the kitchen. "I thought I heard voices."

          "Morning Dad," Gral replied.

          "Morning dear," his mate said.

          "Good morning Marse . . . Dad," Jeremy said, definitely not used to calling him that.

          Marseforderiven nuzzled everyone in turn. "What is it you're holding?"

          "It's coffee," Gral said, handing him the cup. "It's a human drink."

          Marsef smelled it, and then took a swallow. He made a face "it's very bitter."

          "I know," Gral said, smiling. "It's invigorating."

          "You drink this a lot?" his mother asked.

          "No, just a cup in the morning, Jeremy drinks it through out the day."

          "It's flavors are interesting," Marsef said. "I wonder how well I could grow it here."

          "Dear, it's a human plant. It' be illegal for you to grow it."

          "It would just be for me, an experiment, if you will, there wouldn't be any harm." He looked at Gral.

          "I can't give my approval, you know that dad." He nodded toward Jeremy, "But if you were to manage to get yourself a plant, without my knowledge, there isn't much I could do about that, could I?"

          Jeremy looked from the father to the son. "I'll talk to my contact, see what he can do about it, but you're going to have to do your own research on how to grow them, I have no idea how that's done."

  2. Going Home: Great Oaks, Part 1 (an Excerpt)

    Going Home is a series that Explores the city of Tiranis through the eyes of Eric Clarkson, a returning veteran, who finds that he city has changed more than he expected in his absences.

    Each section of the series will focus on a different part of the city while Eric gets pulled into problems typical to that area, or sometime not so typical.

    This is about 1000 words of the 15,700 words chapter.

    You can read the full story here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/16302947 , as well as other stories set in the world of Tiranis by joining my Patreon at the 1$ level


    Going home: Great Oaks, Part 1

    It was a loop. One of the logical conundrum one of the sergeants liked to recite. He could break the window, that would cut the loop, but it would attract attention. He widened the diagram to include the entire door and saw there was a gap at the base of the window. Very narrow and covered by a rubber strip.

    He didn’t have anything thin enough to slip in. And a quick look around didn’t show him anything he could use. An empty can had possibility, but it was too flimsy.

    He ran for the businesses, the one directly in front of him had a sign reading ‘Reignheart Medical Clinic.’ There was a hair and fur stylist on the left and a pharmacy on the right. He entered the clinic and looked around for something to use.

    “Can I help you?” The woman seated behind the counter looked at him expectantly. She was human, older, in her fifties; his mother’s age, the thought came unbidden, when he left for the army. With it came the reminder that she was now dead and he felt a pang of sorrow. Only he couldn’t deal with that right now. There was something more important. There had to be something here that would let him open the door.

    A lion in a doctor’s smock opened a door and let an older lemur out. He froze. “Eric?”

    Eric forced himself to look at him, then was surprised to recognize him. “Mister Reignheart?” How was it that of everyone in the city, he’d run into him for a second time?

    The lion smiled. “Do you need assistance with anything?”

    Eric began shaking his head, then stopped. He opened the door and pointed to the minivan. “Do you know who owns that?”

    Walter came to him and peered across the lot. “I’m afraid I don’t.” He looked at the older woman. “Jennifer?”

    She joined them. “No. It was there when I got here this morning. It must belong to one of the other people in the plaza.

    Eric nodded and ignored Walter’s questioning expression. He couldn’t waste time going around looking for the owner. It might explode during that time. Once he’d disarm it he could work on figuring out who the target was.

    He looked over the counter at what was on the desk, hoping the receptionist had one of those thin metal rulers that had been popular with his classmates, but there was nothing like that. Not even papers or a pencil. All there was on the counter was a computer, a phone and a tablet.

    Maybe someone in the waiting room might have something? Many of the women had large purses and they looked like they could contain anything they needed. His mother’s purse had certainly seemed like it contained whatever she needed, no matter how strange. But it wouldn’t be polite to just rummage through them.

    He stepped forward to ask them to look for something and a small plant with thin reflective leaves became visible at the back of the room, next or one of the office doors. Reflective? What plant had metallic leaves? And then the object resolved itself.

    It wasn’t a plant. It was a short pole with thin metal bands jutting off, curling at the end, it gave the illusion of a very crude fern. If it was an art piece, Eric thought as he stepped to it, he didn’t see the appeal.

    Walter called after him, as did a woman as she opened her office door, but he ignored them. The ‘leaves’ were thin enough, and there was enough of a straight length for what he needed.

    He broke one off, the weld easily giving out, and headed out. “I need to borrow this.”

    Walter and the others stood there, watching him leave.

    He cut the jagged end where the welding had been done and then made a notch in the side, to use and catch the mechanism. He slipped it in, having to force it past the rubber and then it scraped down the inside of the door.

    After that it was guesswork, moving the strip and trying to get the notch to grab onto the rod so he could pull it up. He could see the lock mechanism easily enough, but the metal strip he was using wasn’t technological.

    Twice he thought he’d gotten it, only for nothing to happen when he pulled. The second time he pulled hard in frustration and it came out. He forced himself to calm, he wouldn’t accomplish anything by getting angry. He pushed it back in and tried again.

    Steps caught his attention, regular, firm, approaching from the sidewalk, not the shops. A police officer had to have noticed him and came to investigate. Hopefully he could explain about the bomb without having to say too much about when he could do.

    As the steps came closer, he could make out three sets of them. When he looked in the window, expecting to see the blue and yellow of the Tiranis Police Department, he saw people dressed in black and wearing face-covering masks.

    He reacted without thinking on seeing the arm reach for him. He turned and shoved it aside, then brought up his in a defensive pose.

    The person before him studied him, a man, Eric thought, which was confirmed when he spoke. “You’re meddling in things that don’t concern you.”

    Eric couldn’t tell if they were humans or furries. Their masks all had muzzles, but they also had bumps where human ears would be, and their head covering would keep furry ears out of sight. It was a simple, and clever disguise.

    The one thing Eric could tell about them was that they had training. They stood relaxed, but they all had a hand near the knife each had at their belt, and they were ready to act. He couldn’t see guns, so that was good.

    Eric smiled. “I like to think that bombs concern everyone, don’t you?”

  3. 7 Days before the Nightmare Valley incidents began.

    Tlyer McGuffin had a few days off and wanted to spend some of that leave time at the Lake. He had hoped he could Coax his " This is an open relationship but pretty serious" Boyfreind to come along, but it turns out Stuart had some corporate Business to attend. By his tone over the phone it sounded like he would rather be at the lake then whatever was happening. He had also heard what sounding like Stuart checking the workings of a gun. Tyler's cop senses had tingled and when he questioned what he was hearing, he had gotten answer that 'might' be true.

    " If I am going to have to dress up and prance around 'Red Knight Arm' like some suited ass i may as well use their indoor range, From what i am hearing one of the chemists wants to verbally incinerate me over something so some range time might be the best way to blow off some steam afterward." Stu had explained.

    It might have been true but, the combination of his police instincts and boyfriend bullshit meter had hinted that he wasn't getting the full story. He put all that aside for now. He sat by the lakeside, away from the little recreational lodge and docks where most of the swimmers like to congregate, leaning against a tree with his shirt off letting his not so small stomach catch some sun rays. He wasn't ashamed of his size, he had never been the thinest but years on the job grabbing quick meals and spending too much time in a squad car had filled him out a bit. He wasn't big enoug for the weight to hinder him much if at all but some some of the other swimmers had gripped about seeing "too many fatties" that day, and so he lay in the sun it plain sight to spite that person as well as enjoy the sun.

    This was a great place, the water was cool and crystal clear, the bottom of this lake being most rock so he could see all the way to the bottom. The lake was surrounded by tall trees and usually shaded except for times like now when it was high noon. The sound of people playing distantly was more of an ambient sound than distracting hubbub. There was a slight breeze and the large redwoods rustled pleasantly. It was serene in a way the nearby city never was. Don't get him wrong, Tyler loved the city life and its hustle and bustle but the gentle calm of the forests were a relief. It was like noise that amplified the quiet if that made any sense. That was why he jumped when he suddenly felt a hand  grip his leg.

    He popped to alertness and took in the situation with a keeness years on the force had trained into him. Instead of being attacked or groped by a fellow swimmer he looked over to see a pitch Black wolf in tribal garb peering intently out at the lake. He had small copper bands on his ears, and painted marking made from crushed minerals and water to make a tempory paste applied for ceremonial purposes. The bands marked him as scout of some kind, explaining why his approach had been so silent, but his young age, maybe 19 or 20 and the fact the band looked like that of a novice scout, meant he was inexperienced. This why Tyler had checked his reflex to smack the hand off his thigh. The Poor boy was so intent on the lake he most likely didn't realized he had a handful of a portly policemen's thigh instead of a tree root. Something on the boy's left arm gave him pause though and filled him with questions.

    " Expecting Ghosts?" Tyler asked gently

    The scout jumped slightly and looked over. Then Looked down at his hand and realized his had was not resting on a mossy rock. The Boy silently remove his hand then braced it against a tree with a sheepish expression. The kind of expression that said "I am sorry for accidentally groping you" without words. But instead of acknowledging the embarrassment tyler's other concern persists and he asked again.

    " Are you expecting to fight a ghost? You have a spirit knife strapped to your arm." Tyler asked again and hoped the Boy spoke common. There were 2 full Kirfernav on the force with him and he could never pronounce any phrases they tried to teach him. He had also learned that Stuart's Kirfernav had a strange accent. Tyler's chubby love husky was Half Kirfenav so he was slightly exposed to the culture though Stuart seemed more comfortable with the Culture of the Old northern Barbarians that ran through his Husky side and couldn't tell them apart when he decided to mix them so he feared if he tried to ask any questions in anything but common he would sound like a lunatic. The boy spoke and all worries of sounding like a moron rushed out of the orange policemen.

    " Uhhh maybe. Yeah i have a spirit knife  but i always have it. I was asked to check out the lake but not what for." The young man said, not looking as intimidating as night black fur and deep yellow eyes should have made him. Stuart's oldest brother had The Kirfernav yellow eyes so maybe Tyler was just used to them. Stuart's mother had Red eyes and she could look scary as hell at times. But this lad, just looked like someone told to do something and was tryring his best to do it without having all the details. A state common every species and culture the world over.

    " Let me guess, the great wise one, grandmother to many, gave you no details but commanded you do something of the direst of importance?" Tyler asked.

    The native wolf narrowed his eyes a bit but didn;t sound hostile or offended when he spoke.

    " Yes actually, though i wonder how you could know that." The Native said.

    " Boyfreind is half Kirfernav, Tu'auchset clan, and she pulls the same shit on him and never seems happy no mater what he does." Tyler answers.

    The wolf is now scanning the lake and the lakeshore and his ears are cocked to listen but he is still talking to tyler when he says.

    " Is it the fat one with the ponytail and grey eyes? What is her deal with him? He may look nothing like one of the tribe but he has always be pretty decent, he even hired that lawyer that kept Etonfiel chemical from building a pipeline through our land. No idea how he afforded that."

    " Yeah that is him, and he bought out Etonfiel chemical after that initial lawsuit that is why the racist ass owner never tried anything again." Tyler answers. Then he just realized he had no idea if Stuart advertised to the tribe he was rich. He always wore his shirt and jeans around tribal lands. Apparently The scout didn't know, because he looked back at tyler and raised his eyebrows. This didn't last for long though as they both saw somthing out of the corner of their eyes that made them whipe their head toward the center of the lake. There was a shadow moving along the bottom of the lake but it wasn't cast by anything.

    The Scout drew the spirit knife, off his left arm and gripped it in a slightly trembling right hand. He was most likely feeling the presence of the entity casting the shadow, The kirfernav all had an innate ability to sense Shadow and dark realm magic and could often tell the benign thins from the malevolent things from such places. The trembling hand told tyler this wasn't benign. 

    " I am going to go to the cabin and warn everyone something is in the water, follow along shore and try and tell us how close to shore it comes." Tyler said suddenly taking charge. Looks like day of was on hold he had to serve and protect. The Shortest way toward the dock was to swim it insted of walking the winding shoreline. He jumped in the water and propeled his big body through the water with a swiftness that belied his size and spoke of contant exercise and adrenaline fulled urgency.  The Tribes man didn't enter the water but he ran silently and swiftly through the trees toward the swimmers. As tyler was in the water he felt this eerie feeling that he had felt before when he had looked at some of the magical objects Stuart kept in his family home and out of the plain but spacious top floor apartment he lived in on his own. Some of the Stuff Stuart had when he enganged in magical things gave tyler the absolute willies and that is why most of them had been put into his parent's house when it was becoming clear that it was more than casual between them. This feeling he felt pulsing through the water reminded him of this Large book that had a series medallions made of silver and some black metal Dotting the cover. This was the eerie  unease he felt when he looked at the black metal, but now instead of feeling large but distant it felt like there were whispers of it close by coming through the water.  

    He Got to the dock and hauled his big body out and in a calm firm voice started telling anyone who was near to get out of the water that there was something potentially  dangerous in it. Many looked at him like he was a loon and some gave him the finger. But Tyler noticed there were a huddle of people of all ages fast walking toward the shore and looking around at the water. They were to far away for it to have just been his words that had driven them out. Some people had felt it.

    " Hey man shut up you are scaring my kid." Complained a bear who was trying to get his uneasy looking son to paddle in the water. The very moment he said that the boy was ripped from his arms and pulled across the surface of the lake. He stayed at the surface long enough to shriek in terror before being pulled straight down by nothing that they could see and pressed against the bottom the crystal clear water showing his panicked struggles. Without hesitation Tyler dove into the water and swam down toward the struggling child. He knew he was getting close not just because of the crystal clear water showing him his progress he felt the dreadful unease pulsing through the water like greasy waves. Almost like a the pulse of  rotting heart. Tyler also saw what looked like a tendril shape made of darker water. Just looking at this dimly lit stand made want to puke. But he swam on. Soon he felt the sickened heart beating in his ears out of sink with his own. He reached the boy and grasped him as the kid clung desperately to his hand. Tyler Pulled and the kid sliped from the patch of shadow. He pushed off from the bottom and was nearly half way to the surface when he felt a sickening sting arond his ankles he let go of the kid, pushing him up toward the surface. the kid got the idea and began franticly looking back down.

    The Bear kid made it to the surface but Tyler his vision going fuzzy saw another tendril reaching up toward him. Then he saw a shimmer, a shape of a hand it was like sunlight rippling through water but under water. It Reached toward him gracefully. But instead of grippinf his outreached hand he felt the ghostly but still some how very rough hand grab the sruff of his neck. It Yanked and the force holding his feet slipped away. His heavy body was dragged to the surface of the water where he saw a glimmering shimmerng shape forming in the water, It was indistinct but some how feminine and it was gathering the little bear to her tenderly.

    A moment later tyler's head broke the surface and he took a deep breath of air and gasping took stock of what was goign on. There towering above the lake was what could only be described as womanly figure, proud and powerful and strong, made of the crystal clear lake water. The sun shone through her but twinkled as if she were full of tiny powdered diamonds. She had the bear cub craddeled into her indistinct liquid boosom in a supremely maternal fashion. In her other hand Tyler McGuffin's body dangled as she gripped him by the scuff of his slightly meaty neck. he was held up slightly aboce the surface but could feel his feet and tip of his sodden tail drag the water as she strode with indistinct leg toward shore. Water flowed out from her in a conical fashion like a billowing skirt. Tyler got the feeling that he is being held this way, by the scruff of the neck like a naughty child, because she though he was being foolish for a grown man. As she stide proadly toward shore she can see that a life guard, a lean handsome coyote was swiming toward them with a rope tide around his ankle, they must have seen the shadow grab Tyler and all the swimmers looked read to have a touge of war with the beast. Now they were staring wide eye as this 8 foot tall figure flowed toward the dock like a glistening wave of diamond. She flowed up gently washing over the docks as she melted into the lake water. The bear cud was set down gentle where his father rushed to him and hugged him tight. Tyler McGuffin was flopped onto the dock without ceremony  sliding a little on his stomach, pulling his swimwear down a little. He had a feeling the feminine presence that was still around thought very little of him for some reason and was laughing at his potential embarrassment. He wasn't much embarrassed and just levered up onto he arms and then stood up hicked his trunks up. He felt a vague sense the lack was annoyed when stood and spoke.

    " Ok lets move away from the water the shadow thing is still down there. We should move back before...." he was interupted by a shouted " WHAT THE SHIT!?" He turned to see a bulk of water bulged up and try to flow over the dock. Tyler heard a war whop that sounded Kirfernav and the scout, spirit knife drawn do a threatening dance between the mas of now inky dark water and the people on the dock. He was holding a pouch of something  and the spirit knife and looked read to fight this thing alone.

     Suddenly a scream of " Stefan what??" and this mopy looking goth kid right next to Tyler, with heavy eyeliner and artifically bleached paterns on his fur,stepped forward as his face shed the apathetic sulk and twisted, became wrong some how, his cheeks too pointy and his bottom jaw seemed to warp and bend in the middle of the mandible, the teeth lenghtend to needle sharpness and his saliva turn black as his eyes rolled in his head. The eerie greasey caustic feeling of the dark creature and the dark place fairly bloomed of him. He lept forward before any could react. Tyler lunged but was to slow, the goth flew through the air, but not at the native wolf defending the crowd as tyler suspected, but at the mass of inky water, landing at the crest of this reverse bubble the  clenched claws and weirdly wrong jaws sank into the water but held as if they sank into flesh. the Mad goth began srcabeling at the darkened water and the mas reacted as if in pain.

    Taking this opportunity the Native scout opened the pouch and threw the contents in a puff of red powder, some landed on the dock and some drifted onto the creature. the Creature made of inky water shuddered and recoiled at were the powder landed. Emboldened by this the Dark wolf lunges forward and slashes at the mas with the spirit knife. Where the blade touches the water there is a purplish flash, that seems to rip through the presence. The victory is short lived when a tendril of water forms and whips upward sending the you black furred wolf into the air and tumbling end over end only to splash down in the lake behind the mass. The mass twists and contorts trying to loosen the goth but it seemed his jaws were making the area around his mouth more solid and less movable.  Almost everyone is falling back and running up the lake shore toward their parking lot but a few stayed and looked ready to fight so the others may flee. Tyler Stayed but he had no idea what to do, he had no magic talent he was aware of and he doubted punching or wresting to restrain the mass would do anything. He was a cop, he didn't know what to do, it was not like he could arrest the thing.

    He turned to the woman standing next to him a fit cougar in her mid 20's whose hands were raise as if she was going to beat the shit out of it even if it was just water.

    " I am going to go get my gun you gonna be good while i do?"

    " GO FOR IT AND YOU HAVE A NICE ASS!" She shouted then charged toward the mass.

    He jogged his fat but appearently nice ass up the hill toward his car, glad that he trained regularly even if he never seemed to shed a pound he packed on. He Sprinted up the hill got to his car and pulled the door open.

    " CAN YOU GIVE ME A RIDE I WALKED LETS GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!" some guys asked in a panic. Tyler pulled his gun case out and flipped it open revealing his off duty piece. It still had the little underslung stunner that most police issue weapons had and he hoped that it would work on magical water monstrosities.

    " Not leavin bro, sorry he said as he slammed a magazine 10mm FMJ ammo into the pistol grip and a battery into the stunner. He was about to turn and run toward the dock when he felt a pull.
    Obeying that pull but not knowing why he reached under the passenger seat and grabbed. There his hands found an object he was sure shouldn't be there. There shouldn't be anything under that seat. he Pulled it out and looked at one of the creepy objects he had seen the first night he slept in Stuart's Apartment. It was a short sword made with a bifurcated blade style. In style it was 2 snakes, one silvery white wrapped around another serpent that was the deep black metal he would find out was used in a lot of magical things. The handle was their intertwined bodies ending in a pommel made from the 2 snakes mouth's agape bearing fangs at each other Their bodies and tail forked of before running parallel  and becoming the 2 blades. It looked like some sort of artistic wizard's large tuning fork.  The First time he had seen it was on the wall in the Apartment bedroom. He had looked at it a moment, thought it was weird and then rammed his tongue down Sturat's throat and made out with him. He at the time had the odd feeling that the gemstone eyes of the serpent's heads, an deep blue sapphire on the silver snake and a bright ruby on the black one had been watching him made love and then slept in that bedroom.

    " Aw fuck more magic shit" says the guy and runs off. Tyler agreed but he didn't let go of the weird little short sword. He had never asked Stuart about it because he had never cared. He ran back toward the dock with his gun, belt of extra mags and the short sword he had no idea how to use. It is not like cop's were train in sword fighting. He sprinted back toward the dock where the woman made of water had reformed and seemed to be swiping at the shadowy mass. The young cougar  woman who had complimented his ass was punching and kicking at any out growths that got near her, but they must have been more then just physical as the tendrils tremble and disassociated when struck. He ran down the hill which he should not have been doing gripping an unheated sword. He was puffing when he began running down the dock. He was fast, and he was still in pretty good shape, but he had still been moving ever since he swam over to warn the people. Still adrenaline spurred him on. He got back to the wide area that the few who had stayed made their stands. The Woman of water was lunging in for blows but staying back, the goth kid seemed to be wrapped in small dark tendrils of water but they tor with a sick wet sound as he moved ab bit viciously. The Goth kid's arms seemed to be longer and thin with creepy 8 jointed fingers that tor and scratched. The Kirfernav was back on shore and he was limping back toward the fight spirit knife in hand.

    Now that he was back into the fray he had no idea what to do. Getting a gun had been a stupid idea, but he felt he needed to defend. He open fire on the wattery mass, shots ringing loud and muzzle flashing firing deadly copper jacketed lead that did as much damage as if he tried peeing on it. He Ate through an 18 round mag in moments. he he the mag release and the magazine fell free, but then he realized he still had the sword gripped in his left hand and would need to put it down to reload. He tried something else. He flicked on the stunner attactmetnt that shot a bolt of coherent electricity that traveled down a tuned laser. He let loose with that, light bolts of controlled lightening struch the dark mass of inky water. It did something, just nothing good. The Bolts dissapated through the mass, but where still strong enough to zapp the twisted goth who let out a gurgling scream and was finally bucked of to land crummpled on the dock near Tyler. Tyler moved over hopinbg he wasn't dead.

    " Dude, what the fuck?" The crumpled twisted goth said in a rather normal voice. His gangly form untwisted to get back to his feet but a liquid tendril shot forth at him. Without thinking Tyler brougt the weird short sword down on it. Not in a chop or a strike or anything at all sword like. The edge was not even in ilne, he struck with the flat of the blade. He struck at the tendril instinctively like a policemen hitting with a baton. Because well he was a policemen and he hit things like that.

    The reaction from the shadow inky mass of water was astounding. Where the silver blade struck it sizzled and sputtered, the water vaporizing. The Black metal blade seemed to send out a shock of force and light through the tendril. Tyler paused for a moment shocked then did something he was told to never do in training, he swung widly not aiming to dissuade and attack but just wailing on a target. He swung wild hammer fisted blows with absolutely no finesse, he just advanced and hit. The Mass began to retreat beneaht the clumsy inexpert blows flashes of force and quick puffs of steam filling the air. Tyler started to feel weird. His body began to move wrongly, well wrong for Tyler McGuffin his fat arms began striking out in swift jabs, and feinting cuts that with elegance deflected attacks from all angles, he felt is legs move in ways he had never told them, with grace in a dance. His right hand gripping his gun felt more his own but he had these impulses. He fired of the stunner at certain places and poked and struck. He felt this foregein elegence guide him as he thrust and parried the tendrils. He to his own amazment was fencing with the rapid jabs of a creature made of darkness and water. The thing started to pull back, it seemed slowed and desperate to escape. This weird excitement slithered through him as if a duelist was ready to deliver a winning blow in a entertaining duel. It was like the feeling he got when he wrestled against Stuart and they kept score that one night before they had gone out after a drink and then both found themselves interested in the other, but this was arrogant and refined.

    He brought his left hand low and slashed up with the silver edge and then immediatly brought his arm down cutting with the black edge. The mass of water split open like a body and inside he saw the source of the mass. It was a heart. a misshapen beating heart. the sword split in two and suddenly each side was pinning the side of the slash open. The blade was out of his hands.

    With a head rush he was Tyler McGuffin again, overwight officer of the law. But he knew what he needed to do. he dropped his knees and picked up a new magazine and slamed it into his gun. With precision but little ceremony he took aim and fired into the pulsing heart, jerking the trigger but keeping on target till the thing was nothing but tattered flesh. He sat there in the kneeling position and stayed tenese and ready for whatever came next.

    What came next was the inkiness fading from the water and it falling into the lake inert and lifeless. No longer part of a creature but lifeless hydrogen and oxygen. Tyler body felt a weird rush fill his tense muscles and even after he relaxed he felt of sensations in his body. He figured it was his body coming off of the adrenaline rush. He stood and surveyed everyone. The Couger woman was rubbing her arms and doing a cool down routine but her eyes darted looking for other threats. The Wolf native was leaning against  the lifegaurd tower panting. When he saw tyler look at him he gave a thumbs up to say i am ok.

    The Goth who had transformed was changing back to normal but it was unpleasant to look at and made horrible sounds of cracking bones and tendons. soon he stoog in shredded clothing  and was rubbing his fingers and grimacing.

    " You ok?" Tyler asks.

    " Yeah. I guess. It didn't hurt but now it feels like my joints are still all twisted and stuff, my hands look normal but my finger still feel all long and stuff...." he replies twitching a little.

    Tyler reaches up to pat him on the shoulder and tell him he will be ok but when he raises his hand the weird sword is in his hand again. He jumps in surprise. So does the goth.

    " The fuck? it was just there when it wasn't before!" He stumbles back.

    Tyler lets go of the sword but it sticks to his palm. Tyler grimaces at it and shakes his hand but it stays as if glued.

    " What the hell is..." he is inturpted by a sense of being ripped in 2 while he body stays still.

    His vison is cast in 2 opposite directions and he has no idea as to what he sees in either. The he is slamed back into his own body. his had is still open than the sword falls from his grasp and sticks into the dock. he stares down at it quivering. It has a new feature though.  Between the open hissing mouths of the serpents floats a jewel. It is glossy and deep red. He looks from person to person.

    " Is it too early in the day for whisky? i think i need a drink" Tyler says. he doesn't want to touch the sword again so he just stares at it. The Cougar comes over and picks up the sword obviously seeing he doesn't want to. She claps him on the shoulder." That was some weird shit, She is some weird shit, i think whisky is the most normal thing right now" The cougar says gesturing to the woman made of the crystal clear lake water still there watching them. Tyler feels like she is somehow judging them in the way some family matriarchs do. He gets the impression she still thinks he is a silly little man who is trying to hard to be macho. He almost feels like confronting her about it. He turns as if to be led away by the cougar then stops and turns. You know what enough with trying to pretend all this magic stuff isn't here anymore. They may have science and technology and be on the cusp of expanding into space and all that but this world is still one that is full of weird things. Why be shy about it? He turns to confront the woman made of water.

    " Thanks for your help but we no longer wage the war you once fought. Both sides lost. People define themselves." Tyler says staring intently.

    " Why are you telling a living glass of water about self determination?" The Goth says looking confused.

    " This is an old spirit, from before the age of choice, when your fate was chosen by the speakers. This spirit thought the fox oversteped his bounds by trying to save the child and thus shape his fate." The Kirfernav says.

    The cougar takes a confident stance.

    " Ah from the fate wars eh, we don't belive in that stuff because it doesn't work that way. Was never supposed to." The cougar announces The Figure draws up and puts it hands on its hips. Projecting authority.

    " What uhh urkgghghhhhg...." the goth says as his eyes roll back again. when they roll foward they are like peering into a star studded sky. The Goth's face smiles, but it is a smile more threatening than when it twisted into the monsterous fighting visage.

    " If you doubt listen for the spin of the time counter's top, time ticks on but the hands of the chess-masters lay shattered and stripped of life, this universe was never made to be your master's game and they found the pieces did not like to be prodded. All their vast works lay in ruins and their minds stripped and consumed. Worlds made and worlds shatter by the whim of their laws not the tampering of your players. so go now puppet and think on what it means to make choices. you interfered here because you weren't told who was to die, and you resented the other moving out of turn. But think now of choice and what it means to tell yourself what to do, but also think now of the consequences of those choices. You saw how we dealt with that born in shadow and desire. By all mean save all in peril in this lake but do so of your own will and hinder not those who do the same." The figure that speak's through the goth boy cocks its head.

    The figure made of shimmering water stays still as if listening.

    " The silence is maddening is it not? but now it means you must fill the world with music of your own making, or retreat to the broken hall of the weaver and pray their broken forms move anew."

    The boy blinks and his eyes are normal. he looks around as if to assure himself he is back. he then Crosses his arms and rubs them. He sets of an air of knowing what has just happened but doesn't want anyone to acknowledge it.

    The figure of water is still there but is smaller and it seems now frightened. Then it asks a question that shakes them all.

    " Then what hand moved the sword?" None can answer that. The woman melts into the lake and the scene physically returns to the sunny placid forest and lakes that it aught to be.

    "I think we need the whisky even more now." The cougar says. She isn't confident and cheerful anymore. She is also looking the sword up an down. " Where did this come from anyway?"

    They are slowly walking up toward the dock house an parking lot. The Sun is shining pleasantly and the birds have begun to sing again. Some people, the ones who hadn't run off to the parking lot but instead hid in the forest start to come out and loo around. They seem distrustful of the placid loveliness they see. None of them dare speak and only eye the group made up of a limping wolf Supported by chubby shirtless fox, a cougar in a bikini, and a teenage boy with his arms crossed tightly utterly withdrawn.

    " I will tell ya all i know, but first i think the whisky will be needed." Tyler mutters.

  4. BigPuppyStuart
    Latest Entry

    Not complete. Will be added to constantly. Also acts as Glossary and notes for the Gai'talar setting.

    PLACE NAMES

    Gai'talar: The first known given to the world. An old name often used in academic circles. Equivalent to modern english using Gaia or Tera to refer to earth.  Each Language group has its own word to refer to the world but this is considered the universal name. The Exact translation of the word is not fully know.

    Te'( insert name ) : Te' is the prefix to indicate a star. The races of gai'talar knew stars were distant balls of incandescent gas for thousands of years. It is unsure who discovered this.

    Te'naas: The name of the star Gai'talar oribits. This is the formal name for it. Many people just call it " The sun" in whatever language they speak.

    The Blood star/ Blood moon: a hypothetical 3rd moon that people of certain magic affinities feel and see. Used as a symbol in old magic texts. Is invisible to most people so it is commonly regarded as a myth or is so irreverent to their lives that it is just not thought about. Mostly considered a magical phenomenon and not an actually celestial body.

    Kurinessa/ the white moon: The closer of gai'talar's moons. Hesken,Ulvalter, and werewolves all howl at it sometimes. this frightens or annoys other races. It has the greatest effect on tides so it is considered very significant in Lutrondae culture.

    The Black moon/ Char'tem'hjerl: the second of Gai'talar's moons orbit farther out and reflects little to no light. Many cultures regard it differently, the Valparet dislike it and consider it bad, the Lontracant use it is a symbol for for rest ( Lontracant inn signs all have a black moon on them ) and the Hesken and Fanock think it is a damned nuisance when star gazing as it just creates dark spots in the sky. Some culture refuse to give it a name so will just say " the black moon" or " the other moon " when talking about it.

    Chir'tiris: The lost city that is the supposed homeland of the Skitritch. Many consider it to be a myth.

    Lutrond: The coastal kingdom of the Lutrondae. This is considered the origin of their species.

    The Wild Continent: An unexplored land that is the source of many legends.

    Mages guild: A world spanning organization of magical learning and craftsmanship.

    Artificer's guild: Wizards that specialize in building magic based technology but also does research into non magic based physics and chemistry.

    Paerkehar: Largest and most prosperous of the fanock nations.

    Earth: The name that humans gave to their origin. 

    Kelthgeka: A mythological continent that is said to drift through realities.

    SPECIES

    Thethen: The name given to Mysterious first civilization. It is known that this is not what they called themselves. The word derives from " Thet theo thehn" translated as " The ones that came before"  Nothing is known of what they looked like. Most that is know about them is from left writings that conspicuously never describe them. No Art depicting them has ever been found. Every species has a theory that they are descendants of this race. Lifespan: Unknown.

    Rapa-Putamlian: An as yet undiscovered ancient race of very technology advanced culture. They were contemporary with the Thethen but are completely unheard of by the Time of the other races. Their only impact is tales ancient tales of Flying cities though by modern times on Gai'talar these are considered either legend or belonging to the THethen. Some of their artifacts still exist but are considered of unknown origin or thought to be Thethen. A statute of one of the species has been obtained and taken to the Mages guild but no one knows what it is supposed to be ( Featured in story Old Memories New Chances).  Rapa-Putamlians look like red Pandas to humans who remember the animals of earth.

    Skitrtich: Rat like species that stand approximately 4.5-5 feet tall. They are agile, fast and suited to climbing. Have taken well to sea trade so they are most common in maritime settings. This name is what they call themselves in their own language. Other Races have different names for them and range in tone, from the Hesken calling them " Sketlans" an affectionate term meaning " little ones"  to the Valparet calling them " Vermampt" or " Vermin ." Unlike other races they don't have a designated homeland but did at one time. Lifespan: 110 years

    Human: Extra dimensional species that arrived mysteriously on Gai'talar. In most societies they are seen as outsiders and distrusted. A human language has become the trade language since human appeared all over the world suddenly so many populations learned this language and it became a useful way to communicate between the species, lacking sounds that were particular to a species or unpronounceable by any Race.  ( You know what humans are like ) Life span: 100 years.

    ( Place holder ) Varulv /werewolves : Appear to be human but can transform into wolflike creatures. Manifested 1 generation after humans arrived on gai'talar. Origins are unknown but there are many theories concerning them. Each culture has a different name for them but the English or Swedish words is universally understood.

    Ulvalter: Wolf like species related to the Hesken. Far more reclusive then the Hesken. They are also far more tempremental and aggressive but are slightly smaller and not as strong or have the same endurence as the Hesken. Lifespan: 250 years Ulvalter and Hesken are chemically inter-fertile so they can produce fertile offspring with eachother so they are technically one species but have enough physical and behavioral differences that they are considered distinct.   

    Hesken: The Common name  dog like people that thrive in cold climates. They tend toward being large and stocky of build though all body shapes are present i the population. They are larger than many other of the races standing 6 to 6.5 feet tall. They are known for their friendliness and endurance. Their Friendliness has made them seem like pushovers in the past but they are considered the world's best fighters with a balance of speed, strength, cunning and their outstanding endurance has made them the strongest military force in the world but their disposition has been according to many the only thing that has stopped them from conquering the world. There were incidents in the past in which other races tried to take advantage of them through slavery and this ended very poorly for the slavers. Their skill at farming coupled with adaptation to cold climate means they tend to get fat but this is well accepted in their culture but this is sometimes viewed negatively by other societies. They make outstanding farmers and laborers but are also well represented in academic circles due to their dismissal of notions regarding class or species based caste stratification.  This has also made them one of the more accepting societies. They are closely related to the Ulvalter. Lifespan: 250 years

    Lutrondae: The name of them sea otter like race that are most at home in coastal waters and kelp beds. They are the race most home at sea. The sea trade has put them in competition with the Skitritch and has led to a general sense of hostility between the two races. This isn't totally universal as some populations of the two learned to coexist. Lifespan 190 years

    Lontracant: River otter like cousin species to the Lutrondae. They Don't have the same cultural disdain for Skitritch that their sea dwelling relatives have. This lack of hostility is reciprocated by the skitritch. The Lontracant often act as intermediaries when dealing with Skitritch. Lifespan 190 years

    Valperet/ sionact: Fox like species that is known for wit and cunning. They are often considered the intellectuals of the world. They are at home in the realms of politics and academics. The Hesken are also an academically minded society so this has bred a sense of civil competition between the races, though some individuals ignore this attitude and work together in the pursuit of knowledge. Species has 2 language groups and thus have 2 common names for their species lifespan 230-250 years. The 2 cultures 

    Alo: another foxlike species. This species is at home in the frozen polar regions and thus have had much contact with the Hesken. The societies are on friendly terms and often cooperate. Even though they maintain different languages the two cultures have considerable overlap in stories, legends and culture. Lifespan 230-250 years

    Drakkar: A legendary race. Their existence is unconfirmed and often contested. Life span unknown.

    Fanock: Large eared desert dwelling fox race. lifespan 200 years. Odd occurrence regarding their life spans is they will Die the moment they reach the age of 200.5 years regardless of how healthy they are. Why this occurs is unknown but it is general accepted. The day they reach 200 they start setting their affairs in order, paying off all debts and trying to make amends with anyone they have wronged even if the day before reconciliation seemed impossible. Their attitudes can change completely and they will try to rectify any wrongs they committed even if they did not think it was wrong up until then. This 6 month period is called " the Clarity "

    Baagh-raj: The tiger like people that live on the far side of the Fancok territories. Had less exposure to the rest of the world then the other races but that is not for a lack of curiosity. Until recently open hostilities between Baagh-raj and one of the 3 Fanock kingdoms kept them within their territory. Now that those hostilities have lessened the Baagh-raj want to start exploring the world and have the rest of the world visit them. They like other societies had an influx of humans 500 years ago but got comfortable with them much more quickly then the surrounding species. Strangely the language that those particular humans spoke normally wasn't much different then what the Baagh-raj spoke so they quickly reached mutual understanding. It also means the Baagh-raj never learned english as the trade language as other races had. Since the only other language they encountered was Fanock ( which Baagh-raj have trouble speaking ) they will have to learn other languages from visitors while visitors try to learn from them.

    LANGUAGES

    Human languages:

    Trade language/ English: the most common language brought to Gai'talar by humans. It appeared in some many places in the world when humans came that mulitiple disparate races of Gai'talar learned it to comunicate with the new comers that it became convenient to speak to other races. The trade language has the benefit of not having sound that any known Gai'talar race is incapable of producing.

    Arabic: Spoken in small pockets in Fanock territory

    Farsi: Spoken in small pockets in Fanock territory

    Hebrew: Spoken in small pockets in Fanock territory

    Hindi: Spoken in Baagh-raj territory and oddly seems to be the same language as what the Baagh-raj already speak. Minor differences in word meaning do occur but it seems to be the same language.

    Canid Languages:

    Djarlendt: Considered guttural and barky by many of the other Gai'talar species this Language is the main language used by the hesken. There are multiple dialect some harsher some more musical but all mutually intelligible. ( Closest human equivalent would be Germanic or Scandinavian languages ) Most confusing aspect for non Djarlendt speakers has to do with " Emotive Conjugation" Alteration of a word to add an emotional aspect to it. This can result in single words conveying complete sentences or thoughts. Ex: Just saying the word "song" Conjugated in present temporal tense and Positive emotive tense would mean " This song is Lovely" while conjugating it in past temporal tense and negative emotive conjugation would be "That song was terrible." There are about 5 emotive tenses: Positive, Negative, Ambivalent, Apathetic and UnConjugated also called neutral. Some Dialects of Djarlendt drop emotive conjugation and just use vocabulary to express the emotion of the speaker. Djarlendt also has a Negated tense that can be applied to any word but whether or not it makes sense. In written form it is a little stroke above or through the word. The method for saying somthing is not the case is to only negate the word or concept in question, not every word in the sentence. The Djarlendt and Ulval writing system has both phonetic symbols and pictographic symbols that convey an entire concept. Djarlendt has gender in the language but it is only applied to something that has a personality. Applying gender to an inanimate object would be funny to Hesken and Ulvaltar. They would either think you thought the object had a mind or that you were taught the language wrongly as a joke.

    Ulval: same language root as Djarlendt it shares the same sound palate and is still considered Mutually intelligible with Djarlendt though some words are different and speakers can not fully communicate. Also far less complex grammatically. A phonetiic shift in the past has led to distinct accents between the languages but it is never considered a big enough deal to for the speaker of either to try and change or correct it when learning the other.

    Urullul: The name for the form of howling communication that is instinctively used and understood by Hesken,Ulvalter, and werewolves, even untrained individuals of these races can comprehend it somewhat. It lacks some features of normal spoken languages and can be rather vague and unspecific in it's pure form so other languages are sometimes woven into it for specificity. One extra feature is built in distance counting and number of times it has been relayed. If a canid individual hears it they know instinctively how far away it is and if they relay it will add the distance and number of times relayed to the howl. Used to be used for pack hunting before civilization. The non canid races find this language creepy and some cities discourage it's use. ( Yes this is a Ban Awoo reference )

    Vulpine Race languages:

    Valperet: ( Pronounced Val-PE-ray ) is a language spoken by the Valperet culture. The Valperet and the Sionact are the same species but they are different cultural and ethnic groups so they have different languages. Nasal in pronunciation but is most suited to the size nasal cavity of the Valperet. it is considered unsual when other species try to speak it as they have different nasal cavities and thus sound different no matter how much practice they have in speaking it. 

    Ogharm: Pronounced ( Owarm ) is the language used by the Sionact Ethnic group. Is considered a lovely in not high class language.

    Lellia'al: The language spoken by the Alo. This language is considered musical and sweet sounding by most races of Gai'talar. When spoken harshly or aggressively that musicality remains but can  become disconcerting.

    Fanock: The Language of the large eared desert dwelling fox people. Oddly similar in sound to middle eastern languages from earth though no common roots exist. An English speaker may mistake it for an earth language of the middle east but a fanock speaker would not be able to understand any earth language of the middle east were they to hear them. This Does not preclude them Learning such languages. Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew as well as English came through with the Humans that appeared in Fanock territories. Fanock is written vertically.

    Other languages

    Chir'kikkimissi : A chittering and squeaky language used by the Skit'ritch. This language is often spoken very quickly and it tone sensitive. This language is notable for being difficult for other species to produce. For this reason all Skit'ritch also grow up with the trade language so they are able to communicate outside their species.

    Lontremic: This is the language used by the Lutrondae and Lontracant. also somewhat squeaky.  The two cultures have different idioms so sometimes idiomatic phrases are avoid when speaking between species. Both species use the trade language.

    Unknown origin languages:

    Viatorem: A language who's origins were lost to time but it is still spoken and taught in academic settings. Oddly enough some human words seem to be related to it even though it far predates humanity's arrival on Gai'talar

    Kzo'fck: An ancient language used primarily in ancient magical texts dealing with the outer realms of reality. Texts range from summoning outer realm creatures to banishing them and healing afflictions caused by them. Kzo'fck is not a widely used or studied language even in magical institutions. Many don't know it exists.

    CONCEPTS OF MAGIC

    Affinity ( Magic ) : A talent or predisposition toward  a specific type of magic. That type of magic will come more naturally to the caster.

    Bio-thaumaturgy: The type of magic that specializes in altering the physical body. Healing magic as well as magically inflicting maladies fall under this type. Like all others this type of magic is neither good or evil it depends on how it is used but is often seen as holy.

    Magitech: A blend of magic and technology or technology powered by magic. A Boiler the derives its heat from magic instead of coal is still considered magitech by most people.

    Ritual magic: Magic that is performed by a ritual such recitation of words, writing of runes or hand gestures. This is akin to a magical computer program that is activated to make a certain effect. They take less mental manipulation of magical energy and are used for to cast things more difficult than the cast is usually able to do. These were made by many ancient cultures and so one language or writing system is employed to use them but they can only be performed in the language they are set in. Ex: A Lontracant ritual can not be performed in any other language than Lontracant. The Art of creating and crafting Rituals is closely guarded and is not an easy feat. Sometime Invokes outer beings for a purpose.

    Outer Beings: Creatures from extra or outer planes of reality. Range from the utterly vicious to the slightly quirky. Are recognized as a source of power by many cults.

    Realms: The catch all term for the different but connected worlds or planes that are accessible  through magic.

    Shadow Realm/ the place echoes: This is a mirror of what happens in the physical world, a shadow of it, this is where most but not all ghost would reside. Is neither good nor evil in nature though many vile things reside there. Also considered the dream world but this is contested.

    Astral realm/ ethereaum: The realm that houses a vast array  of places manifest. Can also be mirrors of the physical realm but are connected to greater vastness of things. It is theorized that this is where souls go after death unless something causes them to go elsewhere. 

    Le Verld/ physical world/ Mundus, Miorgar : The physical world were laws of physics are consistent and life arises. Also just called Gai'talar

    Intent magic: This is a type of magic performed entirely through thought and will power and the manipulation of energies through thought and focus. Someone with an affinity will perform that magic type easily through intent even if they have difficulty with other types of magic. This requires no speaking or movements though many casters will move as it help focus their intent. The moments are simple gestures and not complicated affairs such as ritual magic calls for.

    Heritage memory: A rare magical manifestation of remembering all the history, stories  or language of a culture. This culture is usually but not always that of the person who it manifests in. These are memories of how events actually occurred  and not always how history records them so sometimes these individuals are seen as being very inconvenient.

    Artificer: Someone who specializes in imbuing magic into devices and technology. Also talented in crafting.

    Holy magic/ Sacred flame: Magic sourced from the creator of the universe and Deity of all Gai'talar's religions. Has grown more an more rare.

    Speaker Of the Sacred Flame: Sense 1: This is an extremely rare manifestation in which the creator of the universe can speak directly through someone or tell them to do things. The Speaker can even be completely taken over to perform a task. They usually don't remember this task and awaken after feeling no ill effects from whatever they were doing even if they were up all night doing intense physical labor they do not feel tired or sore the next day and think they just fell asleep. This state can last a long time. One of the most well known Speakers of the flame created an orphanage and ran it for 4 years before waking up in an unfamiliar city in a strange country and not remembering what had happened.  Skills he picked up such as cooking and medicine mysteriously remained. Often called True speakers to differentiate from the title. 

     Speaker of the Sacred flame Sense 2: A title give to priests who show holy affinity or have attained very high rank. Some churches such as the Alo and the Hesken will never bestow this as a title. Other titles are used in its stead and the term is reserved for sense 1 individuals.

    Totem animal: An ik'sophant species that is held sacred to an individual. It is not required that the totem animal be the progenitor species of the individual. A Skit'ritch may have a wolf as a totem animal. Totem animals act as magical scouts or guides for Spirit magic practitioners.

    Spirit singers/ Soul song: A mysterious type of magic that is not as well understood as other practices. Sometimes the song doesn't come from a person, it can come from a place or object. Can manifest in actual sound ( Vibration of air molecules ) and sometimes it manifests purely inside someone's head and can not be reordered or perceived through methods of sound recording. ( Gai'talar has simple sound recording and playback technology like Phonographs ) A milder manifestation of the later form can come in vague feelings. The are Called "memories of the Melody" and it  has become a common turn of phrase to express a vague emotion that is not explainable. These can be positive and negative.

    Focus: See Focus in significant objects section.

    concepts of culture:

    Church of the Sacred Flame: The main religion of Gai'talar. Every disparate culture recognizes The Sacred Flame somewhere in their past and so it is condiered the universal constant factor in Religion. The exact Nature of the Sacred flame is sometimes up to debate but most recognize it has an intention and is beneficent. Sometimes the Sarcred flame picks agents to perform specific tasks in the world. ( See: speaker of the Sacred flame in magic concepts section. )

    Saint: Saints are People known for their devotion to their religion On Gai'talar this term is preserved for people who do great things in the name of The Sacred Flame/ The light. Each species has a Cannon or set of Saints who did great things in their region usually before the cultures started mixing. Each Species Mostly learns about their own saints or the saints revered in the area they live. Not All people recognized as saints are loved by the Establishment of the Church.

    EX: Some Saints like Saint Gerund Advocated the celebration of love in all forms even between other thinking species, which at the time was considered extremely controversial. Gerund Stated that Friendship, comradery and even love should not be restricted by species only by Consent. At the time of this writing friendships between species were considered as outlandish as Romances Between them. Saint Gerund was also know for his extreme brutality on the field of battle  that contrasted with his preaching of kindness and caring in society. The Hesken However understand his Credo to mean " Be gentle with all during peacetime, but if someone declares you an enemy destroy them." Saint Gerund's species is in debate as He is revered by Hesken but all the writings on history stated he was Not a Hesken but never say what he was. No descriptions exist of Saint Gerund and when questioned firmly there is no proof that Gerund was male as is presumed. While Gerund's status as a saint is not in question very few churches mention him in sermons.  While the Recent, Saint Vaarouge the fearless is Widely Lauded despite having fewer holy deeds and no writing at all to his name in comparison to Gerund.

    Ik'sophant / NullSapiens: The term for any non saipeint animal. These animals are the non thinking base type and often considered the forerunners of the intelligent races. Each race has a corresponding Ik'sophant species that they hold dear such as Lutrondae being fond of normal sea-otters or the Alo holding Arctic foxes in high esteem in their culture.  Ulvalter sometimes run with packs of wild wolves. Each culture has different relation to their Ik'sophant species: Lutrondae would be gravely insulted if you try to sell them otter pelts: Ulvalter will defend wolves as their own kin, Valperet don't think much about redfoxes at all and the Skit'ritch find rats to be little more than a nuisance.  The terms are derived from the Viatorem language Nullsapiens meaning zero thought and ik'sophant from Sophant meaning thinking or wise being but negated by ik' which means not in the most widely used hesken language.

    Ranihm/ ne'mode/ Race caste : The Race based caste system which some societies adhere to. This dictates that certain races are destined to fulfill certain rolls. Ex: Because of quick wit and nimble tongue Valperet are considered perfect for intellectual, administrative and mercantile rolls and are dissuaded from labour intensive jobs. Hesken with their amazing endurance and strength are considered good farmers, labourers and soldiers. Lutrondae and Skit'rtich are considered good sailors and fisherman, the downside to this system is that negative stereotypes occur such as Skit'ritch being considered sneaky and theiving since they are small and quiet, Valperet being greedy cheats who trick people into bad deals, or that Hesken are only good for dumb labour and combat. These stereotypes are often racially motivated and not necessarily accurate. The Skit'ritch don't steal at any higher rates then other species, but be better at it and Hesken of all class brackets are far more likely to be literate than other races. Valperet are no more likely to cheat than any other race but their salesmanship skills make them an easy target for accusations. Humans fall outside this hierarchy and this is another for of prejudice that they face.  

    Fra Velk: Anyone who actively rejects the Race Caste. This is consider a political label in most countries.   It means Free person in Djarlendt. The term used to be used when slaves were set free by hesken warriors. Hesken culture has a deep abhorrence of slavery as Hesken were considered the best slaves if they could be controlled. This term is loaded with historical baggage in some countries and is well loved in others.

    UlvalRasa: English equivalent of Ulvalrasa is " Going Berserk " This is the violent rage state that Ulvalter and hesken can enter when in combat or cornered. It is considered extremely Distressing to witness a hesken enter it as it is so unlike their usual gentle and friendly behavior. Also since hesken are stronger then Ulvalter, Hesken can do far more damage. This state can be triggered at will and controlled if the individual is trained properly. In rare cases other species can enter this state through training or magic.

    VelkSjel ( Velk Syel )/ populame: Literally people soul. This concept is that of your cultural identity but is the term is meant as holding pride in your culture without denigrating the culture of another. It is a personal expression of your culture that you do not impose on others or allow others to impose upon you. Since the concept is so heavily centered on personal expression any harm you do to another person even if it is an expression of your culture is not considered VelkSjel. This concept was thought up by many species but the Valperet and Hesken words are the most popular. Not every society holds this ideal.

    Joik/yoik, Evocation with the voice, shishral, Gra'jul: A type of singing that is the direct equivalent to Joiking as Practiced by the Sami people from earth. " As an art form, each joik is meant to reflect or evoke a person, animal, or place. " Wikipedia. Several Gai'talar cultures have this type of singing. Is often thought to be the origin of the magical practice of spirit singing or Vice versa. Among the Alo and the Fannock it is called: Shishral but no one knows why they use the same word as both languages had the term long before they had cultural contact. Hesken and Ulvaltar call it Gra'jul. Humans or other english speakers use the Sami term joik/yoik or call it "Evocation with the voice" The Lontracant species has this style of singing but has no special word for it. Sometimes people are unable to tell if someone is trying to spirit sing or are just Yoiking. Sometimes the Urullul is lumped into this type of singing but Hesken and Ulvaltar consider them to be completely different things. This has led to some places outlawing this type of singing because they mistakenly associate it with the Urullul which most species find disturbing.

    ,Significant Objects:

    Gates: Magical gateways constucted by a long gone race. These are of various types and sizes and levels of complexity. These are usually found in Thethen ruins and are thought to have been constructed by the Thethen. No one living on gai'talar know how to work them, some organizations try to activate them while others figure out how to break or deactivate them.

    Belt knife: Many Gai'talar cultures have a tradition of carrying belt knives. The knives can differ greatly due to culture and function. These knife types have many earth equivalents. In some town and cities Belt knives and Fire arms are restricted.

    The Hesken prefer heavy bladed work knives similar to a Seax or Bowie knife. Men and women carry the same types a male and female owned knife have little to no distinction. These knives are meant to serve both as tool and as weapon in emergencies. These can be passed down in families but are usually made by the owner in late childhood. Both boys and girls make their own blades as Hesken have a pretty egalitarian attitude. Non Hesken living in Hesken controlled areas are also allowed to make them as a right of passage.

    The Alo carry smaller work knives similar to a Finnish Puuko men and women carry slightly different types differing mainly in decoration.

    Fanock don't carry a standard type but most if not all carry some type of knife. Usually suited to whatever they wish to use it for.

    Skit'ritch sailors all carry short bladed knives suited to maritime work. Families of Sailors will also carry them as a reminder of their family members at sea. A widow or widower will carry their own knife and that of their spouse  should the knife be recovered. If both parents are lost at sea then the remaining children will inherit them if they are old enough to have knives.

    Guns: Firearms have become more developed and wide spread. Often augmented with magic.

    Stunners:Usually An electron thrower that can stun or numb the muscles of a target. though other methods of non lethal firearms are also called stunners.

    Thermal ( weapon ) : A weapon that uses concentrated beams of heat. Comes in many sizes from hand held pistols to ship mounted cannons. Do no damage other than heat, if the target is insulated from extreme heat then the weapon has no effect.

    Magical Focus: There are many tools used to focus and amplify magical energies. Allows for more efficient use of energy but not all magic users need them. Almost any object can becoeme one if properly modified. Here are a few.

    Rod: A wood or metal rod that has been augmented to serve as a magical focus. Is favored by people who expect to have to fight using magic. It is Sturdy enough to be used as a striking or blocking implement.

    Orb: A magical ball or Orb ( though it can be other shapes like a pyramid ) that levitates and moves with the users will. It can emit magical attacks and effects from it leaving the user to do something else with their hands. These are not as popular because of the mental effort and constant focus needed to control it. The benefits of it are the user can see through it and distance is pretty meaningless to orbs. They are usually strong enough that they are are near impossible to break. A full martial art focused around using an orb as a offensive and defensive tool in place of fists. The draw back is that some mages can send haptic feed back through the link connecting the user.

    Wand: The classical magic wand. Is light and maneuverable but is the most fragile option so it is not as popular outside strictly academic institutions.

    Imbued Knife: A knife that has been modified to channel and amplify magic. Is useful because it is both a tool for physical work and magical work.

    Sword: Some mage knights imbue their swords to act as focuses so they can switch seamlessly between casting and swordplay. They are falling in popularity but are still around.

    Staff: The traditional and oldest form of magical focus. Is versatile in that it can be used as a weapon, a tool and as a magic focus.

    Cane: similar to a rod but made to act as a walking implement when not used in magic. Can and rod fighting techniques are a little different.

    Ring: A ring used as a magical focus. Is not usual particularly powerful but is portable and concealable.

    Knuckles: Bras knuckles modified to be magical focus. these are favored for fighters who mix magic into fist based martial arts.

    Gauntlet/glove : A glove or armored gauntlet modified to be a magical focus. These are not as popular as they are harder to make them light. It take an expert artificer to make a simple pair of leather gloves act as a focus.

  5. Demons

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    Kindar
    Latest Entry

    Chapter 18

          She's standing in the doorway, on the other side of the room, looking around at her defeated people on the floor. The disappointment is clear on her face as she steps into the room. Six women in heavy armor follow her in and place themselves three on each side. They're holding high caliber rifles.

          My stomach cramps and I lean against the wall. "What have you done to me?"

          "I've poisoned you. All the weapons were coated with a cyanide derivative. It's worthless against demons, but quite effective against you. I expect you'll be dead rather soon."

          I have no trouble believing her. My insides feel like they are on fire and my stomach keeps churning painfully.

          "I'm surprised he hasn't killed you, let along that he accompanied you all the way down here. What exactly are you going to do with our soul stones?"

          "They are not yours," Claws growls.

          Amanda gasps and I look up.

          "You can talk? There were two...?" She glares at me. "You told me you killed him."

          I smile. "I lied." the look of disbelief on her face makes me laugh, then I double over in pain. It takes a moment to regain my breath. "You should be pleased," I gasp. "I followed your example." My stomach contorts itself, and I throw up.

          for a moment I can't move, so I have no choice to look at the sickly green goo streaked with black stuff spreading on the floor. I wipe my mouth on the sleeve of my trench coat and use the wall to help me stand. My limbs are shaking, I feel weak, but somehow, I also feel better.

          "That's disgusting." Amanda looks up at me, and I smile again. "Now. You're going to give me my stones back and we're going to end the both of you quick and painlessly."

          Claws growls and his fingers extend into long claws.

          "I don't think so," I reply, my voice steady. "We're leaving, and anyone who stands in our way ends up like them." I indicate the bodies on the floor.

          She frowns. "How come you're looking better?"

          I shrug and lifts my hand up, extending the darkness to make it more visible. "It might have something to do with this."

          "Kill..."

          But Claws' already next to them, and three of the women go flying through the broken wall. one of the other aims at me and I put my hand over my face, extending the darkness to cover my upper chest and hardening it as much as I can.

          The bullet impact send me back against the wall, and my hand hurts, but it stopped. I peek over my shield. Claws as punched the other three to the ground and he's stalking Amanda, who is backing toward me.

          I shake my hand, and the darkness melts back in. I push myself off the wall and walk to her. Before she realizes I'm there I punch her across the jaw. She crumples to the floor and I walk over her.

          "You are leaving her like this?"

          I look over my shoulder and shrug. "I'm not killing her." then I add. "Neither are you."

          "She has hurt you, she should pay."

          "Without the stones, she can't do anything. That's going to hurt her enough." I leave the room and Claws follows me.

          "She should hurt more, for what she did."

          "I don't care. She isn't going to do anything to me anymore, that's all I care about." I make my way to the stairs, go up to floors and exit.

          "Is there a way outside here?" Claws asks.

          "No. There's a cafeteria. I'm famished. However I managed not to die from that poison, it's taken it out of me."

          I follow my nose to it. There's always someone there to cook, since people work her around the clock. I go in and the half dozen people eating look up at me, then gasp as Claws follows me in. I head to the counter and I hear the others scramble out of their chairs and out of the room.

          "Do you want something to eat?" I ask Claws.

          The demon watches the cook run out the opposing end of the counter and then out of the room. He shakes his head. "I am not hungry."

          I go around the counter and rummage through the fridge and throw four steaks on the cook top and they sizzle. I add a few herbs to them and eat them as soon as they are done, accompanying them with two cokes and various vegetables.

          Once I'm done I sigh in satisfaction and I clean my plate and bowl. Claws looks at me with a puzzled expression.

          "You eat like a human."

          "It's the only way I know how to eat. I've never felt the urge to chase humans and eat them."

          He nods, then looks at the door. I hear them too.

          I smile. "I guess it's time we left."

          * * * * *

          We're walking down the road. Claws says that following it will take us out of the city. We left broken bodies after broken bodies in our wake as we left headquarter. We didn't encounter Jason, and I'm disappointed. I would have liked to give him a piece of my mind about what he put me through.

          The night is cool, and dark. Clouds hide the moon. Claws again looks like a human with a hood covering his head so the few people we walk by don't pay us any attention.

          When the sky begins to lighten so does the density of the houses. Once the sun is above the horizon, there are only a few houses in the distance around us.

          Claws stops. "My people are in that direction." He points in perpendicular to the road.

          "How far?"

          "If I run, I will reach them by the time the sun sets."

          I nod.

          He looks at me. "You should come with me."

          I chuckle. "And do what? I'm not like you."

          "Part of you is."

          "And the other part is human."

          "If you don't come with me, what will you do?"

          I look down the road. "I'll follow the road. See where it leads."

          "It leads to another city."

          "Then that's where I'll go. Maybe I can see if I can be human."

          "You aren't human."

          I shrug. "If I can pass as human then."

          "Will you continue hunting my kind?"

          I think it over then sigh. "I can't let them kill humans, so I may have to."

          "You don't owe humans anything. You don't need to protect them."

          "It's all I know."

          "Come with me Derick. We can show you another way."

          The use of my name surprises me and his red eyes are pleading. I shake my head and start walking. "I hope you have a good trip home Claws in the Darkness."

          I can feel his eyes on me for a long time. When I don't anymore I look over my shoulder and I can't see him. I set my gaze ahead and wonder what that new city will be like.

  6. Kindar
    Latest Entry

          Marlot straightened up with a start and looked around momentarily confused. He'd been sitting next to Trembor's bed for hours, nodding off every so often. He looked at the lion lying there peacefully with a tube running out of his good arm.

          He'd followed the ambulance to the hospital. When they tried to prevent him from accompanying him in the evaluation room because he wasn't family he told them. He didn't care about the consequences; he wasn't going to be separated from him. He told them they were mates. The supervising medic, a gorilla, gave him a long look before telling him to go wash up before joining them.

          Trembor broke a leg in the fall so they put it in a cast. His shoulder injury wasn't severe, but the bullet was still in so they had called a surgeon. Every time the Medic touched the lion during the examination Marlot had to fight off the urge to shove him away. He knew that all he could do was watch, but he couldn't stop the need to protect Trembor, to be the one who made him better.

          They moved the lion to a room and gave him a mild pain killer so he could rest. All Marlot could do was wait. They'd promised him the surgeon would be over as soon as he was done with his current operation. He kept wishing it was now, so he could take his love home. To avoid falling asleep again he took out his pad and started up his report.

          Marlot looked up when the door open, expecting to see Bahamel's head poke through. Instead a mature lioness walked in, followed by a younger version of her and then two cubs, around six. They smiled at him and then went to stand on the other side of the bed. A moment later a lion entered the room.

          Marlot put his pad down and stood. There was no mistaking the family resemblance between him and Trembor, but that wasn't why he stood. The male was obviously the Patriarch, and the sense of power he read in his body language made him feel like he was back in front of the town councilors again.

          The lion studied him with piercing eyes for a moment and Marlot couldn't help swallowing. When he spoke with was with a deep voice he kept low for the benefit of his sleeping son. "The officer said you were the one who killed the male who did this to my son."

          "Yes, sir," Marlot tentatively took the hand the lion offered.

          "Thank you," the lion said, shaking it, "if there ever anything I can do for you don't hesitate to ask. You avenged my son; that almost makes you family."

          There was a chuckle from the bed, "a little more than 'almost' dad."

          "You're awake," exclaimed the younger lioness before draping herself over Trembor and hugging him.

          The lion took a sharp breath, "watch the shoulder sis."

          She let go of him as if he'd burnt her, "oh! I'm so sorry."

          The two cubs took that as a signal it was now ok to climb the bed and sit at the end of it. The older lioness placed a hand on his, "how are you doing?"

          "I'm ok mom, I can barely feel the bullet."

          His sister's ears folded against her skull, "sorry," she said again in a soft voice.

          "What did you mean by that?" his father asked.

          "He's the one," was Trembor's reply.

          His mother and sister's face lit up in delight while the cubs frowned, "but he's not a lion," said one.

          Marlot didn't have time to react to that, or even worry about their reaction. Trembor's father pulled him in a hug. "Welcome to the family. My name's Torim, but you better get used to calling me 'dad'."

          "Yes sir," was all Marlot was able to say.

          "Why don't you two go hug your new uncle," Trembor told the cubs.

          "Can we get his pad number?" ask the one who had been silent until now as she stood and extended her arms to the wolf.

          "No," Trembor said, "I'll explain later," he added to Marlot when the wolf looked at him, hugging one cub and then the other.

          After that he had to give a hug to his mother, Arina and sister Elin. When that was done he excused himself and left them alone. He leaned against the wall opposite the door and tried to get his hands to stop shaking. He'd been ready to defend himself when Trembor announced their relationship to his family, not to be so easily accepted.

          "I thought they might chase you out of there." Bahamel said, "How'd it go?"

          Marlot looked at the bear sitting a few feet away. "It went ok," he said, composing himself.

          She watched him for a moment before asking, "do they know?"

          "About what?"

          "You and Trembor."

          Marlot stared at her and then instinctively looked for an escape. He stopped himself from running. "How did you know?" he asked instead.

          She smiled sweetly at him, "I'm not blind, you two all but screamed 'I love you' when you got him to focus on your case. Then there's Cristan, you killed him for hurting your partner; you're normally more professional than that."

          Marlot nodded and sat next to her. "Have you figured out where he got the gun?"

          "It's too early, Ballistic's going to look it over, run the serial number against those we are missing. If nothing comes up we're going to have to send it to the military for them to check it against their inventory. By the way, I'm pretty sure he was the rapist. We found a box of souvenirs near where you killed him. I wouldn't be surprised if has something from every one of his victims." She handed him Cristan's PRT card. "Do you want us to keep the body for you?"

          He took the card and looked at it for a moment before reaching for his pad. "Eat it, or burn it, I don't care," he said, remembering it was still in Trembor's room.

          She nodded and hugged him. "I'll donate it to the shelter. Don't wait till you need to see me on a case to drop by next time wolf." She stood and walked away.

          Marlot looked at his hands, they weren't shaking anymore, but he wasn't comforted. Bahamel had noticed. Who else knew? He'd been so careful about how he acted around Trembor; or at least he had thought he had been.

          He leaned back in the chair and chuckled. Did it matter anymore? There had been three medics present when he'd told Trembor he loved him. He had no idea how many people had been there when he told the medic in the emergency room he was his mate, and now Trembor's family had accepted him, just like that. No one had struck him down for loving another male.

          He smiled and allowed himself to believe that Trembor had been right; there really was nothing wrong with being who they were.

          * * * * *

          Marlot parked the car in its spot in front of their office and quickly got out of it to open the other door. Trembor gave him a slightly exasperated look before letting the wolf help him out of the car.

          With Trembor leaning against it Marlot took the crutch out of the trunk. As he placed the lion's arms over his shoulders he noticed a daschund in her thirties getting up from the steps leading to the office door.

          "Are you Investigator Blackclaw?" she asked timidly as she walked to them. Her petite size and behavior made her seem younger than her scent indicated.

          "Yes, I am." Marlot answered.

          Trembor noticed the worried glances she gave him as she looked at Marlot. She opened her mouth to say something, but stopped herself, looking down to the ground. Marlot was confused at her behavior, but the lion had seen it multiple times in his sister when she had to admit something she'd rather not be witnessed.

          He took the crutch out of the wolf's hand. "I'll see you in the office when you're done here," he told him as he placed it under his good arm.

          "What do you think you're doing?" Marlot asked, grabbing the lion's good arm.

          "I'm giving the two of you some privacy," he smiled at Marlot's worried look and placed his hand on his cheek, "I'll be fine. It's not even twenty feet to the door; no one's going to attack me between here and there."

          Reluctantly Marlot let him go and watched him hobble up the steps.

          "I'm sorry," the daschund said, "I didn't mean to get in the way."

          Marlot sighed in relief when the door closed behind the lion. "It's alright," he said looking at her again, "he's right I've been getting over protective since his hospital stay." She wore a conservative gray business suit, "what can I do for you?"

          She dug through her purse and pulled out a cash card, which she presented to him. "I wanted to give you this."

          He looked at it without taking it, "why?"

          "I found out that you killed the man who rrr . . .," she tried to get the word out, but couldn't, even after multiple time.

          Marlot didn't need to hear it to know what this was about. He closed her hand on the cash card and held it in both of his. "How long ago?" he asked.

          "Th, three years," she answered, "this is part of my savings, I want to help you pay for his PRT."

          "He wasn't worth that much," Marlot told her. He'd actually been surprise at how low the male's PRT had been considering he had owned a successful business. He had known his crime would reduce it, but not so much. He had had to check with the PRT Administrative office to confirm the amount was correct.

          "I don't care," she said firmly, her eyes wet, "You've made it that I can sleep again. I want you to have it."

          Marlot could hear the misery in her voice, and got the feeling that he was the first person she had told what had been done to her. "Alright, I'll take it, but only on the condition that you go see a councilor about what happened to you."

          "I can't," she said weakly.

          "You have to, if you don't he's always going to haunt you." She looked at him with fear. "I know one, her name is Dauro, promise me you'll talk with her."

          She hesitated a moment and then nodded.

          He let he hand go and took out his pad. He brought up the councilor's information while he waited for her to take out hers. When she nodded he sent it to her, and took down her pad number in return, making a note to contact Dauro to arrange to pay part of the sessions.

          He took the card, and then he hugged her, before watching her walk away.

          He smiled at Hela'han as he entered, but didn't pay attention to what she said; Trembor was standing, leaning against their desks.

          "Shouldn't you be sitting?" Marlot asked as he hurried to the lion.

          Trembor rolled his eyes, "I'm fine. Who was she?"

          "One of his victims, she gave me a reward for killing him, but I going to use it to pay for the councilor I got her to go see."

          Trembor smiled, "you're a sneaky wolf." He grabbed his hand and pulled him close. "I love you," he said before wrapping his arms around Marlot and kissing him.

          Marlot froze for a moment remembering the door was open and Hela'han was on the other side, and then forced his worries away so he could enjoy it. He heard her give an amused chuckle and then the door was closed quietly.

  7. Tristan

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          Epilogue

          
          Alex stepped off the cargo ship and it took off as soon as he was at a safe distance. He put down the case he'd been holding and looked around, the place wasn't exactly what he'd expected as a port, three boarded up building and a beacon.

          A man walked up the path toward him. His gait was relaxed, but the way he moved showed he was comfortable with the weight of the large gun at his hip, and his hand stayed near it.

          Alex could understand the hidden caution, he didn't look like he had when he embarked on this expedition to find Tristan. He wasn't the teary eyed youth who had still been crying for Jack to come back when the security men showed up. He'd lost that layer of fat most desk jockey had and gained some well defined muscles. The scar on the left side of his face gave him a slightly menacing look.well defined muscles. The scar on the left side of his face gave him a slightly menacing look.

           "Seems like they were in a hurry to dump you off and get going," the man said in a gruff voice.

          Alex shrugged, "they were just dropping me off as a favor; they're on a tight schedule."

          "I'm Jacoby," the man said offering his hand, "what passed for a port master around these parts. What brings you to our little corner of the universe?"

          Alex looked at the hand but didn't take it. "I'm looking for someone," he replied, "but this might be the wrong place." This didn't look like the kind of place Tristan would come to, it was too peaceful.

          "You never know, who're you looking for?"

          "Just a Samalian I used to know."

          "Are you looking to stir up trouble?" The man eyed him critically.

          Alex wasn't visibly armed, he preferred keeping them in his shoulder pack unless he was expecting trouble, but there was no denying he was a merc. He shook his head, "no, I'm just looking to catch up."

          "Well, must be some catching up you're looking to do to come this far. The only Samalian we have is the tech.

           "Tech?"

          "Yeah, he lives in a cabin some ways out of the town, when ever someone has trouble with something they go see him and he fixes it."when ever someone has trouble with something they go see him and he fixes it."

          "That could be him," except for the part about helping others it sounded like something Tristan would be able to do.

          "In that case you want to take the path till you reach the town, and look for Eli's saloon."

          "He's there?"

          "Not now, but by the time you get there he will be."

          Alex thanked the man and picked up the case. As he walked along the path he thought back on how he'd ended up here.

          Like the alien had said the company's security had come looking for him. Once they made sure he wasn't contagious they brought him back to the company and put him in a small room, where they would come question him.

          At first the questions revolved around who Tristan was, how he knew him, how he'd gotten hold of his ID. After telling them multiple time he didn't know anyone named Tristan they showed him Jack's picture and told him that was him. His heart skipped a beat, but he wouldn't believe them. he accused them of lying to him just to justify kidnapping him. He told them over and over that Jack would never do the things they claimed he had.

          So they asked him about Jack. He was reluctant at first, but they convinced him that if he was right and that Jack wasn't the man they were looking for knowing more about him would help them find the right culprit.

          He started by describing him only as a friend he was helping out, but he wasn't able to keep how he felt from showing in his voice. So they questioned him about how they met, and then the questions became more and more personal, making him stammer and blush and he tried to not answer them.

          When they asked how he had enjoyed being fucked by an animal Alex just lost it. He told them to go to hell; that he wasn't going to be subject to their insinuation and insults. They tried to force him to reveal more about his relation with the alien, but he finally had had enough and remained silent no matter with they threatened him with. Or what they did to him.

          After a few weeks they didn't bother questioning him anymore. He'd get meals and be let out twice a day, and that was it. He didn't have any illusions that someone would come save him. Luminex was a wholly independent entity, as long as it didn't interfere with the government it could do what ever it wanted. Maybe if one of Alex's family member, or just a friend, were to come requesting his release something might happen, but the only friends he had weren't humans and they wouldn't want to risk angering such a large company. He didn't have any family, at least none that would miss him.

          After close to two month he'd come to believe that they had just forgotten about him; and then out of the blue and without being told why, he was released. He was even allowed to go back to his old position. He found out that while he was locked up the company had gotten a new president. No one talked about what had happened to the previous one.

          The new president came to see him after his release. He apologize for the way he had been treated and inquired if he'd need anything to help him get over what had been done to him. Alex told him he needed time and the man told him to take as long as he needed. He assured him that when ever he was ready his old job would be waiting for him.

          Alex took that time to try to find information on Tristan. He searched on every public database, but other than a few notes here and there about how he was a criminal who had been incarcerated in some of the worst prisons he couldn't find anything. He realized he needed to get to some of the databases not accessible to the public. He needed to go through someone with more clout.

          So he went back to work and when ever he had a moment he used the company's system to try to unearth whatever he could, but even after a few months he had nothing substantial. His lack of success was getting him down. All he wanted to know was exactly who it was he had shared his bed with.

          The call to present himself at the President's office made him apprehensive. Maybe the research he'd been doing had been noticed and couldn't be allowed. He didn't expect the company approved of an employee looking for a criminal using their resources.

          Instead he was welcomed with a smile by the President. They he asked them how he was settling back into his job and talk about work for a few minutes. The President then told him he was aware of the searches he'd been running, and that he wasn't in trouble because of them. He then handed him a file and told him that all the information he wanted was in it. He also warned him to be absolutely certain he wanted to know what was in it before opening it.

          Alex had asked him why he was doing this, and the president replied that Tristan had affected both their lives in some fashion so he felt he should help him in his quest to understand who Tristan was.

          It took Alex three days to work up the nerves to open the file. Before he finished reading the first page he had thrown up. There had been a detailed description of one of Tristan's first recorded crime, which left six bodies horrible cut up. It was a week later that he forced himself to read the rest of it.

          He wasn't able to sleep properly for days after that.

          How could he have fallen for someone that horrible, how could he still want him in his life even after reading about all these crimes. He tried to ignore how he felt, but he couldn't, Jack leaving had left a hole in his heart and even learning what kind of being he really was hadn't closed it.

          Since the only link he had to him was the Defender he started looking into it; wondering if it was even really what Jack had claimed. He contacted a variety of experts on alien species until he found one specializing on Samalians. He arranged a meeting and brought the Defender. He learned that not only was the object what Jack had claimed, but it was authentic, not a reproduction. He also learned stories about the Defenders, and the place they had in Samalian society. It was during one of those stories that he decided he was going to go looking for Tristan.

          He left the company and sold everything he owned. He then started looking for someone who'd be willing to take him to Samalia. It was so far that none of the regular transports were willing to do it. He eventually found a seedy looking man with a ship that was heading in that general area. He paid him almost half the money he had to convince him to drop him off there.

          The trip wasn't pleasant. It wasn't a cruise ship, so he was expected to work. He didn't mind it, but the crew was even seedier then the captain had been. Most of them kept looking at him like he was a piece of meat, and he kept hearing whispers about what the new guy was expected to do to earn his place on a ship. About halfway one of the crewman decided to carry through with one of those and tried to rape him, in front of everyone.

          He defended himself and at some point during the fight he found himself holding a gun and shot him. He was as stunned as the others when it happened, lying there on the ground, his shirt and pants ripped off. He had a look of horror as he watched the other man fall, a hole in the middle of his chest.

          Once he realized what had he had done he expected the others to kill him. Instead, after a moment of surprised silence they cheered and money was exchanged. He was shocked when they pulled him to his feet and congratulated him. Then the captain assigned Alex the man's duty.

          It was a year before he made it to Samalia.

          During that time he was taught how to fight hand to hand properly, how to fire a gun and how to out drink most grounders. He made some friendship during that time, but when he stopped to think about them they felt odd. He would trust these men with his life in a fight, but he never opened up to them, and they never asked him about his past; they life entirely in the present.

          The planet wasn't what he expected, Jack's descriptions had been exaggerated, it was much more technological then he had said. Most Samalians he met were nice, but they couldn't help, finding one specific Samalian, who hadn't been on planet for years proved to be impossible. He did end up with a few leads, the spaceport tended to accumulate gossip, and some had heard stories of Samalians on the wrong side of the laws roaming the stars.

          With those stories Alex hired himself on the next ship that left, and traveled from plane to planet, taking what ever jobs he could find when he was running low on money. When he realized he'd turned into a merc he had been on the move for two years, had gotten the scar on his face and had accumulated a small criminal record. He was surprised to find that he didn't care.

          The first Samalian he found turned out to be an enforcer for a criminal organization. He had heard of Tristan, but didn't know where he was, the last he'd heard a job had gone bad and he'd been caught, but that was almost ten years old. He gave him the name of a few people who might know more, and a warning to watch himself if he ever found him.

          The next three years were spent tracking anyone who might know something about Tristan and then following those leads. This planet had been the last one on his list, the one he thought was the least likely to be the right one. But he had gone to all the others and hadn't found anything, either they had been completely false leads, or he'd gotten there too late.

          The town was, unimpressive; maybe thirty buildings loosely spaced without any noticeable order, none of them more than two floors in height. The saloon was easy to find, in what could be considered the center of town. When he entered it there were only five people there, including the man behind the bar.

          He was the only one to look in his direction. "Hi, been a while since I've seen a new face in here. What can I get you?"

          "Do you know how to make a Madorian Tea?" Alex asked he barman while looking at he Samalian. He did have the speckle of light colour in his fur, but entire colour scheme was a shade or two too light.

          "I've never heard of it, but I can try to if you tell me what's in it." The barman replied as the Samalian happened to look up from the data pad he was reading and his eyes met Alex's for a moment before they went back down.

          Alex turned to the barman and shrugged, "Don't worry about it I'll have something local instead." Even though he had only really seen them once, Tristan's eyes had remained burnt in his memory; the cold and uncaring way they had looked at him as he told him that everything he had though had happened had been a lie. The contempt in them as Alex told him he loved him and pleaded for him to stay and the cold deadliness in them as he pushed him away. As much as he had been hoping to find Tristan, seeing those eyes again made him doubt the wisdom of being here.

          He watched the barman mix some alcohol in a small glass. While the colours mixed to settle in a vivid purple he tried to decide if he wanted this meeting after all. He drank it in one quick swallow; tasting the flowery sweetness mingling with the burning of alcohol. He looked at the bottom of the glass, regretting drinking it so fast as the alcohol burnt away the taste.

          He put the glass down and picked up his case. He walked to the Samalian's table and put the case on it. The Samalian looked up at him, and frowned for a moment. Alex remained silent while the alien sniffed the air, he stood straighter and his ears perking up as he recognized his scent. Alex kept himself from showing any reactions as Tristan barely stopped himself from touching the space between his pectorals.

          "Hi," Alex said, "I'm here to help you keep your promise." He said as he opened the case to revealing the Defender.

  8. Welcome back to our ongoing Interviews with individual members of the Orr Family of Timeline HDK-154. Today we have Alexander Orr.

    As with all Individual Interviews, this one follows a pre-established set of questions.

    If you have questions That were not asked here, please feel free to leave them below and We will add them to the list of Viewer asked Questions.

    What is your name:
    Alexander Orr, Well, I can actually say this now. Detective Alexander Orr. I passed the exam last month and got my shield this morning. Is this what the interview is about? Ahh, okay, I hope the others were well behaved during theirs then.

    Where were you born:
    I was born in San Francisco, California. At the Coastal Woman's Hospital.

    Do you have any family:
    Of course I do. There's my dads, my seven brothers, three uncles and two great uncles. I see my immediate family regularly, except for Aaron, he hasn't been around as much as any of us would like since joining the army. Dominic and Dietrich come by when they can, I think Dietrich is going to be moving to the city, he talked about opening a gym last time he was here and if there's one place that can always use another gym it's this city.

    Where do you see yourself in 10 years:
    It'd be nice to be captain by then, although ten years might not be long enough to achieve that. But I'd be heading there.

    What is your goal:
    Ultimate goal? Police Commissioner. No, it wasn't always my plan. Before I joined the force I figured I'd be happy just being a detective, but with what I've seen since then, I'm thinking I could do some good in that position.

    What obstacles have you had in your life:
    I've had to deal with corruption within the department. That wasn't pretty.

    How have you overcome them:
    I'm sorry to say I had to turn to my family for help. I wasn't strong enough to resolve it on my own. My uncle helped me a lot through it. Damian, he's the one I went to for help.

    What are you most passionate about:
    I'm going to come across as a stereotype, I just know it. Justice is what I'm passionate about. That's why I became a police officer to start with, to be on the front line and make sure the bad guys were caught.

    Do you have a pet peeve:
    People who blast their radio in their cars. I have no issues with someone liking their music loud, but the rest of us shouldn't have to suffer through it. I'm not kidding, at one point I was carrying a decibel meter to see if I could catch one of them with their music above the city's noise ordinance. Unfortunately I didn't.

    What relationship-romantic or otherwise-has been the most significant in your life:
    It's a good thing you added the 'otherwise' in there. I'm not much for romantic relationships. I gave that a try a few years ago and it didn't end well. He'd agreed to an open relationship, and I came home to him every night, but after a while he got angry with me anytime I didn't come home immediately after work. I ended it, and haven't tried it again.
    I guess I'll have to say my family. I'm pretty close to my dads and my brothers.

    What has been your greatest accomplishment:
    Getting my badge the hard way. It was offered to me in the aftermath of the corruption scandal, but I turned it down. It wasn't easy, but I knew what my uncle would have thought of me if I'd said yes, and as difficult as Damian can get some time, I value what he thinks of me.

    Your greatest failure:
    Not having the guts to say no when I was given that first payoff.

    What do you consider your greatest strength:
    Does anyone actually answer this question? I mean, who will answer this honestly? Really? They did? How do you know they were honest? Wait, you verified it? What, you had then followed? Did you put them to the test? Wait, do you work for uncle Damian? Is this something he-he didn't? okay.

    Your greatest weakness:  
    I could say my lack of backbone, but I worked through that one, trust me. I might like my gun too much. I know, you're looking for a moral weakness, or something like that. Trust me, you can't buy me off, not anymore. Asses, I'm an ass guy.

    How do you compensate for your weakness(es):  
    Oh, I don't.

    Are you well-liked? Why or why not? If not, would you want to change that? What changes would you be willing to make:
    I'm a cop, I've made my share of enemies. Taking part in bringing down a corruption ring within the force didn't make me many friends either, so I guess I'm going to have to say that except for a handful of people, no, I'm not really liked within the force. Outside of it? It isn't easy to keep the two completely separated, but yeah, outside of work I'm well liked.

    What one thing is essential to having a good day? Or Describe your hypothetical best day ever:
    Easy reports to fill out. Those days when I can get out by dinner time are glorious.

    What is your decision-making process:
    Gather the evidence, analyze it, remove anything that might be tainted and judge the rest.

    Who do you admire most:
    When I was younger it was Commissioner Anita Hyacinthe, ever since I met her at one of the galas my dads took me to I thought she was an amazing woman to have managed to make her way there and hold on to the position for all these years. Now, I have to say it's my brother, Patrick. He works for Damian. I've known that years, but I didn't realize what that meant until recently, and his job isn't an easy one.

    Which Deadly Sin would you be:
    First off, I'm not religious, second, Lust. I'm willing to bet my entire family has answered that. He didn't? what did he say? Oh, yeah, okay, I can see that.

    Who is your role model:
    The commissioner.

    What is your favorite book:
    The life and times of Al Capone. No, it isn't that strange, it's a very solid look at how law enforcement worked back then.

    What is your weapon of choice:
    The Winchester Atlas handgun model 632. Possibly the greatest gun ever made. I wish. The department still uses Colts, although I've heard there's talk that they're testing the Smith and Wesson cartridgeless model.

    Do you have any spiritual belief/s:
    No, I don't.

    If you could be in a Disney movie, what would your role be:
    I would be Chief Inspector Renard, in Robin of the Hood, who else would I be? You haven't seen it? Come on, it's a great movie, it's a modern retelling of Robin Hood, if you couldn't tell. It came out like four or five years ago.  Robin is the chief's son, Marian the mayor's daughter. No it isn't silly at all, well, okay, the singing might have gone overboard, but the story is really good.

    Which emoji describes you the best:
    I have my very own emoji, here, let me show you. My dads made it for me, it's animated and everything.

     

  9. Kindar
    Latest Entry

    Chapter 41

          "How is everyone?" Martin asked.

          Most were okay, in the process of healing themselves.

          "What about them?" Colby asked, pointing to the three unconscious lackeys.

          "Tie them up, we'll bring them with us." Martin leaned against a wall. "We can't leave them here."

          Denton joined him. "What are we doing about this place?"

          "Nothing." Maximilian's shirt had a dozen small cuts.

          "Is that safe? The Orrs know about it. they're going to come back."

          "Even if I thought a place like this could be destroyed, I wouldn't try it. I don't want to risk the God's anger."

          "Okay, so we don't blow it up. I wasn't suggesting that. But we can't let the Orrs just have access to it. They can't have anything good planned for this place."

          Fred stood and lumbered to them. "They're going to drain it. They don't care about the God. They want the power that's here. Damian was only pissed about being here because he was trapped. He loved the power and what it let him do." With a sigh he sat back down.

          "What do you remember?" Denton asked.

          "Everything I did." Fred looked up to Martin. "Sorry about choking you."

          "Wasn't you. Don't worry about it."

          "Did you know what he knew while he was in you?"

          Fred shook his head.

          Denton sighed. "So you don't know if he had a partner or not."

          Fred looked up. "I don't think he did. At least if you're referring to the symbols. At some point he was trying to think of ways to immobilize me so he could use one of the others to carve symbols on me."

          "You know what they would do?"

          The lion shook his head.

          "At least it's good to know he worked alone." Denton leaned his head back against the stone. "I think I could sleep for a week."

          "Lets not." Maximilian shook him. "We can sleep on the jet. Right now we need to leave. I have an idea on how we're going to keep the Orrs out, as well and anyone else."

          "Guards?"

          Maximilian shook his head and lead them in the tunnel. He turned to his son a hundred yards out of the cave. "Fred, I want you to work with the others to come up with a Phrase to bring down the tunnel from the entrance to here."

          Fred peered into the distance. "That's going to take some work. The tunnel's about a mile long if I remember."

          "That's why i want you to work with the others. Dent can help with what he knows."

          "Max, it can't be done."

          "I don't want anyone ever getting in here again!"

          Fred backed up and raised his hands. "Max, you're talking about one mile of cum. There's only eight of us. I don't care how much the God likes us. We can't produce that much cum. we'd be here for a few days to do what you want."

          Maximilian glared at the lion, then deflated. "Your right, sorry."

          "The best I can offer is to put a destructive Phrase every few hundred yards. There's no guaranty it would bring down the entire tunnel, but it would at least create multiple cave-ins."

          Maximilian rubbed his face. "Alright, lets do that."

          The only help Denton was able to provide was some of the cum. he didn't know the sigils well enough, and as Martin had explained, they needed to be perfect for Phrases. Each Phrase was activated when they were far enough, and they had to run the last few hundred yards when that phrase caused the rest of the tunnel to start crumbling.

          They were coughing and covered with dusts when they reached the jeeps. It was dark outside so they dumped their five captives in the back of them and laid down on the ground. Colby was the only one with enough presence of mind to arrange a watch.

          Much too quickly for Denton's taste the sun was up, and they were driving back to the airfield. The captive were locked in the bathroom. Then everyone was sleeping.

          * * * * *

          Denton's worries over the church proved unfounded. Leroy and Yanik had setup everything in their absence so that the Adoption was legal. The church couldn't find anything tying Denton to the Society until they met up a few weeks ago.

          It didn't give Denton his job back, but at least he no longer had to worry about whatever the church did to people who broke their so precious edicts. He'd have to find something new to do, but Maximilian was going to help with that.

          The first thing Denton did to get his life back on track was buy a new phone. He got his contacts and programs back on it and called William, arranging to meet him. He figured the wolf was due to top him this time.

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    Standing on the platform of Slateston Cove station, Gideon Cross watched as the porter carefully arranged the number of suitcases on the rickety trolley. The train station was pretty deserted. There were only a handful amount of passengers that had travelled with them from Crownsbridge, which suited the cougar just fine. Humming a random tune for himself, the cougar took a pocket watch out of his tweed jacket and studied the time.

    “When did Atlas say he’ll meet us again?”  The cougar who was standing beside him spoke up.

    Leonidas Cross, or Leon as he preferred to be called, was Gideon’s identical twin brother, older by twelve minutes. Like Gideon, Leon was tall, with strong, broad shoulders and intelligent green eyes. He was slightly more slender than his younger twin but they both cut quite the stalwart figure.

    The only thing that differed them was their hairstyle, and the mechanical arm that was in place Leon’s right arm, partly hidden beneath his deep green travelling coat and shirt sleeve.

    “Five thirty. He said he’ll be meeting us here.” Gideon replied to his twin as he slipped the watch back to his jacket. He turned around just as a Peregrine Falcon, who was a couple of years younger, called for his name.

    “All set, Mr. Gideon,” said the Peregrine, gesturing to the porter who had secured their luggage as he took a last big drag from his cigarette and removed the stub from his beak with a puff of smoke.

    Gideon nodded. “Thank you Flint.”

    “We just need to meet with this Mr. Atlas, then?” Flint asked.

    “Yes. He should be here by now.” Gideon hummed. “Funny name, Atlas, don’t you think?” He mused. “You sure he doesn’t have any first name or surname to go with that?”

    Flint shook his head. “All of his letters were signed as ‘Atlas’, except for the first letter which was signed as ‘R.D Oscar’, Mr. Gideon.”

    The cougar nodded, humming as he contemplated the letters which had came to their office for the past few weeks. This ‘Atlas’ was certainly a mystery. He turned to his brother when the older cougar nudged his shoulders.

    Leon gestured to the figure that was slowly approaching them. “You think that’s him?”

    Turning around, the three men could see a timberwolf making their way towards them. The canine was definitely handsome and well made, with neatly trimmed white fur that was flecked with dark greys and black which gives off the impression of brushed silver. His hair had been neatly slicked back, and his tall, athletic frame was impeccably clad in a tailored, dark blue and black suit.

    “I think that’s him.” The cougar replied slowly, his mind recalling the last letter which they had received from their mysterious correspondence. “His description fits.”

    The wolf’s striking pale blue eyes shifted from Leon, Gideon, and then to Flint, before settling to Gideon for a long moment.

    “I see you’ve taken the Chief’s offer after all.” The wolf finally said, flashing the two cougars a small, but charming sideways grin.

    “The Chief?” Flint voiced.

    The wolf nodded. “I work for Rodger Oscar.”

    “So, you’re Atlas, I presume?” Leon addressed the canine, who inclined his head.

    “Yes… and I presume you’re Leonidas Cross?” He asked, turning to Gideon.

    “No, I’m Gideon, his brother.”

    “Ah. My apologies.”

    “Just call me Leon, please.” The other cougar replied, stretching out his paw for a handshake.

    Atlas did not take it however. His gaze lingered on the mechanical paw construct, eyebrow raised.

    “Arlemanian manufacture… seems like Daedalus & Sons’ design with custom modifications.” The wolf murmured as he lifted Leon’s paw to have a close look. Leon stared as Atlas continued to mutter. “Industrial grade steel alloy with high quality chrome plating… this is quite new too. Certainly a prototype, and dare I say if it’s powered by high capacity, battery powered dynamo instead of a miniature low pressure combustion system?”

    Leon nodded, feeling dumbstruck by Atlas’s spot on analysis.

    “My, my, you seem to have quite the connections, detective.”

    “This is a gift from my client actually…” Leon replied, suddenly wary of the grin Atlas was giving him. “How did you know all that?”

    “Oh, I dabble in mechanics, Mr. Cross.” The wolf replied simply with a wave of his paw before he turned his attention to Gideon. His piercing blue eyes seem to be sizing up the younger cougar twin.

    “I’ve never expected you to be quite the strong figure, doctor.” He seem to like what he saw as he nodded. The corner of his muzzle quirked up.

    Gideon simply inclined his head. “Just Gideon Cross, please. I’m not an active medical practitioner, not anymore at least.”

    Atlas gave him a small, unreadable grin. “Quite. I read you were quite the talented wrestler in your alma mater. You know, we would be happy to welcome a brilliant doctor as you are, especially in your expertise in diseases.”

    “We?” Gideon couldn’t help but stare. Just how much did this Atlas know about them?

    “We are always open for new citizenships… and of course there are spots for strapping private investigators as yourself.” The wolf said, still sporting the unreadable grin.

    Gideon stared. He wasn’t sure what to make of Atlas’ comment. The wolf now had his attention to the Peregrine standing a bit ways behind Leon however.

    “And you’re Mr. Jarred Flint I presume? When you told me that you’d bring another I never thought you’d bring your secretary with you.” This was directed to Leon.

    “Flint here has experience in the field.” Leon answered. “You don’t need to worry about him.”

    The wolf hummed and nodded. “I see, I see. Well then, if everything settled, follow me.”

    Without even waiting, the silver furred wolf turned and moved towards the station building, leaving Flint blinking in surprise. The cougar brothers raised an eyebrow before they followed the wolf with the Peregrine and the porter in tow.

    A fancy looking sedan was already waiting for them as they made it outside. A gryphon in a form-fitting greyish blue uniform, adorned with silver fittings. The gryphon was also wearing black leather gloves and a peaked cap was standing at attention. He snapped to attention and quickly opened the door for Atlas to enter, before moving to let the guests in.

    The uniformed chauffeur finally settled into the driver’s seat once the luggage has been secured in the trunk, turning to look at the wolf sitting behind him.

    “To the harbor, Mr. Atlas?”

    “Yes, but go directly to the pier, Santos.” The wolf answered as the car started. “You remember your instructions?”

    The gryphon nodded with a grin. He seemed to be quite happy about the situation for some reason. “Yes, sir.”

    “Good.” Atlas said, before turning his attention to his guests. “You mind if I smoke?”

    Gideon would not rather breathe in the smell of cigarette in an enclosed space, but Atlas had pulled out a stick of unknown brand of cigarette as he said those words, so the cougar simply nodded his head.

    “Sure, go ahead.”

    There was a few moments of silence as the silver furred wolf flicked his lighter and lit the cigarette. Flint looked like as if he wanted to take a smoke but he held himself. The unknown brand did pique his interest however.

    “Atlas, I will sound impudent, but if you don’t mind me asking...” Leon spoke up. “Is Atlas your given name or surname?”

    The wolf stared at the cougar, exhaling thick, sharp smelling smoke. A low chuckle came out from his lips.

    “It’s simply Atlas.”

    Gideon hummed. “And you intend to keep it that way, I presume?”

    Atlas’ pale blue eyes glinted. “Maybe… if you ask nicely enough then, perhaps.”

    The cougar gave the canine a wry smile.

    “Duly noted.”

    The wolf raised an eyebrow, looking amused as he shook his head and took a few more puffs of his cigarette. “Well then, I’m sure you’ve read the files I’ve sent you?”

    The two felines nodded. It was Leo who spoke first. “Yes, but I’ve got to say, the files, well…  even with the facts laid out… is just quite impossible.”

    Atlas inhaled, and slowly exhaled the smoke, giving the two cougars a cryptic smile. “That’s the essence of Prometheus, Mr. Cross. Oscar—the Chief—chose the impossible, and the impossible became possible.”

    Prometheus... A secret metropolis built under the cold, icy depths of the Altosian Ocean. A full fledged city built by the Columbian billionaire industrialist, Rodger Oscar. The tycoon wolf had disappeared from the media six or seven years back, and all of his enterprises were slowly being sold to other companies one by one. His disappearance prompted many rumours about himself.

    A financial column in the Daily Postal had speculated that Oscar had gone and somehow gotten bankrupt and thus why he sold his remaining businesses to keep up with the finances, and had been lying low. The Inquirer wrote that they had a reliable resource informing that Oscar had gone off sailing with his private yacht with friends and family one day, and never returned. Whereas Vox Weekly got wind of the news that Oscar had debauched himself on drugs and alcohol and had died from overdose like so many other famous people these days.

    Never Gideon thought that Oscar had gone and built a living, breathing, and thriving underwater city with a population of five thousand and growing. No doubt the tycoon had went on his yacht with friends and family to move into Prometheus instead of being lost at sea like the Inquirer implied.

    However, even with the pictures and documents that Atlas had shown him, Gideon and his brother still had a hard time wrapping his mind around the fact that city like Prometheus could exist.

    “And tell me again why it’s not public knowledge? The city and Oscar, I mean.” Leon went to ask.

    Atlas replied with a surprising amount of finality. “It’s not ready for the public eye, Mr. Cross, and it will never be… unless we weed out the parasites.”

    “Parasites.” Leon repeated.

    “Yes. Parasites, Mr. Cross.”

    The older cougar looked at Atlas to prompt the wolf for more explanation. However, none came as Atlas contented himself to enjoy his cigarette.

    Letting out a dissatisfied huff, Leon turned to his twin brother for help. Gideon shook his head, knowing that Atlas wouldn’t tell them, for now. The wolf seemed to be the type to not divulge any information he didn’t deem necessary. Furthermore, Atlas had given them more than enough information to go by.

    In his correspondence letters, Atlas had described the growing dissent among the factions of Prometheus’ citizens. Small protests had broken out in its streets, and there had been a number of “accidents” in various factories. Recent development saw a few construction projects halted because a number of heavy duty equipment were found irreversibly damaged.

    Rodger Oscar had suspected that someone had been deliberately sabotaging the development of the city and riling up the citizens. As Prometheus was supposedly a secret utopia, Oscar did not want to draw attention from law enforcement on the surface, naturally. So, he needed a private detective to sort out the problem for him who could keep things hush-hush.

    And he had chosen the Cross & Cross Investigations, for some reason. Perhaps it was because their agency was relatively not that well known just yet. Big time agencies like Grayston could attract unwanted attention from the government.

    “The Chief is looking for someone who can be trusted, reliable and discreet. I trust you won’t disappoint him.” The wolf had written in one of his letters.

    So basically, the tycoon wanted them to investigate the problem, find the instigator, find out their reasons, and bring them to Oscar without causing too much havoc, and then job done. Nothing more, nothing less. As an incentive, Atlas had deposited a very large sum of money to each of their bank account.

    Honestly, the money wasn’t really needed to push Gideon and his twin to take the case. The prospect of going into an impossible underwater city was enough incentive. Still… a few hundred thousand bucks could be handy in the future.

    Despite how simple their job sounded, Gideon suspected that there was something that Atlas wasn’t telling them. He and Gideon had sensed that the wolf was the kind of client who wouldn’t divulge information if it wasn’t deemed necessary for them.

    No matter. Life as private investigators was always full of complications, and they would have to suck it up.

    The drive to the harbor was spent in silence, and the sleepy town of Slateston Cove went by quickly. They arrived at the harbor, which was called Havenstone Quay, in less than fifteen minutes. The harbor was a rather fancy affair, adorned with a single, modern white building that was three stories high, and adorned with tall windows.

    Santos drove the limousine towards the side of the building, and past the gates after the security guard waved him in. Atlas must have been a regular to be allowed in without any security checks.

    The car drove through the pier where ferries and luxury yachts alike were docked bobbed slightly in the choppy waters. He quickly parked inside the available private parking lots and helped the passengers out.

    Gideon was ever glad to get some fresh air.

    “Through here. Santos will handle your luggage.” Atlas quipped, leading the other three towards the outer piers, where a large motor yacht was docked.

    Flint let out an appreciative whistle. “She’s a real beauty alright.” He remarked.

    The yacht was a modern construct, with a long and streamlined silhouette, painted in deep blue and white. Gold trims adorned its oval shaped portholes and windows. A golden plaque on the bow identified the name of the yacht: The Windward.

    The yacht’s crew were already waiting for them on the pier, and they gave Atlas a small salute as he approached.

    “Afternoon Mr. Atlas.” The captain, who was a rather imposing Grizzly Bear rumbled with a polite smile.

    “Captain Rufus!” Atlas replied brightly. “How are the preparations? Are we good to sail?”

    The bear nodded to the wolf. “Weather’s fair, sir. Although I heard there will be strong winds later tonight.” He said. “We should be able to reach the island safely however.”

    Gideon turned to the wolf. “Island, Mr. Atlas?”

    “The only gateway to Prometheus.” The timberwolf answered him. “We are sailing to Enclave Point.”

    “Wasn’t that one of Oscar’s private islands?”

    “You would be correct.” Atlas nodded.

    “And… how long until we reach the island?” Flint went to ask, watching as Santos heaved their luggage into the yacht with the help of the ship’s stewart.

    Captain Rufus turned to the Peregrine. “If the weather’s permitting, we should reach the island by tomorrow noon.”

    Flint whistled. “That far off?”

    “It is some two hundred miles off Hesperican coast after all.” Captain Rufus replied.

    “Right then.” Atlas nodded. “If you have no more questions, let’s get going.”

    ******

    The Windward was sailing at the speed of fifty five knots across the waters fifteen minutes later. Atlas had generously given the detectives and Flint cabins to rest and refresh until they reach Enclave Point tomorrow.

    The cabin was rather tiny, but it was quite luxuriously appointed with modern tastes; fine wooden panels, soft plush bed, with an ensuite bathroom attached. The cougar had felt more refreshed now that he’s washed and had changed something more comfortable.

    Closing the door behind him, Gideon made his way across the hallway and up the staircase to the upper deck. Across the anteroom which housed the staircase landing, he could see that Flint had availed the open balcony to enjoy a smoke, and a camera hung from a strap around his neck. Leon had made himself comfortable on the lounge, deeply engrossed with the automobile magazine held between his paws.

    He had been getting particularly interested with automotives as of late. Gideon could not really tell the reason behind his brother’s new hobby, but he suspected it might have something to do with Leon’s new boyfriend, who took auto racing as a hobby.

    It’s a wonder how his twin brother managed to get companions with exotic hobbies.

    Meanwhile, Atlas was just coming from the direction of the small bar at the corner of the lounge, holding two glass of ice cold amber liquid. The timberwolf had dressed in a far more comfortable shirt and vest, with a few buttons undone, giving a nice peek of his well muscled chest.

    “Whiskey?” The wolf offered one of the glass to Gideon. Evidently, he had caught the cougar’s gaze as he was giving Gideon a rather salacious grin.

    “Thank you.’Gideon accepted it, returning Atlas’ grin with a stiff smile of his own, and quickly took a sip. “Mmm… this is really good.”

    Atlas chuckled. “Prometheus-grown rye whiskey. I’m glad you find it to your liking.”

    “No, really?” Gideon couldn’t help but stare at the golden hued liquid. It doesn’t look that much different from the other whiskeys he had drank before, but it does have a unique taste which he couldn’t quite point out.

    “Yes.” The silver-furred wolf nodded. “I had the entire bar stocked with drinks from the city, particularly from my favourite bar.”

    “Ah, I see.” Gideon turned to look at the small bar, which was manned by a rather spiffy looking brown rat in burgundy uniform and bowtie. The rack behind him was filled to the brim with various liquors. Hard to believe Prometheus could produce so many brands.

    “I think you’ll enjoy the club as well,” said Atlas as he stood closer to the cougar, “it is your kind of club after all, Mr. Cross.”

    Gideon gave him a pointed look as he sipped his whiskey. “Just what do you mean by that?”

    The wolf simply raised an eyebrow. The corners of his muzzle quirked as he drank his own glass of whiskey. There was a slight purr in his voice. “I believe you know the answer to that question, detective.”

    Before Gideon could ask the wolf to elaborate further, three chimes of a bell could be heard from somewhere down the corridor, drawing the guests attention away. The bell chimed again three times, and then another three times.

    “What was that?” Flint, whom had returned into the lounge, voiced the question.

    “That would be the dinner call.” Atlas spoke up, rising from his seat. “The dining room’s this way. Would you all kindly follow me?” He spoke, not bothering to wait as he disappeared to the anteroom.

    Feeling like he have no other choice, Gideon downed the rest of his whiskey before he followed Atlas, with his brother and Flint in tow.

    * * * * * *

    They were just finishing a hearty lunch when The Windward arrived at Enclave Point on the next day.

    The island was basically a huge slab of rock, Gideon thought as he gazed at Enclave Point from the balcony of the yacht. The entire island was made of solid black rocks dotted with very few vegetation. The only thing that stood out was the paper-white sand beach which circled the entire island, and the glass, concrete, and steel building which dominated one side of the island. The pier was connected to the building, which seemed to serve as this island’s harbor.

    Atlas’ yacht wasn’t the only boat docked on the island too, Gideon noted.

    “Welcome to Enclave Point.” Atlas announced with a flourish as they were lead down to the pier on a ramp. Same as yesterday, the wolf was dressed rather casually and hadn’t bothered with a jacket despite the cold, buffeting winds. In fact, Atlas looked like he was in his element with the cool, clear cloudless skies and the freezing waves crashing into the rocky cliffs of the island.

    Flint hummed as he took a few pictures of the pier, the beach, and also the building with his camera. “Nice little retreat you have here.”

    “The Chief had spared no expenses to make sure every guests feel welcomed of course. Now come along. Try to keep up!”

    Feeling not a small amount of excitement but also a dash of apprehension, Gideon followed the timberwolf up through the illuminated stone steps and towards the building looming above them.

    A large blue banner lined in gold welcomed visitors into the building. Atlas lead the detectives through a large revolving glass door which opened into a wide hall, covered in marble tiles, sculpted columns, and ornate brass fittings. There were quite a few visitors inside the port’s entrance hall.

    Travellers from various parts of the continent, it would seem as Gideon caught snippets of Arlemanic, Gallian, and even Rosvenian among the chatter of Bretonian. There were also a number of personnel, mostly wolves, in stark white vest over bluish-black uniforms.

    “Prospective citizens of Prometheus with their guides. Special invitation from the desk of the Chief.” Atlas explained.

    “And how does Mr. Oscar select his prospective citizens?” Gideon asked as Atlas led them past the hall and down the sweeping staircase that opened into a wide, glass paneled hallway that showed the clear blue cloudless sky outside.

    The wolf was sporting his small grins again. “Sorry, Oz-Corp trade secret.”

    “I’ll find it out sooner or later.” Gideon tried to match Atlas’ grin. This seem to spark something in the wolf as Atlas hah’d. He was looking at the cougar before him in a new, appreciative light.

    “As persistent as you are, I’m sure you will, Mr. Cross.” He murmured.

    Gideon raised an eyebrow and turned his attention away from the infuriatingly charming wolf to his surroundings. He could see various posters and banners promoting venues and products of Prometheus. There were even advertisements of a metro system! He wondered how trains would work down there.

    There was a snap and whirr as Flint paused to take several pictures, before he caught up with the others. The Peregrine couldn’t stop grinning as they continued further down the hallway and towards a checkpoint which was manned by a dozen or so security guards.

    “They’re with me.” Atlas told the guard, who let the three pass through.

    Gideon noticed that they were now at the edge of the building. A wide balcony opened to the floors below, dotted with another set of stairs. He could also see a handful of people using the elevators.

    Atlas motioned to one of the empty elevators. “It’ll be quicker this way. My nautilus is docked further down.”

    “Nautilus?”

    “How else would you reach an underwater city besides a submarine, Mr. Cross?” The wolf replied, pressing the call button for the elevator, which curved, decorative metal gates slid open.

    Without further comment, the two men stepped into the elevator. Atlas pressed a button, and the elevator slowly descended, going past the lower level foyers… and then, the docking bays came into view.

    The nautilus docking bays were essentially multileveled halls with coffered, vaulted ceilings. A number of spherical submersibles bobbed on the open waters, tied to their piers with their pilots waiting for passengers to board.  

    The elevator went past two of these bays before it stopped on the third one.

    “Nautilus Bay C.” The elevator announced as the gate doors slid open and the occupants stepped out.

    Nautilus Bay C was much, much smaller than the other two bays above it, but it was no less luxurious. It had the similar coffered vaulted dome ceiling, but the grid patterns were gilded with what looked like gold leaf, and were decorated with more sophisticated light fixtures.

    There were only five submersibles docked on the stone-tiled piers. Each of them looked different from one another, but they they retained the basic spherical shape.

    Flint took quite a few pictures as they followed Atlas towards the second submersible from the left. Gideon, who had been rather distracted by the polished, streamlined pillars that were shaped into a wolves whose muscular arms were raised seemingly to support the vaulted ceiling, turned to look at the strange, undersea vehicle.

    Atlas’ submersible was a compact-looking vehicle, larger than the other nautilus in this docking bay. Atlas’ nautilus was clad in reflective, silvery plates, with streamlined fins that were equipped with headlights and other fixtures which Gideon couldn’t identify.

    And, to their surprise, Santos was already waiting for them by the nautilus. Must have taken an employee’s route. Gideon noted that the chauffeur had changed out from his driver’s uniform into something more naval themed, still double breasted with dark blue hues and silver fittings. He had removed his hat however.

    “Everything ready, Santos?” Atlas asked.

    “Primed and ready for a dive, sir.” The gryphon smiled back, holding the wolf with his leather gloved paws as Atlas climbed into the submersible.

    “Good.”

    “Watch your step, sir.” He said as he helped Gideon to climb into the nautilus.

    It was almost like stepping inside a luxury sports-auto, Gideon mused. The interior of the nautilus was entirely covered with leather padding and decorative brass panels and tiny strips of light, with plush red seats that was arranged around the driver’s seat so the passengers could have a clear view from the opening up front.

    Gideon sat himself on the passenger seat right across Atlas, while Leon and Flint took the seat behind them.

    “Comfortable?” asked the wolf as Santos settled into the driver’s seat and immediately fiddled with the controls, which consisted of several levers and a small panel of buttons and indicators.

    “Yeah, I am.” Gideon couldn’t help but grin.

    “Good.” Atlas nodded as he pulled a strap across his lap from the edge of his seat and secured it down. “Just in case we ran into a turbulent undersea currents or other kind of accident.” Atlas explained. “But don’t worry, the nautilus is perfectly safe. Accidents rarely happen, Mr. Cross.”

    Gideon gave him a tight smile. The prospect of having an accident underneath the sea inside this tiny sphere was not a pleasant thought, but he nodded either way.

    There was a hiss as a large, curved glass screen descended down from the folds of the hull, enframed by a series of concentric semicircles. It soon covered the opening they had used to enter nautilus. The entire frame locked into place with a series of clicks and hisses as Santos worked on the console.

    “Alright, here we go.” The gryphon proceeded to pull the larger levers, and the nautilus rumbled to life almost immediately. The passengers watched in anticipation as the entire sphere began to descend. Bubbles flowed past the screen as they began their descent through a tunnel of sorts, lined with aquatic-themed murals and indicators of how far they were diving.

    10 Fathoms… 18 Fathoms… 26 Fathoms...

    “This thing is pretty fast.” Flint remarked as they went past the 42 Fathom mark.

    “It is.” Atlas nodded. “FN Series Nautilus by Voyagetronics. They’re one of our leading luxury nautilus construction companies.”

    “Oh, I see.”

    The nautilus continued to dive deeper and deeper until it slowed down as a tunnel, spreading horizontally into the darkness, appeared before them. Atlas piloted the submersible towards the tunnel, which opened into the sea.

    They weren’t that deep that sunlight could still light the waters around them in a soothing blue hues. Occasionally, Gideon could see a couple of fish swimming past, and a few manta rays. However, the light around them slowly grew dim as the nautilus continued to dive deeper and deeper.

    Santos was keeping his focus to the controls, carefully piloting the nautilus towards their destination. Gideon couldn’t help but tense up as the waters turned darker and darker.

    “Ah, there we go.” The gryphon announced, pulling the two detectives’ mind out of their musings. Santos had flicked a few switches and the headlights flashed up, illuminating the darkness ahead.

    “We should be close now.” Atlas informed, leaning over his seat as he kept his eye on the radar screen on the side of the controls. He then leaned back, and let his icy blue eyes wander from Gideon to Flint, who kept their eyes peeled to the glass screen ahead.

    Not a moment later, the murky darkness suddenly seem to melt away. Before their eyes, a massive metropolis seem to loom from the depths. The city literally shone like a brilliant gem in the gloom, shining in an almost ethereal, cerulean glow.

    Atlas’ muzzle quirked into a smile as he took in the three passengers’ gobsmacked appearance. “Gentlemen, welcome to Prometheus.”

    Gideon couldn’t help but gape as he took in the entire view of the city, and also the sight of marine wildlife swimming almost lazily among the buildings. He could see some wild sharks, a few stingrays, a couple of sea turtles, and…

    “Mr. Gideon…” Flint seemed to gasp. “Is that…”

    “I believe we are looking at a Humpback Whale, yes.” Leon answered. He could barely believe his own eyes as the massive cetacean lazily swam through the gaps between the buildings.

    Just how big is this city?

    Gideon watched in amazement as the nautilus began to weave between the buildings, over and under the many, tubular, glass encased walkways that connected one building to another. Citizens of various species were walking back and forth inside the walkways. Some, mostly children, pointed and waved at Atlas’ nautilus in excitement.

    Still in an amazed stupor, Flint waved back at the children. Leon was busy taking the sight before him to notice, as was Gideon, who had noticed that there were a few other nautiluses swimming about.

    As they passed by one particular building, the detective thought he caught sight of an ice rink through an expansive glass dome. On the other building, a full fledged shopping arcade showed itself through a series of large, transparent windows. The neon sign outside the towering structure shouted out: “Zenith Emporium - The Number One Shopping Destination Under The Sea!”

    It wasn’t the only brightly lit sign attached to the building. Various illuminated billboards and flickering neon lights casted colorful undertones to the undersea skyline. There were so many that it almost rivalled the show billboards in Capitol City’s Times Avenue, and Gideon was trying to see all of them at once.

    On one of the fancier towers with gilded ornaments, a bright yellow neon sign flickered: “Savoy-Prometheus - Luxurious Suites, Excellent Food, and Breathtaking Views!”  On another building, a large circular sign with a highly stylized "V" that glowed bright purple shouted, "Excotic Cocktails and Extravagant Vices, only in CLUB VAGABOND." Far above the Club Vagabond sign was another neon sign that simply read, “BOREALIS”, wrapped around a semicircular platform, entirely wrapped with glass and illuminated with bright lights from within. It seemed to be an upscale restaurant of sorts from what Gideon could see.

    “This is quite surreal…” Flint breathed, craning his neck to see a large tower crowned with an illuminated “Oz-Corp Innovations -  Building a Better Future Together”.

    Gideon wished he had another pair of eyes right now. Prometheus was definitely becoming more than what he had thought.

    “It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Atlas mused as the nautilus swam past a large sign that was promoting Nereus Investments. “What you see here is Mr. Oscar’s dream realized… ah, and there’s where you will be staying.” He gestured to a pair of towers located a few ways away.

    The towers were shaped with soft, curving contours, and crowned with what looked like gigantic stylized fins. The massive green and white neon sign spelled out “Triton Plaza,” in thin, sophisticated letters.

    “Looks like a really fancy place to stay.” Leon chuckled.

    “Quite right there.” His brother agreed as his gazed at a nautilus that lazily swam past them. His attention was then diverted to a strange looking vehicle that had zoomed out from a building to their left. It looked like a cross between a submarine and a subway train.

    “What is that?”

    Atlas followed Gideon’s line of sight. Leon and Flint also had followed suit. “Ah, that’s the Prometheus Metro. A joint project by Oz-Corp Innovations and Voyagetronics.” The timberwolf explained. “It’s a popular mean of transportation by the citizens of Prometheus. Nautilus travel is akin to having a yacht in this city, you see…”

    “I kind of noticed that.” Leon remarked dryly as he leaned back to his chair. “All of this... is a lot to take in, however.”

    “I agree, Mr. Leon,” said Flint, pressing his face to the glass to get a better look at what appeared to be a garden that they were passing by.

    “You’ll get used to it, Mr. Cross.” Atlas chuckled.

    “And here we are. Prometheus Central.” Santos announced, pulling the nautilus towards a great domed building with a dozen or so tube-like frames jutting out from one side of the intricate facades.

    Gideon could see a handful of nautiluses, and quite the number of Prometheus Metro coming in and out of the tube structures.

    Gideon watched as Santos reached for the small device by the panel and spoke to it. “Metro Control, this is the Orion Prime, identification: Foxtrot-November-Two-One-Eight-Seven. Requesting permission to dock at Nautilus Bay Cygnus, over.”

    “Nautilus designation Orion Prime, identification: Foxtrot-November-Two-One-Eight-Seven, you are cleared to dock at Nautilus Bay Cygnus.” The radio spoke back. “Welcome back to Prometheus, sir.”

    “Thank you Metro Control.” Santos replied back and began to pilot his nautilus into one of the tubes that was set a few ways away from the others. Just as they went past the first ring, the submersible shook slightly as something seemed to clamp to the sides, and the submersible began to glide smoothly into the grand building. Gideon could barely see the intricate and highly detailed facade of statues and geometric shapes before the entire nautilus was swallowed into the building. There was a bump as the nautilus came to a halt and then, slowly, it began to rise up.

    The nautilus broke through the surface in a rather gentle pace. It bobbed slightly as Santos flicked a switch, pushed a couple buttons, and pulled the lever. With another flick of the switch, the glass hatch opened with a hiss and the passengers began to file out, helped by the ever helpful gryphon chauffeur.

    “Welcome to Prometheus, sirs.” Santos said in a rather cheerful manner.

    “Thank you.” Gideon inclined his head to the feline before he turned to Atlas. “A private nautilus docking bay huh?” He remarked as he stretched his feet, looking around the well lit chamber they were in.

    Solid concrete piers lined the side of the wide chamber that bordered the water. Besides Atlas’ nautilus, there were two others docked a few piers down. The entire chamber itself was lined with murals and pillars, crowned with a pure white granite dome.

    “Working as Mr. Oscar’s right hand man does have its perks.” Atlas replied, lighting another smoke. “Come through here.”

    The three followed Atlas through the large double doors at the end of the chamber and emerged into an immense hall that was topped with two, massive barrel vaulted glass domes and tall glass screens. Gideon could easily see the Promethean undersea skyline almost from every side as he followed Atlas down the sweeping marble staircase. Gideon couldn’t help but wonder how these glass could have withstood so much pressure.

    Announcements echoed through the massive concourse as they made their way past the crowd of Prometheans heading to and fro the various archways and staircases.

    “Attention, passengers: the train for Hesperides Gardens will be arriving at Platform 3 in five minutes. Attention, passengers: the train for Capitolium Heights has arrived at Platform 10. Please mind the gap. Next train for Capitolium Heights will arrive in ten minutes…”

    “This is the Prometheus Central, where you can get to every point in Prometheus in the quickest way possible, whether by the metro or your personal nautilus.” Atlas explained.

    Flint looked around the concourse with awe. “This place is truly a marvel.”

    “It is, isn’t it?” The timberwolf beamed.

    “Just a question,” the Peregrine went to ask, “Are avians allowed to fly here?”

    Altas lets out a small laugh. “Well, this city was built with many open spaces for the airborne citizens. The walkways are designed to be wide and large enough for comfortable flying.”

    Leon shook his head in awe. “Incredible.”

    Flint nodded with a grin. “Flying underwater… now that’s something alright.”

    “Well then, let’s get you settled to your hotel room.” Atlas said again. “I’ll guide you there, and perhaps... Santos,” he turned to the gryphon. “See if there are any messages from the chief for me.”

    “Right away, sir.” The gryphon inclined his head and quickly went away.

    “Alright. The Triton Plaza shouldn’t be a long walk from here.” Atlas spoke as he led the detectives towards the other side of the hall. “Unless if you’d like to get there quicker, we can use the metro.”

    The cougar twins hummed and turned to look at each other. “Well, I think we can agree that some walking might be more beneficial.”

    “Yes.” Leon nodded. “I’d like to stretch my legs after sitting for so long.”

    The silver furred wolf nodded. “No time like the present. Alright, follow me.” He motioned with his paw.

    Atlas lead them out of the station building, which opened into a wide, glass enclosed boulevard that gave a breathtaking view of the city. Real trees and lined the centre of the street, illuminated by many lights and interspersed with various travel-themed bronze sculptures.

    Dozens of Prometheans walked to and fro, and Gideon could see some of the avian citizens taking advantage of the vastness of the boulevard to take flight. He turned to Flint to see if the Peregrine would be airborne but Flint seemed to be content to walk and take the sights on the ground level.

    The boulevard then branched into three, smaller streets that connected with the nearby buildings. Atlas lead them to the street to the right, which opened into a short, wide building. Gideon couldn’t help but stare as he saw two sharks in safety harness and protective suit standing outside the glass encased walkways, apparently doing some maintenance work on the side of the building.

    The walkway opened into a long and wide, multileveled hall with wide, sweeping staircases leading to the upper levels. A huge dome gave view of the towers that was connected with the building, while various shops and establishments were situated on either side of the building. Colorful banners hung from the skylight while various advertisements were placed around the streets.

    A large chrome plated sign propped over a wide, decorative fountain and lit by soft purple and gold lighting by the entryway spelled out: Orchard Avenue. The purple banners which were spread around the hall also welcomed visitors to this Orchard Avenue in slender gold letters.

    Announcements echoed through the speakers strategically placed throughout the long square, shouting out advertisements among others.

    “Now you won’t have to fear going to the dentist again! Quicksilver Dental guarantees painless and fast dental service and also perfect teeth! Visit Quicksilver Dental in your closest Medical Pavilion today!”

    “How long does this place go?” Leon whistled, craning his neck to look ahead. “I almost can’t see where this building ends.”

    “The Orchard Avenue is the hub of commerce in the city.” Atlas explained. “Comprised of several buildings and a couple of towers, so it’s a few city blocks long. Some of the high end hotels are also accessible from here.”

    “Ah, I see.” Gideon nodded as they passed by a billboard promoting some dental health product. “And I see you have your own security force here.” He added, nodding to the two burly officers in black uniform with gold highlights, complete with shades, sidearms, and batons.

    Atlas turned to look. “Ah, Prometheus doesn’t really have it’s own security force.” He said. “We have several security contractors working under the City Council to keep the peace. Those men are from Warren Securities. They’re under contract with the shareholders of Orchard Avenue.”

    Gideon blinked. “Several? How many security contractors do you have?”

    “Oh, around five or six.” Atlas replied. “Anybody can open any kind of business in Prometheus, Mr. Cross. As long as they are not deliberately killing or harming the citizens.”

    The detective nodded. “I… see.”

    “Seems like a lot of risk for me.” Flint remarked from the back. “And you said these Warren Securities is under contract by Orchard Avenue… so I guess Mr. Oscar has a couple of them working for him under contract?”

    “Risks are a given, Mr. Flint. I’m sure you are well acquainted with them.” The wolf replied. “And you would be correct. We are currently hiring Perseus Defenses and Morrison-Reyes.”

    Flint hummed and nodded, giving no further comments. The Peregrine set his eyes on the many advertisements instead.

    “High quality products at half the price, only at Oz-Central!” The announcement echoed through the hall. “Now with our brand new Electronics Department! Come and see our new fangled products by our very own Oz-Corp Innovations!”

    A thought strikes Gideon. “Am I right to guess that this Oz-Corp is Rodger Oscar’s own company?”

    Atlas gave him his cryptic lopsided smile. “Wouldn’t you know, Mr. Cross?”

    Gideon rolled his eyes.

    “Evolving. Energizing. Invigorating. Evolution for a better future! Pick your Fortis today! Visit Oz-Central Pharmaceuticals for your Fortis needs.”

    “That’s… an interesting ad.” The cougar remarked.

    “No kidding.” Flint piped up. “This ‘Fortis’ is everywhere Mr. Cross.” He pointed to a billboard showing a generic, stylized lion holding out a paw. And above the open paw a ball of brilliant blue light seem to arc electricity. Words written above the billboard said: “Energy at your fingertips,” and directly below the image of the paw, in big, bold letters was, “All new Fulmens!”, while “Fortis by Zenith Solutions,” were written in smaller letters below the billboard.

    Right across the board was a similar advertisement, but instead of a ball of lightning, it was a ball of flame, and “All new Incendio!” was written instead of “All new Fulmens!”

    Not far from them, on a rather fancy stand, another advertisement shouted: “Fortis -  Invigorate Yourself Today! Brought to you by Oz-Corp Innovations.” Looking closer, Gideon could see that there were several small diamond-shaped vials filled to the brim with strange golden colored liquid.

    A small amount of crowd had gathered in front of the salesman, who was demonstrating something. Gideon couldn’t see what was being demonstrated due to their position, but it had marveled the crowd from the number of “Ooh’s” and “Aah’s” and not a small amount of cheers.

    “What are… Atlas, what are these Fortis, exactly?”

    The wolf chuckled. “A brilliant finding by Oz-Corp Innovations and Zenith Solutions. It’s… best if I show you, actually.”

    “Why not tell us?’ Leon prompted as they turned on the corner and got into an elevator which took them to the third level.

    “It involves some scientific gibberish which I doubt you’ll understand, Mr. Cross.”

    “Try me.” Gideon spoke up with a challenging grin. He was met with Atlas’ cryptic grins once again.

    “All in good time, Mr. Cross. All in good time.”

    Gideon huffed and nodded as the elevator opened its doors and they filed out. He could see there were many kind of restaurants located on this floor.

    Atlas didn’t let them linger however as he quickly led them towards another undersea walkway, passing by the view of nautiluses swimming above them. Gideon also saw a giant squid swimming close to the glass walkway, seemingly curious by the lights.

    The wolf continued to lead them through the glass covered tunnels, past a couple more buildings, and also a wide, airy plaza full of flowering shrubs, trees, and many art deco fountains. Atlas was quite helpful by pointing out what these landmarks were called, and also some of the more important shops and offices.

    They reached Triton Plaza through another glass enclosed boulevard. It was basically a mall complex with access to apartment and hotel accommodations run by the establishment itself. Although it was smaller than Orchard Avenue, Triton Plaza was still sizeable in its own right.

    The multileveled atrium overlooked a huge wall of windows that gave a wide, panoramic view of the city, while a large, diamond shaped skylight showed the two towers which loomed above the atrium. On the ground level, two vestibules were located just opposite each other across the hall, furnished with marble top counters and receptionists alike.

    Atlas lead them towards the reception lobby on the left which was labeled with, “Triton Plaza Hotel”. The receptionist, a vixen in a smart dark turquoise uniform with silver trims and a matching scarf-piece, gave them a practiced, brilliant smile with a welcome on her lips, before she saw the wolf who was leading the small group.

    “Oh, Mr. Atlas!” She exclaimed. “How may I help you?”

    “I understand there was a reservation from Rodger Oscar’s office under the name Cross?”

    The vixen went to look under the counter, rifling through a list. “Ah, yes. Reservation for Mr. Leon Cross.”

    “That would be me.” The cougar raised his paw.

    “Very well. Everything seemed to be in order,” said the vixen with the customary smile as she produced a form. “Just sign here, and here… and here are your keys. Rooms 2403, 2405, and 2407.”

    Leon received the keys from the receptionist after he gave the form a once over and signed it. It appeared to be a contract of sorts, which is odd, but it details the usual nonsense about the management won’t be liable to any missing items or injuries etc., etc.

    “Thank you. And uh… how much so we have—”

    The vixen shook her head. “Oh, you wouldn’t worry about that, sir. Base expenses has been covered by Oz-Corp Hospitalities.”

    Both Gideon and Leon blinked in surprise.

    “Oh, how generous.”

    “We hope you enjoy your stay at the Triton Plaza Hotel!”

    They left the reception counter and followed Atlas who had made a beeline towards the elevators that was situated to the side.

    “You should know,” Atlas began as they filed into the elevator, “that it is very rare for the Chief to show monetary generosity.”

    Gideon hummed thoughtfully. “I guess we’re pretty lucky, huh?”

    The wolf tilted his head, eyes looking at the cougar standing across him intently. “Perhaps…”

    Gideon found Atlas’ stare quite unnerving. The wolf’s pale blue eyes never wavered, even when the elevator went upwards, its glass wall showing the undersea panorama outside. With a slight frown, Gideon stared—or rather, glared—back to the silver furred timberwolf.

    Green eyes and blue were locked in an unrelenting staring contest, before Atlas chuckled and shook his head, breaking the eye contact. Gideon simply raised his eyebrow at the timberwolf, who simply gave him one of his half smiles.

    The cougar frowned at that. Just what Atlas is getting at, he’d never know.

    For now, at least.

    The ding of the elevator drew Gideon out of his thoughts. They had stopped on the third floor, and a lone Akita Inu with a cream and white coat, dressed leisurely in suit and tie came walking in with a piece of telegram from the looks of it. The canine was reading the contents as he pressed the button for the fifth floor.

    Whatever the Akita was reading seemed to have upset him as he quickly crumpled the letter, and—

    “Holy—!”

    Flint had jumped back as the Akita’s paw suddenly lit up in bright, crimson flames, burning the telegram in a flash. The flame died out as soon as the paper turned to ash, but strangely enough, the canine didn’t seem to be hurt by it, and the paw didn’t seem to have suffered any burns whatsoever.

    “Ah, sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.” The Akita intoned apologetically, completely misinterpreting Flint’s shocked look.

    “I-It’s fine.” the Peregrine replied with a dismissive wave.

    The Akita smiled and nodded, before he exited on his destination floor, and then the elevator continued to sail towards the higher floors.

    All eyes were turned to Atlas for explanation. The timberwolf chuckled, leaning on the curved glass wall, taking out a fresh stick of cigarette, which he slipped into his mouth. With a snap of his fingers, a small, bright crimson flame danced between his paw digits, which he brought close to the cigarette.

    “This, gentlemen, is what we call Fortis.” He said as he let the flames dance between his fingers before he extinguished the flames with a flick of his wrist. Atlas grinned wolfishly at them. “Or, it is what I like to call... the gift of Prometheus.”

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    It was Night Shift, and once again, Aric found himself sitting behind the main Operations console of the bridge. The young cougar had found it funny that there were called “Day" and “Night" shifts considering there were no distinction between night and day in the perpetual darkness of space. But the crew had taken to call it Day and Night Shifts since the cycle was based on Standard Imperial Solar Cycle, and the name had stuck.

     

    The bridge, darkened with minimal amount of lighting as it was standard during the Night cycle, was devoid of its usual eighteen crew members operating it. Instead, it was manned by a skeleton crew of four, five if you included the Captain who was currently absent.

     

    Yawning, Aric stretched his arms, trying to pop the kink out of his shoulders as he idly gazed about his surroundings. His eyes fell on the large, looming view of the planet Velos and its three moons from the bridge's wide viewscreen.

     

    Of course, he couldn't really see Velos' emerald green hued surface as the RSS Arcturus was orbiting above the dark side of the planet. Only faint trail of lights from the small number of tribal settlements below them stood out from the intense darkness of space. Aric was just glad he was back on the ship after a strange, and physically exhausting mission.

     

    It began soon after their commanding officer, Captain Dominic Marshall, reported their discovery of the Corona Tonitrus star system and the Terran-Grade Planet orbiting the bright yellow sun. Imperial Command then gave them instructions to investigate the planet and report their findings. Their leonid Captain then choose a small team of six officers; two Ensigns, two lieutenants, his trusty commander, and himself to go down on the planet scouting and information gathering mission.

     

    As per protocol, the team had kept themselves heavily cloaked and hidden as scan results showed that the planet had a sentient, indigenous inhabitants who were still primitive, thus not fit for a proper first contact scenario.

     

    Velos itself had been a rather strange planet for the most part. Everything was bathed in various shades of green, blue, and yellow. Even the sky was emerald green. The environment was pretty harsh, with strong winds and a perpetually cool temperature. The entire planet was made of mountainous terrain with equally large bodies of water, and abnormally large vegetation. The flora on Velos possessed vivid, neon-like colors in various shades of blue and red. The trees towered even the tallest trees in the Imperial homeland, with tough silvery bark and vivid yellow or orange leaves. The wide variety of fauna they'd encountered were equally fascinating. The airborne species were covered in feather-like fur for the most part, while most of the land based ones were covered in thick, fatty hide and fur.

     

    But none were as interesting as the Velosians which the team found on their second day.

     

    The Velosians—a temporary name given to the dominant, sentient indigenous species—were quite eye catching. Their form was of a humanoid mammal, with thick midnight blue fur, four sets of piercing yellow eyes, large ears, and prominent underbites that showed their sharp tusk-like lower canines. They stood on two powerful legs, which allowed them to move with surprising agility and ease, and possessing large, dexterous arms with deadly sharp claws. Aric had seen one of them cutting several of the thick silver trees down with its claws like it was nothing.

     

    It didn't take the team of five officers to start their study of the new species' culture and how their society worked. In terms of cultural advancement, the Velosians were largely primitive in terms Imperial standards. They lived in large tribes and possessing bronze-age level of technology. They were quite advanced for their era however. Their team had found one of their cities on the third day, and it was pretty breathtaking. Magnificent stone temples rose from the mountainous skyline, towering over a sprawling city made of mortar and stone slabs, arranged in a very neat grid. It was no doubt that the Velosians had mastered masonry and was well developing sophisticated means of transportation, judging from the wind-powered wheeled carts darting around the cobblestone streets, and the complicated pulley and leverage system which were used in one of the new temples that was being constructed.  

     

    It also had been quite the shock when they discovered that the Velosians were a mono-gendered race. Based on discreet scans on several Velosians they had passed, every single one of the large eared, feline-like aliens seemed to be males. It was further enforced when they witnessed a large group of the blue furred aliens going bare before proceeding with an odd sort of ceremony, giving a very good view of their reproductive glands. Each of them had a pair of dark, fleshy copulatory organs that were very prehensile, conical in shape, with large, visible orb-like growth on their base that would later emerge from their furred sheaths.

     

    However, further scans revealed that a number of the Velosians have an extra pair of organs within their bodies. It didn't take much of Aric's imagination to discern the function of this extra organ once he take a good look at the details of the scan results. That explained the mystery of the existence of Velosian younglings he had seen a few times.

     

    The scouting team also soon realized that the ritual and ceremony they had been witnessing were some sort of a bizarre union ceremony. Aric almost couldn't believe his eyes, and was flushing brightly when the loud ceremony he and a Lieutenant was studying started to escalate and get really heated. Much to Aric's embarrassment, he found the sight to be very intriguing, even though he didn't want to admit it.

     

    Captain Marshall had later concluded that they had came during the Velosian's “mating season" as the ceremony was happening city wide, mostly congregated around specific temples. That explained the perpetual musky odor which Aric could smell from miles away, and why the Velosians were wearing virtually nothing to cover their genitals.

     

    The young cougar had never been so relieved when they boarded their camouflaged shuttlecraft and left the atmosphere. The sight of the starship's sleek, streamlined hull, which was shaped like a dagger of sorts, was a very welcomed sight. The starship practically gleamed from the light of the yellow star which Velos was orbiting, illuminating the large white and bright red letters which spelled: RSS ARCTURUS SV-9.

     

    He had enough of the planet's cold environment, biting winds, the perpetual scent of sex, and hearing the Velosians' mating howls and yowls all night long. Their ceremony had lasted for days and showed no signs of stopping. Aric was already craving for warm bed, real food, and some peace and quiet by the time they departed from the planet's surface.

     

    But it would seem that his troubles weren't over. Somehow, there was this persistent, musky and earthy sort of smell that clung around him and the members of the scouting team. It refused to dissipate no matter how much the cougar scrubbed and bathed himself clean. The same problem persisted with other members of the scouting team. Captain Marshall had it the worse, since he had ventured directly into the city (under a very heavy cloaking technology which would mask his biological signature and scent for a short time) and thus was in close proximity with the Velosians.

     

    Doctor Seinn, their resident physician, had theorized that being so long on the planet and so close with Velosians had layered their bodies with the Velosians' scent, who were pretty much in heat when the team decided to investigate. After conducting a few harmless tests, the pale feathered gryphon bluntly told them that the odor would probably last for a couple of days, and promptly gave them some powerful anti odor soap and antiseptic before giving them future appointment schedule and pushed them out of the medbay.

     

    The soap didn't really help much with Aric's odor problem.

     

    “Man, did you even shower, Aric?"

     

    Aric gave a startled jolt as his attention was brought back to the present. He sent an annoyed huff at the wolverine who was grinning teasingly at him. The mustelid's dark brown and black colored fur looked pale from the light coming from the holographic screen on Aric's station.

     

    “I did. Four times. I even put on tons of cologne..." The cougar let out a groan, giving himself a sniff and grimaced. Even with the cologne, he still smelled like he had been rolling in the damp soil and Velosian gunk. The smell wasn't overly unpleasant… but still… He shook his head. “Shouldn't you be on your own station, Ralf?" He gave the Wolverine a slight nudge to shove him away.

     

    The mustellid Ensign shrugged. His cybernetic left arm whirred softly as it moved. Aric could see the mechanical parts showing under the wolverine's form-fitting duty uniform. “I need to check on the Security Station either way." He replied.

     

    The cybernetics, which had replaced Ralf's entire left arm and most of his chest, the left side of his face, and his eyes, were quite the sight when they first met at the academy as roommates. They were a result of an interplanetary shuttle accident, as the wolverine would explain. Ralf Lenner hadn't expect Aric to consider his cybernetic limbs cool, however. The wolverine seemed amused and somewhat elated that someone found his half cyborg-like state un-freakish, as he later explained to his really embarrassed roommate.

     

    They became fast friends after that.

     

    “Right, right." Aric nodded. “I should check on the Comms too." He said, straightening his form fitting black and gold trimmed uniform as he stood up.

     

    “Yeah, you do that." Ralf replied as he bent over the Security and Tactical Systems console, which was just next to the one Aric had occupied. “I hate night shifts…" he yawned.

     

    A huffy snap came from the other occupant of the bridge, who had been otherwise silent. “Then you should've taken the day resting, Ensign Lenner. Don't you think Ensign Torssen and me aren't more tired than you?" He said, nodding his head at Aric for a moment before he was glaring at Ralf again.

     

    Ralf rolled his eyes, shooting the uniformed grey wolf a slightly envious look. “I dunno how you can keep running on high levels of energy twenty four-seven, sir. You smelled as bad as Aric here either way." He wrinkled his nose comically.

     

    Damon Braun was one of the lieutenants Captain Marshall recruited for the scouting mission. As a senior member of the Science division, Lieutenant Braun had a pretty keen eye. Coupled with his strong sense of smell and hearing, the wolv been the one to notice the tell-tale signs of civilization. His discovery quickly led the team to see their first sighting of the Velosian natives, and it was his eye of detail that led them towards the Velosians' complex of temples and settlements. He had followed Captain Marshall under heavy cloak to get into the city, getting important scans that could only be obtained on a much closer distance.

     

    As a result, Braun had the same musk clinging to his body, even when the odor wasn't as thick as the captain's. The lupine seemed exceptionally annoyed by this, evident from the constant scowling and wrinkling of his nose, and his bad mood.

     

    “Just shut your trap and return to your work." Came the wolf's bark, stomping towards the auxiliary Science station, passing by Ralf in the process. The wolverine's eyes glazed over for a moment, staring blankly at the wolf's figure before he snapped himself out of the temporary daze.

     

    “If I hear you complaining, you're going to clean every single latrine on deck seven. Is that clear?" Braun hissed, eyes narrowing at the wolverine who fidgeted under his glare.

     

    “Yes, sir." Ralf replied with thin, pursed lips as he swiveled his chair around and concentrated on the screen of his station. He sighed and shook his head, turning to Aric who was standing right beside him. “He's even smellier than you. If I didn't know better, I'd thought you guys had been going at it in the closet." Ralf snickered in a lower tone, winking suggestively to Aric.

     

    The uniformed cougar flushed crimson and hit the wolverine on the back of his head with a random book he found from the side of the console.

     

    “And I here thought Oshiro was more perverted than you." Aric responded dryly. “Guess I was wrong. No offense, sir." He quickly shot the otter who was currently manning the Flight Controls. The otter gave Aric a nonchalant shrug and a grin.

     

    “Non taken. Just call me Oshiro, Aric." The otter said with a genial smile, swivelling on his chair. “And I don't mind, really. Feels good that there's at least someone who's more lewd than me. At least you're good lookin'." He grinned widely at Ralf and wiggled his eyebrows. The cybernetics-clad mustelid let out a groan, cheeks flushing crimson.

     

    Aric couldn't help but snort in amusement as he made his way towards the Communications station.

     

    It was no secret that Roger Oshiro had a wandering eye and doesn't discriminate on who or what he chooses. Backed up with roguish good looks and an equally charming personality, it wasn't surprising that there were many rumours that the otter had slept with practically everyone in his year at the academy and then some. Aric didn't find it particularly far-fetched. He'd seen how the otter flirt effortlessly with some of the crew members. He'd even made the usually stoic Commander Hadrian flush beet red, which was quite a feat.

     

    Nevertheless, Lieutenant Oshiro was a really chill officer and was fun to work with—even with a tendency to spout inappropriate jokes now and then. As an Ensign in the Operations Department, Aric sometimes got paired with the otter whenever he was tasked to man the co-pilot console during the night. It was somewhat surprising to see the pilot on the Night Shift at first, as the Lieutenant was usually stationed during the day shift with the rest of the main crew.

     

    Aric soon learned that as a pilot, Oshiro practically had to be behind the wheel nearly every time. The otter had laughed when Aric asked if he had felt dragged down by his duties and practically told him that he loved piloting, especially for “this big bad beauty" as he had put it affectionately. Aric swore he saw Oshiro running his paws over the Flight Control Station in a really loving way and whispering sweet nothings at one time. It was a really awkward sight.

     

    Ralf still had that noticeable flush on his cheeks as he turned to look at the pilot. “I can only wonder how you and Lieutenant Braun can keep yourselves up and still take on the night shift. That's all."

     

    “Really, Ensign Lenner? Have you forgotten something?" Braun spoke up from behind his station, rolling his eyes.

     

    The wolverine frowned, racking his head but his fatigue had impaired his ability to think through and came up with a blank.

     

    “We're both Iolian-born." Oshiro started, gesturing to Braun and himself, “World-born colonists like us have adapted to our planet's harsh conditions and much, much longer day-and-night cycle." He then indicated to Aric and Ralf. “So it's natural for Iolians to be able to stay up longer and last longer than any other Spacer, Colonist, or Earth-born."

     

    “Can't put it any better." The wolf lieutenant replied with a nod. “So, you can go suck it up, and get back to work Ensign. We've got a job to do."

     

    Ralf grumbled something unflattering under his breath and went back to his duties. Unfortunately, Braun's sharp ears could pick up nearly every noise, even the faintest of whispers. The wolf practically glared at the wolverine, eye twitching.

     

    Ralf shrunk under the Lieutenant's intense gaze, the cybernetics that replaced his eyes whirring softly as it shifted to look at anything but the ticked off wolf. Before he could stammer up an apology however, there was a familiar whooshing sound coming from the elevator doors, followed by a pleasant beep. The next second, it hissed open, bathing the entire bridge with the elevator's bright light as the occupant stepped out.

     

    “Captain on the bridge!" Aric announced, the words rolling out of his mouth automatically as the robust, tough figure of their leonid Captain entered the dimly lit bridge.

     

    Aric's heart seem to skip every time he saw Marshall walk in. Powerful muscles under smooth white-blonde fur moving under the form-fitting duty uniform, the smooth waves of his platinum mane that was always neatly trimmed and combed, and that brilliant pale blue eyes which exudes a commanding, but warmth that just spoke volumes of his years as a Captain. Aric couldn't help but admire the Captain ever since he saw him.

     

    The cougar knew what he felt, of course. He was no stranger to his own preferences. Aric had a couple of boyfriends in his time at the academy and several one-time romps, but he had felt so intensely for his superior officer. He had tried to repress those feelings of course. Marshall was way out of his league. The Captain was a decorated war hero and a well known Captain of the Imperial Armada. The lion was at least a decade older than him, but had proven to be a very good company from the few times he had been working on the bridge. They'd even got on last name basis instead of the formalities, and it was enough for Aric. Truly, Marshall was the best Captain the Arcturus could have.

     

    “Status report, Lieutenant Oshiro." Marshall uttered somewhat groggily to the otter as he moved to the Captain's chair, situated in the exact centre of the bridge on an elevated platform. Aric was somewhat surprised that the Captain was in a slight state of underdress. Usually, the lion appeared orderly and immaculate. The white and gold trimmed Captain's Jacket he was wearing was left unclasped, showing the slightly wrinkled form-fitting black and gold duty uniform he was wearing underneath. He had even forgot to tuck his trousers under his boots.

     

    It was evident that Marshall was tired. There were dark circles under his eyes, which appeared slightly red.  His usually neat mane was somewhat in a state of disarray. No doubt the lion had slept in and rushed to the bridge.

     

    And of course, the musk that was the 'souvenir' from their outing to the planet right below them was as thick as ever. Aric could practically smell the strong, masculine odor the moment Marshall entered the bridge. Combined with the musks sticking to himself and Braun, the Captain's scent felt intensified. Breathing it in made Aric's head slightly woozy, and his body feeling oddly warm... comfortably so. Looking at the dazed state of the rest of the night crew, he wasn't the only one feeling it.

     

    “The... Arcturus is keeping orbit as you requested. Our cloak is holding, and there are no lasting engine failures after that last solar storm." Oshiro reported after he got over his daze, his voice faltering slightly as if he was trying to compose his words.

     

    “Alright… what about Engineering, Lenner?" The lion turned to Ralf, who was perched on the Security station.

     

    The cybernetically augmented wolverine responded promptly, though his eyes were somewhat glazed. His nose was twitching. “Engineering reports that we could leave the system by the end of the solar cycle, sir. The... antimatter cells are refilling in good speed and we should be able to achieve Stardrive Factor-5 without any trouble… Sir."

     

    Marshall nodded. “Good, good." He replied, nose wrinkling slightly as he detected the musky odor in the bridge. “Ugh, remind me to wear hazmat suits next time we land down there…" He said, trying to sit up straighter on his chair. “I really need to get my chronometer fixed. Blasted thing went off half an hour later from what I've set it…" he shook his head. “Torssen, make a note to Lieutenant Commander Jameson to have a look on the systems in my quarters tomorrow noon. He should be free from his Engineering duties by that time.”

     

    “Noted, sir." Aric nodded with a slight grin to his muzzle, turning back to the station and retrieved his pad to send the Chief Engineer the memo.

     

    “Are there any comm links from Imperial Command, Ensign Torssen?" the Captain added, swivelling on his chair to give the cougar his full attention.

     

    Aric tried to ignore the fluttering feeling which had crept up his throat as he tore his gaze away from the Captain's icy blue eyes and shook his head. “Nothing so far, sir. No transmissions intended for the Arcturus as for now." He reported, tugging on the collar of his duty uniform. Several beads of sweat were trailing down from his brow and down his cheek. Since when did it get so warm in here? He thought as he dabbed it with his sleeves.

     

    Marshall rubbed his tired eyes, but nodded gratefully. “Right, thank you. Any reports from the Sciences?" He turned to face Braun, who was still standing on his station a bit ways behind the Captain's chair. The light grey and white furred wolf gave a single nod.

     

    “Complete scans of the planet had reached 83% and going up. The drones should be finished by next morning, Captain." He reported slowly. Aric could hear the wolf's somewhat drawn breathing.

     

    “That's good. Oshiro, plot course to Tarsus V system. We will leave at 1100 hours. Make sure your replacement pilot could follow your instructions clearly." Marshall instructed, rubbing his forehead. Somehow, he had went to unzip his uniform halfway down his torso, and Aric could see a bit of the lion's well formed chest muscles, as well as the trails of sweat which was running down his chin and neck. The Captain wasn't wearing anything underneath his suit it would seem. He wondered if the lion was wearing anything down there...

     

    “Torssen, could you help me with the astrometrics?"

     

    Oshiro's voice snapped Aric from his reverie. He blinked, dispelling that strange line of thought from his head. “O-oh sure." He said, shaking his head, frowning as his cheeks flushed red. Where the heck had those thoughts come from?

     

    The cougar stood, scratching his neck idly as he walked past the Captain to reach the auxiliary flight control console, usually occupied by an Operations co-pilot. His steps slowed down when he caught a whiff of a very strong, and very compelling sort of musk. His pale green eyes caught with the Captain's electric blue ones. He didn't even realize the Captain was staring back at him, having breathed in the odor coming from the cougar, seemingly lost in a daze.

     

    Aric blinked and slowly turned towards the co-pilot's seat and sat down, not even sure what was happening as his paws moved through the screen, assisting Oshiro in charting their course to the Tarsus V system, which was 14 lightyears away. The journey would be easily achieved in half an hour by a comfortable speed of Stardrive Factor 5 or 6… but there would be the issue of the gravitational wells in the way. And there's the newly formed Gavarian Supernova which could very well disturb their path. Perhaps they'd need to port into the number of spaceports for detours. It'll be a longer path for sure.

     

    Sighing, Aric went to recalculate the safest route towards their destination with Oshiro. Somehow, he found it hard to concentrate. As he looked to his left, he could see the pilot was having the same problem. The otter kept tugging on the collar of his uniform. His fingers would falter as he tapped away at the holographic screen.

     

    Aric turned his attention back at hand, but mind kept running back to the image of the Captain's sculpted chest peeking from his semi-unzipped suit, and how tantalizing the lion had smelled. Without even realizing it, a tent was slowly forming in the cougar's trousers as the alien musk slowly muddled his mind to focus on one thing, or rather, one specific bodily function.

     

    He jumped when he felt a pair of strong paws brushing down his arms and a hot breath on his neck. Aric whirled around, pupils dilating when he locked his gaze with Marshall's. The lion was hovering close to him. A low purr escaped from the large, powerfully built lion's throat as he lowered his muzzle in, brushing across the crook of the Ensign's neck.

     

    “C-Captain!" Aric yelped, shuddering as he felt the lion's hot breath prickling his skin and fur, squirming as he felt the larger feline's paw trailing down his body, feeling around his form. He could whiff out the thick musky odor coming from the Captain, making his mind fuzzy, and feeling really, really warm. He moaned when Marshall dragged his tongue over his exposed neck and chin. Everything else seemed insignificant right at that moment. He wanted, no needed the lion, Aric thought as the Captain began to unzip his uniform down, trailing licks on the side of his face.

     

    Dominic Marshall, Captain Marshall to his crew, and Dominic—or Dom— to his friends, was a lion of honor and principal, but even a tough lion such as himself was not immune to the calls of instinct. Particularly when a potent, intrusive and mind numbing odor full of sex pheromones had latched on one's body and senses. The only thing that was going through his mind was the intense need to breed the young cougar before him.

     

    Oh, he recognized the feline of course. Aric J. Torssen. A brilliant Operations Ensign transferred from the battleship RSS Chevalier along with a number of other officers, and also the cougar who had caught his attention from day one he stepped into the ship. He knew the Ensign was crushing on him, there was no doubt, and he longed to touch young Torssen's smooth fur and hold him in his arms… But the feline had seem to be rather oblivious with his own feelings, as Marshall thought, but he wasn't the type to back down so easily. One of the reasons he often placed Torssen in several night shifts was just so they could spend some time together, without seeming intrusive and stalkish. The lion was content to slowly build the cougar's trust, and they had become comfortable with each other. It was enough for the time being.

     

    But none of that mattered as in his muddled, emotionally and hormonally high state, he wanted the cougar now.

     

    Marshall licked his lips as he was satisfied feeling around his cougar officer's body with his paw. Letting out a rumbling purr, the lion turned the co-pilot's seat to face him, earning a surprised yelp from Torssen, and promptly mashed his lips, tongue, and fangs, with the smaller feline's own muzzle. The young cougar didn't even resist as Marshall forced his tongue into his mouth, his own lips smacked and sucked needily at the lion's. He could feel Torssen pushing his own body to his touch as he slipped his paw under the uniform and undershirt. The young feline was definitely a hard worker as he felt the firm muscles underneath a lush expanse of smooth fur. Torssen, was a fit, young male, there was no doubt about that as he snaked his paw down through the belt line.

     

    However, it wasn't only the two felines that were affected by the alien musk.

     

    Ralf squeaked in panic and surprise when Braun suddenly tackled him from his seat and to the hard, cold floor. He hadn't even notice the large wolf sneaking up behind him, or realizing that Braun had been eyeing him pretty intently for the past ten minutes. The sight of the Captain and his friend making out and groping each other was pretty mind jarring.

     

    But it wasn't as shocking and as fear-inducing when a particularly large wolf who was evidently on heat pinned you on the floor, and was grinding his ever growing bulge to your face. The wolverine got a face full of the musk that had clung to the wolf, and also the lupine's own bodily scent. His eyes watered and glazed over, the cybernetics whirring slightly as they tried to refocus his gaze. Ralf gasped from the weight that was pressing on his chest, squeaking when he saw Braun had unbuckled his belt and pulling down the zipper of his trousers. His canine hard-on flopped down directly to the wolverine's face as Braun slipped down his briefs, making Ralf to breath in more of his ripe, masculine scent.

     

    The mustelid let out a low moan as he felt his own member harden. He couldn't really comprehend what was happening around him, or why it was happening. Lieutenant Braun was panting hard. Drool was dripping down from his muzzle as he straddled Ralf with his crotch, showing his hard canine-hood in its erect glory. The wolf didn't know what hit him, but he had an overwhelming urge to breed the wolverine as the pheromone-charged odor invaded his brain and senses.  

     

    Ralf was shaking, both in fear and anticipation as he inadvertently inhaled more of Braun's scent. The musky odor was quickly overpowering the young wolverine's mind as his eyes slowly went hazy. Though it didn't stop his body from jerking when a paw grabbed the bulge on his pants and gave it a squeeze. Ralf let out a surprised yip, only to be cut off as Braun stuffed his cock into his open maw. Blinking through watery eyes, he craned his neck to see Lieutenant Oshiro fondling him right behind Braun, and was in the process of freeing his lower regions from its confines.

     

    Back to Marshall, the leonid Captain grinned as he squeezed his subordinate's hardening member inside the black fabric of his pants, earning a high pitched squeak while the cougar's trembling paw fingers clumsily fumbled with the belt buckle. The potent scent of arousal was palpable as the metallic clasp was unlatched, loosening his pants. Marshall rumbled a chuckle as he pulled the trousers down, revealing the sizeable bulge pushing through the elastic fabric covering his manhood, which was soon discarded, freeing the hard, equally barbed member.

     

    The cougar was panting and moaning as Marshall pushed him into another lustful kiss, shuddering from the pleasure when he stroked the younger feline's hard on. He broke the contact between their lips so he could push the pesky standard-issue grey colored undershirt over Aric's head, and over his shoulder. He left it at there, not even bothering to remove the unzipped uniform. Aric's golden tan fur and white underbelly appeared pale and darker under the bridge's dim light. He could clearly see the Ensign's well formed pecs and defined abs. He wasn't as big as Marshall, not even close, but the cougar had a really nice bulk to him. Aric Torssen was a young, fit, and virile male indeed.

     

    “I love studly officers, Torssen." He purred, licking the cougar's exposed neck and nibbling the Ensign's twitching ear. He could feel young feline flush under the compliment, paws reaching tentatively to unzip his Captain's uniform. His smaller paws roamed through his mound of strong, leonine muscles. The result of years of hardwork and determination.

     

    Aric could only watch dazedly, cheeks still flushing as the Captain unbuckled his own pants, dropping them down along with his boxer briefs to the smooth, glossy flooring. He kicked them aside, not bothering to remove his boots as he proceed to hop on top of the seat, making it creak from the additional weight.

     

    His hard, barbed manhood prodded the edges of the cougar's muzzle. Pre dripped down to the young officer's bare, white furred chest. It was much bigger and thicker from what Aric was used to, and was oozing with heavenly musk. The cougar didn't even realize he had wrapped his lips around the Captain's manhood until the salty taste of the feline's precum rolled down his throat.

     

    Marshall let out a content purr, pushing his cock deeper into Aric's muzzle, sucking his breath as the cougar rolled his sandpapery tongue around his shaft and sensitive barbs, coating them with his warm saliva, as he slowly went deeper. The Ensign's movements were too smooth and skilled for a first timer, Marshall noted with a slight pang of disappointment. Though… that meant he could go all out on the younger feline, he thought with a slightly feral grin as he gripped the cougar's head and drove the rest of his shaft deep into Aric's mouth, hilting his throat.

     

    “Mmph!" The cougar choked as the sizeable cock was forced through his throat. He willed himself to relax, exhaling slowly so that he could adjust on the length and the girth. His nose felt ticklish as it was pushed to Marshall's bushy crotch fur, smelling ripe of sweat, fur, and distinctively leonid musk which practically oozed masculinity. The scent alone sent Aric moaning as he gulped around the barbed shaft as Marshall began to rock his hips, holding his head in place.

     

    Meanwhile, Ralf was a writhing, moaning mess as he was already half naked. His was down to his undershirt, with his uniform suit practically hanging on his right sleeve when Braun had rather impatiently shed his clothing with the help of Oshiro. His mouth was starting to go sore as it was stretched to the limits, trying to accommodate Braun's sizeable girth. The grey wolf was growling heatedly as he jackhammered his knotted cock into the mustelid's maw. The other reason he was writhing, not in discomfort but in pleasure, was the fact that his own member and ass was given the most heavenly service by the otter who had commandeered his nether regions.  

     

    The whole situation felt surreal for the cybernetic-covered Ensign as he groaned through the cock, trying to accommodate the girthy meat as much as he could. He bucked when Oshiro gave a rather sharp jab to his tailhole while the otter himself had engulfed Ralf's full length into his maw. The warm, slick muzzle that closed around his manhood and the cool wet finger that pressed and prodded against his tailhole was really driving Ralf to his limits. He was really new to the barrage of sensations, and he was loving every second of it. The level of pleasure he was receiving proved to be too much however, as he cried through a mouthful of cock as he ejaculated his load directly into Oshiro's muzzle.

     

    The otter didn't waste a single drop as he happily gulped the wolverine's potent spunk, giving the engorged member a helpful squeeze to milk out more of the sticky, hot goodness. His saliva slicked finger was driven deep into the wolverine's tight, and very much virgin ass. He could tell just by how much the mustelid squirmed under his touches. Smacking his lips, as he licked the half hard member clean, Oshiro withdrew his muzzle, looking at Ralf's plump ass cheeks with lustful, clouded eyes, and drove his muzzle in. Effectively eliciting another pleasured gasp from the cybernetically enhanced bear-like mustelid.

     

    This… is certainly a nice dream, Aric thought, wincing as the numerous, tiny, spines around Marshall's cock grazed the soft flesh of his throat over and over, spilling salty pre which rolled down his tongue as Marshall face fucked him mercilessly. The musk which invaded his sensitive nose pushed him deeper into his own, carnal needs. The cougar began to lap around the cock, bobbing his head along with Marshall's hip movements, hungering for more of the tantalizing taste of the lion's pre and scent.

     

    With a pleased purr, the larger feline increased the intensity of his movements, slamming his member into the cougar's mouth and hilting it deep down the younger feline's throat. Aric was openly moaning now, grasping the lion's exposed hips for support. The force of Marshall's pounding was strong enough to make his head hit the leather backed chair repeatedly. It creaked and groaned in protest from the combined weight and the force Marshall was applying in his movements.

     

    Gods above, this isn't really happening... is it? Aric thought through his lust clouded mind as he eagerly savored the taste of the larger feline's manhood buried in his muzzle.

     

    Marshall was beside himself in bliss. He would've came then and there as the cougar's mouth was expertly squeezing and driving pleasure to his throbbing rod. That tongue of his certainly was good at pleasuring his meat. But he didn't want to give the Ensign that satisfaction just yet. He had yet to fill another hole, he thought with a large grin.

     

    “Fwah?" Aric blinked dazedly when Marshall suddenly pulled out, leaving his mouth sore, full of spit, and tasting heavily of pre. The cougar glanced up at the pale-blonde lion, only to gasp when the much bigger feline suddenly lifted his legs—not entirely bare as he still got his boots attached—up to his shoulders. His eyes widened when his sluggish mind finally picked up what Marshall was going to do, and clenched his eyes shut, preparing to be drilled with the maned feline's meat.

     

    He certainly didn't expect a wet, slobbery appendage to attack his ass crack however, as he opened his eyes again, and flushed at the sight of the Captain lathering his pucker with his large, rough tongue.

     

    “C-Captain...mmh…" He panted out when Marshall continued to tease his hole, prodding the soft, pink, fleshy ring with his tongue. He continued to tease the cougar's tailhole before he pushed in, driving it deep within Aric's rectal walls. The young cougar let out another string of moans, tail twitching slightly from the small jolts of pleasure which shot along his spine when Marshall tasted his rump, coating it with a generous amount of spittle.

     

    Purring loudly, the maned feline slowly pulled himself out from the cougar's rear, smacking his lips audibly as he lowered his subordinate down, but not by much. His arms were still grasping Aric's leather covered feet, holding them in position as he aligned his large, barbed manhood with the dribbling, wet tailhole. Aric himself gulped as he felt Marshall pressing lightly against his pucker, readying himself of what's coming.

     

    “Hgnngh!" His eyes shot wide open when the leonid Captain practically shoved his cock inside his rear, stretching his rectal walls wide. The Captain was definitely way bigger than what he was accustomed to… it certainly felt as if he was being fucked for the first time again.

     

    Moaning from both pain and ecstasy that coursed through his body, Aric's body slumped against the chair as Marshall pounded his ass mercilessly. The feline's cock was hilting deeper and deeper into his rear, the numerous tiny barbs sending shivers up his spine. His own cock was starting to leak pre from the amount of pleasure he was receiving. It bobbed and twitched as his body jerked when the Captain drove into him over and over. The young cougar let out a yowl as the Captain's cock jabbed against his prostrate, sending a fresh wave of euphoria that left him see white spots on his eyes.

     

    Ralf let out an audible choke as his head slammed against the floor by a particularly hard thrust Braun gave him. The wolf on top of him howled when he reached his orgasm. The wolverine Ensign's mouth was rapidly filling with hot, salty, slime like liquid, and he instinctively swallowed the whole lot of it. However the sticky load of goodness kept coming to his mouth and he couldn't swallow it any longer. He jerked his head away from the cock, choking audibly, spluttering as Braun's semen smeared his face as it continued to pump. Ralf gulped the rest of the cum inside his mouth and panted, shuddering as Oshiro was slowly stretching his tailhole wide open with his deft fingers.

     

    He breathed out a sigh of relief when the fingers retracted from his anus, leaving him with an oddly hollow sensation as he tried to wriggle away. His muddled mind still trying to comprehend why he was enjoying this so much. His cock twitched needily as he felt Braun's weight leaving his chest, and was left with the sight of Oshiro who was bare to his fur. Without his uniform, Ralf could see that Oshiro took a really good care of himself, and he's pretty well endowed. He flushed when the otter pilot caught his gaze and gave him a glazed sort of grin, before he flipped the wolverine over his belly and raised the Ensign's rump to the air. Ralf whimpered as he felt Oshiro draping himself on top of him, prodding his stretched tailhole with his slick, tapered manhood.

     

    The cry that the wolverine emitted was like the sweetest sound to Oshiro's ears as he speared the virgin ass with his rod. The tightness and warmth were just perfect. The otter murred to himself, looking at the grey wolf who was giving him a stink eye for 'stealing' his prey. He merely smirked, and waved his rudder-like tail to the hunk of a wolf, lifting it up as he drove into Ralf again, eliciting a moan, presenting his own pucker for the horny wolf whose dripping member was standing full mast, hard.

     

    Braun didn't waste time asserting his dominance over the cheeky Lieutenant.

     

    “That's it Torssen… roar it all out…" The Captain murmured huskily as he increased the intensity of his thrusting. He was loving every second of it. There was a particular pleasure he felt seeing the writhing, moaning muscular form beneath him. Aric's claws were digging to the leather seat as Marshall mercilessly pulverized his tailhole. The cougar's back arched as he let out a yowl of pleasure, cock twitching and throbbing madly. No doubt aching from release. From the tightening and loosening sensation around his rapidly moving shaft, Marshall could tell that the younger feline was getting close. He promptly began to hammer Torssen's firm ass with renewed intensity, stimulating Aric's pleasure points hard, hilting his cock all the way to the base with a rather wet smack over and over.

     

    The cougar finally came with a loud roar, followed by weak, panting mewls. It was music to Marshall's ears as he looked down to Torssen. His seed was splattering across his red face and chest at the angle he was being fucked in. The sight was incredibly arousing for the lion. The tightened pressure around his cock was driving the lion to his limits however.

     

    It didn't take long for him to cum. With an equally loud roar, Marshall shot jet after jet of hot, potent spunk down the cougar's hole, filling the younger feline as his cock throbbed and the torrent of semen slowly died down to an ooze.

     

    Aric felt distinctively full as the white spots danced across his vision. That orgasm was just… nothing like he had ever felt before. He licked his lips, tasting the tangy, salty taste of his own semen. His own junk was resting on his toned belly. A loud panting moan caught his attention and he glanced sideways. Now that the Captain blocking his line of vision with his hulking, muscled figure, he could see—to his surprise—that Ralf, who was caked with a lot amount of cum, was being screwed by Oshiro, who in turn had Braun burying his bone on the otter's ass.

     

    He couldn't really process what he was looking at for long, as Marshall returned to his field of vision again. The lion grinning widely and lustfully at him, all of his fangs showing, and his soiled, barbed manliness standing at full mast. Somehow, the sight of the powerful male before him made him hard again, and it made the Captain's grin to grow wider.

     

    “Ready for round two, Ensign?"

     

    *******

     

    Aric slowly woke to the sensation of warmth and soreness. His head was pounding as he blinked his eyes open. The sky was dark, as it was customary on space, but there was a lighter hue shade from the polarized windows. He frowned, staring at the windows in confusion. His cabin doesn't have any windows… nor does his cabin have a really comfortable bunk. His bed felt larger than usual, come to think of it, and he definitely didn't have a fur lined blanket… he thought as he felt around the warmth that wrapped around his chest. It felt like an arm. A really muscled, fluffy arm… Oh.

     

    Oh.

     

    Oh gods…

     

    He cursed inwardly as memories from last night slowly crept up to his sluggish brain. His face reddened considerably. That explained the soreness around his thighs and his jaw. He didn't really remember much, but he did distinctively remember the feeling of Captain's member buried in his ass...  and also him driving own cock inside the Captain's sculpted rump...

     

    Had he and the Captain really fucked each other that hard?

     

    “Mmmh… Ensign?"

     

    Aric froze. He hadn't felt the lion that was practically draped around him stir. It was then Aric realized how both of them were completely nude, and smelling heavily of sex, with dried cum sticking to their fur.

     

    “Ensign?" The tone was slightly more firm from before.

     

    Oh gods… he's done it. He fucked a Captain! A lowly Ensign fucking a freaking senior officer on duty no less! No one does that! His mind was reeling from the thought of how many regulations he broke by one night. The thought made his ears flatten to his scalp. Damn it to oblivion… This is it. His career as an officer of the Imperial Armada is gone. What would his parents think of him now?! He was going to be punished for insubordination, stripped off his rank, kicked out from the ship and the armada, and sent to a penal colony planet to labor for the rest of his life and, and—

     

    “Torssen? Aric, are you alright?"

     

    The gentleness of the voice derailed Aric's increasingly hysterical train of thoughts. The young cougar sucked in breath and slowly turned his head, peeking over his shoulder. Marshall's brilliant blue eyes were looking at him with concern, and was that trepidation?

     

    “Y-yes Captain?" His voice wavered slightly. Was the lion going to reprimand him? He thought with increasing dread, trying to ignore a tiny part of his mind that had taken that his butt was pressing against the Captain's flaccid member. Even when soft, he could feel how big it was—Stop that!

     

    “I… erm," Marshall coughed, sounding out of characteristically awkward. “I… Ensign Torssen. I wish to apologize for my unbecoming behaviour last night."

     

    Okay, he wants to— Wait what?!

     

    “What?" Aric's throat caught as he turned his body to fully face the Captain. Under the dim light from the distant Velosian sun showing the chiseled features of the white-blonde furred lion. He looked decidedly apologetic and embarrassed.

     

    “Last night, I didn't know what got into me." He began, sounding grave. “I forced myself into you. I-I know we weren't ourselves last night, and in the heat of the moment I forced myself to you until you pleasured me yourself. It was unbecoming of a Captain like me. I hope you can forgive me, Ensign."

     

    Aric was at loss. Did he seriously just… Just as he thought he was going to get the boot. He shook his head, and took a deep breath, before exhaling, trying to formulate his words.  “A-about that, Captain…" He trailed off. “I, er, wish to apologize for my actions too, Captain. I, er… shouldn't have mounted you like that, after what you did to me…" he flushed crimson. One particularly steamy memory resurfaced to his mind. “And uh… you didn't actually force yourself to me, sir. I kinda let you to take the reins and things just… escalated from there. I-I did enjoy it though." He added hastily.

     

    The captain's form seem to relax. A small smile began to grow on his muzzle. “No need to apologize, Ensign. We were both in the wrong, to a degree, and… I'm glad you enjoyed it. I was afraid I might have scarred you despite what happened." He scratched his head.

     

    A warm feeling fluttered across Aric. He was reminded how he admired Marshall. He found himself leaning in closer to the much bigger feline, burying his head around the lion's short mane. “You didn't, sir. I really enjoyed it… even if the pheromones did a number to our senses." He chuckled.

     

    “Ah." The lion chortled, evidently relieved as he wrapped his arm over the cougar's back. “Then there's that… We'll have to have Doctor Seinn to look into it some time." He thought with a light hum. “Now I'm quite worried about how the rest of the scouting team was faring…"  

     

    The cougar nodded in understanding, flushing slightly. He also wondered what happened to the other three in the room? He managed to get some random flashes of Ralf, Braun, and Oshiro, but none of them made sense. Everything was still hazy.

     

    “Hmm… would you prefer if we refer each other by our first names?" Marshall spoke suddenly, drawing Aric's thoughts back to the present. “When in private of course. Last night really shed some barriers away."

     

    “I… wouldn't mind that, sir." Aric replied, grinning happily.

     

    “You can call me Dominic, or Dom. Whichever you prefer." The lion rumbled pleasantly, rubbing circles around Aric's exposed back.

     

    The cougar nodded with a wide grin. “Alright, sir— I mean, Dom. That'll take sometime getting used to. I guess you can call me Aric."

     

    “Much appreciated, Aric." Dom chuckled, lowering his head slightly as he cupped Aric's chin with his other paw. “You don't mind if I ask you to stay in my quarters for some more hours, would you?" He said, licking the cougar's chin and lips.

     

    “I don't mind that." Aric purred happily, content with staying longer with the bigger, muscular lion for a couple more hours… and perhaps something more. Officers who got night shifts weren't expected to report to their duties until the midday cycle.

     

    “Er, by the way… what happened to the rest of the night crew, and how did we get into your quarters?" He couldn't help but ask. “My mind is drawing a blank on the most part." he admitted.

     

    Dom had to think for a few moments, trying to recall as much as he did. The musk-induced sex session had drove their bodies into a kind of inebriated state after all. Hell, he woke up to something akin to a mild hangover. “I think I carried you to the elevator which deposited us directly to this room… where we had our final run." Aric flushed crimson, which sent Dom into a fit of chuckles.

     

    “As for Ensign Lenner… I believe the last I saw him was pinned between Lieutenant Braun and Lieutenant Oshiro… though I couldn't be really sure, and I don't have any inclination of where they went to after we left.”

     

    Aric gaped. The thought of the wolverine being rutted by the big wolf and the otter was just… He gulped, feeling his own cock hardening at the image. “I think they would have moved like us… perhaps." He chuckled, shaking his head. “I guess we just have to steer clear away from Velos for the time being to avoid any… accidents like this."

     

    The leonid Captain shook his head with amusement, and kissed Aric's forehead lightly. “I'll make sure to write the necessary reports and warnings. But for now, let's just enjoy the moment."  He added, reaching down to rub the cougar's hardening manhood.

     

    “Yes, let's just do that." Aric agreed shivering from the touch, burying himself deeper into the embrace as he ran his paws through Dom's massive, sculpted arms, purring in content.

     

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    Pilot Tetra Infinity
    ~by Ryan Cook
    (2016 revamped from 2011 version)



    It was the year 2880, on July 23rd. The Synthesis Stone had activated itself again, in an attempt to reset and refresh the reality of this world for mankind to try again and survive. 

    Two genetically modified pilots, Pamela and Telegorio, were rescued by their home ship, the Alpha, and are assigned to find the whereabouts of the ongoing and repeating catastrophe that has struck their Earth in an infinite loop. Two more pilots, who serve as the supporting back-up aid for Pamela and Telegorio, are the former investigator-combatants involving the crisis. Their names are Rosto, the human pilot, and Negoya, the specialized artificially intellectual Android pilot that contains a special component built from the same material as the Synthesis Stone. Rosto is to support weaponry, ability, and aid to help on their battles whenever need be, in real-time. Negoya serves as the analyzer, both in and outside of dogfights, and is the original prototype model to the Alpha Astral-Ace Androids, while being the only one with the synthesis stone's special component embedded to the back of his head, which has been known to have a connection to the crystal that has been causing the global eruption of the Chronomatosis Apocalypse.

    In order to throttle with this resolve, the Headmaster of the ship of their crew, Valame, ordered Pamela and Telegorio to set out on the raid and search for where the Synthesis Stone is currently located before it sets itself off again and ends up elsewhere within the planet after a certain amount of time. While doing so, they are to combat against many of the forces that are against them, registering them as foreign foes, and are out to destroy the pilots and their ways of destroying the crystal in a desperate space race-war to stop the stone from destroying the current contents' state of the Earth again, only to leave more remnants ready to further flood it with its own, “cloned 'corpses'” that can be apparently controlled by the crystal itself. However, this pseudo-physical destruction and restoration cycle of Earth with no progressive advance on the calendar, can only be resolved properly, and while Negoya keeps in touch with Pamela and Telegorio about the information and data of the situation, they also search for a solution that can truly put an end to this loophole that Pamema and Telegorio sought out to execute. 

    Fairly late in the middles of the battles long before facing the stone, the two pilots along with their aids, Rosto and Negoya, come across their corpse-”cloned” counterparts, who were pilots (though physically as dead beings) with the same abilities and attack patterns as them, including the burnt-looking giant spaceship, the Alpha. However, as they were in shock, the two simply thought of them as mere copycat enemies, but which were in fact, their “failed experiments,” as in former beings of their exact selves that died in the catastrophic armageddon blast by the crustal, and are living mistakes that attempt to “teach” Pamela and Telegorio by killing them to the best of their abilities while the two tactically try and fight to survive, both strategically and swiftly. They were learning to overcome their skills, by counteracting their “dead clones'” attacks even just surviving barely through several of their blasts. After barely and miraculously defeating them to their conquer, they continue to travel according to what Negoya says through their transcommunicaions in their battleships. In lieu of helping them navigate closer to where the signal is coming from, this meant that they are heading closer to where the notorious crystal, The Synthesis Stone, actually is.

    By the time they had survived many more various battles of the enemies controlled by the crystal and the living forces that blindly oppose the Tetra pilot team, Telegorio and Pemela discovered an animate being that is the originator of the Synthesis Stone when they had found it and saw it transform. It was called Xiuhtecuhtli (“Xiu” for short), as a mechanical, materialistically-manifested technological deity that destroyed their Earth and reconstructed it over and over again without retaining anyone's memories from before, but rather, resuming everything that was last done for the past 260 Hours locked in that loop. (4 days and 20 hours, constrained within that time frame between July 19 to July 23, 2880 A.D.). This was the cybernetic, crystalline creature's way to abuse time itself in that particular method due to his main motive to “refine and idealize the learning of the living beings that inhabit the planet in order to make them “make less mistakes” and come closer to manifesting its vision for a “Perfect World.” However, when Pamela and Telegorio know that such ideals including perfection doesn't exist, they decide to confront and combat it head-on to the best of their efforts while Rosto and Negoya prepare to stay as attentive as they can like never before. They were doing everything they can do survive from the colossal being's massive attacks, but as the pilots manage to succeed with their teamwork, it ironically leads to the destruction of Xiu as to realizing its proof of making “no mistakes,” by having the pilots not be destroyed by Xiu itself, but ultimately emits one final blow to destroy & reset Earth.

    The core of the crystal begins to glow brighter and brighter, rapidly until it blows up, just as Negoya warns them to fly out of the way as far as they can. The cyber-spiritually connected Android to Xui, who is Negoya, reacts and resonates, absorbing the auras of the explosion in an attempt to fly faster and save Pamela and Telegorio with its extra energy from the destruction and symbiotically transfers its event memory data to both of the pilots as their genetically modified components allow their minds to connect and embed the storage on their chip data. After that has been finished to save the events of the current battle-run and in order to know what to do next, the world gets destroyed right below them and in the moments notice of wiping them all out as the pilots fly away from the bright explosive sphere from the core as swiftly and evasively as they possibly could. After having the Psyche-Persevation program from itself already encapsulated sturdily into Pamela and Telegorio's subconscious data, they did every means to escape rapidly, but the explosion caught up to them as they got closer with each other by the ships near by and “hold on together” above the ethereal atmosphere that hovers the planet near space, wiping them out and the Earth once more. This time, the Synthesis Stone had finally been eradicated, and the planet can resume its existence in a newborn pursuit and to preserve all progress of all life forms.

    When Negoya and their aid-pilot, Rosto, awaken, the two other pilots were laying crashed on lush ground, and are still unconscious, apparently asleep but not dead. With Rosto worried, he checks their heartbeat after going inside of their small ships' entrance to where they are sitting still, and thankfully they were still beating, a sign of relief for Rosto. While they were bodily reset but rescued in essence by Negoya's program action, Rosto wonders what happened as he cannot remember the events prior to the conflict that went about from the most recent cycle that was under the crystal's control at the time. Rosto was dumbfounded by some of the debris around their environment, surrounded by green and rocky, bright brown dirt. Negoya, who is worn out and exhausted, begins to explain everything to Rosto in a concise manner, and he accepts the contents of the events said to him. Negoya urgently yet calmly tells him to take the motherboard memory chip from the Android, in order to prevent any possibility of a materialized super-entity from wrecking their world again, now at the hands of Rosto to either preserve Negoya's chip that allows synchronization of its powerful remnants, or destroy it at the other risk of erasing its log and preventing knowledge of detailed future research about it from the original model. He had a choice between the two crucial options. Rosto crushes it, and Negoya, with its last powered moments, emits a serene, gentle smile on its screen with its eyes happily closed, shutting down and speaking his sentence of gratitude, bidding its farewell and falls back, crashing into pieces, dead but fulfilled as an Android that has resolved its role for the pilots.

    Rosto picks each of the still-asleep pilots to their crash-landed station ship, Alpha. He picked Pamela up first, and just as he came towards the entrance door, the already-awoken yet shaken headmaster, Valome, asked him what happened, and Rosto replied: “Everything's alright now. The two are unconscious from the miracle-landing after a big battle, but they'll be alright after they get enough rest inside our home ship.” Just as Valerie picks Pamela up handed by Rosto, Valome stops for a moment after having spotted the broken and laid Android from afar, and asked, “That's...Negoya! It has died, hasn't it?” Rosto gently and poignantly responded “Yes...but it told me every event that had happened, and yet it has died a happy robot, knowing what it did right for the two fighter pilots right here, and even the world we live in along with its final wish that I had did for Negoya, telling me to kill its chip.” Valome said “Hmmm, yes...and I thought Androids didn't have feelings, even pre-programmed to enact as such...there is life everywhere...” Rosto nodded and finally stated “Well it was an artificial intelligence!,” and chuckled mildly, then proceeded to finish the job by picking up the other fighter pilot, Telegorio, and as they pursue and clean up, reality now continues and the world accepts its status.

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    An old sci fi tale I began and couldnt continue, now its time to go on I think. First chapter previously published here, then the continuation will be here first if people would like it to continue.

     

    =======

    “Con, scanner control. We have station on screen. Range thirty-two. We have their narrow beacon locked on"

    “Thank you. Anything else on the scan?"

    “No Sir"

    The captain smiled for the first time in many days. This was not an easy mission, or a safe one. Ever since the Vilani had attacked Terran space six months ago, though, safe was a relative term.

    “Comms, send our transponder code.  XO we can secure from hyperjump"

    “Aye captain."

    The XO gave a small frown, worried in spite of himself. The captain was tired, he knew that. All of them were tired. Still…

    “Captain, suggest we maintain battlestations until we have entered ground battery range of the moon."

    “Worried Spinks?"

    “Cautious, Captain."

    “The Vilani haven't shown themselves out here yet. Waldmann Station is well concealed. I think we have it covered."

    “Aye Captain."

    The commander bristled a bit at that. There was just enough reluctance, and a hint of reproval in the standard phrase. Spinks was an experienced officer though…

    “Very well. Keep them at battlestations."

    “What about the freighters?"

    “Maintain jump formation for now. Tell the Riyaku Maru and the Ashanti to begin preparations for docking though."

    “Aye Captain."

    The XO grabbed an annunciator, aware that the short grey hairs on the nape of his neck were prickling. He hated it when that happened, his sixth sense for danger always had been right. There was nothing here to worry about though. The Captain had told him so. And yet…

    The old man is being mighty cavalier still.

    “All hands! Maintain Condition one. Shuttle crews report to flight bay."

    He could sense the disappointment like a current. Six more hours at battle stations, if they were lucky. Better that than dead though. Still…he would be happier if the freighters were on their disengaged side. Which posed the question…where was the threat axis. The station?

    “TSS Ramillies, CA-113 calling Station 53 Orionis One. Confirm."

    The headset remained resolutely silent for what seemed an age, and his prickling began again, more insistent. He was about to click on the transmit button again when a cracking noise came through.

    “TSS Ramillies acknowledged. This is Station 53 Orionis One. We have your transponder and your beacon confirmed. Your codes are accepted. Welcome to Waldmann station Ramillies."

    Spinks smiled then a little, catching his Captain's mood. They had done it after all, picking their way through Vilani patrols to the deepest station the Terran Confederation possessed, way out on the Spinward edge of Vilani space. An outpost buried in a moon orbiting a gas giant around an unremarkable sun, it could just prove the lynchpin for their fight to break out into the Galaxy past their foes.

    It didn't matter that their foes were humans too. Human had been fighting human since the first Homo Sapiens picked up a rock. Once the men of Earth overcame their surprise and shock at finding the Galaxy already occupied by humans like themselves, they set about the serious business of making an empire of their own. Regardless of what their rivals may think.

    There was more to it than that of course, and he knew the debate still raged on Earth decades later. Mankind was prepared at least theoretically for encountering alien races once they colonised space, and endless speculation had preceded the event. The XO had to laugh at the many variations on little green men the scientists had come up with to prepare their expeditionary forces for an encounter, only to find the one thing nothing could have prepared them for. Humans,  essentially indistinguishable from Terrans, though with a language not like any on Earth. One thing was hauntingly familiar though, for their uniforms bore a symbol recognisable to any Terran; a dragon, blacker than space itself.

    The meeting had gone well enough, but things deteriorated rapidly and predictably once it became apparent that the Vilani assumed the men of Earth would be their latest subjects.

    Spinks knew then that their little expeditionary force was more than a resupply run to a remote station. It was the first serious attempt to survey the region. That made it important; more suitable worlds, more room for Earth's people. The Vilani would just have to make way.

    It was also an attempt to look for more evidence to understand some of the mysteries that the existence of fellow humans had roused; who came from where, and when?  One intercepted communication from a Vilani outpost had sealed the deal. A reference to Dragon's Gate, and a location past 53 Orionis. Explorers had been dispatched on wilder goose chases, he supposed. But as an experienced officer, Spinks didn't like them. They tended to end up with a dead goose or a dead chaser.

    “Con, scanner control. I'm picking up something unusual. It pops up for a second then disappears."

    The Captain swivelled around in his chair. He liked order and predictability did Captain Salonen. This was not it.

    “Can you isolate it?"

    “Trying sir. Some sort of transient energy reading."

    “Where is it?"

    “As best as I can tell Captain, it appears to be coming from the Lagrange two point ahead of the Moon."

    The two senior officers exchanged glances. Something odd at the Lagrange point was not an accident.

    “Scanners, can you isolate?"

    “No Sir."

    “Go active. Use Lasers, Meson scanners, all of it. Quarter that spot."

    A sense of tension descended on the bridge then, like a blanket of disquiet. The Captain reached for his own headset and keyed the mic.

    “Scout crews board your ships, and prepare for immediate launch. Spool up your jump drives ready for when you clear."

    The XO glanced across, his expression set in a frown. He had given up scratching his neck now; the feeling had gone beyond anything a scratch could fix.

    “The freighters Captain?"

    The commander nodded.

    “Have them do a thruster burn and assume station in high orbit masked by the Ramillies. Then have them spool up their jump drives if they have enough in their capacitors and…"

    “Con! Scanning Control! Multiple targets, looks like they just jumped in,  dead ahead! I count ten…twelve targets. Signatures consistent with Vilani warships. They are powering weapons systems…missiles away! Multiple Vampires, estimated run time four minutes and closing!"

    “Sound the Attack alert! Warn the freighters, and tell them to jump back to Gilan. Warn them…just warn them. It's a fucking trap!"

    The Terran ships appeared to move almost slowly from a distance, as the inexorable rules of celestial mechanics determined their fates. Stuck in a gravity well, with the moon and the gas giant drawing on them with invisible claws, and heading directly towards an enemy fleet on a matching orbit, they had no choice. No amount of evasive thrust would help. And yet, they had to have time, time for their jump drives to recharge and escape.

    The Captain gritted his teeth, sawing off the cigar clamped between them. He was a good officer, and an excellent navigator. He knew the reality.

    They would not have the time.

    “XO, use all batteries to protect the Ashanti."

    “Not the Riyaku?"

    “No point. They are stuck on the engaged side between us and the enemy. We can't help them."

    A momentary flare from the screens told the bridge crew how prophetic those words were. Several missiles locked on to the Riyaku Maru and hit her amidships. Pieces began to fall off as the structure failed.

    “Incoming missiles!"

    “Track and engage with point defense systems. Orient the ship to protect the freighter as long as possible."

    “Do we power up the main gun?"

    “Might as well. If we're going down, might as well take one or two with us."

    The bridge began to shudder now, as missile strikes started to hit home against the heavy cruiser's armoured hull. It could take more punishment, but not indefinitely. They would need at least fifteen minutes to spool their jump drive, far far too long.

    “Oh God!"

    A sudden bright flash momentarily obscured the viewscreens, as the man structural spars on the trapped freighter succumbed to physics, followed by the engineering section dislodging and detonating in a silent holocaust. The shockwave disabled half their point defense guns, adding to the disaster.

    On the disengaged side, the second freighter, Ashanti, tried desperately to charge its jump drive fast enough to avoid the same fate. It's captain maneuvered recklessly, drawing close to the side of the Ramillies, using the cruiser's bulk as an impromptu shield. His crew saw the explosions from missiles striking home on their companion, knowing what they meant for their friends, but they could not help. Their big brother was buying them time to raise the alarm.

    On the bridge control was breaking down as systems failed one by one and compartments succumbed to vacuum. Damage control was holding for now, but not much longer. Then an unwelcome piece of news.

    “Con, scanner control! Ashanti has been hit"

    The Captain sighed  as he watched the viewscreen, the second freighter falling out of its orbit no longer under control after a flight of missiles got past the minimal screen the Ramillies could still provide.

    “Damage Control?"

    “Jump drive now inoperable. Reactor core damaged, becoming unstable. Hull breaches between frames forty seven and fifty, sixty six and seventy three, and one hundred to one hundred and five. Central fire control on backup system."

    The two senior officers exchanged a look, the XO bleeding from a head wound received from an exploding control panel. They both knew the score; it was over.

    “Are the scout ships ready?"

    “All four reporting ready for launch and jump drives nearly ready. Do you want to wait and use them for rescue?"

    The Captain looked sadly at his friend.

    “No David. You know the score; we need them gone now, and we need them to raise the alarm. Download the mission log and order them to break and head for Terran Command at Glian. One of them has to get through."

    Spinks gave the orders, grunting in satisfaction as he saw the four little ships that carried all their hopes break from the underside of the cruiser.

    “Abandon ship?"

    “Yes XO. It's time."

    “Too late!"

    As Spinks initiated the alarm, he saw a bright shimmering flash from the nearest Vilani cruiser. They had begun firing their particle accelerator, as if they were in any danger of losing now. A couple of pods may get away, but not many. For the bridge crew, it would be all over soon.

    “You know, I always hated space."

    The captain looked at him wistfully, a half smile on his face.

    “No shit?"

    “Yeah. Never got used to it."

    'Well…at least they might name a cruiser after us, so in a way, you'll be in space forever."

    Their laughter was interrupted by the failure of the main spar under the impact of a massive explosion, and the heavy cruiser disintegrated in a fraction of a second creating a brief glorious sunrise for those nearby to admire.

    By then the only admiring eyes left alive belonged to Vilani.

    *****

    The young equine knelt on a straw mat, eyes closed. He was not asleep, though to an untrained eye it might appear so. He was meditating, as he had been trained to do in the last year as he prepared for his stallionhood.  A stallion needed calm, and control, in order to do his duty to his herd.  Tremelle believed in duty, it was what gave his life purpose when so many things proved hard to understand.

    Like the visions he had whenever he tried to meditate, freeing his mind of cares and thoughts to better receive the wisdom of the Old One, Grandfather. Instead, when he sat like this and sought the peace and tranquillity his friends found, he saw things that troubled him. Balls of fire in the sky, like the sun god that crossed the heavens, but huge and incredibly bright and close. Then smaller spheres of brown, or blue, or green. And metal things that streaked between them like a Lykka bird, fragile and beautiful.

    Most disturbing of all though was the times when he looked inside those metal things, curiosity drawing him in whether he wanted to or not. The minds he touched, so alien and yet he could understand them, and feel their thoughts. Once he had even spoken to one of them, when he tested his mind during one of his meditations. The creature was terrified, and he tried to calm it with his mind but seemed to make things worse.

    He had stayed away from the silver things ever since. He still remembered the creature though, and what it looked like, and that haunted him even now. It had been an image from the Elder's scrolls come to life. One of their forebears.

    A human.

    Tremelle was more troubled by that than anything else. The prophecies had echoed through the generations, of how the return of one of their forebears would bring the return of Grandfather, and the final war between Him and his Children. Death and destruction awaited, and the equines world would never be the same again. He had spoken to no one of his visions, not even his father, though that was a dangerous thing to do. For his father, the herd stallion, had the gift of Sight too, though he had never described seeing what Tremelle had seen. That his father might have concealed it from him scared him. That his father might not be able to do what he did scared him even more.

    For several reasons, Tremelle wanted nothing more than to simply be a normal equine. It was his one wish, even as he watched his brothers grow up to become well regarded stallions of his father's herd and take mares as mates. He wanted to be like them more than anything, and yet his prayers to Grandfather had not been answered. The visions still came, as did the other things.

    The feelings for his fellow stallions, like his friend Parem for instance. 

    As he tried to concentrate, a vision of the beautiful white stallion came into his mind, his body glistening as he washed in the river. Tremelle could almost reach out and touch those flanks, and the plump sheath that drew his gaze always. Without meaning to, he sought out his friend, whispering to him as he bathed.

    You are so beautiful Parem…

    He was startled as the stallion gave a sudden jerk upright, his eyes wide and mane shaking as he scanned the riverbank for intruders. Tremelle felt his uncertainty, the fear in his mind and he tried to soothe him, sending feelings of calm and safety until the young stallion resumed his bathing. With a sigh, Tremelle opened his eyes and returned to the meditation room.

    Well that was another disaster…

    “Son, why aren't you meditating?"

    Tremelle gave a surprised nicker at the sound of his father's voice. For a big stallion, Danek could move quiet as the night.

    The young stallion bowed, as was customary to the herd stallion, even if he was his father.

    “Father, I have finished. I…I am ready father, if you are."

    The older stallion walked up to his son, regarding the colt with affection. He had grown so much in the last two years, thought Danek.

    And yet he is still the same young colt who I would take for runs on the plains, and protect from wolves in the night when he woke up terrified. The years have gone so quickly.

    “You are ready for your stallionhood ceremony, son, but are you ready for the rest?"

    “I am"

    The colt's fixed expression and slight frown made him sigh quietly, and shake his head a little.

    “Yes, and no my son. I can tell you are ready to do your duty, but not like it."

    “Father, I…"

    The herd stallion held up one hand, quieting his colt with a gesture. His hand reached for Tremelle's mane, stroking the colt as if trying to calm him with a touch. It seemed to work; the youngster's ears straightened, and his tail flicked high where it had been flat against his haunches.

    “I know this isn't what you wanted son. Yes, I know, more than you think."

    He held the colt steady as Tremelle began to protest, then stopped as his father's words sank in.

    “You are not the first to prefer their own sex, believe me. And though I need you for this, I know the sacrifice you are making. It is a necessary one though. Times are becoming tougher, for all of us. The wolves are raiding more ruthlessly and more often, and we cannot resist them if we remain a series of individual herds. We need this chance, and you will help. I know I can count on you son."

    “Yes father."

    Tremelle tried to let obedience and resignation fill every syllable, but some resentment must have leaked out, for his father gave a frustrated whinny and stepped back, eyes blazing.

    “She isn't exactly hard on the eye colt, even if she lacks a cock. Mersylla is a beautiful mare, and will make you a good mate, even if you need to keep some unmated stallions on the side for fun."

    Now Tremelle was shocked.

    “Father!"

    “As I told you, don't think you are the only one ever to enjoy a stallion's company…now you are heading to your stallionhood, I think we should have no more secrets between us yes?"

    The youngster stared at his father, sudden understanding creeping into his memories. The many friends, the many nights away from their hut, the dark looks from his mother when Danek came home in the darkness. His father's friend Alatheus, a paint stallion, always smiling, always wrestling the other stallions, always with a plump sheath hinting at arousal…

    “So, now you know son…you should tell me the rest."

    Tremelle suddenly returned to earth with a thud.

    “The rest?"

    “The visions. I know you have them, I have seen the signs. Your brothers cannot, strong and noble stallions both but they do not have the gift. Even mine is limited, I can see things close and the minds of those who are unskilled. Not you though son; I could never see inside your mind, even right now standing a foot in front of you. You have the gift, stronger than me. And I know you are a Seer, I can tell. There are few of us enough, but we are needed. You will make a good herd stallion one day, even perhaps taking over from Mersylla's father when his time comes. That is also why I need you, Tremelle. You have the strength, and the gift, to become the right hand of the most powerful herd leader in our lands. You can help me unite the herds and face the wolves. You can help me avert disaster.

    “Disaster…it may be too late for that father from what I have seen…"

    Tremelle suddenly realised what he had said, as his father's widening eyes registered the  meaning.

    “What have you seen colt."

    “Nothing father, nothing at all I…"

    The stallion suddenly gripped Tremelle roughly, pulling him up by the mane as the colt struggled but failed to break his grasp. The colt stood shaking, staring into his father's eyes, seeing the uncertainty and alarm.

    “What have you seen colt!"

    “Humans"

    Danek released the colt with a deep sigh, his head falling to look at his hooves. His tail swished slowly, betraying his thoughts.

    “As if we didn't have enough problems. Well son, pray to Grandfather that your gift is faulty. Either way, we need to fight back against the wolves. Let's just hope there is something left to hold on to when we win."

    With a gentle nudge in the back, the herd stallion pushed his young son towards the door, and the waiting herd gathered for his stallionhood ceremony. He would put on his adult loincloth, and take his ceremonial dagger, and recite the oath of loyalty to his herd and the herd stallion who ruled over them. Then he would try to look happy while his friends congratulated him on his stallionhood and his impending mating to the most beautiful mare on the plains by all reports. Duty called.

    As he stepped out of the temple hut, he felt something else calling though, and looked up towards the sky. Night had just fallen, and the stars were out in force, vivid points of light against the velvet black of the sky. The twin moons had risen, casting a silver glow on the herd camp, and he looked towards them seeking out something he couldn't quite understand.

    As his vision flew to the sky, he realised what it was. One of the silver birds, scarred and blackened, but still soaring high, looking down; and he realised with shock that it was looking down on him, and his lands, right now.

    And inside he saw a human, like the ones he had seen before. But this one was here.

     

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    This day’s certainly going well, Andrew thought, as he pulled himself up onto the rocky shore.  First, a bright sunny day suddenly turned cloudy, then the radio died, followed by the GPS losing signal, and then while he’d been distracted trying to get that working again, he’d managed to run his boat full speed into a rock that he could have sworn hadn’t shown up on the map before the GPS conked out.  Just dandy.  So much for a nice relaxing day of getting away from the office.  At least I managed to grab the flares before the boat went down.  And I paid for the insurance on the rental.

     

    Picking up the small bag of equipment he’d salvaged from the wreck, he gazed at his surroundings.  He’d ended up in the middle of a group of tiny rocky islands and outcroppings rising out of the sea.  Some were bare, and some had seagrasses and mosses growing on them.  But dominating the view was a (relatively) large island at the edge, upon which the remains of a stone tower or lighthouse stood.  The roof of the tower was completely gone, with a jagged edge slicing diagonally across the remaining stones.  A solitary large window remained near the edge of the cut.  Debris from what had once been the roof lay next to the tower, along with two smaller, similarly ruined outer buildings.

     

    No point in staying around here.  At least that looks dry.  Andrew began making his way across the rocks to the central tower.  As he walked, he realized it was growing colder.  The sun tried to poke through the clouds in a few places, but the weather remained stubbornly overcast.  He began contemplating the less-than-ideal proposition of spending the night on the island by the time he reached the base of the tower.

     

    As he entered the tower, he gazed up.  It was rather different than he’d expected.  The tower was practically hollow – very little in the cavernous bottom floor.  A spiral staircase wove around vine-covered support columns keeping the upper floors from crashing to the ground.  The gray stone walls of the tower were curiously bare, even for a tower as exposed as this one.  Almost as if the bottom of the tower was little more than an empty base for whatever lay at the top.

     

    Carefully making his way up the crumbling steps, Andrew scrambled through a rotted-away trapdoor in the roof of the chamber.  The musty air of the tower gave way to the smell of the ocean once more, as he emerged into the ruined upper portion of the tower.  Although covered in a mixture of dust, salt, and moss, the remnants of the large room made it clear that it had once been ornately decorated.  Several ruined tapestries hung from the walls of the room, with ornate, polished stones hanging in between them, acting as mirrors.  The room seemed to have once lead to even higher chambers, but they had long since given way to the elements and collapsed down the side of the tower, spilling debris into what remained of the middle chamber.

     

    Andrew sighed briefly, realizing that the tower would provide him with protection little better than the rocks below.  Maybe one of the outer buildings had a smaller room that wouldn’t lose heat so fast?  Before going, however, he decided he might as well fire off a flare or two from the remaining window.  They would be visible further than from the ground, after all.

     

    He crossed to the window, taking the opportunity to look more closely at the tapestries. Each was woven with fine threads, and numerous symbols he didn’t recognize (Although, he admitted to himself, I'm so tired that I probably wouldn’t recognize English at this point, and languages were never my strong suit) with crests containing stylized birds in the center.  Pedestals (or, in some cases, the remains thereof) were positioned in front of each tapestry.  On one pedestal, in front of an ornate green and gold tapestry featuring some sort of bird of prey in its crest, lay a small wooden box.  Similar boxes lay near the other remaining pedestals, but broken and splintered.

     

    Curiosity overcoming him, he opened the box to find, to his surprise, a nearly-pristine mask.  It covered half the face, with the nose portion extended to mimic a beak.  The brow was furrowed, with colors and markings mirroring that he would expect to see on a hawk or an eagle.  Picking it up to look closer, it felt unexpectedly warm.  Reasoning that it was simply the materials making up the mask, he turned it over in his hands.  It looked like it would fit.  Maybe this trip wasn’t for nothing after all, he thought.  Turning to one of the mirror stones, he used his shirt sleeve to wipe away some of the dirt and grime, so that he could see his windswept, soaked reflection.  Well, this isn’t perfect, but at least it’ll give me an idea of how this might look.

     

    Placing the mask on his face, he was surprised to find that it fit almost like a glove.  He hadn’t even realized there was no strap to hold it over the back of his head, but he didn’t need it.  It was almost like the mask had been custom-made for his face.  It even blended into his beard.  He admired the way the mask glinted off the hints of light playing across the mirror.  Was the sun finally coming out?  He made a few poses in the mirror, some very extremely serious and some curling his so-called biceps.  Ignoring a sudden itching sensation, he extended his arms out like wings.  And starting thinking.  And feeling.  And closing his eyes and imagining what it might be like to take to the air.  To feel oneself gliding on currents of air.  That would certainly be---OW!

     

    Andrew was snapped out of his daydream by a sudden pain in his feet.  Wondering if he’d stopped too long and his feet were simply protesting from the long walk, he bent down to adjust his shoes, but stopped as he noticed his itching hands.  <i>Brown?  Why are they brown?  They’re covered in…fur?</i>   He looked closer.  No….feathers!  Tiny feathers!  But….what?!  Jolting upright, he stared into the mirror and realized that patches of feathers were starting to grow on his cheeks.  Pulling at his shirt, he realized the unexpected feathers were covering his chest as well…and spreading.

     

    Quickly putting two and two together, he reached for the mask and tried to rip it off, but it would not budge.  In fact, his efforts to remove it were really starting to hurt even worse than the pain in his feet and the itching sensation that was now rapidly spreading across his body.  He tried to feel for the lines where the mask met his face, but was horrified to realize that the lines no longer seemed to be there.

     

    Before he could process this completely and begin to panic, a massive jolt of pain from his feet and a ripping sound forced his attention elsewhere.  His shoes had split, revealing that his feet had shifted and mutated into giant yellow bird-like feet.  Kicking off the remains of his shoes, he reached down and felt his new digits.  His toes had fused together, leaving only three talons on each foot. 

     

    Turning his attention back to his hands and chest, the feathers had grown to cover not only that but most of his arms as well.  He stared at them in blatant disbelief, before another massive bolt of pain from his back and his posterior caused him to double over in agony.  He could feel bones and flesh shifting, and hear fabric tearing, as a massive tail began to push its way through a rip in the seat of his jeans.  More pain came from his shoulders and back.  Was he growing wings?  Wings?!  Despite the pain, and the horror, and the panic, he began to think about the possibilities of flight with wings.

     

    As he imagined soaring through the air, the pain started to ease, diminishing to the point where Andrew was able to, shakingly, stand up again, adjusting his jeans so as not to bunch up around his…tail.  Okay, that’s gonna take some getting used to.  He watched as his half-formed wings suddenly unfolded themselves, and rapidly grew out into a magnificent wingspan, stretching well outside the mirror’s window on himself.  He also saw the last remnants of the mask fuse into his face, reaching up and feeling the material morph into soft feathers.

     

    Andrew stared into the mirror stone, and back at him stared an anthro hawk.  His eyes, hair, and beard all seemed to have survived intact, and he could recognize most of his face beneath the feathers.  He ran his fingers across his chest, marveling at his more muscular figure and the varying colors and patterns of his new feathers, contrasted with the yellow in his beak and feet and the blue remnants of his jeans.  He also marveled at the feelings of brand-new body parts – he had wings!  They felt strange, and heavy, but also powerful.  And they were part of him.  He could move them almost like his arms and legs, creating a strange yet familiar sensation.  As he worked through the new sensations, he realized that he hadn’t just gained a new body – he had gained new instincts.  He realized he knew *exactly* how to fly!

     

    A beeping from the floor snapped him out of his reverie.  He bent down, careful not to crush his tail, and pulled out the GPS device from his bag.  Oh, so now you’re working?  It showed that he was, in fact, only a few miles from the coasts of home.  It also showed him in the middle of the ocean.  I wonder why nobody’s found this place before?  I guess I can’t rule out magic at this point.  And only a few miles?  Feels like it shouldn’t be too hard to make it.  Not sure how I’m gonna explain this, but I’ll figure something out.  Extreme plastic surgery?  Tarred and feathered?  Unexpected dreams fulfilled?

     

    He secured his bag around his waist and turned towards the ruined wall, noting that the sun had finally broken through the clouds.  He basked in the warm rays of sunlight for a few moments.  Then, he took a few running steps, jumped, and soared into the air.  Freedom!

     

     

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    Alex Wright
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    Prologue

     

    249th Year of the Emperor

    Gortas prowled the deck of the Ledsham, anxiety causing him to unconsciously flex his hands as he paced. The Ledsham was not a very large vessel, far better suited to be a river ferry than an sea fairing vessel. It's captain was a lot like the ship, aged and not quite fit for the task at hand. Gortas scowled, remembering how all of the other captains had refused his offers for passage. Most of them denied him simply for being draconian, others because he was an alchemage, and others still because of the retinue of other draconians and the orcaean they had with them. He had to admit that their destination wasn't exactly an easy place to navigate either. Of all the islands off the west coast of Glaia, Ishvalara was probably the most inhospitable place he had ever heard of. Reefs surrounded a shallow and rocky bay, the vegetation of the mountainous terrain was sparse, and the sun was unforgiving this far south. Not much detail had been gleaned of the island, as most crews seemed wary of attempting a landing along the shores. And yet, by necessity alone, that was their destination.

    Draconians idled around the deck, there would be no work until they got to their destination. Each of them had a different expression: fear, doubt, frustration, despair. The knew their duty was one in which they were not likely to return home. Every one of them had volunteered, and they all knew the price of failure. Gortas turned in his pacing towards the bow of the ship, glancing quickly at the orcaean who occupied the small forecastle there. The female stood stock still, as if she were listening for a sound nobody else could hear above the waves and wind. He knew of her people of course, the wandering tribes of the Fragmented Isles. What he did not understand was their magic, and that bothered him. As a master-scholar of alchemagic, it was his goal in life to understand and comprehend all matters of the arcane. Shamans of the wandering tribes were secretive though, and few enough spoke to outsiders. Any questions posed by outlanders to shamans of the tribes were deflected or given evasive answers. He knew only from firsthand experience the sheer amount of power that a shaman could bring to bear. He considered it on par, if not greater, than the alchemagic he and his people used. What he had found interesting was that the two magics were entirely compatible. In fact, the expedition depended on that very point.

    She had come into the Draconian lands looking for the wielders of alchemagic. She gave only her name, Shareena, and shared with them the visions she had seen in her meditations in solitude. In her visions, she had witnessed the return of the Althenar, beings possessed of the talent and magical might to cause calamity. Most of the council had disregarded her words, calling her a raving lunatic. Gortas had seen the wisdom in pursuing the truth of the matter, and thus had partnered with Shareena. Through a use of combined spirit magic and alchemagic, they had discovered that her vision would come to pass regardless. All they could do was delay the inevitable for a few years. That would give them more than enough time to determine a protracted solution. For now, the plan was to place a massive Spirit Seal on the island of Ishvalara. They had planned and studied such a procedure for as long as time allowed them. In those four months, they had fought over every exacting detail from the alchemagical circle and sigils to which spirits to call in to power them.

    Now, a fortnight out from the mainland, their goal was in sight. The island of Ishvalara lay before them. From here they could see the island was just one large expanse of black rock. Steam rose from the waves in several places that they could see. A great sense of foreboding quickly washed over those on the ship. This island was desolate, entirely removed from their world, yet here it sat as a testament of everything grotesque. The only trees which appeared to grow on the island had no green leaves, most like scraggly bramble than anything else. Whitecaps crashed against hidden rock and reef and the cacophony created an unpleasant undertone to the whole scene. Gortas gazed at the island with trepidation. There were only two outcomes to all of their planning, success or death.

    "Three days," said a soft voice behind him.

    He twisted around sharply, he had not heard Shareena's approach over the crashing waves. "Three days?" he inquired.

    Shareena nodded, "Three days until the first of the Althenar appear. The spirits are all restless. They too depend on us, you realize. Our binding must be in place before the end of sunset three days hence."

    Gortas looked sharply toward the island. Three days would push them to complete all of their work on time. Even in practice it had taken three days, no less. They would have to land within the next hour or two if they were to make the deadline. The sun had passed its zenith a few hours ago. He gripped the rail as a shudder ran through the ship. Something had likely struck it from below. He could feel the slight strain on his senses as the alchemagic he and the others had applied to the hull activated to repair any damage that had been done to the structure. A dull orange light flowed over the hull once, and disappeared. He glanced to the helm, where the captain stood with a look of grim determination. "Irherar, how long until we make land?"

    The captain's gaze shifted to the island briefly, "Two or three hours, if we avoid all of the rocks. Twenty or thirty minutes if not."

    Time. It was all coming down to a matter of time. "Make for land, as quick as you can. We will handle the ship."

    The old castore nodded. He knew enough not to question the decision. The ship changed course to head directly for the island. Gortas motioned for the other four to join him on the deck. Each took their specified location, and raised their arms to point at another. Alchemagic pulsed a brilliant red hue through their formation, scorching the proper runes and geometric designs into the deck of the ship. The magic hummed like fire in their veins, reaching outwards to force its change upon the world. Their runes and sigils were meant to contain and focus the raw potential into its intended purpose. Words flowed from their mouths to help guide the purpose and maintain the flow, "Eicmimi ack a aceiamqcok. Eicmimi ack eoy kcimqmogqaiy. Gou accqk eii acemiy!"

    The magic flared, following the lines of the geometric designs, and began its descent around the hull of the ship. Like liquid fire it flowed over the beams and struts, radiating from the five alchemages. As the entire ship became encased in the blazing brilliance of the magic, it sunk into the beams, causing them to glow from within. The ship lurched once, striking a reef below them. Planking cracked as a hole appeared in the forward hull of the ship, yet no water seeped in. The wood seemed to warp and reform back into place as easily as it had been broken, the red inner glow tracing patterns throughout. Another jerk wracked the ship, larger than the prior two. A loud snapping sound came from the mast of the ship. Once more, the red glow flared to life around the splinters of wood as the magic forced the wood to reconstruct itself. They weren't gaining speed against the foam and waves, they merely cut across all of the obstacles in their path. They came out into the shallow bay several minutes later, with the ship none the worse for it. The red glow dissipated from the beams and planks of the vessel, and the alchemages dropped to their knees. The spell had been costly, but well worth the expended effort.

    A dinghy was sent over the side of the ship, and three of the draconians slipped over the side to accompany it. Gortas and the other draconian, along with Shareena and the castore started passing supplies from the ship's hold over the side and into the dinghy. They didn't have much to take ashore, just those items which would allow them to fulfill their task. This included casks of acid, some brittle steel, firewood, chalk, and other accouterments of alchemagic. Shareena had not requested any additional supplies for her part, her succinct reply had been that shamans required no materials with which to cast their spells. As the dinghy had been packed with supplies, the draconians had moved into the warm water. Gortas and Shareena shared a look on the deck of the ship before they plunged over the edge and into the water as well.

    They landed on a short beach of black sand which was hot under foot. As they pulled the small skiff ashore with the supplies, the material on their clothes dried stiff due to the amount of salt from their short swim. It abraded and chaffed their skin, but they had no time to focus on comfort. All that was required for their seal was a large open area, essentially any part of the large island would suffice. The group sorted all of the materials to be carried among themselves and set off towards the interior of the island. Steam billowed from several vents around the group, filling the air with the foul smell of sulfur. This would be the appropriate place to entrap beings who could bring such destruction upon the world. A butte jutted out of the black landscape, likely just a remnant of one of the island's once-active volcanoes. They could not have asked for a better setting, the land around the butte was flat and clear.

    Gortas nodded to the others, "This shall be the place. We shall place the seal upon the rock face, the key upon the ground. Kastilley, you will be the tip of the Spear. Ravok, you are going to be the end. Arrias, Oronaia and I will form the shaft."

    Shareena's gaze flickered back and forth across the face of the rock, lingering on points within. She mumbled something to herself and nodded, "Yes, a good of place as any, alchemage. I shall begin my preparations."

    She sat with her feet folded up onto her opposite knees, a position many of her people used for their meditations. A soft and harmonious humming filled the air, seeming to reverberate off of the sheer stone cliff in front of her. Gortas studied this for a few seconds. As far as he could tell, she was humming to become more in tune with the natural spirits of the area. He left her to finish her work as he and his people started theirs. Unlike the pentagram postings they had used aboard the Ledsham, here they would use the Spear. The pattern was intricate and designed to enhance and intensify the magic sent through its structure to the point of being several times stronger than normal. There were dangers, as there were with any magic. If they overloaded the Spear's patterns with too much magic, the structure of the pattern could collapse and the magic would enter their bodies in its amplified form. If they misspoke, the same could occur. Any number of things could go wrong at any point in the proceedings, and they would all perish because of it.

    The geometry of the Spear was laid out using the acid. Runes and sigils were drawn with crystal styluses specially designed not to be corroded by the powerful acid they were using. As they laid out the pattern, each draconian infused his or her alchemagic into the sigils. Each sigil seemed to drink in the energy being fed to it, which would then glow with the dull red or orange of an inner fire. Chalk was crushed and added at various points around the geometric patterns. Its effect was immediately apparent as various runes around the pattern flared or faded as it was placed. It would enhance or detract from the patterns depending on its position in the geometry. Because of the incessant wind, some water was mixed with the chalk to ensure its adherence to the diagrams around it. They worked slowly and carefully; any deviation from the predefined layout could be costly later in the casting. Each and every section by necessity was thoroughly checked for errors by a second person before moving on. Nothing short of perfection would allow the magic perform correctly under the strain of energy that would be flowing through it later.

    By the time the pattern was finished, the sun's disk had hit the edge of the horizon. Full dark was only about half an hour away, and hunger ravaged the stomachs of the draconians. Salted pork was pulled out of packs, the only food they had on hand for the next few days. Even Gortas grimaced at the prospect of three days without proper food. Shareena stood abruptly, stating simply, "We must start."

    The draconians nodded to each other and moved into their pre-assigned positions. As they took up their places in the Spear, they added the last runes to their stations. Runes describing their names in the alchemagical language were scrawled along the perimeter of their place in the pattern. As each one finished, their segment of the array pulsed with the red-orange of alchemagic. When all five had finished forming their names in the geometry, the pattern flashed once, and the red-orange blazed brilliant yellow. Shareena moved into her place, between Gortas and Kastilley, who stood closest to the rock face. They had already added her descriptors into the receptacle at her feet, and it flared once in bright blue before settling into a blue-green. Her descriptors were not in the alchemical language of geometry and sigils, but in the flowing pattern of script which the wandering tribes used in their rituals.

    Shareena started, her intonations flowing from her lips in a haunting melody, "Éusteicht kuem ineus, buetáukke see im igus áut. De chibhiur i dhéininn muud i cheingik ir see eíche. In derchi i thiginn cunn, uid suúd i bheidh ig i dheureidh gich ge bhfuuk see siek. Tá i fhues igit ár spruecinni igus ár beikií. Uirr mé is de chibhiur keus in tisc see. Gich ár driíechti i thibhiurt duut, i sunseir. Gich ár driíechti i thibhiurt duut, buetáukke nádúr. Gich ár driíechti chun tú, uentich cunn."

    The pattern at her feat flared into blazing blue light which flowed rapidly outward throughout the entire pattern. As the spirit magic touched sigils and the geometry, it mingled with the inner red-orange fire and melded into purple. As the wave of magic washed over the bare rock face, orbs of light in various colors emerged, coalescing above the ritual space. These twirled and danced as the melody continued from Shareena's lips. The alchemages began their part of the ritual, the quiet and droning intonations which would forge the wild magics and sacred geometries into one working, and allow the rite to move forward. Each intoned in time with the others, providing a quiet but undeniable tone to the singing rhythm of the shaman, "Gqeqyok ag miaiciak, ycimqkiiqk yoagck. Gqeqyok ag Kqaiy Miyeok, kqmaqkii eawayqmamqk. Qa iuqwqoy yqmmqyok qccqk, gcaie kcw eiikeqm cckeoic im kiqmok. Kqmaaeowoy ag owmqyoy miaiiamqcaik, mikmayiamc eckkim. Cyaqcok ackmiqk qqiqcok ack mqcq, eoy qiica ack ciaii. Kiiqimoi eic cyaq miyecii, mcwwqmoi iu oce yoagc."

    Magic flared around the alchemages, their red-orange merging with the blue of the spirit magic. Geometric designs flared brighter and the sigils burned fiercely as waves of magic continued to flow outward. Each wave of magic rebounded off of the outer edge of the pattern, shifting back into the pattern and causing the entire structure to continue to flare brighter as each new wave pulsed through. The spirits above whirled faster and faster, feeling the excess of energy below them. They moved down into the pattern and whirled around the edges, causing a whirlwind of magic to flow into the center of the pattern, right to where Gortas stood. The entire pattern at his feet became brighter than any had previously thought possible. They had not attempted to include any spirits in their practice attempts. Now, however, there was nothing left to lose. Glaring light caused all of the participant's eyes to water. None of them had expected this much energy to be pouring through the pattern. Gortas and Shareena had predicted excess energy, and had included a way for excess energy to escape the Spear by converting it into light, but never had they expected this much. If the pattern overloaded because it couldn't convert the magic fast enough, they would likely all perish in the blaze of uncontrolled magic. Nevertheless, they all kept their chants in perfect time following the lead of Shareena.

    They did not realize the passing of time. Not one of them cared. They were deep in the magic now, and any distraction could prove fatal. Thus it was that full dark came and went in the crooning and droning of words. Their energies interwoven to a point where it was impossible to distinguish one from the other. Spirits continued to gather and weave themselves into the pattern, alchemagic continued to coalesce into multi-colored spectrum frantically pulsing with light. Magic flooded against the sheer rock wall in front of the pattern, etching itself deeper and deeper into the face. It was carving out the seal according to the instructions provided by the geometry of the key below their feet and the careful invocation of their words. Magic filled the spaces carved away from the rock with brilliant purple, and the Spear continued to glow brighter below it. Night drew its inky blackness over them once more, and still not one stirred from their confines within the magic below.

    As the sun rose on the third day, their magic could be seen from several miles as a bright purple light in the sky. The magic was holding itself now, and yet the haunting song continued with the droning intonations. Voices were going raw and still they could not dream of stopping. It was only when the sun dimmed unexpectedly that Gortas even looked up while chanting. He gazed in fear and wonder as the sun went black. Nothing was normal about the means either, he was certain this was no eclipse. They were out of time, the Althenar had arrived. Only a red haze was left around the dark sphere that had appeared. Almost as immediately as it had appeared, the entire structure of magic around them pulsed and flared. Lines of purple magic arced upward as they forged a connection between the Spear and the being which had appeared in the sky above them. Song and chant ended, there was no more direction they could give their magic that would affect the outcome of the next several moments. The world seemed to lean in all around them, waiting on the outcome.

    Purple magic flared against the darkness, tendrils encircling the great black mass started to pull it down towards their seal. A shudder ran through the entire island, an earthquake triggered by the massive amount of energy being released from its surface. Several of the vents around them released a fresh wave of the sulfur laden steam. Streamers of energy continued to wrap themselves around the Althenar in the skies above the island, pulling it faster and faster towards the seal. If the Althenar were to be let loose, there was no telling what destruction would be wrought on the world at large. No records had survived the last sighting of an Althenar except for the stories that had been convoluted and passed down the generations. Another tremor rumbled through the island, stronger than the first. Gortas had expected that as more energy was released from the structure at their feet, the more violent the tremors would become. There was nothing that could be done about them now, all of them knew the dangers of even attempting to layer another spell over the one that was currently coursing through the pattern.

    What none of them could have predicted was that even with all of the power flowing through the magical construct was that it would not have been enough to contain the entire mass of the Althenar. Much of the magic that had contained itself in their structure had already wrapped itself around the sphere, and yet there were still areas which were open to the sky. Thus it was that when part of the exposed area flared brilliant white, none of them had anything they could do to combat the release of energy. It arced out over the oceans to the east, streaking across the sky in a radiance far greater than that of the sun. There was nothing they could have done to prevent it from reaching the continent even had they the magic to do so. After what seemed like an eternity, the purple tendrils of their spell had finally pulled the Althenar to within range of the seal on the sheer rock face at the point of the spear. Light flared from the rock face, from the key in their sigils below, and from the ribbons of magic which still encircled the destructive being.

    Part of the Althenar began sinking into the rock face while another massive tremor rocked the island. They could hear the splintering of rock above them, but none had the magic to counteract what came next. Sand and gravel came sliding through the Althenar as if it wasn't a presence which was physically in their world. Kastilley, standing as close as he had been to be in position as the head of the Spear had no place to move as the thundering of a landslide could be heard tearing down the slop of rock above him. He gave a quick sad smile to Gortas, who tried to withdraw himself from the pattern. So it was that the first of their number fell to the Althenar as more massive rocks started falling through. It was quick, the boulder which landed on Kastilley was large enough to have caused instant death. Spacing in the pattern allowed the others to avoid the rest of the tumbling rock, but Gortas heard a soft gasp escape from Oronaia behind him. He knew that she and Kastilley had been close, but perhaps they had been closer than he had thought.

    The Althenar was halfway into the solid rock when several of the purple tethers pulling it seemed to fracture and dissipate. It was already caught in the seal, and nothing it could do now would change that fact. Gortas knew they were all doomed though, for as the Althenar turned, a small section its black exterior came into view. It flared into its blinding white radiance once more. Ilthanian, my love...I will not forget you...

    Everything evaporated around Gortas' awareness. There was no light, no heat, nothing to discern which direction was which. Blackness was all that remained, and into this blackness he faded. On that island, a black orb slowly faded from existence into black rock with none left to witness its demise. Leagues away a plain lay in ruins, nothing but smoldering ash and crystallized sand. Spirits howled their sorrow to a people who were no more. A draconian bowed his head and wept, for he could feel that his heart was no longer on this world. The world was safe from the Althenar, but the price had been far too high.

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