Unleashed pt. 45
Some words from u/eruwenn
and I. Enjoy? First
Chae’Sol stood at the centre of a large command deck, meticulously peeling the protective film from his new captain’s chair. The sensation of the slow but steady yielding of the film, the sweeping line following the contours of the seat in flowing curves; it was incredibly satisfying. Finally, with one last gentle pull, the last of his chair was uncovered and he stood back to admire his throne. Aside from the freshness of the seating itself, there were shiny new holo displays, touch sensors, and comms relays that were within easy reach of his seated fingertips. This ship would be the jewel in any fleet, a prototype Dreadnought made by the infamous Bardul of Shi’an. The Gowe Military faction had run into financial problems, and it had been left unpaid and unclaimed. What sorcery Kadir had used to find it, and purchase it, he did not know.
His comms unit beeped and Danyd’s voice came through. “Chae’S-” -He grumbled incoherently- “Captain
, we’re ready to get underway.”
The Niham turned and sat back on his pristine chair, swinging his long legs over the armrest. “That was quick, Chief Engineer Ef’Yto
Danyd grunted at the use of his title. “Aye, these Awakened are efficient bastards.” The Satryn looked around at the enormous engineering bay. The entirety of the Porkchop Express could comfortably sit inside, and two of them could likely squeeze in. “Plus, this thing has never been used; feels weird not having anything to work on. It’s state of the art, and I’m having to read the manuals on half the new systems.”
Chae’Sol laughed, looking around at the Awakened as they were preparing their workstations. “Yeah, this command deck is a little intimidating. Even the Niham Armada didn’t have ships like this. There are fifteen
weapons stations here, what in Tulseria’s name were the Gowe planning to do with this thing?”
“No idea.” The chief engineer walked to the large seat in front of his new work terminal, and hopped up onto it. The protective covering squeaked. “This thing has more firepower than half their fleet, it must have been something big. We’re lucky Kadir found out about the graveyard
of unclaimed ships from one of his contacts.”
The newly-minted captain swung his legs down and sat up, straightening his black uniform and white collar. “That’s another thing: how does he have so many contacts? I was in
the Tulseria-damned military, and I had no idea they would sell us fighters and weapons.”
“I know the feeling.” Danyd watched a junior engineer – Lily, an Awakened who wore a headband in her silver hair that sported long Kittran ears on it – begin running diagnostics on the Hoban Field Generator. “I'm aware he got the automated weapons for the system port from my
people, somehow. As for how he accomplishes all he does, I think his time working with that fancy Anatidae councillor opened more than a couple of doors for him.”
Chae’Sol stood, running his fingers through his perfect hair. “Doors, windows, rear entrances and damned secret portals, all leading to a dark realm of shady deals and supplies. We have an Imperium Capital Ship for Tulseria’s sake! Nobody knows where he got it, or where he’s now hidden it.” He looked at his holo display, noting the specks springing blinking into existence as the other ships of Federation origin came to life. “Let’s just be glad he’s on our side.”
The chief engineer tugged at the green collar to his uniform. “Our side
used to be a damn sight smaller.” Lily had finished her diagnostic tests and sent the results to his console. Her report included an adjustment that would create a potential three percent increase in crystal efficiency, and a small drawing of a smiling leokit with a crim-bar. He groaned, then reported back with, “We’re ready to go when you are.”
The Niham strode confidently across the command deck, stopping to stand in front of the huge vid screen at the front of the room. All around him were his crew, made up mostly from the Ashi, Awakened, and Kasurians. “Let’s get this show started.”
Jaym sat with a bowl of Tony the leokas cereal in front of her. It wasn't just a catchy advertising slogan - it really was great. She and Elizabeth had worked together so much in the engineering section of the Porkchop Express that they had become close, often spending their free time together. Indeed, Elizabeth currently sat opposite her, carefully rebuilding a power coupling and occasionally tapping at her datapad. Shortly after the results of her most recent tap played out, Elizabeth paused her work on the power coupling. Without speaking, she held up her datapad so that Jaym could see.
On the screen was Tony and his mate Jolie, and Skeena’s voice could be heard excitedly talking about collecting urine samples from the female. Jaym screwed up her face at first until Skeena announced the pregnancy test was positive. Tony was going to be a father! She couldn't contain her joy and screamed loudly, grabbing the screen and running all the way to the bridge to show the others.
Ranjaz was stretched out across the captain’s chair as Jaym burst in, and didn’t open his eyes until she began shaking his leg. Even then he didn’t pay much attention. “I told you not to let Elizabeth play with any more systems till after the mission.”
She blushed slightly, as their last improvement had inverted their water treatment system and blown six power couplings. "It's not that!" she said, holding up the datapad and starting the video. "Look!"
At the first syllable of Skeena's voice, Ranjaz sat bolt upright. The video held his full attention, and when Tony's impending fatherhood was announced the Kittran's whoops of delight could be heard all through the Porkchop Express. He reached underneath his seat and retrieved a small, fluffy bed, then picked up Aiov. Ranjaz led his unusual dance partner in a quick spin of joy before replaying the GalacTube video for her. “You’re going to be an Aunty!”
Eruwenn leaned back in the large seat that had once been Embar’s. “I didn’t think they were related?”
The Kittran nodded. “Aiov is Tony’s sister. Aaron adopted them both, and that’s how human families work. They just keep adding members, like a Dular adding shells to its burrow. Family is family.”
Cygna pressed a few buttons on her Navigator terminal, moving the video to the main screen as well as starting it over. “I still can’t believe you keep one of these under your seat. I mean, it’s a leokas!”
Ranjaz held Aiov up and they briefly rubbed noses. “Just a little one!”
The Anatidae laughed. “I can see living with the human has had quite a profound effect on you.”
With one of his trademark grins he held Aiov out towards Eruwenn. “Wanna nose rub?”
"Ah," the councillor said, shrinking back from the offer, "despite her size she is still a predator, and I am not quite ready for such a close encounter.”
From the pilot seat Ripley stood, taking Aiov from Ranjaz. “She is not a toy.” She briefly snuggled the tiny leokit to her chest, then passed her to Jaym. “Take her for food and exercise; she must grow up strong.”
Jaym also cuddled the wriggling Aiov close, and not just because the little leokit was adorable. Aiov had tripled in size, and was becoming a bit of a handful. “Thor was preparing her food; I’ll take her down to him.”
Once the junior engineer had left, and Ripley returned to the pilot seat, Ranjaz began tapping on the console in front of him. “Looks like we’ll be free to take the shuttle down to the surface with the next group.”
Cygna drummed her fingers on the arms of her chair. “I didn’t realise it would be so busy.”
Ranjaz shrugged. “There was a quake on the fourth planet, so mining colonies are shut down while the nerds poke around. Along with that, we got three big freighters waiting for resupply. That’s a lot of bored folks looking to kill time.” Ripley grunted, prompting a chuckle from the Kittran. “You don’t approve of their choice of leisure activity?”
After their few cycles together Eruwenn was already learning a lot about her shipmates. Ripley, for instance, wasn’t one for talking. She decided to interject before the Captain irritated her too much, as they would need her focus soon enough. “Gambling and pleasure palaces are not to everyone's taste, of course, but these sorts of things are covered under local governance.”
Without skipping a beat Ranjaz replied, “I know that’s the official line, but you sure as shit have tax codes for all of it. If you want to look down on folks, don’t pretend you aren’t profiting from it.”
Cygna, ever defensive of her mentor, jumped in. “That’s a bold statement for someone who never paid a credit in tax until it was automatically deducted from his Galactic Federation pay.”
Ranjaz laughed, then continued, keeping his voice care-free. “Taxed on what? I never owned anything.”
Eruwenn could see the trap her junior was walking into but decided to let this be a learning experience. The Kittran was wily, and the Anatidae found him entertaining. Cygna, as she had predicted, scoffed at his claims. “I’ve read your file. When you were arrested you had a ship, five shuttles and thousands in valuable goods confiscated.”
“Exactly!” His eyes lit up as he cornered her. “It was confiscated because it was stolen, so I didn’t own it. Imagine a world where you can keep stolen goods if you pay tax on them. Even I think that’s crazy.”
The Fae’Dan paused, and the anger evaporated from her voice as she realized what he had said, replaced by a slightly impressed tone of surprise. “Well, maybe, but… Really? You stole all of it?”
Ranjaz shrugged. “Or won it. I’m pretty good at Dalcho.”
Cygna perked up. “I play Dalcho myself, we shou-”
“No,” Eruwenn interrupted. Some lessons were too expensive. “Do not play Dalcho with someone who can get free priority entry permits to a casino.”
The former operative shook her head. “I’m a great player, you’ve seen me in the council chambers. I took that Ley’Rulian trader for five hundred credits.”
The Anatidae smiled kindly. “And he had five shuttles when he was arrested.”
Cygna slowly turned from Eruwenn to Ranjaz, noticing his grin and the sparkle in his eye. It was most definitely the smile of a predator. He gave a little chuckle. “Don’t worry, it’s been a long time since I played. No gambling on Galactic Federation ships, you know.” He laughed again. “Oh wait, you read my file.”
The Fae’Dan nodded. “Perhaps we should focus on the mission.” She gave a slight bow to Eruwenn before returning her attention to her console.
Ranjaz looked at Eruwenn and stuck out his tongue. “Don’t ruin my fun!”
The Ambassador smiled. “I don’t play Dalcho, but there is a human game called chess I quite enjoy. Perhaps we could play sometime?”
The Kittran gave a nod. Keeping his voice neutral, he replied. “I don’t know that one, but there’s another human game we could try. Poker?”
"We have permission to dock at the holding ring and send down a shuttle," Ripley abruptly called out. "Let’s get this whatever it is and make the rendez-vous.”
Both of Ranjaz’s fangs showed as he grinned. “If we’re going to pull a job on Chisola Prime, first you’re going to need to look the part!”
Aaron walked down the corridor of the Hive ship, the strange spiderlike creature trailing behind him as he followed one of the corpse vines as it receded deeper into the ship. He turned and watched the creature, which shrank back from him and crouched low to the ground. “I’m sorry I kicked you. You simply startled me; you don’t have to hide.”
The lighting never changed in the endless corridors of the ship, and only the most uninteresting of doors deigned open for him. At this point, he had lost track of time completely. Through perseverance he’d made several important discoveries. The bulbous shapes in the flower vase room were seats; he was fairly certain of that after finding another room with bodies sitting in them. The vines that came for them were the ones he was now following, and by now he must have seen hundreds of dead Hive.
The second discovery was that the Hive came in a variety of shapes and sizes. There were two main ones, as far as he could tell, and the first were the four legged kind that had so kindly thrown him in the rejuvenating jelly bean. The second was bipedal, and looked a hell of a lot meaner. While the ones he deemed workers looked somewhat like ants to him, in shades of reds and browns, the second type looked much more commanding. Their carapace had thicker layers of armour in green, gold and red, and was spiked at the shoulders and joints. Even their legs had spines and to top the look off their heads were much more angular. Whether they were soldiers, commanders, or something else, he didn’t know. Through observation of the corpses he had discovered the most confusing feature yet: a strange section in the centre of their abdomen that was filled with what seemed to be a grey fluid.
Ahead of him, not skittering away like the rest, was an aphid that no longer emitted a pale green glow. Something whooshed overhead towards the slow and sluggish aphid, and Aaron instinctively threw himself to the ground before he realized what it was. "That's how you get kicked!” He stood up, brushing himself off. “Fuck, that scares the ever-loving shit out of me every fucking time.”
The huge creature looked up at him and whined as it munched on the sick aphid. He was probably imagining the apology in its eyes, but Aaron still shook his head. “I know, I know. It’s your job. They clean the floors, you keep their population healthy. Just stop leaping over me like that, fuck. I’m going to have a heart attack.” It whined and backed away from his angry words, and he tried to keep his voice to calmer tones. “Don’t be like that. I’ve told you enough times.”
When he looked down the corridor again, the retreating corpse vines had disappeared around a corner. Aaron began to jog after them, and after he'd put some distance in he heard the pattering footsteps of his terrifying shadow. He tried to pay it no mind. Once the vines were back in sight he slowed and followed behind them, singing his direction song quietly to himself. “Left, right, straight. Left, left, right. Straight, straight, left, left. Right, right, straight, right, right.”
The ship was massive and, other than some areas smelling funkier than others, there was no variation in lighting, decoration or layout. The song was his map back to the rejuvenation pod, which was his only safe source of hydration. His companion padded along behind him, a friendly nightmare to accompany him on his seemingly endless journey. “We really need to give you a name.” He wished he had his phone with him so he could channel all his nervous energy into making a video. “The audience demands a name. Plus, I won’t be able to sell merch without one.” He turned and looked at the creature. “I’ll probably have to create space-halloween first, or maybe I’ll get lucky and find that you’re cute to some species.”
Aaron returned to following the corpse vine, waving a hand high as he spoke, gesticulating to the heavens. “The name is what matters: a good name makes all the difference.” He began seriously pondering the naming matter. “Aragog, Shelob; you know, lean into your size for a characterization. But then again, that's not really going to make people like you.” He looked back over his shoulder as the unnamed beast trotted happily behind him. He assumed happy, at least. It now tended to make an odd gurgling noise after eating, and it roamed closer to him than before. “You know, I never got to name Sassie – she’s my dog. I told you about her yesterday, or the day before.” He really was losing track of the days he’d been here. “I got her from a rescue. She was skinny, and so damn angry, with scars on her legs and under her fur. I had to have special visits before I could keep her. Prove I was worthy.”
Talking helped take his mind from the gnawing emptiness in his stomach. Hydration and nutrients osmotically obtained from some weird pod were nowhere near as satisfying as a burger and a cold beer. “Her first visit, she had a rubber ball. It was her only possession, and she loved it.” There was a touch of pride in his voice. “Took me an hour before she gave it up to play. The lady from the rescue centre said I was the first.” He choked up, blinking back tears. “Anyway, couple more visits and she got to stay. Crazy dog was such a handful. She once tried to climb a tree to chase a squirrel. Got her legs over the first branch and just dangled, kicking her back legs.” He began chuckling to himself. “She once tried to jump through a car window; some guy was parked at the lights as we walked past.”
He was just chatting now, lost in his memories as he walked. “You know the type, loud radio, windows rolled down on a sunny day, annoying the shit out of everyone in the town. He tossed some litter out of his window and she just launched herself at him. Scared the life out of me at the time - funny as fuck now, of course.” He laughed again. “Then there were the swans. Man, were they not ready. She loved to swim – I told you that before – swimming and splashing was her favourite release. Well, that and chasing rabbits which is, kinda, how I ended up here. Anyway, she would just swim up and down, right past the ducks and stuff, somehow never interested in them. Then one summer these swans came along...” He paused, realising his new friend didn’t know what a duck or a swan was, or even summer, probably. Before attempting to explain, he realised they also didn’t understand english, so it really didn’t matter. “Anyway, swans being belligerent bastards, I called her out of the water straight away. Those mean white fuckers chased her all the way to shore.”
He turned around, now grinning broadly. “But, once her feet hit the ground in the shallow water and she was able to stand, did those sons of bitches turn and swim away as fast as they could.” He paused, trying to remember his original point. He really was very hungry. “Oh yeah, so trying to stop her fighting everything that moved meant I didn’t have time to teach her a new name. Figured it would be confusing to her. Sassie she was, and so Sassie she stayed.”
There was a tightening in his chest as he thought of her missing him. “Took a lot of years and a lot of time for her to get where she is now. I know Alexa will take care of her, but still, it’s my job, and I need to get back to doing it. She won’t understand…” He choked up completely, taking a moment to compose himself before clearing his throat and returning his monologue to its original course. “Anyway, names. Names matter.”
“Maybe you’re a girl monster. Charlotte?” He shook his head. That name just didn’t seem fitting. “We could call you Peter Parker? Although, you’re more of a man-sized spider than a spiderman... Parker Peter? Then again, big, scary spiders say one thing to me. Australia. You like to jump, we could call you Roo? Or, how about Ozzy? Or Bruce? Hmm, that’s a sharks name though… can you swim?”
His train of thought derailed suddenly as he saw an open door ahead of them through which the vines were receding. The pair of them continued walking behind the vine until it disappeared into the doorway and Aaron ran forward, pulling something from his pocket. He’d been saving the foil wrapping from the ration bricks, folding them together to form a wedge. He jammed his makeshift door stop under the bottom corner of the door as it began to slide shut. It ground to a halt. “Boom! Told you it would work.”
He stood and finally looked into the vastness beyond. Through the doors was, somehow, a rolling meadow, complete with trees, giant mushrooms and plants he had no name for. Vines were also everywhere, receding further across the great wilderness. “What the hell? I thought I was on a spaceship? Am I underground?”
Staring intently at the sky, he stepped onto the deep moss beyond the door. He looked at the wall around the interior and saw it was rock, and more plant life clung to every crack and crevice. As he walked slowly forward his eyes followed the vine as it headed for a large, colourful, monolith. He approached and saw that its shape was similar to the vase flowers. He watched as the corpse vines deposited their cargo on top of the monolith. Not on, he corrected himself;they were dropping inside.
He looked back to the door, nervous that it might close and lock him in. A large black shadow lurked just beyond the door, and he was torn. Should he explore this 'outside' world, or retreat to the place where he at least had the rejuvenation pods? He looked up at the sky, basking in the warm and invigorating embrace of the sunlight. He blinked at the brightness, being cautious to not look at the sun directly, and something else suddenly caught his eye. It was, incredibly, a door. A door that floated in the sky.
The thing about human eyes is that they might be easily fooled, but a shift in perspective can easily change what you see to something entirely different. Aaron was looking up at a ceiling, like the one in the Atrium back on the Azrimad, but a hundred times more convincing.
Once back inside the doorway he watched the spiderling he was beginning to think of it as a friend dancing back and forth a short distance away. It seemed… happy. “Ok buddy, I’m back.” Aaron’s stomach made a loud gurgling sound and he rubbed it, trying to squeeze the hunger away. Fingers found muscle easier than usual, and he knew he was definitely losing weight. “We should head back. I need sleep.” He thought for a moment and made a final decision, bending down to pull the foil wedge clear. “I doubt there’s a communicator or command deck in there. Let’s go home, Ozzy.”
The trip back was uneventful, Aaron sang his direction song as they navigated the labyrinth. A few more aphids were snacked on by his leggy companion, but his own legs were heavy by the time he was almost back to the jelly beans. Despite being exhausted he had made two stops to create another pair of flower vases for the aphids, as well as scattering a ration brick as he passed by. The aphids waited, as they always did, till he and Ozzy were far enough away before enjoying his bounty. Still, the human derived satisfaction from their presence.
Exhausted and weary, Aaron was glad to finally make it back to the room he was reluctantly calling his temporary home. As the door to the rejuvenation pod slid open he was met, forcefully, by the barrel of an energy rifle. Unfortunately for Aaron, due to a considerable height difference, the barrel had struck him squarely in the groin, and he instantly fell to his knees. He came face to face with his attacker with tears in his eyes, clutching his tenderness and coughing. From the other being came incomprehensible yelling, as well as a lot of gun waving. Also, there was coughing.
Aaron, eventually mustering enough self-presence to do something other than deal with the after effects of the gun-to-groin encounter, wiped the moisture from his eyes and tried to butt in to the one-sided conversation. "Relax! I'm the one who just got snookered in the fucking balls, here! Why in the world are you so mad?"”
The gun was pressed to his forehead by the tiny attacker, who shouted something unintelligible with their black eyes focused on him. They paused to cough, then stepped back, glaring at Aaron until they seemed to feel comfortable enough with the situation to take one hand off of their weapon and pull out a datapad. They held it up, and Aaron frowned at the familiar but still unintelligible colours that swirled on the screen. Then a small vent at the bottom of the device squirted out a puff of sickly sweet scent.
Aaron pulled back from the odour. "What the fuck was that?"
With some distance between them, the human finally got a good look at his opponent. They were barely waist-height, furry, with a long nose and dark banding across their brown fur. The banding was heaviest across their eyes and although that’s where the similarities ended, it was enough for the human’s brain to forge a connection. “Listen, Rocket, there’s a virus on this ship. You need to get in the jelly bean. Trust me.”
The rifle was thrust at him shakily in one hand, the tablet again was raised and a swirl of colours and shapes greeted him. “I don’t speak fucking winamp plugin!” On the wall behind his captor Aaron spotted a dull orange aphid, struggling to climb the wall. He smiled as he slowly leaned to one side. “Have you met Ozzy?”
The huge arachnid leapt over them both, causing the newcomer to blindfire at the wall. Aaron seized his chance and snatched away the weapon. He grabbed the newcomer by the front of their armoured uniform and slammed them to the ground. They cried out in pain and began their incomprehensible yelling once more. The accompanying coughing fit was bad, and Aaron dragged them to their feet. Realising that his solitude had caused him to revert to English, he switched back to galactic standard to offer a warning about the disease. “You’re going to die!”
A shocked look crossed their face as the human effortlessly lifted them and slam dunked them into a blue jelly bean. Ozzy gurgled happily through his aphid crunching. Aaron snatched up the energy rifle, but found it was difficult to hold due to its small size. He leaned over the jelly bean, noting the occupant drifting off to sleep.
Hunger and tiredness were forgotten as adrenaline flooded his system. There was no way the newcomer was alone. He left the pod room to begin searching, and Ozzy seemed to pick up on his intention and followed behind, keeping close to the human. “Good boy!” He had no idea what prompted it, likely some automated response, and it was as though he watched his movements from outside of his body as he reached back and gently scratched the arachnid's head. He was rewarded with happy gurgles, or at least that's what he hoped the noises were. “You did good back there.”
He made his way along the corridor towards the same airlock he had once chosen as his final exit. His recent suspicion proved correct as he heard a strange sound up ahead, as if someone was running a wet finger around the rim of a glass. He carefully leaned around the curve and saw another figure, dressed in the same uniform as the first. No fur on this one, although they were equally small in size, and they somehow looked like they were made of glass which couldn’t decide on a colour.
This time he remembered to use galactic standard. “Keep your hands where we can see you. We’ve got you surrounded!” The figure was clearly startled, as the ambient resonating noise began varying wildly in pitch at the same moment as their colour shifted to a solid blue. Aaron cursed. He didn’t have a translator, having instead opted for learning standard and winging everything else. The whole federation knew standard, so he hadn’t truly considered getting the implant. “Something is wrong with our translators,” he continued to bluff. “Do you speak galactic standard?”
A datapad was hastily pulled from a pocket, and as buttons were pressed the resonating sound became more rhythmic. From the datapad sprung noises. No, it was a voice! “Why do you speak Procyon? Where is Commander Bertolannixostraphes?
Aaron began relaxing at the situation he found himself in, but inside he was brimming with joy. Finally, he could talk with someone! “There is a virus on this ship, and many are dead. If your commander is the raccoon-looking guy, I got them into a healing pod. They’re going to be fine.” Under his breath he added, “probably.”
The resonating began and shortly afterwards the voice translated, “Who are you? Why did you not answer our communications.”
Opting for honesty in the hopes of leniency, Aaron stepped into view. “I’m a passenger. I don’t have access to the ship's systems.” The newcomer was looking at the tiny gun, so the human tossed it forward. “I didn’t know if you were friendly. I can take you to your friend, and you should probably get treatment as well.”
The now-orange alien walked forward, their movement accompanied by the strange sound of ceramic plates rubbing together. “That won’t be a problem, we Tricinic do not catch meat diseases. I am Tsy'lo, take me to the commander.” They turned to look behind them. “Where are the others?”
Aaron pointed to Ozzy. “It’s just us two.”
Colours swirled and the small glass person thrummed. The datapad spoke, “You are the last human, the Ambassador. Correct?”
Turning and gesturing to be followed, he began to lead the way to the rejuvenation room. “I am the first human, Ambassador Aaron Cooper, professional bounty hunter. Just call me Aaron. Are you the rescue party? Is Alexa here? Did she bring Sassie?”
It took a moment for the translation to come back. “I don’t know those names. We are the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad and we responded to distress calls and found this ship. Adrift.” They had walked a little way when Tsy'lo stopped and regarded Ozzy, who was still faithfully following behind. “Why does the achalo follow you?”
“Ozzy?” Aaron shrugged. “I think he was lonely. So, were you sent into Hive space to find me, or are you on some top secret mission? You aren’t with the Sentinels, are you?”
“Lonely? But it is an achalo.” Tsy'lo was confused and their colour visibly swirled. “Why would a rescue mission be secret? And, we weren’t sent, we were already here.”
Now it was the human who was confused. “Like spies behind enemy lines? Is that why you are in Hive space?”
The Tricinic hummed at a higher frequency. “It is our space. We are the Hive!”
Admiral Pelar of the third fleet stood in the centre of the training mat. On the floor around her were four tough looking Ashi, while a fifth was now squaring off against her. She blocked the jab and the surprise knee strike that followed, turning effortlessly to bring her elbow to her opponents ribs. With another deft turn she was behind him and kicking his knees forward. He tried to roll clear but she had anticipated the move and, as he rose, her spinning boot struck the side of his head.
“Nice try gentlemen.” She walked away and caught a towel thrown by the drill instructor. “That last one has potential,” she said, and the drill instructor nodded. “Next time, I expect at least one of them to land a hit. If not, I’ll have you in the ring instead, to make sure you still have what it takes.” She saw the fear in his eyes. “I accept nothing but the best from the Third Fleet.”
The medics ran onto the mat as she dabbed at her forehead, and she spotted Jar’Bek sitting on a bench nearby. She walked over to him and he stood, straightening what was no doubt an extremely expensive suit. “From one disappointment to another.”
The lawyer smiled. “Imagine only seeing your son when he is paid to be in your presence,” he countered.
She smirked. “Your tongue is still your most deadly weapon.”
He nodded. “Ah, but it must make you proud to see me make use of the things you taught me.”
Her face twitched. “I taught you to be a true Ashi, a soldier. I taught you to respect-”
Jar’Bek held up his hand. “I’m here on my client’s business, not yours. And, as I am paid a considerable sum per gal, let us not waste their money on matters that are concluded.” He enjoyed the irritation on her face. “I am here to finalise the amnesty treaties, and conclude your membership as citizens of Earth.”
The Admiral held up her hands, looking down at her combat training clothing. “I must shower and change first. Please, wait for me in my private office.” She smiled politely.
“No.” His smile seemed to hover as if it was a mask that could slip at any time. “You may have disowned me, but I still remember your tricks. You knew the time of our meeting; you had me brought here so you could intimidate me with this display of aggression. Then you ask me to wait in your office amongst your memorabilia and trophies.” He watched the anger behind her eyes. “You really think these tired old tricks will work on me?”
She sneered. “At least you remember something.”
“Oh, I had the scars removed, but I kept the lessons.” He walked away. “My client's time is valuable and I have scheduled a meeting with the other fleet Admiral’s for later this cycle. Since we have no time for your games, let us go to the briefing room. My team is already set up. If you wish to shower, know that it is more of your negotiating time you are wasting, and I do so hate waste.” He collected his briefcase and walked out of the room.
Captain Loring hurried after Jar’Bek, catching him as he entered the elevator. “You sure you want to antagonise the Admiral like that?”
He leaned back against the wall of the elevator and relaxed, letting out a small sigh. “A little negotiating trick a Kittran taught me. Anyway, she is no longer my Admiral.”
Elora’Tan leaned back on the opposite wall. “She is your mother, Jar.”
“Ha.” Jar’Bek laughed. “She disowned me. This is the first contact we’ve had in I forget how many celes. Her first thought is to try and intimidate me with that display. She likes to beat on cadets, she likes to cause pain, and she wanted me to watch.”
Loring gave a weak smile. “It forges strong soldiers. We can’t afford weakness.”
The elevator stopped and Jar’Bek took a step closer to Elora’Tan. “You think it was weakness that made me leave?” He didn’t let her answer, turning and exiting into the hallway. His voice now resonated with authority as he growled, “In case you people have forgotten, the Ashi will operate under the same rules as the rest of the colony. My mother is not the law... I am the law.”
submitted by Sooperdude24
Being a girl on World of Warcraft
As a female who's been on the game for 15 years now, I've met a load of creeps but only a few only made me feel unsafe. To start off I've always had a lap top since I was in high school, a luxury back then I worked hard to earn enough to buy one. My mom almost took my money I earned for drugs but luckily money I made in tips were in cash so it was easier to hide it from her. At first my mom was mad I bought myself a laptop but she soon forgot like everything. My dad could care less, and my older brother already had his own. So I started playing WoW with him at 14 and back then girls were unheard of. So I got the usual creeps who usually backed off after hearing my age or they were young to. But not this guy, this guy loved that I was underage.
I was about 16 and used to creepy guys at this point, no longer a noob at the game or fending off the creeps it was no surprise a new guy in the guild started hitting on me. Now I was 16, dumb young, horny and stupid but I knew I wasn't going to find love on WoW where you knew no one in real life. Plus I had the ultimate crush on a guy I couldn't have because he was my brothers best friend, but in my mind back then I only wanted him. So it was easy to turn guys down despite being desperate as hell for one guy lol.
But that all changed after my brothers friend went off to college, I had a part time job with my brothers friend but girls at work surrounded him and I became demoralized I'd never find love. Que "19" year old guy on WoW who made me feel wanted. I had a camera phone so I could send and post pictures at that age and back then I mostly used facebook, myspace and photobucket. I lost a lot of weight my sophomore year, so I posted confidently bikini pics and sexy pictures thinking I'd lure the attention of my brothers friend whom was 19.
So when this guy who was also 19 liked me, it didn't phase me. He looked the part in his photos and his younger brother was my age... So I thought... He was extreamly attractive in his photos and even proved it was him in his pictures by holding items I asked for. He started paying my wow subscription which in the long run I realized it was to get my home address and real name. I was so stupid and heart broken over my brothers friend, years of teaching myself online safety and the ability to be strong against flirts was all but lost in the fog.
We'd talk for hours on ventrillo, and he'd make me feel pretty. I was completely blinded by this point, he sent me gifts and I didn't even question how he had my address. Then he offered to drive and pick me up, as only then did I suddenly get cold feet.
I had a good friend on WoW, someone my brother met at PAX and joined the guild and is still one of my best friends to this day (tho we both aren't fond of my older brother). Hes 6 years older than me but never creeped on me, was more like the protective brother I lacked. (Well least till I was 24 and single for the first time did we hook up lol but that's because we were friends for so long, but the distance led to it not turning into a relationship) He caught onto it through conversation and was my words of wisdom in a time I was lacking any of my own. He saw something was fishy when I couldn't.
I told my friend I was scared to meet him because .... Dumb teenager logic, I thought he would not like me. My friend chimed in that I shouldn't meet anyone off the internet at my age. I told him about the gifts and I swear I've never been scolded like this in my life, not even by my own parents, but he always cared like that. He wondered why I would give my address to someone I never met, and the expensive gifts I got were not something the average 19 year old could afford. None of this ever clicked for me of course because I was lonely and trying to prove idk to myself, my crush or something I could get a boyfriend.
Like that I told the guy it wasn't wise to meet in person and my "parents" said I wasn't allowed to. That's when it went dark. At first it was pestering over and over, guilting me over gifts he gave me and encouraging me to defy my parents. While he kept bothering me, it never once occured to me he'd lose his shit. While my friend was worried shitless about the guy having my address, going as far to drive the 11 hours to my house and explain the situation to my dad as I refused to tell him out of fear of getting in trouble at the time, all while taking his spring break in my state instead of his own with his friends. There's a reason he's still one of my best friends. He has a little sister of his own as well and she's my age so his protective nature is natural.
Eventually he made me block the guy and that was that, this guy was pissed off. He'd go on different accounts to accuse me of gold digging and using him. Luckily my friend was smart enough and had the foresight to change my wow password and even paid for my account for me taking this guy off it entirely as one of this guy's threats was to delete my account. But it didn't end there, it got worse as he'd consistently find ways to message me and tell me how horrible I was. Till about a month had passed.
I was walking home from school, about 2 mile walk in wealthy suburbs of New England, which I had done for years, many kids did as it was a very safe town with no crime in it or surrounding towns. Without a second thought I took off with my 100lb back back (maybe and over estimate lol) put my head phones in and started my 20 minute walk home. It was cold so I had earmuffs over my headphones only downing out sound more too. I swear if I could talk to myself as a kid I probably just slap myself for stupidity. Because wow guy, knew I walked home everyday as I talked about it. He knew my address and I never thought twice.
I was on the back roads walking home and honestly easy to map from my school to home as it was pretty straightforward with only one turn. At half way home it between songs I heard a vague crunching sound of tires rolling over gravel on the road slowly. I turned around to see a tinted black car that you couldn't see much of the person in front. I jogged out of the driveway I was standing in front of assuming it was waiting to turn in. But I didn't turn in, the roads were dead and it didn't make sense for him not to go around.
I swear the saying that you go cold when you're terrified is absolutely true. It could of been a summers day at 95 degrees and my bones would of been cold. My heart just sank and my breathing was uncontrollable. I felt like I had no control over my body as I realized this guy was following me, my blood truely ran cold and my hands shook as tears formed and my skin felt tight. My body felt like it wasn't ready to fight or flight but simply freeze there and die. It only got worse as the second time I turned my head to see the car stop, I stopped, my world stopped.
I couldn't stop staring, just froze and breathing like all my school books were on my chest. Crying silently, my eyes hurt with no tears or sound as I just stood there. The door opened after what felt like hours but only seconds maybe a minute. And it was infact him, it was the attractive guy from the photos, not a catfish but something seemed different. At first I thought it was his angry expression but soon realized, he was definitely not 19, more like 30+. I could barely think over the loud sound of my heart racing as it froze me in place.
I thought I was about to throw up as he spoke to me. Told me to get in the car or he'd light my house on fire and kill my dog in front of me. I honestly just couldn't move, couldn't reach for my phone as his words just froze me. And like some magic we both failed to notice the little old lady on her porch watching this play out. Suddenly I hear her yell "get away from that girl right now before I burn you alive".
We both turned to meet her eyes, pissed off small lady about 60 or 70 with white hair. I think she noticed my frozen in fear state as she told me to get over to her quickly. Like that I ran over to her tossing off my heavy brick of a back pack. It was obvious he was unsure what to do next as he stood there and watched me run to her. Must of been a sight this tiny thin old lady standing in front of a teenage girl yelling at this man to go away. Like that savior number 2 joined the battle as her husband stepped out, guy who looked like be been through a war or two, with a shot gun of all things and booming voice. Gun pointed saying "I've shot and killed men for less reason, you better leave now"
He got into his car and drove off as I simply collapsed, all that fear just came out as I cried harder and harder as my brain sifted through the past few months of mistakes. After calming me down enough to speak in non hyperventilating words, she asked me if I knew him. I told her kind of, but only online from a videogame, not real life. Of course explaining it wasn't easy, and her husband couldn't grasp why I'd wanna printed I was at war (I'm sure in his experience he was thinking call of duty not magical creatures in a game called World of 'War'craft). She got on the phone with the school counselor, her daughter apparently and told her my name. I was well known to her daughter ironically, but it was only 250 or less kids in the school and the town itself was small. Many staff at our school had family in town, kids at school they were related to either by their own children or their siblings children. It was the kind of town if you didn't leave by a certain age your were stuck there.
So honestly it seems ironic but entirely not a huge surprise. The counselor was well aware of my family and my mom's drug addiction as child services had been involved few times. She came by in 10 minutes to pick me up and asked me a ton of questions of course knowing I didn't want to involve police as I was scared of being taken away from my parents again. (FYI foster care was worse than a drugged out mom on prescriptions). We weren't rich but we were more well off than many. Though my mom worked my dad kept my mom on a tight budget to keep her from buy prescriptions from Canada she wasn't prescribed (hence her trying to take my money). She knew all of this and knew though rough I was better off than foster care which was a gamble with losing odds at best. Plus 2 more years and I'd be off to college anyway. So we didn't involve the cops, but she made me promise to take the bus every day and to inform my dad of the situation. She also called my dad at work to inform him and had a teacher make sure I got on the bus everyday till I graduated even.. really sucked but I understood.
If it ended there it would be nice but there's still a bit more and I'm sorry for the length and grammar, it's late at night and I recalling from memory and typing on my phone.
Two days after this, my dad had to fly out for business, my brother was off at college so it left me and my high mom "who promised my dad she stay sober while he was gone but I was used to helping her while she was high, was like taking care of a child". But I was on edge as ever creek in that big house from the 60s, cat stir at night, and dog barking outside set me on edge I barely slept. My friend from WoW called every night making sure I was ok for the past month. I lived in the middle of the woods, next to a huge river in my backyard so there was still a lot of wildlife outside in the dead silence of cold months. Running water is a important source of water when lakes freeze. I had been used to all the bumps in the night, cats coming and going and dog barking at ever animal in the yard, but it all seemed new to me as I layed in bed trying to drown out my fears. The house I grew up in was a 6 bedroom house, I had a little sister too but she stayed with my grandma in another state per court order while I was allowed to choose due to her only being 9 and me 16. The other rooms were used as game room, office for my dad and guest room mostly for when my sister visited my grandma and her had a room.
So in a large house like that in the middle of the woods, it was scary to virtually be alone because my mom accounted for defenseless. I was letting my last cat inside for the night (5 cats who all knew to come in at night for dinner and stayed in till morning). And at the end of the long driveway between my neighbor and our house was parked a black car. I quickly shut the door and locked it after my cat got inside. I made sure all 5 doors were locked and even put card board on the glass doors to the pool idk hoping if he broke them it would delay him if that car was his.
I went and turned off all the lights, and got all my cats into one room so I knew they were safe. Here's the thing about my dog, he's untrained for the most part but was basically a giant lab puppy in his mind. But he growled at strangers, not barked like at animals. We had to keep him outside if we had guests but he never bit anyone and if you spent enough time around him he'd eventually accept you. Also he didn't growl at all strangers either so he wasn't the most reliable guard dog either. But he was big, and deep bark.
I mauled over what to do as I sat there in the dark with my dog, waiting for shadow to pass by the window. I eventually went upstairs to my mom's room and woke her up from her sleeping pill slumber. Groggy and still kinda high she didn't quite grasp what I was telling her till I started crying. She sorta sobered up and asked me to get her some coffee and I did. All while I'm watching my dogs every move because I know he could sense something before I did. As my mom sobered her fear in her eyes grew. Eventually she got the idea to call my neighbors and ask them if they knew the car, after all said no, 2 of the men went out of their house to check the car together.
The car was empty, at closer inspection though, they noticed it was a newer car, lexus, and in the passenger seat was a lap top. The car was locked but with a flashlight you could see somewhat into the tinted windows. They never told us why but something they saw in the car prompted them to call the local sheriff, only one and he lived in town sorta thing. We were too small to have a police department. He drove over about 15 minutes later, ran the plates and asked the houses around about it. Apparently it was a rental car from Ohio, and he was calling to see who was rented to but the offices were closed I think. He stuck around in his car for about an hour till someone came out of the woods and ran back in as the cop turned his spot light on him. I couldn't see what he was pointing at with his light as it was at the side of my house and I was looking at the front. I guess he called for back up as 3 other cop cars showed up in 5 minutes of it from the neighboring town/highway patrol idk. At which a lady cop got out as I asked to speak with her and her call my counselor at school to explain who that might be. I was pretty shy back then but idk something about a female cop made me feel more comfortable to open up to.
I told her the gist of the story, then she called my counselor who backed up my story but also explaining why I was scared of cops cuz my history with foster care and not wanting to go back. At which a mostly sober mom joined me hugging me, doing her typical apologetic routine. But also offering much needed comfort as she called my dad too. Eventually the lady cop asked if she could take a look around the house to see if things were secure and get any information from my laptop about him.
In her search she found something I didn't think about checking, the basement door was not just unlocked but open. It's never unlocked so I didn't even think to check it as our back yard floods in the spring due to beaver dams and it's got extra seals and stuff to prevent the basement from flooding ... Again... But the stuff sealing it which was mostly sand bags and stuff were set aside. But the door at the bottom of the stares was locked still though it had some damage like someone tried picking it. But he had access to half the basement that was storage (basement was sectioned and the other half used to be used for my brothers parties.). The door between the sections was like a front door not an indoor door, as in the summer my dad left the hatch open to dry out the basement and adjust pool settings as it was basically the pool house and the cats loved it so it also had a few cat beds. The section that led upstairs was locked from the inside and the wall and door were not dry wall and cheap door but lock and key heavy door and wall was brick.
Upon noticing this my dad confirmed he had not left it open, my suspicions that black car was his was pretty much confirmed. As we walked through the house to make sure everything was still safe, she got on my lap top as they searched the woods, I gave her everything I had, his photos, username and she even checked to see if his credit card was still on my account but it wasn't. But the last few didgets were. She then asked to take my laptop for a few days as she thought she could get some good evidence from it. I asked her to please not damage it and return it as soon as possible because I used it a lot, before smart phones it was all I had.
After few hours and onlooking neighbors had gone to bed the cops came back empty handed but left a cop outside our house and towed the guys car. From what the lady cop told me, what permitted such fear was in the car there was two guns, some sort of rope and handcuffs. And the guy who ran back into the dense woods was wearing a winter ski mask (not out of season but suspicious none the less).
So eventually I try and lay down and go to sleep but pretty sure I was going to call out sick tomorrow and kept all my cats inside for the day. I was too restless to sleep, every sound made me so scared. My mom slept with the dog in her room (I'm very allergic to animals but less to cats as I kinda built up a tolerance to cats but not dogs) and my cats slept in my room most nights by choice as my room was usually the warmest.
At 3:30 am ish I heard a knock at the back door, and a guy say, undercover police officer, open up. I was still awake as I walked downstairs to make out a guy standing in the dark with a gun. As he saw me he demanded I let him in now as he needed to speak with me. Something felt off, my gut knew it before I did that this guy's voice seemed forced. Like someone purposely making their voice deeper. And why was he at the back door?
So I turned on a light outside and sure enough, it was him. I just screamed as quickly as I screamed he started hitting the door hard. Wasn't a very loud horror movie scream but more like a gasp scream. I don't think the fear in my body had a loud scream to let out. But the banging was pretty loud as I ran to the front to see if the officer was still outside. He was but he wasn't getting out of his car. I didn't wanna run outside as I'm not a fast runner so I turned the porch lights on and off couple times but still nothing. After a minute my dog came bolting down to the door barking and growling nearly foaming at the mouth. Soon followed my mom who yelled she had a gun, she didn't but bluff is bluff. Somehow during all this the cop outside had snuck around back and had his gun pointed at him yelling to put his gun down.
I hid as the rest went down but he was arrested, no trial needed me to attend and my statement was enough. Come to find out he wasn't even American, the car was rented under his friends name, and after all was done he was deported back to Canada. I assume something with his passport would prevent him from coming back to the USA as the cop reassured me he couldn't come back to the USA now. Idk what exactly he was charged with but I think my dad said activated assault with a deadly weapon, attempted kidnapping and something else. And it also it turned out he was 32 years old not 19 so I assume me being a me being a minor carried a charge.
And life moved on from there. I had plenty of creeps before and after but he was by the worst from WoW. I had a couple from streaming but I was an adult and much better a staying safe online. Only one worse than this guy was my ex boyfriends cousin who made my life hell for couple years but that's another story for another time.
submitted by catreligion