Henosis – Chapter 2

The mess hall on the station was a cavernous space on one of the mid-decks in the core, overlooking the long central shaft. It was a temporary arrangement… once the station was near-complete, a merchant or restaurateur would be enticed into setting up a proper dining area, whereupon the space would be converted in whatever fashion they preferred. Until then it was simply a large open space, filled with hovering tables and multi-species seating, serviced by auto-chefs embedded in the wall.

Keegi didn’t much care for eating there. He wasn’t agoraphobic – far from it – but the space was simply too large and plain… it had all the decor of one of the loading bays, and was just as loud due to the lack of sound absorption. Still, unless he intended to eat in his quarters and gain a reputation of being unfriendly, he had to put up with it.

The area was already well-populated as the construction crew came off-shift for the end-of-day meal, grouped up into little same-species cliques, chatting in raised voices in order to be heard over the din of all the other conversations. Keegi stood in front of the autochef, pondering what to eat. While walking down he’d had a strangely strong desire for some steamed fish, but the urge had faded as though sated. Instead another, odder desire had replaced it.

“Auto-chef: one half-order of Corti standard dietary supplement four, please.” Keegi had often been made fun of by his Brothers in his clan for his habit of courtesy towards machines. He’d shrugged off the teasing… it was simply habit, and he was of the opinion that perhaps they should be more critical of those beings for whom basic manners were not automatic.

The machine made a soft grunting sound – Keegi made mental note of it, though installation and maintenance of the auto-chefs wasn’t his responsibility – and then hummed quietly as the food was prepared. Corti food seemed to take a ridiculously short time to prepare, as only a few moments later the door slid upward to reveal a tray with a single bowl sitting on it. Inside the bowl were a small pile of reddish-brown cubes. Keegi twitched his muzzle, sniffing; they were almost devoid of scent. Lifting the tray with one paw, he plucked one cube and popped it into his mouth with the other and chewed.

It was… inoffensive. Slightly salty, easy to chew, yet wasn’t as doughy as a nutrition sphere. Oddly satisfying. He wasn’t sure what had driven him to experiment with the alien dish, but he shrugged mentally and decided he could have done worse.

He was about to turn and find a table to sit at when he paused, considering: why stop there?

A short while later his friend Levaraggan was giving him an odd look as he approached the table the Guvnuragnaguvendrugun sat at, eyeing the large tray Keegi carried, filled with nearly a dozen small dishes and bowls. “Hungry?” he asked, the translator lending the voice Keegi heard with a mixture of astonishment and amusement.

“Curious,” Keegi corrected. The hovering table Lev sat at made a small warning tone before lowering to a level the Gaoian was able to place his tray onto as he settled into a chair. The table then briefly rose back up, before lowering again – the two individuals were of such disparate size that it briefly frustrated the algorithms of the table. Eventually it settled at the lower height, deciding it was easier for Lev to reach down than it was for Keegi to be lifted up in his hoverchair like a cub first trying solid food.

“Is that umeiguggagynanom pudding?” the huge, shaggy botanist asked curiously. “Why?”

“I was feeling adventurous. All these cultures in the Dominion, and I’ve never tried their food! So I figured why not put together a meal that was a little bit of everything. There’s Vzk’tk salad, Locayl pastries, some Rauwryhrian toasted moths – I’m actually looking forward to that one – and-”

His friend looked on with concern. “You should be careful. They might not all agree with you…”

“Nonsense, I checked all of them. It’s not like I’m eating deathworld food.” Grabbing the pudding, Keegi lifted the stick and scooped out a generous portion, sticking it into his mouth with enthusiasm.

Then he choked, eyes bulging. Coughing and hacking, he forced himself to swallow the mouthful, then seized his container of water and drank half of it in one long swallow.

Umeiguggagynanom is a bit of an acquired taste,” Lev commented.

“It tastes like burnt grass and dirt!”

“It’s a Guvnuragnaguvendrugun dish.”

Keegi scrubbed his tongue against the back of his paw. “By the stars! You eat this? Deliberately?”

“Oh, yes. Mostly on special occasions, mind you.”

The Gaoian took the pudding and shoved it across the table. “It’s yours.”

“You aren’t going to eat it? Well… thank you.” He bent low to pick up the bowl. Rather than bother with the serving stick, his long, prehensile tongue slid out to scoop up half a mouthful of the black, creamy substance. His blunt jaw worked a bit as he savoured the flavour. His chromatophore strips turned a light purple. “Not as good as the dams of my herd would make, but decent.”

Keegi was chewing on a cqcq leaf to cleanse the last of the taste from his mouth. “How goes the greenhouse?”

The gardener set the empty bowl down on the table. “I need more prepti bushes,” he complained. “The meleen grasses are going to suffer if there aren’t any prepti to balance the soil. It’s like headquarters doesn’t understand what symbiosis means.” His flanks showed his mild annoyance. “I put the order in a dozen diurnals ago. You didn’t see any on the freighter, did you? They’d be in one of the stasis pods.”

“Uh… I didn’t notice any. Though I wasn’t really looking.”

The Guvnuragnaguvendrugun’s eyes went wide with realization. “Right! The human,” he breathed, voice going low. “I’m glad you weren’t hurt.”

“So am I. But to be fair, I don’t think this one is inclined towards violence.”

“Aren’t they all, though? Their homeworld is supposed to be vicious, and if they’re the dominant species they must be more so. And there was all that fuss near the Celzi border…”

“The Clan of Females adopted one on my homeworld, remember. Maybe their females are calmer, like with my people? Anyway, she’s deaf and blind. She’s no threat.”

Before his companion could reply a sullen voice grumbled from a nearby table, “We should have flushed the bay into space.”

Keegi felt his claws prick the skin of his paw. Lev was unaware of his small friend’s rising ire as he turned to the speaker. “We would have had to fetch all the containers out of space, then. And the consumables would have been ruined!”

Virtrew, the Locayl who had spoken, gestured broadly with his two lower arms. “Better to live on rations until the next freighter than to let a human on board!” He pointed at Keegi. “What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking she was a fellow sapient in distress,” the Gaoian growled, barely resisting the urge to spit.

“It’s a human! They don’t even have star travel yet. They’re barely more than animals,” Virtrew countered. “But it’s us who’ll be in distress if the Hunters come here!” A murmur of agreement passed through the beings in the hall.

“The Hunters have no idea she’s here.”

“How do you know that? And even if they don’t, what happens when they find out? They’ll come, and they’ll kill all of us!”

Keegi slid from his chair to glare up at the Locayl. He wasn’t particularly tall for a Gaoian, but Virtrew was nearly twice his height. The Locayl stood as well, responding to the implicit challenge; he still refused to be intimidated. “So what? If they come here, they’ll kill all of us anyway! That’s what they do!”

“But they’ll make a point of it, once they know about it!” Virtrew stabbed a thick digit at him. “You should have spaced it, for all our sakes.” Another rumble of agreement passed through the surrounding listeners.

“Well, I didn’t. It’s up to the commander to decide now.”

“Well, he’d better make the right decision.”

Keegi’s eyes narrowed. “And if he doesn’t?”

Virtrew blinked… apparently he hadn’t actually thought of the question. “Then… we’ll do what we have to.”

“What you `have to’.”

“Yes! What we have to! We have to protect the station! Protect the crew!”

“And how exactly will you do that?”

“We…” Virtrew blinked his small, beady eyes, distinctly uncomfortable. “We’ll do what… what we have to.”

Even as a non-answer it was pathetic, but what really drove Keegi to fury was the sound of the others in the hall making noises of assent, as if it was any answer at all. His paw found the container of water next to his tray of food and he hurled it to the floor at Virtrew’s feet. Water splashed and the container bounced, ricocheting off the Locayl’s knee to carom off out of sight.

“You are all such cowards!” Keegi snarled into the shocked silence. “You can’t even bring yourselves to say it! You’re going to `do what you have to’? How are you going to do that, when you can’t even admit that what you’ll have to do is kill her? You’re not talking about convincing her to walk out an airlock! You’re going to take her and throw her out! Let her choke on space until she stops moving!”

He turned slowly, looking at all the astonished eyes aimed at him. “Or maybe not? Maybe you’ll walk up to her to an injector full of drugs. She won’t know! She’ll think you’re a friend… trying to help. You can put the injector right against her neck, and by the time she knows something’s happening it’ll be too late! And as you stand there and watch her take her last breath, you can be satisfied with one thing: she won’t know why!”

The silence was heavy in the hall as the crew looked at the Gaoian with a mixture of shock and shame. Keegi met their gazes, his ears flat against his skull and his small fangs bared. He turned to Virtrew, and though the Locayl was so much bigger, he couldn’t help but feel that the other sapient was so small. “I know why you can’t just say it. You’re scared of the word civilized peoples use for what you plan to do: murder.”

Virtrew was appalled. “Wh-… n-no, we’re just protecting ourselves! You know what the Swarm said, they’ll kill everyone on the station!”

“They demanded the humans this time. And what about next time? What happens when they demand the Dominion give up the Locayl, hmm? We’ll hand you over. Because we’re just protecting ourselves.”

Keegi waved a paw in contemptuous dismissal at the other’s horrified expression. “Fine. If you think you have a justification, then you do what you think you have to do. But tell her!” He pointed a digit at the Locayl, and the small claw was extended. “You go to her. You go to the medbay, and you stand in front of that blind, deaf human. You do that, and tell her she’s a threat and deserves to die.”

He glared around the mess hall. “That applies to all of you. If you can’t even manage that, you aren’t worth my time… or my respect!” He flung himself back into his seat, turning his back on all the others in the hall.

Levaraggan’s eyes were wide, his flanks the orange of surprise. “Keegi… are you well?”

“I’m fine,” he grumbled. In truth his heart was racing… he’d never been one for aggressive displays. A number of Fathers in his clan had warned him that he was too timid, that he’d never earn the attention of a female if he only ever sought challenge from machinery. But Virtrew’s words had woken a fire and righteousness within him and he’d been unable to remain silent as he had so many times before. He went back to his meal, but the food had lost its appeal. He ate mechanically, not really tasting, as Lev watched him all the while.

“You know they’re only afraid, Keegi,” the Guvnuragnaguvendrugun eventually said. Keegi sighed, dropping the vegetable he’d been nibbling on back onto the plate. “And they’re not wrong. You can’t endanger the herd for the sake of an individual-”

Keegi flicked his ears in annoyance. “Not you, too.”


“No. I said it, I meant it. Stand up.”

Lev blinked. “What? Where are we going?”

“To the medbay. You’re going to see the human.”

Lev’s nervousness was obvious (even without the chromatophore strips), and it only mounted the closer they got to the med bay. They passed several later-shift work crews who were molecular-welding data and power conduits into place along ceilings and walls, the furry pair of vastly different sizes receiving curious looks. “This really doesn’t seem like a good idea, Keegi…”

“She’s harmless, Lev. That’s my point!”

“But… we’ll be bothering Doctor Cavvi. You know how Corti get when you don’t make an appointment.”

Keegi waved a paw. “She won’t mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s expecting us.”

Any protests Lev could come up with were forgotten as they arrived… the med bay was right in front of them, and the large doors sensed their presence and helpfully slid open.


“It’ll be fine, Lev.”

“I know! It’s just… I don’t have any animosity toward her, or humans in general. It’s just that you have to protect the herd-”

“I’m Gaoian, Lev,” Keegi interrupted, turning to look sternly up at his friend. “I’m a Gaoian male, and the cubs and the females come first, always, no matter what that means. I know what you’re saying, and why.” He pointed at himself. “If the Hunters killed me, I’d know why. I’d hate them for it, but I’d know why.” He gestured into the brightly-lit medbay. “If we kill her, because we’re scared of the Hunters, she won’t know why! She won’t have a chance to be noble or cowardly. As far as she’ll know, we’re killing her just because we want to, because that’s the kind of beings we are.”

Lev flinched. “But we’re not!”

“Then tell her that.”

“But you said she’s deaf, she won’t hear me say anything!”

“So? You’ll have said it like she’s a creature that deserves to hear. That counts for something.”

Guvnuragnaguvendrugun ears weren’t as expressive as Gaoian, but everything about the big creature seemed to shrink as he nervously stepped into the medical bay. The medical bed holding the human had been pushed over near the wall where it wirelessly connected to a display panel to display sensory data. The human was sitting up, much the same way she had been when Keegi had left. Somehow Cavvi had convinced and guided the primate into changing into a shift that had been undoubtedly custom-fabricated for her use, the clothing she’d worn in the cargo pod placed in a sterilizer.

Keegi was honestly surprised that the human wasn’t bored out of her mind. While he was certain humans weren’t quite the insane rampaging monsters most believed them to be, he thought they’d need at least some stimulation. Apparently not so… the human sat on her bed, her hands in her lap, her legs dangling over the side. Her ash-blonde hair fell in loose waves down her back, and Keegi wondered how humans could stand having fur that long… didn’t it catch on things? A dust bath must take forever!

“I’ll need your help coming up with an exercise program for her,” Cavvi said from where she stood beside the door, invisible from the hallway.

Lev was startled and nearly jumped into the air; Keegi simply gave the doctor a quizzical look. “Me? Why me?”

Cavvi sneered. “I’m Corti, we don’t `exercise’. It’s a waste of glucose better spent on thought. Your people are better versed in less… sophisticated activities.”

He waved a paw. “Right, fine. Whatever.”

Cavvi’s eyes glanced over at the Guvnuragnaguvendrugun, and he could see Lev tense, waiting to be told to either present an injury or stop consuming the valuable oxygen in her medical bay. She did neither, instead simply dismissing them both silently as she walked over to her workstation, pulling up a holo of the human’s protein structure.

Keegi glanced at Lev. “What?”

“She was nice to you.”

“You call that nice?”

“For a Corti it is.”

“Don’t be speciesist. Speaking of which, there she is.” He gestured at the human.

Lev eyed her nervously, shuffling forward with obvious reluctance, glancing backwards at his friend. At a glance it was ridiculous… Lev absolutely towered over her, even on the raised bed, and it was easy to imagine him picking her up and tucking her under his arm like a pet. Not that he could really lift her, but Keegi’s mind amused him briefly with the image. She bared her teeth suddenly, lips curling upward, and the hulking herbivore actually was startled back a step.

“Don’t be nervous. It’s not a challenging expression, they do it because they think it’s attractive.”

Lev’s eyes went wide, and his flanks flushed with astonishment and horror. “She wants to mate with me?”

“What? No! It’s a generic display of health and happiness! By the stars, Lev… I can see why you didn’t go into the diplomatic services.”

“No other species makes friendly gestures like that!” He worried his furry digits together. “So, um… what do I do?”

At some unseen prompting, the human lifted her hand, holding it out, palm up. Keegi flicked his ears. “Well, a lot of species use touching manipulator extremities as friendly gestures. Try that.”

It was obvious that Lev wanted to be someplace else… anyplace else. But he reached out anyway like he was testing to see if a starship engine was firing. The moment his hand touched hers, a shudder passed down his body – his huge size made it obvious. His hand jerked away, and he blinked as if stunned.


“I’m… I’m fine.”

“You sound surprised.”

“No, I just… Well, I thought they’d be harder. Like rock.” His huge hand poked at her palm fearlessly. “Aren’t their muscles supposed to be dense?”

“In their contracted state they are, although it varies from individual to individual,” Cavvi interjected, having silently approached the pair yet again. Neither jumped as she spoke. “Relaxed human muscle is quite pliable. Their bones are extremely dense compared to ours, however… five times stronger than steel by weight, in fact.”

“That’s amazing.” Emboldened, Levaraggan poked the human in the arm. She made a series of short barking sounds, almost musical in nature. “What does that mean?” the Guvnuragnaguvendrugun asked, utterly without fear despite the human baring her teeth once again.

Keegi flicked his ears in amusement. “That was laughter. You’re tickling her.”

He moved to do it again, but with surprising intuition and coordination she caught his hand, holding it gently. The botanist didn’t yank it away, not even when she began running her other hand along the back of his, smoothing the fur. Judging from her expression, she liked the feel of it.

“Do you still think she should die?” Keegi asked. He didn’t really have to… he already knew the answer.

“No,” Lev answered, fascinated as the human continued to lightly pet him, delighted with her fuzzy new friend. “Not at all.”

“So visiting the human, interacting with her, became a pastime for the crew?”

“Well… not really, no. Most visited her the once, and that was it. Technician Keegi’s challenge became just that: a challenge.” K’al rocked his head in the Rrrtktktkp’ch equivalent of a shrug. “I didn’t discourage it. Curiosity is inherent to any sophont, Investigator, and while we may be just a construction crew, I do encourage my employees to expand and advance themselves. It improves efficiency and boosts morale.”

“And a slow parade of over two hundred sapients through her medbay didn’t anger Doctor Cavvi?”

“Not at all. She took it as an opportunity to ambush a few individuals who had been lax with their physicals, if I recall.”

“And you were one of them? A visitor, I mean… not your physical.”

“Yes, of course. Why not? Doctor Cavvi had declared the creature safe, and I was one of the curious. Besides,” he added after a moment, “I believe Keegi had a point: if you’re pondering killing someone, you should at least look them in the eyes before you make the choice.”

Virtrew stared at the human.

She was smaller than he’d expected, though Doctor Cavvi had shared that by their estimation she was tall for a female of their species. Even so, she’d barely reach the middle of his chest when standing. Her long head fur reminded him of the feathers of the limpi birds of his homeworld, all pale yellow and yet luminous, as if reflecting the absent sun. Her fair skin was slightly disturbing, if only because it was the pallor many Locayl would associate with corpses… still, it was hard to imagine such a small, quiet creature was capable of tearing him apart should she take mind to do so.

The fact that she wasn’t aware of his presence made him feel slightly better, although the entire point of his visit was to make her aware. He just had to work up the courage.

One by one, the crew had visited this human. One by one, they’d returned, declaring that she wasn’t frightening at all and they didn’t understand what the galactic fuss was about. They’d never mention her again, instead concentrating on the much more important details of the station construction. But there was something… different… about them. They were all much more at ease – not just with their mysterious visitor, but with each other as well! It was like all alienness had fallen away, like they’d all discovered a common thread among them that made differences in shape and size and upbringing foolish. Meals in the mess hall weren’t broken up by species anymore… instead Rauwryhr sat with Unnoi, Vzk’tk with Corti, Rrrtktktkp’ch with Molmir. Sapients who’d once barely interacted professionally now ate and chatted as if they’d been raised as younglings together.

One by one, that group had grown. One by one, the group outside it had shrunk. The new group wasn’t deliberately shunning the others, but the divide was there, defined in the negative: visible in the lack of tension in the way the crew held their heads and limbs; audible in the absence of confused and awkward silences. Whenever he tried to point out the threat the human represented, he only found more and more annoyed eyes being cast his way.

Virtrew hated being excluded. Locayl tended more towards solitude, like the Corti… not groups like Vzk’tk or Guvnuragnaguvendrugun. But families were still important. No matter how tall or narrow the structure, it still needed a solid foundation.

He was the only one of his species on the station, the only one in the construction crew. He’d nearly been cast out of his family when he’d declared his intention to seek employment offworld… they’d thought he was going to be like one of the thugs, the Locayl who forsook society in favour of voyaging the stars, seeking adventure and violence. He’d had to argue long and vigorously with both his mater and pater that no, he was not one of those warped individuals who sought the Art in destruction rather than creation. They still hadn’t understood… how could he build, with no firm rock underneath?

I want to build the rock, was all the explanation he’d been able to come up with.

He probably should have listened to them, but the draw of building among the stars had been too strong. It had been hard, and it had been lonely, because his family hadn’t been the only ones to assume a spacefaring Locayl was one of the thugs. The Dominion might be a union of races, but it was a loose one, and different species could be grudging in their interactions. Slowly his architectural designs had earned him respect, his blend of form and function impressing his employers even though it was simply the way Art was always meant to be. Respect had generated interest, and interest had finally brought some camaraderie.

Now he was losing what he’d gained, because of this… human. His right upper hand curled into a fist, and he resisted the intensely foolish desire to strike her.

She had no idea he was standing there, fearing her and hating her. She sat on the medical bed, her long legs dangling over the side where she sometimes swung them back and forth. Her head would turn in random directions, unseeing eyes seeking things none of them could imagine. He’d heard that humans were prone to fantasy – that they hated the void and sought to fill it with either malice or benevolence, but always purpose, because purposeless Nothing was the most terrifying thing in the universe to them. He’d also heard that they’d fill up the Nothing so much it spilled out into the Something, and they’d lose track of which was which… it was one of the reasons why they were so dangerous.

This human had a great deal of void to fill. Did that make her less dangerous, or more so?

“Are you just going to stand there and stare at her?” Doctor Cavvi commented from the corner by her desk. At least the Corti’s fascination was perfectly understandable… Cavvi had been all but glued to her scopes and instruments since the human had landed in her lap, analyzing blood and hair and skin samples. Many Corti had met bad ends trying to analyze unwilling humans, and Virtrew figured Cavvi was smart enough to realize the opportunity and value of a willing one, even if she was as oddly blind to the danger of the creature’s presence as everyone else.

“She’s not going to hurt you.”

He wanted to ask how she could be sure of that, but he supposed the answer was obvious enough: if a human planned to hurt anyone, the nearest Corti would probably be near the top of the list, only slightly behind Hunters.

Enough stalling!

He stepped closer. Some vibration or movement of the air must have alerted her to his presence, because her head turned toward him, blank eyes staring through his chest. Her mouth spread into a human smile, and the display of bare teeth – omnivore or not, aggression or not – almost made him lose his nerve. To his surprise she lifted a hand, palm upward, in silent invitation.

Instead he used an upper arm to grip her by the shoulder, just as he would greet another Locayl – dangerous alien or not, his mater had taught him manners! Her fabricated hospital gown was soft under his fingers – strange, that a species as durable as humans would bother shielding themselves further with pointless cloth. He saw her blink her useless eyes at the contact, and the pale strips of fur above them angled upward.

Keegi had set the challenge, and Virtrew was going to meet it, whether they accepted him for it or not! “My name is Virtrew. You’re a danger, and you are not welc-”

The human hadn’t heard a word as he spoke. The hand she held out pulled back, and using his grip as guide, she laid the small limb gently on his thick forearm.


For a brief moment Virtrew felt like he was… everywhere. He was all through the station: looking at dozens of displays, welding a piece of structure on the hull, tending the plants in the atrium, analyzing a small blood sample. The sensation lasted the barest of instants; when he blinked it was gone, and he wanted it back.

The human appeared to have not noticed his momentary distraction. In fact, she was gently rubbing his forearm as if to comfort him. Never mind that he’d come here to reject and threaten her! He felt a brief surge of shame… it was no wonder he felt excluded, if he was the one doing the rejecting!

He carefully removed his arm from her, patting her knee with his lower arm so that she wouldn’t think she’d upset him. Quite the opposite… he felt more at peace than he had since he’d left his homeworld. Keegi had been right: sometimes one had to face one’s fears. The human grinned at him again, and he didn’t find it the least bit threatening this time; he chortled in amusement.

“Feel better, Virtrew?” Cavvi asked curiously.

“Yes. Much.”

“So this distraction didn’t impede the functioning of your crew?”

“Not at all,” K’al declared proudly. “In fact, if you check the records we were actually getting ahead of schedule. Efficiency was up nine percent. We were well on our way to the early completion bonus.”

“Until the Hunters.”

K’al sighed. “Yes… until the Hunters. They attacked about… twelve diurnals later. How they knew she was with us, I don’t know… we made a point of not announcing it! We’re on the opposite side of Dominion space from the Celzi border where the other humans have been spotted, and we’re not the kind of target they normally go for.”

“The Swarm is making incursions into unexpected places in their search. Also, the Hunters are cybernetic beings, remember – they’re known for using network intrusion to gain intel for their… hunts.”

“I’ll order a complete audit of all our systems,” he promised.

“That may not be all. Some sapients will offer information voluntarily to the Hunters, in hopes of being passed over by their hunting parties-”

“That did not occur here.”

“How can you know-”

“That would not occur here,” K’al declared, in a tone that made it clear that Trrkitzzkt might as well be trying to argue about what direction the galaxy spun. “Not with this crew.”

Sometimes being one of the newest members of a crew really sucked. Other times, it blew.

Keegi assumed that was a good thing, anyway. The opposite of sucking was blowing, so if “suck” was bad then “blow” must be good. And the majestic expanse of stars really blew.

He was perched on the hull of the station, standing on the crystalline geodesic dome that covered the arboretum. The arboretum was mounted on the station’s side, an oblong of greenery that stretched almost the entirety of the station’s vast length. Its gravity plating was mounted perpendicular to the rest, so entering the area involved using lifts that would turn in place to reorient the passengers before opening upon the green area. It was extra complexity, but it let the arboretum be oriented so that “up” always pointed towards the distant white giant star, its meagre light caught and amplified by the crystalline sheets he stood upon.

It was like standing on a glass roof above a forest. For all of Levaraggan’s griping, the botanist had done an excellent job of balancing the biome… small trees, thick bushes, and flowers were thriving, lush and green. Already the dome was providing nearly five percent of the station’s oxygen needs, and that would only go up once the gardener and his assistants received the rest of the plants they were demanding. It was Keegi’s second-favourite place to relax… when he needed to remember what it was like to walk on a planet, with plants and sunlight and air that hadn’t been through a reprocessor.

His favourite place was right where he was at that moment, even though technically he was supposed to be working, and needed his EVA suit to visit.

He oftentimes wondered whether he should have joined the One-Fangs and learned to fly a starfighter, but he knew it really wasn’t in his nature. Granted, he would have enjoyed being one of the technicians responsible for fixing the craft, but being in the maintenance bay of a base or carrier wasn’t the same flying under the stars. It wasn’t… this.

To his left was the grey, barren moon that the station orbited, the third moon of the fourth planet. It was a large moon, nearly the size of Gao. To the right was the moon’s mother: a vast, scarlet gas giant, as big as a gas giant could become without igniting under its own gravity and becoming a second star. The red disc dominated half the sky, a large member of a very large family – there were two other gas giants in the system, both nearly as big. Everything about the system seemed scaled up… from the big moon to the big planets to the giant star. Beyond, splitting the sky in two, were the innumerable stars of the galaxy – a thick white slash painted with an immeasurable brush.

Keegi had always loved the view. It was never a misfortune when he was “told” to be one of the crew working on the hull of the station, hooking up communications arrays or sensors. For some reason lately the sight had seemed extra special, like the beauty stole the breath from his chest and it was an effort to do anything more than simply stare. He felt… tiny. Insignificant. A tiny speck of matter amongst uncaring vastness, and yet precious beyond measure because he was capable of realizing it.

He’d spoken to some of the other members of the EVA group, and they’d all shared similar feelings, like something had polished the stars, made them gleam just a little bit more. None of them had any idea what had triggered these extra feelings of wonder, just that they all loved it… the Dominion species had been among the stars for so long that perhaps the marvel of it all had been forgotten. Oddly, it was Hgzt, a Vzk’tk, who had found the right word to describe their feelings: numinous. A strange word, ancient and rarely used, but perfect.

Somewhere below his feet Lev was stomping around his trees and bushes. The work Keegi was doing was for the sake of the arboretum, installing a control cluster at the top of the dome that would cause the crystal sheeting to turn opaque at the right times, giving the plants a proper day/night cycle automatically. He was almost done… he just wanted to pause for a moment and admire the view once more before he finished and had to head in.

It was because of his daydreaming that he saw the ship drop out of warp almost on top of the station. The vessel was small, barely larger than a standard cutter, but insectile and menacing. It paused for barely a moment before lunging toward the starboard docking array.

Keegi felt his fur stand on end: Hunters!

Cavvi looked up from her workstation and the display of human leukocytes from her guest summarily demolishing a sample of the K’ve’kton Plague. The plague sample (which, technically, she wasn’t supposed to have) was frightening, but not nearly as frightening as what she knew was coming outside the hull.

Beyond, in the medbay, the human’s head had tilted upward, and her face lined with worry.

K’al felt the chill run down the length of his spine.

He didn’t know how he knew… he was in the reactor chamber doing an inspection, not in the command centre with the sensor displays. It was like a wave of malevolence had swept across the station, as swift and hot as a stellar flare.

Hunters. They’re here.

The dozen eyes of the engineering crew turned to him. Once, he might have ordered sections sealed, crew abandoned, sacrificed. Let the Hunters take what they want in the hopes they wouldn’t take more.

Not this time. They would find no sacrifices among this crew.

“Secure the reactors! To the armory! Muster in the central shaft!”

Previous Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

CopRit Empire, Halfil Sol 14 Of Race 4 Year 4958 Frostal Secondary, New Baltimore Sitting down in the chair across from the Principal’s desk I nervously swallowed and tried to calm my heart. The Principal could probably hear it, and smell my perspiration. Which was only making me more nervous. “Thoomaas,” squeaked the principal from

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Next Chapter

Sweetness – Love and Kiing (NSFW)

CopRit Empire, Halfil Sol 14 Of Race 4 Year 4958 Frostal Secondary, New Baltimore Sitting down in the chair across from the Principal’s desk I nervously swallowed and tried to calm my heart. The Principal could probably hear it, and smell my perspiration. Which was only making me more nervous. “Thoomaas,” squeaked the principal from

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Sweetness – Chapter 4 (NSFW)

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Sweetness – Chapter 3 (NSFW)

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Sweetness – Chapter 2 (NSFW)

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Sweetness – Chapter 1 (NSFW)

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 3

Date Point: 16y2w AV Air Force One, somewhere over Asia, Earth President Arthur Sartori “…You want to give us a Farthrow generator.” Daar’s image was janky and low-resolution thanks to the vagaries of current wormhole comms, but the audio was a lot clearer now. Technology marched onwards. “It’s loaded up on a train and ready

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Good Training – Pecking Order

13y, 8m AV Operator’s Barracks, HMS Sharman, Folctha, Cimbrean Officer Regaari (Dexter) of Clan Whitecrest “I got an idea, Regaari.” Regaari flicked his ears forward in annoyance. “This again?” “Well, yeah. I gotta win that bet, Cousin!” Regaari duck-nodded wearily. Not long after Daar had received the SACRED STRANGER briefing, he’d sulked off to think

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Good Training – The Champions – Tidying Up

Messier 24 Mission day: 3 Sergeant Daar (Tigger) The third day was always when things settled into routine. Daar didn’t really know why, ‘cuz that was prol’ly some complicated psychology stuff (maybe he should read up?) but he did know how it worked, practically speaking. Daar always pondered morning thoughts like that when he was

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 2

Date Point: 16y2w AV Weaver dropship, Gaoian space Sergeant Ian “Hillfoot” Wilde “So in all the excitement, we clean forgot about these things. That’s what you’re telling me.” Champion Meereo made a sound that was half a sigh and half a chitter. “…That’s more-or-less exactly right, yes. We had… well, bigger priorities.” Wilde had to

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Rising Titans – Chapter 43

9 Years, 6 Months, 28 Days After Eridani Landing Bellona “Ready?” asked Alpha from where he sat on top of the Captain’s chair. “I’m good!” said Red from where he sat at the controls for the ship. It hadn’t taken much to convince him to pilot the vessel. James glanced down at his own console

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 51: Anticlimax Part 1

Date Point: 16y AV Yukon–Koyukuk, Alaska, USA, Earth Zane Reid The cold didn’t hurt anymore. At first, it had been like forcing his way through a wall made of knives that cut through his clothes. Zane’s every breath had blinded him as it billowed and steamed in the air, and when he’d experimentally licked his

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 5

Date Point: 16y AV Camp Tebbutt Biodrone Internment Facility, Yukon–Koyukuk, Alaska, USA, Earth Hugh Johnson Snow. Of course, snow in January in Alaska was hardly surprising, and this one threatened to be heavy. At first, Hugh had thought it was probably just an seasonable dusting that’d add a couple of inches to the foot or

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I had made my way through the tournament, but most of my matches had been won by the skin of my teeth, and I had only the advantage of being evolved from a pursuit predator to thank for it. Our great endurance had been the one boon that had kept me going, and I was

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 4

Date Point: 15y 10m 1w AV HMS Violent, Rvzrk System, Domain Space The ground battle churned on for days. That was the problem with Hunters. There was no surrender involved, it was a kill-or-be-killed fight where smashing their will to engage in war simply didn’t achieve enough. Any Hunter left alive would just keep murdering

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 4

He awoke to a pleasant smell. “…Eggs?” Hoeff detangled himself from Natalie and the sheets and stumbled towards the kitchen. Daar was busy in front of the comparatively little stove and fridge, humming some terrible Gaoian tune to himself. Seriously, their music was like Chinese opera with extra pain. Some Humans liked it, though…but “atonal”

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Rising Titans – Chapter 42

9 Years, 6 Months, 15 Days After Eridani Landing The [Singer] The explosion hit and [Vann] watched at the lights on the main hologram and different panels flashed a blinding white light, before dying and plunging the entire bridge of the [Singer] into darkness. “What were we supposed to do?” asked someone near the weapons

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Day 1. I’ve made it on board the human trading vessel! They didn’t detect my presence, and I’ve managed to smuggle myself into their engineering bay, and disguised myself within a cluster of cables! My small, serpentine body makes me indistinguishable from a thin, grayish cable, and the Humans won’t notice my existence until it

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Trigger Part 1

Date Point: 15y 10m AV Camp Tebbutt Biodrone Internment Facility, Yukon–Koyukuk, Alaska, USA, Earth Hugh Johnson Camp Tebbutt wasn’t actually a bad place to live, if you didn’t count the fact that it was essentially a prison for innocent victims. Hugh understood why he was there, and why he couldn’t leave… but after eleven years,

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 3

Firth Regaari chittered, “It is difficult to imagine you ‘humbled,’ Righteous.” “Heh,” Firth chuckled. “You do know most of my attitude is straight fuckin’ bullshit, right? Adam and John know why.” Regaari looked over at John, who shrugged massively. “He’s a scary dude. Being ridiculous kinda takes the edge off, y’know?” Regaari duck-nodded. He was

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Rising Titans – Chapter 41

9 Years, 6 Months, 13 Days After Eridani Landing Jikse Moving down the hallway Diana paused at the double doors, carefully she moved forwards into it’s threshold and they slid open. A woman in an orange smock looked up from her Comm for a moment, and then going back to look at it did a

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The Good Samaritan

I felt a white-hot pain in my back as I was stabbed. Once, twice and then three times. I fell to the ground clutching my new openings, and for a moment I couldn’t grasp what had just happened. I had walked through an alley as a shortcut back home, and then suddenly someone had grabbed

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 6

Date Point: 15y9m3w AV Mrwrki Station, Erebor System, Unexplored Space Darcy “Does it seem… different to you lately?” “What?” “The Entity. It’s actin’ different, dude, I swear it is.” Darcy sighed and set aside her work as Lewis sat down. She was sitting drinking a Moroccan Mint tea in the station’s rec lounge, with its

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Rising Titans – Chapter 40

9 Years, 6 Months, 13 Days After Eridani Landing Jikse Popping the restraints off of her legs Diana swung herself off of the table, the two class A’s still in their isolation suits were pounding at the door of the room the three of them were in. “It’s out! Open the door!” shouted the man

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Good Training – The Champions – Doom and Gloom Part 2

Master Sergeant Christian (Righteous) Firth The end of the movie came and the ladies were fast asleep and prolly too tired to head home with any comfort. The other bros were asleep, too, and Firth was tangled up with them pretty good. Oh well, both ‘Base and ‘Horse were heavy-ass sleepers and only danger or

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Hell. It’s a completely Human concept. The concept of a realm of eternal torture, to which you are sent depending on the whims of one deity or another, is something only found in Human fiction. And it’s not an isolated occurrence. Almost every human culture since the dawn of humanity itself has had it in

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The Deathworlders – Chapter 50: Counterattack – Homefront Part 4

Date Point: 15y9m2w AV HMS Sharman (HMNB Folctha), Cimbrean, The Far Reaches Senior Master Sergeant Christian (“Righteous”) Firth “Hey, fuckers! Guess what hit the newsstand today!” Adam looked up from his needlework for a second and raised an eyebrow. “Imma guess Coombes’ centerfold spread with Ava?” Firth deflated, somewhat flummoxed that ‘Horse had stolen his

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