NSC – The Endless Night – Chapter 2 – Teetering

Thank you for reading! This is an NSC written by Aia and InBrightestDay, written with my approval and reference. Discussion for this story will be primarily located on discord! Come on in and let us know what you thought, we don’t bite.

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The migraine was back. Krathan groaned, fumbling painkillers. He’d promised himself he wasn’t going to take any today. And yesterday. And the day before that. Krathan dug up the nanite paste with his clawed digits and rubbed the thick substance over his eyes.

It took far too many seconds for Krathan’s vision and mind to clear, banishing the throbbing pain from his head. He still scowled at the memory of the pain, however, sitting up a little straighter on his seat and glaring at the large workstation screen in front of him.

Grakrash’s cephalian took up most of the screen. The slave was sitting inside of a constrictive tank, a captivating shimmer of blues slowly moving across her skin like ocean waves. Her bleeding had been stopped, but the spilled blood and Grakrash’s gaudy piercings remained. She was still sobbing softly to herself, as she has been doing for hours.

The patient saw a total of five hours of nearly continuous use last night. The piercings, used as anchors, caused considerable damage to her skin, her muscles, and her nerves. He administered nanites for muscle strain, fluids to maintain homeostasis, and was monitoring for signs of sepsis. Amputation was likely unnecessary, but printer files had been prepared in case it was.

It wasn’t medical concern that kept him staring at the slave. Krathan’s eyes moved over her skin, watching the dance of speckled blues and white over her lithe, vulnerable form. How soft and warm she had felt as he plunged deep into her.

The vet bit down on his tongue, waving the application away. That was sloppy. So very sloppy. Fixating on a single slave was horrendously unprofessional. He was at work, not visiting a zoo.

Krathan opened the medical registry. Only three slaves awaited his medical attention today. Most of the crew had probably left their slaves in cryosleep back around Maldoror, likely intending to pillage the newly discovered terrans. That left so few patients for Krathan to distract himself with, leaving him to the mercy of his thoughts and his persistent migraines. Sighing, he pressed the call button.

The automatic door slid open. It took a few seconds before a faliran woman, not one of his regulars, stumbled into the clinic. Krathan pointed at the patient seat, glancing at her file. The slave was quite pretty, as was quite common in heitera, with a moderately clean medical record. Name: Lera. Last vet visit: nine days ago. The punishment she was put through was too extreme for her to be able to recuperate naturally. Krathan turned to the patient.

Her ears were pointed and long, more like antennae than earlobes. Green carapace covered her shoulders, her arms, and her long, thin, insectile legs. Her shoulder carapace was shattered, like someone took a hammer to glass, and the wound was bleeding profusely. Blotchy purple bruises covered her belly, her breasts and her face. Her face looked particularly bad, with the open wound making it look like she had been flayed.

Krathan stood up, his thick tail dragging behind him. The slave trembled as he approached, shying away from him. Krathan growled.

“Don’t move.” the vet said curtly, making the girl freeze up. Krathan rolled his eyes. Moving in her state risked exacerbating her injuries, but then so did tensing up all her muscles. It was a small miracle that she hadn’t fallen unconscious in the waiting room.

“I – I’m sorry, my lord!” the faliran girl whispered quickly.

“Don’t talk.” Krathan growled. Why didn’t his patients understand that ‘don’t move’ and ‘don’t talk’ were basically the same thing? Both exacerbated injuries and made his job more irritating. “In fact, never talk to me unless you’re answering a question.” Krathan added irately.

Krathan grabbed an injection gun from the table and attached a clean needle, loading the anesthetics. The faliran slave cowered as Krathan turned back towards her, red blood and yellow lymph leaking as her scabbed wounds reopened. Krathan’s eyes twitched. Maybe he should just post an arane in the waiting room permanently so he didn’t need to repeat himself. Every. Fucking. Time. The gun clicked and hissed softly as it injected into the faliran’s neck.

The patient continued to tremble, looking at him with fearful eyes and causing him to grow even more irritated. Krathan hated new patients. At least the returning patients didn’t act like he was a Shan’lekka that was just waiting to fill them with eggs.

The veterinarian walked over to the side of the room and grabbed the printer, wheeling the massive machine over to the faliran. The holographic interface appeared as he reached forwards with his paw, quickly putting the printer into automatic repair mode. The machine’s cameras swiveled to track the faliran’s body with a hum, the molecular laser flickering to life.

Laser nodes flashed, depositing new cells onto the faliran’s body. The patient visibly began to relax as the process continued, probably a combination of the pain relief offered by the anesthetics and the regrown layer of skin. Krathan walked back to his table and accessed the printer control.

A reconstruction of the patient’s ruined face appeared on his screen, mostly mirroring the intact half of her visage. Krathan quickly fixed the nodes that were most visibly out of alignment before making sure to properly anchor the printing guides to the exposed flesh beneath. The disintegration beam fell upon the dead tissue, leeching the waste material away and exposing healthy flesh, as the deposition beam repaired the damaged cells. Muscle grain went down first, followed by ligaments, and then the base of the faliran carapace. The spray nozzles hissed softly, spraying an invisible gas to keep the tissue cool.

Krathan frowned as the printer continued to work. The newly printed carapace was the wrong shade of green. He tapped the pause button, adjusted the pigment concentration, and ordered the printer to start up again, making a mental note to dig through the procedural algorithms later to see why it was having such a hard time automating accurate coloration.

The process took a few more minutes, rendering the body pristine. Krathan grabbed the slave, feeling her tense beneath his paws, and pressed his finger up against the chitin to check the plate adherence. The printer seemed to have correctly fused the newly printed flesh to the slave’s body. She wasn’t in pain, but the slave still squirmed beneath his prodding inspection.

Krathan rose with a niggling thought, grabbing his personal digital assistant tablet from the table and launching the medical report screen. It was as he assumed. The slave was recently thawed from cryogenic sleep, likely as a replacement heitera for someone who’d managed to kill their old one. No wonder she wouldn’t stop her annoying gawking. Krathan grabbed the injection gun again.

The anesthetic canister came out with a click, and the repair nanites went in with another. The patient winced as she was injected.

“Primary treatment is concluded. You will be held for observation for two more hours,” he said curtly, jutting his thumb at the door behind him.  “Infirmary beds are that way. Pick an empty one. Press the red button at the top of the bed if you start bleeding.”

It took several seconds for Krathan’s words to registered, but the slave’s eyes quickly widened in fear. “M – my lord! My master ordered me back to his side immediately once the treatment was finished!”

“You’re still in a dangerous phase. Your carapace needs to set and we need to make sure that your new blood and lymph vessels won’t tear,” Krathan said, pressing the button to call on his next patient. “The toilets are on the side of the resting room. Blindfolds are in the bedside drawers if you want to try to get some sleep.”

“Wait, my lord! Please!” the faliran slave begged, eyes teary. “My master ordered me to return to him!”

Krathan narrowed his red eyes at the cowering slave.  “I wasn’t aware that your master was a medical practitioner of the science caste.”

The faliran slave froze, “He – he’s not, my lord.”

“Which means he has no authority over how my medical practice is performed,” Krathan said icily, “He didn’t have to go through years of grueling scientific education to learn how to keep idiot slaves like you alive! I did, and I am ordering you to go rest! Do not make me repeat myself!”

The slave yelped and scuttled away frantically. Krathan waited a few moments longer before slumping in his chair, hammering the call patient button again. The vet blew a breath out through narrowed lips, leaning forwards against the hard bellyrest of his seat.

Krathan’s eyes flickered over to the video feed of Grakrash’s pet before he forcefully pulled his gaze away, looking at the door. The next patient certainly was taking her time.

Krathan waited several more seconds before rising, very annoyed. A part of him was rather concerned about how irritable he was this morning, and another far larger part would be happy to sleep away the rest of the day away with a cocktail of tranquilizers and analgesics flowing through his veins. He trudged over to the door, hitting the manual open button.

The waiting room was a cramped cube packed with seats and a screen playing a video of Huntmaster Voerash’s face. An umbral girl with a pair of snapped and bleeding wings was cowering in the corner of the room, looking up at Krathan with red teary eyes as he stomped out. Great. A cryer.

“The bell means you’re supposed to come into the room!” the vet snapped, jabbing his finger towards the large number display at the bottom of the poster, “Come in now and stop wasting my time or – ”

Krathan’s foot splashed in a puddle of something warm. His eyes widened as he looked down. A corvid slave was sprawled on the ground, a puddle of deep red blood spilling out all around her prone and naked body.

The next moments passed in a blur, guided by reflex and punctuated by cursing. The flesh printer was maneuvered into place. Automatic settings on everything; there was no time for making this pretty. Krathan passed the scanner over the thin body of the winged slave, trying his best not to move her as he scanned for internal damage.

Broken ribs, compound fractures. Likely from beatings. Krathan gently pried apart the feathers and pressed the injection gun’s nozzle up against her exposed flesh. Lacerations across face, neck, and chest. Knife wounds. Superficial: low priority. Krathan’s blood ran cold as he ran the scanner over the slave’s stomach. Heavy metal hooks, one digging straight into the liver and cutting through the hepatic artery. The other hook was in her chest, puncturing the lungs and causing a pulmonary hemorrhage. Krathan quickly ran his scanner over the heart, and then dropped the device on the ground as he scrambled back into his clinic.

He returned with packs of universal donor corvid blood, a defibrillator, and a pair of metal spikes, laying everything on the ground. Krathan grabbed the metal spikes first. Invasive defibrillators were dangerous, but he couldn’t wait for the corvid’s heart to restart before he could begin the surgery. The toxins from her liver had been poisoning her bloodstream for several minutes, minimum. Old and poisoned blood needed to be cycled out and new blood needed to be cycled in. Krathan set the blood machine to automatic before reaching for the scanner to find those wounds hiding beneath the slave’s coat of feathers. The vet quickly rubbed the nanite gel over the wounds, sealing them one by one.

Surgery next. Pulmonary hemorrhage stymying capillary oxygenation. The old blood had to go and fast. Krathan quickly snatched up a large syringe and punched the commands into the printer, disintegrating the feathers in a circle with the laser before driving the needle straight into her lung cavity. He’ll bruise alveoli and nick capillaries, but minor injuries are currently acceptable. Krathan slowly drained the lungs of fluid. Changing out a fresh lung would be faster, but he could not wait the hours it’ll take for the new lung to arrive.

Half an hour of exhausting lung draining, transfusions, and cauterization followed before Krathan could afford to actually slow down. His body felt like it had doubled in weight over the process, adding to the slouch in his back. Krathan locked his jaws, closing his eyes and taking several long breaths as he counted up to ten. He could still feel his hands shaking.

Slowly, the vet opened his eyes and looked towards the biometric display. Her heart was beating erratically, but at least it was beating. Krathan tapped his wrist console to call for help. It was only a few seconds before an arane woman, gray skinned, sixed armed, red haired, and as naked as the rest of the slaves, entered the chamber. She stiffened and all six of her eyes went wide as she saw the corvid.

“Get the stretcher. I need to move the patient to a bed,” Krathan said.  When the arane girl continued to stand, stunned by the scene in front of her, he barked “Go!” and she snapped into action. Krathan growled. Idiots. Every last one of them.

The serving slave returned with the stretcher in hand and the vet motioned for her to set it down. Together, they unfurled the stretcher and moved the corvid girl onto it. Krathan’s eye twitched at how clumsy the arane’s hands were when handling his patient. Those slaves have tiny skin covered hands and six arms, shouldn’t they be better at handling delicate tasks like this? Whatever.

The vet and the slave quickly moved the patient to the resting room, the blood cycling machine following them on motorized wheels. The faliran jumped as Krathan entered, her face blanching as she saw the body being carted in. Krathan moved the corvid onto the bed, carefully resting her head on the pillow. The girl’s beak hung slightly ajar, both her eyes closed. Even beneath her feathers, Krathan could see dislocated joints and snapped bones.

Krathan reached forwards, carefully popping and maneuvering the bones into their proper place. He was practiced enough by now that he didn’t need to bother with references. Blood and cum stained the corvid’s feathers, but that was a miniscule concern.

Another fifteen minutes of mostly silent work passed before Krathan finally wiped his hands down and grabbed the bandages. The vet bound the slave’s chest, arms, legs, and wings, trimming the primary and secondary feathers off the wings to make sure the compress was tight enough. Krathan pointed at the arane.

“I’m requisitioning you for service. The patient is comatose and will need to be moved every few hours to prevent bed sores,” Krathan grunted. “Have you performed bedside care before?”

“N – no my lord,” the arane responded.

Brilliant. “There’s a data terminal over there,” Krathan said, pointing towards the screen at the edge of the infirmary bay. “You don’t need credentials to access it. Watch the video about caring for comatose patients. Can you read?” The arane girl nodded and Krathan grunted. “Then get to it.”

Krathan slogged out of the infirmary bay and towards his desk in the clinic, grabbing the injection gun and stimulant canister from the tray. A part of his training yelled at him to change to a clean injection head, but Krathan couldn’t care less right now. He sighed as the gun clicked and hissed, flooding his veins with energy.

He pressed the button on his wrist console to call for another arane, the serving slave arriving through the waiting room door just a few seconds later. He pointed her towards the puddle of blood.

“Clean this up,” Krathan grumbled, staggering over to the umbral. The patient winced the moment he grabbed her arm. 

The vet loaded a canister of anesthetic nanites into his gun again, attached a clean head and injected her. The umbral looked utterly terrified the whole time, causing Krathan to scowl. Are all the slaves on this ship terrified of needles?

He grabbed the scanner and passed it over the pale slave’s wings, his body tensing. The limbs weren’t just broken: they appeared to have been passed beneath a hydraulic press. The bones were practically powder. Krathan turned to the arane.

“We’ll need to amputate,” Krathan muttered, “One stretcher and some more anesthetics, now.”

The automatic door slid closed behind the umbral slave as she headed for the resting area with her old wings removed and her shoulders bandaged up. Her new wings should arrive in a few hours, then it’s another half an hour of surgery, and then three hours of observation.

The vet slumped into his chair as he began to compose the medical reports for the three slaves. It went relatively quickly, just dragging and dropping the various tests and treatment into the report with two sentences of physician’s notes before hitting send to deliver the messages to the slaves’ owners.

The video feed of Grakrash’s pet was waiting for Krathan as he minimized the messaging application, the audio automatically came back on. The cephalian was still sobbing in her soft, gentle voice. Krathan could still remember her screams from last night.

The vet scowled. Did people all feel like this after they finished mounting their first slave in years? Was the anesthetics he gave her insufficient for her species? Krathan waved the video feed aside and called up the encyclopedia entry on cephalians.

An entry on cephalians wasn’t present on the Night’s data banks. That wasn’t surprising, as the Empty Night wasn’t one of the vessels that had harvested their homeworld, but it was still annoying. Krathan quickly downloaded all of the public documentation and media of cephalians before routing the download endpoint to his tablet. His eyes wandered towards the live feed once again.

He didn’t know how much time passed before he was torn from his moment of tranquility by the hiss of the door and the sound of a foot driven hard into the floor.

“Brother!”

Krathan winced, looking up. Grakrash strode in with a confident gait, wearing a bright red cloak with an offensively cheerful demeanor. A single golden ring pierced his scaled lip, the simple ring mirroring the countless piercings covering his heitera’s body.

“Go away, Grakrash,” Krathan muttered.  “I have a policy against seeing owners in my clinic.”

“Don’t be like that, Krathan. You’re never going to make any friends if you hide in this place like a hermit, refusing to talk to anyone but the slaves,” Grakrash said, striding over and barging into the vet’s personal space before leaning an arm on his shoulder.  “So, what are you watching?”

“Nothing important.” Krathan said testily, quickly terminating the application before his elder brother managed to circle the table. The warrior was about average height and size for a kthid, meaning that he towered over the slaves but was still more than a head shorter than Krathan. His breath stank of liquor. “Can you not do this right now? I have work to do.”

“What work, Krathan?” Grakrash asked, glancing over at the empty clinic.  “Did we just get a shipment of invisible sex slaves?” Grakrash laughed. “That’ll be fun, actually. You’ll need to cover them with cum before you can even tell how pretty they are.”

Krathan reached for the painkillers. Grakrash sighed, standing straight again and clasping his claw on Krathan’s shoulder.

“Seriously, brother. Thanks for coming to the party,” Grakrash said, a rare serious expression crossing his face.  “I know my friends seem a bit unfriendly right now, but go to a few more parties and you’ll be right at home. I promise.”

Krathan nodded. “Thanks, Grakrash.”

Grakrash hummed, grinning. He reached over, pinching Krathan’s cheek. “You don’t seem very thankful,” he said smugly.

Krathan sighed.  “I just don’t see that kind of crowd as the place I’d want to spend my time,” he said, peeling Grakrash’s hand off his shoulder. “It’s loud, it’s chaotic, and you’re making more work for me by torturing your slave.”

Grakrash sighed. “So that’s what this is about,” he said. “Brother, Anisa’s far tougher than she looks.”

Krathan looked at Grakrash with undisguised skepticism. Grakrash sighed, circling the table and sitting down on the comically undersized patient chair. His paw moved in a blur the moment Krathan was distracted, snatching Krathan’s tablet away. Krathan growled as a smug grin stretched over his brother’s face.

“So you did enjoy the party,”

“No I didn’t,” Krathan snapped, yanking the device back

 Grakrash laughed. “You enjoyed yourself enough to obsess over my slave.”

Krathan grunted. “I’m reading up on her so I can treat her in the future if you end up injuring her like this again.”

Grakrash sighed. “It’ll be fine, Krathan. She’s lived through worse. If you wanted to read up on the biology of a rare species, there’s the mirucains.  There’s at least a couple thousand of them aboard the ship right now.” Grakrash grinned.  “You like my slave, don’t you?”

Krathan winced. “She screams and cries a lot,” Krathan grumbled.

Grakrash shrugged.  “It’s annoying, isn’t it?” he said. “She only screams so much because of the paralytic nanites. It makes it so it feels like she’s being torn in half whenever she’s fucked. There’s more to it than that, but I’m not an egghead. Drop by your friends in the science caste if you want a better explanation. You use her normally, and she’s no different from any other slave.”

Krathan furrowed his brow.  “Why would you give her paralytics then?”

“You can’t have a good party without a screaming slave or two. It’s just what the others expect, so might as well give them what they want, right? It’s the easiest way to make friends around here.” Grakrash smiled. “They love exotics. Gets them thinking about new ways to hurt a girl, ways that won’t really work on an arane or a faliran.”

“I’m getting annoyed just thinking of all the work you’re creating for me,” Krathan said. “I don’t see the point.”

“Anisa’s a rare delicacy, brother, and on this ship we’re the only ones who can provide.” Grakrah leaned back with a self-satisfied grin.  “It’s easy to find people looking to be your friend when you have a rare toy like that, believe me.”

A few moments of quiet passed before Krathan set down his tablet. “Grakrash,” Krathan said, “I’ve pulled up your slave’s files.”

“I knew you were interested!” Grakrash laughed, pumping his fist with a victorious grin.

Krathan scowled. “Considering their natural lifespans,” he said, “A cephalian should have a ninety five percent chance of surviving for twenty years in captivity and a sixty two percent chance that she would survive for forty years.  But your slave has lost thirty percent of her body mass in the last three months alone. She’s begun manifesting cardiac arrhythmia in her system heart as well as both of her brachial hearts and her old vet has made note of a measurable increase in lethargy.” 

Grakrash shrugged.  “I might have been working her very hard recently. I actually did think of giving her a five day break so she can recover before the next party.”

Krathan narrowed his eyes.  “You haven’t been starving her, have you?”

Grakrash winced.  “I wouldn’t do that, brother. I’m not a monster.”

Krathan turned his eyes towards his screen. “As your slave’s vet, my prognosis is simple,” he said.  “She’s dying.”  Grakrash locked his jaw.

“No she’s not, brother. She just lost a little weight, that’s all.”

“You’ve been feeding her as much as always?” Krathan asked, getting a nod of confirmation from his brother before going on. “I’ve seen this pattern before. A loss of weight despite high caloric intake and minimal physical activities. Clustered minor health complications that compound.” Krathan said softly, closing his eyes. “She’s on a death trajectory. My prognosis is that she won’t survive our trip to terran space.”

“Less than five months?” Grakrash asked, leaning back and smiling, “That sounds rather grim, brother.”

Krathan scowled. “I don’t feel like you’re taking this very seriously.”

Grakrash closed his eyes and sighed. “I really am, Krathan. Sorry. I suppose I should be a little more straight with you,” he said, tightening his jaws.

The siblings sat quietly across each other. Krathan frowned. Their talks always ended up like this: a quiet stalemate where neither side made progress. Krathan watched his brother out of the corner of his eye. Grakrash looked on with his inscrutable eyes and his knowing smile. At least that much hadn’t changed.

“I didn’t just come here today to chat,” he said finally. “Krathan, I’ve decided that I want to loan you Anisa for a couple weeks.”

Krathan perked up. “What?”

“You’re right. You are. My slave’s health is going downhill and using her at the parties probably isn’t helping. Far too many cocks to serve, far too many people doing everything at once. It’s overwhelming for the poor thing’s tiny brain.” Grakrash sighed. “She’s being fed, she’s being cared for like I’ve always done. I think the problem is mental, you know? Something wrong with her brain. I just want to go back to basics. Get her to just be a simple slave. One cock and one master to serve. It’ll be a little vacation, let her relearn her place before she goes back on the party circuit.”

Krathan stiffened, feeling himself harden. The vet felt like kicking himself. He was supposed to be able to have better mastery over his body than that, and yet here he was. Grakrash smirked, knowing that he’d won.

Krathan’s scowl deepened even further. “I’ll take care of her.”

Grakrash raised his finger, pointing at Krathan. “And you will be making use of her,” Grakrash said, smirking. “Oh don’t pout, Krathan. She’s beautiful and you know it. I think I’ll have to pry her from your cock once the two weeks are over!” Grakrash laughed.

Krathan sighed, defeated. This was, admittedly, not surprising. Grakrash had won every single fight they’d ever been in, physical or otherwise.

Grakrash smiled warmly. “Honestly, I was a bit worried that I would lose my prize slave. Good thing I took her from her old vet. Old Nakros was convinced that she contracted a disease that could slip past our nanites.” Grakrash snorted, turning to Krathan. “I’m surprised they still let him practice medicine. You said that there was this thing we don’t understand killing Anisa, yeah? Well, if anyone can find out what it is, it’ll be you.” Grakrash smiled. “I trust you, and I know that if anyone could make Anisa work properly again, it’ll be you.”

Krathan frowned.  “I’m a vet, Grakrash, not a miracle worker.” 

“You underestimate yourself!” Grakrash said, jumping to his feet. He leaned over the table, patting Krathan’s shoulder. “If you put your mind to it, I don’t think there’s a single disease you can’t cure. If this problem really will end up killing my slave, you’ll find a way to get to the bottom of it. I promise.”

Krathan laughed wanly. He knew he wasn’t going to be finding a fix for the illness that has been inexplicably killing slaves for as long as he could remember, but damn, listening to Grakrash speak made it feel like he might actually manage.

“Alright, Grakrash. I’ll do it.” Krathan said, getting to his feet, “Which means I probably should go see my loaned slave. What do you usually do with her during the day?”

Grakrash hummed.  “As long as she’s there when I want a warm hole to fuck and doesn’t cry or whine too much, I just let her do whatever she wants,” he said.  “But just treat her as your slave, Krathan. Make her do whatever you want her to do. She’s obedient, I made sure to beat that into her.”

Krathan nodded. “That will make her easier to manage.”

“Good luck, brother,” Grakrash said.  “By the way, you have some slaves out back? I’d like to use your vet privileges, if you don’t mind.”

Krathan glanced behind him.  “An umbral slave. Her new wings are still printing. A faliran. She had broken carapaces. A corvid, comatose. Oh, and an arane I left to watch the corvid,” Krathan said.  “Don’t touch the corvid. I’m still not sure if she’s going to live.”

“I won’t; I have an eye on the umbral. Shame about her wings, but her holes should work just fine.” Grakrash smirked, his length rising beneath his loincloth. “They may look big, brother, but you won’t find a slave as tight as them anywhere on this ship. Unless you’re talking about one of my slaves, of course.” Grakrash winked before roaring with laughter, walking into the infirmary with a spring in his step.

Krathan grunted, turning back to his work. He could hear the sound of his brother enjoying the umbral in the adjacent room, but the sounds faded away as the vet threw himself into documentation. He ran through all of his recent work again, making sure he hadn’t missed anything, before signing out of the clinic console and making his way out of his office.

Krathan didn’t have to walk far to get to his bedroom, having chosen the accommodations right next to the clinic. The biometric suite beeped as he approached, the door sliding open for him. Krathan ducked his head beneath the doorframe as he entered.

Krathan’s quarters were large and sparse, with a bed in one corner of the room, a table on the other, and no furniture in between. The cephalian’s ‘tank’ sat at the center of the room, next to a tripod-mounted camera. In the tiny container, the slave looked like she had been crammed in there by a packing machine.

Krathan stepped up to the container, lifting the lid off the slave’s cell. She had stopped sobbing the moment Krathan entered his room, putting a smile on her face. Grakrash’s cephalian quickly sat up before him before lowering her head, prostrating herself before him. She’ll be his for the next two weeks. His alone.

Chalky white flushed across the cephalian’s skin as Krathan’s claws touched her, causing him to freeze up. The veterinarian’s mouth grew dry as he observed the trembling slave. She was perfectly tamed and obedient, and yet looking at her like this gave Krathan the same trepidation as when he needed to handle a feisty llorian. It was like he was staring at a painting instead of a heitera, a crystallization of an artist’s imagination instead of a living, breathing creature.

Slowly, Krathan pulled his hand back. “Come out. I want to take a look at you,” he ordered. The cephalian, despite her clear terror, imediately nodded.

“As you command, my lord,” she whispered, her body shifting.

Krathan stepped back as the exotic slave unfurled like a flower, her limbs reaching upwards. The tentacles moved like liquid, suctioning against the glass as they lifted her up. Droplets of water gently painted her body with faint streaks, the transparent liquid tinted blue by the heitera’s blood.

The vet squatted down near the cephalian, bringing his head a bit closer to the beautiful slave’s level. Close up, her forced smile proved a flimsy facade. Her wide eyes, colored with an orange pigment so vivid that it practically looked artificial, were filled with fresh droplets of tears.

“Your master has given you to me for use for the next fifteen days, starting today,” Krathan finally said. The slave lowered her head in a bow.

“I understand, my lord,” she said, her voice as brittle as glass. “Would you like to make use of me right away, my lord?”

Yes. “You are currently very stressed. I need to give you a physical examination, but I don’t believe you’re ready for that,” Krathan said, speaking slowly. “I will return to my clinic. I would like you to leave this room and find ways to manage your anxiety. I’ll see you when it’s time for my lunch and we will see if you are more compliant then.”

“I – I’m sorry,” the cephalian slave whimpered, her trembling growing even more intensive.

Krathan groaned, rubbing his face. He really didn’t feel like himself. Perhaps medication would help. “I’ll see you at lunch. Do not be late,” Krathan ordered, turning away.


At that moment, the entire world seemed to have conspired to hurt Selara. It felt like someone had taken finely ground glass and rubbed the little shards under her eyelids. Hot tears flowed down her face, carving over her inflamed cheeks like hot knives.

Master Avraks was no longer around, as far as Selara could tell. Judging by the dried cum she could feel encrusting her hair and face, it has been a long time since she had been conscious. She pushed herself off the metal floor, her strands of hair crackling as they pulled against the dried cum. Carefully, Selara brought her legs under her body.

Standing was painful, and walking was worse. Selara still forced herself to do it anyway. The agonizingly bright lights appeared to have been removed, but even the ambient light of the Empty Night was more than bright enough to agonize her. Her head felt like it was jutting with metal stakes. Selara needed to move. She needed to find somewhere dark and quiet where she could rest.

Selara’s permanently bound wings ached with fatigue and muscle stress. She was never to spend a single second without the bindings. She was forced to eat with the ropes, sleep with the ropes, and of course whenever she was raped or tortured she did it with the ropes. Her master hadn’t even considered amputating her wings. He wanted her to remember. He wanted her to feel the aching and be constantly reminded of what he was denying her.

Selara tripped on the doorframe. Her knees struck metal, sending twin bolts of pain up her legs, and her scream echoed in chorus with the sounds of five dozen clattering bells. She trembled, gritting her teeth so hard she was afraid they would crack.

 The bells kept ringing. Every single tiny movement Selara made set the damnable things off. The sound was like a tightening vice around her increasingly frail mind. After so many years, the clatter of those hateful brass instruments may as well have been lashes against her flesh.

Selara curled into a ball, sobbing and trembling as she tried to block out the world with her palms. She didn’t really believe in the All-Mother, but she found herself praying anyway, to her or anyone else who might be listening, that a kthid wouldn’t stumble across her. She couldn’t take being violated again. Not now. Not when her entire body felt like cracked glass. Not when she was little more than three helpless holes all meant to sheathe kthid cocks.

Selara cringed, and then shook her head, forcing the treacherous thoughts out.

It wasn’t easy. All of her holes felt raw and ruined. Her pussy and ass were both slimy with lukewarm cum, and her throat felt like she had been made to drink acid. The sickening stench clung to her, staining her so thoroughly that Selara feared even her soul was soiled.

Selara tried standing up, but the groan of her muscles were too much for her to be able to even straighten out her arms. Instead, she just crawled. She crawled with her eyes on the floor, feeling her way against the wall. The glaring bright lights continued to stab at her retinas even with her eyelids scrunched tight, but at least the pain was merely agonizing instead of being unbearable.

Hand, knee, hand, knee. Each movement set the hateful bells jangling, but Selara still forced herself to keep crawling. She had no way of keeping track of time, save for the increasingly painful aching of her palms and knees. How long had she been doing this? Hours? Days? Years?

“Are you alright?” A voice asked suddenly with a strained friendliness.

“Who’s there!” Selara demanded, flinching away. Her strained muscles screamed at her along with the metal sounds, and she cowered for a moment, her entire body trembling as she waited for the sharp clattering of the bells to stop.

“My – my apologies! I didn’t mean to!” the voice whispered panickedly. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to make you angry! I am just a stupid cumdump! Please don’t hurt me!” the voice begged, the speaker scrambling away.

“It – it’s fine! It’s fine!” Selara gasped, gritting her teeth as she felt a stabbing anger at herself grow. She was not that far gone; she would not be reduced to lashing out at her fellow slaves. “It’s fine. I’m not going to hurt you,” she whispered, her voice raspy.

“R – really?” The soft voice held both disbelief and relief. Selara knew that feeling too well. When you were a slave to the monsters, it could be hard to believe that every tiny error wouldn’t result in harsh punishment. Selara turned her head around, moving slowly so as not to strain her muscles. The voice sounded so young.

“You’re hurt,” the voice whispered. Selara felt the presence approaching her, the hand on her shoulder again. “Will you be alright?”

“I’m – ” Selara’s words caught in her throat. “It’s alright, I just need to find a place I can rest. I can’t see right now, so it’s harder than normal.”

“You’re in such terrible pain. I simply – is there something I can do to help?” the gentle voice asked.

“I – ” Selara teared up. It was a tiny mote of kindness, and yet Selara couldn’t help but doubt whether she deserved even that.  “I just need somewhere to rest.”

“Is that all? Do you need anything else? Water? A cushion, or perhaps a bed?” the voice asked, circling Selara. Was she checking for injuries? “I’m afraid I can’t claim to know much about slaves like yourself, but I am quite intimately familiar with the contents of the chambers in this area. Is there some way I could aid you?” Selara couldn’t help but smile a little at the fretting voice.

“Water, first of all, if you could. A bed — ” Selara laughed incredulously. “A bed would be incredible.” A quiet alcove where a shadow could fall across her face would have been enough. A bed sounded like the kind of luxury she would never experience again. “And low light, if you could. My eyes feel much better in the dark.”

“Alright, miss. I shall try my best.” The voice said. Selara froze as she felt something touching her body from multiple directions. The unsettling sensation of serpentine appendages, coiling around her arms and torso and then lifting her to her feet. The sensation of being handled like a doll was uncomfortable, too much like how master Avraks handled her. No pain followed, though and the gentle voice soon spoke again.

“We shall begin walking. Is that alright, Miss?” the voice asked softly. “Just please take things slowly: one foot after another. Are you ready?”

“Yes, I think so,” Selara said softly. Whether by intent or circumstance, Selara’s guide moved her through the hallways at a pace that kept the bells mostly silent. The guide seemed as familiar with the area as she indicated, never needing to stop and orient herself. She kept Selara moving forwards at a constant pace.

It was hard for Selara to relax. Putting trust in someone else, even another slave, was such a risk. Doubts about whether this was some elaborate trap couldn’t help but surface. Selara bit her lip, forcing the doubts back. Her guide, a fellow slave, had taken time out of her miserable life to help her and still she couldn’t keep the insidious doubts from creeping into her mind.

Selara stumbled as her guide abruptly stopped, the bells ringing again and making her wince.

“My – my apologies!” The gentle voice whispered quickly, almost cowering. Selara winced at that as well.

“It’s fine!” Selara said quickly, squeezing the serpentine appendages that held her hands. “Please don’t worry, I’m fine.”

A few seconds of tense quiet followed. Selara tried opening her eyes to peek, but she quickly scrunched her eyelids shut. “Alright,” the guide said, somewhat calmed. “I do apologize that it took so long. We’re here.”

The throbbing pain in her eyes immediately faded as Selara was guided into the darkness. The appendages peeled off her limbs, carefully seating her onto a soft — couch, Selara guessed. The fabric crunched slightly beneath Selara, crusted as it was by the remnants of countless rapes. In times past, she would have refused to sleep on something so filthy. Now, all that mattered was that it was soft. Selara lay down on her belly, resting her face on her hands so at least it wouldn’t have to touch the dirty surface.

In the darkness and the silence, Selara’s migraine eased. Her entire groin area still felt raw, but at least the rest of her body was allowed some respite. She barely noticed how slippery the insides of her thighs still were or how awful she smelled.

Compared to the rest of her life, this felt wonderful. Selara allowed herself to enjoy it.

“Thank you.” She whispered, voice still raspy. “I don’t know who you are, but thank you.” The voice was silent for a long moment.

“My name is Anisa, Miss,” the gentle voice said. “Will you be alright by yourself? I’d like to go get you some water.”

“I — thank you. An – ee  – Anisa,” Selara said, the foreign name  unfamiliar on her tongue. “Thank you so much.”

The gentle hand squeezed Selara’s shoulder reassuringly. The guide, Anisa, barely made a sound as she moved away. Selara remembered days when she could be like that, before the bells. It was one of the millions of little miseries inflicted on her. She thought she had been reduced to the lowest of the lows when her master had stolen away her people, her home, and her family, and yet Master Avraks continued to prove her wrong.

A gentle hand rested on Selara’s shoulder as her guide returned. She sat up slowly and opened her eyes. Her vision was still blurry, but it had improved. Anisa was still a blur of color blotches to Selara’s eyes, but her silhouette was becoming clearer. The fellow slave held a cold cylinder out towards Selara. Below, Selara could feel Anisa’s serpentine limbs draping over her feet.

“Thank you.” Selara took the bottle gratefully, pulling the friction cap off and pouring the liquid into her eyes. It stung at first, but the cold soothed the inflamed tissue. She could practically feel the redness fade away as the water poured over her cheeks and washed some of the stubborn globs of cum free. She raised the bottle to her mouth next, her parched throat practically screaming in ecstasy as she drank.  The bottle was two-thirds empty before a thought occurred to her.

“Would you like some water, Anisa?” Selara asked.

“It’s alright, miss.” Anisa said.  “Please drink everything. I shall get more at the fountain if I need some.”

Selara raised the bottle to her mouth and emptied it, and drew a grateful breath. The umbral woman looked up to her guide again, still only able to see the smaller woman as a series of blobs.

“Do not worry, Miss Selara. The masters rarely ever come this deep into the tunnel network,” Anisa assured. “Unless your master was looking for you specifically, you shall be safe here.” Selara managed a smile despite her dried lips.

“Thank you so much, Anisa,” she said. “I didn’t know that places like this existed. How did you know about this?”

“I’m quite acquainted with the upper floors. My master takes me here when I make mistakes. I – I make a lot of mistakes, I’m a very useless slave,” Anisa said soberly. “But my master is very kind to me. I might be a worthless cumdump fit only to be a breeder for the casteless, but my master still allows me a chance to redeem myself. So that I won’t be so useless anymore.”

Selara grimaced. “I’m so sorry,” she eventually managed.

“Why?” Anisa asked. Yet again, Selara was at a loss for words.

Anisa hadn’t — handled captivity well.  The thought almost made Selara laugh.  There wasn’t a good way to handle kthid enslavement, but some slaves took it harder than others.  Selara had been here for years now, but her people hadn’t been the first victims of this particular style of genocide, she knew that much. Eight years had been bad enough for Selara, and her new friend sounded almost like a child.  How much of her life — ?

“Anisa, how long have you been a slave?” Selara asked cautiously. Anisa tilted her head.

“I’ve been a slave for just over twelve years, Miss Selara.”

Twelve years. Twelve years of this. Twelve years of torture and violation and pain and humiliation. Of being forced to live like an animal. Selara opened her eyes again, refocusing on her companion. Anisa’s face was only a shape, coming into focus frustratingly slowly. The tips of her fingers and limbs, shapes that Selara could now recognize as tentacles, were colder than her chest and face. Two of them had reached forwards, coiling around Selara’s ankles and feet. Anisa’s body was covered in strangely colored spots, warmer than the skin around them. Selara reached out and touched the closest spot with her finger.

Metal.

The spots were metal. Sickeningly large and unpleasantly numerous, they seemed to cover Anisa’s body. Smaller spots studded the woman’s slender belly while larger rings ran down the length of her tentacles like gruesome handles. Selara’s hand trembled as she reached out, touching the area near her companion’s wrist. There was a piercing there, as large as Anisa’s palm and punching straight through the flesh of her wrist.

“Your master did this.” It wasn’t a question. “Do  you want to talk about it?”

“Oh, about these?” Anisa asked, turning her hand around. “Master gave me these to correct my body. I was born with a squishy, weak, and inferior body that couldn’t even fit inside of restraints properly, and so Master Grakrash decided to fix me by adding these piercings so I can’t slip out and run away from master’s lessons.”

Selara went quiet again, not quite sure what to say. Back on Penumbra, she’d seen soldiers break before, but nothing like this. Selara was almost afraid to keep speaking. Anisa seemed to be teetering on the edge; she didn’t want to say something that might push her over 

Time passed in silence. Selara could see her companion out of the corner of her eye, sitting there patiently as if waiting for something. The umbral bit her lip and steeled herself, breathing in deeply.

“Anisa,” she asked carefully, “Is there anywhere you need to be? You have a master. Does he need anything from you right now?” Anisa went still, but eventually shook her head.

“My master, he – he’s loaning me out.” Selara’s body stiffened.

“To the casteless nest?”

“N – no!” Anisa protested, her eyes widening. “I – I’m just not good enough. Master has handed me over to a specialist to be trained, so I’ll stop being such a failure and an embarrassment for him.”

Selara bit down on her lip, seething. This whole thing was so unfair. This was one of the nicest people she’d met in years, and watching all of this was like experiencing the invasion and rape of Penumbra all over again. She had almost forgotten she could feel this furious.

“Anisa, you said that your master brought you up here often to – to correct your behavior.” Selara said, wincing at her words. It felt disgusting to frame what was being done to victimize Anisa as somehow her fault, but Anisa might well be using that framing to cope with her circumstances. “Was that why you were up here just now? Were you being tort — disciplined?”

“I – I came up here. The specialist ordered me to find a way to manage my stress. Yes. That’s right.” Anisa said. “I came up here, near the reclamation pit, to manage my stress, and then I saw you!” She paused, something seemed to click for her.

“Yes, that was it! You were wandering near to the reclamation pit. If I wasn’t there then you could have tripped and fallen in, Miss Selara. There’s no rails or guards, after all. It’s a very long fall. A long fall, and then everything would end. It would end so quickly, I don’t think it’d hurt at all.” Anisa reached out and gently touched her.

“You need to be careful, Miss Selara. Our lives belong to our masters, so we can’t – we can’t go wasting them like that, right?” Anisa asked, a note of desperation in her voice. “Please take care of yourself, Miss Selara. If you fall down there and get processed, I’m sure your master will be very sad.”

Selara bit down on the bitter laugh trying to escape. ‘Sad’ would not be the word she’d use to describe Master Avraks’s reaction.

“You’re right. I’ll make sure to take care of myself from now on,” Selara said, forcing a smile to her face, “but you need to take care of yourself as well.”

“You — you’re correct. You are precisely right, Miss Selara.” Anisa said quickly. “I may be worthless, but I am still Master Grakrash’s property. It would be improper for me to decide what I should do with a body my master owns.”

Anisa’s features were now clear in Selara’s vision, and they were what she’d expected in some respects, yet very different in others. Selara knew the woman was smaller than her. Most slaves were. She hadn’t expected the larger eyes, the thin limbs, and the overall cast of her features. As far as Selara could tell, Anisa was little more than a girl. And she’s been on the ship for twelve years? How young was she when she had been taken?

Barely thinking about what she was doing, Selara reached out her hands towards the small girl. She’d never been the type to touch people she didn’t know, but this felt important. She got down onto the ground, always conscious of the bell piercings on her body, and pulled Anisa into a hug. The girl stiffened as Selara embraced her.

“Miss Selara, is something the matter?” Anisa asked, voice alarmed.

“No. Nothing’s wrong,” Selara said quietly, stroking Anisa’s back. The girl softened in her arms, leaning against her. “Thank you, Anisa. I don’t know how much this means to you, but I’m very grateful I met you here today.” Selara gently took Anisa by her shoulders and moved her out to arm’s length. “It would make me happy if I could talk to you again in the future. Do you understand?”

“I — I do, Miss Selara,” Anisa said, beaming. Her smile was sorrowful, and yet full of gratitude and warmth. “Thank you. Thank you so much,” she whispered, reaching up to wipe away her tears. Selara nodded.

“Listen,” Selara said frankly, “I don’t think you should be alone right now.” Some days she wished she had Luvira’s training at counseling.  She’d have a much better idea how to help people like this.  Selara pursed her lips for a moment.   “When is your master’s rest day?”

Anisa blinked. “Two days from now, but — ”

“Good,” Selara said. “That means both our masters need to work tomorrow, so we’ll have some time to ourselves. Do you know where the third recreational wing is?”

Anisa nodded. “Of course, Miss.”

“Good. Meet me there at sixteen hundred hours in the servant’s entrance. Can you do that?” Selara squeezed Anisa’s shoulders encouragingly. The girl was visibly confused, and Selara hoped she looked and sounded authoritative enough. Anisa eventually nodded.

“I’ll try to be there,” she promised.

“Good girl. Please don’t blame yourself if you can’t make it. I will not get angry. I promise.” Selara said, “I don’t want you wandering around with nothing to do. Do you understand?” Anisa hesitantly nodded.

“I think so.”

Selara smiled, feeling relief wash over her. That had taken more than a little of her energy reserves, but it had made her feel better. Even with the fatigue of just two hours of sleep and the persistent soreness from Master Avraks’s horrid attentions, Selara actually felt invigorated. Looking into the young girl’s eyes, she was convinced Anisa would show up at the agreed place and time without fail.

“Good. That’s good,” Selara said softly, lying down on the couch again. She really did need proper sleep. Still, she suspected she would sleep a lot more soundly now that, for the first time in years, she’d done something that felt like it mattered. “I barely managed to sleep last night, so I need a moment to rest. Thank you, Anisa, for talking to me and for agreeing to come meet me tomorrow.”

“Miss Selara?” the gentle voice asked.

“Yes?” Selara said, opening her eyes and looking up at Anisa.

“Would you like me to stay here with you, at least whilst I am able?” Anisa asked. Selara smiled,  a warm and genuine one for the first time in a while.

“Of course. Stay as long as you’d like.”

Anisa nodded and, without any prompting, began to softly sing. Selara’s eyes widened for a moment, but Anisa didn’t offer any explanation. Selara’s earpiece provided no translation; all she could hear was that soft lullaby, mournful and yet still so beautiful, echoing through the room as the weary umbral drifted off to a peaceful sleep.

Next Chapter –>

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