NSC – The Endless Night – Chapter 13 – Prognosis

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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Things were meant to be so simple.

Time was something Krathan never had enough of. Between managing patients, drafting and writing instructions and invoices for clients, and reading up on new technologies, new captive species, and reviewing tolerance studies, every hour of his waking day was eaten up by work. Things had only gotten worse now that he had to provide emergency treatments for all the slaves that ended up at his door. Look away for an instant, and the day would be gone.

It was still busy. Busier, in fact, now that he had also become responsible for so many veterinarians aboard the vessel. It meant more work for him, and no particular improvement to his life considering that he’d managed to live fine with his previous stipend. Despite that, time still felt so slow. Every second crawled. Krathan had to keep glancing back at the clock to make sure that time was still moving.

Krathan did just that as he thought about it again. The digits barely changed. Still within the first quarter of his shift.

“My lord?”

“What?” Krathan muttered, eyes moving from the screen. An umbral sat there, her wings folded around her body almost like a curtain.

“Is – is something wrong?” the female asked.

“No,” Krathan grunted, glancing back at the screen. Vileera? Right. Electric girl. Krathan’s scowl deepened. “Why did your master send you here?”

The female flinched at his tone. “He – he didn’t, my lord,” the umbral said. “My – my master thinks that I am not being useful enough. He said I’m lazy and I’m slow with drafting up proposals.”

The umbral raised an arm and stretched it out towards him. Her palm and fingers trembled noticeably as she tried to hold it still. If she was a new patient, Krathan might have assumed either extreme exhaustion or congenital issues with the nervous system fixable through procedure. He knew better, however.

“I already told your master what the problem is,” Krathan growled.

The umbral nodded. “He – he hasn’t stopped,” she said, looking down at her trembling hands.

Krathan rolled his eyes. Of course his prescriptions were ignored. The umbral placed both of her hands back on her thighs.

“I have dozens of walker diagrams that my master wants me to draw up, but I can barely hold a pen,” the female continued. “Is there something you can give me, Lord Krathan? Something I can use so my body stops shaking so much?”

“No there isn’t,” Krathan said, reaching for the shelf next to his table. He picked up a small tube of rubbing anesthetic and dropped it in the female’s hand. “There. That’s for the pain. You can leave now.”

“But my lord,” the umbral protested, “this won’t fix the problem!”

“The problem is that every single owner aboard this ship is a moron!” Krathan snapped, slamming his closed fist down onto his table. “I don’t know if it’s just noble pride or a congenital disease or if there’s a plague of some brain-eating parasite running around on this ship, but every single fucking owner on this ship can’t seem to follow basic instruction to save their slave’s lives! The answer is always simple!”

The breath left Krathan’s throat like a blast of steam through a cooling vent. His fingers curled, digging into his table as a red fog clouded his vision. It was only the sound of a female sob, clear and stark, that broke through the haze.

Krathan quickly turned back in the direction of the sound, seeing the umbral cowering. His eyes scanned over the slave’s body until his brain caught up and he realized what was causing the distress. Krathan slumped back over his chair. The anger came back, directed inwards instead.

“Look, just – ” Krathan waved his fingers, panning through his daily schedule. Empty. He turned back towards the slave. “Maybe physiotherapy will help. Go wait on one of the patient cots and I’ll go take a look at your body.”

The slave lowered her head, wiping away tears from her cheeks. “Thank you, my lord,” she said quickly, scuttling past him without meeting his eyes. It was hard to tell if her shaking was from strain or from fear.

Krathan watched the umbral enter the infirmary before letting out a long sigh, clutching his head. Keeping up with his tasks seemed more arduous with every task he managed to slog through, and yet the amount of work that needed doing seemed to increase with every passing day. His eyes flickered back towards his workstation screen.

Anisa was awake. She had been awake for several hours now. All she had done since then was leave her tub and crawl over the floor of her enclosure towards her spot right in front of her enclosure’s door. She would remain there for the rest of the day, if her behavior in the last five days was any indication.

The tray of food sat ignored next to her sleeping pool. Sweet jelly: composed of several small colorful blocks stacked atop each other to form a pile. It was the same thing Krathan had always fed her, so she had to know that the blocks were food. He had even tried adding artificial scents to the jelly to imitate the smell of fruits endemic to the cephalian homeworld. She still refused to eat.

What was wrong with her? Did the torture she went through cause brain damage? His scanners detected no injuries and nothing he could find about cephalians mentioned this specific type of behavioral anomaly, but Anisa did have prior memory impairment. Was this just the result of her condition intersecting with the recent acute trauma?

Krathan rose to his feet, grabbing the trolley of medical tools and pushing it through the medical corridor. He entered his bedroom and headed straight for Anisa’s enclosure, opening the door with a tap of his fingers. Anisa instantly perked up as he entered, her eyes going wide and her body tensing up. Threads of pale blues washed over a background of somber grays. Krathan’s frown deepened. Though her colors were familiar in her sleep, they seemed closer to her death when she was awake.

“G – good morning, master,” Anisa whispered.

Krathan grunted, grabbing the endocrine analyzer from the trolley and going down on one knee. Anisa’s skin paled to white as he opened the analyzer and pulled out the probe, careful not to yank too hard on the power cord. She trembled, though she didn’t resist, as Krathan pulled down his scanning visor and attached a fresh needle to the probe.

“Please, master,” Anisa whispered, her voice on the edge of sobbing, “please.”

Krathan locked his jaw. In another circumstance, he might have assumed she was simply delirious. All attempts to communicate with her had provoked similar undecipherable responses, however. None of his encyclopedias or articles he had managed to locate gave him any information on what caused a cephalian to behave like this. The information was out there, Krathan was sure of it.

But he hadn’t found it yet. Until he could, he had nothing but his training and his best guesses to fall back on. Anisa whimpered as he pressed the needle against her thigh and drove it into the muscle.

The endocrine system readout flashed up almost immediately, calibrated for cephalians as it was. The analyzer indicated very high levels of fear and stress hormones, as well as chemical byproducts of metabolic processes. She was agitated and so her body was using up large amounts of her energy reserves.

For a slave species, cephalians had incredibly quick metabolic processes. Their bodies wouldn’t quite burn as much energy as kthid, but they weren’t far off. Anisa should be famished. Despite that, she still refused to touch her food. Krathan pushed the analyzer aside and reached for a toolbox.

“Anisa, I am going to ask you some questions,” Krathan said. “I want you to answer them as quickly and as accurately as you can. Understand?”

 “Yes, master!” she blurted quickly, practically stumbling over her tongue.

Krathan reached for Anisa’s face, biting his tongue as she flinched away from him in fear, and pried her eyelids apart. He shone the flashlight into one eye and then another, watching her pupils shrink almost instantaneously. Her involuntary reactions were still functional.

The results corroborated yesterday’s test and the test from a day before that, yet Krathan found himself repeating the process again and again. Something was clearly wrong with Anisa. If only he could figure out what it was.

“We’ll start with some basic math questions,” Krathan said, looking up. “If I have five towels and you had eleven, and I gave you all of mine. How many towels would you have?”

“I – sixteen, master.”

“There’s three cups, all of them have pills in them. The first cup has two pills, the second five pills, and the second four pills. How many pills are there between the cups?”

“Eleven pills, master.”

“Arane have six arms. If there’s five of them in a room, how many arms do they have?”

“Thirty arms, master.”

Krathan reached for his tablet and quickly panned over to the drawing screen. He quickly wrote a basic sum out onto the screen and turned it towards Anisa. His heitera peered at the screen, biting her lips, before looking up towards him. “Fifteen collars, master.”

Krathan nodded. Anisa was still able to interpret his words and perform basic arithmetic from his instructions. Her linguistic centers weren’t compromised, she could turn abstract numbers into quantities, and she could read symbols. Her basic brain functions were, fortunately, not compromised.

“I’m going to now ask you to recall some things for me,” Krathan said. “Do you remember your name and who you are?”

Anisa nodded quickly. “I’m Anisa, my lord. I am your heitera.”

“Do you remember where you are?”

“I’m in your chambers, master.”

“Do you remember where this chamber is located?”

“Located? I – do you mean which ship we’re on?” Anisa asked, quickly continuing as Krathan nodded affirmatively. “We’re on the Empty Night.”

“Do you remember who your former master is?” Krathan asked, “before I bought you.”

Anisa’s eyes went wide. The analyzer beeped angrily, pulling Krathan’s attention down to the display. Anisa’s stress hormones were quickly spiking. “Lord Grakrash was my master, before he decided to dispose of me.”

Krathan frowned as he took mental notes. Anisa remembered both things that had happened recently and some time ago, so neither her short nor long term memory seemed particularly damaged. He wasn’t quite sure about the latter, since he just didn’t know much about Anisa from before he’d started taking interest in her.

Krathan found himself sitting silently for a long while. He really didn’t know much about Anisa at all, did he? She seemed, by all quantifiable metrics, normal. Normal to how he knew her. Yet that wasn’t helping him much. She’d been fine before, and now she just wasn’t. That’s all he really knew. Krathan looked over towards the tray of food he had laid out for Anisa.

He just knew so little about her. There was plenty of information on how to keep cephalians alive and the kinds of things that would cause them to die, and yet there wasn’t anything about how to keep them happy. There wasn’t anything about how to give them a good life. Did Anisa even like jelly, or did she just eat that because it was what was fed to her?

Krathan sighed. Maybe the food replacement wasn’t good enough, and he’d need to get her some actual fruit. There wasn’t going to be fruit endemic to the cephalian homeworld on this ship though, and it’d be far too expensive for him to print fruit to feed Anisa even on his new salary. Krathan’s grimace deepened.

There were a lot of zoos in Malador, not to mention exotic food plantations where crops like that were grown. He might be able to purchase a supply to feed Anisa from there. He might also be able to find some zoo specialist who might be able to help him with issues like this. It would be better than trying to find help from the gaggle of idiots aboard this ship, at the very least.

Krathan narrowed his eyes, his claws digging into his scaled palms. So many maybes. So much uncertainty. Krathan rubbed his face with his paw, grimacing. It would be so much easier if he could just find a clear treatment plan that could help progress Anisa’s rehabilitation.

Beeping. Krathan’s eyes quickly flickered down towards its source. The analyzer’s hormone plots were spiking, indicating climbing levels of stress hormones in Anisa’s system.

Krathan cursed. It must have been the fault of those noble bastards that Anisa was like this. It was like even being close to a kthid was enough to send Anisa into panic now. Krathan pulled the probe out from Anisa’s tentacle and rose to his feet. He couldn’t try to continue his diagnostics if it was just going to put his heitera in more stress. He’d try again in the evening and hope that she was able to handle his presence a little better by then.

Krathan quickly moved over to the tub and collected the tray of food. He’d need to remember to order more later today. Modify the order, and hope that Anisa started eating again.

“I – I don’t understand.”

Krathan stopped, looking over in Anisa’s direction. His heitera’s eyes were on the floor and her skin was stark white peppered with whipping threads of gray. Her mouth fluttered, though no words came out. Just breathing that was so stressed that Krathan could hear her strain even from a distance.

He had restrained himself to touching her only when it was an absolute medical necessity. That didn’t seem to be helping her condition though.

Maybe he needed to go further. Maybe his presence was interfering with her recovery. This wasn’t like a physical wound where he could just spray over it and have it close up. It might be best if he left her alone, had her fed and cared for through arane, and waited until the memories of the torture faded in their entirety before starting to work with her again. It was what he would probably have done for a physical wound as well if he didn’t have his nanite sprays.

Screaming. Krathan’s head snapped up and he cursed, bolting out of the room. His talons scraped across the floor as he scrambled to a stop in front of the infirmary, quickly rushing into the room.

There were several slaves in the room, but his eyes instantly snapped to the heitera he had been examining earlier in the day. The female was on the ground and thrashing. Her limbs flailed randomly as her wings lashed and smashed against the beds and medical tools around her, knocking over cups and trays and yanking wires from the machine.

Krathan rushed straight for the female and snatched her arm. White pain, like a barrage of needles, forced its way up his palm the moment he made contact. Krathan cursed furiously and grabbed the girl off the ground, pulling her off the ground even as electricity continued to burn its way up his limbs.

Krathan pressed his thumb against the umbral’s tongue and forced it into her mouth, keeping his finger there even as she involuntarily bit down on him with her fangs until he managed to force a bit in between her teeth. He quickly forced her limbs up against her body and belted her down, his fingers fumbling as the electricity made it feel like the scales on his palms were getting flayed off

The umbral stopped thrashing before he managed to get all three belts around her body. Krathan froze for a moment, his hands still stinging, before quickly fastening the belt onto her body and securing the gag behind her head.

Rage rushed up his nostrils, entering his brain like piped boiling water. Krathan rushed back to his workstation and hammered his fingers against the keyboard, launching the communication key and establishing a contract. His talons dug grooves in the material of the table as he glared at the screen up until the moment a connection was established.

“Vet. What – ”

“What in Shau’lun’s name was that!?” Krathan screamed. “Do you think this is some kind of joke!? Do you think this is funny!?”

“You sound very angry,” the voice responded. “It might be better if we talk later.”

“We are talking right now!” Krathan snarled. “What in damnation possessed you to electrocute your heitera! Is this some kind of punishment to you! Some kind of game! Are you trying to kill her!”

“Oh! Vileera was electrocuted. That explains things,” the voice said. Krathan could hear a yawn through the connection. “That isn’t a joke. I forgot to deactivate the automatic disciplinary protocol.”

“The what?” 

“An automated system I’ve developed to ensure that my heitera are being harried constantly. Pain makes for obedient heitera and all that,” the voice explained, clearly already bored with the conversation, “It was a fun project to work on. I wasn’t targeting you or anything. I didn’t even know my heitera was going to be with you. The machine was on a random timer, so I couldn’t have known it would come on when my heitera was with you.”

“A random timer?” Krathan demanded. “Are you insane!? Do you not know the damage that even targeted electrocution can cause? No, of course you wouldn’t! None of you morons know anything!”

“You don’t need to be rude,” the voice responded. “There, I just turned it off. You can go back to fucking her or whatever. Just make sure that she returns to me pristine, vet.”

Krathan stared at his workstation screen. It took just about every fiber of his mental will to not reduce the screen in front of him to crushed metal and glass.

“Hello? Can this conversation end now?”

“She’ll be pristine, alright,” Krathan growled. “I am removing all of the implants you gave to your slave.”

“Wait. Why?”

“You should damn well know why!” Krathan snarled, slamming his fist onto the table and standing from his table. His head snapped back around.  “Anisa!”

Krathan could see the faint flash of white from the room behind him as Anisa tripped over her tentacles and crumbled onto the floor. She scrambled as quickly as she could, turning to kneel in his direction with whites painting her skin.

“Anisa, get me a scalpel!” Krathan shouted.

“But – but I – I am so sorry, master!” Anisa whispered. “I – I just don’t understand! Please, I’m just a stupid squid slut. Please, I don’t understand anything.”

“Scalpel, Anisa. Knife! Made of metal, used for cutting!” Krathan shouted over his shoulder as he marched away. “You’ve seen me use knives before! Get me five!”

The other heitera watched, some hiding beneath blankets and behind pillows whilst others hid in the edges of the chamber, as Krathan unlocked the wheel and pushed it into his clinic. The umbral had fallen unconscious with her eyes open, her pupils having rolled back in her head to expose the whites. 

A mist filled the chamber as he pushed the girl into the clean room. The force field stopped neither him nor the wheeled bed from entering the chamber, but it ensured that the sterilizing nanites would stay confined within the medical theater. Krathan grabbed the ceiling-mounted scanner and positioned it over the umbral’s body, turning on the machine.

Small implants, each one about the size of a power cell, were scattered all over her body from her legs to the limbs of her wings. Some of them, like those on her arms, were a bit closer to the surface. Most, however, were buried right between her muscles.

Krathan gritted his teeth as he marched over to the side of the room to gather up towels and anesthetics. He was going to throttle her master if he ever saw that idiot’s face.

He continued scanning the umbral’s body. He could see food in her stomach, which he would need to pump out before he could administer the paralytic and somniac nanites. He picked up the tube, carefully fed it down the umbral’s nose and into her stomach, and began the process. It was slow, but he could see the fluids in her stomach slowly vanish.

Anisa still didn’t appear. Krathan glanced over his shoulder, just in case, but Anisa still wasn’t there. She wasn’t hiding behind her field either. If she was doing that, he would be able to spot her just by looking at the missing parts in the swirling nanite mist. Where was she?

Krathan marched out of the operation theater and into his clinic’s office. She wasn’t in front of the shelf where he kept his scalpels, at the very least. Krathan picked up a few handles and a box of newly printed blades from the shelf and looked around.

His head snapped to the side as Krathan heard whimpers of pain coming from the direction of his bedroom. Oh no, had Anisa accidentally cut herself picking up the knives? Krathan cursed himself as he headed for the bedroom. What was he thinking? If she was still too frail to even tolerate his presence, obviously it wasn’t going to be safe to give her tasks. He’ll give her some sleeping aids and put her in her bed so he could –

Krathan’s mind went blank as he walked into the room. Blood. Absolutely everywhere. Anisa was on the floor, her tentacles coiling and flailing around her body like they were trying to tear themselves clean from her torso. Anisa’s fingers were wrapped around the base of a scalpel, practically a shortsword in her hands, that she was raking across her thigh. Blood was spurting from the open wound.

“Master!” Anisa whispered, her voice wracked with agony. Every syllable sent waves of torturous pain echoing through her body. Krathan stood, utterly paralyzed, like he had just stepped straight into a nightmare. “Please! Nearly — done!”

Krathan rushed straight for Anisa, nearly slipping over her blood. “Give me that knife right now!” Krathan shouted. Anisa looked at him, eyes wide, sawing the blade against her flesh with even greater urgency, “Anisa!”

“Master — no – please!” Anisa whispered between haggard gasps of agony. The pain was written all over the pulsing colors of her skin. “Won’t – refuse again!”

“Anisa, give me that knife!” Krathan shouted, snatching for her arm. Anisa stumbled backwards, crawling through her own blood.

“No, please! Just one more chance!” Anisa sobbed, crawling away from him. “Can do this! Won’t — won’t disappoint again.”

Krathan cursed, grabbing Anisa’s hand and trying to pin her to the ground. It should have been so easy, considering how much bigger and stronger he was. Anisa was a cephalian, however, and she was covered in her own blood. Krathan grabbed for her limbs, her body, her head, and tried to force her down onto the ground and pry the knife out of her hand. Anisa kept squirming and writhing out from his grasp. It felt like he was trying to wrestle a pool of oil.

That didn’t mean that Anisa wasn’t in pain. Krathan could see and feel it just from the way she writhed and screamed and cried as he tried to get a grip on her, the sounds of her agony cutting at his heart. He could barely feel the cuts being made on his own hands as he finally dug deep into the coils of Anisa’s tentacles and grabbed ahold of the scalpel.

Krathan tried to pull, but the ear-splitting scream that followed as the blade raked across Anisa’s flesh froze him stiff. He cursed and threw himself back into the task. He tried to pull her tentacles apart this time, digging his fingers in between those knotting limbs and trying to force out the blade coiled within like some kind of horrid parasite.

“Anisa, let go!” Krathan shouted. “Let go right now!”

“Please, master! I can do this!” Anisa screamed, “I’ll show you! I can be a good fucktoy! I’m not worthless! I can show you I’m not! Please don’t throw me away, master, please don’t throw me away!”

Krathan tried to wrestle Anisa down again and again, but she just wouldn’t let go of the blade. They tossed, coiled, and stumbled over each other. Anisa was losing blood. The wounds, thank Shau’lun’s light, didn’t seem quite deep enough to nick a major artery. It also meant that she wasn’t weakening. Not any more quickly than Krathan was, at the very least, as he fought to get the knife away from his heitera.

A crunch, then a rattle. Metal cylinders and glass beakers crashed down all around Krathan. He spun around, realizing that he had wrestled Anisa all the way across the room until they crashed straight into one of the shelves. Krathan saw a cylinder flash across the edges of his vision, the color making it out as anesthesia.

Anisa dove for the knife. Krathan snatched Anisa’s neck with one hand and the canister with the other. He didn’t have an injection gun and so he just bit the tube and wrenched the top free with such force that he felt his tooth chip. He held Anisa against his chest and pressed the canister against her open wound, the pressurized fluid spraying against the gash.

Krathan’s other paw grabbed around the knife in Anisa’s hand. He held on tight even as the tip of the scalpel was driven deep into his palm and red blood seeped out to join the blue. The dosage of the anesthetic was wrong and it wasn’t being administered correctly but the effects did follow a few seconds later. Krathan grabbed for a second thin canister and then a third and kept spraying the clear fluid into Anisa’s wound until, at last, the resistance vanished from her body and she fell unconscious.

Krathan carried Anisa’s body straight for the operation theater. She’d gotten lighter, he realized. She probably had lost close to a third of her weight since before the noble party. Krathan set Anisa down on the table next to the sink and quickly closed up her wounds and began transfusing more blood.

By the time he was finally finished, Krathan found himself standing in front of Anisa with his entire body slumped.

When Anisa had woken up terrified, quiet, and unreactive, Krathan had still been hopeful that things would get better. That somehow things could go back when he had just started keeping her as a pet. Things were getting worse, however. Looking into the future, Krathan could only see a plunging trend. A trend that he had seen in her medical records when he had taken charge of her care, and one that was continuing now that she was his.

He had no idea what he could do to help Anisa. Nothing he read gave him the slightest hint about what he could do to improve her condition. He might be able to find some specialist who could help him. Might. No guarantees.

Was he going to have to put her down?

The thought hit Krathan like a punch to the gut, enough to make him feel like vomiting even though he hadn’t eaten anything for over a day now. Krathan was tired, exhausted, and his body was dripping with fluids. Anisa’s blood, his own, and hot tears soaking the scales of his cheeks. He couldn’t muster the energy to clean himself. Instead he managed to shamble back to his workstation and initiate another call.

It probably only took a few seconds before the call was picked up, considering, but it felt like so much longer. “Fellow searcher of truth and light! Speak, so I may be enlightened! What guides your mind to turn to me on this dawning day!”

“Ehnkath I – ” Krathan muttered, his jaw locke., “Can we talk?”

“Are – are you crying?”

“Please. I just need someone to talk to.”

“Yeah! Yeah, of course. Of course we can talk!” Ehnkath said. “Do you want me to go over to your room? Do you want me to call Grakrash?”

“No! No, don’t call Grakrash. I – I just need advice,” Krathan whispered. “It’s about Anisa.”

Selara, unsurprisingly, was looking for trouble again.

Perhaps that shouldn’t surprise Sena, but it did annoy her. Rape was the rule rather than the exception as a slave to the kthid and Sena could suffer that without complaint. She didn’t have a choice. That suffering was necessary. Attracting the personal attention of a kthid? Especially a high-ranking officer? That was another matter altogether.

Sena crept along the edges of the tunnel, her wings pressed firmly against her back as she crept closer. The edge of the arane hole had no door, only a circular entrance too small for even the smaller slaves to comfortably walk through. Sena could see the racks of cots from her point of view. They were less like true beds and more like simple stacked, flat surfaces with minimal padding for the lowest slaves of the kthid to crawl into. Storage. Most of them were in storage.

Some of them weren’t. Selara was kneeling on the ground in front of one, whilst a good dozen watched hidden behind corners, peering out from between the tunnellike layers, or perched at the top of ladders.

“So do they pass through here often?”

“Not very often, heitera,” the arane nodded eagerly. The slave looked nervous, but she did look like she wanted to be helpful. “The masters hunt everywhere. They just pass through here sometimes.”

Selara nodded. “These hunts. Do you mind sharing some details?”

 “The one with Lord Thron’s corvid?” 

“Yes, those. Do they operate on some kind of schedule?” Selara probed. “Is it a daily affair? I’m afraid I’m not very familiar with the schedule of engineers, least of all a Kaavark like Lord Thron, but I imagine even he’d have a schedule and leisure period.”

Sena frowned. Thinking about it, getting information from the arane was not a bad idea. Their sheer ubiquity and unimportance would mean that they would know a lot and yet would rarely ever be individually scrutinized. Considering that Selara’s master probably wasn’t exactly a font of information, it made sense to try to get it from the arane instead.

What didn’t make sense to Sena was why Selara would be out for that information in the first place.

“I – I don’t think Lord Thron would talk to you, heitera,” the arane said. “Oh! No offense, of course.”

“None taken. Please. Trust me, I’d have no interest in meeting with the highlord even if I were given the option,” Selara said. “If we could go back to the hunts, I’m assuming the corvid will sustain a number of injuries before they’re through with her. Would she get sent to the closest available medical area, or would she be taken somewhere specific?”

“I think she just goes back to Huntmaster Voerash’s palace,” The arane responded.

“A palace?” Selara frowned, mulling over the word. “Huh. Would she not be sent to Lord Thron’s personal quarters?”

“His personal quarters are in the palace too.”

“I see. What about other occasions?” Selara asked. “This woman seems like she would be quite recognizable. Is there some place she frequents?”

“She’ll be in the palace, heitera.”

“She can’t be there all the time,” Selara said. “I’d imagine she’d want to put as much distance between her and a place like that as she could.”

“Well, Lord Thron keeps her in a cage usually.”

“And he never lets her out?”

“He does, heitera. During the hunts.”

“I see. Maybe she wasn’t a great choice…” Selara said, pinching her chin. “What about the mirucains? Do any of the masters struggle with one of them, one with a particularly strong will who causes a lot of trouble? Surely there must be a few considering how new they are.”

“I don’t think so. I never heard anything about it, at least,” the arane said. “I don’t think they’ll be anyways. The masters are mighty and strong and it’s their destiny to break any female eventually. The mirucains are dumb barbarians. It makes lots of sense that they break quickly.”

Selara breathed in sharply, so loud that even Sena could hear. Her shoulders went tense and her fingers dug deep into the pale flesh of her thighs.

“Are – are you angry with me?” the arane asked, shrinking away. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

“Don’t worry. I’m not angry with you. I was just — reminded of something bad,” Selara said. She pulled back her curled fingers, the digits having left deep imprints in her skin, and rose to her feet. “Thank you very much for your time. It may not seem like it, but this was a big help.”

“Wait, heitera.” the arane said quickly, raising her hands. “You wanted to know about troublesome slaves, right?”

Selara stopped. She turned back towards the woman, nodding. “I do. Is there someone else?”

The arane’s mouth hung open for a moment before she settled, clearly having spoken out without thinking about what she was going to say next. “Well, I’m not sure how accurate it is. They’re mostly just rumors.”

Selara sat back down, offering the woman a smile. “That’s already more than I could ask for,” she said, “So, what can you tell me about these rumors?”

The arane nodded, leaning in to whisper. Sena had to bite her tongue to stop herself from marching out right then and demanding answers. Secrecy, and sneaking, did not come naturally to her, but slavery made for a harsh yet effective instructor.

When Selara’s master and his subordinates had finished with the three of them, they had parted without much of a word. Sena, and probably her other friends, understood that if they tried to do anything else, they would probably have fallen unconscious from the exhaustion. Sena herself hadn’t been thinking about much besides trying to get back to her master’s quarters whilst she was conscious lest she invite punishment from him.

Sena regretted that as she had slept off most of that pain and exhaustion. She was used to feeling the emotions of her close friends automatically and intimately and so didn’t really put much consideration into what Nareen and Selara had been feeling until much later. She had tried to see Nareen first, but she couldn’t find the mirucain anywhere. Not even hours worth of waiting in front of her master’s quarters yielded any results.

She had decided to go to Selara next. She had expected to find the woman despondent and blaming herself and in need of a reassuring word. She hadn’t expected to find Selara getting herself unnecessarily involved in other people’s affairs once again. Sena leaned out, her eyes narrowing as she watched the arane and Selara whisper to each other.

What the hell was that woman doing?

Nareen spun, the pelt skirt whipping against her thighs. She growled and bared her fangs. The creature, body covered in gray-green scales, growled back at her as it circled her in the confined dugout. It was nothing like anything Nareen had ever seen before, smaller than a great thumper but still bewildering in scale.

“Mother!” Tireeni called out, her voice panicked. “What’s happening?”

“Stay back, Tireeni!” Nareen shouted. She shouldn’t have retreated down here. The room was too confined, and too restrictive, for her to be able to fight.

When those things had started falling from the sky, Nareen had sent Yonel and Mahar to scout. The two huntresses never returned. She’d been calling up her other huntresses when this monster tore its way into the warren. What was this thing? Even a shadow lynx wouldn’t dare attack a mirucain warren!

Nareen’s horns flashed as she sprinted and brought her leg whipping around, intending to snap the creature’s spine with the strike. Her leg bounced off the air, suffering a momentary shock of pain as her kick hit something she couldn’t see. Nareen yanked her leg back as the monster grabbed for her, but she wasn’t quite fast enough. The claw raked across her calf, drawing blood.

The matriarch stumbled backwards and tried to regain her balance as the creature pressed its advantage. Nareen kicked again and again and again, growing increasingly frustrated every time her blows bounced off of nothing. Was this sorcery? Some kind of vengeful ancestor? Nareen couldn’t think. It took all she had to keep herself fighting.

The creature clawed and slashed for her, its blows as sharp as fangs. The blows whooshed past Nareen’s legs, torso, and head, missing by handspans as she kept giving up ground. A jolt of panic ran through her as her back struck the dirt wall.

Nareen jumped left, but the creature moved too quickly. It tackled her and sent the pair of them rolling in a mad flurry of limbs, horns, and scales. Even in the rolling chaos, Nareen could feel how utterly outmatched she was in strength. The creature was a rolling storm of scales, claws, and muscles. It acted before she could, grabbing her arm and slamming her straight into the ground.

“Tough bitch!” The creature snarled.

Confusion mixed with battle rage in Nareen’s mind. Did it just – talk to her? Nareen shoved the soles of her feet into the creature’s chest and kicked with every sliver of strength she could muster. If anything, though, Nareen was the one that was hurled away.


“I said stay back, Tireeni!”

Nareen scrambled to her feet in the same heartbeat as the creature, the two of them circling each other. The beast grinned, its scaly lips pulling back. There was a deep and unnerving cunning to the eyes of this creature. It felt less like hunting a beast. It felt like she was facing off against another mirucain huntress.

A mouth of savage teeth. Sorcery. The fact that the creature could talk? There was no question about it. This was a demon.

A deep chill ran through Nareen. Was there more than one demon? Was this why the other huntresses weren’t coming to her? How many of these monsters could there be? Two of them? Three? If there were four of these creatures going after her huntresses —

The demon lunged straight for Nareen, its massive arms snapping together like a set of monstrous jaws. Nareen ducked below the creature’s limps and swept for its legs. Her kick struck the creature’s ankle. It felt like she was kicking a tree.

But she did land a hit.

Nareen bought her leg swinging straight for the creature’s spine. Her attack bounced off the solid air again, however; whatever weakness there had been in the demon’s sorcery had vanished. The beast grabbed Nareen by her leg and yanked her off-balance, the air exploding out of her lungs as she struck the wall. Nareen reacted by pure reflex, kicking straight at the creature’s maw.

The demon yelled in pain and dropped her. Nareen jumped to her feet immediately, bounding backwards. Dirt fell from above. The warren’s chamber, carved into the ground as it was, was slowly crumbling from the fight.

What little air was left in Nareen’s lungs was forced out again as the demon slammed into her. The beast drove her to the ground, paws clamped around her arms. It bit for the pelt wrap around her chest, ripping and pulling like a savage animal tearing apart a carcass.

Nareen was confused and disoriented, but she kept kicking and kneeing. She drove her blows straight upwards, aiming for the creature’s chest. Onn one of her better attacks, she could feel her strike cracking bone.

The demon didn’t seem to care. Nareen could feel its hot, panting breath against her skin as it twisted its head back and forth violently. The chest wrap Nareen wore may have been cured leather, but it couldn’t stand up to the creature’s strength. Slowly at first, and then incredibly quickly, the pelt wrap tore. The creature lifted its head up with her wrap in its jaw, triumphant.

Exposing its neck.

Nareen’s instincts kicked in. The grip around her arms weakened slightly, and the huntress seized her opportunity. Lunging forward, Nareen rammed her head straight into the creature’s windpipe and twisted, driving the point of her horn through the scales. She screamed as she gored the demon, tearing its throat open. 

The creature roared as it stumbled backwards, its paw clutching its bleeding neck. Nareen was on her feet before it could gather itself, already kicking. She struck again and again and again, her blows pummeling the creature’s head and neck. She drove the creature to the ground and kept kicking and stomping until the head beneath her feet was reduced to a mush of flesh and scales clinging to a cracked skull.


Tireeni? Nareen saw her daughter staring at her, struck dumb, still in front of the small tunnel. Nareen finally was able to gasp for air. By the ancestors, her lungs hurt. She stumbled away from the demon, her body dripping with blood, and walked straight for her daughter.

“Tireeni, you need to go hide!” Nareen snapped. “I’m going to gather up the huntresses to protect you, the other children and the males. Go now and — ”

“Mother!” Tireeni screamed, “behind you!”

A blast of light struck Tireeni. The young mirucain froze for an instant before she crumpled to the ground. Nareen’s head snapped around, anger hissing from between her teeth, before her eyes went wide.

Another monster, entirely unlike the demon that was lying dead on the ground, had entered into the warren. Its body gleamed with interlocking gray plates and it held in its hand a wand. Nareen’s eyes snapped to Tireeni and then back at the creature, her rage rushing up her nose. She screamed and charged the creature.

What did you do to Tireeni!

Nareen kicked straight at the creature’s head. Her foot bounced off the air again. Nareen screamed in frustration as she pummeled the new demon with a barrage of blows. The demon walked slowly towards her, unphased by her assault and utterly implacable.

The demon turned, looking down towards the dead creature at its feet. Nareen spotted the opportunity instantly and attacked. She launched into a spinning kick, throwing every fiber of her weight and strength into the blow.

The demon’s paw blurred and Nareen’s vision went white. The wave of pain struck her an instant later, like a thunderstorm going off in her head. Nareen’s scream of pain was cut off as she struck the floor hard. She could taste the blood on her lips. Nareen coughed and gagged, blinking the stinging dust out of her eyes.

A claw, hard as stone, clamped around Nareen’s neck and lifted her off the ground. She gagged, clawing at the paw to try to dislodge it from her neck and kicking and flailing as hard as she could. The blows bounced off the demon’s smooth body, doing absolutely no damage.

“How dare you, you savage barbarian?” the demon demanded. “How dare you harm a member of our glorious empire!”

Nareen vision swarmed with stars as the demon twisted her body around and pressed her against the wall. Hard claws grabbed her arms and twisted them behind her back before her limbs were bound together, forcing her shoulder backwards and her chest forwards.

“Who the hell are you!?” Nareen screamed at the demon. “What are — ”

Nareen’s head rang as the blow hammered across her face “You dumb bitch! Know your fucking place!” the demon snarled. “Do you know how bad I’ll look because of this? Actually losing a casteless against primitives like you!”

The blows kept coming. Each slap hit with the weight of a huntress’s full kick, shaking Nareen’s entire body. She could feel the throbbing patches of pain all over her shoulders, her chest, her stomach, and her face as the blows kept coming and coming.

“You useless, savage, brainless cunt! Don’t think you’re going to get off easy, you slut! You’ll pay for shaming me like this!”

By the time the blows stopped, Nareen was a weeping mess. Her entire body felt tender and her tongue felt far too big in her mouth. Not even in her clan’s skirmishes with other mirucains had Nareen ever been this badly hurt.

Nareen coughed and gagged. Her eyes stung like someone had just piled handfuls of sand into them. It probably took the better part of a minute after the beatings stopped before Nareen even managed to force her eyes open once again. The moment she did, she felt her world shatter.

More demons. Nine of the scaled beasts, clad in nothing but a wrap around their groin. The silver demon fronted the terrible pack, each monster as large as the creature that had taken everything she had to slay.

Nareen shouldn’t have ordered a defense. She should have ordered her entire clan to run. To flee their home and never look back. Nareen could only stare numbly as the silver demon shoved her into the grasp of one of the greenish behemoths. The silver one moved over to Tireeni’s body and pulled something from its belt, pressing it into Tireeni’s back.

Tireeni gasped. She immediately began screaming and flailing, trying to escape. Nareen’s heart nearly exploded. Her daughter was still alive. Tireeni kicked and clawed at the ground. The silver demon just straddled her, holding her in place with a paw.

“Let go of me!” Tireeni screamed. “You’re crushing me! Get off me! Leave Mother alone!”

A sharp snap echoed through the room as the demon struck Tireeni. She didn’t stop struggling, however, and so the demon kept hitting her. It buried a closed fist into Tireeni’s gut, instantly reducing her screaming and wailing to desperate gasps for air.

“Get your hands off her, damn you!” Nareen screeched. “Get your hands off my daughter, you demon!”

Nareen tried to scramble to her feet, but the greenish demon to the side attacked her first and pinned her to the ground. The silver demon turned, its eyeless head looking at Nareen. “This your daughter?” it demanded. “Good. This will be a good lesson for the  both of you.”

Tireeni had been momentarily rendered mute, but her body still shook with pain as the demon twisted her arms around and bound her limbs together. She was subdued in an instant. The silver demon dragged the sobbing and restrained Tireeni over to Nareen and dropped her onto the floor. The creature reached for its belt. Nareen’s eyes went wide as it pulled out a large knife.

The silver demon sheared Tireeni’s clothes off and tossed the pelts aside, continuing until nothing remained on her daughter’s body save for bone jewelry around her neck. It tossed Tireeni to the ground before rising up to its full height, its head scraping against the dirt ceiling of the warren, and pressed a button at its belt.

The plates around the demon’s groin parted silently and Nareen’s eyes widened. It fiddled with a fabric before pulling out a gray-green appendage. Nareen had to take a moment to take in what she was looking at. Was that – was that a cock? It was long and girthy and covered in scales. Nareen watched in horror as the creature grabbed Tireeni and forced her legs apart.

Tireeni was still struggling and kicking. It was futile, however. A second realization hit Nareen. Tireeni had never been on a hunt. She’d never had a male before. Her daughter’s scarlet eyes were flowing with tears as she looked down at the tool jutting from the monster’s groin.

“Get your hands off her, demon!” Nareen screamed. “Get your hands off of her!”

Tireeni howled as the cock tore through her hymen and lanced her through with a single stroke. Nareen screamed and screamed and screamed. This – this wasn’t how Tireeni’s first time was meant to go. Her daughter was meant to accompany her back from the hunt, flush with pride from her first kill, before she selected a pretty male who caught her eye. Nareen’s screams of horror were only drowned out by Tirneeni’s screams of pain.

“A virgin? So this horned fuckmeat hasn’t been dirtied up!” The silver demon cackled. “Count yourself lucky, barbarian! Your womb will only know the glory of the Dark Star!”

“Stop! Please stop! It hurts so much!” Tireeni screamed, again and again, as the silver demon hammered the young girl from behind. “Mother, please help me! Please help!”

“Let her go! Get your hands off Tireeni!” Nareen screamed, “I’ll kill you! Get your hands off Tireeni or I’ll kill you all!”

Nareen’s roar was a terror on the plains, both for her prey and for any rival clan. Her rage only seemed to encourage laughter from the demons. Nareen still kept screaming, threatening every horrible fate and act of violence she could imagine. Just to try to stop that horrible silver demon from hurting her daughter. Just to make it all stop.

Nothing worked. It was the worst nightmare Nareen could imagine. The green demons were strong, but the silver was stronger. Each thrust seemed to travel up the full length of her daughter’s body. Tireeni’s eyes were wide, looking like she was being gored with every thrust. Her  face was a mask of agony.

Tireeni had long screamed her throat raw. She could only croak out her torment. Each thrust drove her deflowered daughter’s face into the dirt, all to the jeering crowd of watching monsters.

After what felt as long, to Nareen’s mind, as her daughter’s entire lifespan, Tireeni managed a scream of agony as the demon hilted. Ropes of cum came spurting out of the area where Tireeni’s ass and the silver demon’s hips met, and a moment later Tireeni’s eyes rolled to the back of his head as the silver demon yanked its cock out of her mound

“I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you, damn it!” Nareen roared, spittle flying as the silver demon strode up to her. The monster dragged Tireeni behind it, dropping her sobbing daughter to the side like spent refuse.

The silver waved the green pinning Nareen away and took a hold of her. The bulbous cockhead pressed against her entrance an instant later, hot, hard, and wet. Nareen screamed as the cock was driven into her dry quim. The hard scales raked against her soft insides, only intensifying the pitch of her note of shrill suffering.

“Do you feel how slick my cock is?” the silver demon scoffed. “That’s your daughter’s virgin blood! That’s on the cock I’m raping you with right now!”

Nareen didn’t have any words left. Each thrust was agony, like she was being turned inside out by the scaled dick. And Nareen was a mirucain who had literally decades of experience. She couldn’t imagine how horrific it would be for Tireeni’s body, unused to penetration as she was, to take this cock inside of her all at once.

The rape seemed less like even twisted sex and more like a predator literally disembowling its prey with a protruding fang. Nareen only made a soft groan as the demon grabbed her by her horns and yanked her head back.

“Casteless! You can’t breed the daughter!” the silver demon shouted. “But you can fuck that barbarian in any hole you want! Hell, if you get bored then make some more!”

Nareen was instantly pulled back from her dumb, nearly unconscious, suffering by those words. She twisted her head as the demons tossed their loincloths aside and shoved at each other to get at Tireeni. One of the demons yanked Tireeni’s face off the ground and pulled her mouth open. The other one spread the cheeks of Tireeni’s rump, aiming its cock far too high to be pointing at Tireeni’s still cum-filled pussy.

“Hasn’t she suffered enough? Let my daughter go!” Nareen screamed, her own pain all but forgotten. “Take your hands off my daughter, you demons! Take your hands off her! Leave her alone! Leave her alone or I’ll kill you!”

The two demons took Tireeni from both sides, fucking her like they intended to crush her between their bulk. They only laughed at Nareen’s threats, pawing at Tireeni’s breasts and dragging the claws across her flesh. Even through the thick appendage in her throat, Nareen could hear Tireeni’s screams.

“Do you see those cocks, cattle slut? They’ll get a turn with you as well. Every casteless here’s going to rape you and your daughter raw, I fucking swear it,” the demon growled. “You want to kill a kthid? Your betters? Then I’ll make you and your daughter pop out replacements! Look at your daughter, four-eared whore! This is going to be the rest of your lives!”

“I’ll kill you!” Nareen screamed. “I’ll kill you, you demon! My clan – Tireeni — how dare you do this to Tireeni! I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you all! I’ll — ”

Pain, real pain, rushed through Nareen’s body as she woke from her nightmare. Nareen’s body instinctively flinched away from the narrow metal bars pressing up against her from all directions. It felt like she was being cut. It felt like she was being burned.

Nareen managed to bite her tongue before she started wailing in pain. She was still submerged in pitch darkness, which meant that Master Thrakur was still sleeping. She pushed down the sharp, lashing pain that assailed her body. No matter how much it hurt right now, her master would make it hurt more if she woke him up. Fortunately for Nareen, putting up with the agony of her body was something she had grown used to.

What wasn’t so easy was the pain attacking her heart. Nareen let out a worn breath, tears running down her face and pooling on the metal floor.

Since she started making new friends, she had stopped having so many nightmares about Tireeni. Anisa’s warmth and comfort and the touch they shared together, of course, but also her other friends. Selara’s protectiveness, given the circumstances. Even Sena’s chiding pessimism. It helped her. It kept her grounded and showed her that people still cared.

And now Anisa is gone. The core of all that, the one who even pulled her away from her isolation in the first place, was gone. Like Tireeni, Anisa had slipped away from Nareen. Taken away by the cruel whims of the demons. No matter what she did, no matter how she fought, Anisa wouldn’t come back. Nareen had watched her new love bleed out before her very eyes.

Wailing offended her master, and so Nareen could only sob away helplessly. Clinging desperately to the memories of her daughter and the memories of her love, even as the memories of their last moments tore at her insides like a feeding beast. 

“So are you going to explain yourself? Or am I going to have to force an answer out of you?”

Sena stood in the doorway, her arms folded over her chest. The faliran was tapping her foot, her curved claw tapping against the ground. Selara turned around slowly, careful to not let her wings scrape against the floor.

“Sena,” she said, tensing. What was happening? Sena usually entered without a greeting and just slumped into place in the corner of the room. “Hello.”

“Yeah, hi. Whatever,” Sena said, rolling her eyes. “Now start talking.”

“About what?”

“About the trouble you’ve been causing,” Sena snapped. “What else?”

This was bad, very bad. Why was Sena asking her about this? Had Sena’s master ordered her to interrogate Selara? Had the kthid taken note of what she had been doing after all? Selara hadn’t done anything she’d have considered suspicious enough to be worth interrogating. Not even Master Avraks seemed particularly fazed by her sudden interest in troublesome slaves.

“Selara,” Sena sighed, her eyes narrowing, “do you think if you give me the silent treatment, I’m just going to get bored and give up?”

“I’m not giving you the silent treatment, Sena. I – ” Selara bit her tongue. “I’m just trying to figure out what it is you’re getting at.

Sena muttered something under her breath, shaking her head irately. The faliran unfolded her arms and limped over to Selara, careful not to put too much weight on the left side of her body. She stopped right in front of Selara, but refused to sit down.

“Don’t play dumb, Selara. You know exactly what I’m talking about.” Sena said. “Now tell it to me straight. What are you doing, asking around for troublesome slaves?”

“So you were aware of that,” Selara said, quickly glancing around Sena’s legs. She couldn’t see as much as a shadow of the kthid, but that didn’t mean they weren’t listening in. “How much do you know?”

“I’ve been following you around the ship for days now, Selara, and listening in on all your little chats,” Sena sniffed, “so you can drop the dumb act. You ain’t selling me on that.”

“I see,” Selara said, biting her lip as her mind raced. How much had Sena heard? How little could she share to satisfy the woman? Selara hadn’t realized she was being followed, so the faliran couldn’t have gotten that close, could she?

Sena snorted, turning away. “In case you’re trying to figure out how to lie to me, drop that thought now. Firstly, you suck at lying. You’re so easy to read, you’re practically my sister.”

“That’s nonsense.” Selara said, “I wouldn’t lie to you.”

 “Give it up. The arane told me everything they told you.” Sena leaned over Selara. “I know everything you did already, Sel,” she said testily. “Now tell me why.”

Selara said nothing. She hadn’t planned out what she was going to tell Sena or Nareen. Ideally, she wouldn’t tell them about the escape at all until she was shepherding them into an escape craft. The fewer people knew about the terrans’ gambit, the less likely it was to reach one of the kthid.

Not that there was much of a plan. Selara needed to get her friends together, get them off the Night, and then find a way to stop the terrans from shooting them to pieces. It was all she had. Determination, and a loose series of objectives.

“Just – just give me a moment.” Selara said quickly, “I need to gather my thoughts.”

“Don’t gather your thoughts, just be straight with me!”

Selara gritted her teeth. This wasn’t good. Master Avraks was almost certainly going to see footage of this conversation at some point. She had to be careful not to share any information with Sena that would draw her master’s suspicion, but she also couldn’t afford to look too recalcitrant right now. If Master Avraks saw Sena interrogating her and concluded that she was hiding something, he would almost certainly attempt to torture the information out of her.

She didn’t have time. She needed to act. She looked straight into Sena’s eyes and mouthed a single word.


Sena tensed, her glasslike wings vibrating with agitation. “What?

No talk. Please. Selara pleaded. Master listening.

Sena glanced over her shoulder furtively before quickly sitting down. She leaned forwards, arms on her knees. “What the hell did you get yourself into, Selara?”

“I – Sena, do you remember when you told me about hope?” Selara blurted out quickly.

“What?” Sena demanded, “What the hell are you even on about?”

Selara cleared her throat. She had to fight the urge to glance over her shoulder to make sure that no one was watching. A kthid was always watching.  “I’ve been finding it difficult to find any hope after what happened to Anisa,” Selara said quickly. Sena looked at her like she just sprouted a tentacle from her forehead. “I needed something to console me. Something to give me hope.”

Sena stared at her blankly. Selara sighed in frustration, and then mouthed out the words.

Play. Along. She took a deep, calming breath. Important.

Sena paused, but only for a moment. “Fine. Hope. Right,” she muttered. “You’re looking for hope.”

“Yes. You’ve told me plenty of times about the futility of hope, so there’s no need to go over that again,” Selara said. “I just needed something to keep me going after what happened to Anisa. It was why I tried searching for rebellious slaves. So I could see that there were those who still resisted the kthid.”

It was a stupid reason. Selara hoped that Master Avraks would think the same, and use that as a reason to mock and demean her instead of realizing that she was plotting something. It made her sick that she was using Anisa’s death like this, but maybe she could use that to save what few friends she had left. Master Avraks was no doubt sickeningly proud of what he had done with Anisa already, and it would make him very, very happy to think that it was constantly eating away at Selara.

Sena had fallen silent as well, clearly lost in thought. “That’s it?”

“That’s it.” Selara nodded. Trust me. Please.

Tell me.

Please. Dangerous.

Tell. Me.

Selara’s lips became a single line. Everything was happening so quickly and she just couldn’t consider her options. Her plan was barely there right now, Selara knew that better than anyone. Sena, considering her personality, would probably consider this whole thing even more insane than Selara did.  That was the problem.

There had been a small ember, one Selara had kept burning deep inside her.  Escape.  Rebellion.  Revenge.  Over years of slavery, those ideas had faded to little more than fantasies, but they had kept the umbral from caving in.  Now, without even knowing it, the terran infiltrator had thrown accelerant onto that little flame, and Selara felt it burning inside her, hotter and more powerful than it had been since the day she’d been dragged onto this ship. She absolutely would not allow the faliran’s bitter mindset to try and douse that fire now. The last thing she needed was for Sena to come in and pick apart her plan in front of her.

But here they were.  Sena knew something was going on, and she wanted answers.  Selara couldn’t say nothing, and she couldn’t hesitate long enough to find a perfect solution. She met Sena’s eyes, her own narrowing.

It was time for the imperfect solution.

Tell no one. Please. Selara asked, keeping her eyes locked to Sena’s. Promise?

Sena chuffed. Selara could see the exaggerated expressions playing out over her face. Fine.

Selara nodded. Have plan, she said. Need allies.

Sena frowned. Troublemakers?

Rebels. Still resisting kthid.

Sena’s brow creased even further. Why?


Found any yet?

Selara bit her lips. She took a moment before she nodded. Found some.

Any agreed?

Selara shook her head. No talk yet. Soon.

Sena’s expression vanished from her face as she turned away. It wasn’t just something that happened to Sena, but also to other falirans. Their species could simply communicate their emotions without facial expressions or body language, and so usually wore no expressions whatsoever. The expressions on Sena’s face were something she deliberately, and consciously, put on to make it easier for the others to understand her state of mind.

As she was now, Sena was clearly too lost in thought to bother putting on one of her unnatural expressions. Selara could only sit silently and wait until Sena was done with her deliberations, and hope the answer Sena came to wouldn’t prove detrimental to her plans.

Sena grunted. I help.


Sena’s eyes narrowed as she looked over her shoulder. Neither of them were making sounds with their mouths, but Sena kept closer to Selara anyways.

Help you. Find troublemakers. Talk with them.


Sena yelped in shock, scrambling away from Selara and spinning around. Selara’s stomach sank and her eyes went wide. Both women quickly got to their knees, lowered their heads and placed their hands on their thighs in a position of silent submission.

The kthid shambled into the room, his footsteps heavy. His frame almost entirely blocked out the doorway. The monster stepped forwards, an irate expression coming to his face as he swept his eyes across the room, before he finally turned towards Selara. 

Selara’s heart was pounding hard in her chest. Had she been discovered after all? Was there also a camera hidden on her collar somewhere that worked in tandem with the microphone? Selara’s thighs were pressed tightly against each other. It wouldn’t stop the kthid from violating her, of course, but right now Selara couldn’t fight her instincts.

“Cave Worm,” the giant growled.

Selara flinched. This kthid knew who she was. She quickly hazarded a glance, causing her to draw in a sharp breath. All kthid looked like monsters, but she easily recognized this one. A massive scar covered the left side of his face like a shattered visor. The kthid squatted down, red eyes boring into Selara’s own.

“Do you have orders from your master?” the kthid demanded.

“I – no, my lord,” Selara responded.

“Then follow me,” the giant growled, turning away.

Selara shared a look with Sena. They didn’t say anything, however. There was nothing to say. A kthid had given her an order. Selara rose from her kneeling position, her hands reflexively covering her breasts and groin. “Yes, Sir,” she whispered, following the lumbering giant to whatever fresh torment he had planned for her. Selara trembled as the dread of what she was about to go through crawled through her body, but she kept walking anyway. It wasn’t like she had any other choice.

If nothing else, perhaps this would help distract her master from the scheme she was hatching.

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