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Act One | Chapter Four | Episode Seventeen: Brief Reprieve

“Prepare Valeviynellin to accept the K-8,” Voiyn refused to betray his injury.

“Docking bay opened Valegbosh,” OhkBD’s voice came through the comm.

NaN eased the sleek black vessel into the gaping bay doors. Voiyn hovered, wounded, behind him as he landed the prized ship. As the landing gears touched down NaN leapt from his seat to take Voiyn to the much more suitable examination compartment.

Voiyn stopped him, engaging the same communication panel, “OhkBD, Vahl. They will be on us soon. Transfer all power to our defenses.”

“Understood,” OhkBD replied, than Voiyn allowed NaN to help him limp off of the docking ramp.

Voiyn was heavy to move. NaN was dragging him through the empty hangar bay when the thought occurred to him, “How is JOS?”

“He’s stable. He suffered some bruising, and broken cartilage,” Voiyn said. “We’ll see him in the examination compartment.”

Together they limped their way through Valeviynellin eventually making it to the compartment. The door slid open rousing JOS from his sleep whom stared in a confused dazed at the image of the great reptile being helped onto the long table. Purple fluids leaked from the hole in the lizard’s golden omnisuit. NaN found himself confused about what to do for his savior after getting him to the room. He began looking through the storage for anything for biorepair. Piling all the objects of his finding upon a service tray.

Unloading close to the entirety of the room that he could fit he rushed back over to the prostrated Voiyn.

“Wha.. going on?” JOS grumbled.

NaN shushed him, and waved to tell him to ignore them. NaN looked at Voiyn sympathetically, eyebrows scrunched in concern. “What do I use?” his voice was struggling to fight his building anxiety.

Voiyn forced himself onto his arm to see better. NaN watched, trying to guess what he was looking for despite his complete lack of experience. Voiyn glared at something, NaN started touching things within the radius of his vision. Voiyn grunted his disapproval until NaN finally touched what he wanted. Pulling the tool out, it was reminiscent of some medieval torture device. Some congealed substance was frozen out of the nozzle, and there was a trigger on its hand grip.

“Stick it in. Then squeeze,” Voiyn said, in pain.

NaN did as he was told, the thin device went into the hole with ease. Then violently expanded causing Voiyn to groan. At the squeeze of the trigger NaN felt some resistance as the device was backed out of the bloody hole. There was a viscous milky substance left behind. Already he could see the synthetic material bonding to the surrounding flesh.

“Woah… that’s insane,” JOS slurred in NaN’s ear.

NaN didn’t allow himself to scare. “Are you gonna live?” he asked. Then added, “Or am I going to have to care for you ’til you become geriatric?”

“I’m okay, I feel like I’ve been smashed in a compactor,” JOS didn’t seem to comprehend the other question. “More importantly, what’s wrong with him?” he asked.

“He received a…”

The door slid open revealing two concerned alien faces. They pushed through into the compartment together. “What’s wrong?” “What happened?” “Is it going to be lethal?” “Voiyn do I need to beat this little thing?” “What’re we gonna do when they arrive?” “Fight, what else?” “How’re we going to fight them against without Voiyn?” “Same way as always you ovelie.” “But…”

“Silence your foundling wining,” Voiyn snarled.

The whole compartment became instantly quiet at the sound of the Valegbosh’s voice. “Valh take NaN to the guns. OhkBD keep the ship functioning. Keep all of our defense batteries on maximum. JOS get back on the exam table.”

Hearing this was enough to rouse the Pack to action. Instantly Valh grunted toward NaN then walked away into the belly of Valeviynellin. NaN was quick to be on his heels not wanting to be left behind. He overheard OhkBD fussing over a disinterested Voiyn as the door slid behind him.

Valh was half a corridor away, NaN kept pace. He’d been on the weapons deck before, however had never had the opportunity to fire the Graelos, rapid firing six-barreled legiteon guns with a projectile the size of his hand. Any successful shot would be devastating for any erstwhile ship on the receiving end. Adrenaline made his heart race as he winded into the gun deck just behind the hulking Vahl.

“We don’t have time to go over the specifics. Get in that seat,” Valh pointed to the leftmost seat. NaN obliged. “The left sick, pull to reload. Right stick, rotate to aim, pull out to fire. The harder you pull the faster it shoots. Do not pull it all the way out, you will eventually burn the barrels.”

NaN sat in the black seat, which lifted him on hydraulics sensing his weight. The controls stayed level in front of him, he seized them. The ships brain recognized his prints, activating the view screen and loosening the controls. NaN swung the weapon around to feel out the controls.

“They’re comin’. Follow the targeting glyphs with the trail reticule,” Valh called out to him.

NaN sat nervously, a cold sweat filmed on his hands.

A white glyph appeared from the left side of his viewing screen, NaN breathed in deep. Breathing out he steeled his nerve, and began to fire on the incoming ship.

It is my very great honor to bring you the first book from the fluxDominion,

THE CARNAGE OF PALTOCK

The most important piece for any historian of the fluxDominion. Written by Toretia Wailxl the personal assistant to the mightiest of Supreme Leshers, Umixquios the Grand. About his life and how he became the Grandest Umixquios in Preshood history.

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Act One | Chapter Four | Episode Sixteen: Close Call

Voiyn stumbled forward, and exited the examination compartment intent on not giving the stowaway another shot. His hearts beating fast, he glanced at the wound. ‘Nothing vital,’ he thought. It had been an energy weapon, which was fortunate, Voiyn wasn’t going to bleed out and the cavity wouldn’t become infected. He needed to get to the K8’s Armory.

As fast as he could drag his magboots the great reptile labored through the sterile white corridors of his own ship. The Armory was behind a hidden door, on the way to the cockpit. Senses on full alert he heard light footsteps rounding the corner behind him. Quick on his feet, he ducked into behind the threshold of a personnel compartment. A green lance struck the opposite side of the threshold where his head was just a moment before.

The steps were careful and meticulous, but not enough for Voiyn’s senses. A small flick of his tongue and he could taste the pheromones wafting off his enemy. ‘Let’s get his nerves even higher,’ he smirked at the thought. Slipping his had behind him, he activated the controls to the door. When it hissed open, the stalker moved quickly to the compartment. The hand held weapon peaked out from behind the corner.

Voiyn lashed out like he was striking at prey, grabbing the gun and biting into its arm. Warm blood rushed in his mouth as looked into the eyes of one of the adept servants crewed with the Seven Hounds Bounty. The being’s eyes went wide with fear, and then glassy as the toxins in his fangs pumped quickly through the creatures system. Wrenching the black weapon out of the hands of his would be assassin a few bones cracked, the musculature of the creature going stiff.

Having captured his prey, he looked over the aspirant. A greyish epidermal layer with a finely scaled quality. It’s eyes had been yellow orbs bisected with red pupils, now they had turned milky white, the toxins were going to work on his physical senses. All swaddled in the typical solid black of the Seven Hounds.

‘Notan owes so much. I need to comb the ship for more vermin, but first to warn NaN.’

— — — — — — — — — — — — —

“Call them off,” Essec pushed, exasperated with the sluggish thing.

“They are not mine to call, or push, or convince to do anything,” Notan repeated. His foul breath crept into Essec’s olfactory. “Like you and your lizard master, I can only supply the motivation, whether or not you comply is completely voluntary.”

This was exactly why Essec hated this smug thing. “Then supply them with the proper motivation,” Essec said trying to keep his tone amicable, but it was slipping fast.

“My, my, aren’t you the impatient one,” Notan’s gurgling voice even more disgusting attempting what Essec could only imagine as cuteness. “If any harm befalls the little monkey, I will gladly reimburse Voiyn for his damaged property. A good one is hard to acquire, I know. Unless you have something to give me, something that could supplant the boys value. Only then would I see Gort’ekl turning around. If you have nothing to offer, then our business is concluded and I wish you and Voiyn the best.”

Essec went stoic, there was no way he was leaving without receiving some kind of aid from this fat, greedy thing. Fortunately there was one thing in his possession that could be offered to the Pit Master. One thing that was his, that was the only thing of his homeworld. Having reached the black thirty cycles prior he’d begun a quest for his past, a history that had been difficult to discover in the limited channels of this caged called The Vale. Nokitha in the Juxl system was where his race hailed from, it took seven cycles just to understand that. After that huge discovery he’d begun to collect any and everything about the world, far far from this insipid place. The crown of his collection was a jewel, the rarest from his world, and the only he knew of that could be bartered with here.

“I have something. In my own personal possession, that cannot be found within The Vale,” he proposed.

Notan’s eyes opened in curiosity, “What kind of something might this be?” Now Essec had the fat stumpy creature’s attention.

“A gem the size of my fist,” Essec said.

Notan’s excitement seemed to fade. “Do you have an image of it? A being in my position has many trinkets of rare quality. I’m sure you understand,” Notan gurgled sardonically.

Essec had taken a recording of it on his data card. He never wanted to imagine being rid of it, however he knew it was priceless and could very easily become something to barter with in an extreme circumstance. Just like the one he found himself in currently.

He pulled the data card off his omnisuit, and thumbed through it to the storage function. Selecting the video he handed the device to Notan. The gem and video was burned into his memory, after so many cycles of searching he’d stared at it for thousands of decacircuits once it had entered his position. It was a ovular gem, deep blue and black gem, the blue swirling within the sea of jet that made up the base of the treasure.

Notan’s excitement returned, “This will do. When can I have it?”

Essec smiled, “As soon as they return with the monkey.”

It is my very great honor to bring you the first book from the fluxDominion,

THE CARNAGE OF PALTOCK

The most important piece for any historian of the fluxDominion. Written by Toretia Wailxl the personal assistant to the mightiest of Supreme Leshers, Umixquios the Grand. About his life and how he became the Grandest Umixquios in Preshood history.

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Act One | Chapter Four | Episode Fifteen: Combat

Voiyn stepped through the portal connecting both ships. The Golden Reptile was lit by the emergency lights to dread effect.

Nothing in the first compartment, mostly ammo and things of low value stored in synth-metal crates. His magboots active he had no problem stalking through the flotsam. There was no code required to exit this space, he pressed the switch. On emergency power the doors slid open slowly.

They were yet unaware of his presence, giving him a little time, he thought.

His boots clicked against the ground, he followed his instinct to the left. A hatch began to open, he readied himself for the fight. A pair of sycophants wet themselves at the sight of him, both barely up to his hips. The pair cowered back into their compartment for safety. None were safe here.

He closed the distance slowly, growling. Through his vocal emitter Voiyn’s long growl sounded like some dark god from long ago. Fearful, the iyediu* backed into a corner.

Having them cornered, Voiyn leaned forward putting his large golden helmet microunits from either face. “Where is he?!” Voiyn asked through clenched teeth.

Both unable to speak out of fear pointed further down the corridor. One swiped of his palm and both were unconscious. Slamming his right palm into the first, who’s head struck the other in the swelling brain gland that protruded from the side of its head.

Forgetting them he continued on. They had been helpful but not specific. The more time he spent here the more chance he’d have to fight someone with real skill. He opened every door in his path, and peon after peon attempted to attack him. So many that the corridor was strewn with bodies floating, or stuck to the bulkhead at random some missing body parts. There were a few more doors before he reached the rear of the ship, if those iyediu* were wrong, he’d be taking them back with the foundling. There was something unusual about so many crewmen aboard the ship, however it matched the rumors about the Seven Hounds Bounty. The faces never wanting to dirty their hands unless it was worth it.

Two more doors that he’d had to crack with OhkBD’s programming and there he was bundled up, floating aimlessly throughout the compartment. Even through his rage Voiyn had to suppress the urge to laugh. Cutting the bonds with his clawed gauntlets finally the gag. “Valgebosh! I can’t believe you came,” NaN shouted, ecstatic.

“There’s no time. Let’s leave,” Voiyn began dragging him through the corridor from which he’d just come.

Moving through the littered bodies, some of whom where now awake, he noticed a figure in the distance. She was moving towards him, part of him wished she’d tried to highjack his ship, the optical lock would focus and burn the eyes off anyone whom hadn’t been registered by him to fly it. The creature seemed feminine, a black mask covered the face, and her body seemed wrapped in a similar material.

She was using the walls to bound in his direction, Voiyn put a hand up to signal NaN to stop. Data streamed into his oculars as the K8’s brain examined her. Projecting the data in fine streams. A targeting glyph pointed at the upper left of her abdomen, and one at the base of her skull, the weakest points on her body. Voiyn wanted to maim, not kill. She was within a body length and he readied himself for the attack.

The black figure leapt forward, thrusting a foot out to stomp his helmet. Casually Voiyn moved his head out of the way, whilst simultaneously grabbing her leg at the knee. To his surprise she used the momentum she’d built to fold back over, as she kicked out of his grasp he felt a slice against his thigh. He watched her slip through his legs, swimming in the lack of gravity. Stepping back, he swung his elbow where her head should have been behind him. He’d missed the mask by a finger width. Fortunately NaN had leapt back out of combat range. Carrying over the rest of his momentum he lashed out with his right hand, full extension rotating of the shoulder to grab the mask of the wretch. Catching it he squeezed with all his might, the poly-synthetic mask burst into a glitter of the glossy black. His claws had marred the already mangled face beneath in four even trails from each corner of her face. Carrying through with his attack, he lifted one of his magboots off the deck and slammed it into her chest. A sickening crunch reverberated through Voiyn’s leg he was sure that he’d broken a few things within the foul thing. The force sending her flying at speed down the corridor, the shard that had been her weapon floated harmlessly before NaN.

Voiyn motioned for him to take it. He did with the look like when he’d been purchased to crew the Valevyinellen. That maternal instinct in Voiyn swelled with pride. He ignored it as quickly as it had flooded him. Finding the compartment he’d entered was simple enough, making sure that NaN boarded the ship first, lest there be any unexpected surprises. Voiyn entered behind the floating child magboots falling heavily on the bulwark of the K8’s hook. “To the cockpit. We need to leave. I need to go repair my epidermis,” Voiyn commanded.

They split directions, as Voiyn made it to the biorepair deck, he heard the distinct closing of the hook. The two wires chinking as they disconnected from the Kal’rax Fnerckt. Voiyn sat down to examine his wound, it wasn’t too bad though the blue blood was seeping out rather profusely. Her weapon was clean so the wound was as well. He grabbed an auto-suture and began stapling the gash with sterile twine ensuring that his omnisuit was not included. Finished, he stood and limped towards the cockpit where NaN awaited him.

White hot pain suddenly lanced through his torso, he knew their escape had been too easy.

It is my very great honor to bring you the first book from the fluxDominion,

THE CARNAGE OF PALTOCK

The most important piece for any historian of the fluxDominion. Written by Toretia Wailxl the personal assistant to the mightiest of Supreme Leshers, Umixquios the Grand. About his life and how he became the Grandest Umixquios in Preshood history.

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Act One | Chapter Four: Vexed | Episode Fourteen: Rescuing NaN

The Kal’rax Fnerckt, Gort’ekl’s ship, glinted off in the distance. Voiyn could track it with onboard tech signal or no. His ship, the K8-Blackstar, pierced through space inexorably towards the Seven Hounds Bounty. Primal maternal instinct raged through his changing asexual physiology, not only were they part of his crew, but he had imprinted on the fledglings. Being that he had not mated as a male in over thirty cycles, he remained both sexes at the same time. This maternal desire gave him focus, therefor he was not, currently, rejecting the emotional torrent that flooded his reptilian nervous system.

Voiyn’s hands made microscopic adjustments as he approached the rear of the enemy, staring directly into the fire-red exhaust ports. Not for a microsphere did he tamper with his speed.

Within the thousand unit killzone of their hull Voiyn commanded, “All weapons engage in targeting lock.” Multiple overlapping reticule glyphs appeared in his optics, he paused a moment before launching the fusillade. “Disengage all lethal weaponry,” commanding the ships brain reduced the locked on glyphs to three. Without moving his eyes from the back of the Kal’rax, Voiyn red the still active weapons list in the bottom right peripheral of his vision. His trusty hook, electromagnetic disruptor rockets, and a jamming sentinel. Swipes with his foreclaw highlighted the third option projected into his eyes. A squeeze from his left hand and two sentinels thumped out, self propelled, immediately attracted to the heat produced by their target.

A blast fired, hitting one of the drones, exploding it in a corona, the second with luck attached itself to the top of the boxy ship, laying as flush to the metal skin possible. If it took damage, so would they.

Realizing this the same golden beams began firing upon the K-8 intermittently. Deftly, Voiyn maneuvered around the aim of their ships autoturret’s algorithm, as he waited for the jamming device to effectively kill all sensors aboard the Kal’rax Fnerckt. For a moment the golden beams continued firing into the same point in space.

Taking advantage of the wayward turret, Voiyn flicked his talon to the electromagnetic disruptor rockets, and squeezed. Carbon based fuels emitted a orange glow as the fired pair streaked for their target. For the first time since the chase began Voiyn backed off the throttle. Anything within five-hundred units of the blast, that required electronics to function was about to go limp.

Coruscating energy rushed outwards in visible overlapping spheres, the Kal’rax disappeared as it was engulfed inbetween their expanding diameters. Voiyn watched cautiously waiting for the apex of the effective range. Less than a hundred units away from the the tip of the K-8’s fuselage the energy field was unable to keep its integrity, scintillating into nothingness. A jerk of his right hand gunned the engine forward, his hook all ready to fire at his command.

Getting the K-8 lined up on her left wing, on the boxy modified runner’s right. Firing, the barbed cables into its side, winches whined as they pulled the two ships together. Then came the ssekhratess, the gap between the two ships less than ten units, the oversized, spiked piston jut out, piercing the hull of the other ship, its gem like spear folding open to create a permanent, airtight, connection. Until Voiyn decided to sever it.

Red, green, and purple warning lights, and alarm klaxons signaled all of the obvious, they were under attack. Except one. To NaN these were all but warnings or alarms, these were symbols of hope. Suddenly, the ship went black, like a tomb.

Emergency powered life systems clicked to life, a faint hiss could be heard as the recycled air flowed through the ship.

The Seven Hounds Bounty was driven insane, a maelstrom of cursing and shouting could be heard beyond his cell door. Their chaos gave him more hope still. The crunch of metal piercing metal was the next odd sound. The ships gravity synthesizers down, NaN could feel the shift as he collided with the bulky door. The same death-like silence followed, even the crowd beyond had become completely still. The vessel stopped moving, his mass continued in the same direction, floating away from the door.

Near him, from the other side of the bulkhead came the most ungodly sound as the alloyed metal plating of the hull was punctured, and then peeled back. Disturbing as the noise was to hear, it could only signify one thing. They had been borded.

ssekhratess – Piece de resistance

It is my very great honor to bring you the first book from the fluxDominion,

THE CARNAGE OF PALTOCK!

Unfortunately Pubslush as a company has tanked, and any contributors will be receiving their money back. Thank you everyone who contributed!!!!!!!!! I will be launching a kickstarter, and probably a gofundme as well in light of this event. Stay tuned.

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Act One | Chapter Three | Episode Twelve: Enraged

Voiyn put the young one down to sleep. Wasting no time he informed the others of the small amount of information he’d been able to gather from the broken words. Vahl and OhkBD were in the main hold awaiting Voiyn’s return with the two boys to observe their prescribed punishment which was forgone after the proceedings. Unfortunately he had to disappoint because of the significant investment that had gone into acquiring those two apes.

“OhkBD get to your position in the cockpit. Prepare Valeviyenellin for launch,” Voiyn was sure to snarl, expressing his need for urgency, “Vahl get to the guns. We need our disabling munitions locked into place.”

“Are we going to need Essec? he’s still offboard,” OhkBD asked meekly.

“Reach him. Inform him that the black haired one has been taken by the Seven Hounds. We need to get out of this rock and onto their scent if we wish to retrieve him in one piece. Request that he speak with Notan about this matter. He has permission to tempt the yüel* with anything short of this ship, my personal transport, and anything living to get him to force his hand in the matter,” Voiyn couldn’t remember needing to say so much in a long while. OhkBD diverged on his way to the cockpit, while Voiyn went to prepare for a fight. His Omnisuit had been modified over many cycles to allow him total freedom of movement within the grip of the Void. One-hundred and twenty circuits of life support, was enough time for any operation.

He would gladly show these scum what it is like to put themselves against a true Valegbosh. One whom earned their title with their own blood, rather than by standing on piles of dead, with none other to claim it as with Poichal Nrkthah*. Foul defiler of the noble title Vale Hound.

Sealing his suit with his golden helm, he moved with jarring speed to the cockpit. There Vahl was in his seat, optics fitted against his sclera, guns at the ready, “Non-lethal’s loaded Valegbosh.”

“Excellent.”

OhkBD was in his control position, multiple arms flying furiously between his multiple input devices. “BD, find their ship first. If there’s no trace search all bandwidth channels for the foundling’s datacards. That is what they’re for correct,” Voiyn posed rhetorically. “Twenty beats ahead Valegbosh,” OhkBD gave his affirmation of the command. Voiyn finishing his preflight checks lamented the empty chair, but Essec would serve a more functional purpose. Then sat in his own command console, inserting his hands into the blue and red orbs respectively and began to lift the Valeviyenellin off the deck.

An unsolicited com-channel opened on the display projecting into his eyes, “Not even going to let me know you’re leaving,” Notan’s overfed voice oozed through the audio outputs against his cranium. Voiyn restrained his anger, the pay for this next one was too great, “The crew you hired to accompany us has taken one of my crew, and my personal property. From your noble house no less. I have placed a high value on the young one now in their possession it is imperative that he is returned to me intact. My best, Essec,” he made sure to hiss the name with menace,” will be speaking with you shortly. If all you need is a farewell. Consider this farewell for now. Have your men open my docking hatch. I swear to return the moment I have retrieved what is mine.”

“Then I wish you good fortune Voiyn Valegbosh,” the sickly voice cut off. It was all he could do to resist the primal urge to sink his poisoned fangs into something. Being pushed into a corner made Voiyn into something to be feared.

“Let’s go get our young,” Voiyn felt the maternal urge of his reptilian asexuality taking over, as he willed the barrier to close off his ship to the living Pit. He spun the ship around towards the porthole leading out of the rock. Klaxons rang outside the ship, and caution lighting signaled that the space was being opened into the Vale. “Do we have them yet?” Voiyn demanded.

“Lock on the datacard has been successful, they’re moving quickly,” OhkBD spoke as fast as his hands moved.

“Put it on my screen, I’m going to chase them down. They’re going to remember why we remain unmolestable in this Pit Territory,” Voiyn caught the reticule on his optics, pointed the Valeviyenellin at it, and blasted out of Notan’s Pit in wrapped in the fiery cloak that scored the docking bay he’d left behind in a flash.

It is my very great honor to bring you the first book from the fluxDominion,

THE CARNAGE OF PALTOCK!

Be sure to stop by and become a fan of The Carnage of Paltock’s Crowdfunding Campaign.

Accessible at thefluxdominion.pubslush.com

Help support the expansion of the fluxDominion!

Be sure to stop by and become a fan of The Carnage of Paltock’s Crowdfunding Campaign.

Accessible at thefluxdominion.pubslush.com

Help support the expansion of the fluxDominion!

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Author, Chapter Three, Mini Series, Novel, Original, Science Fiction, Writing

Act One | Chapter Three | Episode Eleven: Rude Awakening

JOS was lost… somewhere. Though there was no real way to be sure of where. His head felt as though it’d been split in half, and some beeping sound kept getting louder and louder in the darkness. He then came to the realization he was being shaken by something, . Not just by the vibration from his waist, but a sincere rocking motion, and a voice that was impossible to discern through all the other senses he could make no sense of.

Where was NaN, the need to get back to the ship, Voiyn would murder them if they were late. Knowing NaN he could be anywhere.

No.

He should still be with JOS, but something was telling him that he wasn’t. This terrified feeling grew within him, grew like the violence of the shaking, and the beeping that rose to a siren. He opened his eyes to see a blur of lower extremities. Once his eyes focused on the spot where he remembered NaN was, except there was nothing, no trace at all. JOS could’ve sworn there had been restraints on him. Now he was only surrounded by a crowd, and free to move. The beeping persisted, causing his head to ache ever greater with each pulse.

His datacard!

JOS lurched up too quickly, he had to catch himself before he passed out. As the space around him stopped spinning, he could hear a creature asking, more yelling, “…ARE YOU OKAY!?” in a shrill tongue. He nodded, hoping to satisfy the being. He slid his right hand down to grab his datacard to turn the thing off.

Before shutting it down he remembered to look at the time. There were only ten circuits until he had to be back on Valeviyenellin. He examined the routes available on his card, he was still at the bottom of the central spiral, which he observed had returned to the open position. He sprang to his feet, again nearly collapsing, he bent his knees to catch himself, it didn’t stop his head from throbbing, but there was no time to examine any wound, let alone coddle it. JOS took off as fast as he could up the spiral in the direction of the ship. His body felt more labored than what he was used to. His sense of urgency drove him to fight the pain screaming from his frontal lobe. As he rounded the corner to the diameter arm, he noticed that his eyes were half open, and his vision was tinted red. In spite of this he continued down the arm to the Pit’s circumference. He ignored the disgusted, and offended looks of the passersby, as he rounded the final corner.

Finally on the circumferencial pathway he could see the hangar where Valeviyenellin was. JOS bolted at this marvelous sight, he had to get back, he had to tell someone. Bodily fluids were dripping everywhere, sweat, blood, snot, the parts that ran in his eyes stung, he was a complete and utter mess. Voiyn was waiting for them at the ships entrance, first with a look of anger, searching for the two, then their eyes met. He became confused,, which changed instantly into worry as he moved in JOS’s direction.

What Voiyn had seen was the boy he’d taken in, or some purple and red version of him, sprinting full speed towards him. The soft birthmarked face was broken and bloody, the sweat changing his fair skin into a shiny red. The sclera surrounding his eyes had even turned the color of his blood, and his olfactories were crushed flat. Then he realized the other one wasn’t there, this caused him to worry the most.

JOS could feel his legs getting numb but he had to tell Voiyn about the Seven Hounds Bounty woman, how she kidnapped NaN. As soon as he reached the great reptile he collapsed. Strong arms caught his weight. Despite all his wanting to say something, only fractions of syllables could escape his lips, the rest was winded gurgling breath. It took all of his concentration to even remain conscious at this point. Concern for his friend was the only thing keeping him from slipping back into that place again. Then his friend could be anywhere.

He tried to relax, now that he was safe again, and slow down his breathing. Being carried helped, as they crossed into the ships center he willed himself to say one broken sentence.

“Woman… Seven Hounds… NaN, taken,” the strain was finally too much. His goal had been reached and he slipped comfortably off into the dark of his mind. Floating weightless on a sturdy cloud.

It is my very great honor to bring you the first book from the fluxDominion,

THE CARNAGE OF PALTOCK!

Be sure to stop by and become a fan of The Carnage of Paltock’s Crowdfunding Campaign.

Accessible at thefluxdominion.pubslush.com

Help support the expansion of the fluxDominion!

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Act One | Chapter Three: Entanglement | Episode Nine: Discovery

NaN’s nerves wore off after a few circuits. The atmosphere was still tense, and stifling, but they were pretty much ignored, their novelty had already worn off. Everything seemed a little clearer this time. Directly across from the Docking Bay were the eateries and ethyl-alch lounges, ‘For those times when you need inebriation as quickly as possible.’ His imaginary commercial voice perfectly irritating. A hodgepodge combination of these businesses formed the outer orbit, two intersecting, diametrical corridors ran into the center of the station. Down into the real Pit.
Every store front corridor had an odd synthesis of natural and synthetic structure. Overall it was an easy layout to understand, it took them the better part of the first half of the one revolution allotted them by walking the circumference. After reaching the first leg of the intersecting passageways, NaN whipped out his datacard to trace a map with his relative position in space. Plans for future visits were already being made.
“…more apes. Can you believe how quickly they reproduce? They should keep themselves to their own cesspool in the Eleventh District. Us good being want have to not put up with their fragile little lives, paying with my good orn to pump this filthy oxygen…” The voice of the passerby clicked as he trailed off into the pockets of crown surrounding them.
“You hear that?” NaN clapped JOS enthusiastically.
“What,? The screaming from the back of that eatery?” JOS pointed at the restaurant bearing a sign: Quality Meats – Fresh?
“No…” NaN lost his focus for a moment, distracted by the many shades of neon making up the sign, he remembered, “No.  There was this thing that was talking about a place here, just for our type.”
“New?” JOS was so clueless.
“Not new to the Pit, it’s a place filled with the same species as us,” NaN could see he’d gotten his friend’s attention.
“Where is it?”
“Some place it called the Eleventh District,” NaN answered.
“What is, or where is the Eleventh District?” JOS beginning to sound frustrated having to repeat himself.
“Probably down in the lower levels, our datacards shouldn’t have any problem mapping any route we take, sound like fun?” NaN watched JOS think about it.
“I’ll set mine as well, the moment we go out of range we turn back. We cannot get lost here,” despite the serious voice JOS’s eyes betrayed his excitement. JOS detached his datacard from his magbelt to set the map tracker.
NaN kept his eyes on the descending spiral about 800 Units away. “Let’s go,” JOS commanded. Together they continued through the light crowds towards the center of the Pit. More aware of the surrounding environment without protection, there were several directories posted around the entrance to the Pit’s main artery. A group of beings were gathered around it, they looked familiar, it was hard to place anyone after seeing so many shapes, sizes, and types of bodies.
He tried to pick out recognizable details, but they all stood cloaked by the back lighting of the directories. Only five in the group. ‘It’s them!’ the thought sounded off like a klaxon. Seven Hound’s Bounty, from down in Notan’s Lair. His hand shot out to stop JOS.
“What?” JOS surprised, “Wasn’t this your idea to begin with?”
“No,”NaN shook his head, “no, I see something better. See those guys by the central spiral?”
“Yes.”
“Recognize them?”
“How could we possibly know anybody here NaN?”
“You’re not thinking about it clearly enough. Look closer.”
NaN watched his friend scrutinize the beings hoping to see him come the same conclusion as him. Now JOS was irritated,”I don’t recognize anyone.”
“Maybe almost dying made you forget, think back like twenty circuits before that,” NaN reminded JOS.
JOS’s eyes went about as wide as his mouth did, “Those are the guys we’re supposed to hunt with right? What do you think they’re doing?”
“That’s exactly why I stopped you,” NaN’s voice was conspiring. “Let’s find out.”
“Are you trying to get us dead?” JOS asked incredulous.
“Not killed, I think we’ve got an obligation to know more about these guys, and what it is we’re getting into. “
JOS thought on it, before he could respond NaN had to include, “Or are you too terrified?”
NaN was always surprised at how JOS could remain stoic, even with his constant checking for cracks in JOS’s ego.
“Alright, I’ll concede. More importantly we can get a guided tour from some serious killers,” JOS tried not to sound nervous. “I’m sure they’ll go to all the best section of the Pit. Set the timer on your datacard now.” JOS fiddled with his own as he continued, “We have about half a revolution, fifty-three circuits exactly. Once our timers hit thirty circuits we return, no matter where we are.”
“Yes, Valegbosh,” he mocked JOS sarcastically.
JOS gave him that stern look of disapproval he often received, “Are you ready to do this?”
“After you Fligar,” NaN meant it. Having any name was better than some anthropomorphic serial number. He caught the smile JOS tried to hide by taking the lead. Not that NaN wanted it anyway. This was JOS’s specialty, stalking clientele, moving noiselessly through hallways teeming with auditory sensors to alert customer’s at the Servitude Colony that they could be heard by the servants. As property of the Juxl Corporation, they were encouraged to learn the secrets of their customers, which the Corporation would gladly keep safe, for a fee.
‘A precautionary measure to ensure the safety, comfort, and privacy of our staff, patrons, and wonderful guests,’ the faceless monotonous feminine voice from the Colony still clear.
Another large group was within fifty units of the Seven Hound’s Bounty, still having a great time bogarding the directory. The two did their best to blend in by having a silent conversation, actually watching their prey, which only stood around making more noise than anyone in the vicinity. They seemed to stand there for revolutions.
Without warning the five Hounds shifted as a group into the central spiral, NaN and JOS stayed relaxed. JOS followed first, just before the last one slipped out of sight. Standing at the entrance was like his first leap across the void. NaN breathed out, taking the lead now, he was feeling powerful, and wanted to test his own abilities. The group wasn’t moving very quickly, making them easy to keep up with, but hard to watch. It’d be too simple to give themselves away if they rushed their stalk.
Halfway down, the entrance into the Pit proper revealed itself again. Imagining it in his mind distracted him from controlling the weight of his boots. It clacked a little too hard against the metallic flooring. NaN pushed his body into the bulkhead they were walking along. Everything was too quiet, NaN’s heart pounded in his throat.
“I smell dessert…” the slimy voice could be heard through the sound of adrenaline try to burst his heart through his sternum. One more check in with his data card, ‘Plenty of time,’ he thought. Twenty-four more circuits until that alarm would go off.
“Fligar,” NaN flashed a smile, nodding at JOS.
“Ragilf,” JOS nodded back in confirmation.
In one motion both of them lifted themselves from the wall, slinking into the vast crowd that made up the permanent residents of Notan’s Pit. Eyes and ears were on full alert, searching for their “guides”, and the Eleventh District.

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Act One | Chapter Two: Notan’s Pit | Episode Seven: Curiosity & Calamity

NaN did his part. If he didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to get away without notice. And, JOS would be impossible to convince otherwise. He grimaced, putting a polish shine to the last vanity in the sanitation compartment. He too a look at himself, the way his black hair shined purple and green as it passed through light. The four rectangular geometric dark brown marks next to his right eye caught his attention, which made him look into his eyes.

Never having seen them until recently it was still a shock. Silver with hidden stripes of blue, almost pointing to his birthmarks. The way it was set against his almost white skin. When he’d finally seen his reflection he was surprised he didn’t have the same features as JOS, both descendent of apes, he’d assumed they would look the same. He knew they had different markings, and colors.

JOS had too distinct of an appearance even as an ape. Mostly his skin was pale, like NaN’s, however he had fierce dark brown markings, a crescent that touched his top lip, where his skin was a white grey, and ended above his eyes, almost symmetrically. Another formed on his chin and remained unbroken down to his chest, where his heart would be.

He saw the last smudge of grease fade into a perfect shine from all angles. Satisfied, he moved on to the last on the list. NaN had to check all personal compartment filtration systems. A task scheduled specifically when Valevyinellin was docked. Not a whole lot to do if there was any problems with the filters floating in the Void.

While everyone was gone, NaN had to take advantage of this perfect opportunity to know his packmates better. Maybe. He had to be the one to volunteer for it, JOS would never appreciate the situation.

OhkBD’s was first. When the door hissed open NaN nearly leapt in shock. Every microunit* of surface was perfectly cleaned. They knew he’d be coming in. ‘Challenge accepted,’ NaN thought as he stepped into the spotless compartment.

The bed was against the left most wall of the square space, probably four units cubed. Opposite the door was a maze of monitors and what were, NaN could only assume, input devices. Probably all designed by OhkBD himself. ‘That’s the most dangerous thing in this entire compartment. If I do anything he’ll know, probably being recorded right now,’ he thought reaching the circular vent just above the layout.

He pulled the datacard from his coverup pocket, thumbed through its various function icons, selecting the EviroCert one, with the bacteria swimming, another OhkBD creation. Holding it up to the vent, it began reading the particulate count being filtered into this space.

NaN played the game that was also the data processing screen. He was the big black bacteria, eating the smaller bacteria in a three dimensional space. The game ended after you ate the last one in your territory and evolved, then the screen faded to white. A report of showing the contamination analysis faded back into view. Clean, within .001% variation from norm, it gave him a small bit of satisfaction to know he was literally polluting OhkBD’s space.

‘Not this time. OhkBD, your guard’s way too high my mate, we’ll learn about you some other way,’ NaN thought, turning to leave the compartment, confident, not wanting to give away his disappointment.

Next was Vahl, “This’ll be interesting,” he mumbled checking off OhkBD’s compartment. He need to think of a way to get his hands on a usable weapon, and some kind of knowledge about Notan’s Pit and how it worked. Maybe not far, not into the crowds. If they got ahead of themselves they would die. Something came together, “It’s the best alibi if we get caught. Just completing the checklist.” No one would question them, the display of death was convincing enough, even for NaN.

NaN opened Vahl’s door, assailing his olfactory senses with a cacophony of smell, which was somehow dominated by the stink of sulfur. Scanning the dimly lit compartment, NaN regretted taking this task, ‘Funny how wen you seek something, the universe provides.’ He scratched his head in frustration, face plastered in a look of disgust.

One more breath of fresh, as fresh as he’d ever known it, air. Bravely he entered, breath held.

His eyes darted around, searching the piles of scrap on the floor, whilst maneuvering through them. In the corner was biomaterial forming some kind of bed, nest. Heat was emanating from it, probably the source of the smell. NaN thanked him self for having good lung capacity, as his eyes began to water.

‘Somehow,’he thought putting his datacard up to the vent, ‘I have a feeling they’re all like this. Trying to keep us from their things, instead of hiding the real treasure, their full personalities. Like I would steal from them, I have to live with these beings.’

OhkBD is in VirtualSpace rather than reality in his compartment, and is protective, bordering hyper paranoid. Judging by his ridiculous rig with nineteen or more cameras, he was also probably very insecure outside of his intangible world. Every pinhole could’ve been one as far as he was concerned. Vahl seems to have nothing to hide, seeing as he so delicately cares for his personal space. NaN couldn’t say either way, the Ioikheil had a personality much like how his compartment looked.

The EviroCert completed, perfectly normal readings, not that he wanted to remove his other hand from his nose and mouth to bask in it. Using the last of his held breath he examined the walls of the compartment. Still, and in-motion images lined the walls, NaN couldn’t tell if they were supposed to be gory or pornographic. Either way, they were effective at warding him from the space.

There hadn’t been much to expect, but their datacards would only generate the codes for their compartments once per docking. Once a compartment was checked off, it’d be back in restricted access. Giving him one shot at a look, who knows how often.

“Best is last,” he said to himself snaking the thin electronics device between his fingers. ‘Probably not,’ he thought. ‘There’ll be nothing visible, but thousands of tiny hidden digital eyes watching and following me,’ he couldn’t control a giggle as he thought about how true a statement like that might be.

Of all the members of Voiyn’s Horde, Essec was by far the most mysterious. Speaking his mind here and there, but otherwise kept to himself. Inside the compartment, behind the door that JOS and he practically worshiped. The one he was standing front of.

NaN placed his datacard against the same sized compartment lock. He watch, eagerly waiting to see the red “Forbidden” pyramid, switch to “UNLOCKED” in gold on the screen.

“Sa-ka!” he exclaimed reading the word with excitement. His body felt like it was on autopilot, numb and out of control from hyping up his entrance into Essec’s compartment. This time the surprise was pleasant, he didn’t think it’d be possible with Essec’s mysterious behavior, there was no way Nan’d expected this.

There had to be at least one hundred awards and certificates from various institutions and systems. The largest NaN needed to be all the way in the compartment to see. A large canvas banner in some impossible language, a creature’s decapitate head held by what looked like Essec’s arm filled the left side of the image.

NaN imagined a scene where Essec stood as the executioner for his bounty. Holding it’s severed remenants for all to see, the crowd cheering for blood. ‘I’ll ask,’ he said to himself. ‘Maybe I’ll ask.” JOS would want to hear anything about outside the Vale.

Ever since the first rotation they’d met, when JOS punched him back for hitting someone JOS was friends with. They fought like younglings, NaN touched the spot where his nose had been broekn. Even since then, NaN and JOS were bound by friendship to leave this forsaken section of space. Information had always been kept hidden, now he knew they had genuine access to the real thing. He’d always been sure that there had to be more out there, too much of reality argued for that point. Now he was standing amongst the treasures commemorating the exploits of one of his packmates, whom has been outside the Vale.

The compartment wall to his right was lined with weapons, projectile and melee. All the classic Juxl weapons were there, the AP6, the GRØ-Tohrax, a single handed energy projectile weapon. Easy to recognize from the cylindrical power core that hung from the users waist from the thick cable connected to the hand hold of the weapon. Some he recognized, most he couldn’t even imagine how to operate. Or their purposes.

NaN checked the vent before he fed into his fascination with weaponry. Didn’t need to get distracted at the last moment. He hadn’t noticed in Vahl’s room, but his little bacteria had maintained it’s evolution and now needed to pray on other, bigger bacteria. All good. He slipped the card back into his huge pocket.

NaN went over the exotic pieces first, one at a time, inspecting their uniqueness, feeling the strangeness of the materials origin. Careful to keep his limbs he restrained himself from any lingering touches on any of the devices. The very last one he came to was the least attractive on the rack, a matte black sphere. It’s commonness made NaN that much more intrigued by it.

He reached out to feel the material, at his touch the sphere seemed to come to life. The material reached out, grabbing at his hand. NaN panicked, ripping, pulling, biting to escape the things grasp. Nothing worked, this was the worst.

NaN wondered if this was some new crew ritual intended for a laugh, ‘No Essec isn’t that funny,’ he confirmed mentally. Then, what if it was far worse, if this device was anything like the blood feeders he’d heard of. The thought was too much. Cutting off his own hand might be better then the embarrassment of being found like this.

NaN flew from Essec’s compartment as near the speed of light his body could manage. His favorite hiding hatch was on this level, in the engineering compartment. ‘Something, something…’ coming up with ideas felt as futile as swimming in space, “Think of something!” he yelled at no one.

The glassy black liquid-like material began to solidify, fingers first, then all the way down to his elbow. The device had eaten away the material in its path as it had formed to NaN’s arm. NaN spread his fingers apart. Spikes shived instantly into the air from every fingertip. Again. Same thing. Then it came to him, ‘Nanobrains.’ It’d always been something he wanted to see, he’d convinced himself they were made up stories to scare young ones about the future. Maybe they would be able to go a little be further than just outside now. If he was stuck with it, may as well own it.

*microunit – micrometer

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Act One | Chapter Two: Notan’s Pit | Episode Six: Collection & Comfort

“Beings have died for less than assaulting a packmate,” Essec reminded his potential victim.

“You’re the one to do it?” garbled ML.

“Twitch wrong,” Essec invited, still as carved stone.

The moment between them hung in time, JOS tried to search for some kind of improvised weapon. There were too many careful, watching, eyes, and talented hands in their own methods of death to do anything. Not that he could really be of any help, but Essec was protecting him. there was an obligation for him to do something. From everywhere around him came the intense feeling of being in focus, having all attention directed at him.

Uneasy JOS stayed frozen in place, feeling the erratic palpitations in his neck and teeth.

“Nothings like you. Not worth the damage you could cause.” The way the sound of its footsteps moving away, into the crowd, put JOS a little at ease.

“Ræpk*. Te tu nao xilach,” Essec called after the being. JOS tried to remember what all the words meant in Notanish, he could only remember that it was a very insulting farewell. Usually reserved for the Double Dosca.

Reading the situation he turned back to face Voiyn. Less than an arms-length away from the Vale Hound, senses on full alert.

Muffled gurgling suddenly in his ear piece caused him to whip his head around. What he faced was a creature drowning in its own neon blue blood. Essec stood behind the thing, one hand restraining the fowl, ruddy, gelatinous head. Infinite tiny serrated teeth were exposed, pulsing with each attempt at breath. The other of Essec’s hands performed the killing stroke deep into the spot where JOS’s trachea would’ve been.

“That confirms it,” Essec said to himself.

No one asked what he meant. The Hounds would listen when he decided they required an explanation.

“Sorry you and your new friend couldn’t hangout longer,” NaN tried really hard. OhkBD laughed weakly.

JOS couldn’t respond, he was still trapped in fear of the blade in the creatures extremity, now dangling lifelessly at its side. He received a hard look from Essec, “Let’s move, we don’t need to give his friends any time to find him like this.”

Right, back to Valevyinellin. JOS felt like tearing himself to pieces over the whole thing. There was nothing he could’ve done. He wasn’t fast enough, well enough armed, experienced enough. Who was he kidding, he’d failed his confidence most. Something not unfamiliar to him, JOS would force Essec to teach him anything that he could convince the Haw-Kow to teach. Not a single doubt, a strategy began to form . Everything it would take for him to grow. That never again would he recognize being this self.

It’s what generated him so much favor in the Servitude Colony. Instead of shrinking like others, JOS spent valuable time picking up new skills, learning more effective methods. He remembered the approach of his fifteenth cycle, how angry been to still be so deep in.

Reality checked back. Giving JOS the ideal team, along with the closest person he’s ever known, his hard work had payed off.

Nerves subsided he set his mind back in the moment. Returning to Valevyinellin as one piece.

———————————————————————————————–

Back aboard, Vahl couldn’t resist, “I just lost ten thousand because you didn’t get skewered.”

“Thank by the by,” OhkBD offered JOS and NaN a hand to shake, a third placed in front of Vahl expectantly.

NaN grabbed the hand and shook exuberantly, JOS grabbed it reluctantly. Vahl batted it away, “Like lᴂr I’m paying up right now. You know you only get paid if they make it five cycles. If you die before that, then the money is mine.”

“5 cycles?”, Nan feigned bewilderment, “Can you both even make it that long at your advanced age?”

The hangar echoed with raucous laughter. The tension of the moment before non existent.

“Prepare for the gathering,” Voiyn’s command redirecting their focus.

“How do we prepare?” NaN asked. Eager to do anything to get JOS back on good terms quick. At least pretend that’s what he wanted to do. JOS hesitated back there. While he felt bad, he knew JOS well enough. He’d have to follow whatever new path his friend chose, guaranteed he would learn a bunch of crazy new things. Just thinking about it got NaN excited.

“Stay. Put.” Three voices chorused, Voiyn stood there. The look said everything, crafty lizard, ‘No one will be coming to save you.’ Or at least that’s what NaN wanted to interpret it as.

“You two are restricted on board with me.” Voiyn gave the final verdict.

He’d been planning this for too long, of course they wouldn’t be able to stay in their new omni suits. They’d have to get into their normal work gear anyway. “Yes Valegbosh!”, JOS saluted.

“Yes Valegbosh!” NaN followed as earnestly as he could, not wanting to appear to be scheming. JOS knew all about his intelligent personality. He just preferred if everyone thought he was simple, less pressure to do the right thing. Which right now, in his mind, was making sure JOS was happy. A bit of mischief is exactly what NaN had in mind.

“Have we been paid BD?”, Voiyn asked.

Spindly fingers furiously weaved complex motions in the nearby Brain access. “Looks like it,” OhkBD confirmed.

“Divide the earnings appropriately. You have three revolutions*. Be back for the final attendance. Go! Enjoy yourselves, it’s been a while. I will be negotiating with the Seven Hound’s Bounty. During our e.r. meeting we will discuss the perimeters of our next hunt,” Voiyn finished debriefing them. “Adjourned.”

The crew departed until it was only the two of them left. “What happened?”, he asked JOS.

“Nothing really, I just bumped shoulders with that thing,” JOS admitted.

NaN cackled, “That nasty thing really wanted you dead for it too.” He couldn’t help it, something about JOS always invited that kind of trouble. It’s why NaN could stand to be around such a rule-follower for so long.

“I’ll get Essec to teach me so it never happens a second time,” JOS was vim and verve.

“Sounds like fun,” NaN punched JOS in the shoulder. “It’ll be just like at the colony, except we won’t be guessing.” JOS shot an ‘are-you-kidding-me-you’re-going-to-do-this-too’ look. NaN winked back, “What are we going to do while the Double Dosca and Essec are out?”

“Probably complete the rest of our responsibilities. Then I was thinking about starting some physical training.” Already JOS was aiming to better himself. More reason for NaN to get his friends mind off the subject.

This is what always happened. JOS gets reprimanded, destroying his confidence. Then he tears himself down to atoms doing these “routines” all for the sake of some little mistake. NaN made it his duty as a friend to make sure his pralo had fun too.

“Work first,” he agreed. “I’ve got an idea for some training after,” Nan hid his dastardly grin.

 

 

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Act One | Chapter Two: Notan’s Pit | Episode Five: Welcome Return

Docking procedures confirmed, Valevyinellin was set to take its place in the mudball known as Notan’s Pit. For Voiyn’s Hounds, the closest thing to a terrestrial home. JOS’s prisoner, Rooioe Çör, remained fully restrained, especially his oral cavity. Uncovered, it was impossible to resist the urge to break one of his jaw hinges. Prattling on about how connected he is in the Corporations. He was the third catch he’d seen making such lofty claims. It’d probably be the third time no there would be no reaction against Voiyn.

“You’re going to help pay for these,” JOS jibed. Pulling on the collar of his omni-suit.

“Not a bad chunk either.” NaN leapt on the prostrated body, poking hard into it’s chest. “You’re lucky it was him,” pointing at JOS, “not me.” NaN winked, jabbing again, ego swollen.

The pedal exit door hissed open, the rest of the Hounds stood around anxious to exit the ship, no matter how briefly. “ You two better have all the credentials prepared on this one. We want it quick, we’d like to enjoy ourselves as long as possible.” Vahl’s voice impetuous, and alpha.

“Don’t worry about what we’re doing. We haven’t made a mistake to date.” NaN beat his chest right back.

“Call on me after you do, then we’ll talk.” Vahl threw up an obscene gesture, “Pull your weight first, you’ve got a long way until you’ll touch black.” OhkBD put the final word on it, “You’ll be near our age before you can even dream of erasing your debt at this rate.” The Double Dorsca crossed forelimbs.

JOS couldn’t help but repeat the image of OhkBD saying “..at this rate..” scanning him with those spindly fingers. He made a face thinking about it again. ‘One of these days you’ll change your opinion, we’re doing better at this than you ever did.’ JOS started building back his confidence.

“Get ready grubs, stay close. Bad things happen to things with soft flesh in in Notan’s Pit.” Vahl, malicious as possible.

Essec reassured them with a touch. “Anything reaches for you and they lose a limb.”

“Why you got to coddle the little ovellies*,” Vahl pushed.

“Do you remember how it is to be fresh out of the colony? Have your fun, they need to learn. But they’ll know they’re protected from things outside they aren’t prepared for,” Essec’s voice remained cold, and direct. Vahl didn’t make another sound as the crew exited Valevyinellin together.

JOS and NaN were advised to keep their helmets on to withhold their species, and more importantly their age from the waiting predators. Together they carried their catch one arm holding the magtray. A nasty smoke plumed in sheets of red and brownish yellow as Voiyn’s Hounds left the ship.

Vulgar gambling and excess occurred on the outside of his vision. He didn’t remove his eyes from the grime encrusted catacomb, and Voiyn’s back. “Voiyn’s got vekhæ*.” A faceless voice called out from some random corner, causing a lump to form in his throat. JOS did his best to avoid tensing up as the cavernous pathways erupted with vile calls, and a flurry of flying objects.

Maintaining his poise was key, not to be intimidated. His helmet took a blow from something orange and slimy, obscuring the left part of his vision. There were red chunks of something biological in the ooze. Hopefully this would be a once through experience. With a reputation, respect would be given freely, rather than tolerate this.

The rest of his confidence stemmed from the three at his back, and it was he who made pulled the lever. Remembering the takedown set his shoulders back, confident and bold. He followed right. Into the teeming marketplace, a motionless glace around showed beings of all types. Trading, and engaging in what would certainly be considered “illegal” in front of a corporate official. Concerns like those were best left elsewhere. One wrong look could see him with a slug punched through his cranium.

As they moved further into Notan’s Pit the jeering crowds died with the lack of a reaction. NaN, and he had held firm. The Hounds continued their march to The Grand Lair, Notan’s private entertainment compartment. As Voiyn described it on the way in, “The richest hub in the Pit. Listening is how we stay ahead.” His ears would stay hyper vigilant, even if he had no idea what was being said. JOS would do his best to latch onto anything he could grasp.

At the end of the market would be a descending helix, leading to insect maze that made up the asteroid-made livable. Reaching the bottom, the six plus one were lead into a vaulted domed space, filled with immaculate scenes of debauchery at its most refined. On grand display in the center of the room, on decorated platforms; a female of some beautiful lethal species, and a male strong, and powerful looking. Both in chains, linked to a torture mechanism meant to keep their bodies suspended. All gold.

Very off putting against the shifting colors in the semi-translucent floors and ceiling.

She was being decorated. Pierced with lavish jewels, skin marked with knife and ink, all in a seductive display for the sinister creature atop the throne with a perfect view of the bizarre spectacle. Across from her the male was being encased in some precious alloy, a slow process so that the metal would bond to the exoskeleton without damaging its internal organs. JOS had heard about ancient practices like this, they sealed the body to have the energy protect them for eternity.

It was so unbelievably quiet. The realization of the sound proofing somehow made it much more twisted.

“Ah! Welcome Voiyn!” The creature JOS could only guess was Notan, rose taking small devices out from around his neck. Overfed, what used to be muscle was now oozing flesh between plates of natural calcium on his front and back. Loud and over dramatic, his gesture caused his blubber to jiggle. “I see you’ve go my coñnä*. You’re so quick, I’ve got a lot of trust for you.” JOS repressed the sick feeling, watching the crusted fold jump and crack apart as Notan stroked his leader’s ego. Or, the constant hanging yellow drip from the corner of his mouth.

“After all this time doing work for me. I think you deserve a better opportunity. Something one pack could never do alone, a very big hunt.” Notan stood nearly as tall as Voiyn, but danced around him like some small excited thing. “Direct from the corp head hunters, right off the top of the list. 719,000,000orn.” Notan exposed his thick, herbivorous disgusting teeth in a snarl as he stepped up onto the platform, dripping the molten element down his slaves front. Drinking in the silent scream.

Never moved in either direction, Voiyn replied,”Sounds worth hearing about. Though I don’t think my two newest are ready, yet. Since they made their first catch, I can’t tell them no if they want in.” Voiyn paused, looking over NaN, and him. “I am sure you have another pack in mind for us. Before that I would like to ensure our payment.” Voiyn maintained his posture.

Notan’s thick, encrusted finger motioned across the pavilion to a half-moon shaped ethylalch* station and lounge. Seating five shadowy figures. JOS followed the stub across each of the unique faces, all races unknown to him. Every one of them equally dangerous.

“Seven Hands.” Vahl mouthed quietly behind them.

“If we must. The price is too large to pass.” Voiyn responded.

“Good,” Notan purred,”you’ve always been my number one, because you understand so well how my business operates.” Pure, disgusting, honey.

“Have your technicians relay the appropriate link to us on the V-alg Comm.” Voiyn ended the conversation, moving towards the exit. “Don’t forget to include a new magtray in my earnings. You’ll thank me.”

JOS stayed in step, feeding of the confidence exuding from the being before him. Returning up the dank passageways, to the Valevyinellin. He couldn’t help but think how amazing the Vocal-Algorithmic Communication system is. Instantly translating communications into Mean Language, being the commonality between all languages know to the V-algComm’s database.

Distracted by his thoughts, his shoulder met with a passerby’s. “Gxbo fule pukoda siōp.” JOS barely blinked, and Essec was there, between him and the other. All he could really see were the wall stained rags around the creatures shoulders, Essec’s back took up the rest of his view. His eyes couldn’t help but focus on the hand ready on the thin blade behind Essec’s back.

Ovellies – babies, younglings

vekhæ – cabin boys, whipping boys

coñnä – forced submissive partner

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