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Two mythic figures return to M41 at the same time but in vastly different ways and, IMO, with vastly different levels of success.
The Red Angel was a rough, unfocused and shallow coverage of the World Eaters as they suffer through the return of their erstwhile father. None of the characters stood out to me: Kossolax the Foresworn is a would-be crafty son of the XII who never coheres into an interesting leader, his resentment of Angron coming across as pathetic and angsty; Ortan Leidis and his warband are almost complete non-entities and I don't actually remember anything about their plot; Telomane and his Grey Knight brothers had some interesting things to do, and his final sacrifice to banish Angron was kind of cool, but the Sons of Titan are otherwise written as two-dimensional and haughty. There's little clear sense of a plot beyond "Angron's back", and the Primarch himself is understandably less a character than he is a natural disaster, the "main character" only insofar as the mountain in Dante's Peak or the tornado in Twister were main characters. Given that it came out at the same time as the new World Eaters codex the book doesn't even rely on "story advertising" the way books like Indomitus and Dark Imperium do; where those books try to make new models as sexy as possible on the page so you'll head to GW to buy them, The Red Angel only has a brief encounter with Eightbound (I think, I may be misremembering) and otherwise doesn't capitalise on the new model range. The writing style didn't help, with David Guymer failing to make his story stand out. The Red Angel reads like a story written out of necessity and lacking an intriguing core. No-one's compelling, nothing's engrossing, everything is very boilerplate bolter porn.
Compare that with Son of the Forest, which is compelling, encrossing and anything but boilerplate. As was mentioned in another recent post here, Mike Brooks has established himself as a standout BL writer who really gets the material he's working with. Rather than a very vague, general approach to the return of the Primarch he instead gets deep into that Primarch's head and makes the return an intimate, slow-grow event rather than the apocalyptic "oh shit" that Angron gets. The Lion's gradual accumulation of an entourage that begins with a single embittered Fallen and grows to encompass fleets of ships is a way more interesting journey than whatever's going on with the World Eaters. All three leads - the Lion himself, Brother Zabriel and Baelor of the Ten Thousand Eyes - are fascinating characters in their own right with rich depth and distinct voices. In an ironic twist David Guymer also wrote the Lion's "Primarchs" series novel, but his brief exploration of the Lord of the First in his prime doesn't come close to the enthralling character work that Mike Brooks does here. You'd have to go back to Brooks' own Alpharius novel or the original unpacking of Angron by Ian St. Martin to find a Black Library work that makes a Primarch so eminently readable.
The Red Angel read like a story written without a soul, while Son of the Forest clearly went in with both feet to the soul of its subject matter. I'm not saying Angron could or needed to be as deep and intriguing a character as the Lion - the butcher's nails have put paid to him ever being a "person" ever again - but books like The Talon of Horus and its use of Abaddon and the Black Legion show that it's possible to make magnetic characters surrounding a mythical figure like this. One book treated the return of its Primarch as an "event" of fireworks, the other treated theirs as an important narrative moment.
TL;DR - my bfs best friends with mean girls who told me they hooked up with him in detail. His entire group hooks up with eachother. It’s very uncomfortable and not normal but they seem to be fine with it??
This is my first Reddit post but I really need to talk about this. PLEASE read to the end!!!! (I ramble I’m sorry)
My bf and I had an amazing relationship
About 4 months in I finally meet his friend group. The group is comprised of 6 guys and 4 girls. They’ve been a best friend group since high school.
I knew my bf for a year and heard about his friends. When we started dating I was excited to meet them. Especially the girls, since all my closest girlfriends moved out of state. I met 2 of the girls and all of the guys out at a bar. I’d say the girls and I hit it off, I really liked them.
The group had a Boston trip planned and the girls I met asked if I wanted to go. My bf really wanted me there and I was so excited to be invited. Found out last minute that I’d be staying at the girls apartment while all the guys got an air bnb. I didn’t really know the girls but I was okay with this bc I didn’t want to be the only girl with all the guys and wanted my bf to enjoy his guy time. I make friends fast and didn’t think it’d be an issue.
2 girls picked me up from my house 2 hours outside Boston. One of them I hadn’t met. The car ride was the most awkward thing ever. They didn’t play music, they didn’t make any effort to converse, they practically acted like I wasn’t there. I really tried but every conversation got 1 word responses or would fizzle out. When we met the other 2 girls it was best friends reuniting and I became a ghost.
I had such high hopes and tried SO HARD. These girls were so standoffish I truly have never met anyone like them.
The ONLY topic they wanted to talk about was my bf, but only memories they all had with him and how great and close the group is. I felt like there was something wrong with me having so much trouble to talk to them. I barely saw my bf the trip except out at the club at night.
One of the girls, I’ll call her fork, let it slip that she knows what my bf’s penis is like and that I’m lucky. I was SHOCKED. The only kind of nice girl was saying it was drunk talk and that it never happened. She told fork to apologize when they didn’t think I could hear and fork said “why should I it’s funny”.
So I knew he hooked up with one girl in the group let’s call her knife. I found out before we even dated and while I find it uncomfy being around her I’m mature enough to not let it bother me too much. But he never mentioned anything with fork.
The girls left after one night while the guys stayed a night longer. I waited till after my bf got back and brought it up in audio messages.
Let’s just say my bf handled it TERRIBLY. I would bring it up frequently for reassurance that it didn’t happen and he seem to avoid it every time we talk. After 8 days he sent me an audio crying that he had to tell me.
He basically said that they hooked up 4 years ago but they were very drunk and it only lasted 30 seconds. He thought he told me since we talked about all our previous hook ups. When he found out I didn’t know, he didn’t know how to tell me without it looking like he was hiding it on purpose, but waiting to tell me definitely sucked.
He told his guy friends and they all began to demonize fork. He told me I should get an apology but it was over a week later and while what she did was fucked up and uncalled for, she wasn’t the only person I was upset with. I felt like fork became a scapegoat and a way for him to deflect blame. I really didn’t want to come in a close group and cause drama! I just wanted to forget the whole thing happened. He revealed that he hooked up with fork and knife and sent nudes with spork (other girl) in hs.
So yeah. I was not eager to hang out with his friends again, and he was very upset with the girls as well.
Recently, a guy in the group introduces his new girlfriend. Up until then I was the only new girl and no one saw how the girls in the group acted to new girls. With each other and with the guys, the girls in the group are all best friends with everyone. They practically ignored the new girlfriend in front of everyone this time! My boyfriend said it was eye-opening and he has never seen them act like that before and the fact that’s what they did to me made him very mad as well as all the other guys. He told me he doesn’t have to see the girls ever again but it’s hard because they make all the group plans and he doesn’t want to miss out on fun times with his guys.
The last thing I wanted to do was keep him from his friend group, or tell him who he can, and can’t hang out with.
My bf and his friends, as well as all my friends, all say that they would never ever see those girls again or be nice to them after how they acted.
The girls all gushed about me and how great I am to everyone, and treat me great in front of the guys so I am incredibly fake and act like I like them to keep the peace.
Just found out that my bf hooked up with fork 2 years ago and not 4. Why did he lie?
Also EVERYONE has sex with eachother.
Knife hooked up with another guy in the group the same summer she had hooked up with my boyfriend.
Saw fork and she was telling me ho obsessed she is with my boyfriends brother and how badly she’s wanted him.
This all came out this weekend when I saw them at a party . The girls were drunk and going on and on like we were best friends. Fork asked if I could help her with my boyfriends brother, so they could hook up.
Three girls in the group said how bad they would love to end up with another guy in the group because the guys in the group are so great .
I find it actually so repulsive that fork hooked up with my boyfriend and now is after his brother. Is that really creepy and kinda bizarre or is it just me?
Then I saw fork with her arms around a guy in the group when they’ve never hooked up before and they kissed.
The girls have each hooked up with 1-3 guys in the group over 7 years.
THEY ALL ACT LIKE THIS IS NORMAL!!! THE GUYS TOO
They are territorial of the guys and treat their new gfs like shit
Has anyone else met a group of friends that’s literally INCESTUAL?? This cannot be normal!!!!
This is about a member in this group with the name "I love Iseyas Afeworki".
He made a post today demanding the moderators for this group to be elected annually.
I understand what his overall point is and what he is demanding.
However, I find it a bit difficult to have a username like "I love Iseyas Afewerki" and expressing the desire to be entitled to being able to elect moderators for this group ANNUALLY.
There is a nation of 6 million where we all come from and many people have already passed away without ever experiencing an presidential election. Eritrea is the only country in the whole wide world that has never seen an Presidential election. Not even once. Think about it. And most probably we will not have a presidential election going forward.
However Is it not paradoxical that a member of this group who obviously supports Iseyas is calling for annual elections for this group? elections to be held annually??
Why is someone fighting for these democratic values when it comes to his own concerns while his brothers and sisters back home are never allowed to vote? For me, the hypocrisy of the whole thing is unparalleled. Please tell me what are your thoughts on this? Do you see the contradiction? I would be interested in your opinion.
I am not here to maliciously destroy the group or whatever I am accused of. These are normal questions that can and should be raised. Its also not in any way personal, debates are usually not personal, it is just someone stating his opinion.
I'm really more interested in having some intellectual debates and reflection with my People.
Wishing only Peace, Love, Dignity and Prosperity to my beloved Eritrean Nation. One Love.
P.S.: I will not tag this person in this round and will not comment on any of his comments should he join this conversation.
I'm not even where to start, this is long I apologize in advance for errors, I'm on mobile...
Please bare with me as I have multiple chronic illnesses which cause my brain to be mushy 200% of the time... But I'll try to be as detailed as possible, I don't want to give too much away as this is a very serious issue and could get my husband in some serious trouble. Which he deserves to be in, BUT I'm currently waiting on a decision from social security disability so his full time employment means we have a home, food to eat and food for my 3 fur babies. He is supporting me and I do not have anything to fall back on in terms of support so I'm stuck still living with my husband.
The backstory: we've been together for almost ten years now, married for about 3. I have multiple slow progression painful chronic illnesses, I've been sick my whole life and he's taken on a huge responsibility being my partner... And I thought he accepted me for who I am not what I can offer. Mind you I'm not completely disabled, I'm able to do light housework, make his lunch for work, care for our pets and make simple dinners daily... So from chronic illness standards I'm doing pretty well for how progressed they are. Multiple of my illnesses causes severe pain so I take high dose pain meds to regulate myself on top of getting regular epidural steroid injections and ablations of the nerves in my spinal column to be able to walk. Back to the story, about 3 years into our relationship, the first time I noticed my meds were going missing I was on a low dose pain med called tramadol, he lied but eventually admitted to taking "a few". We moved forward but I had to hide my medication. The second time, fast forward a few years and we had moved into our new house. At this point I was taking lower dose Norco, but I was noticing I was light when I shouldn't have been. Confrontation again and I got a lock box. Third time I was spring cleaning and I found an empty checkbook full of my USED fentanyl patches, I had started using those due to not being able to keep my meds down completely. He had shaken them out of my sharps container then stored them away... Still not sure what he was going to do with them, it's basically skin cells by the time I take it off. I was ready to leave at this time but my parents had just moved 2 and a half hours away in a two bedroom small home. I had/have no where to go and no money to use to do anything about it... Things seemed fine for a couple years. The lock box was protecting my meds and things seemed ok... But I was still weary... Unfortunately my room in which I stored my lockbox got really cluttered due to many reasons so it became hard to use. Another part of me wanted to trust my husband. Stupid me, right?
Well to break down my dosage - I am prescribed a medium dose Norco 4x a day. Usually I only take 2-3 depending on pain and ration the rest in case of med shortage. But I was noticing my extra earrings were not as abundant as they should have been but I thought maybe I was taking a bit extra that month since it was winter. Due to recent medication shortages, my dose was increased but for 3x a day. Which I downgraded my dose to 2x a day to make sure I had extra as my pharmacy warned me they still can't get any in.
Come to the other day and I open my bottle to notice I only had a small handful... So I emptied the bottle and counted, i only had enough to take 2 a day for the next three days leaving me not only 3 Norco short for those days, but three days worth was completely gone... My heart sank because I knew what happened... I confronted my husband who lied about it at first but I asked him again and he finally admitted to taking "a few". I screamed at him for awhile before telling him to get out of my face and go to work, so he left. Sitting there I calculated not only did he steal about a months worth (1 a day) for May but he had to of stolen another two months worth during the previous months my meds weren't in the lock box... A MINIMUM of 90 Norco was taken from me when I absolutely needed them.
I wanted to file a police report that morning but was stopped by my mom who reminded me that I'm currently depending on him to survive. Only when social security goes through do I have any options of leaving... I currently pay about $315 a month on a student loan I'm not even able to use. It's not for not trying, I started working at the age of 14 but had to stop in 2020 due to multiple flare ups ending me up at 93 pounds plus in and out of the hospital on the regular.
Current situation, it's been 5 days, I asked him if he had anything to say to me at all, he said no. He still says I love you and tries to kiss me... I lean away in disgust... I'm disgusted with his audacity to take the medication that helps me be a person. I'm disgusted with myself that I do still love him but all feelings have been burned from his actions. It's obvious he has no respect for me and I'm not even sure if he married me because he loves me or if he just thought he'd have easy access to my medications for the rest of his life... Well my life. I feel obligated to continue my "wifely duties" such as making his lunch, picking up the house to the best of my abilities, make us dinner at night as he is the only one on the house so it's his, he's letting me stay despite my cold demeanor... Kinda keep the peace until I can figure a way out... It's selfish but so is he.
I do not have money to move on my own and I have to take my two large dogs and cat with me as he will neglect them, not intentionally, he has ADHD so he just forgets things. My parents said I could come up there but that means every doctors appointment I'm driving 5 hours both ways... And I have 5-7 a month. My best friend is in another state, my other bestie has 4 kids a husband and allergic to animals, 3rd friend lives with her aunt and uncle. I could crash at my brother's for a few days but not any longer... And my neighbor can't house my animals... That is my list of people, I have nobody else... Though who would want to roommate with someone who can't pay rent but can contribute to groceries, cook and light cleaning...
I'm not even sure why I'm posting... I'm very lost and confused. I've officially taken off my wedding band, I know I should file a report but he could lose his job which means he loses insurance meaning I lose insurance... I should leave him but I have nowhere to go... I told him the only way I'd even consider working on our relationship again is if he goes to therapy or rehab but he's said he'd go on the past just to not go or go once then never again...
My only plan I can think of is wait for social security to hopefully approve me then I can get my student loan waved, then I can look into low income apartments or housing... But who knows how long that's going to take, it's been in reconsideration since October of last year (22).
I'm gonna go potato now... Any helpful advice would be magical. Thank you
I am an Israeli, currently living in Turkey, watching Azerbaijani news. I don’t live in Israel, because I’m afraid to live there, our country is constantly threatened by the Ayatollah regime. I now live in Turkey, as it is the most peaceful country, especially in NATO, if the ayatollah regime at least blows towards one NATO country, he is fucked.
I see, besides Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Azerbaijan is also subjected to dirty political games, attacks, provocations and threats from the Ayatollah regime.
I watch the Azerbaijani media, and during all this time it became clear that the ayatollah regime is openly hostile to the Republic of Azerbaijan and envious of it in all aspects.
The main reason for the enmity is that the Republic of Azerbaijan is an independent state that pursues its foreign policy regardless of the opinion of some third party, and this does not suit the ayatollah regime.
The ayatollah regime supports Armenia, and also conducts subversive activities on the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan (thank God, the Azerbaijani special services manage to stop it harshly). The ayatollah regime is involved in drug trafficking abroad.
One thing follows from all this - the Iranian ayatollah regime wants to commit military aggression against Azerbaijan. Fortunately, Azerbaijan is not alone, behind it are: Turkey (and it is in NATO), the Arab monarchies, Pakistan and Israel (they are both nuclear powers).
And you, as Azerbaijanis, will protect your Azerbaijani brothers from the north?
Next Royal Road u/KieveKRS
providing the Trash certification of quality!
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[Thank you for agreeing to teach them.]
Volta nodded, not entirely sure if it was for the best, but recognizing a request—or in this case, a thinly veiled order—for what it was.
Ever since she had taught Scarlet and the others her field, the occasional rotation of Lilhuns would be assigned to work under her for a time. It made her job easier, especially since the settlement was expanding at a ludicrous rate compared to what she had heard from the new members of the pack.
The Atmo that had joined were quickly treated and cared for, those who did not require so much time for recovery quickly accompanying the existing insects in their tasks. The largest, Mama, frequently assisted in construction and decoration of structures, so they worked with her. Once they had oriented how things progressed and their part in it, they were paired off with a construction group to be assigned a project. It was to the point where there were as many as five buildings nearing completion at once, the majority of them being accommodation for the new members of the pack.
The remaining question was regarding the insect kits. The answer? Well, there were four Atmo slightly smaller than the purple ‘Queen’ that had requested Volta instruct them, the pearlescent shimmer of her scaled carapace dancing in the sunbeams afforded by the skylight the den had been constructed with.
Teaching Violet—as well as the two Atmo that Volta had escorted to this pack—in the ways of sanitation had been an interesting endeavour, all things considered. They held a remarkable dexterity in those long edged appendages, but the lack of something to properly grasp with made finding a way to secure a rag onto the ends difficult. Luckily, Heralt was receptive to assisting her with creating something that would attach to the blades.
It was little more than a mop that secured to the joint and braced around the cutting edge gingerly, the ends of the stick using ‘ironwood’ springs to clamp onto fabric pads that would soak in the cleaning solution and allow them to do the floors and walls. Were it not for how shockingly efficient the task was performed, she would have been useless through the laughter at the sight.
Each Atmo kit held two of the devices on their limbs, allowing them to travel in pairs and simply finish large spaces within the time it would take her to prepare the next batch of cleaners to use. They had only started a short while ago and yet two dens had been finished, Scarlet assisting her in doing whatever furniture or ledges the Atmo were unsuited to completing. The odd pack member going through what Head Sahari called ‘versatility training’ listened to her instructions in an oddly compliant manner, giving the blue-furred female pause at the unusual experience.
All in all; the cleaner was guiding the five insects and three Lilhuns in the ways of cleanliness. Scarlet was primarily keeping an eye on those who interacted with the purple-coloured Atmo, her contributions to the other tasks proficient, despite the split attention. Before, she would have assumed the servant quietly acquiescing orders, but the dark red-furred female was particularly vigilant in matters pertaining to the kit now.
Volta wasn’t sure what happened to the other servants that regularly assisted her on a rotation—save for Kaslin, the female seeming to have been unofficially inducted as Grand…. Toril
’s assistant alongside his mate, Tersa—but Faye, the mild-mannered deep gold-furred female, and Raine, the polite and excitable brown-furred female, had been absent for many suns now.
It was almost lonely, in a way.
“That should be sufficient for this den,” she announced to the gaggle of Atmo kits and Lilhuns, careful to remind them not to bother the few ‘rock-worms’ that Ferra kept separate from the rest outside. There were only four, the largest one adorned in an odd script, but they were apparently a selection of favourites of the female. Regardless, it would not do to irritate a mate of Atrox.
The brown-furred male was responsible for the ghastly armour that the Grand Hunter wore on occasion, and she was not in a hurry to see if the disturbing tendencies of the male extended to how he displayed his displeasure.
“Where is our next destination?” Scarlet asked, her tail brushing up Volta’s spine in an uncomfortable way. It wasn’t that she disliked the touch, but the owner of it worried her. Something about the servant struck her as more than what was presented, and it was obvious that the female thought of it as immensely entertaining. That much was obvious, even without the sly grin.
“We have proceeded much faster than I was expecting,” the blue-furred female admitted, mentally checking over her itinerary while subtly batting away the offending appendage. “I suppose we should attempt the barracks while the pack is engaged, then rest for a time.”
[May I leave to check on the other Atmo?]
Volta paused, unsure why it was being requested rather than merely presented as a fact. Violet was—as far as it mattered—completely beyond the cleaner’s station, if only because she was an adopted kit of the Grand Hunter, as well as a sort of leadership figure for the insects. It was an enigmatic blend of positions where the purple insect could very well order Volta to do things, rather than ask. Though the hierarchy was not nepotistic in nature, it was safer to adhere to the wishes of the den-kit than it was to disobey.
“You may. What of the others?”
[I will leave them with you and Scarlet.]
The mentioned servant frowned. “I am to accompany you.”
Violet chittered her curious laugh. [These young ones are your task. I must attend to my own.]
Volta discreetly jabbed the female with a claw, glaring at her not to question the wishes of her better. The less attention drawn from the Grand Hunter, the better. Just picturing the disturbing mask and piercing gaze was enough to make her blanch.
Either reminded of her position, or merely interested in playful retaliation, Scarlet sighed quietly, bowing slightly to the insect. “As you wish, young mistress. Do call for me if I am required.”
[I will. Thank you, Scarlet, Volta.]
Volta lowered her head, watching the Queen leave before returning her attention to the group.
“We will do the first barracks, then determine if we are of time to do the second. The kits are to await the floors cleared of obstruction by the Lilhuns before cleaning them. We will manage it in sections so as not to disturb any who may be taking a break. In future—assuming you are to operate independently from myself—it would be best if you are used to working in groups.”
The Lilhuns nodded their understanding, the young Atmo hesitantly conferring with each other before approaching Scarlet to have their mops freed of soiled cloth and materials placed upon their carriages.
The Atmo had all been outfitted with a specially made platform that fitted over their wider base, clasping underneath past their six legs. It allowed them to transport much, their carrying capacity much larger than one would suspect from their size. The kits could comfortably haul all of the materials for the sun by themselves, and the adults had been the subject of idle speculation for mounted weapon platforms—assuming the fragmented conversation she had chanced upon was to be believed.
Volta inspected the odd section that the Lilhuns under her tutelage completed while she waited for packing to finish. She was not necessarily pleased with the results, but it was more important for them to understand the procedure to take for various locations at the moment. They had proven that they understood what to do for the dens, so next came teaching them how to approach high-traffic areas.
Once everyone had been prepared and the materials gathered, they left the den and started towards the barracks, glimpsing the Grand Hunter sparring with some of the pack in the open.
Ever since the Atmo were delivered by a trade caravan, the male had taken to training much of the pack personally, Huntress Pan taking over much of his more mundane work. Those who were deemed adequate were then pawed off to Head Tel for some specialized training, though Volta was not privy to what exactly it was meant to accomplish.
Regardless, Head Sahari was in charge of rotating out the pack amongst tasks, only a few specialists being directly assigned to any one occupation. By all rights, Volta herself should be training under the male, but the nature of her work meant that she was typically better off doing her job when such was under way. Given that the Grand Hunter was a rare case of someone fully understanding the importance of her specialty—and how little she wished to interact with the alien—she was thankfully spared.
Disregarding the events going on, she motioned for her group to follow her. There was work to do.
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“Two up!” he called out, wiping the sweat from his brow. The exertion cleared his mind, and the break from endless paperwork was appreciated. With the influx of members and various training being required, he had gotten rather exhausted mentally. Between the Wraiths being gone for two weeks since he told them to do recon around the Atmo traders, regular interaction with various caravans, planning out what they needed to do, and Robert still not calling him since the man had left to handle something, he had been pretty high-strung.
As always, there was more on his mind. Harrow had become more elusive regarding him ever since he had her transcribe the Union documents regarding the Lilhuns, their conversations vapid and brief. Jax didn’t have anything useful to say about it other than that she wanted time to sort her thoughts. Toril, Idee, Mi’low, and Bratik were given copies of the file to go over recently, since they were the closest thing he had to a counsel unfettered by a close relationship.
His own makeshift family took the news in an odd way. There was a lot to unpack.
Jax had become quiet, his muscles tensing. Harrow ended up staying away from her mate for a few days until he had stopped brooding about it. In the end; the guy just told Joseph that he would trust the Grand Hunter’s decisions regarding it, finding himself at a loss otherwise.
Sahari and Nalah were approached about the bonding information, the latter denying any bond to him, as well as Sahari confirming the same towards her blond-furred mate. The only line of reasoning that they could think of to make sense was that Nalah’s circumstances had messed with her in some way. The two seemed rather distressed by the assertion, but calmed somewhat when he mentioned that nothing would change between them regardless. Sahari could tell how conflicted he was about the whole thing, he just wanted to give them something to hang on to.
It was a bigger deal for them than he had initially internalized. In retrospect; something revered as a literal gift from their god being denied really
should have been an obvious point of stress. As begrudging as his acceptance was, he was linked to the whole ‘Great Hunt’ business in their minds, so he was aware of how deeply that belief ran. He didn’t personally subscribe to the religion, but they never really bothered him with anything besides overseeing funeral rites—not that he would have refused anyway.
Pan seemed to mirror his feelings on the matter—a dark feeling of helplessness and sorrow. She had fallen quiet when she heard about the trials on the defectives, that particular section hitting her harder than the others. After an entire day of silence, all she had to say about it was that she loved him, and then spent the night burrowed between him and Tel, unable to sleep. He had a hard time as well, but it extended well past the initial night.
Tel had informed him that his restlessness had made it difficult for her to get any shut-eye, his shifting disturbing her, but it was said in a slightly concerned tone. Her general reaction was fairly subdued compared to the rest otherwise, her lifetime of being at either end of a gun numbing her to the reality of things. It was weird for him, but he was deeply thankful for it on some level.
She kept him sane, her cold response being a candid ‘Wish it, and I will end all who displease you.’
For once, her more violent background gave him something to grip onto. It resonated in him—loose, yet present. A door within him, chained and locked, was brought to mind as he really considered what he wanted for those involved. The traders who abused the Atmo, those who seemed so bent on hurting his friends, the Union ‘GUOS’ who called for the experiments... A thrumming settled in his fists, an itch that couldn’t be sated by just scratching.
A paw flew past his brow, his shifted posture allowing him to slip the claws that had been left exposed in the heat of the spar. His heart hammered, his sweat soaked his clothing, and his focus returned to the fight.
No Union, no traders, no worries. Just the two security members who had doubted Jax’s claims that the smaller Human had somehow bested the male in a fight, and were now bringing out their natural weapons on instinct.
Grabbing the wrist with his right hand and gripping the shoulder with his left, he pulled, using the rotational force to pivot on his left foot and haul the overeager Lilhun to the dirt, the appendage bending behind them sharply. A second fist came from the corner of his eye, the other combatant trying to use the momentary distraction to score a hit.
Using the gripped arm as a balance, Joseph leaned into the spin, firing the sole of his shoe into the head of the opportunistic attacker. The loud slap of his foot connecting with the larger male almost outdid the crumpled form crashing to the ground unconscious. It was only a dull sensation of mercy that stopped him from completing the spin while he maintained his iron grip on the arm of the thrown adversary, saving them a torn and dislocated shoulder.
Joseph breathed heavily, the adrenaline wearing out as Jax checked on the defeated. Minus some stiffness expected in one of them and a sore jaw for the other, they would be fine, albeit embarrassed for such a quick disposal in front of their usual teachers.
The sound of his rubber sole slapping on the ground some distance away killed off whatever motivation he had to continue, his shoes finally giving out.
“I would ask you not to disable my security, Grand Hunter,” Jax said with mock frustration, the black-furred male’s eyes following the two leaving with an expression of exasperation.
“Sorry,” Joseph breathed out, his heart hammering in his chest as his system wound down.
The Head of Security glanced down at him, his expression pensive. “As much as I enjoy my boasting of your prowess to be validated, I do worry that you see more than a spar in them.”
He drew his lips thin as he brushed his sweat-soaked hair back, his arm dropping to his side. He took a few moments to sort the thoughts that returned. “I probably should have called that kick, yeah.”
The larger Lilhun snorted. “They will be fine, it is not their health I am worried about.”
“I’m fine, Jax,” he snapped, averting his eyes when his friend seemed to have made his point. “I…. I’ll be fine. Just some things on my mind right now.”
“Joseph,” the black-furred male started, walking up to place a large paw on his shoulder. “We are here if you wish to talk.”
His breath died in his throat, his eyes closing in defeat. He felt the soreness in his hands surface, hours of constant fighting to soothe the burning in his blood that failed to abate. Bruises made themselves known, dehydration made his joints stiff, and lack of sleep clouded his mind. Jax was right, he was a bit of a mess.
“Grand Hunter,” Mi’low called, his tired glance in her direction revealing the female approaching. “We are ready to speak.”
Joseph placed a hand on Jax’s paw, patting it softly. “Talking will have to wait. Tell Harrow I said hi and that I’d like to hang out again. I miss it.”
The male looked at him apologetically, nodding as he was still unable to offer anything to ease the sting of a friend distancing themselves from the Human. “I will.”
The Human cycled a breath and faced the actress. “The rest?”
Mi’low nodded. “Where will we meet?”
Joseph waved an arm towards the base. “My place. More chairs.”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Toril was wearing his usual smile, his eyes inspecting everything about the hub from the couch while Tersa stood nearby, her body language telling that she was wary about being in a new place without time to scout it. Bratik was in his wheelchair, Sorren holding his paw as he sat on the opposite side of the chemist. Idee—being the only one to spend time in the outpost regularly—simply thanked Kaslin for the water from her place between the two mated males. Mi’low had claimed a free chair, her legs crossed and back straight as she stayed away from the others on the couch. The Wraith handed Joseph his requested tea since Scarlet was babysitting the insects, then occupied a place out of the way, but close enough to act if things got heated.
He stayed standing rather than occupying his usual place on a table, his second choice of seating being filled up. He could have dragged over the Atmo couch, but he didn’t want to stress his body any more than he had already by lugging it. “So, everyone had plenty of time to read the documents.”
“Indeed,” Mi’low commented dryly, a glare shot in his direction. Idee nodded, though her expression fell as it was brought up. Toril maintained his detached look of amusement, but it didn’t escape Joseph’s notice that Tersa stiffened.
The Grand Hunter took a sip of his refreshment, enjoying the fleeting feeling of warmth from something other than exertion. “And what do we think?”
“We?” Sorren asked, the male not quite used to the Human using their tongue. Joseph’s mastery of the language was still spotty at times, but Kaslin could fill any gaps if needed.
“Yeah,” he replied plainly. “It has more to do with you than me. I just got the message.”
“I find it rather fascinating,” Toril opined cheerily, his energy at odds with the atmosphere of the room. “Such thorough study allows us many insights into facets of our own biology that we may never have known!”
“By slaughtering our kin in the thousand,” Mi’low shot back, a slight snarl pulling her lip.
“As regretful as such is, we can not bring them back,” the chemist noted with a small nod. “We must simply use the information gleaned by our foes without repeating their atrocities.”
“You suggest ignoring their sins?”
“I suggest utilizing what they have learned and incorporating it to our advantage.”
“Or,” Joseph interjected, “we talk about it instead of getting into an argument.”
“Your people are not free of fault, Grand Hunter
,” the crimson-furred female spat. He remained silent, already having spent far too long thinking about how none of it would have happened if Humans weren’t in the picture for them.
“You can not hold him as a factor, Mi’low,” Idee said softly, shifting in her seat to get comfortable and smiling apologetically at Sorren when she bumped him.
“Were it not for them, then we may not have lost our homes!”
“Were it not for him
you would be little more than bones bleached by the sun, or so I hear.”
“We are not here to cast blame,” Bratik disputed quietly, his voice carrying through the room despite the low volume. “The Grand Hunter has saved each of us. Some from demise, others from the shackles of their station, and others from the fate of losing loved ones.”
Toril and Idee shared a glance as the male continued, Tersa paying attention to him for the first time.
“He seeks our counsel. Not our aimless ire to be spewed upon him for that which he himself had no knowledge of, nor involvement in. His kin were as much victims as our own.”
“Quite,” Toril concurred as the two females ceased their bickering reluctantly. “How would you like to address this, Grand Hunter?”
Joseph blinked, expecting the blame, but not Bratik defusing it so quickly. “Well, we have a few things to work off of. Years of experiments coinciding with missing persons after accepting a job, whoever tipped off your military taking info with them about Sol and the ‘blacklist’, whatever bond fuckery they discovered, and the defects.” He shrugged weakly. “Take your pick.”
“There are too many missing across too wide an area to recognize such a comparative few,” Idee stated, the others in the group silently agreeing.
He nodded, nursing his tea with small sips. “Figured that would be a sticking point. Plus, we don’t really know how long it was going on... or when it started... Not even if it was a bulk recruitment or slow trickle. I guess the missing people are something we’ll just have to keep unknown.”
“The bond information was rather enlightening,” Toril mentioned, his eyes rising to the ceiling as he thought about it. “Our peoples are wildly compatible.”
“As servants, perhaps,” came the scathing remark from the High Huntress. “What use is our gift if it is twisted to be mere subservience? To discard ourselves for some alien race?”
Sorren’s ear flicked. “It is hardly ‘twisted’ to protect that which the Hunt Mother has afforded us.”
“Are we to just accept
that our bonds are better suited to that
,” she emphasized with a pointed claw in Joseph’s direction, “rather than our kin?”
“Drop it,” the Grand Hunter ordered tiredly, his reflection in his beverage shaking as he shifted on his feet. “Arguing isn’t going to help anything.”
Mi’low held her disgusted expression. “You ask us to trust that which led to our downfall? We are yet another strike against your kin, no?”
He shook his head, his eyes buried in remains of the shimmering image he held in his hands. “I blame the sick fucks that did all this. If you can’t agree with that, then there’s not much reason to hold this meeting.”
“What is it you seek to accomplish?” Toril asked, amused by the theatrics. The rest seemed surprised by Mi’low’s pointed aggression, but the chemist was more interested in continuing.
“I have people looking to get me out of here,” Joseph informed them, laying his empty cup on the table with a soft clack. “People who will probably extend the offer to you. If they come, I need to know what we’re doing about it. The last thing I need is people acting like Mi’low and opening fire on whoever comes to drag us out of the mud.”
“Why would we?” Sorren asked, taking his mate’s paw as he gave a worried glance to the offended female.
“Because our people were tortured due to our interactions with them,” the chemist noted in a matter-of-fact tone, his pleasant demeanour remaining despite the morbid topic.
“Did our people not initiate contact with another species on less hostile terms?” Idee asked, her head tilted slightly.
“But no one lived to talk about it,” Joseph countered, gesturing with an upturned palm. “Plus, that’s assuming whoever was in charge of that call being the norm, rather than the exception.”
“You believe our people to act otherwise?” Bratik asked, his tone inquisitive rather than judgmental.
Joseph shrugged. “To be fair, I’ve almost been killed by more of your species than the wildlife. Granted, a few of those were just people being assholes, but still.”
“Many would see the opportunity as retribution for the Union,” Mi’low mentioned dryly.
Sorren’s face fell. “Then we should not propagate this knowledge?”
The Human glanced between each of them. “That’s why you’re here. My group knows because I trust them with it. I think we should keep this to ourselves, but if we do—and someone finds out—it would just cause a lot of issues. Alternatively; we tell everyone.”
“And suffer the consequences of that action as well,” Idee concluded dejectedly. Joseph returned a wry smile as Toril raised a paw, speaking when the Grand Hunter raised a brow at him.
“Perhaps we should withhold the information from the lesser station?”
“Like, just the Grand Hunters?” Joseph inquired cautiously. Toril tilted his head.
“Those who would be more diplomatically minded, perhaps.”
“I don’t exactly see some of them as what you would call ‘diplomatic’ and I’m not going on some voyage to visit everyone with the info in tow.”
“We are able to make copies,” Sorren offered. “Perhaps we could exchange the information using traders and gain something from it as well?”
Mi’low shook her head. “That is assuming they do not claim us manipulative nor seek to remove him. Some may very well move to strike us all down for ‘withholding’ the information, regardless of how readily we supply it.”
“Do your people know?” Bratik interjected, gathering the attention of the others. Joseph winced in uncertainty.
“I’m not sure. I’d guess my brother does, but I don’t know how sensitive things are. It could have been announced and there’s an intergalactic war, or it might be kept under wraps until conflict isn’t as likely. At least until it’s less likely to blow up in our faces, anyway.”
“They are of lesser force?”
“No clue,” he admitted. “Not my area. All I do
know is that there are more species allied against us—or at least aren’t inclined to take a bullet—than are.”
“So our options are rather limited,” Idee concluded, receiving a series of agreements.
“We could,” Mi’low said after a few moments of contemplation, “distribute the information anonymously. Humans are not named directly in the document, and we need not divulge its origin.”
“So, what? Just pass people tablets and ask them to forget where they got it?” he probed, not entirely disagreeing with the idea, but skeptical all the same.
“Tersa may make additions to trader inventories without their knowledge,” Toril offered, the mentioned Blade frowning at him, but not protesting. “Or perhaps Trill’s kit, since she is devoted to yourself.”
“Eh. I guess that’s an option,” he conceded, sighing. “So, about the bond; any opinions? Notes?”
“Stay away from me,” Mi’low answered warily, earning a flat scowl.
“I meant something besides that. I’m not too keen on adding to the cluster-fuck I have going on anyway.”
Sorren smiled. “I am excited to meet your people—should I be so blessed. There are many who would never know the joy of the Hunt Mother’s gift otherwise.”
“I would not mind her words, Grand Hunter,” Toril chuckled. “She is a creature of dishonesty—including her own desires.”
The actress glowered at the chemist. “I preferred it when you were nomadic. It was much easier to ignore your presence. Your words were but some distant wind I need not soil my ears with.”
“Perhaps our meeting is best ended here,” Bratik interjected, waving his functional paw. The other arm was coming along, but still too stiff to use for much. “We should propagate the information through unsigned parcels to the Grand Hunters.”
“One last thing,” Joseph said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “The information on Sol; anything ever get done with that?”
“We were capturing habitable planets in a particular direction, though the decision to do such was made by our superiors.”
He nodded. “Makes sense. Same issue we have now. Can’t let everyone know because chaos is a lot easier to manage when it’s directed. Between the religious connotations and the context around it; there’s no saying if it would lead to riots or worship. Rather not bring the problem to our door.”
“Wise,” Mi’low remarked sarcastically, her judgmental side-eye aimed between him and Sorren.
“Alright,” he said with a raised voice, ignoring the red-furred female to the best of his ability. “Drop off letters and lock myself in a room or something. Sounds like a plan.”
“That will not be required,” Sorren corrected with a laugh. “Though the documents confirmed a high percentile of successful bonds, there were many incompatible pairings. It is unlikely that your informant included every variation of failure, but the bond seems to be as selective as usual, just more receptive to those who meet the criteria. I would speculate that the majority of those who would bond to you by now, have. Barring the new additions, of course. I doubt you will need to worry about bonding to half a species by yourself.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” he muttered. “Okay, you’re free to go back to your work. You know who to talk to if something comes up.”
The gathering dispersed, Toril requiring Tersa to drag him by the ear before he got too distracted. Mi’low stayed behind, waiting for everyone else to leave.
“Thoughts?” he asked, glancing over at her. She shook her head as she dropped the antagonistic persona.
“Two attribute you to their religion, Toril is too interested in your species to act against your best interest, and Idee rather enjoys her time here—as well as sympathizes with your position. Tersa’s allegiance is with Toril, so she will follow him, as well as your tentative arrangement as a superior over her.”
“So, we’re good?”
“We are,” she confirmed. He looked at her for a long moment.
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Going to try and kill me again?” he questioned wryly.
The High Huntress snorted. “Unfortunately, my pack has ostensibly become yours, and with it, my fate. They would rather watch me go than follow. It seems your influence extends past our biology.”
Without an opportunity for him to ask what she meant, she headed to the exit, pausing in the doorway when he called out to her.
“Mi’low?” Her ear tipped back towards him. “Thanks. For putting yourself on the block like that. I know how risky that could have been for you.”
She afforded a single nod before letting it close behind her.
“’Past our biology’, huh?” he muttered, eyeing the empty cup on the table.
He considered bothering Tel, since she would likely offer him a distraction for a while.
Sighing at his remaining intact shoe flopping as he stepped, he decided to do exactly that.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
“How are we holding up?”
Tech leaned back in her chair, yawning widely. “Communications have been down for a while, navigation software is pointing everywhere at once, and if it wasn’t for me, everything else would be dark too.”
“All hail Tech Ops,” Comms quipped, struggling to make his system do much more than transmit static on a loop.
Willin rolled his eyes at Tech’s boasting, but she was probably right to do so. They had aligned themselves in the right direction and simply let navigation go, communications discreetly blinking out as they got close without warning. All they had left was the actual piloting and onboard support systems, both of them hanging by a thread until Tech could run diagnostics to see if she could counter them properly. She might be able to eventually, but she didn’t seem confident beyond keeping the crew mobile and alive.
“How’s it look down there?”
Nav had long since given up making sense of their controls, opting to keep watch for whatever they were approaching. Since they had gotten within visual range, they had occupied themselves using whatever scanning equipment Tech managed to keep shielded. They leaned over the readouts, brows raising before furrowing at the information.
“It appears that they have remained fairly close together. I am reading several AEC distress signatures... Why am I able to?”
Tech raised a paw. “Right here. The jamming is consistent with the United Military’s algorithms, though boosted past what we have the equipment to manage. Can’t override it for you or Comms, but it was never meant to counter the low-frequency of a distress pulse, since that would get lost in normal noise anyway. I took the liberty of limiting the scope of collected data to increase the sensitivity.”
“Not much frequency pollution on an untapped planet,” Willin remarked dryly, his screen mirroring what Nav was looking at. Thirty-eight sources, most of them repeating the initial call-signs. Two seemed to have retained some power, though not much, implying a makeshift solution. There would normally be more to glean, but the measures taken to make picking them out at all possible had stifled it.
“Orders?” Nav asked after a moment. Willin considered it, scouring the somewhat distorted visual feed.
“Let’s get closer first.”
He adjusted his uniform as they drew near, Tech frowning as more of her fail-safe measures ironically failed. Quick action saved them from listing aimlessly, but any chance of copying the survivor’s distress call faded. The AEC’s were effectively invisible until Tech had dealt with the issue preemptively, and their beacon wasn’t any stronger.
Detriment of a scout craft, he supposed. Help would have to deal with not knowing where his ship had gone until they were up to their necks in the warp-spike’s field. Hopefully, the EW fleet would manage it better.
“Just outside of atmosphere,” Nav reported, activating the scanning equipment again. Normally, it would be able to tell them everything down to the rough number of wildlife in an area, but all the interference gave them little more than confirmation that life existed
“Well, there goes any advanced recon,” Willin muttered, ignoring Comms silently debating if he should bother Tech to duplicate the feed again. Noticing, she did anyway, the male gesturing their thanks. “Tech, can you get us population density?”
“I’m good, Leader, but not that good.”
“Leader,” Nav called, highlighting a few points on the feed. Whatever it was that they were trying to show him, he didn’t see it. “These areas are likely settlements.”
“Affirmative. It is subtle, but there.”
He nodded, trusting their judgment. “Which is the largest?”
The feed zoomed in, losing most of the clarity—not that there was much to begin with. “Location coincides with an AEC still actively reporting.”
“They set up around it.”
Willin exhaled slowly. “Take us down nearby. I’d say to hide us, but that’s hard to do with open skies.”
“The planet suffers constant rain,” Tech added, her screen already reverting back to a simplistic game while she waited for someone else to need something. “We could descend under the cover of it.”
“Any idea how long?”
Her monitor flickered. “One local sun.”
“Then we spend the time gearing up,” he ordered, waving to have Nav and Comms’ screens defaulted. “You two will make sure our defence armaments ship-board are active and loaded. Tech, queue up whatever armour and equipment we might need for a diplomatic mission.”
She turned in her chair, her head tilting questioningly. “Just us?”
“Just us. We’ll want someone here to keep things warm in case we need to leave quickly. Can you get Comms’ station capable of short-wave?”
She nodded after a moment, her eyes losing focus as she consulted her implant. “We’ll lose the fabricator during, but we should have enough for life-support and in-atmosphere flight. Weapons will have to be swapped out with it too.”
The purple-furred female shrugged. “It’s that or I take down the defences and we lose it all.” She frowned at her screens. “Even this is pushing it.”
“Can you take down the purifier once we’re down there? Switch to external flow?”
“As long as you don’t mind alien air, sure. It won’t give us more to work with, but it should make it less taxing to keep what we have.”
Willin scratched at his ear. “Do it. They lived here this long, doubt we’ll join the Void breathing it too.”
He shifted his attention back to Nav. “Set course to that settlement. Keep us above the clouds until it gets bad enough to obscure us.”
Nav signalled their agreement, the scenery shifting slowly as they picked a cloud to shadow in the meantime. Comms looked at Willin expectantly, forcing him to come up with something for the male to do.
“Comms, I want you to monitor anything this place has coming in or out. Set up surveillance.”
The male raised a brow. “My systems are inoperable, Leader.”
“If you try to do anything big
, yes,” Willin corrected. “Just keep us informed if something goes through. We don’t need to know what
happened, just that it did
“Keeping track of possible communications between settlements?”
Willin bobbed his head to the side. “Whatever we learn, it’s more than we know.”
“Understood. I will try to arrange a passive probe.”
The group set about their tasks as he brought up a still-frame of the settlement Nav spotted. It was blocky, blurry, and the chromatic aberration on the edges hurt to look at, but it was a settlement. A large AEC surrounded by silver constructions, all laid out in a slightly haphazard way. He couldn’t judge it too harshly, however. There was a method to the madness. Narrow pathways hidden between dens, each leading to the AEC like a system of routes for select Lilhuns to reach anywhere they may be needed as quickly as possible.
The AEC itself seemed modified, large solar panels placed where a solid hull would be expected, the semi-transparent material likely acting to illuminate the interior. Many of the buildings around it were larger than those beyond, some appearing to be two or three levels.
From sheer volume of dens, Willin figured this was a contender for the largest settlement. His best estimate placed the number of inhabitants in the range of three hundred or so. If the other settlements were even close, then the initial guess of a thousand survivors was woefully short.
That made things complicated, yet so much simpler.
He awaited the distant storm clouds rolling over the landscape, thankful Tech had prioritized the water-proof gear.
He hated being soaked.
Next A/N: 500k words. Half a fucking million.