It has been said by brilliant men of the past that there are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.

This, however, is not a complete venn diagram, for there are still unknowingly knowns, Knowing knowns, and things that you know that you know – yanno?

One of the things that you know that you know, when you’re in the know, is when someone knows something that you don’t know but doesn’t know that you know that they know, and continues to pretend that they don’t know.

“So. One more time for my translator’s sake.” Admiral Smalls said to the vidscreen before him, the Dorarizin idly flicking an ear in irritation on the other end of the line.

“[As I said, Admiral.]” Kzdzgrar-of-Rzndzre repeated in slow, practiced speech, “[There was a health and safety incident with one of the new colonists on an unformatted plot of land. There are no injuries reported, and they will be returned to the [Human] nexus soon. When I receive an update, you will be updated, per our accord.]”

“Per our accord, Administrator -” Adm. Smalls responded, taking a dossier from one of his aids and opening it up, “- we should have been notified… within 5 minutes of the initial call, if it was a health and safety incident, to aid first responders with medical and cultural walkthroughs and over-the-shoulder monitoring of the colonists in question for emergencies your people may not be trained to catch.”

“[It is… a system that we have just finished implementing and not yet used, Admiral. I humbly request that you allow us to make a mistake, now and again, as we strive towards perfection amongst our species.]”

Adm. Smalls sighed, flatly looking at the giant lying wolf-bear-alien-thing. “I, and my superiors, senators, the press and basically everyone who rubs two braincells together are going to have a real problem with this. The agreement here is worded so loosely that you could have technically contacted us, though our shipping fax number, and that would have counted as ‘notification’. Yet, You apparently had the time, coordination and ability to summon a significant contingent of response ships to a single point, manage that air traffic around it, and then continue to manage airspace as they dispersed.”

Idly, he opened the dossier again, glancing over the law brief. “Yet, and here’s another loophole for you, you couldn’t send a 3 line text that read … if I’m reading this right, ‘Health And Safety Incident. Involves These Citizens. Stable Condition.’”


“By text.”

“[It’s an unsecur-]”

“Can’t be more than 5kb of data.”

“[The process wasn’t-]”

“Can we just… try this again. One more time-”

“[Admiral, I apologize.]” Kzdzgrar-of-Rzndzre interrupted, giving a little bow of her head. “[But the story will not change from telling to telling; There’s no new information, and I’ll let you know when I know something.]”

“You can’t even tell us which one of our people are involved?”

“[I don’t know.]”

“You can’t tell us which ship they’re on.”

“[I don’t know.]”

“You can’t even tell us where our own first responders should go to wait for the civilians? Or how about reports of one of our safety pods being ripped right from it’s foundation-”

“[Admiral.]” Kzdzgrar growled, harsh staccato clicks coughing out through the deep rumble. “[You’ll know when I know. This conversation serves as the fulfillment of our notification obligation; I apologize sincerely that it was late. If it’s an issue, I can direct you to the inquiry paperwork necessary to launch a formal review of the process. Now. I will update you when we are ready to update you.]”

Admiral Smalls nodded to himself, closing the dossier with a light thap. “Alright. Just don’t be surprised when the other shoe drops.”

“[We shall… keep our eyes open for footwear, I assure you.]” Kzdzgrar-of-Rzndzre diplomatically responded, her muzzle furrowing in slight confusion. “[Is there anything else I can help you with?]”

“No. That’ll be all. Thank you for your time.”

The screen went dark, and for a half-second as the black membrane de-ionized, Admiral Smalls caught himself smirking in the obsidian reflection.

“That’s a pretty cheeky code phrase, Sir.”

“Eh.” Adm. Smalls shrugged halfheartedly, placing the dossier on his console. “It’s an un-encrypted channel, which is probably why she didn’t tell me anything at all. The real question is, why didn’t she try to move us over to secure communications?”

“I don’t know, Sir.” The Attache said, checking his tablet. “But our Shoebox is starting it’s drop. No change in ETA.”

Admiral Smalls sat down at his console, staring out into the sea of stars, as somewhere far below him, with an imperceptible nudge of it’s thrusters, a vantablack drop pod changed it’s orbit.

– – – – –

“[Alright, we’re coming around now – is our cargo secure?]”

Zngrer-of-Drgrabgh made deliberate eye contact with the tiny-chomper under her arm, who did nothing but glare at her. His brother was…. Somewhere in the cargo netting; Was he going to shift around if they had to do a maneuver? No. Would he most likely need to be cut out once they landed? Yes.

“{Yeah. We’re fine.}”

“[Good! We’re getting priority docking clearance now; I’m going to lower the ramp – let me know if we’re still good to go!]”

Zngrer sighed audibly as she gripped one of the overhead rails, the craft rocking imperceptibly from side to side as her able pilot bled speed and began to hover. As this was an emergency operation, and so few landing pads were…. Completed, let alone open, they had to pick the best option and go for it. Pad 5 just held some family’s livestock – easily replaceable, if push came to shove – and nothing else of value, so it was deemed the best possible place to land.

“{Landing Pad 5 is Clear.}” Zngrer-of-Drgrabgh said, leaning over slightly to check around the craft. Small-but-forgetful took this moment to start squirming again, because of course he would,-

“[You crush my family’s farm puta we gonna have some words-]”

“{Oh, so you can talk-}”


“{Not You, Battery-type-A. I meant your brother-}”

“[Look can I land or not?]”




“[Copy! Damn, no need to be so angry – putting the glider down now -]”

With an unceremonious thud, the emergency response skimmer’s landing struts bumped and flexed under the slightly-fast landing, pilot Szreshnstrst flaring the engines once just to “push” the craft into the landing pad and stop it from skittering anywhere before the magnetic clamps could engage. With an unnecessarily loud buzzing the magnetic inlays within the landing pad itself turned on, the craft suddenly becoming ridiculously steady on the platform.

“[… well that’s a landing that didn’t break your jaw, so Huzzah!]” Szreshnstrst called from his Pilot’s console, going through the wind-down process to make the ship inert. “[But seriously, we need to discuss how these pads are designed because there was no telemetry from the ground up to position…]”

Zngrer-of-Drgrabgh tuned out her partner’s traditional post-mission de-stress babble as she surveyed the landing pad around the ship. There was still ample space to maneuver, that’s certain, but the thrust and force of their skimmer craft had… upset the locals to a degree. Zngrer knew almost nothing of Dirt wildlife, but she knew a stress response when she saw one.

“{Have we contacted their colonial headquarters yet? Do we – oh. I guess… I guess that’s the welcome committee?}” Zngrer-of-Drgrabgh murmured into her comm as the elevator to the landing pad slowly rose, a couple-dozen tiny-chompers in both military, utility and civilian clothing swarming out of the pen once the gate opened up. So many of the little sapients would’ve been a distraction, sure, had there not been a bigger oddity of three other Xenos – civilians, by the look of it – carrying what seemed to be a gigantic egg.

“[-kill them to also project the magnetic fields. I mean, I know they can’t see it but It’ll help us if we have to l-]”

“{I’m… gonna go check this out.}”


“{Nothin, just, hang tight and uh… I think one of ‘em is stuck.}”

“[Wait what-]”

– – – – – –

Luciana was right – partially right, but, you never go partial when you’re right. This is the first rule of dealing with family; You are always 100% correct, and only sometimes rarely partially (but not totally) incorrect. When the tight grouping of ships made a full pass around the landing towers, she was concerned. When they picked her family’s pad to land, she had to make it a point to tell her mother to wait up, as she had already begun to sprint towards the nearest entrance to the Human quarters.

Abuela, for her part, was tucked in gently to her safety pod, had a few more selfies taken, and was then rapidly absconded with back towards the human quarters. The Jornissian Hydra attempted to follow to provide “moral support” but various automated and highly unnecessary self-defense systems stopped that measure of goodwill dead in it’s tracks.

Getting sprayed with subzero saline water is just cruel, no matter who you are.

Regardless, Tipo, Wiggles, Persimmon, Eggbuela, Luciana and Sofia were rapidly joined by self-defense personnel, emergency personnel and the entirety of the Aleman clan as they raced to the elevator.

Were the Alemans told that the ship contained their sons? No.

But they felt it.

And no matter who you are, when an entire clan of farmers says “we’re getting on the elevator”, you make space.

The ride up was silent, save for the ambient noise of the wind and the slowly-dying sounds of the cityscape below. As they gained altitude the temperature dropped; what was a pleasant dip from 90 to 70 degrees in the day went to 50 or lower at night. There was a small moment up the elevator ride when the city was too far away to be a nuisance, the wind was too steady to be anything other than background noise, and the concern of the livestock was barely audible. In that moment, half-audible prayers were lifted, bags and mags were checked, and a young boy held his hen a little closer to his chest.

Abuela, by virtue of being on Wiggles’ back, was technically the first to see what had happened. However, she was not paying attention to her vidscreens as she was passed out pretty hard, so she doesn’t count. After her came Persimmon, who attempted to stretch up and get a better vantage point. Unfortunately this left him terribly exposed to a few Juans, who took this opportunity to piggyback on the poor Jornissian – literally – causing him to wobble back down onto the elevator floor. By the time everyone had untangled themselves the elevator floor had basically docked, and once the floodgates opened, well-

“Where are my children-

“Ma’am I’m going to have to ask you to-”

“Horses – get the horses Joaquin-”

“What in the fuck- Andres?! WHERE ARE YOU-”

“Fuck off-fuck off-

[Sir I’m sorry I’m trying to help and I need to cut you down from-]”


“Boy how did you get into the fucking netting-”

“[Sir please I need you and your family to step away this knife is sharp and I need to work on the netting-]”

“[FUCK you – Juans! Chingalo-]”

As Wiggles and Persimmon worked on gently placing the Abuelegg on the ground, Ngruzren-of-Arzgr locked eyes with what seemed to be a planetary defense soldier of some sort. She – Tipo was sure it was a she – was having some sort of conversation with some of the first responders, who were gesturing wildly to the limp tiny-chomper under her arm. Tipo watched as she reached up and unlocked her helmet, revealing-



He blinked, and felt himself move forward as if in a dream. The cold night air – admittedly never bothered him – but now, he didn’t feel it. In a moment, a few deep breaths, he was there.

He was there with her.

– –


Zngrer-of-Drgrabgh was in the middle of explaining to one of the attendant tiny-chompers that no, this human was perfectly healthy and that yes, she demanded to speak to his parents, when a very… breathy greeting was pushed her way. Zngrer looked up and kept as steady a face as she could, given the circumstances.

Boys this young and this good looking do not go after girls like her. And yet.


The young boy – no, man, university, maybe? – giggled and pierced her with his eyes. His mane was wild and unkempt in this breeze, his loose jacket seeming to billow and yet, hug his frame. Give peeks of what’s below only when the spirits deemed her fit to see, and even then, only for an instant. He reached up and idly ran a claw through his fur, fingers idly finding a tuft to twist while he just… looked at Zngrer. Looked at her and looked through her.


“{Hey. Uh.}” Zngrer’s mouth seemed full of lead; words were so difficult. He’s just a man – albeit, a very hot man – and it’s fine and

“{I uh… like your uniform. Um. PDF?}”

“{Y-yeah.}” Zngrer smiled, her ears seeming to tilt and broadcast her emotions for all to see.

She didn’t care.

“{And uh, y-you?}”

“{Guide me.}” he said, mouth hanging open slightly as he seemed to arch his back, those damnable, blessed eyes swallowing her whole, pouring her into his core just as he would pou-


“{I-I uh.}” The student broke eye contact, and just like that the spell was over. The arched back was simply wrapping his jacket tighter around his body, his mouth suddenly turning into a soft frown.

No. Not like that. Don’t look like that.

“{I’m just a tiny-chomper tour guide-}”

Please. Look at me again. Look at me with those eyes, in that way, just once more. Let me carry that for a few years, please.

“{O-oh! Oh well, that must be fun, though-}”

“{Yeah… yeah it is. I’ve got my friends-}” He looked behind him, and she pretended to follow his gaze, but lingered on his form. Her peripheral vision was telling her forebrain something about a Jornissian and Karnakian citizen chasing after a giant rolling egg as the winds whipped it around, but her hindbrain had taken over.

And it liked what it saw.

The male turned back and looked at her again, a slightly embarrassed blush spreading across his face. And those eyes, not piercing, but warm… soft.

. . . .


“{Oh! Oh uh, um… here! S-since you like tiny-chompers and all-}” Zngrer-of-Drgrabgh stammered, presenting the floppy tiny-chomper to the boy. “{I uh. We saved this one. And his uh, brother, in the-}” Zngrer turned her head slightly to motion back to the ship, her eyes registering about a half-dozen tiny-chompers taking turns giving her pilot/partner the People’s Elbow. “{-…ship…}”

Warm hands.

Warm hands caressed her own, and she turned and tensed at the sudden closeness. The gap between them had closed, and warm hands covered her own, pressing the tiny-chomper into his soft mane.

“{Thank you…}” He murmured, his arms wrapping around the still-limp-out-of-utter-confusion sapient, cradling the tiny-chomper gently. “{I’m Ngruzren-of-Arzgr.}”

“{Handsome name. I’m Zngrer. Zngrer-of-Drgrabgh. I uh… yeah.}”


The two smiled at each other, as the wind whipped them gently, passionately, forcing movement of clothing and fur where otherwise there would be none.

And their eyes locked together.


Everyone on the landing pad jumped – Zngrer moving to defensively shield Ngruzen with her body as something slammed into Landing Pad 04. From the twisted wreckage of the interocitor arose La Chancla’s UNIT ZERO ONE, coffin-pod aggressively exploding out from the crater’d landing site, shredding fuel lines, a goodly portion of a civilian shuttlecraft and cooking off a few atom storage boxes. As the exotic material began to cook off and ignite, bathing the pad and the viewers in harsh reds, yellows, oranges and whites, the pinnacle of human military mecha technology stood proudly.

Well. “Stood”. We’ll get to that next chapter. The point is, it counts as standing, and those count as arms, and that means it is technically a Gundam and if you’d like to argue with triple-linked GAU-12 turrets then you’re more than welcome to.

“[THE HUMAN MILITARY HAS SOME QUESTIONS FOR THE COMMON MAN ON THE STREET.]” ZERO ONE bellowed, the fire spreading to cover most of landing pad 04, causing it’s tower to look like a perverse parody of an olympic torch.