Ngruzren-of-Arzgr was unceremoniously woken up yet again by that damnable alarm clock. He had a love-hate relationship with it; On one hand, it made sure he was never late for school or work. On the other hand, he hated constantly waking up on the floor.

But maybe that’s where he belonged.

He got up, tossing his blanket carelessly to the side, stretching and rolling his shoulders and hips to work out the kinks from sleeping so haphazardly. Plastered aggressively on his moss-green walls were posters of various rage bands – the “killers”, “pirates” and other various bad-girl personas growling and leering at him from looping digital portraits. Growling a few lurid lyrics to himself he walked into his bathroom, flicking on the harsh light – now bathing him in an almost neon blue as opposed to the faux-daylight of just a few months ago. He checked himself in the mirror with a critical eye for a few moments and then frowned.

Although having such a large natural and unkempt mane was his style now, that didn’t mean it was easy to keep. Ngruzren-of-Arzgr opened one of the drawers underneath the countertop and pulled out an aerosol can and it’s corresponding brush; connecting the two at the handle he began to spray a deep and vivid vantablack into his fluffy coat, his neck and upper shoulders rapidly going from a slightly-dull black to the void between stars. Disconnecting the dye brush he set it back with it’s brothers and sisters, idly hovering his hand over a few more outrageous colors before deciding against recoloring his accent marks.

Black, deep black, was it’s own statement.

Ngruzren leaned forward and stared intently into the mirrorscreen, it’s AI recognizing body posture and intent and expanding his view to focus on his eyes. Unnaturally bright, blood blue eyes stared back at him, and with a command from his implant they were scanned. The nanites currently clouding his irises and causing the pigment change were statistically counted; he shouldn’t start losing color due to nanite death for another week or so.

He let himself smile before turning it coy, tilting his head with a come-hither bad-boy look. With another shrug of his shoulders, it turned from come-hither to utterly unimpressed.


He stayed like that for a few moments before letting a few full-body wiggles roll through his body. He looked damn good, and he wasn’t going through this much trouble because it was some stupid phase, no matter what his father said. Ngruzren-of-Arzgr let those good feelings roll over him for a few more moments before that trademark early-morning frown graced his features again.

There was still a gap in his jaw.

Grumbling – snarling, really – he opened the cursed drawer, pulling out that damned box once again. He had thought about possibly throwing it away, or going without, but – but what good is looking this good if you open your mouth and lisp so hard nobody can understand you? That is guaranteed social suicide. With a click of a latch the heavily-scarred lid popped open, his prosthetic gleaming up at him, fresh and perfect from a sonic scrubbing. He picked up the device and slapped the damned thing onto his lower jaw, closing and clenching his teeth to get the micro-servos to activate. With a firm pinch of his gums the device turned on, for a lack of a better word, and he closed the box, haphazardly tossing it back into it’s drawer.

“{Ba. Ra. Fa. Sa. Ka.}” He growled, wandering through his room to pick up a discarded book here, some clothing accessory there, assembling his outfit for the day using the age-old and universal standard of “what clothing in front of me doesn’t stink and isn’t too crumpled from laying on the floor?”. “{Da. Br. Dr. Kr. Lrsh.}” Ngruzren paused for a moment and rolled his tongue against the seal of his prosthetic, testing it slightly. “{Lr. LR. LLLRRRRR.}” Hopefully it was just the damn thing warming up – if he had grown his jaw a bit over the past year, that would mean he would have to go in for another fitting, another round of some doctor telling him no, and another round of his dad being right.

Ngruzren frowned, hard, at that thought.


‘The issue’, Dzgranra-of-Arzgr thought, as he fried another handful of mixed sausages while giving his youngest son the side-eye, ‘Is that his mother isn’t home enough’. Dzgranra-of-Arzgr said nothing, however, as his youngest son gently swatted away some of the smaller leapies who were hoping to latch onto him, doing his best to protect an outfit that looked… well worn, if you wanted to be generous.

“{Good Morning, son.}”


“{Did… you sleep well?}”

“{I’m going out for breakfast.}”

Dzgranra sighed.

“{Do you want Rzkrenz to drive you? You can pick-}”

“{I’ll walk.}” Ngruzren-of-Arzgr growled, walking without a care through the busy kitchen on his way out.

“{Are you sure? It’s not a big deal to-}”


Dzgranra-of-Arzgr frowned, tossing the next batch of sausages into the pan with a little more force than necessary. “{Don’t you raise your voice at me! I’m-}”


Ngruzren-of-Arzgr barreled out of the house, and if the doors weren’t automatic Dzgranra was certain he would have slammed them on his way out.

“{Definitely because his mother isn’t home.}”


Ngruzren-of-Arzgr walked to the transport hub, grumbling to himself the entire way. He pointedly ignored the people around him; some half-smiled, looking at a nice young buck on the street. Others paid him no mind, and a few glanced at him and rolled their eyes with the knowledge that only comes with age.

‘It’s not fair’, he thought, as he stopped at an intersection and waited for the go-ahead, pulling his forearm-wraps just a little tighter. ‘Mom fucking hates me.

He was wrong, of course, but there was no way for Ngruzren-of-Arzgr to know that: His mother, Kzdzgrar-of-Rzndzre, had started taking longer hours at work, and what was an assured “3 month project, tops” had now spanned to just over a 15 month year. Combine that with the sudden cessation of private building permits, the revocation of resettlement rights, the auditors and inspectors in everyone’s business and the condemnation of the only major public park within walking distance of literally the entire city and the only conclusion Ngruzren could come up with is that (1) his mother and the entire administration had gone mad with power and (2) she obviously hated him, because all this shit fell on his head.

“[Well hey there, rotten liver.]”

Ngruzren turned to the insult and smiled. “{Hey there yourself, molted chick.}”

Ik’itili made a point to fluff herself out, her mottled copper-and-white body feathers spreading dully in the morning sun. “[I’ll have you know that I’m not going bald-]”

“{You just look like that, right?}”

“[Ooo, Jealousy. I like it. You know I’ll model for you if you want to use me as your new avatar for the GalNet Node.]”

The two of them stared at each other for a few moments before bursting out in laughter, Ngruzren cracking first. The two friends giggled for a little while as the indicator changed, and they crossed the street with the amassed crowd.

“[So, going for the full night-rage aesthetic?]”

“{It works.}” Ngruzren said, shrugging slightly. “{It’s just how I am now, yanno? It speaks to me.}”

Ik’itili stayed silent for a few seconds too long, and Ngruzren turned his head to look at the Karnakian. “{What.}”

“[I mean. Are you sure you’re not just going for the big-maned night-rage boyfriend look?]”

Ngruzren blushed, furiously, and swiped playfully-not-playfully at his friend who artfully bobbed out of the way before moving back close. “{You whore! I-I am not! This is not a phase!}” He growled, baring his teeth before his expression quickly turned startled, snapping his jaw shut-

He rolled his mouth in silence as Ik’itili peeped softly, making a point to look away as her friend readjusted his obviously loose prosthetic. They walked in a semi-awkward silence together for the next few city blocks, the multi-story public transit hub towering over them as they closed the distance.

“{I-I just like it, ok?}”


“{It’s not a phase. Everyone’s telling me it’s a phase and I just… I just like it.}”

“[Ok. That’s not a bad thing, I’m just saying, yanno. You’re very much filling that stereotype – not that that’s a bad thing! – and I just figure, yanno. You’ve got someone in mind.]”

Ngruzren stayed silent for a few seconds too long, and Ik’itili turned her head to look at the Dorarizin. “{What. Since when?}”

Ngruzren blushed furiously for an entirely different set of reasons as they ascended the stairs to the transport pods, his friend needling him incessantly the entire way.


“[All I’m saying is, is that our son isn’t the same anymore, and I’m tired of dealing with this myself!]”

Rpressesha sighed, which honestly didn’t sound too much different than any other noise the Jornissian made nowadays save for the utter exhaustion evident in the exhalation. “<Look, [Dzgranra], I understand things have been hard->”

“[Hard? No. Hard was having 9 pups under the age of 3 and three wives who worked overtime. That was hard. This is concerning. He’s not taking care of himself, he’s not getting good grades anymore, he won’t tell me who he’s hanging out with – if his friends weren’t helping me keep tabs… and the lyrics to the music he listens to are just-]”

“<[Dzgranra]. I get it, I really do. I’m pulling the same hours she is, I haven’t seen my family or my clutch in literally two weeks.>” The city treasurer said, pulling the smart lens-cup from his eye – the overlay disappearing as he rested his head in his hands. Had it really been two weeks? Was it… three? No. Surely not –

There were a few moments of silence, and for a brief second Rpressesha hoped he could end the call and get back to this Senate report and verifying the City’s financials from twelve hundred years ago-

“[Is it worth it?]”

The simplicity of the question caught Rpressesha off-guard, and he responded with a simple “<What?>”

“[This. Whatever you’re all doing. Is it worth it? There’s no way any of you survive the next election cycle – The mayor’s absolutely out, and you’re all probably going with her, especially with what’s come down the mountain.]”

Rpressesha stared into the middle distance, suddenly feeling every single ache in his long body, every single gentle weight of the bast 490 years of life on his shoulders. The calls from his wife had slowed down as of late, from a daily checkin to a couple times a week to a week-end catchup. If he was here two weeks, he still had four days to prepare for a hatchday celebration for his most recent clutch, but if it was three weeks then…

Is it worth it?

Rpressesha frowned as he closed his eyes, his coworker’s husbands’ concerns simply falling to white noise. He was exhausted to the bone, his lower third had gone numb from lack of movement, he had most likely missed his youngest clutchs’ hatchday celebration – not to mention his older clutch coming home for that reunion – and his parents –

Rpressesha’s face fell as an unbidden realization hit him. Parents, damn them to the frozen hells – what about his in-laws?! He would never hear the end of this-

“<I don’t know.>”


“<I don’t know. I don’t know if this is worth it, I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, I don’t know if this will all make sense, I don’t know what I can tell you. We’re all doing our absolute best here. I don’t know if this is going to … be worth it.>”

“[Then why are you doing it?]”

Rpressesha would have shrugged if he had the energy. “<Glory. Fame. Industry, a better future, a place in history, I don’t know. Take your pick.>”


“<Look, [Dzgranra], I don’t know what you want me to say. I already told you when you first called months ago that I’m contractually obligated to secrecy. The only thing I can really say is->”

Dzgranra did not so much open Rpressesha’s office door as she did rip it from it’s track on the floor, a loud WHAM interrupting the exhausted Jornissian and spoking his blood with a potent shot of adrenaline. His eyes fixed on his colleague, her manic look, her wide, goofy grin, her tail going a thousand miles a minute leaving an indention on the floor-



Just because it was the night shift doesn’t mean you couldn’t slack off.

Hell, because it was the night shift you were almost contractually obligated to slack off, and Break Room 115-C on Deck 48 of the First (and only) human shipyard construct Starforge held two of the most notorious and well-seasoned slackers of the entire 15,000 man contingent on the station. Mars hung outside the windows, angry and dull-red, a few specks of glittering light on the surface the only indicator of life and industry. You could make the argument, then, that the two people inside the break room were the perfect juxtaposition: They did as little as humanly possible to keep their jobs, and had no life.

“So, settling in Silver City. Say that five times fast.” Jonathan laughed, tossing the mini-basketball high into the low-gravity station air, letting it float a few seconds down to his lap before smacking it with both his hands in a clap-grab. “Why there? And what even is the planet name? A city but no planet? Is the planet named Silver City?”

Aisha did not turn to address her colleague and shrugged as she poured herself yet another cup of Turkish coffee, the familiar ritual brining a soft smile to her face. “Mmm. From the part of the briefing you were asleep for, it’s because it’s relatively close enough to Sol, one of the first few jumps from Contact – so the lanes are well mapped out – and the atmo is basically Earth-like. Gravity’s a bit heavier, but it’s fine, and apparently they’re giving us the nature preserve in the middle of the city.”

“So low overhead for a colony, close enough to pack up and go home, and if we’re fucked they have to get through the rest of the city before they get to us. Nice.”

“Jon, you’re an ass sometimes.”

Jon grinned and gave a noncommittal shrug, tossing the foam ball from hand to hand. “Maybe, from time to time. I am an ass man, after all.”

“I’m reporting that as sexual harassment.”

“No you’re not. Cause if you doooo, then I’ll tell the dockmaster about how – what’s her name? Faiza? Somehow keeps finding her way into your bunk.”

Aisha smirked as she let the coffee settle. “Ass.”

“We literally just talked about this-”

“So when do you fuck off and leave me your stuff?”

“You mean when do I, the intrepid and brave explorer, the sole brilliant mechanic capable of keeping Reach running, bravely and studily go where no man’s gone before?”

“No I mean when do you, the guy with no attachments, one of 700 grays go scrub some other floor than my own?”

Jonathan held his hand over his heart, sniffling. “Aisha, you wound me.”

“So?” She replied, turning to face her colleague in the still-empty breakroom. “Suck it up, jumper-bumper.”

Jonathan stuck his tongue out and leaned back, kicking his feet up on the coffee table as he sunk a little deeper into the plush seating. “Well. Probably a few months from now, I’d say – if not another year. Reach might be air-tight, but we don’t know if she’s space-worthy, yanno? And considering it’s all our own tech for once-”

“Build, test, complete teardown, and rebuild?”



“Yeah. It’s gonna be a lot of work, but I think-”

“No, I mean, your stash is either going to go bad or you’ll run through it before you fucking leave.”

The small foam basketball bounced harmlessly off of Aisha’s forehead as she enjoyed her coffee.