Movie night – the concept of movie night, at least – was surprisingly enough a constant among all the species of the galaxy. There was something nice about having a communal experience with provided snacks among friends, or even strangers who would soon become friends. There were other constants within that constant too; drinks would be spilled. Someone would have to get up in the middle of the show to use the restroom. Some of the younger members would… need to be chaperoned if the lights were lowered too far, let’s say. And of course, of course, someone would also be talking while the movie was going on.

So the three sapients crowded around the small tablet screen, the babbling sound of the historical documentary being talked over by the babbling sound of the human.

“-And so then Abraham Lincoln, the first man to count to 1 and the father of pennies, was able to defeat the great betrayer John Cena at Madagascar, saving the zoo of endangered animals for Monsanto to exploit for generations to come, and officially starting the first Earth Day.”

“[Hmmm.]” Hrrs-tssk’ hummed, a soft lopsided smile spread across his features as the human’s words were totally lost on him. Bleppy snuck a look at his brother and smiled as well, turning his head partially to speak to him without tearing his eyes off the screen.

“[See what I mean?]”

“[I do, I do.]” Hrrs-tssk’ said, his wounds long since forgotten. “[It really is a totally different experience in person.]”

Bleppy rested his chin on Nate’s head, absorbing and radiating some leftover smug from the warmcuddle. “[I told you so.]”

“[Yeah, yeah.]” Hrrs-tssk’ said, fidgeting slightly with his hands as he remained leaned over to watch the tablet and his new friend. “[I’m still… not liking this, this waiting.]”

Nate sighed, watching the documentary with decidedly less interest as he eavesdropped on the brothers. “You know I can hear you both right? This is the grapest story never told and you’re both worried about things you can’t control.”

“[We have nothing else we can do but seal our home and wait.]” Bleppy said, giving a light shrug with his hood. “[You confident in your cold-welding of the door?]”

“You mean the silly putty looking stuff?” Nate said, reaching up to pat Bleppy’s cheeks as he rested above him. “I’m gonna say it again – you should have let me reset my traps – now I know how to make them lethal.”

“[It is what it is.]” Hrrs-tssk’ said, sighing. “[It’s not going to hold permanently, but it might allow us enough time to make our case.]”

Bleppy responded to Nate’s pats with little pats of his own on the human’s torso, by and large ignoring him for the moment. “[That’s the best we can hope for, for now. But we do not negotiate on my terms!]”

“[I know, I know.]” Hrrs-tssk’ said, leaning back. “[I don’t thi-]”

Hrrs-tssk’ flinched a bit and turned his head, as if he was hearing something from a far off distance. His jaw moved, subvocalizing something, before looking at the other two with a serious expression; he frowned and shook his head, turning away to gather his thoughts and continue talking to whoever was on the other end of the call. Bleppy instinctively tensed up, and Nate soon found himself drowning in the quicksand of his best friend’s coils.

Bleppy ignored the increasingly-frantic patting of his face as he stared intently at his brother. “[Who is it? Do they kn-]”

Hrrs-tssk’ raised his hand for silence, and continued to speak to someone for a few moments, before rubbing his jaw. “[So.]”

“[So what?]”

“Mmhgmghm!” Both Nate and Bleppy asked, both arguably dying with curiosity.

“[Well. Uh. Everyone knows.]” Hrrs-tssk’ said, matter-of-factly.

“[What do you mean, everyone?]” Bleppy asked, ignoring the flailing of the warmcuddle within his coils. “[You mean the security team? Or everyone on the search team?]”

“[No…]” Hrrs-tssk’ said, a look of extreme concern breaking out across his face. “[I mean, everyone.]”

= = =

The kinetic dart was a small, thin thing; closer to a woven needle than an actual dart, it was designed to pierce light armor, dig into the target’s flesh, and balloon outwards once inside the target causing as much trauma as physically possible. The dart – unlike a bullet that we would think of – looked like a long, thin reed that twisted and spun along it’s horizontal axis, the exotic materials that made it tolerating the stresses of the electromagnetic pulse that fired it out of the concealed pistol at an appreciable multiple of the speed of sound. Because of it’s concealability and the relatively small size of it’s ammunition, it was a favorite for clandestine operations; the semi and full automatic options on the weapon were just an added bonus.

Sassafras didn’t so much care how it was manufactured or how it worked, only that it did. Toko had the presence of mind to grab his sibling and the other pirate and leap to the side once his “announcement” was over; the first five rounds from Sassafras’ weapon impacted the heavy gunner, basketball-sized flowers of blood and gore blooming above and below their armored suit. His partner didn’t fare much better; one of her crew tagged hew with some direct-energy weapon, the Dorarizin’s fur igniting immediately and the flesh boiling underneath. As the two fell her crew rushed forward, seizing the position and making sure to dispatch anyone who was still alive to suffer.

The entire initial combat action took no more than five seconds, but in those five seconds the crew of The Perfect finally had a defensible position – they finally had autonomy.

“[Seven, Long-john, Schmitty Webermenjensen – take point!]” Sassafras barked at the crew, the start of a plan of action forming in her mind. Nate was alive. Nate was alive, and they would rip this station apart to find him. As her crew began to openly brandish and use their weapons to build a killzone and a semblance of a beachhead, Sassafras slithered over to Tiki and Toko to get an actual, proper debriefing. She was joined by Licorice, who was less interested in the karnakians’ stories and more interested in what they brought with them. Without a word spoken Toko tossed Breadbot over to the Jornissian Technician, who began unceremoniously pulling it apart both physically and with digital probes.

Breadbot had served his purpose, and would be missed.

“[Let me know what you get.]” Sassafras said, turning towards the sibling duo… and their new friend. Silently she pointed her pistol at the unarmored Karnakian, the unspoken threat overt with malice, her eyes unblinking and fixed upon the outsider.

“[Does he die?]” Sassafras asked, in the same manner one would ask if you wanted cream with your coffee. P“pacheep looked hurt, his gaze darting between the person who used to be his spiritual liege and the incredibly angry prisoner who was somehow armed

“[No, no. He’s…]” Toko fanned his crest in thought, reaching up to unbraid his feathers as the pirate lowered his sister to the ground very slowly. “[… an idiot. Innocent, as anyone can be, but good hearted. Sassafras-]” Toko tilted his head and gave his captain a look, and she lowered her weapon slightly. “[-he’s a moltling. Came here to get off-book creds to build up his family farm on a terraforming world. By the yawning abyss, he even gave that up once he got a little kindness, and has been hauling Tiki around without complaint.]”

P“pacheep opened his mouth to protest, but was shushed by a fierce glare from Toko. “[Lad, I told you to do what I say and shut up and you would live.]”

The two stared at each other, before P“pacheep – to his credit and continued survival – simply sat down and closed his eyes.

“[So he’s not a threat.]” Sassafras stated, and both Tiki and Toko let out a confirming trill. She looked at him – studied him, really – for a few long moments before holstering her weapon, turning towards Licorice. “[So what do we have?]”

Licorice looked up from an object no larger than the size of a ping pong ball – the device connected via many wires to a terminal on his wrist. “[Tracking device. He’s still in his emergency suit, and I’ve got both biometrics and location. He is alive and well, though having a bit of trouble breathing; pressure on his body, nothing blocking the windpipe… probably lodged behind something that’s a tight squeeze.]”

Sassafras visibly brightened, a weight she was holding rolling off of her back. “[Where exactly is he? How far away?]”

Licorice shrugged. “[Looks like… maybe a couple clicks…]” he pointed to a spot in the middle distance, somewhere up and to the right. “[Thereish. Having his specific frequency is very helpful, but we’re still fighting obfuscation and jamming measures – and it doesn’t help that this whole complex is made out of iron.]”

Sassafras thought for a moment, before patting her colleague on the back. “[Good, good. Chain that information to everyone’s internals; We’ll work on-]”


The group turned to look at P“pacheep, who looked around confused. “[Sorry. Thank you for letting me live! I want to help, if I can. What are we talking about?]”

Tiki hummed. “[We have a little-needs-protecting that… needs protecting.]” She smiled, stretching her leg and working out some of the sore spots from being carried by an amateur. “[And we are all very glad to find that he’s alive and well.]”

P“pacheep sniffed a bit, scratching at his muzzle. “[I … didn’t think they were real. I guess I owe [Stk’shzsk] an apology…]”

“[Who?]” Tiki asked, her knee making an audible crack as she worked out the kink in it.

“[Oh, uh. [Stk’shzsk]. Real fan of little-needs-protectings, I visit him every once in a while, but… well. He’s a bit weird. Collects every little scrap of them he can – has a shrine for ‘em and everything.]” P“pacheep chuckled, lightly. “[He’s probably losing his mind right now.]”

“[I’m sorry.]” Sassafras said, leaning in uncomfortably close as the sound of weapons fire and screaming started to pick up in the background. “[What did you just say?]”

= = =

What do you do, if you’re the scientific community and you’ve finally experienced and understand faster-than-light travel…. What do you call it? How much of a nerd do you let the general public know you are?

“Realspace in 15 seconds.”

Realspace wasn’t appreciably different than the warp bubble that Joint Task Force “Old Yeller” was traveling together in; within “warp” you moved through time at a second per second, but through space at multiple speeds of light. There weren’t really “warp factors”, so Star Trek was out. It’s not Hyperspace – because you’re not doing whatever the heck that was, and it sure as hell didn’t require a Gellar Field, so we can just write that science-fiction universe off as well.

“Roger. All hands, prepare for drop.”

So, as always when nerds fail, gray utility comes through: It’s the “real” space that you can fly in. Realspace. Done. Move onto the next problem.

Task Force “Old Yeller” dropped out of warp into Realspace; Humans leading the charge, with the rest of the multispecies task force following nanoseconds behind. On the unnamed pirate station, alarms blared, targeting systems locked on and just as quickly were brushed aside by cutting-edge military countermeasures. Pirate drones were blown apart where they floated, and the entire operation was laid bare.

“Incoming transmission, Captain.”

Admiral Hawkings and Captain Kirk (yes, really, don’t make the jokes to his face or he’ll put you through the floor) connected the call, and Admiral Star-eater nodded her hello once the call was put through.

“[Greetings. Our corvettes are ready to move on your command.]”

Admiral Hawkings returned the nod, as Captain Kirk began to make preparations for their own deployment. “Yes, thank you. If you can give us vision on the other side of this complex, that would be great. We’re about to send out our three volleys; let those strike before you start firing.”

As Admiral Hawkings was talking, three bulky, unwieldy torpedo-like structures ejected from the UTF Flagship Like I wouldn’t Find out and made their way to three distinct points in the pirate complex:

One went to the half-cut ship of The Perfect.

One went to the general location of the life raft.

And the last one just picked the largest rock and said “that’ll do.”

“[I would lie if I said I wasn’t interested in seeing your weapons deployment, Admiral.]” Admiral Star-eater mused, looking intently at her screens. “[Chemical propulsion, it looks like shards on the front – a bomb?]”

“What? No.” Admiral Hawkings said, tapping his console as the operation went underway. “Boarders.”

There was a beat pause before Star-eater jumped in her seat, leaning forward. “[I’m sorry, did you say-]”

“Like I said earlier, Admiral: They won’t know what hit them.