They are Smol: Chapter 11

Long ago in a distant land:

  • Aku flung a samurai into the futurepast
  • Azrehs (Greweh of,) flung a simian into the futurepod
    • COINCIDENCE?! I THINK NOT
  • Impromptu cuddle piles are now a thing apparently
    • I told you they were all cuddlers at the beginning of this didn’t I?
      • Furries are still not invited, though. They just make everything weird.
  • Bill boredly babbles bellicosely

Now, in [current year]:

————————————————————————————————————

“Shanghai. Sexytimes. Sumatra?” Bill ventured, idly looking at the flashing indicator in a block-claw script.

“?GR’SHRAK NE’GREN RETLEH.?”

“Figured. Whelp. Let’s review, shall we?”

“?GR’SHRAK NE’GREN RETLEH.?” The construction done responded, awaiting Bill’s input.

“Freshman.”

“?FRESHAHN. RELK## ANEN REK’K&** FR.?”

“Grimace.”

“?GRENHS. EW#$ DREEF SCH^*#.?”

“Kardashian” Bill said, groaning internally.

“?RRERHG. KRARDRESHN REK’KK %%$KRF.” The drone replied, matter-of-factly. Although Bill was doing his best to not anthropomorphize the hunk of steel and electronics, he couldn’t help but think the drone was copping attitude with him.

The smug bastard. Not like it’s his fault he doesn’t have the right mouth to make mouthsounds!

“Whelp. I’ve got another 5 minutes or so until you default back to the first error, so let’s-“

“?RRERK. RRERHG. KRARDRESHN REK’KK %%$KRF.”

“-try what we can. Uh. Shake-and-bake. Simpsons. I don’t fuckin’ know – Shaka Zulu?” Bill said, exasperatedly throwing his hands up in the air.

“SHAKASHZUL.” The drone said with a confirmation that just felt exasperated.

“Wait no fuckin way-” Bill perked up, as all around him screens began to turn on. Although he was still a far cry away from being able to do anything, the fact that he could get the damn input loop to turn off was a massive victory. As blue-filtered cameras turned on, Bill saw a 360 degree view around his probe – as if the walls melted away. To be honest, he was really intrigued; most equipment he used has been tuned to human physiology, so to see things unfiltered was a surprising treat. Well. It was, until the external cameras tried to calibrate to human physiology as opposed to Dorarizin.

Bill swallowed the nausea and vertigo that seemed to overwhelm him as the cameras exploded in a kaleidoscope of viewpoints – his brain saw them as random, but the construction drone computer was doing it’s best, dangit – it’s not it’s fault that human eyes are too small, too close – the fields of vision began to overlap and swim as the drone attempted to compensate.

Bill tried to look straight ahead and found he couldn’t; the world looked like an MC Escher painting, and considering the only thing grounding him to reality was the seat he was currently gripping as hard as possible he felt he was doing a great job not getting sick. That is, until he took a hesitant glance to his right and found something to focus on.

That something happened to be his friend, Grashak, and his coworker, Greweh, being mauled by a hoard of his coworkers.

“JESUS CHRIST! STOP THAT – I’M OK! PLEASE – HEY! HEY! Goddamnit!” Bill cursed, his worry over the treatment of his friends giving him focus, driving out the background nausea. He wiggled into the seat, trying to find anything that would help – either to stop the mauling, because he was still alive and mob justice is a farce, or to help physically break up the-

His bare foot struck against something that felt oddly like a boot control harness. With another tentative nudge, he felt it try to close around his foot – but then release. That didn’t mean he couldn’t use it, though – just that he wouldn’t have as much control as he’d like. Looking up, he realized a few feet above his head were the grips for his hands; based on his size he’d have to choose either hands or feet to work at a time.

Bill started to muse; apparently the pilot rested on his back in this drone, and was buckled in – which would make sense, as there’s no “down” in zero gravity – and then operated as normal. That must mean the seat he was in was meant to be in hard vacuum, so it probably contained some sort of medical or stasis capab-

A sharp whine-bark broke his thought as the external microphones finally kicked on, and the savagery of the battle before him forced his hand.

————————————————————————————————————

“{HE’S OK! HE’S ALIVE! HE’S – GERWZEN, YOUR NOSE IS FUCKING ICE}” Greweh cried as he was swarmed with the second round of concerned coworkers, the first dozen or so untangling themselves from Grashak and each other. And, to his credit, his plan was working – albeit with a little more violent impact than he had hoped. Most of the males weren’t so demanding that they’d go for a second scenting, and the females, well….

…it’s not like he wasn’t used to being tangled with a few of them at a time. The fact that one of them happened to be that iron-jaw Rzengrth-of-Frrgrel from Accounting notwithstanding, he was having an OK time of things. As the ladies reluctantly stood up he crouched, shaking himself clear again. Greweh had just been taken down by another 9 or 10 coworkers, but the sheer amount of tangled bodies in the way not only drew attention but also slowed down the overall working-pack. Once enough of them calmed down to have things explained, they started to run interference – either holding other packmates at bay, misdirecting them, or in the case of the calmer ones just explaining what was going on.

Grashak stood to his full height, nodding to himself. Yes, everything would work out – but by the barest of margins.

It was at this time that the construction drone holding [Bill] lurched forward.

————————————————————————————————————

Zgren-Nragren-of-Arzerghr was a tired, tired man. Even fathering and raising 4 dozen pups hadn’t worked him this hard.

Although, he had every right to be; He was a Sector-General and as such, always had far too much on his plate at any given time. Even if you completely ignore the logistical nightmare of managing 10,000 planets, moons and associated celestial bodies, you still have to handle the trade between them, managing their assorted and independent police forces, checking and updating contraband laws (where applicable), moving personnel and all the accouterments that come with families, handling the various religious and social claims….

…and then there were the [Humans]. By the first pack, he hated the [Humans]. Why did their home world have to be under his jurisdiction?! The worst part is, it wasn’t even their fault! After their uplift started and approved media began circulating in the empire, the demand to have a [Human] posted on-staff skyrocketed. He checked historical logs – not even when the [Jornissians] were discovered or the [Karnak] joined the Senate was there such a high demand. Sure, there was always that initial pique of curiosity, but after that things tended to level out somewhat.

The demand for [Humans] just grew, and grew, and grew. Wherever a [Human] went, it seemed, every single Dorarizin put in a request for another one. The paperwork that generated combined with the personnel use – by the Pale Moon’s sake, he had people calling in political favors to have a [Human] put on-staff in their planetary capital!

He stared forlornly at the stack of reports, paperwork, bribes, threats and entreaties that sat on his desk. According to his special-team staff (who he had to pull from other teams specifically to handle demands for [Humans]), this was just the “VIP of the VIP” stack. The “VIP” stack occupied his secretary’s entire office.

Requests from the general public were simply incinerated.

There was a gentle but firm scrape at the post, and Rezfran grunted. His secretary – well, one of them – simply began to talk. “{I have an urgent call from Adm. Var’Shrak of [Jornissian] Federated Navy-}”

“{Does it have to do with [humans]?}”

“{Uh, yes sir, bu-}”

“{Then it goes in the pile – unless he’s offering to give us their [humans], in which case we’ll only be short another 112 billion to fill these requests.}”

“{Sir, I can’t say. It’s-}”

“{What do you mean, you can’t say? Put it in the pile and sometime this decade we’ll-}”

“{Sir it’s thread-encrypted. It’s marked urgent, and it has to do with [humans]. That’s all I can say.}”

Rezfran looked up from his terminal and, with a great show of effort, reared back to sit on his haunches. “{Alright, I’ll bite. Is this admiral… Var’Shrak, you said, on active duty?}”

“{Yes.}”

Rezfran clicked his teeth together. [Humans], for very obvious reasons, were not allowed near anything military, be it a simple sensor outpost or a star destroyer. This means it’s not a simple ‘please give us a [Human]’ request – and even if it was, the [Jornissians] had a counterpart to him within their federation that would handle such things.

“{Emergency communique?}”

“{Thread-Encrypted, from the bridge Stinging Venom of [Jornissian] Federated Navy.}”

“{Pre-recorded?}”

“{Live.}”

Rezfran sighed, and waved his secretary away. “{Send him through and privacy close the office.}”

“{Yes sir.}”

Rezfran looked back down at his terminal, wiping away the ‘toddler [human]’ screensaver and refreshing his programs.

With a chime the screen changed to a reclining [Jornissian] in obvious military regalia – the rest of his crew, if there were any present, had been filtered out.

“[I greet you in peace, Zgren-Rezfran-of-Arzerghr. May your scent carry far.]”

“{Hah! So polite – most people who call me like this have something burning in the background.}” The Dorarizin and the Jornissian shared what to each species was their version of a grin. “{Ah well. I greet you in peace, Admiral Var’Shrak of [Jornissian] Federated Navy. May you only have warm days. Now.}”

Rezfran’s face lost some of it’s charm, falling back into his bureaucratic mode. “{What’s wrong and why me?}”

“[Hm! I came to you, because I was told you can handle things with discretion-]”

“{I’m not smuggling [Humans] for you.}”

The Jornissian started, then laughed. “[By Sotek-who-circles-the-World, you assume the worst! No, I just want clarification on something I pulled from a [Human] terminal from our ship, Celestial Scale. Please review the attached file – I’ll wait.]”

A second indicator appeared on his screen, and with a practiced wave of his hand a badly-damaged movie clip began to play. It was some Jornissian military schlock – par for the course when it came to the initial media exchange, but….

Rezfran furrowed his brow as the movie looped.

“[Ah. So this is new to you as well.]” Var’Shrak mused, coiling in on himself. “[I had hoped you would have come across something like this in your records…I don’t want to think the [Humans] are mocking us, but, we’ve never seen anything like this before.]”

Rezfran remained silent as the movie looped a third time.

“{I think – if you’ll give me some time – I will figure this out.}” he finally spoke, beginning to make furious notes – programs and windows popping open to receive commands and then immediately shut down. “{I don’t have access to military-grade encryption, of course, so leave with me the name of a subordinate to contact. I trust you want this research done discreetly-}”

“[Of course. I don’t want to make a fuss in the senate otherwise.]”

“{Mmm. I’ll get back to you when I can.}”

“[Thank you. Loam under your claws, Zgren-Rezfran-of-Arzerghr.]”

“{Yes. See all things clearly, Admiral Var’Shrak of [Jornissian] Federated Navy.}” He responded, and the call was terminated. Almost immediately, a second encrypted channel was formed – civil government encryption wasn’t the best, but it would prove to be a hassle for anyone trying to break it – and Rezfran made a call to his eldest daughter.

————————————————————————————————————

The charging cables strained before ultimately snapping, Construction drone CX-4129 taking a heavy step forward. The top half of the drone flopped aimlessly, bonelessly backwards as CX-4129 completed another step.

“{….oh come on.}” Greweh murmured under a pile of coworkers. “{Did that cute idiot really try to turn the thing on?!}”

“{EVERYONE BACK!}” Roared Sgt. Rauleh, and as one her working-pack obeyed, a semicircle forming around the manned drone. “{Is the drone Malfunctioning – ENGINEERING, REPORT.}”

A Dorarizin called out as CX-4129 took a third step forward, then stood still, spinning it’s manipulator grips clockwise. “{No Ma’am! Everything was orange as of 2 days ago!}”

“{Then what the HELL is going on?! It’s acting like…}” Rauleh trailed off as CX-4129 suddenly turned it’s upper torso to the right and took another step forward. “{Oh. Oh by the last hunt GREWEH-}”

“{HE HAD SUCH DEEP EYES-}”

“{GREWEH DID YOU PUT HIM IN A DRONE AND NOT CALIBRATE IT?!}”

Greweh was on all fours, fur bristled, teeth bared at the Sargent – not that it would do him any good, but to be fair he’s had a long day and his hind-brain was starting to take over.

“[CONFECTIONARY]” Boomed CX-4129, as it’s internal microphone kicked in and everyone’s translators turned on. There was the sound of a few grunts and some heavy breathing, as all eyes eventually trained back on Greweh. “{LOOK IT’S NOT MY FAULT}”

“[RETURNED ITEMS]” Agreed CX-4129, as it started to make it’s way forward towards the mining probe. “[PEACE CHAINS UH FOOT UM FRUITS PILE MEAT.]”

“{We need to shut it down – he could hurt himself in there, not counting the damage to the station! Engineering-}”

“{There’s 5 battery tabs on the suit}” The engineer began, “{- he didn’t have his EVA battery installed, so he’s running purely off emergency power. That gives him at least 5 hours at his current burn rate, but that drops proportionally for every tab we pull out-}”

CX-4129 finally made it to the mining probe, and as if to make a point swung his still-rotating upper torso into it, breaking the rails that fastened the probe to the deck. “[ACCIDENT FORGIVENESS SKULL PAIN.]” It explained, manipulator hands still rotating.

“{SMALL BITES.}” Yelled Rauleh as the crew maintained it’s concerned circletm around the construction drone.

“{Pull out the green squares-}”

“{YOU HEARD HIM! WHEN POSSIBLE, JUMP ONTO [Bill]’s FRAME, PULL THE GREEN SQUARES. GO GO GO-}”

Her crew, pencil-pushers and desk-jockeys to a person, summoned the will of the hunt. As one, they converged on the drone in blindingly-fast speed.

Unfortunately, in her haste to check on [Bill]’s status, Rauleh never turned off her comm impant, and the very hand signal she used to lead her troops into battle also accepted a call from her papa.

————————————————————————————————————

The call connected almost immediately, and Rezfran smiled softly. Old pack tales prove true, even 10,000 years removed from their homeworld, “every father dotes on the first”. Although he would never do something as crass as true nepotism, he may have… pulled a few strings to get a [human] onboard her ship, per her request. It had been only 2 or so years since he last physically saw Rauleh, and he mused that she must be very excited to hear from her old man if she patched him through so quickly. Maybe she could help crack this mystery for her old man (and possibly get another small promotion as thanks).

“{Hello my little sweet meat-}”

“{WATCH FOR HIS ARMS, PACK DAMN YOU. DORFREZ, TRY TO TAKE OUT HIS EYES – CUT HIS EYES}”

Rezfran blinked and checked the connection – audio only, final destination was Rauleh’s implant, so surely-

“{GOOD JOB – TAKE OUT THE OTHER CORE ON HIS FRONT. STOP HIM FROM DESTROYING THE STATION!}”

Rezfran gritted his teeth. If pirates were so foolish as to raid his daughter’s station, there would most definitely be hell to pay. Swearing oaths to bury the criminals in a lifetime maze of red tape, Rezfran distastefully overrode his daughter’s implant limiters, giving him access to everything she sees and hears. He immediately is greeted by the floor as his daughter ducks as a construction drone with a half-dozen Dorarizin on it swings a giant arm in a lazy arc, utterly smashing an emergency wash station.

“{RAULEH BY THE FIRST PACK WHAT IS GOING ON?!}” Rezfran roars in his office – and in his daugher’s ears.

“{DAD?!}” Rauleh cries, and as one every crewmember froze.

————————————————————————————————————

“NO OK LOOK IT WAS AN ACCIDENT PLEASE CALM DOWN STOP MAULING GRAPES HE WAS SWEET AND I FELT SAFE IN HIS ARMS-“

Bill was yelling hysterically as he alternated pumping foot pedals and then hopping up to grasp the arm controls until his grip tired, whereupon he’d fall back down and work the feet. It was slow, terrifying going – somehow he had managed to make the torso continue to spin to the left, his “hands” kept rotating, but he was walking “forward”. Well. Walking towards the mining probe.

Bill attempted to pat the probe and explain himself. Instead, he ended up headbutting the probe off it’s rails, the impact bouncing him around the cockpit. “FUCK, SORRY, HIT MY HEAD.”

His vision swam – wait, no, that was normal in this cockpit. He looked around at his coworkers – his friends, cuddlebuddies, and Greweh. At least they had stopped mauling each other, and were barking – eer, talking it out.

Bill breathed a sigh of relief as his upper torso rotated. “Thank-FUCK!” he cried out, as the Dorarizin suddenly leapt onto him. His coworkers were upon him, teeth and claw slashing and biting into the metal that provided the only semblance of protection he had. Bill screamed as he felt the protest of metal, as the alarms started to go off, as his vision swam with sharp teeth, pointed claws and eyes that held fury. While coherent thought still had him, he wondered if by breaking up the fight between them they now viewed him as the new threat, and united to take him down – common enemy and all that.

It was around this time that coherent thought decided to take a break, and with pants-shitting fear Bill’s hind-brain finally got the controls.

“PREDATOR” Bill’s hind-brain said, and Bill agreed.

“RUN” Bill’s hind-brain said, and Bill tensed up – unable to see a path as his drone – as he lurched forward, trying to grab the wall to steady himself. Always, on every screen, more teeth, more clawsmore death.

Bill’s hind-brain thought for a moment, shrugged, and pulled the other lever. “FIGHT.”

Screaming, Bill reached up and gripped the hand controls – both satisfying his primal urge to climb from danger AND to have something to beat the beasts back with. His drone arm clamped down on something, and with a high-pitched squeal he brought his new weapon to bear.

———————————————————————————————————-

“{No time to exp- no! NO. Look, the [Human] is stuck in the drone – Look, OK. I KNOW. IT’S NOT MY FAULT!}” Rauleh roared as she was grilled subvocally by the Regional Head, her father.

“{Not fun now, is it?}” Greweh smugly asked, already certain that his career was destroyed. The only response Rauleh gave him was an exasperated growling yell – until a strong, pressurized stream of water slammed into her, pushing the Sargent back 15 meters.

His implant crackled to life as a voice he had only heard in the yearly briefing roared oaths at him and everyone else alive.

Greweh turned towards [Bill] and what was left of CX-4129. Somehow he had pulled the water main from the emergency wash tank out of the tank itself, separating it from it’s pressure valve. Those hoses were connected directly to their main water storage – [Bill] had a good 7,500 tons of water to play with before it ran dry.

He was using those thousands of tons of water to great effect: As his drone rotated he was blasting every crewmember he could find, washing them far and away from his drone. The poor bastards who were actually on the drone had it the worst, though: freezing cold water, a spinning perspective and not enough purchase to be effective – but just enough to not get flung off and hosed down. Every so often one would begin to slip – some would fall, some would find more purchase, but none of them could continue to power down the drone.

Greweh steeled himself. It seemed [Bill] was avoiding hitting him. This was a welcome surprise, as he was in no mood to be hosed down twice in one day. He looked past the drone to Grashak, who was tracking the last remaining power core on the drone’s body. They shared a wordless glance – he was being spared, too. Dry = traction….

Greweh really didn’t want to act as bait, but as another one of his crewmates skidded past him in a torrent of water, he pursed his lips. “{I fucking hate middle shifts.}”

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