They are Smol: Chapter 12

So what happen since last time? Simple:

  • Greweh protected the human
    • He protected him so good that other Dorarizin couldn’t believe it and they had to come and check
      • Bill is having a great time – those are screams of joy don’t listen to anyone telling you otherwise
  • Grashak is still a good doggo
  • Everyone gets free showers
    • Rauleh is in trouble for giving away free showers and absolutely nothing else
  • Rezfran is too old for this shit
    • He’s gonna embargo humans after this, just you wait. Right after this baby-swimming youtube video finishes, he’s gonna do it. Any minute now. You’ll see.

What happen this time?

  • lol iunno I write this shit with no prewriting

————————————————————————————————————

The deck was finally silent. Well. Mostly silent.

This, in and of itself, was a massive achievement. It took another 5 minutes of dexterous leaping, strategic feints, the impromptu use of environmental hazards/pocket moonsand and one very lucky toss with the emergency blanket to pull out the last power tab of Bill’s suit. Over the tirade of the Head Administrator (who was doing nothing to help morale) Bill’s denmates were able to carve him out of the suit with their bare teeth and claws and form a protective barrier between him and the rest of the crew, and really, the world. Everything finally worked out in the end.

They just had to ignore all the screaming.

You have to understand, the Dorarizin were there to protect Bill, but he had long checked out into “fight or flight” mode – and before you judge, you tell me how you’d react to innumerable claws and three rows of teeth gnawing into your cockpit as the power flickers out.

Yeah, I thought so.

So, like I was saying, the deck was mostly silent, save for Sgt. Rauleh-of-Nragren. She wasn’t delivering so much a chewing-out as it was just a 5 minute long wordless scream of exasperation. At least, that’s what the cuddle-pile-formerly-known-as-Bill thought it sounded like. In between the mass of fur and arms and … claws and teeth he could see Rauleh-of-Nragren alternate between yelling something at the crew, making desperate swipes at Grapes, and then seemingly bark at nothing at all. As Bill’s heart rate slowly went from “amphetamine addict on caffeine” to “uphill kenyan footrace” he noticed how chastised the crew looked, and how as one they flinched when a particularly loud scream-click would reverberate off of the metal walls. Bill sighed internally. Turns out, guilt is one of the few things more powerful than fear. Squirming in the fluffy-warm safety-hug, Bill was finally able to pop his head out under what seemed like an arm and someone else’s cheek.

“Ffhey! Vhloock, Hi’me fhinmeh. Breallrehy!” he protested, his cheeks smushed against his jaw by the weight of his denmates, slurring his speech.

Sgt. Rauleh paused in her tirade to stare at Bill for a few moments, before waving at him with a free hand and continuing her rant.

“Hime fhan.”

“?Rewr-‘!’ngrah SRESH N”GRKKLER!?” Rauleh yelled, rounding on the rest of the crew. “?N’GRak! RESMN RGREF WE’RRGLREZXK.?”

“Hime fhan tho.”

“?R’EZRE. ‘F”RAGN.?”

“S’chfhain. Rhellheh. Yhewswher hhthe hwonsh fweekin houht.”

Rauleh paused, her ears twitching in fury, before letting out a long, low, guttural clicking-growl, angrily falling on her haunches.

“Athideths hapeh.”

Rauleh shared a look with Bill that caused his murderballtm to tense up slightly, but he beamed confidence.

“Vuh ih hokai. Thhih ih hobw bwe lurrh!”

Rauleh, for her part, just whined.

————————————————————————————————————

Sgt. Rauleh-of-Ngraren was furious enough to scent shadows.

There were at least 87,000 other mining stations that had put in a request for a [human] in the year she sent in her requisition, and she knew that it was only her constant petitioning (and a little kindness from her father) that she was able to secure a single position out of an entire pool of 500 [human] applicants.

What her father could not help with was the mandatory 2-year gamut of sensor re-calibration, physical remodeling, general sapience training and advanced sapience training, stocking specialized food and medicine (and the subsequent training her medical and kitchen staff had to go through), additional specialized safety equipment, additional recreation and training equipment, escape pods, schedule changes, random Imperial inspections, customized gear, customized sanitation booths (because [humans] apparently need water in pretty much everything they do) and the assorted infighting over who gets to do what with the [human] and when. At any point their entire station could be flunked, and with that K%’-grade there would be no way her father could comb a few tails and get her a [human]. Somehow, some way, they passed. They passed after two years of hell, and now it could all be for nothing-

“{-BECAUSE NOBODY HERE FOLLOWED PROPER PROCEDURE. BY THE FIRST PACK, DO YOU WANT TO BE THE ONES TO KILL A [HUMAN] FIRST? DO YOU DESIRE TO TASTE HIS BLOOD THAT BADLY?}” She rounded on her crew, who flinched back.

“{AND NOW – NOW, BECAUSE OF THIS COMBINED IDIOCY, BECAUSE EVERYONE ABANDONED THEIR POSTS, WE HAVE DAMAGED A CONSTRUCTION DRONE, THE ENTIRE FUCKING HANGAR, PUT OURSELVES HALF A YEAR BEHIND SCHEDULE AND ENDANGERED [BILL]’S LIFE! MULTIPLE TIMES – IN ONE DAY!}”

Out of the corner of her eye she noticed the pile of denmates shift a little, and between two males a small, flat, furless face popped out. It was slightly redder than usual, and kinda smushed – but it was practically determined to give it’s two cents.

“[(error: slurred speech. Re-translating with 99.98% estimated accuracy) Hey! Look, I’m fine. Really!]”

Rauleh blinked at [Bill], who squirmed just a bit – apparently he got his head stuck in the pile. She exasperatedly flung her arms out in his direction. “{-AND HE IS WELL WITHIN HIS RIGHT TO BE FURIOUS AT US, BUT HE’S TOO NICE TO SAY ANYTHING-}”

“[(error: slurred speech. Re-translating with 99.98% estimated accuracy) I’m fine.]”

“{AND, AND HE’S TRYING TO REASSURE US.}” She spun around, growling at the rest of her crew. “{US, WHO COULD HAVE ENDED HIS LIFE IN A FLURRY OF STUPIDITY.}”

“[(error: slurred speech. Re-translating with 99.98% estimated accuracy) I’m fine though.]”

Rauleh sighed, angrily. “{HE’S TOO INNOCENT TO UNDERSTAND. TOO PURE.}”

“[(error: slurred speech. Re-translating with 99.98% estimated accuracy) It’s fine, really. You’re the ones freaking out.]”

Rauleh paused, her ears twitching in fury, before letting out a long, low, guttural clicking-growl, angrily falling on her haunches.

“[(error: slurred speech. Re-translating with 99.98% estimated accuracy) Accidents happen.]”

Rauleh glared at [Bill], trying to will into her gaze that although accidents do happen, they don’t happen near her, on her ship, under her watch.

[Bill], for his part, beamed back confidence.

“[(error: slurred speech. Re-translating with 99.98% estimated accuracy) But it’s ok. This is how we learn!]”

Rauleh, for her part, just let out an exasperated whine.

There was a pause and a long sigh, as everyone’s commbeads kicked back on. “{Well.}” Said the voice of Zgren-Nragren-of-Arzerghr, causing everyone to flinch – and [Bill] to protest slightly – “{Here I was about to deliver the dressing-down of a career, but I see Rauleh did it well enough for me.}”

“{Sector-General, I take full resp-}”

“{Rauleh-of-Ngraren, please do not interrupt me.}”

There was another pause and [Bill] piped back up, but nobody paid attention.

“{I can’t… I can’t not document this. My workstation has mandatory audit logs, so even if I chose not to report this – which for the record, I’m not doing – it could still show up under a random review. To my knowledge, no other [Human] has been put in such danger within our Empire’s borders.}”

Nobody moved, as they waited for the axe to drop.

“{….however, after reviewing security footage and listening the, ah, condemned, I could theoretically argue before an inquisitor that Grewreh-of-Azrehs followed safety procedure, that he was not trained for a [Human]’s specific…needs, and that technically the [Human] was not hurt. I could also theoretically argue, due to a [Human]’s innate….}” there was a sigh, and the next word came out thick and dripping with exhaustion “{[Human]-ness, that the crew’s concern was legitimate, albeit an overreaction.}”

Hope was kindled.

“{It also sounds like the [Human] won’t want to press charges, or request a transfer – though, that ultimately is up to him. Regardless, this was a scenario that was not covered in training, and as such I’ll petition to have all [Human]-Dorarizin training materials updated. It was also an oversight not to have their limitations made common knowledge, so, although everyone here will still have the joy of inquisitorial scrutiny I see no reason to-}”

As one the entire crew cheered at the stay of execution – if a Sector-General was going to hunt for them, then they wouldn’t be demoted, they wouldn’t be exiled, and they wouldn’t lose their [Human]! The crew devolved into happy yips and barks of conversation, in that overly-excited way that only occurs once disaster has been averted. Zgren-Nragren-of-Arzerghr smiled in his workstation, and turned off his general override.

Rauleh’s commbead, however, never turned off.

“{Daugher of mine.}”

“{Yes, papa?}”

“{Hm! Offering me a sweet-meat?}”

“{….Thank you.}” She sub-vocalized, emotion thick in her voice.

“{…….Daughter. I’m not going to – I can’t-}”

“{I know.}”

“{I’ll stretch the truth as far as I can, but I’m not going to break it. You’ll still have Imperial Inquisitors crawling all over you and everyone there, and that’s not counting the Interstellar Safety and Standards commission that will undoubtedly be launched.}”

“{I know.}” Rauleh sighed as she watched her crew busy themselves, cleaning up and returning to their proper stations. “{But still. Thank you.}”

“{….This is why I hate [Humans]} Nragren chuckled, humming to himself. “{Such little squishy beings of chaos and disorder.}”

“{I think you’re just limping about because no [Human] wants to learn about interstellar paperwork.}”

“{Hm! Petulant child – I’ll pull your claws out.}”

There was a small moment of silence, and idly Rauleh watched one of [Bill]’s packmates walk back into the hangar, holding a small box.

“{Well. Translators seem to have been made, thankfully. I’m going to order a half-dozen spare sets…}”

“{Speaking of translation, I need to talk to you.}”

Rauleh’s ears perked up. “{That’s right! In all this commotion, I forgot – what exactly did you call me for, Papa?}”

Zgren-Nragren-of-Arzerghr inhaled deeply and began to explain.

————————————————————————————————————

“<I want hazard pay.>”

KEYRING sighed and looked at SPOTTER – well, at the emotional-wreck-formerly-known-as-SPOTTER. The extraction of SISTER was a resounding success (on paper), and the exfiltration of the Celestial Scale went off without a hitch. For the first time in anyone’s memory, the mutiny alarm was a false alarm – all that the Jornissian special forces had managed to do was change out the crew and power down a ship in record time.

“<No.>”

“<So do you want to hold her?>”

“<. . . .>”

The problem was, well, SISTER. Once the room was cleared and SISTER was in custody, the assumption was that the [Human] would simply be confused – scared, possibly angry – but nothing that an explanation and cooperation wouldn’t overcome. The team was expecting reactions ranging from fear to hiding or even fighting back; people in panic situations did not think clearly.

However, once SISTER was in custody she acted like she was about to die. After squirming in SPOTTER’s grip SISTER went totally limp and began to cry.

That, in and of itself, was terrible. But then she began to beg and plead. The things she was expecting, and the things she was saying….

….after 5 minutes, everyone but SPOTTER had muted their commbeads to her cries. Unfortunately, this only stopped the real-time translation.

“<KEYRING, she sounds like a wounded hatchling->”

“<Suck it up, soldier.>”

So after an additional 10 minutes, the squad had figured out how to filter SISTER’s cries completely from their helmet’s audio.

“<Oh, high talk from you GRANITE. Go ahead, look at her again. Watch her flinch.>”

GRANITE, a Jornissian who had been in numerous secret raids against pirates, butchered no less than 300 slavers, who had stared into the abyss between the stars and refused to blink, turned his head away.

“<That’s what I thought. I want hazard pay.>”

“<SPOTTER->”

“<No. No. You listen. Just do it, right now, cause I have to, because I’m holding her, and I have to make sure she doesn’t get injured. Do it. I dare you.>”

“<Oh, fine.>” KEYRING growled, flicking on some indicators within his suit. “<She has to have calmed down a little bit by no->”

“[Ah-hand I never got to travel when I was young and I just, I just wanted to have a l-little fun, just a little fun before I died, I didn’t want to die, I don’t want to die like this, I wanted more time, I’m sorry – I’m so sorry, I didn’t know, I didn’t mean to, I’ll do anything, please, I- my mom only has me left, I’m sorry, I’m so sor-]”

KEYRING tensed his hood and quickly muted SISTER again.

“<….Hazard pay.>”

“<I’ll put in a request->”

SPOTTER looked down at SISTER, seeing her puffy face, red eyes and distant, pleading gaze. Her hands were going through a picking motion, nonsensically, never stopping – some sort of nervous tic. Even though she was in his coils, and the transport ship was well within her comfort range, SISTER shivered. She shivered, and never stopped shaking.

“<You’re Harsak-damned right you will.>”

————————————————————————————————————

Admiral Var’Shrak sang softly to himself. It was one of the many, many skills he had picked up over the course of his lifetime in the interstellar navy – whenever a deckhand had some menial bullshit to do, or a crewmate was being “unjustly punished” for dereliction of duty, you could bet there would be one of countless songs being sung to pass the time. He was, of course, not singing because he was about to do something menial, or something he dreaded; he was singing to himself because he was nervous.

Sure, he was around when [Human]s were discovered, and yes, he had reviewed their media – and like most of his race, he found them utterly adorable. Their humor was wrong, their music was beautiful, their art and science both advanced and yet very primitive. Of course, there was the initial rush of applications to serve with them, and of course there was a flurry of Senate rulings and restrictions that immediately passed unanimously. He had friends and colleagues who had put in some favors to have [Human]s aboard their vessels, but to do so they had to give up their military commission; a sacrifice that he wasn’t ready to make until he was prepared to retire in general, and at that point he may as well attempt to get a teaching gig instead.

However, that didn’t mean he didn’t want to meet one. Quite the opposite, in fact – he was going to make sure to record every interaction with this [Caroline], and if possible, mayhaps take his time in returning her to the Celestial Scale. From her file she seemed, well. Cute, for one, eager – but also somehow very soft. Var’Shrak didn’t really know how to explain it, but, if he was honest with himself he was giddy with excitement.

So, he was singing. Singing to pass the time until [Caroline] was checked out by medical and put in an officer’s lounge, time until she’s had something to eat and a little bit of time to relax. Singing while he determined what outfit to wear, as aesthetics of authority weren’t universal, and he’d rather not come across as overbearing and dominant when it was obvious the [Human] was of no threat and quite possibly having a terrible time.

His implant gave him a wordless indicator; [Caroline] had been deposited in a freshly cleaned and stocked lounge and was awaiting debriefing. With a smile and a smart snap of his tail against the ground, the Admiral left his quarters and made his way midship.

Offering only perfunctory salutes and acknowledgements of his crew, the Admiral’s mind began to wander, trying to form a narrative to his questioning. [Caroline] was in no trouble, no matter what happened – she was a civilian, and that’s where that line of thought began and ended. However, what did the edited media mean? Was this some cultural thing that the Jornissian cultural attaches had missed? Was it an honor, or an insult? Was [Caroline] alone responsible for the edit, or was it something more… institutional? Even if he could coil around who was responsible, were any laws even being broken? Then there was the mystery of THE CAPTAIN and how she played into all this….

Admiral Var’Shrak continued to muse right up to the door to Officer’s Lounge A-17. He would’ve mused a little further if it wasn’t for a haggard-looking, limp-scaled, utterly exhausted special forces soldier, coiled in his way. Off to the side, his superior officer was in mid-explanation of something…but that would wait.

“<Sharp Eyes to you, Soldier.>” Admiral Var’Shrak saluted, and was immediately incensed to see that the salute was not returned.

“<Sir.>” Began the dead-eyed soldier, who Var’Shrak’s implant identified as SPOTTER – nee Shresh’resk. “<I have only carried the [Human] for an hour and a half, but if anything happens to her, I will kill everyone on this capital ship and then myself.>”

His superior officers – both of them – visibly flinched at the very deadpan and very serious way he delivered that line, before slithering off just to the right and coiling up.

“<S-sir, I’m sorry, Shresh’resk is… well. He needs hazard pay.>”

The Admiral, tamping down his anger at the mutinous way he was addressed, glared at the Sergeant. “<You dare?>”

Wordlessly KEYRING tapped open the door, and the lights within kicked on. There was a cry – more like a wail – and [Caroline] darted under what appeared to be a blockade made out of foam perch pillows. His commbead was flooded with nonsensical half-pleading, crying, and promises to be good.

As the translator matrix began to work overtime and just exactly what she was saying finally hit him, Admiral Var’Shrak slumped forward, the excited energy he was projecting fully drained out of him. “Hopefully the Dorarizin are having a better go of it than I am” he thought, as he slowly made his way into the lounge.

————————————————————————————————————

“{So. [Bill]?}”

“[Ah uh, yeah? The ‘bead’s working now, yeah?]” [Bill] said, still smiling from his protective denmate-pile.

Rauleh smiled in return. “{Indeed it is. Hey, listen, I had a quick question for you.}”

“[Awww. Look, like I said accidents happen, and as long as I can keep blowing up moons I won’t tell anyone-]”

“{No no no – it’s not about that. And yes, you can still fire probes at the various celestial bodies that we orbit. It’s about something else.}”

“{If it’s about Greweh then I’ll have to say ‘it’s complicated’.}”

Rauleh snorted and rolled her shoulders. “{Tell me about it. No, no. I uh, I was wondering if you could help me out with a [Human]-specific question.}”

“[Ok! Ask away!]”

“{Do you have something called [Meme]-edited Dorarizin, and what movies are inside it?}”

A sharp, pungent rensecf scent spiked everyone’s nostrils, and [Bill] suddenly began to squirm violently, a panicked yell shuddering forth from his tiny frame.

“{Wait, [Bill]-}”

“{Woah! Hold on there little buddy-}”

“{Did he just pee on me?!}”

“{Don’t clench up you’ll hurt him-}”

“{Don’t let him go he’s got fear-madness-}”

So to answer Admiral Var’Shrak’s question: No. No they were not.

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