The outpost stood, alone, in the middle of a small airstrip, in the middle of a meadow, in the middle of nowhere.

The beauty of having a robust Planetary Defense Force, or PDF, that could respond to almost any incident anywhere on the planet within the hour was that you put out problems before they became major issues, you had a decent clamp-down on illegal activity, accidental deaths dropped and the PR it generated basically sold itself.

The bad part about that is that someone has to man the stations that are out in the middle of absolutely nowhere – “nowhere” being “at least 1 hour by flight in any direction to anything interesting” on this particular planet.


-”[-ng the Iron Rock River. The new mixed development will provide more space for the tiny-chompers on [Gentle Expanse] to spread out in what is considered a ‘traditional rural community development’, with quick access via sky taxi to the center of the city 15 minutes aw-]”

However, the one constant to all these stations, be they floating in the sea or hewn out of the mountain, was a television in the mess hall/break room; the screen of which could be shrunk down to a personal viewport or, as it was now, enlarged to encompass the entire wall.


-”[-orial for what is widely being called [Mothhennacht], or “Night of the Giant Fuck-off Moth”. Twenty years ago today the Mother was awoken by an unfortunate but opportune industrial accident, and the repercussions of that night live on both in the hearts and minds of our populace, but also in the industries that have come from it. So far, four other Mothers have been identified on our world, and I’m certain with enough care and guidance we can co-exist peacefully with ea-]”

The Dorarizin female who was switching through the channels was, by and large, a rookie – only 15 years on the force. Hey, when your lifespan is measured in centuries, a decade and a half is basically an internship.


-”[-The good earth. Yes, I’m Juan Esteban – the Juan Esteban, inventor of Mothing and the current CEO of the Moth-racer’s league. I understand that in recent years, there’s been a surge of popularity in the sport, which is good. It’s what our ancestors would have wanted. But the one thing they wouldn’t want would be questionable standards, bad farmin’, and illegal moth breeding.]” The commercial continued with a vision of the setting sun, human livestock lowering their heads to graze on the “grass”, looking up at the camera with a grimace as they chewed the native foliage available to them. An older Juan Esteban, mid-20’s, stood leaning on a somehow-rustic fencepost, his tanned skin glistening in the sun, very obvious fake country drawl pouring from his lips. “[We here at Tierra Tara Terra Farms, the first farm on the planet, know a thing or two about sustainable harvesting and responsibility. Our moths are char-spawned, hand-pupated and raised with love and respect, able to form that flight-bond with their owner as sure as tea is sweet. So make sure you buy Triple-T rated Moths-]”

But it would be idiocy to let a rookie man a “remote” station by herself. So thankfully – luckily – she had a team with her. The only issue was, most of them were asleep or out on patrol.


-”[Coming around the second gate. Number 7, Kemosabe, is in the lead, with number 18 Lame Cerberus just behind. Both racers are going to have to direct their candlesticks at an almost 90 degree skyward tilt if they’re going to go for the extra loop-]”

“{Oh what? Finally. Hey Zngrer-of-Drgrabgh, when did they move [Mothing] to channel 87?}” Grzeren-of-Regren said, tilting her head back to make sure her voice carried over the announcer. There was a noncommital grunt of a response, followed by the shuffling of feet as the Dorarizin in question shambled over.

“{I have no clue, but I guess it got moved from the cultural section to the sport section.}” Zngrer murmured, taking a sip of her drink. “{Still though, I don’t like it.}”

“{Well, I mean, you were there, right?}” Grzeren said, grinning. “{Like, you saw it happen, you saw the tiny-chomper war machine, you saw-}”

“{Yeah, I was there, and yeah, you read the report the same as I gave it.}” Zngrer sighed. “{Every year, every new rookie, the same damn questions. Yes, I was there, yes, the tiny-chomper war machine held it back, no I don’t know how it worked, yes that’s incredible, no I did not single-handedly fight back the terror-beasts, no I did not catch a tiny-chomper elder before she fell a building, no there were no more additional explosions. Anything else?}”

Grzeren-of-Regren thought to herself for a bit. True, she was a rookie – especially compared to the decorated veteran that she was partnered with for the night shift, and due to a stroke of luck they were alone for the next hour or two – but it was obvious that she wasn’t asking anything new. She needed to impress, needed to get herself noticed, and this was a prime opportunity to do so.

“{Ah, well. What good thing did come of [Mothhennacht]?}”

With an unceremonious thump Zngrer-of-Drgrabgh sat down on the seat next to her, leaning forward to watch the screen with idle interest. “{Nothing, except my husband.}”

Grzeren’s shoulders perked up a bit at that. “{Oh! Right – that’s one impressive first date, to be honest.}”

Zngrer laughed, leaning back. “{Yeah, can’t top that at all… but see? See?}” The special operations veteran pointed to the screen, where a dazzler, or a human whose sole purpose was to sew chaos among the other racers, had begun to twirl and wave his candlestick around his group to such a distracting degree that the majority of the racers lost momentum. “{This stuff right here is what I don’t like – if this was somehow strongly regulated, then this would be ok-}” Zngrer grimaced as one of the racers slammed into the “soft” dirt track below, harness detaching to let the moth sail free from the impact. Wordlessly she turned towards Grzeren, motioning at the screen with a “exactly this type of bullshit” look on her face. “{My point is made for me-}”

Grzeren-of-Regren shrugged. “{I mean, it’s not hurting any- well. Ah. They seem ok with it?}” She weakly corrected, tilting her head to the side noncommittally. “{Someone will step in if it gets too bad, right?}”

“{Oh you sweet child.}”


Zngrer grunted again, taking a deep draught of her drink, letting the drone of the tiny-chomper announcer fill the silence. “{I miss him, you know.}”

“{What… the… r-racer?}”

Zngrer looked at the rookie quizzically, shaking her head. “{What? No. My husband, you idiot.}”

“{Oh? Right, didn’t you just have some pups recently?}”

Zngrer nodded. “{Yeah. Well, recent is … time flies. Most of ‘em are still burrowers, but we’re starting to see a few leapers in there too.}”

“{Oh wow. Time does go quick – I thought you just came back from maternity leave.}” Grzeren said, leaning back in her chair. “{So they’re starting to become an armful, eh?}”

“{Mmm. I’d know better if central stopped sending me out on deployment for so fucking long.}”

Grzeren flinched, grimacing. “{Ye-yeah… damn, I’m sorry. But at least the other girls are helping out, right?}”

“{Ah, we’re a single pack right now-}”

“{Wait. Wait.}” Grzeren said, holding up her drink to interrupt. “{You’ve got a stud of a male at home, which sucks but ok, fine. But now he’s basically a single father? How the hell does he manage?}”

Zngrer-of-Drgrabgh, “heroine of Mothennacht”, First Wife to an absolute stunning male, mother of 5 and actively-deployed special operations PDF soldier shrugged. “{Well enough, I hope.}”

The Dorarizin moved with purpose through the small starter home, cradling a wailing child in his arms. The small volleyball sized drone followed him, a grey-muzzled older male half-smiling on it’s surface.


“{Son I’m going to let you finish but you need to calm down-}” The orb said, a smile on the father’s digital face.

Ngruzren-of-Arzgr, “Tipo of Mothennacht”, Husband-Den-Patriarch to a strong and beautiful female, father of 5 and actively-freaking-out temporarily single parent, growled. “{No I will not calm down she’s bleeding-}”

“{Ah.}” Dzgranra-of-Arzgr said, the wisdom of years of child rearing coming to bear. “{You know, pups just do that.}”

His words of wisdom were ignored, the new father pulling out a ridiculously large first aid case, cracking it open to rummage around the contents inside. “{No, no, this is bad – I need to go to the hospital – stop fighting you little shit-}” Ngruzren scolded his middle daughter, being rewarded with a wail, tiny scratches and ineffective bites as he attempted to apply first aid to what looked like a nasty head wound.

“{Son, look. If she’s still moving she’s fine.}”

“{Bleeding from the head, DAD.}”

Dzgranra sighed, rubbing the side of his muzzle. “{How do I reach these kids~}”

“{Ok, ok, ok sweetmeats shh let me – ok it looks like it’s just a scratch but it was bleeding so much-}”

“{Like I said, son. Pups just do that.}” The talking orb helpfully repeated, lowering it’s hover just a bit to get on eye-level. “{It’s your first round, I understand. Trust me, I understand. Just wait until your first stomach bug goes through the den – that’s terrifying.}”

“{Nnnnnnnnnnnn-}” Ngruzren said, an involuntary shudder crawling down his spine. “{Oh. Oh no.}”

“{Mmhmm. Look, pups fight, it’s just what they do – burrowers aren’t even old enough to realize that their claws and bites can hurt, and the instinct to den up is strong. She’s fine, you’re fine, they’re all fine.}”

Ngruzren moved his hand away from his daugher’s head, the bleeding slowing to a trickle. With unpracticed, concerned eyes he scanned her, noting to his chagrin that the pup was more distressed over being handled and “roughhoused” by her father than from the actual bite to the head she suffered from her sibling.

“{See? It’s fine.}”

“{Yeah It’s just…}” Ngruzren sighed, his body seeming to shrink slightly under an invisible weight. “{It’s so hard, Dad. I love her, I really do, but she’s gone now for weeks, sometimes a month at a time-}”

“{Well, you can always start working on getting another female for the den, son.}” The Dzgranra-dad-orb helpfully bobbed in the air. “{You should do so anyway – nobody likes seeing you run down like this.}”

“{Firstly, I just got this wife and these pups, I don’t need another. Not right now at least.}”

“{Damn. There goes my secret plan to have yet more grandchildren.}”

Ngruzren smiled. “{Yeah, well. I’m also… I’m still young! And I didn’t finish my degree – don’t.}” Ngruzren said, interrupting his father’s inhale. “{- all I’m saying is, is that I’m fine with a traditional den and clan, I’m deeply in love with my wife, I adore my pups, but I don’t want to settle down and be homemaker – not now, at least.}”

“{Well son, to be honest you should have come to that conclusion before you had pups.}” Dzgranra chided, gently. “{I don’t really think there’s much options to you without another female in the picture, and once you get her in the picture she’ll be wanting her own pups, and then it kinda spirals out of control from there.}”

“{You’d think someone would have figured out how to stop that from happening by now.}”

Dzgranra grinned. “{You’d think, and yet, here we are. And judging by my fussy little grandpup in your arms, I think she’s tired of being held-}”

“{Ah.}” Ngruzren held his middle pup up – well, middle in terms of birth, but they were all the same age – giving her the once-over once again. He was rewarded with a vocal yowp, and more squirming. “{Well that ended quickly.}”

“{I told you.}” The Dad-orb said, following his son out from the side-room back into the lower den. Most of the furniture had been pushed back, and a makeshift canvas jungle-gym/ball pit was in it’s place. Kneeling, Ngruzren gently placed his daughter in the loose cloth scrap pit, and with a squeal of delight the pup began to “burrow” down, the fastened straps of canvas mimicking the soft loam his far ancestors would have used eons ago.

“[Yeah. Thanks, Dad.}”

“{No problem son. Ah.}”

Ngruzren turned towards his father. “{What?}”

“{Sorry, it’s just a quirk of mine – a habit, really, but, I always do a headcount once I come back from another room and I have no minder.}”

“{Oh. Let’s see. One, two three four. Uh. One.}” Ngruzren said, lifting the top of the canvas jungle-gym “mountain” to uncover his first pup. “{Two I just dropped in, Three and four…}” With a little more rummaging around the pile he was rewarded with teething nips and happy yips. “{Five? Where’s five. WHERE IS FIVE – DAD-}”

“{I’m never getting off this call with you, am I?}”


“{Well it’s not like they’re gonna go anywhere! Did you check behind the couch? Find your baby and some change?}”