Disclaimer:

          This work is fiction. The work has no (intentional) relationship with any person existing at any time anywhere whether real or imaginary or copy written.

         Feedback will be read, processed, and if it’s a flame it will be given the finger, then I will burst into hysterical laughter. Constructive feedback, be it criticism or praise, will be read, processed, given a smile, and filed away. To contact me, please send an email to socom.seal@(SPAM)yahoo.com. Remove (SPAM) for a valid email.

         You should not read this if you are not of legal age where you reside. This work can contain rape, BDSM, cannibalism, and probably anything else my sick, twisted mind can come up with.

Note: All times are in a mix of military and standard times. For example, 1AM = 0100 hours = 1:00, while 1PM = 1300 hours = 13:00. I hope this will make it easier on readers to understand the timeline while leaving me in a format that I understand better. If it causes too much of a problem I will switch to standard. 

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Chapter 35

 

 

         <08:00, Caverns Barracks>

 

         Jessie absentmindedly swept up the remaining pieces of the mug she had broken the day before while shoveling food into her mouth. She barely glanced up at the handful of people moving through the common kitchen, nodding when Matías and Clara snuck in. “Oi. Finally.”

 

         The two didn’t sit, ducking as a plate of food swung by. “It’s busy? All of a sudden?” Clara observed.

 

         “Everyone’s been getting orders.” Jessie waved at the other pokegirl lounging at her table. “Penny’s going out with, uh… Fuck it, one of the other pairs. Got some business in Paso while my liege is away.”

 

         The girl nodded, continuing to clean the gun that lay disassembled on the table. Matías glanced at the cylinder, noticing some small scratches alongside one of the chambers. “That gun’s seen combat, I guess. It’s all scratched up.”

 

         Jessie whistled softly and held him back as Penny swiftly reassembled the revolver and stuffed it into a side holster, quickly moving away from the table. “Careful, boy.”

 

         Matías froze when Penny paused, glancing back at him. Her hand seemed to twitch at her side before she swept away.

 

         “What’s her deal?” Matías barely breathed.

 

         “She’s mute by choice.” Jessie finished stuffing the contents of her plate in her mouth. “Killed her last two ‘partners’. Tamers, I think is what they’re trying to be called these days.” She stood, dropping the plate into a tub of water. “From the way she acts around men, I’m not too surprised.”

 

         “So… she hates guys?” Matías hesitantly supplied.

 

         “Nah. Just one.” Jessie gave him a meaningful look. “His name is written on the chamber that she always keeps loaded.”

 

         “…ah.” Matías gulped. “But then, why the… and here…?”

 

         “My liege doesn’t care.” Jessie explained. “Doesn’t try to touch her or anything. She’s just an employee. I think she likes that.” She motioned at her own throat. “The voice thing is the same as the gun. She told me the next words she speaks will be his name as he dies.”

 

         “So, what is all this about?” Matías asked as they walked away from the mess. “Why’s he building… an army?”

 

         Jessie laughed, a clear, lilting sound that caught Matías off guard. “Army? He’s already got that.” She snorted. “Any of his personal team could wipe every single one of us off the map without trying.”

        

         “So…?”

 

         “We’re unknown.” She pulled open a door and glared at him. “He must have told you that much.”

 

         Maías just shrugged.

 

         “So, like, Clara.” Jessie supplied, pulling a pack off the wall and tossing it to him. “You were with, er, who again?”

 

         “Group of vandals outside Las Cruces.” Clara replied with a flourish. “I specialized in making sure nobody could keep up.”

 

         “Right, right.” Jessie grabbed a much larger pack and hoisted it over her shoulders. “People got fed up with it, petitioned the government for help, they bought my liege.”

 

         “There wasn’t even a contest.” Clara said sadly. “One minute I was flying around, the next I was face down in the dirt.”

 

         “So she’s here to get faster, so you don’t lose to that one again, yea?” Clara nodded. “There you go. Most of the others had something similar; got obliterated and wanted to stick around to get better and keep fighting.”

 

         Matías blinked. “Alright, that makes sense.” He turned to Clara. “So, you lost a speed… fight?”

 

         Clara pouted. “I even cheated and she caught me.”

 

         “Yea, that one is fast. Faster even than my sword.” Jessie mused. “Anyways. We’re going north.” She detached a small waist pack and tossed it to Clara. “I’m going to make this clear now. If you don’t keep up, you get left behind.” She adjusted the straps to keep the specially designed pack from shifting back to her sheathes. “Gossip later.”

 

         Matías nodded nervously before following her out a door and into the morning sun. The Sword Dancer didn’t give him a moment before beginning to jog, Clara shooting overhead.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

         “You think he’ll be alright?”

 

         Lyn hummed softly as she watched the scenery below them flash by. “I know you’re remembering Alex.” She turned and smiled at Andrew. “The boy will do fine. He’s got the dancer, and crowgirl isn’t a pushover, no matter how she may appear.” She returned to looking out the window. “Besides, we have our own theories on Alex. You know the situation isn’t the same.”

 

         Andrew sighed, the sound distorted by his helmet. “I know.” He lapsed into silence, various pieces of his armor sprouting spikes or other random weapons as he concentrated. “It’s a big job we’ve put on his shoulders.”

 

         “Yes, but it’s basically him keeping out of sight. He’s a natural at that.” Lyn raised her hand and a projection appeared above it. “They’ve left.”

 

         Andrew nodded. “Keep me informed, would you?”

 

         “If you would hurry up and beat that thing into submission, I could give you realtime.” Lyn grumbled, squirming away from a swat. “See? It’s even making you hit me!”

 

         “No, that was me.” Andrew teased, drawing his hand back. “Chee would never hit momma.”

 

         Lyn shook her head. “I’m still creeped out that you named it. And that it has enough sentience to LIKE that name.”

 

         Gale’s voice interrupted them as the vehicle they were in jerked. “We’ve left Russian airspace.” She relayed. “Reducing speed as instructed. Lyn, I need you painting possible emplacements as we skirt over China.”

 

         “On it.” Lyn replied, hunkering down and slowly building a topographical projection with her hands. Andrew sat back as the tension built. They had no idea what was happening in Asia. They had been fine over most of the Russian wilderness, only spotting two hotspots. Now they were entering what could still be the most densely populated area of the world. All it took was one missed plasma bolt and they were going down.

 

         It was a tense few hours as they maneuvered past anything that looked remotely military, but by mid afternoon they hovered over the Indian Ocean. Another hour and they had crossed India on approach to Mumbai. Andrew took a deep breath as the ocean came back into view. The supposed state of this new “Lotus” league had not painted a pretty picture. Warring states, encroachment from all sides… And yet as he looked over Mumbai, he didn’t see what he had heard. The city was still standing; some buildings even rose a few stories. He did see how the slums had nearly taken over the city, but here and there he could see the remains of pre-Sukebe civilization. This city wasn’t as modern as it had been, for sure, but it seemed peaceful.

 

         “How are we doing this, boss?” Gale yelled back to him.

 

         Andrew took one last look and shook his head. “I don’t see anything that could be classified as a seat of government. Turn us around, head north. We’ll hit New Delhi next.”

 

         “Belay that, we have incoming.” Lyn hurriedly waved her hands and focused on a section of her projection. “Three, no, four- Oh, FUCK!” She screamed. “GALE, MOVE. NOW!”

 

         The engines strained as Gale tried to comply, but the pokegirls moving on an intercept course were too fast. Andrew watched one flash by the window, his brain trying to catalogue what he saw as quickly as it could. “That was a Pidgy. May be ferals.” He blinked as the second shadow he had seen finally registered. “Oh, no. That Falcongentle had a vest.”

 

         Gale was already moving before Andrew could even think of a command; the side door blew open to release Cristina and Aella, and the two immediately took up defensive positions around the aircraft. As the second pair of pokegirls approached, lightning danced from Aella’s horns, forming a barrier between them and the ground. The two swerved away, circling back at a much slower pace, while the original scouts hovered above, watching.

 

         “Get us out of here, Gale!” Andrew yelled, watching the city. “These belong to somebody down there and I don’t want to find out who.”

 

         “That’s a SolarBeam.” Cristina’s panicked voice came over the intercom. “Be advised, my Falcon is charging.”

 

         “Drop her.” Andrew replied without hesitation. “Grace, get us moving over the ocean. We’ll bail if we have to.”

 

         “Roger.” Grace relayed as they banked, speeding over the city and out over the Indian Ocean. “Cristina, please advise on hostile status.”

 

         Andrew watched one of the girls below them dive to intercept a falling form. “I can tell you that, Grace. She is not a threat.” He glanced back up, watching Cristina standoff with the Pidgy. “They should disengage once we’re away from the city.”

 

         “They won’t.” Andrew glanced at Lyn, the Archmage’s eyes screwed shut. “Massive movement on the shore. I count two small craft being launched. No visible motors.” She paused. “There are multiple water types pulling each craft and three humanoids to each boat.”

 

         Andrew sighed. “Well. This is one hell of a welcome party. Visible weapons?”

 

         Lyn gave a wry chuckle. “Three on the boats are pokegirls. I don’t see any real threats, but they’re all long distance strikers.”

 

         “Of course.” Andrew thought for a moment. “Nami. Ever gone sky diving?”

 

         The Sharptits gave a booming laugh over the com. “Am I about to learn?”

 

         “Aye. Melody, you’re backup. Disable those craft by any means necessary.” He smirked at Nami’s gasp. “Yes, girl. Go get ‘em.”

 

         The aircraft shuddered and Andrew winced as a light began flashing on the nearby console. “She fucking broke the lock again. Constance…”

 

         “Workin’ on it.” The Tank Vixxen replied grumpily. “It’ll be a straight weld this time since we ain’t in a good spot.”

 

         “That’s fine.” Andrew replied, watching Nami’s body plummet through the air and slice into the water. “Damn. She had a nice dive.”

 

         It only took a few minutes for Nami to speed to the pursuing craft. A torpedo with teeth, the humans didn’t realize the warning signs their pokegirls were giving before she careened through the lead boat, wood splintering and flying through the air. A scream, unheard by the rest of the girls in the air, was cut short as one of the Matratya disappeared under the waves and the humans and pokegirl fell into the water. The second boat slowed, beginning to fish the struggling survivors from the wreckage. Unseen, one of its complement also disappeared, this time without a sound. In the confusion, it took two more disappearances before one of the pokegirls noticed the slightly less populated waters. The Orcunt glanced around before ducking underwater to scan for the threat. She was greeted by the 20-foot sharkgirl slowly circling as pieces of her compatriots floated towards the surface, blood streaming from the corpse Nami held in her mouth.

 

         The girl shot into the air, her panicked shouts echoing across the water. “Shaark! Shaark!” She cried, breaking free of the tangled towropes and speeding back towards shore while the second boat tried desperately to get moving again.

 

         “What did she mean?” One of the humans cried, trying to look into the water. “Shark? Just kill it!”

 

         His friend gulped as Nami lazily broke the surface, her armored back cresting before she shot back underwater, blood pooling from where she disappeared. “That… That isn’t a shark.” He whispered.

 

         There was a bump and one of the pokegirls still attached to the boat whirled, fear in her eyes as she sliced at the ropes. They cut cleanly and the four pokegirls that had still been attached scattered, one vanishing from sight before reappearing, blood swirling from the stump of her leg. The first man fell back as Nami broke the surface, draping herself on the side of the boat as she chewed. “Heya.” She remarked brightly.

 

         Andrew winced in sympathy when one of the pokegirls attempted to blast Nami; with hardly a look she returned the favor with a hydro pump, scouring the small boat clean and leaving them struggling in the waves. “Alright, that should be a clear enough message.”

 

         Seeing their backup obliterated, the two remaining Pidgy evolutions peeled off, beating a hasty retreat towards Mumbai. Gale slowed and dropped her altitude, letting Nami catch up to them, Cristina picking her out of the water. The Sharptits still held an unidentifiable chunk of one of her victims, which she dropped in the ocean at Cristina’s glare. “What?”

 

         Cristina shook her head and activated her mic. “We’re all packed up.” She relayed, Melody shooting out of the water and landing softly in the door. “Let’s get out of here.”

 

         Andrew watched in silence as the survivors struggled towards shore and shook his head sadly. If the people of India were afraid enough to shoot first, ask questions later, he wasn’t looking forward to figuring out the regional politics. “Maybe we should just focus closer to home.” He muttered.

 

         Lyn glanced at him. “If we set up an outpost here for teleportation, we could do both.”

 

         Andrew sat in silence as they flew back overland and to the north. “Yea. Let’s look into that.”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

         <14:00, Near Roswell NM>

 

         Matías clenched his teeth and fought past the burning sensation in his legs. They had been going nearly non-stop for over a day, stopping only in the dead of night for a few hours of sleep before falling back into a forced march. Ahead, Jessie seemed to effortlessly glide over the terrain, and he hadn’t seen Clara in hours – the Tengal no doubt a mile away. Suddenly he felt his foot nick a solid rock and cursed as he began to lose his balance.

 

         “Whoah, there.” Jessie called, and Matías suddenly felt a hand on his arm, pulling him back to his feet. Turning, he gave a begrudging nod to Clara, the Tengal vanishing again.

 

         “You’re just fucking babysitting me. You were right. I’m worthless for this.” Matías muttered under his breath. Slowing, he caught up to Jessie, the Sword Dancer stopped at the crest of a hill. Looking down, Matías scanned the ranch below them. “What are we doing here?”

 

         “You’re earning your cut.” Jessie replied. “You’re slower than we could be, so in order to not spend the next two weeks walking to Colorado we’re going to pick up a ride.” She suddenly knelt, pulling Matías down beside her. “There she is.”

 

         Squinting, Matías could just make out the shapes of a herd of horses as they began filing out of a barn. “She? Who?”

 

         The Sword Dancer pointed as another equine figure emerged. “That one. The owner of this ranch owes my liege, and so he allows our humans to borrow his mount when needed.”

 

         Matías watched the centaur as she herded the horses out to pasture. “So, because I’m a slow human, we’re borrowing a pokegirl to make up for it.”

 

         “Yup.”

 

         Matías sighed but began to walk down the hill. “Alright. Let’s do this.”

 

         “Not you.” Jessie yanked him back before standing. “We don’t want the rancher knowing you’re here.”

 

         “But won’t the pokegirl just tell him who she was carrying?”

 

         Jessie shook her head. “She won’t tell.”

 

         Matías watched as Jessie worked her way down towards the ranch house. She went out of sight as she approached the front, but a few minutes later he could see her exit, another figure in tow. The two curled back around, passing out of sight again until Matías could see them approaching him from behind.

 

         “Hey-y-y…” Matías trailed off, staring at the second figure. The pokegirl was nude, but the firey red hair and searching eyes betrayed her identity. “So, uh, hello?”

 

         The pokegirl pointed. “Him?” At Jessie’s nod she made a disappointed noise.

 

         “It’ll be me, too.” Jessie soothed. “In fact, only tell about me.”

 

         The girl snorted and nodded, Jessie turning to Matías. “Mara was the leader of a feral herd of Ponytaur that was terrorizing the area. My liege took care of them, gifted her to this rancher, and now she helps us from time to time.” She reached over and stroked Mara’s hair, earning a happy noise form the girl. “She’s still working on language, but she’s getting there.”

 

         “So… Are we leaving now, or taking a break?” Matías asked hopefully.

 

         Jessie chuckled. “We’re leaving. Mara, if you would?”

 

         With a nod, the Rapitaur shifted, Jessie easily scaling her before holding a hand down to Matías. Reluctantly he took it, letting himself get pulled up and onto Mara’s back in between her torso and Jessie. “So instead of two weeks, this will be…?”

 

         “About two days.” Jessie leaned down and patted Mara’s flank. “Alright! North!”

 

         Matías lunged forwards, wrapping his arms around Mara’s stomach as the girl surged forwards, the ground beneath them beginning to fly past as the Rapitaur picked up speed. Jessie held onto him firmly with two of her arms, the others idly cleaning her blades. Holding on a little tighter, Matías resigned himself to a long trip.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

         “Fresh! Fresh! Fruta fresco aqui! You there!” Matías glanced over to see a beaming woman waving at him. “You look like you need some nice fresh fruit!”

 

         Matías motioned her away and pushed through the crowds, glancing up at the looming rocky mountains ahead. They had finished their two days of travel just east of where they were supposed to be and he had been sent into the city of Pueblo to fish for information. Mara had long since run back home, so all he could do was push forwards.

 

         Ignoring the shouts hawking various wares he left the crowded farmers market and began weaving through the alleys. The only lead they had so far was a job posting; advertising manual labor backed by the Sunshine government, it was their best guess at finding this mining operation.

 

Ahead of him he could see the town hall beginning to come into view, throngs of people surrounding it. Taking a deep breath he pushed his way to the front.

 

         A uniformed man looked at him as he burst through the throng. “Yes? What do you want?”

 

         Matías glanced around. “What everyone else wants, I’d guess. A job.”

 

         The soldier nodded. “Fine. To my left.” He replied, turning back to the crowds.

 

         Matías slipped into the throng and waited. Slowly the people to the soldier’s right cleared out, all either entering the building and leaving with a document or being turned away at the door. Matías turned to a man standing next to him. “What are they doing?”

 

         The man glanced down at him. “Permits. If you try to set up a stall or try to move pokegirls through without one you’ll be jailed.”

 

         Matías nodded, returning his gaze to the dwindling group. Finally, the sun having long passed noon, the soldier turned to them. “Alright you lot. All those who are here for city jobs, come over to my right.”

 

         Another two hours passed as the depleted group Matías still stood in waited their turn. Finally, with the sun nearly setting behind the rocky mountains the last of the city applicants walked away in disappointment.

 

         “So. Every one of you is looking for a Sunshine sponsored job. Which of ya are enlistin’?”

 

         A handful of the group broke off, the soldier motioning them each inside. “Alright. The rest of you I’m assuming are here for the physical labor posting. Well you’re all in luck; we need all the help we can get. Be warned, it’s dangerous; we’re working to clear out old mines and repurpose ‘em as training grounds. Cave ins, slides, you name it, it can happen.  If you’re still interested, follow me.”

 

         Matías joined the rest as they followed the man behind the town hall to where a group of transports were waiting. “Saddle up!” He yelled, the group beginning to climb aboard.

 

         “If they had the trucks here all along, why make us wait?” Matías grumbled.

 

         “If you fainted in the sun, they would know you couldn’t handle it.” The same man as before replied as he reached back to help Matías up. “Names Drake. You’re awfully young to be going for this line of work. What’s your story?”

 

         “I’m an orphan.” Matías replied. “Name’s Matthew.” Jessie had decided he shouldn’t change his story too much, but a slight change to his name wouldn’t hurt. “I decided the street life wasn’t for me anymore.”

 

         Drake nodded. “Got caught?” He grinned at Matías’ nod. “Nice. So are you here because you need to be, or because it’s the easiest way out?”

 

          Matías shrugged. “I’m pretty sure if the government cared about who I was I wouldn’t be here. I’d be in a cell.”

 

         Drake chuckled. “Fair point.” They both caught their balance as the truck jerked, the convoy beginning to move. “Well, stick close to me, eh? I’ve been working these odd jobs for a while now. Trust me when I say this: These camps are run as loosely as you can imagine. Which means it’s up to the workers to form the relationships.” He glanced at Matías meaningfully. “Most of the guys out here are here because it’s the only work left to them. Be it because of crime, or just because they don’t fit in with society. People with nothing to lose.”

 

         Matías gulped. “I understand that.”

 

         “Good.” Drake pointed to the truck behind them. “My mate is back there. When we get to the site, get off, keep your head low, and follow us.”

 

 

~~~~~~~~

 

 

         <07:00, Southwestern Colorado>

 

         Clara dipped her altitude as she trailed the convoy. So far the two pokegirls on the trucks hadn’t reacted to her presence, so that was good. Matías’ truck sat nearly in the middle, furthest from their possibly enhanced hearing, so she had been able to hold a one sided conversation with him, which was also good. And Jessie was keeping pace through the forests around them and had found no sign of ferals, which was probably the best news. But also worrying.

 

         No ferals meant the area was regularly policed. But supposedly this part of the state was uninhabited, only frequented by the Sunshine military along this very road. The fact that there were no signs of ferals meant that at least one part of that was a lie.

 

         Or that this area was more important to Sunshine than they were willing to admit.

 

         Clara quickly broke off her tail as the trucks began to slow. A lifetime of subterfuge had trained her well; her time under the tutelage of the various girls from Andrew’s harem had refined that. Underneath her excitable, happy-go-lucky exterior sat a battle-trained scout – a side of herself that she was now relying on.

 

         “Trucks are stopping. I can see bare earth ahead; possibly our destination.” Clara relayed. “Jessie, please confirm.”

 

         “Confirmed, I see mining equipment.” The Sword Dancer replied from her position ahead of the convoy. “No processing facilities in sight. If they’re working Uranium, they’re not doing it here.”

 

         “Acknowledged. Matías, we’ll keep looking, but it’s up to you to confirm whether or not they’re mining Uranium here.” Clara relayed, diving below the tree line. “Good luck in there.”

 

 

         Matías took a deep breath and scratched at his ear, surreptitiously muting the regular channel on his earpiece. He could feel the trucks slowing to a crawl as the terrain he had heard about came into view. The treeline instantly gave way to bare rock, sheet after sheet of earth having been pulled away from the strip mine. Ahead he could see tents, human forms milling around them.

 

         “Nervous?”

 

         Matías jumped and gave Drake a rueful smile. “Sorry. A little.”

 

         The man smiled. “I told you. Stick with me, you’ll be fine.” He looked out at the milling workers. “My boys are already waiting for us.”

 

         With a jolt the trucks came to a stop. “GROUPS CHARLIE, FOXTROT, AND INDISHIT-“ There were a few chuckles. “-GET ON! NEW ARRIVALS, GET OFF!”

 

         Matías hurriedly disembarked, looking to Drake. “What’s the rotation for?”

 

         “Time off. Or if someone wants to quit.” Drake replied. “Then again, you try to quit, you don’t usually make it.”

 

         Matías shuddered. “I get it.”

 

         “Hey, hey, hey!” A voice called. “We’ve got a runt with us today!”

 

         Matías glanced to his side. A man stood there, chest bared to the sun, a pickaxe slung over one shoulder. “Drake, don’t tell me you’ve adopted!”

 

         Drake eased his stride. “Rick. Where’s all your boys?”

 

         The man scowled. “Downstairs. You’d better keep an eye on your dogs if you don’t want another one taken.”

 

         Drake’s face hardened. “You can breed your own. Step near us again and we’ll see who loses stock.”

 

         The other man spit after them as Matías hurried to catch up with Drake. “What the hell was that about?”

 

         “I told you, didn’t I?” Drake muttered. “Criminals and good for nothings. It’s basically a prison mentality out here. Rick’s got his gang, I’ve got mine, there’s a few others that keep mostly to themselves. The main fight isn’t over pay or anything like that; out here, it’s about keeping your guys happy. Hence the dogs.” He rolled his eyes at Matías’ blank look. “Dogs. Bitches. Girls.” He glanced around. “Military would kill anyone they found hoarding pokegirls, so we have to keep them out of sight. Last week Rick broke into where we were keeping ours, slashed two throats and made off with a third.” He grit his teeth. “In return I put three of his workers in the hospital.”

 

         Matías felt a chill run down his back. “How does the military not know?”

 

         Drake gave him a grim smile. “They don’t give a shit. Hell, I’m not even sure if this place is actually for training. Most of the crap we remove gets sent off in trucks, supposedly to be screened for anything useful before being returned to build shit. But we only ever truck material out. Never back in.”

 

         Back in a makeshift camp, Jessie glanced at Clara. “Hear that?” She murmured. “That’s a mining operation.”

 

         Matías shrugged. “Do they at least pay for what we do?”

 

         Drake nodded. “Oh, yea. Free food and medical, plus a wage on top of that. You’re paid for whatever you remove. There’s some extra heavy veins of stone that we find sometimes, and they pay you well for those. Not gold or anything either, just seems to be some sort of tougher rock. It’s heavier, so since they pay by weight we get more for it.” Drake ducked into a tent, motioning Matías to follow. “If you find some of that you keep quiet about it. Cover it back up. Then find me and I’ll bring all the guys down. Don’t want Rick’s men stealing it from ya.”

 

         Matías nodded. “What’s that stuff look like?”

 

         “Like this.” Drake rifled through some bags, pulling out a large black crystal. “Real heavy, real black, and it smells like shit.”

 

         Matías glanced at the crystal in trepidation. “All of it looks like that?”

 

         Drake shrugged. “Most. Sometimes it’s all broken up, but it’s always the same color.”

 

         “I see.” Matías glanced outside as a klaxon began sounding. “What’s that?”

 

         “Shift change.” Drake passed Matías a helmet. “Time to get to work.”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

         <22:00, Mine U-A3>

 

         “It’s definitely what was described.” Matías whispered. The camp was asleep for the night and, besides some muffled moans from one of Drake’s men as he enjoyed some company, silent. “I have been digging this shit for days looking for this special rock and the vein we found today was definitely Uranium. Matches every description the Commander gave, made the military bend over backwards to get it out of the hole, felt like death just being near it. Though that last part is probably just superstition.”

 

         “Jessie’s been able to trail the trucks. There’s a set of processing centers a few miles into the mountains.” Clara replied, winging lazily overhead. “Doesn’t seem like they know what to do with it, or their process doesn’t work quite right. She’s only seen one truck of material leave, and that was nearly empty. As to what we were sent to confirm, I think we’ve done that.”

 

         “Most of the technology has likely been lost, and records destroyed.” Jessie chimed in. “Sukebe was thorough. They are probably trying to recreate the purification process based on broken records and rediscovered research.”

 

         Matías froze as he heard the sounds of climax coming from the still awake pair. “Shh.”

 

         He waited nearly an hour for the pokegirl to be hidden and the man to fall asleep. “Alright. What do we do now?”

 

         Jessie pulled at the coverings on their permanent camp. “We’ve got a teleport spot set up here and Clara’s got it memorized. I think we call my Liege and report.”

 

         “Weren’t we supposed to try and slow this down?” Matías whispered. “How could we do that?”

 

         Jessie fingered her blade. “The instant we try to stage something we’re discovered. I think you get out of there on the next truck and we call in the people who are good at this.”

 

         “Alright.” Matías rolled over, reaching up to turn off the intercom and froze. “Clara? What’s that light?”

 

         Clara wheeled around in midair. “Jessie, where were those processing facilities from here?”

 

         “North by North-West. Why?”

 

         Clara stared in horrified fascination as a fire began to grow on the horizon. “I’m seeing a yellowish-green fire from that direction.”

 

         Matías hissed in pain as his earpiece suddenly squawked. Half a mile away, Jessie was smashing the emergency alert. “Cortney, please respond.” She continued to press the buttons in a panic. “Please!”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

 

         <The Day Before, Northern India>

 

         “Weeks and weeks of shit.” Constance grumbled as she kept banging at the metal of the helicopter. “Precise welds, extra specific measurements. And thAT DAMN SHARK.” She yelled in Nami’s direction, “TAKES ALL OF TWO DAYS TO FUCK IT ALL UP!”

 

         Enya chuckled when Nami shot a middle finger in Constance’s direction. “It move yet?”

 

         “Nah. More heat.” Constance waited while Enya reheated the seam before continuing to work at it. “This would be so much easier with tools.”

 

         “Would be. But Ishara doesn’t like to travel, so we’re stuck here with what we’ve got.”

 

         Constance kept grumbling but nodded. It was up to the two of them, one Tank Vixxen and one Blazicunt, to repair what had taken their Romanticide over a month to complete. It had been weeks.

 

         Meanwhile the hot sun had driven the others under shelter, necessitating the return of Lyn’s pet project. Inside the extra dimensional space the spell had changed significantly. Gone were the dormitories, forge, and mess hall. Now the interior had been taken over by the training floor, with only small areas devoted to what previously was a home. At the moment there was very little training going on, most simply relaxing and waiting for instruction.

 

         Heads suddenly turned at some raised voices, focusing on a pair that was in the middle of a stare down. The height difference between the two made it almost comical, but one look at the taller individual made any laughter instantly dry up. Fu stared down at Lucina, the Shadowcat bouncing on the balls of her feet in order to give her chest momentum. “They’ve gotta be twice as big. I mean, the ratio difference is enormous!”

 

         Fu just shook her head at Lucina’s display. “You’re a runt. Why you were also given those is beyond me.”

 

         Lucina stopped bouncing and cupped her chest. “Rude!” She stuck her tongue out at Fu before continuing. “Just because I like fooling around doesn’t mean I’m some little kid.” She scowled. “I’m probably 3 or 4 years older than you are.”

 

         From behind Lucina came a barking laugh as Cristina stood, dragging a protesting Shamira with her. “Don’t make a fool of yourself, kitty.” She stopped and pushed Shamira forwards. “You try to start making yourself look bigger, you’re just going to get outclassed.”

 

         Lucina rolled her eyes as Shamira tried vainly to cover herself from the eyes of the group. “You can’t even make that argument yourself. You’ve got to drag poor Mira into it.”

 

         Cristina cocked an eyebrow but let go of Shamira’s arm, the Goldina quickly bounding back to her seat. “Alright. You’ve given me a challenge, have you?” She reached back and unclasped her armor, letting the metal clatter to the ground as her breasts heaved forwards. “I think I win.”

 

         “However much I’d like to keep watching this.” A voice echoed from the other side of the room. “If you don’t have a judge, it’ll go nowhere.” The three pokegirls whirled and groaned when they saw Andrew lounging against a wall. “No, please. More stripping. I’m not complaining.” He grinned.

 

         Fu sighed but followed suit, discarding her shirt and standing shoulder to shoulder with the other two. “I’m going to regret this. It’s pointless, means nothing in actual standing…”

 

         Andrew pushed away from the wall and brushed himself off. “It’s not pointless. It’s something that Lucina feels strongly about and so will become a contest. It’s what pokegirls do.” He peered at them. “Oh, and if we’re going by size ratio, you are a clear winner, Lucina.” He held up his hand. “However, Cristina is correct in saying that pure size is on her side.” He turned to Fu. “And as for your claims on age, Fu is nearly twice yours. So I’d show her a bit more respect.” He chuckled at their respective looks. “So. Have I judged well enough?”

 

         “Who’s got the biggest in the harem?” Aella piped up.

 

         “Ishara.” Andrew promptly replied. “Not even a contest. When you’re over nine feet tall the other parts of you kind of grow to match.”

 

         That earned a few chuckles and a few glances at Shamira’s 6’3” frame before Andrew continued. “If you want to know the largest boob to height ratio, I couldn’t tell you.” He smirked. “But if you all allowed me to measure… intimately…”

 

         “And my shirt is going back on.” Fu replied drily, the laughter swelling when she got her nipple stuck on the hem and had to quickly fix it. “HONEST MISTAKE!”

 

         Nevaeh sidled up behind a chuckling Andrew and tapped him on the shoulder. “Hey.” She glanced out over the room and smiled. “Everyone’s getting along.”

 

         “Mmm.” Andrew glanced at her. “You’re balanced today.”

 

         “Neither of them exert their influence as strongly these days.” Nevaeh replied. “It reflects well in my Master.”

 

         Andrew nodded. “I’m glad to hear it.” He waited for a moment. “Ann.”

 

         Nevaeh blinked at him in surprise. “Eh?”

 

         “Your question as to who it actually is. Ann.” He nodded at the Ice Empress where she sat with Melody. “Slightly taller than Lucina, but much more endowed.” He snickered. “Boob size. People will argue about anything, won’t they?”

 

         Nevaeh shrugged. “There is no hierarchy. Ever since the incident and the dissolution of the teams, any pretense of leadership has left. You must have noticed how much more they come to you for advice.”

 

         Andrew blinked in surprise. “The last time I asked one of them a similar question, I didn’t get an answer. Why such a blunt one from you?”

 

         Nevaeh ran her fingers through her speckled hair. “I have a unique perspective.” She glanced at him. “I care not for their squabbles or power dynamics. I care only for what you want. I am bonded to you in a way more powerful than any of them can ever achieve, as I reflect your soul. And so it is in my best interest to keep you at ease.”

 

         “Hm.” Andrew stared off into space. “Do they need an Alpha?”

 

         “Pokegirls will always need a leader. The position of Alpha merely assists them in further ranking themselves. And it serves a purpose for the Tamer; the Alpha is the filter. She protects the Tamer from harem dynamics, if you will, while making sure he knows about them. The Alpha, and to a lesser extent her Beta, are the substitute leader of the harem.”

 

         “And you would not make a good Alpha.”

 

         Nevaeh smiled. “Correct. As I only care about your wants, I would be a terrible one to take that role.”

 

         Andrew thought for a moment. “I need to make some new titles.”

 

         Nevaeh nodded. “It would be for the best.” She blinked when he pointed at her. “Andrew?”

 

         “Advisor.” Andrew gave her a lopsided grin. “Like you said. You care for my well being the most. So having you as a personal advisor would mean you’d keep me grounded.” He lowered his arm. “Am I wrong?”

 

         Nevaeh’s mouth twitched, but her face remained emotionless. “I did not want this.”

 

         “And yet I gave it to you. You are my Beta.” Andrew’s eyes danced. “So tell me, advisor. Which girl would be best suited for the position of Alpha?”

 

         Nevaeh didn’t speak for a minute. “I will list those who would never work.” She cleared her throat. “The Ice Empress, the Wet Queen, the Blazicunt, the Wolf Queen, the Elfqueen, the Nereidame, the Goldina, the Tank Vixxen, the Sharptits, the Shadowcat, or the Warvern.”

 

         Andrew ran a list of names through his head. “So, not Lucina, Nami, Fu, Constance, Shamira, Melody, Ann, Furia, Enya, Kuu, or Yang.”

 

         “Nor would the Video Girl be a good fit.” Andrew started but relaxed when Cortney suddenly appeared next to him. “Hey.”

 

         “Alright, I can follow most of those reasonably well.” Andrew replied. “But why not Kuu? Or Fu?” He chuckled. “I wonder when Fu will want her name back.”

 

         “She never will, because it has become a badge.” Nevaeh replied. “It is her honor, a token that shows her will.”

 

         Andrew blinked. “Ah. But still, why not either of those?”

 

         “Kuu is still not yours.” Nevaeh answered cuttingly. “She has little desire to be, and for that reason alone she will never be the Alpha. As for Fu, she is focused too much on strength. Under her the harem would grow strong, possibly, but would lose all of its soul.”

 

         “Huh.” Andrew glanced over the crowds, trying to think of who Nevaeh could have in mind. “You’re putting a lot of good thought into this.”

 

         “It is my job.” Nevaeh replied simply. “I personally would not think of the Myobu, the Archmage, the Romanticide, or the Night Nurse either. The Romanticide… Sorry. You prefer names.” She gave Cortney a guilty look before quickly wiping it away. “Ishara is happy with her forge. Rein is a good choice, but she has no desire to fight. Juel’s death ruined her. Gale should not have to worry about others while she does her job. And Lyn is too attached to you to be impartial.”

 

         Andrew blinked. “I was thinking about Lyn, but you’re right.” He scratched his chin. “You’ve left only two candidates.”

 

         Nevaeh nodded. “One would be better than the other, but since we have two, we have our Alpha and Beta.”

 

         Andrew glanced between Aella and Cristina. “Cristina unconditionally adores me. She isn’t a good choice for Alpha.”

 

         “No, but she is smart enough to not let that love make decisions for her.” Nevaeh countered. “You are her happiness, but she is still her own person.”

 

         Andrew smirked. “Unlike you?”

 

         Nevaeh just chuckled.

 

         Andrew’s gaze focused on Aella. “She’s rather young to take the position.”

 

         Nevaeh shrugged. “If you play it correctly, that won’t matter. She has as much experience as any of the others here, and if you steer her towards Cristina as her Beta she will have one of the eldest as her second. Besides she has already shown that she can lead; this is a logical promotion.”

 

         “I’ll talk to her about it later.” Andrew turned to Nevaeh and Cortney. “Now. What do you need to talk to me about?” He rolled his eyes at their shocked looks. “Nobody around here gives me enough credit. Cortney wouldn’t be here to talk about boob size, nor is she invested in the harem dynamic. Nevaeh, you may have been curious about the true winner, but that wasn’t a good enough reason for you to approach me with backup. There’s something you need to discuss. Out with it.”

 

         Cortney nodded, her relaxed stature suddenly stiffening into attention. “Sir. I always liked you for your brains.” She giggled but quickly regained her composure. “I have finished analyzing the data we collected on the Alekai disappearance. Nevaeh is here as the sole witness to the scene, and between her account and my data we have come to a conclusion that requires your attention.”

 

         Andrew flicked his gaze into the room. “Do we need to talk in private?”

 

         “Not necessary.” Nevaeh piped up. “While sensitive, this does not incriminate anyone here.”

 

         Andrew nodded. “Very well. So?”

 

         Cortney waved her hands, pulling up a video feed and a collection of stills. “These are the images taken by the search and rescue team. Images you have seen before, but I have made some changes.” She twisted her hands, the feeds overlapping. “This is the body.”

 

         Andrew nodded, his eyes tracing the pieces of the poekgirl once known as Natalie. “I see it. This seems sharper than before, is that what you’ve done?”

 

         Cortney nodded. “I used the ambient lighting to extrapolate what the boy would look like at certain times. This is as close to the time of death as I can get.”

 

         Andrew squinted. “Looks like… Mid afternoon, or thereabout. How did you determine that time?”

 

         “From relative decay and the moisture under the body, I was able to determine it had been sitting for at least one night. Since no ferals had gotten to it in that time, it had to have been the night before the body was found, and from there I made a guess.” She shrugged. “The clothes and skin hadn’t bleached yet, so the sun exposure had been low. Without having taken samples and run biological tests I would have never been able to truly tell, so I did the best I could with what I had.”

 

         Andrew nodded. “Well done.” He frowned. “I think I see what you’re trying to show me.”

 

         Nevaeh pointed. “Yes. A pretty linear distribution for a feral attack.”

 

         Andrew sighed. “These positions are slightly different than what we found on the scene. What makes you think the body was originally in this position?”

 

         “Nevaeh was thorough. She found multiple impact points and catalogued them.” A second overlay popped up, showing red arcs over the body. “If you account for two entities, one of them being Natalie, you get this.” A pulsing trail of marks spiraled out from Natalie’s body, two from one direction, and one from another. “We can’t be sure they were footprints, but they were all uniform. Either that specific area of the forest had some really strange sinkholes, or someone was covering their tracks.”

 

         Andrew shook his head. “Alright. But why the new position of the body?”

 

         “Disturbed earth.” Cortney pulled up the original feed and zoomed in. “We originally found almost no blood splatters, which in itself was suspicious. Once we actually looked for them, we found them in the pattern I moved the body to.”

 

         “Someone tried to bury the evidence.”

 

         “Precisely.” Cortney looked at him, a pained expression on her face. “The next thing I’m about to tell you is new. We didn’t want to disturb you without more evidence, but it’s important.” She took a deep breath. “The solo set of tracks continues for another 100 yards or so before vanishing. However, the area they do is a clearing, large enough for any number of flying pokegirls or even a small helicopter to hover. And the foliage around the perimeter was bent and twisted as if by strong winds.”

 

         Andrew slowly closed his eyes. “You’re telling me he’s still alive.” He opened them. “Still alive and working for someone else.”

 

         Cortney gave him a rueful smile. “We are.”

 

         “Son of a bitch.” Andrew muttered. “Do you have any idea at all who he could be working for?”

 

         “No.” Cortney frowned. “However, it stands to reason that whoever it is is not an established government.”

         “How?”

 

         “We have not been moved on yet.” Cortney stated simply. “If it was Sunshine, we’d have already been run over by their military. We are a sufficient threat to them. Since we haven’t, there are only a few possibilities. It is Sunshine, or another League, and they see us as being useful enough to keep around. Or they just haven’t attacked yet. The other side of the coin is that they are another mercenary group. I know there is some competition.”

 

         Andrew nodded. “That’s a possibility. There are some groups out there just as big as we are, that rent land from the Leagues in exchange for the odd job or security contract. When the population thins, a lot of real estate becomes available.”

 

         Nevaeh chuckled darkly. “And sometimes that real estate needs to be reclaimed.”

 

         Andrew blinked. “Hold on. You might be more right than you know.” He swiveled to Cortney. “We took over a National Park. We probably stepped on quite a few toes when we did that.”

 

         Cortney’s eyes widened. “I’ll start looking into that right away.”

 

         “You do that.” Andrew pulled out his pokedex and began keying through a map. “Nevaeh. Could you take this out to Constace, please?” He handed her the dex. “That’s Delhi. I want the two of you to look over the geographical features and figure out where the heart of a new city might be. Even though the Delhi before the war wasn’t the largest place, I’d still like to fly in and find what we’re looking for straight away.”

 

         Nevaeh nodded, taking the ‘dex. “And what are we looking for?”

 

         “A defensible place a country’s government would hole up.” Andrew replied. “Once the heli is fixed up I want to get over there and finish making contact. We’ve been gone from home for too long already.”

 

         Nevaeh nodded and vanished outside, Cortney blinking out to pursue her assigned task. Left alone, Andrew took a moment to compose himself before turning back to the room. “Aella!”

 

         The Shinryu glanced up in surprise. “Yes?”

 

         Andrew motioned. “Join me for a moment. I need to discuss something with you.”

 

         Aella blinked in confusion but stood, making her excuses and weaving through the rest of the girls until she stood in front of Andrew, giving him a questioning look.

 

         Andrew nodded towards one of the side rooms, Aella falling into step behind him. “Why were you all arguing about whose tits were bigger?”

 

         Aella’s face reddened. “We… Uh… Well, that is, Lucina…”

 

         Andrew shook his head. “No, I want to hear your reasoning. I don’t want an excuse.”

 

         Aella nervously followed him into the room, jumping slightly as the door slammed shut. “Well, honestly, it’s because we were bored.”

 

         “You were bored.” Andrew gave Aella a deadpan stare. “They nearly started punching each other because you were bored.”

 

         Aella winced. “Yes?”

 

         Andrew sighed. “Here’s a new question. If this was a harem, a true Tamer over all his servants harem, and I were to order you to tell me why this happened, would your answer be the same?” He shook his head. “Don’t answer that. It would be, because even in one of those situations pokegirls hide things from their Tamers.” He looked Aella dead in the eyes. “If I said I was asking as a worried friend. Why were they arguing about the size of their breasts?”

 

         Aella seemed to physically deflate. “They were arguing because it was the least violent way to assign worth. Who was better.”

 

         Andrew sighed. “I figured as much.” He watched her for a few moments. “You’re probably wondering why the heck I singled you out for this.”

 

         Aella’s mouth twitched into a smile. “Yea.”

 

         “It has come to my attention that our family is made up of pokegirls.” He chuckled at her reaction. “I know. Crazy thought. And pokegirls fight for dominance in every action. It may not be conscious, but everything is posturing. When you followed me, you were posing. It was only slightly, not enough to be noticed, but you had been singled out by your man. The one who you all shared wanted you specifically.” He smiled as she squirmed. “Am I wrong?”

 

         Aella dropped her head. “No.” She mumbled.

 

         “Well, you were justified.” He laughed as Aella’s head shot back up. “I’ve decided, with some counsel, that the posturing and cloak and dagger needs to stop. To that end, I am nominating an Alpha.” He nodded. “I’m choosing you.”

 

         Aella’s eyes widened before narrowing in confusion. “Why me?”

 

         “Put simply, you’re the best choice.” Andrew replied. “As for why, why don’t you tell me?”

 

         Aella blinked. “Why…” She trailed off. “I… I have battle experience. I’m a Hunter, so I’m one of the better fighters. I get along with everyone.” She paused. “But mostly it’s because the others are worse choices.”

 

         Andrew chuckled. “You’re not perfect for the job. But that makes you all the more qualified. Knowing that you might make a mistake will help you grow.”

 

         Aella sighed. “The others might not just accept this.” She looked to him. “Sure, they’d listen to you, but it won’t just grant me respect.”

 

         Andrew nodded. “True. But every Alpha needs a good Beta. The right choice will not only help you cement your position, it’s also a good first test.”

 

         “You already have an idea who it should be.”

 

         “I do.”

 

         Aella sat in silence. “I don’t. Can I get back to you on my choice?”

 

         Andrew shrugged. “Sure. I’d suggest offsetting your age and relative inexperience, though. Take that as you will.”

 

         Aella nodded and he left her sitting in thought while he stepped out into the sun. He nodded at Constance, the Tank vixen just shaking her head slightly at his questioning look. Turning his attention back to the skyline, he waited for the afternoon sun to transition into night.

 

 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

 

 

 

Tech Ops: Cortney – (Upgrade) Videogirl

Commander: Andrew Ranger

Smoke Devils Strike Force

Aella – (Hunter) Shinryu – Alpha

 

Cristina – (Blessed, Fiendish) Ophanim

Fu – Warvern

Lucina – Shadowcat

Nami – Sharptits

Constance – Tank Vixxen

Gale – Night Nurse

Shamira – Goldina

Nevaeh – (Blessed, Fiendish) G-Splice

Melody – Wet Queen

Ann – Ice Empress

Enya – Blazicunt

Furia – (Fiendish) Wolf Queen

 

Support Force

Rein – Myobu

Ishara – Romanticide

Kuu – Elfqueen

Lyn – Archmage

Yang – Nereidame

 

Allies:

Daria – Vampire

 

 

 

Matías Miller – Human

Clara – Tengal

Jessie – Sword Dancer

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