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Loose Threads

Ninety Four


            Iain stopped for a moment to watch the scene in front of him. If he were honest with himself, he didn’t find many things that made him feel much like smiling these days. Most of his smiles were for the situation instead of any amusement he felt, a throwback to the days when he’d known his emotions were off compared to others and faked most of them according to the way that others around him reacted, back before he came to the pokegirl universe. However, even he had to admit what he was seeing now was rather idyllic, almost even cute. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but I’m going on a short trip and I thought you might want to come along with me, Aaron.”

            Aaron was lying with his head in the lap of a topless Claudia, one of his Milktits, while she was feeding him grapes. He sat up. “Will it get me as fat as these girls apparently want to make me?”

            “You’re too thin,” Claudia said with a reproving look at Aaron. “You need to put on some weight.”

            Iain glanced at Aaron and gave a mental shrug. One of the things that many women from his original world would consider a downside of having a twee was that, as it made someone healthier, it adjusted them to their natural physical best, based on their genetics. It meant that people like models or professional actresses would return to their natural weight and doing things like starving themselves to try and remain unnaturally thin would be a waste of time. It was easy to get fit with a twee, but genetics would override diet every time as the twee worked to keep the host healthy. In Lorena’s case, it turned out she really did look like a more muscular stunt double for Pam Grier. Aaron was, apparently, naturally thin. He was muscular and wiry, though, and had shaved his head once his hair had started growing out brown as it began losing its gray. “I don’t think we’ll be gone long enough for a meal, much less a fattening one.”

            “I can’t guard him,” Claudia stated as she frowned at Iain. “I haven’t finished the training regimen that April put together for us. Do I need to call Hypatia?”

            “She’s with Lorena and they’re off with Garrett,” Iain replied. “And we’re going on one of my combat ships. He doesn’t need a guard there. If it turns out that Aaron does need a guard, I’ll take responsibility for his safety this one time.”

            “Where are you going,” Aaron asked.

            “I want to get a firsthand look at the damage to Fort Polk from the Haven bombardment and I was hoping for an expert opinion from you. We submariners didn’t do many artillery attacks on things. And when we did, it was usually FAE or thermonuclear and rather far away.”

            Aaron gave Claudia a quick kiss. “I need to do this, pretty thing. When she finds out, Lorena will want me to report what I saw to her, and she’ll be rightfully upset if I don’t go.”

            “Come back to us safely,” she said.

            “I’ll do my best,” Aaron reassured her before heading off with Iain. He glanced at Iain as they walked and then checked the pistol on his belt. “Is there an armory on this ship or do I need to get something from my room?”

            “It’s a fully equipped and supplied assault troop shuttle,” Iain replied. “The armory has some GAR15s in it and you’re checked out to use those.”

            “Does it have your explosive ammunition with it?” Iain nodded. “Why aren’t you selling that?”

            “You mean other than the fact that I don’t want my clan on the receiving end of SAP ammo?” Iain shrugged. “It’s actually very simple. I want other people to manufacture things. If I make things that are vastly superior to anything anyone else can build locally and then sell it at competitive prices, other than out of nostalgia, why would they bother doing any manufacturing of their own? I want a free and independent Texas, Aaron, and that includes being independent of me.”

            “You’re supplying a lot of munitions around the world to countries fighting the leagues,” Aaron pointed out. “Here too.”

            “And that’s because they need it desperately and can’t make it. Later I’ll encourage locals to start manufacturing weapons and ammo, among other things, and wind down my aid to them.”

            Aaron nodded. “Does Lorena know about this?”

            “If she doesn’t, and she should, you’ll tell her and she will.” Iain stopped in front of the shuttle, which was large enough to drop a company of armored troops or two companies of unarmored infantry and their support elements. “And here’s our ride. Turn left once you’re inside and follow the passageway back to the armory. If something won’t come out of the rack, you’re not supposed to be using it. Then you can join me in the cockpit, where I’ll be doing the preflight.”

            “Thanks. “Aaron turned left and headed aft as Iain turned right and made for the cockpit. When Aaron got to the cockpit, Iain glanced at him as he entered. “You can sit in the copilot’s seat. I’ve locked out the flight controls.”

            “You don’t have a copilot?”

            Iain shrugged and touched a control. “We used to mandate two pilots for any flights, but that was before the nuke attacks. Now we don’t have the personnel to spare for those kinds of niceties. Today, however, Daya will be my copilot.”

            “I don’t need the seat,” Daya’s voice came from behind Aaron, “so you’re welcome to it, Aaron. If you don’t want it, there are plenty of other seats in the cockpit. You do have to sit in one of them while we fly.”

            “Uh, thanks,” Aaron said. He slipped his GAR15 into a rack designed for it and dropped into the copilot’s chair.

            Aaron wasn’t clan and Iain wasn’t going to demonstrate neural links to outlanders, even if friends, so once Aaron was strapped in, Iain used the manual controls to take off and head towards Fort Polk at what he considered a leisurely pace.

            “I’m actually glad to get you alone,” Aaron said after a few minutes. “I want to ask for a favor.”

            Iain glanced at him. “What is it?”

            “Actually, I want two favors,” Aaron replied. “I’d like to request that you put some combat drones at the dairy. I’ve been talking with Hypatia and she has a point. We can’t stop a lot of the things that might come calling and I don’t want to lose anyone if we can avoid it.”

            “I thought Lorena wasn’t in favor of us placing drones on your property. When did she change her mind?”

            “She doesn’t need to know.”

            Iain shook his head. “She has to sign off on something like that. If I put drones on your property without her permission, she is going to be furious at me when she finds out. She’ll also lose all trust in me and it’ll probably destroy our friendship. Not happening without her permission.”

            Aaron grunted sourly. “I’ll talk to her.”

            Iain waited for a few minutes before glancing at him again. They were crossing over into Indigo land and he slowed and dropped down to where he was sure they were safely below any radar, even if it was doubtful that Fort Polk had any radar emitters remaining after a few days of the bombardment. He checked to make sure they were running under stealth and double checked the shuttle’s sensors to verify there were no emissions incoming, much less any above detection threshold. “You said there were two favors. What’s the second one?”

            Aaron grimaced and took a deep breath before speaking. “I’m going to sound like three kinds of a hypocrite for this, but I don’t want you to sleep with Lorena. I couldn’t handle it if you did.”

            Iain was silent for a handful of seconds. “Very well. Should she come on to me, which she has not yet done, I’ll politely turn her down unless you change your mind and let me know you have.”

            Aaron turned to look at him. “That’s it? I know you want her.”

            “Any man with an ounce of testosterone wants her, Aaron. I wouldn’t be surprised if a bunch of women want her too. I would if I was a woman. She’s hot and I’m pretty sure she’d be a whole lot of fun to be with and her genetics suggest that she would make awesome babies.” Iain shrugged. “But a simple cost benefit analysis makes it an easy decision. You just said that if I slept with her it would ruin our friendship, something I value. I also value Lorena’s friendship and not sleeping with her won’t harm my friendship with her, if I’m careful about how I tell her no if she does make me an offer.” A soft buzzer sounded and Iain pressed a button. The buzzer cut off.

            Aaron frowned. “What was that?”

            “There are some Haven drones around every military base to quickly destroy any vehicles that anyone tries to use or kill anyone dumb enough to put on uniforms and make a formation,” Iain replied. “And they just interrogated our IFF. We passed, since they haven’t opened fire on us.”

            “Are we in danger from them if they did?”

            “Nothing around here has the firepower to penetrate our shields,” Iain reassured him. “An O&I satellite does and I’m sure there are several overhead, but Daya is making sure there are going to be no friendly fire incidents.”

            “There are six satellites with line of fire on us that have the firepower to destroy us,” Daya said calmly. “Our IFF has been accepted, though, and we are not being targeted by any of them. We are in no danger from them.” She looked at Iain. “We’re approaching the point you wanted. I’m ready to go active on all sensors and weapons are free.”

            Aaron glanced back at her. “You’re the wizzo?”

            “Technically, I’m the Combat Systems Officer and not the Weapon Systems Officer,” Daya replied. “I operate all of the offensive and defensive systems on the shuttle right now, but Iain can take over with the help of the onboard AI if I lose contact with the shuttle.”

            Iain slowed to a hover. “Leave stealth and go active.”

            “Shields increasing to full combat strength,” Daya said as, outside, the air around the shuttle began to shimmer. To someone outside the shields, the shuttle would appear hazy and indistinct inside a translucent sphere as the shields refracted or reflected a great deal of the light trying to penetrate it. “Ready for ascent.”

            “Ascending,” Iain said as the shuttle shot skyward.

            Daya looked at Aaron. “Now that we’re in combat mode, only one satellite has the firepower to destroy us and it would destroy Fort Polk at the same time if it fired on us. The reason we are using this shuttle is because nothing on this world can harm it. It would take a multimegaton fusion weapon to cause us any harm and the governments never had any reason to build them.”

            Iain brought the shuttle back to a hover at five hundred meters. Fort Polk lay spread out in front of them. “Well, Aaron, what does a retired Marine colonel see?”

            “I’m sending your twee information on how to use the visual systems built into your console,” Daya said.

            Aaron let his twee guide his hands and the view zoomed. The most obvious difference was that he could see several destroyed vehicles on the roads and the motor pool was filled with the burned out and shattered shells of jeeps and trucks. Closer examination showed that every building was damaged and several had collapsed but didn’t look like they’d been destroyed with explosives. Only one building, that on the northwest side of the base, had obviously been blown up by some kind of ordinance. He highlighted rubble that had once been a building. “What was different here?”

            “The nuclear attacks on Texas came from here,” Iain replied. “That was where they were housing the nuclear devices and so it got special attention. The rest of the buildings were hit with penetrator rounds like the ones used to kill Anton Rush. The same penetrator rounds were used on the vehicles, in an attempt to keep fires and collateral damage down. This building got hit with penetrators first to soften up the walls and then a trio of FAE rounds were detonated inside it, one after the other.”

            “This Queen of Haven is pretty angry with Indigo, isn’t she?”

            Iain nodded. “You met Kasumi’s daughter, Kozakura, didn’t you?”

            Aaron remembered her vividly. She was very pretty and very distant with anyone who wasn’t a Grey. “I did. She was here for some kind of training program, right?”

            Iain glanced at him. “Something like that. She’s from Haven and she’s the one behind the bombardments. Her family was wiped out by the nuke that hit Haven and she became the Queen Regent until her brother can get up to speed and take the throne. And you’re right when you say she’s also still very angry at the leagues.”

            Aaron eyed him for a second “Is she angrier at them than you are?”

            Iain shrugged again. “It’s a tossup. We both lost a lot of people we care for.”

            “Can I get a closer look at damage done to the vehicles and the building where they were storing nuclear weapons?”

            Iain frowned. “How much closer are we talking?”

            “I’d like to see it from the ground.”

            “Let me see if I understand what you’re requesting. You want me to land the husband of the President of Texas in an Indigo military base, without an appointment, so he can sightsee. And you want the Grey to be there, without a preplanned military escort.”

            “You did ask me for a professional evaluation of the destruction.”

            Iain growled softly. “So how angry is Claudia going to be with me if I let you get killed?”

            Aaron grinned. “I think you should be more concerned about Lorena’s temper.”

            “I’m trying not to think about how she’d be available if you got killed and I could blame it on you being stupid,” Iain said dryly. He continued without a pause. “Daya, shields to nominal and prepare for an angry Pandora.”

            “I’ll explain to her exactly who is causing this and she won’t be angry at you,” Daya said grimly. Aaron turned around to see her glaring at him. “Yes, I’ll be aiming her at you. Iain, I’m pulsing the shields so we can receive teleports.”

            “Now, now,” Aaron said hastily. “Let’s have no friendly fire incidents.”

            Pandora appeared with Ganieda, Heather and Zareen arriving a heartbeat later. “If I harm you because you went sightseeing and Iain got hurt, you can rest assured there will be nothing friendly about the event and you will be very lucky if I only set you on fire.”

            “Threats,” Iain said gently. He highlighted a spot on the display. “Can you get a decent evaluation if we land there, Aaron?”

            “That should work nicely. If it’s what it looks like, I should be able to evaluate without much exploration.”

            “Great,” Pandora muttered. I just put Ninhursag and the rest of the clan on standby, she told Iain through her twee. Hold off landing for five minutes for the goblins to gear up. Iain glanced back at her and she grimaced. Damaged or not, it is still an Indigo base, Iain.

            I’m not arguing, he returned as he pulled the shuttle into a hover. And Daya is weapons free on all drone systems, pretense of Haven being in charge be damned. “We’ll hold here for a few minutes so Daya can evaluate threat levels before we land,” Iain said to Aaron. “There is no way to know how Indigo is going to respond to our incursion and this would be a shitty day to die.”

            I am moving more O&I satellites into firing range, Daya informed them. Three more shuttles like this one are launching and will hold station ten seconds out. If must use them, I will show the Indigos what modern war looks like. If Iain is harmed, I will give them no quarter and I will kill every person who is not clan within five kilometers of this place.

            Aaron glanced at the assault rifle in its holder. “I only snagged ten magazines for it. Should I get more and some body armor?”

            “No,” Heather stated. “At the first sign of trouble you get your hands off that rifle and stick to Iain like glue. Let us fight. Your body isn’t young enough to keep up with us.”

            “Should I just leave it here?’

            “No.” Ganieda shook her head slowly. “They’ll recognize we’re pokegirls but the sight of an unarmed human in our midst will encourage someone to do something stupid, increasing the likelihood that one of us gets hurt.”

            Pandora glanced at Iain. Scheherazade and Lynn are on site and invisible and will join us when we disembark. They will remain overhead. Daya knows. Ninhursag reports the clan is ready. Lucifer has Sisterhood reaction platoons Manticore and Grendel on five second delay for deployment, but none of them are bonded to you and will have to teleport into the shuttle’s troop bay before disembarking. I would prefer it if this turned out to be just a readiness drill for everyone.

            Got it. Iain’s hands moved on the controls and the shuttle drifted forward and down. “Initiating landing.”

            “I am ready to sterilize the area,” Daya said. “Currently we’re being observed by some camouflaged personnel.” She looked at Aaron as the shuttle touched down. “The shuttle’s shields will be fatal to you if you are within the field when they activate or if you enter their operational zone. I have uploaded marking information to your twee. Do not try to enter that zone unless I tell you it is safe. As soon as this group is clear, I will be activating the shields again to protect your ride home.”

            “Understood,” Aaron said. “Stick close to Iain and don’t run. Trust me when I say I want to be on the ground no longer than absolutely necessary.”

            “Daya, you have the controls,” Iain said.

            “I have the controls,” Daya replied formally.

            Aaron picked up the assault rifle as Iain got up. “You’re only taking a pistol?”

            Iain wasn’t going to explain about his coil gun and, instead, nodded towards Pandora. “They’re my real weapons.”

            Pandora smiled grimly. “It’ll be a failure on my part if either one of you has to fire a round today.”

            Aaron scowled. “I thought you don’t want us unarmed? Is that only as a decoration?”

            “No,” Pandora sounded as grim as her smile. “We can fail. If we do, you’re certified to use that weapon and Iain is an inspired shot with his pistol.”

            “I just wish he had something more powerful,” Aaron muttered.

            Daya cocked her head. “Aaron, do you understand need to know?”

            “I do.”

            “The following is classified, not for release even to Lorena. Do you accept this?” Aaron hesitated. “It will not harm her.”

            Aaron smiled. “Why not invoke privacy?”

            “If I classify something and you reveal it, we will be angry at you and will no longer trust you,” Daya replied. “If I invoke and you, an outlander who claims to understand clan law, accept the invocation of privacy and then later break privacy, I will kill you and historical clan law will be on my side.”

            Aaron looked surprised for an instant. “I accept that. Invoke privacy.”

            “I am invoking privacy, Aaron Robinson. Do you accept my invocation?”

            “I do.”

            “You are intelligent and have undoubtedly noticed that we have access to technology that most do not.”

            Aaron nodded. “This shuttle is a good example of that.”

            “The weapon that Iain carries is more powerful than your GAR15. It will kill any organic that it hits in a vital area. It is, in fact, powerful enough to punch completely through almost all light armor and aircraft. It is so powerful that its usage is restricted to combat areas where the user cannot be concerned about the possibility of collateral damage since it will pass through almost any reasonable thickness of organic tissue and still retain enough energy to pass through several walls and the people behind them.”

            Aaron’s eyes went wide. “Damn.” He looked at Iain. “Can I shoot it later?”

            “If you’re good.”

            Aaron snorted. “I’ll never be pokegirl good for you.”

            Heather smiled. “I should hope not.”

            “Pandora.” She straightened at Iain’s tone. “Cycle the airlock and let’s get this over with.”

            “I have the airlock,” Daya announced. “Cycling outer lock.”

            “Heather on point,” Pandora ordered. “Zareen has the rear.”

            “Everyone on our side goes home today,” Iain said.

            “Understood,” Ganieda replied. “We don’t wait to be attacked.”

            “Perimeter is clear,” Daya said. “Pandora?”

            “Cycle inner lock,” the Archangel ordered.

            “Inner lock cycling. Shields depowering.” Daya waited ten seconds. “Lock open.”

            Heather headed outside as Aaron looked at Iain. “Is there a faster way off of this ship?”

            “This is an assault shuttle, not a dropship. It would normally neutralize enemy activity before landing and offloading troops and equipment through the six locks in the rear while we, the crew, provided covering fire from the turrets and drones.”         

            Clear, Heather said to them all with her twee. There are some Elves nearby and, I presume, watching the shuttle, but they’re good enough that I cannot localize them more than that.

            I can see the Elves and am sending targeting data to all of your twees, including Aaron’s, Daya sent. Drones are aloft. I am also sending data on the locations of Scheherazade and Lynn so you do not fire in their direction. The timbre of the message changed, telling Iain that she was excluding some individuals. Pandora, Iain says you are in operational command and I will hold fire until you order unless you deem otherwise now.

            Pandora glanced at Iain, who gave no sign he could hear the message Daya had just sent. You are faster and see more, sister. You are weapons free to protect us. Keep data feeds open to our command echelon so Ninhursag and Lucifer know what’s going on.

            I acknowledge weapons free, commander, and live feeds are being sent to all command elements. The timbre changed again and Iain knew she was only talking to him. Yes, I am weapons free by your order but this will make Pandora happy with both of us.

            Well done. He looked at Aaron. “We weren’t subtle at all, so let’s make this quick. The ones too curious to be afraid will be heading this way and I want to be gone ASAP.”

            “I’ll survey the closest destroyed vehicles,” Aaron said tautly. “We’re being watched. I’ve got that itch I had in Lebanon.”

            “That would be the Elves that Daya mentioned.” Iain glanced around. “Pandora, I’d like someone to guard Aaron.”

            “Lynn has him,” Pandora said quietly. “But she’ll stay covert unless needed.” We are stretched too thin already because of our losses, she said with her twee.

            “I assured Claudia that I would keep Aaron safe if I could.”

            Pandora grimaced. “Very well.” A second later Marguerite came out of the shuttle’s outer lock. “You have Aaron. Evacuate over defending.”

            Marguerite was wearing the clan’s battledress and a helmet that had been designed to allow her horn to protrude. She nodded. “Evacuate Aaron if there’s trouble.” She turned and trotted after Aaron, charging her GAR15 as she did.

            One second they were alone and the next four Elves appeared in front of a small copse of trees. No, Iain corrected himself, two Elves and two Elfqueens, from their heights, builds and they way they felt to him. His twee silently confirmed the identification.

            All four had living bows and one of the Elfqueens was wearing a crown of rose vines with leaves but no blooms on it that contrasted with the rose red color of her hair. She looked from Iain to Aaron as he strode away with Marguerite before focusing on Heather. “I am Maeve, Queen of Air and Darkness and these are my lands. Who are you, trespasser, and why do you come on my land unannounced?”

            Heather smiled thinly. “Pandora, announce us.”

            The Archangel nodded. “We are Grey Clan and we are here to inspect the damage to Fort Polk from the bombardment. Give us leave to pass unmolested and we will cause no harm.”

            “Now we are announced,” Heather stated.

            Maeve’s eyes narrowed. “Which of these humans is Iain Grey?”

            Iain raised an eyebrow. “Your intelligence is impressive. I am Iain Grey.”

            Maeve smiled, but there no warmth in it. “Before I became the Queen of Air and Darkness, we were brought here by the humans to act as a foil to you and,” she nodded to Heather, “your Queen, Ninhursag. We were given detailed briefings as to the workings of the Grey Clan. Then the fires came from the sky and gave me the chance to overthrow the humans and now all of this is mine. I never expected you would deliver yourself and your Queen into my hands, but I will not let this opportunity pass without seizing it.” More Elves appeared around them, coming out of hiding with arrows knocked and bows partially drawn. “You are now my property and your vaunted Clan is no more. Order your Queen to lay down her arms and swear fealty to me or I will kill her. I do not need her, but I will accept her loyalty if she remains peaceful.”

            I have been instructed by Ninhursag to hold fire, Daya reported.

            Ninhursag appeared, standing in an open area. “I am Ninhursag,” she announced. Maeve screamed suddenly. The vine crown she wore had burst into bloom and grown roots that burrowed into her skull as the vine sprouted new shoots that quickly entwined her limbs and spread over her body. More roots dug their way into her flesh as the vines spread. “And you are obviously not my equal,” she said grimly. Maeve toppled to the ground as the rose completely encapsulated the Elfqueen and more buds swelled and burst open to fill the air with their scent. The rose then sprouted more roots, grew into the dirt and stiffened, raising the corpse it held upwards until it looked like it was standing. “Now,” Ninhursag said to the Elfqueen that had been with Maeve, “that someone who thought she could steal from me has been dealt with, are you in charge and will you give us safe passage?”

            The Elfqueen made a motion and she as well as all of the Elves in sight dropped to one knee. “You have bested Queen Maeve in combat. Ninhursag is our Queen now.”

            Ninhursag shot a startled glance at Iain. I murdered her. There was no combat.

            From the title she gave herself, Maeve styled herself as Unseelie, Iain replied. It seems that treachery is fair combat in this court. You might want to change that rule.

            That does seem prudent. “I will not tolerate any that seeks to keep the ways of Maeve,” Ninhursag said in tones of hammered iron. “You are Greys now and you will follow Grey law. Deceit and treachery are only for our enemies. I will be very firm with anyone who breaks that law.”

            The Elfqueen nodded. “I understand my Queen.”

            “Rise and name yourself.”

            The Elfqueen rose gracefully. She had dark blue hair that matched her eyes. “I am Napellus, my Queen.”

            Ninhursag raised an eyebrow. “You are Aconitum Napellus?”

            “That is from which I was given my name, yes, my Queen, but I am only Napellus unless you see fit to rename me.”

            “What was your human name,” Iain asked.

            She blinked and looked at him curiously. “I was Angela.”

            “Are there currently any activities that assembling my new court would cause any to be placed in unnecessary danger,” Ninhursag asked.

            “My Queen, when the humans assembled, the fires from the sky would come and kill them.”

            Daya, do not bombard this area while the Elves assemble, Iain sent.

            Yes, sir. Theodora has been informed and exclusionary parameters have been updated.

            Thank you. Ninhursag, they can assemble without being bombarded.

            Ninhursag spared a glance for him. Well done. She smiled grimly at Napellus. “I control the fires from the sky and my people are safe from them. Assemble my new court.”

            Napellus nodded. “Yes, my Queen. Is that Elves only or does that include our slaves and pets as well? If not, guards must remain to watch them or some of them will try to escape and they will have to be punished.”

            “Elves only,” Ninhursag replied after a brief hesitation. “But detail sufficient guards to ensure there is no trouble with the slaves. I will meet the guards later.”

            “Yes, my Queen.”

            “Napellus, you speak with my voice in this,” Ninhursag said. “Take sufficient Elves with you that no one will argue my orders.” She gestured around them. “In fact, take all of these. Pandora and her guard will watch over me until your return.”

            Napellus bowed. “My Queen.” She looked up. “Come, my sisters.” The Elves followed her into the trees and disappeared.

            “I have slaves,” Ninhursag said, a hint of irritation in her voice. “Unseelie courts are sick.”

            “Sorry,” Iain replied.

            Ninhursag cocked her head. “What for?”

            “I decided to make the Elfqueens have courts and mimic the Sidhe and be Seelie or Unseelie when I rewrote them.” He shrugged. “Or saw what was already going on and documented it.”

            “How about we don’t talk like that while we’re here,” Ninhursag asked.

            “Seconded,” Ganieda said.

            “Passed by acclaim,” Heather added. “No being creepy.” She smiled. “Marguerite says Aaron is done and they’re on the way back.”

            “At least we kept everyone distracted from him,” Pandora muttered.

            “I thought you said you’d be happy if this turned out to be a non-event,” Iain noted. “Nobody on our side got hurt and Ninhursag added to her court.”

            “Like she said, they have slaves,” Pandora pointed out acidly.

            “That’s here in Indigo and in the old court,” Iain said. “In Texas and as Greys they’ll be free, so she can free them before we go to Texas and that way they can either leave or be grateful for the beneficence of their new queen and be extra loyal.” She gave him a hard look and he nodded. “No, I’m not fun right now.”

            Pandora sighed. “You need to stop hiding your pain from us.”

            “Did it ever occur that what you’re not experiencing is only a side effect?”

            Heather frowned. “I don’t understand.”

            “He isn’t hiding his pain from us,” Ganieda said quietly. “He’s burying it to keep from having to experience it.”

            “Enough,” Iain said as Marguerite and Aaron approached. “You done?”

            Aaron nodded. “Let’s get out of here.”

            He looked at Ninhursag. “You’re staying?’

            “I have to.” She sighed. “And you shouldn’t stay. I’ll bring them around for you to meet later, when they get inducted into the Queendom and the clan.”

            He thought for a second. “Ganieda.” The Snugglebunny Splice looked at him. “Go get some of Ninhursag’s guard.” Ganieda nodded and vanished.

            “I don’t need a guard.”

            Iain chuckled and was surprised to find that it felt entirely natural. “Don’t be me.”

            Ninhursag blinked and laughed. “I suppose you’d know better than anyone if I was."

            Ganieda appeared and activated some pokeballs, releasing Dionne and five Elves. She tossed the balls to their owners and nodded towards Ninhursag. “There she is.”

            Dionne turned to Ninhursag. “My Queen.”

            “Dionne?” It was Iain. “I need to clarify something with you.”

            The Elfqueen gave him a suspicious look. “What is it?”

            “I do not normally interfere with the activities within Ninhursag’s court, correct?”

            She nodded. “You have an agreement to let her rule her court.”

            “Which I have been careful not to do most of the time. However, I rule the clan, do I not?”

            She nodded slowly. “Where are you going with this, Iain?”

            “Clan law trumps everything else, does it not?”

            “It does.”

            Iain nodded. “Normally, all I could do is bring you and your troops here and leave, which means that Ninhursag takes command of you, right?”

            “Yes.” Dionne didn’t look happy. “We obey her orders over yours as she is our queen and you are only our male.”

            “Are you aware that Ninhursag will replace me as the Grey if I am killed? She is directly next in the line of succession.”

            “I know that, Iain.”

            Ganieda grinned suddenly and looked at Ninhursag. “You are about to be so pissed off.”

            “I am speaking to you as the Grey,” Iain said to Dionne. “You were brought here at my orders to be Ninhursag’s guard. This means it is my order that you guard my heir to the best of your ability and, while you have this post, you may not be removed from it by anyone except me. Right now you and these fine ladies work for me as the Grey and not Ninhursag as the queen.”

            Dionne turned to face a suddenly scowling Ninhursag. “His ruling is legal and sound, my Queen. I must obey him in this.”

            Ninhursag turned her scowl on Iain. “Did you have to pull this stunt with my Elves and not with Sofia or someone in the harem?”

            “You can’t hide from Dionne,” Iain replied.

            “I noticed that you picked one of the few Elfqueens who agrees with you for this,” Ninhursag said acidly.

            “That is not true, my Queen,” Dionne replied. “I am one of the few who is willing to openly voice my opinion of how much you need guards. Many others agree with me who will not speak up for fear of incurring your wrath.”

            Ninhursag looked shocked. “I don’t punish people for disagreeing with me.”

            “I call that about eighty five percent true,” Heather said. “You do not punish people, but you have underlings who try to read your feelings and they will punish people who disagree with you if you seem to not appreciate it. I don’t think you know about all of it, but it appears that you don’t stop them, which makes it look like you condone what they’re doing.” She smiled grimly. “I can speak freely because they can’t touch me without losing a limb since I am Iain’s.”

            “Why didn’t you say anything about it?”

            “I got my post on my back, remember?” Heather smirked when one of the Elves made a noise suspiciously like a choked off laugh. “You and I know it isn’t true, but your Elves believe it and so I am persona non grata in your court unless I’m with you or carrying out your will.”

            “If it’s true,” Iain said firmly, “and if it is I don’t think it’s because you condone it, perhaps this is a good time to clean house since you’re going to be adding some new Elves and you can change policies and not have everyone grumbling about the good old days.”

            “I think you might be right,” Ninhursag said thoughtfully. “Dionne, will you help me with this if I ask you?”

            “I am yours, my Queen.” The Elfqueen smiled. “The fact that I agree that the current situation is wrong will make me ever more vigilant in stamping it out.”

            “That’s great,” Iain said, “but right now Dionne and these Elves work for me and not you. Finish your business with the locals. Once you’re done with that, Dionne can inform me and I’ll release her back to you.”

            Ninhursag smiled slowly. “I’m glad to see you are still as cunning as ever, my love, even if I wish you weren’t using it to outmaneuver me.” She looked at Dionne and the Elves with her. “I release all of you to the Grey’s orders. Do as he commands without fear any that I will punish you for it later.”

            Dionne nodded and turned to Iain. “We are yours to command, my lord Grey.”

            “Protect Ninhursag. Don’t let things start to spiral out of control before you yell for help.” He looked at the other Elves. “If Dionne misses something, do not be afraid to call for help for her. She is an Elfqueen and sometimes they’re a bit too proud.”

            One of the Elves grinned. “You will protect us from her if we have to do this, my king?”

            “I will. You have my promise.”

            “How did Heather come to be in your service, my king,” one of the other Elves asked.

            “I saved her life and she gave me hers in return,” Iain said simply. “If I’d realized that her being utterly loyal would not make her utterly obedient, I might not have been quite so quick to accept her gift.”

            Heather giggled. “Too late.”

            “It is.” He looked at the Elf. “Does that answer your question, Afra?”

            She looked surprised. “You remember my name, my king?”

            “Of course I do.” He gave her a crooked smile. “It would be hard to forget someone like you.”

            She gave him a pleased smile back. “I am glad you remember me.”

            He was having sex with a bunch of ambitious women who routinely were behind him with sharp pointy weapons and firearms. It was prudent to remember them all well enough to keep them content. “Daya, keep an eye on Ninhursag and the rest of our clanswomen. You are weapons free to protect them.”


            He reached out with his twee. Scheherazade and Lynn, please stick around and keep an eye on the women here.

            We will, Scheherazade reassured him.

            He nodded towards the shuttle. “Let us on board please.” The shields dropped. “Aaron, ladies, let’s go.” He turned back to Ninhursag. “Be careful.”

            “I will.”

            Back in the shuttle, Iain lifted off and hovered for a second. “Daya, bring one of those other assault shuttles in to provide close support in case Ninhursag needs it. I don’t want to have the concealed carry rule to come into effect for her.”

            Aaron glanced at him. “I haven’t heard that one.”

            “It is why people went through the trouble to get licensed to carry, back when there was a government that required it and a state that allowed it. The rule is that when death is only seconds away, the police are only minutes away.”

            Aaron grinned. “That’s true enough.”

            “That’s why I want that shuttle on station so it’s not fifteen seconds away when she needs it.”

            “If,” Pandora added.

            “We all hope she won’t and plan that she will,” Ganieda shot back.

            Iain decided to ignore them and looked at Aaron. “What did you determine?”

            “Would you mind if I waited to write up my observations and send them to you? It helps to fix the facts in my mind and the report will be easy to give to my Mrs. Madam President Robinson when she demands it.”

            “Sure,” Iain said easily. “I just wanted an assessment that wasn’t from one of my clan’s ladies.”

            Daya appeared. “I have two combat shuttles on station, and they have already launched drones, Iain. If Ninhursag and the others need my help, they will have it almost instantly.”

            Iain touched the controls and the shuttle turned towards the west. “Thank you. Let’s go home.”


            Caintigern waved a hand and a dimensional portal opened. “We will be having class elsewhere today,” she said. “Come with me.” She stepped through the portal.

            Iain paused to analyze the portal, putting up his force field and following her when he recognized the coordinates as going to the Ragnarok that he and the dragonesses used but not one of his safe emergence points there. He emerged from the portal onto a ledge halfway up a cliff that one of the largest waterfalls on the map fell from. It was fed from the Murder Snow and the water was only a few degrees above freezing. Caintigern was looking at something below them when he emerged. “Why are we here?”

            A spray of frigid mist engulfed them both as she turned to face him and the gate closed. “I wanted to speak to you out of the range of the listening of your nonliving sentinels and your mind readers. This is not their business.”

            Iain dropped his force field. “Do I need to go get Nightraven?”

            Caintigern shook her head. “For this you do not.” She turned back to looking over the edge of the ledge. “Join me and tell me what you see.”

            Iain shrugged and moved to stand beside her. “I’m going to see creatures running from other creatures who are trying to kill them. I am going to see creatures being killed and eaten. While it’s not truly natural, since it is an artificially created system, it is essentially nature at its most primal. What else should I be looking for?”

            “I spent a long time purging myself of all emotions before you took my forest and woke me,” Caintigern said. “Nightraven is the product of the murder of our bloodline and her unrelenting drive for revenge for it.” She motioned at the scene below them. “We are the only members of the People that you have encountered. It is not surprising that you believe we are as primitive and as destructive as what is occurring there, but we are, in our way, as artificial as that is.” She lifted her head to look at him. “If you were to travel to our home and meet others of the People you would understand that.”

            Iain wasn’t quite sure where she was going with this and regarded her curiously. “I know that the People are exactly that, people. I know they have art and music and literature and that the commoners are just trying to make their way through life with as little trouble as possible. Most people are that way. I also know your customs are such that I would be outed as a stranger in less than ten minutes.”

            Caintigern smiled. “A dragoness would seek to claim such a powerful looking drake once she used her magic to determine that he was unmated. She would tell you what to do and you would refuse her.”

            He nodded. “Yeah.”

            “The drake who sired my daughter the Princess was important to me. I was fond of him and we spent time together before and after she was born. When he chose to leave and go elsewhere, I missed him, and when he was killed in a fight with another drake, it hurt. I grieved when he was killed.”

            Iain decided not to point out that she was so devastated that she couldn’t even say his name. It wouldn’t have been true, in any case. “I don’t think you are telling me that I am as important as he was. We don’t spend a lot of time together outside of lessons or courting.”

            “I am not, for you are not. I know that the ones who were killed recently are important to you. I know that you grieve for them.” She looked back down at the base of the waterfall. “You must be very careful about how you grieve. It can cause you to wish to join them and then your power can make that wish true. It sometimes happens among the people and you must avoid it happening to you.”

            “Are you worried about me as a person and doing something that’s ill advised or are you concerned about me killing myself and depriving you and Nightraven of a resource for the upcoming war?”

            “I do not know you as a person, Iain. Outside of the infrequent times you court me, you are careful to show me very little of what you are as an individual.”

            Iain’s mouth dropped for a second. “Nightraven doesn’t want me to act as an individual. I am her student before anything else. You have been behaving just like she does.”

            “I have. I wish to change that behavior towards you.” She turned to face him. “I will speak with Nightraven about changing her behavior towards you as well. We have accepted you as our mate but we have not been treating you as such. That must change.”

            “Those are easy words to speak,” Iain kept his tone polite. “But the culture of the People in general and of the ruling bloodline specifically does not lend itself to those kinds of changes. Even your relationship with the Princess’s sire was that of a Queen to one of her nobles, although I will admit you were very fond of him.”

            “You know of it?”

            “Please remember that I have your memories of your interactions with drakes, including him.”

            “I had not considered that you had spent much time reviewing those memories. You are not old enough to have spent the necessary time to do so.”

            “I have spent nearly a century as Nightraven’s student or doing her will. When I’m not with my family or getting laid by one of the locals I don’t bother pretending to sleep and mediating enough to stay sane only takes an hour or two every day. That gives me some free time and research into the race that I have become is a good way to spend some of it.”

            “My niece is correct. You are a cunning drake, more so than I would expect from a drake of the People.” She smiled. “More than I would expect from any of the lesser drakes or races either.”

            Iain took a deep breath. “What is this about? Why are we here and why are you telling me all of this?”

            “As you have recognized, I am lonely. You are to be my mate. Am I not allowed to seek to become less lonely by spending time with my mate?” She looked at him expectantly.

            Iain considered how to delicately respond to that before giving up. “Do you understand what love is?”

            “I do.”

            “Have you ever experienced love? I can’t find it in the memories that you gave to me. Knowing the book definition of love and experiencing it by being in love with someone are two very different things.”

            Caintigern cocked her head and looked thoughtful. “Can you show me what you mean by what you call love? You could share your memories of love with me.”

            “I’d rather not.”

            “Then I have no way of telling if I have experienced the love that you, as a member of the People who was once a human, claims to have.” She waited a few seconds while he didn’t respond. “I have never betrayed your trust.”

            Iain flashed a grin. “I’ve never given you any trust to betray. And, honestly, I suspect you would betray my trust just as quickly as Nightraven did if it suited your purposes.”

            “How did she betray your trust?”

            Iain stared at her for a long moment before shaking his head. “You really don’t know?”

            “I would not ask if I knew the answer to my question.”

            “I never asked to become one of the People. She decided that I was going to be the one to help her with her desire to take the throne from Blacktooth’s spawn and, without my permission, destroyed my humanity in order to make me into what she wanted me to be. It isn’t the honor that you two seem to think it is. When confronted with what she’d done, she showed no remorse. Other than in my usefulness to her, I do not matter to her at all.” He gave a mental shrug and poked the bear, knowing the stick was very short and, for once, not caring. “Just like, other than in my usefulness to you, I don’t matter to you. Why would I want to spend time that I don’t have to with either of you?”

            Caintigern frowned. “Then why do you pay court to us?”

            “Could it be from the oh, so subtle threat Nightraven made about how, now that I’m a dragon and tied to her fate, if I don’t help her and she loses then Blacktooth’s people will track her back, figure out I’m her student and then murder my family? If I don’t help you two as much as I can, the people I love are doomed. Most of the time I act like I have a choice of being involved with the two of you since it keeps you happier, but the truth is that I don’t. I am not willing to abandon my family to save myself, Nightraven knows this and she has used it to trap me into helping her to the best of my ability.” He shook his head. “I can’t even betray her to Blacktooth’s crowd since they’d use me to kill her and you and then exterminate me and my family since I’m not a normal drake and I don’t find loving some of the lesser races to be abhorrent. That and traitors never trust other traitors not to betray them too.”

            She eyed him curiously. “If you could safely destroy us, would you act?”

            “Why do I think my life hangs in the balance of whatever answer I give to that question?”

            “You are too cunning as a drake, that’s why. Any other dragoness asking this question would plan to destroy you if you answered incorrectly. I, however, wish to know the truth.”

            “If I had learned everything that I could from both of you and could safely destroy you,” he shrugged, “I don’t know. You do have the occasional moment where you’re not a callous bitch.” He frowned. “Yes, I do. I know the answer to that question. I would destroy you since you don’t value my family and, as long as they exist, I will never be what you two want me to be. That means they’re in danger from you and I am determined to keep them safe, which means you’d have to die.”

            “Why are you telling me this, then?”

            “Nightraven punishes me when I lie. That means she can tell when I lie. If she can tell when I lie, you can too.”

            Caintigern stepped forward until they stood chest to chest and looked up at him. “Please show me how much you love your family.”


            “I do not wish to destroy you. First, as you say, we need you until our bloodline has been restored.”

            Iain waited a few seconds. “Is there a second reason?”

            “In my life, no one has ever been truthful with me the way that you are. Even knowing that I can tell when they lie, my courtiers and servants would lie to me because, in the past, I had not punished them for their untruths and it was not beneficial to them to tell me the truth. Even knowing that I might destroy you for being truthful does not keep you from being truthful to me. I should find that infuriating, but I do not. Also, you are not truly one of the People and you do not even attempt to be one of us. I should find that infuriating and disgusting, but I do not. Our customs and ways have been proven unquestionably superior by the tens of thousands of years that the People’s society has existed without change. It is obvious and yet you refuse to accept that. You see us as barbaric and trite.”

            “That’s not true. I don’t see your society as barbaric. I see it as stagnant. The only way that a society wouldn’t change over thousands of years is if the powers that rule it kept it from changing. Being stagnant is as unhealthy as change for no purpose.”

            “It is words like that which should condemn you, and yet I do not wish to destroy you. I should and I am confused. To try and understand why I do not wish to destroy you, I seek to understand more about you so that I might understand why I hesitate. Your love for your family is integral to what and who you are and you claim I do not understand what love is, but you can help me to learn.”

            Iain sighed. “I would like to ask that you not pass these memories along to anyone else.”

            Caintigern cocked her head. “You do not ask for me to promise not to do this?”

            “I can’t compel you to do anything. I can’t punish you if you lie to me. I can’t even stop spending time with you. All I can do is ask.”

            “You do not think that I would keep a promise to you?”

            Iain chuckled sourly. “You are a Queen of the People in your heart and the history of the People is replete with examples of how Queens do what they want, when they want to, to whoever they want to, wherever they want to and why they want to. They answer to no one and their word means only as much as they decide it does until they decide differently. According to that history, you will keep your promises or even your word of honor for exactly as long as you want to. You don’t think like I do and the word honor, to the People, means weakness. It means a lot more to me and if you gave me your word and then broke it I would be furious with you.” He smiled bitterly. “It makes sense that Princesses would have to kill their mothers since they couldn’t trust her word to work with her, but if they could, they would have been unstoppable.”

            “Do you think that makes us less than human?”

            “I think it makes you inhuman, which is exactly what you are.”

            “It is honor that drives Nightraven to regain the throne. She feels dishonored because the royal bloodline no longer rules as it should.”

            “No, honor is the word she uses to justify what she’s doing. She just wants revenge for her mother being murdered.” Caintigern’s eyes went wide and Iain shrugged. “I’m not sure why. For all I know of the People’s culture, it’s because she didn’t get to kill her mother. But, honestly, why should she give a damn what happened to some distant cousin who sat on a throne that would never have been hers? Or maybe she wants the throne for herself and thinks, now that she’s the only one of the royal bloodline besides you, and since you believe that you can’t be Queen again, that she can take it.”

            “I believe I cannot be Queen again? I cannot.”

            “Why? Because Blacktooth struck your name from history and blamed you for all of the deaths she caused? I believe the rule is that the biggest, baddest bitch gets to be in charge. Not only were you already the Queen once, you’ve only gotten more powerful since then. The fact that you’re not racing Nightraven for the throne is your choice.”

            “Are you trying to foment discord between my niece and me?”

            “I am not. I need you both alive and working together to maximize our chances of success and the chances of my family surviving all of this.”

            “What of your survival?”

            Iain shook his head. “I am, by far, the weakest of us. It is very unlikely that I will live to see either of you or one of our daughters take the throne. For me, this is probably a kamikaze run, but I accept that if my family survives it unmolested.”

            “You accept that you will die?”

            “I accept nothing except that I may die. If I have one chance in two hundred million of surviving this, you can bet your ass I will shoot for the one, and I will go down fighting tooth and nail. But the odds are still against me. I know that’s the truth and that I can’t change it. It does not mean that I am giving up. I promised some of my women that I would never stop fighting unless all of them were dead, and I keep my promises.”

            “I wish to know more about you, as you are going to be my mate. Do you believe me when I tell you this?”

            Iain shrugged. “I can’t think of a reason why you’d lie to me about this particular subject, unless perhaps you want to use that knowledge to direct my behavior somehow.”

            “It is not your behavior I wish to change. I seek common ground between us. As you are to be my mate, I am seeking to discover thing that we both like that we might do them together.”

            Iain raised an eyebrow. “Dragonesses don’t court. Courtship flows towards them, not from them towards a drake.”

            “That is not entirely true. If two dragonesses desire the same drake at the same time,” she smiled slightly, “and cannot agree to share him, they will compete for his attention. That competition can include courting the drake they both seek.”

            “Does that please the drake, concern him or frighten him?”

            Her smile widened “It pleases the drakes that are not cunning. The cunning ones such as you would be frightened. Do you know why?”

            “Could it be because if a dragoness decides she’s losing she just might destroy the drake to spite her rival?”

            Caintigern nodded. “He would be fearful of that, but the truth is that dragonesses seldom stoop to such depths, for if they did, soon there would be no drakes for any of us. There are rules to such competitions to keep the drakes from perishing in a contest between dragonesses. As you undoubtedly suspect, they are not always followed, but if it is proven that a drake was killed because two dragonesses contested over him, and it is proven they are the reason he was killed, she who killed him will join him in death. If they both contributed to his death, both will be executed.” She smiled at his expression of disbelief. “There will be what you would call a forensic investigation into the drake’s death. It will include an interrogation of all involved parties to determine the truth of the events, including a necromantic interrogation of the dead drake to ensure a third party isn’t seeking to destroy both dragonesses by killing the drake and making events look like they caused his death. All deaths are investigated this way, as murder is illegal among the People too.”

            “Except for the Queen and her Princess.”

            “That is true, but even a Queen and any Princesses must live with the realities of the situation they are in. Queens and Princesses who behave justly towards their subjects fare much better and live much longer than unjust ones.” She cocked her head. “And you have not managed to change my focus. I still wish to understand what you call love.”

            Iain shook his head. “I did not stop loving the women and children that are dead now. The grief I feel because of their murders is integral to that love and I don’t think I can separate out the love I feel for the ones that aren’t dead from my love for the others. The depth of that pain frightens me and I have locked it up because I’m worried that I won’t be able to control my power if I experience it all at once and I might destroy the people still around me that I care for.” His eyes met hers. “The one time I let someone feel that pain, I killed him. I don’t hate you and I don’t want to inflict that pain on you.”

            “Considering your earlier words, I would think that you would welcome the opportunity to cause me injury.”

            “We are not friends, Caintigern. We aren’t enemies, either, unlike the person I killed with those emotions. We are, however reluctantly, allies. I see no reason to do that to you.”

            “My grandniece told you that she will let you help raise your children from her. I have decided that I will do the same. I must understand what you feel so that we can work together to raise our children and not work at cross purposes, for if we do, we shall surely fail and we will all die.”

            “You show you understand nothing,” Iain snapped. “Nightraven decided what I will do. Now you have decided what I will do.”

            Caintigern’s face was a study in confusion. “I do not understand.”

            “Ask me if I want to be your mate.”

            Caintigern frowned at him for several seconds. “Do you want to be my mate?”

            “No, I don’t.”

            Her eyes widened suddenly. “Do you want to be Nightraven’s mate?”

            “No, I don’t.”

            “You feel that you have no choice but to be our mate,” Caintigern said slowly.

            “I feel nothing, and it wouldn’t matter if I did. I have no choice in this. I don’t know if a drake of the People would just be happy as hell to be breeding you two and you just haven’t accepted the fact that I am not of the People and I don’t think like a drake of the People does. Honestly, I don’t care. I may be a drake of the People now, but I don’t think like one of them does and I hope I never learn how to think like one of them if they’re this fucking brain damaged. Now ask me if I will be your mate.”

            Caintigern hesitated. “I am afraid to. What do I do if you say no?”

            Iain gave a bitter laugh. “Nightraven has tied my family’s survival to hers. I can’t tell you no. What you can do, however, is let me pretend I get to decide. That I am in control of some aspect of this whole fucked up situation. Ask the question.”

            Caintigern nodded slowly. “I want you to be my mate, Iain. I want you to father our children. I want you to hunt for me when I cannot and fly with me. Will you consent to become my mate?”


            “Do you feel more in control of the situation?”

            Iain shook his head. “Not really. What infuriates me is that my family is in danger from this and I can’t warn them.”

            “There can be no hint of what is coming else some seer for Blacktooth’s spawn might prophesize our attack.”

            “Between you and Nightraven, does it really matter if they know you’re coming?”

            “Do you not advocate giving no advantage, no matter how minor, to your enemies?”

            Iain frowned. “There isn’t a double negative in that sentence. It only sounds like there is, so my answer is yes, I don’t give advantages to my enemies.” He grimaced and touched his forehead with his index finger, pulling a blue ball of energy from it. “Here.”

            “You did not want me to have this.”

            “I still don’t. However, we’re in this shit together. I need to know what rules Blacktooth’s people will think we’re operating under so I can use those rules against them.”

            “We will.” Caintigern took the memory globe and shoved it into her temple.

            The shock of the icy water closing over him roused him to consciousness and Iain instinctively shifted to his dragon form to keep from freezing as he scrambled up the muddy bank to escape the swiftly moving river. He launched himself into the air as a Spinosaurus gave a challenge roar and charged in his direction.

            He twisted and climbed up towards the ledge only to stop and hover when he realized that the ledge was gone. Lava ran down the rock wall below where the ledge had once been and loud snapping sounds filled the air as the molten stone was chilled so quickly by the icy water that it stress fractured.

            Caintigern hovered in the air, lying on her side and curled into a fetal position. Her hands clasped the back of her head and she was screaming as fast as she could draw breath. Around her, a cloud of red energy drifted. When it touched the remains of the ledge, rock slumped into more lava.

            I am picking up transmissions on the radio frequencies used by the Overseers, as determined by Daya’s research, his twee told him. They are short commands that I do not recognize and are followed by a long string of nonsequential numbers. Directionality is unknown as we never placed sensors on this Ark.

            “It has been my experience playing the video game that new is usually bad.” Iain changed back to his human form and hovered in midair.

            Look at the closest Obelisk.

            It was the Green Obelisk and the upper third of it pulsed with a bright blue white. Hanging in the air and heading rapidly straight towards Iain was a large ball of blueish light that reminded him of the energy blasts from a Tek rifle, only it appeared to be much larger. A quick glance showed the other Obelisks were glowing the same way.

            “Time to improvise,” Iain muttered as he reached into himself and cranked his magic absorption up higher than he’d ever done before. He then expanded the field outward a few meters, similar to the way he’d done to deal with a mage named Spadolini to help Ninhursag murder him. Iain drifted towards the glowing cloud and almost sighed in relief when it vanished when his absorption field touched it.

            There was a crackling sound as the ball of energy from the Green Obelisk raced overhead and hit the cliff higher up. It vaporized a dozen cubic meters of stone and earth in an explosion that knocked Iain spinning. The interior of the crater glowed red and the heat radiating from it scorched his visible hair.

            I have more radio transmissions on the Overseer frequency, his twee reported as Iain steadied out his flight. The numbers are slightly different. I believe it’s correcting the aim of the Obelisk.

            “And then,” Iain muttered as he recklessly dived for Caintigern’s form, “the command will be to fire for effect.”

            I agree. We will want to be elsewhere at that point.

            Iain’s absorption field hit the red cloud and drained it as he darted into it for the floating figure. When his absorption field touched Caintigern, it neutralized her hovering and she fell. Iain moved faster and grabbed her wrist. As soon as they touched, he used his magic to put her into the same coma he’d put Ava when she blew herself up. Caintigern stopped screaming and went completely limp as the red clouds of energy faded away.

            Incoming. A quick glance showed the Green Obelisk was spitting a steady stream of plasma balls at him. Iain flew upwards and to the right as fast as he could while hauling Caintigern’s dead weight. More incoming. Iain looked around as he climbed. His twee was right and now the Red and Blue Obelisks were also shooting plasma balls at the waterfall. “Well, now I know about how the Obelisks destroyed that city in the lore of Scorched Earth.” The plasma balls slammed into the cliff and blasted huge craters into the surface. An inoffensive Parasaurolophus grazing when one of balls impacted nearby exploded into a reddish ball of expanding steam. A cloud of dust and condensing stone quickly covered the area as Iain fled.

            Warning! More transmissions on the Overseer channel. The Obelisks are adjusting fire and tracking you.

            Iain looked again and changed direction when he realized the streams of plasma were curving in his direction. “Oh, shit.” He changed direction again and, again, the streams followed him.

            Iain dove for the surface, a portal opening ahead near a pile of rocks. He flew through it and it closed behind him.


Iain Grey



Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani

April Grey - Duelist & beta

Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage

Pandora - Fiendish Archangel

Zareen - Nightmare

Sofia - Ria

Vanessa – Evangelion

Lucifer – Megami Sama

Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice

Heather - Elfqueen

Marguerite – Unicorn

Scheherazade – Dread Wolf

Irena – Sanctuary Goth

Lynn – Dire Wolf

Rosemary – Mistoffeles


Outer Clan

Golden Cloud – equine unicorn

Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female


Satellite Clan

            74 male Goblins

            89 female Goblins


Queendom / Outer Clan

73 Elves

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - Elfqueen

Heltu - Wet Queen

14 Wet Elves


Dead Harem

Dead Harem (22)

Eirian - Silver Dragoness

Aurum - Gold Dragoness

Skye - Blue Dragoness

Emerald - Green Dragoness

Beryl - Red Dragoness

Julia - human

Ling - Cheetit

Matilda - White Tigress

Liadan - Twau

Sorrel - Armsmistress

Natalie - Blazicunt

Maria – Slutton

Rhea Silvia – Chimera

Geraldine – Human analog of Iain

Alabaster – Dragoness (white)

Onyx – Dragoness (black)

Lapis – Dragoness (blue)

Garnet – Dragoness (red)

Iolite – Dragoness (purple)

Malachite – Dragoness (green with white swirls)

Dabria – Dark Queen

Omisha – Demoness


Mother                                    Children



                                    Myrna (Age 4)



                                    Dorothy: Duelist (Age 3)

                                    Meara: Duelist

                                    Regan: Duelist


                                    Olivia: Megami Sama (Age 6)

                                    Seraphina: Megami Sama

                                    Miram: Angel (Age 5)



                                    Caltha: Nightmare (Age 0)

                                    Kim:  Nightmare

                                    Xanthe: Nightmare

                                    Epona: Nightmare

                                    Philippa: Nightmare

                                    Nott: Nightmare

                                    Nyx: Nightmare



                                    Anna: Ria

                                    Esmerelda: Ria


Monica Chambers

                                    James: Jamie Harris kid (Age 2)