I was officially in heavy lust with Warrick. The full-on sex had been awesome. A giddy rush actually swept through me at the thought of banging his exceptionally fine ass when he was out of his chassis. It’d been kinky cool to slide into him as a cyborg, but I wanted to feel his skin against mine as we ground together, panting and grunting and reaching for orgasm. He smelled better than fantastic as his arousal increased, and I honest to gods wanted to lick him entirely from head to toe. Well, not really lick his chassis, but I wanted to taste every inch of his skin that I could. I wanted his scent clinging to me just as mine needed to be covering him.
I had no idea what had come over me to call him mine, even in a casual form. That wasn’t something that typically slipped out of my mouth regardless of how arousing and attractive I found my partner to be—especially not after the first real romp in bed with someone. I’d said it to lovers before, but only after being with them for a few months. I didn’t count the times I’d said it when under the effects of a breeding cycle as that was a completely different situation and generally an Awh’anise wasn’t very rational then, operating purely on instinct and very firmly in the dominating/submissive mindset. At least initially, we were like that until the insane need to breed settled into just a very serious need to breed.
I hadn’t expected him to respond in kind and say the right word back to me. I knew he had the entire Awh’anise language in his head, but that shouldn’t have meant he’d know what to say back to me. At least, I didn’t think it worked that way. Warrick replying as he did had sent a thrill through me like nothing I’d ever felt before. It felt so right, it was a little scary. But scary in a good way. He made me purr for him, too. Like most Awh’anise, I was usually good at controlling when and who I purred for. I couldn’t stop myself from doing it around him. I was far too content and happy feeling. That was scary as fuck because I’d never had the problem of keeping my purring to myself before. I couldn’t stop myself with Warrick. I’d make myself stop and then five minutes later, I’d find myself purring again as we lay snuggled together. I finally mentally shrugged and just let it happen.
I wasn’t sure if he knew the significance of my purr. I had no idea all of what Moswen had stuffed into Warrick’s head. I knew, in general, that Warrick now had language, customs, and such, but whether he now knew about some of the finer points of Awh’anise interaction, I didn’t have a fucking clue. Was the thing about us purring for a partner important information to be included in the data dump Moswen had done or was it just an unimportant side note that was left out? If Warrick was curious or needed more info, I was sure he’d ask. Warrick didn’t strike me as the kind of person to silently try to muddle his way through something if asking a few questions would get him the details he needed. It wasn’t a secret that the Awh’anise purred so maybe he thought nothing of it.
I was super comfortable where I was, and I should’ve been sleeping but my mind wouldn’t shut off. It happened sometimes when there was something bothering me about the way a program was working, or not working as the case often was. My body was nice and relaxed from the awesome sex with Warrick, and I was currently laying half on him, his heart a steady thumping under my ear and his oddly comforting-to-me, personal scent filling my nose. Effie was a little furnace against my back, his legs wrapped around me as much as possible, his breath puffing gently over the back of my neck. I felt settled and peaceful and like everything was suddenly perfectly right in my world. This actually felt better and more comforting than sleeping in a tangle with Tyh and Telek, and I’d never felt that way before about anybody I’d slept with.
My brain wouldn’t let me fully sink into the peace though. It kept going over the parts of the programming I’d been checking, questioning things and not finding answers, which was frustrating. I tried to shove those questions away, but my mind refused to stop poking and going round and round in circles. It was annoying as fuck when I wanted and needed to sleep.
Warrick seemed to be asleep. Effie was out like a light. I refused to disturb either of them by getting up and going back to the computer. I was also pretty sure that if I did get up and hit the computer again, Warrick would wake up, give me hell, and probably make me go back to bed. I smiled a little at that thought. I didn’t doubt for a second he’d be persistent as fuck in making me rest. I kinda liked that. It made me feel all warm and squishy inside. Yes, I knew it was his job to make sure I did my job properly, but I also felt like he was concerned about me on a personal level, too. We seemed to click with one another, which was a billion kinds of awesome.
“Can’t sleep or won’t sleep? You need rest, Tohan. I’ve taken into account the length of an Awh’anise day in figuring out our active/rest cycle, and you should be sleeping now,” Warrick said in a low voice. “You should be feeling like it’s the middle of an Awh’anise night and be sufficiently tired to fall asleep quickly.”
“Shit, did I wake you?” I wasn’t sure how I could’ve woken him since I hadn’t moved so much as the tip of my tail, but whatever.
“No. This close to you I can monitor your breathing and heartbeat, and both indicated that while relaxed, you weren’t asleep and didn’t appear to be approaching sleep any time soon. I can go extended periods of time without the need for sleep although my performance will gradually suffer. I’m in a resting mode that’s not sleep until you fall asleep. I’ll sleep then as well; however, my wet-ware will still be active and monitoring several things, alerting me to any changes that require my attention or immediate action.”
“You’re monitoring my heartbeat and breathing?” I asked surprised. I had no idea he could do that. Or would do that.
“Not intentionally. My sensors can pick up those things because of your current proximity to me. I can set them to ignore that if it bothers you. It isn’t meant to be invasive. It’s a passive sort of thing that helps me ensure you perform at optimal levels. It’s something like my monitoring of the air quality and ambient temperature.”
“You keep track of the air quality and temperature? Why?” This surprise conversation was even more interesting than the puzzle of the program my brain was still toying with.
“To keep alert for changes that might pose a threat to us. Decreases in breathable air could be the subtle beginnings of an offensive aimed at incapacitation to make an attack more effective with less chance of injury or failure from our attackers. Or a toxin could be introduced into the air to do the same. Lowered or raised temperatures can serve the same function, making us sleep heavier than we normally would.”
“That is so fucking cool. The monitoring thing I mean. Paranoid, but wicked cool. People call me paranoid, but I say I’m just very cautious. And no, it doesn’t bother me that you’re keeping track of my breathing and shit when we’re this close. I guess, technically, I’m sort of doing the same in a way. I can smell things and hear things from you that give me clues to your emotional and physical state. I can’t turn those senses off, though. I can make an effort to ignore some sounds, but it’d be straight up impossible for me to ignore the smell of your arousal. I can keep myself from acting on that though if I try really, really hard, but that’ll take a lot of effort now that we’ve had sex and I know you want to do it again.”
Warrick chuckled. “Duly noted. And yes, I’d very much like to have sex with you again. Not right this instant, but most definitely again. So, why aren’t you asleep? I assume it has something to do with whatever you were checking earlier. I’ve also got some questions for you regarding both of our tattoos but if you’ve already discovered something in the program, that is my primary concern and I want to hear about that first. I’d also like to discuss our food plans, but we can do that in the morning if you’d like, since it’s not an absolute pressing need right now.”
I hugged Warrick a little tighter and gave his skin a quick lick. I knew with one hundred percent surety that he wanted me to bang him again. It was still made of awesome to hear him say it. I wrestled my libido away from the suddenly very tempting possibility of maybe a little frottage as we lay pressed together. He’d just said not right this instant to more sex, so I’d wait until later. My dick was disappointed with that decision, but that’s the way things were. My brain gleefully leapt to the topic of the programming weirdness the second I stopped trying to wrestle it away from that line of thought.
“There’s something weird about the way some of the programs are organized. I suppose you could put it down to the way things are organized to a set rule for this facility or whatever. At first blush it looks that way. But something about it is bugging me. It’s a little too carefully... disorganized isn’t exactly the right word, but I can’t think of a better one to use at the moment.
“It takes a little time to find specific files I’m looking for, but only certain types of files. The main stuff is easy and generally where I’d expect them to be. Sub-folders are a little trickier, and they’re not the ones I’d expect to have to hunt to find. Stuff that the inmates need to be able to hack faster into the system overall are buried, which is good. But other stuff that people shouldn’t give a shit about are stuffed even deeper than that, which doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“What sort of things?” Warrick asked.
“Innocuous things that make no sense to hide. At least things that don’t makes sense to me. Like water consumption. I get that water is important, but why go to the effort to hide how much water is used in a sub-folder six deep in a folder called maintenance flow, which sounds like it should be about sewage but isn’t? Honest-to-gods, I can’t see anyone really giving two shits about how much water is or isn’t used here. As long as it’s there to drink when you want it, what’s the big deal in making it out to be something worth hiding?”
“That is a bit odd. Perhaps it was an accident to hide the folder? I don’t think that’s worth your attention though. You’re looking for the security holes, not for whomever is trying to use more than their share of water rations.”
That was a good point, but things just didn’t add up for me. I was a paranoid person and fully admitted that. But this folder layout was taking paranoia to a weird new level.
“True, but in looking for the security crap, which isn’t all nice and neat in one secure folder like it should be, I stumbled on this other stuff. I’m too nosy to leave something like that alone. It’s a family trait. The nosiness. I’m not as bad as Moswen, but then nobody is as nosy as he is. At any rate, how can you accidentally misfile a folder about water consumption six folders deep in something that doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with water consumption?
“And why can’t I find the power readouts? I thought if I maybe followed the power path through consumption records, I could get a general idea of where the prisoners were doing their hacking and then try shutting them down for a little while by cutting the power to that area. Life support is a different system, and I wouldn’t touch that, but power for lights and stuff, yeah, I could temporarily cut that to screw with their hacking progress. I can’t find the power records though, which is really weird. Why hide that? They would normally be in the admin section, but they’re not.”
“They could be filed elsewhere. Just because you’re used to a certain arrangement of files doesn’t mean whomever set this system up used the same organizational template you’re used to,” Warrick said.
“Very true. But when I tried a keyword search to find those power files, nothing came up. Not a single damn thing, and I tried every word and word combination I could think of to look for the power files. They exist. I’m sure of it since you’d need to keep track of power flow in a facility like this because it’s all generated on site. Any spikes or disruptions would need maintenance to take a look at the problem, so there have to be records of power usage and on-going monitoring. But I can’t find those records.”
Warrick said nothing for several seconds, so I looked up to see him frowning. Good. He was thinking about what I told him and wasn’t brushing aside my words. He was taking what I was saying seriously and not like I was being a bit too paranoid for my own good. I started talking again now that I was sure I had his attention and not some indulgent thing that would be forgotten come morning.
“The prisoner cells or rooms or whatever you call them have very basic, ultra-low power requirements. There’s an overhead light, a task light, sonic shower, and food dispenser. The dispenser and shower are on-demand and only power up when they’re actually used. The draw, overall, is super low. If you’re running a computer out of a cell, the demand is going to be higher than the average cell especially if the machine is something cobbled together from stolen parts, which it probably is. If that’s the case, the machine is probably going to run hot without the purpose-built fans that computers have so that more power will be needed to run not only the computer but whatever fans or cooling system they’re using. I’m thinking there’s at least two machines running to code break the system, and they’ll likely have them set up in the same area so that the people can talk to one another and not repeat stuff the other person has already tried. That’s how I’d set up a hacking team at any rate.”
Warrick nodded, his look thoughtful. “That’s a good plan of action to find the hackers. Pity it hasn’t worked out. I could’ve stealthed my way into the area based on the information you’d gathered, taken care of the hackers in a very permanent, terminal fashion, and destroyed whatever computers they were using. I doubt there are a lot of people in the prison populace that have the skills necessary to hack a system, so killing even a few of the hackers would slow them down considerably. Destroying their tech would further slow or maybe even stop them for a time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given a manifest of the prisoners and their crimes that got them sent here. It was deemed unnecessary to my mission parameters. Any prisoner that interfered with my mission was to be seen as a threat and disposable.”
I frowned now. I hadn’t realized that. I didn’t like it. Not the killing part. I didn’t give two shits about that. It was the withholding of information that bothered me. Why keep any information about the prisoners from Warrick? In my head, knowing more about the situation we were going into would only help, not hinder us. Fine, we weren’t going to try to schedule dinner parties with the prisoners, but knowing who was in for what could’ve been helpful. I’d have to see about snagging that inmate list for Warrick.
“I did a brief check of the prisoner log. Currently, there are eight people here with really good hacking skills. It’s what got them sent here in the first place. I know two of them by reputation only, although I didn’t know they were prisoner’s here. Under normal circumstances, the hacking skills of these prisoner’s wouldn’t be an issue since none of the prisoners are allowed anywhere near computers. But they have access to one, or more than one, now. So far, their access appears to be contained to only the systems here on the asteroid and not all of the systems. They can’t make contact with the universe at large as far as I can tell right now, which is good. If word got out what was happening here, I’m positive some of the associates of the more powerful people would mount an attack of some kind.”
“True enough. The auto-defences would engage though. It would need to be an assault of substantial size to overcome those. Given some of the people held here, an assault of that size could likely be raised; although there would be heavy casualties before they managed to break through. It’s also possible that some factions could band together to draw up the necessary firepower to completely smash the auto-defenses if the prisoners managed to somehow get word out to the universe at large. It would be impossible to hide that many heavily armoured ships with the firepower necessary from the tethered station and they’d most certainly send an emergency signal out, notifying an attack. It has the potential for a bloodbath and a high rate of failure. The ones behind this hacking attempt have to realize that.”
I sucked in a sharp breath as ideas and possibilities suddenly clicked into place in my head.
“Shit. What if the purpose isn’t to get themselves off the asteroid via the shuttles but to get a message off the asteroid? Think about it. The shuttles that were here aren’t designed for long flights, and it’s a flight of several hours just to get to someplace with spaceships capable of speed and long flights. The station we left from is the closest and is heavily guarded. There’s no way in hell that an unauthorized ship would be allowed to just land, and the people on said ship go their merry way and book passage to someplace else.
“The derelict station tethered to the asteroid only gets shuttles capable of longer distance once a week for the scheduled crew exchange. If a shuttle managed to leave the asteroid and get to the tethered station, unless they timed it just right, an alarm would be raised on the station. Sure, they could probably dock at the station, but it would be a dead end as they’d be trapped in the shuttle in a de-pressurized docking bay. With the stuff that’s already gone down, I can’t believe they wouldn’t know that.”
“The prisoners do seem to possess a good deal of intel. I agree that they’re likely aware of what would happen if they attempted docking at the tethered station. There could be a ship waiting out of range of the security sensors. That would solve the docking issue with the tethered station, and one of the shuttles could make it out of sensor range. It wouldn’t be a fast flight, but it would certainly be within the capabilities of the shuttles that were here. To the best of my knowledge, the tethered station doesn’t have any ships capable of giving chase and firing upon a fleeing shuttle. It’s merely crew quarters and a way-point.”
“It would take a good bit of money to finance having a ship just waiting out there for stars only knows how long on the off chance that they managed to get a shuttle out of here and cleared of the auto-defences. A message, however, only needs to reach a beacon, and those are small and virtually undetectable unless you’re actively scanning for them. Once a message hits a beacon, it goes to the next and the next, and you’ll never catch up to it regardless of how fast your ship is. Once sufficient clearance from the asteroid is reached, a beacon could be launched from the shuttle, and if it’s small enough, it wouldn’t trigger the defences to target it. It could then broadcast it’s message without any problem. They can’t launch a beacon high enough from the surface of the asteroid to reliably send a message as there is a communication lock-out field. It needs to reach a certain height, and the only way to do that is via a shuttle breaching the auto-defences. The shuttle isn’t the escape. It’s a means to setting up the escape.”
Warrick was quiet for several minutes. Now that the idea of a message beacon had formed in my head, it seemed even more likely than the idea of the prisoners trying to leave for parts unknown via the shuttles. They had to know how close to impossible fleeing in a shuttle was. But a message sent rallying the troops to come when the prison was in disarray and open to attack, that had a lot of merit.
“That does seem very plausible. Additionally, with the pulling of all personnel from not only the asteroid but also the tether station, should a heavily armoured ship arrive on a beacon signal, there’s nobody at the station to send out an emergency message,” Warrick finally said. A smile quirked up one corner of his lips. “You are definitely worth the money you’re being paid to solve this problem.”
I felt ridiculously pleased by Warrick’s compliment.
“That director guy said you’d help me if you could. With some of my equipment getting trashed that I really could’ve used right about now, how do you feel about mind-numbing data crawling?”
“How I feel about it is irrelevant, Tohan. Tell me what you need me to do, and I’ll do my best to complete the task.” Humour was in Warrick’s voice.
“You can say no, Warrick. You’re not a slave for me to use,” I replied, my tone serious.
“No, I’m not a slave. However, I am a soldier on a mission, and my orders expressly state that I’m to help you in whatever way I can. I suppose you could consider yourself my commanding officer in a way if it helps at all. I know you understand about chain of command, so if it helps you have a non-slavery point of view towards my role in this mission, then give me orders, sir.”
I grinned at Warrick, my brain immediately abandoning the thought of what I was on the asteroid to do in favour of something we’d both find way more fun. “So, we could play commanding officer disciplining an insubordinate recruit? I kinda like that game.”
Warrick shot me a surprised look before he laughed softly and gave me a quick kiss on the nose. “I’ve never played that game, but I’d certainly be willing to give it a try.”
“Fan-fucking-tastic. Too bad we don’t have some uniforms to really give it the zing of serious playtime. I bet you’d look awesome in a uniform. But I wasn’t kidding about the brain dead stuff I’d like you to tackle for me. If you can track down where those power consumption files are, that would be awesome. If I can put a crimp in the hackers activities while I continue to do my shit, it’ll help me buy some extra time to plug the security holes. I’d also like you to keep an eye out for any other things that seem odd to you. Nothing specific but just stuff that seems off. I’ve gotten a couple of strange vibes since I started this job, and instinct means a lot to an Awh’anise. Something other than just prisoners causing a shit-storm so they can get the hell off this rock is going on here. I know I’m not here to figure that out, but I feel like it’s connected in some way.”
“I can certainly do that. Since we’re discussing strategies, on the food front, you’ll need to adjust, if possible, the harvesting schedule of the bots in hydroponics in certain areas for us. The sooner we make a run there, the better. It leaves less time for the prisoners to come up with a plan to attack us, and if we stick to mostly fresh food with a little of our supplies mixed in to round out our nutritional needs, the things we brought will last longer. Hopefully, we only need to do one run to the hydroponics bay before we can get this situation wrapped up, but we should also think about needing a second at some future date before we’re finished here.”
“Yeah, I can do that. The bots shouldn’t be a problem to order around. The security for them is okay, but it could be a hell of a lot better. You tell me what you think we need, and I can do it in the morning. I can get a time for when they finish harvesting what we need so all we’ll need to do is show up at the right time and place to pick the stuff up and go.”
“Excellent. Can you tell me about your reaction to my tattoos and about your tattoos or are you starting to feel sleepy? You really do need to get some rest and the questions can certainly keep.”
“Nah, it’s fine. Not much to tell anyway. My tattoos are easy enough. Awh’anise heal really fast. Like stupid fast compared to a lot of other species. Most tattoo methods I’ve read about would have the tattoos healed and the ink absorbed or pushed out of our skin in weeks. You’d never know anything was done if the standard way of applying a tattoo was used on an Awh’anise. So, if somebody wants to have a permanent mark on their skin, scarification is the only way to go. Cuts are made in the skin, the depth varying depending on the look desired. Adding the liquid from a specific type of root will darken or add colour to the scarification like what I’ve got.
“The liquid from the root is very mildly caustic, which helps with the scarification process, and it changes the colour of the new skin formed. Depending on the time of year that the root is harvested, you get three different colours. By combining the colours, you can get more colours, although you’re still fairly limited. The colours can vary a bit dependant on the quality of the root, skill of the artist, and the person getting it done.”
“Your scarification is quite large. I assume it was painful and took a considerable amount of time?”
“Yeah. Even with the stupid-high pain tolerance my people have, it still hurt like a bitch. I had it done in two sittings, one wing at a time. I think it was about three hours per wing. After twenty minutes, the cuts felt like torture. Generally, you’re strapped down to a chair or table so you don’t move and fuck things up. Painkillers or even paralytic agents can’t reliably be used unless the piece is small because we metabolize them too fast to really be effective. I probably could’ve asked my Sho to put me under by using the Dream World but I know she would’ve told me if I wanted the scars so damn badly, then I’d have to suffer for them.”
“Wow. I would guess that scarification isn’t an often done thing then?” Warrick asked. “Or something done lightly if the pain is that high.”
“Actually, a lot of people get something. Usually it’s a small something and not the size of what I have. But go big or go home, right? I brought Kushaiah to the artist who did my wings. He wanted to have a band based on a design his sister made for him around his upper arm. It turned out really awesome and was super important to him because his sister passed away and he wanted to honour and remember her. Not sure exactly what family details you have from Moswen, but Kushaiah is phu’aetsu with Makis and Mered. I’m pretty sure they’re going to declare themselves shu’anad to each other in the very near future because they’re just that tight of a unit.”
I couldn’t help the tiny wistful tone in my voice. I loved Makis, Mered, and Kushaiah very much, but it was of the brotherly variety and not anything romantic despite the absolutely epic sex we’d all had that one time. I’d gotten super close to them over the last couple of years—almost as close as I was with Tyh and Telek—and I only wished them the very best. The wistful note was because I envied them the relationship they had and the absolute love they shared.
I was also really disappointed that by taking this job I’d missed the chance to witness Qetsiyah give Kamau her ceitai risdepa and Kamau declare himself shu’anad to Qetsiyah. Qetsiyah, Kamau, Nusair, and Namir were more than my brother’s kits to me. I was around them often enough to almost be a substitute parent to them, and I adored them. Qetsiyah, being the wonderful and thoughtful young lady that she was, had offered to move the date so I could be there for the ceremony, but that would’ve made Kamau’s sho miss the event, and having her there was far more important in my mind than having me there.
“Is something wrong, Tohan?” Warrick asked. “You sound a bit sad.”
“Thinking about Makis, Mered, and Kushaiah made me think about Qetsiyah and Kamau. I had to miss a very special, once-in-a-life-time event to take this job. I really wish I could’ve been there, but it just wasn’t possible with the timing of everything. There’ll be video of the whole thing, but it’s not quite the same as being there yourself. I know Qetsiyah and Kamau understand but....” I trailed off with a little sigh.
“I’m sorry you needed to miss something so important to you,” Warrick said softly.
I shrugged one shoulder. “Shit happens. They know I would’ve been there if I could’ve been. Technical challenge aside, I’m really glad I did take this job.”
“I got to meet you. Sounds like the worst pick-up line in the history of forever, but I swear it’s totally true. And not just because you’re a Daquan cyborg either. You, as a person, are way more interesting to me than any cyborg. That you happen to be one is just icing on an already awesome cake.”
Warrick’s cheeks turned pink, the blush dead easy to see on his bone white skin. I thought he looked adorable and sweetly hot when he blushed like that.
“Thank you. I’m glad we met, too. You really should try to get some sleep, Tohan. We’re going to be quite busy over the next little while.”
I grinned and kissed his throat before settling more firmly against him. He was right, and I actually felt like sleep was a little more within my reach after talking to him. Maybe I’d needed to talk things out with someone in order to get my mind to stop spinning in circles as it tried to figure out what was going on. I didn’t think I had everything figured out, but I’d barely scratched the surface of the files at the prison. I was sure things would get more clear the deeper we went into the files. Or at least I hoped they’d become clearer and not create more questions. As I was starting to fall asleep, I realized I hadn’t explained about my reaction to his tatts. I mentally shrugged. I could tell him in the morning over breakfast or something.
I blinked and looked around, confused at why I was on the beach in my home city on Awh’an. Last thing I remembered was making a mental note to myself to wake Warrick up with a little foreplay to get our day started with a smile and maybe a bang if I was really lucky.
“So, was it as good as you dreamed it was going to be?” asked a voice I’d recognize anywhere.
I spun around to see Moswen sitting on a rock, grinning at me. I gave him a huge smile and said nothing. He waited for several long seconds before rolling his eyes at me and sliding from the large rock to walk towards me.
“Come on, Tohan. How often am I going to get to hear about the mechanics of robot sex? Spill it. Inquiring minds want to know.”
“It was dead, fucking, awesome. But you know what? I want to have sex with him when he’s not in his chassis even more than I want sex again when he’s in full-on cyborg mode. Don’t get me wrong, it was wicked cool, but I want to suck his real cock and rim his actual ass way more. I want to lick every inch of his skin and rub my scent all over him.”
Moswen stared at me, his eyes widening in surprise. “You know about him being able to leave the cyborg parts? How? When I brought you there you didn’t know. I mean, I knew you dreamed about doing him as an organic in addition to a cyborg, but that was just a dream. I was pretty sure that it wasn’t common knowledge of how organic Daquan cyborgs are. I know how frustrated you were over just how little info you could find on them, too.”
“He told me. He seemed to think I’d be all freaked out over him not having all the parts that most bi-pedals do. I told him about Pallas. That set his mind at ease, I think. How’d you know? Or do I want to even ask? You’re lucky I’m feeling generous, too, or I would totally tattle on you to your sho about poking around in my dreams.”
“I’m nosy,” Moswen laughed. “Besides, I could always make you forget we even had this conversation so your threat isn’t a threat. Anyway, Kushaiah asked me to let you know that Effie wasn’t in your condo and that it hadn’t been trashed like Effie usually does when he’s mad at you. Kushaiah said he’ll still check the place like you asked him too, although he said that there was no way in hell he was going to clean up your place if Effie trashed it.”
“Kushaiah doesn’t need to check on Effie. That bag you accused me of putting rocks in? Yeah, Effie can apparently work zippers now. He stowed away in my bag. Little bastard is smart as fuck.”
Moswen’s mouth dropped open in shock before he closed it with a sharp click of his teeth. “Effie is with you? In the prison? Oh, shit. He didn’t hurt Warrick, did he? Warrick seemed like a nice guy, and I know the two of you will be good for each other. I’m not supposed to trespass on the prison, but I could scoot in really quick, grab him and be gone without so much as a blip on any sensors.”
“Nah. It’s fine. It was a bit tense a couple of times, but I think he’s okay now. At least, I think everything is going to be okay. Effie watched us have sex, and aside from that being a little weird because he was watching so intently, he seems to be ignoring Warrick for the most part. I told Effie he wasn’t allowed to attack Warrick, and so far, he’s mostly listening to me. He tried once to barrel into Warrick in a classic hy’prae take-down move, but that didn’t work and there was no harm done except maybe to Effie’s pride. He helped save our asses when we were ambushed getting out of the shuttle, so I guess it’s actually good that he snuck into my bag to tag along on this job.”
“You were ambushed? Stars, Tohan, lead with that sort of thing,” Moswen said with sudden worry in his voice. “You’re okay, though? Effie and Warrick, too?”
“Totally fine. Not a scratch. Got to see Warrick in action. That was fucking cool as hell. He shot somebody using a mirror and holding his gun backwards. I wanna see him in hand-to-hand combat. Might see if I can get him to do a little sparring with me. It’ll probably be hella fun.”
“That would’ve been wicked cool to see,” Moswen said with a grin before his expression turned serious. “Be careful, Tohan. There’s something about this I don’t like. I don’t know what it is, but it’s making the fur on my tail tip stand up. If you need an extract, don’t hesitate to call me. Or Tyh. Or your sho. If it’s not me, one of my Spirits will come get you both. Effie, too. I’ve put the word out, and they’re on standby for you guys. I wish I knew what it was that makes me twitchy about this job, but I honest to gods haven’t got a clue. Promise me you’ll be careful.”
I nodded and grabbed Moswen into a tight hug that he returned. I highly doubted that Moswen’s main purpose in seeing me in the Dream World was to pass on Kushaiah’s message. He was worried. Moswen worried was never a good thing and usually pointed to things going epic bad in a big fucking hurry. I needed to tell Warrick about this visit in the morning. We needed to come up with contingency plans for when everything went to shit.
I wasn’t being pessimistic or overly paranoid. If Moswen said he had a bad feeling, things were going to go sideways in a big way that would effect not just me and Warrick but could possibly be world-view changing. I’d seen it happen and gotten caught up in the blow-back before. The only uncertainty in my mind was when the clusterfuck dropped like a bomb.
Phu’aetsu: partner—permanent pairing/mate with children (long term, not necessarily monogamous)
Shu’anad: braid partner (husband/wife). Deeply committed pairing that typically only ends with the death of one partner. The pairing can be dissolved, but is rare. Only a very small percentage of Awh’anise opt for this as it is a strictly monogamous relationship.
Two thin braids about the thickness of a finger are made at the left temple of the one declaring themselves shu’anad, a braid representing each partner. The style of the braid is up to personal preference, and they can be basic, complex or woven with objects. Frequently the braids are made by the partner. The braids are only undone to wash the hair or tighten them as required. If children are the result of the pairing, a braid for each child is also added to the right temple.
Ceitai Risdepa (Laoikian): Promise/wedding armband created using an individual’s hair. Strands are looped, twisted, knotted, and braided into armbands that reach from wrist to shoulder on the left arm. Each design is unique to an individual. Made with the strands of hairs actually pulled from the scalp instead of cut. This is a very old, rarely used method. This is a much more permanent armband than a risdepa as the roots of the strands burrow into the flesh of the recipient, linking with their blood and nervous system. The process generally takes several weeks to complete and is said to be uncomfortable with stinging pain similar to a paper cut at the site of the root attachment. Because the armband attaches to the host, it remains alive as long as the host is. Once attached, the Ceitai Risdepa will be able to transmit some sensations of touch to the owner of the armband, and it is said to heighten the emotional connection during sex when the donor of the hair brushes his or her hair over the armband. A Ceitai Risdepa can be removed, but it is not a pleasant process and requires several hours of fairly intense discomfort to do so.