It wasn’t every day that I got called into the big boss’ office, thanks to all the gods. The dude freaking scared me spitless. The last time I’d been ordered to appear in front of him, it was for a huge dressing down for some things I’d done on my own time but had used company machines to do. What I’d done then wasn’t entirely above board but was not exactly illegal either. Not to put too fine a point on it, but what I’d done then wasn’t all that different from some of the stuff that I was ordered to do as part of my day job, so I really didn’t see what the big deal was. It wasn’t as if I’d been caught by the wrong people doing what I was doing or had left any trace of what I’d done. I was too good for that.
I’d gotten a disciplinary action written up in my employment record that time, which I didn’t really give two shits about, as well as a week’s suspension, which I looked at as a mini vacation, and the loss of that week’s pay. The pay loss irked me as I’d been saving to buy a crystal circuit board, and those things were hideously expensive even for someone making a better than decent wage like I was. I’d also been warned not to pull shit like that again while using company equipment, or there’d be some serious-ass consequences that I really wouldn’t like. I totally believed him.
He didn’t scare me because he was my overall boss and could fire my ass in the blink of an eye with zero reason. That would suck hard as the pay and benefits of my job were awesome and I’d be hard pressed to find something as good in the private sector. I was a civilian contractor for the military, and I loved what I did as a computer engineer. I loved the high-level military clearance I got as a perk of the job even more. Finding a new job wouldn’t be hard with my rep, but it would be a pain. I’d really, really miss the big-time military clearance and all the cool shit I had easy access to.
My big boss was hard-core, career military, but that wasn’t what made me twitchy either. I had all kinds of assorted relatives that were in various branches of the military, some of them even in top-secret, super-soldier, mega-elite branches. Despite how deadly, even for an Awh’anise, that made my family, they generally didn’t scare me like my big boss.
He made me nervous because I knew he was tied to some serious off, off, off-book things that weren’t even spoken of in whispers among the military. A little poking around in files I shouldn’t have access to outlined that he did things that made some of the stuff that my relatives did in the military seem tame. Then again, I wasn’t in the loop of all the dark and dirty things that my assorted family members got into during the course of their jobs in the different branches of the military. If my big boss wanted or needed to, I was absolutely sure he could make me disappear as easy as twitching his tail.
Not that he’d be able to keep my disappearance a pure disappearance with never a trace found. As way off-book as he sometimes worked, I was stupidly well connected with the type of people who could find out exactly what happened to me and, where I was, and those people would exact revenge with extreme prejudice on my behalf if I happened to be dead in my disappearance. Tyhlian, the oldest of us triplets, was not only a Shal-hazal Litch, but also the Litch Will of his House.
You didn’t fuck with Shal-hazal if you wanted to keep on living. You most certainly didn’t screw with a Litch since the Litches were all some flavour of insane thanks to the megalomaniacs, sociopaths, and all around nasty people they shared head space with. They weren’t dangerously insane anymore thanks to the Teichle that immigrated to Awh’an, but it was still a very, very bad idea to piss off a Litch. You really didn’t want to tangle with a Shal-hazal Litch that was powerful enough to run a damn House like Tyh did.
The other three people who ran the Shal-hazal House of Heyda with Tyh were my <i>sho, sha-ter’bil </i>and <i>nebil</i>, which was something that very, very rarely happened—like freakishly rare happening. Additionally, I had at least four, maybe five other close relatives in the same House, too. I think there were some more distant relatives scattered in a few other Houses as well. My family was ridiculously abundant with Shal-hazal, something very unusual considering that Shal-hazal made up only about one percent of the general population. You didn’t get to choose to be a Shal-hazal either. You could only be born one thanks to a weird little genetic twist of DNA giving the person the mental ability of a Shal-hazal.
If anything <i>‘unfortunate’</i> were to happen to me, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that nobody in my family would give up looking for me. Given that Shal-hazal had the unique ability to actually go into your dreams and dig out information you wanted to hide—some of them not being very gentle or careful with the digging part—nothing was safe from them. If somebody would rather not share whatever a Shal-hazal wanted or needed to know, it usually didn’t end well for the one not wanting to share, and the Shal-hazal got the info they were after anyway.
Even knowing all that, my balls were a little sweaty from nervousness as I sat in front of my boss. I knew there were worse things that he could do to me than a point-blank laser pistol shot to the head. Sometimes dying was the easy way out. Depending on how large I’d fucked up, I might not rate the easy way out for being such a huge pain in somebody’s ass.
I had an idea of why I was there, but I sincerely hoped like hell that I was wrong.
I’d recently been poking around someplace I wasn’t supposed to be without being told to go stick my nose in said place. Specifically, I’d used my military clearance and my hacking skills to look into some classified Laiokian government files for Tyh’s Lor’fei, Dakvir. Dak was Laiokian as well as something a little more. That something more was the Void, and he was literally the only one in existence right now since Void babies were immediately killed on sight. Being the Void made Dak universally feared and hated by the majority of his own people, something he shared with a small minority of his people called Teichle.
Laiokians hated the Teichle so much they sometimes killed Teichle babies when they were discovered. The baby killers generally suffered nothing more than a stern talking to for what they did if the <i>“incident”</i> even made it to court. In the past, parents of Teichle babies frequently gave their children to government facilities where all kinds of horrible tests were performed on them before they were sold for profit as slaves to other worlds. The parents even knew about the activities before they sent their defenceless babies there and were totally okay with that. That boggled my mind and made me throw up a little in my mouth at the same time. Laiokians didn’t officially do that to the Teichle anymore, although according to Dak it still happened sometimes.
Like the Shal-hazal, Teichle made up a tiny fraction of the Laiokian people. Dak wanted to save as many of them as he could and give them a shot at a decent life. Since he was partner to Tyhlian, the Shal-hazal Litch Will of the House of Heyda and one of my triplet brothers, it was totally possible he could do that with the backing of the House.
Dak’s parents were Teichle, so he had a bit of a vested interest in them. Dak wanted to know where his former government had sold the Teichle from the Facility before he was involved in helping the Teichle immigrate to Awh’an under a deal he brokered between the two governments. His goal was to find them, buy or steal them from the slave-owning scum that bought them, and bring the Teichle to Awh’an where they could live as free people among others who actually wanted them around and didn’t hate them on sight just because they were Teichle.
I was one of the best hackers around, and that wasn’t bragging. Dak knew that and asked me to go digging into secret Laiokian government archives he was sure existed to find the info that the officials were insisting wasn’t there. I saw his request as something I was morally obligated to do as slavery was a huge no-no among the Awh’anise and a pretty much universally loathed practice. If we came across instances of slavery, we did our best to stamp that nastiness out if we could. Slavery was something repugnant to us freedom-loving Awh’anise.
The info Laiok said didn’t exist was there, buried deep in files, in exacting detail. The Laiokian love of precise record keeping and staggering levels of bureaucracy made tracing the pieces of shit that bought the Teichle stupidly easy once I found the right thread to start pulling on. What I found about the sales and the continuing contact between the Laiokian government and the buyers was appalling and sickening and pissed me off big time. I gave everything I found to Dak and wished him luck in getting the Teichle still out there trapped in slavery back. I figured there was going to be another influx of Teichle coming to Awh’an soon once Dak finished his mission of mercy. That could only be a good thing in my mind, and I was more than happy to help Dak however I could.
I was ninety-nine point nine percent sure that I hadn’t left a trace of my activities in the Laiokian government archives, but nothing was a certainty in life, and I might’ve missed cleaning something up as I was leaving. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’d accidentally tripped a security wire while sneaking around in a classified place where I had no business being in. It hadn’t happened in years, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t happen.
Carefully ransacking the super secret files of a government that wasn’t mine and then liberating the information I found to give it to the most hated and feared man of the government I’d taken it from wasn’t even remotely legal or sanctioned. If my little foray had been discovered by Laiok, I was in so much deep shit, I wasn’t sure that my family connections would protect me. It wouldn’t matter that I’d been trying to help end some slavery. Causing a galactic incident between currently friendly planets was damn high on the do-not-do list.
“Tohan, you’re being sent to Demmron,” said my boss as he fixed me with a stern look.
Demmron was an asteroid in an irregular orbit around a dead planet in a little travelled part of the galaxy. The remote and barren nature of the place wasn’t what made my balls try and climb up my ass and my throat go bone dry in fear. The fact that it was a penal colony reserved for the worst of the worst offenders was what scared me spitless. It was also where various governments sent <i>‘problem individuals’</i> whom they couldn’t outright kill for whatever reason. I think I’d turned myself into a <i>‘problem individual’</i> by getting that info for Dak. <i>Fuck me</i>. I’d still do it again even if I knew the price, but fuck.
Cold sweat ran down my spine, and my tail tip puffed up to at least twice its normal size in fear. I was apparently in very, very deep shit. Possibly of the never crawl-your-way-out variety. This was exactly the sort of fate-worse-than-death thing I’d been afraid my boss would do to me. <i>Shit, shit, shit</i>. I was so very screwed.
“Sir?” I asked in a voice I somehow managed to keep from trembling. Go me.
Escape plans were already running through my head at the speed of light. If they detained me right away, getting away was going to be lot harder. Not impossible though. All I’d need to do was sleep. Once asleep, I could call Moswen in my dreams and have him steal me away. He could literally take me out of a secure cell just by using dreams and pop me anywhere in any galaxy in minutes because he was a Shal-hazal Spirit and that’s what they did. He was also the Spirit Will of the same House as Tyh, so it would be stupid easy for him to do that.
Kijika, Moswen’s husband, liked me and would probably be able to convince his grandfather, the king, to give me asylum in their country, which was on a different planet in a different solar system than either Awh’an or Laiok. Gi-foeh, the planet Kijika and Moswen lived on, was a nice place even if I’d feel like I was living in the land of the giants because of how freaking tall the Vylfians were. I could deal with that though when the options were land of the giants or the toughest, meanest super-max jail I knew about.
Moswen would probably do it because we were family, and family always helped each other out. He had a really strong sense of justice though, and he might not take me away into hiding because I’d obviously done something really, really wrong to get my charming ass sentenced to Demmron. Then again, he was also extremely fair-minded and didn’t blindly follow orders. There hadn’t been a trial of any kind, not even a farcical one, that had sentenced me to Demmron, and that would really offend his sense of rightness. So maybe he would save my ass. I figured I had a fifty/fifty shot with Moswen. I was working myself into a fine bit of panic before my boss spoke again.
“Relax, Tohan. You’re not being sent there as punishment,” he said, a tiny smile ticking up one corner of his mouth. He’d obviously intended to scare the crap out of me and was highly amused at my reaction. Asshole. “Or because of any of your extra-curricular activities.”
Oh yeah, he knew about my little tour through Laiok’s classified and not-supposed-to-exist files. But if he wasn’t going to string me up by my balls for that little search and retrieve mission—done without approval, even if it was to save lives and end slavery for some people—I wasn’t going to open my mouth to try to defend what I’d done. Admit nothing even when they caught you with the stuff you were stealing nestled snugly in your sweaty little hands.
“The government of Daquan wants to hire you to find and fix a problem they’re having with the computer system on Demmron. Since the asteroid is within their territory, they’re responsible for overseeing the facility and any problems therein. It appears that the shuttle and security system is being hacked by some of the prisoners on the ground, but they can’t figure out how. So far, two shuttles have managed to leave the asteroid without permission. They were blown out of the sky by the automated security system orbiting the asteroid before the shuttles managed to reach escape velocity, but the second ship got significantly further than the first before the security system blew it to pieces. That smells like the system is being tested. The Daquan government thinks that in addition to the shuttles being cleared for lift off and not triggering the auto defenses on the ground, whomever was in the ship was somehow linking the ground to the ship and working to hack the secondary defenses in orbit by using the shuttle as a way point before the shuttle got blown out of the sky.”
I nodded. That made sense. That also meant there were some real brains and a shitload of determination behind this effort. Everybody who was stuck on the asteroid wanted off it, but not everybody who was there had the brains, power, and drive to make the attempt especially when the attempts would most likely end up with the person flying the shuttle getting vaporized until the override for the security systems was found and triggered. To have people willing to die for the one behind the attempts was very troubling when talking about the type of criminals or <i>‘problem individuals’</i> who had been sentenced to one of the harshest prisons in the galaxy. That sort of devotion smacked of fanatical fervor and was scary as fuck. Those people would do absolutely anything for the one they’d given their devotion, no questions asked. Any of those criminals escaping would be epically bad for all kinds of people, not just the ones that had caused the criminals to be sent to Demmron in the first place.
A more unpleasant and frightening possibility was that the pilots of the shuttles hadn’t been <i>willing</i> to risk their lives but were forced into doing it somehow. Sure, everybody and their pet <i>cetr’ide</i> knew about space travel. Many of them had probably even flown to other planets. That didn’t mean everybody who’d been on a space ship knew how to fly one. That was a highly specialized skill set even with all the things that were computer controlled on a ship. Most people wouldn’t have the faintest idea of how to start up a ship never mind take off and fly it into the great beyond. I was amaze-balls with computers, but I couldn’t fly my way out of a wet paper bag without a shit-ton of luck.
I didn’t doubt for one second that there were people on Demmron who knew how to fly a space ship. Where else would you put dangerous space pirates but in a super-max that was known for blowing up unauthorized ships in their air space without warning? I was also sure that everybody on Demmron knew that to try to leave without the proper codes meant your ass would be vaporized without giving you the chance to turn back. I couldn’t see any but the most fanatical of fanatics going that route, and the typical pirate didn’t strike me as the true believer kind.
“Why hire me? Yeah, I’m a very, very good computer engineer. The best here on Awh’an and probably the best on several other planets. Daquan has top notch engineers, and they’re recognized across several galaxy for their skills in both hardware and software design. Hell, there’re several Daquan engineers that I admire for their elegant coding. Why not send one of their own people to fix the problem?”
My boss snorted softly, amusement in his eyes. “You might want to tone down the ego a tad, Tohan.”
I shrugged. “I’m the best. You know it. I know it. Several governments on other planets know it. That’s not ego, it’s fact. It’s probably why Daquan wants to hire me. Still doesn’t entirely explain why they wouldn’t send their own people who are acknowledged as tops in their field and who’d be familiar with the systems to fix the issue. They should have no problem finding home-grown talent to handle the attack to their system. Probably be a hell of a lot cheaper than hiring me, too, if they went with their own people.”
My boss sighed and got serious again. Crap. I wasn’t going to like whatever he was about to tell me.
“They did send their own people. Some of their brightest. More than once, too. According to the incident reports, the most recent crew lasted a whopping four days before they were taken hostage, tortured, and killed. Daquan thinks that part of the reason the last shuttle got as far as it did was because of the intel squeezed out of the poor bastards tortured to death.”
“Well, fuck,” I said with a heavy sigh. Things were beginning to make total sense to me now. “Here’s your new assignment, Tohan. By the way, you’ll probably be brutally tortured to death to help violent, sociopathic criminals escape a prison they’ve been rightly sentenced to. Have fun and watch your tail.”
My boss gave another amused snort before turning serious again.
“There is an element of danger, yes. But, Daquan has researched us as a people, and you specifically for this job. They need somebody highly skilled in computer engineering who can think outside of the lines and can also handle himself in a fight or a tight situation that turns violent. They know of your Shal-hazal connections and that if you found yourself compromised and about to be tortured like the previous crews, you’d have a virtually unstoppable escape route through Shal-hazal Spirit Will Moswen or one of the other Spirits of his House. They don’t want to hire a Spirit to safeguard their own people when they can basically get one for free with you because they know, given the chance, your family will save your ass if you call for help. I don’t think I need to remind you how costly it is to hire a Shal-hazal.”
Okay, that was a totally valid point and made a lot of sense from a cash-saving point of view. One of the biggest exports of Awh’an was soldiers or mercenaries. We were well known across several galaxies as an extremely aggressive, violent species that excelled at combat and could even be said to lust after it. It was frequently said by other species that one Awh’anise soldier was worth six regular soldiers. Military service is mandatory for one year, and many choose to stay in the military because it fulfills a desire for higher than normal violence levels in an acceptable way with good pay. Shal-hazal, a highly specialized branch of the military, could be hired by anybody who had the cash to do it although one must to be seriously rich to hire just one Shal-hazal—like emperor-of-a-country rich to hire one.
Shal-hazal were staggeringly expensive to hire because of what they could do. Usually, countries trying for a coup or to quell a hostile invasion hired a couple of Shal-hazal to do the work that would normally be next to impossible for several teams of highly trained soldiers in a precision timed attack. When you had an individual who could literally pop out of thin air, scoop up the target, and leave the same way in the amount of time it took to draw two breaths or simply invade a target’s dreams, absorb their mind, and leave the body to die while retaining all the intel, yeah, you were going to be paying serious cash for that kind of talent.
I’d done my service, but the military life as a soldier wasn’t one for me. I wasn’t all that keen on the rules and regulations that’d been forced on me as a soldier. I understood the reasons for those rules and regulations and followed them while I was a soldier, but it wasn’t a situation that was compatible with my personality. I had a little too much of that outside-of-the-lines thinking to make a good soldier though I was a decent fighter made better by the training. I could certainly hold my own with another typical Awh’anise. That translated into being a damn good fighter who was above average when compared to most other species. With that in mind, my skills as a computer engineer and my connections to powerful Shal-hazal, I could totally see where Daquan was going with the idea of hiring me even if I thought there were some serious flaws in their plan.
“So, I’ll be heading up a team and be responsible for their safety on this job? Gotta say that plan seems destined to fail, and I hate starting out on the losing end of the game. I can watch out for my own ass, but I can’t watch out for a bunch of other people at the same time and be expected to keep them all safe and in one piece, too—especially if they’re shit fighters. Most non-Awh’anise I’ve met are useless unless they’ve had intensive training. Just to be clear, if things went sideways and I yelled for help, Moswen or whoever he sends likely wouldn’t save anyone but me either. Him or another Shal-hazal Spirit saving me isn’t a given either. Probable, but not a for sure thing.”
“No team. Just you. The larger teams they sent in were either picked off one by one or captured as a group. The thought right now is that one person going in with one of their security people has a better chance of going relatively unnoticed than a half dozen engineers with another half dozen soldiers standing at the ready. I agree with that. It makes better tactical sense to send in as small a team as possible, do the work, and get the hell out before the natives really know what’s going on. I did try to talk them into hiring at least one of our regular soldiers to go with you as part of your security detail, but they want one of their own shadowing you and to keep the party as small as possible. As I mentioned, they researched you and don’t want you strolling off with any sensitive data they’d prefer to keep to themselves.”
I couldn’t help the grin at that. I’d be a stone cold liar if I said the thought of keeping a little info in my personal files after the job was complete wouldn’t happen. I’d always be a hacker first and a computer engineer second. Not that I’d do anything with the files I managed to liberate. It would be more of a trophy thing than something to take for profit. I wasn’t a criminal. The thing with Dak and those files I got for him was something completely different. While I guess it technically was a criminal thing that I did for Dak, I didn’t make any money off stealing the files for him, and the idea of making any money off that information was sickening.
“How would this security person know what I may or may not slip onto a data stick? Your typical soldier doesn’t know much about computers beyond where the on button is and how to find the kinkiest porn out there. I highly doubt they’d realize the value of a string of code that may or may not find its way to a data stick or that I’d commit to memory if I’m really working my programming awesomeness. I doubt the average soldier would even catch me copying shit onto a data stick in the first place. He or she could watch me vigilantly for hours but most of what I’d be doing would likely mean nothing to him or her and be very, very boring unless he or she understood code.
“Also, Daquan does realize that with just me working the problem, it’ll take longer than if I had help, right? Not saying I can’t do it by myself, but I sorta got the idea that this is a time sensitive thing. I can only work so fast, and there are only so many hours in the day. That might shave things awfully close on shutting down whoever is behind the escape attempts, especially if they got significantly closer with the last try.”
My boss grinned at me, his look reeking of triumph. It was actually a touch unsettling to see that expression on his face. I kinda felt like I was being set up for something, but that it would be something I’d find almost impossible to refuse. What the hell did they think they could offer me that I couldn’t get on my own or just say a big fat nope to? I wasn’t super materialistic, and my needs were actually pretty simple, crystal circuit boards aside. I was stumped.
I belatedly remembered that my government got a nice little commission fee for loaning me out to others. Going by the shit-eating grin I was seeing, that commission had to be a very fat one for this job, and one my boss was absolutely sure I was going to say yes to it. I was both curious and wary at the same time.
“They’ll send one of their cyborgs with you as your shield and their security measure if you take the job.”
I sucked in a sharp breath and excitement zinged through me so fast I felt a touch lightheaded. I was fascinated and maybe even a little bit obsessed with cyborgs. Daquan cyborgs were perfection and the sort of cyborgs that all others aspired to be but always fell woefully short of. I’d read everything I’d been able to get my hands on about the cyborgs of Daquan. They were utterly elegant works of form and function, a gorgeous marriage of organic, mechanical, and electronic parts. I wasn’t ashamed to admit that I got hard thinking of the complete beauty of them. The very idea of actually touching one and running my hands over the marvel that they were shoved my lust through the roof. If I was one hundred percent honest I probably had a fetish for them. They were, by far, the most advanced cyborgs I knew about, and finding out anything beyond what was available to the public was pretty much mission impossible.
Daquan rabidly guarded the secret of how they created such perfect organic machines. The files, aside from being top secret, were held in an impenetrable vault, in a deep underground lab at a high-security military base. The computers and servers that held all the info on the cyborgs were on a closed system that had no outside connection. You had to physically be in the room to access the data, and even then, you needed to provide biometric data as the security passcodes to access anything. Even the power plant that ran the computers and servers was in the vault itself making it a truly tech island unto itself.
Not that I knew any of that because I’d tried multiple times to break into their data files without success.
My boss pushed a data pad across his desk. “Everything that’s been tried to solve the security problem is on that data pad. There’s also a brief on the cyborg included in the file. Be careful, Tohan. They investigated the fuck out of you before they approached us to hire you. I’m one hundred and fifty percent sure that they decided to send a cyborg with you because of your interest in them, and that they knew it would sweeten a dangerous deal for you to agree to do the job. I believe they know throwing money at you wouldn’t be an incentive given your family connections. They even knew that you’re allowed to refuse any contract you want that’s outside of Awh’anise interests, which this problem certainly is. They were extremely thorough, and they want you on this badly.”
That seemed like a reasonable assumption. It was no secret that I found organic/mechanical creations fascinating. Hell, I’d done my doctoral thesis on the applications and morality of cybernetics and how it held the possibility of changing species forever, be that good or bad. I’d have loved to have been involved in the study and application of cybernetics, but I was weak as hell on the biology end of things and understood my limitations. I could’ve still worked on the hardware side of things, but I’d have wanted to be involved in all aspects because they fascinated me so damn much. The money thing... Well Moswen was married to an honest to gods prince, so if I really, really needed cash for something huge, it wouldn’t be that big a deal to beg some off Kijika. He was cool like that.
I opened the file on the data pad and skimmed the reports on what had been done to try to fix the security breach. I wasn’t absorbing everything in the quick read and would need to take the time to go through the reports in depth to understand fully what had been tried. It appeared that the teams sent previously had been competent and methodical in their approach from the bits and pieces I did pick up. That they hadn’t solved the problem or gotten very far in finding the breach, limited time or not, was not good. Somebody was covering their tracks as they worked to break the codes. That complicated things but didn’t make it impossible. I was a little intrigued now, but not to the point of saying yes to the job.
I closed that folder and opened the one titled Warrick-cyborg, anticipation making me almost giddy. My cock jumped to attention so fast it was a wonder I didn’t pass out from the massive blood rush to my dick at seeing the picture on the screen. <i>Damn</i>. I was staring at a truly magnificent work of art. A tiny growl of want trickled from my throat as erotic thoughts speared through my brain on their way to settle with aching need in my balls. Daquan had more than done their homework on me and what pushed my buttons hard.
I was seen as a little weird by most Awh’anise because I was only attracted to males. As a species that was predominately bi-sexual, preferring only one sex was a very minority thing. The most beautiful female in existence could prance around naked in front of me while we were both caught in the midst of our breeding cycles, and there wouldn’t be so much as the barest twitch of interest from my cock. I could certainly appreciate the beauty of the female form, but it had never aroused me.
The man in the picture was hotness incarnate and so fucking sexy that my cock was actually starting to throb in time with my heartbeat. His face was utterly gorgeous with a full, almost pouty bottom lip that—and I was willing to bet every last crystal circuit board I owned—would look and feel fantastic wrapped around my cock. His eyes had a come-fuck-me quality to them that I really wanted to take him up on. The picture wasn’t clear enough to make out the exact colour of his eyes despite my abusing the zoom function of the data pad. His eyes caught the light oddly in the photo making them almost appear jewel-like and gold in colour. He had dark purple hair, which was my favourite colour, and it fell in loose waves a little past his shoulders. I wanted to run my fingers through it as I kissed him senseless. His skin, what I could see that wasn’t covered by the short jacket he was wearing, was white as paper, utterly blemish free, and desperately in need of licking by me. He looked to be in his mid-twenties but his actual age could be anything as cyborgs apparently aged differently than regular people from what I’d been able to learn.
His mechanical body, what I could see of it beyond the short jacket he was wearing, was a thing of beauty. The design was sleek and functional while still staying true to the ideal for many bipedal species. The metal was gold in colour, and it seemed like there was subtle gold striping of the metal. It actually reminded me a little of the Throw-back striping Moswen had on his skin, which I’d always thought was pretty fucking cool looking. Warrick looked like somebody had checked off all the boxes of qualities that I found attractive, handed the paperwork to the cyborg scientists, and said, “Make this so we can trip all of Tohan’s sexual triggers at once and get him to agree to anything we want.”
Given the effort Daquan had put into checking me out and tailoring their offer to make it nearly impossible to resist, I was willing to bet Warrick was going to have some rather interesting optional parts included in his mission satchel as well. Aside from having a rep as an aggressive and violent species, Awh’anise were also widely known to have stupidly high sex drives. We would fuck any time, anywhere, and did it with a frequency that often had other species raising eyebrows. We weren’t quite ruled by our need for sex, but it was a huge drive that we tended to indulge a lot.
Daquan cyborgs were primarily soldiers and bodyguards. If you had the cash to afford one, you could apparently also request a few of the more fun options to be included in your package. Or so the rumours said. A giddy rush of excitement hit me when I realized that Daquan had likely shown a picture of me to Warrick along with my stats, asked him if he found me sexually attractive, and asked if he would have sex with me as it was pretty much a given that I’d ask him to fuck during our time together given my obsession over cyborgs. He had to have said yes if he was the cyborg going into hell with me. Not that sex was a must, but it would be an amazingly sweet bonus if that was part of what was offered, which I was damn sure was.
“So I’m guessing by your reaction to the cyborg that you’ll take the job,” my boss said with a smirk.
“I could be intrigued by the puzzle of figuring out the security leak,” I said as I continued to stare at the picture of Warrick and resisted the temptation of kneading my aching cock.
“You likely are. But I doubt you get as aroused as you are right now by the thought of solving some intricate computer puzzle. One look at the picture, and you damn near reek of lust. The cyborg has you by the cock, and you haven’t even seen him in person yet. Do you even know if anything sexual is possible with one? Do they even know what sex is?”
“Yeah, it’s totally possible. I’ve heard that they can come with optional parts that allow for that. Their brain is organic, and that’s where sexuality and arousal stems from, so yeah, they know what sex is and, I believe, can feel the desire for it just like any other organic being. I want the job,” I said as I closed the enticing folder with the hotter than hot picture of Warrick. I was going to be jacking off like crazy to that picture of Warrick later.
“One of our space ships will take you to Daquan. From there, you’ll pick up the cyborg and board one of the registered shuttles that is allowed to land on Demmron. You leave tomorrow morning. I’d also suggest you give whatever family member you need to a heads up about this job just in case it turns into a shit-show and you need to get your ass out of there an hour ago.”
I nodded and stood. Even without being told to loop in certain members of my family, I’d have done it. The job I’d just agreed to was dangerous as fuck, and it would be seven kinds of stupid to walk my sweet ass into that situation without having some kind of backup plan already in place. I wasn’t a genius, but I also wasn’t an idiot. Contingency planning would only help in keeping my ass in one piece.
“One more thing, Tohan.”
“Don’t go wandering through any more foreign government files using government property unless we tell you to. There are forms to fill out and sub-committees that need to approve of that shit before any of it can happen. The next time you find yourself in need of confirmation of facts, come see me first, and I’ll cut through the crap for you if you can prove that the matter is both serious and urgent. Clear?”
I licked my lips nervously and nodded. That was a don’t-fuck-around-or-you’re-dead voice if I’d ever heard one. There was no question in my mind now that he knew exactly what I’d been up to, what I’d borrowed-without-asking, and whom I’d given the information to. I’d take the warning to heart because I highly doubted I’d get another one.
“Crystal, sir. Thank you, sir. I’ll hand off what I was working on to one of the programmers I’ve been training. I was close to being done anyway, and she shouldn’t have any problem handling the last few details. Would it be a problem with Daquan if I could get a Shal-hazal Spirit to ferry me to their jump off point? It’d shave days off my initial travel time and get me working on the solution to their problem that much sooner.”
My boss snickered. “You mean get you face-to-face with your new bit of jerk-off obsession that much faster? No, I don’t think they’ll have a problem with that. I’ll let them know that you may be able to start sooner than anticipated. Watch your tail while you’re there, Tohan. I’d hate to lose my best hacker—excuse me, computer engineer—because he was careless and paying more attention to his protection’s ass than his own.”
“I’ll be watching both our asses. I’m not into dying just yet. Definitely not into dying before checking out just what sort of options package Warrick has been given for this job.”
My boss waved me off with a laugh, and I left his office, the data pad gripped firmly in my hands. I had a staff member to brief, bags to pack, and a favour to wheedle out of family. Hopefully, I could abuse my connections to powerful people and get to see Warrick sooner rather than later. If the gods favoured me, that might even translate into wriggling into his bed earlier than if I were to travel by space ship. I grinned in excitement. What I was about to do was incredibly dangerous, but the rewards had the possibility of blowing my freaking mind with their awesomeness. I could hardly wait.
My steps faltered a bit at the thought that I wasn’t sure if Effie was still at my place. I hadn’t seen him this morning, but that didn’t mean anything. He’d crawled into bed with me late last night, draping himself over my back and hugging me tight. Despite the AC being cranked to deep freezer cold to deal with the heat and humidity of summer on Awh’an, it took very little time before I was sweating my nuts off from the heat Effie was generating. He was going to be pissed at me for leaving. Stars knew why, but he had big time separation issues. A pissed off <i>hy’prae<i> was <i>not</i> something you wanted to be anywhere near, and Effie was a <i>hy’prae</i>.
A typical <i>hy’prae</i> stands about knee-high on an average adult male and weighs roughly fifty pounds. With eight legs and six eyes, long, thin fangs that inject a paralytic/numbing toxin into their prey, a very much not-picky appetite, as well as a totally true rep for being extremely aggressive to the point of deadly if they decide they don’t like you, people tended to stay as far away from a <i>hy’prae</i> as possible. You didn’t mess with one unless you had a death wish because they were highly unpredictable and very frequently deadly.
<i>Hy’prae</i> were wild animals and utterly refused to be domesticated even if you somehow managed to get one that was only hours old and tried to raise it yourself. To the best of my knowledge, that had never ended well for one of the individuals, usually the dumb-ass Awh’anise who thought their try at making a <i>hy’prae</i> a pet would be different from every other fatal time it had been tried. A <i>hy’prae</i> sometimes choose to be around an individual for reasons that were a total mystery as far as I knew. Best guess was that they were simply curious.
I groaned softly. I was going to have to get somebody to check on Effie and my place for me, and the only one that I knew that Effie liked aside from myself was Kushaiah. Unfortunately, Kushaiah, didn’t share the love with Effie. At all. He was actually kinda afraid of and creeped out by Effie. I could sort of see Kushaiah’s thoughts on them given what a <i>hy’prae</i> was known for even if Effie had never done a single aggressive thing to Kushaiah.
I was pretty sure Effie knew Kushaiah was afraid of him. Effie frequently tried to crawl into Kushaiah’s lap because sometimes Effie was just an asshole like that. Effie had been hanging around me for the better part of a year and didn’t show any signs of getting bored with my company and wandering off to find somebody or something new. The few times I’d gone somewhere he couldn’t join me when he wanted to, well, that’s how I found out about his separation issues. Little bastard trashed my apartment and damn near killed the manager when she entered to check on the noise complaint from my neighbours.
Effie could open windows and doors just fine as long as they weren’t locked, although to be fair, I wasn’t one hundred convinced that he couldn’t open a locked door if he really tried. He could come and go as he pleased from my apartment as I always left a window unlocked for him. I didn’t really have to worry about other unexpected guests through the window. If somebody was crazy enough to scale nine floors to reach my place, then they deserved whatever they could steal from me. Of course, if they ran into Effie once they got in, my problem wouldn’t be filing an insurance claim and making a police report but figuring out how to get blood and guts out of my carpets and off the walls once Effie was done with the burglar. Effie sometime liked to play with his food, and that was just gross to watch.
Effie didn’t always close the window behind himself even though I’d taught him to do it. He knew he was supposed to close it after getting in, too. I think he sometimes did it to see me lose my shit when I came home to find the window wide open and my power bill wince-worthy because he really was an asshole at times. Asshole behaviour aside, I really liked Effie a lot. Maybe I’d even go so far as to say I loved him. I’d never say that to him though. He was territorial and possessive enough as it was, and I was utterly convinced that he understood the concept of love. I was pretty sure he loved me because he would frequently bring me “gifts”, and I knew he’d protect me even if it cost him his life. I think he was working some weird sort of you-saved-my-life-so-it-belongs-to-you thing. At least that was my best guess of why he was with me.
Kushaiah was a really nice guy and partnered with my half-brothers, Makis and Mered. Even with that family connection it would be a really tough sell to get him to check in on Effie because he was that twitchy around him. <i>Damn<i>. I shrugged. I’d figure it out somehow. I always did.
Sha-ter’bil: half-blood, shared father sibling (brother/sister)
Nebil: aunt/uncle through father/mother (full-blood relation)
Cetr’ide: Literal translation is ugly friend of many legs. Dangerous looking but harmless animal. Sixteen stocky legs and coarse bristles cover its entire body. It has two pincers at the ends of its foremost legs and each leg is approximately the thickness of an adult male’s thigh. Mandibles around its mouth are approximately ten inches long each. Down the backs of its legs are suckers, and it has a heavy club-like tail. It stands approximately mid-thigh on an adult male and has six eyes on its head. It eats the vines of the gesh-ta’ne, grasping the vines with its suckers. The black drool it produces dissolves the tough vines and renders the mildly paralytic poison of the vines inert.
They are not bright animals, and even wild ones can be approached and petted easily. They are often kept as pets because once a cetr’ide claims a home, it screams at ear piercing volume if its home is invaded.
Hy’prae: Spider-like creature with eight legs and six eyes standing approximately knee-high on an adult male and weighing roughly fifty pounds. They have long, thin fangs that inject a paralytic/numbing toxin into their prey. They are typically purple-black in colour with a coarse, hairy coat of the same colour tipped in dark green over their back. They can move quickly over short distances or walk at a slow pace for days on end without needing rest.
They are web-builders as well as opportunistic ambush predators. If particularly hungry they will also actively stalk prey and have been known to track prey patiently for hours. They will eat whatever they can catch and will take down prey larger than themselves. They are mostly solitary but some will form partnerships or groups either short or long term although the exact reasons for a grouping is not fully known/understood.
Hy’prae are highly intelligent with complex puzzle/logic solving capabilities. If one finds another species interesting, it will stay with that species of its own free-will for an indeterminate amount of time ranging from a few hours to days, weeks, or even years. They are highly prized as companion animals, however; they cannot be forced into the relationship and must want it themselves. They will become extremely aggressive and even deadly if forced to stay or be in contact with someone they don’t like or want to be around. By the same token, they can take an immediate dislike to a person and will attack until they or the person is dead.