The bracelet we’d taken off the dead guy was just as dead as the dude it had belonged to. I couldn’t get it to work with what I had on hand and finding the specific tools and parts to jury-rig something wasn’t high on the priority list in my opinion. Not to mention, there was a pretty slim fucking possibility of finding what I thought I needed. If some of the shit I’d brought with me hadn’t been shot up or fried when we first landed, I might’ve been able to get the bracelet to work for a short period of time. I’d have given myself an optimistic fifty-fifty chance on that happening. Whoever had designed the bracelet was very, very good, and I admired their skills even as I cursed them.
Truthfully, I was a teeny bit glad that I couldn’t make the bracelet work. After hearing Warrick describe what he’d seen in the secret area and watching the playback he’d sent to my wrist com, I really didn’t want to be fucking around in that area. The very last thing I wanted to do was accidentally expose any of us to ruhlex-mar. That shit was pure nasty and a huge complication none of us needed in our lives at any time.
I knew I could catch it because to the best of my knowledge there wasn’t an Awh’anise that was immune to it. I had no idea if Warrick could contract it, and I didn’t want to take any chances that he could. I wasn’t sure if Effie would be okay either as I didn’t think there was a lot of research into finding out if other native Awh’anise species were immune. There was an animal that ate the dwen’sta, the bird responsible for ruhlex-mar infection, as part of its diet, but even that animal would fall into a coma-like state for hours as the highly toxic bird was digested.
For the time being, I was trying to ignore the secret area and the creep-tacular shit down there. I was being paid to do a specific job, and I fully intended to do that job to the best of my abilities. That didn’t mean that my brain wouldn’t wander down the speculation path as I tried to work and get all twitchy over what Warrick had found and what it might mean in the grand conspiracy theory of things. My brain jumping from work to the weird shit probably wasn’t helped at all by the fact that I was a tad on the paranoid side in general. Wild conspiracy ideas would flit through my head at random at the best of times. Now? It was distracting as fuck, breaking my concentration on what I was trying to do and pissing me off with myself.
I pushed back from the computer in annoyance and swore softly. My concentration was damn near legendary, and yet, I couldn’t stop turning over the whys and whos of the puzzle of the infected people in the secret area literally under our feet. It was bugging the shit out of me, and it was making me twitchy to think that all it would take was one small breach in the system and the whole damn facility could end up contaminated with one of the nastier infections from my home world.
There was also the small detail of the disease being exclusive to Awh’an, not widely known off-planet, and me being the guy hired to work on another, possibly unrelated, problem at the prison. That was a few too many coincidences for my paranoid self to fluff off. Toss in the fact that I’d yet to have my life monumentally screwed over by Moswen’s chaos effect, and my general paranoia got shoved into overdrive. I didn’t like this situation at all.
“Tohan?” Warrick asked as he looked up from the data I’d asked him to comb through to see if he could hunt down the power usage records. “Something wrong?”
“I want to work on shutting down the hackers, but my brain is going into super-paranoia mode and only wants to focus on what you found in the secret area. Maybe because on an instinctual level, I know that’s the bigger problem than keeping some sociopaths locked up here? I mean, I don’t think it would benefit anyone to let the people trying to leave, leave, but when stacked up to the thing with ruhlex-mar infecting prisoners here gods only knows how, the hacking stuff, while serious, isn’t even in the running of major-shit-that-needs-to-be-stopped-now that’s going through in my head.”
Warrick shifted his cool invisible chair position so he was facing me and gave me a considering look before speaking.
“So what do you propose we do? You told me that right now you’re just plugging holes in the system and that the hackers are making new ones almost as fast as you’re fixing them. You said you need breathing room, which is why I’m still looking for the power data. If you can shut them down in one location for a while and force them to find a new place to set up, they’ll lose time to you. Are you suggesting that we switch focus to the infection problem? That’s not what you were hired to do, and frankly, you’re not equipped to do anything about that issue. Neither am I.”
“Yeah, I know, but my brain doesn’t want to ignore that problem. My main focus is supposed to be to stop the hacking and keep them from being able to get into the system. I am trying to do that. Honest to gods, I’m trying my best to do that, and I’ve made some good starts on it, but it would be a hell of a lot easier if I had some of the equipment I brought in working condition. I can’t just put a call in and ask for replacements as what I brought was my personal hackers helper collection of stuff I made myself. I’m still a bit pissed that a lot of it is basically junked, but I can build the machines again when I’m back home and have access to the parts I need.
“From what I can tell, there’s more than one hacker working against me which is what’s giving me a challenge. I’d say three, tops, and I think only one of them is truly great at it. I’m pure fucking amazing, but that’s still three against one even if two of them are just average hackers. I have codes and inside knowledge of the programs they don’t have, and that’s about all that keeps them from getting the advantage on me. But, I’m also distracting myself with what I know is down there, and that’s not helping me to stay focused and on task, which is pissing me off with myself,” I said with a scowl.
“Again, what do you propose we do? We both agree that the set up in that secret area couldn’t be something thrown together hastily. It’s too well laid out, and the isolation of the various systems to keep whatever is going on doing down there from spreading to the rest of the facility speaks volumes about planning for that sort of thing during the actual building of the facility. I really don’t like what that sort of advance planning says to me.
“With that being the case, somebody top tier has to know what’s going on here and sanctions it or at the very least pretends it doesn’t exist, which amounts to the same thing really. Neither one of us can think of a perfectly valid, beneficial reason for what I saw down there. Sure, they could be trying to find a cure for those diseases, which would be great. But ruhlex-mar is something only found on Awh’an, is not a common infection, and none of the people I saw infected with it, are Awh’anise. It goes beyond stretching the reasonable possibility of accidental infection given the rarity of the disease, the number of other species I saw infected, and the likely reason for those infected people being here—namely that they are probably prisoners.
“We both think something nefarious is going on, and we’re most likely right. So what do we say to whom that won’t get us killed for being a bit too nosey over something that someone or a group of someones has gone to a considerable bit of trouble to hide? We’re severely underprepared and underpowered to take on whatever that shit is in the secret area. I highly doubt we were ever supposed to know it was there.”
I blew out a breath. Everything Warrick said was pretty much what I was thinking. I had a decent grasp of the questionable stuff the military could get tangled up in during weapons research and development. I did have top tier military clearance on Awh’an after all. Hell, I’d written a sizable chunk of the encryption programs the military on Awh’an was currently using. I’d snuck into several off-world military or government databases, too, so I knew it wasn’t just the Awh’anise military that got a little carried away in their search for the ultimate weapon. Questionable or downright immoral, unethical, or straight up illegal shit got done all the time by the military and government in order to further their goals regardless of what world or species was involved. It was just whether they got caught doing it or not and how much of a clusterfuck it created when it finally was dragged into the light.
“Dunno. Suggestions?” I asked with a shrug. “I’m out of my depth here.”
Warrick was quiet for several minutes, thinking. I got up from my seat and stretched, a soft little groan leaving my throat at the way my back and shoulders popped. I went to the tiny kitchenette along the far wall and pressed my finger to the little scanner on the dispenser for the new-to-me hot drink that I was absolutely sure was the elixir of the gods.
Warrick said it was a drink from Earth called coffee and that it was wildly popular there with nearly every person on the entire planet drinking it. It was amazeballs in my opinion. I absolutely needed to bring this shit back with me to Awh’an. It made me feel hyper alert, and I knew I worked faster and more efficiently after drinking it. It also made my sense of hearing and smell sharper for a little while, which was kinda cool but distracting at the same time because I could scent Warrick stronger. That aroused me more than I already was by Warrick in general and made it harder to concentrate on my work. I really didn’t need any boost in feeling aroused by him because it was something that was already stupidly high even for an Awh’anise.
Effie loved the coffee, too. Little bastard stole my half-full cup one time and ran off with it. He slopped a good bit of it on the floor as he scuttled away before chugging back the rest before I caught up to him. I thought it was funny as hell and a bit disturbing that he turned into a love/cuddle machine shortly after drinking it. A sexually excited hy’prae that was on the prowl was only hilarious if someone else was the target of his affections and couldn’t get away from him.
I sat back down in my chair, the mug of coffee nestled in my hands, and waited for Warrick to speak while keeping an eye out for a certain coffee stealing hy’prae. The dispenser wouldn’t recognize Effie as a valid user, so he had no choice but to try to steal my coffee from me when I made myself a cup. I’d already learned to never put the mug down with any coffee remaining in it unless I wanted Effie to zip in and steal the contents. Coffee had a very strong, distinctive aroma, and neither I nor Effie had any trouble scenting it. He was also sneaky as shit and stealthy as fuck. Hy’prae were apex predators, and their favoured move to capture prey was ambush.
“I don’t think we have any even moderately good choices,” Warrick finally said with a little sigh. “While he is my immediate supervisor for this mission, I doubt the director you met has any idea what’s really going on here. He’s a bit of a pompous ass with an inflated sense of self-importance. If we said anything about what we found, he’d likely write a report and file it because it was required, and it would go nowhere. I’m basing that scenario on my contact with him as well as what was available about him and his management style in the database.
“The next person up the authority ladder is a better bet, but I don’t like the man. He’s only concerned with bringing in the largest profit with the least amount of expense. Personnel are mostly expendable to him with only a few exceptions. Anything that skews profits off course needs to be dealt with immediately and harshly. At least that’s what he told me. He’d either be pissed that we went slightly off-mission and wasted time, which equals money to him, or be pissed that he’s not seeing some profit from the extracurricular activities going on here, assuming, of course, that he isn’t seeing extra profits from the prison. If he is, it’s my opinion that he’d be highly unlikely to do anything to put a stop to what’s happening here and decrease profits. Tough call on which stance he’d take as I’ve only met him once and I’ve no idea what he may or may not know.
“Next in line would probably be a good bet for getting someone to take this situation seriously and do something about it, but she’s also high enough up the food chain to be involved in what’s going on here. All I know about her is what’s available in the database regarding the branch responsible for the running of the prison. I’ve never worked with this branch of the government before, and I didn’t meet with her when I was brought to the station. I can’t offer anything genuinely useful as far as intel on her goes. Going any higher than her requires either knowing that individual personally or having one of the lower-level people kick the problem up to someone else because the issue is above their pay grade.”
“Fuck. Our choices on your end of the deal are kinda shitty. Choices on my end of things are pretty much just as bad. I know I said to call in the Awh’anise military on this, but the more I thought about it, the more I think that could also start a galactic incident. I tend to leave starting that sort of shit in Moswen’s more than capable hands.”
Warrick snorted a laugh at that, but I was completely serious. Moswen had an utter gift for taking a tense situation and expanding it into a clusterfuck of epic proportions. Fine, most of the time he wasn’t trying to cause mayhem, but it happened anyway. He was an excellent and gifted Shal-hazal and knew his business inside out. But that chaos effect of his boned him in the un-fun way more often than not. Sure, it generally all worked out in the end, but still. I was very reluctant to start that particular wheel turning.
Warrick probably didn’t get how the basics of some Shal-hazal stuff worked. Not that I expected him to. It wasn’t a state secret or anything, but it also wasn’t common knowledge. I wasn’t exactly an expert either since I wasn’t Shal-hazal, but I had better than the average Awh’anise understanding of it. I had to just for sheer survival purposes. In my immediate family, counting only parents and siblings, there were five Shal-hazal. That was way, way above the normal amount. Two Shal-hazal happening in two generations of that small of a grouping, fifteen people in the case of my immediate family, was highly unusual. My family was footnotes for further reading in papers on aberrations in inherited genetic traits.
If you added in the other close family like aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews, the number of Shal-hazal jumped to nine, which was freakishly unheard of to the point where my family was the only one in recorded history that had that many closely related Shal-hazal alive at one time. It could even be possibly counted as ten if Jaiseki, Moswen and Kijika’s son, was tossed into the Shal-hazal pool since he was born with the <i>neksha</i> on the back of his neck just like every other Shal-hazal. Jaiseki wasn’t a Shal-hazal as far as anybody could figure, but there was something different about him. What that was, nobody really knew, especially since he was only half Awh’anise. His little sister, Xinda, was a Litch, the first Shal-hazal that wasn’t a full Awh’anise and the only one that had her class revealed without going through some sort of ceremony and before she even started her training.
Yeah, I knew way more than the average Awh’anise about Shal-hazal.
“The Shal-hazal could get in and out of this facility without needing the bracelet or security codes. Hell, a Spirit can go basically anywhere they damn well please. But, ruhlex-mar is highly contagious, and while Shal-hazal can do amazing things, they are just as susceptible as any other Awh’anise to being infected. Yeah, there’s precautions you can take, but it’s still a risky thing. As harsh as it sounds, regular military soldiers are far more expendable than a Shal-hazal considering the rarity of Shal-hazal.
“A Shal-hazal Spirit could certainly bring as many regular soldiers here as necessary to put a lid on this situation and do it in a stupidly short amount of time without anyone knowing. But then what? The Shal-hazal Spirit couldn’t bring the soldiers back the same way as that requires physical contact, and ruhlex-mar is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids. Usually those fluids are involved in a sex act, but you have something like a thirty percent chance to contract it from just an infected person’s sweat if you have some sort of cut or scrape that gets exposed.”
“I would think wearing a protective suit would negate the possibility of transmission. It would be stupid and reckless to send people into a known, highly infectious situation without doing something to keep the soldiers from becoming infected and possibly spreading the infection further,” Warrick said reasonably.
“Usually, yeah. Given how violent the infected are in the initial stages, the chances of protective gear remaining intact is on the low side. Even if they’re not Awh’anise, I’d say the violence is a thing linked to the infection based on the video you showed me of the people here. Once there’s a tear and the Awh’anise in the suit gets a whiff of the sex pheromones the infected person is pumping out, it’s pretty much over for the non-infected despite what they know of the situation. From accounts I’ve read of survivors, even though they knew the only smart thing to do was run away as fast as possible, the urge to fuck was basically impossible to deny. More than one person said it was like suddenly hitting cycle crazy.”
“Cycle crazy? I don’t have a reference for that. Is it a slang term?” Warrick asked with a little frown.
“Search for breeding cycle fever. Basically, if a breeding cycle starts for an Awh’anise and we don’t do something to get it going, either fucking or being fucked, our body temp starts rising, and all we can focus on is fucking. After about three days of not being able to trigger the cycle to start, we’re edging to the bad side of sexually-driven insanity from the lust and need. The rare times that forced sex happens in my culture is almost always because of cycle crazy. After five days, our body temp is high enough that we fall into a coma and die shortly after that, our brains fried from the internal heat. It’s not a pretty way to go.”
Warrick was staring at me with wide eyes. I could see him thinking about what I’d just told him and how that could relate to me. An Awh’anise in cycle was not good for anything other than fucking.
“I assume you’re not close to your cycle? My data indicates that there are herbs that you can ingest to delay the onset of a cycle. Should I assume that you have some with you just in case? Don’t get me wrong, this breeding cycle of yours sounds wildly erotic from the data I scanned, but it would throw a severe complication into our mission on top of what we already have going on. I hadn’t paid that much attention to the information on Awh’anise breeding cycles as I didn’t think it was relevant to this mission. Or as all-encompassing for your focus as it apparently is.”
“No, I’m good. I’ve got roughly two months, Awh’anise time, or nearly three Standard months, before I need to worry about it. But that’s the problem with ruhlex-mar for us Awh’anise. The ultra strong pheromones from the infected person will make a non-infected person go into what’s basically a mini-cycle. A mini-cycle out of sync with a regular schedule can happen for someone if they scent an Awh’anise entering their first breeding cycle. The pheromones are incredibly strong from a first-timer, which is what generally helps them get the cycle started before it gets dangerous for them. From what I understand, the pheromones from an infected person are even stronger than what a first-timer gives off, which is honestly a bit frightening and one of the things that makes ruhlex-mar so dangerously infectious for Awh’anise. We literally can’t help ourselves from spreading the infection because the need to fuck is overwhelming.”
Warrick frowned. “Then we’ve got one hell of a problem, and we’re back to square one on figuring out what to do about this.”
“Yeah. I’d love to be able to ignore the whole damn thing, but my brain just won’t let me,” I said with a frustrated sigh.
I suddenly saw whip-fast movement between my legs half a second before Effie made a grab for the mug of coffee I was holding. I barely jerked it out of his reach, slopping some of the hot liquid over the rim and onto my leg. Despite my being dressed, I still yelped and cursed, swinging the mug away from the more delicate area of my crotch. I did not want to douse that particular body part with something as hot as the coffee in the mug. A bit more coffee sloshed out of the mug and onto the floor from my move.
Effie chittered in high-pitched triumph, shot out from under my chair, yanked the mug from my hand, and took off at top speed for the locker room where he had his nest. He spilled probably half the contents as he ran a little awkwardly on seven legs, but he succeeded in stealing my coffee. Again. I shot Warrick a narrow-eyed glare when he burst into laughter at what Effie had done.
“Why don’t you just give him some of his own when you make a cup?” Warrick asked between chuckles. “He probably wouldn’t steal yours if he had a full mug of his own.”
“Because I’m not a fan of how lusty Effie gets after he drinks the stuff. It’s not you that he does his mating dance to, and it’s definitely not you that he jumps and tries to mate with. I can see how you think it’s hilarious. Honest, I can. I’d probably laugh my ass off, too, if I saw it happen to someone else. But when I’m the object of his misplaced romantic affection, it’s really not that funny from my perspective.”
“I suppose it is a matter of perspective,” Warrick agreed with a broad grin.
“So what do you think we should do about this shit with the infected inmates?” I asked bringing the subject back to the issue that my brain just wouldn’t let go of.
“I honestly don’t have a clear plan of action. There are too many variables and unknown quantities involved to come up with something that would give us the best possible chance of coming out of the whole thing safely. Your safety is my main mission parameter. While I realize the things we’ve discovered beyond the hacking were never part of my mission, it can most certainly complicate our safety in several ways beyond the obvious infection possibility.”
“This sucks balls in an unfun way,” I said with a frown as I thought about just what the hell we could do to tackle both problems at the same time.
Warrick remained quiet, which I appreciated, as I turned over our limited options in my head. Some of my tech would’ve helped out a shit-ton if it hadn’t been destroyed when we first arrived. I closed my eyes and leaned my head back as I mentally reviewed what I had, that was still functional, what needed parts to be put back into mostly working order, what was only good for salvage and what was a total write-off. I couldn’t do a lot with what I had but I now had an idea that would probably work if the tech gods took pity on me. I grinned and opened my eyes to look at Warrick.
“You have a plan. Or maybe just a really good idea that you think will become a plan,” he said confidently.
I raised my eyebrows at that, impressed that he could read me so well after only a few days. I got up from my seat and went to the pile of stuff that we’d deemed too damaged to be useable to us. Warrick followed me but stood off to the side out of my way. I pawed through the boxes, pulling out wires, mechanical bits, circuit boards, and anything else I thought might be able to help me fix what I was cautiously hopeful I could modify.
Forty-five minutes later, I was elbow deep in electronics with Warrick beside me handing me whatever I asked for, saying nothing as he watched me work. It was oddly relaxing to build something with his help but not have him question everything I did. I was sure he understood some of what I was doing, but he had to have some questions since I tended to build my creations a little unconventionally. He never said or asked a damn thing though, letting my concentration run down a wonderfully uninterrupted path while still being helpful. It was a fucking awesome way to work.
Several hours later, I was done and reasonably happy with what I’d cobbled together. I was pretty sure it would work as I intended, but I was using a mish-mash of parts, quite a few of which weren’t in what one would call proper working order. I’d probably get some random weird results if the damn thing didn’t catch fire the first time I turned it on and set it to do what I hoped it would.
“I assume this whatever-it-is will help us in some way with the situation we currently find ourselves in?” Warrick asked when he saw I was finally done.
“Provided it doesn’t immediately burst into flames or explode or some hellish combination of the two, yes. Probably.”
“Rousing endorsement of your technical skills, Tohan,” Warrick said with a little smile.
“I’m not exactly working with pristine, quality parts here, so there’ll probably be some... irregularities in its operation. It should work as intended, but when you start with damaged items, well, you need to expect a few glitches.”
“True enough. So what did you make?”
“A neurotic data miner,” I said with a grin.
“A what?” Warrick’s confusion was priceless but understandable.
“This bad boy will go deep into the facility files and fuck shit up on a grand scale. It won’t touch anything related to life support because that would be dumb and frankly genocidal. But it will go in looking for files with specific keywords, namely the ones dealing with the viral research that is happening here. It’ll copy those files back to this physical unit and then rename the files with bullshit names like undergarment acquisition forms or vermin infestation control schedule. Usually, it would start decoding the files, too, but that part of the unit is slagged. Doesn’t matter though as I can always start decoding later. Should some on-the-ball fucker open one of the renamed files without punching in the appropriate code, which they won’t be prompted for, the entire file gets code-burned and goes whoosh. It’s completely destroyed and not retrievable either.”
“Wow. That’s more than a little impressive, Tohan. I’m guessing that’s not entirely a new thing for you either since I would think it would take you a fair bit of time to write a program to do all that.”
“I’ve only used the program once before, but the assholes I set it on deserved it. God damned slavers are scum. I had the joy of being responsible for setting a lot of people free and totally fucking over the waste of skins that had taken away their freedom. I wasn’t the one that re-programmed their ship to fly into a neutron star when they made a run for it, but I was the one that renamed all navigational files, via that program, to insurance claim form YAF-01.”
“Once it copies all the files you send it after, then what? I assume you have more to your plan than just screwing over their files.”
“It’ll act as insurance to keep us alive, if it comes to that, and to later hand over to whomever gets the joy of cleaning up this mess because I highly doubt they’ve only been playing with the two diseases we saw. I would think that if somebody, or a bunch of somebodies, went to all the trouble of setting up that secret area, the stuff they’re doing there is probably really important to them, and they’ll want that info back. I have no intention of giving that shit back regardless of what they offer, but they have no way of knowing that. Thus they’ll be less likely to shoot first and search our corpses after. Hopefully. You sometimes get trigger happy assholes.”
Warrick shook his head a little and smiled. “I haven’t forgotten that you’re Hy’prae, but it’s times like this that I’m rather strongly reminded that you do things that are outside the law of many worlds. I’m not saying its necessarily a bad thing because I do believe that there are people out there in the universe that would be better dead than causing misery to others. It’s just a bit jarring since you don’t come off as that type of person.”
“Secret time, Warrick. I’m about as far from your typical computer nerd as you can get. I’ve been a soldier and have killed during that time. Well after my military service, I was involved in a plot to straight up murder someone and then cover that murder up. We’d have totally gotten away with it, too. The murder didn’t happen but not because of any moral issues or second thoughts on my part or on the parts of the others involved in the plot. The sick shit that needed to die ended up taking care of the problem by being his crazy-ass-self and getting himself committed to the psych ward.”
Warrick gave me a speculative look, and I could just about see the wheels turning in his head.
“Duly noted. You’re a complex, fascinating man, Tohan.”
I couldn’t believe it when I felt my cheeks warm from the genuine compliment even as a pleased feeling settled deep in my gut. Impulse had me lean forward and kiss Warrick gently on the lips. It wasn’t a sexual kiss at all, but it left me feeling strangely satisfied. Going by the expression on Warrick’s face, he was feeling the same sort of thing. Sweet!
“Okay, let’s plug this baby in and get it going. It’ll probably take a while to find what I want it to find, but it will eventually do the job I programmed it to do. Maybe now I can concentrate on doing the job that I’m being paid an almost obscene amount of money to do.”
Warrick laughed and gave me a hand to stand, pulling my body flush with his. His smile when he looked at me was a touch predatory and lustful at the same time. I was totally on board with what that smile and the slowly increasing scent of his arousal meant.
“Excellent. After supper, just so you know, I have plans for your ass.”
I grinned at Warrick, my cock already firming. “Better than excellent. My ass is yours however you’d like it. Matter of fact, you can have at it right now if you want.”
“Work first. Play later,” he said as he cupped my ass and gave it a squeeze.
“You expect me to concentrate on work now?” I asked as I ground my groin into him.
“I have faith in you to do what needs to be done, Tohan.” Warrick kissed me and then pushed me a little away from him.
“Never doubted that, Warrick. Okay. Work beckons. Let’s fuck some shit up.”
Warrick laughed and went back to his seat to continue the work I’d asked him to do. I went to my seat, plugged in my device and crooked my tail in the hopes that it didn’t catch fire or explode. The gods favoured me when it started up with only a faint scent of burning plastic that quickly dissipated. Awesome-sauce! We were in business.
Neksha: Symbol on the back of the neck of a Shal-hazal or Vi’deshron. Awh’anise born with this mark are either of the two. Shal-hazal have a black symbol while Vi’deshron have a white symbol.
The symbol of office that a full Shal-hazal wears is the same shape/design and is also called a neksha. This symbol is made of metal (type depends on what kind of Shal-hazal the person is) and has hidden blades that pop out as it is also a weapon. The weapon is thrown and will return to the Shal-hazal unless it embeds in the target. The weapon is caught by inserting the talon into the center of the disk as it rotates and takes great skill and several years of training to wield.