Sunday, January 14, 2018

Chapter 121 - The Deep Crystal Inn

The subterranean city of Amyaththalas was without the slightest doubt the brightest, most colorful, and most beautiful city I had ever laid eyes on. Of course, it only looked like that if you had darkvision, as all the colors and effects were done with special lights that showed up only to those seeing without actual light. Which isn’t to say that there weren’t any real lights in the city. Any place where people were expected to read or write was lit up normally. Darkvision, after all, is a greyscale, which means writing doesn’t show up in darkvision unless you use special inks or magic paint. Hence the fact that we could read the colorful signs without carrying torches or magical lights.

While there were some places that had lights, such as offices and anyplace selling books, for the most part if you saw light, that meant you were in an area of the city that catered to nondrow. Yes, nondrow did come to the city, though it was rare. Something about rampant superiority complexes when it came to other races tended to put off most visitors. At any rate, the inn the guards directed us to was in the ‘visitor’s quarter’. Lights were more common here, though still rare, since too much light would cause a glare that would keep people from seeing the Naluth, the great stone spire that rose in the center of the massive cavern that housed the city, a pillar connecting the great floor and ceiling.

There was a red glow coming off the spire, visible only with darkvision. When I asked, I was told that, without the sun, the Drow chose this means of marking the passage of time throughout the day. Each morning the Archmage would cast a spell, and that spell would cause light to slowly rise up and down the spire, completing a full cycle in a day’s time, after which the archmagi would cast the spell again. It was like a version of London’s Big Ben, but using only magic and the natural stone.

The inn we came to was called the Deep Crystal Inn, and one could easily see the reason for the name. Rather than torches or candles or other light sources that would require fuel and have issues with smoke indoors, the Deep Crystal used a series of enchanted crystals that glowed with an inner light, providing a soft glow not unlike candlelight throughout the building. But in the relentless darkness of the Underdark, it felt as though we were stepping out into the noonday sun. Despite the fact that we could all (with some magical assistance) see fine in the darkness, the sight of actual lights brought a bit of homesickness to those of us who spent most of our time on the surface.

The inn itself was a standard example of the fantasy tavern and inn with a common room sporting a bar and many kinds of beverages to take your mind off your troubles and a kitchen to fill your belly. Conversation, such as it was, stopped for a moment as we entered the room. Not surprising, since we were a large party, very well armed, and I had several drow females with slave collars with me. That kind of thing was unusual, to say the least.

As the various conversations started back up, I found the deep gnome that was responsible for running this inn. No drow would lower themselves to serving outsiders. Selling goods to them? Sure, though they would try and gouge you as much as possible. Buying from them? If they had to, and it wasn’t more convenient to simply take it. But serving them at a bar? No. Not down here, at any rate. Drow on the surface tended to have fewer options, but even then there’d be few places that would hire a drow to tend bar, since too many people would be worrying about poison in their drinks. Well, faster-acting poison than the rotgut some idiots insisted on drinking no matter how many times they had to get a cleric to heal their blindness.

Slepni Cobblenut
Deep Gnome Female
Level 45 Lorespinner (Bard) / Fighter
Titles: Silver-tongued

The gnome trotted over and looked at us as we approached the bar. Looking over, I saw that she had a raised platform going on back there, allowing her at least see over the bar. Probably involved a lot of climbing and such, but it worked. “Hmm. An incubus. Don’t get those too often. What’ll ya have?” I looked at the gnome again. She was cute, in that ‘everything is at 1:2 scale’ kind of way. Leaning forward, I pulled my cloak back enough so that she could hear my face, and said, softly so my voice wouldn’t carry far over the conversation, “I need four rooms for myself and my party for a week.”

The gnome’s eyes glazed over, and I’m fairly certain her knees went weak. She grabbed some keys from under the counter, and looked back to the back and called out in the gnomish language, telling someone that she was showing customers up to their rooms. She barely made it out of the common room and onto the stairs before she said, “Top floor, first four rooms on the right. Now I want you to fuck my brains out, mister incubus!”

The pets just giggled at the poor gnome’s plight, but didn’t say anything about it. Soon, we were on the top floor of the three-floor building, and Hrozne and the girls were getting settled in the other rooms. I let them know that the priestesses were theirs to enjoy for the night, and took the gnome into the room I’d picked out for myself.

The physics and physiology of a three-foot gnome taking in a member like mine was naturally something of an eye-opening experience for her, and I’m fairly certain I might have dislocated her jaw at one point. In fact, without her having access to the pittance of healing magics bards had, she likely would have been considerably injured by the time I was done with her. By the time I left her staggering back to the bar, with her holes freshly widened and one of them leaking considerably, I just hoped she didn’t get in too much trouble from her boss for skipping work for so long. If she got in trouble, the rest of the staff might try and reject me while they were on shift, and that would just be annoying.

I was just settling back for a nap and maybe some work on my enchanting skills when a message came in for me, it was Lexichan, asking to chat.

Darkmore: Well, this is rare. Why would the lovely Lexichan need to be calling me out of the blue? Did Brecilac and Raunaeril get into it again?
Lexichan: Hi, Lexichan. How are you doing, Lexichan? I’m so happy you do all the insane day to day tasks needed to run a guild, Lexichan.
Darkmore: All right, all right. I’m sorry. So, what’s up? You didn’t call to berate me for questing, did you?
Lexichan: No, not just to berate you for skipping out on duties to the guild. I’ve got other reasons, as well.
Darkmore: Fine, fine. I take your point. Once the business in Amyaththalas is finished, I’ll head back to Lithaes for a while. What’s the problem?
Lexichan: You know those lightside types? There’s been some rumbling, building on the stuff Zephara and the Scions did before you curb stomped them. I think the crusaders are looking to try and stir up trouble between Wyrmwood and Ograin. Someone’s letting slip rumors that you are the one who unleashed Mirelth on the world, and using it to stir up the humans against the elves.
Darkmore: Huh. I was wondering when someone was going to try and play that card.
Lexichan: You’re not worried about war breaking out between the two kingdoms?
Darkmore: Not especially. Even if they march on Lithaes and ignore the rest of the elven land (and there’s no way the elves would just allow an army through their lands), they’d have to face all of Aria, and the defenses Lithaes has had worked into it by now. Plus, there’s at least six of us who can summon dragons once a week.
Lexichan: So it is a wait and see kind of deal, where we prepare defenses, and then nuke the poor bastards? What if it isn’t enough?
Darkmore: Then we also have a whole lot of people capable of the most shadowy work. I imagine armies would lose cohesion quickly if there were suddenly a host of new vacancies at the top that needed to be filled. Especially if we can plant evidence on the other factions so they think it is some internal bloodletting.
Lexichan: Divide and conquer. Got it. Anyone in particular you want to run intel on that? Can’t just be guessing at leaders when the fighting starts.
Darkmore: Johnist is an ‘everyman’ sort, and blends in with a lot of crowds. He can do the person to person intel gathering. Have Darkbunnys use her shadow powers to slip around and find any other intel she can that way. If we can map out who the powers that be are beforehand, we might be able to decapitate an army before the fighting even starts.
Lexichan: Fine. I’ll dispatch them when I’m done with this call. So, how is Amyaththalas? I haven’t seen any drow lands except for our brief jaunt to Have Dorei, and the week or so after the dungeon was set up.
Darkmore: Hmm. As the premier Drow in our guild, that just won’t do. You wanna come join us here? The Grand Temple, the leader of the city, and the magic academy are all on the tour this week, along with a visit to the local slave market. Might be able to find some intereting specimens.
Lexichan: Well, Ruva, Cookie, and I have been talking…
Darkmore: Should I be excited or concerned?
Lexichan: Hush you! Anyways, we need some material components and other such things for some of the skills we have, and they are either Underdark exclusives, or just rare on the surface.
Darkmore: Hmm. I could arrange for you three to stay with me and the girls. I’ve paid for a week, so it isn’t like there’s a problem with the rooms, especially once we drop off a few priestesses at the temple for sacrifices.
Lexichan: Excellent! We’ll also have the pet you gave me, so it will be four in total.
Darkmore: Let me know when you’re in the shrine, ready for the portal, then.
Lexichan: Wilco.

Thirty minutes later, I opened the portal to Lithaes’s dark shrine, and welcomed my new visitors. “Sorry for the close quarters. The five priestesses are busy entertaining the others in the other three rooms, so there won’t be as much room as you might like tonight.”

Lexichan do’Urden
Feytouched Dark Elf Female
Level 70 Shadow Stalker (Ranger) / Tempest Blade (Barbarian)
Titles: Hunter, Tempest, Daywalker, Undead Bane, Sadist, Executioner, Trophy Hunter, Elf Bane

Kilyn Keltris
Dark Elf Male
Level 65 Bowmaster (Ranger) / Assassin (Rogue)
Titles: Elf Bane, Slave, Masochist, Hunter, Broken One

Half-fiend Medusa Female
Level 70 Hellfire Fist (Monk) / Twilight Mistress (Warlock)
Titles: Blindfighter, Human Bane, Elf Bane, Undead Bane, Celestial Bane

Cecily ‘Cookie’ Fogbrew
High Human Female
Level 71 Slaughterlord (Dark Paladin) / War Priestess (Priestess)
Titles: Battle Chef, Undead Bane, Beast Slayer, Human Bane, Elf Bane, Dark Chef, Blessed of Arrena

Looking them over quickly to see how far they’d come, I raised an eyebrow at Cookie, and said, “So, what kind of diety is Arrena?”

Cookie beamed at me, and said, “Goddess of the Hearth, Beer, and Feasting! Seems she approves of my work making sure the members of Aria have the best food they can get.”

I nodded. “Well, in that case, I’m fairly certain that deserves a reward. And I happen to have heard there’s something you’d like quite a bit in this world.”

Cookie blushed fiercely as the other ladies giggled. Apparently, the ‘reward’ Cookie wanted wasn’t exactly a secret. But then, trying to keep gossip from spreading is a losing proposition, no matter what. He turned to the others, and said, “And I suppose you’re going to watch?”

Lexichan whistled innocently, while Ruva simply grinned. “Actually, the plan was for Lexichan to sit on this drow’s face until he either satisfied her or passed out, while I enjoyed myself with his lower half.”

I shook my head and then looked over to Cookie. “You’re a bit overdressed for a reward, aren’t you?”

I’ve never seen someone shed full plate armor so fast.

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Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):

City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):

Friday, January 12, 2018

Chapter 75 - Yamato

<INS Yamato, Ban Thera System>

How had everything gone wrong so quickly?

Admiral Yamamoto sighed as that thought crossed his mind once again. He only allowed himself the luxury of such thoughts here, in the privacy of his quarters on the Yamato. The superdreadnought was the first to be commissioned since the death of the last Emperor and the start of the Civil War, and he’d made it his flagship when he was given command of Eighth Fleet.

He had no illusions about why he got this ‘promotion’ to the back end of nowhere, guarding the border with the Ihm Imperium. He never went against the Emperor’s will, but within naval circles he was known as being outspoken against a new war of aggression. There were too many problems within the Empire that needed fixing, and could use the resources a war would strip away. He laughed at the idea that any conquered planets would pay for the cost of bringing them into the fold with the new slaves they’d take, as though the planets were just sitting there like fruits waiting to be plucked from the tree.

But he was old. Even with the life extension treatments that made him look like a man half his age, war was a young man’s game. At 87, he was the oldest serving Admiral in the Fleet, and one of only two (now that the third had joined Princess Merida), that remembered the last war from personal experience. That had been a long, bloody affair, and the enemy had been very good at targeting command officers. In the years since, many of the admirals had left the service, either retiring or being forced out as the younger generation cut their teeth on pirates and border skirmishes. A couple years ago, he had considered retiring, as well, heading off someplace quiet to spend his remaining years away from the horrors of war.

And then the Emperor had been killed, along with most of the royal family. Emperor Travis had taken the throne, and Princess Merida had challenged him, now being called the ‘Rebel Empress’ by many in the Fleet. The Empire was clawing itself apart, revealing some of the problems he had long counseled needed fixing. Unfortunately, this meant that retiring was simply not an option any more. There was no honorable way for him to quit his post in the midst of this civil war. Even if he had someone within Eighth Fleet who was capable of taking his position at need.

Unfortunately, there was no one who could fill his shoes, and still have the same kind of connections and influence back at Fleet Command. Connections. Half his connections had been wiped out with the attack that had destroyed Fleet Headquarters. If he’d still been stationed in Sol at that time, he’d have likely died with them. Perhaps it would have been better if that were so. He was feeling his age more recently, as he saw reports from the front.

What had been a stalemate had turned troublesome as raiders attacked several key targets with kinetic weapons. Losing Fleet Command was a body blow, to be sure, but the deadly danger was the way the following attacks had been designed to disrupt logistics of the Empire. Too many of these young officers thought that superdreadnoughts won wars. Yamamoto was old enough to know better. Superdreadnoughts won battles. Transports won wars.

Without missiles, a superdreadnought was reduced to beam weapons, needing to get within ‘knife range’ before they could attack an enemy that could stand off and throw missiles at them, knowing that some would get through. Without replacement parts, the engineering staff was limited to what they could manufacture aboard ship, and there was simply no way to repair some delicate electronics in the field, to say nothing of replacing weapons and sensors that might get blown off the hull in battle. Without supplies, the impressive medical facilities of the superdreadnought would quickly become little better than a frontier clinic when dealing with casualties. Without food shipments, the crew would have to rely on emergency rations or what they could get in local ports.

And that was just the fleet side of things. With the civilians, the problems were even more pronounced. No, a superdreadnought was a fine tool, and necessary for anchoring a defensive line or battering through an enemy’s force, but it was the numerous military transports that won wars. Whether it was food shipments, replacement crews, spare parts, or ground troops, the transports were critical to any action away from base.

The young crowd, though, they did not see that truth. They had not learned it in the fires of war. They never saw ships burn because they had run out of missiles when supplies were disrupted by the Confederate or Federation raiders behind the lines. They had not been forced to eat emergency rations for weeks on end because the supplies were short.

His musings were cut off by an alert sounding across the ship. Calling the bridge, he said, “Report!”

The officer of the watch responded nervously, though that was no surprise with a junior officer talking to an Admiral. “Admiral, we have an unscheduled transition at the edge of the system. Long range sensors showing a single ship, perhaps a corvette. We have not received communications from the ship yet.”

“Very well. I will be on the Flag Bridge momentarily. Alert all ships to set Condition 2 across the fleet.” A single ship, no matter the class, would be little threat against the fleet as a whole, but if there was some kind of emergency deployment order or an attack warning, it would have them already leaning in the correct direction.

“Aye aye, Sir.”

With that, Yamamoto closed the line, and saw to getting a fresh uniform on. The timing of this interloper’s ‘visit’ was curious, since it was only an hour before the morning watches would report for duty. Ship time coincided with Navy time, which paid no attention to the time on various planets that might have rotation periods measured in hours or weeks and years that were just as varied. Navy time was based on Imperial Standard time, which was based on the time in Nova York, on Earth, where the Imperial Palace used to be. Any Navy ship should be on the same standard time, and transitions were nearly instantaneous, regardless of what a person’s mind told them, so why at this time of ‘day’?

Ten minutes later, he stepped onto the Flag Bridge of the Yamato. The normal bridge was where the Captain would be, preparing to fight his ship if it came to that. The Combat Information Center, buried deep in the heart of the ship, was where the XO was stationed. The ship could be flown and fought from CIC, which was why they separated the command officers like that, to keep the ship fighting should the bridge get hit. But both were focused on just the Yamato. The Flag Bridge was something else, filled with viewscreens and tactical readouts, the space was what some entertainment shows would call a ‘war room’ for Eighth Fleet, and was geared towards helping the Admiral command and control the fleet as a whole.

Looking at the tactical screens, Yamamoto easily identified the fleet displayed in their formation near Ban Thera V, known as Bragua by the locals, moving into a simple battle formation. The shape of the formation wasn’t too important, just that the formation changed the position the ships were in. With the revelation of ships using kinetics against Fleet ships and installations, Yamamoto had issued an order for Eighth Fleet that no ship was to remain on the same position or track for more than four hours at a time. He would have liked for constant motion, but that was impractical over the long term. The wear on ships and crews would be insufferable. But at least he could limit the usefulness of any potential ‘snipers’ by making them have to approach closer to get useful targeting data. Maybe then he’d be able to spot and kill them before they ripped through our ship like a bear tearing through a deer.


Commander Fitzroy, his aide, looked up from the tablet he was holding, and said, “All ships reporting Condition 2. No sign of hostile action from the unknown. Preliminary IFF signal indicates that this is the INS Abcissa, attached to Naval Intelligence. No records of any such ship on file.”

Yamamoto shook his head. “There wouldn’t be, if they were Naval Intelligence. Have they sent the proper authorization codes?” Fitzroy was a recent addition to his staff, a member of this new religious order that the Emperor had created as a way to help mold the Empire in his image. Frankly, the man was a zealot, and something about him disquieted the Admiral. More than the solid blue eyes, at least. And more and more of them were starting to pop up throughout the fleet.

“Yes, sir. It is an older code, but it checks out.”

Yamamoto nodded. “Very well, what does Naval Intelligence want with us today?”

Fitzroy looked annoyed at that. “I don’t know, sir. Their Captain only responded to hails by saying he was under orders to speak to you, and you alone. And the orders from Command he sent simply said that you were to repair aboard the Abcissa for a classified briefing. He said his code clearance was ‘Handsome Swordsman’. I’ve never heard of a code clearance like that.”

Ice water ran through Yamamoto’s veins. Of course a Commander like Fitzroy wouldn’t have heard of Handsome Swordsman! That code clearance was not known to anyone below flag rank except for the captains of superdreadnoughts. Not even the Emperor or his staff knew about Handsome Swordsman, to ensure deniability, should the existence of the code ever be leaked to the public. This was, after all, the code used when one was preparing to use biological weapons to end a particular threat, or (rarely) in the acquisition of new biological weapons for use or study. Sending an asteroid to impact a planet with mass drivers, or even using nuclear or chemical weapons was one thing, but unleashing a plague? That was an order he had hoped never to come to him.

“Prepare my shuttle. I’ll head over at once.”

An hour after that, Yamamoto, with Fitzroy behind him, was stepping off his shuttle in the bay of the Abcissa. The uniforms of most of the people in the bay were correct, but the group of six in front of him as he exited the ship were most certainly not in proper uniforms, not even for Naval Intelligence. They were dressed like a special operations team, but not one the Navy would have. For one thing, one of them had clear non-human modifications, making her look like some kind of knelfi catgirl.

Yamamoto stopped at the foot of the shuttle’s ramp, and waited for the commander of this group to introduce himself. Instead, he was surprised to see the man immediately raise his assault rifle, and place a three-round burst squarely in Fitzroy’s chest! Yamamoto turned to see his aid fall to the ground, and stiffened as he felt the man move past him, before putting another three-round burst through Fitzroy’s skull, just to make sure the job was done.

He looked around, slightly wild-eyed, and noticed that none of the other five people in black seemed concerned with the situation, and even the ‘normal’ crewmembers seemed to be avoiding paying attention to this area of the small hangar bay as they tended to the shuttle. And that’s when he noticed the artwork on the wall of the hangar. All Imperial ships had two pieces of artwork on the walls of their hangar bays. The first was the Imperial flag, bearing the crest of the royal family. That much was fine. The second was a picture of the ship’s crest, along with their name. That one, however, clearly identified this ship as the Jubilee, which he knew had been attached to Admiral Scheiner’s forces before Edena…

The man who had shot Fitzroy moved back in front, and nodded slightly to him. “Admiral, welcome aboard. I’m Commodore Mollen, and the Handsome Swordsman code was a fake. I’m sorry for the subterfuge, but we needed to make sure we could speak privately. I have a message for you from Empress Merida and Princess Sheila.”

Previous Chapter                                    Table of Contents                                              Next Chapter

Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):

City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Chapter 74 - Raxicore Base

<Raxicore Base, Balpheron’s Moon, Zeta Charybdis System>


The Thunderfury announced her presence with a roar of her guns, blasting away the base’s primary and secondary communication’s arrays. The Marines timed their own assault perfectly, dropping down to the primary docking bay and using their drop ships’ weapons to blast open the doors. Then they were in, their ships landing in the bay before the defenders (such as they were) could get in place to deny them.

The point defense turrets on the dropships opened up, targeting the two automated turrets by the main entrance to the underground facility that had begun firing at them, quickly silencing the opposition before it could do more than tickle the shields. The marines charged down the ramps of the dropships in their armor, glad for the fact that the Marine version of the FLMS was designed with vacuum operations in mind, so they didn’t need to worry about sealing the bay doors before continuing their assault.

Moving into the base, they began getting some actual opposition. There was only supposed to be a single platoon of actual soldiers here, since the base’s primary defense was stealth, but Major Khan had insisted on bringing the entire company, and Mollen had agreed. No sense in fighting fair, especially when the enemy may have prepared defenses and other force multipliers designed to force a battle of attrition. The security here was primarily to delay until reinforcements arrived, according to the intel Mollen had scrounged up. With communications out, those reinforcements weren’t coming until far too late for it to matter.

Over the command channel, Khan called out, “Report by platoons.”

“Second Platoon reporting in. We’ve found the guards. One squad of hostiles, dug in along the primary access corridor approaching the command center. Engaging.”

“Third Platoon reporting in. We’re encountering heavy resistance getting to the labs. No guards, but plenty of droids and automated defenses. It will take time to clear our way through.”

“Fourth Platoon reporting in. We have secured the computer core, and are copying data now. One squad of hostiles engaging, trying to take this position.”

“Fourth Platoon, hold and fortify until the hackers are done with their work. Second and Third platoons, carry on. First Platoon will take the secondary corridor to attempt to flank Second’s bad guys and secure the command center. Squad leaders, remind your men that the first one to die in each squad buys his team the first round when we get back.”

There was a flurry of acknowledgement, which Khan mostly tuned out as he led First Platoon along a secondary corridor between the launch bay and where the intel said main control was. Their blueprints for the base were sketchy, at best, but they did locate three main target areas, once the launch bays were secured.

The command center was the obvious choice, if only because it would allow them to turn off any security, or use it to neutralize any remaining threats remotely. There was also the idea that most of the people with actionable intelligence would be in or around the command center in the event of an attack. The labs were the second primary objective, since this was a R&D facility for nasty shit, the sooner they could secure those, the less likely someone would decide that unleashing something horrible was better than surrender. And finally, the computer core was their secondary objective, since even if the labs were lost, the hope was that most of the research data would be stored there (which seemed more likely given that they had managed to intercept the squad that would have tried to wipe or blow the core before they were overrun).

The automated defenses were getting to be a problem. Most, at least along this secondary corridor, were in the form of sealed bulkheads (which were annoying to override or cut through), gas attacks (which their suits stopped cold), or sonic/light attacks (which their suits filtered out after the first time). But in the main corridor, and in the tunnel heading for the labs, there were lethal traps, even to men in marine armor. Third Platoon was already down four men due to high-power rounds fired from an automated turret at a choke point. Private Adams was the first lucky man who’d be buying the rest of his squad drinks tonight, after he respawned.

They could hear fighting up ahead. Second Platoon and the guards were going at it all right. As they turned the corner, Kahn’s First Platoon came face to face with what appeared to be two heavy assault drones that were moving into position to support the base’s guards. The drones paused for a moment as this new threat entered their detection radius and was run through their decision trees to select an appropriate response. The marines needed no decision trees, as ‘kill it a lot’ was their primary selection for any hostiles they found.

Armor piercing rounds flew through the air, reducing one of the drones to 50% capacity before the two drones opened fire on the Marines. The fighting was as one might expect of a real firefight. Brief, intense, and deadly. Sure, it seemed like it lasted minutes to Kahn, but he knew from experience that it was only seconds. The two assault drones were quickly brought down, but Kahn’s HUD showed that he’d lost four and had five more wounded. Second Platoon would have been wiped out if they’d come up against this on their own, while facing the supporting troopers, without the momentary surprise they’d ‘enjoyed’.

Once again, Kahn was thankful that he had a boss who knew that war was no place for fair fights. If they’d only sent a couple platoons, this would have been a nightmare. It still had potential to turn into a nightmare, but they’d made sure to bring as much firepower as they could to the party, just in case. And with psyshot weapons and bracers that could hold all sorts of goodies without adding to combat weight, his marines could bring a LOT of firepower with them. Kahn conservatively estimated that they had enough explosives between the surviving members of the company to put a small crater in this moon if they placed them right. What he wouldn’t have given to have had some of this stuff when he was in the Corps!

With the assault drones defeated, first platoon swept up behind the four remaining guards of the guard squad. The guards had set up behind a security barricade that gave them good protection from Second Platoon’s rifles, and there was a portable shield unit with them. While the main purpose was to stop bullets (or at least slow them enough to make them less lethal), it also had the effect of keeping grenades from being thrown at them, to clear them out the easy way, bouncing the grenade back into the hall. Unfortunately for them, all that protection was facing front, and did them little good when first platoon opened up on them from behind.

When Second Platoon rolled up to join them, and then passed them on their way to secure the command center, Kahn reached out to see how his other teams were doing. “Third and Fourth platoons, report!”

“Fourth Platoon here. Data acquisition at 75%. Hostile squad dealt with. Six dead, one captured. Our casualties were one dead and seven wounded.”

“Good work, Fourth Platoon. Secure the data and the prisoner, and fall back to the drop ships. Keep the way open for us in case this goes south.”

“Wilco, Major.”

“Third Platoon, report!”

There were sounds of gunfire coming over the line. “Major, we’ve got a major problem on our hands here! Someone went and let loose the lab rats. Except these bastards are bugs the size of Dobermans!”

Goddamnit, that was not what Kahn wanted to hear. He may be a retired marine, and might not have been much for gaming before the whole VR thing came around, but he wasn’t blind to popular culture. “Confirm, Two. Are you saying you have Zerg?”

There was the staccato of gunfire again. “That is a major affirmative, Major. Might not be called Zerg, but they’re definitely the creepy crawly, kill you in an instant kind of bugs.”

“Understood. Status?”

“Holding for now, Sir. We’ve taken over a defense position that looks like it was made to cover any escapees, and are holding here. Fortunately, the automated defenses are just as interested in them as they are in us.”

“Don’t let yourself get overrun. You can fall back as far as the main corridor if you need to. Fourth is almost done with the data grab, and Second is about to grab the command center, so when that happens I’m writing off the labs as a lost cause.”


And now they were facing the situation he was worried about when he said he wanted the entire company along. The dangers of going into an unknown facility were too large to underestimate. If this was the real world, he’d already have over a dozen ‘We Regret to Inform You That’ letters to write. The fact that people could respawn in this world didn’t make it better. Not in the least.

“Major, this is Second. We’ve captured the Command Center. Three VIPs taken prisoner. No casualties. All automated defenses have been switched over to recognize us as friendlies.”

“Fourth Platoon reporting in. We’ve secured the data and wiped the core. We have our prisoner, and are exfiltrating to the rendezvous point.”

“Second Platoon, activate all internal defenses, and have them targeting the bugs coming out of Lab wing. If they have a self-destruct, set that too, but give us enough time to get out of here, first.”

“Understood, Major. I’ve got a self-destruct setting here, all right. Looks like it will blow the base pretty nicely, but it also sends a black box of what happened to the Empire.”

“Fine. We’ve already erased the experiment data from the core, so there’s no point in them not knowing someone was here. Set the self-destruct for twenty minutes, I want to be well clear before this thing blows. Then destroy the console so no one can override without physical rewiring.”

“Setting the self-destruct now. Charges will blow the console once we’re done.”

ALERT! ALERT! SELF-DESTRUCT SEQUENCE INITIATED. T Minus 20 minutes until reactor breach. Please evacuate the facility.

As the message began playing over the speakers throughout the base, Kahn ordered, “Third Platoon, door’s closing. Automated defenses have you marked as friendlies. De-ass your current position and regroup at the dropships.”

“Gladly, Major. Things were getting way too hot over here!”

With that said, Kahn led his own First Platoon back to the dropships, where Fourth was already waiting, having taken up defensive positions around the hatch, just in case. He was pleased to see that they had already taken the time to place enough explosives lining the hallway to drop the ceiling on any pursuers, and block the tunnel. Second joined them not long after, moving at a brisk jog. Then his armor’s external pickups caught the sound of armored men, running fast, along with rifle fire.

“Third Platoon coming in hot! Prepare for immediate evac!”

“All crews saddle up! Fourth, as soon as Third is through, drop that tunnel!”

The Marines loaded up as quickly as they could, which was pretty damn fast with the augments and armor they’d received. A fire team stayed at the ramp of each of the dropships except Third platoon’s, to provide covering fire if any baddies got in before Fourth could drop the tunnel. Third Platoon came tearing into the launch bay, breaking right and left at the door to clear the kill zone. Which was fortunate, since a whole bunch of those bugs were following fast on their heels, and several met their end thanks to the company’s rifles before the explosives shut off the flow.

Once Third Platoon was loaded up and all ships reported ready, Major Kahn said, “Get us the hell out of here!”

Five minutes later, a miniature sun formed briefly on the surface of Balpheron’s Moon, where no military research site had ever been. The light was consistent with the reactor that wasn’t there in the center of the base that had never existed going critical and deliberately losing containment, with the resulting explosion like a tactical nuke. If not for the small probe that launched just before the blast, no one would be able to say a base had ever been there.

Previous Chapter                                      Table of Contents                                       Next Chapter

Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):

City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):

Monday, January 8, 2018

Chapter 120 - The Gates of Amyaththalas

The tent was on the ‘Dungeon’ setting for tonight. I’d apologized already to my other followers, but they understood the necessity of giving rewards, especially since it inspired them to perhaps earn rewards of their own. I’m a meritorious bastard like that.

Just because it was called the Dungeon didn’t mean it was all dark walls and dank cells, with a side of torture implements, however. There were several ‘normal’ bedrooms, and the beds were comfortable enough, but there was a certain lack of visual stimuli with the bare stone walls that you didn’t have in the other settings. The master bedroom, of course, was a combination of the two, a private torture dungeon for those sadists and masochists who enjoyed such things, and a large, very comfortable bed.

Hrozne, while understandably anxious for hir reward, also understood the concept of a ‘hard stop’ when it came to kinks. That was why shi was in the other, less comfortable section of the dungeon, under the tender mercies of Della and Severa, who were under orders to do whatever they wished, so long as they didn’t kill him, and stopped when Hrozne used his safe word. OK, so that was probably rewarding those two, as well, but they’d been working hard, too.

The master bedroom was occupied by just me, and six drowesses. Jastra had wanted something ‘special’, since there were so many female drow in one place, even if most of them were some flavor of undead. And since the space was set up for it, I saw no reason to deny her. Especially since her reward was something I thought would be a lot of fun for me, as well. It was my favorite kind of reward to give, honestly.

The revenant was strapped to a wooden horse with ‘punishment rods’ inserted into her pussy and ass. The horse was a simple device, nothing more than a wooden wedge with a sharpened point that the slave was forced down upon, her legs tied up so her own body weight pressed her tender flesh against the wooden blade. Her arms were bound behind her back, thrusting her chest out as she writhed upon the horse. She writhed because of the plugs.

The plugs took a person’s own MP, and converted it into small electric shocks. The shocks were painful, but not enough to cause damage. They also grew in intensity with the the victim’s MP regen. The current setting for the plugs was that each had a discharge rate of half the person’s MP regen plus 1. With two plugs, she essentially ‘lost’ 2 MP per minute. And the 8” long, 2.5” wide rods would not stop sparking within them until they ran out of MP, or they were removed.

Unfortunately for her, the priestess had a large MP pool, and quite a bit of MP regen. She was going to be ‘dancing’ for quite a while.

The other four, the vampires, were engaged in acts that might not be as painful, but were probably a great deal more humiliating to them. Jastra lay on her back on the large bed, as the three lesser vampires ‘lovingly’ serviced her breasts and clit with their less-than-eager tongues, while I did my best impression of a piston engine inside her eager pussy. The vampires were not allowed to drink, or touch themselves, making this a thoroughly frustrating experience for them. I daresay they preferred this treatment to the way their mistress, the high priestess was treated.

Forced to kneel behind me while I thrust into Jastra, the high priestess was tasked with keeping her her tongue as far up my ass as she could mangage, while she used her hands to cup and caress my balls. I wasn’t quite sure what Jastra got out of that stipulation, since she was the one who had made the demand, but it wasn’t unpleasurable for me, and I think she just enjoyed demeaning the yathrinshee priestess. I just chalked it up to being a ‘drow thing’, and enjoyed the ride.

The ride continued for most of the night, thanks to everyone having superhuman stamina (either because they were undead, or because their CON was quite high). Well, perhaps not one continuous ride. There were multiple times where things reached a most pleasurable peak, and while I recovered the vampires took turns cleaning out Jastra with their tongues, prolonging her pleasure and their humiliation. And, not coincidentally, shortening my recovery at the sight.

The next day, we continued on, making good time as the path wound closer to the city, and became more well-trod. We passed a group of soldiers on patrol shortly before midday. They were surprised to see such a motley crew approaching the city, but since we had gained favor with Lolth and the drow through our quests and actions, they let us pass after giving us directions to the nearest official gate to the city, where we’d be expected to check in with the guards. No doubt they sent a message with magic to warn the guards ahead of time.

The Gates of Amyaththalas are perhaps the most impressive piece of architecture one might see in an underground setting that isn’t connected to a temple or noble house. Forged of corrupted mithril and set in obsidian shaped into a multitude of spiders, the gates were massive, and black as night. I could feel the enchantments coming off them at a hundred yards, even with the gates open wide. If the gates were shut, there would be very few things that could force their way through without paying a heavy price. On this plane, only dragons (and old ones at that) would have a chance of forcing their way through single-handed. There were entities from other planes, such as gods and demons, which would be able to manage it easily, but then nothing in the mortal realm could stand up to those beings, if they brought their full power to bear.

Before the gates, a troop of thirty drow, mostly male, with a pair of females at their head, stood armed and armored, ready for battle if we made trouble. They were all level 80 or so, with one of the females being level 90. That one, dressed in a dark breastplate with a spider motif and carrying a massive halberd with a blade that glowed green with a poisonous light, stepped forward along with four of the males as we approached. They made no obvious signs of aggression, but their hands rested upon the hilts of their weapons, just in case.

Amolra Peindrin
High Drow Female
Level 90 Bulwark (Fighter) / Frenzied Berserker (Barbarian)
Titles: Elfbane, Kinslayer, Demon Bane, Dwarf Bane, Spiderkissed

She held up one hand to stop us, and said, “Halt! Who approaches Amyaththalas, citadel of the Drow and Jewel of the Underdark?”

Making sure my hood was up, I said, “I am Zayn Darkmore, Traveler of the realms, leader of the Aria of the Twilight, Knight of the Wyrmwood, Friend of Dragons, and Chosen of Sharess! I have traveled far, passing through the sunless caverns between the Brudrinen Empire and here, passing through Have Dorei on may way here. And who might you be?”

The drowess did not seem impressed, but she wasn’t outright hostile, either. “I am Amolra of House Peindrin, Keeper of the Gate. And what business does an incubus have in Amyaththalas, even with such lofty titles? And what of all these drow at your side? Why not show us your face, so we might know who we are dealing with?” She didn’t mention the nondrow, but then, if I hadn’t come forward, she probably wouldn’t have paid any attention to me, either.

The question about my face was easy enough to answer. As I threw back my hood, I said, “I am an Incubus blessed by Sharess and in possession of many gifts. It is without boasting or hubris that I can say that my looks and power make me a much desired partner for ‘companionship’. Especially amongst those who would be considered weaker or less attractive than I am. As it would be quite annoying to spend the entire day not being able to move more than five feet without being accosted by every new lady I see, I choose to keep my face covered.”

As I spoke, I could see the fighter’s grip tighten on her halberd. She was not moving to attack, for I could see her knees locking as she stiffened, and fought for control. Through gritted teeth, she resisted the call of my powers put upon her, until, after about thirty seconds, it broke, moving her past the point where she was tempted to simply throw herself at me. She panted with the exertion, and simply nodded once. “Keep your hood up, Incubus. It would go ill for you if you started causing disturbances in the city.”

I put the hood back up again. “Indeed. The blessings of the gods rarely have much thought for the convenience of us mere mortals. However, I must commend you, Amolra of House Peindrin. There are many who would be unable to resist the lure of my visage. Without an iron will, you would have cast yourself upon me in the throes of passion. You have shown greater control than many others, even nobles amongst the drow.

Amolra was swiftly recovering from the experience, and nodded softly. “Yes, I can see how that must be. And what is your purpose for coming to Amyaththalas, other than attempting to put gatekeepers on their knees before you?” At least she hadn’t lost her sense of humor.

I looked at her from under my hood, and said, “While I was in the Brudrinen Empire, I underwent the Trial of the Gods with my compmanions. One amongst our number was a follower of Lolth, and so, as the dictates of the magic ordained, we were presented with a floor to the dungeon representing Lolth. After completing the final task of the floor, an Avatar of the goddess presented itself to us. Lolth was amused by my presence and with the way I handled the situation, and so she gave me a quest, a seemingly impossible quest, to taunt me for being perhaps a bit too satisfied with my own powers.”

“It is due to that quest that I have traveled long through the Underdark, taking many a winding path rather than the straight way between here and Have Dorei. For the Goddess Sharess, the everloving and passionate, also appeared to us during the Trials, and gifted to us the location of three dungeons, long sealed by magic of the gods themselves, containing artifacts from the time of the Sundering.”

“In the last of these dungeons, I came across five servants of Kiransalee, and thought that I might offer them up as tribute to the Temple of Lolth. One is a High Priestess of Kiransalee, after all, and I had hoped to make her a gift to the High Priestess of Lolth, as a sacrifice for the altar.”

NOW the Keeper of the Gates was impressed! “You mean to say that you have not only spoken with the Spider Queen herself, but ventured into the long lost Sacred Dungeons and found the treasures hidden there? They were supposed to be merely myth and legend from the time of the Sundering, stories told to inspire those with more courage than sense to venture into the unknown reaches of the Underdark.”

“Oh, I can assure you that they were very real, and very full of dangers. The ancient divine seal that had covered them is gone now, and the dungeons have been opened to the world, though they are still in dark places that one would not easily come to. The seal was wrought in such a way that only a specific key could open it, and those who attempted entry without the key were trapped within the dungeon forever, their souls torn apart to fuel the magic keeping the seal in place. But now they are open to any who seek them.”

I paused, and then said, “Now, if we may be allowed into the city, I must seek out an inn to rest at this night, before we begin making preparations to fulfill the request of the Spider Queen.”

We had reached Amyaththalas, but there was still a great deal left for us to do.

Previous Chapter                                        Table of Contents                                        Next Chapter

Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):

City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Chapter 73 - Black Star Marines

<BSS Thunderfury, en route to Zeta Charybdis>

Major Khan had to give it to the Commodore. He certainly provided the toys one needed to get from A to B in a hurry, and perform the mission when you got there. The Thunderfury was not as stealthy as the rest of the Black Star Fleet, but that was fine by him. The rest of the fleet relied on speed and stealth to keep out of fair fights, either by killing everyone before the fight started, or by overwhelming their defenses with massive attacks before their overpowered shields buckled. That was good for fast attack craft.

Marines, however, needed something more rugged, since they were called to go into the teeth of enemy fire and punch a hole for others to use, or pull out other teams that had called down more heat than they could handle. Light and quick was fine, but any Marine would tell you that they’d rather something that would stand up to any level of abuse they could throw at it, and keep working with maybe a field expedient repair until they got back to base.

Thankfully, the Black Star Company didn’t need to reinvent the wheel on that score. The Thunderfury was an Imperial Marine Transport that the crazy bastard in charge went and ‘liberated’ when he’d had a chance, even before he knew that there were a bunch of ex-Marines looking to join up. The ship was barely above a frigate when it came to crew complement, but with extra room for marines, their gear, and any other toys they might be bringing to the party, not to mention tons of weapons and armor, the thing massed almost the same as a light cruiser. The ship had the same blacker-than-black paint job, a ‘normal’ stealth suite, and overpowered shields and power systems that were pretty much standard for Black Star ships, but it wasn’t damn near invisible even when you knew it was there like the Shinokage, to say nothing of the Assassins.

The Thunderfury couldn’t land on a planet’s surface, but getting down in the atmosphere to deliver some ‘stern warnings’ via bombardment was something it could handle. They had five drop ships, capable of delivering pain and backing up marines in close air support, while taking a beating themselves. Of course, they only needed four drop ships to get the entire company’s 120 marine combat force anywhere they needed to go, but the Imperial designers clearly understood that shit breaks, or that sometimes you need to come back with more than you left with. The company was all Nomads, even the 10-man logistics section, since he’d put out the call for any retired Jarheads who wanted to be bona fide Space Marines.

Which is why the Thunderfury and the Black Star Marines were tapped for this gig. He’d seen the tape of the previous actions Commodore Mollen and his crews had fought. Those tactical teams they’d put together were bad ass, make no mistake, but they were scalpels. They used speed and surprise to overwhelm their foes and to take them out before they could actually resist. Khan just thanked whoever might be listening that Mollen didn’t let that shit get to his head, because he’d waited until he’d gotten Marines before he went after something needing a broadsword. Or a hammer.

Gathering his thoughts, he walked into the conference room where his command staff were already assembling the company to brief the teams on their first mission.

<Raxicore Base, Balpheron’s Moon, Zeta Charybdis System>

Raxicore Base did not exist. Balpheron’s Moon, orbiting a standard Jupiter-size gas giant in the Zeta Charybdis system, had no minerals or ores easily accessible enough to make mining useful, and the radiation from the planet’s rings which came close to the moon’s orbit made a colony, even a prison colony, untenable. Everyone knew this.

Everyone was wrong, of course. In reality, Raxicore Base was the center for the Imperial Fleet’s Research and Development group’s blackest projects, the kinds of things that were not ‘acceptable’ to research on in more open settings. Warship and most conventional weapons were researched and designed elsewhere. This site was for the things that no one wanted to admit ever existed. The Chimera project had been designed here in the initial stages, but had been moved to Luna before the death of the previous Emperor so that the specimen could have better access to any potential targets for assassination and replacement. Unfortunately, the initial specimen of the Infiltrator line escaped by doing just that to one of its handlers, using her face and ID to get off base. It took a lot of interrogating with the Nomad they found with the deceased handler, but the information was clear. The specimen had used its abilities to engineer its escape.

While the loss of the specimen was unfortunate, and its lack of recovery completely unacceptable, Doctor Denise Jacobi was thankful for it in one respect. That incident had proved her right when she had said six years ago, that the plan to move final development to the less secure Black Site located on the Luna Academy grounds was foolish. But who was she to question security arrangements, she was just a Doctor with advanced degrees in biology, chemistry, and half a dozen other sciences. Under a suitable alias, of course. No one was supposed to know Doctor Jacobi existed until they met her, or were central enough that they understood that some projects were necessary, for the safety of the Empire, even if they were distasteful in the extreme. Why, the process of producing the mimetic genetic code of the Chimera alone involved the vivisection and forced integration of DNA from over two hundred species, only a few of them sapient. But the price of progress was always steep.

Still, even though the Chimera project had been taken away from her, she had kept copies of the original research, and had started using it for her own projects. While they wouldn’t compare to the ability of a Chimera grown from the initial tissues to the purpose of its line, she had theorized that it would be possible to use retroviral gene therapies to ‘graft’ some of the projected abilities of the Chimera project into already living beings, allowing them to give loyal servants of the Empire some of those capabilities, rather than trying to engineer loyalty through conditioning or strict controls that may leave the specimen unable to properly function. Imperial soldiers able to regenerate their wounds. Judges capable of stripping the truth from a defendant’s mind. Spies that were able to assume any form. Assassins that could be completely invisible, even as they drew the knife across their victim’s throats. The possibilities were endless!

<BSS Thunderfury, in stealth approach to Balpheron’s Moon>
Captain Am’Rica’s tail swung slowly side to side in pleasure as she stood on the bridge of her ship. The Thunderfury was a good ship, despite being made by those Imperial swine. They may have all the moral integrity of a hatchling who sees food and is told they can’t have it, but they knew how to build a warship. It was no small point of pride to her that her ship was the most capable when it came to taking a hit without getting knocked out of a fight out of all the ships in the Black Star Fleet. While Thunderfury lacked the raw killing power of the primary weapon of the Shadowdancer and her sisters, it was more than capable of wading into any mess that would leave the Assassins broken and bloody and coming out the other side only looking a little worse for the wear.

As far as she knew, she was one of only a handful of Ihm in this Company. There was another female who lead one of the Assassin’s tactical teams, but she was the only other female of her species in the Company. Not surprising, since it was a Confederate company started by an Imperial exile, if the stories were true. The majority of the company were humans and knelfi, with a good portion of felisans and gauz, naturally. But the other species, like hers, were rare in the Confederation, which made them rare in the company.

Her parents had been diplomats from the Imperium to the Empire. When war broke out, their whole family was enslaved in the night, and they were separated and sold. She still had never found out what happened to her mother, but she knew her father had died a year after their enslavement. She knew that because her master at the time thought it a treat to take her as his plaything while she watched her father fight to his death in the arena. Her master and his family, oh so unfortunately, had suffered terrible, painful deaths on their private yacht while touring one of the colonies near the Confederate border. She had managed to program the autopilot, and the ship took her to a Confederate world, where a sympathetic captain had registered her as a ‘refugee’ rather than an ‘escaped slave’.

Now, after some time as a mercenary, eventually rising to first officer on one of her old company’s ships, she was a Captain with the Black Star Company. The thought of taking this ship into battle with the damned Imperials and delivering a piece of the vengeance she longed for was mouthwatering. The fact that she would deliver trained men and women to wreck their facilities and take whatever research they were doing to use against them only made it sweeter.

She had been surprised, after only seeing a few of her species in the Black Star Fleet, to find out that there were ten Ihm in the new all-Nomad Marine company she’d be carrying around on the Thunderfury. Even better, they were all males! The fact that they were Nomads only made things more interesting. Everyone knew that Nomads were different. They had a strange ability to resurrect after death, and would sometimes disappear for hours or days at a time, and come back as though nothing had happened, and they often were completely ignorant about major parts of the cultures they supposedly came from.

When she’d worked up the courage to ask one of the Ihm marines about it, he said that the reason Nomads were different is because they projected their consciousness to this world. However, their bodies remained in their world, so they had to leave periodically to care for their bodies’ needs. And since time flowed faster here than in their world, a night’s rest at ‘home’ would leave them missing from this world for a day or more. That, too, was the secret of their ‘resurrection’. Dying simply kicked their consciousness from this world, and it took time to reestablish the connection.

She had been around enough politicians as a child, and intelligence types as an adult, that she could tell when someone was telling only a partial truth. What the marine had told her was true, so far as it went. But he either didn’t want to say more, or couldn’t say more. She couldn’t quite tell on that part. Probably didn’t want to, since he’d revealed a lot about his world, including that there were only humans there, and so he’d chosen to become an Ihm when he came here. When she asked why, he admitted that he liked the physical benefits of the male’s size and strength, since he used to be a soldier in his world.

Am’rica’s tail curled as she thought of that Ihm marine now, about to launch on his first mission with the Black Star Marines. She knew it was pointless to worry about him, since he was a Nomad, but she still did. Maybe when he got back to the ship she could teach him a few things about Ihm culture? She still had some chakmora tea in her quarters…

Previous Chapter                                        Table of Contents                                        Next Chapter

Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):

City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):

Friday, January 5, 2018

Chapter 72 - Cantina

<Chalmun’s Cantina, Os Eisley spaceport, Atooine>

Chalmun’s was as lovely little hole in the wall cantina. Well, if you ignored the fact that Os Eisley was a shithole that catered to what some would call the most wretched hive of scum and villainy in the galaxy, and Atooine was a backwater desert planet that was known mostly for being near one of the 16 Gateways in Known Space (and one of five in Imperial space). So it was less ‘charming hole in the wall’ and more ‘semi-neutral ground’.

At any rate, the Cantina was normally full of people thanks to the fact that it had the magic combination of having liquor and being near the commercial spaceport, and today was no exception. About thirty men and women (all human, because this WAS Imperial space) were sitting at the various tables, drinking and enjoying themselves when the harsh desert sun coming through the doorway alerted everyone to new arrivals. Everything stopped as all heads turned towards the newcomers, who were briefly silhouetted against the doorway before it shut, leaving them adjusting to the darker room while those already present got a good look at them.

They were four in number. A human male, average sized, wearing all black including a long coat over what looked like some personal armor, stood in the center, and appeared to be the leader of this bunch. A well-muscled human female, wearing similar clothes, and carrying a big ass halberd like it was a walking stick, stepped in next to him, her eyes scanning the room like a bodyguard. A slender knelfi woman was slightly behind them, in what most were now putting together as this group’s ‘ops uniform’, but she had a tool belt on her hips, rather than a gun belt, though she was sporting a small shoulder holster for a pistol. The final member of the group was a catgirl. Not a Felisan, but a knelfi woman who had been extensively modified to have a catgirl appearance, including fur and a tail! She was hot as hell, and also dressed in the ‘ops uniform’.

The bartender scowled at them as they entered, and said, “We don’t serve their kind here!”

The man’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the fat man behind the bar. “What?”

“Your xenos! We don’t want their kind here!”

The man smirked, and said, “Well, you’re not serving them, you’re serving me. And since they’re my slaves, they’re staying with me.” With that said, he began walking into the bar, ignoring the bartender as he looked for someone.

One of the men at the bar, a regular who was friends with the owner (and one of the reasons for the ‘no xenos’ rule), growled, and got up from his seat, with three of his buddies joining him. He was a big, strong man, clearly capable of violence and more than willing to use it to get what he wanted. And what he wanted at the moment was to kick the xeno-lover out of ‘his’ bar so everything would be right with his universe again. “Perhaps ya didn’t hear the man, xeno-humper. He said get y’er floozies outta the bar.”

The man turned to look at the slab of beef masquerading as an idiot, and said, “Or what? You’ll stand near me? When was the last time you bathed in anything other than your own shit? Or does your buddy like the aroma when you’re blowing his horn, so he can call you a filthy animal, and mean it?”

This was not the response the regular was hoping for, and it certainly wasn’t one that was going to go over well with him. Those closest to the potential action took hold of their drinks, to make sure they kept them when the fight started. Place like this, there was rarely a day when someone didn’t get into a fight. Further back from the two groups, wagers were placed on who would be walking out of here and who was going to be carried out.

The regular growled, and pulled his large, ham-like fist back to throw the first punch. Unfortunately for him, size and ‘liquid courage’ might make all the difference in a normal bar brawl, but training and sobriety (for the moment, anyways) was a far more potent combination. The man moved as the punch went through where his head was moments before, and a snap of light and a buzzing sound filled the air, followed by the screams of the regular, who was now sprawled on the floor, looking in pain and shock at where his right leg used to be. Only now, everything below the knee was a couple feet away from where he now was.

The regular’s three friends took a half-step forward, about to educate this punk on why you didn’t introduce weapons into a ‘friendly’ bar brawl, when they all came up short. The point of the redhead’s halberd was in the center one’s face, right between the eyes. The other two also had the lovely experience of seeing more traditional weapons up close and personal, a heavy pistol in the knelfi girl’s hand, and a shotgun in the catgirl’s. They quickly decided that there was a difference between sticking up for their friend and being put down like dogs.

Said friend was lying on the ground, trying very hard not to move as the energy saber was just a centimeter from his throat. The man just held it there, while he calmly accessed the regular’s bracer, and transferred a large sum from the man’s account to the bartender. Looking up at the bartender, he said, “To pay for the mess, and three rounds for the bar, on this guy!” He said the last part loud, because everyone knew that free booze tasted better than that you had to pay for. The fact that there was a substantial bit left over would provide the bartender with an ample tip.

The man turned back to the three stooges looking nervously at the business end of the weapons pointed their way. “You three are going to be good boys and take your friend home so he can sober up, yes?” They nodded. “Good, because I don’t think he’s in any fit state to be walking on home on his own. Too many beers for his own good. Now get!” Weapons were pulled aside, and the three stooges got, taking their friend with them, while money changed hands in the background, and the band got back to playing.

As the foursome put their weapons away (or at least not actively threatening anyone in the case of the halberd), the man resumed looking around, and noticed one of the patrons in the rear of the bar signaling him discretely. With an easy gait, he led the way through the suddenly much more respectful crowd, until they reached the table in question. It was a large corner booth, designed for larger groups, and capable of seating ten comfortably, plus a couple more if they pulled up chairs. Four people were sitting there, the man (clearly a soldier by his bearing) they were there to meet sitting in the center.

“Impressive entrance. No hesitation on the fight either, even from the little one.”

The man in black nodded, and pointed out his pets as he named them. “I’ve trained Shearah as well as I could, but Cali and Sona have prior training. You’re ‘MajorTom’, yes?”

The soldier nodded, and extended a hand. “Chris Khan, here. Major Tom is who I was in the other world. And you’re the infamous Captain Mollen?”

The Captain laughed at that. “Infamous, am I? Must be doing something right, then.” He shook the offered hand, and said, “So, Chris, you mentioned you had a group of jarheads and ne’er do wells that were feeling the need for some action, but the sandpit wasn’t for them any more, for all kinds of reasons that I don’t need to know unless they become a problem, yes?”

The woman next to Chris looked like she was about to chew her leg off if she didn’t get something off her chest, so the Captain looked at her directly. “Let me guess, you’ve got something to say about me having a harem of beautiful slave girls, right?” He paused just long enough for her to start speaking, before cutting her off again. “I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass, so I’ll appreciate it if you didn’t make too many assumptions about me. The only people I’ve personally enslaved attacked me and bit off more than they could chew. I could have killed them, but instead I put them to use. Most of my slaves are that way because they got into debt, or ran afoul of someone with political power, and I bought them off the public markets. A few were guilty of being aliens in Imperial space, and one got tricked into signing up to be a slave.”

“Other than the people I could have shot instead of collared, all my slaves would have been slaves regardless of whether I owned them or not. And I yeah, I get benefits from this, but ask my slaves, especially the ones that have known other owners, and they’ll tell you that I’m a lot less of a bastard than most.”

“But you admit to being a bastard.”

“Damn straight I do. Would I be the kind of person looking for a group of badasses to introduce this world to new and creative methods of deploying field expedient mayhem if I wasn’t? But if it makes you feel any better, I’ll give you the basic HR spiel. I won’t throw any of my people into the meat grinder unless there’s a damn good reason for it, and they’ll know about it ahead of time. If it turns out things are nastier than we thought, then I’ll do my level best to get as many of my people out the other side alive and well, even if it means I have to personally tear someone a new asshole to get my people back.”

“And what about harassment?”

“The HR handbook is real simple on that. Comes down to one word, ‘DON’T’, all in big capital letters. I don’t tolerate people forcibly enslaving my people, or forcing my people to do those kinds of things against their will or as part of a quid pro quo. A slave’s duties to their master depends on the slave and the master, and I don’t get into that unless it hurts the company, or one of them is underage. And while I could compel any of my slaves to do anything I want to or for or with me, I already got a group of lovelies that take up all my free time on that front, and they’d be pissed as hell at me if I was too busy getting busy to give them any attention. That answer your question?”

The female soldier grumbled a bit, before Captain Mollen said with a grin, “Oh, but there’s nothing stopping you from getting a cute slave boy (or girl, I don’t judge) of your own, and having fun with them, so long as it doesn’t disrupt ops. You’re a free woman. Someone tries to do something to you that you don’t like, put them in the infirmary or the morgue, and let your CO know so they can get you some cover. You go and let someone slap a collar on you willingly, well, then you knew what you were signing up for.”

The woman still looked annoyed, but was no longer righteously pissed any more, so Chris simply shrugged, and said, “Meyers was involved in an ‘incident’ with a CO who didn’t appreciate her views on his offer to fast track her promotion in return for some ‘favors’. Your stream isn’t exactly the most PC viewing, you know.”

Mollen nodded. “If it were, I’d be doing something wrong. So, you interested in some mayhem?”

Chris grinned. “I’m a Marine. We’re ALWAYS interested in mayhem. I spread the word to some others that were out of the Corps in the other world. Think your Black Star Fleet could use a company of retired and discharged United States Marines?”

“Welcome to the Black Star Company, Major Khan. You’ll be commanding the First Company, Black Star Marines. Pick your own staff, and organize the platoons. You know that side better than I do. The Company will make sure you have the toys to play with, and the Fleet will get you to where you need to go. There’s a war on, as I’m sure you’ve heard. Let’s meet up with the rest of your men and get you geared up. I have a list of targets already that are dearly in need of the special care that only a Marine can give them.”

Chris nodded. “Hoorah.” The other marines called it back to him, smiles on all their faces. Well, only a small one on Meyers’s, but it was still there.

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Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):

City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):