Integration (Part Eleven - 5/14/2015)

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Re: Integration (Part Nine - 10/24/2014)

Postby TendoTwo » Wed Oct 29, 2014 12:14 pm

Hmm, perhaps "abusing" isn't quit the right word. I don't mean he was actually hurting Cody, but rather abusing his position. I suppose some of the characters put it better, that he was somewhat controlling and seemed to treat him more like a pet or toy than an equal.

The way he acted last we saw him was a little confusing. At first I didn't expect him to mock Russell, mostly because I was still expecting the buildup to have been misdirection at first, but when I realized he really was like that, then I was surprised again at how shocked he was when he hurt Cody. Though then I realized that like you said, he probably never wanted to hurt him even if he just did whatever he wanted with him, so it still made sense. But then I was just confused when after he did get hurt and he was so worried for him, he insisted on taking him still. It was kind of a see-saw of emotions.

Anyway, about the tears thing. I am no biologist of course, but I meant that I think it is actually physically impossible for canines to shed tears without something being physically wrong, not that they cannot feel sadness or emotions. I just wasn't sure how closely you wanted to tie them to real canines and how much you wanted to change to be more human-like for the sake of making the story better, I believe TV Tropes called that an "acceptable break form reality". :wink: But again, like I said, this is a setting that has giant sapient bipedial canines, vulpines, equines, etc, and they are quite different from what you would find on Earth, so it's not like everything in the setting in grounded in hard reality. :P

And yeah, I know the taste thing was joke, just saying that it was ironic is all. :wink:
TendoTwo
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Integration (Part Ten - 11/18/2014)

Postby Hetzer » Tue Nov 18, 2014 11:16 am

This chapter is special in many ways. It pushes the whole story over 100,000 words, is a major step in Kira and Dylan's relationship, and it reveals a few world elements that were probably a mistake to wait so long to reveal. I could end the story right here, I feel it has a suitable endpoint. But I don't want to. So let's just call it the unofficial end to an act.

Editing has been done by... a lot of people. Let's see...

padfootsm
fleetadmtrekie
nochtisdragon
incongruency
Anonymous 'M'
Rotarydragon
Blu3wolf

So seven editing eyes looked this over. Still, if there are any problems, report them and I'll amend them.

All are welcome to join the IRC channel dedicated to this series on the BigFurs network. Anyone in the channel has the option to be a beta or alpha reader, vote on art commission ideas, just chat, and in there you can poke and yell at me to stop being lazy! http://irc.bigfurs.com/?channels=integration

Plain text option: https://www.sofurry.com/view/783304

I got a new art commission! It's too big to fit here, though. So go here to see: http://www.furaffinity.net/view/14884960/

Integration
Part Ten


The flashlight shone a dim red light into an open cabinet. The medic stuck a hand in and sifted through the clutter, searching for anything useful. He found a small bottle of ibuprofen and some iodine, and immediately stuffed them into one of the pouches at his waist. The light veered downwards to settle on another cabinet under the sink. He crouched down and dug through it to find a simple red first aid kit. He dragged it out and placed it on top of the sink, quickly poking through it, wanting to see what pitiful bounty he found.

It was a bunch of trivial junk. A band-aid was little good to a woman with a sucking chest wound. He sighed and started to repack the kit. He could wish for more all he wanted, but this was what he had been given to work with. As he stuffed the supplies back into the plastic box his vision started to spin. He shook his head and clutched the sink, focusing on his hands as his vision danced around.

Once it finally settled he pushed off of the sink, shook his head, and finished putting everything back into the kit. He grabbed the whole thing in one hand and picked up his gun, propped against the wall, by its sling and headed back into the hallway. He looked both directions, suddenly wondering what to do now.

He couldn’t think. Something was wrong. Something should have happened, but it hadn’t. Now, he was left disoriented. His head spun again and he stumbled forward to brace himself against the adjacent wall. He wobbled side to side for a few seconds, trying to collect his thoughts. This wasn’t right. He should be somewhere else right now. Why wasn’t he somewhere else?

His eyes widened with realization and the spinning suddenly stopped. It was the dream. He was back. Why? Again? Could he not have a break? The first aid kit started to rattle as his hand trembled. His helmet thumped against the wall once in frustration before he suddenly whirled around and threw the little box into the bathroom, where it smashed apart against the tiled shower wall, spilling its contents inside the bathtub.

The soldier only spent a moment entertaining the idea of waking up before steeling himself. It wasn’t time to wake. This was another chance to save these people and he would be damned if he let the dream win by default. He unslung his shotgun as he turned to head towards the room. One hand pulled back the charging handle to check for a shell in the chamber as he nudged the door open. Satisfied with the loaded weapon, he tossed it onto the dresser.

A glance was all the three civilians received while he unsnapped his helmet and tossed the armor to the floor with a heavy thump before stepping over to the window. As soon as he gazed upon the dark world outside, it all flashed with a burst of lightning followed by a boom of thunder.

The endless forest was back. It was back. The shadows moving across the pillars of the sky-piercing trees gave it away. He shivered in fear as his hands started to undo the buckles on his vest. He flinched with each snapping clip. The rigging fell from his shoulders and thudded onto the ground.

Lightning lit up the world once more as he started to unbutton his jacket. He saw it standing between a couple of trees, watching him. He didn’t take his eyes off of that spot as he took his jacket off and tossed it aside, leaving him in just an olive colored shirt. He raised his hand and his fingers shakily formed a finger gun as he pointed at where he saw it last. He waited for the storm to flash again. When it did, he saw it again, standing in the same spot. His thumb triggered the mock weapon and he feigned recoil.

Once the light was gone he turned on his heel, pulled the revolver from its thigh holster, and checked the cylinder. He wanted the loaded weapons to give him confidence, but all he felt was that gnawing fear. He ignored that feeling. Fear was what it wanted. Resistance was what angered it. He shoved the pistol back into its holster and grabbed the shotgun off of the dresser before heading for the door.

“Wait,” said the man in the chair. The medic paid him no mind as he kept going, not even glancing to acknowledge him as he entered the hallway and headed for the stairs. As his boots thudded down the steps he heard the man shout, “Let her in!” His voice carried through the house, and it even sounded demanding.

He marched out into the wet darkness, stopping only for a moment to look up at the sky and let the rain wash down his face and skin, left bare and free from his gear. He headed for the forest, but as he reached the edge he suddenly stopped, staring into it. He shook his head and turned back around. He placed himself directly in front of the house and faced the forest.

He quietly waited there for many long minutes. It wanted him to go out there. He wouldn’t do it. It wasn’t going to get what it wanted. Not this time. “Come on!” he screamed into the blackness. “Face me!” He outstretched his arms, gun held in one hand, and beckoned for it to come and get him. “You want them, you have to go through me!”

He received no response. Not even a flash of lightning to reveal it waiting for him. He let his arms fall down to his sides, disappointed. An urge to go into the darkness and get this over with gnawed at him, but he fought it. He couldn’t do that. He had to wait this time. Enough with simply trying to bring this to an end. It was time to truly resist it.

He would wait, and live this nightmare longer. Resigning himself to staying in this dreamscape, he sat down onto the wet ground, knees bent, and laid his weapon across his lap. Sitting in the pouring rain, he watched the forest for far too long. His body shook as he waited, terrified. Each passing moment saw that terror growing more and more. He felt a part of him begging to simply wake up, asking to not live through this, and saying that it was pointless. He buried that part of him. Quitting was what it wanted. It denied him the chance to resist it, as if his resistance wasn’t already pointless.

“Let her in,” he heard, then a moment later he realized he uttered it himself. He looked down at the gun in his lap and watched the rainwater drip off of the front sight. Let her in. If he let her in it could hurt her. It could control her. It could hurt him even more.

His hand squeezed around the barrel of the weapon. What if she could help? She’d want to help. She was stronger than it. She was stronger than him. He lifted the gun out of his lap and placed it butt down in the mud, and stared at it. This thing had failed him time and time again. It wasn’t enough. It would never be enough. He would never be enough. He couldn’t do this alone.

He wished she was here. She could fight it. She could save these people.

She could protect him.

His forehead pressed against the topside of the gun barrel and he sighed. He needed her. He felt the slight tremors coursing through his body slow to almost nothing as he imagined that white furred wolfess being here. Not as a monster, but his guardian.

The pitter-patter of the rain around him slowed to silence. He lifted his head up and looked around anxiously. It was another change, another shift in the dream. It never stopped raining. The shaking returned as he listened to the silent night. The rumble of thunder and the flash of lighting left the world. The trees stopped their bobbing as the wind ceased its blowing. All he could hear was his shallow breathing and the rattle of his gun as he lifted it up and aimed between his knees toward the forest.

He peered through the sight as he leveled his aim on a dark figure approaching between the thick trunks of the trees. He steeled his grip to stop the rattling and held his breath as his finger stroked the trigger.

As it stepped out of the forest its form took shape, and it stopped. He slowly lifted his cheek off of the stock, his mouth slightly agape, as he looked at it. White fur, blue eyes, and a soft, toothless smile all on an impossibly tall wolfess as she took shape. His gun slowly lowered until the barrel squelched into the wet grass. He let the butt rest in his lap as he placed both of his hands on his knees.

His shaking stopped.

She started to take steps toward him. They were slow and light, as if she was doing her best to not frighten him. He willed his body to relax as his gaze went up and up as she got closer. She stopped a few meters away from him where she lowered herself down into a squat and carefully extended an arm.

A part of him cried that it was a trick; that it was just here to destroy his nerve by using her. But he squashed it. He shoved it to the back of his mind. He had to trust her. Before her hand even touched him his body relaxed and leaned sideways as if he would fall over. The dark pads of her fingers caught him and gently propped him back up. She stroked his side and smiled tenderly down at him, silently telling him it would be okay.

He felt her hand leave him and, for a short moment, he was terrified that she was going to leave. Instead, she shifted as she turned around and smoothly sat herself down next to him. Without even thinking the medic scooted over, closed the distance, and leaned against her hip. Her palm cupped around his side and lightly pressed him against her. Her thumb slowly caressed him as her hand lingered, keeping the medic safely wrapped in its protective warmth.

For the first time, he felt unafraid as he watched the dark forest with her.

Dylan's eyes slowly opened up as he heard Sam's voice yelling across the barracks for them to get up and get their physical training clothes on. The medic rolled onto his back and his palms rubbed at his eyes while a massive smile spread across his face.



Kira couldn’t help but notice how this morning was the oddest of switches. Normally, Dylan was rather subdued, at least compared to everyone else, but when she collected him for breakfast at the mess he was happy and energetic. Apparently, he slept very well.

That was great, but of all the days for that to happen, did it have to be the morning after one of their own was hospitalized after a terrible betrayal of trust? There the little human was, looking the best he’d been since he got here, yet the rest of those sitting at the table were the ones in poor spirits, including herself.

The Lupari eyed the depressingly vacant spot next to Dylan, where Cody always sat. Her ears perked up when she heard a growl of frustration come from Yirshan. “That… that conceited, furry hukar! I can’t believe he’d do that!”

That broke the uneasy silence pervading the table. Fahne fluttered her wings, causing the huge appendages to bump into her fellow Arkatian. “You can all say goodbye to alcohol; I’m calling that now.”

There were a couple of groans among the few guardians. A leonine Ralai, Corporal Konis Lurr, shook her head and put her muzzle in her palm. “We’re probably going to get screened with a bunch of new competence exams, too. Some of us could lose our guardianships for this.”

Nahni’s tall ears folded behind his head as he placed his hand on top of his comrade’s own. “Come now, we’d do fine, I’m sure of it.”

Attention shifted to the humans’ table when Dapeng spoke up, “Trikil was drunk, wasn’t he? Surely they can’t punish you for that.” He paused, then looked at Russell and Dylan. “He was drunk, yes?”

Dylan stopped his nibbling on a delicious smelling meat he called ‘bacon’ to say, “His breath could have gotten me hammered, I’m sure of it.” His eyes widened for a moment and before he could put the bacon back in his mouth he glanced up at his guardian. “You know, I forgot to ask. How’d you know we were in trouble?”

The Lupari smiled softly and motioned with her muzzle at Potap. “Him. He came running out of your barracks saying that someone’s hand was blocking the door outside.”

Fahne lowered her head down to them. “You should have seen her. Before the little sergeant could even say half of a sentence she was on her paws and running for the door.”

Yirshan chuckled. “Lucky for Trikil. If I got to him first I probably would’ve disemboweled him.”

Kira rolled her eyes. “Believe me, I wanted to draw blood. But I rather like my rank.”

The red Arkatian scoffed, “I’d gladly go back to private. That animal hurt Cody.”

Further down the table, Hatia called out over the heads of her fellows, “I’d be your superior!”

A look of horror crossed Yirshan’s face. “Maybe not so gladly...” The Jahkatian squawked with laughter from the look on her sergeant’s face.

Kira covered her mouth with a hand to hide her toothy grin. When she managed to get her teeth hidden she brought her gaze back to the humans, specifically Russell and Dylan. “These two here,” she declared loud enough for others at the table to hear. “These two were wrestling with Trikil’s hand when I got there, trying to keep him off of Cody.”

Fahne regarded them both with an impressed look. “Is that so? Both of you? Very nice.”

Russell shrugged. “I had no goddamn idea what to do. Then Dylan here goes and throws himself up against his hand and starts to push against the bastard. It was madly useless but, hell, you see a man standing against something like that… just have to join him, you know?”

Yirshan leaned forward to look past Fahne at him. “Dylan? Really? Are you saying you’re the one that froze?”

The commando hesitated. “I, ah, wouldn’t say froze. I just didn’t know what to do, like I said. As soon as Cody was hurt, Dylan jumped right between the fox’s hands and next thing I know he’s fighting him. Kid’s got brass balls.”

Kira was watching her charge with no small amount of respect when her ears suddenly perked up at Russell’s last line. “I’m sorry, what? What do his metallic balls have to do with anything? Why does he have them?”

Potap suddenly started to cough and choke on his drink, which soon bubbled over into laughter, followed by Dapeng and Russell. Dylan had his head down with his hand in his hair, trying to bite back his own cackling.

The guardians had bemused looks all around, but before anyone could say anything else Hatia suddenly blurted out, “Oh! I know this one! When a human male has done something very brave, they earn the right to wear ceremonial armor on their testicles.”

That earned a renewed round of laughter from the humans, with Dylan falling in with the other three in a bout of hysterics that left them speechless. Half of the people at the table gaped at Hatia and the little aliens. Kira herself couldn’t figure out if the Jahkatian made another slang mistake or not. Testicle armor for heroes sounded so ridiculous it just may have actually been real.

Soon enough, the others joined their smaller comrades in laughter as they wrapped their heads around the silliness of the idea. Hatia’s triumphant look started to turn to confusion when everyone around her began to chortle. “Ah, heh, it is a funny idea, isn’t it?”

Russell managed to get himself under control enough to shout down the table loud enough for her. “Good God, woman! You’re so innocent!”

Hatia canted her head to the side. “Er... why?”

The officer waited for more laughter to die down before he explained, “That’s a ridiculous screw-up. It’s just slang for being brave!”

“So…” Kira cocked her head. “If someone has metal testicles, they’re brave.” She grinned down at them, still managing to keep her teeth hidden. “Amusing. I suppose that makes my charge a brass balled badass, yes?”

“Hah!” Russell clasped the groaning Dylan on the shoulder. “A brass balled badass known as Spade.”

The feel of the group took a turn for the better after that exchange. Shortly after, Yirshan had scarfed down the rest of her meal and got up, declaring she wanted to go see Cody before they had to be anywhere else. Knowing that human, meeting him with a good mood was the best thing for him.

Dylan and Kira decided they’d like to see him as well, so they quickly finished their food. The guardian collected her charge and, with her free hand cupped lightly against him, she jogged out of the mess hall and caught up to to the Arkatian.

Yirshan glanced at the Lupari as she padded up to her side, and then down at the medic. “Hm… you’re a sort of doctor, would they let me see him?”

“He’s not hurt too bad,” he answered, looking up at the sergeant. “Also, you’re going to be his new guardian, so maybe that has some pull.”

Kira anticipated her friend’s reaction and took a step to the side before her wings suddenly opened up and fluttered with delight. “I didn’t even think about that!” A little excited bounce entered her step.

When they reached the hospital, they were asked to wait in the lobby. Someone was already seeing Cody and had requested to be left alone with the soldier. Curiously, Mitchell’s mech was docked at one of the catwalks on one side of the transfer pad. The man himself was leaning against the railing next to his machine, puffing on one of his false cigarettes. He waved at the two sergeants and private when they came in.

Rather than take a seat, Kira decided she’d rather speak to the other sergeant and figure out why they had to wait, as they already had little time left. “Hello Samuel,” the Lupari said as she came to a stop at the transfer pad and let Dylan off. “I don’t suppose you know what’s going on?”

“Yeah.” He took a drag of his cigarette, then stuffed it into chest pocket. “I’m babysitting some civvie bastard looking into last night.”

“Oh…” Yirshan briefly looked at Kira worriedly. “A human civilian then. That… that was fast. I didn’t think they’d get someone here so soon.”

Mitchell scoffed. “You’re telling me. I only found out about him thirty damn minutes ago and now I’m escorting him around.”

“Were there no guardians available?” Kira asked.

“No, there were,” the master sergeant responded, shaking his head. “He just insisted on being escorted by a human mech pilot. I was that unfortunate soul.”

Dylan leaned on the railing right next to him, where he looked inside the open mech as he said, “You don’t sound happy. Is he an asshole?”

“Yep. Demanding, insists on speaking to me in his shitty broken English, and I think a bit of a racist.”

Both of the larger sergeants frowned, but Dylan beat them to speak. “Racist? What, like a xenophobe?” Mitchell nodded. “No kidding? You sure? How the hell would someone like that get work like this already?”

Mitchell waved his hand dismissively. “I said I think. Maybe I’m wrong. Probably am. I met the guy less than an hour ago. He’s probably just upset over the situation. That’s his job.”

“Sure,” Yirshan said. “But what made you think he’s-” She was abruptly cut off by the door into the human sector sliding open, drawing all eyes towards it, and what Kira assumed was the human in question strode out. His skin was dark like a few of the human soldiers, and he was dressed in a black suit that she knew was formal wear for much of the species.

He paused to look at the two massive soldiers, then snapped his attention to his escort. “Who are they?” Then, it sounded like he may have said something about Dylan and a guardian, but his accent was too atrocious for a translator to not simply cast it off as nothing.

Mitchell backed away from the railing and turned to his charge. “Well, sir, these are friends of Cody’s.”

The civilian looked Dylan over for a moment, then said something else about a medic. The said medic stared dumbly at him for a moment, probably trying to interpret what he just said, before slowly nodding. “Yeah… I’m the medic.” He rattled off another line, suddenly looking rather happy, and approached Dylan to shake his hand. The private glanced down at the hand then muttered, nodding at Kira, “Don’t thank me, thank her. She’s the one that saved us.”

They separated hands and the man looked up at Kira, offered her a short bow, then promptly turned and clambered up into Mitchell’s mech. The master sergeant gave them all a helpless look before climbing in himself, and shortly after it closed up; he bid them farewell, and the machine tromped off.

Dylan scratched the back of his head as he watched them leave, then looked up at his two friends. “So, uh… I can barely understand the man and he told me to call him Maduk because I’d just butcher his real name, and I would.”

Yirshan huffed. “Forget about the funny human! Shoo, shoo!” She motioned with her hands towards the door. “Go get Cody!”

The man rolled his eyes, said, “Yes, mom,” and immediately vanished through the portal.

Both sergeants looked at each other with amused smirks. “I do believe he just sarcastically called you mom,” Kira said with a small giggle.

“Yeah… huh, I didn’t know humans said that, too.”

They only had to wait a few minutes before the door opened again and Dylan rolled Cody out onto the transfer pad in a wheelchair. The corporal looked gloomy, but he quickly brightened up when he saw the two guardians. “You! Wolf!” he suddenly cried out. Kira’s ears wilted a tad. He almost sounded angry. “Thanks for saving my ass.”

Her ears shot back up and she smiled with a wagging tail. “I did it more for you rather than your ass, but you’re welcome.”

Yirshan bent her head down and looked his little body up and down with her amber eyes. She didn’t seem to notice Dylan take a few timid steps back, but Kira did. She got closer herself, right next to Yirshan, which seemed to calm him a small amount. “Are you alright?” the Arkatian asked. “It’s still all just bruises?”

“Still just bruises?” He cocked a brow. “If my ribs broke while laying in bed I’d be questioning UTO medical science.”

“Broken bones build character,” she mused. “But really, I’m glad you’re okay. If you had to be shipped home for this, I’d be upset. I’m supposed to be your guardian now.”

His eyes widened with realization. “Oh damn! I didn’t even think about that! Well, don’t squeeze too hard and things will be just dandy.”

She gently nosed at his legs. “I’ll try not to be drunk around you, too.”

He patted her on her nose. “Oh man, look at you making all of these big promises.”

“I didn’t promise anything,” she joked and pulled her muzzle away from him.

“So!” He looked over at Dylan. “Today’s the day about that thirteenth species. I want to be there for that. You should do something that convinces them to let me go.”

Dylan scoffed and grinned at him, “I’m sure the recommendation of a field medic carries a lot of weight.”

“Yeah, see! So get me cleared to leave.”

Kira’s charge shook his head and grabbed the wheelchair from behind. “Yeah, no… I think a better suggestion would be to tie you to your bed.” One hand gently squeezed his friend on the shoulder. “Get some rest, man, heal up. I’ll tell you all about it later. I’m sure they’ll let you out soon, but not now.”

“Soon?” Yirshan asked, excited. “How soon?”

Dylan shrugged. “I think they’ll let him out in a couple days, enough time to catch the last classes.”

“That early?” She squinted at Cody. “Does he actually need that wheelchair?”

“Nope,” the medic answered and spun the chair and Cody around to bring him back. “He just wanted to be wheeled around. Getting carried around all the time is making him lazy.”

Cody snorted and cuffed Dylan on the chest as he was pushed along. “I’m just smart. Uh… sometimes.”



Dylan must have missed something; he was expecting another normal class on another species. For all intents and purposes, it was a normal classroom, except it was being held in a room at the aliens’ scale and every human was with their guardian. Even Yirshan had to be here.

He didn’t know what to make of it. So he did what any reasonable person would do. “Kira…” he started as he sat in a little chair on top of the desk she was seated at. He looked back and up at her. She regarded him expectantly, likely anticipating the question. “Why are you here?”

“Because it’s expected that the topic of the class will be uncomfortable for most of you.”

He fixed her with a confused look. “The thirteenth species would make us uncomfortable? How?”
“For what they look like.”

“Oh.” He shifted his gaze forward again. “So big horrible tentacle monsters that wrap their paralyzing tentacles around little things like me and devour them with acidic saliva.”

Kira barked with short laughter and her hand on the desk slid over and petted his side. “Funny little human.” Her finger stopped and the whole hand simply rested right next to him. “We’re required to be here for this, to help keep you all calm. Some of you are bound to get riled up over this.”

“Just keep tacking on that suspense, Kira.” Dylan wracked his brain for what it could be. As requested, he didn’t try searching for it online, so all he had were his guesses. Perhaps it was a species of dumb carnivores that demanded humanity to become a livestock species. He winced at that thought. He couldn’t imagine the UTO allowing something like that in their ranks. A species of monsters just didn’t fit their style. The small speciesist population among the Falashai was already heavily scorned.

Dylan’s eyes widened as a new thought came to him. “Don’t tell me it’s an insect species. Spiders? Don’t let it be hundred foot tall spiders.”

“No, no,” she cooed, and the hand returned to lightly stroking him. “No insect species.”

They chatted for a few more minutes, with Dylan taking guesses that all ended up wrong. He supposed she could have been lying, but didn’t put much stock into that. Eventually he had to stop when Lieutenants Tahsah and Fletcher entered the room, with the human officer in his mech, thumping along behind his guardian.

“Good morning, everyone,” Anacha said to them with a smile. “Now, I’m sure you humans are wondering why we’re doing this in a full-sized room with your guardians. I assure you, it’s all for you. What you’re going to hear and see today will be shocking for you.”

She set up her Yutri at the front desk and interfaced it with the room’s large display, a sort of holographic projector that cast a solid-looking screen across the wall. It showed what must be the banner of the species which was simply a red horizontal flag with a couple of crossed lines that looked almost like they were cut into it, right in the center. That’s all it was. It was wildly simple, but it meant nothing to Dylan.

However, the letters in common right under it did. He mouthed the word ‘Sissach.’ He was certain he read it right when Anache confirmed it aloud, “The Sissach. That is what they call themselves.”

Dylan could almost feel the anticipation in the room. He could see the humans on the other desks leaning forward, waiting for the next slide. It always went with the species name and flag, then a picture of them. Anache closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then transitioned to the next.

The next image showed a couple of lizardly aliens, smiling and dressed in heavy cloth. They were lithe compared to the draconic Arkatians as well as wingless. A series of spines ran down the center of their heads. The male had ridges above its eyes, the female didn’t.

They almost looked the same, but Dylan already knew the difference between the genders. He blanched.

“What the fuck?!” someone cried. “Those are goddamn Rynar!”

The medic swallowed hard. He was right. Those were Rynar. He started to shake.

“No, these are Sissach,” Anache stressed. “They are of the same species of the Rynar, but calling them such is a grievous insult. Please bear with me through this.”

The class’s response was a series of hateful remarks over the Rynar. The officer let the humans vent as she silently stood, waiting for them to calm down. Dylan himself didn’t say anything. Instead he stood up from his seat and turned to his guardian. He looked up at her, met her concerned eyes, then regarded her idle hand. Seeing what he wanted, she flipped her hand over and slid it closer to him, almost bumping into his legs. He dropped himself onto it and when she brought it to her stomach. He pressed his back into it, seeking as much of her comforting presence as he could. Her thumb settled softly onto his lap, where it slowly stroked his chest as his little hands began to pet her fur, both of them silently waiting for the officer to continue her presentation.

Rynar in the UTO. Dylan couldn’t believe it. How did he miss that? Were they hiding them? He squeezed Kira’s thumb fur as it dawned on him. He saw them yesterday. The slim wingless Arkatians weren't dragons at all. They were Sissach.

The humans settled down relatively quickly, but they were all visibly agitated. Anache carried on and set the presentation to start cycling through a collection of images, each one showing these ‘Sissach’ in everyday life, looking just like any other person in the Union. “Today you will be learning about the Sissach and the Rynar. Collectively, they are both the same species, but they are a different people, like you are Russians, Germans, Americans, Chinese, French, Canadians, and British, but all are human. The key difference between them is that the Sissach rejected Rynar philosophy. The name of the species itself depends on which one you ask, as either one would say ‘Rynar’ or ‘Sissach’ respectively, and the others are traitors. Both names are linked to different languages, so take that as you will.”

There was a scoff from Potap, seated on the desk right next to Kira and Dylan’s. “Good luck asking a Rynar anything. You can’t talk to an animal.”

Anache glared at the Russian and softly growled out, “Do not interrupt me, sergeant, unless you have a question or something worthwhile to say.” The man sat straighter in his seat and folded his arms, before nodding curtly. She eyed him for another moment then looked over the rest of the class. “As some of you humans say, this will be a tough pill to swallow.” She paused to see if anyone had any questions, but was met with silence.

She flicked an ear and motioned towards the screen. “Many of the Sissach originate from the war that resulted from the diplomatic collapse with the Rynar. Of the two colonies that UTO forces occupied, one, Kinskaid, had a surprising majority that requested refugee status. The peace talks that ended the war saw Kinskaid forfeited to the alliance, and a new member species was made.”

Dylan watched and listened through the presentation, utterly quiet himself. All the while, Kira gently stroked and kept him calm. A vicious knot was in his stomach. These Sissach, while uncommon, were even in the military. The slides showing the lizards in full UTO powered armor and weaponry sent a chill down his spine. When he imagined a soldier of the Union, the last thing he imagined was one of those monsters in that armor.

He was waiting to hear how the lizards caused issues, how they drove up crime, committed the most murders, and were a blemish on the UTO’s track record. But instead what he got was a lecture on their unbroken loyalty to the alliance. Anacha lead that line of thought into her presentation on the Rynar, where she explained the mentality of both.

It was an entire species of pack minded, violent beasts, was what he was getting out of what she was saying. They all were viciously loyal to whatever it was they believed. Supposedly, they were kind and friendly to their allies, but quick to draw their enemy’s blood. Seeing their foes resist made them furious, but they could be… good. Unless Anacha was lying through her teeth, which Dylan felt she was, even the Rynar could be good to an enemy if they didn’t resist.

“Bullshit!” he found himself yelling and standing up on Kira’s hand. “That’s bullshit!” He stepped down onto the desk and Anache watched him warily. “We didn’t resist! My unit we just… we just wanted to rescue civilians. Evacuate. We never fought them unless it was for our survival! Then they go and… and… fucking butcher innocent people by the goddamn truckload! I watched some… Rynar FUCK break every limb on a young girl! Why would they do that? If they’re good to their enemies then why would they do that? Explain that.”

He felt a lot of eyes on him, both human and guardian, but he didn’t care. He wanted an answer. He wasn’t going to sit here and be told that evil was good. Anache had a deeply sympathetic look in her eyes as a few seconds of silence settled between them. Then, she carefully said, “I have something for you to watch. It’ll answer that question.”

She did something to her Yutri, then the display abruptly changed to some kind of news report. All of the letters and such were not in Common, but something totally alien. In the center of the screen were eleven Rynar, all tied to posts while in the nude. Anache explained, “This was a public broadcast from the Rynar Empire, about two weeks ago.”

Standing in front of the group of tied-up Rynar was one more, wearing what appeared to be an officer’s uniform with a sword on his hip. He looked over each and every one of them before saying, “All eleven of you have been convicted of bringing dishonor to our Great Armed Forces. Some of you sat by and did nothing as soldiers under your command lost themselves and butchered a subdued civilian population and surrendered military forces. Some of you encouraged it. All are guilty. As former leaders in our military, you were expected to demonstrate and show those under you how to conduct themselves. You have failed, and now the rest of us must carry this shame for eternity.” He drew his sword from its scabbard and approached the furthest convicted on the left. It was then that Dylan realized that each one of them was gagged, unable to plead as the leftmost started to desperately thrash in its bindings. “For this,” the sword bearer continued, “You have all been sentenced to die by my hand.” As soon as he finished speaking he pointed his weapon towards the other Rynar’s gut and thrust it in, then dragged it across, cutting a massive gash above the waist, disemboweling him. The Rynar officer didn’t even mind the blood that gushed out onto his uniform as he pulled the weapon free and moved onto the next, as the last was left to die.

As he worked his way through all eleven, Anache explained what, exactly, was happening here, “This was the execution of eleven Rynar officers, from major to a single general, carried out by Grand Admiral Orsach, the very admiral that lead the fleet that attacked Earth. Seven of these officers, including one General Fissesh, were in command of what they called Staging Area Entik. Or,” she looked at Dylan, “as you called it, ‘the Zone.’ Shortly after this, a series of purges were conducted through the lower officer and enlisted ranks that were found to have committed any atrocities on Earth.” She took a deep breath through her nose. “Every species has its monsters, but no species is made of monsters.”

Dylan opened his mouth to say some frustrated remark about the Rynar, but couldn’t muster himself. He’d simply sound like a raving fool trying to justify hatred. Instead he snapped his jaw closed, turned around, and climbed back into his guardian’s hand.

The average human hated the Rynar for invading their home, and the stories that spread about what they did to people stoked the flames. The aliens got that, he was certain. But he lived those stories. His hatred went far deeper than some species-wide spite. How could anyone get that? Was this show, this desperate attempt to seem honorable, supposed to make things better?

The admiral punished the underlings, but who punishes the admiral? He ordered the bombardment in the first place, ordered the attacks, he made it all possible. Where was his comeuppance?

He slowly stroked the fur on Kira’s thumb as Anache blathered on about how the Rynar weren’t the species of pure evil that humans wanted to believe they were, as apparently that was supposed to make the Sissach seem better. He managed to get himself to pay attention by doing what he always did. He shoved the bad down, he stopped thinking about it, and he went on.

She explained the first diplomatic breakdown, how it came from the Rynar and Lupari arguing over a planet for mining. The Rynar didn’t want to share it, and up and raided the mines scattered around. Then they took it as a personal attack when the Lupari retaliated.

“Now hold on a moment,” a human somewhere out of sight said. “How is this supposed to make the Rynar look good?”

Anache canted her head, confused. “Look good? I’m not here to make them look good. I’m here to help you understand them so that you may hopefully understand the Sissach and how they are not the same.” The man didn’t speak further, prompting her to flick an ear in approval as she continued her lecture. “The Rynar reacted that way due to a combination of their devotion to their species and a violent nature. Their attack on the Lupari miners was akin to an animal baring its teeth. They wanted to encourage their perceived foe to leave, and they wanted the planet just to themselves, as sharing it was seen as losing potential resources, and thus costing them potential strength.”

She changed the presentation to a specific image that showed a Sissach and a leopard-like Ralai soldier with their foreheads pressed together. Both were clearly battle-worn, but were enjoying each other’s company, likely grateful that they both survived together. “Now, what makes the Sissach different from the Rynar, is they see beyond their species. They realize that unification with other species is the best way to be stronger. It’s this key difference that separates them.”

She left the image on screen, letting the humans digest it. Dylan eyed it warily, a part of him intrigued, but another part furious that that lizard could wear the uniform of the military he held in such high regard. “Interestingly,” Anache continued, “what makes the Rynar the way they are is what makes the Sissach a very devoted member species. There is hardly any violence and hatred among the Rynar. They’re quick to accept each other, to compromise with one another, and they gladly work together. This carries over to the Sissach, but it expands to encompass everyone they consider within their ‘group,’ as it were. By nature, the average Rynar and Sissach are hateful and violent towards threats to their group, but incredibly good to those within.”

There was potential there for being very good guardians. That was terrifyingly ironic. Dylan scowled and interrupted her. “So neither one likes to work outside their group. Then what would the Rynar have done with us if you guys didn’t intervene?”

That suggestion earned a round of agreement from the other humans and a few vocal claims of genocide waiting to happen. Anache folded her ears and shook her head. “The most likely result would have lead to your subjugation. Normally, the Rynar wouldn’t care for conquering a species; however, by nature of cooperation, the foundation of the UTO, we will always be the stronger power. Acquisition of your nuclear technology and thus weapons is believed to be their reasoning for the attack. Laying claim to you would have strengthened their species.”

“Hah!” Potap scoffed. “That really couldn’t have gone any worse for them.”
Another bout of laughter, this time with a fair few of the guardians, went around the room. Dylan even smirked to himself, and a glance up at Kira showed her doing the same. If Earth was left alone then perhaps nuclear technology would have been left in obscurity. Everyone was happy with that ‘erestal’ mineral that made up modern power for every species except for little old unlucky humanity. Instead, they violently contact a species that evolved without that seemingly fantastical mineral, a species that developed city destroyers the size of an alien’s hand grenade, and ended up pushing them into the welcoming arms of their enemies. It had to go down in their history books as one of the greatest mistakes they ever made.

As good as it was to see a bunch of murderers put down, a part of him felt that beautiful backfire was the true punishment for the species that ruined everything.

He just wished that could make it all better.



Today held fewer classes than normal. The Rynar and Sissach lecture for the humans went on for a while, much longer when compared to the lessons for the other species. After that there was just the regular language class, likely more intended to get the humans’ minds off the Sissach than to actually teach them. Kira had just collected Dylan from that class and then they had both gone to their usual bench.

Kira was laid out on her back, looking down between her breasts at her charge as he sat crosslegged on her stomach, slowly rising and falling as she breathed. He was speaking into his Yutri, while it was ear-mounted, with Duntay. “Really, sir, I’m okay. There’s no need to schedule an appointment this evening. Everything’s alright, Cody’s okay… I just need a bit of time to think about the Rynar... um… Sissach.”

As they chatted, Kira’s own Yutri chirped in her pocket. She pulled it out, trying not to disturb Dylan as she did, and projected a text message. It was from Duntay. ‘Is he actually alright?’ it read.

She typed a hasty ‘Yes, he really is doing well.’ She re-pocketed the device and resumed listening to Dylan’s side of the conversation.

“...Yeah, see, you’re busy. I met Maduk and I’m sure he’s going to be a handful.” He snorted at whatever Duntay said back. “Yeah, yeah… we’re all handfuls aren’t we? I’ll see you this weekend, sir.” A couple moments later he ended the call.

He sighed and slumped as soon as he stuffed the Yutri into his pocket. Kira’s finger went to his back, and began to gently run up and down it. “How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Frustrated…” he muttered with a sigh and leaned backwards against her finger.

“All the Rynar and Sissach stuff, right?”

“Yep…” His eyes lidded when she touched the spot just under the back of his neck.

She smiled at his reaction to her attentions. “Don’t like being told they’re not all monsters?”

His eyes opened up. “Yeah. It just seems like a load of political bullshit.”

Kira canted her head and cocked a brow. “Why?”

“It’s just… just…” He sighed and shook his head. “God dammit… it makes sense, and that’s the hardest part of it all. The worst stories only come from a few places during the war.”

He stopped and sulked rather than explaining himself, prompting Kira to ask, “What do you mean?”

“Every major war has its atrocities. You hear about them because they stand out. But they don’t represent how the rest of the war went, or else they wouldn’t stand out. That’s exactly what happened here. I lived a nice little contained atrocity.” He looked down at her stomach, bobbing back and forth. “Logic says I should just hate those that did it. B-but… I can’t.” He put his face in his hand. “I hate all of them. If I heard in the news tomorrow that some humans detonated a nuke in a Rynar city, I’d cheer.”

Kira softly squealed. “Would humans do that?”

He shrugged. “Maybe. Eye for an eye, as they say. A lot of people, even me, wanted to see UTO ships dropping bombs on Rynar worlds. Had a kind of vision of total war. Instead Earth was basically just one great big Kuwait. No huge galaxy spanning war. Just some flare-up.”

“I see… so you want war, then?”

He shook his head. “No. I’d love to tear a Rynar to pieces with a mech, but it’s just not worth it. I’d rather spend my time meeting cool new aliens and stuff.” He glanced up at her with a small grin.

She smirked back at him, but grew serious with her next question. “What about the Sissach? Do you hate them?”

He sighed and fell backwards, sprawling out on her stomach. Her hand simply rested right next to him. “No… no I do not. That’s not going to change a damn thing, though. If I see one, I’d see a Rynar. I’ll try not to hate it as I hide in your fur from sheer terror.”

She giggled at the thought of him diving into the nearest fluffy spot on her body to conceal himself. “I don’t think just fluff would protect you.”

He remained on his back, choosing to stay laying there, not looking at her. “No, but you would. You’ve done it twice now.”

“Of course. I’ll al- er, hold on, twice?” Her head bent to side when he sat up to look at her again.

“You know that nightmare? The stormy night with the three civilians?” She flicked an ear. “I’ve been getting it a lot lately, lucid ones. Yesterday I started to scream in my sleep. Almost punched Russell in the face when they woke me up.” She winced again and her hand shifted, returning to petting him on the back. “Last night I had it again. It was different.” He smiled weakly, looking… grateful, Kira thought. “You were there.” Her ears perked up. “You came walking out of that forest and you just sat your huge ass down next to me and you stood guard with me all night long.” His hand rubbed at his forehead as his eyes started to glisten. “I haven’t slept that good in months.” His other hand rubbed at one of his eyes. He looked at the moisture that came off and muttered, “Aw, um…”

He turned himself around, presenting his back to her, and started to rub at his eyes, obviously trying to hide his crying from her. She growled gently. “Silly human, you can’t hide your emotions from a Lupari.” The hand that was stroking his back formed a cup, then hesitated for a moment. She’d never tried something like this before. She thought about how it may affect him, decided it would be safe, then so very delicately scooped him up off her stomach, which forced him to fall over forward into her palm. She then slowly moved him up towards her head as she rolled over onto her belly.

Kira propped herself up on her elbows. Both of her hands came together, side by side, where she inclined them enough to have her charge roll into the middle, face up at her with flushed cheeks and watery eyes, just as she expected. Her head loomed just above him as she stared down her muzzle at the little human. Her bright blue eyes flicked over his form and her nostrils flared, taking in his scent, to make absolutely sure he was alright.

What she found wasn’t anxiety, sadness, fear, or anger; she saw none of the familiar negative cues she had well familiarized herself with since becoming his guardian. What she sensed instead was what she picked up when Larish expressed his gratitude after the first sims and when he hugged her nose just last night. She found traces of that joy he felt after the last simulation, when Duntay let him stay with her, and when he lost himself in the fun of their outing. She could see he was feeling all of these things. He was happy and grateful, but there was relief there on a level she’d never seen from him before, not even from last night.

It was beautiful to behold.

After many long seconds of silence, she slowly lowered her muzzle, her ears and eyes completely focused on him, watching and listening for any protests to her closeness. Instead, she received the exact opposite, his arms opened up and latched onto the sides of her muzzle as she gently pressed her nose against his tiny body.

He rested his cheek on top of it and she felt him squeeze. “Thank you… thank you. Thank you for listening, for always being there, for protecting me, for your patience, your kindness, everything.” His cheek started to rub against her fur.

Her eyes lidded partway from his little nuzzling, and almost completely on instinct she turned her head and ran the side of her muzzle along his body until he reached her cheek, where she gently returned the affection with her charge practically buried in the soft, dense white fur. “You’re welcome for it all, my friend,” she cooed and pulled him away from her cheek to look back down at him, smiling.

His tears had stopped as his eyes were widened, looking quite surprised. For a moment Kira thought she made a mistake. “That was…” He hesitated, seeming to be fishing for the right words. “Yeah, I think I see why Cody and Andrew like it.” Kira’s tail shot into motion with far too much speed. There was a loud thump and she winced in a little pain after her tail slammed into the backrest of the bench, but she hardly let it affect her as it slowed to a more leisurely, delighted wag. Her reaction received a hearty laugh from her charge.

She growled playfully in return. “Now see what you’ve been missing.” She bent her muzzle downward and pressed the top of it softly against her charge. She felt his little arms wrap around it like before, but now he was so much closer to her eyes, she had to cross them to see him grinning at her.

He canted his head to the side, mirroring what she often did. Her eyes strained to cross even more to look at his hand when it moved up to run his fingers along the short fur between her blue orbs. Her whiskers twitched when she felt his other hand brush through them. “So, I was thinking…”

“Yes?”

“I think the guardians being there for the lizard class wasn’t the original plan.”

She chuckled. “Sensed that, did you? You’re correct. We decided to change it this morning. Between last night and finding out about the Sissach, we figured you all would appreciate our presence.” Kira pulled her muzzle away, freeing the human from being pinned by it. Her nose lingered only his arm’s reach away from his chest. Warm air blew out through her nostrils and washed over him, rustling his uniform.

His eyes darted downward, at her mouth. He regarded it for a moment, causing his guardian to worry that he’d start thinking about her teeth. She suspected he did, but when he looked up again he didn’t seem perturbed. She only barely suppressed her whine of delight at his lack of fear. It didn’t look like he picked up on her worries as he said, “I feel like the ‘you all’ was mostly just me. But… it was appreciated.”

Kira giggled and pressed her nose into his chest. “I could tell. I’m happy I was there to comfort you.”

“You’re too kind, you know that?” He chuckled and hugged her nose like he did the night before, but now pressed against her hand in a way that had Kira almost melting at how adorable she thought he was. “I feel like I owe you a backlog of nuzzling. So… let’s get to it, shall we?”

Thump! The Lupari winced again when her unruly tail whacked the backrest a second time. As before, this had Dylan laughing, and she repaid it now by gently pressing him into her hands with her nose, then eagerly running her muzzle along his front, tickling his face with her whiskers.

As her eyes lidded again from the joy of the affections she laid on him, her mind raced with thoughts of all of the fun, loving things she could do with a little one like him. She practically shook with excitement. She could feel it. She would probably have to ease him into the more playfully affectionate things she imagined, but that was half the fun.

He was a frightened little creature when it came to those her size. That would never go away, she knew. However, together they made her the exception. He understood. Guardian wasn’t just a job title. She was his protector and his friend. She would never hurt him. She wanted to keep him safe, always, and that realization transcended instincts.

She sighed when she gave him a little reprieve from her muzzle. Her nostrils flared, sampling his scent again. He was purely happy, with no trace of fear. She couldn’t get enough of that. This was indeed a unique kind of relationship. Even for the empathy of a Lupari, it was odd. The protective feelings merged with adoration and friendship to create something different from what she had ever felt before.

The hassles of being a guardian, the worries, the issues of having a damaged charge, the extra restrictions and measures put on top of the already regulated life of a soldier… it was all worth it. Just for the feeling she felt now, it was all so very much worth it.
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Re: Integration (Part Ten - 11/18/2014)

Postby gadabout » Wed Nov 19, 2014 5:29 am

well then, long and unweildly but not as much as your other posts. Still, I like it very much and I was sorta expecting the rynar to be split into factions, there are always political boundaries...


Good stuff again, keep em coming my dear boy :I
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Re: Integration (Part Ten - 11/18/2014)

Postby TendoTwo » Thu Nov 20, 2014 8:22 am

I was wondering if our little mystery race would have something to do with the Rynar.

Loved the irony that their natural protectiveness would have made them great guardians. So if I understood it right, the difference between the Rynar and the Sissach is that the Sissach consider other races they are allied with as part of their "group" that they are protective of while the Rynar don't consider any other species a part of them and are hostile towards them?
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Re: Integration (Part Ten - 11/18/2014)

Postby Hetzer » Thu Nov 20, 2014 2:21 pm

Gadabout: Yeah... factions and logic behind them. I didn't want a purely evil force in my universe. That's no fun. I mean... obviously the Rynar aren't 'good' but at least they have their reasons and some kind of conscience. (Or it could just be a politucal show. >.>)

TendoTwo: That is correct! Although the Rynar are more hostile to anything competing with them, not quite just because they're different. Assuming the Rynar did subjugate Earth, which would have brought humanity into their group, it begs the question of how they would react to this new addition to said group.
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Re: Integration (Part Ten - 11/18/2014)

Postby Kusanagi » Sun Nov 23, 2014 3:49 am

Totally forgot to comment, but I rather enjoyed this chapter. The truth about the mystery species I kind of saw coming, but I like how it was handled and liked the response from the humans. There was no way it was just going to be plainly accepted, so it was a smart tactic to handle it the way they did.

The end, of course, was adorable. 8)
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Re: Integration (Part Eleven - 5/14/2015)

Postby Hetzer » Thu May 14, 2015 10:50 am

WARNING: This chapter has extremely graphic images directly related to fire. If that is a problem, then it is highly recommended to skip the second simulation scene.

It's been nearly a week since Dylan and Kira reached physical affections in their relationship, which has paved the way for allowing Kira a closer look into the causes of Dylan's trauma.

Integration now has a codex! I need to figure out a better way to share it. How many of you loveable lugs actually read this? - https://docs.google.com/document/d/.....it?usp=sharing

Any thoughts on what to add or improve for the codex are very much welcome. It's open to leaving comments.

It's finally here, oh my goodness it's finally here! Part Eleven! Folks, it's been nearly seven months since Part Ten. For that, I am sorry. But in that time, things have changed. I'm very curious if any of you notice changes in my writing style. I've actively striven to improve, but I won't specify what's been targeted for improvement. If you notice it, do say, especially if you feel they're actual improvements, or actually seem to drag my writing down. I can't improve if I don't know what's wrong.

Editing has also been done only by myself this time around, and what a process it was.

All are welcome to join the IRC channel dedicated to this series on the BigFurs network. Anyone in the channel has the option to be a beta or alpha reader, vote on art commission ideas, just chat, and in there you can poke and yell at me to stop being lazy! http://irc.bigfurs.com/?channels=integration

Plain text option here: https://www.sofurry.com/view/860991

--

Integration
Part Eleven

Duntay sat in his chair, one leg crossed over the other. One of his ears hung down the side of his head as he stroked the tip. Dylan had just finished detailing the shift in his and Kira's relationship towards more regular, closer physical contact, but the viliti didn't respond after the human finished speaking.

Kira tapped the armrest of her plush, dark brown chair, and glanced around the black wood paneled room, distracting herself from the silence by looking at the various paintings of alien worlds hanging from the walls. A grin broke across her muzzle and she looked down at the red carpet, hiding her expression from the officer. The psychologist didn't know what to say about the impressive, rapid progress she had personally made with Dylan.

With her gaze already downward, the guardian leaned forward to see over her bosom, down at her charge where he was seated in her palm, held against her stomach.

Dylan met her blue eyes for only a moment, brushed the fur on her thumb with his hand, and coughed to get the captain's attention. “Sir? Are you alright?”

Duntay's legs uncrossed and his hand left his ear, the large appendage bending back up towards the top of his head. “Ah, excuse me. I apologize. I was wondering about the psychological effects of a guardian and charge relationship.” He smirked, his gaze going up to Kira, both of them locking eyes. “As well as feeling some envy for lupari intuition.”

The sergeant sat straighter in her seat, her tail quivering, wanting to wag, and she bowed her head. A lupari's empathy could be a powerful thing, but it wasn't all knowing. It was something to be proud of to be praised by a professional like this.

Duntay waved the topic away. “This is something for academic studies. I need not burden you with my theories. Now, onward. Dylan, could you elaborate on how Kira puts you at ease?”

Kira felt her charge shift in her hand, crossing his legs. Her thumb carefully slid closer to brush against his knees. Through her palm pad she felt him relax before he said, “Uh... well... she just does? How am I supposed to explain it?”

“Could you be more specific on the emotions you feel?” the viliti asked.

“No."

One of Duntay's ears bent halfway to the side. “Are you unsure of what you feel?”

“Oh, I know exactly what I'm feeling,” Dylan said. “I'd just like to hold onto a shred of my masculinity. Kira's ears only.”

Duntay's attention drifted back to Kira, and a soft, rolling chuckle escaped him. “As you wish. Perhaps you could tell me something else, then.” He looked back down to Dylan. “What if she's not around? Do you need her to anchor you emotionally?”

Kira's ears bent downward as her nostrils flared, trying to gauge her charge's reaction to the question. She couldn't get anything other than that calm demeanor that had become more and more common. “No, I don't believe so,” he said. “Just knowing she's around helps, I think. I've gotten more used to the other giants without her. I climbed into someone else's hand, remember?”

“Yes, of course,” Duntay said. “I know you have excellent control of yourself in tense situations in particular. But let's say that someone else has to take you somewhere because Kira is unavailable. How would you react?”

Dylan sighed, a quiet growl under his breath. “I think I'd climb into their hand. Just because I'm afraid doesn't mean I won't act. I've seen enough giants already that the shock isn't much of a shock anymore.”

“That's good to hear,” Duntay said. “Indeed, this is a most impressive rate of progress.” The officer shuffled in his seat as his large paw started tapping the floor. His speaking became more rapid, but his voice stayed as flat as it always was. “My ears are itching with curiosity. The early fears often seen in humans meeting non-humans for the first time can often be so dire, extreme, and they make it seem that they'll never be able to cope. For a traumatized human, traumatized so directly by, well, giant aliens, to adapt this quickly...” He shook his head, ears waving. “Unless this is some kind of outlier case, there's going to be some very interesting psychological studies in the future. It's fascinating.”

The viliti was diverging into an unrelated topic, his rapid speaking suggesting some excitement breaking through his usual calm, seemingly sluggish demeanor. “Sir,” the lupari said. “You're becoming distracted.”

Duntay frowned and flicked one of his ears. “Apologies. I was getting carried away.” He looked down at his tablet. “Ah, and now onward to less pleasant topics. Remember, you need not answer my questions.” His gaze fixed on Dylan, that focus on the session returning. “Do you think Kira's presence could keep you calm when you meet a sissach?”

Kira felt Dylan's hand squeeze her thumb fur tightly just before he said, “I don't know. Maybe.”

The captain tapped something into his tablet. “What if you were in a mech at the time?”

The lupari heard a small intake of breath from her charge before he hesitated, cutting himself off. One of Duntay's tall ears leaned forward, but the viliti otherwise showed no signs of noticing. Finally, Dylan said, “I think I'd be calm enough. Probably entertaining thoughts of tearing the sissach's head off.”

“Do you think those thoughts could come to reality?”

“No, sir. I can be sure of that. I would likely get pissed at it, however,” Dylan said. Kira turned her head aside to look out the window to hide her lopsided smirk. Imagining her charge baring teeth at someone many times his size was an amusing thought.

The captain's huge ear flicked and straightened back out with the other. “Very well. I'm sure you already know, but it does need to be stressed. You are going to meet sissach. You may even tend to their wounds. Do you think you could handle that?”

“Yes,” Dylan said. His guardian returned her attention to Duntay, not afraid to hide the approving smile at that confident answer. “I would never refuse to treat someone.”

Duntay placed his device onto the small wooden table next to him.“That is good to hear, Dylan." He laced his fingers together and placed both hands in his lap. “However, there is a more immediately pressing concern to treating the wounded. Could one of your breakdowns be triggered by a sissach?”

The human hesitated, not immediately answering as he did just before. Kira's thumb started to stroke over his legs. “I don't know. In a fight I doubt it. Meeting one in the barracks? I don't know, sir.”

“Kira's become an important part of your recovery, and in a remarkably small amount of time.” The viliti's eyes glanced up at Kira's again, then darted back down to Dylan. "How this is going to affect your reactions to triggers still has yet to be seen.”

“Actually...” Dylan said, but tapered off. Duntay's ears rose higher, and he remained silent as his patient decided if he wanted to continue. The medic's hand pushed Kira's thumb down to still its strokes, then gave it a squeeze. “Last weekend, at that pub place, I started to lapse into one. I think some thumping of silverware caused it. Maybe a glass setting on a table. I'm not sure.” The lupari looked down at her charge, recalling this. He never talked about that moment until now. “Kira noticed, and all she did was touch me and I came back.”

Duntay picked up his pad and hastily typed into it with a single hand. “That's perfectly normal. She anchored you back into the now. You can expect her to be mindful of your emotional state, as any lupari would. As long as she is present, she will more than likely sense when you begin to detach from reality.” He ceased his typing and laid the tablet on his lap. “Her sensitivity to your mental state becomes more fine tuned the better she knows you and your problems. I will not ask you about what it was you were remembering, but I highly suggest you discuss it with your guardian.”

“We'll see,” Dylan said quietly.

The viliti pushed himself to his paws and bowed his head at the both of them, his ears wobbling. “That is all for today. You two are doing very well, and I hope it means I will soon not be needed. Dylan, good luck with your mech training. I have not seen a human dislike the machines. Sergeant, keep your nose on him.”

Kira stood up, a bit of a wag to her tail as she grinned down at the shorter captain. “Of course. Thank you sir.”

Dylan scoffed and pressed deeper against Kira's stomach as she started to move. “Tell it to her like that and she'll do more than just smelling.”

Duntay kept his face perfectly straight as he said, “I didn't say smelling.”



Dylan held onto Kira's fingers as they curled around him, keeping him secure while the huge lupari laid herself out on their usual bench. Kira carefully placed her hand down onto her chest, just above her breasts. The man slid off of her palm, his boots planting onto her shirt. He lowered himself to his haunches, crossing his legs, and looked down his guardian's snout as she settled it right in front of him, eyes slightly crossed to focus on him. The human slowly rose up and down as Kira breathed, her eyes tracking him the whole time.

“One whole hour to kill,” Dylan said.

“Yeah...” Kira responded with a flick of her ear. “It'll be a little crowded too. I think that human waited until the weekend to check the simulation records. What a penis.”

The medic snorted in amusement. “That loses impact through the translator.”

“What a flea, then.”

“Now that's just getting into making fun of short people.”

Kira playfully growled in her throat. “I just can't win.”

“Sorry, Kira. You're now a perverted racist.”

The lupari growled again and pushed her snout forward, sliding it onto the human's lap. A single fang poked out the side. “Rar...” she said playfully, barely moving her mouth. “I hate humans. Pet me and maybe you'll get to escape.”

Dylan leaned back to give her muzzle room to budge in and his clothing ruffled as her big, black nose snuffled. “But your breath stinks,” he said over her sniffing sounds.

Kira's snuffling stopped and her eyes widened as they crossed yet further. “You're the worst at convincing mean predators to spare you.”

The human's hands stroked either side of Kira's snout, behind her nose. He kept his touch light, merely brushing the fur. Even so, the lupari's eyes lidded happily as she smiled, exposing parts of her canine teeth. “I'm actually trying to get you angry so Maduk will get on your case. It's all an attempt for a new guardian, you see.”

Kira hummed, eyes opening, the blue irises focusing on her charge once again. “You're doing an awful job at that now." Her voice was barely more than a mumble as she kept her mouth movements as little as possible while so close to his body.

Dylan shrugged and kept up his petting, his fingers digging through her fur and rubbing at the skin below. “Even horrible people like me can't resist petting a puppy.”

Kira lifted her muzzle out of Dylan's lap and propped her head up against the bench's arm rest. “This puppy wants chin and throat rubs.” She tilted her head back, baring her throat. The fur appeared dense like the rest of her wolfish mane, enough for him to sink into if he laid himself out.

Dylan scoffed and got to his feet to unsteadily walk off of her shirt, the movement made awkward by her breathing, and wade into her thicker fur. His hands touched against the underside of her muzzle, stabilizing himself as he lowered down to his knees, his fingers gently rubbing her chin. His legs vanished into the thick fur, leaving only his waist and above visible.

A soft thrum escaped Kira's throat from his little touches, deep enough to rattle the human's body. The soft, white fur his hands brushed through made him feel flush with its warmth and soothing texture. Even so, a shiver still shook him, stronger than the rattling caused by the lupari, and traveled into his hands. He knew she would notice. She always noticed. He wasn't quick enough to pull away before Kira felt it. The lupari turned her head, one eye looking worriedly at her charge. He smiled sheepishly and pulled her chin back in front of him, returning to his attentions on her. Fear was irrational, but a quiet moment like this allowed a wandering mind. It was best not to think about anything other than making his friend happy. Or, to think about just how silly it was.

Dylan smiled to himself. “This is so weird."

“Hmmm?” Kira hummed in response, not wanting to halt his pets by moving her mouth.

“I'm petting my sergeant's throat.”

“Mhmmm?”

“If I did this to a human sergeant, and I would never want to, I'd probably lose my hands. This kind of thing would never happen in a human military.”

He watched her throat swell as she swallowed, the puffy white fur bulging ever so slightly under his hands. Her fingertips pushed against his front, gently sliding him backwards so she could say, “We're not human, Dylan. But this is a rather extreme case, I'll admit.”

“You're just loving it, aren't you?”

Kira's fingers loosely wrapped around his body. “May I pick you up?” she asked him, and earned two pats on her finger in response, saying he was ready. She lifted him off of her chest and sat up properly on the bench, turning to lean against the backrest and placing her paws on the ground. “I'm a lupari. Of course I'm loving it. You're like a dream come true.” She kept him held in her hand while her other cupped around the bottom, insuring he had ground to stand on just in case he slipped through her loose grip. “A tiny little person to get all of the best spots?” She smirked at him and lifted her hands up to the side of her head, bringing her charge close to her ear. “It's too wonderful. Could you get in there too?”

Dylan could feel a lot of heat coming from the inside of her ear, it was almost shockingly overwhelming compared to the cool warmth of the day. This was new, a step up from the throat treatment. “I guess. Bring me closer.”

The guardian nearly shoved her charge into her ear, the radar dish sized appendage dominating his entire view. Now it was certainly uncomfortably hot, but he said nothing in protest as he stretched out his arms and placed his palms against the thin fur of her ear, the pink skin beneath easily visible at this closeness. Kira subtly pushed him even deeper when she felt his touch and tilted her head and ear down, almost brushing it against his head.

Dylan got to work, bending his fingers to begin scratching at her skin. “Ooooh,” she moaned happily, her ear flicking softly to lightly bump the human in the face. Her grip loosened around him and he slipped down, but her open palm kept him in place. She was turning to putty right before him. Abruptly, she pulled him out of her ear, her huge head swinging around to look at him. Her blue eyes sparkled with delight. “That's just too good! Do it to my other ear, please. The earpiece can agitate."

Kira tightened her grip to keep him from falling and used her free hand to pull the small device from her other ear. She stuffed it into her pocket before lifting him up to her ear. It was just as hot as the other, though the fur inside was a ruffled mess and the pink skin was a little darker from wearing her earpiece. Mindful of her sensitive hearing he whispered in Common, "Closer."

She quickly obliged, nearly placing him entirely inside her ear, and sighed dreamily when his hands made contact. When his fingers began to scratch, she actually whined like a dog. He quietly laughed and picked up a rapid pace, his hands a blur. A loud thumping sound immediately followed, making him pause. That didn't sound like her tail, and the shaking he felt through her body was a lot more intense than when her tail wagged.

Dylan grinned hugely in realization. That was her leg! She was kicking her leg! His hands shot back to work, and the thumping returned just as quickly. “Awww, who's a good girl?” he said in English, knowing without her earpiece his words wouldn't be translated. “Who's a good girl? You are. Yes you are, yes you are.” He laughed to himself, far too amused with this little jab at her dog-like nature while she couldn't even understand him. “Good doggy, yes so cute and adorable...” There was no small amount of smug satisfaction being able to say this to a sergeant, even if she was one he respected very much. “Who's a good girl?”

“I am,” Kira said in English. Dylan's ministrations immediately halted along with Kira's thumping paw.The massive ear shook as his guardian started to laugh, and he was soon pulled away so she could turn her huge eyes on him. She bore a pleased, conceited smirk. “I am good girl, yes?” she asked in horribly accented English, but the words were simple enough to understand.

The human blinked dumbly several times. “Uhhh...”

The lupari whined, her ears folding back as her eyes shimmered sadly. “I not good girl?”

Dylan rubbed the back of his head. "Sorry."

Kira responded with laughter, exposing her teeth and blasting him with warm air for a short few seconds before her free hand covered her mouth. Dylan wanted to sink into his guardian's grip and vanish from view. Or perhaps fall through it and plummet to his doom to escape this shame.

The lupari struggled to contain her laughter. “Oooh you're the cutest shade of red!” Her face loomed closer, blue eyes squinting at his face.

The medic whipped his head to the side, trying to hide his blushing. “Piss off!”

Kira giggled some more as she dug into her pocket and replaced her earpiece. Her grin was wide and toothy as her hand returned to cupping under him, still holding him in her grip. “I was hoping for a moment like this! Oooh, the scents coming off of you, the look on your face...” She snickered and lowered him down onto her lap, opening her grip hand to leave him standing on her supporting hand. Dylan turned his back to her, hiding his face. He heavily plopped himself down onto her black pads, but didn't say anything as Kira went on to explain, “I've been studying English while you were attending your lectures. I told you I'm good with languages.”

Dylan struck her in the stomach with his elbow, a harmless bap to her. "You didn't say you'd learn English."

Kira's free hand gently poked him in the side with the back of a claw, almost a shove to him. "But then I'd miss an opportunity like that."

The human pushed back against the finger with his leg, his boot shoving against the huge, overpowering digit. She could easily overwhelm even his legs with her hand, but instead she grabbed his entire leg between two fingers and lifted it up. Dylan suddenly went limp, a frightened look in his eyes as he laid on her palm. "Don't grab my legs, please."

Kira's fingers immediately released him. "Apologies."

Dylan laid out on her hand, looking up at the sky. The lupari's thumb bent towards him and gently rubbed against his side. He turned his head away from it to see her face. She was looking over her bosom at him, an apologetic look in her eyes. "It's alright," he said. "Mistakes happen. So are you going to bring me back up to your ear now? I wasn't done yet, you know."

Kira's worried look vanished, replaced by a sly grin. She lifted the paw she was thumping on the ground, crossed her leg over the other, and used her free hand to lightly rub at her foot. "Are you sure? Because you didn't say I'm a good girl when I asked if I was. Only good girls should get ear scratchings."

Dylan groaned and ran his hand through his short hair. He sat up and leaned against her stomach, watching her knead at her paw. "You're not going to let that go, are you?"

"Nope!" She dropped her foot back down to the ground. "Now who's a good girl?"

"Come on…"

"Who's a good girl?" She punctuated the question with a puppylike growl.

"Yirshan?"

"Oh?" Kira whined. "Okay. Let's go find her and you can give her ear scratches." She stood up from the bench, threatening to go.

Dylan called her bluff. "Hatia?"

Kira started walking. "I hear jahkatians love getting the base of their wings treated. I hope you like feathers."

The human wasn't worried at all as he looked ahead."It has to be Ufurin."

The sergeant giggled, but kept on walking. "You're too stubborn for your own good."

Dylan felt like he was playing a game of chicken at this point, and he was the only one headed for something horrible, like petting the ears of the unit's commander. He still wasn't backing down. "Does that mean Ufurin's the good girl?"

"If you say he is. Let's go see him."

"I'm not so sure he's the good girl. It's probably Larish."

Kira growled and finally stopped. A small asishi was walking by and jumped in surprise when she blurted out, "Just say I'm the good girl and pet my ears!" She looked at the other soldier when he stopped, unsure if he was the one being spoken to. "Not you. Carry on."

Dylan waited for the asishi to leave before finally saying, mockingly slow, "You're a good girl."

"Thank you," Kira said, exasperated, and padded off the path onto the grass.

The human was grinning like a fool at this point, utterly pleased with himself for bringing someone her size to agitation in a teasing match. "But good girls don't demand ear pettings, so I may be lying."

"Alright, so I'm a bad girl," Kira said, growling again. She sat down on the grass and stretched her legs out. "Bad girls demand paw rubs."

Dylan's grin vanished. "You're a genuine good girl."

The subtle movements of her tail wagging could be felt through her hand and body."I know," the lupari said and reached down to her stomach with her other hand. "I'm going to grab you now, okay?"

Within moments, Kira was on her back, one leg kicking at the grass, with her hands held up to her ear. Dylan caught sight of a few aliens that stopped to look, obviously confused with what the sergeant was doing. They couldn't see his little form, and for all they knew she was playing with her own ear. Some of them even started to stroke their own as they walked off, obviously wondering if she found some kind of secret.

It all was cut short, however, when a deep female voice suddenly shouted, "WHAT are you doing, sergeant?!"

Kira immediately sat up and released Dylan onto her palm as she brought it back to her stomach. The human was a bit dazed from the quick movement, but could see that a large female neishor captain was standing on the pathway, glaring at them. Kira hastily said, "I am enjoying company with my charge, ma'am."

The officer looked down at Dylan, then stomped off of the path towards them to get a better look at him. "On your feet." The lupari hastily clamored to her paws, her hand cupping around her charge to keep him safe from all the jostling. When her hand left, Dylan saw the officer looking down at him, and swallowed deeply. She was tremendous. Larish and Yirshan were big, but Kira was face to stomach with this gigantic neishor. Both of them snapped off a salute, Dylan unwittingly doing the human version before realizing the mistake and crossing his arm over his chest. The officer had to lean down to see him better. "Is this true, private?"

Dylan nodded rapidly. "Y-Yes ma'am. She wished for me to, er…" He hesitated. This was so incredibly strange, and at the same time awfully terrifying. This neishor seemed much more like the strict military he came from. How was he supposed to tell someone like this he was giving his superior ear rubs? With the long pause, the giant turned her head to the side and peered even closer with one huge brown eye. He could see his whole reflection in it. "... she wanted ear rubs and I wanted to give them to her."

The captain stood back up to her full height. "She didn't force you?"

"No, ma'am."

The neishor rubbed between her eyes, shaking her head. "Lupari... and humans, apparently. This is the third time this week!" She sighed and turned to leave. "Carry on."

The pair silently watched her leave, and when she was out of earshot, Kira started to snicker, jostling Dylan in her hand. The human waited for her to be further away, watching her back warily, but soon broke into laughter with his guardian.

--

Kira bounced lightly in the sand of this massive arena, the area around her and Dylan kicked up and battered from their training. "Watch my paws," she said to him. "I favor kicks, so it's up to you to figure out which one I'm going to be using."

Kira let him have this one. She shifted her paws, getting ready to kick with her right leg. Her warning ensured Dylan saw it coming, and as her paw left the ground with a burst of flying sand, he readied himself for the attack.

The lupari's foot slammed into the human's side, staggering him, but he managed to grab it with both of his arms. Kira expected this response. Dylan was too stubborn, he favored physically clashing with an opponent over avoiding their attacks. That could work if his foe was weaker. But that simply wasn't the case here.

Before her charge could even figure out what to do now, her other leg leapt off the ground and her pads smashed into his face. He stumbled backwards in shock, releasing her caught leg, and the lupari landed in the sand on her rump. She kicked out again, hooked her leg around the human's, and pulled his foot out from under him.

With a cry he fell into the sand with his guardian. He desperately tried to scramble away, knowing what was coming next.

It was too late. Kira's heel bashed him in the chest, pushing the air out of him. Before he could recover she wrapped her calves around his neck, locking her feet together, and squeezed hard, choking him. Coughing and squirming on the ground, his hands feebly pried at his opponent's legs, trying to pull them apart at the paws.

The lupari grinned as she watched, one of his hands lacing its fingers with her four toes, and propped her head up on one arm, elbow in the sand. She loosened her grip just enough to let him breath, and patiently waited for him to give up.

As expected, her charge took longer than most to finally stop his struggles. Only when he started to run out of energy did he stop fighting it. He growled out in frustration and punched her in the calf. "I need a damned crowbar for this."

"Here's an idea," Kira said, a mischievous glint in her eyes. She laid back, propped up on both elbows now. "Paw rub to escape."

Dylan weakly pried at her legs again. "Only bad girls demand paw rubs."

The lupari splayed her toes on one foot, and wiggled them when he glanced at it. "Am I a bad girl?"

"No."

"What am I, then?"

"Oh for fu-" He bit his tongue and his head fell back, propped up by Kira's calf. "You're a good girl."

Kira laughed triumphantly as she unwrapped her legs and crawled over to Dylan. Her hand pushed against his chest and shoved him back down into the sand. "I still need to sign the peace treaty."

"What?" She bent her head down and started to nose at his throat. "Oh."

The lupari chuckled again, breathing hot air against the human's throat as her cold, wet nose rubbed against it. She felt his body stiffen when her tongue lapped out, running over his skin several times before stopping. As she pulled away, she rubbed the side of her muzzle against his cheek, her tail slowly wagging. When she was done with her victory affections, she sat back on her haunches and allowed him to sit with her.

Dylan looked sidelong at his guardian, who was delighted at just being able to nuzzle her charge, with her happy smile and tail brushing through the sand. "I feel like I should be going on about military discipline," he said.

Kira's tail stopped and she cocked her head, smile turning curious. "What do you mean?"

"It's all nice, don't get me wrong." He crossed his legs and turned on the spot to face her. The lupari did the same, causing their knees to touch. "But it's just so… weird. Not to you of course. But I just can't get over how you would never see this kind of thing on Earth. The physical shows of affection, I mean. It strikes me as so unmilitary like."

Kira flicked her ears in understanding. "Yes, I know what you mean. I know you learned all about lupari and our adoration of physical touch. Some other species like it too, like the falashai, but the prevalence of it with us made it so it's not much of a stigma in the military."

Dylan squinted, unsure. "That neishor officer thought otherwise."

Kira smirked. "She didn't make us stop, did she?" Dylan nodded a yes. "Besides, you're exposed to an exaggerated form of it all, anyway. Affection is encouraged, anyway, if the human responds well to it."

"Why?"

"It helps put you little ones at ease. Plus, it's fun."

Dylan snorted. "I guess. It's still strange. It just goes against what I imagine a military to be like."

"And that is?"

"Rigid, disciplined, difficult to falter in a tough situation. At least a good military. But then that didn't work out anyway, so I don't know what I'm complaining about."

Kira's ears stood straighter and she started sniffing out some anxiety from her charge. "Are you talking about your unit on Earth?"

The human nodded and looked down at both of their legs. "My mind's been on this since the session with Duntay."

The lupari's head slowly cocked to the side. "Why?"

"We were the US Military. We weren't supposed to break and run like frightened animals."

Kira slid in the sand to place herself next to Dylan, their sides pressed together. "You're talking about that memory you were having."

The medic nodded once. "Yeah. Our first engagement with the rynar. We shattered so fast. I guess you could call it humbling, but it felt more soul crushing. I never thought I'd see US soldiers routing." Kira gently rubbed his back. "I don't really know how to describe it. It's just… shocking, I guess? I saw crew jumping from tanks. Trucks running away, leaving men behind. Watched a Bradley run someone over as it tried to get away. It wasn't supposed to be like that." He leaned back against her stroking hand. "Can you imagine your battalion breaking like that?" Kira canted her head as she thought about it, trying to imagine it for him, but Dylan didn't let her answer. "But you don't have to fight things many times bigger than you. That simulation we did a while back was just a taste. It wasn't real. It never actually happened. And it went better than it did for us, anyway."

The lupari squeezed the human's shoulder gently. "I wish I could see what you saw."

Dylan looked at her with a cocked brow. "Why?"

Kira smiled softly at him, teeth hidden. "Because I want to understand you better. We were well equipped, organized, ready, and knew what to expect in the simulation. It wasn't like that for you at all, wasn't it?"

The human shook his head, scowling. "We had rifles when we needed missiles."

"Yes." Kira flicked her ear in agreement. "That simulation tried to show the struggle of the size difference, but it didn't fully convey the terror, did it?"

The medic shrugged. "Not really, but it got the point across. Even with the right equipment it's not much of a contest."

"That's fine, but the terror aspect is a big part of your trauma. I think I should understand that part as much as I can."

"Plenty of others had the same problem, you know. I doubt I'm the only human here with a bad memory of first contact."

"Of course. But it's an important part of your trauma."

"Why do you want to learn so much about it, anyway? All you need to do is keep doing what you've been doing."

The sergeant smirked at her charge and her hand gently squeezed his shoulder again. "Because I'm a lupari."

Dylan rolled his eyes with a slight smile. "Right. Nosy bunch aren't you?"

Kira flared her nostrils exaggeratedly, audibly sniffing. "Always. But you know what I mean."

"Yeah, yeah…" He waved her off. "That crazy lupari empathy thing."

The lupari nudged him, pushing him sideways. "Don't act like it's nothing!"

"It's not! I just don't like how you can read my mind."

"It's not like that!"

"It sure sounds like it," he said, a teasing smirk on his face.

"You're being a tailtugger again."

Dylan's smirk turned to a full on grin. Kira's eyes widened and she tried to scoot away, but it was too late. Dylan grabbed her tail and gently tugged on it, preventing her from escaping. "Tailtugger sounds ridiculous, you know."

Kira growled at her charge. "And what do you call a tailtugger?"

"A smartass."

The lupari's growl abruptly stopped and she cocked her head, starting to giggle. "A smart butt?"

Dylan released her tail and his mouth gaped. "Er… that's not translating well, is it?"

"At least it's not smart donkey," the lupari said back and turned in the sand, hiding her tail from view. "I suppose a yutri update fixed that problem." Dylan looked embarrassed over the translation mistake that utterly ruined his teasing. She knew the difference, however. English swears had too many multiple meanings. It would still take time for translation software to be updated enough to handle it. It wasn't something she would let Dylan know, however.

The medic put on a dejected face. "Smart donkey sounds better than smart butt, though."

Kira laughed and waved this conversation away. "We're getting distracted. Dylan, the more I know about how your mind works, what it has experienced, the better I can react to keep you comfortable, notice problems before they become problems."

"I suppose, but it doesn't matter. I can't really describe the rout to you, anyway."

"You don't have to. You can show it."

"Excuse me?"

Both were suddenly interrupted by Dahashi's blue orb flashing into existence next to them. The orb flickered as it said, "I do not recommend that."

"Recommend what?" Dylan asked, then immediately said, "Oh. Oh I get it. Holy shit! You can do that?"

The orb bobbed once, nodding an affirmative at Dylan. "Yes, if what you are thinking is that I can recover a memory from a person and allow another to experience it. I do not recommend it, however, because it rapidly leads to mental degradation for the guest. It is safe for one memory every other quarter of the year, so I do not recommend it for horrible memories. I believe they should be used for pleasant ones."

Kira frowned disapprovingly at Dahashi. "You're opposed? Dahashi, I was certain you would agree to this. You know as well as anyone how important something like this could be."

Dahashi's orb flashed brighter as it silently regarded them both, slow to respond. "I do not recommend it."

Kira felt a slight nudge from her charge. "It's not worth wasting your one memory use. Or however it goes."

The lupari nudged him right back with her elbow. "I don't ever use them. I don't want to. But I want to for this. Don't you wish others knew what you went through?"

Dylan rubbed the back of his head. "Well… they do know? I told you what happened."

Kira shook her head and rubbed her hand on his back. "I mean do you ever wish someone knew exactly what it was like, so they knew exactly how you felt?"

The medic swallowed deeply and slowly nodded at her. "But I don't want to…" He trailed off. Kira's hand moved up to his shoulder as she patiently waited for him. "It might scare you or something. Make you upset. I don't know! I don't want it to mess you up. Could it do that?" He looked to Dahashi.

The orb blinked twice. "No. Even if I implemented a haze, the worst that may happen is nervousness afterward. Regardless, I still do not recommend this course of action. I highly recommend not doing this. Please. I highly advise reliving a pleasant memory instead."

"Didn't you want to see what the zone was like?" Dylan asked.

Dahashi bounced the orb in place, making it look impatient. "Yes and I still do, but if you do this I would have to delete the memory from my systems. I would not remember the memory, only that a reconstruction happened. Your past is not mine unless you allow me to see."

"Alright," Dylan said and got to his feet. He helped drag Kira up before focusing on Dahashi. "If she wants to see it so badly, then fine, show her. She might bite my head off if not." That earned a light whack on the back of the head from the lupari. "Ow, hey come on!" He held the back of his head and grinned at her. "Abuser."

Kira raised her hand for another strike. "Abuser?! I am not! What am I?"

The human rolled his eyes. "A psycho bitch?"

Instead of hitting him in the head, the lupari pounced the man. They both fell to the ground in an explosion of sand. Kira sat atop his chest, pinned his arms, and leaned down close. She bared her teeth, growling. "What am I?"

The medic lifted his head up, nearly touching noses with her. "Psycho. Bitch."

Kira lightly nipped him on the nose, a little play bite. "Why are you specifically calling me a psychotic female canine?"

"Er…" He furrowed his brow, caught up in the translation confusion. "Because… I need to stick to more reasonable curses, like asshole. You're a psychotic asshole."

Kira scoffed. "Now that's just crude. I'll punish you later, though." She pulled the human to his feet, and both returned their attention to Dahashi. "May we start now?" she asked him.

The orb wobbled side to side. "I do not recommend this."

"Just do it," Dylan said.

There was a several second pause before Dahashi said, "Very well. I have already recovered the memory. Reconstruction will begin in ten seconds. I wish you did not do this." With that, the orb suddenly vanished, leaving them both alone.

Dylan touched the side of his head. "Holy shit that was fast. I didn't even feel anything."

The lupari grinned at the chance for another tease. "Humans worship feces?"

Dylan groaned. "Dammit, woman…"



Last edited by Hetzer on Fri May 22, 2015 9:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Integration (Part Eleven - 5/14/2015)

Postby Hetzer » Thu May 14, 2015 10:51 am

For the first time in her life Kira found herself living a memory, and the very first thing she felt was deprivation. She could see. She saw Dylan's hands and arms as he clutched a rifle in his lap. She saw he was in the back of a light four doored vehicle with a few others soldiers. She could see all of this so clearly, yet she still felt blind. She saw these people in a small vehicle, with their weapons and their equipment, but she couldn't smell them. She wanted to smell but all she sensed was an indistinct blob of scent. It meant nothing. It was tasteless. One of Kira's very first thoughts in her first memory reconstruction, was a wonder as to how humans could live with these olfactory disasters they called their noses.

She couldn't let her bubbling anxiety over the lack of scents worry her, however. She reminded herself that this was merely a simulation. Her true self could smell perfectly fine. With that reminder, the worry over her nose was easily cast aside when she realized what Dylan was looking at out the vehicle's window as they sped by. What must have been thousands of humans were walking on the lightly snow covered grass between two roads, dragging with them large bags, suitcases, and carts. Light to dark skinned humans from young to old were in the crowd. Just past them, trapped on the road parallel to this, was a massive jam of wheeled vehicles. It was obviously an exodus of refugees from whatever unfortunate city was attacked by the rynar.

Dylan's gaze stayed locked on the crowds as the world slowed to a crawl, making it that much easier to see each individual human civilian, the looks of fear, anguish and resignation on their faces, as it all went silent.

Dahashi appeared walking next to the vehicle, completely unhindered by the slowed world. The blue falashai was wearing a light, elegant outfit that covered his top with various looping, sheer cloth that left his lithe upper body visible, but covered his legs in purples and gold. "Welcome to the first day of the Rynar Invasion of Earth." He cast his arm out to wave over the mass of civilians, his voice unhindered by the thick glass that was between he and Kira. "On this day, a large force that included elements of the 29th Infantry Division, Dylan's division, mobilized to head south to relieve the besieged Fort Lee as the rynar rapidly moved inland after landing on the coast. The rynar easily overwhelmed the Norfolk Naval Yard before many of the ships could escape, and were at Fort Lee before the local forces could even fully realize what was happening."

The AI looked ahead, presumably down the long military column. "The civilians you see to the left are all fleeing the fighting, but there were too many displaced so quickly. It was too much for infrastructure to bare." He looked into the window of the vehicle, passed Dylan and at the others inside. "Directly to your right is Private Tobias Sampson. The one driving is Private Keith Leonard. The person to the right of him is Corporal Ryan Andrews. I know they are only one of many, and you are not going to know who they were in this too short of a time, but do them the honor that I cannot of remembering their names and their faces. There are so few left that can."

The falashai's form slowly faded away and time returned to normal, the crowds turning to a blur of motion once more. Dylan looked aside at the dark skinned soldier to his right, his skin glistening with sweat despite the cold, as he watched the civilians. Tobias glanced at Dylan and forced a small, nervously breathy laugh. "At least the civilians won't get in the way of our alien asskicking, right?"

There was a bitter laugh in the front passenger seat and Ryan, a lighter skinned human, said back, "They're two hundred goddamn feet tall. We'll be lucky if they don't just march over us."

"They're not that big," Tobias said.

Ryan leaned over to look in the back seat at the other soldier. "You saw the pictures! They're fucking giants."

Sampson leaned back seat and swallowed hard. "That was more like a hundred feet."

"I think it was closer to fifty," Dylan said as he turned to look out the window once more. Kira wanted to add her own number, but couldn't say anything. It was a surreal feeling, she thought, to speak without intending to. Nor could she speak when she wanted, and when she did speak it was with a voice that wasn't her own.

Ryan returned to looking forward. "Still too big."

It seemed like the mass of people would go on forever, as if there were no end to the souls fleeing the fighting only hours old. Sooner than Kira hoped, however, the crowd became less and less until there was a trickle, to almost nobody. All that was left was the muddy ground, abandoned vehicles, and a mess of items left behind. Despite the countless civilians they passed, Kira knew there were many more caught in the fighting.

With nothing else to look at, Dylan's wandered ahead to see outside the front with a truck directly in front of their vehicle. Ryan leaned forward and looked up at the sky, where the figures of aircraft could be seen flying ahead of the column. "They launching missiles?" the corporal asked.

The driver, Keith, leaned forward as well to gaze up. "Yeah… why they shooting so early?"

Dylan pushed up from his seat and pulled himself to the center. "I'll check up top," he said as he stood up and pushed open a hatch at the top of the vehicle. Kira felt the cold air blowing against the human's unfurred face. She would shiver, but Dylan remained still as he looked ahead. As far as he could see was a long line of vehicles. From small trucks like this one to tanks to bigger trucks carrying more tanks were all driving along this road. It was so much. There were so many soldiers, weapons, and vehicles. If Kira saw this without knowing anything else, she would think whoever the enemy was, this was their doom coming for them.

Even the sound was intimidating. The guttural snarl of human engines sounded like an enormous beast, even through these dull, little human ears. The sight of aircraft high above completed the ensemble, their presence silent but still a show of a long reach.

Dylan watched the sky as missiles streaked out from the aircraft and the distant shapes abruptly broke formation. Blue streaks of plasma fire peppered the space they just occupied, and scattered across the sky, trying to track the tiny craft, only to vanish into the clouds as they found none of their targets.

The medic ducked back down and closed the hatch behind him. "They're getting shot at up there," Dylan said as he crawled back into his seat, the others watching him.

The corporal bit his lower lip and turned back around. "Shit. We're not supposed to make contact for hours." He opened a compartment up front and pulled out a large piece of folded paper. He hastily unfurled what looked like a map and scanned it over. He shook his head rapidly, but before he could say anything more the vehicle slowed to a stop as the convoy halted.

Chatter over the vehicle's radio came on. Panicked shouts of contacts, orders to disembark, to find defensive positions and dig in, all spilled out of it.

They were coming.

The next few minutes were a frenzy of motion, the pace accelerated by Dahashi, as he allowed the lupari to see the panicked, unprepared mess that unraveled. Soldiers poured out of trucks and onto the road. The vehicles turned to head off of the pavement to find cover. They were on a long stretch of empty road with not much more than forest to hide in. Kira couldn't imagine how this would work. Not when their enemy's weapons could chew through such small trees. But she didn't have to imagine how it would work. She knew it wouldn't.

By the time it was finally done and the defense was hastily assembled, Dylan was laying in wait near the forest's edge with several other platoons. Grenade and missile launchers were distributed, mortars set up, and artillery pieces were pulled into the tree line to offer direct fire. Even tanks were squeezed in, among other lighter armored vehicles. Most, however, lined the side of the road, ready to take long shots down the stretch of pavement. It was a hasty defense that did little to utilize their numbers, but it was all they could do.

Dylan wasn't given even a grenade launcher. Instead, the medic stayed back near the rear of his platoon, clutching his rifle as he crouched against a tree. He was, however, issued a thick bag full of equipment intended for burns.

They were all silent. Even the rumble of the vehicles fell quiet as they silenced their engines. The only clear, close sound was the occasional long breath from Dylan. The steam from his breath was coming out in large puffs that were occasionally broken up as a shiver went through his body.

Despite what was about to happen, it was the cold that occupied so much of Kira's mind. Even with this clothing, she felt so exposed and vulnerable. Such a small, insignificant dusting of a snowfall seemed so bleak where normally she would welcome the cool chill, barely even felt through her thick fur.

These thoughts soon fell by the wayside as she heard the sounds of distant battle. The far off, dull booms of explosions and the rumble of human aircraft drowned out the quiet wail of the wind through the winter struck forest.

Then there was the wait. Kira knew what was coming, but she still felt her anxiety rising. She had never felt so wary of a calm before a storm. She couldn't smell anything nor could she hear anything worth hearing. It wasn't that there was nothing to smell or hear, but that she simply couldn't hear or smell them. Dylan didn't have the means for it. So here he waited, all of these humans waited, incapable of even the simple self reassurance of knowing what exactly was around them at all times.

Dylan was cold, afraid, scentblind, half deaf, and he didn't even have a weapon that would do him any good as an enemy so much more powerful than anything he'd ever known was coming. Just like any other species, the humans obviously drew confidence from strong allies. It kept them firm even if they were afraid. However, it was made so much more important for them, as their abundant weaknesses could only be dampened with fellows at their side. Perhaps that was why many humans took to their guardians so well. A guardian made up for so much that they lacked, beyond merely the vast size difference.

Kira had these thoughts to mull over until the thunderous eruptions of human tank fire were heard up the road. The reports of automatic cannons followed, then soon the loud, angry whooshes of missiles. A hail of fire could be seen flying down the road at targets unseen.

Several men with large missile launchers were ordered forward. They crept out to the forest's edge, aimed their weapons, and large missiles were sent flying into the air. Kira couldn't see the targets, but there weren't any blue streaks of return plasma fire. She hoped it meant the human fire was simply far too overwhelming.

The wild spray of heavy weapons fire lasted for only a minute before it came to a slow stop, the thumping of an automatic cannon the last weapon to finally cease. There was some shouting, cheers, and the revving of engines as vehicles fired up and began moving.

The curious whining engines of the tanks grew louder as they sped by, visible through the trees. Armored troop carriers followed right after them. It was an attack. They were exposed and the humans decided their best course of action was to press forward before their enemy could gather their wits. The infantry in the forests were ordered forward. They stayed within the trees as they began to run down the lengths of their concealment. The chatter of big guns behind them meant artillery was already taking shots in support of the advance.

It looked good. There was so much equipment, so many soldiers, and so much supporting fire. It was a neat operation, as far as Kira could tell. No amount of neatness, however, could change just how clustered it was.

The hum of rynar fighter craft filled the air. Dylan looked up at the sky, through the leafless trees, to see streaks of plasma cannon fire hurtle towards the road. Searing hot plasma explosions erupted all along the pavement in terrifyingly massive clouds that consumed whole vehicles in blue, superheated destruction. Kira felt the heat as it washed over Dylan, almost burning at even this distance.

The infantry dove for cover behind trees as their armored support began to explode apart, their fuel and ammunition detonating from the intense heat. Kira couldn't see anything as Dylan covered behind a tree, his head tucked down. She still felt the heat, however, and it felt even hotter as burning debris flew into the forest, landing around them.

The sound of trees shattering had Dylan look up to see what looked like an entire turret from a tank smashing into a tree. It fractured it, but bounced off and went crashing to the ground, nearly landing on two men. The first tree the turret slid down the side of another tree and hit the ground with a deep thud

Kira got a look at the havoc at last. Burning debris she couldn't even recognize littered the forest floor, the pyres of other vehicle turrets could be seen further away, and some of the trees were already ablaze. Even the snow all around had melted, turning the ground to mud.

Cries for medics echoed off of the trees, snapping Dylan into action. The man had to sprint all of a stone's throw to find his first patient, a man with a large piece of shrapnel embedded in his side with three of his comrades desperately trying to help him. The medic shoved his way through them to get to the soldier. He bent down to get a closer look at the wound in the man's side, the medic's hand already digging at his pouches for whatever tool he needed.

Dylan's attention snapped up, down along the forest, as flashes of light erupted far ahead. A second strafing run was hurtling towards them, combing the forest length along the road. Dylan and the other soldiers shot to their feet just as the sounds of the plasma bursts reached them and ran for the road, escaping the treeline.

Even these weak human ears could hear the cry of that wounded man they left behind them. It lingered in Kira's mind even as the explosive bursts of the plasma tore the forest apart, the sound of fracturing trees mingling with the loud blasts. A wave of heat washed over Dylan's back as he hit the pavement, covering his head with his hands. Kira felt the heat, only uncomfortably hot for her, but she didn't doubt it was causing harm to the human, slowly cooking him.

The heat lessened as the plasma bursts dissipated, leaving behind a burning forest that still hotly licked at the men on the road, preventing them from fleeing back into the cover of the trees.

Dylan looked up and behind him from his prone position, his arms still covering the back of his head from the heat. Humans that weren't far enough away from the strafing run were still running towards the road, engulfed in flames. Their agonized screams reach Dylan's ears even through the roars of the flames all around, from the trees to the burning, exploding vehicles on the pavement.

Dylan grabbed his rifle, the weapon just ahead of him lying on the road, and got to his feet. He moved to do something, taking a few steps, but stopped himself. He along with the survivors, could only watch as their comrades burned in front of them. There wasn't a thing they could do, not even a blanket in reach to smother the flames. Everything they could use was burning in the vehicles around them.

The medic watched, frozen in place, focusing on one soldier just in front of him as he staggered onto the pavement, his body completely wrapped in scorching flames. Behind him, the forest was ablaze with dancing ash falling around, already beginning to cover the road and everyone on it. His hands were clutching at his face as he fell to his knees. He wasn't screaming anymore, the flames suffocating him as it consumed all of the oxygen. He twitched and jerked as he sat there, ashes of his clothing and his own body falling around him.

The soldier's hands slid from his face, pulling much of the skin with them, and fell by his sides. Kira could see his burned face, eyes melting away, just before the flames covered his face, and the man's body slowly fell forward, unmoving on the pavement.

Kira felt numb as she watched, barely even registering what came next. There were many stories of the devastating losses among the human militaries during the three days before the UTO arrived at Earth, but seeing it happen was making her heart race. An overlay from the simulation asking her if she wanted to disconnect, as if she forgot she could with a mere thought, flashed in front of her eyes. The lupari willed it away and kept watching, at this point more morbidly curious about how Dylan survived this than anything else.

Vehicles from further back in the convoy arrived. Human with firefighting equipment poured out of trucks with specialized, red colored firefighting vehicles following behind. They had to fight hellfire. Both sides of the highway were engulfed in flames as the forests burned, the trees completely consumed. The burning vehicles leaked fuel that swept across the pavement, burst with secondary explosions, and Kira swore she could hear some cries for help within a few. Pitch dark smoke reached high into the sky and the ashes fell like snow, blocking out the sun. It was dark on the road, the only light coming from the roaring flames.

Dylan was coughing, his breathing becoming ragged. It was becoming difficult to draw breath here. And it was so hot. So incredibly hot. Visibility was degrading. It was difficult to see the new vehicles in all the smoke and fire, to see other humans. And here Dylan was, standing as if he had given up, looking around dumbly.

A hand grabbed the medic's arm. He turned to see another human, wearing thick fire resistant clothing with an oxygen mask. He yelled for Dylan to come, voice muffled by the mask. He dragged the shocked medic along, and both began to run side by side. When they passed a firefighting truck the man gave Dylan a forward shove, encouraging him to keep running without him.

Dylan ran through a corridor of fire. The forest burned and burned, the grass itself alight, a wall of flames that would let no man escape alive. He weaved around burning wrecks, black dead husks now the tombs of countless men. Through the fire, smoke, and ash Kira saw other human soldiers, survivors trying to escape the blaze.

Dylan ran with them, more and more coming together. It seemed like dozens of them were on a mad dash to escape the scorching heat and suffocating smoke. Even through her shocked daze, Kira was happy to see at least this many made it. It seemed impossible, but at least there were these.

The smoke lessened, the vehicles became more sparse. Sunlight was starting to shine bright again. It was a light at the end of a dark, burning tunnel. There were people. As Dylan passed the last burning tank, Kira saw people on the other side of this corridor of death. Men, clean of the scorching of the disaster ran and met the survivors. Dylan collapsed against another soldier, coughing, wheezing and breathing hard. The other man pushed an oxygen mask against the medic's face, and he choked on that for a few moments before the relief of fresh oxygen reached his lungs.

Dylan held the mask to his face and rested his chin on his savior's shoulder. Despite all of the talk of humans being less physical with each other, here Dylan was using his other arm to hug the man. This other soldier offered a fresh face and relief from the pain of the chaotic world only a short distance behind, and that was worth more gratitude than he seemed to know.

Eyes teary and blurry from the smoke, the medic looked at what was ahead of him. Countless soldiers, more tanks, trucks, and so many others vehicles were all along both sides of the highway. Despite that complete and utter destruction, there was still so much left. There was still hope.

Dylan was soon rushed further back, guided along with the other survivors further and further away from the cloud of smoke, into clearer and fresher air. Someone took Dylan's helmet off and draped a wet towel over his head. The coolness was almost shocking. The towel covered the medic's face, blinding him and muffling his ears. Kira felt his gear being removed, his backpack and weapon taken away, letting the cold air reach him easier. Someone eased him down to sit on the road, out of the way and open to the cold air, sapping the overabundance of heat from his body.

The cries of burned wounded came from up the road. Dylan pulled the towel off of his face to see men carrying stretchers appearing out of the smoke. It was his first good look at the inferno from the outside, and his head tilted back to see the black cloud grasping for the sky, so high above. It was swirling and seemingly dancing in the wind. The cool gusts felt good against the back of his head, easily touching his skin through his shaved hair.

He only admired the scale of the flames for only a few short moments before his attention shot back to the situation before him. His equipment was scattered on the hood of a nearby truck, among the items of a few other survivors. Dylan tossed the towel onto the vehicle and grabbed his large backpack and belt off of it. He slung the bag over his shoulder and held the belt in his hand as he dashed for the closest wounded, joining a legion of medical personnel as they all scrambled to save what little they could from this tragedy.

There was shouting and confused orders being tossed around, nobody quite sure who was in charge of this mad dash to save the burned. The medics looked terrified as they checked their patients. They were not prepared to deal with so many burns like this.

An older looking soldier took charge. He barked out orders that snapped cohesion into the distraught medics and other soldiers. A field hospital was already being set up further up the road where the convoy came from, with firefighting crews working to keep the fire from spreading. Medics, Dylan among them, were loaded into trucks with the wounded.

There were six medics in Dylan's truck with only two burned soldiers on stretchers, laid out on the floor. All of them were shouting at each other on how to help the two men, none of them experienced enough to be sure of what to do. A gel was smeared onto the burns and painkillers were injected. There was so little they could do with what they had. Burn treatment simply wasn't a large majority of their training or their equipment. There were no nanites at work here to strengthen the skin, meaning they couldn't do much with equipment without making things worse. The gel didn't even seem to be helping.

One of the men stopped breathing during just this short drive. A medic hissed for the others to stop talking and checked their patient. Nothing was happening. They squeezed an air pump in his mouth. One medic started chest compressions, trying to ignore the stretching and tearing of the burned flesh, but there was no response.

The soldier died in the back of that truck, and none of them even knew who he was or what he looked like. His identification tags were burned into his flesh, his face seared and unrecognizable. Silence reigned. The medics looked at each other, distraught. As if all of one mind, they scrambled for the second man. Six medics crowded around their patient, desperately trying to keep him alive, to not lose another one. His vitals were closely watched, his oxygen supplied, and his burns soothed. It was so little for six of them.

Dylan was squeezing the air pump when the truck suddenly swerved. He was flung back against the side of the cargo space, slamming painfully against the bench lining the side. The truck swerved again, nearly propelling Dylan to the other side, but it came to a crashing stop as it collided with something hard and unyielding, instead throwing him and everyone else to the front. They all smashed into the back of the cab, cries of pain and heavy thuds filling the truck from the sudden, hard stop. Dylan's impact was buffered by the body of one of his fellows, sparing him much of the pain of hitting the metal. He fell back to the bottom of the truck, on top of the dead soldier.

An automatic cannon started firing directly next to their truck, ruffling the covering canvas and deafening the men inside. The shock of the noise had Dylan pressing his hands to his ears, trying to muffle the sound. When it stopped, there was a mad scramble to escape the back of the vehicle, but all hesitated when the rear flap was pulled aside.

They looked like giant, tailed robots, however Kira knew a rynar trooper at any size. They were emerging from the smoke far behind, their plasma rifles against their shoulders, firing as they advanced. Plasma swept the crowded road. It lacked the incendiary explosive charge of the larger plasma cannons, but at the humans' size it hardly mattered.

Light vehicles were peppered with plasma bolts, searing holes being burned straight through them and disintegrating the occupants. Some exploded as the superheated energy ignited fuel or extra munitions. Tanks and lighter armored vehicles desperately fired back, making a cacophony of heavy weapons fire.

The rynar looked so confident. They were so sure of themselves. Their advance was so steady, surely the sign of an overly confident leader. Their advance hesitated for only a short moment when the heavy human weapons tore into the lead troops, sending them crashing down as holes were blown into their bodies, explosive ordnance rippling across their armor.

The medics gathered their wits and jumped out of the truck. Dylan was told to check the driver as they handled their patient and two of the medics struggling to walk. Dylan went around the truck to see that it had crashed into one of the lighter armored troop transport vehicles, which was shooting down the road with its rapid firing cannon. A part of its front end was embedded into the front of the truck.

The medic opened the door of the truck, the cab still mostly intact. A look inside showed no driver, but the windshield was smashed apart. Kira could feel Dylan's grimace. He left the door open as he ran around to the back of the armored vehicle. He found the truck driver on the road just behind the vehicle, a twisted, broken mess, but he was moving. It looked like he flew through the windshield, hit the armored vehicle, and fell off the back of it.

Dylan shouted for help and a stretcher from his fellows, but his call was drowned out by the belch of the big vehicle's engine as it shifted into reverse. The medic cried for the machine to stop as he grabbed the soldier's harness and tried to drag him aside.

There wasn't enough time. Alerts flashed into Kira's view again as she watched the machine's tread descend on the human's stomach. She wanted out! Out out out!



...

Kira's eyes shot open and the lupari cried out loudly, her gaze darting around in the pod as both hands clutched her chest. She panted rapidly while the door opened up, a few whimpers escaping her.

Her whimper turned to a shriek when Dahashi was revealed, his projection standing just outside of her pod. The falashai AI was engulfed in flames, his normally blue fur a fiery red as fire flickered over his body, his eyes black pits. "Tricks of the mind!" he hastily said as Kira pushed herself back against the pod, as if she would vanish out the back of it. "Calm yourself! Whatever you see is false! It will pass."

The lupari stopped thrashing and her ears turned towards the fiery Dahashi, testing his words. She didn't hear the flames, nor did she feel the heat. Her breathing slowed slightly and she blinked rapidly, trying to clear the hallucination. She snapped her attention to his left as she saw transparent, black scorched specters of human soldiers as big as he was run past him, their steps utterly silent, and their faces locked in utter panic. Kira leaned out of the pod to see them after they passed, but they were gone. Instead, she saw the hive engulfed in flames. Pods were burning as people nonchalantly walked on by. Ash fell from high above, darting about as if a wind was blowing through the large, open building. Her mouth gaped as she looked up at it.

Dahashi looked up with her, his fur no longer on fire, but still red. "You see why you cannot do this regularly, I assume?"

Kira lamely flicked one ear and slowly dragged her gaze back down to Dahashi, and then what was just past him. She saw another human specter, almost solid unlike the others. He was completely covered in black, ugly burns as he sat on his rump, legs pulled to his chest in a fetal position. He rocked forward and back, shaking his head and burying his face in his arms, as if he were crying.

The lupari groaned and fell back into the pod, blinking rapidly again as tears formed in her eyes. "Stars…" she croaked and rubbed at the fur on her cheeks, brushing away the drops. "That was awful. There were was so much fire and, and… death." She looked at Dahashi again, still standing outside the pod. He was back to normal, his fur dark blue and golden eyes glimmering. "Just hearing about it didn't do it justice at all. That was slaughter."

The AI flicked one of his ears. "The slaughter of amassed human forces is a tragically common tale from the war, and something that I believe isn't known enough."

The sergeant pulled herself out of the pod. Her paws touched down on the cool catwalk and she looked down at the shorter avatar, then at the human specter, still there. "The scale of it isn't easy to get your nose around," she said as she observed the specter. His burns were gone, leaving him in an Earth soldier's uniform, though his back was still to her. She saw red crosses of the human medical insignia on some of his equipment. "Dylan," she said, her voice cracking. "Is he waiting at the human sector?"

"Yes," Dahashi responded. Kira abruptly walked into him, his form flickering from the interruption. "Hold a moment!" he said after her, sounding grumpy from the walk through his avatar. Kira paused and regarded him over her shoulder. "First, don't walk through me. It's rude! You don't phase through fleshy people, do you?"

The lupari rolled her eyes and smirked, amused at the comment. It was a relief after what she saw. "I can't walk through fleshy people."

"Well, yes, of course. But I did not say you could. I said you do not."

"But I'd walk through them if I could."

The blue falashai threw his arms up, flabbergasted. "Barbarian! Ahem. Now, more importantly, Molayoninuoluwa Obasi, better known as Maduk the Guardian and Charge Internal Affairs officer is speaking with Dylan right now. He wishes to speak with you when you collect your charge."

Kira's ears splayed. "Do you know what he wishes to talk about?"

"He is asking Dylan about you right now. It sounds like he is looking for trouble in your relationship."

The lupari scoffed. "He won't find anything." Kira turned her attention ahead again and took only half of a step before pausing and looking back at the AI again. "Oh... did he see everything?"

"Only the training session and how you convinced Dylan to share his memory," the AI said. "I apologize for not giving a proper explanation. I do actually believe it was a wise decision to view Dylan's memory, horrible as it was. Thankfully the nosy human did'nt have that clearance to view Dylan's memory."

Kira flicked her ear and growled softly. Without saying another word she padded along the catwalk. The lupari descended several stairs to reach the human sector at ground level, embedded into a wall, only taking up the space of several normal sized pods.

Kira found Dylan and Maduk talking on the catwalk just behind the transfer pad. Her charge noticed her coming and nodded in her direction, prompting them both to turn to face her. Maduk flashed a large smile at her, his white teeth almost shining in contrast to his dark skin. Dylan, however, looked like someone flicked him on the nose. He was absolutely agitated.

"Greetings!" Maduk said, in his native tongue, his language unfamiliar to Kira before it translated in her ear piece. "Sergeant Kirache Rottjir, I assume."

The lupari canted her head slightly, her nostrils flaring. The man appeared pleasant in expression, but she could smell the familiar scent of fear coming from him. "Yes, and you are Maduk. I understand you wish to speak with me?"

Maduk nodded once. "Yes, however your charge has told me most of what I need to know. I only have one question for you." He looked at Dylan, who glowered at him, then back up at Kira. "Do you think your charge would be able to function with another guardian?"

The lupari immediately flicked her ear affirmative and opened her mouth to say yes, but caught herself and glanced at Dylan. He slowly nodded, though now a sympathetic frown was on his face. She had an idea where this was going. "Yes," she finally said.

Maduk clapped his hands together. "Excellent! Then you will be exchanging charges with Sergeant Yirshan Kultak, beginning after the weekend."

Kira barked out, "What?!" and her ears stood straight. Maduk took several steps back and his anxious look around did not escape the lupari's notice. "Why? What are your reasons?"

Maduk tugged his shirt collar, yet kept that irritatingly friendly smile despite his terrified scent. "Mr. Maddock's trauma makes him especially malleable of mind. The rate at which you two have grown close makes me believe there is some amount of coercion involved."

Kira's fur bristled and a growl rose in her throat, but Dylan cut her off by saying, "You're a fucking psychologist now? I'm not going to let anyone coerce me." He placed himself in front of the slightly shorter man, glaring at him, his fists balled up. "Imply that again and maybe I'll have a psychotic break on you. How about that?"

The sergeant bit her lower lip, one fang pinching it, as she suppressed a chuckle. Maduk remained impassive, but held up his hands. "Please be calm. Answer me this - have you willingly shared stories like yours with anyone else besides your guardian?"

Dylan glanced aside, hesitating. "No."

Maduk nodded. "And you have known her for only around three weeks, yes?"

"Your point?"

"My point is that in two weeks, not even the full three, you went from being terrified of her to sharing your traumatic past with her and even beginning a…" Maduk waved his hand in circles, fishing for a word. "An affectionate relationship with her. The rate of such a development seems far too quick for simple friends."

The medic scoffed and stepped away from the other man, leaning up against the railing and folding his arms. "Okay, great, so she's just being pleasant about the whole thing and I don't want to be some angst ridden mess and actually sort my issues out. Great psychology there, buddy. Aren't you supposed to be looking for actual trouble, like what Trikil was? Not shitting all over great pairs? What do you think this will help?"

"What I think," Maduk said, "is that if you are able to function with another guardian, then you will show that you are of sounder mind than I believe you are. You really should not be serving like this, but that is not within my power, only this."

Kira mirrored Dylan's pose and folded her arms. "So you want him to have some more psychotic breakdowns and get him discharged. Captain Duntay already bit that as an option. Why are you doing this?"

The civilian took a deep breath, his fear still admirably hidden to anyone without a decent nose. "I do not want him discharged, but if that happens then perhaps it is in his best interest. The way he clings to you, partakes in those… affections… and speaks of such personal problems implies you have much sway over him. Is it coercion? Perhaps not. Whatever it is that makes him so susceptible to your influence, it should be determined if is harmful to him. If you can control him or not."

Dylan shook his head and laughed. "Sounds like just becoming fast friends to me. But hell, what do I know about myself? I'm not a head doctor. Really should just leave it to the folks that know me better than me, like you."

Maduk didn't grace that with a retort. "This change will last one week. If Private Maddock remains in his right mind with no signs of degradation without Sergeant Rottjir as his guardian, then I will believe it is simply a good friendship." He bowed his head slightly. "Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I, ah," he coughed, "must return to reviewing simulation records while I await my escort."

Kira and Dylan didn't say anything back nor wish a farewell as they watched him head off down the catwalk to vanish into a room behind the pods. Once he was gone, the both of them deflated. Dylan turned and headed towards the transfer pad while Kira immediately laid her hand down, ready for him. "Fuck him," the medic said as he climbed aboard, sitting himself in the middle.

The sergeant tucked her hand to her stomach, waited a moment for her charge to lean back, then turned around and head for the door. "I suspect he wishes to use his power. He seems to have far too much for this. I think Duntay's ears will shake in rage when he hears about this."

Dylan let out a strained chuckle. "I don't think he's capable of that much emotion."

"Oooh…" Kira said as she walked outside, the door sliding open for her. "The viliti can surprise you very mu- er, Sergeant Mitchell?" The lupari halted when she noticed Mitchell's mech stopped just outside of the simulation hive, on the side of the path, standing in the grass as soldiers passed him by.

The man was sitting on the open deck of his mech, legs dangling, as he played with his yutri using a forearm mounted holographic projection. His arm laid in his lap while the other fiddled with the projected controls, controlling whatever was on the screen displayed in front of him. He looked up from his device, a smoking cigarette butt in his mouth. "Kira, Dylan," he said with a nod then got right back to his yutri.

"Maduk is waiting for you," Kira said.

"Yeah, I know." Mitchell grabbed the cigarette and snuffed it out on an ashtray next to him with a couple others in it. He pulled another one from his breast pocket, along with a lighter, and lit it, his eyes squinting from the close brightness of his forearm projection. The lighter closed with a click and clattered on the mech's deck as he returned to his yutri. "Fuck that guy. I'm stealing ancient asishi art. Gotta run before the guards eat me." His brow furrowed as he focused on what was apparently a game, smoke rising in front of his face.

Kira's ears flicked happily at the sound of a proper laugh from Dylan. The lupari started walking again. When she was out of earshot with Mitchell, she said, "Dylan, I have a question."

"Yeah?"

"Why do humans wish to fornicate with people they don't like?"

A smug grin broke across the lupari's muzzle as the human groaned in mock frustration.
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Re: Integration (Part Eleven - 5/14/2015)

Postby gadabout » Sat May 16, 2015 11:26 am

Whew, well that was long, but very nice indeed :D

It seems Dylan and Kira are getting very close indeed, I like how well they are opening up to each other, which is the perfect time to split em up. Good on you Maddy boy, you are my hero >:I
RIP Baggy52.

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Re: Integration (Part Eleven - 5/14/2015)

Postby ella7382 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 4:36 pm

Hi there! I always read your forum comments and must say that you are very good writer. Like the topic of discussion!
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