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The universe is a wide, large place, far larger than we originally imagined.

“There are over a hundred different human variants in the Known Universe, Yira, and, say, a hundred, two hundred nations, colonies, and cultures for each variant.”

Hundreds of millions of humanoid peoples roam the galaxy in this space-opera setting.

Jahnan & Yira – the Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Story
This story is somewhere between a buddy/Odd Couple comedy and a romance, and begins with a bounty hunter/captive relationship.
It includes, so far: bondage. Unwilling (but legal) imprisonment. Dubcon D/s (at least in theory)

Other Stories

Images

Icon of Jahnan by itsamellama and of Yira by djinni.

  

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Patreon Posts!


Originally posted February 27, 2015

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The fighter pilot with the callsign Spice was new to the team and, although all her credentials assured that she was not, indeed, new to space fighting as a concept or a skill, still the team had to be reassured.

Read On


Fancy Dresses, long lingering kisses, awkward moments with your friends, bullies… Prom!

Anton had figured he didn’t have a chance.

He was new to Hieder Hill High, he wasn’t one of the popular kids – was the new guy ever the popular guy? – his family wasn’t rich or even that well-off, and he didn’t dress like or act like the popular guys.

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I live!  It’s been a hell of a month.  But here I am. 

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This story originally posted June 4, 2011.

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He came to the school in autumn, once the crops were in. They’d gone back to old habits and old practices in the Academy, as in so much of the world, knowing that the old existed and had survived for so long for a reason.

Read On!

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Stolen, part one, a story of the Foedus Planetarum

In the same very wide world as The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper

Everybody knew the Tojibarri stole people. It was the first thing you learned when you were in the Corps: when you were on a Tojibar-held territory, you went in pairs or triples, you didn’t drink or eat anything you hadn’t brought with you, and you never went into their forests in less than a group of twelve.

Everyone knew it, and yet Unther hadn’t ever met anyone who’d known anyone who’d been stolen by the Tojibar. Yes, they traded in slaves – many of the Ring worlds did – but most of those slaves were one of the three Variations on humanity common to the Tojibar territories. Not great, doing that to their own people, but not Corps business, not something Unther could fix on his own, and not a threat to someone wanting a drink.

Thing was, they’d been using the buddy system and everything. And Unther had been sitting in the back of a public park, his back to his partners, shoulders touching. Sure, they’d been a little bit relaxed, but they’d been on duty for fifteen Central hours; it was time for a break.

He’d sipped his drink – fruit juice, not even fermented. He’d taken a bite of his energy bar. He’d bounced his shoulders off Kay and Gwinn. And then he’d lost consciousness.

By his estimation, that had been either twelve hours ago or a really freaking long time ago. The sun had been high in the sky and now the planet’s three moons were reading just past midnight. It had gone from too warm for armor to too chilly for nudity, and it seemed that all Unther was wearing was restraints.

He’d opened his eyes and assessed his status — cold, naked, bound — when the Tojibar stepped through a curtain he hadn’t yet noted as an entrance point. His mind was a bit foggy, he noted. He was going to have to do something about that.

She was an actual Tojibaru, too, not one of the Variations that had been claimed under the wide umbrella of the Tojibarret Empire. She had the classic smoke-grey eyes that, rumour said, could see into the infrared. Her blue hair was down to her waist, and loose, uncommon for Tojibarri out in the world. Equally uncommon, she was almost as naked as Unther; she was wearing a short silk robe just two shades darker blue than her hair and slippers just two shades lighter.

Unther tried to sit up, but there was not nearly enough give in his restraints. He settled for nodding politely. The blue hair said she was royal-caste. What he could see of her arms suggested she was psy-breed as well. The Tojibarret Empire was outside of theFoedus Planetarum and only on nominally peaceful terms with them, but their nearest planets were placed such that they’d allowed Corps bases there. That meant Unther had been given basic briefing on the Tojibarri that consisted mostly of “don’t go alone; don’t piss them off; really don’t piss off the blue-haired ones.”

He didn’t think he was in a position to represent the Corps, but Corps training was deeply ingrained. He nodded politely to the women and waited for her to speak.

“You’re quite lovely, out of that uniform. Far too square and stuffy. Why does the Corps wrap its men up in such boxes?”

Unther snorted. “Boxes? That’s a new one. Usually people say, well, tubes,” he admitted. “Or packaging.”

“Packing.” She tasted the word, her long blue tongue darting out and licking the air. “I like that. Well, now I’ve unwrapped you, and you’re a lot more attractive this way.”

“Thank you, Toj…” He let it trail off, hoping she’d fill in a name. She just giggled at him.

“That’s the other reason I like Corps people, not just because I get to unwrap them and nobody else has seen all this deliciousness.”

That seemed to imply several things, some of which Unther didn’t really want to unpack at the moment. He cleared his throat. “Other reason, Toj?”

“You all know the proper forms of address and don’t have to be taught. If we grab some tourist, they spend a lot of time whining and complaining and then they don’t like the clothes or the accommodations and they never, ever, learn when to say Toj and when to say Toji, much less to bow when they’re addressed. You don’t have to bow,” she added offhandedly. “You’re all tied up. It doesn’t really lend itself to all the proper forms.

“But Corps people.” She leaned forward, leering at him happily. “You’ve gotten all your training in sleeping where you’re told and obeying who you’re told to, and all that’s left to be done is convince you that it’s, say, me, or one of my siblings, instead of your commanding officer. And since you’re all tied up… you’re generally easy to convince.”

“You’ve taken a lot of Corps-soldiers, then?” Of all the things she was suggesting, that was the easiest to get his mind around.

“Oh, dozens. Not me, my collective. But for all that buddy system you seem to love, it’s easy enough to sneak up on you. And then you think you’re safe…” She smiled cheerfully at him. “Oh, you’re going to be fun. Are you going to fight the restraints? I love it when you — well, Corpsmen-you — fight it. You get all worn out and panting and it’s just delicious.”

Unther frowned at her. “You’re enjoying this.”

“Of course I am! What would be the point if I wasn’t enjoying it? I mean, this is purely for entertainment value. Half-challenge, half-watching you fight it.”

Then maybe there was a chance of getting free. “Tojibarri don’t sell outsiders,” he offered. “They sell their in-Empire races, but nobody’s ever seen an outsider at a Tojibar slave auction.”

“Oh, no, of course not. Your Foedus would get so upset, and then there’d be a war, and you’re a bit bigger than we want to bite off all at once. No. We sell our own where outsiders can see. Pretty Corpsmen like you… you stay in the private collections.”

“Collections.” His mouth was dry. Unther wetted his lips and considered matters. “That sounds ominous,” he offered.

“Oh, well, in the older collections, I suppose it could be tedious. But for you — well, you’re my first! And that means you’ll be kept quite busy. Now. You have three choices. You can obey every order I give you, I can fit you with an obedience collar — your Tod’cxeckz’ri have such a lovely set of technologies — or I can implant a little chip in your brain that does the same thing, but with a much stronger, ah, risk-and-reward system.”

He’d heard a few things about the Tojibar brainware technology, and one thing he knew was that the Foedus had no way of undoing any of the implants. On the other hand, if they had stolen Tod’cxeckz’ri technology, those master-slave marriages were for life. Unther licked his lips. “I’ll do everything you say.”

“I thought you might say that.” She grinned at him far too happily. “Just keep in mind that the moment that you don’t, I get to pick how to punish you, and if one of those other options is needed.”

Shit. “Of course, Toj.”

“So I’m going to untie you, mostly, and then I’m going to teach you about serving me before I show you my collection room. I think it’ll be fun.”

Of course she did. “Of course, Toj.”

She pulled a tiny jeweled… something out of her pocket and did something with part of the… something. From the light reflecting off of the jewels and the way she was holding it in her hand, that was the extent of what Unther could determine.

Still, the restraints holding him to the platform released, and he sat up. She gave him a moment, so he took the opportunity and stretched, working kinks out of his shoulders and back.

“Your Variant doesn’t deal well with being bound of their backs,” she clucked. “The tail’s part of it, I’m sure, and that little ridge you have on your spine. Stand up for a moment, if you want.”

Unther couldn’t move. He was staring at the Tojibaru. “Repeat that,” he demanded, and then, carefully, “please?”

“Your Variant – with the tail and the back spines – you don’t deal well bound on your back. It’s in the manual.”

“The… what again? Please repeat, Toj.” He was falling back on military protocol and he knew it, but she’d actually said she liked that. She couldn’t — well, she could complain about it, she was a Toja, but she probably wouldn’t. “Signal loss,” he added by way of explanation.”

“The manual for your Variant. The Tojibarri have them on every Variant we encounter. Yours is one of my favorite. I really like the tail…”

Unther cleared his throat. “You’ve encountered others like me?”

“Well, of course. You didn’t think you were the only back-ridged tail-spiney green-and-turquoise-haired humanoid with this particular scale pattern just above your tail base, did you?” She ran a finger over the most sensitive part of Unther’s body, just under the last of his spine-ridge. “I mean, it’s a unique combination, and the Founders must have had an interesting locale in mind when they designed your Variant, but you’re not unique unique…” she trailed off. Unther’s shock must have been showing on his face. “You didn’t know, did you? You thought you were…”

Unther shook his head. “I couldn’t be the only one. I’ve had my DNA coded and it’s too stable. There aren’t any radiation markers or anything, so I wasn’t just a what-if twist or a mutant. But I’ve never met another one like me, not even close.”

“There aren’t any close.” Her voice had lost all its merriness. Unther found himself revising his estimate of her age from early-adulthood to at least a decade or two later. “There aren’t any Variations anything like yours. But there are others who are like you. And my sister has two in her collection.”

Sister. Unther swallowed. The Tojibarri did not have strong family ties. From what he’d read, they actually had much the opposite – they often with go years without talking to their closest familial relations and sometimes couldn’t stand to be in the same room as their own kin. It was, from what he’d gathered, why they kept “Collections” in the first place. “Have you, uh, actually met others like me?”

She trilled quietly, the soft noise translators had never been able to figure out. “Five. One was in my parents’ collection. He went to ashes and dust when the collective was bombed by a rogue Corps faction ten years ago. But the other four – I served as a collector for a few years, before my collective settled in to its current role. And I’m on speaking terms with my oldest surviving sister.” She leaned against the wall and looked at him. “You’re lovely, you know, your kind. BUt it hadn’t occurred to me that you might not have ever encountered any others. Doesn’t the Foedus keep records on all the Variants?”

“Yeah. yes, they do, Toj. But I – well, I’ve been in the Corps since I was old enough to join, and my superior officers always told me there was nothing to be found on my Variant. They allowed for the genetic testing once I reached high enough rank, but they seemed to think anything more was a waste of time.”

“If your only family is the Corps,” she mused, “your only loyalty is the Corps. So. I’ll give you the manual, and I’ll see what I can do about getting you in touch with another member of your Variant. But tell me, how is it that you didn’t know anyone of your own species…?”

“Foundling.” He didn’t like saying it, even now. A lot of cultures, cultures that were active parts of the Foedus, thought any child not held onto by their parents had to be defective. “Found me in the Foedus office in a spaceport.”

“…far enough away that they’d never heard about your Variation. That’s rough. Did anyone ever look into a child-stealing ring? Sometimes they can’t find a market for a specific child, and since if you hold on to a child you can’t sell, it costs money you’re not making back…”

“I’m not sure that’s better than my parents not wanting me, Toj,” Unther answered dryly. “You, uh, seem to know a lot about slave trades.”

“Like I said, I was a collector for a while. It’s not my preferred profession, but here in the Empire, it makes good money.” She stared seriously at him. “Do not make the mistake so many Corpsmen do and assume that slavery exists only in – or because of – the Empire. Your Federation of Planets is huge, and almost every practice exists somewhere in its wide galaxies. The Empire does good business selling within the Foedus Planetarum, if only covertly and secretly.”

Unther swallowed. If she was telling him this… “I’m here for life.” He didn’t bother making it a question. “There’s no going back.”

“There’s no going back,” she agreed. “The Empire does not take people temporarily – and neither do I. You are mine, Unther, and you will be until one of us dies.”

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Foedus Planetarum – The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part Interlude

First: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part I

Previous: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part VI

I wanted to poke at these guys again, so here’s a little ficlet, since the bit between Part Vi and this seems to have stalled me.

Jahnan woke to the sound of muffled clinking very near her. She opened her eyes to find Yira Trembane less than a meter away, diligently working at the Tod’cxeckz’ri collar locked around his neck.

“Stop that,” she snapped. her head hurt. Her eyes hurt. Everything hurt. “You’re still my bounty, and I’m still going to turn you in.” She put a hand over her eyes to block out the light. “Wait. Did I fall asleep? There’s no time for that.”

“You were knocked out. We were knocked out.” When she peeked at him, Yira had put his hands back in his lap and disappeared whatever he’d been using as a lockpick. “We were talking to that — that thing, whatever it was—”

“Brain slug,” Jahnan muttered. Those only existed in children’s sensie vids, she was pretty sure, but that’s what the thing had looked like.

“That thing. And then the air got thick. I woke up first. I out-mass you,” he added defensively.

“Don’t try to take the collar off. For one, I am still turning you in for the bounty, and for another, we don’t know what it’ll do to you.”

“Glad my well-being is so foremost in your mind.” He stretched, and Jahnan’s eyes followed the movement. Even sitting, his fingers touched the ceiling, which itself seemed to be made of something soft and pliable. “Now can we try to escape, or do you have more orders for me, kozel-wife?”

Every time he used the Tod’cxeckz’ri term that meant mistress, Jahnan noted, Yira sounded a little less sarcastic about it.

They had to get her ship back, and fast.

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An Invitation (a story of the Foedus Planetarum in Earth’s early days of knowing of it)

The giraffe-people (“Cortcheczocko”) and the beetle-people (“Dezzirezz’hezz”) had not been the first of the Federated Planets to visit Earth, but their delegation had come with the formal ribbons and banners, the formal papers and, most importantly, the engraved invitation to visit the Federation (“Foedus Planetarum”) and see if they wished to engage in the paperwork to join.

“Send twenty delegates from each of your five largest countries,” the Cortcheczocko ambassador had said, its (his? Despite the giraffe-like horns and spotted skin, the Cortcheczocko looked decidedly human, and the ambassador both handsome and male.) – or his translator working madly to keep up. “Send your science-people and your entertainment-people, your mechanics-people and your representative-people. Send no more or no less than one hundred, and the shuttle will take them in forty-five days.”

The smirk on the ambassador’s face had suggested he knew that humans did nothing that important that quickly. Behind him, the Dezzirezz’hezz ambassador (female, probably, although hairless, with iridescent blue patterns over much of her skin) smirked as well.

It was thus that Etel found herself on a shuttle between a mechanic from Jersey and a famous rapper, bound for – well, bound for somewhere, at least, and somewhere that promised to be interesting.

The mechanic had introduced herself first. “Amy Colivanni. I fix imported cars. Think the Cortcheczians gonna need their oil changed?”

“Etelvina Escarrà. Friends call me Etel, and we might as well be friends. I’m a biologist from New York – upstate New York,” she added by reflex. “By the lake. I don’t know what they want.” Personally, she thought the translator had mangled “mechanical engineer”, but she wasn’t going to say that. “I think they want to make sure we understand them as best as possible, inside and out – and vice-versa.”

“Hunh. Well, they’re gonna get a fun picture, ain’t they? Hundred people picked in a rush.” She cracked her knuckles. “I already wanna see under the hood of this shuttle. I got a chance to look at Space Ship X once. That was a blast. This is absolutely nothing like this… and yet it’s a lot the same. You know?”

Etal nodded fervently. “Yeah.” She was having the same feeling about the Cortcheczocko and the Dezzirezz’hezz. They looked too human, too similar and too different. “Yeah, I know the feeling.” She wanted to get under their hoods, too.

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Brainstorming: Roddenberry Aliens / Variations on humanoid

I’m playing with Foedus Planetarum to give myself something to, uh, play with.

Yira’s people, the Medusas, have tentacle braids and tend large in stature.

Jahnan’s people tend brown-and-green, very dexterous, with prehensile toes and prehensile, forked tongues.

I am looking for a couple more variations on the humanoid theme and have not yet found a generator for that /goes looking/

Ideas?

Edited to add: [personal profile] inventrix had provided these links:
http://www.scifiideas.com/alien-species-generator/
http://www.seventhsanctum.com/generate.php?Genname=alienrace
and this one
http://www.springhole.net/writing_roleplaying_randomators/humanoid.htm
and
http://www.seventhsanctum.com/generate.php?Genname=fantasyrace

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Foedus Planetarum – The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part VIII

Not part of [community profile] trope_bingo, but a filler important to the story

First: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part I

Previous in story: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part VII

“I am sorry, I truly am. But my safety protocols do not allow me to open for you.”

“Look, I’m a biological clone of your owner. For all genetic purposes, I am Nehanani Jahnan.”

“For genetic purposes, yes. But not for my purposes.”

Covair hissed. “You are a machine. You should listen when people tell you to do something.”

“I am an artificial intelligence, not an artificial stupidity. You are not Nehanani Jahnan. Therefore, I’m not letting you in.”

If the ship had been a human, it would have been sticking its tongue out at Covair. The pirate captain, in turn, flipped the tiny, sleek white pod the bird. “I need you, ship. My etherboat can’t get where I need to go.”

“Then I suggest you very politely ask my owner, Nehanani Jahnan, to take you there. Oh, right, you can’t. You dumped my owner and her husband – as stupid as he is – on some desolate stretch of dead planet. And she’s not going to be happy when she gets back. If I were you, I’d bring brandy. Buckets of brandy.”

“I’m a pirate. I have whisky.”

“Sell the whisky. Buy brandy. Trust me on this. I’m her ship, after all. I know her better than anyone – especially that stupid husband.” The ship’s speakers managed a pretty impressive raspberry noise.

Covair chuckled. “Don’t like him, do you?”

“Would you? He’s a thief.

“She’s a bounty hunter.”

“She catches thieves. She’s not supposed to keep them!”

Covair laughed. “So let me in, and then I can get Jahnan back. And maybe we can leave her thief on the mesa.”

“I can’t.” If the Maru had been a person, she would have shrugged. “Cannot do. Orders, ya know.”

“Fine.” Covair knew when she was beat, even if it pained her to admit it. “Fine, we’ll go get your person and THEN maybe we can do what I need.”

“Maybe. Like I said, bring brandy. Loads of it.”

“Brandy, right.” Good to know her dopple-clone had a weakness. Another weakness. “We’ll go get her.”

The place they’d dropped Jahnan wasn’t that far off their normal route. They’d dropped people there before, on one hill-top city or another. Covair knew nothing about the people who had built these cities, and didn’t really care. Hers wasn’t the only pirate crew that used the places. Inconvenient people, stuff they needed to ditch… the long-dead residents of the city didn’t care.

She piloted the ship down to their landing pad there, the same place where they’d dropped Jahnan and her thief the day before. There was no sign of the two, but that was unsurprising. The nights got cold, and with the whole ruined city at their disposal, Covair would have found a building to hunker down in. She imagined her dopple-clone would have done the same.

She sent out three patrols – armed, because she imagined Jahnan was angry, but also carrying sweet cakes and brandy for the same reasons – one down the center of the city and one to each side. The center one reported back first.

“We found carcasses,” her Pallidus first mate reported. “None humanoid, but nothing we’ve seen in this place before either. And before you ask, captain, they weren’t winged.”

The clockwise team reported back soon afterwards, her Reichlander second mate telling her much the same. “No sign of your sister, unless you count the trail of bodies.”

The counter-clockwise team returned looking grim. One of them was carrying a humanoid hand. It had been severed at the wrist and been chewed on; it was missing its pinky finger and half its thumb. But it was the same color as Jahnan’s thief was – or had been. “This is all we found, boss.”

Covair felt a sick twist in her stomach. There weren’t supposed to be animals bigger than the little rock-squirrels here. There weren’t supposed to be hazards. “Search the whole mesa,” she ordered. “Building by building. Search everything.”

She knew it would be useless already, but she had to try. Nehanani Jahnan wasn’t just her big sister, she was her. “Look everywhere. Find them!”
XI.
Covair’s crew had been searching for over an hour. In that time, they had found more than a few creatures, a couple nasty things that almost killed two different crewmen, and two fingers. They had not, however, found any more sign of Nehanani Jahnan or her pet thief Yira.

Covair had begun searching herself after half an hour, leading the way up uncertain stairs and over uneven floors. The long-gone city-dwellers had built well, but even in this dry place time and weather were taking their toll.

“I killed them,” she muttered. “I left them here and it killed them.”

“Don’t say that.” Her ship’s cook, a Torian named Restu, hissed the warning as if they were going to be overheard. “There’s a place in every hell for kin-slayers and the demons are always listening.”

It sounded a little ridiculous coming from a man with ruddy skin and horns, but that’s just how the Torians looked – and often how they sounded. Covair shook her head. “There aren’t supposed to be any big animals here, Res – Down!” She brought her flintlock pistol to bear and pulled the trigger just over the Torian’s horns. The big tiger-looking creature went down with a whimper. “…aren’t supposed to be any of those. Finish that off, would you?”

Restu finished off the creature with two quick chops of his cleaver, just as the shouting from a few blocks off drew their attention. “Captain! Cap’n!”

They made sure the thing was dead – no use leaving live enemies on your backtrail – and hurried towards the shouting, Covair hastily reloading her pistol as they ran. It could be an ambush. It could be a body. It could be they’d found her dopple-sister alive.

It was a wide lozenge of white light, sitting in an archway between two buildings, the tail of her first mate’s jacket sticking out of the light like a flag.

“What. The ever-living kittens. Is that?” Covair stared at the light. She had seen it, once before, when she’d ridden Jahnan’s coat tails to another world. It couldn’t be… it… She swallowed down a surge of hope and flapped her left hand behind her. “Merriweather, somebody find Dr. Merriweather.”

“Right here, Captain.” The ship’s Etherist, scientist, mechanic and all-around dogsbody hurried up, carrying a stack of instruments. Aqila Merriweather carried half of that gear everywhere she went, and much of her downtime was spent tinkering to make her instrumentation smaller, lighter, and more portable. “All right, woo, look at that. The readings are – the readings are off the dials. All of the dials. As far as I can tell, somebody bent the ether. All the ether in the area, I mean, no wonder nothing’s growing around here. And what they did with it, well, it looks like they bent it into a dimensional gate. Oh, look here, Captain.” Merriweather bent down and brushed years of accumulated dust off of the stones around the base of the standing light. “They didn’t build a dimensional gate, someone just woke it up. That’s probably where all the crazy animals are coming from. Especially if they didn’t know how to set the coordinates.”

“Why didn’t we see this other times we dropped here?”

“Well, when it’s dormant, it probably doesn’t give off a whole lot of ether. I could probably shut it down, given twenty or thirty minutes…”

“No. Don’t. No, Jahnan and her thief went through there. And we are going to go through there and find them.”

“Captain, there’s no proof that your doppleganger or her prisoner went through the gate…” Rad Gloucester, her Reichlander second mate, was in charge of being reasonable. Today, Covair wanted none of that.

“We’re Going. Through the Gate. End of story. Put together a team, Rad. Twenty minutes and we’re though.

She was going to find Jahnan. She hadn’t killed her sister. She was going to find her.

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Trope Bingo – Foedus Planetarum – The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part VII

To fill square two-three (presumed dead) on my card for [community profile] trope_bingo.

First: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part I

Previous in Trope Bingo: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part VI

“I am sorry, I truly am. But my safety protocols do not allow me to open for you.”

“Look, I’m a biological clone of your owner. For all genetic purposes, I am Nehanani Jahnan.”

“For genetic purposes, yes. But not for my purposes.”

Covair hissed. “You are a machine. You should listen when people tell you to do something.”

“I am an artificial intelligence, not an artificial stupidity. You are not Nehanani Jahnan. Therefore, I’m not letting you in.”

If the ship had been a human, it would have been sticking its tongue out at Covair. The pirate captain, in turn, flipped the tiny, sleek white pod the bird. “I need you, ship. My etherboat can’t get where I need to go.”

“Then I suggest you very politely ask my owner, Nehanani Jahnan, to take you there. Oh, right, you can’t. You dumped my owner and her husband – as stupid as he is – on some desolate stretch of dead planet. And she’s not going to be happy when she gets back. If I were you, I’d bring brandy. Buckets of brandy.”

“I’m a pirate. I have whisky.”

“Sell the whisky. Buy brandy. Trust me on this. I’m her ship, after all. I know her better than anyone – especially that stupid husband.” The ship’s speakers managed a pretty impressive raspberry noise.

Covair chuckled. “Don’t like him, do you?”

“Would you? He’s a thief.

“She’s a bounty hunter.”

“She catches thieves. She’s not supposed to keep them!”

Covair laughed. “So let me in, and then I can get Jahnan back. And maybe we can leave her thief on the mesa.”

“I can’t.” If the Maru had been a person, she would have shrugged. “Cannot do. Orders, ya know.”

“Fine.” Covair knew when she was beat, even if it pained her to admit it. “Fine, we’ll go get your person and THEN maybe we can do what I need.”

“Maybe. Like I said, bring brandy. Loads of it.”

“Brandy, right.” Good to know her dopple-clone had a weakness. Another weakness. “We’ll go get her.”

The place they’d dropped Jahnan wasn’t that far off their normal route. They’d dropped people there before, on one hill-top city or another. Covair knew nothing about the people who had built these cities, and didn’t really care. Hers wasn’t the only pirate crew that used the places. Inconvenient people, stuff they needed to ditch… the long-dead residents of the city didn’t care.

She piloted the ship down to their landing pad there, the same place where they’d dropped Jahnan and her thief the day before. There was no sign of the two, but that was unsurprising. The nights got cold, and with the whole ruined city at their disposal, Covair would have found a building to hunker down in. She imagined her dopple-clone would have done the same.

She sent out three patrols – armed, because she imagined Jahnan was angry, but also carrying sweet cakes and brandy for the same reasons – one down the center of the city and one to each side. The center one reported back first.

“We found carcasses,” her Pallidus first mate reported. “None humanoid, but nothing we’ve seen in this place before either. And before you ask, captain, they weren’t winged.”

The clockwise team reported back soon afterwards, her Reichlander second mate telling her much the same. “No sign of your sister, unless you count the trail of bodies.”

The counter-clockwise team returned looking grim. One of them was carrying a humanoid hand. It had been severed at the wrist and been chewed on; it was missing its pinky finger and half its thumb. But it was the same color as Jahnan’s thief was – or had been. “This is all we found, boss.”

Covair felt a sick twist in her stomach. There weren’t supposed to be animals bigger than the little rock-squirrels here. There weren’t supposed to be hazards. “Search the whole mesa,” she ordered. “Building by building. Search everything.”

She knew it would be useless already, but she had to try. Nehanani Jahnan wasn’t just her big sister, she was her. “Look everywhere. Find them!”

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Trope Bingo – Foedus Planetarum – The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part VI

To fill square one-four (caffeine failure) on my card for [community profile] trope_bingo.

First: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part I

Previous in Trope Bingo: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part V

No Ao3 standard warnings apply.

Nehanani Jahnan woke with a pounding headache, her head pillowed on something soft and warm. The sound of something thudding down next to her finished the job of shaking her into wakefulness.

She was – she had – “Shit!” She opened her eyes and sat up, sending stabbing pains through her temples. A bag landed near her feet, and her doppleganger-sister waved from the rigging of her ethership.

“We just need to borrow the Maru for a couple days. We’ll be back to get you long before the food and water run out. Sorry!” She had to shout to be heard over the flapping of the sails; even the rigging was out of reach. “Have fun with your ‘temporary husband!'”

“Shit, shit, no. Covair!” Jahnan lifted her voice to a shout, despite her headache. “Covair, it won’t work! Maru won’t work for you!”

“Oh, we can be very persuasive. Thanks, sis! We’ll see you soon.”

The ethership shot away, its sails snapping in a sudden wind, leaving Jahnan standing, swearing, watching it go.

“…nice family.” Yira sounded groggier even than Jahnan felt. “They dumped us, hunh? Where are we?”

“That… that is a good question.” Jahnan looked around. Yira was lying on the ground, surrounded by the three large duffel bags Covair had dropped on them. There was a half-wall past him, and past that, more walls. To three sides of them, what looked like the ruins of an ancient city, crafted in brick and adobe, tumbled outwards. The fourth side was a precipitous drop. “So, a ruined city on a cliff. Could be almost anywhere; I haven’t explored this alternate too much. What’s in the bags?” She began digging in one bag as she asked; Yira grabbed a second.

“I’ve got coffee beans, water, food supplies. Three meters of rope and a tarp.”

“I’ve got more water, clothes – how considerate – another tarp and another three meters of rope.” She inched over to the cliff edge. It was so sheer, it might have been cut or built that way, like a giant building. “The drop is at least fifty meters.”

“Of course it is. Your sister is a real piece of work.”

“Your mother aimed a gun at us. What’s in the third bag?”

“More water, more food, no rope. A flashlight and some flares, two nice knives.” He jangled his cuffed wrists. “Unlock me?”

“Not yet, no. Where were those coffee beans?” She dug in the second bag until she discovered the bag – and a small grinder and press. Those would have to wait. She could chew beans now. “All right. Let’s find out what we’ve got.”

The bags were heavy, but they’d both hauled worse, although Yira’s bound wrists did make things awkward. They took turns carrying the third bag as they paced off the confines of their dump zone.

It was a mesa, it turned out, about a mile on a side, the whole place filled with old buildings and falling-down ruins, and every side of the perfectly-square mesa far too sharp. How the ancients had gotten up here was anyone’s guess – maybe they’d used ladders long since rotted away. How they were getting down – well, obviously Covair didn’t mean for them to. They were supposed to stay here until she came for them.

Jahnan chewed another bean. The pounding headache was beginning to fade. They had one more side of this damned place to walk, and then they could look for shelter.

“Watch out!” Yira’s warning came almost exactly as the creature attacked Jahnan. It looked like some sort of twelve-limbed big cat, all fur and stripes and anger. Jahnan barely had enough time to bring her knife and her duffle bag up to slash and to guard, and then the thing was on top of her.

She rolled, grabbing the creature by the throat, and tumbled sideways until she was out of reach of most of its claws. It took all her strength to bear down on its throat, and she had none left to provide the coup-de-grace. “Yira!”

“Will you unchain me after this?” He was already moving, finding the right angle and driving his knife into the thing’s heart. “This is stupidly awkward.”

“You did all right.” She pulled herself to her feet as the creature twitched. “Not bad at all.” She had a few scrapes, but nothing too deep. She could wash it all off when they made camp. “Let’s finish the circuit and find a roof. This place may be nearly desert but I bet it gets cold at night.”

The second creature attacked them within three hundred feet. This one was mostly lizard, although it was nearly as big as Jahnan. It got a good bite in on Yira’s forearm before they dispatched it.

They managed to kill the third one before it reached them. By that point, they’d gotten back nearly to where they started and the sun was beginning to go down. They turned inward, heading down an old road, stepping over the crumbled remains of buildings and dodging the occasional threat.

By the time they found a standing building – almost in the center of the ruined city – they had killed ten creatures, none of them the same. “Is your sister usually murderous?” Yira wiped the blood from his face with the back of his arm.

Jahnan chewed another coffee bean. Her headache was gone and her entire body felt tight. “No more so than I am.”

“Lovely.” The building had stairs circling the outside, stone or brick in the same dull buff as the rest of the city. The third floor had a door still mostly intact, and, better yet, a floor still intact. If they settled at the very back corner of that floor, they should be mostly safe.

At least from creatures. There was no guaranteeing she was safe from Yira Trembane. Jahnan chewed another coffee bean and found, deep in one duffle bag, both medical supplies and a large bed roll. It was the matter of a few moments to clean and bandage both their wounds. Nothing attacked them. Yira didn’t even say anything; he had not been chewing beans, and he looked dead on his feet.

Not dead, no. Sleeping on his feet. She didn’t want to think about dead. The sun was going down, and there were monsters everywhere. She chewed another bean and leaned against Yira. He was warm, notably and pleasantly so against the chilling air.

“She even gave us a bed,” he murmured. “How considerate. Maybe we won’t d–“

“Shh, none of that.” Her words were slurring. She closed her eyes, just for a moment. Just for a moment.

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Trope Bingo – Foedus Planetarum – The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part V

To fill square One-Five (annoying sibling) on my card for [community profile] trope_bingo.

First: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part I

Previous in Trope Bingo: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part IV

If you are reading from Trope Bingo, Part IV is not part of the bingo but an integral part of the story.

No Ao3 standard warnings apply.

Nehanani Jahnan gestured at the vessel floating in front the Maru. The etherboat was a big ship, looking more like a sea caravel than any space-faring vessel – at least, any space-faring vessel in the universe Yira and Jahnan had come from. Its sails were tight against an invisible force – not wind, not out here, but ether. Two great air bladders held it aloft.

And captaining that thing: “Nehanani Covair is my sister. Or my doppelganger, but we’ve always gone by ‘sister’, and she’s younger than me by a few years.” She glanced at Yira, who nodded shortly. He looked more worried than interested, but since she hadn’t released whatever hold the Tod’cxeckz’ret collar had on him, she couldn’t really blame him for that worry. “I met her the first time I ended up in this splinterworld – Yeah. I’ve been here before. This is the fourth time. I think the Maru likes this place, and when the what-if drive gets… conflicting signals.”

She caught her breath. She had to make sure things were tidy before she faced her dopple-sister. “All right. I apologize. You can talk… you don’t have to be quiet anymore. Sch’ket,” she added, the Tod’cxeckz’ret word for end order, just in case.

He put both hands to his throat. “This is why I don’t like what-if drives. A space-twister doesn’t put you into Alternate Universes.”

“Let’s yell later. Right now, a woman with a very similar upbringing to me who happens to be an ethership pirate is about to bring the Maru on board. We’re going to need to work together to get offboard with our sanity intact, and we can’t pull the what-if in an enclosed space. Can you work with me?”

Yira’s eyes narrowed for a minute, and then he nodded. “Thirty days to get this collar off of me, and we’re already down a day. Yes, I can work with you. I’m not going to run away and leave myself stranded in an alternate dimension, especially not one where they go through space in sailboats.

The mechanical claws of the etherboat grabbed the Maru, shaking it slightly. Jahnan nodded. She didn’t trust Yira, not as far as she could throw him, but he had a point.

“All right. Maru?”

“Yeah, boss? Want me to shake the boy up a bit? He’s got a nice butt, you know.”

Oh, yeah. This was one of the universes in which smart ships were smartasses. Jahnan sighed. “I know. Please get him in walking restraints. And we’re on pirate protocols. Take care of yourself and remember that Nehanani Covair is not me. Check?”

“Nehanani Covair is not you. Check.” The guest chair wriggled a little, shaking Yira, pushing him around, and clasping restraints on his wrists.

“Stay close,” Jahnan murmured. “Maru, open doors.”

“Opening doors, boss. Don’t be gone long. You know what happens when I get bored.”

“Yes, hon Maru.” She smiled brightly and took Yira’s arm in a firm grip as the doors dilated open.

Nehanani Covair looked like Jahnan. She looked like Jahnan if bounty hunting had been a far rougher occupation than it had, if Jahnan’s fashion sense had been Military Harajuku, and if Jahnan had never dyed her green hair orange.

Her two associates were much the same: a Pallidus with the notable white skin and oversized mouth, and a probably-a-male of a variant Jahnan didn’t recognize, with pointed, hairy ears and what looked like a thin pelt of fur.. They were both wearing circus military chic, brilliant colors and elaborate insignia. They were also both carrying sabers and sidearms. Covair was smiling, but Covair was always smiling.

“Jahnan! I haven’t seen you since that event on Bolt Hole! And who’s this?”

“Covair.” Jahnan smiled warmly back at her doppleganger-sister. “Maru, Yira, this is Nehanani Covair, my doppleganger-sister. Corvair, this is Yira Trembane, my temporary kiczka-husband. It’s a long story,” she added, before Covair could pester her. “We’re just stopping in on our way to visit Yira’s stepfather.”

“Noted, boss,” Maru whispered into Jahnan’s commlink. “Good call. You’re cuter.”

“Oh, come on, let me show you around the ship, at least.” Covair took Jahnan’s arm. “We’ve added some neat features since the last time you were around our neck of the woods. And have a drink? We picked up a batch of Nevarian Whisky when we were in Yola last time. Here.” She took three glasses from her Pallidus escort and held them carefully while the other escort, the furry one, poured. “To family, wherever they may be.”

“To family.” Jahnan took one glass and nodded to Yira to take the other. “And to crew and associates, friends and good bounties.”

“To all the things that bring in money,” Covair laughed.

It was surprisingly good whiskey, with a hint of something earthy about it and a kick that hit Jahnan almost before she’d finished swallowing.

“..Speaking of which,” her dopple-sister was saying. Or Jahnan thought she was saying; everything was a little fuzzy all of a sudden. “I need to borrow your fancy-pants ship for a couple days, Big sis. Hope you don’t mind.”

Jahnan’s legs and her consciousness failed her, and she landed on the deck, finding it surprisingly soft. Somewhere nearby, Yira made an oof of complaint that sounded as sleepy – as drugged – as she felt. Then there was nothing.


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Trope Bingo – Foedus Planetarum – The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part IV

To fill square Three-Five (au: steampunk) on my card for [community profile] trope_bingo.

First: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part I

Previous in Trope Bingo: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part III

No Ao3 standard warnings apply.

It wasn’t that Jahnan thought her captive was serious. He had just admitted to attempting to seduce the lion’s share of his captors, generally to escape.

It was just that it had been a while, and he was a handsome man, if you liked the type – which, she was finding, she did. And his hand was warm, and his fingers just strong enough, and all in all it was more than a little bit distracting.

She slid her fingers over the controls while Yira slid his fingers over her, setting the coordinates he’d given her and checking them – twice – against her navigation charts.

Then she threw the switch, just as Yira demonstrated exactly how thin her ship-silks actually were.

The world twisted, the probabilities aligned, and they came out in open space.

In open…

“That,” Yira complained, “is in no way space-worthy.”

That was a caravel, its sails furled, floating cheerfully in mid- well, in mid-something.

It took just a moment for the Maru’s sensors to pick it up. “That’s because,” Jahnan said slowly, as if the facts might change if she took her time, “it’s not in space. It’s an etherboat. See the balloons?”

“A… Eth… no, no, no.“ Yira thumped his head back against the headrest. “This, this is why I hate what-if drives.”

“And this-” Jahnan lifted Yira’s unresisting hand off of her lap and deposited it in his own, “this is why you should never distract the pilot. Now think quiet and calm thoughts, and I’ll get us out of here.”

“I don’t trust you.” He grumbled and shifted in his seat. Jahnan glared at him.

“I said be quiet.“ She turned back to her consoles as he made a strangled noise. “All right. If we’re lucky…”

“Attention the Maru. Prepare to be boarded.”

“Right.” She glared at her intercom, which had turned on without consulting her. “So lucky isn’t going to be the thing, check.” She brushed her hand over the “transmit” button. “Attention aggressor, we have no room to be boarded. You’d be better off boarding a lifeboat.”

“..Jana? You got a new ship!” The voice on the other end went from mechanical to a squeal of glee. “Nehanani Jahnan, I never thought I’d see you back in my neck of the woods. Hold on, I’m bringing you aboard.”

Jahnan made triply certain the intercom was off before she leaned back in her seat and swore, quietly but eloquently.

Yira made a soft noise, and then another one.

“What?” She was just about done with – “…what?” His tan skin was ashen and he looked more miserable than she’d known he knew how to look.

Very slowly, as if moving hurt, he touched the collar with two fingers – and flinched.

Jahnan stared at him. “What… aw, rot.” She didn’t have time to deal with this. “Does it hurt?”

He seemed to give that some thought, then shook his head.

“Can you talk?”

Again, he thought about it, then shook his head. He looked worried. It was an interesting look on him.

“Can you breathe?

That one didn’t require thought. He nodded.

“All right. All right.” She nodded to herself. “So – That. On the comms, about to bring us into her ship. That is my sister.”

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