March 20th, 2241
Theeker Halwat exploded.
Thendor Thoret never got tired of watching that stupid face explode violently over and over again. He pressed the button for the next target to pop up, scowling as it did. A holo print of Theeker Halwat’s face was taped to it. He raised the laser and hit the contact, the target immediately exploded to his satisfaction.
Thoret sighed and let the laser slip off his talon and slumped. Shooting target dummies with Halwat’s face was usually enough to make him feel better when he was down. Today just didn’t have the same feeling.
Today was the day, the fourth anniversary of the day that Theeker Halwat had ruined his life.
Thoret sighed and packed up his laser and slithered away from the range and went home. He found he was just too depressed to keep his rage up.
Thendor Thoret was a sinai, his race had evolved here in the savannah grasslands of Iskrandar to be the universe’s foremost predator. Thoret himself had narrow yellow eyes with sharp vertical slits, and forest green scales, which happened to be a mildly rare colouration. He was an imposing figure for a male, at 3 Ter long—339 centimetres of the human metric system.
The thought came unbidden to him. Thinking of the human measurements brought the human female Tabitha Brax into his mind. She was just as responsible for his misery as Theeker Halwat was. He couldn’t bring himself to be as angry with her as he was Halwat, probably because she was female.
Sinai society was dominated by females. Female sinai generally were more massive, stronger, and far more aggressive than their male counterparts. Thoret had read an anthropological study about sinai written by a human who had pointed out that male sinai were comparatively docile.
I’ll show you just how docile I am if I ever find you, human, he thought darkly. It was true though; sinai females were quick to anger and known to lash out at the slightest provocation. Many male sinai avoided contact with females whenever they could, some even preferred the touch of human women. Thoret shuddered with disgust at the idea. He hadn’t the faintest idea how such an immoral act could possibly work.
Halwat had once confided in Thoret that he desired Tabitha and longed for there to be love between them. Thoret’s disgust must have shown plainly on that occasion, as Halwat had never brought the subject up again.
As he never should have, one doesn’t casually layout their perversions publicly and not expect to be derided.
Thoret glanced upwards. Iskrandar orbited the star Algol B—as the humans called it. Sinai called it hesH— an orange star in binary pair with the blue star kesH. A third star was also present, the blue-white star sesH, which too happened to be present in the sky. Fortunately for them, Iskrandar had a much stronger than average magnetic field. The radiation from the three stars of the Keshheshshesh system might have prevented life from ever arising. Some even claimed that the world had been designed by some intelligence since it was so perfect. If you could call a constantly arid world that had to import much of its water supply to be perfect. If that were the case, then Thoret had a black hole at the centre of the galaxy that he was willing to sell to the highest bidder.
He kept his head down as he slithered down the slideways, he didn’t want to meet anyone’s gaze on the crowded street. It was early in the morning, and everyone tried to get their business done during the coolest part of the day. With three stars in the system, Iskrandar had long days and very short nights. During the heights of summer, there was always at least one star in the sky, and the darkest it ever got was a twilight. Sinai were used to it. There were even some sinai on Iskrandar who couldn’t stand to travel off-world because they couldn’t psychologically adjust to the radical difference of a planet with a more normal day-night cycle.
He exited the slideway in front of his apartment building. It was a squat building of three storeys, cheap housing for people like him on his navy pension, made from vacuum-formed plas.
He slid up to the door and tapped out his door code and went up to his rooms.
Every sinai citizen was required to do a minimum of two standard years of service. Thoret had done six, and that entitled him to a pension of 5000 Ssk a month. It wasn’t much, but it was supposed to be a bonus, not as a primary source of income. He wasn’t doing too badly though, in that regard since he counted as a career veteran, he could stay here rent-free. Unless someone more important than he came along and needed the room. Officers could pick any apartment room they wanted, and he could be ordered to move if they should so desire this one.
It wasn’t likely, it was small, only three rooms, a kitchen, a bedroom, and a refresher.
Thoret put away the case for his laser and went over to the bed and crawled into it. It was an excellent bed. A flat, hard base with a low hanging canopy that had a built-in warming lamp.
Theeker Halwat slept in a human bed. Thoret had needed to supervise the load lifting robots that had first carried it into the ship and supervise them as it was assembled. He had felt nothing but contempt from the first look at it. It had been soft and plush with thick blankets. Halwat surely had gotten it with the intention of taking human women into it for his perverted desires, the cretin.
Thoret couldn’t help but brood over what this day meant. His dislike for Halwat aside. The job as Operations Officer on the Bountiful Harvest had been a good one. HT-2000 starships could almost entirely run themselves. He had grown accustomed to the high paying cushy job, and Halwat had replaced him. Replaced him with a human no less!
That was what Thoret couldn’t get over. Being replaced by some second-rate human mathematician from some unimportant world in the diaspora. Thoret was absolutely livid.
He let out a deep, shuddering sigh and irised his eyes closed to block out the light. He reached over to the control switch and flicked on the warming lamp. He was bored. He had absolutely nothing to do in his life except sit here and brood day in and day out. He even thought about how much he’d like to hurt Theeker Halwat, that male was an absolute coward, and would recoil from the slightest threat of physical violence. Thoret could beat him savagely with no opposition, but it was a pointless exercise. Halwat had not needed to come back to Iskrandar for years, and even if he did come back, how would Thoret even know? There were seven billion sinai on Iskrandar, how would one find a specific one out of so many?
He sighed. He needed out of this place, but what could he do?
His dismissal from the Bountiful Harvest would make ship captains hesitant to take him on. He would limit himself to respectable sinai captains, he’d not stoop so low to serve under a human captain. Damn that Theeker Halwat!
He might re-enlist for another tour in the navy if they’d have him. Known Space was at peace though and had been for long before he’d been hatched. Plus, he’d already done three enlistments, the Junta already had a hard enough time finding meaningful things for juveniles who were ready to do their compulsory service that there was even talk of discontinuing compulsory service altogether.
Plus, navy deployments were notoriously dull. Since Known Space was at peace, there was little for a navy spacer to actually do. That meant anything that you did do was all busywork. Endless cleaning from the start of the watch to its end was the favoured past time. If you were lucky you might get sent on an anti-piracy operation, but pirates were rare, and any pirates that did pop up were as a rule ignored by the Junta as long as they didn’t interfere with sinai shipping. Thoret’s first action during his first enlistment was actually an anti-piracy raid, and a good one. The pirates had put up a fight, and as the fire controller on duty, he’d actually fired the shots that crippled their ship.
Well, he had instructed the computer on the shots to take, anyway. Same difference really.
He had gotten excited after that, figuring that he was going to be involved in a major operation to bring pirates to heel. That a new group would be knocked down every other week! Turned out that had been the only anti-piracy operation that he’d ever been part of in the six years he’d been in the navy. Everything afterwards had been the same repetitive thing. Wake up, eat, clean everything, stand watch, go to bed, sleep, over and over again. Thoret wasn’t unhappy during those years, but that had to do with the fact that he was always too tired to be miserable. In fact, he had just gotten used to being exhausted continuously that he didn’t think, and just enlisted again at the end of his tours out of routine.
Thoret had chosen not to re-enlist for a fourth tour. Thanks to having been offered a job as the Operations Officer on the Bountiful Harvest.
That made it worse. Thoret should have been able to respect Theeker Halwat for the opportunity, but then that had all been ruined.
Thoret sighed and drifted off to sleep.
March 21st, 2241
On impulse, he’d gone into the naval recruitment office. It was against his better judgement, but what else could he do?
He was ushered to see the officer in charge, a female with bronze scales and amber eyes, and easily over four Ter in length. The display plate on her desk read Moiri Dendor, Leader, Grade 3. She was stunning, and Thoret would have to keep himself in check to keep from overtly admiring her glittering scales. She was ranked well above him, himself having only reached Spacer, Grade 3, which was only middling for enlisted personnel.
He bowed his head submissively towards her as would have been expected if he was an active service member. That seemed to amuse her, and she sat up a bit straighter. ‘And what can I do for you?’ she asked, hissing smoothly.
Thoret had to struggle to keep from blushing, she’d know it if he did. He cleared his throat and hissed out his name and service number. She cocked her head slightly to the side and tapped on the keyboard on her desk and pulled up his record.
The holo display flashed to life as it scrolled through his record, and she nodded idly to herself as she read it over.
‘Thendor Thoret, Spacer Grade 3, inactive for four years now, adequate in all respects on your last performance review. Your subleader notes that you meet expectations,’ she hissed out, nodding.
Thoret was visibly nervous. It was tough to stand out when the Junta had been at peace for such a long time. If he’d been able to take part in more anti-piracy actions, he might have had a more favourable record to fall back on. He thought he knew what she was going to say before she said it.
‘There’s nothing in your record to keep us from signing you back up, but at the same time, there’s no reason to take you. I’m sorry, Mister Thendor, but the facts are that we just don’t need you. We have a backlog of people needing to do their compulsory service that we have started having to invent dumb things for them to do. The last person who came in here I had assigned to test muddy obstacle courses, knowing full well he’d make a mess in the locker rooms afterwards so that the cleaning staff would have a reason to regularly clean them,’ she hissed out sympathetically. ‘I would not be surprised if we see the end of compulsory service within the next five years.’
Thoret deflated and nodded his head. ‘Thank you for your time, ma’am.’
‘If you really want to get onto a ship, you might try the private sector, you’d do well on a merchantman I think,’ she hissed. The irony was lost on her, but it struck Thoret hard in the face.
March 22nd, 2241
Thoret shuffled nervously on the spot as he looked at the case for his laser. Ownership of lasers was strictly controlled on Iskrandar, as were all weapons really. His service of three terms gave him the right to have one, the expectation to have one, actually.
In theory, he could be called back to active service at a moments notice up until he reached the age of forty standard years, and if Thoret were to be called up, he would be expected to have one.
Leader Moiri had made it clear that it was not likely to happen in the foreseeable future.
This was it then, he had been pushed to the limit. The navy was not willing to take him, his black mark for being fired by Theeker Halwat would keep him from serving on a respectable ship. He was at the breaking point. Why go on? What would there to be gained?
He hesitantly reached over and opened the case. The white plas body of the laser assembly almost seemed to glitter mockingly at him, as if the weapon detested him for what he was about to do.
Thoret’s mouth felt dry, he couldn’t well carry this out feeling uncomfortable. He slithered over to the kitchen and filled a squeeze bulb with water and took a drink. Despite the wetness, it didn’t make his mouth feel any less dry.
He glanced back over towards the case and looked at it for a few moments. He realised that he had never been more frightened at any point in his life.
He was stalling, prolonging his suffering, and for what? He figured he’d have liked to have revenge on Halwat for ruining his life, but that had been just an idle pipe dream. He had no way of carrying out such a desire. He should just end it all. Quickly and quietly.
He slithered back over to the table and reached into the case hesitantly. He slipped the laser onto the end of his talon. It wouldn’t hurt him, not really. There wouldn’t be time for his body to register pain. Why was he shaking? This was no time to be a coward. He opened his mouth and put the laser in it. He irised his eyes closed. He was shaking so severely that he needed to do it quickly or he might back out. He toggled the safety off.
He jumped in surprise and dropped the laser as someone pounded on the door. The laser hit the floor with a loud clatter. Thoret’s first irrational thought was that an angel had come to save him, but that was just ridiculous, he probably just imagined it.
He jumped again when the pounding came back.
Thoret frowned and picked up the laser and put it back in its case, closing it up and hiding it away before going over to the door and opening it.
The largest female sinai he had ever seen was at his door. She approached five Ter in length, and had glittering emerald green scales, a shade or two lighter than his own, with eyes the colour of molten bronze. She was beautiful, powerful, and intimidating, in short everything that Thoret liked in a female.
‘Hello,’ he hissed hesitantly.
The female smiled at him and pushed her way inside without Thoret actually inviting her in. He would have, of course, this was the first time that a beautiful female had ever come to visit him.
He deflated slightly, she was surely just someone that wanted the room and was going to be telling him to vacate. He wished now that she had waited another minute to knock, then she wouldn’t have had to bother.
She turned around to face him. ‘Nice place you have here,’ she hissed smoothly.
That confirmed it. Thoret was going to be ordered out in favour of her. He didn’t mind, he’d gladly give it up to her, but it was just that this apartment seemed—beneath her.
‘It’s yours, of course,’ he hissed, bowing his head low, so low he almost touched the ground.
She hissed out a laugh and shook her head. ‘I seem to have given the wrong impression,’ she hissed in an apologetic cadence. ‘Allow me to introduce myself, I am Midna Midna,’ she hissed, and gave him a smile. ‘A friend told me you tried to re-enlist in the navy and were rejected. She said you left looking dejected, so I came to see if I couldn’t help make you feel better.’
Thoret looked at her in confusion. She smiled and patted him on the head. ‘You come here.’
Thoret didn’t know how he found himself in this situation. Midna Midna was curled up in the bed with the lamp turned on full, snoozing quietly.
The bed was too small for them both, so he was perfectly willing to lay on the floor. Midna hadn’t asked, but if she had, he would have let her take it without argument.
She seemed satisfied with him. He was more than satisfied by her. He didn’t believe her story, of course, for one he had never even seen her before in his life. He would have remembered if he had. Leader Moiri might have told Midna about him, but Midna had a specific reason for being here. This could be nothing short of a bribe, and it was effective. He’d do whatever she wanted, with only perhaps a minimum of questions.
He looked over at her. Her eye was irised open just slightly. She was clearly looking back at him.
‘Are you ready to tell me what this is all about?’ he asked.
She lifted her head and smiled. ‘Didn’t I tell you already?’ she asked.
‘You gave me a reason. I might have believed it if we were friends, but I’ve never seen you before in my life,’ he hissed, folding his forelimbs in front of him.
‘I don’t remember you complaining about that earlier,’ she hissed back, a playful grin on her face that he had to admit that he liked the look of.
And you won’t hear any complaints in that regard, but that doesn’t change that you clearly want something,’ he hissed.
‘Very well, I’ll be frank, I want you to do a job,’ she hissed.
Thoret couldn’t help but laugh. ‘You didn’t need to do all that to get me to do a job.’
‘It is an exceedingly dangerous job,’ she hissed, all trace of warmth had vanished from her face.
Thoret swallowed hard, he wasn’t sure he liked this as much as he had previously.