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Futuristic The Darkness of Space (Supernatural Scifi)

Sub Genres
  1. Action
  2. Adventure
  3. AU
  4. LGTBQ
  5. Magical
  6. Super Powers
  7. Supernatural


Nerdy Vampire
Over two hundred years ago, the human planet of Albaques sent probes to several of their planetary neighbors. The planet closest to their star was barren, with interesting rocks. But the probe that went to their next-door neighbor on the orbit further from the star, Yasen, was destroyed in orbit. They sent another, but that probe also mysteriously failed in orbit. One minute, the probe was doing well, preparing to land, but in the next it was raining down on the planet in a billion pieces.

Preliminary data suggested that it was similar to Albaques, but with a longer day/night cycle and less of the star’s light reached the planet surface. The atmosphere seemed breathable, so a crewed mission was sent out to orbit the planet.

This, too, was destroyed. But not before one of the astronauts said, “There are people down there!” over the radio.

A broadcast was sent in several languages. It was a message of friendliness and peace. Albaques’ United Aerospace Association continued to broadcast this message for nearly a year before they received any reply.

In a strange accent but in the language of some of Albaques’ northern hemisphere’s people, a voice responded, “If you insist on contacting us, we will allow it. You may send a delegation to Yasen’s orbit to meet with our diplomats.”

The excitement was palpable as the United Peoples of Albaques put together a delegation to go meet their neighbors. Except, when they arrived, they discovered they were not a people they had never seen.

There were ancient stories of creatures who drank the blood of humans. They had sharp teeth, strange eyes, and an aversion to light. Vampires, the delegation whispered.

Vampires, the Yaseniks confirmed, but they refused to explain how humans had myths and ghost stories of them.

This sparked an uneasy acquaintanceship. They each sent diplomats and shared scientific data. But they were very different. The vampires relied on their abilities to intuitively understand the universe to get around while humans relied on their ability to gather empirical evidence to get around. On the outside, it appeared the human ships outpaced the vampire ships, but the vampires had no discomfort with thrust or problems with mass on ships. Magic, the humans called it, though the vampires called it science.

As the human population grew, so their demands for resources grew. This sparked new ventures out into the solar system as they sought resources. The vampires, to everyone’s surprise, were already in the asteroid belt and exploring the moons of the gas giants. This incited skirmishes over mining rights, and the diplomats of both sides scrambled to make peace.

But humans were uncomfortable with neighbors that drank blood—even if it was the blood of the large herbivore species on Yasen—and some vampires thought human blood tasted better anyway.

Nearly two hundred years after what most called first contact, Albaques and Yasen are embroiled in a Cold War. Each targets the other’s satellites and sometimes supply ships don’t make it to their destination. The war is slowly growing hotter until one day a Albaques scientist notices a strange blip on their large orbital telescope’s images. At first they think it’s a malfunction. But after the debugging program shows no problems, they send out an engineering team. The team confirms that the telescope is functioning perfectly. Tentatively, the Albaques Science Association reaches out to Yasen. The vampire philosophers confirm the findings and suggest it is a rip in the fabric of space and time.

Both sides gather together in neutral space near the rip. Each side has brought diplomats, military personal, and scientists in the attempt to figure out what is going on and what to do about it.


Nerdy Vampire
In all his years, Kas Jaager never thought he would see a cordial meeting between humans and vampires. Not since they had accidently stumbled upon them, not during the Cold War, and not now.

He stood on the deck of the AAAS Silver Flame as it docked with Olive Station. He could see the bloated gas giant on the ship’s viewscreens. Olea was a deep green-blue and had nearly fifty moons of varying sizes and as many satellites orbiting it. One of the being-made satellites was Olive Station. The pair that owned it were a vampire and a human and they insisted on neutrality. So it was the only place they could meet, really. Plus, it was several thousand kilometers from the thing.

The vampire ship was already docked on the opposite side. Its side read YFS Comet. It was a frigate-class just like the Silver Flame, which he supposed he was only fair.

One of the diplomats gestured to him, and he nodded, following the delegation out of the ship and onto Olive Station. The station was comprised of a center microgravity cylinder with two rotating rings that generated one-third of Abalques gravity. The entire delegation had chosen to wear magnetic boots just in case.

Kas had come as an expert. Not on the freaky rip in space, but on vampires. He was a special operative with the UPA military and was responsible for a good amount of reconnaissance intel. But mainly, he had fought vampires and lived to brag about it. But he had an ace up his sleeve: the electromagnetic field generated by his nervous system screwed with a vampire’s ability to use their weird magic. He had to get really close to them, but it meant they couldn’t attack him directly with their powers.

So he was here as insurance and a show of power.

As he filed into the conference room after the diplomats, scientists, and other military personnel, he glanced over at the vampire delegation. They looked almost entirely human if it weren’t for the more angular faces, slight point to their ears, and the sunglasses. They didn’t really need sunglasses in Olive Station and it was rude in vampire culture to speak about important things with darkened glasses, but he figured they liked the effect it gave them. Several of them were dressed in the robes of diplomats—they would be impractical in low gravity if he didn’t know for a fact they weren’t at flowy as they looked. Others wore jumpsuits with philosopher—the vampire version of a scientist—insignias.

One of them was leaning against the bulkhead slightly apart from the rest, hood up and black jumpsuit with no insignias.

Kas frowned. He thought he had seen—

The vampire tapped their glasses so they became transparent and winked at him.

—white hair. Vanya Zmey. The most infuriating vampire in the whole universe.

Vanya pushed off the bulkhead and strode over to him, dark eyes sparking with mischief. He found himself wishing he had checked his red hair in the mirror to make sure low gravity wasn’t being unkind to it. Which was a stupid thing to think when he hated Vanya.

“Jaager,” Vanya greeted in an easy purr.

He gave the vampire the up-down and guessed she and her were the proper pronouns today. He got into her personal space, forcing her to tilt her head back to look up at him. She blinked several times, but it was the only sign that he was having any effect on her. This was an old dance of theirs, and he knew the steps by heart. “Zmey. You’re not dead?”

“Not last I checked,” she said. “What are you doing here? I thought this was for intelligent and level-headed people.”

Kas bristled, but her smirk annoyed him even more than the insult. “Why are you here?”

He realized it was a stupid question before he had even finished saying it. She reached up and brushed her hood from her head, revealing shock-white hair that looked especially tousled in the low gravity.

Right. She was the only time philos--that the AAA was aware of, anyway. He wasn’t sure what color her hair had been originally, but the use of her powers had stripped the color from it. She was capable of dying it—she had done it once to infiltrate a military research facility. She had looked weird with black hair. But the white hair was a badge of honor, supposedly. The ability to see the arrow of time was rare. Some human scientists speculated that only one time philos was alive at any given time.

Kas was about 85% sure she had been mentoring a kid vampire who was a time philos as well, but he wasn’t about to tell anyone that.

“So what is this thing?” Kas asked, nodding to the screens with various scans of what he thought of as “the thing”.

Vanya shrugged. “A rip in spacetime.”

“Ok, thank you,” he said sarcastically. “I appreciate you parroting—”

“Who do you think aided in determining that?” she asked, a single white eyebrow arched.

He forgot she was an actual philosopher who had actually studied her field. It was so easy to see her as only a special operative who had trained only in using her sight as a weapon. She said they had pressed her into service without her consent, but he could tell she enjoyed the game.

“Ok, but who broke spacetime?” he asked.

“Wasn’t us.”

“Well we didn’t,” he countered.

Vanya eyed him as if she thought breaking spacetime was something humans might do for kicks.

“Is this a natural phenomenon?”

Vanya shrugged again.

“Some time philosopher you are,” he muttered, but there was no venom in it.

“We’ve never seen readings like this. Your lead diplomat has been giving you dark looks for the past few minutes. Would it make you jealous if I winked at him?” She leaned back so she could see the lead diplomat and give him a polite vampire nod.

“You’re an ass,” he informed her.

Vanya grinned up at Kas and he gave her a displeased look. She wouldn’t call him a rule-follower, exactly, but things were done a certain way, and if they weren’t he got annoyed or flustered. Which was why she flirted—because he didn’t know what to do with it and that was hilarious.

He was close enough that she could see the flecks of blue in the pale grey of his eyes, but she flicked her eyes quickly away as it was rude to make eye-contact unless you were threatening someone. And she wasn’t about to start a fight at a truce.

“So they brought you to intimidate us?” Vanya asked, eyes sliding over the rest of the humans.

“No they brought me to seduce you,” he said and she snapped her eyes back to him, total confusion on her face. His face split into a grin and he bent to whisper, “You can dish it, but you can’t take it.”

Oh. Vanya felt heat creeping up her ears. He had said it so deadpan she had believed him for a minute. “You keep whispering sweet nothings in my ear and you’re going to confirm the rumors of our dalliances.”

“Dalliances?” he demanded, leaning back to look at her. “What rumors?”

Really, the rumors that she had heard was that she was a saber-toothed mountain cat, playing with her food, but his side seemed to think he was seducing her for information.

Vanya appreciated that their respective sides both had faith that their operative was the dominant one.

“You brought a priest?”

Kas blinked and then followed her gaze to Renza. “Yeah, look, it wasn’t my idea. But you know the Great Church. They have their fingers in the government.”

“Did he bring crosses? Is he aware I am allergic to right angles?”

“If you keep staring at him, his bodyguard is going to beat you up,” Kas said dryly. From what he knew of Renza, the guy was not about to wave a cross in Vanya’s face. “Anyway, maybe if your people would explain where that stupid idea came from, they would stop.”

“That’s assuming my people know, Kasper.”

“Your people do know, they’d just being assholes, Ivan.”

Vanya made a face at him before turning back to the priest. “Let’s go say hi.”

“No, let’s not.” But she was already sauntering over there, so he caught up with her. “You are such a troublemaker.”

“No, I’m just curious.”

By the time they had reached the priest and bodyguard duo, Vanya’s troublemaking smirk was gone and she actually looked respectable. He supposed he should be annoyed that she was only a cocky idiot around him.

She inclined her head in a vampire expression of respect and then stuck her hand out for a human handshake. “Vanya Zmey, Philosopher, pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Kas glanced at Leese and gave her a smile that he hoped would ensure her the idiot next to him meant no harm to her priest.

“The stuffy one is Kas,” Vanya added, her expression entirely serious.

“Don’t introduce me, I’m with them!” He shot Vanya a glare. “She’s just a really smart idiot who makes trouble when she gets bored. How are you bored? There is literally a rip-thing!”

“Don’t raise your voice, Jaager, some people might not know that.”


One Thousand Club
Renza did not particularly enjoy flying.

It was something Leese, who had spent more years of her life in zero gravity than she had on the ground, had always made fun of him for. Flying was normal, if not fun. She'd regaled him of her time flying a fighter craft for a private contractor during a skirmish a few years ago, and how exciting it was to zip around space narrowly avoiding laserfire. If it was anybody else, he would have said she was bullshitting. Leese, however, probably did genuinely enjoy fighting for her life with an endless vacuum all around her.


He had spent the majority of the flight seated in his bunk, gripping the edge of the mattress tightly. When they'd reached the station, he had breathed a not-so-subtle sigh of relief, and the tension that had been plaguing his shoulders the entire flight fled him all at once.

Once his feet were on solid satelite ground, he finally felt able to relax.

"You good?" His bodyguard asked beside him, one arm laying casually around his shoulders. She leaned in close, her chin resting on his shoulder as she raised one fiery red eyebrow at him. Growing up in the church since he was a boy, the casual touch and closeness Leese displayed used to bother him, back when they had first met. Nowadays it was comforting, and he leaned into her touch with a sigh.

"I'm fine. Takes more than a little space craft to kill me," he said dryly, and she snorted.

"I could start listing statistics of people who die of oxygen deprivation due to hull compromises if you'd like. Just to keep you on your toes," she offered, and he pinched her arm without hesitation. She would do it, and he was already feeling a little green around the gills.

"No, thank you. I'm fine without your help."

She sighed dramatically, but loosened her grip on his shoulders, taking a step back. Despite her casualness, he could tell that she was tense. Leese had never been one for crowds, regardless of how often she dealt with them for work. She was even less comfortable with crowds of vampires, and Renza didn't miss her fiddling with the silver ring on her finger. Rude, perhaps, but most humans were some level of uncomfortable with vamps. He couldn't blame her for her response, especially when he knew the reasons behind it.

Especially when one of them was staring at them.

Leese's stance was carefully casual, and she didn't make eye contact with Vanya at all. She seemed to be pretending not to notice her, but Renza knew that the gun she had tucked into her shoulder holster beneath her bulky jacket was the only thing keeping her so calm.

They couldn't be rude, though, so he patted her on the shoulder and turned to face the onlookers.

"Renza-Korlan," he said in greeting, a bright and friendly smile coming to his face. Leese tried her best to look casually disinterested without being offensive, and he was glad. If she wasn't here as his bodyguard, he'd dismiss her, but it would be extremely suspicious for him to face down a vampire philosopher all on his own. "Or father Richtail, but I'd prefer to be on a first name basis."

His position was obvious enough, with his black preacher shirt and white collar, but it was always good to get that bit out of the way. Parishioners called him father all the time, and he thought it made him sound old and stuffy.

"And yes, I think we've been briefly acquainted, Mr. Jaager," he went on, though that 'acquaintance' was little more than the crew introductions when the head bishop had introduced him as the church representative.

The casualness he showed was not necessarily surprising, but a bit unexpected. He supposed many of these operatives would at least know about one another, if not be personally acquainted. He felt like the odd-man out here, but. Well. That was far from unusual.

Leese snorted when he referred to the tear in space time as a 'rip-thing', and Renza elbowed her.

"Yeah, yeah, sorry," she grumbled, though Renza could tell she was more amused than anything else. "Rip-thing is one thing to call it."

He eyed her, curious if she was going to continue, but she decided to keep her mouth shut. Mercenaries with high-level knowledge of space-time and dimensional interaction were not exactly common. Questions could be answered, but they were annoying, and she preferred to just play dumb.

Like she was now, with the way she grinned and slung her arm around Renza's shoulders once more.

"Name's Atalasia. You can call me whatever you want unless it's something like 'dumb bitch'."

Renza rolled his eyes. She was being annoying, and was probably going to make enemies before things even got started. He hoped she wouldn't cause too many problems.

After all, their problems were just beginning. If Leese and his other contact were right about the rip, then things on both planets would soon be getting very, very messy.

Renza shook Vanya's hand, because he knew Leese wouldn't, and then cast his eyes to the window showing the planet in the distance.

It was big and ominous. Renza had been off-planet many times before on missions, but he still didn't like being on satelites. It was a step above a spaceship, but the chances of getting sucked out into the void were still too high for his liking.

"Anyways, it's a pleasure to properly meet you both. I'm mostly here to observe, but I'd like to get along with as many people from both delegations as possible," he said brightly. The Bishop had specifically sent him here with instructions to try and get permission for a missionary ship to head to Yasen within the next few years. He really couldn't care less about that goal, but he'd spent too long buttering up the Bishop to get on his bad side now.


Nerdy Vampire
"Father Richtail," Vanya mused. "You don't look old enough to be a father."

"That's a title," Kas said.

"Thank you, Jaager," she retorted sarcastically. "Albaques' religious structures are something of which I am entirely unaware."

Kas knew that she knew, but he didn't know if Father Richtail knew that she knew. He sort of wished he could pull them aside and tell them that everything was a science experiment and she just introduced stimuli to see how the subject responded. But knowing that, himself, didn't help him deal with her so maybe it wouldn't be that useful.

But then Leese snorted and Vanya's attention flicked to her instantly, cheery light replaced with curious calculation. Considering Leese had seemed pretty tense earlier, he figured being on the receiving end of a vampire stare was not something that would be good for the situation. He elbowed Vanya.

She blinked, the cheery light and smile returning.

Kas watched the slight pause after Renza-Korlan had shaken her hand, watched her notice the silver ring, and watched her decide to deal with it should the bodyguard decide to take her up on the offer. But Atalasia did not shake her hand, so Vanya dropped it and politely inclined her head instead.

"What interest does the Church have in the rip-thing?" she asked, returning her attention to Renza and clasping her hands behind her back.

Kas bristled. "You're the philosopher, and you're the one who called it a rip."

Vanya shrugged. "Would you prefer spacial-temporal deconstruction?"

No, he wouldn't. But he also remembered the time they had been locked in Olive Station's detention center for fighting and she had attempted to explain time to him by drawing diagrams on the wall of her cell. It had made absolutely no sense and station security had made her clean the walls of her cell and had confiscated her ion pen.

"I'm pretty sure you're going to explain it later when the talks begin so how about you not start now," he said dryly.

Vanya shrugged again. "Honestly I'll probably just call it a rip-thing."

"Burn in hell," Kas said reflexively before he remembered he was standing next to a priest. His eyes widened. "Sorry, Father! I didn't mean--"

"So inappropriate."

"Shut up, Zmey." Kas wanted to explain that he had known Vanya for a really long time and he didn't actually want her to suffer eternal damnation--but sometimes he did--and it was just a reflex and he had been in the military and they had course language and--

"I am fairly certain Father Richtail has heard cursing before, Jaager. After all, Ms. Atalasia did say the B-word," Vanya said, tone amused. "And you've said worse so I'm hardly bothered."

If anyone broke the truce, it was going to be Kas Jaager strangling Vanya Zmey and she will have deserved it.

"Anyway, you interrupted. Renza-Korlan was going to tell me what interest the Church has in the rip-thing." Vanya nodded and smiled politely at Renza and pretended not to hear Kas when he muttered, "If you get up there and call it a rip-thing, I will kill you."


One Thousand Club
Renza laughed good-naturedly.

"Yeah, well, I don't think so either," he joked. Leese rolled her eyes, but at least he hadn't made a bad pun yet.

But Vanya, at least, got straight to the point. He could appreciate that.

"We're curious, of course," he said with a shrug. "The Pope, of course, puts the safety of all believers first. Should this be dangerous, he wants to know about it. So, of course, it was decided we would send a representative."

It made him feel all slimy just to say that out loud. He was certain neither the Pope nor the bishops had much interest in this besides in the potential power grab. It was a good opportunity for the church to get a foothold in Yasen, and should the rip turn out to be important, they would be able to get first dibs. All petty politicking and power games, and Renza wanted nothing to do with it.

Leese raised one eyebrow when Vanya referred to the rip as a 'deconstruction', and she hummed.

That was an interesting way of putting it. Deconstruction implied there was nothing on the other side. If this were as simple as a black hole, she wouldn't have frantically woken Renza up at two in the morning three weeks ago. She wondered how much the vampire philosophers had figured out, and if it was more than she was able to glean when she called in that favour with the Albaquese military.

Vampires were sensitive to the energies of the universe in a way that humans weren't. They could have better insight. She wasn't entirely sure if that insight would be a good thing or a bad thing.

Her thoughts were cut off by Renza trying very hard not to laugh. He had his very straight face on, but she could see the tension in the side of his mouth that meant he was barely holding his glee inside.

"That's quite alright," he said, and she was impressed his voice was perfectly steady. Somebody who didn't know his tells would likely not even notice how amused he was. "Everyone slips up now and then. I won't hold it against you."

He was supposed to offer to take confession at that point, but Leese knew he never would. Renza was a priest because of necessity, but she knew he didn't believe in God anymore than he believed in the Winter Spirit or any other fairy tale common on the planet surface. He was good at faking it, and could give a sermon as well as anyone else, but certain parts of his job weighed on him more than others. The guilting and the pressure to convert was one of them.

"I'm curious about the rip thing," she said, cutting into the conversation. "What are its coordinates? If it's a rip in space time, I don't want to be 5000 kilos of that thing."

Not that she worried about getting sucked in. But if it was what she suspected, then it would not take long for it to grow to a worrying size. Science and diplomatic talks were all well and good, but if she had to, she'd rather steal a fighter and go investigate herself. Sitting there and doing nothing made her feel useless, and she hated feeling useless.


Nerdy Vampire
Vanya listened to Renza with an intensity that some might find off-putting but Kas knew was just her way of showing respect. "What do you think a priest can do to protect your flock more than, say, a military?"

"She means no disrespect," Kas quickly put in.

"No, of course not. I am merely curious."

But Kas could still see the calculating edge in Vanya's eyes. She might be pretending to be friendly, but she was really after information. And sometimes he wondered if some people on Yasen didn't remember why crosses were thought to ward off vampires.

"Well, thank you," Kas said, glad at least the priest wasn't offended and more than a little relieved he wasn't going to get a sermon on loving his enemies or something.

Vanya arched her eyebrows at the question from the previously silent bodyguard. She hesitated, glancing at the delegation. Years of keeping her cards close to her chest was hard to overwrite, but the philosopher in her dearly wanted to share what she knew.

"Out with it before you explode," Kas muttered. "We're here to share information, remember? And remember to stay in this language. I'm not translating for you."

"Well, it's only about this long," Vanya said, her words tumbling over each other as she measured out nearly 1.5 meters with her hands. "But when we first spotted it it was less than a meter. It's growth rate is unknown considering we only have about a month of data--"

"A month! We only spotted it a few weeks ago."

"Yes, well, we're closer to it than you are. Quiet."

Kas huffed as Vanya continued.

"The rip-thing itself is almost a breakdown of physics as we know it."

"Like a black hole?"

Vanya shook her head. "No, no. A black hole singularity pulls in light. This doesn't seem to pull anything in it--it has no mass as best we can tell which is weird because everything has mass. But it behaves oddly, indeed. In fact..." her eyes sparkled with excitement as she paused for effect. "Time echoes."

Kas paused, assuming there was more, but she just stared at them expectantly. "Which is... weird?"

Vanya huffed. "Have you ever heard of time echoing?"

Kas sighed. "Currently I'm just having flashbacks to the last time we were on Olive Station."

Vanya sighed, her fingers twitching like she wanted to start drawing diagrams.

"You ever get your ion pen back?"

"Sh, I'm thinking of an analogy." She closed her eyes for a second and then clicked her teeth. Eyes popping back open, she said, "So you shoot a gun down into a cave mouth."

"Ok," Kas said, glancing over at the priest to see if he were following the firearm analogy. "Is this a slug-thrower or a laser-pistol?"

"Unimportant. Does the projectile return to you?"

"No?" Kas answered, not sure if that were the right answer.

"But something does. What bounces back?"

Kas stared at her. "Did you ever teach?"

Vanya rolled her eyes. "Stop being obtuse. Sound! An echo bounces back. But light is how we get the majority of our information, so we shot a laser at it, and the laser doesn't come back, but you know what does?"

"Time?" Kas hedged, wondering if he should be worried that vampires were just shooting lasers at things to see what happened.

"Time! And gravity waves--which is weird, but not that surprising. But time only moves in one direction as we perceive it--and by 'we', I mean you--"

"Yes, yes, you can see time, get on with it."

"But it isn't supposed to echo back at us--that's weird."

Kas paused, looking at the excitement that seemed to reverberate through Vanya's entire being. "Ok, but what does that mean?"

Vanya spread her arms in a very expansive gesture for a vampire. "We have no idea!"

Kas wished she didn't sound as excited about that as she was.

"But, I'll tell you one thing, a cave has to have things in it or it wouldn't generate an echo," she concluded, her eyes alight with dark glee.

"So there's something in the rip?" Kas asked, deciding he hated this rip-thing more now.

Vanya shrugged again, and Kas was starting to dislike that gesture. "Well, there's not nothing, that's impossible. We always knew there was something. Now we have data that agrees with that hypothesis. But don't start telling people that yet--my colleague will have my heart on a pike for stealing his thunder."


One Thousand Club
Renza's smile stayed in place, not wavering a little bit.

"Well, not much. But if we have information, we can relay it to our people, and figure out how to better protect ourselves. Of course, we would never try to use military might, or anything of the sort," he explained, and Leese had to keep from rolling her eyes. She had seen the way Renza could handle a laser pistol, and he was not the meek, innocent hand of god he liked to pretend to be.

He was probably going to ask for her gun at some point to show off, just so he could see the look on Kas' and Vanya's faces.

But Vanya's explanations started, and Leese had to fight not to draw in a sharp intake of breath.

If it had been less than a meter wide a month ago, and was now nearly two, then that meant it wasn't a mistake. Rips in spacetime were rare enough on their own - for one to stay open for more than a day meant that something must be powering it.

Renza didn't look at her, but she knew that he had noticed her reaction. He was listening to Vanya's explanations, nodding politely along with her. He was not nearly as well versed in the theory of spacetime, the universe, and dimensional travel. Leese had tried explaining it to him once.

'It's like how a sheet of paper has two sides,' she said, laying across his bunk with a bottle of his good whisky clutched in one hand. He had tried to hide it from her, but it had been a hard day. 'Each side exists at the same time and in the same space. But they can't both be on the same side at once. It causes problems. Reality can't handle it."

But it didn't seem that the vampire philosophers had quite figured out the extent of what this was yet. Renza didn't blame them. He only had an idea because he had seen what was on the other side for himself.

He wondered if Vanya would be as excited about the possibilities if she knew exactly what those possibilities were.

"So, whatever it is, there's something on the other side," he mused, to show that he had been paying attention. "Something that's making an echo that you can perceive."

Leese very, very dearly wanted to ask if anything had come out. She didn't because that would be tipping her hand far too much, but she wanted to. If the rip had been growing steadily for a month, then that meant that it would continue to grow. It was already big enough that something small could pass through.

She also very highly doubted that the folks on the other side had appreciated the lasers much. Not that those people needed a reason to go to war, but, well. It didn't help to give them one.

"Did you do anything else besides the lasers?" Leese asked, being as calm and non-guarded as she could. "Like probes or something. To get a better look at it?"

The Albaquese military was planning on probes within another month or two, once they got a better idea of what the rip was. Her military contact had told her that much, and she had reiterated to Hanabelle over and over again that that was a terrible idea.

Unfortunately, her friend's hands were tied, and the project was going to go ahead anyways. If the vampires had already been probing the thing, though, or had plans to do so in the future, that would be a whole other mess to take care of.


Nerdy Vampire
"Yes," Vanya agreed, looking pointedly at Kas as if he should be able understand if a priest could. "Something is on the other side."

"Something like... monsters."

Vanya shot him a look. "Why are you humans so afraid of the unknown?"

Kas snorted. "Because monsters are in the unknown, obviously. You shot down two of our probes and a whole ship before you would even say hi, remember."

Vanya's eye-roll was so dramatic he thought she might roll her eyes right out of her head. "Because you were bothering us. Anyway it's not monsters."

"Twenty credits says it's monsters."

"It's not monsters," Vanya repeated. "And your money is useless here."

"Fine, but if it is monsters, you have to buy me a drink on Juniper Station," Kas said with a grin.

Vanya eyed him. They both had wanted posters in Juniper station. So it would be a challenge. "What are we defining as 'monsters'?"

Ka's grin widened. Oh, he had her. "Something living that crawls out of there and comes after us and... can do things we can't."

"It has to be intelligent," Vanya said.

"No, monsters don't have to be intelligent."

Vanya considered this. "And if I'm right? And don't say you'll buy me a drink." Vanya twisted her lips. "That gin was disgusting."

Kas shook his head at the uncultured vampire. Juniper station was famous for its gin. After a second of consideration, he nodded to himself. "I'll let you explain entropy to me again."

At her smirk, he stuck his hand out. She shook.

"And Rev. Richtail and Ms. Atalasia are witnesses."

Vanya snickered. "That you gamble."

Kas sighed. He was fairly sure the priest was already declaring him a lost cause. Fortunately, the bodyguard, whom Vanya was pretending not to watch out of the corner of her eye, interupted that line of thinking. "Ms. Atalasia is asking you a question, oh great purveyor of knowledge."

Vanya shook her head. "No, not yet. We thought it best to pool our resources and get some input from the rest of the system's inhabitants."

Or, they had completely intended to until they realized the humans had also noticed it, Kas thought.

"We do recognize that humans have a unique angle and can fill in gaps in our own understanding," Vanya added with a shrug.

Perhaps that was what the philosophers thought, but their ideals didn't always align with the governing body of the Yasen Federation.


One Thousand Club
"Mmm, I'm not sure if I could comment on monsters," Renza said with a shrug. Leese wanted to roll her eyes at him. He was loving the chance to play dumb about this. "God created the universe in his image, and all that. Though I suppose whether something counts as a monster is subjective."

Leese had to fight very hard not to pinch him, the bastard. 'Monsters' was a stupid term. Just because something was different didn't make it unanimously evil. Morality was a sliding scale in all cultures of the universe, and no one society was entirely good or bad, no matter what the stupid church preached.

"I know you science types like to cream yourselves over new discoveries and everything, but I've gotta agree. The unknown should stay unknown. Nothing good comes from poking things you can't understand," she said, not bothering to mince words. She was just as if not more crude than Kas was, and Renza kinda wished she'd dial it down. He was really enjoying how the guy got all nervous around him, like he would smite him if he didn't obey the Holy Law correctly. It was hilarious.

This wasn't funny. It was a pain in the neck at best, and an entire catastrophe at worse.

She wished she could get in touch with her contact, to ask him what the hell was happening. The last time they'd spoken had been a year and a half ago, and she didn't have the ability to use the trans-dimensional communicator by herself. She'd brought the receiver with her, but all it could do was notify her if there was a message. She'd have to go all the way back to the satellite in the asteroid field she called home to actually see what it said.

But even that hadn't dinged once, and she was getting antsy.

"The scripture says not to drink or gamble," Renza said, his smile still polite, not quite chastising, but condescendingly forgiving. "However, I understand the military puts pressure on a fellow, so I won't lecture you on it."

Leese did roll her eyes then, because she knew for a fact Renza had a bottle of his sort-of-nice-but-not-too-nice fire whisky hidden in his room on the ship. He'd smuggled it in from the moon outpost station, since it was outlawed planetside for having a bit too much of a kick.

"Yeah, yeah, we get it. Relax, he can't send you to hell or anything," she said with a sigh. Renza gave her a wounded look, because she was ruining his fun and she knew it, but she ignored him. "I'm not a scientist or anything, but I can say that I don't think poking that thing is a good idea. If you vampires know what's best for you, you'll leave it alone."


Nerdy Vampire
"Including vampires?" Vanya asked Renza, honest curiosity under the amusement in her voice. "Are we also in his image?"

Kas tilted his head at Leese, his eyebrows raising. That was a bit blunt but he did sort of agree with it. "She's not wrong."

Vanya was frowning, but Kas guessed it was at the concept itself and not the word choice. "Never explore the unknown? Then you never would have reached the stars, Ms. Atalasia. Exploring the unknown is what sentient species do. Despite the risks. Or else you're still be banging sticks together and living in trees. And whether or not we cannot understand it is yet to be seen."

Kas shook his head. Neither of them were going to back down on this.

"I told you drinking was bad for you," Vanya said wisely.

Kas huffed. "I don't think he can send me to hell," he grumbled. "I just didn't want to be disrespectful."

"He might be able to send me to hell, though," Vanya said cheerfully. "Or is my soul already damned based on my physiology. You know, I never understood that on."

"She doesn't think that," Kas clarified for Renza. "She's just being a smartass."

But Vanya's cheery, smartass airs were gone, and she eyed Leese with all the cunning her species possessed. Shit. Maybe she would just let it go. Maybe she would just wait for a better time. Maybe--

"You know something," Vanya said, her voice smooth. "You know something about the rip that you're not sharing."


One Thousand Club
Renza shrugged his shoulders, not intimidated by Vanya's questions.

"Who knows? I've never met Him, haven't had a chance to ask," he said cheerfully. "But since you look an awful lot like us, I'd say we're made in the same image, more or less."

He glanced at Leese, because she was staring Vanya down with an expression like she had eaten a lemon.

Humanity probably would have been better off if they hadn't explored the stars, she figured. Space exploration had landed them in a cold war with a species from another planet. Modern conveniences were one thing, but poking things that shouldn't be poked had only ended up causing a lot of harm, in her experience.

But Vanya was right, and that was what frustrated her the most. Sentient species all had a thirst for knowledge. It was what made life better, and they would be lost without it. But this particular thing did not need to be known. A bunch of people investigating it would only cause more harm.

Renza leaned in a little closer, knocking their shoulders together as discreetly as he could. She looked up at him, then sighed. Right. Maybe some good things did come from exploring the unknown, after all.

"Now that is a question above my pay grade," Renza said, a grin coming to his face. "Take that one to the bishop, I'm sure he'd love it."

He would have gladly gone along with that conversation, but Leese stiffened next to him when Vanya turned her questioning on her.

She wanted to bare her teeth, but that would be useless with a species that had fangs. And incredibly rude, which might have consequences. Leese had never been one for diplomacy, now or in the past, but she knew better than to make a volatile situation worse.

"All I know is what you know," he said, forcing the tension from her shoulders as she ran her fingers through her hair. She'd worn it down today, and the gesture helped calm her nerves. "But I do think it's dangerous, and people should leave it alone, if they know what's good for them."

It wouldn't work. Nothing she would say would actually have any kind of effect. Being useless was frustrating, and all she wanted was to go close the rip herself. But she didn't have the ability to do that, and the one person she knew who did couldn't be reached.

"But whatever. You scientist types are great at poking around with things you shouldn't. I'm just here because I'm being paid, so you do whatever you want."

Renza glanced back at her, impressed with her restraint. A few years ago she would have grabbed Vanya by the collar and threatened her, most likely.

"Well, regardless of that," he said quickly, hoping to defuse the situation. "I would like to know when the discussion will happen. I don't really have anything to add, but I'd like to take notes."


Nerdy Vampire
Vanya hummed. "I always figured that was like a... soul-thing. I didn't realize it was actual looks. Interesting."

Kas wasn't sure he had thought much about it, if he were honest. He sort of wished Vanya would stop asking existential questions and go back to leaning on the wall and looking very bored.

"I would love to talk to the bishop," Vanya said, and Kas figured the bishop would regret talking to her.

But then Vanya turned her sights on the dangerous one. To be honest, Kas was preparing to grab Vanya and yank her back before she got punched. It was less concern for the vampire--she deserved to get punched--and more concern for the uneasy truce. But the bodyguard, who could definitely take the vampire in a fair fight, didn't take the opportunity. Kas let out a sigh of relief.

Until Vanya gave Leese a second chance to punch her.

"I very much doubt you know what I know," Vanya said with a laugh. "And I don't mean just because I'm a philosopher."

Kas grabbed the hood of the vampire's jumpsuit and pulled her backwards. Her form fizzled for a second when she reflexively tried to leave time but failed due to his close proximity. She shot him a dirty look.

Kas dropped her hood and firmly squeezed her shoulder. "You are being extremely rude." He turned back to Leese. "She's sorry."

"She is n--"

"It doesn't matter if you're right, Ivan."

Vanya snapped her mouth shut and scowled. She disliked that name and it always shut her up. Kas had misunderstood her when they had first met and had thought she had said her name was Ivan. To this day she said there was no way he could have heard "Ivan", but to be fair he was trying to pin her to the floor at the time. Pointing out that Vanya was a nickname of Ivan on Albaques had not helped his case.

Vanya turned back to Leese and opened her mouth. Then closed it. Sighed. "Hiding what you know could only make the situation worse."

As if sensing the tension in the room, the lead Albaques delegate--who hated Kas on principle and was always condescending to him--stepped forward and called the room to order.

Vanya tilted her head politely and said, "Pleasure speaking with you."

Kas was left to make an awkward apologetic smile before taking his own seat--which happened to be next to the priest and his bodyguard.

The lead diplomat--Johannes Fergis--opened with a grand speech about the two planets working together and about how great their peoples were and--really, Kas' eyes were glazed over within the first minute. Across the room on the vampire side, he could see Vanya doing something on her handheld. At first he thought she was doodling, but then he realized she was probably trying to figure out what Leese knew. The other vampires sat in perfect stillness, barely breathing.

Once Fergis was done, the nerdiest vampire Kas had ever seen got up and presented data--complete with holographic visuals. Kas found the diagrams that were doubtless Vanya's and tried to make sense of them. At least she did a good job of labeling her graphs. Some of the other graphs--like the graph from the lead mass philosopher--were impossible for him to even figure out what they were graphing. What he understood of the science presentation was pretty much what Vanya had already told him.

Once the scientist sat down, Kas leaned over to Renza and whispered, "Did you follow any of that?"


One Thousand Club
Renza shrugged his shoulders. To be honest, he didn't know, and didn't really care. But looks was an easy out, so he figured he'd use it.

"I'll give you his number," he said, because one of his few joys in life was finding ways to make the bishop absolutely miserable that he couldn't be punished for.

Leese bristled when Vanya blatantly insulted her, and her shoulders stiffened. Renza frowned and laid a hand on her shoulder, part for comfort and part to hold her back. But she didn't go for the punch, and instead took deep breaths to calm herself.

"She'd do good to not be so aggressive," Leese grumbled, but otherwise didn't accept or deny the apology.

Maybe things would be better if she shared what she knew. But it would put her and people she cared very deeply about in danger, so there was no way she would risk it.

At least the room was called to order, and they took a seat beside Kas. Renza was pleased with that. The guy was friendly and unguarded. It would be a good idea to strike up a good relationship with him.

Leese did not roll her eyes when the talks started, and Renza was grateful for it. He knew she probably really, really wanted to. He also knew it would weaken their position.

He knew that she was planning to sneak off and steal a vessel the first chance she got so she could investigate the tear alone anyways. He couldn't do anything to stop her, since she could more than take him in a fight, so at least he could try and push away suspicion as long as he could.

She actually did pay attention once the scientists went up. Her eyes narrowed, and she pulled out her own handheld to take notes. She was scribbling furiously when Kas asked Renza if he understood any of that, and he shrugged his shoulders.

"Nah, I'm not a scientist. But we take notes for the bishop so he can relay them to the pope, essentially," he whispered back.

It was partly true, but mostly he knew Leese was trying to figure out how large the rip was, and if anything had come through yet. If it was unstable and natural, she could close it on its own, but if travel had happened, the contamination effect would already be in place. That was a whole monster that neither of them wanted or had the ability to deal with.

Renza could see by the subtle expression on her face that she was very close to suggesting that they just take the first ship to the farthest satellite they could and just weather the whole thing out. She would never actually do that, because she wasn't as cold as she pretended to be, and they both knew it.

The Albaquese science representative came to the front, sharing their own data. It was not quite as comprehensive, and mostly a rehash of what they already knew, but a sharing of information was necessary to keep this civil. If it appeared that the humans were just trying to leech information off the vamps, it could threaten the truce.

When the man left the front of the room, Fergis came forward again. The next thing on the agenda was to debate exactly what they would do about the rip, and Renza could tell that both sides were getting agitated. They both wanted to be the first to investigate, of course. He closed his eyes and sighed, then stood up and raised his hand.

"While this is, of course, a very important matter, counsellor," he said, keeping his placid smile on his face. "These talks have gone on quite a while. It was a long flight to get here, and this is a stressful situation. Might I suggest a break for a meal?"

Murmurs spread throughout the room, and somebody's stomach growled nearby. Renza could barely hold back his grin as the poor soldier's face turned bright red.

Leese, for her part, eyed the vampire delegation for a moment before turning away. A meal no doubt meant blood, but she knew they would know better than to bring human blood to a delegation full of humans. It made her feel a little more comfortable, but not by much.

Blood drinking freaked her out. It reminded her too much of nasty memories.

Fergis hesitated for a moment, clearly wanting to continue with the proceedings, but now that Renza had mentioned food, the room was clearly too agitated to continue. He sighed, nodding his head.

"Very well. We'll proceed to the mess, then."


Nerdy Vampire
Vanya stopped her mad scribbling when the human scientist got up and watched him with her unnerving attentiveness. Kas felt a little bad for the guy, but he didn't seem to notice a whole bunch of vampire scientists staring him down. Good on him. Once the man sat down, the nerdy vampire leaned over and said something to Vanya. She lifted a shoulder in response, and the other vampire leaned back with a slight smile. It must have been a joke then, because she turned a forced smile on him before returning to her scribbling.

Kas chuckled, but couldn't helping wondering if the bishop--or even pope--understood any of that either. Something told him they didn't keep up with the latest in scientific research.

The scribbling stopped when Renza rose to his feet, and Kas made a mental note of that. Vanya liked the priest--or at least respected him enough to give him her attention.

She smiled and put away her handheld as the delegations began to rise. She was halfway out of her seat when the lead scientist spoke to her again, and she looked like a confused duck. She gave the other vampire an awkward smile and gestured towards Kaz. The other vampire's expression soured. Vanya took that chance to bolt.

"Thank you so much, I couldn't take more of that," Vanya told Renza as she approached.

"You got a friend?" Kas asked, nodding to the displeased nerdy vampire.

"What, Dima? Oh, yeah." She scowled. "He keeps trying to make jokes. Most of them are gravity jokes and I don't get them. We eating?"

"Don't you want to eat with your own people? Talk nerd to the other nerds?" Kas asked. Not that he minded eating with Vanya, but he was worried she might antagonize Leese again.

Vanya's eyes slid from his and she tapped her fingers against her thighs. "Yeah, they don't really like me."

Kas raised his eyebrows. "Except the gravity philosopher. Why not?"

She shifted, and if Kas hadn't known her for several years, he would have missed the discomfort in her stance.

"Because you're spec ops?"

"Wow, way to blow my cover, Jaager," she said, but the lightness in her tone hid her hurt. "Yeah, well, I'm not a real philosopher."

"Don't you have a degree in it?"

Vanya shrugged, looking anywhere but the three of them. "Can I eat with you or not?"

Kas glanced at Renza and Leese. "If you apologize to Ms. Atalasia for being an ass."

Vanya stopped fidgeting--or the tiny motions that counted as fidgeting for vampires--and glanced at him.

"And you promise not to pester her about whatever it is you think she knows," Kas added folding his arms across his chest. "You don't get to hint at it. At all. Or you get sent away."

With a sigh she dragged her eyes to Leese. She straightened, looking over Leese's left shoulder. "I'm sorry for pressuring you to talk about something you obviously didn't want to talk about, and I should not have tried to manipulate your anger to get a response. Sorry."

Damn. That was sincere. She really wanted to sit with them. At her glance he nodded. "I'll vote for you, but they need to agree as well."

"What," she groaned, deflating.

Kas rolled his eyes. He really needed to tell Vanya that she could not be so dramatic with her expressions and body language. Humans weren't stupid, they could figure out her emotions without her help. But he supposed she also did that with other vampires. For a little while, he had wondered if she were a psychopath, but after a while he realized she just was not naturally expressive and overcompensated.

"You were an ass," Kas said. "I'm used to you being an ass, but they aren't." He glanced at the others. "You can tell her no, don't feel obligated."


One Thousand Club
Renga smiled.

“Mostly I’m just tired and hungry myself,” he admitted. He didn’t like to eat much while flying because his nerves upset his stomach, so he really was quite hungry.

He very studiously didn’t say anything when Kas mentioned that Vanya was spec ops, though he was curious about the philosopher thing. Lesee was too, judging by the way that she had shifted when Vanya came over. She was still eyeing her warily, but she hadn’t actually truied to scare her off yet. That was a good thing, at least.

She really wasn’t sure about eating together. She didn’t really have anything against Vanya, and she accepted her apology easily enough. But eating together meant drinking blood.

It wasn’t human blood. It wasn’t the blood of any sentient species, and Leese knew that. But it still brought bac memories, even as she tried to convince herself that it wasn’t different than a human eating a pig for dinner.

Renga eyed her carefully, and she sighed as she ran her fingers through her hair.

“It’s fine,” she said in a tone of voice that suggested it wasn’t REALLY fine, but that she could tolerate it. “You can eat with us, I don’t mind. But I really don’t have any answers to any of your questions.” \


Nerdy Vampire
Kas chuckled. "I can understand that."

When the others said Vanya could join, Kas nodded. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. She knew he wanted to know what she'd meant, but she didn't really have the energy to explain. Being around them, getting the cold shoulder from the people who she should have mingled with for fun was a little draining. So much so, that she was seeking company from the one person she was supposed to consider an enemy, a human priest, and a woman who would have wiped the floor with her if there had been no truce.

She slid her eyes to Leese and gestured dramatically, placing one hand over her heart and the other in the air as if making a pledge. "I gave my word. I will not ask you anything about that."

Vanya felt she wasn't particularly welcome in Leese's case, but it was that or eat by herself and risk Dima telling her more gravity jokes. She appreciated him trying to be nice, she really did, but it was hard laughing at things she didn't get.

She bounced a little as they walked to the room that had been designated for refreshments, enjoying the low gravity. She parted ways with them once inside and headed to the vampire table. The vampire selection was filled with various forms of the herbivore blood they drank, but she wasn't feeling hungry. She grabbed a cup of coffee instead, keeping an eye on the mug lest she spill it.

Kas grabbed some of the little sandwiches and several of something that looked like mini cheesecakes before returning to the table they had claimed. The delegations were segregating themselves, and several of the humans were giving him looks as the vampire sat next to him.

"What is that?" Vanya asked, squinting at his plate.

"Cheesecake, I think." She reached for it and he slapped her hand. "Go get your own."

"That's the human table." She paused then scooted away from him.

"Don't you da--"

Her form seemed to flicker and she had one of his mini cheesecakes in her hand.

"Damn you. I hope you have a terrible headache, you little bitch."

Vanya did have a terrible headache, but it was so worth it. She gazed at her prize. "You just cursed in front of the priest again."

Kas shot an apologetic look at Renza before scowling at Vanya. "You're going to make yourself sick."

"Maybe not."

Kas watched as a small line of blood began leaking from her nose. He slapped a napkin into her hand. "You've got a nose bleed, you idiot."

Pain splintered behind her eyes, and she bent forward, pressing the napkin to her nose.

"Don't you dare hurl," Kas warned.

"I'm not going to hurl."

Kas tipped her mug and looked in it. "What's in here? Coffee? Do you need blood?"

Vanya waved him off. "I'm fine, just go sit over there."

Kas shook his head. "You did that to yourself. And for what? Something you're probably not going to be able to digest."

He did lean away from her, though, and tried very hard to think nice things about her in the hopes her headache would ease. She was such a showoff, though.

Vanya sat back, the nosebleed mostly gone and her headache easing. She took a bite of the cheesecake. "This is pretty good."

"I hope it gets lodged in your intestines and you die."

Vanya smiled at Renza and Leese. "That's his way of expressing his undying love. So, why does a priest need a bodyguard?" Vanya gave Kas a frown. "Do you people attack your religious leaders? Wow, that seems like a bad idea."


One Thousand Club
Leese wrinkled her nose, but at least she didn't object.

"We're good, then," she said, trying her best to really mean it. The vampires here were not like the blood eaters she knew. These were just a completely normal, natural species whose diet happened to consist of blood. They weren't hurting anyone, and she had to get over her discomfort. She was the one who was being rude right now.

She decided to turn her attention to Renza instead, a grin coming to her face as she watched him struggle to look dignified in the low gravity. He was having a hard time with it, and it took her mind off of more unpleasant things.

The food looked not bad. Leese and Renza had both certainly eaten worse. He eyed the cheesecakes with unrestrained delight, and snagged a few as well as a strudel. He could not believe they had strudels in space. That was amazing.

"If you eat too many sweets you'll get sick," Leese scolded as she filled her plate with meat and vegetables, but he ignored her. Indulgence with food was frowned upon in the church, but up here he could eat whatever he wanted without too many consequences.

Sitting back at the table, he ate a slice of some kind of fancy cheese on a cracker, moaning indecently as he did so. Leese rolled her eyes and elbowed him. He should at least try to keep the priestly act up in public.

The little disappearing act with the cheesecake made Leese sit up straight, though. She knew a little bit about the vampires and their philosophers. She, obviously, had never been in contact with a time philos before. The display of power left her uneasy.

"I could have given you one," Renza said with a little smirk. "They are good though. I would definitely risk a headache and a nosebleed for more of these."

"I curse in front of him all the time," Leese said casually, and Renza gave her a wounded look. "Don't worry too much about it."

"I could make you do confession for that," he grumbled, and she snorted through her nose.

"I would rather die."

"Exactly, that's why I'd make you do it."

He leaned back in his chair, grabbing another cracker. Watching Kas and Vanya, their interactions were not too entirely different than his and Leese's. He imagined they were likely close friends of a sort. He didn't understand it, but he didn't really have to.

"Sometimes they do," he said, making another moan as he ate one of the cheesecakes that caused Leese to elbow him. "Mostly? I'm not a trained soldier. A lot of you guys here are. For events like this, it's good to have somebody who knows how to fight, on the off-chance that something happens. Normally, though, I only take a bodyguard on missions."


Nerdy Vampire
Renza certainly seemed to enjoy food, like Kas. Kas enjoyed food, he just wasn't so vocal about it. Vanya had always liked that about him. Vampire food was fairly boring. Spiced blood was alright, but some clans congealed it, and that texture was not her favorite. There just were not that many options when you had to have particular substance in your diet. Mostly, they put blood in other liquids. She could have added blood to her coffee if she had wanted to.

Vanya smiled at Renza as she popped the last bit of cheesecake into her mouth, showing a little more of her teeth that was strictly polite. "It's way more fun to steal Kas'."

Kas rolled his eyes. "She's just being a show-off. My, uh, personal EM field screws with her sight. She could have gotten lost in there pulling that."

Vanya shook her head. "I told you, what you saw is not what it looks like to me. Your little brain can't understand it."

Kas sighed. There were other people, so he figured he should explain. "She... leaves time when she does that. It looks like teleporting, but she had to physically cross the distance in the inbetween space, which is this freaky--"

"It's beautiful," Vanya countered. "And stop telling all my secrets."

The YF blamed her for file the the UPA had on time philos. She blamed them for putting her in the field.

"I grabbed her once right before she left time," Kas explained. "It was terrible."

"And then he cried like an infant while I navigated back to time." It had been the worst few non-moments of Vanya's life. She had been in excruciating pain, but she had been determined not to loose the idiot UPA agent who had grabbed her. She had never taken anyone to the inbetween with her, and she was worried that coming out too soon would screw him up somehow. Her nose had gushed blood after that and she had floated in and out of consciousness for nearly an entire day, but Kas had guiltily stayed with her and had even helped her eat her emergency blood capsules.

"I did not," Kas said, though he actually did not have any memory of that place, which Vanya claimed was his brain's way of keeping him sane.

Kas watched the back and forth between the priest and his bodyguard with a smile. They were clearly on very friendly terms. He knew a few bodyguards who despised their charges, but he got the feeling the priest took as much care of her as she took of him. He hadn't missed the concern in Renza's eyes when Vanya had been pushing Leese's buttons.

Vanya was curious about confession but quickly got distracted when Renza said people sometimes attacked him. She couldn't imagine going after someone who was there to help and guide the people. Even if you didn't agree with them, you had to respect their ideals--assuming their ideals were good. And she couldn't see Renza holding ideals like murder was fine or something. And he seemed not to be bothered by her, and that was one thing she had had against him before meeting him.

Well, there was that one thing. She didn't remember it, of course, but her people had passed down stories. Stories of righteous men and what they had done to the species they considered demonic. She could hate those people.

But not Renza, personally. He seemed like the good sort. So she couldn't imagine his own people attacking them. Even when clans were at war, attacking a philosopher was a serious offense.

"That's terrible. And humans call us monsters."

"People are terrible regardless of physiology, didn't you tell me that?" Kas asked, gesturing at her with his sandwich.

"What's that?" Vanya asked, eyes on the sandwich.

Kas stuffed the rest of it in his mouth. "Not yours. Go get your own dang food."

Vanya stole another mini cheesecake from Kas' plate without using her sight and frowned at Renza. "Priests go on missions? What sort of missions?"


One Thousand Club
Renza could admit that he didn’t understand the concept of leaving time. It was confusing, and way above his pay grade. But Leese seemed to be interested, if the sharp look in her eyes was any indication.

”You leave time?” she asked, trying to keep the judgement out of her tone. It wasn’t like dimensional travel. It was just like... stepping off an axis on the same graph? Maybe? She tried not to look too sour, but this was bothering her. “For a cheesecake?”

The idea was ludicrous. She could just reach over and grab it. Why would she do something that clearly hurt her, just for something so trivial?

Renza subtly bumped her with his shoulder, and she tried to relax so she looked less ready to jump someone.

She didn’t know why she had come here. She should have just muscled her way to the rip, shot anyone who got into her way, and dealt with the consequences later. Renza was the one who had decided diplomacy was better. She shoved a piece of meat into her mouth and chewed aggressively.

”It sounds impressive, though I don’t quite get it,” Renza said with a shrug.

Leese had decided to zone out of the conversation, but then that word came up again, and she sighed.

“Monsters don’t exist,” she said bluntly. “Every sentient creature has the capability to do good or evil. Elevating one above the other is just idealism.”

She spoke in the tone of someone who had had this conversation many times before. A moment later she blinked, as though she was surprised she had actually come out with that. It was a bit of a reflex at this point.

“I mean, you know. There’s good and bad in everyone,” she said dismissively, focusing on her food again. Renza‘s mouth twitched upward at the corner, but he dDecided to let her off the hook.

Probably because Vanya had asked him about missionary work. He winced, because it was his least favourite subject. He had kind of gotten used to everybody knowing about it, but it made sense vampires wouldn’t.

“Well, you know. Going to other communities, spreading the word of God and all that. It’s nothing like the missions you’re used to, I’m sure.”


Nerdy Vampire
Vanya sighed. Something about Leese's tone suggested she really didn't care all that much about what it actually was, but she also didn't want to just let Kas explain it. "Not... quite. It's more like..."

Vanya hummed. "It's more like... I distort the time around me so that... uh, hmm."

Time isn't real. Is what she really wanted to say. It's the arrow of entropy and--

"I sort of remove all time--well, entropy, really--from around me, so nothing happens. But me. I happen. But I'm still bound by the laws of gravity, space, energy, and matter. But if I want to move something while in that state, I have to return the entropy to it. Like I could remove all the entropy if someone shot me, but the second that bullet touches me, its entropy returns."

"Entropy is change," Kas said, and Vanya was making the face she made when something wasn't quite true but she let it slide. "I thought she was a space philos with weird hair color interests when we first met. Well, until I got dragging into the inbetween, anyway."

Vanya shrugged. "But yes. For a cheesecake. Because it annoys Kasper."

"And because she's a showoff."

Vanya smirked at him before turning back to Leese. She got the idea that there was something there. Vanya agreed, of course. Monsters were what you called something you didn't understand. But Leese said it with such conviction. Which amused Vanya because it seemed to her that Leese didn't much care for vampires. But she wasn't allowed to poke at that and she fully expected Kas to carry out his threat of sending her from the table if she were rude.

"Oh," Vanya said, blinking. "Yes, a bit different from the missions I'm used to. People do try to kill me, though. Especially Kas."

"I don't," Kas said around some vegetables. He couldn't help notice Vanya was not after his vegetables. "They want you alive so they can dissect you."

"I'm flattered," Vanya said, resting her chin on her hand.

Kas eyed her. He had noticed she had never actually tried to kill him. Disable him, yes. Injure him, sure. Insult his intelligence, absolutely, on the regular. But never kill. He remembered how sick she had been after pulling them both out of the inbetween. She could have just left him. Since then he could never bring himself to actually try to catch her. The thought of her being a science experiment made him feel a little sick.

Vanya thought about asking about missions. She didn't think many vampires would completely disagree with Renza. The universe was awfully tidy. But she did think they would take offense if the Creator really didn't like part of his creation and condemned them automatically. In which case she didn't see any need for any missions to her planet, then. If they were sunk, no use trying to bail them out. But she didn't think anyone who had bothered putting people some place would condemn them based on their habit of drinking blood when that was something they developed naturally.

Her eyes were starting to hurt. More, anyway. She scooted her leg so that it bumped into Kas' leg.

Kas dipped his last vegetable in the dipping sauce and stuck it in his mouth. "You are an idiot. I feel no pity for you."

It wasn't that. She'd been staring at time really hard for a good long time. It felt as if she had been listening to a loud sound repeatedly for two weeks with very little sleep. But now the sound wouldn't stop. Unless she was touching Kas Jaager.

"I can't social anymore," she said, using her feigned drama to lean her forehead against his arm. "It's your turn."

Kas almost asked her when she'd slept last and shook her off. But she took her glasses off and the tension around her eyes eased. He huffed. He was being used as noise-cancelling headphones.

"I've been socializing. I'm been putting out all the fires you've started."

She just hummed.

Kas sighed and glanced back at the other two. He wasn't sure what to talk about. The only thing he could think about was the rip-thing but Leese seemed really on edge about that. And it wasn't like they knew anything new.

"What made you want to go into the clergy?" he asked Renza, because asking people why they chose their profession was always a good idea.


One Thousand Club
Leese chewed thoughtfully, her mouth thin. It didn't really sound like dimensional arts, then. She would probably have to learn more about vampires philos and how their abilities worked if she was going to continue to play nice.

It sounded similar to the Ferensnik. Not that Leese really understood that at more than a basic outsider viewpoint, because Ferens was weird and difficult to control at the best of times, but it helped to think of it in familiar terms.

"Seems like an awful lot of effort. I think there's easier ways to annoy him," she mused, some of the animosity gone from her tone.

Renza couldn't help his slight smile when Vanya said his missions weren't quite like hers.

"No, they're a lot more boring," he admitted. "And people rarely try to kill me. The Pope and the Bishop, yes, but not me."

He was fairly low in the chain of command, all things considered.

He watched Kas and Vanya with a casual air but the keen eye of an observer. They were very close, for being on completely different sides of a war. He wondered if it had been that little time trip they mentioned that had done it. Almost dying with someone was a great way to get closer to them. He had experienced that first hand, many times.

She seemed uncomfortable. He kind of wanted to say that they didn't have to talk, and she could just relax if she wanted to. Renza had no issue playing her cover, and saying he had waylaid her to talk about the good Lord if any of her peers asked. But he got the feeling they weren't going to ask, and that was part of the problem.

There was nothing he could do about that. He felt for her, but he and Leese had enough of their own problems to deal with.

One of them happened to be Kas asking about how he joined the clergy.

His brow furrowed just the slightest bit as he ate another cracker, mostly just to give himself time to answer. His poker face was very good, and he didn't show a lot of his feelings about his past on his face, but this topic was always tricky.

Leese gave him a concerned look, and he smiled to reassure her.

"Well, it's a boring story," he said. "I spent the better part of my childhood in a church run orphanage, and decided to stick with what I knew rather than trying to make a living as something else."

He hoped that Kas wouldn't say how sorry he was. Renza didn't mind talking about the past, but he only spoke about it to people who knew. People like Leese, and the annoying contact who called her up twice a year to talk about politics and ask for books on English. Other people heard him mention the Minerva mining satellite and immediately got all quiet and teary eyed.

It had been a long time since the damn thing blew up. Tragedy or no, he didn't weep anymore when he thought about his parents. He barely even remembered their faces, and was happier that way.

He made another exagerated sound as he finished the last of his mini cheesecakes.

"God, I might need to get more of those. Having good food is such a blessing. If they have food like this at these events, I might pester the bishop to let me go to more of them."


Nerdy Vampire
Kas thought about pointing out that Vanya did it because she could, not because there was a lot of actual reason behind it, but he also figured Leese didn't care that much. So he let it be.

In the pause after Kas had asked his question, he realized that maybe it was not the innocuous question it seemed. He hadn't meant to pry. When the answer came, he didn't know what to say. But he also got the sense that Renza didn't want his pity.

"Ah, that makes sense. Yeah, I kinda stuck to what I knew, too. Grew up in a military family."

He decided that was all that needed to be said on the subject and so nodded when Renza changed it. "I would have liked to enjoy more of them but a little time thief stole my stuff."

Vanya did not respond, her forehead still pressed against his arm. He was starting to grow uncomfortable.

Kas wondered if he should ask Vanya if she had slept recently, but she would just counter with asking if he had told anyone "no" recently. He would have to admit he hadn't and then they would get into an argument about which of them really needed help here.

And anyway, it was distinctly possible that Vanya was falling asleep.

He knew it was a problem that the person he felt truly comfortable with was supposed to be his arch enemy, but they had spent a lot of time either stuck somewhere, locked up, or chasing one another. He was going to get reprimanded for fraternizing with the enemy, but he would just play it off as he was lulling her into a false sense of security and getting information out of her.

Anyway, there was a truce on.

"Will you--you're hurting my arm," he complained, pushing her away for a second while he shifted. She hissed like a cat that had been moved from her spot in the sun until she flopped back against him. "There. This is why there's rumors."

"Yes, I'm very seduced right now."

Kas was pretty sure it would be impossible to seduce Vanya if he even wanted to. But also there was a priest right there. "She's using me to ease her time-related headache," he explained. "She's not--this isn't uh..."

Vanya slid an eye open. "You're cute when you're flustered."

"You're the only person I get flustered around," Kas shot back before realizing that did not help his case at all.

Sliding the eye closed, Vanya snickered.

"Shut-up or you can go lean on Major Williams."

"Silver no. That man is mean. Anyway, you're soft."

Kas felt his face growing warm but Vanya saved him, apparently feeling better. Her eyes still closed, she asked, "How long have you two been working together? Have you been in any harrowing situations?"

Kas frowned. "That's a little invasive."

Vanya shrugged. "You told them about getting stuck out of time with me."


One Thousand Club
Huh. Renza was pleasantly surprised when the conversation moved on, just like that. It wasn't obvious, but he moved a little lighter as he poked at his meal.

"You seem to get along well," he said casually, enjoying watching Kas fluster while Vanya used him as a human body pillow. "It's nice to see friendship between different species."

Leese choked on her food, and gave him a glare. He was doing that on purpose, the bastard. Luckily Kas and Vanya were providing quite a distraction.

"He looks more hard than soft," she said without a hint of expression. "Those biceps could crush a man's head."

Renza rolled his eyes, but he didn't bother elbowing her. Especially because the attention was back on them.

"Mmm, something like that," he said brightly. Leese glowered at him, and briefly considered pelting him with peas.

"We've known each other a long time," she said, relishing the vagueness as long as she had it. "But I don't work exclusively for him or anything. Trips like this are pretty rare."

Renza nodded, finishing off the rest of his plate.

"Leese is a mercenary," he explained. "I hire her when I know I'm going to be going somewhere potentially dangerous, or into a situation I might not be able to handle if things go south."

Or for situations that she was uniquely equipped to deal with, like this one.

"We've worked together... Hm. Maybe ten, twelve times since we've known each other?" Leese mused, also finishing off the last of her meat.

"It's easier because we know each other," Renza added, and Leese snorted.

"You say it like that and it sounds like I don't know what I'm doing. I have a very impressive record," she retorted, and Renza laughed.

"Yes, yes. I don't mean to sell her short. If you ever need a hired gun, Leese is a great option."


Nerdy Vampire
Kas frowned at the priest. He was pretty sure he and Vanya had been bickering nonstop since meeting Renza. "We're not friends."

Vanya hummed in agreement. "We are the deadliest of enemies."

Kas laughed a little awkwardly when Leese pointed out he was too built to be soft. He rubbed the back of his head. "Yes, well..."

Opening her eyes, Vanya lifted her head and squinted at Leese. "Don't flirt with him, only I'm allowed to flirt with him."

The tips of Kas' ears pinked, but he frowned at the vampire leaning against him. "You're not a very good flirt. And anyway, you never compliment my muscles."

Vanya acted aghast. "Because your muscles are not impressive. Obviously. And I'm a great flirt."

"I'm twice your weight, you know that, right?"

Vanya snorted. "On Albaques."

"Mass, whatever. Just because you're a time philos, that doesn't mean I'm not impressive. You're a terrible flirt. You only do it to bug me."

"No, because it flusters you and then you make mistakes."

Kas rolled his eyes. Then he got an idea. He leaned towards Vanya, and she sat up, fully ready to scowl at him for moving. But she froze when she noticed his provocative smile.

"What would you do," he asked slowly, letting his eyes drop to her mouth, "if I took you up on your flirting?"

Eyes wide, Vanya leaned so far back she would have fallen off the seat if Kas hadn't grabbed her shoulder. He laughed, and her face flushed.

"Kasper Jaager, there is a priest present."

"Pretty sure kissing is a thing in the scriptures," Kas said, still snickering and wishing he had thought to respond positively to her flirtations earlier. He pulled her back up to seated.

"Yes, but we're not married," Vanya whispered, shifting her eyes as if she thought Renza and Leese might not know.

Kas rolled his eyes. He decided to make it a random goal to get her to kiss him. Not for any particular reason. Just because it would be funny.

Vanya leaned back against Kas but with her eyes open. She listened curiously to the answer to her question, eyes bouncing between Renza and Leese as they took turns telling the story. She felt there was something else there. Some hidden story or joke, but she wasn't sure what it was.

Kas nodded. He had guess mercenary. He smiled at Leese. "I have no doubt she's one of the best. I'll keep it in mind."

He glanced around. "Looks like we're heading back to finish up the talks."

"Yay," Vanya said sarcastically. "Your side looks like more fun. Can I sit over there?"

"Absolutely not." Kas stood, looking for the recyclers. Spotting them, he grabbed his, Renza's, and Leese's plates and Vanya's mug. He dumped the food crumbs in the recylers and set the dishes in the bin to be sterilized. Returning, he smiled at the group. "Shall we get this over with?"

Groaning, Vanya dragged herself to standing. "I guess."


One Thousand Club
Leese raised her eyebrows. Huh. There was something going on there, and she wasn't entirely sure what it was. But that was not a hornet's nest she wanted to poke.

"He has nice pecs, but not quite my type," she said with a shrug of her shoulders. She more admired his physique as a goal than anything. She had put on muscle with a lot of hard work and training, but it was hard. She didn't look nearly as beefy as Kas. She supposed he probably worked for his physique as well, but it was still annoying.

Renza cleared his throat, because this was fun and all, but he did not want to actually watch them make out in the mess hall.

"Yes, well. A little teasing is fine, but any more and I must demand you take it behind closed doors," he warned, though his tone stayed lighthearted.

"You can kiss and have sex without being married," Leese said with a dramatic eyeroll. Renza gave her a scandalized look, because he was a priest, but she shrugged it off. "You wouldn't just buy a cruiser without test driving it first."

Luckily it seemed that mess was wrapping up. Renza stood and stretched, his back popping, while Leese joined him.

He wondered if he could derail things further. It was only lunch time, but talks would be advancing soon. He wanted to see if there was a satellite closer to the rip that they could use as an investigation point, but asking those questions would be suspicious. Leese was already chomping at the bit to do something, and he didn't want to stress her out anymore.

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