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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
"Thank you," Kas said. "See? She doesn't even like me and she can recognize I'm impressive."

"I don't like you, and I don't think you're impressive," Vanya said.

Kas grinned at Renza. "Don't worry, if I sweep Vanya off her feet and start kissing her, I'll push her into a closet, first."

"You sweep me off my feet, and you're going to get taken to entropy-free land again." Vanya seemed more scandalized than Renza pretended to be. "Humans are so loose!"

"That's not just a human thing," Kas said, rolling his eyes. "And don't vampires marry for power, anyway?"

"Not always. But I can't believe you would speak of such things in front of a priest. He might not know about those things."

"I think he knows about sex, Vanya."

Vanya waved that off. She wasn't particularly interested in going back to the talks. She didn't think Leese was, either, but she wasn't allowed to ask questions like that. Once Kas had returned, she said, "What if we ditched?"

"Why, you change your mind about wanting to make out with me in the closet?"

Vanya scowled at him. "It's only funny when I do it. It's not funny when you do it. No, they're only going to argue about what to do and then they'll fight over who gets to send what scientist where. They won't notice if we're gone, and what are we going to add, anyway?"

"You're the time philosopher. The only one."

Vanya shook her head. "They been operating without me for four years and they've made it very clear they can continue to do so. What do you two say? Let's ditch."

Kas knew in his soul that Vanya was up to something, but he didn't particularly want to go listen to the humans and vampires argue, either.


One Thousand Club
Leese, once again, was impressed that Renza had managed to keep a straight face.

"Ah, well," he said, holding his laughter in very well. "Not all priests are celibate, you know? It's not really a requirement, just... a suggestion."

A mark of devotion, or something or other. The Bishop had given him a very long and drawn out scolding about it when he was caught making out in the broom closet with a parishioner when he was fifteen.

But then Vanya suggested they ditch. Leese wasn't entirely sure what her game was, but she she had to admit, she didn't really want to go back in there anyways. She'd gotten all the information she needed during the science lecture.

"What do you propose doing? While ditching," she asked, unable to keep all the suspicion out of her voice. Renza gave her a warning look, but he didn't push it.

"Technically it is very important that I be there," he mused. He was supposed to argue the church's right to investigate the rip as an independent entity, and make his foothold for missionary work on Yasen. But he really had very few things he wanted to do less. "But I don't get off planet often. I wouldn't mind getting the chance to look around."


Nerdy Vampire
"Oh, well, if you're looking to make out with someone in the closet, the priest is available," Vanya said, because it was too funny.

Kas did not blush like she had hoped. "Yeah, he's cute and all, but not my type."

Vanya squinted at him. She had once asked Kas which way he swung to embarrass him. It had not worked, he had not been embarrassed, but he had said, "Whatever the hell you're not." So she wasn't really sure.

It would seem humans were a little more open about those sorts of things. But then vampires weren't really open about anything.

"Now why do you say it like that," Vanya asked, the picture of innocence. "I plan to do anything but sit and listen to a bunch of politicians argue."

"What are we going to poke with a stick?" Kas asked. He knew her too well to think she was just playing hooky.

"Nothing!" Vanya assured him as she lead the way away from the mess area and down a corridor of windows.

Kas gazed out them, spotting the vampires' frigate. A thought hit him and he glanced at her feet. She had magnetic boots on. "How did you get here?"

"Ship, same as you."

He eyed her jumpsuit. "On the Nocturne or the Comet?"

Vanya acted as if she had no idea what Kas was talking about.

And it slowly fell into place. "Oh, hell no. No. Absolutely not. You're nuts. No."

Vanya shrugged. "Then stay."

"Hell no. I'm not letting you poke it with a stick. And what are you doing dragging--oh. Vanya, you absolute ass. You're going to cause an international incident."

Vanya smiled. "Only if we get caught."

"You always get caught."

"Only by you which is why we have you along. So that's a human, a vampire, the church gets their priest, and..." Vanya turned a smirk on Leese. "She gets to stop being so anxious. It's a win-win!"

They rounded a corner and a sleek craft just slightly smaller than the AAA corvette size came into view through the windows. It's hull was painted vacuum black, but he knew it had small lights that could imitate stars once the reactor was turned on. It was impossible to spot if the reactor were off, but only slightly less impossible to spot when it was turned on.

Kas knew that the actual win was that Vanya got to learn what Leese knew. "She wants to take her stealth ship out to look at the rip," he translated. "Because she's nuts."

"We have a small uncrewed station that we sent out there over a week ago. Last I saw it's in position. We'd have to hope my codes are still good, but we could get atmosphere in there. I may or may not be able to active the spin though," she added, giving Renza an apologetic smile.


One Thousand Club
Renza shrugged his shoulders, a grin on his face.

"See, Leese? He thinks I'm cute. You're the odd one out here," he said. Leese did not look impressed.

"All I said was that you were cuter when you were a kid," she grumbled. "Let it go already, you narcissist."

But then Vanya was suggesting that they go check the rip out, and Leese drew in a sharp breath.

That was a terrible idea. This vampire had no idea what she was getting herself into. She was going to die, or cause a massive contamination. Maybe both.

But Leese knew she had no way to stop her, and that ship was the best chance she had at getting a good look at the tear.

"I'm not anxious," she lied through gritted teeth. "But I'm not going to let you investigate that thing alone."

Renza gave her a look, part-way concern and part-way suspicion.


"You should stay here," she said firmly. He could come along, probably. It had been over a decade since he'd been contaminated, and the symptoms had gone away within a year of the incident. Leese had been shocked; she didn't know that survival was a possibility with the contamination effect, but she didn't want to risk him becoming recontaminated, or worse, contagious.

He looked like he didn't know whether to agree or disagree. He definitely did not want her going by herself. Kas and Vanya seemed nice and all, but he didn't trust them enough to leave his best friend's secrets with them.

"I'll be fine," he protested, but she gave him a look that brokered no arguments.

"If you're gone, people will notice," she tried, figuring a different angle might have more effect. Judging by the sour lemon look on his face, it was working.

"You com me," he said firmly. "If it's anything bad, or even not bad, or if anything at all has happened, you have to com me."

He reached into her pockets without even asking permission, pulling out her communication device and shoving it into her hands. She opened her mouth, but she couldn't exactly argue.

"Fine. Go back to the talks, cover for us if anyone asks," she said softly, pulling him close and pressing their foreheads together. It was perhaps a bit of an intimate gesture, but she didn't care. If this blew up in their faces and the three of them died, she wanted her last moments to have no regrets.

Renza chuckled, patting her on the back as she hugged him.

"It'll all be fine," he said, even though the reassurance rang hollow in his ears. "I'll see you later."

She nodded, her movements stiff, and turned back to the stealth craft.

"Let's go, then. I don't want to be here longer than necessary."


Nerdy Vampire
Vanya was more than a little curious as to why the priest needed to stay, but it didn't matter that much. She and Kas both dropped their eyes when Leese pulled Renza in close.

"You better know what you're doing," Kas hissed in the primary vampire language.

Vanya was starting to think maybe she didn't, considering both Renza and Leese thought there was a high likelihood of them not coming back.

With a shrug, Vanya turned and began walking towards her ship.

Kas turned back to Renza for a second. "I'll keep them safe," he promised.

The ship hummed softly to life as Vanya stepped onto it, and she keyed in her code at the airlock controls and started up the reactor. The ship was a bit large for one person but with the various automated systems Vanya seemed to get on alright. It had three decks. The bottom-most when under thrust held engineering, the reactor, and a small cargo space. The middle had crew-quarters with four tiny bunks, a tiny kitchen mostly for heating various beverages, and single head with the tiniest low gravity shower Kas had ever seen. The upper deck had the bridge.

Vanya sealed the airlock and the ship's autopilot began the undocking protocols. She climbed the ladder to the bridge and settled herself in the pilot's chair. Kas settled himself at the navigation computers, figuring Leese might be better at the weapons.

"So," Vanya said as the ship lost the spin gravity given to it by the station as it unattached and began to drift away as Vayna coordinated the maneuvering thrusters. "Want to tell us what about this thing has you so worried?"


"My ship, my rules. You can't kick me off." She toggled something and then said, "We'll have thrust in about a minute, strap in."

"You gonna engage the cloaking?"

Vanya rolled her eyes. "Not this close to a station I'm not, that's stupid. You want to come over here and fly it?"

Kas considered himself a fair pilot--Vanya claimed he flew like he was trying to send himself diving into the nearest sun--but he wasn't about to mess with a vampire craft. "How is it that someone who likes to do stupid things flies so carefully?"

"I like this ship and also being alive," Vanya said. She glanced over her shoulder at Leese. "I wasn't particularly worried about this thing until that emmotional goodbye. What's out there, Ms. Atalasia?"


One Thousand Club
Kas seemed determined, at least. And he also seemed capable, which put Renza's mind a little bit at ease.

Just a little bit.

He watched the ship depart, then quickly turned around and headed back to the delegation. He had to at least pretend to be there for what he said he was there for.

Leese, for her part, was impressed. Her own personal ship was much smaller than this. It had a shower and a tiny bunk, but certainly not a kitchen.

She didn't do many long flights, though. Perhaps this much was the bare minimum when you were spending a lot of time aboard.

She had been inspecting the ship's interior when Vanya questioned her, and her shoulders stiffened.

Of course this was an interrogation. This vampire couldn't leave well enough alone.

"Your curiosity is going to get you killed one day," she pointed out, her face pinched. She had a feeling that, around Vanya, it would become her default expression.

But she had a point. They were going right into the thick of it, so they needed to know the basics. She took a deep breath, in and out, and then strapped herself in.

"I can't explain it," she warned. "It-- There's too much to explain. A lot of it you wouldn't understand - not that I'm doubting your intelligence."

She had no doubt the vampire was smart, but explaining concepts that didn't exist in this universe was difficult on its own.

"But it's dangerous. Dimensional tears are rare, and they usually heal themselves if they're natural. The fact that this one is so large and stable is... worrying."

She rested her head in her hand, already feeling a headache. She couldn't tell them everything, because they would both immediately distrust her. But she didn't actually want them to die.

She was tired of people dying. She'd escaped here all those years ago to get away from it, and even as a mercenary, the lives lost felt worth something. Senseless slaughter was different, and it always left her feeling bitter.

"Look, I-- All you need to know is that when we get to the station, don't touch anything until I tell you it's ok. Don't dock unless I tell you it's ok. If you see anything strange, or out of the ordinary, do not go near it. Don't investigate it, don't check it out, just--- consider this like a biohazard."


Nerdy Vampire
Kas privately agreed with Leese. But the fact that Vanya had brought him along said that she was at least taking precautions.

"Seatbelts, Kas."

"How many Gs are you planning because I am not putting my restraints on just for you to go a half a G," Kas retorted.

Vanya turned and gave him a look.

"I swear," Kas muttered, strapping himself in, "if you go less than a G--"

He groaned loudly as Vanya began to accelerate. "My grandmother flies faster than you."

"Doesn't your grandmother also spacejump?" Vanya countered. It wasn't really the acceleration she was worried about. Leese was making her think she wanted the option of flipping the ship around and blasting off in the opposite direction once they got closer to the station. She didn't have any gravity philos aboard and the last thing she wanted was injuring or killing one of her passengers during evasive maneuvering.

She had already pinged the station and it send back a report. She skimmed through the diagnostics, thinking the station looked alright. It was tiny, though. It was only meant to hold ten people.

When Leese sort-of-didn't-really explain, Vanya frowned, adding dimensional tears to the list of things she needed more information about. And the word "dimensional" implied there was something on the other side. Philosophers had theorized the existence of dimensions. They were possible, the universe was a big place.

But it seemed to make Leese nervous, and Vanya reasoned that the mercenary didn't get nervous without good cause.

"Great, a bio-hazard," Kas said, looking at Vanya. He couldn't see her face very well as her station was more in-front of his. But the fact that she wasn't verbally telling Leese not to tell her what to do said something.

Once the station grew to a decent size on the view screens, Vanya switched over from acceleration to deacceleration, and Kaz unbuckled himself. Vanya's head snapped around at the sound and she glared at him.

"Kasper Jaager, sit back down this moment."

"Where is your weapons locker?" he asked, starting down the ladder.

"If we have to do any evasive maneuvering, you're going to get your organs all over my bulkhead and then I'm going to have to call your mother and tell her."

Sometimes Kaz wondered if Vanya had ever met his mother on some random mission because she certainly seemed a little afraid of her. "You might want to tell me where you keep your weapons unless you want me touching all your stuff."

"What do you think this is?"

She had a point. Vanya didn't like weapons. She preferred just to use her sight. But also. "I think this is a military-grade stealth ship. Where are your weapons?"

"Locker by the airlock. If I yell, I want you strapped into in two seconds. There's a pull-out seat right there."

"Fine," he called up, but there was a beep as she activated the intercoms. He found the locker and pulled it open. There were several guns inside, but he wasn't sure if they had ever been fired.

"Have you cleaned these recently?" he asked, selecting a low-grav rifle. He spotted a second rifle and scowled. "Hey! This is mine!"

"You left it."

Kas scoffed. He was pretty sure she had taken it from him after she had knocked him out and handcuffed him to the weapons station. In his defense, he didn't think she'd come back to her ship so quickly and he had almost had the blueprints and software details downloaded to a memory chip. He hadn't been thinking about the gun when he had returned to consciousness and found her glaring at him from the pilot's seat. She had then yelled at him about how she had had to strap his unconscious ass in a seat so she didn't have to scrape him off her ship and his friends were still on her tail so he could just stay there. He had been stuck with her for several days while the military hunted her ship. She had been mad nearly the whole time, and he realized it was more that he could have died because she didn't know he was aboard than the fact that he was trying to steal her ship's secrets. She had also been very stressed about not having human food other than four protein bars which weren't really human food but were made from plant protein. He was pretty sure she had come out of hiding far more quickly than usual because she was worried he was going to die--she still had no concept of how much food humans needed.

After looking over his gun, Kas peeked in one of the kitchen's cupboards and found it fully stocked with human ration bars. He smiled to himself as he put the rifle over his shoulder. He climbed back up the ladder.

"No monsters jump out at you?" he asked with a grin.

She shot him a glare. "We're approaching the station now." Vanya glanced over shoulder at Leese. "Alright, Captain Atalasia. Permission to dock?"


One Thousand Club
They were worried. They should be, really, though when Kas went to get weapons, Leese figured he was probably worried about the wrong thing.

Animals did come through the big tears, occasionally. That one was certainly large enough to warrant it. But they were usually just scared and confused. They weren't monsters in the way that Kasper was thinking.

"If you're grabbing guns, make sure they have slugs," she warned, because the last thing they needed were more lasers. They didn't work and all they did was make the wildlife mad.

When they reached the satellite, she grit her teeth. Her fingers drummed anxiously against the armrest of her seat, but she couldn't see any contamination on the outside. If anything had gone inside, there would be signs and damage. She decided not to voice those thoughts aloud, because she figured if Kas heard that the wildlife from Ferensen could survive in space, he would have a heart attack.

She still found it creepy. But maybe that was because she had gotten used to being a human being who needed to breathe and eat like humans did.

"It looks good from the outside," she said, nodding permission to dock.

The satellite was tiny. Everything important was in one room above the docking station, so at least there wasn't a lot of ground to cover. Once the air lock was sealed and Leese was sure the atmosphere was safe, she had Vanya open the door and stepped out.

It was very quiet. She pursed her lips, looking this way and that. There were no signs of contamination. It was a bit surprising this close to the rip, but it just meant that no foreign matter had gotten onto the thing yet. She imagined it would contaminate naturally over time, and she certainly did not want to be there when that happened.

"I know you two usually do your own thing," she said as her boots echoed on the steel floor. "But I need you to trust me on this one. Don't shoot or do anything until I--"

Something thudded above them, and she broke off. Her face went dark, and she held up a finger in a sign for silence as she opened the ladder leading up.

It was dangerous, but there wasn't any other option. She waited a moment to make sure nothing was coming, and then hauled herself up.

The room was not contaminated, surprisingly. She had been expecting something very large and angry to be up here. What was actually there was probably even worse.

"Fenrick," she hissed through gritted teeth, fury clear in her tone.

The man who was standing naked in the middle of the room immediately spun around to face her, jumping nearly a foot in the air in surprise.

"Leese," he said, surprised and wary. She sounded and looked really mad, and he did not want to antagonize her. She glared at him, because he shouldn't be here and if this whole thing was his fault she was going to throttle him.

God, she could feel a migraine building.

"It's safe," she called down to the two below, before turning back to Fenrick, who looked more sheepish than anything.

The tips of his ears were pointed. God, he was a goddamned vampire. Of course. The satellite was made by vampires, so any genetic material left behind would be theirs. It still made her groan, and he scooted back against the nearby panel to give her as wide a berth as possible. She glowered back at him, taking in his appearance, even if it was altered to a form that better fit their surroundings.

He looked... better than the last time she had seen him, at least. It wasn't saying much, because he had been in absolutely terrible shape when she'd left, but at least he was no longer on the verge of dying.

The left side of his face was badly scarred, four claw marks gouged into his skin. His eye was missing, and she knew that when he turned around, he'd have horrible scars on his shoulder blades. But he was alive and in one piece, at least.

She'd known that, of course. They had communicated many times. But it was such a relief to see it.

Even if she was going to kill him.

"Why are you here?" She asked, switching to their native tongue. He held up his hands in a placating gesture, and she swept her own hand in the general direction of the rip outside. "Is that your fault? Because so help me, I will--"

"No!" He exclaimed, a hurt look coming to his face. "That... Things have gotten really bad. I'm only here because..."

He trailed off when he spotted Vanya and Kas, his face flushing. Right. He was still naked. Leese rolled her eyes and pulled off her jacket, tossing it to him so he could tie it around his waist.

"He's not dangerous," she said, and Fenrick nodded his head.

"I am friendly." His English was slightly clipped and heavily accented, like he had learned entirely through books and only heard a few words spoken aloud.

God, this made the situation so much more complicated. She really did have to explain things now. They were already dicey enough, but now there was no way that Vanya or Kas would leave this alone.

"Ok. I know you have questions..." She frowned, glancing at Fenrick. "You didn't contaminate the damn place when you came in, did you?"

He scoffed at her, shaking his head.

"Of course not. I've actually made a great deal of progress--" He looked up then, his expression brightening. "There she is."

Leese could feel her headache getting worse before she even turned around to see what he was referring to.

A loud meow sounded, remarkably similar to the meows of the cats back on Albaque. But Leese knew better, and she gave Fenrick a horrible stink eye.

"You did not bring that thing here," she snapped, switching back to English as the cat came out from behind one of the consoles.

It looked like a cat, anyways. It was shaped vaguely like a cat, though rather than legs, it crawled across the floor with furred tentacles. Fenrick reached down and scooped it up, holding it protectively to his chest. It purred, wrapping its tentacles around him and headbutting his chest.

"Serlain is very important research subject," he said sternly. "I need her to stop the... The..."

He scrunched up his brow. Leese looked wary, but... The cat hadn't contaminated anything around it, which was strange. Normally she'd consider it a crawling biohazard, but the floors and consoles were both fine and working.

Too many things had happened so far today. Leese no longer had the brain capacity to process them, and she slumped against the wall.


Nerdy Vampire
Kas eyed the docking tube with trepidation. It was probably fine. But if there were a fight, he would never let Vanya hear the end of it.

Vanya grabbed a skull cap out of a locker near the bunks and tugged it over her hair to keep it out of her face. She was back to making the micro-fidgeting movements that drove Kas up a wall.

Once she had permission to enter the station, Vanya eyed the code request on the console. She hesitated but then took a deep breath and keyed in her philosopher pass code. When it flashed blue and unlocked the station, she let out the breath. She had been so worried they had changed all the codes just to spite her.

Kas handed her one of her pistols as the stepped into the station. She made a face, but after his insistent gesturing, she took it and strapped it to her thigh. Kas waved her in front of him and she squinted in feigned suspicion at him. He rolled his eyes and pushed her in front of him. Vanya figured she was sort of the least trained in combat here, so it did make tactical sense for Kas to take up the rear.

Vanya startled at the thump above them, and Kas hissed a quiet curse. Vanya made a face, not wanting to be left behind, but Kas rested a hand on her shoulder and gave Leese a nod. They stood in silence, Kas shifting from foot to foot.

"She's talking," Vanya said, looking up as if she could see through the steel ceiling and floor. "Someone answered. Names, I think."

"The hell?"

Kas brought up the rear as Vanya climbed the ladder much faster than Kas thought the situation warranted. He pulled himself up and found a butt-naked vampire. At first, his brain suggested a vampire had come out here to screw around and hadn't expected visitors. But something was off, and he rested a hand protectively on Vanya's shoulder.

"Friend of yours?"

Vanya shook her head.

"That's not a vampire language by any chance?" he asked when they began arguing--or, Leese began fussing at the naked guy. It didn't quite look like arguing.

Again, Vanya shook her head, and Kas groaned. Of course it wasn't.

Kas thought himself as a pretty friendly and genial sort of person. But when the naked vampire spoke to them, he pulled Vanya closer. She wasn't complaining, and Kas wasn't sure of what to make of that.

Kas had a bajilion questions--like who the hell that guy was, for starters--but what was worrying him was that Vanya hadn't spoken a word. She used language like a mask, but when she wasn't speaking, she was thinking, and that was never good.

And then something meowed.

Kas stared at a creature from his fever dreams waltzed across the floor and attached itself to the naked vampire. At first he thought the vampire was under attack and he didn't think he was that good of a shot, but then he realized it was like a pet.

"Aw," Vanya said, starting forward.

"Nope," Kas said, bending down and throwing her over his shoulder. "Nope. We're leaving. Leese, we're leaving."

"Kasper, put me down."

"Nope, I draw the line at tenta-cats. We came, we saw, we're leaving. Nice meeting you, friendly guy."

"Looks like Leese might need more carrying than me," Vanya said.

Kas turned. "Oh, shit, hey, are you okay?"

He strode over to Leese and tried to get a better look at her, but Vanya was swinging her legs. "I'm going to put you down, but you are going to keep a hand on me or so help me, I'll knock you out."

"What if the tenta-cat eats my face?"

"That's not funny." Kas set her down, and to his surprise, Vanya rested a hand on his arm. He crouched next to Leese, watching her chest for her breathing. "You alright?"

Vanya was staring curiously at the vampire and his not-cat. "Did you say research? Are you a scientist?"

So she didn't think he was a vampire, either. Kas glanced at her and realized she might be looking at the new guy, but she was watching Leese like a wolf watched a lion. He wasn't sure Leese noticed, and he sort of hoped she didn't. He wouldn't have noticed if he weren't used to the weird way vampires watched things in their peripheral vision. It took him a second to realize Vanya's grip on his arm was firm, and her knees were flexed. She was prepared to jump out of time and take him with her.

Well, shit.


One Thousand Club
Leese looked back up at Kasper, forcing a small smile.

"I'm fine," she assured him. She was just overwhelmed and exhausted, but it wasn't actually dangerous.

The past eighteen years just came together and hit her like a truck.

Fenrick stayed on the opposite side of the room, as far away from Kas and Vanya as possible. He seemed nervous, if not quite scared of them, and he was looking at their guns with trepidation. Serlain purred against him, and he held her close.

Leese understood that Kas wanted to leave. She understood that this was a lot to take in, and he would probably be more comfortable back on the ship. He probably would have been more comfortable if they had never come here at all.

But they were here now, so she might as well start explaining.

"He's from the other side of the rip," she said, because they might as well get that out of the way first. "He's not dangerous."

Well, she supposed that in a vague sense, he was. Fenrick was an excellent Ferensnik and probably had enough raw power in his natural form to blow the satellite out of the sky. But while he was classified as a warrior, he wasn't really the type to enjoy physical combat, especially not when all his real strength was locked away.

He tried to follow Vanya and Kas' conversation, but it was hard. They were speaking fast, and it was difficult to make out what they meant. Something about cats and face eating. He really hoped they ddin't think he was going to attack them. He flinched when Kas picked Vanya up, half expecting him to have grabbed his gun. Guns weren't something he had ever really experienced, but he knew enough to know he didn't want to get shot.

He slid his eyes to Leese, then locked his lips.

"Is a scientist a researcher?" he asked, and she nodded. He, in turn, looked to Vanya and nodded.

"I research the..." He scrunched up his face, groaning in frustration. Leese, who had been watching Kas and Vanya carefully from her spot leaning against the wall, took pity on him.

"We call it the contamination effect," she said. He gave her a thankful look.

"I research the contamination effect," he repeated, proud of his pronunciation even though it took him a second longer to say it. "It is... a thing that happens, because of the rips."

Leese nodded her head, and decided she had had enough standing. She didn't want to worry Kasper or Vanya, but she ended up slumping down to the floor with a long sigh.

"I'm fine," she assured them, pressing her hand against her forehead. "I'm sorry, this is just. I wasn't expecting somebody to be here."

Fenrick looked to her, then to Vanya and Kasper. They were standing by her, so he couldn't go check on her without possibly antagonizing them. He hung back, chewing on his lower lip as he stroked Serlain's fur.

"I came because my country has declared war on yours," he said, and Leese's eyes snapped open.

"They what," she asked, her voice tense, and he grimaced.

"They fired on us. Montrose said we have the right of retaliation. He's been anxious for years to get a hold of that energy source--"

"He can't steal the sun,"
she grumbled, because that was the most basic of basics. She was pretty sure Montrose even knew that much. But he was a power hungry idiot, and desperate to assert himself as a king and saviour of his people. Rather than focusing on fixing their problems in a way that made sense, he decided to cause even more problems just to be flashy.

She would strangle him if she ever saw him again. For that and a few other things. By now, she had a list.

"He's not here to wage war," she said quickly when she realized the implications of what Fenrick said. She did not want Kas to shoot him.

"I came as a warning," he said, and Leese hated how ominous that sounded, but she didn't have the heart to correct him. "I want to stop fighting from happening."


Nerdy Vampire
Kas briefly considered picking both Vanya and Leese up and carrying them back to the ship. But Leese was considerably more muscly than Vanya, and he wasn't sure he could manage it, even in the relatively low gravity.

But Leese seemed to be doing a bit better. She really did look overwhelmed. He was a little surprised that Vanya wasn't crouching next to her, insisting that humans needed water and trying to feed her some.

"Wait, you're from the other side of the rip?" Kas glanced at Vanya, but she didn't seem surprised. It would have been nice if she had mentioned her suspicions--especially since this guy probably didn't speak any of the vampire languages.

Vanya nodded, making a small pleased sound to learn that the naked vampire was a scientist.

Kas groaned. He almost wished the guy was a spec ops, or something. That would be easier than another scientist.

"Wait, contamination effect?" He looked at Vanya and repeated, "Contamination effect?"

She shrugged. "He researches that, not me. Ask him."

Kas turned back to the not-vampire and opened his mouth to do just that when Fenrick announced the people on the other side of the rip had declared war. Kas stared at him. That was... not good. It was the opposite of good. He barely registered Leese's explanation that Fenrick himself was not there to wage war.

"Agent Zmey?"

Vanya slid her eyes to him. "Agent Jaager."

"Can I... speak with you for a moment?"

He rested his hand on Vanya's arm and drew her away from Leese. He would have included Leese, but she didn't seem like she could handle that right now. When he released her elbow, Vanya raised her eyebrows. Kas cleared his throat.

"The rip people have declared war on us?" he demanded in Vanya's dialect of the vampire language.

"Seems that way," she said.

"Oh don't be so casual. This is your people's fault."

"How is it--"

"Your people kept poking it! Now look what happened!"

Vanya rolled her eyes. If they hadn't poked it, the humans would have poked it later. "So you're saying that will be the hold up for a unified front against these 'rip people'?"

"It will be important that we point that out, yeah. But... we need to figure out what to do now. I say we grab Ms. Atalasia and get out of here. Should we bring that guy? I'm not sure I trust him."

Vanya tilted her head. "But you trust her." Kas blinked, not understanding, so she said, "She knows this man and speaks their language fluently. She knows more about this than anyone else at that meeting, and there were scientists and philosophers there."

Kas frowned. "What are you suggesting?"

Vanya shrugged. "That man isn't a vampire--at least not one from this dimension."

Kas cut his eyes over to Fenrick and then Leese. "Vanya, are you saying she's--no that's stupid. She's been a mercenary for how many years?"

Vanya shrugged again, but it was her entirely blank expression that made him uneasy. She was deadly serious.

Kas reasoned that any fight would between him and Leese. Vanya would try to help, but she couldn't use her sight to any great effect around him without becoming a hazard to herself, and this not-vampire didn't seem the fighting type. But he really didn't want to fight Leese--and not just because he wasn't sure if he'd win.

"Maybe we can talk this out?"

"We definitely need more information, if nothing else."

Kas looked at her and then laughed. She frowned, and he explained. "How did we end up doing this?"

Her lips twitched. "We stuck our noses in it?"

He grunted, and Vanya supposed she should thank him for not pointing out that coming here was her idea. She hooked her fingers in his belt as they turned back to inter-dimensional being and the possible inter-dimensional being.

"I know what you're doing," Kas said under his breath. "And don't you dare."

Vanya didn't look at him. She wasn't letting him die for her curiosity. Instead she fixed her eyes on the other scientist, letting her naturally slightly-angry resting expression take over and making eye-contact. Maybe she could intimidate him a little.

"We would also like to stop fighting from happening," Kas said. "How do we do that?"


One Thousand Club
When Kas showed confusion about the contamination effect, Fenrick immediately perked up.

"I will explain!" he said, far more animated than he was a minute ago. He opened his mouth to do so, then frowned. How could he explain this in English? There were words and concepts he just didn't know how to translate. His face scrunched up in annoyance, and he turned to Leese. "Translate for me so I can explain it."

She gave him a Look, then turned to Kas.

"It's a side effect of the dimensional tears. Like I said, think of it like a biohazard."

Fenrick gave her an utterly betrayed look.

"That was too vague! What is a biohazard? I can explain it, so translate for me," he insisted, and Leese shook her head.

"We can talk about it in depth later," she suggested, and he actually whined. The cat in his arms meowed curiously, then pulled itself up to headbutt his chin.

"I can explain, but I do not know how to explain in English," he said, clearly dismayed. Leese felt a little bad for him, but if she tried to translate his explanations they would be here for hours just to get context alone.

"The important thing is, it's bad," she said. Fenrick looked far from satisfied by her answer, but he reluctantly decided to leave it.

When Vanya and Kas spoke, Leese glanced at them briefly before looking back to Fenrick. She had a feeling she knew the gist of what they were saying, even if she couldn't understand. Vanya had been suspicious of her from the start. With this turn of events, it was only logical that that suspicion would get worse.

"I know that this doesn't look good," she said bluntly, because might as well get this out of the way now. "And I will explain, and answer all of your questions. I promise that. But first, I'd like to get Fenrick some pants."

Fenrick flushed at that, adjusting Leese's jacket to better cover himself.

"Clothes from Ferensen cause contamination," he explained, embarrassment clear in his voice. "I did not think people would come here."

Leese understood, because she had also been humiliated when she first crossed over. Human forms were also far squishier than their natural ones, and without his Ferens she knew that Fenrick probably felt alarmingly unprotected. She wanted to tell him that she wouldn't let anyone hurt him, but she didn't dare make those promises. Not after the last time.

Vanya's staring was definitely not helping matters, though. Fenrick leaned back over the edge of the console to put as much distance between the two of them as possible.

"I do not want trouble, or fighting," he said quickly, just in case they had somehow misunderstood. "I try to tell the king that lasers were not a show of aggression. He does not believe me."

"He just doesn't care," Leese spat, venom in her voice. Fenrick looked at her, and then cautiously took a step forward. He skirted around Vanya and Kas as much as he could, until he could place a hand on her shoulder. Serlain meowed again, and extended her tentacles. Leese huffed as the cat clung between the two of them, and she scratched her behind the ears.

"I do not know how to stop fighting," Fenrick admitted once he saw that Leese was significantly less agitated. "I came to... to stop damage. Make damage less? Make bad things happen less."


Nerdy Vampire
"Aw, hell," Kas muttered. "Did I hit my head? Because now there's two Vanyas."

Vanya rolled her eyes. "I have pants on," she pointed out.

Kas was impressed with Fenrick's English. It was a hard language. And he had probably learned it from books.

"I'm sure Vanya would love for you to explain," Kas said, since Vanya was being all quiet and weird.

When Leese mentioned him needing pants, Kas secretly felt relieved. He had felt very weird about that but also had not wanted to call attention to it. "Fenrick! That's your name. I'm Kas and this is Vanya."

When Vanya didn't even wave and then Fenrick retreated, Kas elbowed her side. "Stop it, you're doing the creepy psychopath stare." To Fenrick, he said, "She's not going to hurt you. She's just--it's a vampire thing. They do it to assert dominance."

"No, it isn't for dominance," Vanya finally said, her tone annoyed.

"Also... you look a lot like a vampire, so you might want to... have Vanya teach you some vampire etiquette. She's a vampire, too, see?" Kas pushed her beanie back to show her ear and then pinched the tip of her ear.

She opened her mouth in pain, showing off the other hallmark of vampire anatomy. "Ow!"

"Anyway, you deserved that. It was the lasers that did it."

"We paint your ships with info lasers all the time and no one takes offense. We didn't realized there would be a whole other culture in there that would."

"A whole culture of rip-vampires," Kas grumbled.

Vanya wasn't sure who this "he" was, but she wasn't sure he was someone she wanted to meet. She filed that away for further investigation.

"Well, you've come to the right place because we all want to make bad things happen less," Kas said. "As to pants. Vanya? Station have pants?"

She shook her head. "There are no supplies aboard. I have pants on my ship, but..." She looked Fenrick up and down. "I think I'm a little shorter than him."

Kas arched his eyebrows. "What, you didn't stock it with me-sized pants, too?"

Vanya glared at him. "Why the silver would I do that?"

Smirking, Kas shrugged. "You stocked the pantry."

"I might be able to find you something, Fenrick," Vanya told him, ignoring the fact that Kas had noticed she made sure there would be food for him if he needed it. She hesitated. "Not to be rude or anything..."

Kas groaned.

"But if you came aboard my ship, you wouldn't... contaminate it, would you? I just rather like my ship, sorry."

"It's a prototype," Kas explained. "Her mom invented it. She's really proud of it."


One Thousand Club
Fenrick wasn't sure what 'two Vanyas' meant. He was pretty sure there was only one of her, and his face scrunched in confusion.

But then Kas introduced himself. Leese felt a bit bad, because that had totally slipped her mind. She had been thrown off by Fenrick being here. It had been incredibly rude of her.

Fenrick, for his part, perked up. He hadn't gotten a chance to introduce himself in a long time. He used to be a proud warrior, but since his disfigurement and Leese's departure, he didn't get to meet many new people. Most of his days were spent in his research tower with Serlain and the few friends he'd managed to keep on the down-low. He was still a little nervous of Kas and Vanya, but he wasn't going to pass up the chance to introduce himself properly.

He straightened up, his shoulderblades flexing. In a way, it was nice that they were othersiders. Neither of them had wings, so they wouldn't judge his lack of them as he instinctively tried to use the muscles he no longer had to spread them.

His wingspan had been very impressive at one point. Nowadays the lack of it weighed on him heavily, so being able to introduce himself without the pitying stares was nice.

"I am Fenrick, son of Odrick, first level Ferensnik and Warrior of Ferensen," He said proudly, one hand thumping against his chest. They wouldn't understand him, of course, but it was just nice to get a little bit of his old pride back. The corner of Leese's mouth quirked upwards.

"He says his name is Fenrick and it's nice to meet you," she said. He huffed, annoyed that she hadn't translated his whole address, but he decided to let it slide. It was meaningless nowadays, and they wouldn't understand it anyways. But it still felt nice to give a warrior's introduction.

But he was very confused about one thing, and his face scrunched up again.

"What is a vampire?" he asked, eyebrows drawing together. "I thought humans were dominant species."

Leese grimaced, because that was a whole conversation that she was very much dreading. She wanted to at least have it with him in private, in case he had a bad reaction.

He was definitely going to have a bad reaction.

"We can talk about that later," she said, and Fenrick was giving her that look that said he knew she was hiding something but wasn't sure exactly what it was.

Pants were a priority, though. It was surprisingly cold on this ship, and he found his tolerance was not quite as high as it used to be.

"I told him it is not sign of aggression," he said, sounding frustrated.

"What did he do?" Leese asked, her eyes narrowing when Fenrick turned away. He wasn't really sure how to answer that, especially with the others present. He no longer held any political power or prestige back on Ferensen, but Leese had gotten angry with him when he'd blabbed about his position to Renza.

"He kick me out," he said with a shrug. "He said that I was a traitor, siding with invaders who want to spread contamination. I told him he was being an idiot, so he exiled me. If I set foot on Ferensen soil again, 1000 shiks goes to whoever can cut off my head the fastest."

He spoke casually, but Leese could see the way he was toying with the edge of her jacket. She swore, both in English and Ferensen, very nearly punching the wall.

"I am going to kill him if I ever see him again," she growled, and Fenrick chuckled.

"Well. He is not leading charge. He is using the Royal Core to keep the bridge - the rip - open. It is stable for now, but will not be always. If not closed soon, it will be too big. No way to control it," he explained. Leese's expression grew stormier and stormier. Fenrick chewed on his lower lip, then looked back at Vanya. She had asked a question, and he was more than happy to answer it.

"No, I am stable. I cannot contaminate. Serlain is also stable! She is my...My success. Big success. A very long time of success," he said brightly. "Ferendin people have... have..."

He scowled at Leese. She had been hoping to wait to answer this, but Fenrick would be annoying if he didn't get a chance to talk about his passions.

"A defense mechanism," she said, and he nodded, his face brightening.

"Yes! Defense mechanism. We can change to fit environment. It is very difficult, takes much energy, but stops contamination risk. It is why you think I am 'vampire'. I took the remains... the things left on this island, to copy."

Leese looked very tired, and he reached over to squeeze her shoulder. She should really explain it in depth, because she didn't want Vanya or Kas thinking she or Fenrick were dangerous, or monsters. They were bound by exactly the same rules as all others of their respective disguises right now. But she was already getting a headache.

Fenrick looked back to Vanya, humming. She was shorter than him, he stepped closer, holding a hand out at the top of his head and then going over to hers. There were at least a few inches of difference. He was not quite as tall as Renza or Kas, but he figured he was about the average size of a vampire male, or a little smaller. He had been a little smaller than average in his real form, and things like that tended to track. He could change what he was, but he couldn't change everything. If he could, he would have gotten rid of his scars.

"You are short," he agreed. He looked back at Kas, his eyes narrowing. "But you are too big. If I wear your pants, I trip."


Nerdy Vampire
Kas raised his eyebrows. He was pretty sure there were some titles in that little speech, and it looked a little funny coming from a guy using a jacket as a skirt. "Nice to meet you, too."

Vanya was a little impressed that Kas was handling this so well. Here was an other-dimensional entity and his octocat and Kas was just chatting with him like he was just someone he had met at a space station kiosk. It probably helped that Fenrick looked like a vampire. She patted Kas' shoulder to let him know he was doing a good job.

At Fenrick's next question, Kas pointed at Vanya. That. That was a vampire. But then Fenrick called humans the dominant species and Vanya bristled like an angry puffer fish. "Aw, hell."

"Dominant species?" She turned and glared at Kas like he had been the one to convince Fenrick of this lie. Kas held up his hands. "Humans are not the dominant species! Just because there's more of you--who went to space first, hmm?"

"Yeah, first rule," Kas said dryly as Vanya continued to rant about all the things vampires had done first. "Don't say humans are the dominant species around a vampire." He shrugged. "Yeah, we can explain more later. But vampires are similar to humans. Just a few differences in physiology and diet."

Anyway, there were more important things. "Wait, you were exiled?"

Vanya also stopped her ranting and frowned. They exchanged a glance, Kas drawing his eyebrows up. Vanya groaned, flopping her arms dramatically. "Fine."

Kas smiled. "We'll get you taken care of, Fenrick."

Vanya made mental notes of the word he said to describe the rip, and "Royal Core", and the fact that the rip needed to be closed ASAP. She thought about asking how to do that, but something else seemed more important.

"You can copy our DNA?" Vanya asked, her eyebrows shooting up into her hat. She was no life philosopher or healer, but that sounded like magic.

"That explains why you look like a vampire," Kas said. "This station was made by vampires. 'Ferendin', huh?"

Vanya nodded, figuring it probably was like influencing the universe in the sense that it used tons of energy. "Does this... defense mechanism mean you are bound by our eating habits? I have some food aboard my ship that could help you restore your energy."

This offer soured in her mouth as Fenrick measured their height difference.

Kas doubled over, laughing. Vanya had just the slightest frown on her face, but it was an un-manipulated look, and he hadn't seen her so insulted since he had called her "Ivan" the first time. He placed a hand on her shoulder to keep himself steady as he wheezed.

"Yes! She is so short!"

"Let's just get him some pants so I don't have to look at his legs," Vanya grumbled, pushing Kas away.

Kas was still wheezing. "Your pants aren't going to fit him! Your inseam comes up to his knee!"

"Drown in silver, Kasper."

Once she was far enough from Kas, she flickered and disappeared.

Kas wiped tears from his eyes. "She's going to go hide stuff she doesn't want us touching, she's not actually mad or anything."

He lead the way back to the Nocturne. This was fine. Just an inter-dimensional exile and his freaky cat. They just needed to get him pants. And maybe food. Kas would freak out about this later. Maybe he would lock himself in the bunk room with Vanya and have her talk him down.

The airlock cycled open and Kas stepped into the crew area. Vanya was pulling open lockers and exposing the contents. Kas was starting to think she used the ship as her home. He had poked through it when he had been stuck with her, but it had been pretty new back then. She'd had it for two years, now, and it was full of a lot more stuff.

He glanced at the contents. The clothing spanned the spectrum of vampire gender ideals and were largely practical. One locker had several shirts and pants that were definitely Kas-sized.

"Wear whatever you want." She pointed at the Kas-sized locker. "There's underwear in that one."

"What if I don't want him wearing my underwear?" Kas asked with a grin.

"That's not yours."

Kas pulled out a jacket and held it up. "Yeah, because this is Vanya-sized."

"Maybe I like oversized jackets."

Kas grinned and then turned to Fenrick. "I'm just joking. The lady of the ship says you can wear whatever, so wear whatever."

"Are you hungry?" Vanya asked.


One Thousand Club
Fenrick quickly stepped back when Vanya started to rant, holding his hands up defensively.

"I did not know!" He said. "I only hear of humans on Al... Al.... Albackee."

"They're from a different planet," Leese informed him, and Fenrick's brow furrowed again.

"There are multiple inhabited planets? Is this because of the 'sun'?" he asked, and Leese nodded. She wasn't an expert on the solar system, but she had learned a little bit about the planets and how they differed from her own home.

Fenrick tilted his head, thought clear on his face.

"I did not know there are two planets," he mused. "We have one. Only Ferensen. It works different than Albackee. We too have islands in sky, but do not use 'ships'. I have never been on 'ship' before."

Leese had a feeling that Fenrick and Vanya could go on for days about the differences between the two dimensions, if only he could communicate more effectively. She was kind of glad he didn't speak English as well. It meant she didn't have to listen in on another three hour lecture about how the 'Islands' in the sky did not count as separate planets, which he had gleefully asked her to translate for Renza once the concept of planets had been explained to him. Leese had received the transmission, listened for five minutes, and then turned it off. She appreciated Fenrick's passion, but she could only take so much science talk before her brain started to hurt.

"Ferendin is... My people. People like me," Fenrick said. "We can copy other things, and become them. It helps, if young one gets lost. They can blend in with animals, until they get back. I thought it works the same way with othersiders, and tested. It does. It stops contamination. 'Side effect' is what you said. We must eat food, and breathe, and do other things humans need."

He scowled as he said it, because it was frustrating. He couldn't use his Ferens in this form, and it felt like being without a limb. But it was better than being dead, certainly.

But then Vanya was getting mad at him, and he looked both hurt and insulted.

"You say you are short first, I agree with you," he argued, and Leese patted him on the shoulder.

"You're also short," she pointed out, and he whacked her hand away.

"I am not short. I am average size," he protested, but his attention was quickly stolen when Vanya vanished. "She is gone. How is she gone?"

He sounded both a little scared and a lot fascinated, and there was a sparkle in his eyes that meant he would be asking Vanya a lot of stunted questions. Leese sighed and tugged him along. Serlain meowed again, and she hushed her.

She glanced back at Kas, and then Vanya when they got onto the ship.Fenrick was distracted by clothes, and made a series of emotive noises as he looked through the locker.

"What is 'underwear'," he asked, and Leese rolled her eyes.

"Just grab the ones that look like tight short pants, you'll be fine."

Once he was preoccupied, she stepped over to Kas, and in turn, Vanya.

She wasn't sure what the proper amount of familiarity was. Could she shoulder bump him? She did that to Renza a lot. But Renza had been with her for years, so she was close to him. She didn't really get close to a lot of people.

"Thank you," she said finally, awkwardness in her stance as she shoved her hands into the pockets of her jumpsuit. Her voice was low, and she doubted Fenrick would understand anyways. "For being... Understanding. For not running. I know this is... a lot to take in. And just..."

She trailed off, a bit of red dusting her cheeks.

"Thank you for being nice to him. I didn't think he would be here."

She wasn't sure entirely what else to say. She knew that she was asking a ton of them, to drop all this information on them. She chewed her lower lip, but didn't know what else to say. How did you express gratitude to people you didn't know well?

She didn't have long to think about it, because Vanya was offering Fenrick food. He looked up, having seemingly figured out underwear. He was wearing a pair of Vanya's pants, which were just a little high on his ankles, and one of the Kas sized shirts, that hung off of him a bit like a tent. It was a comical image, but it worked fine.

"Maybe later," she said quickly. She did not want him to freak out on the ship. But Fenrick was giving her a calculating look, and he shut the locker behind him.

"What do vampires eat?" he asked, and Leese grimaced.

"We can talk about it later--" she began, but he cut her off with a sharp gesture.

"Tell me."

He was staring at her intently, in that way he always did when he knew she was trying to protect him from something. Finally, she caved in, heaving a heavy sigh.

"It's blood."

She could see the horror cross his face, and he turned to look at Kas and Vanya, part for confirmation and part out of fear. Leese awkwardly rubbed the back of her neck.

"It's animal blood. It's not what you're thinking of, it's completely natural. They just... evolved to drink blood rather than eating food," she said, a hint of pleading in her voice. She expected him to immediately refuse, and try to go hungry the whole time he was here. She would hate to see it happen, but she expected it.

However Fenrick gulped, visibly steeled himself, and nodded.

"I will eat it."


Nerdy Vampire
"Maybe you should not just disappear in front of the guy who has never seen a vampire before," Kas suggested quietly, leaning against kitchen counter while Vanya folded something on it. "What are you thinking about?"

"Ferensen and sky-islands and a species that can copy another species' genetics," she said. "What are you thinking about?"

"Trying not to think about anything," Kas admitted.

"Hence the jokes."

"Hence the jokes," he agreed.

Vanya looked up at him, frowning slightly. He was so tense. If he flexed just one more muscle, he would snap himself in two. She was about to ask if he were okay when Leese joined them. She closed her mouth and focused on getting the creases right in the shirt she was folding.

Kas chuckled. "Oh, I'll get to the running and the freaking out," he assured her. "But, yeah. We're not just going to... leave him."

"Especially if he wants to help us stop a war," Vanya agreed, satisfied with the shirt.

She tucked it into a locker and then hopped up on the counter next to Kas. He shifted so that his back rested against her knee. As he had hoped, her fingers drifted across his shoulder in a soothing motion. So he shifted to put his back between her knees to give her better access.

Vanya followed the conversation between Leese and Fenrick, getting the feeling that she was avoiding telling him vampires ate blood. When she finally did, he looked disgusted. Vayna was neither surprised nor offended. Especially not by a not-vampire who was drowning in one of the Kas-sized shirts.

"I don't have to give you blood right now," Vanya said. "And it's not human or vampire blood. But I have protein bars." She paused. "But you will eventually need to have blood. Your body needs it to survive."

Vanya slid her fingers to the spot that Kas carried all his stress--right between his shoulder blades. She prodded the knot there very gently.

"Fuck!" Kas shouted.

"Kas, don't teach Fenrick bad words," Vanya scolded, but kept prodding.

He groaned. "Holy mother of hell, that hurts. Don't stop."

"Not to change the subject," Vanya said, her tone too casual. "But how do we close the rip and stop the war?"

She had about a million questions, but that seemed like the most pertinent.


One Thousand Club
Fenrick stayed tense, but when Vanya said that it wasn't vampire blood, he visibly relaxed.

"It's not cannibalism," he said, clearly relieved. Even if Leese had said it was animal blood, it was good to hear it from a source. "It is just... food, right? It is natural."

He could try to think of it that way. Blood drinking had very bad connotations in Ferendik culture, and it was hard to just get rid of them. But he could try to reframe it. Rielle always told him that when he was stuck and frustrated with his work, he should think about it in a different direction. Usually it helped. In the times when it didn't, it calmed him down enough that he no longer felt like throwing a table out of the window.

"I will wait," he said when Vanya told him he didn't have to have blood right that second. He was sure it would be difficult, and he didn't really want to have an audience. He had already made a fool of himself.

There was a meow from behind him as Serlain crawled across the floor with surprising efficiency. She rubbed up against Leese's legs, then looked to Kas. She began to crawl towards him, but Fenrick quickly scooped her up.

"Sorry," he said, his cheeks flushing. "She likes people. I know you are not comfortable around her."

He didn't see why, because she was adorable and also perfect. But he had had her for years now, and saved her from contamination sickness, so maybe he was biased. Rielle and Jona said she looked like any other Kaltsrit when he talked about how she was far cuter than normal.

She was cute, though. She clung to him and purred again, sticking her head into the loose neckline of his shirt.

Leese rolled her eyes at his antics, but she decided to let him have this. He didn't have a lot of things that made him really smile like that.

She wasn't sure what else she could say, besides thank you. She had the feeling this whole thing had worn Kas down more than it looked, and she didn't want to be pushy or intrude. But she hoped he could at least get used to it.

Fenrick looked back at Vanya, his mouth flattening into a thin line.

"Closing rip is not easy," he said, sounding a lot more tired than he did a minute ago. "He is using... Power source. Very big power source, that is keeping it open. Normal rips are small, close fast. Usually, they happen in your space. Contamination is only on our side. But this will make contamination on your side."

He scratched behind one of his ears, giving Leese a pleading look. She returned it with her own pokerface before she finally sighed.

"Fine! I'll translate, so get it out of the way fast. If you talk for more than ten minutes straight, I'm stopping, so keep it to the basics," she warned. Fenrick immediately perked up like she had given him a present.

"Yes, I keep it short," he said with a rapid nod.

Leese had a feeling he couldn't do that if he tried, but she'd indulge him.

"So, the rips are a naturally occurring process. They started... oh, two, three hundred years ago? We don't know why. Usually they're unobserved by your side, because you don't have life in your space void. Any contamination that comes through has nowhere to go, and disappears quickly without spreading. I don't know everything about this side, or the science that makes it up. I've read data, but trans dimensional communication without travel is difficult, so a lot of that data is likely outdated by now..."

Leese gave him a Look as she translated the important parts, because he was about to go off on a tangent. He looked back at her and flushed sheepishly.

"Rips happen naturally, and we don't know why. My associate theorizes it happens because of weather on this side. Like Ferens storms, but you don't have Ferens. Anyways, they usually close within... I don't know human time."

"A few hours to a day," Leese said once she finished translating. Fenrick nodded, seemingly pleased with that.

He had started to make hand gestures as he spoke, and as he got further into his explanation, he began to pace as well.

"I study the contamination effect that happens a result of the rips. My associate studies the rips themselves, and why they happen, and our fields interact often. Something powers the rips on your side of the dimensional barrier. Once that power runs out, the rips close. The fastest way to force a rip to close artificially would be to exhaust its power source. But..."

He trailed off and sighed, running his fingers through his hair.

"My idiot brother used our research to create a rip drawing power from the Royal Core. Essentially, it's being powered by Ferensen itself. The rip won't close naturally until the planet exhausts its Ferens - its energy. One way to close it would be to cut it off from its power source, but that's impossible to do from this side. I tried to do it back in Ferensen, but he caught me and exiled me. Also I called him stupid, and he really doesn't like that. I could have handled it better."

He grimaced and Leese snorted. She had left the 'brother' part out, using the word king instead. But the last part wasn't even worth translating.

"He tried to close it, but he failed," she said instead, because it made Fenrick look a little better.

"Closing the rip itself is important, but we also need to be careful to contain the contamination that comes through it. This tear is so much larger than normal, wildlife could stumble through, contaminating everything it touches. Once something is contaminated, it can spread that contamination to the things around it. If it is not alive, the contamination will eventually destroy the object and solve itself. But living beings that are contaminated are like a source of disease. They don't act rationally. The only thing to do is isolate them until they die, and the body decomposes. Usually that takes around a week to a month. I've been working for years to try and find a solution, but..."

"Anyways, the royal core can keep that rip open for a year, probably. By that point, my people would all be dead, and the contamination would be impossible to contain. Our best chance of avoiding both war and an outbreak of contamination is to close it within a month. I'm still trying to figure out how to do that. We could potentially overload it with a larger energy source. If it switches power sources, it could break the connection with the royal core, theoretically. If we could then cut the power source, the rip would close. But I don't know for certain if this will work, or how to make it happen. All I know is that with the way things are currently, both sides are going to suffer."

He sighed, slumping against the wall. Talking about it really drove home how serious the situation was. He had known that, but he was trying not to consider it. Right now he kind of just wanted to take a nap.

"If you have questions, I will answer," he said, waving a hand as if giving them permission. "Some things hard to explain. We have things you do not. You have things we do not."


Nerdy Vampire
Vanya frowned slightly. "Yes? It's just food and it's natural. We herd a creature--ah, it's like the Albackee--"

"Albaques," Kas corrected, not wanting to confuse Fenrick.

Snickering, Vanya continued, "It's like the Albaques elk."

Kas snorted at that because the creature Vanya was referring to was too big to be like an elk and could see infrared.

"We make sure they get enough to eat and we take their blood," Vanya concluded. "But anyway, I also have plant--well, it's really more like a lichen, but that's what we call it in English--protein bar if you're hungry."

Kas watched the tenta-cat make her merry way towards him, the muscles Vanya had smoothed bunching again. She shifted, but Serlain was quickly claimed by Fenrick.

"It's fine," Kas said easily, but Vanya made a displeased sound and flicked his tense shoulders. "I'm just trying to get used to, um, furry tentacles on a cat."

"They have some species on Albackee--"


"--that have appendages--mm, legs--like that and they are very venomous," Vanya explained. "Most of their 'cute' animals have only four legs. Four legs are common in this dimension for larger species."

"Except your hexasaurs."

Vanya nodded. "We have a six-legged endothermic reptile-like group on Yasen--that's my planet. Hexasaurs are pretty mean, though. Not cute, really. Make a horrible chattering sound. They'll steal a baby if you're not watching. Only in our equatorial region, though."

Kas made a face as Vanya's fingers abandoned their attempt to ease his stress and busied themselves with taking notes. For a brief few moments, he had been feeling pretty good. But now they were bringing up the topic he had no idea how to talk about, let alone solve. He rolled his neck, trying to get some of the tension out. It would be nice if Fenrick's pet was an actual cat because then he could pet it and it would purr and that would sooth his worries.

But it had tentacles.

Vanya nodded to show she was listening, her stylus scratching furiously over her handheld. Next to the notes she was taking, she wrote down questions that came to mind as he talked.

Why rips suddenly started two/three hundred years ago?
"Weather" = solar wind/field fluctuations/dark matter?
What is "ferens" (sp?)?
What powers rips on our side?
Ferensen has monarchy--political structure?
Impossible to cut off from "royal core" from our side?--K will hate
F mentioned cat his greatest success--how to stop contamination spreading?
Why a month?
What in other dim. could overpower "royal core"? A star?
How to sever connection?

She tapped her pen on her knee. She had thousands of scientific questions, but she wasn't sure that they would even be able to talk about rules of physics. Who knew what rules his side of the rip had?

"Vanya?" Kas asked, leaning back and looking at her.

She gave him a small smile, but it was forced. Great.

"Two questions," Vanya said, which of course was a lie, but she had given them little stars making them the most important. "First, what is 'Ferens'?"

She paused. She didn't like this next one, but it needed to be asked. Vanya leaned forward, sliding her free hand to rest on Kas' shoulder. "Second, am I understanding you correctly that the rip cannot be closed from our side?"

Kas froze. "Aw, hell no."


One Thousand Club
Vanya was using a lot of words. Fenrick nodded, but he was pretty sure he only caught about half of that, and that was a generous estimate.

"You... raise animals? For blood," he said, hoping he got that right. He glanced to Leese, who nodded her head. He let out a whoosh of breath and nodded. "That is fine. I can do that."

Leese was impressed he made peace with it so easily. She supposed she shouldn't really be surprised. Fenrick understood contamination better than anyone else, so it made sense he would be able to separate the stigma from the symptoms faster than an ordinary person. Or maybe he had just grown since the last time she saw him.

Fenrick looked to Vanya, then down at Serlain. He patted the Kaltsrit on the head.

"She is not dangerous," he said, and then his voice turned teasing. "Unless you are a Ferens mineral deposit. She eats those. But you are too big, she cannot eat you."

He wasn't entirely sure what venomous meant, and he didn't want to ask. He felt silly constantly asking Leese to translate for him, and it was a little embarrassing. He was not stupid, but he felt stupid.

"Four legs. Only four? How do they..." He scrunched up his nose. He knew the environment was different, but he had no idea how a Kaltsrit could manneuver itself in the sky if it only had four legs. But then, Leese had told him not many things flew on Albaques. Perhaps it wasn't normal for a 'cat' to fly.

Vanya used far too many words in her next sentence, and he just nodded dumbly. Right. Something about a mean animal with six legs. He figured the rest wasn't quite as important.

"I will keep her away from you, if you not comfortable," Fenrick said. "Kaltsrit cannot change shape. She can only look like this."

He tried to imagine Serlain getting around on only four tentacles, and laughed. She would hate it.

Leese turned to Kas, then scooted a little closer, bumping their shoulders together.

"Are you good?" She asked in a low voice. "Anything I can do? I don't think I'm as good at massages, though."

Fenrick turned to Vanya once she finished writing, nodding his head. When she asked her first question, he frowned, tilting his head back. It was both very simple and very complicated.

"Energy, basically," Leese said, and Fenrick gave her a look. It was more complicated than that and she knew it. She stared back at him, but after a few minutes she finally caved. "Fine! Fine, explain, but don't go off on tangents."

Fenrick brightened, and even looked a little smug.

"Ferens is the base of every living creature and non-living natural phenomenon on Ferensen. Everything has it. It populates the atmosphere... Hm, kind of like your Oxy-jen? But most living things are capable of generating their own, even if it's a small amount. Larger species would have a hard time thriving on this side of the bridge, because of the lack of Ferens in the environment, but they wouldn't die of it. Many many years ago, they did a study where they artificially removed the Ferens from the mineral deposits in the northern Yilry mines, to see how the Kaltsrit there would survive without it supplementing their main food source, and--"

"Tangent," Leese said, cutting him off once she realized where he was going. "Get back on course."

He scowled at her, huffing as he shifted Serlain in his arms.

"Anyways, it's everywhere in Ferensen. It powers all of our tools, and provides energy for our food creation. The royal core generates the most of it, far more than is naturally available in the mines or the atmosphere."

He stopped for a second, sighing. Thinking about the royal core and actually explaining this was reminding him of how dire the situation would be for both sides of the bridge if Montrose kept up his stupid plan.

"The royal core goes through cycles. In the warm cycle, there's a lot of excess Ferens. We try to use this time to create as much food as possible, and store as much energy as we can for the cold cycle. The cold cycle, you call it winter? is harder. There's less Ferens generated by the core, so we have to use only what we have available in the atmosphere and the mines. Usually by the end of the cycle, food is scarce. It's a time when we need to conserve Ferens, to be cautious. And Montrose is using the cold cycle to power his stupid bridge, for his stupid invasion plan that will never work!"

He couldn't hold back his frustration. Leese decided to give him a bit of leeway, and didn't translate his emotional outburst.

"He calls it winter, but it's longer than the winter on Albaques or Yasen," she said. "The average winter in Ferensen lasts ten years. Sometimes it lasts longer, sometimes it's a bit shorter, but it's... It's not a good time to be using resources for a war effort."

She sounded tired, and Fenrick sounded tired too. Their homeland was being run by somebody who had no care for the people, and was willing to run everything into the ground for ambition. It was exhausting. Leese imagined Fenrick had the worst of it - he had to see people shivering and going hungry because they didn't have enough energy to keep their body temperatures up.

"That is Ferens," Fenrick said, switching to English. "There are Ferensnik, Ferendin who are very good at using Ferens, but that is long explanation. Many classes, many kinds. I will explain later, if Leese translate. She get angry when I go on 'tangents'."

Leese huffed and rolled her eyes. He just didn't appreciate how boring it was to translate science talk to people who barely understood the concepts.

"We don't know," she said to the next question, cutting Fenrick off before he could answer. "The rip is essentially a two-way bridge. As he said, we could try to switch the power source. Overload it. We could do that from this side, if we had a large enough power source. But it would have to be an artificial power source, one that could be turned off. Otherwise it would just continue to make the rip bigger and bigger."

Fenrick nodded, leaning back against the wall. Serlain licked his face, and he stroked her head.

"I understand why he's doing this. I know he's just trying to help. But he refuses to listen to me, because he thinks he knows best. He's going to ruin all of us."

He sounded more exhausted and worn out than he had since he first arrived, like talking about the issue had reminded him of how dire the situation was.

Leese stayed silent, because that wasn't meant for Vanya or Kas. It wasn't even meant for her, really. Fenrick had had it rough. She didn't envy him, trying to convince somebody who hated him for something he couldn't control that he was making a bad decision.

She glanced to Kas, then quickly stepped away from him. She figured she might as well come out with most of the truth. She would be surprised if Vanya hadn't put it together yet, but she didn't want to make Kas uncomfortable.

"I'm Ferendin," she said, glad her voice didn't waver. "But I didn't come through that rip. I've been here for a very long time, and I don't want to see this place get destroyed because of a stubborn asshole who thinks he's right all the time. You don't have to trust me, because I did lie to you, but... I'm on your side. Renza is too. He only kept quiet because I asked him to."


Nerdy Vampire
"He might be one of those," Vanya said, smiling but deciding not to try to repeat the words Fenrick had used in case she butchered them. "She might eat him."

"Ha, ha," Kas said. "I'll get used to her in a bit," he said, because he did feel bad that Fenrick apparently loved her like any human would love their cat but Serlain had tentacles.

Kas turned to Leese and gave her a weak smile. What he really wanted to do was crawl into the one bunk that had blankets on it, pull the blankets over his head, and take a nap. "My Vanya-sized headache is becoming a me-sized headache," he joked. "I'll be alright."

Vanya bumped him with her knee as she took notes on Fenrick's explanation of Ferens. She made a few notes about what she thought about Ferens. Once she was done, Kas rubbed his head on her shoulder. She rolled her eyes. If he wanted physical affection, he could just verbally ask for it instead of leaning against her and hoping she would do what he wanted. But she obliged, rubbing the back of his neck so that he swore again.

Vanya considered the information they did have. So they needed a big power source. She thought about asking how much power they would need but decided she wouldn't know what to do with that information even if Fenrick knew the answer. Too bad Tula was so far away. Maybe if they got orbital mirrors and--

But Fenrick was saying something Leese didn't translate. He sounded tired. She completely understood. What had started out as a fun science conundrum had turned into a nightmare.

Kas opened his eyes at Leese's revelation. "Do I owe you money?"

"We didn't bet on it," Vanya said. She had just mentioned it was a possibility and Kas had thought she was being stupid. She supposed she should have bet on it.

He grunted and leaned back against her. "Well, you're talking to a person who currently has his back to a very dangerous enemy agent."

Vanya wiggled her fingers in a wave just in case there were some confusion about who the very dangerous enemy agent was.

"So I'm not going to space you just because you're not like me. But especially not since you want to stop this just as much as we do. Vanya? Am I speaking for you, too?"

She nodded. "And I think trust is imperative. We can't fault each other for withholding information earlier, but I think we need to put all our pieces on the board."

"Cards on the table," Kas corrected. "You've probably figured it out but Vanya and I--"

"Specialize in stopping wars before they happen."

"Yeah, that's a good way of putting it. Anyway, sneaking around and stopping assholes is in our job description." Kas paused as Vanya slid from behind him and stepped over to Fenrick.

"Can I pet her?"

Kas wanted very much to pull Vanya back from the octocat but figured she was doing it to show him it was safe. "Anyway," he continued, his voice wavering slightly as he tried not to keep darting glances to Serlain. "I guess my question is: is this a sneaking around sort of thing or should we tell our respective governments and try diplomacy?"


One Thousand Club
Leese snorted when Vanya suggested that Kas was a mineral deposit.

"Those are rocks," she clarified. "I don't know if you looked closely, but that cat doesn't have any teeth."

Well, maybe that wasn't entirely accurate. Her gums were lined with tiny spiky nubs, but they were designed to vibrate and shake the dust off of the rock surface. They certainly weren't hard like normal teeth, and were a fraction of the size. The most she could do was suck on Kas' fingers. It would probably exfoliate them.

Leese really did feel sorry for him, though. It was a lot to take in. When she had first come to Albaques, she had been overwhelmed. It had taken her two weeks to actually go out in public. She had been lucky that the Minerva had a habit of hiring undocumented Albaquese for lower pay, because she was able to feign amnesia after the explosion and Renza lied for her, saying she was a worker. But not knowing anything, trying to navigate a whole new world without even knowing the language... it had been terrible.

But at least Kas and Vanya didn't seem like they were going to kick her out.

"Good, because spacing me when I'm human would definitely kill me," she said, her tone somewhere close to joking. It sobered out quickly enough. "As far as I know, Fenrick and I are the only ones to ever come across."

She sighed, running her fingers through her hair.

"Well, that's not entirely true. An animal crossed over once. The incident was smoothed over because no traces were left behind, but it wasn't pretty."

She wondered where she would even start with the Minerva incident. She had been very, very lucky that it hadn't been far, far worse. But at the time she had been running for her life, and she wasn't really thinking straight.

Fenrick perked up, holding up Serlain so that Vanya could come pet her. She was similar to a regular cat, though her fur was a bit thicker, and more oily. It only went in one direction, and she made a grumbling noise when Fenrick accidentally pushed it back.

"Sorry, she not like that," he said, giving Vanya an apologetic smile. He could talk about Kaltsrit fur and how it protected them in their underground homes, but he had a feeling Leese wouldn't translate for him again.

"I have no problem with sharing. But... Well, some things are hard to talk about. Context issues aside, a lot has happened in the past twenty years or so. I don't even know where to begin about most things."

But when Kas suggested diplomacy, she sighed and shook her head.

"Montrose - the king, he would never go for a diplomatic solution. He's stupid and stubborn, and he doesn't listen to people. He's always trying to prove he's the smartest and strongest person in the room, even though he's not."

She sounded more than a little bitter, and Fenrick sighed.

"I made problem worse," he said, and Leese turned her glare on him. "He is older, but I am better Ferensnik. I am given our parent's name, he is not. It make him angry."

Leese's mouth twisted, and she looked like she wanted to flick Fenrick on the forehead.

"You are not at fault for being born," she scolded. Fenrick shrugged his shoulders, like he didn't quite believe her, but he didn't want to get into it in front of strangers.

"Many people do not like him as king, but he is very strong fighter. Ferendin challenge him, and he kill them. Nobody want to die, so Ferendin stop challenging him," he explained. "He is our problem. I did not want him to be your problem."

It seemed that he was making a problem of himself anyways. Fenrick always had a headache when his brother was concerned, but it was only growing more and more frequent in recent years.

Serlain, who had been rubbing her head against Vanya's hand, meowed and looked back at him. He stroked her back, smiling for her. There was no point in getting upset over the past, or things he couldn't change. They just had to focus on solving this new problem.

"Telling the governments presents its own problem," Leese warned. "If they want to explore Ferensen or try and mine its resources, it could cause a lot of problems. Almost all of the information we have on contamination is on animals and people from Ferensen. We still don't totally understand how it affects vampires and humans."


Nerdy Vampire
"If you substituted Kas for a rock, what would change?" Vanya asked with a huge smirk.

"Rocks can't groan and roll their eyes when you end up being right," Kas pointed out.

"Fair point. Guess we'd better keep you, then."

Kas raised his eyebrows. "Wait... does that mean spacing you when you're not a human wouldn't kill you? Because that's... huh. That's a little disconcerting."

Vanya considered what sort of "animal" had come through. She wondered if it had left no trace because it hadn't done much or because it had destroyed everything in it's wake. She decided she hoped it was the former.

Vanya nodded, letting Serlain sniff her hand before she carefully petted the cat in the right direction. "Oh, Kas!" she said, her voice soft so as not to scare Serlain. "She's so soft! Like an alpine vixp!"

"You've touched an alpine vixp?" Kas asked, tone half sarcastic, half expectant. The the others, he explained, "They're kinda like a long fox with two tails. They steal your stuff. The alpine ones are like... mottled green. They have a thick coat in the winter, and touching one is supposed to bring you good luck."

"I touched the one I rescued your canteen from," Vanya said.

"That one didn't have his winter coat, so it doesn't count." Kas relaxed a bit as Serlain seemed to be enjoying Vanya's attentions. Vanya still had all her fingers. And she was humming and cooing to the cat-thing in her dialect of the vampire language.

He turned his attention to Leese and nodded. He was sort of getting the feeling that she hadn't come here under the happiest circumstances. "Well, you can just tell us things that are important for us to know, then. We don't need your whole life story."

Kas raised his eyebrows. So, Fenrick was the king's little brother? Well, that was interesting. "Yeah, I don't see how that's your fault," Kas said. He could understand the resentment, but not enough to understand exiling your brother over it.

Vanya hummed. "Makes sense that people stopped challenging him. But sounds like he's about to be our problem."

Kas nodded, running a hand through his hair. "Alright, we do this ourselves, then. No governments."

Vanya nodded. Albaques would want the resources and Yasen would want to make sure they didn't get left out. They'd be squabbling over a place they couldn't even take over.

"Wait! That priest knew! That asshole."

Vanya turned a smirk on Kas. "You can't call a priest an asshole. You'll have to do penance or something."

"He said a lot of things that had more meanings than it seemed--he was making fun of us. I'll call him an asshole because he was being one." A lot of things Renza had said made more sense now. Folding his arms across his chest, Kas frowned. "Anyway. Plans. Us against the universe. How do we do this?"

Vanya stretched her hand to him. "Come pet the cat. Come on."

Kas hesitated. But he was going to have to get used to all this and a cat with tentacles seemed like she might be the lower end of the weird scale. He allowed Vanya to pull him to her and only stiffened a little when she shifted his hand towards Serlain. He focused a bit more on Vanya's hand on his more than the cat with tentacles sniffing his hand. But--

"Oh, she is soft."

"Yeah, see? What is she called in your language? I keep calling her a 'tenta-cat' in my head, but I doubt that's correct."

"Anyway," Kas said, giving Serlain one last pet before taking his hand back. "Before you two nerds start going off about animals, we need to figure out what to do. Vanya, can we use your ship?"

Vanya nodded.

"Second, the priest knows, so do we get his help? Third, well, I don't really know. What's next?"

"We have to keep both our sides from coming near it if we want to close it," Vanya said.

"How do we do that?" Kas asked.

"Well..." Vanya glanced back at the research station. "We blow up the space station and then run for it."


One Thousand Club
Leese opened her mouth, then closed it. Right. She hadn't really thought about that.

"You have lungs, we do not," Fenrick said as though that were a totally normal thing. "How you think I got to satellite? Space is very cold and not comfortable. Leese probably die after one hour. I die after... one day? Human time still confuses me."

Serlain was definitely enjoying Vanya's attention, pushing into her hand. She was a lot like a regular cat in terms of temperament, but Leese figured that was because Fenrick had spoiled her since she was a kitten. Wild Kaltsrit tended to run the second anything came near them.

"They sound cute," Leese said. She had always thought foxes were adorable. Her smile strained a bit when Kas said that he didn't need her life story. It would probably come up eventually, if they were going to be discussing politics, but for now she was glad to not bring it up.

Fenrick smiled down at Serlain, who had extended one tentacle to Vanya and wrapped it around her wrist. Her grip was light, and she tilted her head up for chin scritches. Kas said it wasn't really his fault, and he just smiled again and shrugged. People always said that, but part of it was his fault. He had challenged his brother for the right to succession and lost. The only reason he had survived was because his father stepped in. Such a thing was normally unheard of, and it only hastened Montrose's downwards spiral.

He had told Jona and Rielle once that things might have been better if he had just died back then. Rielle had smacked him on the forehead and called him an idiot.

"Well, he has no experience or data about humans or vampires, at least," Leese said with a sigh. "But he won't shapeshift. Which means if we do end up fighting him, he'll have full control over his Ferens. It would be... kind of like magic, I suppose."

Fenrick nodded his head.

"I say he is not as strong as me, but he is very strong. He is class three Ferensnik. Most Ferensnik are class seven or lower," he explained, but one look at Leese told him she wasn't translating a more in-depth explanation.

But then Kas realized Renza's involvement, and Leese sighed. She already knew where this was going.

"No, he is right. Renta is asshole," Fenrick said.

"You don't know what that word means," Leese pointed out, and Fenrick shrugged.

"It is insult, obviously. Which means it is true. Renta is asshole. I will tell him that when I see him."

Leese could already feel a headache coming on. She did not want to deal with squabbling on top of the very real threat they were facing, but Renza had never been able to leave well enough alone.

Serlain made a 'mrp' sound as she looked up at Kas, then headbutted his hand. She kept her tentacles to herself, but she seemed happy enough to have so many people fawning over her.

"Serlain is Kaltsrit," Fenrick said brightly. "They live in mines, eat... 'rocks'."

They were often considered pests on the level of a wild rabbit eating a garden, but Fenrick would deny that they were anything other than perfect beings.

"Renza will help," Leese said. "The whole reason he's with the church in the first place is for information manipulation. Rubbing shoulders with the bishops means rubbing shoulders with government officials."

Renza was very good at it. He had, after all, managed to talk his way into getting them here.

"Blow it up?" Fenrick asked, somewhere between worried and curious. "It will not affect people?"

"There's nobody here. Besides, this is man made," Leese said, not phased at all. "It will get attention, but nobody will be hurt."


Nerdy Vampire
"But what about the pressure?" Vanya asked curiously. "How does your body equalize against the pressure of space?"

"We do not have time for that," Kas said, still trying to reconcile the fact that Fenrick had not needed a vacuum suit to get to the space station. "Right now we need to--"


"--figure out how to deal with this--"


"--very big problem of--What, Vanya?"

Vanya pointed to the tentacle around her wrist. "She likes me."

That was freaky. He couldn't help thinking of a jellyfish wrapping itself around Vanya. It took all his self-control not to rescue her from the octocat. "That's nice, Vanya. Now, how do we deal with the big scary king who doesn't need a vac suit and can use magic?"

When Vanya opened her mouth, Kas said, "Have you trained in vacuum philos fighting? Not low-G, Vanya, vacuum."

Vanya closed her mouth.

"I thought not." Kas rubbed his forehead. He was hoping "shoot him" was on the table because otherwise he wasn't sure what to do. Right. One thing at a time. First thing: the priest.

"Information manipulation?" Vanya mused, her tone curious as she continued to stroke Serlain. She had more questions for the priest.

"Wait, Fenrick, you have to put 'an' before 'asshole'," Kas instructed. "Father Richtail is an asshole."

"Kas is a bad influence," Vanya said. "Who's the prettiest Kaltsrit, hmm? Is Serlain the prettiest Kaltsrit?"

"Vanya, we're blowing up the station?" Kas prompted.

Vanya finally stopped petting the tenta-cat and fluttered her fingers in the air. A holographic readout appeared, and Vanya told it what she wanted with more finger-movements.

Kas knew that was how vampires interfaced with their ship computers, but it still was odd to him. When he had been trapped on the Nocturne, he had floated in the middle of the ship saying "computer" in as many of the vampire dialects he knew until he realized Vanya was doubled over, laughing, as she floated past him.

He had asked what they did if their hands were full, and she had frowned and asked what humans did if their mouths were full.

A holographic view of the station appeared and Vanya rotated it this way and that while she thought. "We want to make it a mystery. If we do it right, it'll stall them for weeks. Maybe even a whole month. There will have to be a formal investigation and everything."

"How do we blow it up without leaving a trace?"

"Oh, that's the easy part." Vanya pulled up a dialog box with a long line of code. "This is Ed's. It overloads the reactors. Pretty great, right?"

Edwin was Vanya's younger brother. He had never trained to become a philos--Kas was pretty sure he had matter sight like his parents--but he was one of the best hackers the YF had.

Kas scowled. This explained a lot of the mysterious explosions that had occurred near Vanya. "They won't recognize it?"

She shook her head. "It destroys itself and there's no way for it to be passed on through a network, so they'll have no way to tell it was there."

"How do we keep from getting caught? Even a stealth ship isn't completely untraceable."

"Yeah, that's the hard part." She plucked a memory stick from one of her many pockets and handed it to Kas. "You can stick it in any terminal. It will download itself immediately."

"How long do we have after that?"

"One hour." She glanced at Leese. "You fly, right? The problem with the stealth ship is that it's really good at hiding from other ships, but not so great at hiding from big sensor arrays--like the kind on stations that monitor asteroid movements. It disperses the radiation of the drive, but not at the same level as the typical background radiation of space. If they take their sensor data, they'll be able to say something was out there. Probably my people will be able to guess that anomaly was me. Anyway, I thought maybe we could hide and coast away in front of the explosion because that would blot out anything with lower radiation. But I also can't run my stealth radiation dispersal and my shields at the same time--which, obviously is a big problem when fleeing from a big explosion."

Vanya pulled up the blueprints of the Nocturne. The diagrams were in the primary vampire language, which Kas figured would not help Leese at all. But Vanya was eyeing it intently. "Thoughts? I'm open to whatever comes to your mind."

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