She stared at the small white dots as they flowed by. To her right was a screen fluttering through billions of lines of code per second in attempts to decrypt the data that they had recovered. Even with over two hundred years in between that technology and this one, the super computer had been struggling to break the encryption for two days.
Behind her sat the Wolvrun captain. Lazily lounging in his chair, legs kicked up over one of the arm rests as he sprawled his back over the other. He looked stupid. She hated the fact that she was more or less bound to the whim of Wolvrun, and this specific Wolvrun made it that much worse.
“I'm going to take a walk," she announced as she walked out of the room. Nephadius completely ignored her as he bounced his feet up and down within his seat.
She strolled down the infinite hallway lackadaisically, pondering where in the ship she should explore. She still didn't fully understand the odd ship. She had infiltrated many of the Frigate class ships in her days. Even ones that looked exactly like this one did (on the outside). It was clear that the ship could somehow bend space-time to direct the hallways, but that kind of technology was only applicable in theory… Had technology jumped that far in the last two hundred years? She continued to ponder the idea when she noticed that the hallway had ended, dumping her into the cargo bay.
That was one thing she could never get used to either. While the ship generally put her wherever she wanted to go, sometimes it chose a destination for her.
Below her in the bay was Talrean. The young sand colored wolf was standing in front of the odd aliendog creature that they had decided to bring with them. He had his hands on his hips and a perturbed look on his face. The odd beast had its head tilted in confusion at the young Wolvrun.
“I know what you're up to," He spoke in a scolding tone, “I know that you… or another one of you killed everyone on the Eakawha ship!"
The dog creature tilted its head the other way confused. Talrean's cheeks puffed up as he huffed in a fluster. Aietos climbed down the nearest ladder well and joined the wolf in the middle of the bay.
“What are you doing Talrean?" She asked as she approached. When the aliendog noticed her presence it padded over to her, large blue tongue flopping out of its maw as it went to lick her playfully. She grabbed the tongue as it nearly met her. The eyes of the creature widened and he whined loudly, backpedalling away from the bird woman. The beast lowered its head and scurried to a corner of the bay. She could hear what sounded like disappointed grumbled from the creature as it laid down and began cleaning itself. Aietos shuddered at the nasty thought of the dog licking itself.
“Hey Aietos," Talrean replied, “I was just trying to teach it some tricks…"
“Don't waste your time, it's just a stupid dog," Aietos scoffed, keeping her eyes on the beast in the distance. Talrean's lips pursed slightly at her words. Her oblivious hatred for Wolvruns (and anything even remotely similar to them) showing.
“Well, it seems to like you."
Aietos's neck feathers ruffled up. Her beak snapped shut and her face seemed to glow an faint red. Talrean tilted his head to her reaction.
“What in the hell is that thing?" A voice rang from above them. Both Talrean and Aietos turned to see a large Equin standing on the second floor. He was leaning over the railing, watching the aliendog. Even from that distance the two could clearly see his ears flicking away through his large cowboy hat.
Aietos immediately reflected on the heated argument that she and the other two had had two days before. Thinking back to the events kind of angered her to a degree.
When the shots rang out they all dove pretty quickly. The sound pierced by her with a deafening pop. There was a plume of dust and the Wolvrun had disappeared. Only seconds later they heard multiple shots ring out in the distance. Talrean had jumped behind the aliendog, and Aietos watched auspiciously from behind a tree, scanning the hillside for enemies. Everything went silent. The silence lasted at least thirty minutes as well.
Breaking the silence they finally heard a ruffling coming from up the brush. Moments later Nephadius appeared, blood soaked, dragging a rather large brown Equin. He flopped the heavy horse down in the small break that they were all standing in, huffed, and sat down cross legged, closing his eyes.
Talrean was the first one to come out, asking the notable questions. “What happened? Why are you covered in blood? Are you okay? Who is this? Is he dead?" Nephadius ignored the onslaught of the inquiries, breathing shallowly through his snout in heavy sighs. Aietos came out, looking over the wolf in curiosity. She too had questions of her own, her biggest being where all the blood had come from. It was clear that his overcoat was soaked through, as was his regular garments. The Equin appeared to be unscathed, other than what looked like some scratches and bruises. She could see the subtle rising and lowering of the horses chest, so she didn't have to question whether or not he was alive.
Nephadius's eyes cracked open, peaking at the bird woman. He continued to ignore the younger wolf, who padded around the small group analyzing everything and making constant comments about his concern. When the older Wolvrun spoke up, Talrean's rapid slur of words ceased, as did his movement.
“He's coming with us," Nephadius spoke. His tone was direct and commanding.
“Have you lost your mind?" Aietos rebuked, “He just tried to kill us and you want to bring him along?"
“This isn't up for discussion," The Wolvrun replied in a low huff.
“…I agree…" a nervous voice spoke from nearby. Nephadius's gaze quickly snapped to the young Wolvrun beside him.
“When the hell did my ship become a democracy?" Nephadius scoffed vehemently.
“I'm just agreeing with Aietos… Why would you want someone who tried to kill us on the ship?"
Nephadius sighed and stood up, brushing dust off from his pants. He stared down at the knocked out Equin, staring silently for a few moments.
“He wasn't trying to kill you. He was hired to capture me… I plan on buying out his contract and hiring him myself instead," Nephadius said, breaking the silence.
“This is completely absurd! You think he'll just change sides like that?" Aietos squawked in protest.
“Money talks," Nephadius stated, point blank, “and I've got plenty of credits to talk with."
“Plenty of credits? You couldn't even afford your own drinks at the bar!"
“Didn't you buy all of us out of the slave market though?" Talrean chimed in.
“Yeah, he did, with bullshit credits! He doesn't have real money!"
“Hey now, I have actual credits!"
The petty argument went on for a good amount of time. Nephadius constantly reminding the other two that this wasn't a democratic decision, Aietos constantly berated him with her anti-Wolvrun comments, and Talrean threw in sidebar agreements and disagreements where he figured he would be heard.
It ended when Nephadius grabbed the Equin and began dragging him back in the direction of the ship, where he consciously chose to block out the cries and protests of the other two. The group was so focused on their own petty discussions that they didn't notice the aliendog follow them back onto the ship, where it laid down and took a nap in the cargo bay upon their departure.
Aietos shook her head, snapping back to the present. She looked up at the tall Equin with caution. Oddly enough, the only one she trusted was Talrean, which was weird for her, given he was a Wolvrun. So naturally, her caution for the stud horse wasn't unwarranted in her opinion.
“Never seen one of you before either," The horse spoke, pointing directly at Aietos this time.
Aietos's feathers ruffled up around her neck and she let out a loud squawk, “One of me? What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
The horse clicked his tongue against his teeth, smiling broadly and whinnying loudly, “Ooh, feisty! Just how I like them!"
The battle was on at that point. Aietos rushed towards the Equin, face filled with a blood-like rage as she cursed various obscenities. In a loud snickering laugh, the horse fled, disappearing into one of the many infinite hallways. Aietos vaulted onto the second floor, quickly dashing after him.
Talrean stood alone in the bay, laughing at the odd events. Beside him the aliendog padded up, sitting next to him and tilting its head curiously. The young wolf reached out and patted its head as he chuckled. The large beast purred at the touch.
“Everything around here is strange isn't it?"
Aietos huffed as she strode down the hallway. She had given up on chasing the Equin some time ago, now she walked just to pass the time and think about things. Her pace was moderate as she flowed down the hall. The echoing of her footsteps was an odd kind of soothing. She closed her eyes and continued on. Her mind drifted off to a time in the past. She hummed a tune that would have been familiar to her people. A nursery lullaby.
“That's a beautiful melody," she heard.
“Yes it is," she hummed in reply.
She stopped her movement, quickly turning around. The hallway behind her was empty. She spun around to double check the front: Empty as well.
“…Hello?" She asked curiously.
“Hello," a voice rang through the corridor.
Her eyes squinted and she took up a defensive stance, slowly turning around, looking for the source of the voice. Her hand was places tightly on the hilt of her sword.
“You don't need to worry about that darling, you couldn't use it against me if you tried."
The lights flickered for a moment, and a blue hologram projected into the hallway. It was a Wolvrun woman, she had a big fluffy mane, and short, stubby pointed ears. The lights flickered again as the hologram adjusted into full color. The Wolvrun woman was an off-white color. She panted slightly, revealing a purple tongue. She almost looked like a female version of Nephadius.
“It's been a long time since I've heard Nu Au Vahd. Such a beautiful lullaby... Nu Au Vahd en du oora nuva de. Eros nara da - dora no – uoora de," The hologram sang, continuing the song in the same rhythm that Aietos was humming moments ago.
The bird woman's jaw was unhinged as she watched the hologram sing her childhood lullaby. She had long forgotten the words herself, only left with the memory of the tune as her mother used to hum it. She hadn't heard it since she was a hatchling.
“Who…who are you?" Aietos questioned curiously. Her beak was still held open in a stupor.
The Wolvrun woman smiled, ending her hums, “I am Inoya, and you are Aietos Vo Euan, an Eagress of the Eakawha."
Her beak snapped shut as she heard her full name. She hadn't mentioned it to anyone before. It was part of her duties as a commando to forego her surname in the line of duty. Hearing it spoken so casually unnerved her greatly.
“Inoya…?" It took a second for her to realize what she meant, “Wait, you're the ships AI."
“Yes, I am… I see that this form is unsettling to you though. Your hatred for Wolvruns is apparent. Perhaps a different form would be more suiting?" The AI replied. At the end of the speech the voice deepened. The hologram shifted subtly into a large, male Eakawha.
“Aietos… Is this better?" The male spoke.
She kept her beak shut, head lowered as she diverted her eyes away from the hologram.
“Get him out of my sight," she said in a low tone.
“I'm sorry, I don't underst—“
“GET HIM OUT OF MY SIGHT!" She screamed
The hologram faded quickly, leaving the hallway empty. Aietos stood alone in silence. Finally the female voice echoed throughout again.
“I want to apologize. I had sensed deep feelings for your father, Euan. I did not think seeing him would have upset you so greatly. I must have misinterpreted your—“
“No…," Aietos cut off the voice.
“I was glad to see him. Elated even," She hesitated for a moment, “I am a failure. I cannot face him knowing that."
The AI didn't speak of the event any further. It left the Eakawha woman in the hallway in silence. Aietos's head was held low, tears dripping off of the feathers on her face.
“It's been six days, when the hell is this thing going to be done?" Aietos squawked, staring at the screen that continued to flash code as it decrypted the files.
“I didn't think the Eakawha encryption was that good two hundred years ago, but I'm now being proven wrong," Nephadius mumbled, clicking his nails on the armrest of his chair.
Next to him sat Luke, kicked back, hat over his eyes snoring. Talrean was in the room as well, fiddling on a separate terminal. Over the last few days drifting through space all of the various crew members had gotten to know each other rather well.
It was almost a daily routine for Aietos to chase Luke after his sidebar sexist comments and catcalling. Talrean and Nephadius both spent the mornings trying to teach the aliendog (whom they named Blue) various tricks. So far they had managed to teach the odd creature to “Sit" and “Beg". They were always amazed at how excited the beast would get whenever Aietos was present, even though he was only yelled at and lightly beaten by her every time. Luke himself (when he wasn't intentionally harassing Aietos) mostly slept, legs kicked up and leaned back wherever you could find him.
It was rare that all four of them were in the same room. Even rarer that they weren't at each other's throats in heated arguments. By this point the crew was tired (and disappointed) that they hadn't reached the next sector. They should have been to the next planet two days prior, but due to a star going supernova, they had to reroute, which delayed them an additional two days.
The last argument was aimed towards Nephadius, who insisted on leaving straight for the UnGaire from Sulxner. Both Talrean and Aietos practically begged the ship captain to stop back on Shang so that they could get supplies, to which he replied, “This is not a democracy." Even now the Wolf himself wished he had listened to them. He had forgotten that most of the supplies had been used during his liberation of the slaves. He made sure he didn't make it apparent, but his stomach was growling for something other than dehydrated meat and veggies.
“We're coming up on Outpost 53. Should be coming into view in the next few hours. I already sent authorization codes to the local docking enforcement, so we shouldn't have any problems landing. There is no point in leaving until the ship finishes decrypting the Eakawha data, so, this might be our only chance at a 'Vacation' for a while." Nephadius announced.
“Vacation?" Luke said, popping up in his seat, “Outpost 53 hardly sounds like a vacation destination."
“Don't be fooled. Outpost 53 was named over five hundred years ago during some conflict between the Rhintoks and the Gek. The planet has actually grown into a rather impressive place. Those big dumb Rhinos never bothered changing the name though." Nephadius stated.
“Yah know, you're like a walking encyclopedia, how the hell do you know so much?" Luke inquired, clicking his tongue against his teeth.
The Wolvrun turned and looked at him, shaking his head.
“I plan on doing some shopping. Gathering some supplies for wherever we may be headed next. Then I'm gonna—“
“Replace my drone!" The Equin threw in quickly, feet slamming onto the deck in a jangle as he kicked his legs down.
“…Then I'm gonna replace Luke's drone… and probably try to forget I know any of you by drowning myself in booze at a local bar," Nephadius finished.
Aietos glared over at the Wolvrun like a wife scolding her husband. The wolf stuck his tongue out at her like a child teasing his playground crush. Talrean cringed like he was in public being humiliated by his parents. Luke sat nearby, ears twitching rapidly as he stared confused.
“Well, I guess I'm going to explore on my own," Aietos said, scritching the underside of her beak in thought, “Talrean, you're free to join me if you want."
Talrean's ears perked up. His tail wagged excitedly beneath him in his seat, “I would love to!—Er, I mean. That would be great Aietos."
Luke snickered at the young wolf's excitement. Talrean blushed a deep red beneath his fur. Aietos shot her glare to the horse instead, to which he smiled and whinnied in response.
“Well, Luke, what are you going to do then?" Aietos asked, crossing her arms in an accusatory fashion.
The horse pondered for a second, bringing his fingers to his chin. After a second he let out a loud chuckling whinny, “I reckon I'm gonna find me a big ol' pair of titties to squeeze on since you won't let me honk on yours!"
Aietos was out of her seat faster than any of them could have imagined. Luke had rolled backwards out of his, whinnying loudly as tears of laughter flowed down his long face. He bolted from the room with the angered bird woman in hot pursuit. Both of the Wolvruns were left behind, rolling around the room in laughter of their own.
After they had calmed down again, both of the wolves got up, walking together out of the cockpit. Over the last few days they had become pretty well acquainted. Talrean no longer felt intimidated by the older Wolvrun. They had made their way halfway into one of the hallways before either of them had spoken up again.
“So, I've been meaning to ask you… How do you do that thing with your eyes?" Talrean asked innocently. He was envious of the older wolf in all honesty. On multiple occasions Talrean was saved by him, and he had a suspicion that it had to do with the older Wolvruns odd ability.
“Bloodlust is not something that you want to delve into, pup," he replied in a rather harsh tone.
“So it is something that I could learn," Talrean stated excitedly. The older Wolvrun stopped, turning to the young wolf.
“It is not something one should ever wish to 'learn' you naïve child," Nephadius scolded.
The heat in his voice left Talrean hurt and confused. Whatever this 'Bloodlust' was, obviously wasn't something to take lightly. Had he known it would set off the older wolf so badly, he wouldn't have dared brought it up. It didn't hinder his curiosity for the dangerous sounding ability however. He would just have to find another way to learn more about it.
Nephadius left the young wolf alone in the hallway. Talrean stared disappointed into the infinite hall before him before he finally sighed and headed towards his room to rest before they landed. He wanted to make sure he had plenty of energy to keep up with Aietos today.
When the ship finally docked it was raining on the planet's surface. The smaller of the bay doors slowly lowered and the crew made their way out. Nephadius was right in saying that the planet was rather impressive. Even in the rain the streets were bustling with people, and the city was built in a beautiful mixture of modern architecture. The mixture of species varied greatly here as well.
Aietos had her hood up to conceal her face. Being the last of her kind was sure to draw attention anywhere she went, so it would have to do for now. Talrean and her departed first, getting quickly lost in the crowd. Luke flashed Nephadius the Terran “peace" sign, before disappearing into the crowd himself.
The Wolf stood on the bay platform, breathing in the thick city air as he watched people walk by. As he was about to step off he felt a hot breath against the back of his neck. He turned around to Blue's large, sloppy tongue dragging up her face.
After blinking in disbelief for a moment he shook off the saliva and pushed the aliendog further into the bay.
“Sit," he commanded.
The large beast sat down, wagging its large leathery tail against the cold metal bay floor. Nephadius slowly backed out of the bay and into the street, hitting the door controls to raise the door. Blue tilted his head curiously as he watch the entrance seal up. Once the door had closed shut Nephadius sighed in relief.