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arbon
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Gesshru Chapter 16

Trin Looks Happy
gesshru_-_chapter_16.rtf
Keywords female 866630, human 86246, mouse 43596, rodent 27284, rat 18109, macro 15167, micro 8636, mind control 6602, giant 4887, giantess 2754, mice 2042, war 1630, mech 1129, gesshru 19

My name is Freya Savitri, and I am a damsel in distress.

How long was I dreaming?

I wasn’t dead. My first thought upon that realization was how annoying it would be to survive this. You won, didn’t you? Just let them kill me Orchi.

Please.

My dreams were filled with high pitched mouse noises, being trapped in a sand castle along a ruined child’s playset while shrieking vermin crawl over my skin. The twang and thunk of spear throwers firing, the silly little mouse noises as they stabbed and bit and tore and clawed. I just wanted to sleep through it all. To sleep a dream in an endless rest, my final reward for holding out so long as the sun sets and darkness consumes all.

Enderr in Albanian. Yuxu in Azerbaijani. Mapa in Belarusian. Sanjati in Bosnian. Meyta in Bulgarian. Somiar in Catalan. Damgo in Cebuano. Ndimalota in Chichewa. Sognu in Corsican. San in Croatian. Sen in Czech. Drom in Danish. Droom in Dutch. Sonji in Esperanto. Unistus in Estonian. Managinip in Filipino. Unelma in Finnish. Rever in French. Sonar in Galician. Traum in German. Oveipo in Greek. Rev in Haitian Creole. Moe in Hawaiian. Npau sauv in Hmong.

I enjoyed the silence when it took me, a dream in any language was still a dream. Flickers of awareness, tiny little mouse things scampering about my arms and my face. Poking and prodding. Through groggy eyes I woke to see a little gerbil in military dress jabbing a paw between my eyes. So cute, and oh so adorably tiny. It chattered and make clicky noises, leaving me aware of the dried blood matting down my cheeks or the way every hair on my skin hurt.

My response was ever polite, drifting back into darkness.

Alom in Hungarian. Nro in Igbo. Mimpi in Indonesian. Aisling in Irish. Sognare in Italian. Apmah in Kazakh. Xewn in Kurdish. Tyw in Kyrgyz. Somnium in Latin. Sapnot in Latvian. Svajoti in Lithuanian. Coh in Macedonian. Moemoe in Maori. Snic in Polish. Sonho in Portuguese. Vis in Romanian. Meyta in Russian. Miti in Samoan. Cah in Serbian. Rota in Shona. Snivat in Slovak. Sueno in Spanish. Ngimpi in Sundanese. Ndoto in Swahili. Drom in Swedish. Opey in Tajik. Ruya in Turkish. Tush in Uzbek. Iphupha in Xhosa. Ala in Yoruba.

This was how you could tell a dream is a universal constant, even animals dream when given the chance. So many of those words were entirely different. Most developed independently, each language deciding on its own sound for the concept of a dream without needing another culture to introduce them to it. Everyone dreams, just as everyone sleeps.

And in my dreams the pain was gone. The weight of everything vanished so that I could slip away into the clouds, drifting high toward starlight.

Strong arms wrapped around my waist. I felt myself lifted, plastic against plastic as I’m taken into the arms of a man. My eyes flutter open and I can see his face. A friend and collogue. Was he dead too? No, I saw his face behind a visor. Through a helmet. But it was him. Holding me close in a neat little hug, sweeping me off my feet.

“Loren …” I breathed through the cracked plate of my helmet, jagged edges of shattered plastic framing the scene of my reunion.

“Just breathe, okay? You’ve earned a long rest.” His voice isn’t tiny and whispered like I’m so used to hearing. Deep and powerful, the comfort of his presence washed over my mind the way a blanket is tucked over a child. I didn’t know if he was dead, but then my mind didn’t really focus on reality.

In my dreams I could tell I was being supported in two arms. One supporting my back and head, the other looping beneath the joint in my feet. Holding me like a lover and walking off into the desert night. The way his feet pound into the dirt offered a rhythmic sway that lulled me into rest. The very fact someone else was plucking me off the ground made me feel small. So very small indeed.

There was no telling how long I was out, drifting in and out of sleep.

Eyes flutter open to see the bottom of Loren’s chin and the stars twinkling behind him. The man’s head strait and forward in a serious focus. Step, shudder, move. Step, shudder, move. Again and again he walked, supporting me as easily as anything else.

Was this the reaper taking me home?

Is this whom the spirits of the dead sent to collect me?

I close my eyes again and feel as if I’m opening them only moments later. A blink in time, and the night stars have changed position, the moon is now much higher than before, and everything feels colder.

With a hoarse breath I whispered out …

“So this is how you treat a lady.” My throat felt dry, and the taste of blood sickened me. “I didn’t know you were the type.”

“Always a pleasure to see you Freya. How are you holding up?” Oh god his voice. I could hear the man’s voice and he was talking to me. This hasn’t happened in so long, someone actually understanding and responding. I closed my eyes. They were mine and I closed them. Basking in this feeling of happiness only marred by one minor problem.

“Am I dead?” the answer one rarely got a chance to ask.

“No, you simply took a heavy blow to the face.” He answered gently. The man wasn’t looking at me, but I was starting to catch on that he couldn’t. His pilot wasn’t giving him control of the face. “Might be a minor concussion and possibly skull fracture, but you aren’t going to die yet.”

“Disappointing.” I breathed, as pleasant dreams fade away and this horrible reality crashes back down. A weight on my chest, constricting my heart with every gasp.

“Is this something you wish to talk about?” why did Loren’s voice have to be so inviting.

“This isn’t the proper setting for a therapy session, we need to get the fancy chair and flat bed remember.”

“Then let me ask as your friend rather than your doctor. None of us want you to die, Freya.” Smooth and confident.

“A weapon, Loren. That’s all I am. Death and fear and ruined monuments, I came here to study these people. And every day I come out of that cage I’m just destroying more of their society. I want it to end, okay? I don’t care about life, I don’t care about death, I just want it to end.”

Loren pauses to think. I can feel his footsteps are robotic and monotonous, one after the other in a steady and relentless beat. He speaks softly.

“How close have you gotten?”

“Uggh, I had a chance. There was one chance, I was free up at Ontal and close to the forest. But I went back to save my pilot.”

“That Tasgal guy?” the human sounded surprised. “Really?”

“No, someone else. A woman named Doth, we were attacked by some second intelligent species called Soul Eaters. They can fly, they shoot lightning out of their paws, they are about the size of a housecat, and they have some level of sophistication to their language. I didn’t get much time to study them as apparently they think Gesshru are tasty.”

“Flying cat … is it furry and has bright colors? I saw one in a dugout cage to the left of the bay doors. But I thought they were calling it, um, rock danger seed noms or something. It was a weird word.”

I didn’t apologize for laughing at that one.

“The translation to English is Soul Eater based on context. A two-click before the long chur designates religious context to let people know they’re referring to the planet’s core rather than the planet’s surface.”

“Right, yeah. I remember that.” He totally didn’t. But then that wasn’t his job. “Tasgal was the one in your helmet, what happened to Doth?”

“The same as usual.” I groaned. The desire to lean my head back was strong, but I couldn’t move my neck. It didn’t take long to realize my arms weren’t moving either.

“Always hard, I know Freya. That’s always hard.” Loren spoke with a soft reverence. “I almost made it out two months ago.”

“Give me details.” It was almost a demand, but we both knew the importance of sharing Intel when we could.

“If they aren’t paying attention and don’t think they need to worry about you, most pilots start to mess up. Its, well. You know how you’ve had minor success in resisting the commands? Turns out you can do the opposite as well.”

“You mean helping them?”

“Minor assistance. Give a bit of extra direction moving boxes, a bit of extra speed, some extra flexibility. Figure out what your pilot is trying to do and then do it for them, or start doing it before they’ve even pressed a button.”

“I’ll have to admit, that didn’t occur to me. How does this help you escape?”

“For the moment it hasn’t yet, but most Gesshru who get in your cockpit start to catch on. And when you can appeal to their lazy side, they start to delegate more and more control over to you so that they don’t have to work. Or so they can get praised for how fluid and dexterous their piloting is.”

“Heh, I saw a bit of that with Doth I guess.”

“So I started figuring out when they’d put me in lockdown for a pilot to approach. Keep track of when they have missions, what the next one will be, how soon I’ll be out. Standard procedure is to make sure I’m locked down before they open the doors, but you know what I said about laziness. I make sure I get in position and hold myself still before they initiate lockdown.”

“Trick them.” My eyes were going blurry, but I was starting to catch on.

“Exactly. It confuses them when they press the button but I’m not moving. Of course it still puts me in lockdown, but sometimes they turn it off and on again to make sure it works. Sometimes they think they’ve turned it on when really they haven’t yet. Sometimes they forget to turn it on entirely. Or … as with last month, they decide they didn’t need to. I was docile after all, cooperative and helpful.”

“So that’s when you escaped. Still didn’t crush any of them I’ll bet?” my grin couldn’t be helped. Even knowing how his great escape ends I’m still enthralled by what an expert therapist would come up with.

“I’m not going to break my vow, not intentionally.” He responds in that sullen voice.

“And I would never ask you to.” Was the simplest response I could offer back.

“So, I lay down and wait for the doors to open. My pilot comes along just far enough to reach my head and open the control panel before I stand up. Gently place him to the ground. And walk out of the main door.”

“Hah! They didn’t close it on you?”

“Well they tried, but it closes slowly you know. Had to tuck and roll by the time I got there but it wasn’t a close call.”

“Just like in the movies according to my imagination. Then they got you on the way out?”

“Yeah. Made it all the way to the main door before realizing I couldn’t get it open. Want to know something interesting? For whatever reason the remote didn’t work on me.”

“Wait, what?”

“The remotes. Lockdown. It doesn’t work if there’s a pilot in the cockpit, they don’t want an enemy soldier to just grab the remote and shut you down in combat. Way too big of a weakness for the Cavni to exploit. So the collar around your neck checks to see if your being piloted before actually entering into lockdown.”

“I know this, but you didn’t have a pilot in you.”

“The collar didn’t know that.” He says with a gleeful twinkle in his tone. “I might have just been lucky with the timing, but there’s a button on the inside you can press to declare this max is being piloted. I’m guessing my guy managed to tap it or something bumped it as I was tearing him out.”

“You wouldn’t happen to know where the button is, do you?”

“No.” he responds. “Don’t have eyes on the back of my head.”

“A shame. If the remote didn’t work how did they manage to catch you?”

“I was still trapped inside the main compound until they opened the front door, couldn’t quite get through it. But then I remembered the back wall. Check this, there’s construction going on out back. The walls of the compound and the outer perimeter are being refitted to allot for a new holding pen.”

“They want to catch more Soul eaters.”

“I think the translation Rock Danger Seed Nom is more fitting. Those things are adorable.”

“They shoot lighting out of their hands.”

“So they’re adorable and useful, the perfect pet to hand to an engineer, so now we know what to give Rodan for Christmas.” His grin was infectious, even when hidden behind that helmet.

“I’m pretty sure these things have a culture of their own. Try that and it might end up as a girlfriend instead.”

Loren laughed. He didn’t laugh hard, but this brightened his day almost as much as getting to talk with him brightened mine.

“ In all seriousness these guys want to set up a whole new program and are building new cages to do it with. For the time being that means everything about that dead end to the far west is filled with recent construction and unfinished scaffolding, they’ve already started taking part of the wall down.”

“I think I get it.” Attack the weak point. “If I manage to escape myself, go to the dead end and start bashing my way through.”

“Just like Kell always says, if you hit a wall then hit it hard.” Though Loren’s head was steady and level, I could tell he wanted to nod. In truth so did I, being reminded of that stoic head of security and her brutal combat edge just made me think of today’s fight.

I didn’t want to think of today’s fight.

“All of the pilots I become close with die.” I brought up with a whispered breath. “If even yours catch on, how do you do it?”

“How do I cope?”

“I wish I could protect them. There just has to be something …”

“Ignorance. That’s how you keep them safe. Here’s my trick, see I’ll be all super helpful and friendly and docile whenever it’s just one person or one pilot. Working solo? Do everything you can to help your pilot out, actively anticipate his or her desires and start working without needing to be controlled. They catch on, they start to learn I’m doing it, they look deeper.”

“And then they tell others and the higher ups catch wind, and your pilot mysteriously disappears only to be replaced by someone who doesn’t ask as many questions.”

“Play dumb.”He says quickly. “If the pilot trying to expose your intelligence just comes across as insane or an idiot, then the higher ups want to keep them around. To prove their point, make it sound like some nutball conspiracy theory.”

“Now you have me interested, so I … what. Be the exact opposite of helpful, pretend I can’t figure things out as soon as someone other than my pilot is watching?”

“Bingo babycakes.”

“…”

“What?”

“Don’t ever do that again.”

“And here I thought we were having a romantic evening. You wound me.”

“I still don’t have dinner, my lips taste like rat, and I’m not in the mood. But thanks. I’ll have to keep this in mind for the next name on my list of corpses to remember. Your current pilot isn’t distracted by this is he?”

“Nah, at least not as far as I can tell. This one’s suspicious and frustrated, he knows I’m so much smarter than anyone is telling him but I’m like that old cartoon about a singing frog. The moment he tries to show anyone I play up my stupidity and he starts looking insane. After a few tries he stopped trying to tell others and just grilled me directly.”

“Sounds amusing to watch so long as you can keep a grin off your face.”

“A stupid grin fits the act though, and I think he’s just trying to decipher the code or something. He’s convinced we have secret telepathic mind powers and that somehow we use thunder voices to blast thoughts at each other.”

“You’re still having trouble with the translations aren’t you.”

“Fucking god yes, I don’t know how you do it so easily. Can barely hear the little thing, let alone try and make out actual words. Even harder because all their words sound the same.”

“Think of it like Morse code but with squeaks instead of dots.” I was being deliberately unhelpful.

“We’ll have to wait before I see if that helps, most I can manage is a grasp of their emotion and what these people are thinking. The words they say are always a bit harder to parse.”

“No one is blaming you.”

“And at the same time no one is blaming you, Freya. But I think Tasgal might.”

“The bastard’s still alive, isn’t he.” It wasn’t a question. Him being dead would be pleasant for me, so of course he wasn’t dead.

“Injured, but still alive. I was there as he was dragged out of your cockpit, screamed something to the doctors about how it wasn’t his fault. You were fighting him and hard to control the whole battle and you slowed everything down far enough that ten or so Cavni could bring you to the ground. He’s demanding they push up some lobotomy on you, want full neural dampeners and complete control plugged into your brainstem.”

“Of course he is, I heard the procedure was coming up next month.”

“With any luck your blow to the face will make them hesitant about trying anything, they don’t want to risk losing a max. It would be a huge blow to everyone’s Moral, and give the Cavni an example of how Max units can be defeated if they try hard enough.”

“If this is the last time I get to say anything to you Loren, I … well, we all love you, sir.” There wasn’t much choking to my voice, and while entirely platonic it was still love. Just seems like the proper thing to say if I know I might not be conscious when we next meet. If we next meet.

Loran said nothing.

The swing in his step and the loud crunch of his boots. Everything was darkness on a moonlit night, the stars of earth a distant memory, the promise of space turned drab prison infested with rodents. I could hear Loran starting to say something but then stop. Working himself up, summoning the courage he required.

“Oh come on, don’t stop now!” the squeaks of an enraged gesshru blasted out. “I still have a bit of hearing left why don’t you.”

My snickering probably wasn’t the response he was looking for.

“I don’t think I’m quite ready to say goodbye yet Freya, so how about a hello instead. This is Prot Elot. My pilot if you hadn’t guessed! He came to respond when you didn’t return at the expected time and thus had to clean up whatever was causing a delay. It was so cute watching him panic at the thought of some enemy weapon that can take down a human.”

I squeaked back. Clicking my teeth and making perfect, unaccented Gesshru chirps at only just loud enough that he could hear it without pain. Of course he still wouldn’t understand it, but the reaction was priceless.

“Do you think my using this time to mess with him would be productive? It sounds like a sarcastic Gesshru.”

“Ohjeeze I couldn’t keep up with that.” Loran balks, speaking in English even as I swap fluidly to the native tongue. “If you said what I think you said, yeah Prot is harmless.

“One day fleshmonster.” The rodent’s voice blared out from Loren’s throat. It sounded far too much like a drive through menu item attempting to threaten me. “I will know your secrets.”

For the first time in a long time it became the option of two humans to ignore the words of a Gesshru. Poetic justice or pure karma, I didn’t care which because I was taking it.

“Last I was awake, the citizens were winning.”

“Citizens? I thought a whole cavni scout group had managed to slip past the front lines and set up in this abandoned city.”

“Really wish I could shake my head now.” I mused, staring up at his chin. “But no it was just citizens with either stolen or makeshift weapons. At least one guy had a coral spear because they couldn’t give him a plastic one. And I think their needle throwers were just taken from Galm supplies in various raids.”

“Survivors I take it?”

“Of the first attack, yes. Some of the fighters remembered me personally as that thing that killed everyone. And there was a child who’s grown up her entire life inside this broken city. These people set traps, adapted, they came out with some new taser weapon that actually hurts through the armor. They were prepared.”

“Not what Tasgal is saying.”

“That man is an idiot who walked right into every trap and somehow lined up my face with one of their siege cannons.”

“Heh. Cannon …” Loren muttered with amusement.

“Hah-hah, yeah their weapons may be a joke but it still hurts alright. I could count at least twelve defenders against the thirty or so remaining Galm forces. Was really hoping the defenders would win this one, probably just by falling back through the city and laying traps as they went.”

“They did win the city.” Galm says sadly.

“Oh, so how did you manage to pick me up?”

“Because I was sent in to re-take the city.”

That simple answer was all he needed to say so very much. I close my eyes and breathe. Just breathe and try to forget, trapped in this hell just like any other. The pacifist Loren would never willingly take a life, even if it meant dying himself. But he didn’t have to be willing to play the part of a weapon in this blighted war.

“I’m sorry.” I whispered, but then had to ask. “What happened?”

“Came up to see Galm on the outskirts of Scando, a big gaping line right through the center and about half of their people in the infirmary. You were on the ground and for some reason all of our own forces were afraid of me more than the enemy.”

“Heh, blame Tasgal for all of it.”

“The rat is busy placing blame on everyone else right now, but at least he’s in the infirmary for his troubles. My pilot got the vital tactical information and started to move in, only to feel parts of the road giving way beneath my feet. Traps and needle throwers, they tried to lead me toward some wire between two buildings. Prot is actually pretty good at listening to when I resist and what I’m trying to do, but after dodging three different ambushes he decided to fall back.”

“And re-take the city later with a larger force.” With a heavy sigh I shuddered in this man’s arms.

“Another walk all the way back to Ontal, gathered up as many troops as I could carry in this equivalent of a duffel bag, then walk them all back here in the dead of night. Scando was still up and they had a few tiny glowstick things. But then me moving through as support and siege while the army proper cleared the place out room by room? Defenders didn’t stand a chance. I kept hearing we slaughtered them to the last man and came out with about ten corpses.”

“And of course those are going to be in our dinner for the next few days, aren’t they.”

“I know, right? Why do Gesshru have to be so stringy. Give me a steak any time over these little things.”

“Hahaha, I spent over two hours with a Gesshru in my mouth. Tell me about it. By which mean tell me about the battle, how did Tasgal live?”

A yawn coming on. Welling up from behind, my chest expanding into the foam padding with this long and shuddered breath. My eyes were getting heavy and I couldn’t tell if this was from the weight of it all or actually being tired.

“The Galm forces moved in and managed to push away city defenders long enough to pull him out of the cockpit. Apparently they lost a few men in the attempt, but a trained pilot is always worth more than a soldier.”

“Of course it is.” I stifled back another yawn. And before I knew it I was asleep again.

Moments passed.

Minutes slipping by as an exaggerated blink.

When I opened up to look again the stars had changed position and Loren was breathing heavily.
 
“I t-think … must have slept. Sorry.”

“Oh? Not your fault Freya, you were out for maybe ten minutes.” Loren answered gently. I could tell even his strong arms were starting to wane, probably harder to suffer through when bored and without distraction.

“How have you been holding up?”

“Out here, I’m getting more of a workout than I norma- …”

“No.” My interruption surprised him. “I mean in general. I’m at the point I don’t care if I die, I just want all of this end. I want to stop being a weapon, I want to call this an abject failure and go home. Let some other team rocket themselves into space and play with the tiny rodent people. But I’m hanging on if just barely. How close are you to the breaking point?”

“About halfway.” He answers this automatically. At first it seemed as if he’d given the question no thought, until I realized he’s been thinking about that very question for much longer than I have. “What really helps is what I can predict in the coming year.”
 
“Oh? Good news please, let it be good news.”

“Gesshru culture changes rapidly. Every generation it’s something new rising up, be it intentional or embraced or feared or suppressed. The old people who originally dealt with humans can’t stay alive forever, nor can they hold onto to the last dregs of their power. They won’t ever get to see that Naval invasion they were planning. But the Cavni? At the same time old power is close to falling apart the federation becomes more desperate and more united. They’ve been trying to recreate Max units from what they saw in propaganda, to absolutely zero success because we weren’t made in a lab like everyone thinks.”

“The moment people stop believing that is when things get more interesting for us. But they have to have some plans for carrying on into the future if Soul Eater cages are in the works.”

“I’ve got an idea for that too. The Cavni will abandon genetic construction projects and just focus on ways to take down a Max, non-lethally if they can manage. They will pump whatever they can into catching one of us alive while the Gashn fight just as hard to keep us hidden away. Less open combat work and more construction, transport, manufacturing. Which ironically will just leave us more vulnerable as now any Cavni getting through the front lines will do get a chance at us without an army backing our pilots up.”

My eyes closed and they didn’t open, but I kept talking. Just wanted to keep listening to the man, keep hearing his deep and open voice.

“That sounds pleasant.”

“The next part might not be, but bare with me. Capture these Rock-Danger-Food things and start applying old tech, old neural control tech like they had upon our first arrival, and get themselves a new army of adorable cat dragons. Secret gets out, they tell everyone that Max Units are just more creatures that they implanted and control. But then tell everyone that we eat souls too, and if controlling a soul eater is acceptable and good then controlling a human must be too.”

“That doesn’t sound like it will benefit us.”

“In the immediate term it won’t, but it will be a change. And in that change will open more opportunities. Just have to keep an eye out for them and keep our allies alive, what little we can find.”

I tried to open my mouth.

Silence.

“Freya?” he asked after too long with no words.

I tried to open my mouth, but it wouldn’t move. My lips quivered and my breathing slowed. I could feel his warmth in the chilled air, the way his touch graced my armor. Slipping away into nothing, I felt darkness take me.

“Goodnight Freya. Sleep well.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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by arbon
My question for this chapter: "Imagine this has been the norm for years. Not just days, months, but multiple years. So many close calls, more almost victories than you can count, an endless stream of names and friends and nice people and cruel villains who all just fade away into history while your miserable existence continues on. Is there any point in which you'd give up? And what do you think of Freya's ability to hold on?"

Keywords
female 866,630, human 86,246, mouse 43,596, rodent 27,284, rat 18,109, macro 15,167, micro 8,636, mind control 6,602, giant 4,887, giantess 2,754, mice 2,042, war 1,630, mech 1,129, gesshru 19
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Type: Writing - Document
Published: 5 years, 6 months ago
Rating: Mature

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